Shorts: World

Journalists rally for kidnapped colleague

More than a month after BBC reporter Alan Johnston was kidnapped by gunmen on a Gaza street journalists gathered April 25 and chanted “Free Alan!” on both sides of the Gaza Strip border. Many also lamented that the risks of reporting from Gaza were preventing close coverage of a major conflict zone.

The few journalists who still might venture in are reporting under Palestinian police protection. But most are relying on second-hand reports from Palestinian journalists who live in Gaza.

Johnston, 44, was the only foreign correspondent living full time in Gaza, and was nearing the end of a three-year assignment there when he was kidnapped March 12. Contradictory rumors have circulated since then, some claiming that he is fine and others that he has been killed. Who is holding Johnston and what their demands remain unclear. — jta

Fired WJC head takes on new project

Israel Singer is pursuing an independent project in Buenos Aires. Singer, who was fired last month from the World Jewish Congress over allegations of financial impropriety, said he is involved in developing a new project. He said the project involves several local groups and is “going very well,” but offered no further details.

Singer retains his position as president of the Claims Conference and his involvement with the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations. He said his life “hasn’t changed” since his dismissal from the WJC, where he spent nearly three decades in top positions. — jta

Vatican polls on anti-Semitism

The Vatican is conducting a survey among Roman Catholic bishops on anti-Semitism and interfaith dialogue.

The questions, published the last week of April in advance of an international bishops conference in Rome in October 2008, asked the clergy if they think biblical texts are being used to foment anti-Semitism and whether they are working to foster dialogue with Jews. The questionnaire expresses concern that too few Catholics know enough about the Bible. — jta

Kiev arrests 77 in planned Nazi march

Kiev authorities detained 77 people who they said were planning to participate in a torch procession commemorating Ukrainian wartime Nazi SS fighters.

Police made the arrests Saturday, April 28 following a ruling by the Kiev District Court the previous day banning the march, planned for Sunday, April 29 in downtown Kiev. Police said they also discovered a cab in downtown Kiev carrying the Nazi insignia, torches and fireworks. An investigation is under way. — jta

German Jews launch political group

Jews have formed their own political subgroup within Germany’s Social Democratic Party. The Caucus of Jewish Social Democrats chose founding members Frankfurt city councilor Peter Feldmann and Berlin lawyer Sergey Lagodinsky as its speakers.

“The SPD greeted us with open arms,” Feldmann said last week announcing the group’s formation. Lagodinsky said the group would promote “integration of immigrants of Jewish and non-Jewish background, support activities to combat right-wing extremism” and fight for Holocaust survivors’ rights.

The caucus sees itself as akin to Israel’s Labor and Meretz parties and favors a “realistic” evaluation of Israeli politics, the two said. Feldman said it was “the first time since the Nazi period that Jews have organized themselves as a political group within one of the political parties. This new beginning gives us courage.” — jta

Poland hedges on compensation

Poland’s foreign minister said she does not know when a proposed bill on compensation for property seized by the Nazis and the communist regime will pass. A bill has been sitting in Parliament for several months that would pay 15 percent compensation to Jewish and non-Jewish former property owners.

Poland and Belarus are the only countries in the former Eastern Bloc that have not passed such a law. Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski had told American Jewish leaders that he expected Parliament to pass a compensation law by the end of the year. — jta

Irish Jewish population increases 7.8 percent

Ireland’s Jewish population increased by 7.8 percent to nearly 2,000 people since 2002, according to government census results.

The number of Jews living in the country officially rose by 140 to 1,930 in the four-year period between population surveys, but some community members have suggested that changes to the census form may have produced an undercount.

While the 2002 census provided a “Jewish” box under its religion question, Jews wishing to be identified in the 2006 poll had to write in “Jewish” under the “Other” category. Anecdotally, the Jewish population in Ireland has benefited substantially from a general immigration boom in the country, where foreign-born residents make up 10 percent of the population. In the last 10 years the indigenous Jewish community has noted numerous arrivals from Israel, South Africa, North America and Eastern Europe. — jta