Newsdesk April 16, 2004

Hungary Uncovers Plot

Hungarian police said Tuesday that they had detained a Hungarian citizen of Palestinian origin who planned to blow up a Jewish museum in Budapest, as well as two Syrian men suspected of links to the plot.

But police said there was no connection between the arrests and the state visit by Israeli President Moshe Katsav, who was expected to inaugurate the Holocaust Memorial Center in Budapest on April 15, to mark the 60th anniversary of the day Hungary’s pro-Nazi regime started rounding up Jews to confine them in ghettos.

Police Lieutenant Colonel Attila Petofi, deputy director of Hungary’s National Bureau of Investigation, told a news conference there was substantial information that the 42-year-old Palestinian-born dentist planned to blow up “a Jewish museum.” He did not say whether it was the new Holocaust museum, as officials had suggested earlier, prompting reports, based mostly on rumor, that the bombing plot was meant as an assassination attempt on Katsav’s life.

“There is no connection whatsoever between the Israeli president’s visit and the particular police action taken today,” Laszlo Salgo, chief of the national police, said during a news conference.

But a spokeswoman at Katsav’s Jerusalem office said earlier in the day that the Israeli president had been told he was targeted in the attack. Nonetheless, she said the three-day state visit would continue as planned.

Hungarian police said the Palestinian suspect, a naturalized Hungarian citizen, was the spiritual leader of a small Islamic community in Budapest. The suspect, whose name was not released, was charged with involvement in “preparation for a terrorist attack,” said Petofi.

Police said they also had arrested two Syrian men, alleging that the Palestinian suspect had wanted to buy explosives from one of them and to commission the other to blow up the Jewish museum. The Syrian suspects were charged with “preparations for a crime against property,” Petofi said, without elaborating.

Canada Increases Security

Police in Montreal have tightened security at local synagogues and mosques following an arson attack last week that destroyed most of a Jewish school’s library.

The heightened security came as some parents of students at United Talmud Torah’s elementary school described the attack as reminiscent of book burnings in Nazi Germany.

Official condemnation of the April 5 predawn firebombing of the library, in which most of the books were damaged or ruined, came quickly.

Politicians, community leaders and letters to the editor all condemned the attack.

Police reportedly had leads into the perpetrators’ identities, but say they don’t know the group that claimed responsibility on a note left at the school.

The note linked the attack to Israel’s recent assassination of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, and implied that further attacks would follow.

‘Passion’ Rises Again

Fueled by Easter crowds, “The Passion of the Christ” became the first film in more than seven years to reclaim first place at the box office more than a month after relinquishing its hold on the top spot.

Churches reportedly rented theaters nationwide, pushing the Mel Gibson film to an estimated $17.1 million in revenues during Easter weekend, up 61% from the previous weekend, and bringing its overall total to $354.9 million.

Meanwhile, “The Passion” did well overseas. Accoridng to the Hollywood Reporter, piecemeal information from various countries abroad indicates that “The Passion” may have scored as much as $33 million or more during the weekend, and its international gross may be heading for the $200 million mark.

“The Passion” broke box office records across much of Europe, including in Italy, Britain and Croatia, and sparked debate in local magazines and newspapers as well as on Web sites and talk shows. The film has done relatively poorly in France and Germany.

After Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat saw the film, a spokesman compared the suffering of Jesus to that of the Palestinians.

“The Palestinians are still daily being exposed to the kind of pain Jesus was exposed to during his crucifixion,” Nabil Abu Rudeineh said in a statement.

Google Holds Firm

Officials at Google Inc. are declining to remove an antisemitic Web site — “Jew Watch” — from its listings. The site, which promotes antisemitism and Holocaust denial, has topped Google listings when the word “Jew” is entered into the search engine.

“I certainly am very offended by the site, but the objectivity of our rankings is one of our very important principles,” said Google co-founder Sergey Brin, in an interview with Reuters.

“We don’t let our personal views — religious, political, ethical or otherwise — affect our results,” said Brin, who added that he is Jewish.

Organizers of an online petition urging the company to remove the site say they have collected more than 50,000 signatures. Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, has also criticized Google.

But in March, the Anti-Defamation League posted a statement on its Web site that seemed to defend Google. “The ranking of Jew Watch and other hate sites is in no way due to a conscious choice by Google,” the ADL statement declared, “but solely is a result of this automated system of ranking.”

Google uses algorithms based partly on how many sites link to a targeted site, but the company has delisted some sites, at times under threat of lawsuits.

Brin told Reuters that most people searching for information about Jewish people or organizations use the term “Jewish” in their queries as opposed to “Jew,” which is often used in an antisemitic context.

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Newsdesk April 16, 2004

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