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Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

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DAILY ALERT

July 16, 2004

To contact the Presidents Conference:
info@prescon.org

In-Depth Issue:

Report: 400 Al-Qaeda Members in Iran (AFP/Turkish Press)
    "More than 384 members of al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations are present in Iran, including 18 senior leaders of Osama bin Laden's network," the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat reported Thursday, citing a senior source in the Iranian presidency.
    The Saudi-owned newspaper said the terrorist leaders were living under tight protection near Chalous, 100 km north of Tehran, or in Lavizan, in the northwest of the capital.


Boy Bomber Speaks about Mission - Paul Wood (BBC News)
    A Palestinian boy arrested with a bomb strapped to his chest has told the BBC he volunteered to become a suicide bomber to avoid going to school.
    Hussam Abdo, who was 15 at the time, said he kissed his mother goodbye, telling her he was going to school as usual, and then met some men from the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades who photographed him for his martyrs poster, fitted him with a bomb belt, and dispatched him to Israel.
    "I would become a martyr and go to my God. It's better than being a singer or a footballer. It's better than anything."


UN: Israel Best Country in Middle East to Live In (Reuters/International Herald Tribune)
    According to the UN Development Program's annual Human Development Index, released Thursday, Norway, Sweden, Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands ranked as the best five countries to live in, while the U.S. ranked eighth.
    In the Middle East, Israel led the list in 22nd place, followed by Cyprus in 30th place, Bahrain, 40; Kuwait, 44; Qatar, 47; UAE, 49; Libya, 58; Oman 74; Saudi Arabia, 77; Lebanon, 80; Jordan, 90; Tunisia, 92; Palestinian territories 102; Syria, 106; Algeria, 108; Egypt, 120; Morocco, 125, and Yemen, 149.


New Cultural Palace in Ramallah - Danny Rubinstein (Ha'aretz)
    The UN Development Program (UNDP) marked the festive inauguration of the Ramallah Cultural Palace at the end of last week.
    The facility, erected with the help of a donation of $5.5 million from the government of Japan, includes a well-equipped hall for plays and concerts with approximately 750 seats, and other smaller spaces for meetings, exhibitions, and receptions.
    In the handsome lobby of the new cultural center is a large fresco of the Dome of the Rock and next to it a color photo of Arafat, waving.


Israel Set Up Singapore's Army, Former Officers Reveal - Amnon Barzilai (Ha'aretz)
    The Singaporean army, today considered one of the strongest in southeast Asia, was set up by Israel.
    Singapore's founding father and first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, asked Israel to help establish his country's army almost immediately after Singapore received independence from Malaysia in August 1965.
    The late cabinet minister Rehavam Ze'evi wrote the blueprint for Singapore's armed forces.


Israel to Participate in European Satellite System - Ofer Barsadeh (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel and the EU have signed an agreement enabling Israel to participate in its Galileo program, the European Global Navigation Satellite System.
    Israel, one of only eight countries in the world that has developed space capabilities, will be the second non-EU country, after China, to join the Galileo program as a member in the project's governing body.


Israel's Tax Burden Among Highest in West - Zeev Klein (Globes)
    Israel's tax burden is among the highest in the West, reaching 39.1% of GDP, compared with the OECD average of 36.9%.


Economist Raises Israel Growth Forecast to 3.4% - Zeev Klein (Globes)
    The Economist Intelligence Unit has raised its 2004 growth forecast for Israel from 2.3% to 3.4%, citing a surge in industrial exports, especially high-tech exports, which strengthened the recovery trend that began in 2003.


Israel Number 1 in R&D Spending - Hadas Manor (Globes)
    Israel leads the world in the ratio of R&D spending to GDP, according to the World Competitiveness Yearbook 2004 published by the Swiss business school IMD International.
    Israel is in 41st place in real GDP growth, ahead of Austria, Norway, Italy, France, and Germany.


NYC Council Members in Israel to Strengthen Ties - Daphna Berman (Ha'aretz)
    A delegation of New York City Council members and community leaders were in Jerusalem this week to foster tourism and business ties between the two cities.
    The delegation was led by Gifford Miller, speaker of the City Council, and included seven council members.


Israel Again Wins Computer Chess Championship - Judy Siegel-Itzkovich (Jerusalem Post)
    An Israeli team, Amir Ban and Shay Bushinsky, have won first prize in the 12th World Computer Chess Championship (WCCC), held at Bar-Ilan University in cooperation with the International Computer Games Association (ICGA).


