Israel in the News May/Jun 2003

No to America yes to Osama
Palestinian Authority (PA) Arabs made no bones about whose side they were on during the recent war in Iraq as tens of thousands took to the streets waving flags and pictures of Saddam Hussein and calling for Iraq to bomb Tel Aviv with chemical weapons even as President George W. Bush was making plans to give them a state of their own.

They burned American flags and unfurled pictures of Osama bin Laden, hailing him as a hero. Sheikh Ibrahim Mudayris, speaking live on PA television from a mosque in Gaza called, “O Allah, support us against our enemies. O Allah, destroy our enemies. O Allah, destroy America and Israel,” ARUTZ-7 reported.

On the same day, official PA Radio broadcast a live sermon from the al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount, in which Sheikh IkrimaSabri, the PA-appointed Mufti of Jerusalem, denounced the “criminal United States” and “rancorous Britain.”

Both broadcasts violate President Bush’s June 24, 2002, condition that the PA “end incitement to violence in official media.” The administration supports creating a Palestinian-Arab state and gives Palestinian Arabs $150 million in American taxpayer money each year.

French Jews Flock to Paris Aliyah Fair
ARUTZ-7—Over 2,000 Jews from all over France attended the Jewish Agency’s mega-Aliyah Fair in Paris recently. The event was held under heavy security due to the recent wave of anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish institutions in France.

The fair featured 45 stands set up by Israeli industries, mortgage banks, municipalities, educational institutions, the Jewish Agency, and the government. Visitors received first-hand information on employment, housing, and educational options available to prospective immigrants in Israel. Aliyah (immigration to Israel) from France last year—2,500 Jewish people— was more than double that of the preceding year, although the rate is down so far in 2003.

The Jewish Agency reports that anti-Semitic incidents in France have risen sharply. On March 11 a woman student in Aixen-Provence was attacked and beaten, and a Star of David was carved into her arm. On March 22 two Jewish youths participating in a HaShomerHaTza’ir youth movement activity were beaten by a mob participating in an antiwar demonstration. Two days later, a small fire was discovered in the rear of a synagogue in Cachan, and the same week vandals stoned a woman entering the Garges-les-Gonesse synagogue. The synagogue of Massy was firebombed in late March.

PA Arabs pose as Israelis and get free medical care
ARUTZ-7—The phenomenon of Arabs taking advantage of Israeli taxpayers by pretending to be Israeli-Arab citizens and receiving health care services in Israeli hospitals is ever-increasing.

The deceitful technique works as follows: An Arab resident of a Palestinian Authority-controlled area arrives at an Israeli hospital with an ID card belonging to an Israeli-Arab family member. He or she signs a few forms and in return receives high-cost medical care, such as operations, medicines, and hospitalization. All this occurs without him or her having paid one penny into the Israeli health care, tax, or income tax systems.

Many PA Arab mothers also then receive the Israeli government’s birth grant, a one-time payment of over $280 for each child born to an Israeli (five times that amount for twins).

Ironically, even when doctors or other medical staffers come across such a case—discovering the truth when a woman is in labor, for example—they are unable to take action because Israeli law requires them to provide treatment to someone who has entered their care, without regard to the circumstances.

The deception can have far-reaching consequences. If a baby born to a non-Israeli Arab is registered as having been born to an Israeli-Arab, the latter will continue receiving monthly stipends from the Israeli government until the child is 18.

Natural gas deal in works
Israel, the Palestinian Authority (PA), and British Gas may soon finalize an agreement to drill for natural gas in what are believed to be vast gas fields off Gaza, the Associated Press has reported.

The deal was put on hold more than two years ago because of Arab-Israeli fighting.

The plan calls for Israel to buy much of the gas and for the money to go into an account under the control of Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayad in an effort to keep it from getting into the hands of terrorists.

Fayad was appointed in June 2002 after complaints about Arafat’s corrupt administration and Israeli charges that some government funds were funneled to terror groups.

British Gas reportedly did not want to drill without having an assured Israeli market. The Palestinian market alone is considered too small.

The project will take about three years while British Gas installs a $400-million pipeline to pump gas to Israel. The deal will also enable a Palestinian gas-powered electricity plant to begin operating. Palestinians currently receive electricity from Israel.

