1. Israeli statistics
2. Latest Israeli to be murdered in terror attack
3. Independence Day editorial of the "Financial Times" of London
4. Message from the President of the State of Israel Moshe Katsav to the Jewish communities on the occasion of the State of Israel's 55th Independence Day
5. Message from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to the Diaspora communities on the occasion of the State of Israel's 55th Independence Day
6. Palestinian human rights monitoring group, press release
[Note by Tom Gross]
Today is "Israel Independence Day". The modern state of Israel celebrates its 55th birthday. Among the events due to be held in coming days around the world, leading Israeli singer and Eurovision song contest winner Dana International will perform before 3,000 people at a salute to Israel event in Budapest, Hungary on Sunday. American television comedian Jerry Seinfeld, this year's multi-Grammy award winning singer Norah Jones, Tony Bennett and others will perform at an event in support for Israel in Washington DC on May 19.
ISRAEL'S POPULATION – 6.7 MILLION...
Communicated by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics Spokesman
May 5, 2003
Israel's population today stands at 6.7 million (eight times its size on May 15, 1948). The proportion of Jewish residents of the state – 81 percent – has remained the same in the past 55 years. About 5.4 million Jews now live in Israel. Israel accounts for 38 percent of the world's Jewish population.
Since last Independence Day, the population of the state of Israel has grown by 131,000, an annual growth rate of 2%. 140,000 babies were born in Israel during the past year.
Jerusalem has 680,000 residents; its population grew by 1.7% during the past year. In 1948, 36% of the country's population lived in the Tel Aviv area; 18%does so today.
Of the 1.3 million non-Jewish Israelis, 82 percent are Muslim, nine percent are Christian and nine percent are Druze. Since the state of Israel was founded in 1948, 3 million people have immigrated. 31,000 people arrived in 2002.
50 new immigrants will arrive today from Argentina. During the coming week 296 immigrants are expected to arrive in Israel. Of these, 81 will be from Ethiopia, 53 from the Central Asian republics of the Former Soviet Union and the southern Caucasus, 42 will be from Russia, 30 from Ukraine, 20 from France, 8 from the USA and the remainder will be from Brazil, Uruguay, South Africa, Australia and other countries not identified for security reasons.
Number killed in Israeli wars until yesterday – 21,541.
Number of soldiers killed since Remembrance Day last year – 254
LATEST ISRAELI TO BE MURDERED IN TERROR ATTACK
Latest Israeli to be murdered in terror attack – on Monday night, May 5, 2003 – Gideon Lichterman, 27, of Ahiya, as he was driving home. His six-year-old daughter Moriah, and another passenger, aged 25, were seriously wounded in the shooting attack. Lichterman was buried yesterday in Haifa. The military wing of PA Chairman Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement yesterday claimed responsibility for the terror attack.
Independence eve editorial of Israel's highest circulation newspaper, "Yediot Ahronot" (May 6, 2003). "Even today, after yet another terrorist attack, spring is in the air. Suddenly, the unexpected is to be expected. Suddenly, the unbelievable seems believable. There is the feeling – however amorphous and hard-to-grasp – that something deep, and not yet fully understood, is about to change." The editors believe that the terrorist threat has weakened since Independence Day last year and suggests that, "While large numbers of Palestinians are still being killed, their political leadership is looking for a way out of the impasse into which it has led its suffering people." The paper says that, "While the 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion'" are still being printed in updated editions, according to which the Jewish conspiracy was responsible for the US war in Iraq, the new anti-Semitism has gone out of fashion even in the salons of Paris." The editors remind their readers that, "While Israel's economic growth is still close to zero, it is no longer negative," and suggest that unemployment is no longer growing. The paper asserts that the shekel is holding its own and that Israel's credit rating ("last year's economic horror story"), "is even likely to improve." The editors declare: "And the main point: A settlement with the Palestinians is still far away but it seems closer than it ever has been in the last 32 months."
