Monday 25 November 2013

Israel's Arab student revolution


One Academic's Efforts Aid Arab Students Across Israel

Yosef Jabareen is now an assistant professor of architecture and urban planning at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. His efforts there to help Arab students enroll and succeed have inspired a nationwide program. (Oded Bality, AP)

By Matthew Kalman
Haifa, Israel

A year after Yosef Jabareen graduated from college, the only work he could find was as a hotel waiter or as a night watchman at a Jewish cemetery. Despite having a degree in mechanical engineering from the prestigious Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, he began to suspect that he had little chance of finding work in his field because he was an Arab.

After switching disciplines and earning advanced degrees from Harvard and the Technion, Mr. Jabareen is now an assistant professor of architecture and urban planning at his alma mater here.

He is also a key figure in an effort to make sure that other Israelis of Arab descent get access to educational opportunities and don't face the type of discrimination he did.

Israel recently started a $170-million program designed to end what its education minister has described as the "moral stain" of chronic lack of investment in the educational development of the country's 1.6-million-strong Arab minority. Arabs make up more than 20 percent of Israel's population, but in 2011-12 they were just 12.5 percent of the country's undergraduates, 4.5 percent of Ph.D. students, and just 2 percent of the faculty members at Israeli colleges, according to Israel's Council for Higher Education.

The new program is based in part on what Mr. Jabareen has done at the Technion, which is often referred to as Israel's MIT.


Thursday 14 November 2013

This time it's for real?

SAEB EREKAT: Can it really be goodbye, or is it just "au revoir" like all the other times?

Statement on Resignation of Palestinian Negotiations Team

In reference to the latest reports concerning the resignation of the Palestinian negotiations team from the final status negotiations, the PLO – Negotiations Affairs Department would like to announce the following:

1)      Several days ago, Dr. Saeb Erekat and Dr. Muhammad Shtayyeh wrote to H.E. President Mahmoud Abbas explaining that they would not be able to continue fulfilling their duties as negotiators, and thereby requesting that the President relieve them of their positions. This request was motivated by a number of factors, including: an unprecedented escalation of colonization and oppression against Palestine and the Palestinian people by the State of Israel; a lack of seriousness from the Israeli government about reaching a two-state solution; and the Israeli government’s failure to fulfill commitments undertaken before the resumption of direct negotiations on July 29th 2013.

2)      Of particular concern was the Israeli government’s political use of the release of pre-Oslo prisoners in order to advance its illegal and profoundly damaging settlement enterprise throughout the occupied State of Palestine. This, combined with the false allegation that an agreement between the PLO and Israel was made in order to exchange prisoners for settlements, has demonstrated bad faith and a severe lack of integrity on the Israeli side.

3)      The resignation of the Palestinian negotiators was presented after Israel had already approved 6,296 settlement units during the first three months of negotiations. This figure is higher than the total amount of settlement units approved during the five months prior to the resumption of negotiations (5,577 units). The resignation was not presented as a response to the latest announcement by the Israeli Ministry of Housing to advance almost 20,000 settlement units, but as a response to several policies that continue to undermine the prospects of a negotiated two-state solution, including accelerated settlement activity. PM Netanyahu’s call to “reconsider steps for evaluating planning potential” in illegal Israeli settlements does not halt the thousands of units Israel has approved, and continues to approve, in the occupied State of Palestine.

4)      This resignation relates only to the current negotiations team: it does not invalidate the commitment made by the Palestine Liberation Organization to continue negotiations until the end of the 9 month period agreed with Israel and the US, which ends on April 29th. 2014.

5)      The Palestinian leadership will continue its process of internal consultations and its contacts with the Arab League, Russia, the European Union, the United Nations and the United States, along with other international partners, in order to advance the cause for a just peace between Israel and Palestine, which includes ending the 1967 Israeli occupation and reaching a solution to all final status issues based on international law.

