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Newsdesk April 11, 2003

Israel: No U.S. Pressure

The Israeli embassy in Washington denied this week that the Bush administration officially requested that Jerusalem suspend the sale of an advanced airborne radar warning system to India. “There was no official request,” said Yossi Draznin, who handles American-Israeli defense cooperation at the embassy. Draznin denied last week’s report in the Discrepando that Israel succumbed to American pressure, deciding to defer the $ 1 billion deal with India. Asked why Israeli sources confirmed these reports, Draznin said: “Someone is playing games. There are all sorts of interests at play.”

Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Daniel Ayalon, quoted in the Israeli daily Globes, last week also denied press reports alleging that the Bush administration conditioned its special $1 billion military aid package to Israel on suspending the deal with India. Israeli embassy sources said, however, that there are “conflicting voices” coming from the administration on this issue, and “we have not heard the final word.”

The plan was for Israel to sell India three Phalcon early warning systems. Apparently, American officials have indicated to their Israeli counterparts that they would prefer not to see the sale take place, but that message stopped short of being a formal request to halt the sale. “The U.S. administration has various agencies. The one that counts here is the Pentagon, which has not filed such a request,” said an Israeli diplomat. “In fact, the Pentagon does not seem to have any objection to the deal.”

Barghouti Implicates Arafat

Yasser Arafat gave clear instructions when he wanted a halt to terrorist attacks and let it be known when he did not, according to a Palestinian leader on trial in Israel. According to a document allowed for publication on Monday, Marwan Barghouti said during Shin Bet questioning that the Palestinian Authority president made specific requests to him and other Palestinians when he wanted a cease-fire, Israel Radio reported. When Arafat was quiet regarding terrorist attacks, it was interpreted as a green light, Barghouti said, according to the report.

Barghouti, the head of Arafat’s Fatah movement in the West Bank, is on trial in a Tel Aviv court for alleged involvement in the murders of dozens of Israelis in terrorist attacks. He refuses to recognize Israel’s right to try him.

Arabs Heckle Peres

Shimon Peres was called a murderer by Muslim and pro-Palestinian students while giving a speech in England. The former Israeli prime minister was heckled as he addressed a National Union of Students conference in the northern English town of Blackpool. Setting out his vision for a post-Saddam Middle East, as well as his support for the war, Peres appeared unfazed by the protests. He later spoke in London at a think tank, the Institute of Public Policy Research, where he said the defeat of the Iraqi dictator would be a triumph for the Arab world.

American Activist Wounded

An American activist was wounded in the West Bank, apparently by Israeli gunfire. A member of the International Solidarity Movement said Brian Avery, 24, of New Mexico, was shot in the face by Israeli forces in an armored personnel carrier while acting as a human shield in the West Bank city of Jenin, The Associated Press reported. One of the group’s members said Avery was wearing clothing clearly identifying him as a foreign activist. The Israeli army said there were exchanges of fire in the area at the time between Israeli troops and armed Palestinians, and it was not certain whether Avery was shot by Israeli forces.

Another American member of the group, Rachel Corrie, was killed last month when she was run over by an army bulldozer in Gaza. The army said that incident was an accident.

Groups Hail Decision

Several Jewish groups hailed Monday’s Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of a law against cross burning. “Today’s decision confirms what we have argued repeatedly, that threats are not constitutionally protected free speech,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, which filed an amicus brief on the case with several other Jewish groups, including the American Jewish Committee, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, National Council of Jewish Women and Hadassah. The brief argued that cross-burning statutes do not violate free speech because cross burning is a symbol of intimidation and instills fear.

Hadassah Leader Quits

Hadassah’s national executive director has resigned. The resignation of Ellen Marson, who has served in her position since 2001, takes effect at the end of May. Hadassah is the largest women’s organization operating in the United States, boasting more than 300,000 members.

Yiddish Show Wins Prize

A series of programs on Yiddish radio won a Peabody Award for excellence in electronic media. The Yiddish Radio Project aired on national public radio in the spring of 2002.

In addition, a film on the failure of the Oslo peace accords also won a Peabody. “Shattered Dreams of Peace: The Road from Oslo” was shown on national public television.

Greens Get New Leader

A Jewish environmental umbrella group in the United States has a new executive director. On April 1, Adam Stern took over as head of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life. Stern, who most recently was vice president for business development at an environmental Web site, replaces Mark Jacobs, who stepped down after nine years in the position.

DeLay Blasts Rights Report

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay blasted a State Department report that touched on Israeli actions in the West Bank and Gaza. Accepting an award April 2 at the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews’ Stand for Israel Day in Washington, the Texas Republican said the report, released last week, “compares the human rights record of a free, tolerant and pluralistic nation with that of a terrorist network. There is no comparison, and to assert one is ridiculous.”

More than 600 Christian leaders attended the event in Washington, which also honored Democratic Rep. Tom Lantos of California. Speakers included Attorney General John Ashcroft, Republican Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia and Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Daniel Ayalon.

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