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November 22, 2006

Ahmadinejad Dismisses Israeli Threats; Cluster Bombs Under Scrutiny

http://www.jewishjournal.com/world/article/ahmadinejad_dismisses_israeli_threats_cluster_bombs_under_scrutiny_20061123

Ahmadinejad Dismisses Israeli Threats

Iran's president shrugged off Israeli threats to attack his country's nuclear facilities as psychological warfare.

"This is a media campaign, because the Zionist regime is weak. We have faced stronger countries in the past," an official Iranian news agency quoted Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying Monday.

Israeli officials recently have stepped up hints that a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear sites could be launched if diplomatic pressure on Tehran fails to curb its atomic ambitions. Some independent analysts, however, believe Israel does not have the military capability to take on Iran.

Cluster Bombs Under Scrutiny

Israel's military chief suggested cluster bombs were used improperly during this summer's war in Lebanon. Israel used thousands of the air force and artillery munitions against Hezbollah targets during the 34-day campaign, but leftover bomblets have caused civilian casualties since the war ended and drawn international censure. Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, Israel's military chief of staff, said Monday that an investigation is under way.

"There is no doubt that one of the things we wanted to check was how orders were given and carried out," he told Army Radio. "I think we must check whether the instructions were clear. I believe they were."

An Israeli newspaper recently reported that, for budgetary reasons, Israel chose to use U.S.-made cluster bombs rather than a locally produced version, even though the former had a higher "dud" rate and therefore posed more of a threat to civilians.

French Jews Take Stock

The umbrella group of French Jewish organizations held a conference on the state of French Jewry. Featured speakers at the CRIF plenary included philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, who told a crowded amphitheater that even if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were settled, it would not end radical Islamic terrorism. In a discussion on France, speakers were very critical of increasing violence in the French public school system. It was noted that in many suburbs of Paris, few Jewish young people still attend public school because of violence or threats of violence, mainly from African and North African Arab students.

Jewish parents have placed their children in private Jewish schools, many of which were established in the past few years. Community members attending the convention also discussed 2007 elections. Many French Jews are backing the center-right candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy, known as an American-style law-and-order politician.

ADL Demands Probe on Handling of Halimi's Death

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is calling on the French Interior Ministry to investigate the police handling of the murder of Ilan Halimi, a French Jew abducted and murdered by a Muslim gang earlier this year.

Halimi is believed to have been lured to an apartment in the Parisian suburbs last January, where he was kept prisoner for three weeks while his abductors attempted to extract a ransom from the family.

His death prompted a public outcry in France, and tens of thousands of people -- including several public officials -- took to the streets of Paris to rally against racism and anti-Semitism.

ADL national director Abraham Foxman was unable to say precisely where he believed the police, who are holding 18 people in custody in connection with the murder, had failed.

But with Halimi's mother Ruth at his side, he insisted that neighbors in the apartment building where Ilan was held knew of the crime unfolding in their midst and that police should have been able to work faster to save him. "There are a lot of questions that need to be answered," he said.

Foxman's comments came at the tail end of Ruth Halimi's first trip to the United States, in the course of which she was feted at a concert in Washington and honored at a luncheon in New York.

"In a free country like France, one cannot accept the torture Ilan had as a human being, mostly because he was a Jew," Halimi said Thursday.

Speaking through an interpreter, Halimi thanked the Jewish community for its support and urged continued vigilance against anti-Semitism in her country. "We are all responsible for what is going on," Halimi said. "We need to educate children, parents as well, so the other will be the same as one is. "

Choking back tears, Francoic Delattre, France's consul general in New York, cast the issue in even starker terms.

"What is at stake here, my friends, is an existential threat to all of us," said Delattre, who called anti-Semitism "our common enemy" and said France is doing "the best it can" to combat it.

Israeli Ambassador Courts France

Israel's ambassador to France praised French-Israeli relations in his first news conference in Paris. Danny Shek acknowledged media characterizations that relations were in a chilly period, but argued Monday that dialogue between France and Israel in fact is "better than ever before" and that Israel "does not regret the European and French role in the postwar period in southern Lebanon." Shek said, however, that while "the French people know every detail about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they still know little about the make-up of Israel itself." Shek also expressed regret for the comments of Israel's U.N. ambassador, Dan Gillerman, who accused France of "offering flowers to terrorists" by supporting a recent U.N. General Assembly resolution critical of Israeli military actions in Gaza.

AJ Committee Donates to Sderot

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) donated $300,000 to Sderot. The group said in a statement Sunday that the funds will go toward constructing a center that will provide psychological services to the Israeli city's residents. Sderot, which shares a border with the Gaza Strip, is the target of frequent cross-border Palestinian Kassam attacks. The contribution comes from AJC's Israel Emergency Assistance Fund, launched in July, which has raised more than $2 million.

Hebrew University Sets up Grant for Lebanon Reservists

An Israeli university will give grants to its students that served in Lebanon this summer. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has allocated some $280,000 to be distributed to 2,000 of its students who were in reserve military duty for at least 11 days during Israel's monthlong conflict with Hezbollah. The grants will vary according to length of time served, and will be given only to students who are continuing their studies this year.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency

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