Useful Reference:

The Manufacture and Launching of Kassam Rockets from Gaza (IDF)

Anti-Terrorist Fence Cuts Samaria-Based Attacks by 90% (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Israel Supreme Court Rules Security Fence Not Political, Does Not Violate International Law (Israel Supreme Court/IMRA)
    Excerpts from the judgment

Israel's Security Fence: Decision of the International Court of Justice
  (Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations)


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • General Assembly Vote on Fence Expected Monday
    The UN General Assembly will meet Friday to discuss a Palestinian-backed resolution demanding that Israel accept the world court ruling. Nasser Al-Kidwa, the Palestinian UN observer, said the vote would probably come "not Friday but Monday." The Palestinians are focusing on the EU, Al-Kidwa said, but diplomats said there is still no agreed EU position. Some European nations insist that the reason Israel is building the security barrier - to prevent suicide attacks against Israelis - must be included in the resolution. The U.S. has said it strongly opposes the Palestinian draft. (AP/Washington Post)
  • House of Representatives Deplores "Misuse" of ICJ in 361-45 Vote
    By an overwhelming vote of 361 to 45 (with 13 voting present), the House of Representatives Thursday passed a resolution deploring the "misuse" of the UN's International Court of Justice (ICJ) and its recent advisory opinion that Israel's security fence is illegal and should be dismantled. The resolution described Israel's security fence as a "response to an ongoing campaign of terror" and recognized that the barrier "has resulted in a dramatic decline in the number of successful terrorist attacks." The resolution also strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to Israel's security and backed Israel's right to self-defense. (AIPAC)
        See also U.S. Slams "Misuse" of ICJ - Janine Zacharia (Jerusalem Post)
  • House Rejects Cut in Military Aid to Egypt
    The House Thursday rejected a $570 million cut in U.S. military aid to Egypt by 287 to 131, after Secretary of State Powell warned that the action would damage relations with a close Middle East ally "at a very sensitive moment in the region." The administration and military contractors who sell U.S.-financed weaponry to Egypt took seriously the threat of a cut and worked behind the scenes to head it off.
        Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) had proposed to shift some military aid to Egypt to economic assistance, which he said is "desperately needed." "The last thing this society [Egypt] needs is the ultimate in high-tech weaponry," Lantos said. During the debate, lawmakers rebuked the Egyptian government for tolerating anti-Semitism, limiting its cooperation with the U.S. in the war on terrorism, and failing to prevent gun-smuggling to militant Palestinian groups. (Washington Post)
  • House Votes to Block Aid for Saudi Arabia
    Lawmakers cheered as the House voted on Thursday to strip financial assistance for Saudi Arabia because of criticism that the country has not been sufficiently cooperative in the U.S. war on terror. The House voted 217-191 to remove $25,000 in the $19.4 billion 2005 foreign aid bill earmarked for Saudi Arabia. The funds were designated for military training, but approval would have triggered millions of dollars in discounts on hardware and other military training, lawmakers said. (Reuters)
  • Isolated and Angry, Gaza Battles Itself, Too - James Bennet
    Four years ago, Palestinian negotiators were debating with Israeli counterparts how to share Jerusalem. Now Palestinian leaders are haggling with each other over how to run Gaza. Some Palestinians glimpse in an Israeli pullout a new chance at statehood, a chance to create a model of self-rule that will spread to the West Bank. The alternative is a destitute enclave ruled by warlords and militants, an outcome they fear will doom their national movement. Ziad Abu Amr told a symposium in Gaza City titled "After the Withdrawal From Gaza": "You know who is determining everything. Arafat hasn't proposed a vision for the Palestinian people."
        Muhammad Dahlan, for years the leader of the Preventive Security Force in Gaza, is more feared than loved. But he is favored by Israeli, European, and American officials as strong enough to run Gaza, and he has embarked on a political campaign. He sees the Israeli withdrawal as an opportunity - for the Palestinians and maybe for himself - and he is determined to take advantage of it. Dahlan and other Palestinian politicians sense beneath the militancy an exhaustion with death and despair and a hunger for change. "Enough is enough," he said. That attitude is hard to see in the pictures and paintings of the dead that are everywhere. Their message is of heroism, sacrifice, and glamour. (New York Times)
  • Iraq Militants Said to Behead Truck Driver from Bulgaria
    A group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian militant, said it had beheaded one of two Bulgarian hostages held in Iraq and threatened to kill the second within 24 hours, the Arab news channel Al Jazeera reported Wednesday. (New York Times)
        See also Headless Body in Orange Jumpsuit Found in Tigris River
    A decapitated body in an orange jumpsuit was discovered in the Tigris River in northern Iraq, the U.S. military said Thursday, raising fears that it belonged to a Bulgarian hostage killed the day before. (Boston Globe)
  • Thousands of Iraqis Demand Saddam's Execution
    Thousands of Iraqis marched through central Baghdad on Thursday demanding the execution of Saddam Hussein and denouncing Islamist militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. "Death to Wahabis! Death to Zarqawi!" shouted several hundred people. Protest organizers said they also wanted the government to introduce an annual day of remembrance for victims of Saddam. An estimated 1,000 protesters marched against Saddam and in favor of rebel Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in the southern Shi'ite city of Najaf. "Long live Sadr. Saddam must be executed," they chanted. (Reuters)
  • Foreign Workers Abused in Saudi Arabia
