Shorts: World

Israeli athletes coming under fire

Anti-Israel protesters in New Zealand tried to force the withdrawal of Israel’s top tennis player, Shahar Peer, from the ASC Classic tennis tournament in Auckland.

A fringe organization called Peace and Justice Auckland issued a letter to Peer demanding her withdrawal on the eve of the tournament. Then about 20 protesters waved anti-Israel placards outside the entrance to the ASC Classic in Auckland before Peer’s loss to top-seeded Elena Dementieva of Russia.

Peer, 22, refused to withdraw, but dd receive beefed-up security.

Two days earlier, Israeli basketball team Bnei Hasharon was targeted by protesters in Turkey at a European Cup game. Some fans of the Turkish team threw bottles at the Israeli players, others stormed the court shouting “death to the Jews,” according to reports. The team retreated to the locker room and the game was canceled. — jta

Italy rabbis: Pope negating progress

Italy’s rabbis said Jan. 13 they were pulling out of the Italian Catholic Church’s annual celebration of Judaism, saying recent decisions by Pope Benedict XVI were negating 50 years of interfaith progress.

The chief rabbi of Venice, Elia Enrico Richetti, cited the pope’s decision to restore a prayer for the conversion of Jews deemed offensive to Jews in Easter Week services of the old Latin Mass.

In an article published Jan. 13 in the Italian Jesuit magazine Popoli, Richetti said the Assembly of Italian rabbis felt the prayer, and subsequent comments by church officials about the controversy, showed a lack of respect.

Other tensions with the Vatican arose recently after a senior official, Cardinal Renato Martino, said Gaza under the Israeli military offensive resembled a “big concentration camp.” — ap

Bolivia breaks ties with Israel

Bolivian President Evo Morales announced Jan. 14 that he was breaking relations with Israel over its invasion of the Gaza Strip, and said he will ask the International Criminal Court to bring genocide charges against top Israeli officials.

Morales’ ally, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, broke ties with Israel last week.

Morales and Chavez have worked to cultivate ties to Iran, which supports Hamas. Morales met Jan. 13 with visiting Iranian officials, who gave him a letter from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad thanking Morales for his support for the Palestinians. — ap