Shorts: World

Druze outpace Jewish conscripts

Young people from Israel’s minority Druze community are less likely to evade mandatory military service than their Jewish counterparts, according to army data.

Col. Ramez Immadin, the military officer responsible for minority conscripts, told Israel Radio this week that 83 percent of draft-eligible Druze enlist compared to 72 percent of Jewish youth.

The data suggest an increase in the number of secular Israelis seeking ways out of the draft. — jta

Sderot college gets $1.7 million

The Jewish Agency for Israel is donating $1.7 million in scholarships to a Sderot college.

Each of Sapir College’s 1,700 students will receive a $1,000 scholarship as a sign of solidarity amid intensified rocket attacks by Palestinian terrorists, Jewish Agency Chairman Ze’ev Bielski announced last week. — jta

Knesset bans Neo-Nazism

The Knesset passed a bill last month making Neo-Nazism a criminal offense.

According to the new law, advocating, supporting or rallying for either Nazi or racist principles will now be deemed illegal in Israel.

“Israel never outlawed Nazi rallies because no one in their darkest, wildest dreams imagined that this would be a necessary course of action,” said Knesset member Moshe Gafni. —

U.N. commissioner stepping down

Louise Arbour, a Canadian judge and war crimes prosecutor, told the U.N. Human Rights Council that she will leave her post as its commissioner when her current four-year term ends in June.

During her term, Arbour, 61, has endured criticism from both pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian sides.

When she praised the ratification of an Arab human rights charter, she was excoriated by Israeli and U.S. officials for failing to note that it equated Zionism with racism; when she revisited the charter last month and criticized its attacks on Zionism, Arab nations complained. — jta

Germany supports Israel on Gaza

Germany stood up this week for Israel’s right to self-defense, with a caveat: Don’t overdo it.

Israel is justified in trying to stop rocket attacks launched from the Gaza Strip, said Germany’s government spokesman Thomas Steg.

But foreign ministry spokesman Martin Jager said Israel should “try to be proportional” in its response. — jta

British Muslims eye ties with Jews

Muslim leaders in the United Kingdom issued an unprecedented appeal last week to world Jewry for closer relations.

In a letter generated by the Muslim-Jewish study center at the Woolf Institute of Abrahamic Faiths in Cambridge, England, Muslim scholars acknowledged the gap in understanding that exists today between Jews and Muslims, and asked Jewish leaders to help them bridge it.

Most Jewish leaders welcomed the statement as a promising sign of enhanced dialogue between Muslims and Jews. An adviser to British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks called it an “enlightened document,” according to the London Jewish Chronicle.

Leaders of the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist movements in the United States also welcomed the letter, notably its call for a “peaceful resolution” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. — jta

Some Poles may reclaim citizenship

Poland will ease the way for Jews to reclaim citizenship 40 years after the start of massive expulsions.

In a letter released March 3, Polish Interior Minister Grzegorz Schetyna said he would “order the implementation of the appropriate procedures.”

Piotr Kadlcik, the president of the Union of Religious Jewish Communities in Poland, said he had already received verbal confirmation that Schetyna endorsed the plan to renaturalize Jews who fled between 1968 and 1970. Some 15,000 Polish Jews were deprived of their citizenship. — jta

Jewish teen beaten in France

A Jewish teenager was held captive and abused in a possible hate crime in a Paris suburb.

Six men, ages 17 to 25, were accused of locking the 19-year-old in a storage room and beating and sexually tormenting him Feb. 22, French police said this week, according to the European Jewish Press.

The incident occurred in Bagneux, the same town in which 23-year-old Ilan Halami was brutally attacked, tortured and killed in 2006 in an anti-Semitic crime.

The case is being investigated as a hate crime. — jta

U.N. to have session on terror

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon endorsed a Jewish proposal to hold a special General Assembly session on suicide terror.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, led a delegation that met with Ban to discuss the session and raise concerns about the forthcoming follow-up to the 2001 U.N. conference on racism. The center wants suicide bombing to be labeled a crime against humanity.

Ban told the Wiesenthal Center delegation that he would personally present the initiative to Srgjan Kerim, the General Assembly president. — jta

Jewish groups get first grants

In a first for Canada, the government gave a $216,000 security grant last week to Jewish community institutions.

The grant is the first under a $3 million, two-year program established by Canada’s government last summer to help minority communities combat hate crimes. It covers nine Jewish community institutions, synagogues and schools in Ontario and Alberta. — jta

Astrologer used to fight Hitler

British spies hired an astrologer during World War II to get a glimpse into the mind of Adolf Hitler, according to documents declassified March 4.

Louis de Wohl’s predictions were often vague. His December 1942 prediction read, “The German astrologers must pray that enemy action does not force the Fuehrer into making important decisions within the first eight days of the month [of July], as this would lead to great disaster.” — ap