Sunday 31 August 2008

War criminal who handed Jews over to Nazis for extermination 'lives openly in Germany'

DAILY MAIL : 31st August 2008

By Matthew Kalman

A Lithuanian convicted of collaborating with the Nazis in the mass murder of Jews during World War II is living peacefully in a small town in Germany, it was revealed today.

Algimantas Dailide, 87, was stripped of his US citizenship and fled the country in 2004 after lying about his wartime activities.

He was an officer in the collaborationist Lithuanian Security Police and handed over innocent Jews from the Vilna Ghetto to the Nazis to be slaughtered.

Dailide, who is the ninth most wanted man on the Simon Wiesenthal Centre's list of Nazi war criminals, settled in Kirchberg, Saxony, where he has been living with his wife ever since.

'The Lithuanians have managed to make a farce out of the entire judicial process.'

A court in Vilnius convicted him of war crimes in March 2006, but did not impose a custodial sentence.

In July, a high court in Lithuania ruled that he would not go to prison, partly because of his frail health, but he has never been given a health examination by the Lithuanian authorities and he was spotted last week by the Israeli reporter out shopping for groceries near his home.

He declared he was 'innocent' of the war crimes charges for which he was convicted.

Dailide and his wife live with his wife in a modest apartment on Torstrasse, opposite the local town hall. Even though he is a convicted war criminal, he has made no attempt to hide his identity. His name appears on the mailbox and the intercom at the entrance to the apartment block.

Dailide's German-born wife, whom he met in 1945 after escaping Lithuania, has relatives in Kirchberg, a town of 7,000 in what was formerly East Germany.

Haaretz said the couple live on his wife's German pension of £200 a month, and the remaining profits from the sale of their house in the US.

Efraim Zuroff, Israel director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre and its chief Nazi-hunter, said he had spent many years persuading the Lithuanian authorities to bring Dailide to trial.

'It is absolutely outrageous that he is free today,' said Zuroff. 'The Lithuanians have managed to make a farce out of the entire judicial process.'

'Dailide was actually convicted and sentenced but they didn't have the courage or fortitude to implement the sentence,' he said, adding that no Lithuanian collaborators had ever gone to jail.

'A lack of political willingness to contend with the crimes of the past, along with extenuating circumstances stemming from advanced age, are letting Nazi criminals off the hook,' he said.

Zuroff said the German authorities were unlikely to arrest him, because he was not convicted directly of murder or of being an accessory to murder with cruelty.

He called on the Lithuanian courts to implement their own judgment against Dailide.

Saturday 30 August 2008

Israel ready to attack if Iran goes nuclear

DAILY MAIL, Saturday August 30, 2008

By Matthew Kalman

ISRAEL will bomb Iran rather than let the ayatollahs get their hands on nuclear weapons, it was claimed yesterday.

The Israeli cabinet held a special session three weeks ago where it approved plans to stop Iran from going nuclear – at any price, according to newspaper reports.

'Preparations for an Israeli military option intended to stop Iran's nuclear program are under way,' reported Israel's daily Maariv newspaper.

'If the ayatollahs' regime does not fall in the next year, if the Americans do not strike militarily, and if the international sanctions do not break the Iranian nuclear plan, Israel will have to act forcefully.'

The United States has called for tougher international sanctions to try to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

But Israeli leaders fear a nuclear Iran would seek to destroy the Jewish state and they believe time is running out for the diplomatic option.

At a recent military parade in Tehran, banners adorning six Shahab- 3 missiles proudly displayed Iran's hatred toward Israel and the U.S., reading: ' Israel must be wiped off the map' and 'We will crush America under our feet.'

Ben Caspit, the Maariv diplomatic editor, said the U. S. was opposed to the Israeli plan and could withhold the permits and special codes needed to overfly Iraq and attack Iran.

Yesterday, Iran's deputy foreign minister, Ali Reza Sheikh Attar, said his country was operating 4,000 centrifuges at its main uranium enrichment plant – enough to churn out weapons-grade plutonium for dozens of nuclear warheads.

Also yesterday, the London Arabic daily Al- Quds Al- Arabi reported that Iran had supplied its Hezbollah allies in Lebanon with advanced rocket systems capable of hitting anywhere in Israel.

The report said Hezbollah would respond to any Israeli attack on Iran with a massive rocket barrage against Israeli cities.

Wednesday 27 August 2008

Bomb Explodes at University in Gaza Strip


NEWS BLOG : August 27, 2008

Jerusalem — A bomb exploded on Tuesday at Al-Azhar University, in the Gaza Strip, causing damage but no casualties.

The blast occurred in a classroom on the first floor of the humanities building. The room had just been vacated by students who were taking an examination, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, an independent organization known as PCHR.

