06.09.05 Update


Israel's top court rejected 11th-hour appeals against the Gaza withdrawal plan. (JTA)Twelve petitions arguing that the plan violates settlers’ human rights or provided insufficient funds for their relocation in Israel were thrown out Thursday by the High Court of Justice. The landmark ruling meant Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government is unlikely to face more legal obstacles to implementing the withdrawals from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank in August. “The court has affirmed the legality of this process,” Justice Minister Tzipi Livni told Army Radio. Right-wing nationalist groups said the High Court, which ruled against the petitions by a vote of 10 justices to one, was “biased” toward the government.
More from Reuters here.

Jewish cemetery in Manchester, England attacked again for the third time in three years. Story from BBC News here.

Following a meeting with the pope, Jewish leaders expressed hope in expanding interfaith relations. (JTA) Israel Singer, chairman of the World Jewish Congress, said after Thursday’s meeting with Benedict XVI that joint humanitarian initiatives undertaken by the church and the Jewish community would be expanded, including “much-needed relief and education aid to Africa, a continent suffering from the plague of AIDS.” The meeting between the pope and a 25-member delegation from the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations was Benedict’s first official audience with international representatives of another faith. Rabbi David Rosen, the American Jewish Committee’s director of interreligious relations, called the encounter “remarkably warm and the most informal private papal audience I have ever attended.” Participants included representatives from the Orthodox, Conservative and Reform movements; leaders from Israel, North America, Europe and Latin America; the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and B’nai B’rith International.
More from Reuters here and the Jerusalem Post here.

Mahmoud Abbas convened leaders of Palestinian terrorist groups in a bid to prevent a flare-up of violence with Israel. (JTA)The Palestinian Authority president met leaders of 14 armed factions in Gaza City on Thursday, and was expected to urge them to keep to a cease-fire he declared with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in February. The number of Palestinian attacks has fallen since the February truce, but this week Hamas and Islamic Jihad resumed rocket and mortar barrages against Israeli targets in and outside Gaza. Israel wants to ensure quiet in Gaza before it withdraws from the area in August, and has warned Abbas that more violence could put peace hopes in jeopardy.

A Kenyan court acquitted four men in the bombing of an Israeli-owned hotel. (JTA) The High Court in Nairobi ruled Thursday that there is insufficient evidence to link the defendants, all Muslims, to the 2002 suicide attack in Mombasa that killed 12 Israelis and three hotel staffers. Al-Qaida claimed responsibility for the bombing and for a simultaneous botched attempt to shoot down an Israeli airliner taking off from the nearby airport. No one has been charged in the latter case.

The American Jewish Congress filed a brief in a federal appeals court supporting a religious person’s right to not work on the Sabbath. (JTA) The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York is hearing a case brought by Bradley Baker, who says he was denied full time employment at the Home Depot in Henrietta, N.Y., because he refused to work on Sunday, the Christian Sabbath. Baker was offered either time off for church or part-time employment, and a district court ruled that the store had satisfied its accommodation of his religious beliefs. “Allowing Baker to attend church before he is forced by his employer to desecrate the Sabbath as he observes it does not accommodate his religious practice,” said the brief, authored by Marc Stern, AJCongress’ general counsel. “It might accommodate religious practice marking the Sabbath as the employer believes it should be marked. Accommodation of the employer’s conception of appropriate religious practice is not what a statue protecting employee observance compels.”

An Israeli mortuary performed the country’s first commercial cremation. (JTA) Alei Shalechet, or Autumn Leaves, which offers alternative burial options to Israelis unhappy with Orthodox rites, cremated a 66-year-old Latvian immigrant at an undisclosed location outside Netanya on Thursday. It was believed to be the first cremation in the Jewish state since the body of executed Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann was burned in 1962, and his ashes scattered over the Mediterranean. Alei Shalechet said that despite the objections of Orthodox law and the Holocaust images invoked by cremation, many customers had expressed interest in its services. The mortuary offers cremation at prices that begin at around $1,600.

The Anti-Defamation League has asked Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) to apologize for comparing the Iraq war to the Holocaust. (JTA) Rangel told a New York radio show Monday that the Iraq war “is the biggest fraud ever committed on the people of this country” and was as bad as the Holocaust. Abraham Foxman, ADL’s national director, told the New York Daily News that Rangel owes an apology to the families of Holocaust victims and those currently serving overseas. Foxman told the newspaper that Rangel’s comments could not be explained by ignorance. “It is so outrageous that a leader of Congress would compare one thing to the other,” he said.

Reuters reports that the brother of Yigal Amir, killer of Yitzhak Rabin, has a new website with the purpose of trying to garner public sympathy for the assassin.

Republican Jews expressed anger at Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, who said the GOP is “pretty much a white, Christian party.” (JTA) Dean’s comments Monday to journalists and minority leaders in California drew responses from Matthew Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition — who said the remarks “reflect a disturbing trend in his party” — and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.). “Tens of thousands of Republican Jews across America, including myself, know that the Republican Party is a party of vision whose leaders understand the needs of American workers and families and the importance of spreading democracy in the Middle East,” Cantor said. Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman told Fox News that “a lot of folks who attended my bar mitzvah would be surprised” to learn his party is Christian. Dean, whose wife is Jewish and whose children were raised Jewish, defended his remarks on NBC’s “Today” show Wednesday. “What I’m trying to point out is that the Republicans don´t include people,” Dean said. “They are outside the mainstream.”

Alan Dershowitz blames, among others, Ariel Sharon and Joseph Lieberman for not doing enough to get Jonathan Pollard released from prison. Arutz Sheva reports here.

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