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Palestinians Revert to Bus Bomb Attacks

By DEBKAfile

The Gaza spokesmen of the Palestinian Hamas and Jihad Islami praised the Bat Yam bus explosion Sunday as a bold feat of the Palestinian resistance which succeeded in reaching deep inside Israel. "The resistance will not stand by idly," said the two spokesmen. "Bat Yam was only the first strike of a new campaign of terror."

A medium-sized bomb exploded Sunday on a Dan No. 240 bus in Bat Yam on the outskirts of Tel Aviv in what the police believe is a fresh outbreak of Palestinian terrorist attacks on Israeli civilian transport. The medium-sized bomb hidden in a bag blew up on the bus as it reached the corner of Mivtzai Sinai and Katzenelson Streets.

A passenger who spotted an unattended bag which contained what looked like a pressure cooker with wires, a familiar contrivance from many past attacks, alerted the driver who pulled over, cleared the bus of passengers and called the police just in time. A police sapper was slightly hurt by the blast which blew out all the bus's windows.

Reinforcements were rushed to the scene, a cordon placed around the bus and householders along the streets were alerted. Police judging the incident to be terror-related for a multiple-casualty attack have thrown out a dragnet for the terrorist.

The last public transport bombing occurred in November last year, when a blast hit a crowded commuter bus as it passed the Israeli defense ministry in Tel Aviv during rush hour, injuring 21 people. In 2011, an explosion at a bus stop in Jerusalem ripped through a bus, killing a British tourist and wounding 30 other people.

"A passenger alerted the driver about a suspicious bag located behind the back door of the bus," a spokesperson for the Dan bus company said. "The driver stopped the bus and examined the bag. He saw electrical wires attached to the bag and ordered all passengers off the bus, leaving after them. He then called police sappers."

Bus driver Michael Yoger deflected praise that he had saved the dozen or so passengers on the bus. "I'm a hero? What hero? One of the passengers told me there's a suspicious bag on the bus. I asked whose bag it is. When they told me it didn't belong to anyone, I took the passengers off the bus. I stopped at the bus stop and the people got off, the police arrived at the scene and ten minutes later the bus exploded," he said.

The passenger, later named as David Pappo, noticed the suspicious bag, opened it, and saw a pressure cooker with wires extending from it. He then alerted driver Yoger. First reports said the bomb contained some 5 kilograms of explosives — enough to cause immense devastation. The bomb that blew up a bus at Burgas airport in Bulgaria in 2012, killing five Israelis and a local driver, by way of comparison, contained 3 kilograms of explosives.

The Israel Apartheid Lie

A music video puts to rest the nefarious claim. by Ari Lesser and Here is Israel

You Won't Believe Where They Found a Jewish Star Of David Using Google Earth

One of the most amazing archaeological journeys I have ever taken

Officials Demand Pollard Release in Light of US Spying

By The Times of Israel

The weekend's revelation of active US spying on Israeli leaders led several senior Israeli officials on Sunday to call on America to release Israeli-American spy Jonathan Pollard.

Pollard was convicted in 1987 on charges of passing classified information to Israel while he worked as an intelligence analyst for the US Navy. He was given a life sentence for the crime, launching decades of activism for his release by Jewish groups, and, more recently, some high-profile US and Israeli officials.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu opened the Sunday cabinet meeting with a promise that Israel would continue working for Pollard's release. "We don't need a special incident to work for the release of Jonathan Pollard," Netanyahu said. "I have dealt with this [issue] with every US president [I have met], including President Obama, at all periods, including at this time. I hope the circumstances allow us to bring Jonathan home."

"Now the secret is out: the United States spies systematically on the Israeli political and defense leadership," said Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud). "This is how friends behave?" asked Katz in a Sunday morning statement. "Pollard was arrested for far less" than the alleged espionage acts revealed in recent days, Katz charged. "I intend to recommend that the government demand an American commitment to end the surveillance and immediately release Pollard," he said.

The linkage of the espionage revelations to the fate of Pollard crossed ideological and political lines. The revelations of "the years-long active surveillance the US committed against Israel's leadership clarify at long last one painful point – that the punishment given to Jonathan Pollard crossed the line of reasonability long ago," opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog (Labor) said in a statement Sunday.

Michael Oren to Congress: Boycott the Boycotters

By The Times of Israel

Former ambassador to the United States Michael Oren has asked the US Congress to consider withholding government funding for academic institutions that participate in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

In an opinion piece published Friday in Politico, a Washington political journal and website, Oren wrote, "Laws could be passed withholding federal or state funding from any academic program that knowingly blacklisted Israeli scholars or institutions or cooperated with associations that did." Such a move would prevent "prejudicial boycotts" and ensure that "scholarly interaction essential for academic freedom" continues, he added.

The recent "abhorrent decision" to boycott Israeli academia by the American Studies Association, a "bigoted" organization, has been "broadly and passionately condemned, and rightly so," Oren wrote, but Congress could provide "a way to fight back."

"In 1977, Congress passed a series of laws making it illegal for US companies to cooperate with any boycott of Israel and imposing stiff penalties on those that did," the former ambassador noted. These efforts were instrumental in eventually breaking the Arab boycott of companies that did business with Israel and, "by 1994, six Gulf Arab states announced that they were backing off the embargo, and the following year, Egyptian, Jordanian and Palestinian leaders pledged `all efforts to end the boycott of Israel,'" Oren noted.

Israeli-American Oren, who served as Israeli ambassador to the US from 2009-2013, a position for which he gave up his US citizenship, is also a noted historian and author. In 2010, while giving a speech at the University of California at Irvine, anti-Israel protesters attempted to disrupt the event and squash the "right to discourse," Oren recalled, but the speech went on and "11 of those demonstrators were arrested, tried and found guilty of disrupting free speech."

Former World Jewish Congress President Edgar Bronfman Dies at 84


Edgar M. Bronfman Sr., the Jewish leader and longtime president of the World Jewish Congress, died Saturday. He was 84. Bronfman, who was Canadian, died in his New York home surrounded by friends and family, according to USA Today.

The WJC, an umbrella group of Jewish organizations in some 80 countries, was led by Bronfman for over 25 years. During that time, Bronfman became the first ever Jewish leader to address the United Nations General Assembly.

He also both spearheaded the efforts to attain reparations for Holocaust survivors and their heirs - a sum reported to be over $11 million - from European banks, and began efforts to establish contacts with Jews behind the Iron Curtain in the 1980s and 90s.

In 1999, President Bill Clinton awarded Bronfman the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. In the citation, Bronfman was heralded for working "to ensure basic rights for Jews around the world."

The New York Times noted that Bronfman was adamant about making change, without fear of anti-Semitic backlash. "The answer isn't to say, `Don't make trouble,' and hide our heads in the sand," the Times quotes, from Bronfman's 1998 memoirs. "We may not earn the friendship of others, but we will demand their respect."

Eight More Teens Arrested in Horrendous Tween Gang Rape Incident


The horrible story of a gang rape of a 12-year-old girl from central Israel by a group of young teenage boys has shaken Israel to its core. Sunday, seven additional boys were arrested, thus bringing the number of suspects to a massive 13.

However, the police are quick to say that the investigation is nowhere close to conclusion, and additional arrests are expected as they try to make sense of what they call a "horrendous puzzle" of sexual abuse. The police stress that the horrible case is currently topping their priorities.

Since the weekend, Dan District Police have been managing the investigation into the gang rape, which began last week before the police even knew the identity of the victim – but rather just of her existence.

According to current suspicions, a group of boys aged around 14 and older raped the 12-year-old girl on a number of occasions, at least one of which was filmed and took place on a school premises. The video and intelligence information led the police to the girl and then to the suspects. The police call the investigation a "horrendous puzzle."

A source well informed in the incident's details said it is possible the boys threatened the young girl they would "gossip about her" to coerce her to perform the sexual acts.

The girl has already given the police her testimony and the police already have the video documenting the attack perpetrated on school grounds. According to the investigation, in at least some of the incidents full sexual intercourse took place.

Lawyer Gadi Zilbershlag, who represents two brothers who are suspected of involvement in the incident, said "they did not know she was younger than them because she is taller and psychically larger. They are good kids and in this case it would be best to let them go (instead of extending their remand). They are young; a prolonged detention could cause long term damage. They can be interrogated without being remanded. They are 13 and 14, we do not want them to turn to crime."

Court Sentences Man to 20 Years for Killing His Rapist


The Lod District Court sentenced on Sunday Jonathan Heilo to 20 years imprisonment for the murder of Yaron Eileen, who had allegedly raped the defendant.

The court in its sentencing accepted the fact that Heilo was afraid of the victim, as well as being stricken with a feeling of paralysis and fear, all of which came as a result of the brutal acts the murder victim had performed on him. The judges said Heilo was in a mental state of distress after being abused for a long period of time. The judges said "the damage the defendant did was massive, as he took a life, and there is no damage greater than that."

Heilo's lawyer, Alon Eisenberg, said the judges had preferred to ignore Supreme Court Justice Edna Arbel's specific recommendation that the case should end in an acquittal or a reduced punishment. In the sentencing, the judges said that Heilo had taken advantage of an opportune moment when the victim had his back turned toward Heilo while they were standing at a kiosk.

"The defendant killed the deceased cruelly: he strangled him, threw a rock at his head, dragged him 35 meters to a dark area and then threw a rock at the deceased's head a second time."

The judges did, however, say that Heilo had justified his actions well. "I wanted to teach him a lesson, but in the end it reached a point where I killed him."

