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Newsdesk November 25, 2005

Russia: Rabbi Can’t Return

Moscow’s chief rabbi, Pinchas Goldschmidt, will never be allowed to return to Russia, the country’s Internal Affairs Ministry said. The news came in a letter from the ministry publicized Tuesday. The letter cited an article in Russian legislation that prevents foreigners who are deemed threats to Russian national security from entering the country. On September 26, Goldschmidt, a Swiss national who has been leading Moscow’s central synagogue for almost 15 years, was denied re-entry to Russia and had his visa annulled at a Moscow airport. Until this week, authorities had not explained their reasons for the move.

The announcement drew a swift condemnation from leaders if the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

“This action is an affront to the Jewish community and religious freedom in Russia,” said the conference’s chairman, Harold Tanner, and its executive vice chairman, Malcolm Hoenlein.

“We cannot dismiss this as a bureaucratic blunder as this matter has been pending for months and there have been many intercessions with high-ranking officials,” the leaders declared. “It was initially stated that Rabbi Goldschmidt had an inappropriate visa and he subsequently acquired the visa under the appropriate work category. It is our understanding that he was denied under the law that prohibits entry to those who threaten the security of Russia. This compounds the egregious nature of their decision and implies a baseless and unwarranted charge.”

Pol Warns Palestinians

Rep. Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, submitted a congressional resolution this week warning that the inclusion of terrorist groups in the Palestinian Authority’s governing structure could jeopardize American financial aid.

The resolution, which was submitted this week to the House International Relations Committee, insists that “terrorist organizations, such as Hamas, should not be permitted in Palestinian elections” until they recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and dismantle their violent infrastructure.

Co-sponsored by several House Democrats and Republicans, the resolution further asserts that the inclusion of such a terrorist group in the Palestinian government “will inevitably raise serious policy considerations for the United States.” Such a move, the resolution states, could hinder Washington’s ability to “conduct normal relations with the P.A.”

A congressional resolution expresses the sense of Congress but does not have the power of a law.

P.A. Minister Resigns

The Palestinian Authority may have a more difficult time receiving sympathy and aid from Washington after the resignation last week of Salam Fayyad, its reformist finance minister. The P.A.’s official line is that Fayyad resigned in order to campaign for a seat in the Palestinian parliament in the January 25, 2006, elections. But Palestinian sources said the real cause might be connected to Fayyad’s power struggles with the P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas.

A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, Fayyad developed a rapport with America’s Texan president, George W. Bush. Last month, when Bush met with Abbas in the White House, the president and Fayyad were seen exchanging the famous raised index-finger-and-pinkie salute of the University of Texas Longhorns. Palestinian sources said Fayyad is such an asset for the P.A. that he probably will end up with a senior position in the Palestinian government.

Aid Conditions Urged

A leading left-leaning Jewish organization, Americans for Peace Now, is calling on President Bush to impose a series of conditions on Israel’s renewed request for aid to develop its northern and southern periphery.

Israel has yet to submit an official request for a special cash grant associated with its redeployment from Gaza. Following the advice of allies in Washington, Israeli officials put off the request after Hurricane Katrina hit in late August. Now, according to Israeli sources, Ariel Sharon’s lame-duck government may submit the request, which may exceed $1 billion. An American aid package could boost Sharon’s popular support as he leads his new breakaway party in early elections slated for March 28, 2006.

In a November 18 letter to Bush, Peace Now called for “appropriate safeguards to ensure that the aid is used in a manner that is consistent with U.S. interests and the promotion of Israeli-Palestinian peace.”

Among other demands, the letter mentions the need for Israeli commitments and American oversight to make sure that Israeli Arab citizens, who mainly reside in the areas in question, receive their fair share of the aid. It also recommends that Washington condition the aid on Israel’s dismantling the illegal settlement outposts in the West Bank, on the implementation of Israeli-Palestinian agreements to open the “safe passage” for Palestinians between the West Bank and Gaza, and on Israel’s avoiding unilateral steps that change the status-quo in Jerusalem.

L.A. Killer Convicted

A Los Angeles man, Benjamin Frandsen, was convicted of killing two Israelis in 2002. Frandsen could face life in prison when he is sentenced in a Los Angeles court January 24. One of his accomplices, Shane Huang, already was found guilty in the case and will be sentenced December 6. Prosecutors said Ben Wertzberger and Adar Ne’eman were killed because Huang thought they were trying to take his marijuana.

Pop Star Said to Bash Jews

Pop star Michael Jackson is being accused of comparing Jews to leeches.

Jackson supposedly made the remark in a phone message that was obtained by ABC News and then broadcast Tuesday on “Good Morning America.”

In one of the messages, Jackson allegedly tells former adviser Dieter Wiesner that Jews “suck… they’re like leeches… I’m so tired of it.”

“The Jews do it on purpose,” Jackson said.

The message was one of several supplied by Wiesner’s lawyer, Howard King.

Jackson had fired Wiesner and another adviser, Marc Schaffel. They are suing, claiming that Jackson, who recently relocated to Bahrain, owes them millions of dollars.

According to the New York Daily News, Brian Oxman, a Jackson family attorney, insisted in a statement that the messages were actually “telephone conversations recorded without permission.”

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