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Newsdesk June 25, 2004

Bush Awards Podhoretz, Lauder

President Bush has awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom, to Norman Podhoretz, the Jewish political theorist. Podhoretz helped cultivate neoconservatism in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and has since steered its flagship publication, the American Jewish Committee-published Commentary. Bush awarded other Medals of Freedom to Pope John Paul II and, posthumously, to Estée Lauder, the Jewish cosmetics magnate and philanthropist.

Hamas Raps Arafat

Hamas, via a Web site Tuesday, issued a harsh rebuke of comments made by Yasser Arafat. Arafat told the Israeli daily Ha’aretz last week that he wants a Palestinian state to lie adjacent to a Jewish state, similar to the peace plan he rejected at the 2000 Camp David summit. In a statement, Hamas announced that it “strongly condemns the statements made by Yassar Arafat… which represent new concessions.”

Quartet To Meet in Egypt

Representatives from the diplomatic Quartet seeking Israeli-Palestinian peace will meet in Egypt this week. William Burns, the top state department envoy to the region, and his counterparts from the United Nations, European Union and Russia will convene in the border town of Taba to discuss economic, political and security issues, state department spokesman Richard Boucher said Monday. Palestinian reform will be on the agenda. Burns also will meet this week with Egyptian officials in Cairo to discuss the Egyptian role in helping secure Gaza after Israel’s expected withdrawal.

Rights Murders Remembered

Speakers called for justice at a service marking the 40th anniversary of the unsolved triple murder of three civil rights advocates, two of whom were Jews. On June 21, 1964, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were killed in Philadelphia, Miss., by what many suspect were members of the Ku Klux Klan. The newly established Philadelphia Coalition intends to construct a permanent memorial where the murders took place.

Prehistoric Huts Found in Israel

Archaeologists recently unearthed the remains of a prehistoric culture in Israel. The remains were found beneath the Sea of Galilee, and date back approximately 23,000 years. Evidence of huts, open-air fires and even a man’s grave are among the finds. The researchers worked under the auspices of several Israeli universities. Excavation began in 1989 but had been delayed because of the sea’s fluctuating water levels.

Israel Accused of False Arrests

According to a letter written by Ilan Elad, a senior official in the Interior Ministry, the Israeli Immigration Police are systematically concealing documents and making false arrests to satisfy deportation quotas set by the government. Elad, who oversees the enforcement of foreign workers’ residency laws in the Tel Aviv area, sent his letter to the commander of the Immigration Police, Amir Gal. Elad’s letter discusses one May 22 episode in particular, in which Elad alleges that 40 foreign nationals were arrested and defined by police as “anonymous.” When it became clear to Elad that the 40 were in Israel legally, he pressed for their release. The Tel Aviv Immigration Police urged him to reconsider. “The police operated within their authority and the law in detaining all suspects,” the Immigration Police said in a statement.

Mossad Active in Kurdistan

Israel has reportedly angered Turkey by training Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq. An article in this week’s issue of The New Yorker magazine reports that hundreds of Mossad agents have been operating since last year among Kurds in northern Iraq, using them to spy on nearby Iran and Syria. According to reporter Seymour Hersh, Israel also has helped form Kurdish commando units, to the alarm of the Turkish government, which sees them as a separatist threat. “A declaration of Kurdish independence would trigger a Turkish response and possibly a war and also derail what has been an important alliance for Israel,” Hersh wrote. Israeli officials declined comment. The revelations come as Turkey has become increasingly vocal in its support for the Palestinians and its condemnation of Israeli anti-terrorist operations in Gaza.

Israeli Army Raids Exhibit

Israeli Military Police raided the “Breaking the Silence” photography exhibit Tuesday, ostensibly to find photographic evidence of vandalism and violence committed against Palestinians and their property. The photographs were taken by some 70 Nahal Brigade soldiers in Hebron. The organizers of the exhibit contend that the raid was really designed to intimidate soldiers who might try to document what they see — particularly any “brutality.” The military police confiscated a folder containing videotaped statements by the soldiers as well as clips of articles about the exhibit. “Breaking the Silence” is scheduled to be shown at the Knesset next week.

French Leader Re-elected

France’s Consistoire Central, the largest Jewish religious organization in Europe, re-elected Jean Kahn as president for his third consecutive term. Kahn, who ran unopposed, is also the founding chairman of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia. In addition, Kahn headed the umbrella organization of French Jews, CRIF, in the early 1990s. The Consistoire Central, a centrist Orthodox organization that counts more than 250 Jewish communities from across France as members, was founded by none other than Napoleon Bonaparte in 1807.

More Pomp Than Circumstance

A possible confrontation was avoided between Jewish and Muslim students during graduation ceremonies at University of California, Irvine. At Saturday’s ceremony, several members of the Muslim Student Union wore strips of green cloth inscribed with the Arabic word for “martyrdom” over their graduation gowns. Muslim student leaders claimed that approximately 30 graduates wore the sashes, though Jewish students said there were fewer. Adult members of the American Jewish Congress and arrived on campus in a show of solidarity with Jewish students.

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