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Annual Report on Holocaust Denial Cites PA's Abu Mazen


A year-end report, Holocaust Denial: A Global Survey - 2004, has been issued by the Philadelphia-based David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies. Among the findings in this year's report: Some Arab governments continued to actively promote Holocaust denial in 2004. And a Holocaust denier, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), emerged as the leading candidate for chairmanship of the Palestinian Authority.

Israel Agrees to Release 170 Palestinian Prisoners

By VOA News

Israel has agreed to free 170 Palestinian prisoners. The release is part of a promise Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to secure the release this month of an Israeli jailed by Egypt on espionage charges. Sharon called Sunday's decision a goodwill gesture toward the Egyptian leader. The Palestinians are expected to be freed in the next week.

The prisoners' identities were not immediately known, but Israel has said it would not release those it said had "blood on their hands." Palestinian officials have long demanded the release of thousands of prisoners held by Israel. They have also criticized previous prisoner releases as inadequate.

Bush Expects Israeli-Palestinian Accord in 2005

By VOA News

President Bush said he expects a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians during the coming year, and he pledged his personal efforts to ensure a diplomatic breakthrough. In an interview published Sunday in Israel by the newspaper Yediot Achronot, Bush said all sides in the Middle East conflict must "understand that peace is not something that is arrived at through words, but through deeds."

The president backs the Israeli plan - by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon - to withdraw all Jewish settlers and military forces from the Gaza Strip during 2005. A partial withdrawal of Israeli forces from the West Bank also is expected, and Bush has called for an end to Palestinian terrorists' attacks against Israel.

Syria wants to reopen its long-stalled talks with Israel about the status of the Golan Heights, but Bush said any negotiations involving Damascus should wait until a Palestinian peace settlement is reached.

Peres: 'I'm Number 2-Or Elections'


Labor Party leader Shimon Peres Sunday evening threw a monkey wrench into the coalition deal he had sealed 24 hours beforehand, and demanded he receive the title of Deputy Prime Minister.

Peres' ultimatum effectively delays any possible Likud-Labor coalition for at least a week as time ticks off for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to form a new government. No sooner had he arranged the coalition deal with the Likud Party, Peres found two obstacles on his step to effectively replacing Sharon when the prime minister is out of the country or otherwise cannot function.

Ehud Olmert of Likud serves as Deputy Prime Minister, and Sharon suggested Peres be given the title of "Deputy Prime Minister in the Prime Minister's Office" as a way of getting around Olmert's refusal to step down. Such a move would require a change in the basic government law that can pass only with approval by a majority of the Knesset, something that is far from certain. Furthermore, changing the Basic Law usually is not done without a thorough and lengthy examination that could take several weeks. Sharon would have a difficult time functioning for so long without a guaranteed majority.

Speaking to reporters today, Peres said the amending of the Basic Law to accommodate his demands to be appointed vice premier is doable, adding, "it is the Basic Law but we aren't dealing with human rights or the Ten Commandments." He added that the law can be expeditiously amended if need be, pointing out it is just an "administrative law."

Olmert said Sunday he refuses to step down because if "Heaven forbid something were to happen to Prime Minister Sharon and he cannot fulfill his position," Likud would find itself with a Labor prime minister.

The unexpected crisis already guarantees that at least another week will go by without a coalition, also due to technicalities in the Labor party which has yet to agree on how and when to decide which Knesset members receive the cabinet posts Sharon has offered the party in the proposed coalition. The Labor Party's central committee was to meet Tuesday to set the process in motion, but Peres' ultimatum delays the meeting for at least a week.

Further complicating Labor is the statement from its Arab members that they will boycott a party vote on which MKs will receive cabinet posts because none of the Arab MKs has been suggested for a post.

Germany Cooling its Welcome to ex-Soviet Jews


Jews from the former Soviet bloc will no longer be offered special refugee status to move to Germany, according to German newspaper reports. Israel welcomes the move.

Germany has been a popular destination for former-Soviet Jews, who of late have been immigrating to that country in greater numbers than to Israel. Germany has offered ex-Soviet bloc Jews refugee status since 1991, when the former Soviet Union dissolved, and has actively encouraged them to move to Germany. Under new regulations, immigrants will have to be less than 45 years old and must have knowledge of German.

About 190,000 Jews from the former Soviet countries have moved to Germany. Many of them are elderly, reportedly placing a financial burden on the Jewish community there. A German newspaper reported that 75% of the Jewish immigrants are on welfare. Germany had encouraged Jews to immigrate freely, offending Israel in the process. Matters reached a head this year, when twice as many ex-Soviet Jews leaving Russia and neighboring countries chose Germany instead of Israel.

Jewish Stories for a Lost Tribe of Israel


For the first time, members of a Lost Tribe of Israel in northeastern India will be able to read about great Jewish figures from the Talmud in their native tongue. The Shavei Israel organization, a Jerusalem-based group which assists "lost Jews" seeking to return to the Jewish people, has just published a collection of stories about Jewish sages in the Mizo language, which is spoken by the Bnei Menashe in the Indian state of Mizoram.

The Bnei Menashe claim descent from the lost tribe of Menashe, who were exiled from the Land of Israel by the Assyrians over 2,700 years ago. Some 800 Bnei Menashe have made aliyah [immigration] to Israel in recent years, and another 7,000 are still in India.

The book, called "Juda Thawnthu" ("Jewish Stories") was compiled by Bnei Menashe scholar Allenby Sela. It contains dozens of stories highlighting ancient Jewish personalities such as Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, with an emphasis on the importance of being charitable, loving one's fellow Jew and having faith in God.

"The publication of this book is part of our ongoing efforts to reach out to the Bnei Menashe and assist them with their return to the Jewish people," said Shavei Israel's Chairman, Michael Freund. "Stories are among the most powerful of educational tools, as they have the ability to reach different people regardless of their age or level of knowledge. We hope that the Bnei Menashe will draw strength from these stories about our people's greatest figures, and that they will gain a deeper understanding of Jewish history and its significance," he said.

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