Newsdesk June 2, 2006

Neo-Nazi Sentenced

The leader of a neo-Nazi community in Chile was sentenced to 20 years in jail after being convicted of child molestation. Paul Schaeffer, leader of Colonia Dignidad, was also ordered late last week by a Chilean court to pay $1.5 million in damages to 11 families of the abuse victims.

Chilean prosecutors have opened more cases against Schaeffer, 84, and other leaders of Colonia Dignidad for the kidnappings, tortures and disappearances that allegedly occurred in the colony between 1973 and 1989. Another court is investigating the disappearance of Boris Weisfeiler, an American Jew, who went hiking in southern Chile and was last seen inside Colonia Dignidad in 1985 in slave-like conditions.

Hasidim Gather in Ukraine

Fervently Orthodox Jews are celebrating Shavuot this week with a pilgrimage to a Ukrainian town considered to be the birthplace of Hasidism. About 1,000 Hasidim from different countries have arrived in Medzibezh, home to the grave of the Ba’al Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidic Judaism.

Hasidim have been coming to Medzibezh in significant numbers each year since Jewish pilgrimages to Ukraine were revived in 1988, after the Soviet Union loosened its restrictions on religious practice. Pilgrims are also expected to visit the Ukrainian towns of Berdichev, Nezhin and Gadyach, which are also considered holy sites for Hasidic Jews.

Antisemitic March In Paris

French Jewish officials are meeting with French officials following an antisemitic march in Paris. The meetings follow a weekend incident in the Jewish quarter in Paris, in which some 30 young men armed with sticks and bats marched down the street yelling “death to the Jews” and other antisemitic insults.

The men, French of African origin, were seeking a confrontation with members of the Betar youth movement and the Jewish Defense League. Police who arrived on the scene rapidly defused the situation. No arrests were made.

The men are believed to belong to Tribu K, a group of extremist blacks known to police for their racist rhetoric against Jews and whites. Its Web site has become a forum for racist and antisemitic rhetoric. The group has been disavowed by mainstream black organizations in France.

Confession in Florida

A teenager in Florida confessed to vandalizing a Judaica store. On May 25, Connor Ranieri, 18, confessed to the attack against the YiddishKeit store in Boca Raton in which he drew four white swastikas and a misspelled a message that read “Bun the Jews.”’ If convicted, Ranieri could be sentenced to up to a year in jail.

Israel Moves on Outpost

Israel served demolition orders against an illegal West Bank settler outpost. The Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration gave notice Tuesday that it planned to raze 18 homes built without government approval in Havat Ma’on, near Hebron. The settlers have 24 hours in which to contest the order. Defense Minister Amir Peretz has pledged to move against scores of West Bank outposts, which must be removed under the American-backed Road Map for peace with the Palestinians.

Congress Mulls Refugees

Resolutions introduced in Congress call for any reference to Palestinian refugees to be matched by similar references to Jewish and other refugees. The bipartisan resolutions, introduced May 25, were sponsored by four senators and four representatives, as well as Justice for Jews From Arab Countries, an organization that seeks rights for Jews displaced from Arab lands. According to the organization, the number of Jewish refugees from Arab countries far surpasses the number of Palestinians who became refugees in 1948.

“This resolution urges the international community to place all refugees on equal footing when Middle East refugee matters are discussed,” said Senator Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican and one of the co-sponsors of the Senate resolution. A similar resolution was introduced in the House of Representatives.

Chabad Goes to Vietnam

Chabad Lubavitch is establishing a center in Vietnam. The Web site Shmais.com reported that Rabbi Menachem and Rochel Hartmann will be moving to Ho Chi Minh City this fall to set up the Chabad house. Chabad has long had a strong presence for Jewish travelers and expatriates in Asia.

Schroeder Against Boycott

Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said he opposes sanctions against Iran and the boycott of the Hamas-run Palestinian government. Schroeder said Monday that his belief stems from the fact that Hamas was democratically elected to head the Palestinian Authority.

Schroeder spoke at a ceremony in which he was honored with the title of honorary chair of the Near and Middle East Association in Germany. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he stands by the European Union’s decision not to deal with Hamas until the Islamic group recognizes Israel’s right to exist and renounces terrorism.

Latinos Vow Partnership

More than a dozen American Hispanic leaders who traveled to Israel last month signed a statement backing Jewish-Latino relations. In the statement, the Latino representatives affirmed their commitment to pro-Israel advocacy.

“We returned from Israel strengthened in the conviction that the growing relationship between the Latino and Jewish communities in both domestic and international affairs holds great promise for both sides,” it reads. “Israel and the U.S. are allies, and like all Americans, we are affected by and concerned with Israel’s challenges, policies and conflicts.”

The document also calls on Jewish leaders to take up Latino issues. The trip was co-sponsored by the American Jewish Committee’s Latino and Latin American Institute and Project Interchange, which takes ethnically and religiously diverse leaders to educational seminars in Israel. It was co-hosted by the National Council of La Raza.

Olmert, Mubarak To Meet

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak next week. The Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem said the June 4 summit would take place in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheik, site of May 21 talks between Olmert’s top two deputies and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Egyptian officials said they expected the meeting to pave the way for a summit between the P.A. president and the Israeli prime minister.

Jerusalem Fined on Gays

The Jerusalem Municipality was ordered to pay out $70,000 to the city’s gay and lesbian center. Jerusalem District Court on Monday found in favor of a petition filed against City Hall by the Jerusalem Open House, which had been deprived of funding from the municipal cultural chest since 2003. The petitioners were also awarded $5,200 in court costs. Gay and lesbian activists have been at odds with the Jerusalem Municipality before, given Mayor Uri Lupolianski’s misgivings over the annual Gay Pride Parade in the city.

Turkey Opposes Iran Nukes

Turkey reassured Israel that it also opposed Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. “Turkey is completely against the proliferation of nuclear weapons,” Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told reporters Monday after talks with his visiting Israeli counterpart, Tzipi Livni.

Gul declined to address Arab claims that Israel’s assumed atomic arsenal should be dismantled. “I do not say that this or that state has nuclear weapons, but we believe in a region that has good neighborly relations and is free of nuclear weapons,’” he said.

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Newsdesk June 2, 2006

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