Israel news

Early release for Tom Hurndall killer

By Jennifer Lipman, July 19, 2010

A former Israeli soldier imprisoned for killing a British activist in the Gaza Strip in 2003 is to be released before his sentence is up.

Taysir-al-Heib was sentenced to eight years for the "unlawful killing" of Tom Hurndall, a 22-year-old volunteer for the International Solidarity Movement.

But an army committee said he was no longer a threat and has agreed to release him 18 months before his sentence expires. His lawyer said Mr al-Heib had changed and added that he planned to get married.

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Secret Kafka files to be opened

By Jennifer Lipman, July 19, 2010

A collection of valuable private manuscripts by Franz Kafka is to be opened for the first time as part of a legal battle over his estate.

The four boxes, believed to contain unpublished writing and sketches by the Prague-born Jewish author, will be unlocked in Zurich to help lawyers determine where ownership lies.

Literary experts will study the documents, hidden for 50 years in the vaults of a Swiss bank and said to be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.

It is just the latest stage in a two-year legal battle initiated by a woman called Eve Hoffe.

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Baroness Ashton told easing blockade not enough

By Jennifer Lipman, July 19, 2010

A group of non governmental organisations have written to the EU High Representative claiming that Israel’s decision to ease the blockade of the Gaza Strip is not enough to rebuild the area’s economy.

The 19 organisations, including Amnesty International UK, Christian Aid, and War Child UK, asked Catherine Ashton to press for restrictions on Gaza to be lifted completely.

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Maverick rabbi stirred religious left

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 15, 2010

Rabbi Yehuda Amital, who died last Friday in Jerusalem, could have been one of the most significant religious leaders of his generation. But by embracing left-wing positions on the Israeli-Palestinian question and trying to represent a voice of religious moderation, he chose a lonelier path.

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Analysis: Not quite a whitewash, but close

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 15, 2010

The Eiland report held few surprises. One does not have to be a military expert to understand that only patchy intelligence and faulty planning could have led to a situation where a small group of commandos landed one-by-one into a violent mob holding paint-guns.

So what else is new? The report praised the commandos, saying they used lethal force only when their lives were in danger. But medals for fighters in the field are usually awarded to cover the screw-ups of those who sent them into battle.

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Flotilla mess blamed on 'bad plans'

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 15, 2010

Experts appointed by the military to investigate the IDF operation against the Gaza flotilla found a series of mistakes in the intelligence-gathering and planning stages of the mission.

But they praised the actions of the naval commandos who carried out the May raid on the Mavi Marmara, in which nine Turkish activists were killed.

The team, headed by reserve Major General Giora Eiland, was appointed by Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi a month ago to probe the military aspects of the operation.

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Israel draws up concession list

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 15, 2010

Following the friendly meeting between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama in Washington last week, Mr Netanyahu is putting together a list of gestures to the Palestinians that, he hopes, will convince the Palestinian leadership to enter direct negotiations.

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Analysis: Conversion bill threatens the coalition

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 15, 2010

Across the diaspora, Jews may be preoccupied with issues of conversion. But in Israel, the plight of over 300,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union who are not recognised as Jews by the Orthodox rabbinate and cannot marry locally has attracted very little attention. Nor has there been much of an outcry against the increasing hold of the Charedi non-Zionist rabbis on the state conversion courts, where they impose their super-stringent demands on every prospective convert.

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Missy Elliot ignores Israel boycott campaign

By Jennifer Lipman, July 14, 2010

Rap star Missy Elliot has defied pro-Palestinian protesters and landed in Israel ready for a much-anticipated performance.

Activists had launched a campaign to dissuade her from going and join musicians including Elvis Costello and the Pixies in boycotting shows there.

But the American singer has ignored this and is set to perform in Tel Aviv on Thursday, her first ever concert in Israel.

She is also said to be planning to visit the Western Wall and Dead Sea while in the country, before heading to Morocco for the next date of her European tour.

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UK-Israel business links up

By Jennifer Lipman, July 14, 2010

Israel has overtaken Hong Kong as an investor in British industry.

Figures released by UK Trade & Investment place Israel in the top 20 countries investing in British companies.

Richard Salt, the director of UK Trade & Investment at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv, said he was delighted Israel had risen in the rankings.

He called on more Israeli companies “to act now to benefit from the huge investment opportunities on offer in the UK.”

Mr Salt added: “I and my team will do our utmost to help those companies to succeed."

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