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Florida Shylocks on the Way Out


The word "shylock," a term used to characterize Jews as mean moneylenders, is on the way to be stricken from legislation in Florida. The name comes from the Shakespeare play "The Merchant of Venice."

The state senate has unanimously passed a law that erases the word "shylocking" from laws against exploiting borrowers. Democratic Senator Eleanor Sobel introduced the bill to fix "the mistake that has been left by history

Israel Accused of Bombing Sudan Weapons Headed for Hamas; Olmert: We Operate Anywhere There is Terror

By & Ha'aretz

A "major power" bombed a convoy of weapons funded by Iran and headed for Hamas in Gaza last January, killing 39 people, according to a Sudanese minister. CBS News said Israel carried out the counterterrorist attack.

Israel has declined to comment on the report, but the government and the United States signed a "memo of understanding" at the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead, calling for action by the international community to stop the flow of weapons to Gaza.

The 17-truck weapons convoy was bombed in Sudan before the arms could reach Egypt and then proceed through Sinai Desert. From there, they were to be brought into Gaza by sea or through smuggling tunnels along the Philadelphi Route that runs past the border city of Rafiah.

"A major power bombed small trucks carrying arms, burning all of them. It killed Sudanese, Eritreans, and Ethiopians and injured others," according to Sudanese Highways Minister Mabrouk Mubarak Saleem.

CBS reported that the report, if true, indicates "there is a shadow war against Hamas and its weapons sources that is wider than the Israeli or U.S. government has revealed."

Israeli officials previously have warned that an international network of terrorists is behind the supply of weapons from Iran to Hamas through Yemen and Sudan. The weapons include anti-tank missiles and explosives.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Thursday that Israel would hit terrorists "near and far," and warned enemies, "there is no place that Israel can't reach." The statement was seen as a reference to an alleged IAF strike in Sudan.

Israel strikes terrorists "in the north and in the south... There's no need to mention details; people can use their imaginations," Olmert added. Those who need to know details of Israeli strikes are well informed, he added.

The regime of Brigadier Omar al-Bashir in Sudan is, with the exception of the Hamas enclave in Gaza, the only overtly Islamist and pro-Iranian government in the Arabic-speaking world. Sudan is an acknowledged member of the Iran-led regional alliance, which includes Syria, Hizbullah in Lebanon, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

However, Hamas denied on Thursday reports that a convoy that was attacked in Sudan earlier in the year was carrying weapons bound for the Islamist terrorist group in Gaza. Hamas official Salah al-Bardawil said in a statement that the reports were a false pretext to declare war on Sudan.

"The technology used in the attacks was so sophisticated, they must have been American," said Mubarak Mabrook Saleem, Sudan's State Minister for Transportation. "This is the first time such an incident happens." According to Saleem, the first strike hit 16 vehicles carrying 200 people from various African countries being smuggled across the border. It also carried some "light weapons" such as Kalashnikovs, he said.

In the second attack on February 11, he said 18 vehicles were hit and they were only carrying immigrants, not weapons. He claimed several hundred people were killed in each bombing and said the first strike was about a week before the Feb. 11 attack, but did not give a date.

The U.S. military denied any recent airstrikes in or around Sudan. "The U.S. military has not conducted any airstrikes, fired any missiles, or undertaken any combat operations in or around Sudan since the U.S. Africa Command formally began operations Oct. 1," said Vince Crawley, a spokesman for the command.

Israeli officials declined to confirm or deny whether Israel had been involved in the air strike in Sudan.

According to, the airstrike was an "embarrassment" to Sudan's government, and it discussed the matter with Egypt's government "to gather more information to formulate a response."

On the basis of the report from Sudan, American reporters sought confirmation from U.S. administration officials, which led them to the conclusion that the air strike did take place but that the U.S. Air Force was not involved and that the aircraft were Israeli.

CBS correspondent Dan Raviv said that "if Israeli airplanes carried out the attack in Sudan, it would suggest that there is a shadow against Hamas and its weapons sources that is wider than the Israeli or U.S. government has revealed."

Israeli defense sources have reiterated on a number of occasions that Iran embarked on an intensive effort to supply Hamas with weapons and ammunition during Operation Cast Lead.

The Israeli security sources said that an international network has been set in place in which smugglers move arms caches from Iran through the Persian Gulf to Yemen, on to Sudan and then to Egypt and Sinai where they are brought into the Gaza Strip through tunnels. Israeli intelligence has warned that the deliveries include anti-tank missiles, small arms, and military grade high explosives, as well as missiles.

Hamas, Israel Resume Talks on Prisoner Exchange

By VOA News

Hamas officials said they have resumed indirect negotiations with Israel on exchanging a captured Israeli soldier for Palestinian prisoners. Hamas official Ali Barakeh said Thursday a delegation from the Palestinian militant group is in Cairo to pursue a deal. Egyptian officials said an Egyptian envoy is also in Israel for talks with Israeli officials.

The fate of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit has become central to Egyptian efforts to mediate a long-term cease-fire between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza. Hamas gunmen captured Shalit nearly three years ago during a cross-border raid.

Israel wants Shalit released as a condition for a long-term cease-fire agreement with Hamas in Gaza. Hamas is demanding, in exchange, that Israel free at least a thousand Palestinian prisoners, including militants responsible for deadly bombings.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said he hopes to secure Shalit's release before the new Israeli government takes office next week.

IDF: 1,166 Killed in Gaza, 60-75 Percent Were Terrorists


The IDF has released the conclusions of its investigation of Arab deaths in the Cast Lead operation in Gaza. According to Israeli researchers, 1,166 Gaza residents were killed in Cast Lead, most of them terrorists.

More than 60 percent of those killed – a total of 709 men – were proven to be members of terrorist groups, the IDF said. Most belonged to Hamas.

A total of 295 civilians were killed in fighting, the IDF found. The civilian death toll as reported by the IDF includes all children under the age of 16 and all women killed in the fighting, as well as elderly men and women, and men aged 16-50 who did not take part in combat.

A total of 89 children and 49 women were killed in the fighting, investigators said. The remaining 162 people are men between the ages of 16 and 50 whose affiliation remains unknown.

The IDF released a statement with the report mentioning the measures Israel took to protect Gaza civilians: "The IDF wishes to emphasize that its objective during Operation Cast Lead was to target the Hamas terror organization and not the citizens of the Gaza Strip.

"It must be stressed that the fighting took place in a complex battlefield, defined by the Hamas terror organization itself. The Hamas terror organization placed the primary fighting scene at the heart of civilian neighborhoods as it booby-trapped homes, fired from schools, and used civilians as human shields.

The IDF took extensive measures in order to prevent harming uninvolved civilians, including the dropping of leaflets, broadcasting warnings in local Palestinian media, and placing numerous phone calls to homes. The procedure of making use of warning shots and the briefing of commanders to take extra precautions in populated areas were also among the measures taken by the IDF."

Hamas disputes the numbers reported by Israel, and claims that roughly 1,400 people were killed in the fighting, most of them innocent civilians. Israeli researchers have pointed out serious flaws in the Hamas data, such as double reporting of deaths and the inclusion of senior terrorists on the list of children killed.

Hamas considers any person under the age of 18 a child victim, including teenagers who took an active role in combat. In addition, armed Hamas officers who served in the Hamas "police force" were listed as terrorists by Israel, and counted as civilian casualties by Hamas.

Vatican Announces Papal Visit to Holy Land

By Sabina Castelfranco (VOA-Rome)

The Vatican on Thursday officially confirmed that Pope Benedict XVI will carry out a pilgrimage to the Holy Land from May 8 to 15. He will first travel to Jordan and then on to Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth.

This will be Pope Benedict's first visit to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories, and it will be watched carefully. Many are hoping the pontiff will use the opportunity to help ease Roman Catholic relations with Muslims and Jews, which often have been strained since the start of this papacy four years ago.

Pope Benedict is expected to meet with Jordan's King Abdullah, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian territories President Mahmoud Abbas. This is the third papal visit in modern times to the land where Jesus lived. Pope Paul VI visited the region in 1964 and John Paul II in 2000.

Pope Benedict will spend the first three days of his trip in Jordan. In Amman, he will visit the King Hussein bin Talal Mosque. It will be the pontiff's second visit to a mosque. In 2006, during a trip to Turkey, he prayed at the famed Blue Mosque in Istanbul.

The pope will also hold Mass in the Amman soccer stadium and visit where Jesus was baptized on the River Jordan and Mount Nebo where Moses once looked out at the Promised Land.

Pope Benedict will travel to Israel on May 11 where he will visit the Yad Vashem Memorial in Jerusalem and meet with organizations devoted to interfaith dialogue. He also is scheduled to visit the Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount in Jerusalem and meet the Grand Mufti. The pontiff will visit the Western Wall and meet Israel's two chief rabbis. He will also celebrate Mass in the Valley of Josaphat.

Then Pope Benedict will go to the Palestinian territories. In Bethlehem, the traditional birthplace of Jesus, he will celebrate Mass in Manger Square and visit the Grotto of the Nativity. He will also visit a Palestinian refugee camp.

The pope will also travel to Nazareth where he will celebrate Mass on Mount Precipice and preside over an evening prayer service with bishops, priests, religious, ecclesial movements and pastoral workers from Galilee.

Pope Benedict is expected to round out his visit by attending an ecumenical meeting at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and a visit to the Holy Sepulchre and the Armenian patriarchal church of St. James in Jerusalem.

Can Homer Simpson Solve the Mideast Conflict?

By Ha'aretz

The Simpsons have been to Australia, Britain, France and Japan, but now they could be taking on their greatest challenge - bringing peace to Israel and the Palestinians.

Multiple media sources have quoted the show's executive producer, Al Jean, as saying that America's number one animated family will head to the Holy Land next year. "I think we're going to do one next year where they go to the Holy Land as we haven't been there yet. The premise will be that the Christians, the Jews and Muslims are united in that they all get mad at Homer. It's the only thing they can agree on," Jean said.

The Simpsons has long featured Jewish characters, most notably Krusty the Clown, born Herschel Shmoikel Pinkus Yerucham Krustofski. Krusty's father, an Orthodox rabbi, is voiced by veteran Jewish comedian Jackie Mason.

The rocky relationship between the two formed the premise for the episode "Like Father, Like Clown," a parody of the movie The Jazz Singer. In the episode, Krusty confronts the rabbi over his vehement opposition to his son's career as an entertainer. Mason won an Emmy for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance for the episode.

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