Tuesday 15 December 2009

Burial cloth found in Jerusalem cave casts doubt on authenticity of Turin Shroud

DAILY MAIL 16th December 2009
By Matthew Kalman

Archaeologists have discovered the first known burial shroud in Jerusalem from the time of Christ's crucifixion - and say it casts serious doubt on the claimed authenticity of the Turin Shroud.

Ancient shrouds from the period have been found before in the Holy Land, but never in Jerusalem.

Researchers say the weave and design of the shroud discovered in a burial cave near Jerusalem's Old City are completely different to the Turin Shroud.

Jerusalem shroud

Discovery: The shrouded body of a man was found in this sealed chamber of a cave in the Hinnom Valley, overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem

Radiocarbon tests and artefacts found in the cave prove almost beyond doubt that it was from the same time of Christ's death.

It was made with a simple two-way weave - not the twill weave used on the Turin Shroud, which textile experts say was introduced more than 1,000 years after Christ lived.

And instead of being a single sheet like the famous item in Turin, the Jerusalem shroud is made up of several sections, with a separate piece for the head.

Professor Shimon Gibson, the archaeologist who discovered the tomb, said ancient writings and contemporary shrouds from other areas had suggested this design, and the Jerusalem shroud finally provided the physical evidence.

The debate over the Turin Shroud will not go away. Last month a Vatican researcher said she had found the words 'Jesus Nazarene' on the shroud, proving it was the linen cloth which was wrapped around Christ's body.

Jerusalem shroud
Turin shroud

Tests: DNA analysis of the fibres of the Jerusalem shroud, left, have revealed it dates back to the time of Christ's death. Experts say it casts doubt on the authenticity of the Turin Shroud, right

Barbara Frale said computer analysis of photographs of the shroud revealed extremely faint words written in Greek, Aramaic and Latin which attested to its authenticity.

But the shroud-wrapped body dated to the time of Christ discovered in Jerusalem seems to point in the opposite direction.

The shroud was found around the remains of a man in a sealed chamber of a burial cave in the Hinnom Valley overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem by archaeologists from the Hebrew University and the Albright Research Institute, both in Jerusalem.

DNA tests indicated the man had suffered from leprosy and died of tuberculosis.

That was probably why his burial cave was sealed - a move that preserved the shroud and even some of the man's hair for 2,000 years.

Turin Shroud

The Turin Shroud, which measures 14ft by 3ft, is unlike the burial practice of the time which used separate sheets for the head and body of the deceased

Jerusalem Old City

Find: The new shroud was discovered in a sealed cave in the Hinnom Valley near Jerusalem's Old City

Professor Gibson said the Turin Shroud did not fit what was known of burial practices in first-century Palestine - now confirmed by the Jerusalem shroud.

'The Turin shroud is a single sheet made with a twill weave.

'The twill weave is known from this part of the world only from the mediaeval period, so we're talking about something that's from the Middle Ages,' Gibson told the Daily Mail.

'But the Jerusalem shroud confirmed another local practice which casts even more doubt on the Turin artefact.

'It wasn't one continuous sheet,' said Gibson, pointing out the Turin Shroud is a single rectangular sheet measuring about 14ft by 3ft.

'What our shroud shows is that the practice of having a separate shroud or wrapping for the body and for the head was common practice.

'There was a separate wrapping for the head itself, which was very important because when they brought someone to burial they would place the head wrapping separately on the face in case the person wasn't actually dead and woke up again, they would be able to blow off the face wrapping and shout for help,' said Gibson.

Shimon Gibson

Evidence: Archaeologist Shimon Gibson, centre, said tests had revealed the man suffered from leprosy and died from tuberculosis

'This did occur quite a lot in antiquity because they didn't have the medical means we have today.

'The idea was that if you enshrouded somebody, you had a separate set of wrappings for the body and a separate set of wrappings for the head,' he said.

Ancient rabbinical writings mention people who woke up, apparently miraculously and lived for years afterwards.

It was the custom at the time for the family to visit the tomb after three days to check their relative was indeed dead.

Gibson said this was probably the source of the Gospel story about Jesus's followers visiting his tomb three days after the Crucifixion, when they found it empty.

Jerusalem Shroud

Historic: A diagram of where the body was found in the burial chamber. The chamber may have been sealed because he suffered from tuberculosis

The Hinnom Valley where the Jerusalem shroud was discovered has long been associated with death. The Gospel of Matthew calls it Akeldama or 'Field of Blood.'

It is dotted with Roman-era burial tombs carved out of caves in the rock face.

In ancient times, pagan tribes burned children alive there as offerings to the god Moloch.

The ancient Israelites called the valley Gehinnom - the Hebrew for 'Hell' - and it was the site where the scapegoat was driven over a cliff on the Day of Atonement in Solomon's Temple.

Diplomatic furore as Israel accuses Britain of issuing arrest warrant for Tzipi Livni after she defended Gaza War

DAILY MAIL 15th December 2009

By Matthew Kalman

Row: Tzipi Livni arrives at 10 Downing Street on a previous trip to London in 2008

Row: Tzipi Livni arrives at 10 Downing Street on a previous trip to London in 2008

Israel has reacted with fury to the arrest warrant for alleged war crimes issued against Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni by a London magistrate on Saturday, accusing the British Government of breaking an undertaking to stop pro-Palestinian activists from using the British courts to pursue Israeli politicians and generals.

