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From the Hebrew Press

Current Translations and Commentary
From Hebrew-Language Newspapers

By Prof. Israel Shahak

 

Contents:



Israel is a Paradise for Money Launderers

Yediot Ahronot, April 27, 1997

By Sever Plotzker

 

Only in Israel can a person enter a bank with a suitcase that contains a million dollars and deposit the money without disclosing its source. The result: the estimate of the illicit capital coming from abroad into Israeli banks is some $45 billion.1

There is also the problem of laundered money from illicit deals within Israel. No competent estimates regarding dimensions of the illegal economy within Israel have been made for 10 years.

According to the estimate made in 1983, about 15 percent of the Israeli GNP is not reported to the tax authorities. Experts who have retired in the last years from the State Revenues Administration are convinced that the share of black-market economic activity has grown considerably since that time.

Suppose it is still 15 percent. Last year the Israeli budget was about 100 billion shekels [around $30 billion]. One may reasonably assume that the total output of the "black economy" reached 45 billion shekels last year. Tax loss for the Treasury: 15 billion shekels - more than the budgetary deficit last year.

Who are the principal tax evaders? Contrary to the prevailing view, these are not the richest citizens. They usually report all their income and then hire the services of the best auditors and tax consultants to legally avoid paying any taxes.

Many tax evasions are concentrated among the middle-level self-employed, or wage earners who work in their spare time as self-employed. But most of the taxes evaded come from all kinds of criminal activity.2 It is hard to chase medium and small tax evaders, especially when, as in Israel, the duty to report all sources of income apparently does not apply to all citizens.

An additional serious legal failure, characteristic of Israel, is the absence of any specific law that forbids the laundering of black capital. In Israel, an offender can always claim that he got his suitcase with money from a new Jewish immigrant. A more sophisticated tax evader can even point to a money transfer made from a foreign currency account of a new immigrant, exempted from tax so long as he is Jewish, to his own account.

In Israel a citizen who holds an immigrant certificate, issued on the basis of the "Law of Return," can enter a bank with a suitcase containing a million dollars and deposit the banknotes in a special account from which he is entitled to draw money for many years. A bank employee who might ask where the money comes from will be satisfied with the answer, "from where I immigrated." There is no need to prove that this is not laundered Israeli money originating from black business activity, or worse, from criminal activities.

In short, Israel is a paradise for black money laundering, local and international. To close this loophole a bill was prepared three years ago forbidding the laundering of capital. There were violent objections and the bill did not even reach the Knesset. Recently, under pressure from the U.S., which suspects that much of the money laundered in Israel originates in America, and on the initiative of the Ministry of Justice, the bill has returned to the headlines, but has not yet been submitted to the Knesset.

Jonathan Welner, U.S. assistant secretary of state for law enforcement, published an article on the issue a week ago. He claims that:

  • Lax bank laws and the exemption of deposits of foreigners from taxes have turned Israel into a paradise for illegal money.

  • Israel is lagging behind in legislation against financial crimes - not only behind Austria and Cyprus, but even behind Lebanon.3

  • A loophole calls for a thief, and in Israel the thief is attracted by several loopholes: The absence of a law against laundering black or criminal capital; the banks not being obliged to keep records on big money transfers; the total absence of agreements with other states for the exchange of information on laundered money; the absence of a control system on the flow of money crossing lsraeli borders or regulations on laundering of capital through other than banks. In short, the Israeli legal authorities have no tools to fight the laundering of black money.

The bill prohibiting capital laundering drafted in the state attorney's office would fill a large share of the loopholes. The Knesset must approve this bill which is backed by the U.S., which will assist Israel in its application. It should be observed that a state without laws that forbid laundering of black money is exposed to serious economic risks.

If the bill against laundering black money becomes a law, Israel must establish a center for tax investigations and financial offenses, common to all law enforcement authorities. The establishment of such a center was recommended by the "Shimron Commission" for the liqudation of serious criminality. The report of the commission was published at the beginning of 1978. In the summer of 1997, the time has come to implement it.4

 

NOTES (by Prof. Israel Shahak):

1. Laundered money reaching Israel is one of the important sources of investments in the Israeli economy.

2. The number of Israeli gangsters and their activity has been increasing at a rapid pace during the last 8 to 10 years.

3. Three countries notorious for laundering criminal funds.

4. There is no hope that any law against laundering black money will be passed because the religious parties will oppose it violently.

 



Burning the New Testament by Orthodox Jews in Israel

Yediot Ahronot, March 30, 1997

By Yehuda Koren

 

Every time Paul Smilansky gets into his car he checks whether he is being followed. He also is careful to check who is standing at the door before he opens it. Smilansky, 37, a building site manager, is a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses community in Lydda. Orthodox Jews consider them to be an idolatrous cult, but the members themselves reject this definition.

