A collection of the week's news from Israel
A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto

12 Adar Aleph 5760
February 18, 2000
Issue number 259

 

News...

 

Bnei Menashe Return Home after 2600 Years

Thirty-seven members of the Bnei Menashe tribe in India - believed to be descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes - arrived in Israel on Friday. The new arrivals, many of whom have relatives in Israel among the 450 Bnei Menashe who have arrived within the last five years, were brought to Israel under the auspices of the Jerusalem-based Amishav organization. Amishav is dedicated to locating descendants of the Lost Tribes and returning them to the Jewish people. "This is a historic moment for the Jewish people," said Amishav founder and chairman Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail, who has devoted his life to finding and assisting the descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel. "After a lengthy and difficult separation, the Bnei Menashe are being reunited with the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. This is a triumph of faith. Their return to Zion marks the closing of a historical circle."

The Bnei Menashe, with a rich oral tradition tracing themselves back to the Israelite tribe of Menashe, continue to practice many uniquely Jewish customs. About 3,500 Bnei Menashe decided to formally return to the Jewish people about 30 years ago, and began living a fully Jewish life to the best of their ability in accordance with Jewish law. Rabbi Avichail learned of their existence about 20 years ago, and began to investigate their claims to Jewish ancestry. After making several visits there and carefully studying their claims and the relevant history, Rabbi Avichail consulted with leading rabbinical authorities and concluded that there is convincing evidence linking the Bnei Menashe with the Jewish people. Among the evidence, Rabbi Avichail notes their ancient tradition speaking of the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; their custom of circumcising male children on the 8th day after birth; and their sacrificial ceremony on an altar reminiscent of the Jewish Temple in which the Hebrew Biblical name of G-d, Mount Sinai, Mount Moriah and Mount Zion are mentioned.

Upon arrival in Israel, the Bnei Menashe will engage in full-time study of Judaism and the Hebrew language. To remove any doubts about their status, they undergo formal conversion ceremonies performed by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, upon completion of which they are granted new immigrant status by the Interior Ministry. Virtually all the members of Bnei Menashe in Israel live in Kiryat Arba, Gush Katif, and Beit El. (Arutz-7 February 13, 2000)

Barak: IDF to Leave Lebanon by July

During a six-hour Cabinet meeting on Sunday, Prime Minister Ehud Barak reiterated his pledge to withdraw Israel Defense Forces soldiers from the security zone in southern Lebanon by July, Ha'aretz reported. Barak emphasized that a withdrawal accompanied by an agreement was preferable. "It is better to do this with an agreement and grit our teeth for a couple more tough weeks," he said. Barak added that "the setting of a date was vital to make it clear that from the moment we announce that we intend to redeploy along the international border out of our own strategic considerations, no development will prevent us from pulling back . . . by July, and nothing will make us leave with our tails between our legs." Regarding the current struggle in Lebanon, Barak highlighted three objectives: strict implementation of the Grapes of Wrath understandings, a reduction in attacks against IDF soldiers and the establishment of standard operating procedures for the period following an Israeli withdrawal.

Meanwhile, according to the Jerusalem Post, Hizbullah continued to launch long-range mortar and missile attacks on IDF and South Lebanon Army outposts on Sunday. Most attacks took place in the eastern sector of the security zone. Military sources said that the IDF's Dla'at outpost was hit by TOW anti-tank missile fire launched from within the Nabatiya township in violation of the Grapes of Wrath understandings. According to Ha'aretz, the United States blamed Hizbullah and Syria for the current crisis in Lebanon and for repeatedly violating the understandings. The IDF is currently developing countermeasures and means to protect soldiers from the new threat posed by tow missiles, responsible for the deaths of six of the seven IDF soldiers killed during the past three weeks. (Israel Line 2/14/00)

 

 

Iran Directs Terrorist Campaign Against Peace Process Through Hizbullah

Iran is using Hizbullah as a liaison to Palestinian Islamic organizations in its efforts to coordinate activities between elements opposed to the peace process, Ha'aretz reported. Iran assigned Hizbullah the leading role because of its extensive experience in operations against Israel. According to the Jerusalem Post, increased Hizbullah activity is said to be part of a broader militant strategy developed at a meeting of senior conservative elements convened by Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei in Teheran at the end of last year. A contingency plan has also reportedly been developed to ensure that Hizbullah's military infrastructure in southern Lebanon survives any Israeli-Syrian deal. Iran rejected today calls to urge Hizbullah to curb their attacks against IDF soldiers. The Iranian foreign minister said in a news conference that Israel should simply withdrawal from Lebanon unconditionally if it wanted an end to attacks on its soldiers. (Israel Line 2/14/00)

