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Berlusconi Hit for Holocaust Humor


The Vatican's official newspaper L'Osservatore Romano criticized Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi Sunday for telling an anti-Semitic joke at his 74th birthday party last week. The poor taste joke was recorded on video and posted on the website of Italian newspaper La Repubblica on Saturday.

Berlusconi told supporters: "A Jew hides a fellow Jew in his basement at the time of the concentration camps and charges him 3,000 euro a day". "The Jew paid up because he had the money, but do you think he should tell him that Hitler has died and the war is over?" The prime minister was unrepentant and said the joke was "just a laugh" "made in private, not offensive and not a sin."

Experts: Israel's Cyber-Defense Can Stop Stuxnet Worm


There are tens of thousands of attempted virus attacks on Israeli systems each week – but Israel is "well-equipped" to fend off an onslaught of computer viruses, such as the one that has plagued Iran in recent months, experts say.

Iran has been struggling to control a virulently destructive, surprisingly agile computer virus known as Stuxnet, which has invaded – and hijacked - over 30,000 computers in Iran. Unlike standard viruses, Stuxnet is especially destructive, as it attempts to take control of a computer's programmable logic controller (PLC), which runs supervisory control and data acquisition software (SCADA) of machinery and industrial systems, like the ones that control manufacturing, energy production, and other critical infrastructure.

The country has poured much money and effort into avoiding these kinds of attacks, and Israel's cyber-defenses are among the best in the world. We've become very good at cyber-defense – and offense.

Stuxnet is seen as especially sophisticated, as well, because the PLCs it attacks – it seems to favor systems made by Germany's Siemens, which, by coincidence, are heavily used in Iran – are based on obtuse programming language, not on Windows or Linux, like most viruses. And, according to security experts, Stuxnet has the ability to hide its tracks – erasing traces of its activity recorded in computer logging systems – making detection all the more difficult.

With Iran seemingly the main target of the attack, and with experts like those from European security firm Kapersky claiming that, because of its severity and precision, "the attack could only have been the work of a group with nation-state support," the world's eyes have turned to Israel, which certainly has a motive to attack Iranian information systems – especially the ones that control Iran's nuclear program.

Indeed, some reports claim that the virus has significantly impacted on work at the Natanz and Bushehr nuclear sites. The report that one of the files found in the virus was named "Myrtus" - possibly referring to Queen Esther, who led the Jewish revenge on Persia in the Purim story – seemed to be enough proof to pin the Stuxnet attack on Israel.

Israel National News spoke with several Israeli security experts, and each refused to comment – on the record or off – on whether or not Israel was involved in the attack. However, several said that it was unlikely that Israel would face a similar situation. "Security here is on a very high level," Tal Hanan, CEO of Israeli security firm Demoman said. "The country has poured much money and effort into avoiding these kinds of attacks, and Israel's cyber-defenses are among the best in the world. We've become very good at cyber-defense – and offense," Hanan said.

Many of Israel's cyber-defense capabilities were developed by the IDF, of course – but Israel's hi-tech industry has contributed as well. In a recent interview, Michal Blumenstyk, head of the Israel office of worldwide security giant RSA, said that not only governments, but also private individuals were under constant attack by hackers. The local office, formerly an independent company called Cyota that was bought out by RSA, specialized in cyber-security for banks and online financial institutions – developing rock-solid security that hackers find it almost impossible to break.

Those same tactics are being used by hackers to invade computer systems run by governments and armies – and Israel, of course, is a prime target. "We have no choice," said Blumenstyk. "We have to be the best at this."

Palestinians Accuse Jewish Settlers of Torching West Bank Mosque

By VOA News

Palestinians in a West Bank village have accused hard-line Jewish settlers of torching a mosque and spray painting it with insults in Hebrew. The incident took place early Monday in the village of Beit Fajjar near Bethlehem.

A local leader said the fire burned several Qurans and the mosque's carpet. Israeli police say they are investigating the case, but declined to say who they suspect may be behind it.

The attack comes at a time when the Middle East peace process is at risk over the question of settlement construction in the occupied West Bank. Palestinian leaders said direct talks mediated by the United States cannot resume until Israel stops building settlements. A 10-month Israeli freeze on settlement construction expired last week.

Israeli media reported Monday that Israeli lawmakers are pressuring Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to reject a U.S. compromise that would extend the building moratorium for 60 days.

U.S. envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell has been meeting with both sides in the region in a bid to salvage the peace negotiations. Mitchell says both the Israelis and Palestinians have asked to continue indirect peace talks, so they can set up acceptable conditions for direct talks to resume.

Israel Orders Pro-Palestinian Nobel Laureate Deported

By VOA News

Israel's Supreme Court has upheld a deportation order against a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who was banned from Israel for 10 years after taking part in an aid flotilla that tried to breach the Israeli naval blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip in June. A lower court issued a deportation order for Mairead Corrigan Maguire after she landed at the Tel Aviv airport last Tuesday to meet with peace activists.

The pro-Palestinian Northern Irish activist appealed the order to the Supreme Court, claiming she did not know about the entry ban when she arrived in Israel last week.

The high court Monday rejected Maguire's argument, noting that she had signed the entry ban herself. The ruling, which also accused her of spreading "propaganda," clears the way for her deportation. Maguire had described Israel as an apartheid state engaged in ethnic cleansing.

The 66-year-old won the Nobel peace prize in 1976 for organizing a peace movement in Northern Ireland to end sectarian violence and promote reconciliation. Maguire said peace would come to Israel only when it "ends apartheid and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people." She also called for an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Schwarzenegger Vetoes `Holocaust' Bill


Last Thursday, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill that would have required companies seeking high-speed rail contracts with the state to disclose any role they played during the Holocaust, the European Jewish Press reported.

The bill, which was authored by Democratic California Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, required companies vying for a piece of California's $45 billion high-speed rail project to reveal any involvement in transporting people to concentration, prisoner-of-war, labor or extermination camps during World War II, and also to report whether they took any steps to remediate their actions or to pay restitution to victims.

Among the international railroad companies who expressed their interest in the California project is the French national railway company (SNCF) which transported Jews to Nazi concentration camps.

SNCF claims that its operations were taken over by the Nazis during the German occupation and that its trains were forcibly requisitioned to transport people to the concentration camps. The company said the Nazis threatened to execute French railway workers and their families if they resisted orders.

France was under German occupation from May 1940 until December 1944. While the German army had originally occupied a designated zone in the northern and western parts of the country, the rest of the country was occupied in November 1942 after the Allies invaded North Africa.

Unoccupied parts of France were governed by the dictatorial Vichy regime, located in Vichy as Paris was under German rule, headed by Marshal Pétain, who collaborated willingly with the German occupation. The French police and the state militia organized raids to capture Jews in both the northern and southern zones until France was liberated from German occupation between June and December of 1944.

In February 2009, France's top judicial body recognized the French government's responsibility for the deportation of Jews during World War II.

In his explanation of his veto of the law, Schwarzenegger said that while he sympathized with the victims of the Holocaust and those who were transported to camps during the war, "this bill needlessly places the state in a position of acknowledging the activities of companies during that time."

However, SNCF said that it will fully comply with the measure's intent, despite the veto by Schwarzenegger. In a statement released on Thursday, the company said: "The atrocities committed by Nazi Germany during WWII were so horrific that we can never forget, nor should we. The people of France and SNCF are determined to remember and honor victims of the Holocaust so that the horrors of Nazi Germany and WWII are never repeated. This commitment is ingrained in our company's culture as well as the hearts of the French people, and is confirmed by our actions."

The statement added that "SNCF will continue its commitment to complete transparency of its WWII history, and will voluntarily comply, and even exceed, the requirements the bill would have mandated."

Also last week, Democratic Florida Representative Ron Klein, announced a plan to introduce legislation that would bar SNCF from lucrative US high-speed rail contracts, due to its involvement in the deportation of Jews in World War II.

"I am a strong supporter of high-speed rail for the economic benefits it will bring to Florida, but moving ahead with SNCF's bid doesn't represent progress, it represents a major step backward and a direct insult to Holocaust survivors and their families," Klein said, describing the reasoning for the legislation.

Is it Kosher to Have Sex with Israel's Enemies?


A new halachic study ruled that seducing an enemy agent for the sake of national security is an important mitzvah, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Monday.

The ruling, made by Rabbi Ari Shvat, was included in the latest issue of "Tehumin," an annual collection of articles about Jewish law and modernity, which is published by the Zomet Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to seamlessly merging Halachic Judaism with modern Israeli life.

Rabbi Shvat explored the issue of women used to seduce enemy agents in order to cajole information out of them or see them captured. The use of "Valentine operatives" or "honey traps", as they are called in intelligence circles, was applied in the case of atom spy Mordechai Vanunu, and according to foreign media reports, in the recent assassination of senior Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, last January.

Shvat cited in his study the biblical cases of Queen Esther, who slept with Persian King Ahasuerus to save her community, and Yael wife of Heber the Kenite, who seduced and killed the Canaanite general Sisera. He notes that the subject of "sleeping with the enemy" evokes heated arguments in the Talmud, as well.

The latter, Shvat argued, ruled that sexual intercourse with a gentile for the sake of a national cause is not only sanctioned, but is a highly important mitzvah. "Naturally, an unmarried operative should be preferred in 'honey trap' cases, but if there is no other choice but to use a married women… her husband should divorce her and marry her again after the fact," the rabbi wrote.

Unfortunately, Shvat also ruled that if a husband was unable to divorce his wife prior to her mission, he would have to do it afterwards, since according to the Halacha she would have committed adultery – even if it was for the sake of a national cause.

Women interested in becoming "Valentine operatives," must realize they will not be able to marry a Cohen Jewish priest), the rabbi noted, adding that the matter would probably not deter such women, since "these missions may naturally be tasked to women who are already promiscuous."

Rabbi Shvat concluded his article by saying that not only should such actions be sanctioned, "Our Sages of Blessed Memory elevate such acts of dedication to the top of the Halacha's mitzvahs pyramid."

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