07.31.05 Update

7.31.2005

The Anti-Defamation League urged the State Department to push for the removal of anti-Israel passages from Iraq's draft constitution. (JTA) "We hope the United States will encourage the drafters of the constitution to remove this objectionable, blatant anti-Israel discrimination in the draft text," ADL National Director Abraham Foxman wrote Wednesday to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. "We are all hopeful that a democratic Iraq will be protected by a constitution that is free from bias and discrimination and will serve as a model for the entire region." One article of the constitution states that "Any individual with another nationality (except for Israel) may obtain Iraqi nationality," while another article states that "Any Iraqi may have more than one nationality as long as the nationality is not Israel." The constitution is slated for completion by Aug. 15. There are an estimated 250,000 Israeli Jews of Iraqi origin, comprising one of Israel's largest Jewish ethnic communities.

The Israel Diamond Institute has opened its first office in New York, according to Globes. The report also states that about one-half of all polished diamonds sold in the U.S. are Israeli stones.

American Jewish groups called on the Disciples of Christ denomination to reconsider recent anti-Israel declarations. (JTA) In a letter released Friday, representatives of the three major Jewish denominations and other large Jewish organizations expressed "grave concern" at the church's recent call for Israel to tear down its West Bank security barrier. "We wonder with amazement why your denomination proposes an action that would render innocent individuals even more vulnerable to terrorism," read the letter, which was addressed to newly elected church head Rev. Sharon Watkins. "We join our fellow American citizens in rejecting the resolution that calls for removal of the barrier protecting Israeli citizens, an action that would endanger all peace-loving people." But the letter commended the church for rejecting the use of economic sanctions, including divestment, against Israel. Signatories included the Anti-Defamation League, Orthodox Union, American Jewish Committee, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, American Jewish Congress, Union for Reform Judaism and United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism.

The United States is negotiating the purchase of settler greenhouses in the Gaza Strip for Palestinian use. (JTA) Yossi Tsarfati, lead negotiator for settler farmers due to leave Gaza next month when Israel pulls out of the coastal strip, told The Associated Press on Friday that a deal was close. He said the U.S. Agency for International Development, which administers most U.S. assistance to the Palestinians, would pay $15 million for 1,000 acres of greenhouses. A USAID spokeswoman confirmed the negotiations to the AP, but would not provide details. The greenhouses have been a sticking point ahead of the withdrawal. The farmers believe Israel is under-compensating them and want to sell the greenhouses, but the Palestinians refuse to pay for properties they believe should never have been established.

Arutz Sheva reports that a world-wide Shema is being organized (9 p.m. at the Western Wall / 1 p.m. Central Time) for Wednesday.

Jewish groups welcomed the Senate majority leader's announcement that he supports a bill to expand embryonic stem-cell research. (JTA) The statement by Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) brightened prospects for the bill, which President Bush opposes. The legislation, backed by a wide swath of American Jewish organizations, including Hadassah and the Orthodox Union, passed the U.S. House of Representatives in May. A Senate vote is not expected until September, but President Bush has vowed to veto the bill.

Jacques Chirac proposed the creation of a France-Israel Foundation to "bring the two societies closer together." (JTA) The French president's proposal came toward the end of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s visit to France last week. According to Jerome Bonnafont, a spokesman for the Elysee Palace, Sharon accepted and the two leaders expressed their wish to progress quickly so the foundation can "deblock the links between French and Israeli society in all domains of cultural, economic, and academic life." To further revive the Franco-Israeli relationship, Sharon invited Chirac to visit his farm in southern Israel.

Louisville, Kentucky's Courier-Journal reports on the Jewish community's upcoming "Community-wide Rashi Project" there.

Israel's attorney-general said trying Ariel Sharon's son on corruption charges would be a lesson in political ethics. (JTA) Menachem Mazuz indicted Omri Sharon last week on charges including fraud, breach of trust and perjury for his role in funding his father's race for the Likud Party leadership in 1999. "I think that it is in the public's interest to send a clear message today, before elections are held, to all those who are meant to take part in the elections, the there is a price to violating funding laws and elections laws," Mazuz told Channel Two television Saturday, referring to a national poll scheduled for next year. "This indictment is grave and unprecedented," he added. "To the best of my knowledge, no indictment has ever been served regarding elections law, certainly not one charging serious felonies." Omri Sharon, a Likud lawmaker, forfeited his parliamentary immunity and a trial is expected in Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court. If convicted on all charges he faces a maximum prison sentence of seven years.

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