In a sharply-worded statement, the Israeli foreign ministry said Britain should 'fulfill its promises to stop anti-Israel exploitation of the British courts' or risk losing its role in Middle East peacemaking.

'Promises were given by the British at the very highest level that they would solve the problem,' Israeli government officials told the Daily Mail.

'David Miliband promised on many occasions that the government would introduce legislation that will end this absurdity,' Israeli deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon said.

'Until such legislation is possible, I hope there will be some expeditious measures, whether they are technical or interim, that will extricate all of us from this very awkward situation.

'During my last trip to London I met my opposite number Ivan Lewis, the minister of state at the Foreign Office, who promised me that everything would be done to close this loophole in British law that allows any local judge in the middle of nowhere to issue arrest warrants like these,' he said.

Israeli officials said similar assurances were given last August during talks in London between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Gordon Brown.

'Their response was: "Of course you're right, it has to be changed." And they gave us the impression that it would be,' an Israeli government official told the Mail.

The warrant against Livni was withdrawn, but not before she had cancelled a planned trip to address a conference in London this week. Livni was Israel’s foreign minister during last year’s war in Gaza, where both Israelis and Palestinians have been accused of war crimes.

Firm friends: Prime Minister Gordon Brown with Tzipi Livini during a visit to Israel and Palestine in 2008

Firm friends: Prime Minister Gordon Brown with Tzipi Livini during a visit to Israel and Palestine in 2008

Several senior Israeli officials have cancelled trips to London after pro-Palestinian activists secured arrest warrants from British judges. Doron Almog, an Israeli general in charge of operations in Gaza during the intifada uprising, was forced to remain on a plane on the tarmac at Heathrow in 2005 to evade possible arrest if he set foot on British soil.

Defence Minister and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak was also threatened with arrest when he came to meet Brown and address a fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference in October.

Tony Blair, who is now the peace envoy of the Middle East Quartet, agreed that Israeli leaders should be allowed to enter and leave Britain without fear.

'My view has always been that members of the Israeli government and senior members of the Israeli military of course should be welcome in Britain and I’ve met them there and in Downing Street many times,' he said.

'Israel is a friend of the UK and the UK is a friend of Israel in my book and I very much hope that people can go to and from Israel with ease.'

Wednesday 9 December 2009

Israeli High Court Rejects Appeal of Deported Palestinian Student

December 9, 2009

By Matthew Kalman

In a ruling that could affect thousands of other Palestinian students, Israel's High Court of Justice decided on Wednesday to uphold the deportation of a student from Bethlehem University to her family home in the Gaza Strip weeks before she was to complete her undergraduate degree.

Berlanty Azzam, 22, a fourth-year student in business administration and translation, was arrested, handcuffed, and blindfolded after a routine security check at a military roadblock near Bethlehem last month. She was forced across the Erez border crossing into Gaza at midnight despite an undertaking by another military unit to keep her in Israel pending an appeal.

A three-judge panel at the High Court headed by Justice Miriam Naor rejected her appeal against the deportation. The court accepted the army's argument that Ms. Azzam's original permit to leave Gaza in 2005 was valid for just five days and could not be used to remain in Bethlehem to study.

"We cannot ignore the fact that the petitioner stayed in the West Bank for four years without a proper permit," Judge Naor said in a three-page decision unanimously accepted by the other two judges.

Ms Azzam's lawyer, Yadin Elam, had argued that in 2005 no such permit was necessary because the army had not yet introduced its policy banning Gaza residents from studying in the West Bank.

"It is unfortunate that the court, which in its interim decision asked state officials to permit Berlanty to return to Bethlehem to complete her degree, refrained from ordering them to do so when they refused," said Mr. Elam. "I cannot imagine why the State of Israel is so insistent on preventing Palestinian young people, against whom it makes no security claims whatsoever, from accessing higher education."

Sari Bashi, director of Gisha, an Israeli human-rights group that assisted Ms. Azzam, said an estimated 25,000 Palestinians with Gaza ID cards are in the West Bank, including many students who are also at risk of being deported.

In 2007 the Israeli High Court instructed the army to reconsider its blanket ban on allowing students from Gaza to study in the West Bank and recommended that exceptions be granted in special cases.

"To the best of our knowledge, since this judgment was handed down, Israel has not issued a single permit to a student from Gaza," said Ms. Bashi.

Ms. Azzam told The Chronicle that the decision had undermined her belief that the Israelis really wanted to achieve peace with the Palestinians.

"I feel disappointed about their decision because they didn't have any reason to do this," she said. "I feel they are unjust and unfair in the way they treat us. I don't think they want peace. I believe in peace."

Brother Jack Curran, vice president for development at Bethlehem University, said he was "incredibly disappointed" and would try to make arrangements for Ms. Azzam to finish her degree by long-distance learning.

