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Newsdesk December 5, 2003

Argentine Judge Dropped

An Argentine court has dismissed the judge in charge of the investigation of the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. A court in charge of overseeing magistrates decided to take the case out of the hands of investigative judge Juan Jose Galeano and give it to another magistrate, Judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral.

The decision came as a result of a complaint lodged by a group of family victims known as Memoria Activa that had criticized Galeano’s handling of the investigation. Galeano had been in charge of the case since the day the bomb-laden truck rammed into the building of the community center, killing 85 people and wounding over 300.

While Memoria Activa was elated by the outcome, the decision stunned the umbrella Jewish organization DAID, which had supported Galeano and expressed concerns that the case will take even longer without him.

Besides his alleged mistakes in conducting the investigation, Galeano has been accused of skewing the facts in order to protect former president Carlos Menem. In addition, strong evidence surfaced recently that Galeano and the secret service had paid $400,000 to a car thief who denounced several policemen for their alleged role in abetting the attack.

Galeano has indicted the car thief and the policemen, who are currently on trial. He has also issued an indictment against Hezbollah operatives and elements of the Iranian government.

Alleged Mobster Arrested

Ze’ev Rosenstein was arrested by Tel Aviv police Monday on suspicion of ordering the assassination of two members of a rival mob gang.

Rosenstein’s arrest follows testimony made by hired hitman David Atias, who turned state’s evidence, telling police that Rosenstein had contracted him to assassinate rivals Meir and Yitzhak Abargil.

Atias was sentenced to life imprisonment at the end of the 1980s for murder. A year ago, he was arrested in Jerusalem while on leave from prison, on suspicion of planning to assassinate three “heavy” criminals — the Abargil brothers and Itzik Ben Moha of Jerusalem.

Rosenstein, who returned to Israel Sunday from overseas, was arrested yesterday in his Hod Hasharon home. He told the police that he had no enemies and did not know Atias, although he had seen his face on television. He denied he had ever met him or ordered the murder of the Abargil brothers.

After many hours of questioning, Rosenstein was sent to the police lock-up in Abu Kabir, where the arrival of such a senior criminal figure aroused both excitement and concern. The police feared that a number of detainees who were held on suspicion of conspiring to murder Rosenstein would try to harm him.

Israelis: Come Visit

A recent survey found that Israelis think the best way for Diaspora Jewry to express solidarity with Israel is to visit the country. Israel trips beat out financial contributions by a small margin of 19.1% to 19.0%. About 16% voted for political lobbying and 15.7% called for the prioritization of fighting the current wave of antisemitism and anti-Israeli sentiment. The phone survey of 497 Israelis over the age of 18 was conducted on November 12 and November 13 by Teleseker. It found that 47.2% of respondents felt that the money raised by the Jews of the Diaspora should be spent strengthening and building the state of Israel through immigration and absorption and aiding vulnerable populations. Almost 26% said that strengthening the ties of the younger Diaspora Jews to Israel would be the best use of their money.

U.N. To Debate Fence

Arab countries called an emergency session of the United Nations’ General Assembly for December 8 to make demands on Israel. Arab states that are seeking to stop Israel from building its security barrier plan to propose a resolution to condemn the Jewish state for not complying with a resolution adopted last month calling on Israel to dismantle its West Bank security fence. The new resolution also will call on the International Court of Justice in The Hague to assess the fence’s legality, according to Arye Mekel, deputy permanent representative of Israel to the United Nations. Mekel said Israel is “working very actively on the highest levels,” especially with European states, to urge countries to vote against the resolution or pressure the Palestinians to remove the Hague portion of the resolution. “It will introduce a new element into the Middle Eastern equation, namely the ICJ, which would only make it more difficult to make any progress in the peace process,” Mekel said.

Settlement in Burial Case

The largest funeral company in the United States settled a class-action lawsuit brought by Jewish families in Florida.

Service Corporation International agreed to pay $100 million to Jewish families in Broward County in a lawsuit that included accusations that Jewish bodies were dug up and reburied. The settlement still needs to be approved by a judge. A similar lawsuit in Palm Beach County is still pending.

U.N. Resolution Flops

A U.N. resolution condemning antisemitism was withdrawn because of a lack of support. Ireland, which sponsored and circulated the resolution a few weeks ago, withdrew it Tuesday because it could not attain unanimous support before the U.N. General Assembly concludes on Dec. 16. “In light of the contacts and the time available, it’s unlikely that the various priorities and interested states could be accommodated simultaneously to reach an agreed outcome,” said a spokesman for the Irish Mission to the United Nations. The resolution had garnered 29 co-sponsors, including the 15 states in the European Union and 10 countries slated to join the E.U. The spokesman said Ireland would “reflect” on whether to introduce the resolution during the next session, but praised its European support as an indication of “our total rejection of the phenomenon of antisemitism.”

‘Iran 11’ Go Public

The families of 11 missing Iranian Jews are publicizing their plight and asking the United Nations for help.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Iranian American Jewish Federation submitted a letter Tuesday to the U.N. secretary-general asking him to help discover the missing Jews’ condition and whereabouts. The Jews went missing as long as nine years ago after trying illegally to leave Iran, which has strict emigration laws for Jews. Until now, their families preferred backroom dealings. Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents, said they decided to go public because “there’s been no movement all these years, so they really have nothing to lose.”

Center Presses Pope

The Simon Wiesenthal Center wants Pope John Paul II to declare suicide bombings a crime against humanity. A senior delegation from the center, which is launching an international campaign aimed at a declaration against bombings, made its appeal during a private Vatican audience with the pope on Monday. The pope did not respond publicly.

The delegation also bestowed the center’s 2003 humanitarian award on the pope, in recognition and gratitude for his friendship with the Jewish people.

Court Weighs Funding

The Supreme Court is hearing a case on state-funded scholarships to students of religion. Joshua Davey was denied a Washington state scholarship because he was to undertake pastoral studies at Northwest College. Orthodox Jewish groups have filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that the study of religious texts is an essential component of the free exercise of religion. The American Jewish Congress has filed an opposing brief.

European Report Posted

European Jews released an unpublished report that found rising antisemitism among Muslims in Europe. The Vienna-based European Union Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia, which commissioned the report, decided not to publish it, claiming the data was flawed. However, critics said that the Monitoring Center was not prepared to deal with the sensitive subject of anti-Semitism among Muslims, who constitute Europe’s largest minority. “We cannot accept that a study be confiscated on the grounds that it could create tensions,” said Serge Cwajgenbaum, secretary-general of the European Jewish Congress. The report, released to the public by the European Jewish Congress, is available at

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