PA minister, anti-Zionist Austrian rabbi herald 'joint coalition'

By The Associated Press

Haaretz

Iyadd 15, 5766

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Palestinian Authority Refugee Minister Atef Adwan and Austrian orthodox rabbi Moishe Arye Friedman pledged Friday to work to build ties between Hamas and anti-Zionist Jews.

Adwan, of Hamas, and Friedman told The Associated Press their meeting in the Swedish capital heralded a "joint coalition" between their groups.

Adwan also said the two hoped their meeting would lead to plans for humanitarian aid to flow from Friedman's congregation in Vienna to the West Bank.

Friedman flew to Stockholm from Vienna on Thursday to meet Adwan, who has been on a weeklong visit to Sweden, attending a conference on Palestinian refugees and meeting Swedish lawmakers.

Friedman said his congregation would "do everything in practical terms to help the Palestinian people," including sending money and food to the West Bank.

"We will support them in ways that others have failed to do," Friedman said, but declined to give details.

Friedman is chief rabbi for hundreds of anti-Zionist orthodox Jews in Vienna but is shunned by Austria's 7,000-member Israelite Religious Community because of views that are repudiated by most Jews and also, in some cases, embraced by far-rightists.

Friedman also denies Israel's right to exist and has said Zionist Jews share the blame for the Holocaust, which he sees as punishment for straying from God's path.

Hamas - listed as a terrorist organization by both the United States and European Union - took power five weeks ago following a surprise election victory. Its government is financially crippled because of an international boycott, threatening to leave much of the Palestinian population without aid.

While few Jews share Friedman's views, Adwan said he hoped the meeting would "send a message ... that we can in fact live with each other. That [Jews] can accept the Palestinians as their mates, as their friends and as their neighbors, and we will accept them as the same."

Israel has harshly criticized Sweden for granting Adwan a visa, saying it helped legitimize Hamas.

Friedman also announced plans for a conference of more than 100 Muslim, Jewish and Christian religious leaders in Vienna in June, during the week that U.S. President George W. Bush visits the Austrian capital for a U.S.-European Union summit.

Adwan, whose visa allows him movement in any of the 15 European countries bound by the Schengen border accord, is traveling to Norway later Friday for meetings with politicians and Palestinian groups.