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

 

Nation/World Briefs


From the beginning, there were clear indications of the kind of year that lay ahead.

As the Days of Awe approached last September, President Clinton reached for a High Holidays prayer book and turned to the Yom Kippur liturgy in his search for the right words of contrition following his dalliance with a loose-lipped Jewish paramour.

Members of Congress then figured Rosh Hashanah was as good a day as any for a nationwide viewing of Clinton’s videotaped grand jury testimony, and with that auspicious beginning, so began the carnival of insanity that was the Jewish year 5759.

In recognition of some of the year’s bizarre antics from around the Jewish world, here’s a gaggle of awards and observations:

Least convincing martyr: Monica Lewinsky, who, in her authorized biography, compared herself to Holocaust diarist Anne Frank and Jewish World War II heroine Hannah Senesh. The presidential seductress said she identified with the plight of Frank because independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s “bullying” tactics had her “living in constant fear.” And during her darkest hours, Lewinsky said she was sustained by thoughts of Senesh, who parachuted behind enemy lines to rescue Allied prisoners from the Nazis and organize Jewish resistance.

Most menacing Jewish lobbyist: Bill Goldberg. The 6-foot-4, 285-pound World Championship Wrestling star made his debut on Capitol Hill in February as a lobbyist for the Humane Society. Jesse Ventura may have already blazed the trail from wrestling to politics, but with all due respect to Minnesota’s governor, he couldn’t carry Goldberg’s tefillin strap.

Best theatrics on the campaign trail: In a private meeting with Jewish supporters last October, then-Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, R-N.Y., called his opponent, then-Rep. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., a “putzhead.” He also referred to the heavyset Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., as “Congressman Waddler” and proceeded to waddle around the stage like a duck. A month later, D’Amato found himself with plenty of time to practice his lame-duck routine.

That’s why they pay him the big bucks: James Carville, one of three American political consultants who advised Ehud Barak in his successful campaign for Israel’s prime minister, said Israel’s campaign was not that different from America’s electoral process. “Who won,” he quipped, “came down to who got that all-important Jewish vote.”

An honorary doctorate in psychiatry for displaying uncanny insight into the adolescent mind: Following the Colorado school shooting, Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., said at a House hearing on gun control that if high schools were allowed to post the Ten Commandments, “we would not have the tragedies that bring us here today.” It wouldn’t have anything to do with those military-style assault weapons that Barr has so staunchly fought against banning.

Most outstanding commentary on the House’s passage of legislation permitting public displays of the Ten Commandments: “Congress probably should spend more time obeying the Ten Commandments and less time trying to exploit them for crass political purposes,” said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

Runner-up in the previous category: After President Clinton said he would talk to lawmakers about “another option” to the Ten Commandments measure but declined to provide specifics, several pundits speculated that he was probably thinking of something more along the lines of nine commandments.

They should have been given honorary seats in Israel’s Knesset: A comedic lineup of single-issue parties campaigned unsuccessfully during Israel’s election. Among them: the Casino Party, which sought to legalize gambling; the Green Leaf Party, which sought to legalize marijuana; the Right of the Man in the Family Party, dedicated, apparently, to boosting the right of the man in the family; and the Natural Law Party, predicated on the idea that transcendental meditation is the answer to the Middle East’s woes.

Most thinly veiled anti-Semitic utterance: Jerry Falwell told a conference on evangelism that he believes the Antichrist is probably “alive and here today,” and when he appears, “of course, he’ll be Jewish.” What the founder of the now-defunct Moral Majority didn’t say was that he’ll also be a gay Teletubby named Tinky Winky, and he’ll reveal himself onstage amid a throng of demons at Lilith Fair.

Best career move: Former U.S. Rep. Jon Fox, a Jewish Republican, took up substitute teaching in Philadelphia after losing his re-election bid, thus trading in one body of unruly, obstinate juveniles for another.

Most unsavory bit of imagery conjured by a foreign dignitary: Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlas, accusing Yasser Arafat of selling out his people, said the Palestinian leader has made one concession after another to Israel — “like a stripper.” Tlas further mused: “But a stripper becomes more beautiful with every layer she removes, while Arafat becomes uglier.” You can leave your kaffiyeh on, Yasser.

Clearest indication that Y2K is approaching: All sorts of interesting people began emerging from the woodwork and descending on the Holy Land, including members of a Denver-based apocalyptic cult who were arrested for planning millennial mayhem to try to bring about the second coming of Jesus. Anticipating hundreds of thousands of Christian pilgrims, Israel’s Tourism Ministry said it wants to welcome everyone to “the place where it all began” and has touted such events as a motorcycle rally from Rome to Jerusalem; a formation of a human ring around the Dead Sea on New Year’s Eve; and a “Million Tourist March” to promote world peace. There are no plans yet for a jai alai tournament against the Western Wall, but stay tuned.

Nation/World Briefs


Members of the U.S. House of Representatives have again introduced the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, hoping a new set of supporters will help push it into law.

The bill, introduced Tuesday, is aimed at preventing workplace religious discrimination by forcing employers to accommodate religious needs.

The bill is no stranger to Congress. Several attempts to get it enacted into law have failed.

This year, however, there appears to be more bipartisan support for the bill, and advocates say they’re cautiously optimistic about its chances of success.

“It’s about the strongest set of co-sponsors on the bill that we’ve ever had,” said Richard Foltin, legislative director and counsel for the American Jewish Committee.

The bill would clarify an amendment to the 1964 Civil Rights Act passed nearly 30 years ago that requires employers to “reasonably accommodate” the needs of religious employees unless it causes the employer “undue hardship.”

The courts have broadly interpreted undue hardship and given employers a lot of latitude in deciding whether to accommodate employees’ religious practices.

Foltin, chairman of a coalition of religious and civil rights organizations working to pass the bill, said the Workplace Religious Freedom Act would restore to the Civil Rights Act amendment the weight that Congress originally intended.

“The Workplace Religious Freedom Act is crucial civil rights legislation meant to ensure that all members of society, whatever their religious beliefs and practices, are protected from this invidious form of discrimination.”

Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.) joined Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) in introducing the bill. A staff member for Hutchinson said the congressman decided to co-sponsor the bill after he received a number of letters from organizations describing religious discrimination on the job.

Nadler, who has supported the bill in the past, sees the legislation as a way to obligate employers to accommodate their employees’ religious practices and give employees the right to a fundamental protection.

“No one should have to choose between the right to worship freely and the need to earn a living,” he said.

For example, the legislation would help observant Jews and Seventh-day Adventists who have been forced to work on Saturdays, Muslim women who have been asked to remove their head scarves while at work and devout Christians who have been made to work on Sunday or Christmas.

The Orthodox Union’s Institute for Public Affairs, which considers the Workplace Religious Freedom Act one of its top legislative priorities, notes the bill’s introduction is particularly timely in light of a recent settlement between the State of New York and Sears over the company’s failure to accommodate the needs of Sabbath-observant workers.

But the bill, which has the support of every leading Jewish organization, likely faces the same opposition it has in previous years, much of it from the business and labor communities. Those interest groups have argued that making special accommodations would upset labor practices by granting certain employees unique privileges and disrupting union rules.

In 1997, the federal government enacted guidelines to protect religious expression. The guidelines only applied to employees at all federal agencies, but the private sector often applies the federal government’s employment practices. — Sharon Samber, Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Nation/World Briefs


From the beginning, there were clear indications of the kind of year that lay ahead.

As the Days of Awe approached last September, President Clinton reached for a High Holidays prayer book and turned to the Yom Kippur liturgy in his search for the right words of contrition following his dalliance with a loose-lipped Jewish paramour.

Members of Congress then figured Rosh Hashanah was as good a day as any for a nationwide viewing of Clinton’s videotaped grand jury testimony, and with that auspicious beginning, so began the carnival of insanity that was the Jewish year 5759.

In recognition of some of the year’s bizarre antics from around the Jewish world, here’s a gaggle of awards and observations:

Least convincing martyr: Monica Lewinsky, who, in her authorized biography, compared herself to Holocaust diarist Anne Frank and Jewish World War II heroine Hannah Senesh. The presidential seductress said she identified with the plight of Frank because independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s “bullying” tactics had her “living in constant fear.” And during her darkest hours, Lewinsky said she was sustained by thoughts of Senesh, who parachuted behind enemy lines to rescue Allied prisoners from the Nazis and organize Jewish resistance.

