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Newsdesk March 21, 2003

Doctor Killer Convicted

Anti-abortion extremist James Kopp was found guilty Tuesday for the 1998 sniper shooting of a doctor who provided abortions. Kopp faces 15 years to life for shooting Dr. Barnett Slepian. A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for May 9.

Slepian was killed on a Friday night by a single bullet from a high-powered rifle through a rear window of his home, shortly after returning from Sabbath services where he had been saying memorial prayers for his late father. Shortly after his death fliers were found at a police station in nearby Ontario with his photo crossed out and the words “Jew” and “killer” scrawled across it.

Kopp is suspected of shooting four other abortion providers between 1994 and 1997, though none were killed. He has been charged in one of the other incidents. Three of the four physicians wounded in the other shootings were Jewish, and evidence has been found that the shooter thought the fourth was Jewish as well, leading some observers to suspect that the shooter was deliberately singling out Jewish physicians for attack.

Kopp’s attorney argued that his client was only attempting to wound Slepian in order to stop him from performing abortions.

Report: Top Iranians Guilty

A report in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz claims that Israeli intelligence has uncovered most of the details of Iran’s involvement in the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that left 85 people dead and about 250 wounded. The details reportedly include an account of a meeting of the Iranian Supreme Council for National Security at which the decision to go ahead with the bombing was made. According to the report by respected journalist Ze’ev Schiff, Israel also has the name of the bomber, Ibrahim Hasin Baro, a Hezbollah operative, as well as the transcript of his farewell phone call to Lebanon.

The Argentine government recently released details of its investigation into another terrorist incident — the bombing of the Israeli embassy on March 17, 1992, in which 30 people were killed and more than 200 were wounded. That bombing was also conducted by Iranian intelligence services, with Hezbollah playing a key role in its execution. The methods of operation in both cases were the same, Ha’aretz reported.

The decision in principle to strike at the Jewish community center was made in August 1993 at a meeting chaired by Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Other participants included President Hashemi Rafsanjani; Intelligence Minister Ali Fallahian; Khamenei’s intelligence and security adviser, Muhamed Hijazi, and the country’s foreign minister at the time, Ali Akbar Velayati.

Despite such claims, an emissary from Iran is expected to visit Argentina soon to help investigate the two terrorist attacks on Jewish institutions. The emissary’s arrival would indicate a change in Iran’s position on the bombings. The announcement comes days after an Argentine judge asked for the indictments of four Iranian officials in connection with the 1994 attack.

Groups Pan Abortion Vote

Pro-choice Jewish groups are assailing the Senate’s approval of a bill banning so-called partial-birth abortions. The ban passed 64 to 33 in the Senate on March 13. The House of Representatives is expected to pass the bill next month, and the president said he will sign it. The bill was panned by several groups, including the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Hadassah and the National Council of Jewish Women.

“The United States Senate today took a dangerous step toward revoking a woman’s right to reproductive freedom,” said Michael Bohnen, JCPA’s chairman. “The legislation passed today in fact enforces broad restrictions on abortion, with vague wording that does not make an exemption when necessary to preserve a woman’s health.”

Known in the medical community as “dilation and extraction,” the procedure is used to abort fetuses between the 20th and 24th weeks of pregnancy by partially extracting the fetus from the womb and crushing its skull. Abortion advocates contend that this procedure is sometimes medically necessary to protect the health or fertility of a woman with a problematic pregnancy. Several senators who usually support abortion rights backed the ban, including Minority Leader Tom Daschle. He was one of 16 Democrats to vote in favor, along with 48 Republicans.

The procedure was used in an estimated 2,200 cases — out of a total of 1.3 million abortions performed in the United States in 2000, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research organization. Still, a ban on the procedure would be considered a major victory for anti-abortion activists. It would mark the first time federal restrictions have been imposed on how women terminate their pregnancies since the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that established the constitutional right to an abortion.

Congress passed legislation outlawing this procedure twice in the past, but each time the measure was vetoed by then-president Bill Clinton. The ultra-Orthodox Agudath Israel of America reissued a position paper endorsing the legislation.

Mideast Doves Push Plan

A plan to have 1 million people representing the “silent majority” of Israelis and Palestinians ready to compromise on a two-state solution sign a petition is gaining momentum among West Bank Fatah leaders. The petition drive is being spearheaded by Al Quds University President Sari Nusseibeh and a former Shin Bet chief and Israeli navy commander, Ami Ayalon.

Dozens of Fatah leaders convened March 15 at Ramallah’s Grand Palace Hotel for a rally, organized by the Palestinian side of a movement called The People’s Voice. The movement is working to organize the petition by Israelis and Palestinians on a document hammered out between Nusseibeh and Ayalon that calls for a peace accord based on the 1967 borders — with minor corrections for territorial exchanges, Palestinian right of return to a nascent Palestine and terms of agreement for ending of the conflict. The document also resolves the issue of Jerusalem by keeping Jewish neighborhoods under Israeli sovereignty while placing Arab sectors under Palestinian sovereignty. The Temple Mount would come under so-called “divine” sovereignty and be jointly managed by Israelis and Palestinians. The Palestinian state would be demilitarized.

Sephardim Seek Restitution

Sephardic Jewish leaders from around the globe are forming an international body to push their claims to Jewish property confiscated in Arab countries.

The first World Sephardic Congress will be launched March 23 in reaction to “the need for Justice for Jews from Arab Lands and other pertinent issues,” according to a press release. The congress’s founders include key Sephardic figures, in addition to North American Jewish communal leaders and Israeli political figures. Founders include Leon Levy, founder of the American Sephardi Federation and a former chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and a former Israeli consul general in New York, Shmuel Sisso.

Poll: Worry Over Values

Israelis are more worried about a loss of social values than about terrorism, war or the economy, according to a new poll. A nationwide survey of 501 Jews in Israel last week by the Washington-based Israel Forever Foundation found that 31% said they are most concerned about a loss in social values, while 20% were worried about the economy, 18% about terrorism and 12% about war. Meanwhile, 77% said they are poorer now than two years ago, and nearly 50% said an American war against Iraq would improve Israel’s situation. More than half of Israelis, or 54%, also said French foreign policy is shaped by antisemitism, and 23% called Belgian policy antisemitic.

Belgian Jews Seek Envoy

Belgium’s Jewish community has asked the Israeli government to return its ambassador to Brussels. Ambassador Yehudi Keinar was recalled a month ago after the Belgian Supreme Court ruled Israeli officials could be charged with war crimes in connection with the 1982 massacre of Palestinians refugees by Christian militiamen in Lebanon. The Jewish community in Brussels says an ambassador is needed to combat Belgium’s efforts to tie the impending Iraq war with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Kerry Goes Borscht Belt

Presidential candidate Senator John Kerry poked fun at his Jewish heritage at a St. Patrick’s Day breakfast in Boston. “So who said I didn’t have the matzo balls to be here,” said the Massachusetts Democrat, who surprised the crowd at Monday’s event by attending despite recent prostate cancer surgery. He then sang a parody of an Irish song that he titled, “If You’re Yiddish Come Into the Parlor.” Kerry recently learned that his grandparents on his father’s side were Jewish.

French Student Attacked

French police opened an investigation March 13 after a Jewish student was attacked by masked men who engraved a Star of David in her arm. Police said three men attacked the 20-year-old law student, “probably with a set of keys,” outside her home in the southern city of Aix-en-Provence. Earlier that evening, the woman had participated in a debate at a local cinema following the screening of a film dealing with media coverage of the Middle East conflict and had expressed her indignation at the involvement of Palestinian children in the conflict.

Saddam Backs Terrorists

Saddam Hussein distributed $260,000 to families of Palestinian suicide bombers March 12, in checks of $10,000 each. The money brings the total amount Iraq has contributed to the Palestinian intifada to more than $35 million. Israel says the payments prove the Iraqi leader’s links to terror.

Israeli Hotel Honors Bush

A Jerusalem hotel has temporarily renamed itself in honor of President Bush. The Jerusalem Gold Hotel has chosen to salute the American commander in chief for his efforts against Iraq by renaming itself the George W. Bush Hotel, and a large sign has been erected on the front of the building.

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