June 12, 2008
Iran files complaint over Mofaz threat, Hamas claims 2002 bombings
Iran Files Complaint Over Mofaz Threat
Iran filed a U.N. Security Council complaint after an Israeli official threatened to attack its nuclear facilities. Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, a former defense chief, told the daily Yediot Achronot last week that Israel would have no choice but to attack Iran given the failure of U.N. Security Council sanctions in curbing its nuclear program. The comments contributed to a record 9-percent hike in the price of oil, though they were disavowed by Jerusalem. Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Khazaee, wrote to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanding a Security Council condemnation of Israel.
"Such a dangerous threat against a sovereign state and a member of the United Nations constitutes a manifest violation of international law and contravenes the most fundamental principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and, thus, requires a resolute and clear response on the part of the United Nations, particularly the Security Council," Khazaee wrote.
Ban's office had no immediate response.
Egyptian Jews Seek U.N. help
An Egyptian Jewish group asked the United Nations to help it recover the community's historic archives. The Historical Society of Jews from Egypt says the government has refused to release the documents due to fear of restitution claims, the Jerusalem Post reported. The society has written to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization asking it to intervene in the matter.
"It's our history, everything we own going back hundreds and hundreds of years," said Desire Sakkal, the society's president.
The Egyptian Embassy would not comment on the matter. The society's letter was prompted by comments from Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni, who said last month that he "would burn Israeli books myself if found in Egyptian libraries."
Hosni, who hopes to become the next head of UNESCO, subsequently claimed the statement was hyperbole and that he did not condone the burning of books. A UNESCO spokesperson said the organization had not yet received the society's letter and could not comment.
Hamas Claims 2002 Bombings
Hamas claimed responsibility for two Palestinian suicide bombings in Israel in 2002. The Islamist group's armed wing issued a statement over the weekend saying it was behind two suicide bombings that killed 26 Israelis in 2002. The first, in May of that year, took place in a Rishon Lezion pool hall. The second, four months later, was on Tel Aviv's Allenby Street. Israel blamed Hamas for the attacks, but the group declined to confirm its involvement. Both suicide bombers had Jordanian citizenship, suggesting that Hamas wanted to avoid drawing censure from Amman. In its statement, Hamas also claimed responsibility for Hebron-area shootings that killed six Israelis, as well as attempts to bomb a fuel depot and rail line inside the Jewish state.
Diplomat Documents Shanghai Jewish Community
An Israeli diplomat in China is compiling a database of Shanghai's historic Jewish community. The Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum, a former synagogue in the Hangkou District of the city, has begun documenting the influx of tens of thousands of Jews fleeing Nazi persecution in Europe. Many of the refugees were Austrians who received emergency travel visas from Ho Fengshen, the Chinese consul general in Vienna in the late 1930s who ignored orders from Beijing to desist. The database project is being led by Uri Gutman, Israel's consul general in Shanghai, with help from survivors and descendants of the city's Jewish community, most of whom immigrated to Australia, Israel or the United States after World War II.
"This is a vanishing generation," Gutman said.
Playwright Roisman Dead at 70
American poet and playwright Lois Roisman, who wrote frequently on Jewish themes, has died. Roisman, who was active in progressive Jewish causes, died June 2 at her home in Lyme, N.H. She was 70. Roisman's plays included "Nobody's Gilgul," which won the Outstanding New Play award at the 1993 Source Theater Festival in Washington, D.C., and was anthologized in the book "Making A Scene: The Contemporary Drama of Jewish Women." Born in Texas, Roisman lived for many years in Washington before moving to New Hampshire in 1995. She was the founding executive director of Jewish Funds for Justice, a group that sought to expand Jewish philanthropy beyond its traditional concerns. One of its first grants was to a young Chicago activist named Barack Obama.
At the time of her death, Roisman was a research associate at the Brandeis Women's Institute at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., and was completing a series of poems she described as a personal dialogue with the tales of the Chasidim.
British Jewry Increasingly Haredi
One-third of British Jews under age 18 are ultra-Orthodox, according to a new study. A study published Friday by the umbrella group of British Jewry, the Board of Deputies, found that the British haredi community has grown at an annual rate of about 4 percent over the last two decades. The study, by demographers David Graham and Daniel Vulkan, estimates the current size of Britain's "strictly Orthodox" population at between 22,800 and 36,400 people. There are an estimated 300,000 Jews in Britain. Although the ultra-Orthodox represent just 10 percent of the overall Jewish population in the country, one-third of British Jews under age 18 are ultra-Orthodox, the study noted.
"This is an exceptional statistic given the oft-heard assertion that British Jewry, like many Diaspora communities, is in a permanent state of decline," Graham said.
Al-Qaeda Terrorists Arraigned
Five al-Qaeda terrorists accused of involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks refused lawyers at their arraignment. The 10-hour session held Thursday before a military tribunal at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay was the first time the five defendants have been together in the five years since their capture. Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, told the tribunal's chief judge, Marine Col. Ralph Kohlmann, that he wanted to die as a martyr.
The defendants, in refusing their right to counsel, said they only recognized Islamic law. The five, who had been held in secret CIA custody, were transferred to the Cuban military prison in September 2006. Charges include murder and various counts of terrorism. The men were indicted in May. Prosecutors have requested a September start for a trial, though it is likely many more months away.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telgraphic Agency.