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Rupert Murdoch Sells Lunch Date to Raise Funds for Jerusalem College

By Ha'aretz

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch is selling himself on eBay to raise money for a Jerusalem hi-tech college. Murdoch has set a reserve price of $25,000 per ticket for the lunch date with him, and all profits will go to the Jerusalem College of Technology, praised by the News Corporation boss as an institute "producing top-notch graduates. "According to Britain's The Guardian newspaper, Murdoch has "long established links with the Israeli hi-tech industry," and has Israel offices for one of his subsidiaries, which develops the company's satellite encryption software. The online auction begins on November 3, and will last for a week. eBay states that the winners of the bid "will enjoy lunch in a private executive dining room at News Corporation's world headquarters in Manhattan with Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and CEO of News Corporation."

Gaza Gunmen Abduct Two Men Accused of Collaborating with Israel

By Reuters

Palestinian gunmen in the Gaza Strip seized two men they accused of collaborating with Israel on Tuesday in another sign of lawlessness in the territory evacuated by Israeli forces last month.

A newly formed armed group within the Fatah movement announced it had taken the men because security forces had failed to bring to justice suspected collaborators during the five-year intifada. "We have carried out the kidnappings and the interrogation after the Palestinian Authority failed to respond to our calls to do so," Abu Anan, a spokesman for The Knights of The Tempest told Reuters. They did not say what would happen to the men if found guilty. Armed groups have executed Palestinians accused of being part of Israel's informant network. The Palestinian Authority has also carried out death sentences against convicted collaborators.

Palestinian Interior Ministry spokesman Tawfiq Abu Khoussa said security forces would take "appropriate measures" following the abduction of the two men and would not allow any faction to take the law into their own hands. He did not specify the planned measures. "It is the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority to maintain law and order," he said.

The two men were displayed at a news conference, hooded, with hands tied facing a wall as several gunmen pointed assault rifles at them. "This is just the beginning of our campaign against those who betrayed their homeland and their people," said Abu Anan.

Lawlessness has intensified in the Gaza Strip following Israel's withdrawal from the territory in September. Security forces have struggled to cope with the plethora of armed factions formed during the past five years. Groups have carried out a series of kidnappings of Palestinians and foreigners to press particular demands. Last week, Palestinian gunmen briefly abducted an American reporter and a British photographer before releasing them.

'Israel's Using AIDS Against Us'


A PA series aired over Ramadan contains incitement-charged scenes which portray Israel as willing to use drugs and AIDS against Palestinians.' The Canaanite,' a new television series broadcast on Palestinian television over the holy month of Ramadan, depicts the suffering of a Palestinian prisoner in Israeli jails.

Among other things, the fictional series shows an Israeli security personnel ruthlessly hitting Pilpil, the series' hero, shortly before his release from jail, in a bid to persuade him to work for the Shin Bet as an informer on members of his cell. The Israeli official is seen pushing another Palestinian prisoner's head into a bucket of water.

The message is clear: Expect more incitement in PA-controlled media. The series is filled with biased scenes illustrating the brutal behavior of Israeli security officials against Palestinian prisoners. A Glance at Palestinian Media, an institute that closely studies Palestinian media, argues that the series presents Israel as supporting Palestinian drug gangs in its efforts to harm Palestinian society.

The presentation of IDF soldiers as blood-thirsty murderers even in the closed jail setting is only a backdrop to the more shocking claim that Israelis "are willing to fight us (the Palestinians) with AIDS," as articulated by the central character.

A number of series are broadcast on Palestinian television during Ramadan. In order to appease the long hours of fast, many Palestinian families prefer to stay at home during the holiest month in the Muslim calendar, when watching television becomes a popular activity. In the series, Pilpil plays a secret agent who joins the police force to expose a Palestinian gang activated by an Israeli who encourages his alibis to sell drugs to Palestinian youths in the Gaza Strip. "Drugs, they are fighting us with drugs. They select strategies to fight us. Using planes at times and drugs at others," Pilpil tells his Palestinian superior who replies "they are even willing to use AIDS against us." In another scene Pilpil is seen having a dream of an IDF soldier endowed with a typically long Jewish nose happily shooting and killing a Palestinian bride.

