Wednesday 27 February 2008


Last Modified: 27 Feb 2008
By: Channel 4 News

More4 News reports on the prominent Israeli religious politician who has caused controversy by saying that earthquakes are the result of the liberalisation of laws on homosexuality.

It may seem bizarre and offensive, but the views of Schlomo Benizri are not quite as marginal as they may sound. The Shas party has four cabinet ministers and ten per cent of the MPs in the Knesset.

From Jerusalem, Matthew Kalman reports.

Student Killed by Rocket at Israeli College

NEWS BLOG February 27, 2008

Jerusalem ­ An Israeli student was killed today in a Palestinian rocket attack on Sapir College, in Sderot, in southern Israel.

Ron Yichia, a 47-year-old student, died after suffering chest wounds when a rocket fell near his car in the parking lot of the college. The campus had been hit at least twice before, but Mr. Yichia was the first campus fatality and the first person to die in Sderot since May 2007, following daily rocket barrages from the nearby Gaza Strip.

Hamas said it had fired the rocket. The Palestinian group said the attack was a response to Israeli security measures that have wreaked havoc on the Palestinian territories, including the killing of five Palestinian militants this morning.

David Brennan, chairman of the Sapir College Student Union, called on the Israeli government to do more to stop the attacks, which have left Sderot and surrounding communities close to economic collapse. A statement issued by the Israeli Foreign Ministry accused Hamas and other Palestinian groups of committing war crimes by taking aim at civilian installations like Sapir College. ­Matthew Kalman

Tuesday 26 February 2008

Ariel Sharon's son starting jail term for election fraud

Tuesday, February 26th 2008

By Matthew Kalman
Special to the News

JERUSALEM - Ariel Sharon turns 80 Tuesday and the family of the comatose, stroke-stricken former prime minister is now facing another tragedy as one of his sons heads off to prison.

Omri Sharon, the eldest son of the lionized military hero, begins a nine-month prison sentence tomorrow after the country's Supreme Court let stand his election finance fraud conviction.

Before he goes, Omri and his brother Gilad will visit their dad today along with their children.

Sharon remains in a vegetative state since he was felled by a massive stroke in January 2006.

He is in Sheba Hospital in Tel Hashomer, north of Tel Aviv. Two plainclothes officers from the Shin Bet secret service are on permanent 24-hour guard outside his door.

"There has been no recent change in his condition," said David Weinberg, a hospital spokesman.

Sharon is able to breathe without assistance but is fed through a tube. He could remain alive but unconscious for years, experts said.

Thursday 21 February 2008

Number of Israeli Scholars in the U.S. Equals One-Quarter of Those at Home, Report Says

Thursday, February 21, 2008


A new report on the brain drain from Israeli universities suggests
that the ratio of Israeli academics working in the United States to
those in Israel is nearly 25 percent.

The report, "Brain Drained," is based on a study by Dan Ben-David of
the department of public policy at Tel Aviv University. It says that
"a massive policy breakdown" in higher education has created
conditions in which "the rate of academic emigration from Israel to
the United States is unparalleled in the Western world."

In the report, Mr. Ben-David argues that a shortage of university
teaching and research posts here "has made it extremely difficult for
young new researchers to return to Israel," and so "a large and
growing number of Israel's top researchers and scientists have
emigrated from the country, primarily to the United States."

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development, 82,905 foreign scholars worked at American universities
in 2003-4, representing 7.1 percent of the combined senior academic

Of those, the largest single group was 3,117 British scholars,
representing 2.1 percent of the senior academic faculty in Britain.
Among Canadian scholars, the ratio of those residing in the United
States that academic year to those in Canada was 12.2 percent.

Philosophers From Afar

Israeli scholars were far ahead of that rate. "The 1,409 Israeli
academics residing in the States in 2003-4 represented 24.9 percent of
the entire senior staff in Israel's academic institutions that
year­twice the Canadian ratio and over five times the ratio in the
other developed countries," writes Mr. Ben-David.