"It's very disconcerting for any student who might have Gaza ID and might still be in the West Bank," he said of the court decision. "They will stay close to their campuses, I imagine. I know in our university community that Israeli policies like these only achieve more confusion, more pain, and more distrust of desires to build a better future on both sides."

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Bethlehem grocer sues Sacha Baron Cohen

Dec. 9, 2009

Special to The Jerusalem Post

Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's attempt to pretend that he interviewed a notorious terrorist leader in the film Bruno may cost him $110 million in damages - 80 percent of the movie's gross box office earnings.

That's the sum demanded by Ayman Abu Aita, a Palestinian grocer and peace activist from Bethlehem who says his life has been ruined by Baron Cohen's movie.

Abu Aita has filed a suit against Baron Cohen, US talk-show host David Letterman, Bruno director Larry Charles and NBC Universal Studios, demanding $110m. in libel damages.

In the film, Baron Cohen's gay character claims to travel to a refugee camp in Lebanon to meet a leader of the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, and tries to provoke his host into kidnapping him before a translator has Abu Aita saying, "Get out!"

In the movie, a caption describes Abu Aita as "Terrorist group leader, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade."

In an interview on The Late Show with David Letterman last July, Baron Cohen said his production team had found this "real terrorist" through a CIA contact, and he had taken extra security to the "secret location" because of the threat to his personal safety.

"What could people see that they've never seen before on film?" Baron Cohen told Letterman. "We thought one thing would be a comedian interviewing a terrorist.

"We called up a contact we had at the CIA and said, 'Can you help us? We're looking to find a terrorist.' After a few months, we found somebody who actually lived in a town that had a terrorist from a pretty nasty group called the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, who are kind of the No. 1 suicide bombers out there… The guy picks a secret location."

In fact, the scene was filmed at the Everest Hotel - a well-known tourist spot in Beit Jala, on the outskirts of Bethlehem in the West Bank, in an area under Israeli control and right next to an army base. There was no need for bodyguards.

"At no time was Cohen in any danger," says Abu Aita. "Nor was the interview at a 'secret location.' In fact, the interview took place at a spot selected by Cohen - the Everest Hotel - which, although located in the West Bank, is in an area designated by the Israeli military as 'Zone C,' which is under full Israeli military control."

Abu Aita is a well-known peace activist who lives in the Bethlehem suburb of Beit Sahur - and contrary to the translation, he never says "Get out!" in the film. He claims he was tricked into meeting Baron Cohen, thinking he was a German filmmaker producing a film about the Palestinian cause.

More seriously, he says he is a firm opponent of the terrorists, and the depiction in Bruno is a harmful slur against his character.

In the libel suit, filed last Wednesday in federal court in Washington, Abu Aita describes the Aksa Martyrs Brigades as "a notorious terrorist group, culpable in the wanton slaughter of dozens of innocent people and in the targeted assassination of many others."

The father of four, who is a Greek Orthodox Christian and Treasurer of the Holy Land Trust - a peace charity that promotes reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians - says he has received death threats and suffered from depression and anxiety since the movie's release and Baron Cohen's interview on Letterman's talk show. Abu Aita says he now fears for the well-being of his wife and family, both in the West Bank and in the US.

Abu Aita was imprisoned by Israel, but never found guilty of any offense. He says he is "a peace-loving person who abhors violence" and a regular visitor to the United States - something that would be impossible if he were on a terrorist watch list.

Sunday 6 December 2009

Sasha Baron Cohen facing a multi-million pound lawsuit over his film Bruno

7th December 2009


Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen is being sued for £70million in libel damages over his film Bruno.

Ayman Abu Aita, a Palestinian grocer and peace activist from Bethlehem, says the depiction of him in the movie has ruined his life.

In Bruno, Cohen's gay character claims to travel to the Ein El-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon to meet a leader of the Al-Aqsa Brigades. A caption describes Abu Aita as 'Terrorist group leader, Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade'.

Libel: Sasha Baron Cohen, pictured here with fiancee, actress Isla Fisher, is being sued for £70m over his film Bruno

Libel: Sasha Baron Cohen, pictured here with fiancee, actress Isla Fisher, is being sued for £70m over his film Bruno

In fact, the scene was filmed at a well-known hotel on the outskirts of Bethlehem in the West Bank in an area under Israeli control, next to an Israeli army base.

On American TV last July Cohen told talkshow host Letterman his production team found this 'real terrorist' through a CIA contact.

Abu Aita has filed a suit against Cohen, NBC Universal Studios and Letterman demanding £70 million - equal to half the movie's gross box office takings.

The father of four says says he has since received death threats, he is a firm opponent of terrorists, and that he was tricked into meeting Cohen, thinking he was a German producing a film about the Palestinian cause.

Sasha Baron Cohen in character as the gay Austrian TV presenter Bruno

Sasha Baron Cohen in character as the gay Austrian TV presenter Bruno

Tuesday 1 December 2009

US Documentary Channel Premiere

US TV Premiere of CIRCUMCISE ME: THE COMEDY OF YISRAEL CAMPBELL on Monday, December 7 at 10.30PM ET