Over the last few years, Arab television networks have disseminated a series of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic programs which were viewed by millions of Muslims around the world via satellite and cable technologies over Ramadan. The Palestinian Authority has apparently decided to keep up the tradition.

The most eminent of these series was the Egyptian program "Knight without a Horse," which portrays the Jews' efforts to veil the existence of ''The Protocols of the Elders of Zion' and a Syrian anti-Semitic fiction "The Exile," which was broadcast on Hizbullah's al-Manar channel and documents the Jews' plan over the last 150 years to control the whole world.

Another character in the Palestinian series, Adel, is a collaborator with Israel who preaches to his lover that the Green Line is nonexistent because Israel has plans to annex the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The series portrays PA security forces as professional and excellent institutions that have managed to restore law and order in Palestinian areas - oblivious to the fact that a spree of violence, chaos, and anarchy raged in the Gaza Strip over the last two weeks.

Bush Gets Punch Lines from God

By Ray Hanania (Commentary)

Does God really have the time to talk to us mortals? According to President Bush, he does. In fact, Bush says God told him to invade Iraq. According to the BBC, which seems to have a clearer signal to God-related stories, God also told Bush to invade Afghanistan and to also create a Palestinian State.

Wow. It's not as unusual as one might think. Apparently, God speaks to many people. Over the years, a lot of people claim that they have received their marching orders directly from God himself. Moses and Abraham each had conversations with God. Well, maybe not conversations but God entrusted some very important missions with each.

A few less prophet-like people have also had conversations with God that were cited in the defense of their actions. Iranian construction worker Saeed Hanaei (no relation to me) said he murdered 19 women he claimed were prostitutes on orders from God. He strangled each victim with a Hijab, on a Sunday. Captured in July 2001, the neighbors surrounded his home chanting, "Hanaei, the killer of corrupt people, we support you."

There was the televangelist who had sex with women other than his wife. The women said God made them do it. He was convicted of embezzling money. Long ago on American television, we used to have a comedian who hosted a show and dressed like a woman who would use the line "The Devil made me do it." He became very rich and famous.

There is a group of three American comedians who assert God made them funny, although the concern isn't the part about God. The trio consists of two American Black Muslim members of the Nation of Islam and one Indian Muslim. When you see their bearded, shaggy look, you might conclude, "I don't know if God made you funny. But he sure made you funny looking." And in the movie "The Blues Brothers," Elwood Blues (played by actor Dan Aykroyd) explained to people shocked by their occasionally destructive antics, "We are on a mission from God."

At a university, according to one story, a professor who is an atheist told his students he would prove there is no God. Standing at his lectern, he announced that if there was a God, God should knock him down. He gave God 15 minutes to do it. The students didn't have to wait long. Within minutes, a student who was a U.S. Marine punched the professor in the face, knocking him down and unconscious for several minutes. When the professor woke, he yelled, "Why did you do that? "The Marine responded, "God was busy. He sent me." The student was charged and dismissed from college and he also received a dishonorable discharge from the Marines.

Let's just assume God did all these things. Sometimes the problem isn't that God spoke to anyone at all. It's that sometimes, he might be a little too careless about whom he speaks with, as exemplified in this old Jewish joke. God told Moses to take his people to the Promised Land. But had God told Moses' wife to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt, it wouldn't have taken the Hebrews 40 years to get there. Mrs. Moses would have stopped to ask for directions. Men don't. Of course, had God chosen a woman, the Hebrews would still be in Egypt waiting for her to get ready for the trip. Too much packing and make-up. The hair! And, what to wear?

Still, I'm wondering if God spoke to Bush out of respect or because he felt sorry for him. God: "George. This is God." Bush: "Oh my. It's true. There are side effects to drug use." God: "No George. It's not about drugs." Bush: "Ah. I'm sorry. I'll give those votes back." God: "It's not about stealing the election." Bush: "I'll apologize to Dan Rather. His documents were forgeries but he's right. I used daddy's clout to avoid service in the Vietnam War and I hid out at a Reserve base."

God: "Jeeeeeesus! ... George. I am God. And I have something important to tell you. I want you to invade Iraq." Bush: "I get it. Cheney? Cheney? Where are you hiding? Boy, God made you funny. You've been wanting me to invade Iraq since you convinced daddy to put you in charge of my White House. Where you hiding?" God: "Sigh!"

Ray Hanania writes for on issues that are serious, satirical and humorous.

Praying at the Western Wall by Proxy and the Internet

By Ha'aretz

The latest marriage of technology and millennia-old traditions enables anyone with a special request, at least $80 to spare and Internet access to pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Batya Burd, 31, a former corporate lawyer from Toronto now living in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City, has founded an Internet company that offers personal prayers at the Western Wall and other Jewish religious sites. "Who doesn't want their prayers answered?" Burd asked rhetorically during a recent interview in her apartment.

Burd became an observant Jew after a Birthright Israel trip in 2001, and immigrated to Israel soon after. She and her husband Gershon, a full-time yeshiva student, established their company,, last year. It took off quickly through word of mouth and advertisements on Google. The main service offered is 40 days of consecutive prayers at the Western Wall, where God's presence is said to permanently dwell. The number was selected because of its recurrence throughout the Bible, among others as the number of days that Moses stayed on Mount Sinai before the giving of the Torah.

Burd explained that hiring a proxy is an acceptable religious alternative for people who don't have daily access to the wall. "People do have to pray for themselves too," she insisted, "but the more people you have praying for you, the better."

The basic package, for a minimum of $2 a day for the 40-day period, provides for inclusion in a group prayer at the wall. For $9 a day, a representative prays at the wall exclusively on your behalf. The $18 a day option includes the exclusive prayer as well as the recitation of all of Psalms and special prayers at an Old City synagogue. For an additional sum of $540, Burd can arrange for a 40-day course of prayers at the tomb of King David on Mt. Zion or at that of the Kabbalist Yitzhak Luria ("Arizal"), in Safed. Most clients take the basic package, Burd admitted, "because it's cheapest."

Hundreds of people from around the world, most of them Jews, have turned to the site for divine intervention on matters such as fertility, health, or marriage. Unusual requests have included divine help in being released from prison, losing weight and obtaining American citizenship. One Christian client, who sought prayers for the resurrection of Jesus, was politely declined.

In addition to their requests, customers provide their Hebrew name and that of their mother, in keeping with Jewish tradition. Some clients relate their life stories, while others send pictures. Burd keeps in touch by phone or email. "You'd be amazed at how much a person can care for and connect with a complete stranger," she said.

Teachers and students whom the Burds know from the Jewish Quarter help to fulfill the requests. Many of them struggle to support themselves and welcome the additional income. "This feels like such holy work," Burda said. "My heart is in the job for the first time and I am earning money from something that I believe in."

Skeptics may scoff at the idea of paying someone on the other side of the world to pray on your behalf. Clients can pay hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars for a service with no proof of performance. But Burd says that with references from rabbis such as Berel Wein, a popular Jewish historian and Shimon Green of the Birkas HaTorah yeshiva, her pure intentions should be obvious. "If you don't know the rabbis, it's true, you need to take a leap of faith," she admitted. "But anyone who wants prayers at the Kotel has already put their faith in God."

Burd claims "dozens" of success stories for her customers, ranging from love discovered to health regained. "It's not magic, but it is a Torah recipe for success," she said. Still, Burd does include a liability clause in the contract for services. As we cannot play God, we offer no guarantees," the clause states, "but with heartfelt prayers, good deeds, and Torah-learning, we do our best."

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