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Newsdesk January 2, 2004

Church-State Suit

The American Jewish Congress is asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for summary judgment declaring unconstitutional a program by AmeriCorps, the federal service corps, placing religion teachers in sectarian schools.

The AmeriCorps program promotes religious indoctrination of elementary- and secondary-school students in private sectarian schools throughout the country, AJCongress said in a statement.

While the Corporation for National and Community Service, AmeriCorps’ sponsor, claims it only supports secular teaching, AJCongress said AmeriCorps members’ teaching of religion is inseparable from their secular activities. It cited two AmeriCorps members who taught in a parochial elementary school in Boston during the 2002-2003 school year and were affiliated with the Urban Catholic Teacher Corps, a program linked to the Catholic Network of Volunteer Service. The teachers gave the children religious instruction for 15 to 30 minutes a day, AJCongress said.

Fence To Be Moved

Israel’s government will modify the route of the separation fence after talks between government leaders and senior army officers .

There will be two major changes in plans for the fence. One is the scrapping of plans to build barriers both east and west of the West Bank village of Baka al-Sharkiya. Under the new plan residents of the village and its environs will not find themselves inside Israeli territory. The fence will instead run between Baka al-Sharkiya and the neighboring Israeli village of Baka al-Gharbiya, hugging the 1967 Green Line.

The second change is near Qalqilyah where disputes about the fence have attracted considerable international media attention and put Israel on the defensive. Qalqilyah is considered relatively free of terrorism but was being surrounded by fences on its west and east sides, making it an enclave.

The reason for the original Qalqilyah plan was to allow free movement between the settlements of Ariel and Alfei Menashei, and the Green Line. These travelers will now be redirected toward a different route leading to the Green Line.

No decision has been reached to take down the fence east of the city, but a large opening will be cut in it.

Group Backs Saudi Bill

The Zionist Organization of America is asking supporters to press Congress for legislation to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for supporting terrorism. The Saudi Arabia Accountability Act is modeled after the Syria Accountability Act President Bush recently signed into law. “Just as Syria has learned through the passage of this legislation that it will face consequences in the United States for supporting global terrorism, a message must also be sent to Saudi Arabia that its actions in support of terrorism are unacceptable to America,” the group writes in a press release.

The bill calls on Saudi Arabia to cooperate with the United States in investigating groups or individuals suspected of supporting, financing or committing acts of terror against U.S. citizens; close Saudi charities or other bodies that aid terrorism anywhere, and end all government and private aid to groups outside Saudi Arabia that aid terrorism.

Jordanian Backs Sharon

Ariel Sharon is a pragmatic leader who has no Palestinian peace partner, a former heir to the Jordanian throne said. Prince Hassan bin Talal, uncle of Jordan’s King Abdullah, made his comments to an Italian newspaper in comments published Monday. “Arafat is at a transitory stage, but unfortunately we can see the growing influence of Hamas and Hezbollah among the Palestinians,” Hassan told the newspaper.

Qatar Conference

A forum on U.S.-Islamic relations in Qatar will feature Israeli and U.S. Jewish participants. Former President Clinton and Sheik Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the emir of Qatar, are the scheduled keynote speakers at the January 10 to 12 U.S.-Islamic Forum in Doha. The forum is sponsored by the Project on U.S. Policy Toward the Islamic World, funded by the Saban Center, which was founded by American-Israeli entertainment mogul Haim Saban. Participants will come from around the Islamic world, including Syria, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. Martin Kramer, editor of the Middle East Quarterly, is the sole Israeli participant, since Saban will attend as an American.

Bishop Blasts Israel

Israel is “asking for trouble” with its treatment of the Palestinians, a senior Anglican bishop in England said. Insisting he was not excusing Palestinian suicide bombing, the Rev. Tom Wright said in an interview published Monday, “If you put people behind barbed wire, keep them caged, take their land despite international resolutions and bulldoze their homes, you are asking for trouble.”

Deportation Sought

The U.S. Justice Department is seeking to revoke the citizenship of a World War II-era ghetto guard. Osyp Firishchak, 84, a Chicago resident, is accused of involvement in the killing of Jews in the Lvov ghetto through his participation in the Nazi-sponsored Ukranian Auxiliary Police in 1941. He rounded up Jews, imprisoned them in ghettos, terrorized them, killed those attempting to escape and sent others to mass execution, according to a complaint filed Monday by the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations. The auxiliary police was responsible for sending 100,000 Jews in Lvov to killing sites, including the Belzec death camp. Firishchak entered the United States in 1949 and became a citizen in 1954.

Satellite Launched

Israel’s second commercial communications satellite is operational. On Sunday, Israeli media said the first signal had been received by Amos-2, less than 24 hours after its launch from Kazakhstan. Once settled in its orbit 22,000 miles above Earth at week’s end, the satellite will offer a new range of television broadcasts and Internet connections. Among Amos-2’s overseas customers are Home Box Office and Germany’s RTL television.

Vanunu’s Movement Eyed

Israel may limit the movement of nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu when he leaves jail next year. A former technician at the Dimona nuclear reactor, Vanunu was captured overseas, convicted of espionage and sentenced to 18 years in prison after giving England’s Sunday Times a tell-all interview on Israel’s nuclear capabilities in 1986. Channel Two television reported Monday that Vanunu, scheduled for release April 21, may be forbidden from leaving Israel or speaking to the press for fear that he will publicize more state secrets.

Israeli Missiles to Poland

An Israeli company is selling anti-tank missiles to Poland. A signing ceremony is slated for Monday for the estimated $250 million sale. Under the deal, the Rafael Armament Development Authority will sell the Spike missiles, which can be shoulder-launched or assembled on vehicles. The Israeli and Polish governments already approved the deal.

Mayor ‘Crosses’ Line

A French mayor says he will refuse to marry people who wear religious insignia. Jacques Martin, mayor of the Paris suburb of Nogent-sur-Marne, said that those wearing Muslim veils, yarmulkes or large crosses would be prohibited from marrying in civil ceremonies in his town hall. According to French law, all couples must marry in civil ceremonies performed by local mayors, whether or not they subsequently wish to have religious weddings. The mayor’s edict was condemned December 25 by France’s minister of local authorities, Patrick Devedjian. Earlier this month, French President Jacques Chirac said he backed proposals to ban visible religious signs in state schools and in public institutions.

Judge Gets Top Post

A Jewish judge was made president of Chile’s Supreme Court. Judge Marcos Libedinsky, 70, was elected the new president of Chile’s Supreme Court of Justice with 16 of 20 total votes. Libedinsky, who is open about his Jewish background, will start his two-year rule on January 6. Chilean papers praised Libedinsky, saying he is distinguished by his leadership. Libedinsky became a member of the Supreme Court in 1993.


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