Pope and Arafat Issue Joint Jerusalem Declaration

Pope John Paul II and Yasser Arafat issued a joint condemnation today of any unilateral decision that would "change the unique character of Jerusalem," terming such a decision "legally and morally invalid." The two, who met in the Vatican today, called for an international status to be granted to Jerusalem. Prime Minister Ehud Barak continues to refuse to include areas around Jerusalem in the upcoming transfer of territory to the Palestinian Authority. He is, however, apparently willing to make a change in the withdrawal maps and grant territorial contiguity between several of the Palestinian-autonomous enclaves. So reported Army Radio today. Arutz-7 , 15 Feb 2000

North Against Linkage

The town council of the northern city of Kiryat Shmonah held a joint meeting with its counterpart in the Golan "capital" of Katzrin yesterday, cementing cooperation between the two beleaguered regions. The two cities made a joint declaration against an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan. Katzrin Mayor Sammy Bar-Lev said afterwards that he "attaches great importance to the support from Kiryat Shmonah, which proves that even the residents of the north place no stock in the artificial linkage between Israel's presence in Lebanon and a peace agreement with Syria."

MK Rehavam Ze'evi (National Union) opined the following on Arutz-7 today: "It's reasonable to assume that Barak is delaying the withdrawal from southern Lebanon and linking it with an arrangement with Syria, i.e., with a retreat from the Golan Heights. He is doing so because a retreat from there is dependent on a referendum, and many people support such a retreat simply because they want to get out of southern Lebanon - such that if we leave Lebanon right away, there is no longer any guarantee how they will vote in a Golan referendum. Therefore Prime Minister Barak wants to force them to continue to support a retreat from the Golan. If this is true, then this is a horrific scandal, because delaying the withdrawal has a price in blood... I said, 'if this is true,' but the fact is that I am having a hard time disproving it..."Arutz-7 , 15 Feb 2000

Peres: Yesha Settlements Should Not Be Uprooted

Minister of Regional Cooperation Shimon Peres visited Ariel today, where he said that he "does not regret" his having contributed to the establishment of Ariel over two decades ago during his term as Defense Minister. When asked if he feels pride, he answered, "The pride belongs to the residents - they did something great." After an awkward moment of silence, Mayor Ron Nachman interjected, "I think this is the pride of the State of Israel, that established a city out of nothing." Peres also said that Yesha settlements should not be uprooted, but "I don't think that there will be Jews who would want to live under foreign rule." Arutz-7 , 15 Feb 2000

Militant Extremist Jews Attacked by Peace Loving Arabs

Early this afternoon two men driving into Hebron, made a wrong turn at the entrance to the city and found themselves surrounded by a mob of Arabs. The mobbed attacked them, breaking the front windshield of their car and breaking the jaw of one man. He was taken to hospital in Jerusalem for treatment. A Hebron community spokesman issued the following statement: This is an example of 'peace' in Hebron: Two men making a wrong turn are brutally attacked by an Arab mob.

Several days ago Justice Minister Yossi Beilin suggested that Jews continue living in "Palestine" following a 'final settlement" with Arafat, saying that 'just as Arabs live in Israel, Jews can live in Palestine.' Is this the way Beilin expects Jews to live, being attacked for no reason at all?! We call on the IDF to bolster security in Hebron, preventing such mob attacks. and we call on the Israeli government to stop the farce called 'peace with Arafat. (Hebron Press Office February 14, 2000)

Americans Organize Israeli Arabs to Support Golan Surrender

Senior officials in the American Embassy in Israel are meeting with senior members of the Israeli Arab community in an attempt to increase Arab public interest in the national referendum on a peace treaty with Syria. The Americans estimate that the Israeli Arabs can tilt the scales in favor of a peace agreement." One of the public figures said that a number of Arab organizations asked the Americans to provide financial assistance for the financing of a broad information campaign. "People from the embassy showed interest in the financial needs and promised to provide support," he said. "Yediot Ahronot 11 February 2000 (Translated by IMRA)

 

Quotes for the Week...

