Barack Obama, the Illinois senator vying for the Democratic presidential candidacy, addressed growing controversy over strong criticisms of U.S. foreign policy by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who recently retired as the pastor of his Chicago church. Wright has blamed U.S. foreign policy and support for Israel for the anti-Americanism that culminated in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
"The remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial," Obama said Tuesday in a speech in Philadelphia aimed at quelling the debate over his relationship with Wright. "They weren't simply a religious leader's effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country -- a view that sees white racism as endemic and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam."
Obama nonetheless stood by his closeness to Wright, urging Americans to understand the wholeness of the relationship.
"The truth is, that isn't all that I know of the man," he said. "The man I met more than 20 years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another, to care for the sick and lift up the poor."
Merkel Makes Historic Knesset Address
Germany's chancellor in a historic address to the Knesset said Israel and Germany will always be linked by the Holocaust.
"The Shoah fills us Germans with shame," Angela Merkel said Tuesday in German. "I bow to the victims. I bow to the survivors and to all those who helped them survive."
Merkel, who thanked the Knesset for allowing her to speak in her native tongue, is the first head of a German government to speak before the Israeli parliament. She spoke of Iran's nascent nuclear program, saying it is a danger to regional security.
"It's not the world that must prove to Iran that Iran is building the nuclear bomb," she said. "Iran must convince the world it does not want the nuclear bomb."
Merkel said the Iranian president's threats to Israel are a cause for concern. Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu told Merkel before she began, "Some MKs are not here today; their pain is understandable." Several lawmakers, including Shelly Yachimovich of the Labor Party and Aryeh Eldad of the National Union-National Religious Party, said they would boycott the address.
Merkel began her Knesset visit by having lunch with Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, at which she said Germany would work to return two Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah.
Argentine Jews Remember Bombing
Argentine Jews marked the 16th anniversary of the Israeli Embassy bombing in Buenos Aires. Twenty-nine people were killed on March 17, 1992, in an attack that has been blamed on Hezbollah, a terrorist group supported by Iran, and supposedly masterminded by Imad Mughniyeh, who was assassinated 40 days ago.
During Sunday's ceremony at the Plaza Embajada de Israel, where the former embassy was located, Israeli Public Security Minister Avi Dichter demanded worldwide action against Tehran's terrorist politics. Argentina's Justice Minister Anibal Fernandez called the investigation "shameless."
No one has been tried in court for the attack.
In a news conference before the tribute, Dichter pointed out the dangerous presence of a Hezbollah organization near Argentina's border with Brazil and Paraguay. Argentine Jewish leaders expressed their displeasure about the lack of resolution in the case.
Wiesel Declines Israel's 60th Honor
Elie Wiesel will not participate in the ceremony to open Israel's 60th Independence Day. The Nobel Prize-winner and author of more than 40 books on the topic of the Holocaust declined the invitation to light a torch in the official ceremony at the Western Wall because he has already committed himself to three appearances that day, according to a Ha'aretz report.
Chasidic Actor Quits Portman Movie
A Chasidic actor cast as Natalie Portman's husband quit the movie after his community objected. Abe Karpen, a cabinet salesman from Brooklyn, N.Y., filmed a scene last week with Portman for "New York I Love You," which features 12 short love stories, according to the Associated Press. A rabbi raised objections and Karpen quit.
Facebook Lists West Bank Towns as Israel
A group of Israelis persuaded Facebook to list their West Bank hometowns as Israel rather than "Palestine." Residents of Ariel, Maale Adumim and other large West Bank settlements, angered when Facebook switched their country of residence to "Palestine," lodged protests with the social networking Web site. They noted that they are citizens of Israel and no Palestinian state exists.
Facebook informed Reuters this week that it would allow users who live in major settlements to list their countries as Israel.
In response, a group of pro-Palestinian Facebook users threatened to cancel their accounts if the "Palestine" rubric is removed.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.