Mideast Report

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Indonesia has raised objections about Israeli participation in an international archery competition scheduled to take place in Jakarta next month.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman in the Indonesian capital cited protest from other Muslim countries as the reason.

But at least one Jewish official in New York believes that the reason is more sinister.

"This is an instance of blatant racism and anti-Semitism," said Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress.

Steinberg said he plans to report the incident to the U.N. human rights commissioner in Geneva, who is responsible for investigating incidents of anti-Semitism.

Indonesia, which does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, is the largest Muslim nation in the world.

The Israeli Archery Association, whose one-man, two-coach team was scheduled to attend the event, was informed by the International Archery Federation (FITA) that it could participate only under certain conditions, including identifying the team as "Group A" rather than "Israel," using the FITA anthem and flag rather than those for Israel, and not marching in the opening or closing ceremonies.

Israeli soldier dies in clash with Islamic fundamentalist Hezbollah

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli soldier was killed Sunday in a clash with Islamic fundamentalist Hezbollah gunmen in the southern Lebanon security zone.

Sgt. Yosef Weinstock, 19, of Bnei Brak was killed in the eastern sector of the zone when a missile hit a tank accompanying his patrol, Israel Television reported.

An Israel Defense Force officer was lightly wounded by the missile.

After the clash, heavy exchanges of artillery were reported between Israeli forces and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

Jordan ends participation in Arab boycott of Israel

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Jordanian Parliament has passed legislation that effectively ends Jordan's participation in the Arab boycott of Israel.

The legislation, which legalizes trade and commercial ties with Israel, was approved by Jordan's Senate on Monday of last week by a vote of 30-3. The lower house gave its approval to the measure last week by a vote of 59-20.

The legislation permits business transactions with Israel, as well as the sale of Jordanian land to Israelis.

King Hussein was expected to endorse the legislation this week.

The bulk of the opposing votes in the lower house last week came from the fundamentalist Islamic Action party. Others who opposed the legislation argued that the Arab League had imposed the boycott of Israel, and that it should be the body to decide whether to lift it.

The legislation's approval came one year after Israel and Jordan signed the Washington Declaration.

Complaints result in eased travel between Israel, Jordan

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel and Jordan have announced a number of steps aimed at easing travel between the two countries.

Beginning in August, Jordanians will be able to request visas to visit Israel at the Israeli Embassy in Amman, rather than wait for the appropriate papers at the border crossing.

The steps were taken in the wake of the growing number of complaints about delays and overcrowding at the border crossings between the two countries.

Arafat's wife gives birth in Paris as PLO leader marks birthday

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat turns 66 this week, soon after going to Paris to see his new baby daughter.

Arafat did not sound like the usual happy father when a crush of French reporters asked about the birth of his first child.

When one reporter asked how his wife, Suha, was doing, Arafat replied only, "The same."

Suha Arafat, 32, gave birth to the 5.4-pound baby girl in the Paris suburb of Neuilly on Monday of last week — the same day a terrorist bomb tore through a commuter bus in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan.

Newborn Zahwa Arafat was named after the PLO leader's mother.

In a recent interview with the French daily Le Parisien, Suha Arafat said she was afraid to give birth in the Gaza Strip because of the "appalling" sanitary conditions there.

While in Paris, Arafat met with French President Jacques Chirac to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for extending self-rule in the West Bank.

"France plays an important role in support of the peace process, as does the European Union,"Arafat told reporters.