    A new report, Bad Dreams: Exploitation and Abuse of Migrant Workers in Saudi Arabia, prepared by Human Rights Watch, provides the first comprehensive look at the pervasive abuses foreign workers endure in Saudi Arabia. Foreign workers - who comprise one-third of the kingdom's population - face torture, forced confessions, and unfair trials when they are accused of crimes. "The abuses we found against foreign workers demonstrate appalling flaws in the kingdom's criminal justice system as a whole," said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the group's Middle East and North Africa Division. (Human Rights Watch)
        See also Saudi System "Abuses Foreigners"
    Saudi Arabia's labor minister recently said there were between eight and nine million foreign workers in the country - a much higher figure than previous estimates. (BBC)
  • New Egyptian Team Raises Reform Hopes
    President Mubarak swore in a new and younger government on Wednesday headed by a 52-year-old computer engineer and including three prominent, reform-minded allies of his son in the main economic positions. Fourteen of the 35 ministers are new. (Financial Times-UK)
        See also Mubarak's New PM Seeks "Unconventional" Solutions to Egypt's Woes (AFP/Yahoo)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu: No Fear of UN Sanctions
    Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday he was confident Israel could fend off Palestinian attempts to get the UN to impose sanctions in the wake of the ICJ's ruling against the security fence. Only the Security Council can order the fence to be torn down and recommend sanctions if Israel fails to comply. The U.S. has vetoed such measures in the past. The ruling "will probably harden Palestinian positions, for a while at least, and not allow a future leadership to be more amenable to a compromise," he said. (AP/Jerusalem Post)
  • Security Services Foil Two Suicide Bombings
    The security services prevented a suicide bomb attack from taking place on Wednesday in the Sharon area and disrupted another aimed at Jerusalem, according to official sources. Two Palestinians arrested Wednesday in the northern West Bank, potential suicide bomber Ahmed Bushkar, 17, and his handler Asan Ma'luni, 24, confessed their role in the planned attack. Also on Wednesday, security forces managed to drive back a suicide bomber south of Jerusalem after deploying along the line between the capital and Bethlehem. (Ha'aretz)
  • More Foreign Students Coming to Israel - David Rudge
    After a decline in the numbers of overseas students since the outbreak of Palestinian violence nearly four years ago, at least two universities are reporting a complete turnaround in the situation. At the University of Haifa, 330 students are taking part in its summer Hebrew-language ulpan programs, compared to 187 last year. At the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 384 students have registered at the Rothberg International School, compared to 265 last year. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Post-High School Program Enrollment Back to Pre-War Levels - Sarah Bronson
    The Nativ program of the Conservative United Synagogue Youth will bring almost 70 high school graduates to Israel this fall, compared to 41 four years ago. Similarly, 650 freshmen from NY's Yeshiva University will study in local yeshivot next year, compared to 500 four years ago. Britain is sending 1,900 youth aged 14-18 on Israel summer programs this year, 500 more than in the year 2000. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • A Growing Muslim Identity - Shibley Telhami
    In a survey I conducted last month in six Arab countries, in Egypt and Lebanon, most respondents identify themselves as Egyptians and Lebanese more so than Arab or Muslim. But in Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the UAE, majorities or pluralities cited their Islamic identity above all others. Historically, Arabs have had three political options: Islam, pan-Arabism, or nationalism linked to individual states. Saddam Hussein's appeal in the Arab world principally flowed from his embrace of secular Arab nationalism. Once the Baath institutions in Iraq collapsed, the primary organizations capable of mobilizing large crowds were religious. However, in the survey, the world leaders most admired were Nasser and French President Chirac, despite the fact that he banned the veil in French schools. The writer is a senior fellow at the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution. (Los Angeles Times)
  • The Saudi-Iran Link - Martin Sieff
    Increasingly warm and effective cooperation has slowly built up between Riyadh and Tehran ever since shrewd Crown Prince Abdullah and the Islamic Republic of Iran five years ago quietly concluded an epochal agreement to mutually limit oil production in order to boost global oil prices and therefore revenues for both of them. Global oil prices are now four times the level they were then. That agreement resulted in increased Saudi-Iranian cooperation in many other areas. (UPI/Washington Times)
  • Off with Heads: In Saudi Arabia, It's the Legal Norm - Steven Stalinsky
    According to a CBS News report on June 25, 2004, the Saudi government beheaded 52 people in 2003 for crimes including murder, robbery, drug smuggling, and homosexuality. The beheadings are ordered by the government and are performed after Friday prayer services in the courtyards of mosques in some of the kingdom's biggest cities. Islamic history includes periods in which beheadings against "infidels" were a common practice, and it seems that this history has begun to repeat itself. (National Review)
  • Anti-Semitism in Greece: Embedded in Society - Interview with Moses Altsech by Manfred Gerstenfeld
    A Eurobarometer survey in the year 2000 showed Greece to have the highest degree of xenophobia in the EU. Anti-Semitism in Greece occurs not only among extreme rightists and leftists. It is embedded in Greek mainstream society and manifests itself in religious contexts, education, politics, and the media. Jews are often not perceived as true Greeks, although many families have lived there since the 15th century. Greek mainstream media regularly draw parallels between Nazi Germany and Israel today. In this, Greece is more similar to Syria and Iran than to the Western world. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    Israel's Security Fence - The ICJ Decision:

  • Travesty at The Hague - Charles Krauthammer
    Yes, the fence causes some hardship to Palestinians. Some are separated from their fields, some schoolchildren have to walk much farther to class. This is unfortunate. On any scale of human decency, however, it is far more unfortunate that 1,000 Israelis are dead from Palestinian terrorism, and thousands more horribly maimed, including Israeli schoolchildren with nails and bolts and shrapnel lodged in their brains and spines who will never be walking to school again. Not since Libya was made chairman of the Commission on Human Rights has the UN system put on such a shameless display of hypocrisy.  (Washington Post)
  • Court Decision Poses Danger to U.S. Security Concerns - Steven Lubet
    Even if you are unconcerned about the lives of Israeli civilians, a portion of the International Court of Justice's opinion should be alarming to every American. Israel contended that the barrier was justified by its "inherent right to self-defense," as permitted by the UN charter and various UN Security Council resolutions. Sorry, said the court. The right of self-defense applies only "in the case of an armed attack by one state against another state," which evidently excludes Palestinian terrorists. That same chilling logic would mean that the U.S. (and other countries) could not fully exercise the right of self-defense against al-Qaeda terrorists since they do not represent a state any more than Hamas does. (Chicago Tribune)
  • ICJ to Israel: Drop Dead - Saul Singer
    By limiting Article 51 of the UN Charter to the right of self-defense against attacks "by one state against another state," the ICJ logically implies that 9/11 did not trigger America's right to self-defense. The ICJ's second major contortion is defining the West Bank as foreign land with respect to the fence, but then claiming that attacks from the same land are not "international," and therefore don't trigger Article 51.
        The objective of the fence has to be not just defending Israelis, but also imposing a territorial price for the almost four years of unprovoked aggression the Palestinians have unleashed against us. This is particularly true in the context of a disengagement plan which, we must admit, is susceptible to portrayal as a withdrawal under fire. The fence, and particularly where it is built, are the key antidotes to the sense that the disengagement plan is a net Palestinian victory. When the Palestinians look back at their fruitless and unnecessary war, they will see that the route of the fence imposes the only diplomatic price they had to pay for their choice of terror and rejectionism. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Attack on Israel - Editorial
    Add another black mark to the UN's disgraceful record of animosity toward Israel, which is perpetually denounced for defending itself by countries with far worse records on human rights. In denouncing Israel, the International Court of Justice essentially ruled that that state has no moral or legal duty to protect its citizens. No country could be bound to take such a ruling seriously. It seems to serve no purpose but to hand a minor propaganda victory to the leader of the Palestinian Authority, Arafat. Obviously, there are hidden and not-so-hidden motivations behind such displays of contempt toward Israel: a hatred of its staunch ally, America; a hatred of a country whose Western and democratic values put those of its neighboring dictatorial kleptocracies in a bad light; the ancient ugliness of anti-Semitism. (Providence Journal)
  • The Hague Ruling - Editorial
    The International Court of Justice's ruling in The Hague must shock every Israeli. How is it possible that the justices did not find it necessary anywhere to explicitly mention Palestinian terrorism or devote even a single sentence to the 1,000 Israeli dead of the past four years? Their ruling completely ignored the suffering of Israeli citizens, and the price that they have paid in blood. In the international community, Israelis are never the victims, not even partially. (Ha'aretz)
  • A Fence that Cannot be Condemned - Avraham Tal