Most menacing Jewish lobbyist: Bill Goldberg. The 6-foot-4, 285-pound World Championship Wrestling star made his debut on Capitol Hill in February as a lobbyist for the Humane Society. Jesse Ventura may have already blazed the trail from wrestling to politics, but with all due respect to Minnesota’s governor, he couldn’t carry Goldberg’s tefillin strap.

Best theatrics on the campaign trail: In a private meeting with Jewish supporters last October, then-Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, R-N.Y., called his opponent, then-Rep. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., a “putzhead.” He also referred to the heavyset Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., as “Congressman Waddler” and proceeded to waddle around the stage like a duck. A month later, D’Amato found himself with plenty of time to practice his lame-duck routine.

That’s why they pay him the big bucks: James Carville, one of three American political consultants who advised Ehud Barak in his successful campaign for Israel’s prime minister, said Israel’s campaign was not that different from America’s electoral process. “Who won,” he quipped, “came down to who got that all-important Jewish vote.”

An honorary doctorate in psychiatry for displaying uncanny insight into the adolescent mind: Following the Colorado school shooting, Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., said at a House hearing on gun control that if high schools were allowed to post the Ten Commandments, “we would not have the tragedies that bring us here today.” It wouldn’t have anything to do with those military-style assault weapons that Barr has so staunchly fought against banning.

Most outstanding commentary on the House’s passage of legislation permitting public displays of the Ten Commandments: “Congress probably should spend more time obeying the Ten Commandments and less time trying to exploit them for crass political purposes,” said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

Runner-up in the previous category: After President Clinton said he would talk to lawmakers about “another option” to the Ten Commandments measure but declined to provide specifics, several pundits speculated that he was probably thinking of something more along the lines of nine commandments.

They should have been given honorary seats in Israel’s Knesset: A comedic lineup of single-issue parties campaigned unsuccessfully during Israel’s election. Among them: the Casino Party, which sought to legalize gambling; the Green Leaf Party, which sought to legalize marijuana; the Right of the Man in the Family Party, dedicated, apparently, to boosting the right of the man in the family; and the Natural Law Party, predicated on the idea that transcendental meditation is the answer to the Middle East’s woes.

Most thinly veiled anti-Semitic utterance: Jerry Falwell told a conference on evangelism that he believes the Antichrist is probably “alive and here today,” and when he appears, “of course, he’ll be Jewish.” What the founder of the now-defunct Moral Majority didn’t say was that he’ll also be a gay Teletubby named Tinky Winky, and he’ll reveal himself onstage amid a throng of demons at Lilith Fair.

Best career move: Former U.S. Rep. Jon Fox, a Jewish Republican, took up substitute teaching in Philadelphia after losing his re-election bid, thus trading in one body of unruly, obstinate juveniles for another.

Most unsavory bit of imagery conjured by a foreign dignitary: Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlas, accusing Yasser Arafat of selling out his people, said the Palestinian leader has made one concession after another to Israel — “like a stripper.” Tlas further mused: “But a stripper becomes more beautiful with every layer she removes, while Arafat becomes uglier.” You can leave your kaffiyeh on, Yasser.

Clearest indication that Y2K is approaching: All sorts of interesting people began emerging from the woodwork and descending on the Holy Land, including members of a Denver-based apocalyptic cult who were arrested for planning millennial mayhem to try to bring about the second coming of Jesus. Anticipating hundreds of thousands of Christian pilgrims, Israel’s Tourism Ministry said it wants to welcome everyone to “the place where it all began” and has touted such events as a motorcycle rally from Rome to Jerusalem; a formation of a human ring around the Dead Sea on New Year’s Eve; and a “Million Tourist March” to promote world peace. There are no plans yet for a jai alai tournament against the Western Wall, but stay tuned.

Nation/World Briefs


From the beginning, there were clear indications of the kind of year that lay ahead.

As the Days of Awe approached last September, President Clinton reached for a High Holidays prayer book and turned to the Yom Kippur liturgy in his search for the right words of contrition following his dalliance with a loose-lipped Jewish paramour.

Members of Congress then figured Rosh Hashanah was as good a day as any for a nationwide viewing of Clinton’s videotaped grand jury testimony, and with that auspicious beginning, so began the carnival of insanity that was the Jewish year 5759.

