Despite a demonstration by hundreds of protesters, the Polish government Tuesday supported a proposal to establish a 100-yard no-development zone around nine former Nazi death camps, thereby thwarting plans to open a mini-mall adjacent to Auschwitz.
The government said the proposed law, developed in response to 229 crosses erected last summer by conservative Catholics outside of Auschwitz, was designed to maintain an atmosphere of peace and dignity at the camps. The bill not only would restrict business development but also limit public gatherings. It is expected to go to parliament this month.
Jewish groups have called the spate of crosses an insult to the memory of the Jews murdered at the camps. Both the Catholic Church and the Polish government have pledged to remove them. Some 6 million Jews — half from Poland — were murdered in Nazi death camps, most of which were in Poland.
The demonstrators insisted they were not anti-Semitic, but rather feared that the protective zone would cost jobs that would have been created by developers. Among the organizers was Janusz Marszalek, the developer of a proposed mini-mall at Auschwitz.
U.S., Israeli Software Firms Seal Historic $675M Deal
In the largest acquisition in Israel’s history, Texas-based BMC Software has agreed to pay $675 million for New Dimensions Software, a Tel Aviv firm that creates software to manage large computer networks.
The deal is another in a “growing trend of American companies that are finding investment opportunities in Israel,” said Ron Chaimovski, Israel’s economic minister to North America. “Israel has the R&D [research and development] and U.S. companies have the marketing expertise.”
BMC, a developer of network and database software, is the 12th largest independent software vendor in the United States. Its acquisition of New Dimensions will create a company boasting nearly $1.5 billion in annual sales. Officials at BMC said their firm has been working to increase exports and that the deal is expected to increase its presence in Europe. Chaimovski noted that BMC would be joining a number of leading high-tech companies already in Israel, including Intel, Microsoft and IBM.
Federation System Reports Campaigns On The Rise
(JTA) UJA Federations of North America’s 1998 annual campaign brought in $763 million — up $26 million over 1997, according to the final tally last week. Of the system’s 189 federated communities, 107 reported significant increases in their individual campaigns.
“Obviously, the prevailing wisdom that the campaign has not been healthy is quite wrong,” said Carole Solomon, UJA’s national campaign chair.
The upswing, Solomon and other UJA officials said, is part of a positive trend they expect to continue into the 1999 campaign. The ’98 campaign is the first to be billed under the banner of UJA Federations of North America, the new entity formed by the union of the UJA, the United Israel Appeal and the Council of Jewish Federations. The merger is expected to be finalized next month at a national meeting of federation representatives.
Dutch Probe Into El Al Crash Fuels Backlash
Amsterdam (JTA) — Rather than answering lingering questions, the six-week inquiry by a Dutch parliamentary committee into the 1992 El Al Airlines cargo crash has only increased suspicion and helped fuel an anti-Israel backlash that some believe borders on anti-Semitism.
Thirty-nine residents and four crew members were killed when the plane crashed into two densely populated apartment blocks on the outskirts of the Dutch capital. More than 800 inhabitants and rescuers are suffering from health problems that they believe were caused by hazardous substances emitted when the plane crashed. And conspiracy theories were fueled when the cargo, first said to be harmless, was found to include military equipment as well as ingredients that can be used to make sarin nerve gas.
The inquiry’s hearings, which have featured contradictory testimony, are being telecast live three days a week and Internet “disaster sites” are swamped with outraged viewers. The parliamentary committee is scheduled to release its findings this month.
Amid the scrutiny, El Al is being subjected to “routine customs checks” at Schiphol airport, resulting in delays. One flight, refused permission to change its landing place, recently skidded off a slippery, snow-covered runway. And El Al’s director testified that the airline’s offices here have been receiving hostile phone calls.
Bomb Hits Outside Controversial Exhibit On Hitler’s Army
A bomb exploded outside a building in Saarbruecken, Germany, housing a controversial exhibit that documents how the Wehrmacht, Hitler’s regular army, participated in the mass murder of Jews during their march through Eastern Europe. The exhibit, which has been on display throughout Germany for four years, has been the object of repeated protests from right-wing extremists who claim it is full of lies.
Although damage to the building was said to be severe, damage to the exhibit itself was said to be minimal. Organizers plan to reopen the exhibit in a week and eventually bring it to the United States.