By Melissa Radler

(April 1) NEW YORK - As Israel came under international fire for Wednesday's retaliatory strikes against Force 17 targets, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani called a press conference to express his solidarity with Israel and decry anti-Israel bias in the media.

Flanked by Jewish leaders representing a broad range of religious and political views, Giuliani was applauded for calling Israel's military action "necessary" and "justified," and for calling on Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat to end terrorist attacks.

Giuliani said he sent a picture of 10-month old Shalhevet Pass, who was killed on Monday in Hebron by a Palestinian sniper, to President George W. Bush, and mayoral aides circulated letters of solidarity Giuliani wrote yesterday to Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Giuliani also called for an end to the US government's policy - evident during the Clinton administration - of moral equivalency between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and pressuring Israel to negotiate under fire with the Palestinians. "You can't ask people to agree to a process in which more of their children are likely to be killed," he said.

The media's extensive coverage of Israel's retaliatory strikes on Wednesday and it's corresponding lack of coverage of Pass's murder "demonstrates disparity in coverage," said Giuliani. "The coverage of Israel is extremely distorted," he said.

Giuliani said he has been aware of Arafat's involvement in terrorism since his days as a federal prosecutor, and that in 1995, expelled Arafat from the United Nations' 50th anniversary celebrations, held in New York, because he felt, in part, that "our government and our media had been romanticizing Arafat as a man you can sit down at a table with like a business meeting and conduct negotiations."

While he advocated travel to Israel for all New Yorkers, Giuliani said he is prohibited from traveling to the Middle East due to treatment he is receiving for prostate cancer, but that he may make a trip within the next few months.

Hundreds of New Yorkers gathered Thursday in front of the PLO mission at the United Nations for a vigil commemorating more than 70 Israelis who have been killed in terrorist attacks since September.

Holding brightly colored photos of Pass, passing around photographs and bios of other victims, and waving Israeli flags, demonstrators alternated between singing Jewish prayers, reading out names of terror victims and chanting "Arafat's a war criminal." Speakers decried violence against Jewish targets and calling on the United States government to exclude Arafat from the White House.

The demonstration was cosponsored by the Coalition for Jewish Concerns-Amcha, and Americans for a Safe Israel.

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