State of Palestine
Palestine Liberation Organization
Negotiations Affairs Department

14 November 2013


Sunday 10 November 2013

Scientific vandalism

How the IAA and Israeli Police wrecked the James ossuary 

Stain of stupidity: The red smear left by the application of silicon by the Israel Police Forensics Laboratory in their fruitless attempt to prove forgery has contaminated the word "Yeshua" (Jesus) inscribed on the ossuary and destroyed much of the little patina that remained


Tel Aviv

It could be the earliest inscription of the word “Jesus” ever found, but we may never know. In their fruitless zeal to prove that the inscription “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” was forged by Oded Golan or an Egyptian craftsman working under his direction, the Israel Antiquities Authority permitted a series of destructive tests that proved nothing and may have destroyed the chances of ever knowing the truth.
The worst contamination can be seen in the reddish stain now smeared across the word “Yeshua” (Jesus) in the photograph above.
The Israel Police Forensics Laboratory applied red silicon to the inscription to create a mold that might show it was a modern addition. The procedure proved nothing, but it left reddish stains in the grooves of the letters and ripped out the ancient patina that covers archaeological items and helps determine their authenticity.

“In the summer of 2004 the Israeli police, with permission of the IAA, made a red silicon mold of the inscription destroying the 'letter patina' by pulling out this 'soft' patina which cannot be observed anymore, thus, destroying evidence. Consequently, the alleged small amount of masking letter patina is absent now and cannot be studied further,” observed Amnon Rosenfeld and Shimon Ilani, the geologists who first studied the ossuary before it was revealed to the public in 2002.
Superintendent Yehudah Novoslaski, deputy for signs and material in the Forensic Department of the Israeli Police, told the Jerusalem District Court that he produced a silicon mold and photographed it. “I found differences in the engraving tools between the first part of the inscription ‘Ya’akov Bar Yosef’ and the second part ‘brother of Yeshua’,” he told the court. But the judge was not convinced.

“There is no dispute that the casting of the silicon by the forensics people changed the physical condition of the inscription of the ossuary,” said Judge Farkash.
There was some confusion as to how the silicon mold came to be made. Jonathan Pagis, the police officer who led the investigation, told the court he asked the forensics laboratory to “examine” the ossuary, not to carry out invasive tests. Pagis said he gave no orders for the mold to be taken.
The silicon casting “polluted” the ossuary, said Orna Cohen, a member of the IAA committee of experts that ruled the ossuary was a fake, but ended up testifying for the defense.
“I saw a picture of what happened to the ossuary. What trauma it had. In fact when using the casting silicon for taking a mold you have to put some substance that separates the object from the silicon, because the silicon sticks to everything and pulls it out,” she told the court. “Even if there was a patina I guess that the patina was drawn out.”
She said the inscription was now “contaminated. It will be hard to say anything about the ossuary itself.”

Judge Farkash concluded that, far from assisting the prosecution, the forensic damage had hampered the defense case to such an extent that it actually worked to the advantage of Golan.

“There is a possibility of a high degree of confidence that the casting of the silicon removed other materials that were in the inscription of the ossuary. This damage prevented Golan from examining the ossuary itself with the help of experts on his behalf in order to review counter opinion to contradict the opinion of the prosecution," said Judge Farkash. “We are dealing with a criminal case... we have to determine the accuracy of the evidence. In this situation, in light of the principles of the case law cited above regarding the failings of the investigation, and considering the entirety of the evidences for this charge, I believe that the casting of the silicon affected Golan’s defense so he was deprived in such a way that it strengthens the reasonable doubt regarding his guilty charge.”
Oded Golan said he would check the damage to the ossuary and see if can be restored.

“It’s not in the same condition as before the trial. The inscription was defaced, contaminated. They poured red silicon into the inscription and they let it dry and when they took it out they took the patina. It’s ruined. I have to evaluate the damage, see if it can be restored and if there is the possibility of carrying out further tests on the inscription in future that will allow us to show its authenticity. The government said the second half of the inscription was forged – the words “brother of Jesus” – and that’s where the major damage has been done,” Golan said.

