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Newsdesk April 23, 2004

Pro-Israel Socialist Ousted

The main advocate for tighter European Union oversight over funding of the Palestinian Authority claims he was sidelined by his own party because of his Middle East positions. Francois Zimeray, a French Socialist Party member of the European Parliament, has been kept off the party’s list of candidates for the upcoming European elections in June. Zimeray told the Forward he had fully expected to be on the list and accused the Socialist Party leadership of pandering to the Arab vote. French and European Jewish leaders criticized the decision.

Zimeray was the main driving force behind an effort by E.U. institutions to investigate the distribution of millions of dollars to the P.A that led to more careful monitoring. He said he would not resign from the Socialist Party and promised to pursue his Middle East-related agenda through an NGO called Medbridge, which he set up last year.

Syria Sanctions To Come

The Bush administration indicated to Congress this week that a White House decision to impose sanctions on Syria is imminent. The decision has been delayed for several months, since President Bush signed into law the Syria Accountability Act in December. The delay, sources said, was both a result of Washington’s attempts to obtain Syrian cooperation on Iraq and of the administration’s efforts not to embarrass Arab leaders visiting Washington. Congressional sources involved in passing the legislation and in the dialogue with the administration over Syria said they expect the administration to impose two sanctions on Syria out of a menu of six in the legislation. Sources are expecting an economic sanction — such as the establishment of trade restrictions — as well as a diplomatic one, like restricting the freedom of movement of Syrian diplomats in the United States.

Iraqi Jews Secure Money

Jews who fled Iraq in the 1950s reportedly will receive payments on their insurance policies. AXA, a French insurance firm that had a Baghdad subsidiary, will pay $130,000 in compensation to three refugees now living in Israel for their old policies on assets abandoned in Iraq. If paid, the compensation would be the first for Jews who left Arab lands.

Saudi Arabian Sentenced

A U.S. court sentenced a student from Saudi Arabia to 60 years in jail for killing his Jewish friend. In a statement, Mohammed Ali Alayed, 23, apologized for the August 2003 killing of Ariel Sellouk but did not explain why he did it. Sellouk’s father told the court that he hopes someone slits Alayed’s throat in prison.

Swiss Boycott Ceremony

Switzerland boycotted a ceremony honoring a Swiss citizen who saved Jews during World War II. The country’s ambassador to Israel was ordered to stay away from Monday’s ceremony honoring Paul Grueninger because it was held in Pisgat Ze’ev, a Jerusalem neighborhood that came into Israeli hands during the 1967 Six-Day War.

Grueninger was a former Swiss police commander who provided more than 3,600 Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis with false papers, enabling them to seek refuge in neutral Switzerland. As a result of his actions, Grueninger lost his post as a commander and was treated as a criminal even many years after the war; he was forced to live the rest of his life in poverty.

Germans Discuss Funds

German Jewish leaders are meeting ahead of talks with the federal government regarding a funding dispute. Paul Spiegel, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, called Sunday’s board meeting in Dusseldorf to prepare for Wednesday’s talks with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Berlin. At stake is future funding for congregations in the Union for Progressive Jews in Germany, Germany’s Reform movement, and the status of the Central Council as the sole umbrella organization of Jewish groups in the country. The talks are aimed at averting the union’s lawsuit on charges that the government has failed to support all streams of Judaism in keeping with the historic contract signed between the Central Council and the German government last year.

Report: Antisemitism Up

Strong criticism of Israel has spawned antisemitism internationally, according to Israeli researchers at Tel Aviv University’s Stephen Roth Institute. Researchers there identified 360 serious antisemitic incidents worldwide last year, up from 330 in 2002. The annual report, issued Sunday, blamed “the link between extreme anti-Israel rhetoric and deeds directed against Jewish individuals and communities,” and noted an alliance between Islamic radicals and members of extreme right- and left-wing political organizations. The highest incidence of antisemitic violence was reported in France, the United Kingdom, Russia, Germany and Canada. “Since Jews and Israel are perceived as a single evil entity, any Jew, even the most anti-Zionist, has become a potential target,” the report said.

Mossad Trial Starts

Two Israelis alleged to be Mossad agents appeared in a New Zealand court April 16 for allegedly trying to illegally acquire New Zealand passports. Uri Zoshi Kelman, 30, and Eli Cara, 50, have denied the charges against them. The New Zealand Herald reported that senior government ministers believed the men were Mossad agents.

The court was told that two other men were involved: Zev William Barkan, 37, has fled New Zealand, but another Israeli is believed to be in hiding in the country. Israel’s acting ambassador to New Zealand, Orna Sagiv, said that Israel respects the right of the New Zealand court system to try the men.

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