"This dangerous situation requires a universal stance that must tell the Israeli government to take its hands off Jerusalem. Your support is essential...to free Jerusalem and Palestine from this cancerous Judaisation," PLO Chairman, Yassar Arafat

"If we decide whom to evacuate based on economic considerations, then I can think of a few development towns in the Negev that are not particularly profitable - MK Nachum Langental (NRP) Arutz-7 , 15 Feb 2000

"No cracks have been formed in my credibility. What I say is the truth. You can fit into a telephone booth all the people in the country that think that I ever lied to them.'' PM Barak, (Reuters 1/30)

 

Commentary...

The Spin --Aaron Lerner (IMRA)

Why do I think that Prime Minister Ehud Barak and James Carville were rolling in laughter this morning? Because they proved, once again, that spin is more important than content. Let's consider what happened in Lebanon:

At the very same time that Barak was negotiating with Syria and telling the world what a fantastic guy Assad is, the Hizbullah was stocking up for intensive and prolonged battle with stepped up weapons deliveries through Damascus Airport. We are not talking about small shipments that can be easily hidden. These are jumbos. It is reasonable to assume that Clinton and Barak were aware of it but opted to ignore the arms build up - just as Arafat's weapons acquisition program is not considered relevant as long as it doesn't include fighter jets or A-bombs.

The Hizbullah weren't just getting ready for battle - they were fighting. During the course of the Israeli-Syrian negotiations Hizbullah has been trying to kill Israeli soldiers in Lebanon but since they were not having much luck at it Barak did not consider it relevant.

Then in the course of a short period, Hizbullah's luck changed. Instead of just trying to kill Israeli soldiers they were in fact killing them. At this point, under public pressure, Barak had to act. The public pressure was for something to be done so that Israeli soldiers not be killed.

This is an important point to remember: when an Israeli soldier is killed in Lebanon the man in the Israeli street could care less if the Hizbullah attack was or wasn't a violation of Shimon Peres' incredible Grapes of Wrath Understanding. Let me repeat this because it is critical to remember: the Israeli public expects its leader to do something to prevent the killing of additional Israeli soldiers. Period.

Tonight the news shows reported "business as usual" with mortar and rocket attacks against Israeli positions in South Lebanon. Hizbullah continues to try killing Israeli soldiers but Ehud Barak claims victory by redefining his goal. Instead of the goal of preventing the killing of Israeli soldiers, Barak has redefined the goal as setting the precedent that Israel responds to Hizbullah fire that originates from within villages with attacks against Hizbullah positions inside villages without the Hizbullah responding with an attack against northern Israel. Now don't roll your eyes in disbelief. Barak's spinners lined up this morning and without batting an eye began shoveling - I mean presenting - this concept. And the media gladly marched forward with the new message.

Does this mean that Israel can actually make a serious attack against forces taking cover in a village to take them out if this would mean serious civilian casualties? No. Just "surgical strikes" against inanimate objects. More important: Does this mean that Hizbullah will stop trying to kill Israeli soldiers? No.

Again. Because there is so much confusion I will repeat this once more: The purpose of the exercise was to stop the killing of IDF soldiers. Instead of achieving this, we have the wonderful success that Hizbullah declined to shell the North.

And what of the original goal? As former Chief of Staff and now Minister of Tourism Amnon Lipkin Shahak told Arutz 7 today after declaring the operation a success because Northern Israel wasn't shelled in response to low grade attacks against targets in civilian locations, "there is no one who believes that the Hizbullah will stop attacking the IDF and SLA forces as long as the IDF remains in the security zone of South Lebanon". The original goal has not only been abandoned - it has been ridiculed.

What are the lessons?

Lesson #1 The government will redefine goals - even radically redefine them - in order to declare a success. Now if Barak can get away with what he did on the Lebanese front this week (and keep in mind that anyone with someone stationed in Lebanon finds no comfort in this "success") it would be foolish to expect him not to do the same vis-a-vis Assad and Arafat. You can count on Barak, his camp and his media supporters to turn any deal, and I mean ANY deal, into a success story. The very idea that Israel could get anything more than whatever deal Barak makes will be ridiculed.