IAA releases James ossuary

Public will be able to see limestone box that may have been casket for Jesus’ brother  

Ancient burial box is inscribed 'James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus'



TEL AVIV — A modest limestone casket could be the first object ever found from the family of Jesus Christ.

The stone burial box bearing the inscription "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus" has been hidden from public view at the Israel Antiquities Authority since 2003.


Saturday 9 November 2013

Holocaust profiteers

Nazi memorabilia dealer apologises for trying to sell 'fake' death camp uniform on eBay for £11,000 as victim's family call for police probe

  • Viktor Kempf, 62: 'I would like to apologise for awaking bad memories'
  • But victim Wolf-Gierszon Grundmann's outraged family say it is a fake
  • Police in Vancouver, where Kempf lives, are poised to open a fraud case
By Simon Murphy and Matthew Kalman


A Nazi memorabilia dealer who tried to sell a concentration camp victim’s clothes on eBay for more than £11,000 has apologised – and pledged to return the garment to the man’s family.

Dealer Viktor Kempf, 62, claimed the striped uniform belonged to Wolf-Gierszon Grundmann, who died in Auschwitz in 1941.

Last night Kempf said: ‘I am ready to present the uniform to the family as a donation. And I would like to apologise to them for awaking sad feelings and bad memories.’

The complete Auschwitz prisoner uniform, including cap, shirt, trousers and wooden shoes, which dealer Viktor Kempf claimed belonged to Wolf-Gierszon Grundmann
The complete Auschwitz prisoner uniform, including cap, shirt, trousers and shoes, which seller Viktor Kempf claimed belonged to Wolf-Gierszon Grundmann. But Mr Grundmann's outraged family claim it is a fake

Several Star of David armbands, used to identify and demean Jews, were on eBay for up to £165
Several Star of David armbands, used to identify and demean Jews, were on eBay for up to £165

However, experts and Mr Grundmann’s relatives believe the uniform is counterfeit and have asked police to investigate.
How the Mail on Sunday broke the story last week
How the Mail on Sunday broke the story last week

Last week an investigation by this newspaper revealed how online auction site eBay was profiting from the sickening trade in Holocaust relics.

It caused global outrage and led to an apology from eBay, which removed 30 items from sale – including the uniform – and pledged to make a £25,000 donation to charity.

Mr Grundmann’s disgusted relatives accused Kempf, who lives in Vancouver, Canada, of ‘trying to make money out of a personal tragedy’.

Mr Grundmann’s daughter’s half-sister, Fani Simon, 66, said she would be asking Canadian police to investigate Kempf.

Ms Simon, who lives in Tel Aviv, Israel, said: ‘This is terrible and upsetting. I feel very angry.

‘We are absolutely sure this uniform is a fake, which means someone stole his identity.’

Another of the uniforms since removed by eBay, with close-ups of the buttons and material
Another of the uniforms since removed by eBay, with close-ups of the buttons and material for buyers

Vancouver Police last night confirmed that they are ready to open a fraud investigation.

Kempf told The Mail on Sunday he bought the uniform from a collector in Holland, who had obtained it from an American dealer. Kempf added: ‘I never thought that I would cause any harm. It is not illegal to buy and sell these items.’

Dr Shimon Samuels, of the Simon Wiesenthal centre for Holocaust studies in Paris, said genuine clothing from Nazi concentration camps was rare: ‘When the camps were liberated there was a fear of typhus and everything was burnt as a precaution. So it is very unlikely that anything beyond a few rags would have remained.’

Detailed records of victims, including serial numbers, are kept by Holocaust museums and are easily accessible online – making identity fraud simple. Mr Grundmann, of Proszowice, Poland, arrived at Auschwitz on January 16, 1941. A few months later his family received a letter saying he had died.

