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Newsdesk April 15, 2005

Report: Rift Over China

Tensions between Washington and Jerusalem over Israel’s military links with China are rising again as reports about Beijing’s military buildup is causing increasing concerns in American defense circles.

This week, the Boston Globe reported that a soon-to-be-released Pentagon report claims that soon China will have the capacity to block American forces from defending Taiwan, thanks partly to its military cooperation with several countries, including Israel.

In response to questions from Israeli reporters, Prime Minister Sharon said the issue was not discussed during his Monday meeting with President Bush in Texas.

The Pentagon document, to be released in a few weeks, will assert that China is on the verge of launching a new fighter jet that closely follows the design of Israel’s Lavi warplane, the Globe reported. The new J-10 fighter was built with the aid of Israeli technology, either by copying a design or through assistance from Israeli industries, according to American officials quoted by the newspaper.

The newspaper also said that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld recently complained to Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz about Israel’s budding military relationship with China.

During his recent trip to Washington, Mofaz told reporters that the issue was the primary reason for his visit, adding that the “attempt to find a rift or a crisis [between Israel and America regarding Israel’s military relations with China] is wrong-headed.”

Mormons, Jews Meet

The Mormon Church will take additional steps to stop its members from posthumously baptizing Jews, Mormon and Jewish leaders said after meeting this week in Salt Lake City. The summit was held in response to evidence suggesting that thousands of Jews and Holocaust survivors have been posthumously baptized since 1995, when Mormon leaders first agreed to take steps against the practice.

Both sides praised the summit’s spirit of cooperation, but few concrete promises were made. A committee constituting both Mormons and Jews will meet regularly to discuss the Jewish concerns. Officials of the church, officially known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter -day Saints, also vowed that the names of Jewish Holocaust victims recently posted on the Yad Vashem Web site would not be used.

The church’s ability to fulfill that promise depends largely on its own Web site, through which 12 million church members and others submit roughly 150 million names for baptism each year. Although church leaders have publicly directed members to submit the names of only their direct ancestors, the Web site currently does not screen out erroneous names. A new system will be introduced in the next couple of years, church leaders said, that will feature a users’ agreement and possibly some screening functions.

At the same time, “We have never said that we can guarantee a fail-safe system,” said church spokesman Michael Otterson. Jewish leaders at the meeting seemed to come away with a greater acceptance of that view.

Posthumous baptism, a central rite of the church, is based on the Mormon belief that those who lived before the church’s founding in 1830 should have the chance for eternal salvation. During the ritual, a church member stands in for the deceased person, who, according to church doctrine, can choose whether to accept or reject the conversion.

Immigration Bill Knocked

Jewish groups joined an interfaith effort to oppose proposed immigration reforms. David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said the REAL ID Act, which passed the House of Representatives, raises extra hurdles for asylum seekers. The American Jewish Committee and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society joined an interfaith coalition opposed to the bill that included Lutheran and Southern Baptist leaders. The bill is being debated in the U.S. Senate this week.

Iranian Chides Media

Iran’s parliamentary speaker criticized antisemitism in the state media.

“I caution” state media “to respect the rights of religious minorities in the programs they produce,” Gholamali Haddadadel said Wednesday after Maurice Motamed, a Jewish representative in Iran’s Parliament, complained about antisemitic television broadcasts.

Insulting Jews and attributing false things to them in TV programs “has not only hurt the feelings of the Jewish community but has also, it can be said with conviction, led to the emigration of a considerable percentage of the Jewish community,” the Iranian news agency quoted Motamed as telling parliament. There are an estimated 25,000 Jews living in the Islamic Republic, down from more than twice that number when the pro-Western Shah was toppled in 1979.

Rabbi Battles Union

An embattled rabbi is stepping up his fight against the rabbinical union that recently expelled him following an investigation into sexual harassment allegations.

The rabbi, Mordecai Tendler, has turned to a rabbinical court in Jerusalem to protest his expulsion from the Rabbinical Council of America, the largest American union of Orthodox rabbis.

The RCA expelled Tendler on March 18, alleging that he refused to cooperate with its investigation of the harassment claims against him. The organization also stated that Tendler, the scion of a prominent rabbinic family, had “engaged in conduct inappropriate for an Orthodox rabbi.”

Tendler has insisted that he did cooperate with the RCA investigation. He has denied the harassment allegations.

On April 4, the Jerusalem Regional Bet Din, which is one of several Jewish religious courts recognized by the Israeli’s Chief Rabbinate, issued an injunction against the RCA, prohibiting the organization “from damaging” Tendler’s status “until the defendant summons the plaintiff to a [rabbinical court] anywhere in the world.”

The RCA issued a statement Monday defending its procedures and noting that it never purported to be acting as a rabbinical court when it expelled Tendler.

“Any claims to the contrary, be they from rabbis in America or Israel… family members or others are based on willful denial of fact or on ignorance resulting from one-sided representations,” the RCA stated.

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