The court rejected Heilo's claim of self-defense last September, and instead charged him with murder. The judges said Heilo had decided to kill Eileen, and had planned the murder, without further provocation.

Heilo and Eileen met four years prior to the murder. On the night of the murder, in May 2010, Heilo and Eileen started talking, and then the drunk Heilo jumped on Eileen from behind, strangled him, hit him in the head with a brick and then dragged him to a nearby garbage dump.

Hours later, Heilo turned himself in and admitted he had committed the act. He said "he was scared to death" from Eileen. As well, he said that Eileen used to humiliate him in front of other people, hitting him and mentally abusing him. "I didn't do anything to him and he continued to abuse me... I got to a point where I feared for my life."

Knesset Speaker Nixes On-Site Christmas Tree

By The Times of Israel

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) turned down on Sunday a request from a Christian Knesset member to place a Christmas tree on prominent display in the parliament's building.

MK Hanna Swaid (Hadash), an Arab Christian from the Galilee town of Eilaboun, had sent a letter to the speaker Thursday urging him to order the placing of the Christmas tree "at the entrance [to the Knesset], or in another visible place, as you see fit."

The placement of the tree, he said, would be "a gesture toward Christian members of Knesset and citizens of Israel, and a symbol of [Israel's] ties to the Christian world generally."

On Sunday, Edelstein's office announced he had declined Swaid's request. "In response to your request that the Knesset erect at the House's entrance a Christmas tree in honor of Christmas and the civil New Year, I respectfully reply that nothing prevents you from placing a tree in your office, or for your Knesset faction to place one in the faction room, but I do not believe it appropriate to order the erection of a Christmas tree as you requested," Edelstein wrote.

"I'm very disappointed at this response," Swaid told The Times of Israel Sunday. "I don't need to ask permission to place a Christmas tree in my private room. The expectation was that the speaker would respond to the core of my request, to highlight the pluralism and multiculturalism of the Knesset as an institution that represents all parts of the population."

He lamented that Edelstein's response "didn't even explain the decision," and suggested the speaker "faced pressure" from right-wing Jewish groups. "I heard a Jewish Home MK say the Christmas tree symbolizes Christian persecution of Jews throughout all time. I think that's foolishness, it's crazy," Swaid said.

"You can't claim that a Christmas tree is against the State of Israel. Is Israel Jewish in the religious sense? Are we the Jewish Iran? If it's opposition to a Christmas tree as a national symbol, [Edelstein should know] the Christmas tree is a symbol around the world of happiness, of what they call in America the `holiday season.'"

On Thursday, Swaid noted in a conversation with The Times of Israel that the Knesset sometimes recognizes non-Jewish religious events and symbols, including hosting an annual iftar meal, a ceremonial feast following the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. "How can a Christmas tree do harm to the State of Israel? I think this would have been a net gain," he said.

No Chance at Oscar This Year for Israel


The Academy of Motion Picture Art and Sciences announced on Friday its shortlist for the Best Foreign Language Film category, and Israel wasn't on it. Yuval Adler's "Bethlehem" was snubbed by the academy despite the accolades it has already garnered, including winning Best Film at the 2013 Venice Film Festival.

A Palestinian picture, "Omar," by director Hany Abu-Assad, did keep its Oscar hopes alive, making it to the last nine. The contenders will further be pared down to five when the Oscar nominees are announced on January 16. The 2014 Academy Awards will be held on March 2.

Bethlehem describes the relationship between a Shin Bet agent and a Palestinian collaborator. Israel Defense Forces commanders received instructions several weeks ago not to screen the controversial movie "Bethlehem" to rank-and-file soldiers. Instructions were issued in a letter by senior Israel Defense Forces education officer, Brig. Gen. Avner Paz-Tsuk.

The Israeli film, directed by Yuval Adler, portrays a complicated relationship between Razi, a Shin Bet agent portrayed by Tzahi Halevy, and Sanfur, a Palestinian collaborator portrayed by Sahdi Marei. The film won the Ophir Award for Best Film of 2013 and received another five Israeli film awards including Best Director and Best Supporting Actor.

"Bethlehem" was not approved for screening to foot soldiers but may be shown to soldiers serving in special units, such as Military Intelligence, in order to spark discussions on morals and values. An officer ranked colonel or higher must sign off when screening the film to foot soldiers in special units that actively recruit agents.

Paz-Tsuk recommends in the letter that the movie be screened to officers ranked company commander or higher, but a colonel or higher may allow platoon commanders to watch the film. The approval of the senior officer will be given only after watching the film himself and reaching the conclusion that it is required viewing.

According to the senior education officer, the movie "Bethlehem" depicts both Israeli and Palestinian points of view, but does not address issues that preoccupy IDF soldiers and their commanders; it also does not portray the type of dilemmas IDF soldiers encounter nor help guide their conduct in these situations.


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