Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government of national unity has run into a serious crisis after he sacked four ministers from a key coalition party, the ultra-Orthodox party Shas.
The four Shas ministers and several deputy ministers from the United Torah Judaism party were dismissed for not backing an economic austerity plan introduced to pay for the recent military offensive against the Palestinians.
Under Israeli law, the sackings come into effect after 48 hours.
At that point Sharon could find himself leading a minority government.
Sharon’s economic proposals would have cut welfare spending and increased taxes, but were rejected in a vote on Monday night.
Correspondents say the ultra-orthodox ministers balked at the withdrawal of special government subsidies for Orthodox religious students, who do not have to serve in the Israeli armed forces.
Meanwhile, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reports the army has again raided the West Bank cities of Bethlehem and Jenin this morning, and has re-occupied the entire city of Tulkarm.
We turn now to a talk given this weekend in New York by International Solidarity Movement activist, Adam Shapiro. ISM activists have been taking direct action since the beginning of second Intifada, from rebuilding demolished Palestinian homes to taking food and medicine inside besieged Palestinian areas. Two weeks ago, ten international activists brought food to the Palestinians trapped inside the Church of the Nativity. Dozens of activists were jailed and deported. Five are still in an Israeli prison.
Adam Shapiro is a Jewish-American who lives under Israeli occupation in the West Bank. He is engaged to Palestinian-American Huwaida Arraf. Shortly after Israel tanks broke into Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s Ramallah compound at the end of March, Shapiro entered the compound in an ambulance. He helped build a makeshift clinic in one of Arafat’s presidential offices. Then he shared a much-publicized breakfast with Arafat in the compound.
The story of a Jewish New Yorker risking his life to protect Palestinians was picked up across the corporate media. The New York Post dubbed Shapiro “Jewish Taliban.” In a confrontational interview with Shapiro on Fox News, host John Gibson called him a “turncoat.” On CNN, Paula Zahn accused him of promoting suicide bombing. His parents received so many death threats that they were forced to leave their Brooklyn home. They now live under police protection. This is Adam Shapiro, talking about why he does what he does.
- Adam Shapiro, International Solidarity Movement activist.