INDEPENDENCE DAY EDITORIAL FROM THE FINANCIAL TIMES
Independence Day editorial of the "Financial Times" of London: "Optimism has been in short supply in Israel over the past three years. The breakdown of attempts to forge a deal to secure peace between Israelis and Palestinians, the outbreak of another spate of violence and regional instability all depressed public opinion.
And yet on Wednesday, as the country marks 55 years since the founding of the state of Israel, there is a surprising upsurge in the mood of political leaders and commentators.
Ariel Sharon, prime minister, led the chorus on Tuesday with a Remembrance Day speech in which he declared: "There is hope in the air this spring," adding, with characteristic pugnacity, that it was a hope rooted in "constant and persistent combat". Saddam Hussein's regime had been defeated, he said, and the US and its allies had shown inspiration and determination in confronting "evil" regimes in the Middle East.
If the hopes invested in the new Palestinian government were realised, he was prepared to make the painful sacrifices involved in reaching a peace that would last for generations."
MESSAGE FROM PRESIDENT MOSHE KATSAV
Message from the President of the State of Israel Moshe Katsav to the Jewish communities on the occasion of the State of Israel's 55th Independence Day
On the 55th Independence Day of the State of Israel, we are still fighting for the basic issues in the life of the nation and the country: the struggle for the status of the capital of Israel is continuing; our main border in the east has not yet been determined; we are still combating Palestinian terrorism, and Arab countries and organizations are still calling for the destruction of Israel.
The security situation is influencing the economic and social conditions. Nevertheless, despite the difficult challenges we are facing, on Independence Day, we are proud of the great achievements made. We have a sovereign, democratic, Jewish, liberal, developed and progressive country with international achievements in science, agriculture, technology and culture. We have a country which succeeds in providing its citizens with health, education and housing services, a country, which continues to absorb Jewish immigrants from all over the world, a state which has become a model and example to be emulated by many other countries in the world.
I feel that recently the people of Israel have become more united than in the past. The tension between the various sectors in Israeli society has lessened. I also feel a great rise in the solidarity expressed by the Jewish people in the Diaspora towards Israel. Many leaders of world Jewry have been visiting Israel and a large number of Jewish communities have sent solidarity missions this past year. These visits strengthen our relations and contribute to mutual enrichment.
The free world's campaign to eliminate international terrorism is of great necessity. The fear in the hearts of humanity must be eradicated. Human beings have a basic right to live without fear of terror.
We are all one big family. We all have the same destiny and tradition. We can be proud to belong to the Jewish people.
May every one have a happy Independence Day and may we see the fulfillment of all our national and sovereign aims. I wish the Jewish people and the State of Israel quiet and tranquility, peace and security, economic stability and social justice.
MESSAGE FROM PRIME MINISTER ARIEL SHARON
Message from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to the Diaspora communities on the occasion of the State of Israel's 55th Independence Day
On the occasion of Yom Ha'atzmaut, it is my great pleasure and privilege to send you greetings from Jerusalem, the eternal and undivided capital of the State of Israel and the Jewish people.
Fifty-five years ago, the State of Israel was forged in struggle. Since then, we have built an independent Jewish democracy, making great strides in fields such as medicine, technology, agriculture and the arts while simultaneously fighting for our existence. Our cities have flourished, and we have absorbed millions of immigrants – from 102 countries – who conduct their lives in Hebrew, the ancient language of the Bible. From these accomplishments we derive the strength and resilience to persevere, even in the face of challenge and adversity.
The future of the Jewish people rests on our combined shoulders. With our common history, heritage and mission as our guide, we are certain to achieve even greater heights in the future. I call upon each of you to personally take part in the Zionist enterprise – by making Aliyah and joining us here. Aliyah is vital to the continued existence, growth and prosperity of Israel. Together, we will succeed in bringing peace and security to our nation and homeland.
Mazal Tov and Chag Sameach.
Palestinian human rights monitoring group
May 5, 2003
With the establishment of the first Palestinian Authority, new hopes sprung to life within Palestinians, hoping to be treated fairly and with dignity, after years of suffering under the Israeli occupation. Surely those who fought for peace and the establishment of an independent authority would be treated with respect and appreciation on behalf of the Palestinian people.
Unfortunately, quite the opposite came to be true. Farouk Abu-Hassan is a man who bears an example of the cruel injustices conducted by the Palestinian Authority. Mr. Abu-Hassan was imprisoned by the Israelis for 13 years between 1972-1985 for writing a letter with others from prison to Egyptian President Sadat regarding Palestinian rights and congratulating him on his peace initiative. In November 1994, under suspicious circumstances, Mr. Abu-Hassan was taken late at night from his home by the military intelligence of the Palestinian Authority. He is still, to this day, in jail under the Palestinian Authority. The charge against him is the letter he wrote to President Sadat.
Mr. Abu-Hassan has a wife and three children, who for at times, have been prohibited from seeing him for up to 18 months. Mr. Abu-Hassan has been tortured during interrogation by the hands of the Palestinian Authority. His lawyer quit his case because the Palestinian Military Intelligence Service (MIS) would not cooperate with him on the case. At one point, Abu-Hassan's wife was tricked into paying the MIS 8,500 Jordanian dinars when promised her husband would then be released in 10 days because he was innocent. His wife managed to come up with this sum and did pay, but it ended up in vain because her husband was never released. Mrs. Abu-Hassan tried earnestly several times to meet with President Arafat, but he never granted her an opportunity to meet with him.
Farouk Abu- Hassan is still, to this day, imprisoned in Gaza, with no specific charge or trial. In December 2000, there was a decision to release him, but this was denied by Mousa Arafat.
It is the hope of PHRMG, that with a new Palestinian Parliament and a new Prime Minister, that Farouk Abu-Hassan will be released from this unjust imprisonment and that such cases as his will not happen again under the new Palestinian government. The Palestinian people have suffered enough injustice and it is shameful to keep perpetrating it upon their own people. PHRMG hopes that the parliament and prime minister will ensure true freedom, transparency, and justice for all Palestinians.
The director of PHRMG, Bassem Eid, has written a letter to Prime Minister Mahmoud Abass (Abu Mazen) and the Minister of Justice Mr. Abdul Karim Abu-Salah to make him aware of the situation of Farouk Abu-Hassan and appeal for his immediate release.
Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group (PHRMG) The PHRMG is a Palestinian, independent, non-governmental organization working to end human rights violations committed against Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, regardless of those responsible. The members of the Monitoring Group believe that the strength of democracy and civil society in Palestinian society will be determined by the Palestinian people, through their defense or neglect of human rights.
Ragheb Nashashibi Street 5
P.O. Box 19918
East Jerusalem 91198
May 6, 2003
PHRMG apologizes for the mistake in our previous press release regarding Farouk Abu-Hassan. Mr. Abu-Hassan was arrested in 1972 by the Israeli authorities and put in detention for 13 years because of his security offenses and his membership in PFLP. He was released by the Israelis in 1985. After his release, he was detained in 1994 by the Palestinian Authority because of the letter to President Sadat that he and his colleagues sent from prison in 1981, congratulating Sadat on the peace agreement with Israel. Sadat was extremely isolated by the Arab world at that time and anyone supporting Sadat's peace agreement with Israel was considered a collaborator. The Palestinian Authority also arrived to the Occupied Territories after a peace agreement with the Israelis. This makes it even more shocking for the PA to arrest someone who had supported Sadat.
Please contact the new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and the Minister of Justice Abdul Karim Abu Salah to appeal for the release of Farouk Abu-Hassan and for reform of the Palestinian justice system.
Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen)
Minister of Justice Abdul Karim Abu Salah
We sincerely apologize for this mistake and any confusion it aroused.