Newsletter : 4fax0604.txt
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Turkish Prime Minister Strongly Criticizes Israel
By Sonja Pace (VOA-Jerusalem)
Israel has received more stinging criticism from its only Muslim ally, Turkey. In an
interview, published Thursday in a major Israeli newspaper, Turkey's prime minister
accused Israel of treating Palestinians the same way Jews were treated 500 years ago, when
they were persecuted and driven out of Spain. It is unusually harsh criticism, especially
coming from a close ally.
In an interview with Ha'aretz, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey hoped to
use its traditional role in the Middle East and its close ties to Israel to act as
mediator and advance peace efforts. But, he said the Israeli government has not
contributed to peace.
For the second time in just over a week, Erdogan likened Israeli actions against the
Palestinians to what he called state terrorism. When asked about this in the interview,
the Turkish Prime Minister cited Israel's targeted assassinations of Palestinian militant
leaders and said how else can you interpret it.
Turkey and Israel have close military and economic ties, and last week they concluded
an $800 million deal to build natural gas power stations in Israel. Israel's
Infrastructure Minister Joseph Paritzky was in Ankara for the signing of the agreement and
was treated to some harsh criticism from Erdogan at that time.
Turkish media reported that the prime minister told Paritzky that Turkey was becoming
increasingly concerned about Israel's actions in the Palestinian territories, especially
its military offensive in the Gaza Strip at the time, which left more than 40 Palestinians
dead and hundreds homeless. Erdogan reportedly told the visiting Israeli minister that one
couldn't fight terrorism with terrorism.
In Thursday's interview, Erdogan said Israel is today treating the Palestinians the
same way Jews were treated 500 years ago when they were persecuted and driven out of Spain
during the Inquisition. He specifically criticized the use of helicopters to kill
civilians and bulldozers to demolish Palestinian homes.
Erdogan said Turkey has an obligation to speak out -- as a friend and ally of Israel's.
He said countries must work together to fight global terrorism. But, he said it is wrong
for any country to say, in his words, I am strong and can name anyone I want as a
terrorist and kill them.
Israel: Vanunu's Lawyers Ask Court to Lift Legal Restrictions
By VOA News
Lawyers for convicted Israeli nuclear traitor Mordechai Vanunu have asked the Israeli
Supreme Court to lift legal restrictions placed on him after his release from prison.
Vanunu was freed in late April, after serving 18 years for spying and treason. He was
convicted of providing pictures and descriptions of Israel's top-secret Dimona nuclear
reactor to a British newspaper in 1986. Based on the information, experts concluded Israel
had stockpiled between 100 and 200 nuclear weapons.
Under conditions of his release, Vanunu is barred from meeting with foreigners, leaving
the country or giving interviews about the nuclear reactor. In a petition submitted to the
high court Thursday, Vanunu's lawyers argue their client has no more secrets to tell, and
contend the restrictions violate Vanunu's civil rights. No date has been set for a court
Former Israeli Soldiers Mount Exhibition of Photos, Videos from Hebron
By VOA News
A group of former Israeli soldiers who served in the volatile West Bank town of Hebron
have erected a controversial exhibition of photos and video from their time in the
occupied Palestinian town. The former soldiers served in Hebron during their three years
of required military service. They described the town as complex and disturbing and say
they were taught to view Palestinians as terrorists first and human beings last. Some of
the most extreme Jewish settlers live in the area and they often clash with Palestinian
The pictures show Palestinian men lying blindfolded on the road and Palestinian
children playing in the shadow of Israeli soldiers. Televisions play video clips of
soldiers - whose identities have been obscured - giving sometimes-disturbing testimony
about the treatment of Palestinians. The soldiers also talk about confrontations with the
settlers trying to destroy Palestinian property.
The exhibition, being shown at a Tel Aviv photography school, has drawn both praise and
criticism. Jewish settlers say it only tells half the story. But Israeli military
officials who visited the show say they respect the soldiers' right to freedom of
expression, and wish the soldiers had brought up their concerns while they were still in
Reviving Jewish Life in Southern Spain
A Jewish community in southern Spain is gearing up for a special seminar this weekend
aimed at reaching out to the region's large numbers of crypto-Jews - people whose
ancestors were forcibly converted to Catholicism during the time of the Spanish
Dozens of people are scheduled to attend the event, which will include traditional
Sabbath prayers, festive meals and lectures. Delivered by Spanish, Portuguese and Israeli
rabbis, the lectures will be on topics such as "The Dynamics of the Oral Law" and
"Renaissance and Recognition of Bnei Anousim [crypto-Jews]."
The event is being organized together with the Jerusalem-based Amishav organization (www.amishav.org.il), which assists "lost Jews" seeking to return to the Jewish people.
Aharon Franco, a Jewish community leader in the event's host city of Murcia, says that
Murcia has a long and rich Jewish history. "Many local families observe Jewish customs,
such as lighting candles on Friday evening," he says, "although the origin of these
practices is not always familiar to them. But political changes in Spain in the past few
decades, along with the spread of Jewish culture, have caused many of them to begin to
identify once again as descendants of Jews."
Franco estimates that at least 20% of Murcia's population of 350,000 can trace their
ancestry back to Jews. In recent years, the community has restored the ancient synagogue
at in the nearby town of Lorca, which is now once again being used for prayers.
Franco, himself a crypto-Jew who formally returned to Judaism last year, said that his
journey of return began when he was young: "When I was 12 years old, I already felt
Jewish, even before I learned that my grandfather was from a Spanish Jewish background and
that my grandmother was from the Anousim. It was then that my quest and my struggle to
find my place within my people began." It wasn't easy, he said, but "thankfully,
organizations such as Amishav are opening the doors and enabling many of this nation's
lost sons to return home. This is not just an act of historical justice, but also a matter
of great importance to Jewish continuity at a time when assimilation is destroying our
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