June 20, 2002
AJ Congress Halts France Trips
The American Jewish Congress (AJCongress) suspended its tour programs to France. The group said in an ad in Monday's New York Times that it took the move because the French government is not doing enough to crack down on anti-Semitic violence. Last year, the AJCongress sent about 600 people to France on educational tours involving sites of Jewish interest.
Status of Rabbi's Patrols Uncertain
A militant rabbi decided not to launch armed patrols in Jewish sections of Brooklyn. "The response was so overwhelmingly negative, but God forbid anything should happen, and then I'll have to say, 'I told you so,'" Rabbi Yakove Lloyd said Sunday. However, in an interview with JTA, Lloyd vowed to put the patrols on the streets Sunday, June 23 despite police threats that they would be arrested.
First Ladies Weigh in on Middle East
First Lady Laura Bush criticized Israel's plans to build a fence along the border with the West Bank. "I don't think a fence will be some long-lasting sign of peace," she said Monday in a radio interview. "Right now, there is a huge barrier of hate and distrust between all the parties in the Middle East. I hope they can tear that barrier down."
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Cherie Blair, wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, sympathized with Palestinian suicide bombers, calling their attacks a symptom of despair. "As long as young people feel they have got no hope but to blow themselves up you are never going to make progress," Blair said Tuesday during an appearance with Jordan's Queen Rania to support a $750,000 charity appeal for Medical Aid for Palestinians. Later Tuesday, a spokeswoman for Blair issued an apology. "If any offense has been taken from the interpretation of her comments, then Mrs. Blair is obviously sorry," the spokeswoman said. "She did not, and never would she, ever condone suicide bombers."
Turner: Both Sides Are Terrorists
Media mogul Ted Turner said both Israel and the Palestinians are engaged in terrorism. "The Palestinians are fighting with human suicide bombers. That's all they have," the founder of CNN and vice chairman of AOL Time Warner, which owns CNN, said in an interview with the London Guardian newspaper. Israel, he added has "one of the most powerful military machines in the world," while the Palestinians "have nothing. So who are the terrorists? I would make a case that both sides are involved in terrorism."
Israeli government spokesman Daniel Seaman lambasted Turner's comments. "My only advice to Ted Turner is if people assume you are stupid, it is just best to keep your mouth shut rather than open your mouth and confirm everyone in that view," Seaman told the newspaper. Andrea Levin, director of the pro-Israel media watchdog group CAMERA, called the remarks a "reprehensible" attempt to "blur the line between perpetrator and victim."
E.U. Blacklists Palestinian Groups
E.U. foreign ministers added three Palestinian groups to its list of terror organizations. Following Monday's move, the 15 E.U. member states must freeze the assets of the Al-Aksa Brigade, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Palestine Liberation Front. The United States has been pressing the European Union to take a tougher line against Palestinian terrorism. But diplomats said the move was largely symbolic, because none of the groups is thought to have significant assets in Europe.
Is Arafat Corrupt?
Yasser Arafat pocketed more than $5 million in foreign aid intended for needy Palestinians, according to the Al-Watan, a Kuwaiti newspaper. The article said that Arafat diverted aid money from Arab states that was earmarked for Palestinians who lost homes during Israel's anti-terror operation in the West Bank this spring. Meanwhile, Arafat himself criticized U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice after she called the Palestinian Authority "corrupt." "She does not have the right to put or impose orders on us about what to do or not to do," Arafat said Monday. Rice, in a weekend interview with the San Jose Mercury News, said a Palestinian state should not be based on Arafat's Palestinian Authority, which she said is "corrupt and cavorts with terror."
Israel to Fight Mad Cow Disease
The Israeli Cabinet approved more than $3 million to fight an outbreak of mad cow disease. The government took the move Sunday after an outbreak of the disease was found earlier this month at a farm in the Golan Heights.
Le Pen Party Fails to Win Seat
Jean-Marie Le Pen's political party failed to gain any seats in elections for the French Parliament. The failure by the far-right National Front in Sunday's elections came two months after Le Pen qualified for the runoff in France's presidential elections, which he later lost. French President Jacques Chirac's conservative party swept to an overwhelming victory in Sunday's vote, which saw a record low turnout.
Bets Placed on Next Attack Site
Israeli police are investigating reports that an illegal Israeli gambling ring is taking bets on where the next Palestinian suicide bomber will strike. The ring, which operates in the town of Kiryat Malachi, is distributing betting sheets with the odds for various locations, according to the reports.
Briefs by Jewish Telegraphic Agency.