Newsdesk September 16, 2005

Security Up at L.A. Shuls

The mayor and police chief of Los Angeles assured the Jewish community of a strong police presence during the High Holy Days. The move was meant to calm nerves following new threats from Al Qaeda and recent terrorism-related indictments.

“We will raise our visibility to an even higher level than in past years,” Police Chief William Bratton said during a news conference Monday. Held at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, it was attended by FBI, state and local officials. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa sought to calm nervous residents by declaring that “Los Angeles is as well prepared as any other city in the United States.”

The mayor later wished the city’s 600,000 Jews a good year in Hebrew.

On Sunday, the fourth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, an alleged All Qaeda spokesman released a videotape in Pakistan threatening that Los Angeles was next on the organization’s hit list. A week earlier, three American Muslim converts and a Pakistani immigrant were indicted for allegedly planning to attack two synagogues, the Israeli Consulate and military targets in the Los Angeles area.

Israelis Face Fire in U.K.

A left-wing Israeli group filed a lawsuit in London this week against Israel’s military chief of staff, Dan Halutz, and his predecessor, Moshe Ya’alon. The group, Yesh Gvul, wants Halutz and Ya’alon charged under Britain’s war-crimes statute in connection with their roles in the July 2002 killing of Hamas leader Salah Shehada. Fifteen civilians were killed when a one-ton bomb was dropped on Shehada’s Gaza apartment house.

The news came a day after Doron Almog, a former Israeli army commander in Gaza, was forced to return to Israel from London without leaving his El Al flight after receiving a warning from the Israeli Embassy that he faced arrest on human rights charges.

The chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Yuval Steinitz, has proposed legislation to allow criminal prosecution of Israelis who pursue war-crimes lawsuits abroad against Israeli security personnel.

Holocaust Day Protested

The government of British Prime Minister Tony Blair is pledging to maintain the nation’s Holocaust Memorial Day as a commemoration of Jewish victims of Nazism.

The Sunday Times of London reported that advisers to Blair were recommending, at the urging of a local Muslim organization, that the day be replaced by a “genocide day” commemorating, among others, Muslim deaths in the West Bank and Gaza, Chechnya and Bosnia. Muslim activists said the Holocaust theme implied that Jewish lives are deemed more valuable than Muslim lives. Jewish leaders strongly objected to the proposal.

Canadian Religious Ban

The provincial premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty, pledged Sunday to ban all forms of religious arbitration.

McGuinty was reacting to global protests against the possible implementation of sharia, or Islamic religious law, in Ontario. He announced that Canada’s most populous province will ban sharia and all other forms of religious arbitration, including rulings from Jewish and Christian religious tribunals.

“There will be no sharia law in Ontario. There will be no religious arbitration in Ontario. There will be one law for all Ontarians,” he said.

Jewish groups reacted with consternation to news that individuals might no longer be allowed to bring disputes to a bet din, or rabbinical court, for binding arbitration on family matters. Rabbinical courts were empowered by provincial legislation in 1991 to arbitrate disputes.

Romney Postpones Trip

Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney postponed a planned trip to Israel. The Republican governor was expected to travel with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s educational foundation later this month. Romney’s spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, told the Boston Globe that the governor is focusing on the state’s legislative agenda. He said the trip could be rescheduled for later this year or in 2006. Romney is considering seeking the Republican nomination for president in 2008.

Rabbi Beaten in Ukraine

Rabbi Michael Menis and his son, 14, both citizens of Israel, were attacked Sunday in Kiev near the National Expo Center in the Ukrainian capital. They managed to escape. The father and son reported the incident to police, who detained eight of the attackers, including a young woman. The perpetrators reportedly told police that they attacked the “Jews to purify the nation.” Reportedly these people were members of a neo-Nazi skinhead gang. Local police are investigating the case.

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Newsdesk September 16, 2005

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