May 29, 2003
Chandra Levy Laid to Rest
A private Jewish burial was held for Chandra Levy in California. Between 75 and 100 people attended the service, which was held just days after Washington police turned over Levy's remains to her family. The case of Levy, who disappeared in April 2001 in Washington at the age of 24, received widespread media attention because of speculation that she was having an affair with then-Rep. Gary Condit (D-Calif.). Condit has denied the affair. Her body was found in a Washington park in May 2002.
Burns, Abrams Heading to Region
Two senior U.S. envoys will travel to the Middle East to lay the groundwork for an Israeli-Palestinian summit. William Burns, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, and Elliott Abrams, senior director of Near Eastern affairs at the National Security Council, are expected to leave Wednesday morning for the region, sources told JTA. They will prepare for a meeting in the region next week involving President Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, as well as a likely second meeting between Bush and Arab leaders. Sources say Bush will press Arab leaders to support Abbas and play a larger role in furthering peace efforts.
Amnesty Report Slams Israel, Palestinians
Both Israel and the Palestinians are committing war crimes, according to Amnesty International. The group's annual report cited what it termed Israel's unlawful killings, obstruction of medical assistance and targeting of medical personnel, extensive and wanton destruction of property, torture and cruel and inhuman treatment, unlawful confinement and the use of human shields. The group also cited armed Palestinian groups for deliberate targeting of civilians and the Palestinian Authority for arresting scores of people for political reasons, even executing some of them. The report also criticized the U.S.-led crackdown on terror, saying it has made the world a more dangerous place.
France to Study Head Coverings
France is establishing a parliamentary commission to examine the possibility of outlawing the wearing of religious symbols in public schools. The issue has split France's Jewish community. French Chief Rabbi Joseph Sitruk calling on the government to allow students to attend classes wearing Muslim scarves, crosses or yarmulkes, but the president of the CRIF organization of secular French Jews, Roger Cukierman, said he personally supports a ban.
Group Helps Quake Victims
The American Jewish World Service is collecting money for victims of last week's earthquake in Algeria. More than 2,000 died and more than 9,000 were wounded in the quake, which was followed by a strong aftershock Tuesday.
Contributions can be sent to: American Jewish World Service, Algeria Earthquake, 45 W. 36th St., 10th Fl., New York, NY 10018; or visit the Web site at www.ajws.org.
She's a Mystical Girl
Madonna reportedly is funding a new building for the London Kabbalah Centre. The singer, who in recent years has become a student of Jewish mysticism, and her husband, film director Guy Ritchie, donated nearly $6 million to help the center move into a 10,000-square-foot building.
Israel Boycotts Belgian Court
Israel plans to boycott all future proceedings of a lawsuit filed in Belgium against a senior government official for alleged war crimes. A Belgian court is set to rule next month in a lawsuit filed against Gen. Amos Yaron for alleged war crimes in a 1982 massacre by Lebanese militiamen of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps during the Lebanon War. Israel says Belgium's universal jurisdiction law is heavily politicized. Belgium recently amended its laws so that suits against defendants who come from democratic countries where they could receive a fair trial could be returned to those countries. Using that argument, a lawsuit against the first President Bush and other U.S. officials over the 1991 Persian Gulf War was sent to U.S. courts but the suit against Yaron is still proceeding in Belgium, which Israeli officials say is discriminatory. Yaron, who at the time of the massacre commanded Israeli forces in Beirut, today is director general of Israel's Defense Ministry.
Australia May Ban Hezbollah
Australia may list Hezbollah as a terrorist group. Australia currently follows a U.N. terror list, but the country's attorney general says the list is inadequate because it only includes organizations linked to Al-Qaeda. Individuals linked to terrorist groups may be prosecuted under Australian law.
Israel Chairs Disarmament Parley
Israel chaired a major international meeting for what is believed to be the first time. Ya'akov Levy, permanent representative of Israel to the U.N. Office in Geneva, opened Tuesday's Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. In protest, several Muslim countries sent lower-level representatives to the meeting, and two delegations sat in the gallery instead of behind their country's nameplates, but no one walked out of the meeting. The conference is the forum for negotiating disarmament treaties.
Belarus Memorial Defaced
The main Holocaust memorial in Belarus was desecrated. On Monday, swastikas and such slogans as "Holocaust 2003" and "Kill the Kikes" were found on the memorial in the capital of Minsk, according to NCSJ: Advocates on Behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States and Eurasia. Police are investigating the incident.
State Workers Covered By Leave
Jewish groups are praising a Supreme Court ruling that state employees are protected by the Family and Medical Leave Act. The court found that state employees have the right to 12 weeks of leave per year for the birth or adoption of a child or to care for an elderly relative. Several Jewish groups including the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and National Council of Jewish Women had joined a brief by the National Women's Law Center arguing that the law protected state employees from gender discrimination in hiring because it allows both male and female employees to take leave.
Illegal Palestinians Arrested in Sweep
During a 24-hour sweep, Israeli police arrested more than 1,000 Palestinians who were in Israel illegally. Twenty of them were brought before a military court for a trial, and the rest were returned Tuesday to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Two of the detainees possessed forged Israeli identity cards they said they had purchased in the territories. Twenty-three Israelis were also detained for transporting the Palestinians and giving them a place to sleep.
Knesset Votes on Economic Austerity Plan
Israel's Knesset was expected to give final approval Wednesday to the Treasury's economic austerity plan. The vote follows nearly two days of marathon debate and a mass protest in the capital against the reforms. The plan, which prompted a four-day general strike earlier this month, calls for large-scale budget cuts in the public sector.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency