Newsdesk July 22, 2005

FBI Investigates L.A. Plot

FBI counterterrorism agents are investigating whether two American Muslim converts planned to attack the Israeli consulate, two synagogues and other targets in Los Angeles. Yariv Ovadia, the Israeli consul for communications and public affairs in Los Angeles, confirmed July 15 that federal agents had warned the consulate of possible threats. “We fully trust American authorities to handle the situation,” he said. The threats apparently were discovered accidentally when police arrested Levar Haney Washington, 25, and Gregory Vernon Patterson, 21, as suspects in a string of gas station robberies over the past two months. Washington converted to Islam while serving a prison sentence for a previous assault and robbery conviction in 1999. Patterson, who has no criminal record, is believed to be a more recent convert. A search of Washington’s apartment turned up jihadi literature, bulletproof vests and an address list of various L.A. sites. Entries included the “Consulate of Zion” and the two synagogues. At this point, the two suspects have been arraigned only on nine counts of robbery.

London Mayor Slams Likud

London Mayor Ken Livingstone said Israel’s Likud Party and the Hamas terrorist group are “two sides of the same coin.”

“Each side emphasizes the extremism of the other in order to attract sympathy,” said Livingstone, a frequent critic of Israeli policy, in an interview with Britain’s Sky News, Ha’aretz reported. But, he added, “I think it is the Israelis who are leading the stubborn line.”

Livingstone was interviewed amid the buzz over a possible visit to London by Muslim cleric Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, who has expressed support for suicide bombers and is banned from the United States.

Livingstone also accused Israel of doing “terrible things bordering on crimes against humanity,” including having “slaughtered” people in the West Bank and Gaza for dozens of years. Israel did not react strongly to Livingstone’s remarks. “Everyone knows the man is an extremist, with problematic positions and problematic attitudes toward Jews,” one Israeli official told the Jerusalem Post.

Islamic Group Apologizes

The Canadian Islamic Congress apologized to scholar Daniel Pipes for saying he wanted to put North American Muslims into concentration camps. Stan Fisher, an attorney with Toronto law firm Heenan Blaikie, confirmed that the firm had sent a libel notice on behalf of Pipes to the Canadian Islamic Congress after its Web site ran an article by Wahida Valiante accusing the Philadelphia-based Pipes of wanting to employ “Hitlerian” tactics against Muslims.

The organization also paid Pipes’s legal expenses and made a charitable donation in his name. In a widely distributed column this week, Pipes, who heads the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum think tank, called his victory an “unprecedented” occurrence that “offers a small but important step in blocking the advance of Islamic extremism.”

Terrorists Gained Residency

One in nine Palestinians who carried out terrorist attacks during the intifada had received Israeli residency under family-reunification arrangements, a top Israeli security official said. Yuval Diskin, who heads Israel’s Shin Bet security service, testified Monday before a Knesset committee that is considering changes to a law that grants permanent-resident status to some West Bank Palestinians who have relatives in Israel. Diskin told the closed committee that 99% of terrorists are men between the ages of 16 and 35 and women under the age of 25. Palestinians in those age groups are barred from receiving permanent residence, he said. Critics said that it’s racist to place restrictions on Palestinian family reunification.

Fire Engulfs Camp Bus

Campers from a Jewish overnight camp in Wisconsin had a brush with an inadvertent fire, after their bus ignited during the drive home from a summer session.

Fifty campers and five counselors from Camp Chi, located in Lake Delton, Wis., were evacuated from the smoking coach by their bus driver, who noticed something was wrong near a rest stop in Janesville, Wis., on Interstate Highway 90. They watched from a distance as the bus ignited and was destroyed, said Jay Levenberg, assistant general director of the Jewish Community Centers of Chicago, which owns and operates the camp.

“Unfortunately they lost their personal belongings, but thankfully nobody was harmed or injured,” Levenberg said. He added that maintenance on the bus was up to date, and said that the bus company, Coach USA, is investigating the cause of the fire.

A replacement bus picked up the campers and staff, returning them to Buffalo Grove, Ill., just two hours after they originally were expected. The 80-year-old camp serves 1,200 campers each season.

Teacher Dies in Hit and Run

A hit-and-run driver killed a teacher at a Milwaukee Jewish day school. Judee Ross, 45, of Mequon, Wis., was struck down while crossing the street in Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood on July 16.

“Judee was not just a fantastic teacher, but an incredible person,” said Rabbi Philip Nadel, co-director and Jewish studies principal at Milwaukee Jewish Day School, where Ross taught English and literature.

According to police, Ross was hit shortly before 9 p.m. by a speeding car that fled the scene. Another motorist followed the car until police caught up and took David Guzman, 26, of Chicago, into custody, said police spokeswoman Robin Mohr. She also said that Guzman was charged with reckless homicide and leaving the scene of an accident.

A Wednesday funeral was planned for Ross, who was a member of Milwaukee’s Congregation Sinai. She is survived by her husband and three children.

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Newsdesk July 22, 2005

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