Shorts: Mideast

Presbyterians praise Hezbollah

jerusalem | Several national Jewish groups reacted strongly to a visit by a delegation from the U.S. Presbyterian Church in Beirut with members of the terrorist group Hezbollah.

The ADL said it was “deeply disturbing that leaders of the Presbyterian Church would seek out a meeting with members of a terrorist organization responsible for attacks that have killed both Americans and Israelis.”  Hezbollah is on the U.S. State Department’s watch-list of global terrorist organizations.

The meeting between Sheik Nabil Qauq, the leader of Hezbollah in south Lebanon, and a delegation of 24 leaders of the U.S. Presbyterian Church currently on a fact-finding tour in the Middle East, was broadcast Oct. 17 on Al Manar, Hezbollah’s satellite television network. 

During the broadcast, at least one member of the delegation was shown praising Hezbollah.

Israel ranks 26th least corrupt out of 146 nations

jerusalem (jps) | Transparency International ranked Israel as the 26th least corrupt nation out of a total of 146 nations.

Israel was first included in the Corruption Perceptions Index in 1997, when it was ranked 15th with a score of 7.7. From 1997-2001, Israel slipped lower in both rank and score each year. In 2001, Israel rebounded to 16th with a score of 7.6. Since 2001 however, the Jewish state has dropped steadily both in rank and score with 2004 the worst score for Israel in seven years.

Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for 2004 released grades for 146 nations on the level of public sector corruption.

Israel ranks 26th on the CPI 2004 with a score of 6.4 out of a possible 10; the Palestinian Authority was ranked 111th with a score of 2.5.

Israeli economy grows in 2004

tel aviv (ap) | Israel’s gross domestic product is expected to grow 4 percent in 2004, higher than expected, with exports and private consumption both on the rise, the Central Bureau of Statistics said.

The growth projection, based on partial data from the first seven-to-nine months of the year, is above economists’ consensus of 3.5 percent to 3.8 percent growth, but in line with the outlook the bureau published a month ago. Per capita GDP is estimated to grow 2.2 percent, after shrinking for three straight years.

Dirtying the dead

jerusalem (jta) | An Israeli cemetery’s caretaker was arrested for ordering his workers to bury garbage inside graves.

The suspect, the acting director of Givat Shaul cemetery in Jerusalem, was remanded by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Sunday, Oct. 17, after police discovered that hundreds of graves in his care, including some housing bodies, had been filled with garbage.

He is believed to have told clean-up crews to use the graves to save the time and money of garbage disposal.

Group criticizes Gaza raids

jerusalem (jta) | Human Rights Watch accused Israel of using excessive force while hunting for arms smugglers in the Gaza Strip.

“The pattern of destruction strongly suggests Israeli forces demolished homes wholesale, regardless of whether they posed a specific threat, in violation of international law,” the New York-based group said in a 133-page report on Israeli sweeps of Rafah, a Palestinian town on the Gaza-Egypt border that sees regular arms smuggling through tunnels.

U.N. study: Israel abuses human rights

jerusalem (jta) | Israel violates human rights in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, according to the annual U.N. human rights report.

The report, slated for release to the U.N. General Assembly later this month, says Israel has practiced “massive and wanton destruction of property” and that some of its actions are unrelated to security concerns.

The Aug. 12 report was written before Israel’s recent operation in Gaza, its largest incursion into the strip during the four-year intifada.

The Anti-Defamation League has called for the dismissal of the report’s author, John Dugard, for his “clearly demonstrated bias against the State of Israel.”