Newsletter : 6FAx0106.txt
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Simon Wiesenthal Center Accuses Venezuelan President of Anti-Semitic Comments
By VOA News
A prominent Jewish rights group is demanding an apology from Venezuelan President Hugo
Chavez for making what it calls anti-Semitic comments, even though the president did not
directly mention Jews. The Simon Wiesenthal Center said Wednesday it has sent a letter to
Chavez condemning remarks he made on December 24. The group said that during a celebration
of Christmas, Chavez referred to "the descendants of the same people who crucified Christ"
saying they "have taken over all the wealth of the world." Chavez did not specifically
mention people of the Jewish faith. But the Center condemned the remarks, saying those two
arguments have long been used to justify the persecution of Jews.
Sharon Fights for His Life
By VOA News & Ha'aretz
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is fighting for his life in a Jerusalem hospital
after suffering a massive stroke late Wednesday. His illness has thrown both Israeli
politics and resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into great uncertainty.
Sharon's illness sent shockwaves through Israel and caused concern worldwide. The focus
has been on prayers for his recovery and messages of support, but the widespread
assumption, even if not publicly spoken, is that Sharon will not return to office.
The obvious question is, what happens now? It's too early to tell, says political
columnist Akiva Eldar of Ha'aretz, who spoke to VOA from Tel Aviv.
"It seems that it's not only that Sharon is out of the political arena, it's that
Sharonism is out of the arena," he said.
Ariel Sharon, nicknamed the bulldozer, was a forceful individual most of his life -
first as a military commander, as a proponent of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land
and later as a skillful politician who pushed his new vision of unilateral withdrawal from
some Palestinian areas and the dismantling of settlements.
Eldar said Sharon took a political risk and won the overwhelming support of the Israeli
people. "Many Israelis were very anxious about tearing apart the territories, or 'greater
Israel,' [that it] would tear apart the nation, which didn't happen," he explained. "So,
he [Sharon] took this risk and he proved that this is possible."
Eldar said Sharon's plan was seen by many Israelis as a viable option, a way to enhance
their own security by unilaterally disengaging from the Palestinians without having to go
through the tough process of negotiations.
To push his plan forward, Sharon recently left the right-wing Likud Party that he
helped found, to form a new centrist party called Kadima. Kadima has scored high in
opinion polls, but was built almost exclusively around Ariel Sharon. With him out of the
picture, it is uncertain if the party will survive or how well it might do in the March
Sharon reluctantly supported President Bush's plan for an independent Palestinian state
alongside Israel, to be brought about via the Road Map peace plan. The Bush administration
initially gave its lukewarm support to Sharon's plan to pull out of Gaza. But, Washington
then focused on that withdrawal as a way to jump-start renewed peace negotiations.
Sharon sustained vast brain damage as a result of his stroke and ensuing cerebral
hemorrhage, sources at Hadassah Hospital Ein Karem in Jerusalem said on Thursday
On Friday morning, doctors will perform a CT scan on the premier's brain, to check his
condition. However, only on Sunday will doctors try to revive Sharon from his induced coma
to determine the effects of the hemorrhage for the first time since it happened on
The hospital director, Professor Shmuel Mor-Yosef, said on Thursday evening that
predictions for the future are almost impossible to make. "We can't know what the results
of the surgery will be, whether it will have influenced his motor skills or his ability to
think. Only after he comes out of the induced coma will we be able to make an assessment."
After the sedation period, doctors hope to gradually waken the prime minister.
Mor-Yosef said doctors had not received a "no resuscitation order," which would bar them
from trying to revive a patient whose heart or breathing has stopped.
"We are fighting for the life of the prime minister, with no compromise," Mor-Yosef
said, adding that Sharon's pupils were responding to light, "which means the brain is
The hospital chief also defended the decision to take Sharon to the Jerusalem hospital,
a journey of an extra 30 minutes, rather than drive to the nearer medical center in Be'er
Sheva. He said that it was better for the prime minister to have been treated at the
hospital that knew his case.
Mor-Yosef said the operation on Sharon had focused on the right side of his brain, and
that he was paralyzed during the procedure. "The paralysis was a paralysis that we, the
doctors, created," he said.
Neurosurgeons had fought to stabilize Sharon's condition and stop new bleeding detected
in his brain Thursday morning, more than eight hours after the prime minister was rushed
into emergency surgery. "The situation is still serious, but it's stable," Mor-Yosef said
earlier Thursday, as Sharon lay in intensive care.
Sharon emerged from hours of surgery Thursday morning with vital signs showing
"functional and stable" levels, and with a CT scan showing that the bleeding in his brain
had been halted. But the prime minister's condition remained grave, Mor-Yosef said.
"The prime minister had a CT scan that showed that the bleeding has stopped," Mor-Yosef
told reporters at the entrance to the Jerusalem hospital. "He was then put in the
neurological emergency unit for observation."
According to Mor-Yosef, "All vital signs are functional and stable. The prime minister
is in critical condition." There was no word as to the damage Sharon may have
Israel Radio, noting that Sharon was in intensive care, said, "The assessment is that
he is in a life-threatening state."
On Wednesday night, Sharon's prime ministerial authority was transferred to Deputy
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the course of a telephone call with Olmert, Maimon and
Attorney General Menachem Mazuz. Olmert convened the cabinet for an emergency meeting at 9
a.m. Thursday, where he conveyed the government's hopes for Sharon's recovery.
Sharon adviser Ra'anan Gissin stressed that the government was functioning despite the
prime minister's illness. "A state isn't run only by the people who stand at its head...
all the ministers and all the ministries are functioning...
The prime minister has fought many battles and he has survived them all, and I think that
he will win this battle too."
