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World Briefs

June 13, 2002 | 8:00 pm

Bush Speaks Out for Israel

President Bush spoke out in defense of Israel and reiterated his criticism of Yasser Arafat. "Israel has a right to defend herself," Bush told reporters June 10 as he met in the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Bush again spoke of his disappointment with Arafat's leadership. The preconditions for an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord are not in place, he said, because "no one has confidence in the emerging Palestinian government." White House spokesman Ari Fleischer later said Bush believes diplomatic talks should proceed at the same time as Palestinian reforms. Sharon has demanded reform as a precondition to talks.

UJC Passes Budget

The umbrella group for North American federations passed its 2002 budget. Meeting in Chicago, the board of trustees of the United Jewish Communities (UJC) approved a $42.5 million budget, down from last year's budget of $44.7 million. The new budget includes cuts in UJC's regional staff members.

Ads Show Christians Support Israel

An interfaith group is running an ad campaign underscoring evangelical Christians' support for Israel. "Evangelical Christians are among the strongest supporters of Israel in the world today," says an ad that appeared in the June 11 Washington Post. The campaign is being spearheaded by Stand for Israel, a project of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. Similar ads are planned for other major newspapers and on radio stations.

Jewish Group Plans Armed Patrols

A militant Jewish group, armed with shotguns and other weapons, plans to start patrolling Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn. The little-known Jewish Defense Group is taking the step after a suspected terrorist jailed in Iraq said in a TV interview that the terrorists who carried out the 1993 World Trade Center bombing originally wanted to target Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Rabbi Yakove Lloyd, the founder of the Jewish Defense Group, told The Associated Press that there would be about 50 to 200 people involved in the street patrols, some carrying shotguns in bags, others with bats and pipes. The plan has met with criticism from some local Jews.

Distribution Sped Up for Swiss Claims

A United States-led tribunal is relaxing the standards for paying claims to Jews whose Holocaust-era accounts were frozen by Swiss banks. The Claims Resolution Tribunal also plans to speed up distribution of $800 million from Swiss banks to Holocaust victims and their heirs. The tribunal was set up to help distribute money from a $1.25 billion settlement by Swiss banks. The tribunal said that as of last month, it had received more than 32,000 claims and had paid out $16.9 million in 135 claims.

ZOA Activists Visit D.C.

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) held a pro-Israel lobbying mission on Capitol Hill. ZOA activists visited Washington June 11 and 12. The 250 activists urged officials to stop pressuring Israel, cut diplomatic relations with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and end all U.S. aid to the Palestinians.

Shoah Art Travels Into Space

An Israeli astronaut plans to bring a Holocaust-era drawing with him into space. Col. Ilan Ramon contacted Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial requesting an item from the Holocaust to take with him when he blasts off July 19 aboard a NASA space shuttle. Yad Vashem chose "Moon Landscape," a drawing by Peter Ginz, a 14-year-old Jewish boy, created during his incarceration in the Terezin transit camp. Ginz was later killed in Auschwitz.

Senate Passes Mideast Aid Bill

The U.S. Senate passed an anti-terrorism bill that includes additional aid for Israel and the Palestinians. The $31.5 billion bill provides $200 million for Israel, as well as $50 million earmarked for the United States Agency for International Development to distribute in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The bill now heads to conference committee, where it will be negotiated against a House version.

New Deadline for French Bank Claims

The United States and France extended by six months the deadline for Jewish claims against French banks. The claims may be filed by Jews who say their accounts were frozen during the Nazi occupation of France. The new deadline is Jan. 18, 2003.

ADL: Anti-Semitism on Rise

A new Anti-Defamation League (ADL) survey shows an increase in American anti-Semitism in the wake of Sept. 11.

The survey by ADL and Marttila Communications, called "Anti-Semitism in America: 2002," is based on interviews with 1,000 Americans of different ethnic, religious, age and regional backgrounds. The margin of error was 3 percent.

The interviews were held in late April and early May, just after the Israeli army's controversial incursion into the Jenin refugee camp.

Among the survey's most dramatic findings: 17 percent of respondents were "strongly" anti-Semitic, a 5 percent increase from 1998, while 48 percent appeared to hold no prejudice at all, a 5 percent decrease from 1998.

Briefs by Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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