Tuesday 22 July 2008

Bulldozer terror as digger driver goes on the rampage near Barack Obama's hotel

DAILY MAIL 22nd July 2008

By Matthew Kalman

Crowds scattered in terror as a Palestinian driving a bulldozer rampaged along a street in Jerusalem.

The drama happened on Tuesday close to a hotel where U.S. presidential contender Barack Obama was due to arrive a few hours later.

More than 20 people were hurt, including a baby, after the man roared out of a building site and smashed into a bus and five cars.


Police officers stand guard at the scene of the attack in Jerusalem


One man's leg was severed when the attack overturned his car. A bus driver and a pedestrian narrowly escaped death as the bulldozer rolled towards them, its shovel aimed at their heads.

The driver, who came from a village in the occupied West Bank, was shot and wounded by an Israeli settler, father-of-eight Yaki Asael, 56, then killed by a hail of bullets from a police patrol.

The attack was a copy of another rampage in the city three weeks ago, which killed three people and injured 60.

Obama, who was due to fly to Israel last night, said his 'thoughts and prayers go out to all who were injured, and to their families'.


Visit: Barack Obama at the Citadel in Amman, Jordan, prior to his Israel visit

Speaking in Amman, Jordan, he said: 'Today's attack is a reminder of what Israelis have courageously lived with on a daily basis for far too long. I strongly condemn this attack and will always support Israel in confronting terrorism and pursuing lasting peace and security.'

The Democrat Senator, who will hold talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders today, was due to stay at the King David Hotel, 200 yards from the scene of the attack. Police said they had no evidence to suggest a link.

The attack happened less than half a mile from the official residence of Israeli President Shimon Peres as he played host to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. It was the first such visit by a Palestinian president.

Police identified the attacker as 22-year-old Ghassan Abu Teir, who was related to a militantly anti-Israel politician from the Islamic Hamas party.

Monday 21 July 2008

Investigation begins into Israeli soldier who shot blindfolded Palestinian with rubber bullet

DAILY MAIL ONLINE : 21st July 2008

By Matthew Kalman

The Israeli army is investigating an incident in which a Palestinian
detainee was shot with a rubber bullet at point-blank range while he
was bound and blindfolded by Israeli soldiers.

The incident occurred in the West Bank village of Nil'in on July 7,
where Palestinians were protesting against the Israeli securit

The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem yesterday released shocking
footage of a soldier firing a rubber-coated bullet at Ashraf Abu
Rahma, 27.

The film was released as Gordnon Brown began a two-day visit to Israel
and the Palestinian Authority.

Abu Rahma told B'Tselem that the bullet hit his left toe. He said he
received treatment from an army medic, and released by the soldiers.

The shooting took place in the presence of an Israeli army lieutenant
colonel, who is seen holding Abu Rahma's arm when the shot is fired.

The Israeli army admitted the incident was 'grave' and in 'direct
contradiction with Israeli Defence Forces' values and principles.'

'Military laws forbid inflicting harm on detainees and obligate
soldiers to show them respect and ensure their safety. Incidents when
detainees are harmed are, in accordance with IDF policy, forwarded to
the Military Police for investigation.

'As in this case, after reviewing the videotape, the JAG Brig.-Gen.
Avichai Mandelblit ordered the opening of a probe into the incident.

'It should be mentioned that the Palestinian was inspected at the
scene by an IDF doctor and was found to have sustained a injury to his
right toe although in the footage he is seen collapsing to the ground
in obvious pain before sitting up.

'The Palestinian was released to his home without requiring medical
treatment,' said the army in a statement.

Thursday 17 July 2008

Israel swops child killer for dead soldiers

DAILY MAIL : 17 July 2008

From Matthew Kalman in Jerusalem and Paul Harris in London

In an emotionally charged day, Lebanon's Hezbollah guerillas handed
over the bodies of two Israeli soldiers.

Just a few hours later, Israel set free its most reviled prisoner,
Samir Qantar, who was jailed for the murder of three Israelis,
including a four-yearold child, nearly 30 years ago.

Four other prisoners and the remains of 199 Lebanese and Palestinian
fighters killed in clashes over the years were also released.

The families of the two dead soldiers, whose capture sparked a
month-long war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006, wept as TV images
revealed the two black coffins being handed over at a UN peacekeeping
base on the IsraelLebanon border.

Although they had long suspected Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were
dead, it was the first concrete proof of their fate since they were
seized two years ago. Israeli generals personally informed their
families of their deaths, following their identification by forensic
experts. The two soldiers will be buried today.

Regev's father Zvi wept as he watched Hezbollah place the coffins on
the ground. 'It was horrible to see,' he said. 'We were always hoping
Udi and Eldad were alive and they would come home and we would hug

The fraught and tense scenes in Israel were in marked contrast to the
hero's welcome that awaited Qantar, who left Lebanon when he was 17 to
carry out his deadly mission.

Dressed in combat fatigues, he and four other prisoners were greeted
by a red carpet and brass band as they crossed the border into the
coastal town of Naqoura in southern Lebanon.

One sign held by a supporter read: 'Israel is shedding tears of pain,
Lebanon is shedding tears of joy.'

As he was met by Hezbollah officials and clerics, Qantar – Lebanon's
longestheld prisoner in Israel – wiped away tears before the cheering

The five were later flown to the Lebanese capital Beirut where they
were met by president Michel Suleiman and prime minister Fouad

Although polls reveal many Israelis endorse the exchange, Qantar's
release is controversial because of the sheer brutality of his crimes.

In 1979, he and other gunmen struck in the Israeli coastal town of
Nahariya, killing a policeman before attacking Danny Haran in his

After shooting Mr Haran in front of his four-year-old daughter, he
then beat the child to death with his rifle. Mr Haran's wife, Smadar,
who fled into a crawl space with her two-year-old daughter,
accidentally smothered the girl trying to stifle her cries.

Qantar has never expressed remorse for the attack. Yesterday Smadar –
now 56 and with two grown-up daughters from a second marriage – told
the Daily Mail in an exclusive interview: 'People should know the
truth about who this man is.

'He is the one who brutally murdered my family. The one who laughed as
he crushed my little girl's skull against a rock. The man who is now
the hero of Hezbollah, who describe him as "a very, very brave

Wednesday 16 July 2008

Blair scraps Gaza trip after claim of death threat

DAILY MAIL : 16 Jul 2008

By MATTHEW KALMAN in Jerusalem

TONY BLAIR scrapped a visit to the Gaza Strip at the last minute
yesterday after Israel claimed Palestinian groups were planning to
assassinate him.

Mr Blair, the envoy for the Middle East peace 'quartet' of the UN, EU,
U.S. and Russia, was in his official convoy speeding towards a
Gaza-Israel border crossing when he was phoned by Israeli defence
minister Ehud Barak.

Mr Barak told him the secret service had received an intelligence
warning of 'a very serious' threat to assassinate him.

Mr Blair's advance security detail had already passed through the Erez
checkpoint, but Mr Blair ordered the convoy to turn back to his office
in Jerusalem.

He said the threat had been 'specific' and 'credible', but that he had
postponed the visit rather than cancelled it.

Thursday 10 July 2008

My Story: The screen test

JERUSALEM POST : July 10, 2008


They were turning people away at the door of the Lev Smadar cinema in Jerusalem's German Colony last Thursday night, and no one was more surprised than me.

It was the charity premiere of my first movie, Circumcise Me, an hour-long documentary about stand-up comedian Yisrael Campbell and the story of his three (count 'em) conversions to Judaism after a Catholic childhood in Philadelphia.

It was my first premiere. As the lights went down, I was terrified.

The movie theater is a short walk from my home. I knew half the audience. They had paid good money for an evening's entertainment and if it were a flop, I would be bumping into disappointed punters every time I went out to the shops.

The film is less than an hour long, but it had taken three years to reach this point. The project began as a kind of therapy from the daily blood and hatred of the intifada.

I was a foreign news correspondent in Jerusalem for USA Today, Canada's Globe & Mail and other newspapers. My codirector, photographer David Blumenfeld, was snapping for Time, Newsweek and other major publications. We teamed up to report news stories for papers around the world. Then the intifada erupted and we found ourselves dashing from one heartbreaking story to the next. I started reporting for CTV television in Canada, and David learned video news reporting in California. Before long, we were helping to produce documentaries.

It was after one particularly grueling session with a teenage would-be suicide bomber in an Israeli jail that David suggested it was time for us to make our own film. "Let's choose something fun," he suggested. "We need a break from all this."

The following evening, I went to the opening of the Off the Wall Comedy Club at the Little House Hotel in Baka. The headline comedian looked like a resident of Mea She'arim who had wandered into the wrong part of town. His name was Yisrael Campbell.

"Is it hot in here," he asks at the start of his show, "or am I the only one dressed for Poland in the 17th century?" His story, captured in an hour-long show called "It's Not in Heaven," was one of the funniest I had ever heard. It was riveting, hilarious, moving and brilliantly told.

"I think I've found the subject of our film," I told David as soon as I got home.

He agreed. We invited Yisrael to coffee and he loved the idea. More important, we loved him. We were about to spend three years in each other's company, so we needed to get along. And he was trusting us with a project that could make or kill his career.

We decided to let Yisrael's story speak for itself. The show traces his evolution from a drug- and drink-soaked teenager growing up in a Catholic family in Philadelphia to his first encounter with Reform Judaism, his journey through Conservative Judaism to Orthodoxy, his decision to move to Israel and the impact of the intifada on his wedding in Jerusalem, followed by the deaths of two friends in the Hebrew University bomb attack in July 2002.

We filmed six different shows and then took Yisrael to various locations: his yeshiva in Gush Etzion, the Old City, downtown Jerusalem and the scene of the Hebrew University bombing.

