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Newsdesk April 18, 2003

Givat Haviva Head Resigns

The top professional of an organization supporting Jewish-Arab dialogue programs in Israel abruptly stepped down last week after a report linked him to leaders of the self-described anti-Zionist New Alliance Party.

Robert Levy, executive director of the Givat Haviva Educational Foundation Inc., resigned 10 weeks after the Forward reported that Levy has been an active board member of the All Stars Project Inc. — a charity that claims to serve 30,000 young people per year. The All Stars Project was founded by two-time presidential candidate Lenora Fulani and her mentor Fred Newman, both of the now-defunct New Alliance Party. The Anti-Defamation League reports that Newman and Fulani regularly referred to themselves as “anti-Zionist” in the pages of their party newspaper.

The Givat Haviva Educational Foundation, based in New York, was founded in 1966 as the American tax-exempt support organization for the Givat Haviva Institute in Israel. The institute runs Jewish-Arab dialogues on its campus in northern Israel.

“We thank Robert for his valuable service to Givat Haviva and wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors,” said Yvonne Baum Silverman, chairwoman of the American foundation’s board of directors, in an April 8 statement.

Silverman and Levy declined to comment beyond what was stated in the release.

Before joining Givat Haviva in 2002, Levy served for five years as northeast regional director of the Israel Humanitarian Foundation.

Grant Cuts Challenged

The Jewish Agency for Israel and a network of immigrant associations are petitioning the Israeli Supreme Court to stall the government’s plan to eliminate grants to new immigrants purchasing homes.

The petition was filed against the government and Prime Minister Sharon April 14 by the agency and the Council of Immigrant Organizations, a day before the Housing and Finance Ministries were slated to officially cancel the grant program. The petition comes amid a backdrop of strikes and protests over what would be one of the largest set of budgetary cuts in the history of the Jewish state.

Cutting the grants, which range between about $5,000 and $60,000, would bring “economic harm” to tens of thousands of new immigrants or potential immigrants, the Jewish Agency said in a statement.

The government’s action “goes against the most basic values,” the agency’s chairman, Sallai Meridor, stated in a press release.

FBI: LAX Attack Was Terror

The FBI has ruled that the fatal July 4, 2002 shootings of two Israeli-Americans at Los Angeles International Airport were an act of terrorism, methodically planned to express anger over Israeli treatment of Palestinians. But the Egyptian-born killer, Mohamed Hadayet, had no links to Islamic extremist groups, according to a final FBI report on the case. Hadayet was shot and killed by an El Al security guard. Israel and American Jewish groups quickly declared that the attack was terrorism, and were infuriated by the FBI’s refusal to state that terrorism was the motive.

Ambassador To Return

Israel will return its ambassador to Belgium after Belgian legislators amended laws that would have allowed Israel’s prime minister to be put on trial for alleged war crimes. Yehudi Kenar will return to Belgium four months after he was recalled in protest of a controversial law seeking to prosecute alleged war criminals and perpetrators of genocide from around the world. The law had enabled Palestinians to sue Ariel Sharon. Last month, however, Belgium’s House of Representatives passed several amendments that limit the law to cases in which the perpetrators are from undemocratic countries where they would not have a serious trial.

Religion Bill Introduced

The Senate introduced a bill that would give new protections for displays of religion in the workplace. The Workplace Religious Freedom Act would require employers to accommodate the religious observances of their staff. The law would amend federal civil rights laws to reinstate protections for religious employees in their workplaces that have been undermined by adverse court rulings.

Soldiers To Get Tax Breaks

American soldiers stationed in Israel are expected to receive the same tax breaks as others serving in the Middle East. The Pentagon is expected to rule soon that the close to 800 soldiers manning Patriot missile batteries in Israel are participating in the American military action against Iraq, and therefore eligible for wartime tax breaks for servicemen.

As first reported in the Forward, Democratic Rep. Gary Ackerman of New York lobbied for the change in status after visiting with soldiers in Israel who said they were the only troops deployed for the war who still are having their military salaries taxed.

Labor Leaders Hold Seder

Labor leaders in the metropolitan Detroit area gathered last week for the Jewish Labor Committee’s second annual freedom Seder. At the event, participants used the labor committee Haggada, which “takes a broader view” of the Exodus story, putting the story of “the Jews getting the heck out of Egypt” in the context of other fights for freedom, according to labor committee member David Hecker. The Haggada includes an updated list of plagues, including “child labor, slave labor, sweatshops, hunger, non-living wage, racism, sexism and indifference to human suffering.” Hecker, president of the Michigan Federation of Teachers, said a number of important labor leaders attended, including Willy Hampton, head of SEIU Local 79; Tina Abbott, secretary-treasurer of the Michigan AFL-CIO; and Saundra Williams, secretary-treasurer of the Metro Detroit AFL-CIO. Also attending were two Arab American activists, Ishmael Ahmed and Mohammed Okdie, which Hecker called “very exciting.’

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