Al-Azhar is a secular university politically affiliated with the Fatah movement headed by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. The human-rights organization described the attack as part of the continuing “security chaos” in Gaza that involves sporadic and sometimes deadly clashes between rival supporters of Fatah and Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip last year.

“It is worth noting that acts of violence were reported on Sunday, 24 August 2008, between supporters of Hamas and Fatah blocs at the university, in which a number of students and administrative staff members were attacked,” the group said in a statement.

PCHR is gravely concerned over this latest attack, which is part of the state of security chaos prevailing in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” the group said. “PCHR calls for respecting university life and academic freedoms.” —Matthew Kalman

Wednesday 13 August 2008

Cisco helps open world to Mideast students


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Matthew Kalman, Chronicle Foreign Service

Nazareth, Israel -- In a community center in Upper Nazareth, Jewish and Arab schoolchildren are learning together. It's a rare scene in this tensely divided country, where ethnic divisions have been widened by fears of terrorism and underlying tensions over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

What makes it unique is the bank of video screens on one wall connecting this room with similar groups of teenagers around the Mediterranean. And what makes it historic are the two dark-suited men sitting with the students and chatting over the uplink to the kids joining in from Portugal to Jordan via Morocco and Turkey.

One of them is Shimon Peres, the octogenarian president of Israel. The other is John Chambers, the CEO and president of San Jose-based Cisco Systems.

The chat crackling across the loudspeakers is part of the Mediterranean Youth Technology Club (MYTecC), a Cisco-sponsored two-year program that intends to create a virtual society of 400 teenagers across six countries who use the Internet to study English, computer science, leadership skills, communication and, most importantly, each other.

A related project, Digital Cities, is bringing computer technology to underprivileged towns in Israel, beginning with Nazareth and Ramla.

'It's really interesting'

"We learn technology and that will make us stronger in future," says Sha'ed Bishara, an Israeli Arab ninth-grader. "We learn about things we never knew about before, everything about the Internet. It's really interesting."

"Before this program I had no contact with my Jewish neighbors," she says. "Now I have Jewish friends. Cisco made us into friends. It will affect our future. We need to live together, without wars and all that. We all get on well together here."

Peres beams with pleasure as the youngsters guide him around their computer lab and show him Cisco-developed platforms developed that link the participants.

The two community projects in Nazareth - worth more than $2.5 million - are using Cisco's communications technology to advance dialogue between school students and give underprivileged teenagers a boost into the modern world.

"What is fascinating is that your generation will be about communities working together. The exciting thing about the Internet is that eliminates time and distance," Chambers tells the teenagers.

The MYTecC and Digital Cities programs were the brainchild of Zika Abzuk, a senior executive of Cisco in Israel. She says she was encouraged by the company to embark on the projects even though it meant largely abandoning her income-producing work for the company and diverting their resources into what is basically a philanthropic venture.

"Kids come twice a week to a technology center where they learn English, technology and how to be citizens of the world. They use the Internet and their natural curiosity to get to know each other and learn about each other's culture," says Abzuk.

At a community project in the back streets of East Jerusalem, Palestinian teenagers are combining leadership skills activities with surfing their favorite pages of the MYTecC Web platform.

Sara Salameh, 14, says she most enjoys chatting with her counterparts in Jordan and Morocco using her new screen name "Sarsoorah."

"I want to learn more English and communicate with friends from outside," she says. "I want to learn more about computers and tell my friends about our culture here in Palestine."

The sessions are supervised by 20 instructors from eight different countries, who have undergone intensive training for the past year at various locations around the region. A 20-day session for senior instructors was held in Istanbul in July. A new group of Palestinian and Jordanian instructors were trained in Amman during August. The technical operation of the project is itself an exercise in international diplomacy.

West Bank group forming

Rajwan Odeh, a 26-year-old computer scientist from Ramallah in the West Bank, is responsible for MYTecC technical development and communications platforms, as well as being the instructor for the first West Bank group that will begin meeting this fall. A Palestinian group in East Jerusalem started in February. Her content manager is another instructor in Portugal. Her troubleshooting consultant is in Tel Aviv.

The project brings together instructors and students from various countries that have tense relations with each other - Portugal and Morocco, Turkey and Cyprus, and of course Israelis and Palestinians. But they eschew attempts at amateur diplomacy. Instead the participants have chosen to respect each other's differences and get on with the work in hand.

'Open to other worlds'

"I was really motivated to do this because I like to be open-minded, open to other worlds, to other people and have cultural diversity" says Odeh, who wears a traditional Muslim hijab and tells hair-raising stories of her treatment at Israeli checkpoints as a student during the intifada.

"I'm looking for students who need what we have to offer and don't already have the opportunity to experience these things. Many Palestinians at private schools in Ramallah already have access to this kind of technology," she says.