Mor-Yosef said he believes that it would not be possible for Sharon to return to work
under the current circumstances. He also defended the decision to drive Sharon to
Jerusalem late Wednesday, rather than treat him at a hospital near his Negev Desert farm,
saying the decision was made because doctors at the Hadassah Hospital were better able to
In one of his first official duties Olmert spoke with Palestinian President Mahmoud
Abbas who expressed hope for Sharon's quick recovery. Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed
Quereia told reporters that Palestinians are prepared to work with any future Israeli
"No doubt Israelis will miss Mr. Sharon as a leader and as a decision maker," said
Quereia. "For us the Palestinians, what concerns us first is that we hope he will recover,
and secondly we are looking for an Israeli leader to be in favor of peace, to be ready to
sit with the Palestinians to start a serious civil negotiation. This is what we need."
Israel's cabinet on Thursday agreed to go ahead with plans to hold national elections
on March 28. There is intense speculation in Israel about how Sharon's absence will affect
Israel's upcoming election. Polls prior to his stroke showed Ariel Sharon was well ahead
of all rivals in his bid to win a historic third term.
U.S. Evangelist: Sharon's Stroke Result of God's 'Enmity' for Gaza Pullout
Conservative Christian evangelical broadcaster Pat Robertson on Thursday linked Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke to God's "enmity against those who 'divide my land.'"
"He was dividing God's land and I would say woe unto any prime minister of Israel who
takes a similar course to appease the EU, the United Nations, or the United States of
America," Robertson said on his television program, "The 700 Club," broadcast from his
Christian Broadcasting Network in Virginia Beach. "God says 'This land belongs to me. You
better leave it alone.'"
Last year, Sharon, a longtime hawk and supporter of Jewish settlements in occupied
Palestinian territories, changed tack and withdrew from the Gaza Strip and some
settlements in the West Bank - as the best hope for achieving a peace deal with the
The unilateral Israeli pullout was supported by the European Union, the United Nations,
and the United States. But it was strongly opposed by many members of Sharon's right-wing
Likud party, prompting the Israeli leader to quit and form a new centrist party.
Some U.S. evangelical Christians also opposed the Israeli withdrawal from lands that
they believe constitute the biblical land of Israel and link to prophecies foretelling the
second coming of Jesus.
Robertson said that he had personally prayed about a year ago with Sharon, whom he
called "a very tender-hearted man and a good friend." He said he was sad to see Sharon in
Robertson also said that in the Bible, the prophet Joel "makes it very clear that God
has enmity against those who 'divide my land.' God considers this land to be his,"
Robertson said. "You read the Bible and he says 'This is my land,' and for any prime
minister of Israel who decides he is going to carve it up and give it away, God says 'No,
this is mine.'"
The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church
and State, said a religious leader "should not be making callous political points while a
man is struggling for his life."
"Pat Robertson has a political agenda for the entire world, and he seems to think God
is ready to take out any world leader who stands in the way of that agenda," Lynn said in
In August, Robertson suggested on "The 700 Club" that American agents should
assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has long been at odds with U.S. foreign
Robertson later apologized for his remarks. "Is it right to call for assassination?"
Robertson said at the time. "No, and I apologize for that statement. I spoke in
frustration that we should accommodate the man who thinks the U.S. is out to kill
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying he was hoping for Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon's death, the Reuters news agency reported on Thursday.
"Hopefully, the news that the criminal of Sabra and Shatila has joined his ancestors is
final," the semi-official news agency ISNA quoted him as telling a group of Shiite clerics
in the holy city of Qom.
The United States quickly responded, blasting the comment as "hateful and disgusting.
This is a man who wraps himself in the cloak of a peaceful religion, Islam, and yet you
hear remarks like this coming from him," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.
"I can only say that those remarks are hateful and disgusting. And I think that it is,
again, a window into the true nature of this particular Iranian Government."
President George W. Bush said that he was praying for the prime minister. "Laura and I
share the concerns of the Israeli people about Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's health, and
we are praying for his recovery," Bush said in a written statement. "Prime Minister Sharon
is a man of courage and peace. On behalf of all Americans, we send our best wishes and
hopes to the prime minister and his family."
Israel's Ashkenazi and Sephardic chief rabbis called on Jews to recite psalms and pray
for Sharon's health. "We are very, very worried," said Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger,
and prayed for "mercy from Heaven."
Highest Jewish Population Centers: Israel and Palm Beach
Palm Beach, Florida has the highest concentration of Jews than any other city in the
world outside of Israel, according to the city's Jewish Federation statistics. It reported
that 20 percent of the county's 1.2 residents is Jewish. Palm Beach County includes the
highly concentrated Jewish areas of Delray Beach and Boca Raton.
Other statistics show that the suburb of Boynton Beach has experienced a 63 percent in
its Jewish population since 1999. Other county areas reported increases of 45 percent.
Chinese City to Host Exhibition of its Jewish Past
Harbin, the capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, will host a large-scale
exhibition this month on the history and lives of the city's Jewish population, once the
largest Jewish settlement in the Far East. The exhibition, covering more than 3,000 square
meters of floor space, will open January 8.
From the end of the 19th century to the mid 20th century, more than 20,000 Jews
migrated to Harbin from Russia, Eastern Europe and other areas. China's news agency
reported that more than 400 pictures and dozens of installations to be displayed at the
exhibition come from Israel, the United States, Germany, Australia, Britain and France, as
well as original materials from Harbin itself. In addition, Harbin has invested 20 million
yuan (about $2.5 million) to restore the Jewish areas of the city.
Xinhuanet reported that Qu Wei, president of the Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of
Social Sciences, said his academy has established a Jewish research center. According to
Qu, the exhibition would ultimately be made a permanent part of the northeastern Chinese
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