    It's hard to understand the argument against the fence. Assuming it prevents "only" the next terror attack - is that not reason enough to justify its construction? Do the dozens, perhaps hundreds, of lives saved thanks to the sections of fence already in place count as nothing? That being said, it must be understood that the demographic rationale is far more important than the security rationale. The demographic necessity for the fence will intensify over time. (Ha'aretz)
  • Fencing Off Facts and Fairness - Jonathan Ariel
    The blatant unfairness and anti-Israel bias inherent in the ICJ ruling will make it easier for Israel to ignore. By ignoring Israel's legitimate claims, and totally taking the Palestinians' side, the court has relegated itself to just another politically corrupt and venal UN institution. This decision has pushed us farther away than ever from the day when we could see at least a glimmer of hope that impartial international justice had become something more than a mirage. (Maariv International)
  • For Israel, No Justice from International Court - Mark B. Rotenberg
    Last year the UN General Assembly passed 18 anti-Israel resolutions while ignoring egregious human rights violations in China, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, and Sudan (where an estimated 1 million black Africans are being raped, murdered, and expelled from their lands by bands of Arab marauders with government assistance). Syria and China recently helped defeat a General Assembly resolution condemning Russian behavior in Chechnya on grounds that the resolution was improper "interference in the internal affairs of that country," while India objected that "every state has the right to protect its citizens from terrorism." The writer, general counsel for the University of Minnesota, was recently a visiting law professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
  • Political NGOs and Israel's Separation Barrier
    A number of prominent human-rights NGOs have been centrally involved in the campaign to delegitimize Israel's defensive security barrier designed to thwart Palestinian terror attacks. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Christian Aid, and Oxfam were central players in the public relations effort linked to the UN General Assembly vote to request an "advisory opinion" on the barrier from the International Court of Justice. The NGO community, like much of the human rights framework, has lost credibility through its political agenda and anti-Israel bias. By separating themselves from the politics of the ICJ, these NGOs now have the opportunity to rededicate themselves to the norms of universal human rights that they claim to represent. (NGO Monitor-ICA/JCPA)
  • Observations:

    Never Give In - Alexander Downer (Wall Street Journal)

    • Caving in to terrorist bullying only emboldens the perpetrators and intensifies the dangers for us all.
    • If we bow to terrorist demands we invite them to commit further atrocities. We are in effect saying to them, "Kidnap our people; and you will get what you want." Terrorists learn and profit from our weakness. They cannot be appeased.
    • If we give in to the terrorists once, their demands will escalate and these pitiless people will exact an even more terrible toll.
    • We face a terrorist threat quite different from anything experienced in the past. Our enemies aren't interested in limited hostilities and extracting concessions from us. They wage a version of total war and they want to destroy us. They despise the values and aspirations we hold dear as the epitome of decadence and weakness.
    • The battle against this terror could last a generation. But just as the threat is global, so must be the strength of resolve to defeat it.

      The writer is Australia's foreign minister.

          See also Downer Condemns West Bank Barrier Ruling
      Foreign Minister Alexander Downer condemned a World Court ruling calling for Israel to tear down its controversial barrier around the West Bank. Downer said he regretted the court decision and noted Australia had voted against the UN resolution referring the matter to The Hague. (Sydney Morning Herald)


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