Briefs: Carter condemns, Ban meets, students protest

Carter: Israel backers demand ‘subservience’

Mideast peace is possible only with forceful U.S. engagement, former President Jimmy Carter said as he received the Ridenhour Courage Prize for speaking out on controversial topics. Carter — whose recent book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” infuriated much of the Jewish community with its allegedly one-sided presentation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — addressed some 400 people in Washington on April 4 as he received the award.

Carter lamented what he called a six-year lapse in substantial peace efforts by the United States and said the Bush administration and pro-Israel groups, such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, prevent Americans from having a real debate on Middle East policy.”The American friends of Israel, who demand such subservience, are in many cases sincere and well-intentioned people; I know them,” Carter said. “But on this crucial issue, they are tragically mistaken. Their demands subvert America’s ability to bring to Israel what she most desperately needs and wants — peace and security within recognized borders.”

Rabbi Leonard Beerman, founder of the Leo Baeck Temple in Los Angeles and a member of committees such as the U.S. Interreligious Committee for Peace in the Middle East, presented the award to Carter, saying his career had been fashioned “out of a persistent moral sensibility, even about the most sensitive and contentious issues, such as the rights of the Palestinians, for example.”

U.N.’s Ban meets With AJCommittee

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with American Jewish Committee leaders. The April 3 meeting focused on plans for peace in the Middle East, as well as Israel’s treatment at the United Nations.

“We welcomed the opportunity to engage Secretary-General Ban in a discussion of Middle East issues of utmost concern to the international community,” AJCommittee Executive Director David Harris said. “We were impressed by his deep commitment to advancing the search for peace in the region and his keen understanding of the challenges that need to be addressed in order to achieve progress.”

Among topics discussed in the 45-minute meeting were the recent Arab League summit in Riyadh, Ban’s recent visit to Israel and efforts to implement U.N. resolutions in Lebanon, including Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended last summer’s war between Israel and Hezbollah. The resolutions calls for Hezbollah to be disarmed and for the Lebanese government to assert its control in the south of the country. Ban also acknowledged the U.N. Human Rights Council’s obsessive focus on Israeli actions.

Jerusalem police clash with chametz protesters

Some 100 ultra-Orthodox youths protesting the sale of chametz in Jerusalem restaurants during Passover clashed with police. Following a rally Sunday in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim, the protesters sought to march toward Hillel Street, an area with a number of restaurants that sell chametz, or leavened bread products, and nonkosher meat. Police instructed the protesters to disperse.

After some protesters blocked the street, the police tried to disperse the crowd by force, which led a few of the demonstrators to throw rocks at the police.

Some 20 protesters reached Hillel Street; another group trying to reach the Nahalat Shiva promenade were blocked by police forces.

Israeli university students to strike over budget cuts, tuition hikes

Student associations at Israeli universities and colleges have planned a nationwide strike over budget cuts. The students are demanding that about $225 million in cuts to higher education be reversed and that the government not raise tuition. The strike was to begin Tuesday.

The strike will affect 250,000 students. According to the student associations, the planned strike has been coordinated with the lecturer associations and has the support of senior and junior faculty.

The Tel Aviv University Students’ Union announced that it will allow students to enter the campus in order to hand in papers and have access to the libraries. Classrooms, lecture halls and laboratories will all be locked and inaccessible in coordination with the faculty union.

Sen. Clinton seeks Polish restitution law

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) wrote to the Polish prime minister requesting that his country enact a restitution law for property confiscated during the Nazi and communist eras. Also signing the letter to Jaroslaw Kaczynski were Members of the Helsinki Commission.

The signers welcomed statements by Polish officials that they would work to pass legislation by the end of this year, but the commission expressed concerns that the victims have experienced numerous delays in their efforts to gain restitution.

Along with restitution or compensation, the commission’s recommendations include keeping burdens for filing a claim to a minimum, consistent involvement of the central government and the return of artwork to its rightful owners.

“The delay in resolving the property claims of elderly survivors and their family members has gone on for too long,” Clinton said.

The Helsinki Commission is a U.S. government agency that monitors and encourages compliance with the agreements of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, as established by the Helsinki Accords. Thirty-five countries signed on to the accords in 1975.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency