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November 17, 2005 - Image 45

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2005-11-17

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minorities, and from the State's
recognition of only Orthodox
Jewish religious authorities in
personal and some civil status
matters concerning Jews."
Lengthy passages in the
report expand on the alleged
discrimination, looking at the
status of non-Jewish spouses of
Jewish immigrants; allegations
of discriminatory funding in
favor of Orthodox schools; and
the state of efforts to legislate
civil marriage.
Such allegations of discrimi-
nation have circulated for years
in Israel, but previous U.S.
reports hardly addressed them.
Rabbi Saperstein, who said his
group has raised these issues in
meetings with Bush adminis-
tration officials, said the
expanded interest was in keep-
ing with the administration's
recent emphasis on human
rights abroad.
"The State Department is try-
ing to lay down more consistent
standards in these areas and to
hold friends and allies to the
same standards as it holds
other nations:' he said "It's
hopeful that this will make
Israel sit up and take notice
when it sees the international
community so deeply troubled!'
Spokesmen for the Israeli
Embassy in Washington and for-
the State Department did not
return calls seeking comment,
but a briefing on the report
suggested that the Bush admin-
istration is intensifying its
interest in religious freedoms
"Even some of the most open
societies in the world have lim-
ited freedom of religion in ways
that are difficult to justify," said
John Hanford, the official who
directed production of this
year's report.
"It is the purpose of this
report to encourage abroad, just
as we do here in the United
States, a careful and continual
examination by every govern-
ment and society as to whether
each person's right to believe as
he or she chooses is fully pro-
tected or unnecessarily limit-
There were other examples of
heightened interest in how
Israel treats its minorities. For

Thursday, December 1, 2005
12:00 Noon
Adat Shalom Synagogue

the first time, the 2005 report
listed complaints by "messianic
Jews" — who believe in Jesus
but still claim to be Jewish —
that their members were denied
entry to Israel and that anti-
missionary groups harassed


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It also listed, for the first time, a
breakdown of the religions of
legal foreign workers, though it
did not allege discrimination.
The report broke down how
religious councils spend money
— the vast majority goes to
Jewish councils — also a first
in a U.S. report.
There also were the tradition-
al criticisms of how Israel treats
its Arab minorities. If anything,
these were expanded, with new
attention paid to alleged neglect
and mistreatment of aban-
doned mosques.
There also was a lengthy
treatment of allegations that the
Jewish National Fund discrimi-
nates in the distribution of
land, a facet of Jewish-Arab
relations uncovered in earlier
reports. The report did not take
a stand on the allegations.
The treatment of Palestinians
also received close attention,
with special attention to how
Israel's West Bank security bar-
rier that has reduced terrorist
attacks also has kept Palestinian
Muslims and Christians from
reaching religious services in
Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
The report also upped its
grade for the Palestinian
Authority from "deteriorating"
last year to "no change" in 2005,
largely because of P.A. President
Mahmoud Abbas' efforts to pre-
vent anti-Israel incitement.
It also said Abbas apparently
had ended the extortion of
property from Christians by
Muslim gangs, though it noted
that the authorities had yet to
address earlier complaints.
The report also noted com-
plaints by Palestinian Media
Watch, an Israeli watchdog
group, that Palestinian text-
books continue to delegitimize


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