April 3, 2008
Briefs: U.S. House recognizes Jewish refugees from Arab lands, Woody Allen sues American Apparel
Woody Allen is suing a clothing company for advertisements showing the actor dressed as a rabbi. Allen filed a $10 million lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan against American Apparel Inc. for using an image from one of the filmmaker's movies of him dressed as a rabbi. The text of the billboard and online ads, which were published without Allen's consent, read "The Holy Rebbe" in Yiddish.
The billboards were put up last May in New York and Hollywood. Allen does not commercially endorse any products in the United States, the suit said.
House Recognizes Jews From Arab lands
The U.S. House of Representatives recognized the rights of Jewish refugees from Arab lands in any final peace deal.
The nonbinding resolution, backed by a bipartisan slate of lawmakers, passed in a voice vote Tuesday. It urges any U.S. government to ensure that the rights of such refugees -- believed to number approximately 850,000 -- are part of a final peace deal between Israel and the Arabs.
Pro-Palestinian groups criticized the legislation as undermining the claims of Palestinian refugees, but U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, (D-N.Y.), the legislation's lead sponsor, rejected such claims.
"This should not be an impediment to the peace process in any way," Nadler said in a conference call Wednesday. "It is important to raise the question of Jewish refugees and the property left behind in Arab countries. It does not in any way say that the rights of Palestinian refugees should not be handled."
Stanley Urman, the executive director of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, the Jewish group that led the lobbying effort for the resolution, said it "restored truth to the Middle East narrative."
Leading Pennsylvania Jews Endorse Obama
A group of prominent Pennsylvania Jews endorsed Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in advance of the state's April 22 primary.
In a letter to the state's Jewish community, about 60 Jewish supporters of Obama, including some politicians, rabbis and community leaders, dismissed concerns raised about the candidate's commitment to Israel, praised his response to the controversial statements of his pastor and urged them to support the Illinois lawmaker in the Democratic primary.
Among the signatories were two Jewish Montgomery County Pennsylvania legislators -- Reps. Josh Shapiro and Daylin Leach.
"Senator Obama has earned our respect and gratitude because of his support for traditional Jewish values and his commitment to a peaceful and prosperous Israel," the letter said.
The letter also lauded Obama's recent speech in which he repudiated the views of his controversial pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., and compared support for Obama to Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel's famous description of marching for civil rights in Selma as "praying with his feet."
"We have each chosen to pray with our feet and stand with Barack Obama because he is sensitive to the issues of the Jewish community and a stalwart supporter of Israel," the letter said.
Jewish Clinton Backers Warn Pelosi on Meddling
Twelve of the 20 Clinton backers who warned Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco)to keep out of the Democratic presidential primaries are Jewish.
The 20 signatories to the letter sent recently to Pelosi, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, are major donors to the Democratic Party and strong supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). The donors were incensed by a March 16 interview in which Pelosi said that party "superdelegates" should heed the will of the majority in selecting a candidate.
Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has a nearly insurmountable lead in the pledged delegate count and in the popular vote. But he cannot lock up the nomination because 800 delegates -- split between elected officials and local party leaders, including a handful of party elders -- have unpledged "superdelegate" status. Early counts showed the superdelegates leaning to Clinton, although in recent months some have switched to Obama as he has taken the lead among pledged delegates.
The donors' letter appears to warn Pelosi that she could lose their support in important congressional elections.
"We have been strong supporters of the DCCC," it says, referring to the Democratic congressional elections campaign. "Superdelegates, like all delegates, have an obligation to make an informed, individual decision about whom to support and who would be the party's strongest nominee," it says. "Both campaigns agree that at the end of the primary contests neither will have enough pledged delegates to secure the nomination. In that situation, superdelegates must look to not one criterion but to the full panoply of factors that will help them assess who will be the party's strongest nominee in the general election."
In a statement, Pelosi's office responded: "The speaker believes it would do great harm to the Democratic Party if superdelegates are perceived to overturn the will of the voters. This has been her position throughout this primary season, regardless of who was ahead at any particular point in delegates or votes."
The donors' letter was revealed by Talkingpointsmemo.com, an investigative news Web site. Among the 20 signatories are Haim Saban, the Israeli-born entertainment magnate who is a funder of Middle East peace initiatives; Sim Farar, a media investor known for his closeness to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.); Mark Aronchick, a top Philadelphia lawyer; and Alan Patricof, a new media investor.
Report: Settlement Building up Since Annapolis
Jewish construction in the West Bank and Jerusalem has increased since Annapolis, a Peace Now report found. Although Israel promised to freeze construction in the settlements at the Annapolis peace conference in November 2007, the left-wing organization said in its report released Monday that the construction has continued and increased.
Construction has taken place in 101 settlements, excluding East Jerusalem, in the past four months, according to the report. About 275 new buildings were started since Annapolis, with 20 percent of the construction taking place east of the national security fence. In addition, the Defense Ministry has approved plans for the construction of 946 units. In eastern Jerusalem, tenders for the construction of 750 housing units were granted after the summit, while in the year before the summit only 46 housing units were approved.
The report also found that there was construction in 58 "illegal outposts," including 16 permanent structures, and that none were evacuated.