Briefs: Senate Democrats seek Iran bank sanctions, McCain to visit Israel

Senate Dems Target Iran’s Bank

Senate Democrats are circulating a letter asking President Bush to target Iran’s central bank for sanctions. The letter comes on the heels of a recent report in The Wall Street Journal that Bank Markazi was providing cover for commercial banks already targeted for sanctions for dealing with Iran’s energy sector and with those involved in its suspected nuclear weapons program. The Journal quoted intelligence officials in three countries.

Targeting Bank Markazi with U.S. sanctions could have a crippling effect, making it virtually impossible for Iran to deal with any entity that has dealings with the United States. At least 26 Democrats have signed on to the campaign spearheaded by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). Among them is Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.). The American Israel Public Affairs Committee strongly backs the letter.

Clinton Campaign Drops Celebi

The Clinton campaign is no longer taking contributions from a Turkish American who financed a film that depicted an American Jew trading in Iraqi body parts.

Mehmet Celebi had been listed on the presidential campaign Web site of U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) as a “Hill-raiser,” someone who had raised more than $100,000 for her presidential bid.

Celebi had co-produced “Valley of the Wolves: Iraq,” a 2006 film based on a popular Turkish TV series about a crack Turkish combat unit. The film depicts a Jewish American doctor harvesting organs from prisoners.

“We were unaware of Mr. Celebi’s involvement in this film and we obviously do not agree with it,” Ann Lewis, a senior adviser to the campaign said Friday in response to a query from JTA. Lewis, who plays a lead role for the campaign in dealing with the Jewish community, added: “He is no longer raising money for this campaign.”

Power Quits Obama Campaign

Samantha Power quit the presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) Friday over a recent interview in which she described his rival, U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) as a “monster.”

Power, a leading expert on genocide, had advised Obama as senator for two years and her work on the topic is widely admired in the Jewish community, particularly for how she exposes non-intervention during the Holocaust. However, she also angered some in the pro-Israel community for her withering criticism of how Israel handled the Lebanon war and its occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, going so far as to accuse Israel of war crimes.

McCain to Visit Israel

Israeli media reported this week that Sen. John McCain, the Republican candidate in the U.S. presidential race, will visit at month’s end in a bid to shore up his American Jewish support base. The U.S. senator from Arizona is popular in Israel and the Diaspora for his hard-line views on foreign policy.

Vatican Done Changing Good Friday Prayer

Cardinal Walter Kasper, speaking to a German television audience this week, said there was no need to change the Good Friday prayer because “it is entirely correct from a theological perspective,” Catholic World News reported.

Kasper, the Vatican’s point man on Jewish relations, reportedly is slated to meet with Jewish leaders this week to discuss the controversy.

In June, Pope Benedict XVI upset many veterans of Catholic-Jewish interfaith encounters when he moved to revive the Latin, or Tridentine, Mass, a liturgy that includes a prayer for the conversion of the Jews.

In February, the pope released a revised text of the prayer that removed the most offensive passages — such as one referring to the “blindness” of the Jews — but retained the prayer for Jewish conversion.

HIAS Refutes Internet Refugee Claim

The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) refuted an Internet campaign falsely claiming refugees receive higher Social Security benefits than other Americans. The scam e-mail, already exposed as a hoax by, has been targeting newspaper editors. It claims that refugees are entitled to benefits of $1,890 a month, while Americans born in 1924 are entitled only to $791.

The HIAS sent news editors an e-mail countering the campaign, noting that the most that elderly refugees and those granted asylum are entitled to is $637 a month along with a one-time grant of $425.

“The U.S. government requirements for eligibility in these categories are extremely strict, and non-governmental organizations, like HIAS, work to help these individuals find refuge here within the guidelines set by U.S. law,” the HIAS letter said.

‘Death to Jews’ Scrawled on El Al Plane

The phrase “Death to Jews” was hand-written in an El Al jet that flew to Milan Italy’s Malpensa Airport on Monday, apparently by a local Arabic-speaking baggage handler, Yediot Achronot reported.

The discovery sparked an investigation by Italian and Israeli counter-terrorism officials, rattled at the prospect of someone violently hostile to the Jewish state being able to freely access an El Al plane.

El Al, which generally posts guards full-time around its aircraft at foreign destinations, had no immediate comment.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.