Newsdesk March 24, 2006

Bishop Blasts Occupation

A leading American Catholic bishop said that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is a factor in the persecution of Christians in Muslim lands.

“The failure to secure a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with its resulting occupation of Palestinian lands, sometimes spills over into prejudices and distrusts [sic] of indigenous Christians in Muslim nations,” Bishop Thomas Wenski of Miami said.

Testifying last week in Congress, Wenski, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Policy, also cited globalization, the Iraq War and perceptions of anti-Muslim sentiment in the West as factors in the persecution of Christians.

Darfur Prayers Offered

Jewish groups in the United States are taking part in the National Week of Prayer and Action for Darfur. The Save Darfur Coalition, an alliance of more than 150 religious groups representing 130 million Americans, is inviting communities of all faiths to participate April 2-9 in efforts to end the humanitarian crisis in the African region. Organizers said that the goal is to promote the Million Voices for Darfur campaign to generate 1 million postcards to President Bush teling him to support a stronger, multinational force to protect the people of Darfur. The American government has declared the humanitarian crisis genocide, with 300,000 deaths and millions of others forced into refugee camps after a government-sponsored campaign of violence.

Jew Beaten in France

A Jewish man was attacked in his car in the Parisian suburbs. The attack, which occurred last Sunday, was carried out by three men dscribed as being of African and North African origin, according to the French Office of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism.

The three made the man stop his car and then forcibly removed him from the vehicle, allegedly calling him a Jew in Arabic. The man was thrown to the ground and beaten; his attackers fled when another car passed by. The victim managed to get his attackers’ license plate number and to go to the police station to press charges. The three men were then located and arrested.

Rabbi: Bird Flu Is a Curse

A leading Israeli rabbi blamed local outbreaks of avian flu on sexual permissiveness. “The Bible says that God punishes depravity first through blights on animals, and then on humans,” Rabbi David Basri, a top kabbalist, was quoted as writing in an edict. Basri linked the first discovery of avian flu in Israeli poultry farms over the weekend to election campaign ads by left-wing Israeli parties calling for the legalization of same-sex marriage. Basri, who is no stranger to controversy, faces a criminal investigation for denigrating Arabs in a recent speech.

Genetic Test Questioned

A genetic test for breast cancer mutations linked to Ashkenazic Jews misses the mutations about 12% of the time, according to a new study. The test searches for the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 mutations, which are carried by 2% of Ashkenazic Jews and have been linked to both breast and ovarian cancers, according to Washington’s Human Genome Project. Experts said that Ashkenazic Jews have specific types of mutations that are unlikely to be missed by the test. The study currently in use has a patent that prevents other tests from being developed, and its researchers said the monopoly is preventing additional tests from being used that could catch more of the mutations.

FDA Pick Criticized

The National Council of Jewish Women said it is “deeply troubled” by President Bush’s choice for Food and Drug Administration commissioner. The organization said Tuesday that the president’s promotion last week of Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, who had been serving as acting head of the FDA since September 2005, to the permanent position was problematic because of his opposition to the Plan B emergency contraceptive. Phyllis Snyder, president of the women’s council, said that though the drug has received favorable recommendations by both a scientific advisory panel and the FDA’s own scientists, under von Eschenbach’s leadership the FDA has failed to meet statutory deadlines to make it available over the counter.

Jerusalem Eyes Cable Car

The city of Jerusalem may make the Western Wall accessible by cable car. Quoting a municipal source, the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot reported Wednesday that there is preliminary approval for a plan to erect a cable car network linking the Old City’s Western Wall Plaza with a station on the far side of the Hinnom Valley, half a mile away. The project, estimated to cost $5 million to $8 million, aims to relieve congestion on the roads and walkways leading to Judaism’s holiest shrine, according to Yediot.

Mofaz: Iran Funding Terror

Iran gave $1.8 million to Islamic Jihad last month, Israel’s defense minister said. The money was supposed to fuel terror attacks within Israel, Shaul Mofaz told The Associated Press. Israel has been on high alert for terrorist attacks in advance of its March 28 elections. It foiled one bombing Tuesday, reportedly planned by Islamic Jihad.

UJC Adopts New System

The United Jewish Communitieis, the roof body of North American Jewish charitable federations, has implemented a new system to determine funding for overseas causes.

The Overseas Needs Assessment and Distribution Committee has been replaced by direct negotiations in New York between leaders of the federation system’s overseas beneficiary groups, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. Under the new two-year agreement, the Jewish Agency will continue to receive 75% of the UJC’s undesignated overseas dollars and the JDC will receive 25%. The ONAD process, which included a cross-section of federation leadership to determine allocations, was seen widely as hamstrung by bureaucracy and by politics. The new arrangement, arbitrated by UJC leadership, was hailed as a victory by both the JDC and the Jewish Agency. Zeev Bielski, chairman of the Jewish Agency, wrote in an e-mail to the agency’s board that the “agreement sets the stage for a new era of cooperation and partnership for fund-raising and meeting critical needs.” But Steve Schwager, JDC’s executive vice president, warned that success is contingent on maintaining current levels of overseas funding — some $43 million in core funding for JDC and $129 million for the Jewish Agency.

Rabbi Wants Religious U.N.

One of Israel’s chief rabbis called for an international organization of religions. Yona Metzger, Israel’s chief Ashkenazic rabbi, called Sunday for a “United Nations of religious groups” as the second World Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace opened in Seville, Spain, the BBC reported. Rabbi Israel Singer of the World Jewish Congress’s Policy Council, who also spoke at the three-day meeting, rejected the idea that Jewish-Muslim tensions lie at the root of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He added that such “religious crusaders” as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “must be exposed for what they are: Impostors.” Some 150 rabbis and imams are taking part in the conference.

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Newsdesk March 24, 2006

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