March 6, 2003
Mofaz: Army Avoids Harming Innocent Civilians
The Israeli army does not know of a pregnant woman killed during a military raid in the Gaza Strip this week, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Tuesday. Mofaz was responding to a question during a Cabinet meeting from Justice Minister Yosef "Tommy" Lapid regarding deaths of civilians during the recent raid. Mofaz said the army makes every effort to avoid harming innocent civilians during military operations. He added that whenever there are civilian casualties, a review is conducted that reaches the army chief of staff. The pregnant woman was killed when Israel demolished the home of a militant who lived next door, causing the woman's house to collapse as well. The United States and Britain questioned the actions of the Israeli army in the wake of Monday's raid in Gaza, in which at least eight Palestinians were killed.
Religious Reforms Spark Protest by NRP
Israel's ultra-Orthodox political parties are vowing to wage a fierce battle against religious reforms outlined in the new government's coalition agreements.
The National Religious Party came under particular criticism for agreeing to the reforms, which include the dismantling of the Religious Affairs Ministry and local religious councils, and arrangements for civil marriage for couples not allowed to wed under Jewish religious law.
United Torah Judaism said the "secular revolution," as it is referred to in the media, is "doomed to fail."
Arafat Calls on Saddam for Help in Fighting Israel
Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat asked Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein for continued help in fighting Israel.
"Any kind of support and assistance from you in these difficult times will enable us to continue our persistence and resistance," Arafat wrote in a letter earlier this month to Saddam, according to the Washington- based Middle East Media Research Institute. "Hand in hand," Iraq and the Palestinians will march to Jerusalem, Arafat added.
Arafat also wished Saddam well as a U.S.-led war against Iraq looms: "May Allah the Powerful protect Iraq from the great dangers and evils that loom over it."
Patriots to Be Deployed
In a possible sign of an approaching U.S. attack on Iraq, Israel began deploying Patriot missiles in the Tel Aviv area on Tuesday. The Patriots are to serve as a backup in case Israel's Arrow anti-missile system fails to intercept any missiles Iraq may fire on Israel. Meanwhile, an Israeli defense official said the chances of Iraq attacking Israel are slight. The source said there is no intelligence information that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein plans to launch missiles at Israel in response to an American military strike, the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot reported.
Seven Families Sue Arafat in French Court
Seven French families living in Israel are suing Yasser Arafat in a French court.
The families, relatives of those killed or injured by Palestinian terrorism during the current intifada, are suing the Palestinian Authority president for sponsoring genocide and crimes against humanity.
House Calles Home Demolitions Controversial
The U.S. State Department said Monday it is "deeply concerned" about Israel's practice of demolishing the homes of Palestinian terrorists.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that while the United States understands Israel's need to defend itself, the civilian deaths that have resulted from the house demolitions have alarmed U.S. officials.
"Demolition of civilian structures deprives Palestinians of shelter and the ability to peacefully earn a livelihood," Boucher said.
"It exacerbates the humanitarian situation inside the Palestinian areas and makes more difficult the critical challenge of bringing about an end to violence and the restoration of calm."
On Monday, Israeli soldiers demolished the home of a Palestinian who drove the suicide bomber who carried out the "Passover Massacre" bombing in March 2002 that killed 29 people sitting down to a Passover seder.
UJC's Washington Head Leaving Post
Diana Aviv, the vice president for public policy at the United Jewish Communities (UJC) and the group's chief Washington lobbyist, will leave her post in June.
Aviv, who heads the UJC's Washington office, will serve as president and CEO of Independent Sector, a coalition of foundations and nonprofit groups.
She said she was leaving to take advantage of an opportunity to do some "transformative" work.
Aviv went to Washington in 1994 to head the Washington office of the Council of Jewish Federations, which later merged with the United Jewish Appeal to form the UJC. "We've broadened the agenda" of the Washington office, she said, noting that its focus 10 years ago was almost exclusively on refugee issues.
Rep. Cantor Named to Holocaust Council
Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the only Jewish member of the House Republican caucus, was named to the U.S. Holocaust Museum Council.
The appointment was made last week by House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). Cantor said he hopes to help advance the Washington-based museum's goals -- "to educate visitors about this unprecedented tragedy, to preserve the memory of those who suffered, and to encourage the museum's visitors to reflect on the questions raised by the events of the Holocaust."
Man Sentenced for Shul Attack
A 22-year-old man was sentenced to up to four years in a U.S. prison for his role in a failed Yom Kippur Eve synagogue bombing.
Mohammed Alfakih was sentenced Feb. 26 for throwing two Molotov cocktails at Congregation Adath Israel in the Bronx on Oct. 8, 2000. One of his co-defendants, Mazin Assi, was convicted of attempted arson and weapons possession. He faces up to 22 years in prison when he is sentenced next month.
Religious Leaders: Shun Terror
Religious leaders should not condone terrorism, the Vatican and Israel's Chief Rabbinate said in a joint declaration. According to the joint statement, released Monday, committing violence in God's name is a "profanation of religion."
The statement came after Vatican officials and Israeli religious leaders met last week near Rome.
Blair: Britain Backs Israel
British Prime Minister Tony Blair reaffirmed his country's support for Israel.
Following several months of tense relations between the two countries, Blair recently told the annual dinner of the Community Security Trust, a British Jewish security organization, that Britain "is a strong and close friend of Israel, not a fair weather friend."
Blair also reiterated his commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
London Gets an Eruv
London's first large-scale eruv becomes operational this Shabbat after 13 years of planning. The eruv provides a boundary that enables observant Jews to carry some items and push baby carriages within its perimeter on the Sabbath.
The boundary covers an 11-mile area that includes much of London's most heavily Jewish neighborhood.
Vienna U. Appointment Creates Stir
A controversy has been sparked by the appointment of a man with alleged neo-Nazi leanings to the board of Vienna University. Friedrich Stefan made no secret of his extremist leanings, according to Profil magazine. A spokeswoman of the university's student union charged that Stefan had "repeatedly committed himself to Nazism."
Briefs courtesy of Jewish Telegraphic Agency.