May 18, 2006
Nation & World Briefs
Israel Upholds Contested Immigration Law
Israeli Arabs are upset after Israel's top court upheld a controversial law that prevents Palestinians married to Israeli Arabs from living in Israel.
By a vote of 6-5, the High Court of Justice on Sunday rejected petitions filed against the Citizenship and Entry Law.
While acknowledging that the law violates the human rights of the thousands of Israeli Arabs married to Palestinians, the High Court said national security must take precedence.
At least one of the Palestinian suicide bombers to have struck since 2000 was a resident of Israel through marriage, and Israeli Jews are all the more suspicious of Palestinians since they voted in a Hamas government earlier this year.
"The Palestinian Authority is an enemy government, a government that wants to destroy the country and is unwilling to recognize Israel," Justice Mishael Cheshin wrote.
But Israeli Arabs, who make up 20 percent of the country's population, voiced their opposition to the decision.
"On this day, the High Court effectively approved the most racist legislation in the State of Israel: legislation which bars the unification of families on the basis of national belonging: Arab Palestinian," Adalah, the legal center for Arab minority rights in Israel, said in a statement.
Adalah likened the ruling, which means that many Israeli Arabs will either have to live apart from their Palestinian spouses or move to the West Bank or Gaza Strip, to South Africa under apartheid. Israeli officials have long rejected such comparisons as false, given the open conflict with the Palestinians and other constitutional rights generally enjoyed by Israeli Arabs.
First passed in 2002 at the height of the terrorist attacks, the Citizenship and Entry Law all but banned residency rights for the Palestinian spouses of Israelis.
An amended version in 2003, when the High Court petitions were first filed, loosened the law to allow eligibility for female candidates older than 25, and men older than 35 -- ages at which Palestinians are statistically far less likely to take up arms.
Then-Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said national security justifies the law. But she also cited growing fear of an influx of Palestinians seeking the better life on offer in Israel, some of them through fictitious marriages with Israeli Arabs.
"There is nothing wrong with looking to safeguard Israel's Jewish majority by law," she said at the time.
Her successor, Haim Ramon, said Sunday that he would seek to enshrine the Citizenship and Entry Law in Israel's Basic Laws.
"The High Court ruling appears to apply to a certain population sector, but I intend to make a law that will apply to everyone," he told Army Radio. "Under the law, a citizen of a hostile country won't be able to adopt Israeli citizenship, except under certain circumstances that the state will determine." -- Dan Baron, Jewish Telegraphic Agency
American Teen Dies of Bomb Wounds
An American teenager died of wounds sustained in last month's Tel Aviv suicide bombing. Daniel Wultz, 16, succumbed Sunday in Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital, becoming the sole American fatality of the April 17 attack. Wultz, of Weston, Fla., was visiting downtown Tel Aviv with his father over Passover when they were hit by shrapnel from a Palestinian suicide bomber. Tuly Wultz, who suffered light injuries, went on to organize prayer campaigns for his son's recovery. Daniel Wultz was the 11th fatality from the bombing, which was carried out by Islamic Jihad. Another casualty, 26-year-old Israeli Lior Enidzer, died last Friday. He had recently married.
Israel Gets Spot on U.N. Committee
Israel was appointed to a spot on the United Nations committee on nongovernmental organizations. The committee of the U.N. Economic and Social Council meets twice annually and reviews applications for special status with the commission. "Maybe our membership in the committee will help make Israeli NGOs more aware of this avenue and encourage them to seek a relationship with the economic and social council," said Marco Sermoneta, a counselor at Israel's mission to the United Nations. In addition, he said, membership would be a "good way to diversify our visibility in the United Nations."
Poet Stanley Kunitz Dies at 100
Stanley Kunitz, a former U.S. poet laureate who made metaphoric use of the Talmud and other Jewish images in his poetry, died Sunday at 100. Kunitz, who was known for writing on themes ranging from life and death to gardens, received the Pulitzer Prize in 1959. The son of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, he gave up his dream of earning a doctorate at Harvard after being told that non-Jewish students wouldn't enjoy being taught English literature by a Jew. A pacifist, Kunitz was a strong opponent of the Vietnam War and, later, U.S. military involvement in Central America and Iraq.
Abbas Criticizes Hamas
Mahmoud Abbas assailed Hamas for harming the Palestinians' image abroad. In a speech broadcast Monday, the Palestinian Authority president called on the Islamic terrorist group to renounce violence and accept peacemaking with Israel now that it's leading the P.A. government.
"We must not resign ourselves to fiery speeches and slogans that could bring about international isolation," Abbas said.
He added that by continuing to call for the Jewish state's destruction, Hamas justifies Israeli arguments that there is no Palestinian partner for peace. Abbas also appealed to Israel not to implement Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's "convergence plan," under which it will withdraw unilaterally from parts of the West Bank and annex others in the absence of peace talks.
Pilgrims Flock to Tunisian Synagogue
Thousands of people attended the annual Lag B'Omer pilgrimage to the Tunisian island of Djerba. The two-day celebration at the Ghriba Synagogue marks the end of a legendary plague 2,000 years ago. The synagogue was the site of a 2002 Al-Qaida terrorist attack that killed 21 people, mostly German tourists. The synagogue is the oldest Jewish house of worship in Africa and serves one of the world's oldest Jewish communities.
Holocaust-Era Archives to Open?
A commission of 11 nations is expected to vote to open Holocaust-era archives. Representatives of the countries that oversee the former Nazi files met Tuesday. Germany recently agreed to open up the archive, which contains 50 million files and is administered by the Red Cross.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency