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Islamic Teacher Disputes Holocaust Survivor's Story


An Islamic religion teacher at a secondary school in Laeken challenged Holocaust survivor and speaker Henri Kichka's story during his meeting with 150 students in which he described how he survived the Buchenwald concentration camp, Le Soir daily newspaper reported Tuesday.

The teacher told the school that Kichka's account "was largely exaggerated." "This never happened to me in 25 years," said Kichka, who is regularly invited to meet young people. Holocaust denial is an offence in Belgium liable to prison term.

Study: Israel May Attack Iran Nuclear Sites with Ballistic Missiles

By Reuters

Ballistic missiles could be Israel's weapon of choice against Iranian nuclear facilities if it decides on a pre-emptive attack and deems air strikes too risky, according to a report by a Washington think-tank.

Israel is widely assumed to have Jericho missiles capable of hitting Iran with an accuracy of a few dozen meters (yards) from target. Such a capability would be free of warplanes' main drawbacks - limits on fuel and ordnance, and perils to pilots.

Extrapolating from analyst assessments that the most advanced Jerichos carry 750 kg (1,650 lb) conventional warheads, Abdullah Toukan of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said 42 missiles would be enough to "severely damage or demolish" Iran's core nuclear sites at Natanz, Esfahan and Arak.

"If the Jericho III is fully developed and its accuracy is quite high then this scenario could look much more feasible than using combat aircraft," he said in the March 14 report, titled "Study on a Possible Israeli Strike on Iran's Nuclear Development Facilities".

Israel, whose jets bombed Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981 and mounted a similar sortie over Syria in 2007, has hinted that it could forcibly deny Iran the means to make an atomic bomb. But many experts believe the Iranian sites are too distant, dispersed and fortified for Israel's warplanes to take on alone.

Israel neither confirms nor denies having Jerichos, as part of an "ambiguity" policy veiling its own assumed atomic arsenal.

A veteran Israeli defense consultant played down the idea of ballistic missiles being used for conventional attacks. "You look at any major Western military, and you'll see that such strikes are the purview of manned warplanes, while ballistic missiles are reserved for nuclear-strike scenarios," the consultant told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Toukan, whose 114-page report frowns on the prospect of unilateral Israeli action, said a Jericho salvo could draw an Iranian counter-attack with Shehab missiles. Other reprisal scenarios include Iran choking off oil exports, hitting U.S. Gulf assets, or ordering proxy attacks on Jewish targets abroad.

Some Israeli experts have been dismissive of the Shehab threat, citing intelligence assessments that Iran has deployed fewer than 100 of the missiles and that, if launched, most would be destroyed in mid-flight by Israel's Arrow II interceptor.

"Under such circumstances, we would expect little more than a repeat of the Gulf war," said one ex-general, referring to Iraq's firing of 40 Scud missiles at Israel during the 1991 conflict. Those attacks inflicted damage but few casualties.

The Arrow II also provides some protection for Jordan, a friendly Arab neighbor of Israel and which Toukan saw becoming "Ground Zero if a ballistic missile exchange takes place".

He noted that any Jericho strikes on Iran - which has denied seeking nuclear weapons but vowed to retaliate if attacked - would be complicated should Tehran obtain the most sophisticated version of Russia's S-300 air-defense system, which can tackle both invading planes and ballistic missiles.

Israel could face a further difficulty in mounting a sneak Jericho attack because its strategic air bases are located near population centers. The unannounced test launch of what was believed to be a Jericho III outside Tel Aviv last year became public knowledge within minutes.

But that may be the extent of Iran's forewarning. According to the Israeli consultant, only the United States and Russia are known to have satellites capable of spotting ballistic missile launches in real time, "and it's highly unlikely that the Iranians would get access to that information."

Olmert Rejects Hamas Proposed Prisoner Swap

By Luis Ramirez (VOA-Jerusalem) &

Israel said Tuesday that indirect negotiations with the terrorist Islamic group Hamas have failed. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said his government would not accept the group's demands in exchange for the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier seized by Palestinians and taken to Gaza in 2006.

Israel and Hamas aimed to reach a truce mediated by Egypt that would include Israel's lifting of its blockade on border crossings into Gaza. In addition to the opening of borders, Hamas wanted Israel to release more than 1,000 prisoners, including 450 who Israel says were involved in terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. Israel linked any lifting of the blockade to the release of Gilad Shalit.

In the end, Israel refused to add the names of some prisoners to the list of those it would free, and it demanded that some be deported upon their release. In remarks after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Olmert said Israel would not agree under any circumstances to the terms that Hamas presented, adding there are red lines and that Israel would not cross them.

The two sides traded blame for the failure of negotiations. Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan accused Israel of undermining the talks. He said Israel agreed in principle to the prisoner exchange. But he said the problem started when it came to the names of those who would be released. He said Israel insisted on having Hamas free Gilad Shalit first.

Israeli Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann spoke to reporters after Tuesday's cabinet meeting. He said the Israeli prime minister was prepared to make far-reaching concessions. But, he said, Hamas' demands reached proportions that no Israeli government could accept.

Hundreds of Israelis demonstrated on Tuesday, urging the government to keep up efforts to free Shalit. The soldier's parents, meanwhile, camped outside the prime minister's office. Israeli officials said they would continue their efforts to gain the soldier's release, but that it would likely be under the country's next government.

Olmert is due to leave office in several days. Binyamin Netanyahu is under an April 3rd deadline to form a coalition government -- one that will likely be dominated by hardliners who are less disposed to make concessions to Hamas.

Daniel Diker is a foreign policy analyst with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. "The other, more strategic option for Israel is to wait until this government in the coming days finishes its term. And then, you will have what in all likelihood looks like a Netanyahu coalition, and they will then go back to square one and begin to approach this issue from a different vantage point," he said. During his campaign, Netanyahu called for the toppling of Hamas.

