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Newsdesk June 30, 2006

Culture Group Taps Chief

The National Foundation for Jewish Culture named a new executive director. Elise Bernhardt, a curator, producer and adviser on arts programming and development, will take over the New York-based foundation from Richard Siegel, who resigned after 27 years.

Senate Passes Hamas Bill

The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation that would end direct aid to and contact with the Hamas-run Palestinian Authority. The Senate passed the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act by voice vote last Friday, reflecting the bill’s broad bipartisan support. According to the legislation, which still allows humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, aid to the P.A. could be resumed if Hamas renounces violence, recognizes Israel’s right to exist and abides by previous diplomatic agreements.

Museums Join Forces

A New York Holocaust museum plans to merge with a Jewish center near Auschwitz-Birkenau. The Board of Trustees of the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust voted last week to enter into final negotiations with the Auschwitz Jewish Center, located in Poland. The center memorializes victims of the Holocaust and celebrates Jewish life in the area prior to World War II. Once the agreement is finalized, the New York museum will operate the center in Poland and will have overall responsibility for the combined institution.

JNF Tensions Ease

Jewish National Fund’s Israeli and American branches reached an agreement aimed at easing tensions between them. The agreement, finalized Sunday, “will pave the way to new levels of cooperation in the coming years,” according to a statement released by Keren Kayemet, as the Israeli branch is known. Observers said that the tensions stemmed from a belief among fund officials in Israel that their American counterparts were bypassing them on certain projects. Yehiel Leket, Keren Kayemet’s world chairman, and Ronald Lauder, president of JNF-USA, expressed satisfaction with the understanding. They said they hoped that from now on, the groups would intensify their joint activities, especially in the Negev.

Court Shields Farmers

Israel’s top court ordered the army to boost protection for Palestinian farmers harassed by settlers. The High Court of Justice on Monday found in favor of a petition filed by civil rights groups. The groups are opposed to the recent military practice of preventing Palestinians in the West Bank from accessing their farmland for fear that they could be attacked by settler vigilantes.

Israel Eyes Extremists

Israel is limiting the movements of far-right activists ahead of an expected crackdown on illegal West Bank outposts. The Defense Ministry issued restraining orders over the weekend against at least a dozen Israelis affiliated with extreme pro-settlement movements, security sources said. The orders are designed to keep the activists away from West Bank outposts as they are evacuated and to limit confrontations with security forces. Defense Minister Amir Peretz has vowed to crack down on dozens of the outposts in compliance with the road map peace plan. The first evacuations are expected as early as this week.

Israeli Elected to U.N. Post

An Israeli expert was elected to a United Nations committee on women’s rights.

Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, director of Bar-Ilan University’s Rackman Center for the Advancement of the Status of Women and author of “Women in Israel: A State of Their Own,” was named to the 23-member committee.

Tribute for Rebbe in D.C.

Leaders of both parties in Congress, as well as top Bush administration officials, attended a two-day tribute to Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the late Lubavitcher rebbe, who died June 12, 1994. Speakers included Elie Wiesel, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Australia’s defense minister. Some 30 foreign diplomats met with Lubavitch emissaries to their countries.

Europe Urges Vigilance

The European Parliament demanded that E.U. leaders step up the fight against homophobia, anti-Muslim sentiment and antisemitism. Specific incidents mentioned in the June 19 resolution included the murder of French Jew Ilan Halimi and an attack on Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich. In response, the Polish Parliament passed a counter-resolution last Friday that said, “Singular occurrences of intolerance in Poland are very scarce, and are severely criticized by the Polish authorities and therefore are not grounds for generalizations about Polish society,” according to the Warsaw daily Gazeta Wyborcza.

Bias up in Manchester

Antisemitic incidents in Manchester, England, increased by 40% from 2004 to 2005, said Leor Giladi, the city’s police superintendent. In an address to a synagogue in Manchester last week, Giladi said that the increase came even as there was a 30% drop over the same period in the Greater London area. The superintendent revealed that two or three incidents were reported weekly — mostly anti-social behaviors such as throwing water balloons or eggs as people walked to synagogue, though some incidents involved physical attacks.

Polish Official Under Fire

The deputy chief of Polish state television is the former editor of a neo-Nazi magazine, according to press reports. The country’s leading daily, Gazeta Wyborcza, accused Piotr Farfal of editing and writing articles in the neo-Nazi magazine The Front when he was 18. The articles included such phrases as “We do not accept cowards, collaborators or Jews.” Farfal, now 28, denies knowing about the magazine’s content, telling newspapers that he merely lent The Front his name and should not be held accountable for acts committed during his teenage years. He also says he resigned from the magazine after two years, because of its neo-Nazi leanings. Farfal is a supporter of Education Minister Roman Giertych, whose League of Polish Families has a history of antisemitism, according to several anti-racist organizations. Pawel Kowal, a lawmaker from the Law and Justice Party that leads Poland’s coalition government, said that Farfal should lose his post if the report is accurate.

Poll: Arabs Dislike Jews

Anti-Jewish sentiment is nearly universal in Jordan and Egypt, a new survey has found. Some 98% of respondents in Jordan and 97% in Egypt — two Arab countries that have made peace with Israel — harbored anti-Jewish feelings, while negative feelings about Jews were found to be “overwhelming” in other Muslim countries surveyed as part of the Pew Global Attitudes Project for 2006, The New York Times reported. Other Muslim nations surveyed included Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey.

In follow-up interviews, Muslims said that the primary cause of poor relations with the Western world is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Rumsfeld To Visit Israel

Donald Rumsfeld is expected to visit Israel in the coming weeks. The visit, Rumsfeld’s first since becoming defense secretary in 2001, is part of a regional tour that will include stops in Jordan and Egypt. In Israel, he is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and with senior defense and security officials. Rumsfeld visited Israel in the early 1980s as a Reagan administration special representative to the Middle East. Last month, during Olmert’s visit to Washington, the two agreed to work toward a closer defense and security relationship. The security relationship suffered setbacks following a dispute over Israeli arms sales to China.

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