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Newsdesk December 12, 2003

Minister Pushing Reform

Israel’s interior minister, Avraham Poraz of the anti-clerical Shinui party, is planning to submit a sweeping reform of immigration and citizenship rules for Cabinet approval next week, according to a report in the daily Yediot Aharonot. The new rules would allow the granting of citizenship or permanent residency to tens of thousands of persons currently barred from either, Yediot reported.

The new rules were described as measures that have been previously rejected by the prime minister and the attorney general, on grounds that they require Cabinet approval.

Poraz told Yediot that the proposals reflect a realistic response to genuine hardships suffered by immigrants, and implied that he might step down if the Cabinet failed to respond.

The reform would permit citizenship for non-Jewish spouses of Israeli citizens, even when they are separated.

It would also grant permanent residency to non-Jewish minor children of Israeli citizens, parents of non-Jewish Israeli soldiers, and elderly parents of Israeli citizens who have no other children living abroad and are not eligible for citizenship under the Law of Return.

The reform’s most controversial feature is a grant of citizenship to Israeli-born children of foreign workers. Poraz told Yediot that some 2,000 children would be affected. Statistics supplied to the paper by the Population Registry of the Interior Ministry suggested the figure might be closer to 22,000.

Tolstoy Relative Converts

Residents of the Negev city of Beer Sheva are preparing to celebrate the upcoming marriage of a local son, Liron Timor, 34, a physician at the city’s Soroka Medical Center, to an Italian-born immigrant, Hilaria Gadaconti, 32, who happens to be the great-great-granddaughter of Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy.

The bride, who was born in Rome and raised Catholic, told the daily Yediot Aharonot that she decided in 1996 to convert to Judaism and move to Israel after years of fascination with things Jewish. She said her grandmother had told her that her famous forebear had studied Hebrew to seek comfort in the Scripture. “Who knows? That might explain my desire to be connected to Hebrew and Israel,” she told the newspaper.

House Cuts Aid to Israel

The U.S. House of Representatives cut the annual allocation to Israel slightly. The bill, passed Monday, reduced the foreign aid allocation to Israel by 0.59%, or $15 million. Israel is slated to receive $2.16 billion in military aid and $480 million in economic aid next year.

However, it’s unclear whether the Senate will do the same when it takes up the spending bills, as expected in January. This would be the second straight year that foreign spending is cut across the board as part of an omnibus spending bill. Aid to Israel was cut 0.65% last February.

Israel Fights Irish at U.N.

Israel will not support an Irish-sponsored U.N. resolution condemning religious intolerance. In a slap at Ireland for withdrawing a proposed resolution on antisemitism because the bill could not win unanimous support at the U.N. General Assembly, Israel announced Tuesday that it would abstain on Ireland’s annual resolution on religious intolerance.

The move will effectively kill the resolution, since the bill will not attain the unanimous support the Irish require for their resolutions, according to Dan Gillerman, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations.

The Irish Mission to the United Nations did not return a call seeking comment.

Peres Award Protested

Arab Americans protested a peace award to Shimon Peres. Demonstrators outside Monday’s Seeds of Peace function in Michigan where Peres was being honored, along with Palestinian intellectual Sari Nusseibeh, held signs accusing Peres of being a killer for retaliatory strikes Israel launched into Lebanon when Peres was prime minister in 1996.

Team Names Spark Ire

The names of some teams in a Muslim football tournament in California are causing controversy. Jewish leaders are protesting after some of the teams in the January 4 tournament chose names such as “Intifada,” “Soldiers of Allah” and “Mujahadeen” (Holy Warrior).

“A lot of the kids on our team are from Palestinian origin,” The Associated Press quoted Tarek Shawkya, the captain of the Intifada team, as saying. “We are in solidarity with people in the uprising. It’s about human rights and basic freedoms.”

Rabbi Bernie King, who lives in Irvine, where the tournament is being held, said the team names undermined those who worked to have closer relations with Muslims.

Aussie Attacks Increase

Antisemitism in Australia rose to record levels. The country suffered through its highest number of antisemitic harassments on the street, as well as graffiti and threatening e-mails, for the year ending Sept. 30, according to Australia’s central Jewish group.

“There is plenty of evidence that the Middle East situation was used as a tool to express antisemitic hatred,” said Jeremy Jones, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

Finn Cries Foul at U.N.

A Finnish diplomat said his Jewish background helped prevent him from being chosen as U.N. secretary-general in 1972.

Max Jakobson, who was his country’s representative to the United Nations from 1965 to 1972, made the comments in the Finnish Jewish newspaper HaKehila.

Instead, the post went to Kurt Waldheim of Austria, whose controversial actions during World War II — he served as a Nazi intelligence officer in the occupied Balkans — were later revealed.

Charles Aids Polish Jews

Britain’s Prince Charles helped launch a drive to build a Jewish community center in Krakow, Poland.

At a World Jewish Relief dinner to launch the appeal in London on Dec. 3, the heir to the British throne spoke of his visit to the city last year and the “dream I had of helping to sustain this historic community.”

Prince Charles is reported to have made a “substantial personal donation’’ to the project, which is scheduled to be completed in 2005.

Vandals Hit Brooklyn

Swastikas were painted on a Brooklyn school, one of several recent incidents in the New York City borough.

The swastika painted Monday on the school in a mixed-ethnic neighborhood followed a previous incident December 1. New York police recently increased patrols in Jewish neighborhoods as a result of antisemitic incidents late last month.


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