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World's Legal Experts Slam IDF - For Over-Warning Gaza Residents


The IDF went to extraordinary lengths last summer to prevent civilian casualties while fighting Hamas terrorists in Gaza, achieving a remarkable 1:1 civilian to combatant ratio, but according to international legal experts it went too far in avoiding casualties among the enemy population.

Willy Stern of Vanderbilt Law School, in an article to be published next Monday in the Weekly Standard, details what he found while spending two weeks with attorneys in the IDF's international law department dubbed "Dabla" as well as front-line commanders, and documents the IDF's "legal zeal" which as he notes has not stemmed the deluge of international criticism against it.

Stern listed how the IDF bombarded Gaza residents with thousands of telephone calls, leaflet drops, TV and radio messages, as well as calls to influential citizens urging them to evacuate residents, and in doing so gave the terrorist enemy detailed information about its troop movements.

"It was abundantly clear that IDF commanders had gone beyond any mandates that international law requires to avoid civilian casualties," writes Stern. He reported how Dabla attorneys have to sign off on a "target card" for each airstrike on terror targets, with the cards enumerating all of the relevant data about the planned strike.

In contrast, the Hamas "doctrine manual" captured by the IDF in the Shejaiya neighborhood early last August documents how the terror group urges its fighters to embed themselves among civilians in hopes that the IDF will kill civilians. "Hamas's playbook calls for helping to kill its own civilians, while the IDF's playbook goes to extreme? - ?some say inappropriate? - ?lengths to protect innocent life in war," reads the article.

Indeed, international legal experts quoted in the article argued that the IDF's actions do go to inappropriate measures, and may end up harming the ability to fight terrorist organizations.

Wolff Heintschel von Heinegg, a military law expert at European University Viadrina in Frankfurt, Germany, was brought by Dabla to train IDF commanders about armed conflict laws. Heinegg was quoted saying the IDF went to "great and noble lengths" to avoid civilian casualties, but warned the IDF is taking "many more precautions than are required."

As a result, he expressed his fear that the IDF "is setting an unreasonable precedent for other democratic countries of the world who may also be fighting in asymmetric wars against brutal non-state actors who abuse these laws."

Sharing his assessment was Pnina Sharvit Baruch, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) and former Dabla chief. She said legal advisers from other militaries around the world confront her with "recurring claims" that the IDF "is going too far in its self-imposed restrictions intended to protect civilians, and that this may cause trouble down the line for other democratic nations fighting organized armed groups."

Michael Schmitt, director of the Stockton Center for the Study for International Law at the US Naval War College, also agreed that the IDF is creating a dangerous state of affairs that may harm the West in its fight against terrorism.

"The IDF's warnings certainly go beyond what the law requires, but they also sometimes go beyond what would be operational good sense elsewhere," he warned. "People are going to start thinking that the United States and other Western democracies should follow the same examples in different types of conflict. That's a real risk," said Schmitt.

Report: CIA, Mossad Held 'Secret' Talks on Iran

By & AFP

CIA chief John Brennan made a "secret" visit to Israel last week to discuss an emerging nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, Israel's leftist Ha'aretz newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The visit came as a June 30 deadline looms for a deal that would row back Iran's nuclear program in return for relief from sanctions, which Israel has long opposed, causing friction between Jerusalem and the White House.

Brennan met his counterpart, Mossad chief Tamir Pardo, and other intelligence officials, as well as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Ha'aretz reported, citing "senior Israeli officials." They discussed the emerging Iran deal and Tehran's "subversive" activities around the Middle East.

The report surfaces after Brennan stressed on CBS News last week that there is a "very, very strong relationship between United States and Israel on the intelligence, security and military fronts. It's one of the great things, I think, about our system; there can be policy differences between our governments but the intelligence and security professionals know that we have an obligation to keep our countries safe and secure.

"And so although there's been great debate about the Iranian nuclear negotiations that are ongoing," continued Brennan, "the CIA, NSA and other intelligence community entities are working very close with their Israeli as well as other counterparts."

The prime minister's office and the defense ministry declined to comment on the report.

Luxembourg Apologizes to Jews Over their 'Suffering' During WWII


Luxembourg apologized to the Jewish community on Tuesday for its "suffering" during the Nazi occupation in World War II, in the first such gesture since the conflict ended 70 years ago, reported AFP. The government acknowledged that "certain representatives" of the Luxembourg authorities had been complicit.

Out of 3,700 Jews living in Luxembourg before the war, 1,200 were killed from May 1940 until September 1944, the period of Nazi occupation, according to the Luxembourg government website.

"The government presents its apologies to the Jewish community for the suffering that was inflicted on it and the injustices that were committed against it, and recognizes the responsibility of some public officials in the unforgivable events committed," said a declaration signed by Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and a group of ministers and quoted by AFP.

Sixty Luxembourg MPs also adopted on Tuesday a resolution recognizing the "suffering inflicted on the Jewish population, to its Luxembourgish and foreign members, during the Nazi occupation of Luxembourg." The parliament also apologized "for wrongdoing, in which the Luxembourg public authorities were also engaged."

Tuesday's apology came after the government commissioned local historian Vincent Artuso to write a report on the complicity of Luxembourg authorities.

"The Luxembourg administration collaborated politically with the German administration in anti-Semitic persecution in three ways: identifying people believed to belong to the Jewish race according to criteria set by the Germans; their expulsion from public roles, professions and schools; and the theft of their property," he wrote in the report published in February.

Neighboring Belgium made a similar apology in 2009. Elsewhere in Europe, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban acknowledged recently that many Hungarians chose "bad instead of good" in helping deport Jews to Nazi death camps. This marked his first acknowledgement of his country's complicity in the Holocaust.

Rabbis' War on Non-Kosher Phones Reaches Synagogue


The rabbinical battle against the Internet has reached the synagogue: A synagogue in Jerusalem's Bukharan Quarter recently announced that a person who owns a cellular phone with Internet access or text messages will be banned from serving as a cantor or reading the Torah.

According to an announcement made by the Musayof Synagogue, which is considered a Shas stronghold in the neighborhood, the synagogue manager and the great sages of the generation, led by late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, "A person in possession of a non-kosher phone cannot serve as a leader in prayer."

While the ultra-Orthodox leadership has been radicalizing its attitude towards haredim who use cell phones that have not been authorized by rabbinical committees, Rabbi Yosef Cohen publicly expressed his negative opinion about the strict rabbis last week.

"It's not true what all the rabbis say, that one must not possess a non-kosher phone," he said. "Everything in the world can be exploited for kashrut purposes. I don't have an iPhone, and I don't know how to use one, but I have heard from God-fearing people that they are blocked and can't commit any offense with it," the rabbi stated in his weekly lesson at the Bukharan Quarter.

During the lesson, which was quoted by the Haredim 10 website, Cohen lashed out at Ashkenazi rabbis, accusing them of being greedy. "Everyone must have a kosher number. Why? Because the Ashkenazi rabbis have to steal people's money? Where is it written? They go to rabbis who don't understand what a phone is and how to speak on a phone – and they are lured into taking a kosher cell phone. It's wrong," he said.

Google Boss: Israelis Succeed Because You Don't Follow the Rules


"Israel is booming in terms of entrepreneurship because you have a culture that allows you to challenge authority and question everything. You don't follow the rules," Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt said on Sunday in an address to hundreds of students and researchers at the Weizmann Institute. Schmidt is currently on a short visit to Israel.

Schmidt was accompanied on his visit to the Weizmann Institute by Yossi Matias, vice-president for engineering and chief executive for R&D of Google Israel, as well as executives from the investment fund he heads, Innovation Endeavors, one of the most active funds in Israel in recent years.

"The impact Israelis are having on science and technology is immense, so that's why I'm here and why I'm investing here," the Google chief said. In the modern world, Schmidt noted, for an economy to grow, there is a need for innovation and the establishment of new companies.

"For this to happen, a country must invest in several areas – education, high-speed Internet connections, an open immigration policy that allows leading minds to move between countries, and also an environment that encourages entrepreneurship," he said.

Schmidt urged the students and researchers to think big. "You have to make big bets. If you're building something, try to solve problems for the entire world," he said, citing some of the developments Google is currently working on, such as such as contact lenses that can detect blood glucose levels and help people who suffer from diabetes, and autonomous cars without drivers.

Schmidt also addressed the question of how to preserve privacy and security in a world of free-flowing information. "Technically, you can protect your information by using different types of encryption," he said, adding to the amusement of his audience: "Would you like a tip for surfing the Internet securely and privately? Use Chrome."

One of the leaders of the global technology industry, Schmidt, 60, joined Google as its CEO in 2001,at the request of founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. He served in the position until 2011, turning the once small search engine company into the technology and Internet giant it is today. In 2011, he was replaced by Page and named executive chairman. He is said to be worth some $9 billion.

Israeli Study: Breastfeeding Lowers Leukemia Risk


Breastfeeding a baby for at least six months may be linked to a lower risk of childhood leukemia, according to a review of previously published research. The findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics suggest that breastfed babies have a 19% lower risk of the blood cancer compared to babies who are given formula or who are breastfed for a shorter period of time, according to AFP.

"The many potential preventive health benefits of breastfeeding should also be communicated openly to the general public, not only to mothers, so breastfeeding can be more socially accepted and facilitated," said the study led by Efrat Amitay and Lital Keinan-Boker of the University of Haifa, Israel. Their study reviewed 18 past studies on the association between breastfeeding and leukemia, the most common childhood cancer. It accounts for about 30% of all pediatric cancers.

While none of the studies explained why or how breast milk could be lowering the risk of childhood leukemia, the researchers suggested it contains "many immunologically active components and anti-inflammatory defense mechanisms that influence the development of an infant's immune system."

However, not all experts agree that the findings are the last word on the matter. "The suggestion that children who had been breastfed might be at a reduced risk of childhood leukemia has been around for decades," said Valerie Beral, professor of epidemiology at the University of Oxford. "However previous research, and that described in this new report, are not sufficiently rigorous to confirm or refute such a claim."

She noticed parents were asked about what they had done around the time their children were born, and thus "parents' memory of what they had done years ago was affected by the knowledge that their child had leukemia. The researchers had no way of assessing such an important potential problem, which could well have distorted their results."

According to Mel Greaves, director of the Centre for Evolution and Cancer at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, the type of cancer studied - acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) - is uncommon and only affects about one in 2,000 children.

"This study also fits in with increasing evidence that infants who are exposed to infections -- through attending day care or contact with older siblings -- are less vulnerable to this type of leukemia," said Greaves. "Extended breastfeeding and natural infectious exposures in infancy were part and parcel of human life until relatively recently. The increasing incidence of ALL in modern, affluent and hygienic societies may be an unintended consequence of these social changes."

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