World Briefs

Annan to Arafat: Shape Up

The Palestinians have failed to meet their obligations to curb terrorism, Kofi Annan said. The U.N. secretary-general used unusually blunt language in a private reply to Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, who had written Annan to complain about Israel’s plan to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip.

Arafat believes the withdrawal is a pretext for Israel to keep West Bank land. In a letter quoted last Friday by Reuters, Annan said he believed Israel should maintain its obligations under the “road map” peace plan, but that the Palestinians must step up to the plate as well.

“The Palestinian side, too, has obligations it has not fulfilled,” Annan said. “The Palestinian Authority should immediately start taking effective measures to curb terrorism and violence.”

Arafat’s compliance with his obligations would make it easier to ensure further Israeli withdrawals, Annan said.

E.U. Condemns Gaza Killing

The European Union condemned Sunday’s killing in Gaza of an Israeli mother and her four daughters.

“The killing of children does not serve any legitimate cause and degrades any purpose which it purports to advance,” Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen said, speaking for the union.

Tali Hatuel, who was eight months pregnant, was driving with her four daughters down the main road that connects the Gush Katif settlement bloc and a main Gaza border crossing when her station wagon came under fire from Palestinian gunmen in a nearby car.

Jewish Tombs Hit in France

More than 100 Jewish tombs were desecrated at a cemetery in eastern France. Swastikas and other Nazi insignia were scrawled on 127 gravestones at the Herrlisheim-Hasttatt cemetery near Colmar on Thursday night. Slogans in praise of Hitler and the words “Juden Raus” — or “Jews Out” — also were painted on the cemetery gates. In recent weeks, a number of Jewish and Muslim graves have been desecrated across the Alsace region. French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin condemned the acts as “odious and scandalous,” and ordered local authorities to clean up the graves. President Jacques Chirac promised a crackdown.

“Anti-Semitism is contrary to all the values, principles and ideas of the republic,” he said. On Sunday, 20 graves in a Catholic cemetery in France were desecrated with swastikas.

Al Qaeda Would Hit Israel

Al Qaeda would target Israeli cities if it had chemical weapons, according to a recording believed to be from the terrorist group. A recording broadcast by an Islamic Web site and said to be by top Al Qaeda operative, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, admits that the group planned an attack in Jordan, but denies — as Jordanian authorities claim — that the attack would have involved chemical weapons.

“God knows, if we did possess [a chemical bomb], we wouldn’t hesitate one second to use it to hit Israeli cities such as Eilat and Tel Aviv,” the voice says in a translation published last Friday by the Associated Press.

Bill Advances on State Dept. Monitoring of

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a bill requiring the State Department to monitor anti-Semitism. The bill approved by the committee April 29 would require the State Department to complete a review of anti-Semitism around the world by Nov. 15 and include reports on anti-Semitism in the department’s annual reports on freedom of religion and human rights.

Arson in London

A London rabbi’s car was destroyed by arson. The attack, which took place earlier this week in Stamford Hill, a north London area with a large Orthodox community, is being treated by police as racially motivated. The attack comes after recent figures showing an increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the United Kingdom.

Oil Found in Central Israel?

Reservoirs of oil potentially worth some $6 billion reportedly were discovered in central Israel. The reservoirs are at a site east of Kfar Saba, according to findings of a geological survey released Tuesday by the exploration company Givot Olam. It was not yet clear how much, if any, of the oil would be extricable from the deep underground deposits. The company also has claimed in the past to have made major oil finds but has not succeeded in extracting the oil.

Hate Monitor Assaulted in Russia

An anti-racism activist was attacked in the Russian city of Voronezh by what is believed to be a group of skinheads. Alexei Kozlov, monitor for the Moscow Bureau on Human Rights and the European Commission’s project against anti-Semitism and xenophobia in Russia, received minor injuries in last week’s attack. He said the attack was a result of his activism in the city, which is known for its high level of racially motivated attacks. Police are investigating the incident.

JCCs Eye New Image

The central organization for JCCs will launch a marketing blitz hoping to rebuild the public image of JCCs. The Jewish Community Centers Association of America unveiled “Hagshama: Realizing Our Future — JCCs in the 21st Century” at the group’s 2004 biennial in Montreal, which ran from Sunday to Wednesday.

The JCCA, which represents 350 JCCs, YMHAs and camps in North America, hopes to re-brand its image to tell people “what we stand for Jewishly,” said Allan Finkelstein, the group’s president. The message is that JCCs “are serious players impacting people’s Jewish experiences,” he said.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.