None of us was getting paid, so we squeezed it all in between our day jobs. The filming took nearly a year, and the editing took another six months. By the autumn of 2006 we were ready to show our first cut to close friends under the title "It's Not in Heaven." Many of our friends queried the title, and urged us to cut down a long section in the middle. We listened and re-edited the film, trimming the sections that sagged and adding more jokes from Yisrael's show. We restored a hilarious sequence about the baby clothes designed for his new-born twins that was originally left out. ("A pocket? A zero-pound baby has neither arms nor legs, it doesn't need a pocket.")

We paid particular attention to those sections of Yisrael's story that we thought could not be understood by a non-Jewish audience. We assumed our potential audiences in Europe and North America would not know anything about Israel, Judaism or the Middle East conflict.

We gave the film some structure by introducing Woody Allen-style titles using T-shirts on sale on Rehov Ben-Yehuda. On the day we went to film, we noticed a talented street guitarist. It took him less than five minutes to learn a theme tune we had written, and he played variations on it as we filmed the T-shirt captions.

Still searching for a final title, we submitted the film to one of Israel's top distributors. They hated it.

"Our films are serious," they told us. "This one has too many jokes." We were convinced they were wrong, that Israel isn't just about war and suicide attacks. Even when they are happening, normal life goes on. There are even people laughing in the midst of all that mayhem and sadness. We wanted to create an antidote to the news story that we ourselves were reporting every day. We wanted to show life in Israel in all its complexity, not just the violence and the politics. And our test screenings showed that most people who saw it, loved it.

Nearly a year after that first screening, we signed with 7th Art Releasing in Los Angeles, a boutique distributor that specializes in Jewish, Israeli, human rights and gay films. Our search for a title ended when David came up with the brilliant suggestion of Circumcise Me and then created a title sequence to fit that had us all in stitches.

7th Art began to roll the film out to festivals all across North America, with screenings in California, Minneapolis, Toronto, Dallas, Alabama, Louisiana, Palm Beach and others yet to be confirmed. It sold the film to the Jewish Television cable channel in New York and is currently in talks with Israeli TV.

Three days before the screening at the Smadar last week, we had less than 50 bookings for a theater that held more than 250 people. We had agonized over the date, the only open slot at the cinema. After it was booked, we discovered it clashed with the US ambassador's Fourth of July party, the Hartman High School graduation, concerts by Blondie, the Stranglers and Neshama Carlebach, two local weddings, a bachelor party and a big bar mitzva.

We started to panic. We posted flyers on lampposts up and down Rehov Emek Refaim and were slapped with a NIS 2,400 fine for illegal bill-posting by the municipality. We put the show up on Facebook and 38 people said they would come; 58 said they might. All we could do was sit and wait.

The last-minute rush for tickets so overwhelmed the box office that we were 20 minutes late starting. As the packed cinema was plunged into darkness, a wave of nausea washed over me. The screen went black, and the first credit appeared: "A Baka Films production." The audience laughed. It wasn't meant as a joke, but I didn't care. They kept on laughing, right to the end.


Thursday 3 July 2008

Four dead in bulldozer rampage of terror

DAILY MAIL : July 3, 2008

By Matthew Kalman in Jerusalem

A PALESTINIAN who drove a bulldozer into traffic on one of Jerusalem's busiest streets was yesterday shot dead after killing three Israelis and wounding more than 40.

The attack – the first in Jewish West Jerusalem for nearly four months – caused havoc to the city centre, leaving a trail of mangled vehicles in its wake.

Witnesses say the driver used the 20-ton vehicle to ram repeatedly a bus packed with passengers before striking another and crushing several cars on Jaffa Street.

A police officer managed to shoot the man after a brief struggle.

Last night, police named the attacker as 30-year-old Hosam Dwayyat, a construction worker from Arab East Jerusalem. Israeli police chief Dudi Cohen said there had been no immediate claim of responsibility from militant groups and that Dwayyat appeared to have acted alone.

The Israeli government immediately denounced the attack as 'an act of senseless, murderous violence', while an aide to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas claimed it was an attempt to wreck peace negotiations.

However, both Hamas and Islamic Jihad called the attack a 'natural' response by Palestinians to Israeli aggression. Neither Islamist group claimed responsibility.

Police confirmed last night that two Israeli women and a man died in the attack.

There were also claims on Israeli TV that one unnamed woman had saved her baby daughter's life by throwing her out of a car window seconds before the bulldozer hit. The baby escaped unharmed although the mother was injured.

Another five-month-old girl was pulled alive from the wreckage of one of the buses after rescuers heard her cries. It later become clear her mother was one of the two women who died.

It is the first major attack on Jerusalem since March, when a 25year-old gunman killed eight students at a Jewish religious school distance from Jaffa Road.

Since then, fatal attacks on Israelis have become relatively rare, despite frequent rocket and mortar fire from Gaza. Israeli forces have killed more than 360 Palestinians this year, mostly in Gaza.

More than 100 of dead were civilians.