Toothbrushes apparently used by Auschwitz victims were on sale at £145
Toothbrushes apparently used by Auschwitz victims were on sale at £145

A battered case inscribed with the name Samuel and a Star of David, listed at £492
A battered case inscribed with the name Samuel and a Star of David, listed at £492

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Los Angeles, said: ‘It is flat out disgusting for eBay, to profit from the prison garbs of Holocaust victims. They are on the same page as advertisements for major companies like Kia and McDonald’s. This is taking the sale of Nazi death camp memorabilia to the mainstream. It is deplorable.

‘These precious items only belong in museums because they are witnesses to history. This trade is demeaning to everyone who died in the Holocaust.’

eBay has broken no UK laws by selling materials from the Holocaust. But the same trade is banned in Germany, Austria and France. In 2000 Yahoo was sued in France for allowing an auction of Nazi memorabilia.

Mrs Clarke, whose father was shot just a week before Auschwitz was liberated by Russian soldiers in 1945, said: ‘Many survivors of Auschwitz burnt their uniforms. But I do know of some who kept theirs, and other mementoes.


The company said it uses a filter system which is supposed to pick up restricted items uploaded by sellers, but admitted that goods can slip through the net. eBay said that in light of The Mail on Sunday’s findings, it would be redoubling its efforts to remove items of concern.
The site makes ten per cent from the final sale price of items and receives a listing fee ranging from free to a few pounds depending on type of sale and country which it is being sold from. In the case of the concentration camp uniform priced at $18,000, the company would receive a listing fee of 50 cents (31p) and royalties of $1,800 (£1,125) should the item sell for its full price.
The authenticity or origin of Holocaust items cannot be immediately verified, but the sellers claim the memorabilia is genuine and in some cases have stated that it was originally sourced from the victims’ families.
The sale of Holocaust memorabilia is legal in the UK but outlawed in Germany, France and Austria.

Profiting from pain: Woman's curlers from the Warsaw Ghetto were listed at £17
Profiting from pain: Woman's curlers from the Warsaw Ghetto were listed at £17

Wooden clogs were up for sale as part of a female concentration camp victim¿s uniform
Wooden clogs were up for sale as part of a female concentration camp victim's uniform
The striped pyjama-style concentration camp uniform was worn by death camp inmates
The striped pyjama-style concentration camp uniform was worn by death camp inmates

Thursday 7 November 2013

Palestine's polonium problem

THE FORWARD November 7, 2013, 1:45pm

By Matthew Kalman and Matt Rees

Inside Yasser Arafat’s Ramallah headquarters, the top military and political and money men of the Palestine Liberation Organizaion would speak about their leader in hushed, nervous tones.
They told of a chairman who was falling apart. He wore unwashed clothes. He rambled about the old days in Beirut.
Then he was gone. Poisoned with polonium, as Swiss scientists all but confirmed this week after a study of his exhumed bones. But that’s only the start of the tragic tale of Arafat’s death.
For almost a decade Palestinian leaders have sought to avoid acknowledging that the symbol of their resistance to Israel was poisoned. Now they face a new challenge: to escape the inescapable conclusion that they themselves administered the poison.
The deadly tensions that would ultimately kill him were created by Arafat himself. He was a larger-than-life leader whom no novelist would dare to fashion. His regime consisted of a cast of surreal Dickensian characters: brilliant thinkers, wily money-men and desperate rogues. He set his favorites against each other, like gladiators in an arena where weapons were never far from reach.
The Palestinian Authority had collapsed around Arafat as the violence of the intifada swept 3,000 of his people to their deaths and drew Israeli tanks into every town and village. To the dismay of those around him, Arafat chanted daily about the “millions of martyrs” he expected––though in reality by the time he died, Palestinians had ceased to court death and were hunkered down for the end of a rising they acknowledged was a mistake.
“He’s always talking about the old days in Beirut, when he was in his bunker,” one of his police chiefs told us. “He thinks this situation is the same.” But someone knew how different, how desperate the situation was. That the Palestinians needed a different kind of leader if they were ever to achieve freedom.
And for that, Arafat had to go.