He says that the numbers of Israelis working in the United States are
equal to one-eighth of all Israel's chemists, 15 percent of the
country's philosophers, and 29 percent of "top Israeli economists."

"The group with the greatest proportional representation in the top
American departments is computer science," he reports. "The number of
Israelis in just the top 40 U.S. computer-science departments
represents a full third of the entire contingent remaining in Israel."

Israel's educational policy makers have been concerned for some time
about a brain drain. A government committee that reported last year on
reforms in higher education recommended specific new spending to
encourage talented young academics to stay in Israel and to lure back
those who had left.

Rabbi Michael Melchior, chairman of the education committee in the
Knesset, Israel's Parliament, puts the total number of Israeli
academics abroad at about 3,000­ - more than double the figure cited by
Mr. Ben-David.

"It costs about $1-million to train and educate someone to professor
level," Mr. Melchior told The Chronicle. "So we've paid about
$3-billion, which has been thrown out of the window."

Monday 18 February 2008

Woman finds she is 120, or older still

DAILY MAIL : Monday 18 February, 2008

By MATTHEW KALMAN in Jerusalem

A WOMAN has declared herself the oldest living person after her birth certificate was uncovered, showing she is 120.

Mariam Amash rises at 5am, walks unaided and puts her longevity down to eating lots of vegetables.

She said: 'Yes, I am the oldest person in the world. I eat, drink and take showers. I hope to keep going for another ten years.'

Her Ottoman Empire birth certificate says she was born near her home in Jisr az-Zarka, northern Israel, in 1888.

Mrs Amash, who is a Bedouin Muslim, has ten children, 120 grandchildren, 250 great-grandchildren, and 30 great-greatgrandchildren.

The oldest living person in the Guinness Book of Records is Edna Parker, of Indiana, who is 114.

Mrs Amash's age came to light this month when she applied to the Israeli interior ministry to renew her ID card.

Official Moshe Hazut said: 'She was born during the Ottoman period, when the population registry was very inaccurate. It is possible she is younger – or even older.

'She was perfectly capable of walking by herself. Her hearing is impaired but she seemed fine, God bless her.'

Thursday 14 February 2008

Hezbollah military leader slain

NEWS ANALYSIS: Despite denials, many believe Israel tracked, killed its No.1 enemy in Syrian capital

Jerusalem -- Shortly after 11 p.m. Tuesday, an aide handed Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak a brief message of no more than five words. Barak glanced at the note, pursed his lips, and continued briefing reporters about his trip to Turkey.

Barak, a former commander of an elite special operations unit and a highly decorated veteran of many daring raids into enemy territory, had just been informed of the assassination of Israel's Enemy No. 1 - Hezbollah military commander Imad Mughniyeh.

Was Barak's apparent lack of surprise an indication that he had been expecting the news, or was he too stunned to react?

The Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah and its ally, Iran, immediately blamed Israel on Wednesday for the assassination by car bomb in the Syrian capital of Damascus.

"This is a loss of a major pillar in resistance work. He was an expert at making victories and building fighting capacities against Israel," Ali Hassan Khalil, a member of Lebanon's parliament with Amal, a Shiite Muslim group allied with Hezbollah, told the Washington Post. "He played an essential role in all resistance activities, especially the last war."

Many analysts believe the Lebanese-born Mughniyeh's slaying was orchestrated by the Mossad, Israel's secret service, an allegation quickly denied by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

"Israel rejects the attempt by terrorist elements to ascribe to it any involvement whatsoever in this incident," said a statement by Olmert's office in a rare departure from a long-standing policy not to comment on intelligence matters.

But if Israel was behind the assassination "it can be seen as the most significant intelligence accomplishment in the war on terror," said Yossi Melman of the daily newspaper Ha'aretz, an expert on Israeli intelligence.

The death of the 45-year-old Mughniyeh in the heart of Damascus is deeply embarrassing for Syria, which has long provided a safe haven for Palestinian and Iranian-backed terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Some analysts say the assassination has also rocked the highly secretive network linking the Iranian Revolutionary Guards with Hezbollah and other groups whose terrorist operations could be a key weapon against Western attempts to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

But whoever killed Mughniyeh, his death has sent a clear message to Beirut, Damascus and Tehran that nobody is safe if they threaten Israeli security.

"If there is no court capable of bringing people like this to trial, they have to be dealt with in another manner," said Gerald Steinberg, professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan. "They won't be able to live to a ripe old age."

Mughniyeh's security precautions had been legendary. He rarely appeared outside his inner circle and traveled between hiding places in Lebanon, Syria and Iran. He was rarely photographed, never appeared in public, and reportedly underwent plastic surgery to alter his appearance after the FBI placed a $5 million bounty on his head in 2001 over his role in planning the 1985 hijacking of a TWA airliner that killed a U.S. Navy diver. It is believed he never slept in the same place two nights in a row.

"Mughniyeh is probably the most intelligent, most capable operative we've ever run across," Robert Baer, a former CIA operative who hunted Mughniyeh for years, said in a past interview on the "60 Minutes" news program. "He enters by one door, exits by another, changes his cars daily, never makes appointments on a telephone, never is predictable. ... He only uses people that are related to him that he can trust. He is the master terrorist, the grail we are after since 1983."

Israeli counterterror expert Boaz Ganor of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya said Mughniyeh was the linchpin of Hezbollah's international terror network, which also acts as an arm of Iranian intelligence.

"Mughniyeh's importance lies not only in his ability to execute extraordinary attacks against targets around the world - or even in his control of Hezbollah's operational branch in Lebanon - but more significantly in the close connections he established between Iran, Syria and Hezbollah," Ganor wrote in the Jerusalem Post. "Mughniyeh positioned himself as the operational link between these actors."

Mughniyeh was the alleged mastermind of the 1983 bombings of a Marine barracks that killed 241 and the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon earlier that year. Western intelligence agencies have blamed him for the early-1990s bombings of the Israeli Embassy and a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, which killed 114 people. He was also linked to the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, an attack that killed 19 Americans, according to the Associated Press.

Steinberg says whoever killed Mughniyeh not only found him in the upscale Kfar Sousse neighborhood but booby-trapped his Mitsubishi Pajero from under his security's nose. He figures it was an inside job, which should cause Hezbollah and Iran to worry about infiltration at the highest levels.

"If this was the Mossad, and I have no idea if that is the case, then it is a clear demonstration that they are back in the game, that they have managed to restore their capability for secret operations that was somewhat degraded during the 1990s and reached its low point with the botched assassination attempt against Hamas chief Khaled Mashal in Jordan in 1997," said Steinberg. "This would be Israel restoring its deterrent capability and sending a clear message to its terrorist enemies: You can run, but you can't hide."

Steinberg also points out that other nations also wanted Mughniyeh dead, including the United States. In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack echoed that sentiment.

"You can just go down the list of other nationalities that were affected by his acts of terror. ... The list goes on and on and on," McCormack told reporters. "He was a cold-blooded killer, a mass murderer and a terrorist responsible for countless innocent lives lost. One way or another he was brought to justice."

Meanwhile, Mughniyeh's body was brought to Beirut in a coffin wrapped in Hezbollah's yellow flag. The militant group announced there would be a demonstration Thursday in its south Beirut stronghold amid calls for revenge. Israeli embassies and consulates have been placed on high alert.

This article appeared on page A - 10 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Monday 11 February 2008

Brooklyn rabbi accused of sexual abuse loses extradition battle

An Israeli judge ruled Sunday that a disgraced Brooklyn rabbi accused of sexually abusing children more than two decades ago can be extradited to the U.S.

Rabbi Avrohom Mondrowitz, who fled to the Jewish state in 1984 to avoid prosecution, could now be headed back to Brooklyn within a matter of months to face sodomy and sex abuse charges.

"It's good news," said Michael Lesher, who represents several of the rabbi's alleged victims. "This order means he'll be on the way back to face trial."

Mondrowitz, 60, a married father of seven, could still appeal the decision to the Israeli Supreme Court, a move that could take nearly a year to resolve.

"There's still some work to be done," said Jerry Schmetterer, a spokesman for Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes. "We look forward to bringing him to justice in Brooklyn."

Mondrowitz was arrested last year after the U.S. and Israel agreed to broaden their extradition pact.

The rabbi argued that the statute of limitations had run out on his alleged crimes.

But Judge Nava Ben-Or ruled Mondrowitz should not benefit from fleeing prosecution.

"When someone is escaping justice it is only fair and reasonable that this period of time is not taken into account," said Gal Levertov, an Israeli Justice Department official.

Dressed in a long black coat and yarmulke, the shackled Mondrowitz sat impassively as the judge read his decision.

His wife and children sat behind him, but were prevented by two guards from touching or talking to him.

"I'm very proud of my kids. I'm always proud of my kids," Mondrowitz said to his family as he was led away.

"We're proud of you, too," one of his sons cried out.

Mondrowitz was once a popular child psychologist and youth counselor in Borough Park, where he was especially well-known among Hasidic Jews.

He fled to Israel after several boys filed horrific complaints claiming he sodomized them after befriending them or taking them on outings to amusement parks and movies.

One of Mondrowitz's victims told Lesher he was pleased that the rabbi is one step closer to facing trial for his alleged crimes.

"It's been a long time to see any sort of justice," Lesher said. "We feel we are tangibly closer now."

Tuesday 5 February 2008

Day suicide bomb terror returned to haunt Israel

DAILY MAIL : February 5 2008

From Matthew Kalman in Jerusalem

SUICIDE bombers struck in Israel for the first time in a year
yesterday, killing a woman at a shopping mall.

But the carnage could have been much worse as only one of the two
bombers involved managed to detonate his bomb.

The second Palestinian was knocked over by the blast when his comrade
blew himself up in the town of Dimona.

An Israeli doctor, thinking the stunned man was one of the wounded,
ran to his side and tore open his jacket, only to discover he was
wearing a suicide belt. As the doctor backed away a policeman stepped
up and shot the Palestinian at point-blank range, killing him.

The blast occurred only a couple of miles from Israel's most sensitive
military site, the nuclear reactor in the desert just outside Dimona.
The Palestinians came from Gaza and entered Israel via the Sinai
Desert through the border fence between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.

The border was breached two weeks ago when Hamas blew up the barrier
and smashed through it with bulldozers.

Responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Al-Aqsa Brigades of
Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

In Gaza, residents handed out sweets and flowers and fired into the
air to celebrate.

Al-Aqsa Brigades spokesman Abu Fouad boasted that 'the attack has been
planned for a month, but was only made possible after gunmen bombed
the fence'.

He identified the bombers as Mussa Arafat, 23, and Lawai Abwaini, 20.
Arafat's father said: 'Thank God he died a martyr.'

In the alley outside Abwaini's home in Gaza City, the bomber's father
held up a picture of his son and praised him as a hero.

But his mother Ibtissam, remained inside, sitting on a mattress on the
floor and sobbing uncontrollably. She said she had learned of her
son's death from neighbours.

She cowered when her husband and other men in the family reprimanded
her for grieving.

Dr Baruch Mandeltzwieg, a local doctor who tried to treat the injured
in Dimona, said the second bomber was bleeding from the head when he
ran up to try to help him.

'His head was moving,' said Dr Mandeltzwieg.

'We started to treat him and then we saw an explosive belt … I managed
to see a small gas canister and small plastic bags attached to his

Tony Blair, special peace envoy for the Middle East, who is due in the
area today for talks, condemned the bombing as a 'despicable act of