Electronic labels may end bar-coding

Eldat Communication Ltd., a high-tech Israeli company with a state-of-the-art infrared electronic labeling system, has contracted with a company in France to supply its electronic shelf labels (ESL) to one of the largest markets in Europe.

Eldat’s two-way remote system includes a processor and liquid crystal display and can update prices on whole categories of products, eliminating all need for bar coding.

Eldat signed an agreement to supply electronic price tags to one of the largest marketing chains in Europe, with more than 1,500 stores in France, the United States, Poland, South American, Taiwan, and Thailand.

Eldat is scheduled to supply two million price tags by June of this year. In Southeastern France, an entire region has committed to the system.

ESL technology also enables stores to switch between old and new currencies, as when the European Union adopted

the Euro last year. Stores with the ESL system made the switch easily.

So far, Eldat has sold more than 3.5 million ESL systems in Europe and Japan. But American store managers feel the $5 to $6 price per tag will have to drop to $2 to $3 before American retail chains will adopt ESL technology.

Ancient stone tablet could be from Joash
BRIDGES FOR PEACE—Israeli geologists have examined a sandstone tablet detailing repair plans for the Jewish Temple of King Solomon. The tablet bares an ancient Hebrew inscription attributed to Jehoash (also known as Joash), king of Judea in the late ninth century B.C.

The inscription describes the renovations carried out by Jehoash in the first Temple in Jerusalem. The find is about the size of a legal pad, and its text is similar to the biblical description found in 2 Kings 11—12.

If authenticated, it would be a rare piece of physical evidence confirming biblical narrative. It could also strengthen Jewish claims to a disputed holy site in Jerusalem’s Old City that is now home to two major mosques. Muslim clerics insist, despite overwhelming archaeological evidence, that no Jewish shrine ever stood on the site.

The origin of the stone tablet is unclear, making it difficult to establish authenticity.

The Israeli daily Haaretzquoted an unidentified source as saying it was uncovered in recent years during Muslim renovations at the Temple Mount. From there, it reached a major antiquities collector in Jerusalem, Haaretzsaid.

In the text, the king tells priests to take “holy money . . . to buy quarry stones and timber and copper and labor to carry out the duty with faith.”

“If the work is completed well, the Lord will protect His people with blessing,’’ reads the last sentence of the inscription. The Jerusalem collector has declined to come forward, and David Zailer, a lawyer for the collector, would not say where the tablet was found or give any further details.

If this tablet is authentic, it could deliver a knockout blow in two separate areas of dispute by (1) validating the Bible as the history of Israel and Judea and (2) affirming the existence of the Jewish Temple, which is closely related to who controls the site today.

Hershel Shanks, editor of the Washington-based Biblical Archaeology Review, said the tablet, if authentic, would be “visual, tactile evidence that reaches across 2,800 years.’’

Message to El Al: Go private or go bankrupt
ARUTZ-7—Transportation Minister Avigdor Lieberman told transportation and aviation journalists at a Tel Aviv press conference that state-owned El Al Israel Airlines has only two choices before it: privatization or receivership (a form of bankruptcy). “There is no third choice,” he said.

Israel’s world-famous flag carrier has been “almost” put on sale several times over the past ten years. “In this period of economic troubles, Israel has no choice but to privatize the airline,” Lieberman said, calling on El Al’s management and employees to understand that the government “cannot continue to support the airline.”

The first issue of El Al shares on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange is due shortly. A draft prospectus will be presented to underwriters and regulators before an evaluation of the company is completed in the next few weeks. Although consecutive governments have been committed to a complete sale of El Al, analysts predict that Israel will ultimately retain control of the airline, via a “golden share,” to ensure that the airline maintains a freight capacity for the country and continues to fly even in times of emergency.

How these and other uniquely complex issues, including the long-standing ban on flights on Shabbat and the airline’s most-extensive but costly security procedures will play out under private ownership, is an unknown.

Despite the heavy drop in incoming tourism and export traffic, El Al succeeded in narrowing its losses by 72 percent this past year, from $85.2 million in 2001 to $23.7 million in 2002. “El Al’s management has gone through receivership once. I do not recommend that they try it again,” Lieberman noted in his press conference, but expressed confidence that “buyers will be found, since the airlines has a reputation, and good professional capabilities.”

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