Nation & World Briefs

Ambulances Services Seal Deal

Israeli and Palestinian ambulance services signed an agreement they hope will ease Israel’s accession to the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement. Under Monday’s pact signed between Magen David Adom and the Palestinian Red Crescent in Geneva, Palestinian ambulances are guaranteed speedier passage through West Bank checkpoints. The move is seen as key to mollifying Arab signatories to the 1949 Geneva Conventions who might otherwise have voted against a resolution, to be discussed next week, that would introduce a nondenominational red diamond emblem to the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, as Muslim states refuse to recognize the red Star of David. Swiss officials voiced confidence that the resolution would pass votes Dec. 5 and 6.

Kadima for Palestinian State

Ariel Sharon’s new political party accepts that a Palestinian state will arise alongside Israel. The Kadima party platform, published Monday, calls for “maximum security and assuring that Israel be a Jewish national home and that another state that shall arise be demilitarized, with terrorists disarmed.” The Israeli prime minister long opposed the idea of a Palestinian state before accepting it in recent years. Addressing members of his new faction in the Knesset, Sharon said he would not rule out a future coalition with his former party, Likud, even if it is led by his right-wing rival Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I favor achieving the broadest possible unity,” Sharon said.

Israel, Germany in Holocaust Grave Probe

Israel is helping German police identify the recently discovered remains of 34 Holocaust victims. The skeletons were uncovered last September in a suburb of Stuttgart that was formerly the site of the Echterdingen concentration camp. German authorities, who have a manifest of the camp’s inmates, turned to Israel for help in identifying the bodies. Yad Vashem said Sunday it would search its Holocaust archive for information that could be of use.

“This is a very rare case a mass grave with a relatively small number of bodies, accompanied by an orderly list of Jewish prisoners who were kept there at the time,” said Nadia Cohen of Yad Vashem’s information department. “All of this allows us to turn to our database in hope of identifying some of those buried there.”

Mubarak Calls Sharon Peacemaker

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said only Ariel Sharon can bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

“Sharon, of all the Israeli politicians, is the only one capable of achieving peace with the Palestinians,” Mubarak said last weekend in an interview with Spain’s ABC newspaper. “He has the ability to take difficult decisions, commit to what he says and carry it out.”

Mubarak praised Sharon’s decision last week to quit the Likud party.

“I think Sharon is serious in his efforts to achieve peace. The recent progress in Israel confirms this. He has left his own party to build another more centrist one, driven by his discontent with the rigid attitudes of his party on the peace process,” he said.

Asked about Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ failure to crack down on terrorist groups as required by the U.S.-led “road map” for peace, Mubarak counseled a wait-and-see attitude.

“You can’t demand now that the Palestinians disarm Hamas; it would complicate the situation,” he said. “The president is working seriously to stop the anarchy but he must be given time.”

Russian Bill Causes Alarm

Some Russian Jewish activists voiced concern that a new Russian bill on nonprofit organizations would harm Jewish groups. The bill that passed the Russian Duma on Nov. 23 would place nonprofits under greater state scrutiny. The measure could also prevent foreign nonprofits from operating branches in the country and force Russian nonprofits to reject money from abroad.

“The bill will make our life so much harder. We don’t know yet how we would operate,” said a top manager — who spoke anonymously — for a private Moscow nonprofit organization that spends most of its foreign donation money on Jewish projects.

The bill now requires two more readings in the parliament, expected to take place by the end of the year, before President Vladimir Putin can sign it into law. The lion’s share of the funding currently spent on Jewish causes in Russia comes from overseas charity sources.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.


Nation & World Briefs

Reform Criticizes Iraq War

The Reform movement passed a resolution criticizing the handling of the Iraq war and seeking a partial troop withdrawal. At its biennial in Houston, The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) on Friday became the first Jewish denomination to speak out against the war. The resolution, launched at the behest of several congregations, called for more transparency and a clear exit strategy, including a partial troop withdrawal after Iraq’s parliamentary elections next month.

“This is not a just war,” Vietnam veteran Michael Rankin of Arlington, Va. said in calling for the resolution’s passage. “Was it worth the billions of dollars it cost, when the world so desperately needs food and health care for the poorest of the poor?”

Delegates had been expecting a heated, prolonged discussion prior to the vote, but less than a dozen people lined up to address the issue, and URJ officials cut off debate quickly. The measure passed overwhelmingly by a voice vote.

House Presses Saudis on Textbooks

A congressional committee has called on Saudi Arabia to reform its textbooks. Textbooks that “foster intolerance, ignorance, and anti-Semitic, anti-American, and anti-Western views” make students “prime recruiting targets of terrorists and other extremist groups,” said the resolution that the U.S. House of Representatives’ International Relations Committee referred to the full House last week.

Zarqawi: Jordan Bombings Targeted Israelis

The terrorists who struck Amman’s Radisson Hotel last week were targeting Israeli intelligence officials, terrorist mastermind Abu Musab Zarqawi said. In an audio recording, Zarqawi claimed the Radisson bomber hit a hall in which the Israelis were meeting but accidentally killed scores of Jordanians, Ha’aretz reported.

“Our martyred brother’s target was halls being used at the time by intelligence officers from some of the infidel crusader nations and their lackeys,” he said. “God knows we chose these hotels only after more than two months of close observation [that proved] that these hotels had become headquarters for the Israeli and American intelligence.”

Zarqawi said Jordan was deliberately hiding Israeli and American deaths. He also threatened to decapitate Jordan’s King Abdullah II. His claim about Israeli intelligence officials is widely believed to be baseless.

E.U. OKs Border Job

The European Union authorized monitors for the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Under an agreement reached this week, the European Union will send a unit of monitors to the Rafah border terminal so Palestinians can leave and enter Gaza. The Palestinian Authority hopes that a total of 50-70 monitors ultimately will be posted at Rafah. The European Union also said it would send observers to Palestinian Authority parliamentary elections in January.

Group Blasts Ukrainian University

The Simon Wiesenthal Center called on Ukraine to rescind the accreditation of a Ukrainian university that backed a call by Iran’s president to destroy Israel. The university, known as MAUP, is known for its anti-Semitic publications.

“By supporting Ahmadinejad’s threat to Israel, MAUP’s consistent Jew-baiting now culminated in an endorsement of genocide,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Wiesenthal Center’s associate dean, referring to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The international community criticized Ahmadinejad’s comments.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency