Newsdesk June 27, 2003

Pressure Mounts on Harvard

Critics are stepping up their efforts to pressure Harvard Divinity School into returning a $2.5 million donation from the president of the United Arab Emirates.

The Jewish chaplain and director of Hillel at Columbia University and Barnard College, Rabbi Charles Sheer, recently sent out an email encouraging people to sign an online petition that demands the return of the money.

Harvard accepted the gift three years ago from the UAE president, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahayyan, in order to establish a professorship in Islamic Studies bearing his name that would promote deeper understanding between Muslim and non-Muslim peoples. However, critics began to decry the gift after Rachel Fish, a Harvard theology student, reported that the UAE president has connections to an eponymous Arab think tank with alleged antisemitic and anti-American ties.

The think tank “routinely promotes and publishes Holocaust denial literature and Jewish blood libels, as well as publications claiming that the U.S. military was behind the September 11th attacks,” Sheer wrote in his email. “The center is described on its website as the ‘fulfillment of the vision of Sheikh Zayed.’”

Fish and other students met March 19 with divinity school dean William Graham to discuss their concerns. Graham, who signed a divestment petition from Israel last year and then later removed his name, is currently investigating the link between the UAE president and the center, whose activities he has condemned. No time frame has been set as to when the administration will make its decision.

No Move by Pakistan

Pakistan’s president, Pervez Musharraf, apparently decided not to use his visit to Washington this week to recognize the State of Israel.

Last week, in a television interview, Musharraf indicated that he is considering such a move. He said that if the Middle East peace process moved ahead, then Pakistan would have to decide whether it needed to review its policy vis-à-vis Israel. Then, in a newspaper interview, Musharraf said that the issue of Israel must “be taken up seriously and not on emotional grounds.” He added, however, that an internal Pakistani debate, as well as consultations with his country’s Muslim and Arab allies, should precede such a step.

Some observers speculated that Musharraf might use his meeting with President Bush at Camp David to make an announcement on the topic. But Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, was quick to throw cold water on these rumors. Musharraf did not use the presidential podium at Camp David to make such a declaration.

Memorial Draws Suit

A Holocaust survivor is suing the American Jewish Committee over a memorial the group is erecting at a Nazi death camp. On Monday, Norman Salsitz of Springfield, N.J., filed a suit in U.S. District Court in Washington seeking an injunction blocking AJCommittee from digging a trench through the Belzec death camp in Poland because it allegedly will disturb human remains buried there. Salsitz lost 23 family members in Belzec, where an estimated 600,000 Jews died.

“What is a monument? A remembrance of a terrible thing. You don’t remember by stepping in the blood and the bones and the ashes,” he said.

The AJCommittee denies that any desecration is taking place and says the memorial has won the approval of Israel’s former chief Ashkenazi rabbi, Yisrael Meir Lau; leading European rabbis on a Jewish cemetery preservation panel, and other survivors of the camp.

Study Blasts Romania

The wartime Romanian government actively cooperated with the Nazis, according to a new three-volume study. The release of the report comes soon after the Romanian government denied that mass killings of Jews occurred on its territory during World War II. The government later retracted that claim. Some 420,000 Romanian Jews died during the war, according to the study by Tel Aviv University researcher Jean Ancel. “The Romanians and the Germans had the exact same goals, with the only difference being that the Germans were systematic and orderly, and the Romanians wild,” he wrote.

Court: N.J. Eruv Okay

The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal to a ruling that allows an eruv, or Sabbath boundary, to be built in a New Jersey city. The court let stand a lower court ruling that the city of Tenafly’s denial of the eruv’s construction was motivated by a desire to prevent Orthodox Jews from moving into the city. The Orthodox Union praised the court’s move.

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Newsdesk June 27, 2003

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