Shorts: u.s.

Coffee, tea or Jesus on American Airlines

new york (jta) | A pilot on an American Airlines flight suggested that non-Christians learn about Christianity.

On a flight from Los Angeles on Friday, Feb. 6, the pilot asked Christians aboard to raise their hands, and suggested that they spend the flight discussing religion with other passengers. The pilot then called non-Christians “crazy,” a passenger claimed.

Many passengers tried to use their cell phones to call relatives on the ground before flight attendants reassured them. The pilot, who recently had returned from a mission to Costa Rica, apologized for his remarks later in the flight. The airline is investigating the incident.

Poll says Americans back Israel fence

new york (jta) | Americans back Israel’s West Bank security barrier, a new poll says.

In the poll conducted for the Alliance for Research on National Security Issues, 68 percent of respondents agreed that “Israel has the right to take action to defend itself by building a security fence, even if many other countries disagree.”

Fifty-seven percent said Israel has the right to continue building its fence even if the International Court of Justice — which is to consider the issue on Monday, Feb. 23 — rules against it.

Ford Foundation may drop another grantee

washington (jta) | The president of the Ford Foundation told the Anti-Defamation League that the foundation is reviewing the status of another grantee.

Speaking to the ADL’s national executive committee Friday, Feb. 6, in Palm Beach, Fla., Susan Berresford said Ford is reviewing the Habitat International Coalition. ADL has raised concerns that HIC has distributed anti-Israel materials.

Following a JTA investigative series last fall showing that some Ford grantees had sponsored anti-Semitism and virulently anti-Israel rhetoric, the Ford Foundation instituted a review of all grantees.

Gibson denies new film is anti-Semitic

new york (jta) | Mel Gibson denied that his controversial new movie about the death of Jesus is anti- Semitic.

“I’ve shown it to many Jews and they’re like, ‘It’s not anti-Semitic.’ It’s interesting that the people who say it’s anti-Semitic say that before they saw the film, and they said the same thing after they saw the film,” Gibson said Saturday, Feb. 7, of “The Passion of the Christ.”

Gibson spoke before 3,800 invited guests at an evangelical university near Los Angeles. Gibson’s film, which opens Wednesday, Feb. 25, is expected to gross up to $30 million in the first five days, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Two Jews named to Bush Iraq panel

washington (jta) | President Bush appointed a Jewish judge to co-chair a commission assessing the intelligence that preceded the Iraq war. Judge Laurence Silberman, a Republican, will co-chair the commission with former Sen. Chuck Robb (D-Va.).

Also named to the panel last Friday, Feb. 6, was Rick Levin, Yale University’s first Jewish president.

The panel was created in the wake of a declaration from Bush’s top weapons inspector that assessments of Iraq’s capability to develop weapons of mass destruction were “almost all wrong.”