Pick New Leader
Rio de Janiero/JTA — One of
Mexico's central Jewish organizations
elected a new leader for 2004-2005.
Benjamin Speckman, a longtime
Jewish activist who chairs the financial
committee of the Jewish sports group
World Maccabi Union and is a former
vice president of the Maccabi Latin
American Confederation, recently was
elected leader of the Jewish Central
Committee of Mexico's Council of
At U.N. Council
New York/JTA — Syria offered a
U.N. Security Council resolution to
rid the Middle East of weapons of
The resolution, which comes after
Libya's recent commitment to end its
WN4D programs, is a veiled attempt
to target Israel, U.N. diplomats say.
It's unclear, however, whether the reso-
lution offered will come to a vote.
"In terms of the U.S. position, obvi-
ously we share the same goal of a
weapons-free zone for the Middle
East" as for "any other zone in the
world," said Richard Grenell,
spokesman for the U.S. ambassador to
the United Nations. But "trying to
score political points in the Security
Council by highlighting or beating up
on one country is not helpful."
U.S. Is Pressing
Washington/JTA — The U.S. Justice
Department is seeking to revoke the
citizenship of a World War II-era ghet-
Osyp Firishchak, 84, a Chicago resi-
dent, is accused of involvement in the
killing of Jews in the Lvov Ghetto
through his participation in the Nazi
Auxiliary Police in 1941.
He rounded up Jews, imprisoned
them in ghettos, terrorized them, over-
saw forced labor, killed those attempt-
ing to escape and sent others to mass
execution, according to a complaint
filed by the Justice Department's
Office of Special investigations.
The auxiliary police is responsible
for sending 100,000 Jews in Lvov to
killing sites, including the Belzec death
Firishchak entered the United States
in 1949 and became a citizen in 1954.
New YorkJJTA — An American
Jewish group is raising money for vic-
tims of the recent earthquake in Iran.
The American Jewish World Service
hopes to raise money for humanitarian
aid in response to the 6.3-magnitude
quake, which devastated the historic
city of Barn in southeastern Iran,
killing at least 20,000 people and leav-
ing thousands homeless.
More details can be obtained by
calling (800) 889-7146 or visiting the
group's Web site at www.ajws.org
Paris/JTA — A French mayor says he
will refuse to marry people who wear
Jacques Martin, mayor of the Paris
suburb of Nogent-sur-Marne, said that
those wearing Muslim veils, yarmulkes
or large crosses would be prohibited
from marrying in civil ceremonies in
his town hall.
According to French law, all couples
must marry in a civil ceremony per-
formed by a local mayor, whether or
not they subsequently wish to have a
The mayor's edict was condemned
Dec. 25 by France's minister of local
authorities, Patrick Devedjian.
To Pay Up
Moscow/JTA — Ukraine will pay
more than $7.5 million to the families
of 40 Israelis who died when a missile
hit a passenger plane in 2001..
A stray missile fired during a mili-
tary exercise hit the Russian airliner on
Oct. 4, 2001, killing 78 people
Among them were 40 Israelis, many
on their way to Russia to visit family.
In the agreement ratified Dec. 25 by
Ukraine's Parliament, the 101 relatives
of the Israeli dead will receive nearly
Iraq May Return
Baghdad/JTA — Iraq's governing
council is reviewing a 1951 law that
confiscated Jewish-owned properties.
The Jerusalem Post reported the aim
of the review, is to restore properties to
Jews who fled Iraq at the time.
Controversy erupts in Israel over shooting at fence protest.
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
ast month, Gil Na'amati fin-
ished his three-year stint of
compulsory military service
after serving in Israel's artillery
corps in the West Bank. Now, the 22-
year-old kibbutznik is the poster boy for
Palestinian grievances against Israel.
During a demonstration Dec. 26 by
Israeli left wingers against Israel's West
Bank security barrier, Na'amati was shot
by Israeli soldiers who until recently
might have stood shoulder to shoulder
with him at a checkpoint.
"I was in the military and am familiar
with the rules of engagement. What I
did was not even close to something that
I think would warrant opening fire, "
Na'amati said from his hospital bed,
where he is recovering from wounds to
his leg and hip. "It's unbelievable."
The sentiments were echoed around
the country 4after the incident, at a sec-
tion of the security fence outside
Kalkilya. It was the first time an Israeli
Jew had been targeted by forces meant to
protect Israelis from Palestinian terror-
The shooting was the latest incident to.
divide the country in the ongoing dis-
pute over how to resolve the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians and
some left-wing Israelis have complained
that the fence disrupts Palestinian civilian
life and livelihood, while Israeli officials
have maintained that it is a necessary
bulwark against terrorism.
Chief of staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon
ordered an investigation of the shooting,
which came as Na'amati and fellow
members of a fringe pro-Palestinian
group called Anarchists Against the
Fence, who were protesting along with
the International Solidarity Movement,
attacked the barrier with wire cutters. An
American activist also was hurt.
The protesters "masqueraded as Arabs,
mingled with Palestinians and entered
the Palestinian side of the fence illegally,"
Gen. Ya'alon told Israel Radio. Deputy
Defense Minister Ze'ev Boim said sol-
diers followed orders by first shouting
warnings and firing shots over the pro-
testers' heads before aiming at their legs.
Witnesses disputed that account. One
estimated that troops fired as many as 30
rounds, but that was unlikely given the
lone casualty. Television footage showed
soldiers taking aim at the protesters from
barely 50 feet away, despite clear appeals
to them in Hebrew not to shoot.
The footage had a major impact on
public opinion. Ami Ayalon, a former
Shin Bet secret service chief, said any
orders to shoot were illegal and should.
have been disobeyed. His viewpoint was
endorsed by Avshalom Vilan, a former
commando, member of the liberal
Meretz Party and founder of the Peace
"In a proper country, you don't shoot
civilians," Vilan said.
At least one newspaper said the issue
wouldn't have been a matter of such
great debate had it been a non-Jew who
"Let's not kid ourselves," an editorial
in Israel's daily Yediot Achronot said. "If a
Palestinian" had been shot, "it probably
would not have merited even one line in
the newspaper." II