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Israeli Textbook Tells of Arab Plight


For the first time in its 59-year history, Israel has approved a school textbook acknowledging what the country's minority Palestinian citizens have been learning at home for generations: The Jewish state's creation was a tragedy for them.

The updated third-grade primer stirred controversy Sunday when the Education Ministry announced its approval for Arab classrooms this fall. Israeli rightists rose in defense of the school system's traditional one-sided teaching of history and declared the book itself a tragedy.

Under the title "Living Together in Israel," the book describes events of 1948 and 1949, when Israel's creation by the United Nations in what had been British-ruled Palestine prompted an invasion by Arab armies, fierce fighting and the displacement of about 700,000 Palestinian Arabs.

Previous editions gave only the Jewish narrative of the war, pointing out the Jews' historical connection to the Holy Land and their need for a state because of persecution in Europe.

That version focused on heroism of the victorious Israeli forces and referred to the Palestinian flight as a voluntary escape.

The new edition adds the Arab perspective, noting for the first time that many Palestinians were forced from their homes and became refugees after the war's victors confiscated their lands and barred their return.

"When the war ended, the Jews prevailed, and Israel and its neighbors signed a truce," a key passage reads. "The Arabs call the war the 'Nakba,' meaning the war of catastrophe and destruction. The Jews call it the War of Independence."

Until 1966, Palestinians who remained in Israel lived under military rule that limited their freedom of movement and other rights, the new text acknowledges. Palestinians now make up 20% of Israel's population.


CAIR: Muslim Workers in Neb. Claim Religious Harassment


OMAHA, Neb. - An American-Islamic advocacy group has drafted a complaint to federal officials that is awaiting the signatures of dozens of Muslim Somali workers who allege they were fired or harassed by supervisors at a Grand Island meatpacking plant for trying to pray at sunset.

The complaint from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, to be filed with federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission officials, compiles testimony from at least 44 workers who say they quit or were either fired or verbally and physically harassed over the prayer issue.

The complaint alleges that breaktime rules at the Swift & Co. plant violate civil rights laws by not allowing workers to leave production lines to pray at sundown.

The sunset prayer, known as the maghrib, is the fourth of five daily prayers required of all Muslims.


CAIR: Terror Fears Shape Jury in HLF Trial


DALLAS ­ Of the first 26 people interviewed for jury duty in the case of Muslim charity officials accused of financing Hamas terrorists, three said they feared for their safety, including one man who said he wouldn't put anything past the Middle Eastern militants.

None of the three made it on the jury that was picked last week to hear the case against Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development and five of its former officials. Opening statements are scheduled for Tuesday.

But former prosecutors and jury-selection experts say the fact that some people expressed fear underscores the difficulty of ensuring a fair trial for the defendants, all Muslim men originally from the Middle East.

"If three say, 'I'm afraid of Hamas tracking me down,' it might actually be a much higher number who are fearful," said Philip K. Anthony, chief executive of DecisionQuest, a jury-selection consulting firm.

The federal judge in the case, A. Joe Smith, took steps to produce an unbiased jury. He summoned 750 people for the jury pool. They filled out questionnaires and were quizzed by prosecutors and defense lawyers about their knowledge of the case, whether they could be fair, and even whether they knew any Muslims ­ most didn't.

The court declined to release the names of potential jurors, although they were addressed by last name in open court. The pool was whittled to 12 jurors and six alternates by Friday. The trial could last several months.

Tom Melsheimer, a former federal prosecutor in Dallas, said the defendants would get "the fairest trial possible," but added it would be "very hard to get a fair trial in a climate like this with accusations like this. There is tremendous fear of terrorism and of Muslim groups."

Melsheimer recently defended a Dallas businessman who was also accused of helping Hamas. The man was never charged, but he was deported to Jordan on immigration violations that Melsheimer didn't dispute.

The biggest obstacle in the Holy Land case, Melsheimer said, might be that "the jury is not likely to look like the defendants, and that's always scary for a defendant."

Other trials have been faced with the challenge of finding jurors who can be impartial toward Muslim defendants after Sept. 11.

In the ongoing Miami trial of accused terrorist Jose Padilla, many potential jurors said they couldn't be fair. Several spoke of the images of the 2001 attacks in New York and Washington.

A Holy Land supporter, Parvez Ahmed, chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said two recent cases make him think the jury can be fair.


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