Shorts: Mideast

Police probe menacing graffiti

jerusalem (jta) | Jerusalem police probed graffiti threatening Ariel Sharon’s life.

“We wiped out Rabin, we’ll wipe out Sharon too,” read graffiti scrawled on the wall of a school in the capital Tuesday, Oct. 26.

Police sources said the culprits were believed to belong to the banned far-right Kach movement, and were opposed to the prime minister’s plan to remove Israeli settlements from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank.

Sharon marks Rabin assassination

jerusalem (jta) | Ariel Sharon apologized for any incitement that may have led to the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.

“Our disputes were never personal, they were for the greater good,” the Israeli prime minister said at a Jerusalem memorial marking the ninth anniversary of his predecessor’s slaying.

“If, in the heat of the real argument, things were said which should not have been said, I regret it.”

Sharon was one of the leading critics of Rabin’s land-for-peace deals with the Palestinians, but now that Sharon is pushing for a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, many Israelis fear he also could be targeted by a right-wing assassin.

Rabin’s daughter told Sharon not to fear. “We say to you, prime minister, today, that we are with you,” Dalia Rabin-Pelossoff said in her address.

Body Shop changes tune

jerusalem (jta) | The Body Shop said it would change the way it gives awards after it came under fire for giving a human rights award to an anti-Israel group.

The London-based retailer of personal care products pledged to make the changes following a boycott led by Los Angeles-based activists and letters sent separately by the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles reported.

The 2002 award was given to the National Committee for the Defense of the Rights of the Internally Displaced, a pro-Palestinian group that rejects Israel’s right to exist.

The Body Shop also took down images of the award and the name of the committee from its Web site.

Taba terrorists nabbed in Egypt?

jerusalem (jta) | Egypt said it arrested five men for the bombing of Red Sea resorts frequented by Israelis.

According to a statement issued Monday, Oct. 25, by the Interior Ministry in Cairo, four other alleged plotters carried out the Oct. 7 blasts at Taba and Ras Al-Satan, including two who died at the scene.

At least 34 people were killed in the attacks, which Israel has blamed on al-Qaida.

Egyptian security forces previously questioned more than a dozen Bedouin from the Sinai Peninsula on suspicion that they supplied the terrorists with explosives.

Laws on conversion get tougher

jerusalem (jta) | Israel’s chief rabbi reportedly issued a series of sweeping new rules on conversion without Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s knowledge.

The new rules introduce a series of new demands on candidates for conversion and grant the chief rabbis exclusive control over the conversion courts, which are supposed to be under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister’s Office, Ha’aretz reported.

The new rules also give the Ashkenazi chief rabbi, Shlomo Amar, the authority to appoint all officials involved in the conversion process and give conversion courts extended powers, including the right to revoke conversions.

Tens of thousands of immigrants to Israel from the former Soviet Union are not considered Jewish according to Jewish law, and the new rules are expected to make their conversions even more difficult.

Israel snubs Presbyterians

jerusalem (jta) | Israel’s Foreign Ministry canceled a meeting with a delegation from the Presbyterian Church (USA) because it had met with Hezbollah. Gadi Golan, head of the ministry’s religious affairs bureau, said the meeting, scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 24, was canceled because of the Presbyterians’ meeting with a Hezbollah sheik.

One member of the delegation, Rev. Ronald Stone, was quoted on Hezbollah’s television network as saying that “relations and conversations with Islamic leaders are a lot easier than dealings and dialogue with Jewish leaders,” Gadi said, according to The Jerusalem Post. The Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, head of the Presbyterian Church (USA), said the Hezbollah meeting and the reported comments do not reflect the church’s official position.

The group came on a two-week Middle East fact finding trip to Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Israel, paid for by the church and the Palestinian Authority, shortly after the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted this summer to divest from Israel and proselytize Jews.