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Newsdesk November 7, 2003

Israel Introduces U.N. Resolution

After facing hostile resolutions at the United Nations for a half-century, Israel this week introduced its own resolution in a General Assembly committee, voicing concern for Israeli children living under the threat of Palestinian terrorism.

“Until now we were only playing defense; now we are playing offense,” said Ambassador Arye Mekel, Israel’s deputy permanent representative to the U.N.

Introduced Monday, Israel’s resolution comes in the wake of an Egyptian-sponsored resolution expressing concern for Palestinian children living under Israeli occupation. It also comes as Israel fights off several Arab and European attempts at the U.N. to force Israel to make concessions.

In what has become an annual ritual, the General Assembly passes almost 20 anti-Israel resolutions per year.

Israel’s recent resolution adopts similar language to the Egyptian one, even invoking the same U.N. conventions. For example, the Egyptian resolution expresses concern over the “continuous grave deterioration of the situation of Palestinian children in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and about the severe consequences of the continuing Israeli assaults and sieges on Palestinian cities, towns, villages and refugee camps, resulting in the dire humanitarian crisis.”

Israel’s version expresses concern for the “continuous grave threat to Israeli children from Palestinian terrorism, and about the severe consequences of continuing terrorist attacks by Palestinian terrorist groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade directed against Israeli civilians, including children.”

“We are presenting them, we believe, with a moral dilemma,” Mekel said. “We are putting them to the test.”

Israeli Poverty, Joblessness Up

Poverty and unemployment are rising in Israel, according to figures released by the Israeli government last week. More families are living under the poverty line this year than in 2002, and Israel’s poor include 618,000 children, or 29.6% of all children, according to the poverty report released by the Social Affairs Ministry.

Recent figures released by the Bank of Israel show that the number of families living below the poverty line tripled from 100,000 to 300,000 between 1988 and 2001.

Meanwhile, according to figures released by the Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of Israelis registered as unemployed at the end of September was 227,000, up from 216,400 in August.

Pressure Builds on Ford

The Ford Foundation is facing new scrutiny in Washington for funding anti-Israel groups. Following a Jewish Telegraphic Agency investigative series, New York Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler told a foundation official Monday that the group should stop giving grants to Palestinian and other nongovernmental organizations that engage in anti-Israel and antisemitic activity. The foundation, which insists it opposes such activity, gave millions of dollars to Palestinian and other groups that oppose the Jewish state.

Meanwhile, a State Department official said the agency is reviewing Ford’s support of these groups for possible Justice Department action. The American Jewish Congress also is contemplating legal action.

Women’s Group Rejects Prayer Site

An Israeli government plan to renovate an alternative prayer site at the southern end of the Western Wall is drawing fire from a group that has been pushing for equal-prayer rights at the wall for women.

The $380,000 plan provides an expanded plaza at the Robinson’s Arch segment of the Wall, to the south of the main plaza. The renovation would allow worshippers to touch the Wall and provide a wheelchair-accessible walkway and storage space for Torahs and prayer books, as mandated by an April 6 High Court of Justice decision.

The High Court of Justice said the government had one year to provide an appropriate prayer site for the religiously diverse Women of the Wall group, or else the group would be allowed to pray in front of the Western Wall, despite vocal opposition by Orthodox Jews.

But Women of the wall members insist on being allowed to pray in the women’s section directly in front of the Western Wall.

Israel’s Conservative movement, known as Masorti, has already been using the site directly below Robinson’s Arch for egalitarian prayer services. Rabbi Andrew Sacks, director of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly in Israel, called Robinson’s Arch “a wonderful place to pray.” He also said, however, that his movement has “not abandoned our desire and our contention that we have the right and should ultimately be able to pray in the Western Wall Plaza.”

David Bar-Illan Dies

David Bar-Illan, a former editor of the Jerusalem Post and aide to then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, died Tuesday in Jerusalem. Bar-Illan was 73 and had been in failing health following a heart attack three years ago. A renowned concert pianist before he took up journalism, he served as editor-in-chief of the Post from 1992 to 1996 and as director of communications in the Prime Minister’s Office under Netanyahu from 1996 to 1999.

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