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News Brief

May 19, 2004
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Israeli forces killed at least 15 Palestinians in counterterrorist operations in a Gaza Strip refugee camp. The raid, which began before dawn Tuesday with helicopter missile strikes against terrorist targets in Rafah, was launched despite international appeals for Israel to back down.

The United States will stay the course in Iraq, President Bush told pro-Israel lobbyists. The bulk of Bush’s speech Tuesday morning to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington emphasized his commitment to defeating insurgents in Iraq and transferring power to a U.S.-friendly government.

An Israeli Cabinet minister explained Israel’s plan to uncover arms-smuggling tunnels to Condoleezza Rice. Ehud Olmert, Israel’s trade minister, met with President Bush’s national security adviser Tuesday and told her that the goal of the current military operation on the Egypt-Gaza border is not to destroy homes but to stop terrorists from smuggling weapons.

Israel’s human rights record in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is poor, according to a State Department report. Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2003-2004 accuses Israel of using excessive force in a year in which Israeli troops killed 573 Palestinians and one foreigner – – pro-Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie, an American.

Israel is committed to withdrawing from the Gaza Strip, an Israeli Cabinet minister told pro- Israel lobbyists. In his speech Monday at an American Israel Public Affairs Committee banquet in Washington, Ehud Olmert, Israel’s trade minister, admitted that a Likud Party vote earlier this month rejecting Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s withdrawal plan was a political setback. But, he added, “the prime minister is determined to implement the plan and fulfill his pledge to” President Bush.

Jordan’s king hinted that Yasser Arafat should step down as leader of the Palestinian Authority. King Abdullah II said one solution would be for the Palestinian Authority president to hand over power to P.A. Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei and keep the presidency as a ceremonial post.

President Bush met with the U.S. delegation to a recent anti-Semitism conference in Berlin. Delegation members on Tuesday thanked Bush for his support in convening the conference last month under the auspices of the 55-member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said Jack Rosen, outgoing chairman of the American Jewish Congress.

The U.N. Security Council will discuss a resolution blasting Israel’s incursions into the Gaza Strip. At the behest of the Palestinians, Algeria was slated to submit a resolution to the council Tuesday “condemning the recent large-scale demolition of homes committed by Israel, the occupying power, in the Rafah refugee camp, where approximately 1,100 Rafah refugees are now homeless.”

President Bush appointed Jack Rosen to the Holocaust Memorial Council. The council oversees the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington. Rosen, outgoing president of the American Jewish Congress, was a longtime Democrat, but last year he contributed to the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign.

An Israeli lawmaker called the demolition of Palestinian homes in Rafah a war crime. “When women and children flee for their lives, dragging luggage which is too big for them, this is indeed considered a war crime by the international community,” Yossi Sarid of the Meretz Party told reporters Tuesday, referring to hundreds of Palestinians who left the Gaza Strip refugee camp ahead of an Israeli army raid.

Three people are in Kenyan police custody on suspicion of planning an attack on the Israeli Embassy in Nairobi. Police said Tuesday that a Kenyan, a Somali with an Australian passport and a Bosnian woman who also has Australian citizenship have been detained for suspicious behavior while trying to book a hotel near the embassy.

The Canadian government rejected an attempt to bar a Saudi cleric from entering the country. Legislator Jason Kenney championed the parliamentary motion urging the government to block the entry of Sheik Abdal-Rahman Al-Sudais, imam of the grand mosque in Mecca, who has publicly called for destroying the Jews. In an April 2002 sermon, Al-Sudais called Jews “the scum of the human race, accursed by Allah, who turned them into apes and pigs.”

Tony Randall, the fastidious half of “The Odd Couple,” died Monday at age 84. Randall was born Leonard Rosenberg and was raised in Tulsa, Okla. An award-winning actor, he is best known as the neat-freak Felix in the TV version of the Neil Simon play, opposite Jack Klugman. In his mid-70s, Randall had children for the first time.

Czech police are investigating the desecration of a synagogue. Officials said unknown perpetrators carved fascist symbols and inscriptions in the shul in the town of Krnov after breaking into the property earlier this month.

Fundamentalist Christians in Germany are founding an Institute for Israel studies. Beginning in September 2004, the Institute for Israelogy will disseminate information about Israel from a fundamentalist standpoint. It is to be based at the Free Theological Academy in the city of Giessen. According to Christians for Israel, the institute’s goals are to propagate information about Israel, the common roots of Christians and Jews, and the causes of Christian anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

An Arab soccer team won the Israeli championship for the first time. Bnei Sakhnin defeated Hapoel Haifa 4-1 Tuesday night. Although some of Bnei Sakhnin’s players are Jewish, it is based in an Arab town and is identified with the Arab population, which has never had much athletic success.

One Hadassah board member gave her kidney to another. At a board meeting of the women’s Zionist organization in January, Hadassah President June Walker announced that Belle Simon was in desperate need of a kidney. Katie Edelstein, 55, president of Hadassah’s Pacific Northwest Region, offered hers. A successful surgery took place May 11 at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York.

Filmmaker Roman Polanski said going to the movies in Nazi-occupied Poland helped him make it through World War II.. “Movies were an escape for me during the war, after I had escaped from the Krakow ghetto and was living in the city,” the Academy Award-winning director of “The Pianist” said in Rome last week.

A pair of alleged Israeli cocaine smugglers devised a new way to hide cocaine: They soaked clothes in the drug. Two Tel Aviv men are being charged with attempting to smuggle into Israel $1 million worth of cocaine from Bolivia, by soaking 10 kilograms of the drug into 100 kilograms of ironed clothing, The Jerusalem Post reported. Police stopped the pair on a tip, found no drugs but discovered the cocaine using drug-revealing chemicals.

Some 7,000 Moscow Jews attended a street festival celebrating Israel’s 56th anniversary. Sunday night’s seven-hour event included music and dance performances and a video link between Moscow and Jerusalem projected on large outdoor screens. Hundreds of police provided security on streets near Moscow’s Choral Synagogue — a few blocks from the Kremlin — that were closed to traffic.

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