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News Brief

May 12, 2004
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A Jewish civilian contractor from the Philadelphia area was beheaded in Iraq. Nick Berg, 26, of West Chester, Pa., was shown having his throat slit by masked captors in a video posted on a Web site known for ties to the Al-Qaida terrorist group.

Israeli aircraft rocketed a car in Gaza City, killing a Palestinian. Islamic Jihad said its men had been targeted in Tuesday’s airstrike, which came several hours after six Israeli soldiers were killed by a land mine during a counterterrorist raid in the city.

President Bush sent Ahmed Qurei a letter reaffirming his support for a Palestinian state. Bush’s three-page letter to the Palestinian Authority prime minister was a condition of Jordan’s endorsement last week of Israel’s plan to withdraw unilaterally from the Gaza Strip.

The White House imposed sanctions on Syria for its support of terrorism and development of weapons. President Bush on Tuesday implemented several sanctions against Syria, including a ban on the export of military items and “dual-use” items that could be used in manufacturing weapons of mass destruction.

Israel and the United States hope to establish a $50 million counterterrorism research and development fund. Each country would contribute half of the fund, Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon told JTA on Tuesday. Congress and the Israeli Treasury must approve the fund.

The U.S. Senate passed legislation requiring the State Department to report on acts of anti-Semitism around the world. The Global Anti-Semitism Review Act passed the Senate last Friday.

The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill urging countries to cut ties with Iran until it opens its nuclear weapons program to inspectors. Pro-Israel groups lobbied for the bill, which called on Europe, Japan and Russia to cut their ties with the Islamic republic.

A lawmaker introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives to grant permanent residency status to the family of Israel’s first astronaut. The bill, introduced last week by Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), would give the family of the late Col. Ilan Ramon two years to apply for immigrant visas and be admitted as permanent residents.

The Reform movement condemned the government’s decision to keep the “morning after” pill from being sold over the counter. The Food and Drug Administration announced last week that it would continue to classify the emergency abortion medication “Plan B” as a prescription drug, despite the recommendations of an FDA expert advisory panel to make it available over the counter.

Following an eight-month lobbying effort, the State Bar of California will excuse observant Jews from taking the bar examination on Tisha B’Av. Reversing an earlier denial, the Committee of Bar Examiners rearranged the schedule so that observers of the fast day can take the first portion of the three-day test on July 28, instead of July 27.

Some U.S. Christian leaders are calling on President Bush to ask Israel to protect access to Christian sites. Churches for Middle East Peace, in a letter to the president last Friday, said Israel’s West Bank security barrier is “damaging Christian institutions and the daily livelihood of individual Christians.”

The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs is pushing for Donald Rumsfeld to keep his job. The U.S. defense secretary is under pressure from some Democrats to resign after photographs surfaced of Iraqi prisoners being abused by American soldiers.

White supremacist David Duke, released from jail, is doing his community service with his “white civil rights group.” Duke was released to a halfway house in Louisiana last month after serving a year in jail for fraud. “My work-release plan was approved in the normal channels,” Duke told The New York Times on Monday.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is celebrating its 90th birthday. The JDC will celebrate the occasion with a ceremony Tuesday night at Gracie Mansion, the official residence of New York City’s mayor, who will address the group.

Israeli police and the Shin Bet security agency traded blame over a false confession extracted from an Israeli Arab terrorist suspect. Tarek Nujeidat was indicted for the July 2003 murder of an Israeli soldier based on a confession in which he also implicated two other Arabs. But the trio was released Sunday after new evidence pointed to other suspects.

The brother of Rabin assassin Yigal Amir was questioned on suspicion of threatening the lives of Israeli officials. Sagiv Amir, a 20-year-old infantry sniper, was interrogated and released this week after the Shin Bet received reports of threats against Israeli politicians that he allegedly made during conversations with friends, security sources said.

A Greek javelin thrower petitioned the International Olympic Committee to compete under the Palestinian flag at the Athens Olympics. Sofia Sakorafa, 47, who broke the women’s javelin world record in 1982, claims she has become a Palestinian citizen and hopes to compete for the Palestinian team at the Aug. 13-29 Games.

A group of U.S. rabbis recently donated 10 Torahs for use by Israeli soldiers. One Torah brought over by the rabbis from the National Council of Young Israel is less than 12 inches high and will be used on an Israeli submarine.

Hebrew scholar Samuel Iwry, an authority on the Dead Sea Scrolls, died Saturday in Baltimore at age 93. Iwry wrote the first doctoral dissertation on the scrolls, which shed light on Judaism and the origins of Christianity. He also was one of the world’s leading Hebrew scholars.

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