Shorts: World

France admits meeting with Hamas leaders

A retired French diplomat told Le Figaro newspaper May 19 that he met top Hamas leaders recently to hear their views on a cease-fire with Israel and reconciliation with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The report prompted French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner to admit the contacts were at the government’s behest, though he was firm on insisting Hamas recognize the Jewish state and foreswear terrorism before it can be formally engaged.

“Having contacts is necessary,” Kouchner told Europe 1 radio. “They are not relations, they are contacts.” — jta

French jihad cell operated in Jewish neighborhood

Seven members of a jihad cell operating out of a Jewish area in Paris were convicted of helping send terrorists to fight in Iraq.

A Paris judge last week sentenced the men, ages 24 to 40, to terms of up to seven years in prison for “criminal association with a terrorist enterprise,” for their work from 2003 to 2005.

The convicted men were based in northern Paris’ 19th district, a heavily Jewish populated area.

The district is home to low-income immigrants from North Africa and has one of the largest Jewish communities in Paris. It has also been victim to more anti-Semitic acts than any other part of the city. — jta

Einstein’s God-denying letter sells for $404,000

A letter in which Albert Einstein dismissed the idea of God as the product of human weakness and the Bible as “pretty childish” has sold at auction for $404,000.

Bloomsbury Auctions in England said last week that the letter sold to an overseas collector after frenetic bidding.

Bloomsbury did not identify the buyer, but managing director Rupert Powell said it was someone with “a passion for theoretical physics and all that that entails.” — ap

Holocaust allocations increased

The Claims Conference increased 2008 allocations to poor Holocaust survivors by $4 million.

The conference says it increased the allocations to compensate for the declining value of the U.S. dollar.

Nearly half the increase will go to help 12,000 survivors in Israel, with the remainder to Jewish victims of the Nazis in 30 other countries. The conference has allocated $146 million for social services this year. — jta

Poll: Germans believe Israel ‘just another country’

A new survey shows that nearly two-thirds of Germans think Israel should not be singled out for special criticism nor receive special backing.

Half of the 1,009 respondents in a poll commissioned by the Berliner Zeitung newspaper also believe that Germany’s period of atonement for the Holocaust should be over.

While 36 percent said Germany has a special role to play in supporting Israel because of the Nazi genocide, 56 percent rejected that notion. — jta


The JTA short “Hitler doll on sale in Ukraine” (May 16 j.) was about a hoax, according to the German newspaper Deutsch Welle.