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Newsdesk November 5, 2004

Bank Boycott Called

Israeli Holocaust survivors called Tuesday for a consumer boycott of banks that have not published reports of dormant accounts belonging to Holocaust victims.

The special Knesset committee established to look into this matter has reported that about 5,000 such accounts, with about $225 million in assets, exist. Publication of the report, however, has been delayed, since Bank Leumi and other banks disagree with the findings.

In addition to urging the boycott, participants at a Jerusalem meeting of Holocaust survivors Tuesday issued a resolution demanding immediate publication of the reports.

Israeli banks should return money belonging to Holocaust victims or to their heirs immediately, according to Israel Singer, chief negotiator of the World Jewish Restitution Organization, who helped achieve a settlement with Swiss banks.

“The Israeli banks incidentally got hold of the money, and they should give it back. There is no excuse for holding back the money,” Singer said. “People are old and dying. We estimate that they are dying at the rate of two per day. My opinion is that it should be done now; it should have been done last week; it should have been done last year, and 55 years later is too late.”

Groups Back Gaza Plan

American Jewish groups rushed last week to applaud the Knesset for passing the Gaza withdrawal plan of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Sharon’s initiative was “not an easy decision, but we fully share the Israeli government’s view that it was the right decision to safeguard the future of the State of Israel,” American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris said in a statement.

Several other organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, issued clear endorsements of the Knesset vote.

The leaders of American Jewry’s top representative body, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, released a statement. Chairman James Tisch and Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein expressed “support for the Knesset vote approving the Gaza disengagement plan,” while noting that “further votes will be necessary for various stages of implementation.”

“We hope that all parties will be able to come together to work on implementation and to minimize divisiveness,” Tisch and Hoenlein stated.

Americans for Peace Now, one of the most dovish members of the 52-organization Presidents Conference, issued a statement from its president and CEO, Debra DeLee, arguing that “approval of this disengagement plan sets an important precedent for the evacuation of other settlements in the years ahead.”

Meanwhile, the Zionist Organization of America issued a statement describing the Knesset vote as an act of “appeasement.”

The statement quoted the organization’s national president: “Rewarding terrorists is wrong. Unilaterally retreating from Gaza, in the midst of a Palestinian Arab terrorist war against Israel, is a huge reward for the terrorists. This undermines the American and Israeli war against terrorism by sending a message to terrorists that their violence will result in territorial and other concessions. Making concessions in the midst of a war — whether a traditional war or a terrorist war — is a grave mistake.”

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