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Students to Vote on Govt. Proposal


Students will vote Wednesday on a government proposal made Tuesday in hopes of ending the weeks-long Student Union strike. In a meeting with Student Union leaders, Prime Minister's Office officials proposed that students be given greater control over decisions regarding tuition.

The proposal would also give students at least one year before a tuition raise would go into effect. While the proposal does not include all of the funding requested by student leaders, it would grant 20 million shekels to teachers colleges and 45 million shekels to institutions not funded by the government

Palestinian Violence Escalates in Gaza Strip

By Jim Teeple (VOA-Jerusalem)

Factional fighting in the Gaza Strip has killed 16 people, including eight in one incident when Hamas and Fatah gunmen clashed near a border crossing with Israel. More than 20 Palestinians have died in several days of factional fighting, threatening the unity government. Hamas terrorists also fired a barrage of rockets into southern Israel, wounding several people.

Hamas gunmen using rockets, rocket-propelled grenades and heavy weapons, attacked a Fatah training base near the Karni crossing - the main cargo crossing point between Israel and the Gaza Strip. The base was established as part of a U.S. funded effort to help train Palestinian border guards at the crossing.

When Fatah security forces rushed to reinforce the base, they were ambushed. It is the most serious outbreak of violence since Hamas and Fatah agreed to form a unity government two months ago. Israeli troops on the border also fired on Palestinians who got too close to the border during the incident. One Palestinian gunman was reportedly killed by the Israeli fire.

Speaking a short while later Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas appealed for calm. He said it was time for the immediate implementation of a security plan that both Hamas and Fatah have agreed to, stating that under the plan gunmen from both factions would operate under a joint Hamas-Fatah command.

Fighting escalated just one day after the Palestinian Interior Minister resigned saying he was powerless to stop the violence. Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, a leading Hamas terrorist, has been given temporary control of the Interior Ministry.

Spokesman Ghazi Hamad said stopping the violence is a top priority of the Palestinian leadership. "The president has given orders to all security forces to withdraw from the streets and I think Hamas and Fatah have both given orders to their elements to stop all military conflict." There are about 80,000 gunmen in the Palestinian territories loyal to either Hamas or Fatah.

The violence flared on what many Palestinians call the al-Nakba - or the catastrophe - the day they mark as an anniversary for the loss of their homeland in 1948. About 700,000 Palestinians became refugees in May of 1948, after Israel declared its independence, and a coalition of Arab armies attacked the new Jewish state.

Olmert, King Abdullah Discuss Arab Peace Initiative at Jordan Summit

By Robert Berger (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israeli and Jordanian leaders have held a summit in Jordan's Red Sea resort of Aqaba in a bid to advance the peace process with an Arab land-for-peace proposal topping the agenda.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Jordan's King Abdullah that Israel is ready to negotiate on the Arab peace initiative. "I invite these 22 leaders of the Arab nations that are ready to make that kind of peace with Israel to come wherever they want, to sit down with us and start to talk and to present their ideas."

The Arab initiative calls for Israel to withdraw to the 1967 borders in exchange for full diplomatic ties with all Arab states.

While Olmert is ready to discuss the plan, he rejects key points. Israel says it will never dismantle all West Bank settlements or withdraw from Jerusalem's Old City, home to the holiest places in Judaism. Israel also rejects the so-called "Right of Return" of millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to their former homes in Israel.

Since all of these issues are unacceptable for Israel, Israeli analyst Dore Gold does not see a breakthrough any time soon. "I do not believe the chances are very good at this point," he said. "The Arab states are going to want significant progress by Israel to move toward their agenda of full withdrawal before they are going to begin giving us any significant upgrading of relations."

Gold said Olmert's talks with King Abdullah enabled Israel to make its positions clear. "The Arab states, they have a very specific agenda," he said. "And what is very important in such a meeting is to clarify an Israeli agenda."

Jordanian officials said the King told Olmert that if Israel wants to advance the peace process, it must first take concrete steps to improve relations with the Palestinians. That would include halting the expansion of West Bank settlements and easing economic sanctions on the Palestinian Authority.

Olmert responded that progress on the Palestinian track is not possible as long as the Islamic militant group Hamas is the senior partner in a coalition government. Hamas has been crippled by international sanctions because it refuses to renounce violence and recognize Israel.

Confrontation as Hebrew University Arab Students Mark 'Nakba'


Arab and Jewish students at Hebrew University squared off against each other on campus on Tuesday, despite the ongoing student boycott of classes, when a group of Arab students staged a march and demonstration condemning the foundation of the State of Israel as "the catastrophe," or Nakba in Arabic.

This was the ninth year that Arab students at the Jerusalem university have so marked Israel's establishment on May 15 in the civil calendar (Israelis, however, mark Independence Day on the 5th day of the month of Iyar, according to the Jewish calendar).

This year, the Arab students' event was particularly inflammatory, as it fell on the eve of Jerusalem Day, marking the unification of the capital under Israeli sovereignty during the 1967 Six Day War. The Zionist student group called Im Tirtzu ("If You Will It") organized an active patriotic counter-demonstration to greet the Arab student protesters. The Jerusalem police department, which had warned of potential clashes, deployed a heavy presence at the campus entrance, where it eventually managed to keep the sides separate.

In the morning, dozens of Arab students took an organized trip to the ruins of an abandoned Arab village in the Jerusalem area. Afterwards, when the students returned to Hebrew University for a pre-planned anti-Israel demonstration, they were greeted by an equally large crowd of patriotic Jewish students waving Israeli flags and chanting pro-Israel slogans. Arab students claimed that some of the Jewish students attempted to beat them, leading to campus security to separate the two groups and force them off campus grounds.

Outside the school, the pro- and anti-Israel demonstrations continued, with the street, police and physical barriers dividing the two groups from one another.

Arab students chanted pan-Arab and anti-Israel slogans, including the Palestinian Authority anthem Biladi, "Palestine is Arab" and chants linking Beirut, Gaza and Jenin. The Arab demonstrators also denigrated Israel as a "police state," and called for "national unity" over the "Syrian Golan Heights," terrorist prisoners in Israeli jails and what they called "the right of return" for Arab refugees currently outside Israel.

As police reinforced their presence, the Arab demonstrators flashed the "V for Victory" hand gesture and concluded with chants of "Here Palestine was lost and here we will regain it."

Muslim Religious Ban on Leaving Israel


Yet another Islamic religious ruling forbidding Moslems from leaving the Holy Land has been issued, this time from the Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine.

Recently, the Hamas-affiliated Association of Religious Sages of Palestine publicized its ruling forbidding emigration from the lands of the Palestinian Authority. The Mufti of Jerusalem has now joined in with his own ban.

The rulings are an indication of the great fear in the Arab world that young people from the Palestinian Authority are increasingly seeking their fortunes abroad.

The latest ruling, entitled, "No permission to emigrate from the land of Palestine," reads as follows: "There is much talk these days in our land of Palestine about emigration, and especially among the young, and this because of the difficult security and economic situation, and out of a desire to find a living in other lands. Expression of this can be found in the rush to the gates of the embassies and consulates of the Western nations with requests for visas in order to reside permanently in those countries...

"Based on [the ruling of the prophet Muhammed and his friends], emigration from the blessed lands to live permanently in other countries is not permitted in terms of religious law. The people living in these areas must remain in their places of residence, and not leave them to infiltrators and conquerors, and they will thus perform an act of honor, and will be a support for the Al-Aqsa mosque... and will merit the good tiding of the prophet...

"Regarding temporary travel to other lands for the purpose of study and work, this is permitted as long as there is a determination to return and live in the blessed lands after the stage of study and work."

PA officials reported last November that in the preceding four months, foreign and Arab diplomats had authorized the entry of 10,000 PA residents to their countries, and that another 45,000 emigration requests were under similar consideration. Similar statements were made in October.

Nazi Holocaust Archives Opens


The International Tracing Service, an arm of the Swiss-run International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), will finally release files from a Nazi-era archive.

Under an agreement reached on Tuesday, Holocaust institutions will be able to access in a few months' time copies of data locked away in a quiet German town for more than 50 years.

The documents will give historians an intimate inside view of the Nazi machinery of oppression and death, and will let survivors and victims' families search for their own histories as recorded by the Germans.

The 11-nation governing body of the tracing service, which oversees the archive in Bad Arolsen, Germany, voted to sidestep legalities and to begin distributing electronic copies to the member states as soon as they are ready.

The decision circumvents the requirement to withhold the documents until all 11 countries ratify the 2006 treaty amendments that enabled the unsealing of the archive, and was likely to shave several months from the distribution timetable.

But institutions that receive the copies can only use the time to organize the electronic files and integrate them into their own archival systems. They are prohibited from allowing access to researchers until the ratification process is complete according to the archive's Swiss director, Reto Meister.

Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, which sent a representative to the meeting, welcomed the decision. "I am delighted to see this project moving forward," said the memorial's director, Avner Shalev.

"This was a huge hurdle for many people" on the commission, said J. Christian Kennedy, the United States State Department's special envoy for Holocaust issues. He said the US government would do all it could to ensure the final four countries ratify the accord as soon as possible.

Italy, Greece, Luxembourg and France have all pledged to endorse the agreement by the autumn, Meister said. The United States, Israel, Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland and Germany have finished the legal process.

Meister said the first 10 million pages--about 20 percent of the documents-- would be ready for transfer by early September, with another huge batch in November.

The archive contains Nazi records on the arrest, transportation, incarceration, forced labor and deaths of millions of people from the year the Nazis built their first concentration camp in 1933 to the end of the war in May 1945. It also has a vast collection of postwar records from displaced persons camps.

The name index refers to 17.5 million victims, and the documents fill 25 linear kilometers of shelves. Until now, the files have been used to track missing people, reunite families, and later to validate restitution claims.

Seized by the Allies after the war, the files were closed under a 1955 agreement to protect the privacy of survivors and the reputation of the dead who may have undergone humiliating medical experiments or been falsely accused of crimes.

Few people were allowed to see the actual papers. Since 1955, the archive has received more than 11 million requests for information, but it often responded with form letters giving minimal information. Sometimes, copies of documents were given to families.

Meister, who began working for the ICRC in 1982 and took over as head of the service late last year, said that approach is changing. "People have the right to see their files. They may (have been) written by the Gestapo (but) ultimately, this is the property of the person whose name appears there," he added.

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