Newsdesk April 21, 2006

U.N. Moves Criticized

Just as far-reaching negotiations to reform the United Nations are under way and expected to reach their climax in the coming months, Jewish groups are denouncing two recent decisions as proof that such overhaul is needed.

On Monday, the American Jewish Congress called the selection of Iran to a leadership position on the U.N. disarmament commission a “rude slap in the face” at a time when Tehran’s nuclear ambitions are under tight scrutiny by the U.N. Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran was appointed as one of the three chairs of the commission, which essentially plays a consultative role.

Last week, a coalition of 15 human rights groups spearheaded by United Nations Watch, the Geneva arm of the American Jewish Committee, wrote to the Swiss U.N. mission to protest Switzerland’s nomination of sociology professor Jean Ziegler, a frequent critic of Israel, to serve as an expert for the new U.N. Human Rights Council.

Ziegler, who until now served as a special U.N. rapporteur for the widely criticized Commission on Human Rights that the new council will replace, has been accused of paying little attention to regions with actual hunger crises and instead devoting his time to criticizing the United States and Israel. U.N. Watch has previously called on Secretary-General Kofi Annan to remove Ziegler from his position.

Report: Hotels Overcharge

Several leading Israeli hotels overcharge foreign guests, according to a newspaper exposé. Yediot Aharonot reported Monday that foreign guests at major resort hotels in Eilat and Tel Aviv are routinely charged as much as 80% more than Israelis. One hotel owner quoted by the investigative report attributed the price difference to surcharges demanded by tourist agencies abroad that handle reservations. Responding to the report, the Tourism Ministry said it would consider excluding from its promotional campaigns hotels proved to have overcharged guests. The Israel Hoteliers Association declined comment pending its own probe.

Deportation Expected

A Florida professor acquitted of terrorism charges is expected to be deported. Sami Al-Arian has reportedly agreed to be deported rather than face a new trial for allegedly helping to channel money to Islamic Jihad. Last December, a jury found him not guilty on eight charges; the jury deadlocked on nine others. Any deportation agreement would have to be approved by a federal judge. A Palestinian born in Kuwait, Al-Arian was a professor at the University of South Florida until his arrest in 2003.

UJC Official To Leave

Gail Hyman, United Jewish Communities’ senior vice president of communications, has announced her departure. Hyman, who has occupied the post for eight years, will leave in early May to take a consulting job at a national association for nonprofits. The organization has not yet named a successor.

Moussaoui Slams U.S.

Zacarias Moussaoui said that American support for Israel is one of the main reasons that he hates the United States.

Speaking late last week at his sentencing trial for conspiring with Al-Qaeda in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Moussaoui said “The Jewish state of Palestine is a missing star in the American flag. You are the head of the snake for me. If I want to destroy the Jewish state of Palestine, I have to destroy you.”

Speaking to prosecutor Gerald Zerkin, Moussaoui said that he and other Muslims want to “exterminate” American Jews. The current hearings will determine whether Moussaoui faces the death penalty.

Arrest Prompts Riots

The arrest of an ultra-Orthodox Jew suspected of killing his own baby sparked riots in Jerusalem. Scores of residents of the fervently Orthodox Mea Shearim neighbored went on the rampage late last week, setting garbage bins on fire, blocking traffic and scuffling with police. The protestors accused authorities of a “blood libel” after a member of a prominent rabbinical family was arrested on suspicion that he fatally beat his crying infant son. The damage from the riots was estimated at more than $20,000. At least five ultra-Orthodox men were detained for disorderly conduct.

— JTA, FORWARD STAFF

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Newsdesk April 21, 2006

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