February 13, 2003
Ramon Memorial Service Held
A state memorial service for Israel's first astronaut was held at an air force base near Ben-Gurion Airport. A plane carrying Col. Ilan Ramon's remains from the United States landed Monday and was taken to the base for the ceremony. Israeli President Moshe Katsav and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon were among those participating in the service.
"Your pain is the pain of the whole nation," Sharon told the Ramon family at the service. A private burial service, attended by Ramon's family and close friends, will be held Tuesday at Nahalal, a moshav in northern Israel located near an air base where Ramon served.
Court Leaves Way Open for Sharon Trial
Belgium's Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon cannot be tried while in office for alleged war crimes, but left open the possibility of a trial once he steps down. The court upheld Sharon's diplomatic immunity, but did say that charges could be brought against nonresidents of Belgium. That means that there could be further legal moves once Sharon retires. The court also ruled that investigations could proceed against former Israeli army commander Amos Yaron, who was also named in the original complaint filed with Belgian prosecutors two years ago.
Expanded Benefits for Some Survivors
Some Holocaust survivors will receive an increase in compensation payments as a result of an agreement negotiated Wednesday by the Claims Conference with the German government. The Article 2 Fund, which currently pays more than 46,000 Jewish Holocaust survivors in 40 countries, will now distribute monthly payments of approximately $290, up from about $275, according to the Claims Conference. Monthly payments from the Central and Eastern European Fund, which pays 16,000 people in 23 countries, will increase from about $137 to $145.
The programs are administered by the Claims Conference on behalf of the German government. The negotiations also led to the expansion of eligibility criteria for the two programs. As a result, some 4,000 additional survivors, including some people from Romania, Hungary and some Western European countries, may now get compensation.
Storm Over Quebec Jewish Magazine
The publisher of a Canadian Jewish magazine called Montreal a "fascist and totalitarian" city because of recent anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli incidents. Ghila Sroka, publisher and editor of Quebec's French-language Tribune Juive, wrote in the magazine's recent issue the cover of which read "Montreal: Capital of Palestine" that the city's facade of open-mindedness hides a dark side of anti-Semitism in the trade unions, universities and media. Her comments were criticized both within and without the Jewish community.
"We don't think that Quebec is fascist or anti-Semitic," said Joseph Gabay, president of the Quebec region of the Canadian Jewish Congress. But Gabay did admit that the community was witnessing acts of anti-Semitism. "It's scary, it's becoming worrying. Nobody is hiding," he said, but "the Jewish community cannot stay quiet. There is an ill-smelling smoke over the city and over the country."
Quebec Premier Bernard Landry and Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay both said Sroka crossed a line. "Her language is clearly excessive and unjust for Montreal. It saddens me and I hope that in other texts, her issues will be more measured and in-line," said Landry, who added that he considers Sroka a friend.
A spokesman for Tremblay said, "We must wish that people make efforts to not uselessly aggravate situations and conflicts that are already quite complex."
One-third of Tribune Juive's funding comes from the Quebec government and the separatist Parti Quebecois.
Changes in Mideast Panel
There are several new faces on the Mideast subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives' International Relations Committee. The subcommittee make up, announced Tuesday, now includes new members Nick Smith (R-Mich.), Mike Pence (R-Ind.), Thaddeus G. McCotter (R-Mich.), William Janklow (R-S.D.), Joseph Pitts (R-Penn.) and Katherine Harris (R-Fla.). Chris Bell of Texas is the only new Democrat on the panel. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) will replace retired Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R-N.Y.) as chair of the panel, and Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) will remain the ranking minority member. Reps. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks.) and Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) left the panel to become ranking minority members of other subcommittees.
Briefs Courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.