Shorts: Mideast

Iran arrests U.S. Jew

jerusalem (jta) | Iranian authorities detained an American Jewish man crossing the border from Pakistan. Iranian state TV, which announced the arrest Aug. 13, did not identify the man or explain why he was arrested.

The man was arrested in Baluchistan, an area straddling the Iran-Pakistan border that is dominated by Muslim tribes not fully under either side’s control.

Israel OKs bids for West Bank homes

jerusalem (jta) | Israel is allowing bids for more than 1,000 new West Bank homes despite U.S. demands for a freeze in settlement construction.

The Housing Ministry on Tuesday, Aug. 17, advertised for bids on contracts to build 604 new homes in Beitar Illit, 214 in Ariel, 141 in Ma’aleh Adumim and 42 in Karnei Shomron. This followed Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s order to rescind some previous offers for bids for fear of upsetting the Unites States, which received an Israeli pledge not to expand settlements under the “road map” peace plan with the Palestinians. U.S. officials did not immediately comment on the new ads.

Israel has insisted that the freeze does not apply to established settlements that likely will be incorporated into Israel in any future peace deal.

Art attack on terrorism

jerusalem (jta) | Israeli forces distributed a cartoon urging Palestinians to shun terrorists in their midst.

Titled “Terrorism is Killing You,” the black-and-white sketch of an Islamist suicide bomber squashing an elderly Palestinian man and a boy in a huge vise was distributed in the West Bank city of Nablus this week, military sources said.

It was the first time Israel has resorted to art in its psychological warfare against Palestinian terrorists. Nablus is a hotbed of extremists, many of whom are hated by the populace for assuming a vigilante role in lieu of the local police force.

Will Sharon help couple in love?

jerusalem (jta) | An Israeli lawmaker asked Ariel Sharon to officiate at his wedding to a non-Jewish woman.

“I don’t think that a member of Knesset in the state of Israel needs to travel abroad to get married,” Yigal Yasinov of the secular Shinui Party told The Jerusalem Post on Aug. 12. “It’s a disgrace that this is the situation, so I requested that he marry us.”

The Orthodox Chief Rabbinate controls conversion and marriage in Israel, but public officials have on occasion acted as notaries in civil ceremonies. Shinui, which has been pushing for enfranchisement of non-Orthodox movements in lifecycle events, is especially popular with immigrants from the former Soviet Union such as Yasinov and his non-Jewish fiancée.

Memorial planned for Jerusalem

jerusalem (jta) | Victims of anti-Jewish terrorism worldwide are to be honored at Israel’s main state cemetery. The memorial will be erected at Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem, the Jewish Agency for Israel said Aug. 12.

“A memorial for the victims of terrorist acts directed against Jews all over the world reflects the centrality of Israel and the country’s overall responsibility for all Jews, as well as the shared fate of the state of Israel and the Jewish people,” said the agency’s chairman, Sallai Meridor. Natan Sharansky, Israel’s minister for diaspora affairs, is to head a committee for planning the memorial.

Dangerous liaisons, Druze-style

jerusalem (jta) | A Druze woman from Israel eloped with a Syrian while on her honeymoon with another man in Turkey. The 22-year-old woman went missing from her hotel this week, and authorities later discovered she had run away with a Syrian man with whom she had corresponded by e-mail.

The family of the hapless husband flew out from Israel Aug. 12 to comfort him. As a Golan Druze, the woman does not have Israeli citizenship, but authorities in Jerusalem said the case was checked to make sure it was not a terrorist abduction.

American expelled from Israel

jerusalem (jta) | A U.S. member of a pro-Palestinian group is to be expelled from Israel. On Monday, Aug. 16, the Tel Aviv District Court ordered the deportation of New Orleans resident Adam Wilson.

Wilson, 28, is affiliated with the International Solidarity Movement, which has protested Israel’s West Bank security barrier and whose members have tried to block Israeli army actions by acting as human buffers between Israeli troops and Palestinians. Wilson said Israeli authorities detained him after he refused an order to leave the country.

“They interrogated me and I spent 10 hours at the airport,” Wilson was quoted as saying in The Jerusalem Post. “They tried to put me on the plane and I refused to leave.”

When Wilson couldn’t come up with roughly $900 to cover court costs, a judge ordered his expulsion. Israel has deported other members of the group in the past. Israeli officials accuse the organization of abetting Palestinian terrorist groups in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.