"Teenagers can go on the Internet by themselves, but MYTecC is different. It's not just working on computers. It's the virtual activities, the social empowerment, the whole program that helps make them good people in their society. They would be in touch with other people through the Internet anyway, but this way they are in touch with ethical people. It helps to empower their values and develop them as leaders in their society," she says.

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This article appeared on page A - 8 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Tuesday 5 August 2008

University in West Bank to Open a Theater School, Based in Part in a Refugee Camp


Jenin, West Bank — The Arab American University at Jenin will offer the first accredited theater-degree course in the Palestinian territories, starting this fall. The three-year undergraduate program will be based in part at the Freedom Theatre, which was founded in 2006 in the Palestinian refugee camp here.

The new theater school receives support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and from the philanthropic organization ArtVenture. The program will be supervised by theater professionals from around the world, and led by Juliano Mer Khamis, a founder and director of the Freedom Theatre.

According to a Web site for the new school, the program will train students to work as professional actors, as well as leaders in the fields of culture and art. In classes at the university, they will study the history of theater and world arts, Palestinian history and culture, literary and theatrical criticism, Arabic and English. At the Freedom Theatre, they will develop practical skills.

The Freedom Theatre has been host to dozens of local and foreign productions since it was opened in the wreckage of the Jenin refugee camp, part of which was destroyed in fierce fighting between Palestinian and Israeli forces during the second intifada. The Freedom Theatre has recently opened a new facility that will serve as a center for the acting school course.

One of the founders of the Freedom Theatre is Zacharia Zubeideh, local commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades terrorist group. As a teenager, he had participated in the Stone Theatre, founded by Anna Mer Khamis, Juliano Mer Khamis's mother. "The Freedom Theatre was my idea," he told The Chronicle. "I want to show the world we are artists, that we have a culture." —Matthew Kalman

Sunday 3 August 2008

A conversation with Matthew Kalman, filmmaker
by simone August 03 2008

Matthew Kalman, Director

Israeli humor is hot these days, and Matthew Kalman, co-director (with David Blumenfeld) of Circumcise Me, a comic documentary starring Yisrael Campbell, is at the forefront of this trend. The film, which traces the life of Campbell, a Catholic boy turned Jewish comedian, is currently doing the film festival circuit, and in the near future, the directors hope to hold weekly showings at Jerusalem's Lev Smadar Cinema, which hosted the film's Israeli premier on July 3.

Can I get a brief genesis on the history of this movie ands how you got involved? I'm a reporter, and David [Blumenfeld] is a photographer, and we've been working together here in Israel for the last 10 years. A few years ago, we started doing a lot of documentary work. It was all about suicide bombers, the intifada, guys with masks, and it got grueling after a while. One day, we'd just finished interviewing a 16-year-old who wanted to blow himself up but was caught at a checkpoint before he made it to his destination. We went to interview him in jail, and on the way back, David said to me, "We've got to do something fun, something for ourselves." That night, I went to the opening of the Off the Wall Comedy Empire. I heard Yisrael Campbell perform his act, and I said to myself, "We've got our subject."

How did your past experiences in journalism influence this project? How did you find the transition from print journalist to documentary filmmaker? The thing about print journalism is that you have very little control over what actually appears in print. You don't choose the headline; you don't make the final editing decisions. There are many times where I'll focus on one thing and something else entirely will appear in the published version. Here, with this documentary, we have complete control over what actually appears on the screen. So it's much more creative. But it's also a much greater responsibility. When I write for a paper, I get up, do my work and then come home and turn on Seinfeld and it's no longer my responsibility. Here, David and I are completely responsible for how Yisrael is perceived by the world.

Yisrael Campbell's comedy is a major selling point, but his back story is also key to what you did with the movie. What kind of balance between profile and concert document were you trying to strikYisrael Campbell, Circumcise Me e? This was a really easy film to make, because Yisrael is really funny, he's really talented, he already has a show, so all we really had to do was film him. What we wanted to do with this project is take his show, which has been performed to numerous audiences here in Israel, and make it accessible to people elsewhere, and not just to Jewish audiences but to a wide range of people. We had to explain the contexts in Campbell's show and take out the parts that had too much Hebrew (which meant removing some of the funniest parts of the show). We also wanted to tell as much as possible of Campbell's back-story using very elementary documentary techniques. For example, Yisrael's father only has a few lines but they are all about very transitional points in Yisrael's life and they help move the story along.

Finally, we want to show people who don't live here what this place is like, so we filmed Yisrael driving along the security wall and visiting the Hebrew University, so that people can visualize the places he refers to. At one point, you see him at the café where his friends were blown up. For me, that's the emotional highlight of the film. It's a very powerful image that you can't do in print. You can describe, but to actually see it, to see Yisrael sitting on the memorial, is very powerful.