Lesson #2: The soldiers stationed in Lebanon today have become "hostages of peace".

If one accepts Shahak's assertion that Hizbullah understands that they can keep on killing Israeli soldiers in Lebanon but they CAN'T strike inside Israel then the continued presence of the IDF in South Lebanon serves only one purpose: to provide a justification for leaving the Golan. Barak isn't certain even he can get the public to support withdrawing from the Golan for the sake of a peace of paper with Syria. He has to sweeten the deal by linking the withdrawal from Lebanon with the withdrawal from the Golan. Under Oslo we had "sacrifices for peace". Now the IDF soldiers in Lebanon are Barak's "hostages for peace" - a Syria-Israel peace treaty that is.

 

 

 

What Are Barak's Red Lines?

Listening to press reports it sounds like Barak presents the Israeli public to world leaders as the true "enemies of peace". Why can't Barak give Arafat part of Jerusalem? Because the Israeli public won't accept it. Why can't Assad dip his feet in the Kinneret? Because it wouldn't pass in a referendum. And if the next Gallup poll shows that the public would accept crossing what until now were consensus red lines?

I am waiting for my prime minister to look the world in the eye and say "This is MY red line. And it is MY red line because I believe in it - not because of what others may or may not believe. And as long as I am prime minister I will not cross that line." Until that time, Israel's red lines will be seen as nothing more than the irrational emotional demands of the unwashed Israeli masses. Arutz 7 - 10 February 2000

 

 

Eight Ways for Assad to Win Our Hearts By Yoel Marcus

Within the context of the confidence-building measures between Syria and Israel and for the sake of peace and normalization between our two nations, Syrian President Hafez Assad has decided to drastically improve his image in the eyes of the Israeli public. Thus, nothing could be more heart-warming for us Israelis, whom Assad needs so desperately in our national referendum, than to hear him compare us to the Nazis and to hear him declare that Israel "invented the legend of the Holocaust in order to rob the world and to terrorize the intellectuals and politicians of the international community.".Exposing the Holocaust as pure fiction is, of course, an important step on the road to peace, Mr. Assad, but you must go further. I have therefore drawn up a number of proposals to help you win us over to the idea of true peace between our two nations:

  1. You should expand on what you have said about the Holocaust and you should therefore point out that Hitler himself was Jewish and was circumcised in accordance with halachic law. You should also mention that the Jews were behind his attempt to seize control of the entire world. The Jews supported him because they wanted to get their hands on the international banking system, in accordance with the plan outlined in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and in order to establish a Jewish state whose citizens drink the blood of Christian and Muslim children every year on Passover. Nothing is more heart-warming than a strong dose of frankness.
  2. You must not forget to reveal the well-concealed fact that the Jews were behind the revolt that was ostensibly launched against you in Hama and that enabled you to slaughter 20,000 of your compatriots, including an entire school of air cadets. However, as a gesture for peace, you should declare to the whole world that you are willing to waive the compensation Israel owes you for that massacre.
  3. It is difficult to think of a more heart-warming move than the appointment of Alois Brunner, the Nazi war criminal who is holing up in Syria, as Syria's first ambassador to Nazi Israel.
  4. Regarding your ultimatum not to return to the negotiating table without an advance Israeli commitment to withdraw to the June 4, 1967 lines as a prize for your failures to wipe out Israel with the use of military force, I advise you to make your return conditional upon the thinning-out of the amazing number of Jews holding key positions in the Washington administration. (This information is contained in the latest report you received from the national office of the Ku Klux Klan.) You should also demand the end of the following disgraceful practices: First of all, on Yom Kippur, half of the administration shuts down its offices and Clinton refuses to make any speeches before the United Nations General Assembly. Second, all of America's top officials who are working on the peace process are Jews, former Jews, or future Jews. You would also be well advised to call for the dismantling of AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. Rest assured that this demand will provide you with the support of America's Jews when you come to the United States and ask for financial aid for your country.
  5. In order to improve the atmosphere, now would be a great time to announce the uncovering of an "Israeli espionage network" in Syria and to put an old, deaf Jew who can barely walk on trial in Damascus on charges of espionage. By doing so, you would have an excellent ace up your sleeve for the continuation of talks with Israel. As a special confidence-building measure, you should declare that the bones of Eli Cohen will never be returned to Israel, unless Israel agrees to give up its nuclear weapons, transfer the Galilee to Syrian hands and return the test tube that contains your urine and which was stolen by the Mossad.
  6. As a fitting reward for Barak's having praised you to the skies as a courageous leader and as the builder of "modern-day Syria" (these compliments made the clientele of Damascus's restaurants and cafes almost choke on their food as they reeled with laughter), you should respond that Israel is a backward country and that Barak is a coward and a cheat. Given his present level of credibility here, you will attain instant popularity in the eyes of all Israelis. Who knows, perhaps, with your help, Bibi will be able to return to the prime minister's office and Israel will be able to hold on to the Golan Heights for another 33 years?
  7. To prevent people from recalling the fact that Lebanon is under Syrian occupation, you should continue to declare that you have no control over Hezbollah and that it is fighting a just war. In this way, you will convince Israel that handing the Golan back to you will have no impact whatsoever on our military situation in Lebanon.
  8. You instructed Shara not to shake Barak's hand, not to look him straight in the eyes and not to smile. Admittedly, issuing these instructions was an important measure that certainly won our sympathy three months before the deadline for a peace treaty with your nation. However, this move has not sufficiently prepared the Syrian people for peace. What you must do now is to issue the following instruction: At his next meeting with Barak, Shara must also spit twice and show absolute repugnance each time Barak speaks.

