Newsdesk July 1, 2005

Gonzales Reaches Out

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales met with leaders of the Anti-Defamation League last week for his third powwow with Jewish communal leaders since early May. During the meeting, he vowed to make himself accessible to the Jewish community, as well as to other minority groups in America.

Officials at Jewish organizations said that the outreach efforts contrast sharply with the approach of Gonzales’s predecessor, John Ashcroft, who they said was inaccessible to them.

“Gonzales seems to have decided to be the anti-Ashcroft, not in policy but in style,” said a senior official with a major Jewish group.

Several of the Jewish activists who met with Gonzales said that they were impressed with his openness and with his commitment to dialogue. However, they expressed doubts that dialogue with the Jewish groups, who are typically liberal on domestic affairs, will have any impact on the new attorney general’s more conservative views and policies.

In May, the new attorney general met with several representatives of Jewish organizations for an off-the-record introductory meeting. Earlier this month he was the guest of honor at the Orthodox Union’s annual dinner.

Judge Blocks Bosnian

A former Bosnian leader fighting an extradition request to his native Balkan state was prevented by a judge from attending a June 23 ceremony at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, located in Washington. The ceremony marked the 10th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, in which Serbian forces killed about 7,000 Bosnians.

A United States magistrate judge in New York, Frank Maas, denied a request by Mohammed Sacirbey, who was foreign minister at the time of the slaughter and spent the ensuing years seeking to bring the perpetrators to justice, to attend the function at the museum.

Maas granted an extradition request last year, filed by Bosnia, regarding allegations of “abuse of office” by Sacirbey during his stint as Bosnian ambassador to the United Nations in the 1990s. In response, Sacirbey filed a habeas corpus petition. A hearing on the habeas corpus claim is expected at the end of the summer.

A clerk for the judge said that Maas upheld guidelines he set in October that forbade Sacirbey from venturing away from his Long Island home or from his downtown Manhattan office, arguing that previous outings had amounted to “traveling road shows.”

“By referring to traveling road shows, judge Maas is trivializing the issues,” Sacirbey said, claiming that three times now the judge has refused to allow him to travel — and each occasion was directly tied to the situation in the Balkans. “Something is not right here.”

Sacirbey, who holds American and Bosnian citizenship and was a key advocate for the Bosnian cause in America, has claimed that his ordeal was the result of a revenge plot hatched by his enemies in Bosnia and seized upon by American officials whom he angered during the Balkans war — chief among them, high-powered diplomat Richard Holbrooke, the architect of the Dayton accords that ended the war in Bosnia. Holbrooke has denied the claim.

“To prevent this man from participating in a 10-year commemoration of the massacre at Srebrenica is a travesty — especially when the commemoration is being held at a U.S. government museum dedicated to preventing the recurrence of genocide,” said Felice Gaer, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights. “Mo Sacirbey stood up and fought for respect for the human rights of Bosnians when it really mattered.”

Divestment Vote Slammed

British Jews condemned a decision by the Anglican church to consider divestment from Israel. The boycott resolution was passed unanimously June 24 at the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Nottingham, which represents the 38 provinces of the church around the world. The council recommended that the church withdraw corporate investments that supported “the occupation of Palestinian lands.”

Meanwhile, the United Church of Christ is set to consider several anti-Israel resolutions, including a divestment one, at its annual synod in Atlanta, starting July 1.

N.J. Rabbi Arrested

Yosef Burzstyn, a New Jersey rabbi, reportedly was charged Tuesday with aggravated assault on a police officer, resisting arrest and obstructing justice, resulting from a confrontation after a traffic stop the previous Sunday.

The arrest stemmed from a confrontation following a routine traffic stop in Lakewood, N.J., on June 26, according to The Associated Press. The incident allegedly occurred late at night after officer Erik Menck pulled over the rabbi’s niece to issue a warning for tailgating. Bursztyn, who was driving by, pulled over to check on the situation. The rabbi allegedly ignored a warning not to interfere and began to struggle physically with Menck while being handcuffed.

Burzstyn is dean of Mesivta of Lakewood, a Jewish high school with 90 students. He was unavailable for comment.

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Newsdesk July 1, 2005

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