World Briefs

Syria OKs Saudi Proposal

Syria’s president backed a Saudi plan for an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord. After making negative comments about the plan earlier in the week, Bashar Assad gave his approval during a visit to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, when he was given assurances by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah that Syrian and Palestinian interests that a complete withdrawal from the Golan Heights and the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees would be included in the plan. The initiative, floated by Abdullah last month, offers Israel ties with the Arab World if the Jewish state withdraws to the boundaries that existed before the 1967 Six-Day War.

Death Toll Rising

Two Israeli soldiers and seven Palestinians were killed Wednesday as the army retaliated for a Hamas rocket attack a day earlier on a Negev city. Three other soldiers were wounded. At least seven Palestinians were reported killed in a series of Israeli air, sea and ground offensives in Gaza that came in retaliation for the missile attack on Sderot in which three Israeli children were wounded. Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat’s home in Gaza City and a U.N.-run school for the blind were damaged in the air strikes. Israel also launched attacks at Palestinian security targets in the West Bank. In a West Bank village, three Palestinian students were wounded when Israeli soldiers fired toward villagers. The army said the convoy had come under fire.

Pearl Memorial Held at Wall

A memorial service was held on Tuesday at the Western Wall for Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Among those attending Tuesday’s service were members of Pearl’s family, Religious Affairs Minister Asher Ohana and Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Melchior. Pearl’s grandmother said during the ceremony that Pearl had a warm Jewish heart. “All he really wanted to do is mend the world,” she said.

Holocaust Conference Planned

The Third International Conference on “The Legacy of Holocaust Survivors” is planned for April 8-11 at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, organized jointly by Yad Vashem and the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, and with the support of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. Over 600 dignitaries, scholars, survivors and educators from around the world are scheduled to attend. The conference will focus on the moral and universal messages of the Holocaust, the legacy of the survivors and their contribution to society, with 120 educational workshops planned.

Nixon, Graham Knock Jews

Former President Richard Nixon believed that Jews had too much influence in government. Nixon called Jews “untrustworthy” and decided to reduce the number of Jewish political appointees in his second term, according to excerpts from hundreds of hours of tapes recorded in 1972 and recently released by the U.S. National Archives.

The president complained of a “terrible liberal Jewish clique” and said, “Look at the Justice Department, it’s full of Jews.” Nixon also was convinced Jews had control of the media, claiming that 95 percent of reporters were Jewish. The Rev. Billy Graham apologized last Friday for a 1972 conversation with Nixon in which he said the Jewish “stranglehold” of the media was ruining the country and must be broken. “Although I have no memory of the occasion, I deeply regret comments I apparently made in an Oval Office conversation with President Nixon,” Graham said in a statement released by his Texas public relations firm. “They do not reflect my views and I sincerely apologize for any offense caused by the remarks.”

Rabbi Pleads to Porn Charges

Atlanta-area Rabbi Juda Mintz pleaded guilty to having child pornography on his temple computer, according to The Associated Press. Mintz, 59, faces more than two years in prison for possessing at least 10 computer files containing photographs of minors engaging in sexual acts. Mintz allegedly had the files while serving as spiritual leader of Mount Freedom Jewish Center in Randolph, N.J. Mintz’s lawyer told the AP that Mintz will never serve as a rabbi again and is now working as a clerk in a convenience store.

Briefs courtesy of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Caught Red-Handed

Israel has arrested two more Palestinians it said were involved in the brutal lynching of two Israeli soldiers by a Palestinian mob in October, bringing the total arrests up to 15.

The front-page photos in the Hebrew dailies couldn’t have told the story more graphically: There was Abed al-Aziz Tzalha, 20, grinning in triumph, raising his bloody hands to the lynch mob in Ramallah. and there he was again, raising his handcuffed hands on command for the camera, expressionless, now in the custody of the Shin Bet.

Until now, nobody knew Tzalha’s name, but most of the world knew his face — and his hands. He became famous from that Oct. 12 photo — a symbol of the savagery to which the then-two-week-old intifada had descended.

Two Israeli reserve soldiers, Vadim Norzhich and Yosef Avrahami, took a wrong turn into Ramallah and were stopped by Palestinian police, who brought them to the Ramallah police station. A mob learned of the arrest, stormed the station, attacked Norzhich and Avrahami, then threw them out of the window. The crowd below then attacked the two with whatever weapons they could find.

By the time Norzhich and Avrahami were dead, their bodies mutilated, the crowd had grown from 1,000 to 2,000. Some danced on the Israelis’ blood. People applauded, chanted, held their babies aloft. It was like Carnaval in Rio.

Tzalha, 20, admitted to his captors that he ran with the mob into the police station, then began choking one of the soldiers while the victim was being beaten. When Tzalha saw that his hands were red with the soldier’s blood, he raised them out the window to the excited crowd below.

The scene was filmed by an Italian TV crew. The throwing of the soldiers out the window, the mob’s attack on them, and the celebration that followed the lynching was broadcast over and over on CNN.

The incident had a transforming effect on Israelis, extinguishing nearly all of the sympathy for the Palestinians that had existed in this country. As a destroyer of dovish sentiments, it surpassed even the Gulf War legend of Palestinians "dancing on the rooftops" as Scuds flew overhead on their way to Tel Aviv.

The photo of Tzalha, and the footage of the lynching, also featured prominently in Israel’s propaganda campaign for the intifada. They were Israel’s answer to the searing images of 12-year-old Palestinian Mohammed al-Dura crouching in terror behind his father, both of them caught in a crossfire between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli soldiers, before an Israeli bullet killed the boy.

Arrested along with Tzalha was Mohammed Nuara, 18, a guerrilla who admitted stabbing one of the two soldiers in Ramallah. Both were captured in Palestinian villages that are under Palestinian Authority civilian rule, but subject to Israeli security control.

In all, Israel has arrested 15 Palestinians involved in the lynching — mainly Palestinian policemen. Israeli security authorities have vowed not to rest until all the perpetrators are captured. Depending, though, on one’s definition of the word "perpetrator," that could make for a very long "wanted" list.