OK, that's all for now. See you on referendum day. (Haaretz Feb 4)

 

 

The Real Threat by Haggai Segal

Shulamit Aloni, Meir Shilo, and other distinguished personalities of a particular political camp gave a real boost to Israel's ethical foundations when they called Israel's frenzy over Austrian Joerg Haider's rise to power "hypocritical." In their merit, the instinctive consensus among Israelis - that Haider's electoral success is an ominous development for the Jewish people - has been broken. This development has in turn given license to the Israeli right-wing license to refrain from the current festival of fury with Vienna - but for its own reasons: Our national camp perhaps legitimately suspects that the Haider saga is just another one of Barak's "fictitious associations."

Our Prime Minister apparently has a real need to project virility and strength, and he is satisfying this need at the expense of the distant Austrians. Not that Austria is blameless for its current predicament, but there are elements closer to home deserving of greater condemnation. Before we pour out our wrath on an irrelevant European state, and before we pledge to obliterate every manifestations of "Haiderism" throughout the world, it may be advisable to combat the anti-Semitism that is, literally, at our doorstep.

For years now, Syria has hosted Eichmann deputy Alois Brunner and sundry other Nazi war criminals. It is also the only country on earth, aside from Austria, that has expressed public support for Haider's right to join the Austrian government. Haider himself is undoubtedly delighted when he peruses translations of the various anti-Semitic articles published in Assad's Tishrin newspaper. Incidentally, unlike the modern Austrians, the Syrians are not content with engaging in theoretical anti-Semitism; they are also actively killing Jews in southern Lebanon. Regardless, Ehud Barak just cannot contain himself - he must make peace with Syria! After striking a deal with Assad, Barak could even decide to reassign Israel's now-unemployed ambassador to Austria - to Damascus.

Yossi Beilin declared last Friday that Israel's recalling of its ambassador to Vienna is evidence of our country's "uncompromising struggle against every manifestation of racism throughout the world." Is that a fact? Although the Palestinian Authority serves up classic anti-Semitism in healthy portions, it's hard to detect Israel's "uncompromising war" against the PA media. Beilin barely batted an eyelash at the recent announcement that Hitler's "Mein Kampf" is number six on the Palestinian autonomy's best-seller list. For the Palestinian press, the Jews are "the enemies of Allah," money-grubbing, corrupt, chronic violators of agreements, liars from birth, and oppressors of the weak. Although Itamar Marcus' Palestinian Media Watch publishes translations of PA Jew-hatred on a daily basis, the Israeli government has yet to recall one of its ambassadors to Gaza. Just the opposite: it maintains cordial relations with Arafat even when his official paper, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, publishes a caricature of a dwarf wearing a Star of David, with the caption, "Disease of the Century" (28.12.99). While Israeli eyes carefully seek out any trace of European anti-Semitism, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida expects its readers to fill in "Yad Vashem" as the answer to the following crossword puzzle clue: "The Jewish Center for perpetuating the Holocaust and the Lie." (18.2.99)

Haider never called us the "offspring of Satan" - Arafat's television programs do. Nor has Haider claimed that we "poison" people's "groundwater" - Suha Arafat has made such a statement. Haider has never announced that it is a moral duty to violate agreements signed with Jews - Yasser Arafat has. Enough hypocrisy: Arab anti-Semitism endangers Israel today more than any Vienna Hitler youth group or some despicable Holocaust denier in London. First let's deal with the real threat. Then - and only then - can we turn our attentions to Joerg Haider. (Haggai Segal, head of Arutz-7's News Department and the author of several books, is a regular columnist for Ma'ariv.). (Ma'ariv February 8, 2000)

 

 

Turning Israel Into A Banana Republic

There was a disturbing news report the other day in The New York Times about the possible collapse of a long-planned deal involving an $800 million Israeli purchase of Boeing combat helicopters because American officials were reluctant to share secret military software with the Israelis. Apparently, Pentagon officials are balking at having to give Israel the classified codes necessary to operate the on-board computers. Pentagon officials reportedly suspect that Israel has shared sensitive American military technology with India and China, who are customers of Israel's arms industry.

While the issue of the combat helicopters is important in and of itself, the report takes on ominous significance in the context of the expected Israeli relinquishment of the Golan to Syria and Israel's reliance on American monitoring of Syrian military positions for its northern security needs. Despite the protestations of the Barak government, it seems clear that any agreement with Syria will include Israel's surrender of the Golan. Even if the current suspension of the talks is not just part of a charade to strengthen Barak's hand with the Israeli populace - and we rather think it is - the dispute seems to be centered around whether the turnover must be committed to in advance as Assad insists, or following some bookkeeping "negotiations."

And the linchpin of any deal will be the acceptance of an American military presence on the Golan to provide Israel with an early warning system - if not the strategic superiority currently afforded by its control of the Golan. Yet the Pentagon's expression of fear over Israel's trustworthiness at this juncture is not happenstance. The helicopter deal was an opportunity seized to begin a process leading to Israel not being a full partner with the U.S. in any monitoring scheme on the Golan. Thus, Israel's security will effectively be in the hands of another country. When one considers the experience with the year's long inability of the international community to even define what would constitute a violation by Iraq of UN inspection resolutions, the message is made even clearer.

In the larger sense, too, there is much to worry about. Prime Minister Barak has said over and over again that in his view the ballistic missile threats from Iran and Iraq will soon overshadow any fears on the Syrian and Palestinian fronts. And it is in that context that Israel is seeking to purchase cruise missiles from the United States. But that would obviously require regular access to sophisticated United States military information, particularly as provided by satellites. Should the Pentagon demonization of Israel take hold, Israel's security vis-à-vis Iran and Iraq would also be in the hands of the United States.

At the risk of suggesting a measure of paranoia, the Pollard issue ineluctably comes to mind while thinking about these things. What better way to cement the perception of an unreliable Israel than to assert that a spy for Israel, an ally of the United States for Heaven's sake, did so much damage to the United States that he deserves to end his days in federal prison?

But then again, there is an old saying that just because one may be paranoid, it doesn't mean that no one is running after him. (Jewish Press Feb 11/00)

 

 

Benjamin L. Hooks - Letter to Clinton

June 28, 1993

President Bill Clinton

I have recently reviewed the facts in the case of Jonathan Pollard and have concluded that the term of his sentence is unduly harsh and unjust. I am therefore respectfully urging you to grant Mr. Pollard executive clemency.

As a lawyer and a minister, as well as a former judge and C.E.O. of the NAACP, I have rarely encountered, a case in which government arbitrariness was so clear cut and inexcusable. one can argue that Mr. Pollard has been denied due process, given the fact that he was sentenced to life imprisonment without a trial by his peers. Indeed, a comparison of sentences given to individuals convicted of similar crimes demonstrates that Mr. Pollard was singled out for punishment in excess of what others have received, including individuals convicted of aiding our nation's enemies.

As inexcusable as Mr. Pollard's acts were, he was never accused of treason or harming our nation. His crime was limited to aiding a close ally and this should have mitigated against such a harsh punishment.

I do hope that you will examine this with -merciful compassion and order Mr. Pollard's release, after serving more than seven years in prison, including six in complete isolation.

I thank you in advance for your consideration.

sincerely(signed)

Benjamin L. Hooks

Executive Director NAACP(Retired)(IMRA-14 Feb 2000)

 

 

Clintonism in Israel

Count Ehud Barak now among those who have. learned first-hand about the danger of getting too close to Bill Clinton. The Israeli prime minister hired the. U.S. president's famous team of ..political consultants-Stan Greenberg, James Carville and Bob Shrum-to help him defeat Benjamin Netanyahu in last year's elections. Now. his One Israel coalition faces fines of $3.2 million and Mr. Barak and his associates could face a criminal investigation. The reason: alleged campaign finance abuses that look strangely similar to the "soft" money campaign that helped Mr. Clinton regain the White House in 1996.

According to the report of Israeli state comptroller Eliezer Goldberg, who announced the fine against One Israel last Thursday, Mr. Barak's campaign illegitimately benefited from the support of numerous . phony non-profit organizations. The report alleges that the: groups, which sported. innocent names like Hope for Israel; Generation of Peace, and Citizens from Right and Left; were in fact entirely partisan, and apparently were created for the sole purpose of circumventing the strict limits Israel (like the U.S.) places on the amount of money individuals may. donate to support candidates in election campaigns.

The use of such non-profit organizations in Israeli political campaigns is not new, nor was it a very closely guarded secret. All of the major candidates for the prime minister's office made well-publicized fundraising trips abroad prior to the last election. After Benjamin Netanyahu won in 1996 he was accused of benefiting from a similar campaign. Israel's Labor Party (now part of One Israel) complained bitterly. But this time around One Israel leaders seem to have decided to exploit the system themselves on an unprecedented scale. Their American advisers offered no objection, we must assume.

Messrs. Greenberg, Carville and Shrum are not named in the comptroller's report and have not commented on it, But Tal Zilberstein. who runs the Tel Aviv office of the American trio's political consultancy, is named. According to Mr. Goldberg, Mr, Zilberstein's role was to oversee the use of the illegitimate funds by the non-profit organizations. Yitzhak Herzog, now Mr. Barak's cabinet secretary, got funds transferred to these groups, the report says. It doesn't seem entirely coincidental that some of the rich foreign donors bankrolling Mr. Barak in this fashion were also prominent supporters of the Clinton administration.

Mr. Barak first claimed that he was far too busy during the election campaign to have been aware of everything that was going on. But since that sounded a bit implausible, over the.. weekend Mr. Barak changed his tune, offering up something akin to U.S. Vice President Al Gore's claim that he was bound by "no controlling legal authority." As Mr. Barak and his associates now explain, the 1973 law on campaign financing has never been properly amended to take account of the fact that prime ministers are now directly elected. Mr. Goldberg, a former supreme court justice, clearly doesn't agree. And this explanation fails to account for why the Barak team went to all that trouble with the misleadingly labeled non-profits.

It is of course true that almost nobody's hands. are entirely clean in Israel. Mr. Netanyahu's Likud Party was also fined by Mr. Goldberg-but only one twenty-fifth as much as One Israel. Yet there is a worrying tendency throughout the world's mature democracies-as seen also in the recent finance allegations against former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and the late French President Francois Mitterrand- for leaden to believe the righteousness of their political vision exempts them from the rule of law. Israeli Education Minister Dalia Itzik argues that any campaign abuses must be understood in the context of a "drastic feeling among many that the Netanyahu government simply had to be replaced." Such an ends-justify-the-means mentality can easily be used to rationalize far worse abuses than illegitimate money in politics.

What Israel needs now: is for the attorney general to conduct a serious. investigation of this scandal. And instead of "reforming" the system by introducing mote anti-democratic limits on political speech, the Knesset should remove them altogether. Then politicians would be deprived of any excuse for not offering full disclosure about where their support comes from. (Wall Street Journal Editorial February 1, 2000)


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