Two weeks ago on Saturday night hundreds of Orthodox Jews broke into the community's place of worship, totally demolished it and stole the public address equipment. The books and pamphlets they found there were piled in the yard and a large bonfire was lit. While the books were burning, Orthodox Jews danced around the bonfire. Alvin Neuport, a veteran member of the Jehovah's Witnesses community, said "Masses of Orthodox Jews attacked our building and broke into it using axes. They danced and sang around the bonfire, into which they threw even our Bibles.1 Although the destruction and arson took place on the main street, a short distance from the home of Member of the Knesset Maxim Levy, who is also Lydda's mayor,2 and hundreds of people danced around the bonfire, no one stopped them. Only when the owner of an adjacent shop feared that the fire would spread, were the police called in."

The violent attack on the house of worship was not the first time that Jehovah's Witnesses have been attacked by Orthodox Jews. Paul Smilansky told about the daily public curses, spitting and fist fights. "They throw stones all the time. Once they hit my father-in-law on the head, causing a concussion," Smilansky said.

Ten Jehovah's Witnesses communities currently exist in Israel. They have 750 members, not including children. Most of them are Jews, a minority Christians. About one-quarter of the members are from the former Soviet Union. There are 50 members in the Lydda community, which was established 30 years ago. Previously the meetings were held in members' homes, but in 1989 the community purchased a shop in the town commercial center.

"Because of the constant attacks by the Orthodox, we built a high fence, installed a fortified door and a closed-circuit TV that shows what is going on outside," Smilansky said. "Early this month, at the end of a gathering when we were starting to go home, we were met by a rain of building blocks and large stones. My wife and children managed to reach the car, but other members locked themselves inside. The small children were screaming with fear. We summoned the police and then went outside, but the hail of stones did not cease, even under the eyes of the police."

 

Orthodox Jews "throw stones all the time."

Orthodox JewThe present tension seemingly erupted because four months ago many Jews of Lydda received material by mail from Messianic Jews. "Although there is no connection between us and the Messianic Jews," Alvin Neuport said, "we bore the brunt of the Orthodox anger, apparently because we live here and the Messianics do not.

"They [Orthodox Jews] poured glue into the locks so we could not get into the hall," Neuport said. "They tried several times to set the place on fire and burned the air conditioner motors."

Neuport especially blames the Habad youth. "They work against us like a military organization with intelligence units that go around and write down our license plate numbers and contact us and threaten to set the cars on fire if we will not abandon our faith."

Following the burning of the books and the destruction of the prayer hall, three Habad rabbis were summoned for questioning by the police. Among them was Rabbi Yakov Glauberman, the Habad Youth leader, who denied any connection to the affair.

"We are Judaism with a smile and pleasant ways," he said. "True, they are the enemies of the Jews, exploiting the fact that during the day the men are at work. They knock on doors and entice our women to join them. They tear families apart and do not even have mercy on little children whose souls will perish in hell because of them."

Concerning the arson, Rabbi Glauberman said, "I happened to arrive at the place by chance. I do not know who attacked or broke things but I admit that I did see the bonfire and circle of dancers. We follow them constantly only to warn the Jews to beware of them, but I denounce all violence."

The public relations attack includes warnings and briefings. Children have been warned that "cult members" will kidnap them, bleed them to death3 or, alternatively, turn them into Christians. Women have been briefed on ways to withstand their many enticements and especially their offers to examine the mezzuzahs in their homes.

"They take off the mezzuzah," claims Habad, "remove the parchment, and when you aren't looking, erase the holy Name of God and write a cross instead. Then, every time you leave your home or return to it, you will commit the abomination of kissing the cross and not the holy words in the mezzuzah," the women were told.

Elisha Rogers, a Jehovah's Witnesses member, admits that he spends some hours of each week speaking with people in their homes. "In the Middle Ages Jews were falsely accused of drinking the blood of small children and now the Orthodox Jews are using the same lie against us," he said. "The story about the mezzuzah is also foolish: we are not Christians and to us the cross is a prohibited symbol of idolatry. We are a separate religion that is recognized as such around the world."

The Jehovah's Witnesses community members felt especially insulted by the graffiti words "death camp" sprayed on the walls of their prayer hall. "In World War II Hitler also sent us to the death camps," Rogers said.

The Jehovah's Witnesses have not suspended their activities, but they keep the location of their new meeting place secret. "If they return to the old place, we will not leave them alone," Rabbi Glauberman said. "We will continue fighting them until they leave the city and Israel."

Yossi Boker, the deputy commander of the Lydda police station, said, "The police have received many complaints about assaults, insults and provocations. However, since complaints against specific suspects could not be proved we were forced to close the cases. I summoned three rabbis in the city for a talk and I made it clear to them that we would react strongly if the harassments continued. We also asked the members of the community to notify us when they finished fixing the meeting place, so that we will be prepared and prevent the next attack."4

 

NOTES (by Prof. Israel Shahak):

1. This is strictly according to the Jewish religious law and is often done, also in Jerusalem, since the Bibles contain the New Testament which pious Jews should burn, if they can. In Jerusalem, where Orthodox violence is more difficult than in a small town like Lydda, Bibles which contain the New Testament are often collected and ceremoniously burnt on a bonfire in an Orthodox neighborhood. No rabbi, and few politicians, have said a word about this. Needless to say, Western media will not report such events, although the Hebrew press does.

2. David Levy's brother.

3. This libel, like much Habad Nazi-like persecution of small and weak sects, is an adaptation of a prevalent anti-Semitic libel, which claimed that Jews kidnap Christian children and bleed them to death. I am afraid than many Jews (and also non-Jews) who are ready to condemn anti-Semitic libel will refuse to relate to the Habad one, although they are exactly alike in their evil intent.

4. Jehovah's Witnesses are especially attacked by the Orthodox Jews for three reasons: they are small and weak, unprotected by the diplomats of any foreign state, and their beliefs prevent them from hitting back.




A Farm for Raising Pure Priests to be Established Soon

Kol Ha'ir, April 11, 1997

By Erez Fridman

 

The Movement for Establishment of the Temple is preparing a plan for the raising of trained Jewish priests to offer sacrifices in the Temple and is looking for two houses in a settlement, for raising of pure priests.

The intended priests will be raised in the farm from the time of their birth until the age of 13, while being totally isolated from any human touch.1 The isolation will begin from the act of birth itself. The mother will be taken to give birth in one of the houses and the birth will be conducted by a midwife especially trained not to touch the child during the birth. It was decided, however, that if an emergency arises the mother would be taken to a hospital and the child, made impure by human touch, would be regarded as incapable of becoming a pure priest. Only Jewish families certified by the Movement as being of direct descent from Aaron the Priest would be allowed to donate their children for this plan. Until the age of 13, the children would study, without being touched, the art of priestly conduct. The best student will be declared a High Priest. The food of the intended priest will be taken exclusively from the one percent of the food manufactured in Israel which now is destroyed by various manufacturers as a condition of receiving a kashrut certificate.2

Jews-only Har Homa settlement on former West Bank land annexed by the Israelis to Jerusalem.

Netanyahu sought to use the Palestinian ban on land sales as an excuse to "break off" peace negotiations once and for all with the PA. "We must consider carefully if we should continue talks with people who represent such fascist theories," said his adviser, David Bar-Ilan. Other right-wing ministers called the ban "anti-Semitic."

Bar-Ilan's claim that the PA's land policy is"fascist" is the most hypocritical comment from the Likud since Ariel Sharon called Arafat a "terrorist." In fact, since 1948 Israel has banned the sale of Jewish National Fund (JNF) land to Arabs, even if they are citizens.

"The Palestinians are mimicking us," says Israeli lawyer Danny Seideimann. "An Israeli [Arab] citizen born and bred in Haifa who wants to buy an apartment on JNF land is not entitled to, while a Jewish resident in the U.S. is."

Losing international support over the Jabal Abu Ghneim debacle, Israeli officials have been waiting for an opportunity to put pressure back on the PA. It is no coincidence that Abu Medein's statements came after U.S. special envoy Dennis Ross spent two weeks trying to force Arafat to accept the fait accompli of Jabal Abu Ghneim and return to "negotiations."

"The U.S. condemns any law or decree that would threaten death against any Palestinian for selling land to Israelis or Jews," said State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns. "That's wrong. It is contrary to what must prevail in the Middle East, which is peace and the spirit of peace." As the main power and so-called peace broker in the Middle East, one would expect that the U.S. would at least try to present a balanced position on the issue of land rights in the West Bank.

Almost as hypocritical as Bar-Ilan's statement was a State Department position articulated by Burns that was so far from being balanced that it drew criticism from even the most docile Arab leaders, who face increasing opposition at home for supporting the so-called peace process.

"This is now the most crucial stage of Oslo," explained Palestinian Ahmed Abu Hassan in Gaza. "If the effort to attain our homeland through negotiation fails, then we have no other option than to return to the armed struggle. We at least know the rules of that game."

