October 24, 2002

11 Israelis Arrested as Spies for

A military officer is among 11 Israelis arrested on charges of spying for Hezbollah. The lieutenant colonel in the Israeli army allegedly passed on information about Israeli deployment along the country’s border with Lebanon in return for drugs. Reports of the arrests came a month after the event, after a gag order on the news was lifted on Wednesday. Over the last two years several cases of Israeli citizens spying for Hezbollah have been uncovered, but security officials called this one the most grave and worrying among them.

U.S. Peace Plan Criticized

Israel and the Palestinians expressed reservations Wednesday about a new U.S. peace plan. Both sides said the plan, which has the backing of the United Nations, Russia and the European Union, is too vague on important issues. The criticisms were voiced as the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State William Burns arrived in Israel on Wednesday for talks with the two sides about the plan. He was expected to meet with top Israeli and Palestinian officials, but not with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

U.S.-Israeli Programs Get Funds

President Bush signed a defense-spending bill Wednesday that includes extensive funding for joint U.S.-Israeli programs. Congress appropriated $136 million for the Arrow anti-missile defense program, as well as $18.5 million for the Mobile Tactical High Energy Laser, which intercepts rockets. The Litening II Targeting Pod, which enables aircraft to fly and target at night and in bad conditions, received $48 million. The Bradley Reactive Armor Tiles program, which protects tanks by exploding outward when hit, got $25 million.

Israel Extends Benefits to Wealthier

Immigrants to Israel from prosperous countries, including the United States, will now get the same benefits as emigres from poorer nations. The decision is aimed at increasing the number of those making aliyah. Israel Radio reported Monday that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made the decision the night before at a meeting with Yuli Edelstein, the deputy minister of absorption.

Egypt to Air Anti-Semitic Series

Egyptian television plans to broadcast a 30-part series based on the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” an infamous anti-Semitic tract. Egyptian television this week began advertising “Horseman Without a Horse,” saying it will be broadcast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which starts in early November. Israeli media and Jewish groups have criticized the show, starring and produced by well-known Egyptian actor Mohammed Sobhi, since plans for its production were announced last year. The “Protocols” purports to reveal a Judeo-Masonic conspiracy to overthrow the established world order by fomenting wars, revolutions and capitalism to pave the way for world Jewish domination. Sobhi plays a character who sets out to prove that the book is historically accurate. Sobhi defended the series, telling The Associated Press his show is “an artistic work which only reveals the Zionist schemes to seize Palestine.” The Egyptian media frequently have been accused of carrying blatantly anti-Semitic material.

Olive Grove Clashes Erupt

Israeli settlers and Palestinian olive-pickers clashed Monday near the West Bank city of Nablus. Israel Radio reported that an Israeli field and three Palestinian cars were torched. There was no immediate word on any injuries suffered in the clash.

Israeli security officials said the confrontation was sparked when Palestinians, who had heard a rumor in nearby mosques that settlers had killed a Palestinian, burned the settlers’ field, according to Israel Radio reports.

Monday’s clash was the latest in recent disputes between Israeli settlers and Palestinians harvesting olives.

Britain Urged to Recall Envoy

The Simon Wiesenthal Center called on British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to recall Britain’s ambassador to Israel. The call was issued after envoy Sherard Cowper-Coles was quoted by the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot as saying last week that, “Israel has reduced the West Bank and Gaza Strip into a vast concentration camp.” The director of the center’s Paris office, Shimon Samuels, said in a letter to Straw that if the comments are verified, “We urge the prompt recall of Mr. Cowper-Coles for Holocaust revisionism, banalization of the memory of its victims and endorsement of the most extreme voices of Palestinian anti-Semitism.”

Refugee Numbers Limited

The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) is “deeply disappointed” by the number of refugees to be allowed into the United States this year. The Bush administration announced 70,000 refugees would be admitted in the upcoming fiscal year, the same number as last year. Refugee organizations had requested an increase because only 27,000 refugees had entered last year as a result of administrative and security difficulties. The allocation for refugees from the former Soviet Union, set at 14,000, is sufficient to cover the number of Jews expected in the coming year, HIAS Washington representative Gideon Aronoff said. But Aronoff said the overall numbers are disappointing and the administration has yet to prioritize the security reviews of refugees waiting in processing centers.

Shul Denied Special Zoning

Religious groups may be prevented from opening churches and temples in residential neighborhoods, a U.S. court ruled. Kol Ami, a congregation trying to open a synagogue in a Philadelphia suburb, had won a lower court decision, but a three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Oct. 16 that large churches or temples could create traffic and parking problems.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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