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The United States abstained from a U.N. Security Council resolution blasting Israel for the demolition of Palestinian homes in the Rafah refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip. The abstention was a departure from typical U.S. policy, which is to veto any U.N. Security Council resolution on the Middle East that does not meet certain conditions, such as a condemnation of Arab terrorism.

The United Nations’ envoy for the West Bank and Gaza Strip called Israel’s killing of Palestinians in Rafah a war crime. South African law professor John Dugard said that as a result of Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip refugee camp, which led to the deaths of 15 Palestinians on Wednesday, the U.N. Security Council should consider imposing an arms embargo against Israel just as it did in 1977 against South Africa’s apartheid regime.

President Bush urged restraint after Israeli forces killed a number of Palestinian protesters early Wednesday. Bush asked the Israeli government to “respect innocent life” and explain its military response. “I continue to urge restraint. It is essential that people respect innocent life in order for us to achieve peace,” Bush said. The White House had issued a similar plea earlier through spokesman Scott McClellan.

U.S. Jewish leaders met with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. At the hourlong meeting Tuesday, representatives of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations voiced concern to Annan about the double standard applied to Israel at the United Nations, and the rise of Islamic and European anti-Semitism.

Ron Arad, the Israel Air Force navigator who went missing in Lebanon in 1986, reportedly is dead. Quoting diplomatic sources knowledgeable about efforts to determine Arad’s whereabouts, Reuters reported Wednesday that the airman is dead and that the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah has his body.

The Canadian government will not grant a visa to a Saudi cleric who called for Jews to be destroyed, a senior government spokesperson said. The government earlier had rejected a parliamentary motion to bar Sheik Abd al-Rahman Al-Sudais, who is known for his anti-Semitic sermons, from entering Canada. But a government source told the CanWest News Service that Al-Sudais is on a government watch list and would be barred from entering the country.

A top State Department official said the Bush administration’s support for Israel is not related to upcoming elections. “The affection of the president for Israel and for that democracy has nothing to do with elections,” Richard Armitage, a deputy secretary of state, testified Tuesday to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “It has to do with his view of Israel as one of the great democracies of the world, perhaps the most pure democracy.”

Islamic terrorists could target Germany because they think it is allied with Israel, Germany’s interior minister said. Otto Schily’s comments came this week as the country released statistics showing that Islamic extremism remains Germany’s greatest domestic security threat.

The United Nations will hold its first-ever seminar on anti-Semitism next month. The June 21 seminar at U.N. headquarters in New York follows a recent seminar on the topic in Berlin, sponsored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel has been invited as the keynote speaker, and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and World Jewish Congress President Edgar Bronfman also will participate, according to Elan Steinberg, the World Jewish Congress’ executive vice president.

Record numbers of participants are converging on Budapest for the third General Assembly of European Jewry. The event begins Thursday. Organizers said more than 1,000 people from more than 40 countries have registered for the four-day event, organized by the European Council of Jewish Communities and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

A Brazilian soccer idol donated autographed soccer balls to Israeli children who are victims of terrorism. Ronaldinho Gaucho, forward of Spanish team Barcelona, agreed to autograph a number of balls and send them to the One Family Fund for children victimized by terrorism.

Israelis marched in their capital to celebrate Jerusalem Day. Roads in central Jerusalem were shut down on Wednesday as thousands marched in parades marking 37 years since Jerusalem’s reunification in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Nearly 2,000 delegates gathered for a congress of Ukrainian Jewry that highlighted rifts in the community. This week’s gathering in Kiev, billed by organizers as the founding congress of the United Jewish Community of Ukraine, failed to attract leaders of some key Jewish groups working in Ukraine — particularly Chabad, whose rabbis have leadership roles in most local communities in Ukraine.

Actor Richard Gere will be a guest of honor at Tel Aviv University’s student film festival. The visit to the festival, which begins June 5, will be Gere’s third trip to Israel in the past three years.

A registry for Jewish bone-marrow donations is teaming up with a national bone-marrow program. The partnership between the Gift of Life registry and the National Marrow Donor Program allows the latter to access the Gift of Life’s database.

Philip Zaro, founder of a bakery chain and major contributor to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, died May 14 at age 82. The Zaro’s stores in New York City’s Grand Central Station and Pennsylvania Station sell an estimated 10,000 muffins each week.

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