Newsdesk June 17, 2005

Chief Rabbi Knighted

Last week, Queen Elizabeth knighted Britain’s chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, marking the queen’s 79th birthday. She bestowed the vaunted “Sir” title on Sacks on June 11 in recognition of his services to the Jewish community and interfaith relations. “This is an honor not just for me but for the Jewish community and its contributions to British life, as well as for the continuing inspiration of Jewish teachings,” Sacks, who has served as chief rabbi since 1991, said in a statement. “I hope it encourages further progress in good relations between the faiths.” Also knighted was Iqbal Sacranie, head of the Muslim Council of Britain.

Lawmaker Slams Foxman

Rep. Charles Rangel, a New York Democrat, reportedly slammed the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman. According to the New York Daily News, Rangel was upset that the ADL criticized him for comparing the American military operation in Iraq to the Holocaust.

Rangel, an influential black lawmaker and ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, was quoted as calling Foxman a “bully.”

Rangel reportedly said that he hadn’t compared the Holocaust to the war in Iraq, but he has compared silence over “what’s going on in Iraq” to the silence of European and American leaders in the face of the Holocaust.

Foxman had reportedly criticized the analogy, calling it “outrageous” and saying, “I think [Rangel] owes an apology not only to the families of the victims of the Shoah, but he also owes an apology to the soldiers who are fighting for freedom.”

Rangel said he had no plans to apologize, reportedly saying: “Foxman says I can’t use the word ‘Holocaust.’ Apparently it’s a private word just for him. I think he should get over that type of feeling.”

Democratic Rabbi Tapped

Reconstructionist Rabbi Steve Gutow was chosen as executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. Gutow has served as executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council and as Southwest regional director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. He was a pulpit rabbi for the Reconstructionist Minyan of St. Louis, and is currently an attorney. Gutow taught at the Saint Louis University School of Law the past two years.

The JCPA is an umbrella organization that brings together 123 local community-relations councils and 13 national organizations to adopt policies on a host of domestic and foreign issues.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity to work with him, because of his passion,” said JCPA Chairwoman Marie Abrams. Gutow replaces Hannah Rosenthal, who left JCPA earlier this year to head the Chicago Foundation for Women. “I think he’s going to take us from where Hannah Rosenthal left us and continue to improve our ability to service our communities and national agencies,” Abrams said.

Israeli Picked at U.N.

Israel’s envoy to the United Nations, Ambassador Dan Gillerman, was named vice president of the international body’s General Assembly. Monday’s appointment of Gillerman marked the first time in 50 years that an Israeli envoy has filled the post, which is largely ceremonial but still wields influence on the U.N. agenda. “I hope I will be able to affect decision-making at the United Nations, although it will not be an easy job,” Gillerman, one of 21 new General Assembly vice presidents, told Israel Radio on Tuesday. His candidacy was submitted by the Western Europe and Others Group, which includes Israel, and went unopposed by Arab states and by Iran. Gillerman ascribed this lack of opposition to the fact that his nomination was backed by the powerful Western nations.

Pentagon Presses Israel

Israel reshuffled top defense officials after receiving complaints from the United States about its arms export practices. Israeli officials said Tuesday that Defense Ministry Director-General Amos Yaron and the ministry’s security chief, Yehiel Horev, no longer would handle talks on arms exports with Washington, as Pentagon counterparts had accused them of being unreliable. The Israeli Defense Ministry has been under heavy pressure from the United States in recent months to come clean on its exports to China and other Asian nations, amid charges that these contravened restrictions imposed by Washington. “There is a crisis that has been going on for close to a year,” Yuval Steinitz, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, told Israel Radio. “Israel must take into account the immense importance of the United States to it, in diplomatic, economic and military terms.” Replacing Yaron and Horev in negotiations with the Pentagon will be Tzvi Stauber, a former Israeli ambassador to Britain.

Melchior Back at Post

Michael Melchior, Israel’s deputy education minister, is expected to resume his role as government liaison to the Diaspora. Citing sources in the Prime Minister’s Office, The Jerusalem Post said Wednesday that Melchior has been tapped to replace Natan Sharansky, who resigned as minister for Diaspora Affairs last month in protest of the Gaza withdrawal plan. Melchior, a Danish-born Orthodox rabbi, served as Diaspora Affairs minister under Prime Minister Ehud Barak. This time around he would assume the portfolio’s responsibilities without becoming a full minister, The Jerusalem Post said. The new appointment is expected to be announced at the Cabinet session Sunday.

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Newsdesk June 17, 2005

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