In recognition of some of the year’s bizarre antics from around the Jewish world, here’s a gaggle of awards and observations:

Least convincing martyr: Monica Lewinsky, who, in her authorized biography, compared herself to Holocaust diarist Anne Frank and Jewish World War II heroine Hannah Senesh. The presidential seductress said she identified with the plight of Frank because independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s “bullying” tactics had her “living in constant fear.” And during her darkest hours, Lewinsky said she was sustained by thoughts of Senesh, who parachuted behind enemy lines to rescue Allied prisoners from the Nazis and organize Jewish resistance.

Most menacing Jewish lobbyist: Bill Goldberg. The 6-foot-4, 285-pound World Championship Wrestling star made his debut on Capitol Hill in February as a lobbyist for the Humane Society. Jesse Ventura may have already blazed the trail from wrestling to politics, but with all due respect to Minnesota’s governor, he couldn’t carry Goldberg’s tefillin strap.

Best theatrics on the campaign trail: In a private meeting with Jewish supporters last October, then-Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, R-N.Y., called his opponent, then-Rep. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., a “putzhead.” He also referred to the heavyset Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., as “Congressman Waddler” and proceeded to waddle around the stage like a duck. A month later, D’Amato found himself with plenty of time to practice his lame-duck routine.

That’s why they pay him the big bucks: James Carville, one of three American political consultants who advised Ehud Barak in his successful campaign for Israel’s prime minister, said Israel’s campaign was not that different from America’s electoral process. “Who won,” he quipped, “came down to who got that all-important Jewish vote.”

An honorary doctorate in psychiatry for displaying uncanny insight into the adolescent mind: Following the Colorado school shooting, Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., said at a House hearing on gun control that if high schools were allowed to post the Ten Commandments, “we would not have the tragedies that bring us here today.” It wouldn’t have anything to do with those military-style assault weapons that Barr has so staunchly fought against banning.

Most outstanding commentary on the House’s passage of legislation permitting public displays of the Ten Commandments: “Congress probably should spend more time obeying the Ten Commandments and less time trying to exploit them for crass political purposes,” said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

Runner-up in the previous category: After President Clinton said he would talk to lawmakers about “another option” to the Ten Commandments measure but declined to provide specifics, several pundits speculated that he was probably thinking of something more along the lines of nine commandments.

They should have been given honorary seats in Israel’s Knesset: A comedic lineup of single-issue parties campaigned unsuccessfully during Israel’s election. Among them: the Casino Party, which sought to legalize gambling; the Green Leaf Party, which sought to legalize marijuana; the Right of the Man in the Family Party, dedicated, apparently, to boosting the right of the man in the family; and the Natural Law Party, predicated on the idea that transcendental meditation is the answer to the Middle East’s woes.

Most thinly veiled anti-Semitic utterance: Jerry Falwell told a conference on evangelism that he believes the Antichrist is probably “alive and here today,” and when he appears, “of course, he’ll be Jewish.” What the founder of the now-defunct Moral Majority didn’t say was that he’ll also be a gay Teletubby named Tinky Winky, and he’ll reveal himself onstage amid a throng of demons at Lilith Fair.

Best career move: Former U.S. Rep. Jon Fox, a Jewish Republican, took up substitute teaching in Philadelphia after losing his re-election bid, thus trading in one body of unruly, obstinate juveniles for another.

Most unsavory bit of imagery conjured by a foreign dignitary: Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlas, accusing Yasser Arafat of selling out his people, said the Palestinian leader has made one concession after another to Israel — “like a stripper.” Tlas further mused: “But a stripper becomes more beautiful with every layer she removes, while Arafat becomes uglier.” You can leave your kaffiyeh on, Yasser.

Clearest indication that Y2K is approaching: All sorts of interesting people began emerging from the woodwork and descending on the Holy Land, including members of a Denver-based apocalyptic cult who were arrested for planning millennial mayhem to try to bring about the second coming of Jesus. Anticipating hundreds of thousands of Christian pilgrims, Israel’s Tourism Ministry said it wants to welcome everyone to “the place where it all began” and has touted such events as a motorcycle rally from Rome to Jerusalem; a formation of a human ring around the Dead Sea on New Year’s Eve; and a “Million Tourist March” to promote world peace. There are no plans yet for a jai alai tournament against the Western Wall, but stay tuned.