Any Palestinian teenager could have told Ross and his spokesman, Burns, that the ban on selling Palestinian land to Israelis, and the killing of land dealers who do, would not have happened had the U.S. stood up to Netanyahu's blatant violation of the Oslo accords and of international law at Jabal Abu Ghneim. Clinton's failure to put a stop to the further expropriation of Palestine forced the PA to deal with this matter in its own way.

At this writing, other suspected land dealers are in PA jails. Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper reports that a "hit list" of 16 fraudulent Arab land dealers is being circulated through the PA security establishment. Far from backing down, Abu Medein has since threatened Arab land dealers who hold Israeli citizenship.

"We advise those who carry the Israeli identity card that if they believe they have become Israeli citizens, and because of that they are protected, they are mistaken," he said. "They will be brought to justice one way or another."

A few days later Israeli forces were able to protect known land dealer Assad Rajabi from being taken from Jerusalem to Ramallah by the PA. Netanyahu blamed Palestinian Col. Tawfiq Tirawi as the PA official behind at least two of the killings and the effort to take Rajabi into custody.

Despite the feeble efforts of Dennis Ross, the crisis is deepening, and it seems that the only way to avoid an even bloodier confrontation is a U.S.-imposed Middle East land conference to determine who rightly owns what in the West Bank under the framework of the Fourth Geneva Convention. If Israel is so sure of the legality of the steps it is taking to retain 60 percent of the West Bank, let it open the Land Registration Office records to international scrutiny. Unlike other offices of the West Bank "Civil Administration," which are located at Beit El near the Jalazone refugee camp, the Land Registration Office is at a secret location inside Israel and its records are "top secret." The reason for this is obvious the fraudulent nature of most of the land transactions that have taken place in the West Bank.

Nearly four years ago, optimists at the White House envisioned that in 1997 the final-status peace talks would begin. Palestinians feel that under Netanyahu's stewardship 1997 is instead the beginning of his "final solution" for their dream of statehood in historic Palestine. Until it is clear what type of entity will emerge in the West Bank and who will control how much land, those who sell sacred and limited West Bank land to encroaching Israelis will be the first, unlamented victims in what is sure to be a bloody confrontation that very likely will spread far beyond the borders of Israel/ Palestine.

The house where priests will be raised would consist of two floors. The first will be empty except for its supporting pillars, and its purpose will be to isolate the priests from the impure earth. The farm would be closed to all visitors and its workers would enter it only after they had purified themselves by the ashes of the Red Heifer 3 and put on special mantles not touched previously by anything else. Rabbi Yosef Albaum, one of the heads of the Movement for Establishment of the Temple, said that he has a list of women who are willing to donate their sons to this plan.

The Movement emphasizes the importance of the Red Heifer which was recently born in Kfar Hassidim for the success of this plan. Only if a Red Heifer is first sacrificed and its ashes used for purification can the plan be successful. In order that the Red Heifer not be blemished it was decided to keep it hidden.

 

NOTES (by Prof. Israel Shahak):

1. According to Judaism as it existed until a few centuries after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD, Jews and their priests were divided into two categories: the pure and impure. The latter could be purified, however, by various ceremonies. The most grievous and also common type of impurity was being touched, however indirectly, either by a living non-Jew (non-Jews were regarded as impure without a possibility of purification) or touching the corpse of a Jew. The impure Jews could not enter the temple or participate in various ceremonies outside it. There was only one way of purification from the graver states of impurity, by being twice sprinkled (by a hyssop) with water to which a few ashes of the Red Helfer were added. Since the ashes have been long lost, all Jews including their priests are regarded as impure, except the newly born babies who have not yet been touched by anybody.

2. According to the Bible and Talmud the Jews should give to priests, on condition that the latter are pure, 1 percent of any food they produce, and they are forbidden to eat the food before this offering is separated. This obligation was discontinued when all Jews became impure, but was revived in Israel in the 1960s in a symbolic manner when the influence of religious parties grew. At present, 1 percent of most kosher food produced in Israel is separated at some stage of its manufacture and destroyed, either by burning or by being poured or thrown into the sea. This is one of the important facts about Israel and Judaism which, although known to everyone in Israel, is deemed not fit to print in The New York Times or to be mentioned by rabbis in Western countries when they discuss Judaism. Let me add that in this avoidance of discussion the Reform rabbis are, in my view, worse than all the others, being even more hypocritical.

3. A purely red cow was recently born in Israel and, after being proclaimed to be a Red Heifer, caused more public interest than a White Elephant once caused in Thailand.







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