Shorts: U.S.

Reform movement’s Yoffie supports Sharon

new york (jta) | Reform movement leader Rabbi Eric Yoffie came out in support of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in a commentary for the Forward newspaper.

The outspoken liberal president of the Union for Reform Judaism took the surprising right turn in regards to Sharon’s plan for an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

Yoffie, whose group includes more than 900 congregations believed to represent the majority of affiliated Jews, wrote in the Forward newspaper last week that while he once labeled Sharon a “demagogue,” he now considers him a “master politician” singularly situated to end Israel’s occupation over the Palestinians and encourage peace.

Powell regrets ‘Gestapo’ reports

washington (jta) | Colin Powell said he regrets reports that he described a Pentagon department as “the Gestapo.”

In a book by Bob Woodward about the lead-up to the Iraq war, the U.S. secretary of state is quoted as resenting the influence of Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy, who was pro-war.

In the book, Powell describes Feith, who is Jewish, and his staff as “the Gestapo.”

“I don’t recall saying that, but it is a terrible term to use,” Powell told The Associated Press. “And it is out of place, completely out of place. I have known Doug Feith for many years. We have agreed on many issues and disagreed on some. And I just regret that that has gotten into the literature and become a fact.”

Powell adds heft to Berlin parley

washington (jta) | U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell will join the U.S. delegation to the Berlin conference on anti-Semitism sponsored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on April 28-29.

Jewish leaders believe Powell’s addition to the U.S. delegation will cause European nations to ratchet up their own participation. Leaders believe there will be more foreign ministers in attendance, and more international media attention.

“Everyone hopes that all the other countries will send someone of his stature to represent them,” said Ed Koch, the former New York City mayor who will lead the U.S. delegation. “We are very grateful.”

‘Hamas Heights’ a D.C. suburb

washington (jta) | Federal authorities dubbed a Washington suburb “Hamas Heights” because its principal backer was a Hamas leader.

Moussa Abu Marzook and other businessmen suspected of involvement with Islamic terrorist groups invested in the late 1980s early 1990s in Barnaby Knolls, a neighborhood in Oxon Hill, Md., just 10 miles from the White House.

Law-enforcement authorities now believe the investment was made to feed profits to Hamas. Marzook, deported to Jordan in 1997, says he was involved only in Hamas’ civilian side, a distinction the United States and Israel reject.

U.S. eases policy on Sephardi visas

washington (jta) | The United States is easing its visa policy on Israelis born in Arab countries.

The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv said that applicants who declare that they have severed all ties with their Arab birthplaces enjoy speedier service in obtaining visas. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, visitors of Middle East origin were heavily scrutinized by U.S. security services and sometimes refused entry.

The new measures affected thousands of Sephardi Jews from Israel.