- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 4, 2002

French hate crimes

A major international Jewish group has complained to the French ambassador in Washington about France's response to "vicious hate crimes" against French Jews and synagogues during the Passover holidays.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, famed for its Nazi-hunting activities, this week questioned whether France cares more for its 4 million Arab citizens than its 700,000 Jewish ones.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper wrote to Ambassador Francois Bujon about the "horrifying news emanating from France of vicious hate crimes against French Jewry including the ramming of a car into a Lyon synagogue by black-hooded men early on a Sabbath, shots fired at a Jewish butcher, an attack against a pregnant Frenchwoman and her husband and the arson destruction of a synagogue in Marseille."

The ambassador, who is out of town, could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Cooper, the associate dean of the center, said Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine and Interior Minister Daniel Vaillant in recent meetings in Paris dismissed his call for France's socialist government to publicly denounce the attacks.

Mr. Vedrine called the attacks the work of "hooligans," and Mr. Vaillant "was prepared to discuss only the threat from the far right," Mr. Cooper said in his letter.

French Jews testified at a recent meeting at Paris City Hall that police refused to categorize recent attacks as hate crimes when the perpetrators were clearly Arab or African.

"In the most notorious such case, police listed a hate crime as only broken window, after armed Arab thugs stormed a school bus with Jewish children and smashed the windshield," Mr. Cooper wrote.

He acknowledged statements by French President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, but said they must do more to express their sympathies.

"They must finally take action against extremist Al Qaeda types who incite religious-based hate and violence," Mr. Cooper wrote, referring to Osama bin Laden's terrorist organization. "Without such actions, religious Jews may never again feel safe to walk the streets of Paris with their traditional kipot [skullcap] and French Jewish communal facilities will always feel threatened."

China's complaint

The Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles is protesting the detention of 30 Chinese fishermen as material witnesses in a murder case in Hawaii.

Consulate spokesman Liang Zen Guan complained that 16 members of the crew of the Full Means No. 2 fishing boat were brought into court in leg shackles on Tuesday.

"Their basic human rights are being denied," Mr. Liang told the Honolulu Advertiser newspaper. "They are not dangerous people. They are being held as material witnesses. Their cooperation is needed to help the court, but the way they are being treated is just too much."

A judge ordered them detained until prosecutors can interview them about the killing of the ship's captain and first mate. The ship's cook is accused of the murders. The other crew members are due in court today. The Coast Guard intercepted the boat in U.S. waters.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Brady said authorities are following normal procedures and they will be free after prosecutors and defense attorneys finish interviewing them in about three weeks.

Besides, the newspaper added, they are being paid $40 a day in witness fees while they are detained. Their normal pay is between $7 and $23 a day.

Shocked in Bahrain

The U.S. ambassador to Bahrain shocked his student audience yesterday when he asked for a moment of silence for the Israeli victims of Palestinian suicide bombers.

The students, instead, observed a moment of silence for the Palestinians killed by Israeli troops in the ongoing violence in the Middle East.

Ambassador Ronald Neumann asked for equal consideration for the Israeli victims in the name of "common humanity" for those killed on both sides of the conflict, according to Agence France-Presse.

"Ambassdor Neumann demonstrated a lack of tact when he invited the audience to observe a minute's silence in the memory of Israeli victims, causing a stir in the hall," Ridha Faraj, organizer of the meeting, told AFP.

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