April 18, 2002
Bush: PLO Can Have D.C. Office
President Bush waived for six months a law blocking the PLO from having a Washington office. The waiver has been enacted twice a year since 1994, after the signing of the Oslo peace accords. The waiver is routine, but last Tuesday's memo said future waivers would require the Palestinians to live up to their commitments to curb terrorism and incitement. The PLO representative to Washington, Hassan Abdel Rahman, has been working out of his home after the landlord evicted the PLO from its office last week for allegedly failing to pay rent. The PLO claims the landlord is biased against the group. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon canceled plans to visit Washington next week to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference. Instead, Sharon is expected to address the conference via satellite.
Britain Told to Crack Down on Militants
Britain's chief rabbi called for an immediate crackdown on Islamic militants in the country. Britain "has to crack down sharply on people attempting to radicalize the Muslim community," Rabbi Jonathan Sacks told Reuters on Wednesday. The rise in militant Islam "is attributable to a small number of individuals who have come and delivered quite a violent message to impressionable young people."
Germany Releases Tunisian Synagogue Terror Suspect
German officials released a man they had arrested a day earlier in connection with an explosion at a Tunisian synagogue. The man was released Wednesday after being questioned and after his apartment and those of his associates elsewhere in Germany were searched. Prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence to link him to the April 11 explosion , which killed 15 people, 10 of them German tourists. Meanwhile, on Monday night vandals graffitied "Six million were not enough. PLO" on a synagogue in the western German town of Herford.
Travel Advisory for France
The Simon Wiesenthal Center is going the U.S. State Department one better by issuing a travel advisory urging Jewish tourists to exercise "extreme caution" when visiting France and Belgium. In its first such action, the Wiesenthal Center warned that in the past 18 months "there have been over 400 hate crimes against Jewish targets" in Paris and other French cities, including arson attacks against synagogues and beatings of Jewish pedestrians.
Last week alone, 15 hooded attackers, wielding metal bars, assaulted soccer players of a Maccabi youth team in a Paris suburb, while vandals defaced a Jewish cemetery in Strasbourg.
In Belgium, Jews "have been subjected to threats, intimidations and attacks, including a daylight assault on the chief rabbi of Brussels. Many religious Jews no longer feel safe wearing a skullcap in public," the advisory noted. -- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
Germany: Arms Boycott Temporary
Germany's delivery of spare parts for the Israeli military has been only temporarily suspended, according to Germany's foreign minister. Rudolf Scharping told reporters Sunday that Germany had wanted to send a strong message against escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to some media reports, Germany stopped sending military goods to Israel three months ago. In another development, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder renewed his suggestion that German troops be included in any U.N. peacekeeping unit sent to the Middle East.
Jewish Heritage Week Proclaimed
President Bush proclaimed this week as Jewish Heritage Week. In his proclamation, Bush noted the many contributions Jewish Americans have made to the arts, education, industry, science and the American way of life. "The values and traditions of Judaism have contributed greatly to our culture and history; and they have played a major role in the success of our great nation," he said.
Israeli Population at 6.5 Million
On the eve of its 54th Independence Day, Israel's population totals 6.5 million. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, the population has increased eightfold since the establishment of the state in 1948. Of the 5.3 million Jews living in Israel, 63 percent are natives.
Israel accounts for 37 percent of the world's Jewish population, compared to only 6 percent in 1948. Only the United States has a larger Jewish population.
Briefs courtesy of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency