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Give law a chance

Suspended between life and death in a permanent coma, Ariel Sharon cannot undo, acknowledge, or apologize for all the blood he shed. All conscious (and conscientious) Israelis still have, however, an opportunity to make amends, affirm justice, and redeem the message of Judaism, rather than remaining oppressors of a people possessing nothing but their threadbare dignity. Maybe it is time to give law a chance. If Israelis wish to remain the inheritors of Judaism’s rich legacy, rather than increasingly shrill and unconvincing defenders of the worst excesses of Zionism, they should speak up now, before the Israeli elections next month. 

New Basketball Rules in the Middle East

The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) has directed its Middle East commission to implement fifteen new rule changes from March 1. Regarding the use of a smaller ball for midget basketball in China, the commision for midget basketball events will consider the matter in April before the Central Board takes a final decision, according to a statement from Michael Lebanon, FIBA secretary ceneral. The statement said rule changes proposed by the Technical Commission in December 2005 were accepted by FIBA Central Board. The new rules include the right for Israelis to play on both sides of the court. Palestinians are only allowed on their side. 

Jeff Halper & Ghassan Andoni: Nobel Peace Prize Nominees

The American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker humanitarian service organization, has nominated two candidates for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize: Jeff Halper from Israel and Ghassan Andoni from the West Bank and Gaza. In a region torn apart by conflict, these grassroots peace activists have been committed to nonviolence as the path to justice, peace, and reconciliation. For decades they have worked to liberate both the Palestinian and the Israeli people from the yoke of structural violence — symbolized most clearly by the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. They have opposed the Separation Wall that blinds people to one another’s existence. They have instead tried to build bridges to recognition and celebration of a common humanity. 

Israeli media turns a blind eye to facts contained in national poverty report

A report from National Insurance Institute last week showed a growing disparity in wealth in Israel: one in four families now lives below the poverty line, and more than one in three children. But while the news pages were stuffed with details of the report and leading commentators were shocked by the findings, most made little or no mention that Arab families have been by far the biggest victims of growing impoverishment in Israel. Avishai Braverman of the Labor party, for example, suggested that the problem could be significantly eased if higher pensions were paid out, while MK Yuli Tamir argued that generous student loans were a solution. 

Justice Ministry delays investigation into police shooting of Arab youth

Nadim Melham was shot dead in unclear circumstances by the Israeli police at his home in the Arab village of Arara in northern Israel on January 19. Police say they broke into the Melham family’s home after a tip-off that the youth was a drug dealer and had a stash of guns. They claim he tried to escape and, when cornered, pulled out a gun and cocked the trigger. He was shot in the chest by officers defending themselves, say police. 

No excuse for silence over travel ban on journalist Anton Shalhat

The distinguished journalist and literary critic Anton Shalhat was this month banned from leaving Israel until the end of the year, on the advice of the Shin Bet domestic security service. A year-long travel ban was issued on January 17, following the approval of two temporary orders - the first signed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the second by an Interior Ministry official - in late December. An accompanying letter from the Interior Ministry says that the decision to bar Mr Shalhat from leaving the country is based on classified information that he may “harm the security of the state”. 

National Security Council cancels debate on demolition plan for 30 Bedouin Arab villages

A debate at Israel’s most high-profile policy-making forum on government plans to destroy up to 30 villages in the Negev that are home to tens of thousands Bedouin Arabs was cancelled at the last minute as protesters outside threatened to draw attention to the discussion. The Herzliya Conference, staged annually at the seaside resort north of Tel Aviv, attracts the country’s leading politicians, diplomats, generals, buisinessmen, academics and journalists under the banner “The balance of national strength and security”. 

UN Palestinian Rights Committee hails recent successful elections

Officials serving on the United Nations Palestinian Rights Committee have welcomed the last month’s Legislative Council elections, voicing hope that the new body will help contribute to peace in the Middle East. In a statement released in New York late Tuesday, the Bureau of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People said the polls “were conducted in a free, fair and peaceful manner” and offered its “high praise” to the Central Elections Commission and all of the Palestinian people. “The opportunity brought about by the democratic elections must be built on and seized by the parties to try to revitalize peace negotiations based on the principles of international law and the relevant United Nations resolutions.” 

Church of England votes to divest from Caterpillar

The Church of England’s most senior decision-making body, the General Synod, voted to disinvest from “companies profiting from the illegal occupation [of Palestine]”. Caterpillar manufactures D9 bulldozers used by the Israeli armed forces for house demolitions. The decision follows examination by the Church’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) of whether the shares currently held in Caterpillar were consistent with the Church’s ethical investment policy, which prohibits investment in arms companies or companies making “weapons platforms” such as naval vessels or tanks. 

Campaigners welcome Church divestment vote on Caterpillar

Campaigners today welcomed the Church of England’s overwhelming vote in favour of divesting its £2.2 million shares from bulldozer manufacturer Caterpillar. The vote, supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, sends a clear message to Caterpillar that profiting from human rights violations is not compatible with socially responsible business practice. The General Synod of the Church of England voted yesterday evening (6 February 2006) “to disinvest from companies profiting from the illegal occupation, such as Caterpillar Inc, until they change their policies”. The Church Commissioners now need to enforce the Synod’s decision.