July 3, 2003
Poraz: Recognize Conversions
Non-Orthodox conversions should be recognized in Israel, Israel's interior minister said. Avraham Poraz said Monday that the current situation -- in which Reform and Conservative conversions conducted abroad are recognized, while those performed in Israel are not -- is absurd.
Israel Cuts Ties With BBC
Israel cut off ties with the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) to protest its broadcast of a program on nonconventional weapons said to be in Israel. The boycott decision was in response to the rebroadcast of the program, which Israel claimed was biased and disregarded the threats the country faces.
Under the decision made by a forum with representation from the Prime Minister's Office, the Foreign Ministry and Government Press Office, Israel said government offices would not cooperate with BBC producers and reporters, that Israeli officials would not give interviews to the British network and that BBC employees would face difficulties obtaining press cards and visas in Israel, the daily Ha'aretz reported.
Cease-Fire at the Zoo
An Israeli zoo is sending four baboons looking for love to a Palestinian zoo. The four baboons were apparently getting into fights for mates at the Rishon le-Zion animal park, due to a shortage of available females, the daily Ma'ariv reported. After brief negotiations, the management decided to send the primates to the zoo in the West Bank city of Kalkilya, where their luck might change.
Buddy Hackett Dead At 78
Buddy Hackett, a Jewish comedian who got his start on the Borscht Belt circuit, died overnight Sunday in Los Angeles at 78. Hackett was best known for his rubbery face and his numerous television appearances in the 1950s and 1960s. He also starred on Broadway and in Hollywood films. He was known for his imitation of a Chinese waiter and for poking fun at himself for being short, fat and Jewish. Hackett, who was born Leonard Hacker in Brooklyn, is survived by his wife, a son and two daughters.
Charity Added to E.U. Terror List
The European Union added a Palestinian charity to its list of terrorist organizations. Monday's action followed a decision by the Netherlands to freeze accounts belonging to the group, Al Aqsa Netherlands. The group is believed to fund some of Hamas' activities and to help the families of suicide bombers. Al Aqsa Netherlands denies the charges.
Pakistan to Recognize Israel?
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf urged his country to consider recognizing Israel.
Such a move "should be seriously thought over. The media should have an open debate on this," Musharraf said in an interview aired Sunday over the private Geo Television channel. "I have been saying, 'Should we be more Catholic than the pope or more Palestinian than the Palestinians themselves?'"
N.J Poet Canned
New Jersey lawmakers voted to eliminate the position of poet laureate after the current holder, who suggested that Israel carried out the Sept. 11 attacks, refused to leave the post. The state Assembly on Tuesday approved a bill cutting the $10,000 stipend for the post after Amiri Baraka refused calls by Gov. James McGreevy to resign, The Associated Press reported. Baraka, who as a black radical in the 1960s, espoused anti-Semitic views, stirred controversy after taking the job last July with his poem, "Somebody Blew Up America." It reads, in part: "Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed/Who told 4,000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers/To stay home that day/Why did Sharon stay away?" a reference to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Baraka, who says his poem criticizes anti-Semitism, posted an entry on his Web site this month about a recent scandal at The New York Times involving a reporter who fabricated and plagiarized material. The posting accuses Sharon of being unhappy with the paper for "not being the New York Zions" and refers to "supposedly crypto-Zionists doped up on being Satanic Insiders." Baraka has threatened to sue the state for slander and for violating his First Amendment free speech rights, but McGreevy said he will sign the bill.
Jews Mixed on Gay Ruling
Jews from across the denominational spectrum greeted the Supreme Court's rejection of prohibitions on gay sex with mixed emotions. Liberal rabbis embraced the high court's reversal June 26 of a 17-year-old decision allowing states to punish acts such as sodomy, ruling that homosexuals have a right to privacy.
"It's one step farther out of Egypt and one step closer to the Promised Land," said Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of the independent Congregation Beth Simchat Torah of New York, one of the country's largest synagogues for gays and lesbians.
But David Zweibel, executive vice president for government and public affairs for Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox group, blasted the ruling, saying it threatens to topple laws against incest, prostitution and other immoral acts.
"What happened today is the harbinger of challenges of laws that are designed to promote a vision of sexual morality," he said.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.