January 1, 2004
Swastikas a Felony in N.Y?
A bill that would make swastika graffiti a felony was introduced in the New York state assembly. The bill, which would make the crime punishable by one to four years in jail, was introduced earlier this month following several anti-Semitic acts in Brooklyn and Queens in the past two months, the Brooklyn Papers newspaper chain reported. Such graffiti currently is considered a misdemeanor
Israel Targeted at U.N.
Syria offered a U.N. Security Council resolution to rid the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction. The resolution, which comes after Libya's recent commitment to end its WMD programs, is a veiled attempt to target Israel, U.N. diplomats say. It's unclear, however, whether the resolution offered Monday will come to a vote.
"In terms of the U.S. position, obviously we share the same goal of a weapons-free zone for the Middle East" as for "any other zone in the world," said Richard Grenell, spokesman for the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. But "trying to score political points in the Security Council by highlighting or beating up on one country is not helpful.''
Syria is in its final days on the Security Council as a rotating representative of the Arab group.
U.S. Presses for Deportation
The U.S. Justice Department is seeking to revoke the citizenship of a World War II- era ghetto guard. Osyp Firishchak, 84, a Chicago resident, is accused of involvement in the killing of Jews in the Lvov Ghetto through his participation in the Nazi-sponsored Ukranian Auxiliary Police in 1941.
He rounded up Jews, imprisoned them in ghettos, terrorized them, oversaw forced labor, killed those attempting to escape and sent others to mass execution, according to a complaint filed Monday by the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations. The auxiliary police is responsible for sending 100,000 Jews in Lvov to killing sites, including the Belzec death camp. Firishchak entered the United States in 1949 and became a citizen in 1954.
Jew to Head Chilean Court
A Jewish judge was made president of Chile's Supreme Court. Judge Marcos Libedinsky, 70, was elected the new president of Chile's Supreme Court of Justice with 16 of 20 total votes. Libedinsky, who is open about his Jewish background, will start his two-year rule on Jan. 6. Chilean papers praised Libedinsky, saying he is distinguished by his leadership capacity.
Prague Memorial Delayed
Red tape apparently is holding up plans for a memorial to mark one of Europe's oldest Jewish burial sites. The 750-year-old site on Prague's Vladislavova Street attracted international headlines several years ago after Orthodox groups dedicated to preserving Jewish heritage in Europe staged a series of protests against the construction of an office and garages on top of hundreds of Jewish graves.
In 2000, the Czech government brokered a deal with local and international Jewish representatives and an insurance company developing the land, allowing construction to proceed as long as the remains were left undisturbed.
Ukraine to Pay Up
Ukraine will pay more than $7.5 million to the families of 40 Israelis who died when a missile hit a passenger plane in 2001. A stray missile fired during a military exercise hit the Russian airliner on Oct. 4, 2001, killing 78 people aboard.
Among them were 40 Israelis, many on their way to Russia to visit family. In the agreement ratified Dec. 25 by Ukraine's Parliament, the 101 relatives of the Israeli dead will receive nearly $200,000 each.
Border Spies Held
Two Arab residents of a town on Israel's border with Lebanon are being held as Hezbollah spies. On Tuesday, Israel's Shin Bet domestic security service announced the arrests in Ghajar, whose Alawite townspeople enjoy Israeli residency rights but largely vow allegiance to Lebanon or Syria.
Bisected by the border set after Israeli forces withdrew from southern Lebanon in May 2000, Ghajar is a site of regular drug and arms smuggling. The Shin Bet said the two arrested are suspected of giving Hezbollah information on Israeli military deployment in exchange for
Israel Budget Crunch
Israel's finance minister yielded on some funding demands as Israel's 2004 budget deadline looms. Israeli media said Tuesday that Benjamin Netanyahu had agreed to a Shinui Party demand for $45million in assistance for university tuition. Around the same amount will go to grants for yeshivas, new immigrants and settlement security, as requested by the National Religious Party and the National Union bloc.
Wednesday is the deadline for passing the $59 billion budget, which includes sweeping public-spending cuts drafted by Netanyahu.
Egyptian Rips Arafat
An Egyptian editor criticized Yasser Arafat for last week's attack in Jerusalem on Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher. Newspaper editor Ibrahim Sa'ada wrote that he didn't appreciate the Palestinian Authority president's attempt to blame the Dec. 21 attack on Maher at Jerusalem's Al Aksa Mosque on a fringe group of extremists.
Mexican Jews' New Leader
One of Mexico's central Jewish organizations elected a new leader for 2004- 2005. Benjamin Speckman, a longtime Jewish activist who chairs the financial committee of the World Maccabi Union and is a former vice president of the Maccabi Latin American Confederation, recently was elected leader of the Jewish Central Committee of Mexico's Council of Presidents (JCCM).
Founded in 1938, the JCCM acts as the representative body of Mexico's 40,000-strong Jewish community. The organization's main objective is to promote cordial and open relations with the Mexican government and with other Jewish communities around the world.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.