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>JN Jan. 8, 1998, Vol. 6, No. 5

Document Suggests Swiss Knew Source of Nazi Funds

The Swiss Army and Swiss federal financial authorities thought in early 1945 that at least one Swiss bank was moving large amounts of suspect money from Germany to Switzerland on behalf of leading Nazis, according to a document released by a U.S. senator. The Swiss Army high command was convinced some of the funds originally belonged to French citizens killed in German concentration camps or elsewhere.


Life Aboard Mediterranean Flotilla

By Al Pessin (VOA-Aboard the USS John Rodgers)

Israel, Turkey and the United States conducted a controversial joint naval exercise in the Mediterranean Sea Wednesday. Al Pessin was on board the USS John Rodgers.

On the command bridge in international waters off the coast of Israel, it's an unexpectedly calm and sunny morning. But one level below in the combat information center, a red speaker mounted on the ceiling comes to life. A distress call has been received. "This is Deso-Romero." It is an Israeli commander on a nearby ship, seeking assistance from US and Turkish vessels in a search-and-rescue mission.

The ships immediately moved toward the emergency and launched their helicopters to join the search. It's only an exercise, and all the ships will find are perfectly good sailboats and plastic mannequins in the water.

The senior US officer, Commodore Joseph Sestak, says it's a routine -- even basic -- drill. "This interoperability that we are doing is the most basic, fundamental task we do at sea...This is something that we do with every country in the region. And that's all that it is. This is truly a humanitarian search-and-rescue operation.

But it is the first time that Israeli and Turkish ships have worked together in this way, and that has made the operation a target of criticism from several countries in the region.

Sestak says the coordination of communications, air traffic control and search areas, is a far cry from what would be needed for any joint Israel-Turkey combat operation -- which could worry other nations.

But Israeli naval Commander Ron ben Yehuda says any step can be a first step to something else. "Of course, any kind of exercise relationship is a step towards something else, if you want it to be. I don't know of any future exercises planned to be between those two navies."

Wednesday's exercise with the US ship enabled Israel and Turkey to move their growing military relationship another step forward. They also have exchange programs, military sales and other kinds of cooperation. Now, they've demonstrated an ability to work together on the high seas. That is something Sestak says is designed to contribute to the region's stability and enhance the US's role as a Middle East peace broker. But some of the region's countries say it will do the opposite.


Syria Rejects Three-Way Military Maneuvers

By IINS News Service

Despite repeated statements by the commanders of the Israeli, US and Turkish forces, who are participating in joint military search and rescue operation exercises in the Mediterranean, the Syrian government insists the exercise will cause "instability" in the region.

Syrian Vice-President Abdel-Halim Khaddam said the joint naval exercises in the Mediterranean involving Israel, Turkey and the United States endangered regional stability.

Earlier in the week, the Arab League issued a statement against the exercises, which includes Turkey, a Moslem nation. Egypt and Syria took part in the Arab League condemnation but Jordan, who did not oppose the exercise, has sent an observer.


Dan Company Driver Punches Blind Passenger

By IINS News Service

The Tel-Aviv Magistrate's Court has released 28-year-old Ze'ev Silberman, a Dan Company bus driver, on bail. He is charged with punching 53-year-old Nili Forminov (who is blind), in her left eye.

Nili got into an argument with Silberman (the driver) who refused to let her off where at her usual place. He insisted she must travel to the next stop, which was about 800 meters away. He did not care that she was blind and other drivers usually accommodate her.

At one point, Silberman punched Nili in her face, knocking her to the floor. He then continued on his way. Passengers helped the woman to her feet and tended to her.

Silberman's lawyer maintained that the seven-year veteran of the Tel-Aviv bus company only pushed Nili away after she attacked him.


Smithsonian Cancels 'Israel at 50' Lecture Series

The Smithsonian Institution has canceled a planned seven-week lecture series taking a critical look at Israel 50 years after its founding, a group co-sponsoring the talks said. The series was to begin in April and cover topics such as the peace process, Arab citizens of Israel, the status of Jerusalem and Zionism in the new century, but it came under fire by Jewish groups and some lawmakers. New York-based Americans for a Safe Israel led the attack, calling the program "an affront to the sensibilities of Jews everywhere" and saying it would present "a destructive, far-left, pro-Arab picture of Israel today."


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