How would you describe the role and presence of the city of Jerusalem in the movie? Jerusalem is definitely one of the characters in the movie. In that way, I think we were very influenced by shows like NYPD Blue. We consciously modeled some shots from NYPD Blue and Seinfeld - the scenes of Yisrael in the comedy club and in various Jerusalem locales. We stole nakedly from all of our favorite programs. There's a very fine comedy called Just Shoot Me, and we used that as inspiration too. In that show they zoom in on all these different magazine covers shots, and we did the same thing with tourist t-shirts. It was brazen thievery.

What sort of audience have you found is attracted to this film? Who needs it the most and how do you plan on getting them to see it? This is a feel-good film about Israel and therefore Jewish audiences love it, English-speaking Israeli audiences love it and we think Jewish audiences abroad will have the same response. They're fed up of seeing Israel only through images of violence. This provides an alternative. It's about the intifada but it's also about how life is lived here. As journalists here, we always have to cover death, but there's also a gallows humor and we wanted to capture that absurdist, Life of Brian-type humor with this film.

For example, the day after the cease fire began in Gaza about a month ago, I was doing an interview with some Hamas guys there – it was this heavy interview about Israel and the intifada and they were all dressed up with masks and machine guns. As soon as we shut the camera off, they took of their masks and one of them says to my cameraman, "Are you Indian?" He said "Yes," and all of a sudden this Hamas fighter, who's holding an M-16 and packed with grenades, starts singing this song to him, an Indian song that he wanted translated. The cameraman said he wasn't able to translate, so he called his mother in England and here is this Hamas guy in full fighting gear singing on the phone to my cameraman's mother. It's this sort of humor that we wanted to show with the movie.

We're billing it as the first – and possibly last – real intifada comedy.

What was it like doing production in Jerusalem? Is it a case of dealing with logistical nightmares in order to capture peoples and places that you could never capture elsewhere, or was it a more nuanced experience? Can you share an anecdote that sums it up for you in your memories? Jerusalem is a great place to be a reporter, it's a great place to film because people here are so used to having cameras and television crews around them at all times. It was almost like having a professional cast of extras to work with. We saw the guitarist who plays the theme song playing on Ben Yehuda St., and we asked him if he wanted to be in the movie. He said yes right away and it took him all of about five minutes to learn the theme song.

Meah Shearim was the only place where filming was a little dicey. They're more wary of cameras there. In fact, we had an alternate beginning to the film which showed Yisrael emerging from a group of charedim, but the other charedim in the crowd were none too happy about it, so we decided to cut that part.

Photo of Matthew Kalman courtesy of David Blumenfeld; photo of the Circumcise Me cast and crew courtesy of Melissa Blumenfeld.

Friday 1 August 2008

Israeli Professor Is Accused of Sexually Abusing Students and Creating a 'Reign of Terror'


August 1, 2008

Jerusalem — A professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was arrested this week by the Israeli police on suspicion of sexually abusing and harassing female students in return for higher grades and advancement, The Jerusalem Post reported.

The professor, Eyal Ben-Ari, was arraigned in the Jerusalem Magistrates Court on Wednesday and released on bail. The police believe he may have preyed on his female students for up to 15 years.

Mr. Ben-Ari, a sociology and anthropology professor who from 2003 to 2007 was director of the Harry S. Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the university, denied all the accusations against him.

One of his students described him to the Post as a "dynamic, charismatic, and funny lecturer."

But other students at the university told the Haaretz newspaper that Mr. Ben-Ari had threatened his victims and prevented them from speaking out.

Haaretz reported that the new chairman of the sociology department, Gad Yair, admitted, in a letter published online, that a "reign of terror" existed in the department. "Neither academic freedom nor academics can exist in this environment," he wrote.

The problem came to light a year ago, after female students at the university wrote an anonymous letter alleging they had been raped and coerced into having sex with Mr. Ben-Ari. They accused him of threatening to suspend their student grant payments if they refused. The students said that women who had refused Mr. Ben-Ari's advances had lost their jobs as teaching assistants. They also said he had misused university funds to pay for trips abroad for himself with female students.

But the police did not get involved until three months ago, when the Israel Women's Network brought legal charges against the department on behalf of a woman who alleged sexual harassment by one of Mr. Ben-Ari's colleagues.

A report in the Hebrew-language local newspaper Yediot Yerushalayim quoted two of his students who said he had sexually attacked them as a matter of routine.

A university spokeswoman, Orit Sulitzeanu, said the university had begun investigating the allegations internally and also alerted the police.

"When an anonymous letter was received by the administration regarding actions taken by this lecturer, the letter was immediately forwarded to the Israel Police," she said in a written statement. "The police asked the university to stop the investigation it [had] initiated so that they could conduct an investigation."

"The university takes very seriously any sexual harassment," she said, "and will take all necessary steps to deal with complaints of this sort." —Matthew Kalman