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Newsdesk May 28, 2004

Groups Press Annan

Jewish leaders have asked United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan to designate an interlocutor for the Jewish community in his office.

The leaders and a U.N. spokesman confirmed that the request was made, but stressed that Jewish officials had not asked Annan to appoint a special envoy to the Jews, as had been reported in Ha’aretz.

“They just would like to have a designated interlocutor within the secretariat,” the U.N. official said, noting that such a person existed in the past but had not been replaced since the last official passed away.

“We just talked about restoring a point man in his office to serve as a conduit,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice-chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish organizations. “We did not ask for a Jewish liaison.”

Both the U.N. official and Hoenlein said Annan agreed with the demand and should decide on an interlocutor fairly soon. At the May 18 meeting between Annan and a delegation from the Presidents Conference, the issues of Israel’s treatment at the U.N., antisemitism in Europe and in the Arab world, the Gaza withdrawal plan, the upcoming ruling of the International Court of Justice over the Israeli security fence, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and U.N. special advisor to Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi, were all broached.

Annan said that Brahimi denied making some of the comments attributed to him, such as an unwillingness to shake hands with Israelis or Jews, according to a press release issued by the Presidents Conference after the meeting.

“The Secretary-General assured the delegation that not only was the special advisor misquoted, but he was confident that no remarks of this nature would be made in the future,” the statement said, adding that Annan dissociated himself from Brahimi’s comments about the Arab-Israeli conflict as a “poison.”

Limon Praises UNRWA

The leader of one of the oldest American refugee groups praised the work of the leading Palestinian refugee relief organization. Lavinia Limon, who heads the Immigration and Refugee Services of America, said the United Nations Relief and Works Agency has “done a credible job of it for over 50 years.” Limon was reacting to Rep. Tom Lantos of California, who recently wrote a letter to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan calling for a probe of the U.N. body that runs camps and services for Palestinian refugees. Lantos accused UNRWA of fostering “a culture of anger and dependency that undermines both regional peace and the well-being of the camps’ inhabitants.” Limon, whose group has run programs for refugees in the United States for 80 years, said Palestinian anger results from their status as refugees. “I think if you put yourself in one of those situations, you too would find, if your life was being wasted,” that “you might be a little angry and certainly dependent,” Limon said Monday.

Meanwhille, Israeli soldiers raided UNRWA offices in the West Bank city of Jenin. Israeli sources said soldiers conducting a raid in Jenin entered the building and detained an UNRWA official, Paul Wolstenholme, after he failed to identify himself.

Trip to Death Camps Saved

A Berlin movie theater stepped in to save a school trip to death camp memorials outside Germany. Jurgen Paster, spokesman for the Kinocenter Spandau, said he was moved to act after he learned that the Berlin Senate did not want to subsidize 15 students from the Spandau school for an educational trip to Majdanek and Sobibor in Poland. The cinema has supplied the necessary funds with one stipulation: The students must make a film about their visit, to be shown at the theater.

Arab Named to High Court

Salim Joubran was appointed to Israel’s Supreme Court, becoming the first Arab Justice in Israel’s history to serve on the Supreme Court. He was sworn in Monday along with Edna Arbel, Elyakim Rubinstein and Esther Hayut.

Israeli Film Wins at Cannes

Keren Yedaya, director of“My Treasure,” took the Camera D’Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday — awarded to the best full-length movie by a debut director. The film is about the lives of an Israeli prostitute and her 17-year-old daughter.

Mossad Hits the Web

The Mossad has launched a Web site. Israel’s spy agency went online Monday at in an effort to boost recruitment. A precedent-setting newspaper ad circulated by the agency in 2000 called for applicants to become Mossad case officers. The new Web site boasts job openings ranging from “special agent” to “English-speaking waiter.” The site’s texts are available in Hebrew and English.

Tisch Re-elected

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations unanimously re-elected James Tisch as chairman for a second one-year term at a meeting on Monday. The Presidents Conference also adopted a resolution that the U.N. General Assembly should adopt the declaration denouncing antisemitism approved at last month’s OSCE meeting in Berlin.

Immigration Reform Sought

Eleven Jewish organizations asked the Senate to pass a comprehensive immigration reform plan. In a letter to the 100 lawmakers, the Jewish leaders cited the Jewish tradition to “welcome and prevent the oppression of the stranger that dwells among us” in seeking immigration reform that would aid the plight of undocumented migrants and end bureaucratic backlogs for immigration visas.

Author Jolts Forum

A.B. Yehoshua called on European Jews to help draw the new border between Israel and a Palestinian state at the third General Assembly of European Jewry, which took place May 20-23 in Budapest. The General Assembly also elected Britain’s Jonathan Joseph as the new president of the European Council of Jewish Communities.

Dead Sea Scrolls Reopen

The Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem is reopening. The Jerusalem museum housing the Dead Sea Scrolls is due to open in June after undergoing repairs for more than a year. The texts, which are more than 2,000 years old and written in Aramaic and Hebrew, were discovered between 1947 and 1956 in 11 caves near the Dead Sea.

Israeli Youths Look Abroad

One in four Israeli teenagers wants to leave the country, a poll found. According to an Israel Democracy Institute survey published over the weekend, 27% of Israeli teenagers do not think they will remain in the Jewish state, compared with 13% of adults.

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