Israel on Tuesday said it would maintain its blockade on Gaza's borders until Gilad Shalit is released.

The failure of the talks means further setbacks for recovery efforts on the Gaza Strip. Israel is preventing the transport of concrete and steel -- materials needed for reconstruction after the recent Israeli offensive that destroyed thousands of homes.

The government agreed to free several of the terrorists on condition that they be deported to other countries. They included those who were convicted for planning or carrying out suicide bombings and other attacks that resulted in the deaths of more than Israeli soldiers and civilians.

The Prime Minister has informed the Shalit family of the status of negotiations. He added that Israel is the only country in the world that would offer to free terrorists convicted of murder in exchange for a single soldier. However, the Prime Minister added, "We will not agree to release more prisoners from the Hamas list beyond the hundreds of names that we agreed to and announced to them."

Study: German Teenagers Drawn to Neo-Nazi Groups


Approximately one in 20 15-year-old German males is a member of a neo-Nazi group, a higher proportion than are involved in mainstream politics, according to a study released on Tuesday.

Many politicians fear a resurgence of right-wing extremism as unemployment creeps higher in Germany, which is facing its deepest recession since World War II. Government figures have shown anti-Semitic crimes rose at the end of last year.

"It is shocking that right-wing groups have more success recruiting male youths than the established political parties," said Christian Pfeiffer, author of the report issued by Lower Saxony's criminal research institute. He said fewer than 2 percent of young men were active in mainstream politics, compared to the 5 percent involved in far-right groups.

The study, conducted in 2007 and 2008, also revealed that neo Nazi-symbols – in either rock music, stickers or special clothing - were used by one in 10 of the youths surveyed. The swastika and other Nazi symbols are banned in Germany.

The highest proportion of neo-Nazis was in former communist eastern Germany, where almost one in eight youths were in such groups. More than 14 percent of those questioned were described as racist, and anti-Semitism was rife.

More than 14 percent of those asked were inclined to brush off the Holocaust as "not awful" while a similar number tended to believe that Jews, through their behavior, were not entirely blameless for their persecution.

Scholar Challenges Theory on Dead Sea Scroll Authors


An Israeli scholar on Jewish mysticism, Rachel Elior, has challenged the long-accepted theory that the Essenes sect authored the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls. She claims the supposed sect never existed and blames Jewish Roman historian Flavius Josephus for falsely recording the existence of the Essenes.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered about 60 years ago and include segments of the Bible as well as reports on communal living and a disastrous war. Scholars have described the Essenes as celibates who lived near the Qumran caves where a Bedouin shepherd found the scrolls.

Elior, a scholar at Hebrew University, wrote in a book to be published next month that it is unreasonable that observant Jews, as the Essenes are described, would not observe the Biblical commandment to "be fruitful and multiply." She maintained that if the Essenes indeed existed and drifted from accepted Jewish practice, they would have earned a place in other texts.

Elior claims that Flavius "wanted to explain to the Romans that the Jews weren't all losers and traitors, that there were many exceptional Jews of religious devotion and heroism. You might say it was the first rebuttal to anti-Semitic literature. He was probably inspired by the Spartans… Josephus wanted to portray Jews who were like the Spartans in their ideals and high virtue."

The Hebrew University researcher and lecturer theorizes that the real authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls were the sons of Tzadok, a caste of priests who were banished from the Holy Temple by Greeks rulers and took their scrolls with them. She notes that "the scrolls attest to a biblical priestly heritage."

Replying to critics who abide by the theory that the Essenes existed and wrote the Scrolls, Elior stated, "They should read the Dead Sea Scrolls — all 39 volumes. The proof is there."

Christian Hagaddahs Pass as Authentic Jewish Texts


A Jewish outreach organization has called on mainstream booksellers, including Barnes & Noble and Amazon, to remove a Christian missionary version of the traditional Passover Hagaddah from the Judaism sections of online and conventional bookstores.

Rabbi Tovia Singer, director of Outreach Judaism, warned, "Despite the innocent-sounding title `Passover Family Pack: Everything You Need to Enjoy a Passover Seder Dinner,' the guide quickly departs from the traditional holiday message once it is opened."

Jewish families seeking to celebrate the ancient exodus of the Jewish People from Egyptian slavery find once they open the package that they are encouraged to express their faith in the Christian deity, "Yeshua the Messiah."

"Barnes & Noble,, WalMart Books and other retailers are trusted names in the book industry," Singer said. "As such, they have a special responsibility to accurately label such material under a Christian category rather group it together with legitimate Jewish material," he added.

"The 'Passover Kit' is an insidious tool Christian organizations use to convert Jewish people," declared Singer, who also urged buyers to lobby booksellers' corporate offices to remove the publication from Judaism publications lists.

The publisher of the missionary Passover guide, Messianic Jewish Resources, is associated with works such as The Jewish New Testament, The Messianic Jewish Manifesto, and other similar books. Singer said that such books are "an assault to the Jewish faith" and placing them in the Jewish section of their walk-in and on-line book stores is tantamount to "consumer fraud."

Singer noted that missionary publishers often intentionally try to mislead the book-buying public by giving their works Jewish-sounding titles. "It's ironic that mainstream organizations who are seeking to undermine the Jewish faith are able to pass themselves off as legitimate Jewish groups," he commented. "The unsuspecting Jewish families who purchase this "Hagaddah" are undoubtedly stunned by a not-so-familiar Passover story."

Singer, who has released for free internet download a 24-hour lecture series on Judaism's Response to Christian Missionaries, called on people who have already purchased the Hagaddah to return the volume at the point of sale.

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