Newsdesk July 11, 2003

Tel Aviv ‘Don’ Gives Thanks

Ze’ev Rosenstein, reputed “don” of the Tel Aviv underworld, attended a synagogue in Jerusalem on Monday to recite Gomel — the public prayer of thanksgiving for escaping danger — after surviving an apparent assassination attempt.

Rosenstein narrowly escaped death last week when a bomb went off outside his office, injuring him lightly. It was the fourth attempt on his life in the last year.

Police and newspaper reports say the attacks are part of a bloody gang war that has left at least three suspected mobsters dead in recent months, including onetime Jerusalem kingpin Micha Aslan and reputed Netanya boss Felix “Beiza” Abergil. Several others have been injured, including mob bosses from Haifa and Lod.

Police offer no clear explanation for the violence, which follows a long period in which local gangs appeared to respect one another’s turf and avoid inter-city feuding. Newspaper reports suggest the mobs are battling over gambling and drug interests.

Police are currently interrogating a suspected hitman from the former Soviet republic of Georgia, Georgi Galashvili, who was arrested last week in Israel with photos on him of Abergil and others. Galashvili is suspected of having attempted in the past to assassinate the president of Georgia, Eduard Shevardnadze.

Aid to Palestinian Authority Restored

Congress this week gave the Bush administration the go-ahead to resume direct aid to the Palestinian Authority for the first time in seven years. The Israeli government and most Jewish groups did not protest the move, though some conservative activists are upset.

The first disbursement of direct financial aid to the authority, a total of $20 million, is to be sent immediately to the Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen. The money is likely to come from the $200 million reserve of funds budgeted in past years for development projects in the West Bank and Gaza, which the Bush administration ended up not using.

Leader Admits to Drug Charges

A German Jewish communal leader admitted to drug charges and resigned his post as vice president of the country’s central Jewish council. In a news conference Tuesday, Michel Friedman also asked forgiveness from the public, his colleagues and his girlfriend. Friedman, who is also a television talk-show host, is one of the best-known spokesmen for Germany’s Jews. He will pay a fine of roughly $19,000 but will not serve any jail time.

Nazi Backer Arrested

A Nazi collaborator was arrested after he was found hiding in Michigan despite a U.S. judge’s 16-year-old deportation order.

Johann Leprich was arrested July 1 hiding in a secret compartment below some stairs at his former home.

In 1987, after a judge revoked Leprich’s citizenship because of his service as a concentration camp guard at Mauthausen, his attorney told American authorities that he had moved to Canada.

Last week’s arrest was the result of an investigation of both local and national law enforcement authorities, including the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations.

Belzec Suit Dropped

A lawsuit to block a monument being built at the Belzec death camp in Poland has been withdrawn.

Norman Salsitz of New Jersey, a Holocaust survivor and author who lost 23 relatives at Belzec, said he withdrew a federal court injunction request against the American Jewish Committee, which is leading the $4 million project, because his wife is terminally ill.

Salsitz, who was supported by Amcha, the Coalition for Jewish Concerns, said he still opposes the monument because it includes a “trench” for a walkway through the camp that he alleges will disturb the remains of Jewish victims. The AJCommittee has denied the charges.

Ship Documents Surface

New American documents show that Israel attacked the U.S.S. Liberty by mistake, a researcher says. Florida Judge A. Jay Cristol, who wrote a book last year about the 1967 attack, was given previously classified documents from the U.S. National Security Agency that include transcripts of conversations held by Israeli Air Force helicopter pilots circling above the Liberty after it was hit. The tapes confirm Cristol and Israel’s claim that the attack was an error, Cristol said. The attack killed 34 Americans and wounded 171 others.

Yeshiva Must Repay Loan

An Australian court ordered a Sydney yeshiva to repay a $10-million loan to the brother-in-law of its director. The court ruled Monday that the yeshiva and its director, Rabbi Pinchus Feldman, must repay the loan to Rabbi Joseph Gutnick, a mining magnate and Chabad leader. The judge ruled against Feldman’s claim that the loan from Gutnick was in fact a gift. “If Rabbi Feldman was right, every Jewish person would be scared whenever they lent money to a Jewish charitable organization,” Judge Peter Young said. Feldman said the yeshiva would be forced to close if the decision stands and vowed to appeal.

— FORWARD STAFF, JEWISH TELEGRAPHIC AGENCY

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Newsdesk July 11, 2003

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