World Briefs

Sharon Defends West Bank Incursion

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon defended Israeli incursions into the West Bank in a phone call with Colin Powell. Sharon told the U.S. secretary of state Wednesday that Israeli troops will not leave four Palestinian cities until Palestinians comply with agreements to halt violence, according to the Prime Minister’s Office. Israel entered six West Bank cities following the Oct. 17 assassination of Tourism

Minister Rehavam Ze’evi, prompting U.S. criticism, and left two of the municipalities over the weekend. Sharon said he may see Powell in a couple of weeks, and that he will make a final decision about visiting Washington in a few days, based on the Israeli security situation.

Peres Prepares New Plan

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres is preparing a new peace initiative. According to the Israeli daily Ma’ariv, the plan calls for a total Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the dismantling of Israeli settlements there. The newspaper also said the plan called for the creation of a Palestinian state. The plan, which Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has opposed in the past, is expected to be presented soon.

Arafat Condemns Terrorism

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat issued a condemnation of “every form of terrorism” during a meeting with the pope. Referring to recent fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen in Bethlehem, Arafat also referred to “the recent tragic events that also involved the holy places of Christianity” when he met with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican on Tuesday, according to the chief Vatican spokesman. Arafat arrived in Rome on Monday for meetings with Italian leaders. During the 15-minute meeting, the pope urged Israel and the Palestinians to put down their weapons and return to the negotiating table.

Bronfman: Defend or Abandon

World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Edgar Bronfman called on Israel to dismantle some settlements.

Addressing a WJC meeting in Jerusalem on Wednesday, Bronfman said settlements in the West Bank that cannot be defended should be abandoned. He also said Israel’s presence in the Gaza Strip is a mistake. Israeli President Moshe Katsav reportedly objected to Bronfman’s comments, saying that the settlements did not cause the current violence.

Powder Found At Jewish Office

A letter containing white powder was found at the New York offices of the Conservative Jewish movement. The powder was sent for anthrax testing, and employees were told to go to their doctors. The lower Manhattan building was not evacuated, and was slated to open Friday. “We’re taking this in stride, and not treating this as a panic thing,” said a spokeswoman for the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

Court Won’t Hear School Case

The Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to a law allowing a moment of silence in public schools. July, a federal appeals court upheld Virginia’s moment of silence law, ruling that a minute of meditation in public schools does not violate the First Amendment’s ban on state-sponsored religion. The high court also refused to hear a case of an employee who was fired after praying with co-workers and giving them Bibles.

Student Paper Runs Mossad Lie

Jewish leaders in Northern California are criticizing the newspaper at San Jose State University for printing a long letter Oct. 22 claiming that the Mossad was behind the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

According to the Jewish Bulletin of Northern California, the student newspaper’s editor says it does not regret printing the letter, despite its factual errors.

The letter, by a junior marketing and political science major, repeated a widely circulated canard that Israel’s spy agency framed Muslims for the attacks as a way of gaining world sympathy for the Jewish State.

Briefs courtesy of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.