Newsdesk July 8, 2005

Divestment Motion Passes

The United Church of Christ called on members to employ “economic leverage” against Israel, including possible divestment. A resolution passed at the UCC’s biennial synod Tuesday urged local churches “to use economic leverage,” including “divesting from those companies that refuse to change their practices of gain from the perpetuation of violence, including the Occupation.” A separate resolution called upon Israel to remove its West Bank security barrier.

The resolutions drew a sharp reaction from Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who described them as “functionally antisemitic.”

“This is a manipulation of a religious organization for political purposes,” he said. “This is part of a game plan to give the scarlet letter ‘A’ on Israel’s forehead.” Cooper said the resolutions represented the efforts of a small group of activists and not the rank-and-file members of the UCC.

End to Boycott Urged

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe passed a resolution Tuesday calling on the OSCE Mediterranean Partners to work with the Arab League to end the league’s 50-year boycott of Israeli products and businesses.

Two American lawmakers, Rep. Benjamin Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, and Rep. Christopher Smith, a New Jersey Republican, praised the resolution.

“The boycott has been in existence for nearly 50 years, and has served only to exacerbate tensions between the United States, Israel and our partners in the Middle East,” Cardin said.

Smith, who serves as chairman of the Helsinki Commission, expressed hope that bilateral trade relations will be the first step toward peaceful relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

Israel Rejects Polish Plea

Israel again refused to extradite Solomon Morel, a Polish-born Jew who allegedly was responsible for the deaths of 1,500 German prisoners after World War II.

A letter sent by Israel’s Justice Ministry said there is no reason to extradite Morel to Poland, The Associated Press reported. Polish prosecutors said the letter argued that the statute of limitations on Morel had run out.

Morel commanded the Communist-run Swietochlowice camp after the war. Polish prosecutors allege that Morel caused the deaths of the prisoners by refusing them food and medical treatment, and by carrying out torture operations.

French Jew Murdered

The vice president of the Association of Liberal Jews of Toulouse, Rene Itzhak Autard, was found murdered in his home July 1. A freelance journalist and an activist in the community, Autard, 60, was found, according to the police, “in a pool of blood, covered with pillows,” his face and head beaten numerous times with a blunt object. The police said they are not ruling out any possible motive for the murder, including antisemitism. Autard was an active member in the Mouvement des Juifs Libéraux, the French Reform movement of Judaism, and had opened a soup kitchen.

Russian Translation Set

The Reform movement announced that it plans to translate the Plaut Modern Torah Commentary into Russian. It would be the first modern interpretation of the Pentateuch in the Russian language.

The announcement came as more than 400 Reform Jewish leaders from 24 countries gathered in Moscow for the 32nd International Biennial Convention of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. The conference opened June 30 and runs through July 11. In another initiative announced at the conference, Russian Jewish, Christian and Muslim youths will start a new project that will include joint charity work.

Peace Film Broadcast

An Israeli cable channel, the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation and Abu Dhabi satellite TV, aired a documentary on a possible Middle East peace deal.

The film, the first two parts of which were broadcast Saturday, examines, through interviews with leading figures and thinkers on both sides of the conflict, what a future Israeli-Palestinian peace deal could look like. The “Shape of the Future” series was produced by Search for Common Ground, a Washington-based nonprofit organization that works to prevent and resolve conflicts. The film focuses on the future and deliberately does not have scenes of violence or historical footage.

Texas Governor Apologizes

Texas Governor Rick Perry apologized to the Jewish community last week for inviting a self-proclaimed messianic rabbi to speak at a recent bill-signing ceremony. But the governor said he has no regrets about holding the event in the gymnasium of Forth Worth’s Calvary Christian Academy.

During a private 30-minute meeting in his capital office last week, the governor told seven Jewish leaders from Dallas and Houston that he regretted the selection of David Stone, the religious leader of Beth Yeshua Messianic Congregation in Fort Worth, to give the closing benediction at the June 5 event.

“[Perry] repeatedly said, ‘It’s my responsibility. We did not intend to have this man speak as a representative of the Jewish community.’ He apologized for having this gentleman there,” said Alan Greenspan, an executive committee member of the Dallas chapter of the American Jewish Committee.

According to Greenspan, the governor said that he realized Stone was not Jewish soon after he began speaking at the Christian school. Perry did not say who selected Stone to speak at the well-publicized event.

“Governor Perry promised his office would be more watchful in the future,” another attendee said in an interview.

“He apologized quite seriously. We were very pleased with this outcome,” said Linda Burger, executive director of the AJCommittee’s Houston office.

Burger said she was told that Stone was wearing a yarmulke and a prayer shawl at the Fort Worth event.

At the event, Perry signed a bill passed by the Texas Legislature requiring girls under 18 to obtain their parents’ consent before having an abortion.

State Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn has announced that she will challenge Perry in his bid for re-election. The governor has openly courted religious and social conservatives in recent months.

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Newsdesk July 8, 2005

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