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Newsdesk May 26, 2006

Hamas Floats Cease-fire

Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniyeh told Ha’aretz Monday that the Hamas-led government is prepared to agree to an extended cease-fire if Israel withdraws to the pre-1967 borders.

“If Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders, peace will prevail and we will implement a [cease-fire] for many years,” Haniyeh said during an interview in his south Gaza office. “Our government is prepared to maintain a long-term cease-fire with Israel.”

Haniyeh expressed surprise that the Israeli government has not responded positively to the Palestinian government’s decision to allow its ministers to conduct negotiations with representatives of the Israeli government regarding day-to-day issues. The decision was one of the first that the Hamas government made, and Haniyeh sees it as part of an overall approach: His government is ready for talks with Israel on practical matters, though not on ideological or political issues.

Lesbian Service Slammed

A leading Russian Jewish organization called on the community to boycott Reform Jews after a Reform rabbi officiated at what is believed to be the country’s first Jewish same-sex commitment ceremony.

“We are calling on Jewish organizations and communities of Russia to relinquish any religious contacts with the people who have committed this sacrilegious and provocative act, as well as with the organizations these people represent,” said a statement released May 18 by the Chabad-led Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, the largest Jewish group in the country.

The ceremony for a lesbian couple in Moscow took place April 2, but was publicized only last week by a Moscow newspaper. Rabbi Nelly Shulman, who officiated, insisted that she did so on her own private initiative and that she was not backed in any way by her group, OROSIR, the umbrella organization of Reform Judaism in Russia.

Arms Dealers Arrested

An Israeli aviation firm is suspected of violating arms-exports regulations to China. Four staff members of a Tel Aviv area company that produces unmanned aerial vehicles were arrested Monday on suspicion of selling controlled technology without Defense Ministry approval. Israel has been stepping up its oversight on such exports, since the United States voiced opposition to its sale of Harpy attack drones to China.

Disgraced Rabbi Indicted

A Maryland rabbi was indicted on charges relating to sexual overtures toward a minor. Rabbi David Kaye, 56, is scheduled for arraignment June 9 by a U.S. district court on charges of “coercion and enticement” and “travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual contact with a minor.” The charges stem from a “Dateline NBC” investigation last fall of alleged Internet predators. Kaye resigned from his position as vice president of programs for the Rockville, Md.-based Panim: The Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values days before the “Dateline” episode aired. According to a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney, Kaye is in federal custody pending trial, the Washington Jewish Week reported.

Ethiopian Mission Set

United Jewish Communities is leading a mission to Ethiopia this week to highlight its campaign for immigration to Israel by the Falash Mura. More than 80 North American Jews are going on the trip, aimed at motivating participants to help the federation umbrella group meet its goal of raising $100 million for the Falash Mura — Ethiopians whose ancestors converted to Christianity but are now returning to Judaism.

Like a similar UJC mission that took place in February, the trip will include site visits to the cities of Addis Ababa and Gondar, where up to 15,000 Falash Mura are living while waiting to immigrate to the Jewish state. The main Jewish aid compound for the Falash Mura in Gondar closed last week after the arrest of one of its officials. But an official at the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry, which runs the compound through Ethiopian intermediaries, said that the compound was expected to reopen this week following the release of the Ethiopian official.

Law Firm Indicted

The law firm of one of the leading plaintiff’s attorneys in the landmark Holocaust restitution cases is at the center of a legal firestorm that has resulted in the indictments of both the firm and two of its top partners.

Melvyn Weiss’s New York-based firm, Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman, is known for bringing major corporations to their knees with hard-hitting class action lawsuits. The firm was indicted May 18 along with its partners, David J. Bershad and Steven G. Schulman, for allegedly paying out millions of dollars in secret kickbacks to individuals who served as named plaintiffs in more than 150 class action lawsuits. None of the cases relates to the $1.25 billion Swiss banks settlement negotiated by Weiss, or to the lawsuit against German banks and industry that resulted in the recovery of $5 billion for Holocaust survivors. In the Swiss banks case, settled in 1998, Weiss acted as pro bono lead counsel.

Milberg Weiss vehemently denies the charges leveled against the lawyers.

In an e-mail statement to the Forward, Weiss’s attorney, Ben Brafman, said that the indictments would “not in any way affect the Holocaust cases litigated by Mr. Weiss and his firm, nor will the case against Milberg Weiss in any way tarnish the settlements already reached in those cases.”

Stuart Eizenstat, who served as special representative under President Clinton for negotiating holocaust agreements, defended Weiss, lauding his role in bringing the class action suits to closure. Eizenstat said that he “came away with an enormous respect for Mel,” following the Holocaust restitution settlement negotiations. “He was clearly the lead of all the disparate groups, and we couldn’t have had an agreement without him.


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