April 26, 2001

Arabs Allege Pokemon Conspiracy

Pokemon, which includes video games, trading cards and cartoons belatedly sweeping the Arab world, has been "exposed" as standing for "I am a Jew" in Japanese and as part of a Jewish-Zionist conspiracy to turn children away from Islam.

Full-scale anti-Pokemon campaigns are underway in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Oman, Qatar and Dubai to foil the alleged Jewish plot, according to a front-page story in the April 24 Los Angeles Times from its Cairo correspondent.

Despite assurances from Nintendo, which launched Pokemon in 1995, that the trade name stands for "pocket monsters," the video games and related items have been stripped from store shelves in Saudi Arabia and turned away at ports, while schools have set up collection points to turn in clothing decorated with Pokemon figures.

A fatwa (religious edict) issued by Saudi Sheik Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al Sheik urges all Muslims to beware of the game, noting that most of the cards bear "six-pointed stars, a symbol of international Zionism and the state of Israel." — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Head Reprimanded

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council criticized its chairman for writing a letter asking President Clinton to pardon financier Marc Rich and dissociated itself from the pardon request.

In a resolution that received unanimous support, the council said it had been a mistake for Rabbi Irving "Yitz" Greenberg to write a letter on Rich’s behalf, but it also accepted Greenberg’s apology and commended Greenberg for his efforts in Holocaust education.

Birthright to Fund Trips

A program that offers free Israel trips to young Jews is seeking grant proposals for trips that focus on specific professions or interests or accommodate physical disabilities. Birthright Israel "will award grants only to the most innovative proposals," said Marlene Post, the group’s chair. In a separate development, Birthright Israel was planning to host an Israel Independence Day party in New York on Wednesday for the program’s alumni.

El Al Cuts Costs

El Al Israel Airlines is trying to reduce costs as a result of a sharp downturn in tourism to Israel caused by continued Palestinian violence. Measures announced Tuesday include halting flights to 10 destinations, reducing the airline’s workforce and selling eight old planes. Last year, El Al lost an estimated $109 million.

Bush Honors Shoah Victims

President Bush said the Holocaust is "defined as much by the courage of the lost as by the cruelty of the guilty."

Speaking to hundreds of people gathered April 19 in the Capitol rotunda on Holocaust Remembrance Day, Bush urged the teaching of conscience, moral discernment, decency and tolerance to stop evil from triumphing again. — All briefs from Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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