Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Israeli Wins Olympic Medal in Judo (Ha'aretz)
Bin Laden's Former Bodyguard Speaks (MEMRI)
U.S. Denies Advanced Munitions to Israel (Middle East Newsline)
Jordan Exports to Israel Rise (UPI/Washington Times)
Lebanon Rises from Its Ashes - Michael Theodoulou (Scotsman-UK)
Iran, Hizballah Behind Palestinian Terrorism
(Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
at the Center for Special Studies)
Israeli Priorities for the 59th UN General Assembly (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Israel's official overseas development cooperation was launched in 1958 with the aim of sharing with the rest of the developing world the know-how and technologies which provided the basis for Israel's own rapid development.
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Iran says it is deeply concerned about the U.S. military presence in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan, and says some Iranian generals favor pre-emptive strikes against U.S. and Israeli forces if they sense an imminent threat. Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani told al-Jazeera television that Tehran will not stand by idly if it believes U.S. or Israeli forces are preparing an attack. (VOA News)
Palestinian lawmakers say Arafat spurned a committee of legislators on Wednesday who urged him to act on his pledge to reform the PA and is refusing to sign a package of anti-corruption reforms demanded by parliament. (VOA News)
"We requested a hold on the sessions [of parliament] protesting against (Arafat's) stalling and not signing the presidential decree," said lawmaker Azmi al-Shueibi. "If the president doesn't take concrete steps, there will be a real crisis," lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi said. "We want to see implementation. But I don't expect anything. From the past history of Yasser Arafat, nothing will happen," said lawmaker Hassan Khreishah. (Reuters)
Middle East experts - and some frustrated U.S. officials - complain that the administration is spending far too little on efforts to deal with anti-American anger among the world's 1.2 billion Muslims. Yet top administration officials said Thursday that the U.S. has redirected funds and designed a wide range of political, economic, educational, and aid programs to better lives, press reforms, and improve America's image as an ally to Muslims in more than 50 countries. (Washington Post)
See also Anti-Americanism a Hit With Egyptian Audiences
In Cairo's entertainment world these days, it's hard to escape a wave of anti-Americanism. Often, a sure way to fill a theater is to lambaste U.S. foreign policy, cultural habits, or military activity. One recent comedy lampooning the U.S. featured an exploding Statue of Liberty outside the lobby. (Washington Post)
See also below Observations: A Forward Strategy for Freedom for the Middle East - Condoleezza Rice (White House)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
A child was lightly injured and 34 people suffered from shock when Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket Thursday that hit a bustling shopping center in Sderot, striking a few meters from the entrance to a supermarket as hundreds of people were doing their weekend grocery shopping. Another Kassam rocket landed in a vacant area within a residential neighborhood in Sderot. An additional Kassam rocket had earlier landed in an open area at a western Negev kibbutz. The IDF estimates that the rockets were launched from Beit Hanun by Hamas squads. The IDF left the outskirts of Beit Hanun two weeks ago. (Ha'aretz)
"The Palestinian security forces are refusing to obey the orders of the Prime Minister," the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Rouhi Fatouh, declared on Thursday in Ramallah, saying they receive orders only from Yasser Arafat. "I call on President Arafat to issue a presidential decree with clear instructions to the security forces to fulfill the orders of the prime minister. This is the only way to change things," Fatouh told journalists. (Jerusalem Post)
Israel's High Court of Justice on Thursday gave the state 30 days to explain the implications of the decision by the International Court of Justice concerning the separation fence on Israel's policy with regard to the fence. Supreme Court President Aharon Barak said that it was necessary to deal with only those parts of the ruling that are relevant in Israel's eyes. "The ICJ regards eastern Jerusalem as occupied territory," Barak said, "while we do not. The relevant approach should be toward the villages and not Jerusalem. But we will have to say something on the subject...and to announce whether or not we accept the opinion of the ICJ." (Ha'aretz)
Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin spoke to some 1,000 people in Hebron on Thursday at a ceremony commemorating 75 years since the 1929 Hebron massacre - a surprise attack by Arabs who killed 67 Jews and wounded 70 from among a community of 800 Jews. Although the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, had been inciting to violence that August, the Jews of Hebron trusted the good relationships they had with their Arab neighbors. After the massacre, the survivors were expelled from the city by the British. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
An American withdrawal from Iraq without the achievement of their war aims (establishing democratic government in Iraq, and not just eliminating Saddam Hussein's regime) will be perceived in Israel as a crisis with the broadest of implications, which Israel will have to deal with as well. A senior Israeli intelligence officer said, "In Iraq there is a battle over the future identity of the Middle East. It is a struggle for survival for the current form of politics in the region. If a stable, representative government will rise in Iraq, with democratic properties, this is the biggest threat to the Arab regimes and above all to radical Islam. A real alternative will be presented to the view that argues that the source of all the problems in the Middle East is America and Israel. It is not surprising that the global jihadi organizations are investing great efforts to expel the Americans from Iraq, even at the expense of terrorist operations elsewhere around the world." (Ha'aretz-Hebrew; 20 Aug 04)
Why is the storming of Muqtada al-Sadr's base in Najaf and other locations in Iraq important? Muqtada is the leader of a faction heavily linked to Iran. This young Shi'ite cleric's looks and gestures amazingly resemble the current leader of Lebanon's Hizballah. His late father, Mohammed al-Sadr, a classmate of Ayatollah Khomeini, led a fierce opposition to Saddam Hussein's regime for almost two decades, mostly inspired by the jihadist ideology in neighboring Iran. Muqtada's father aimed at replacing Saddam's pan-Arabism with an Islamist republic. In 1999, Muqtada's father was executed by Saddam's regime. Thanks to the U.S.-led invasion, the Sadrists made it back to Iraq from Iran, with Muqtada suddenly projected as the new leader of the al-Sadr clan. Tehran wants a vassal power in Iraq and Muqtada is their man. (Washington Times)
Whereas President Bush repeatedly promised that the U.S. sought democracy in Iraq, the British government, U.S. State Department, and the National Security Council project the opposite to an Iraqi audience. Iraqis were not blind to high-level discussions of a "Sunni strategy," meaning that Washington would not live up to its rhetoric of democracy, and instead return the Sunni minority to what many former Baathists - and the Saudi and Jordanian governments - felt was the Sunni community's birthright.
The decision to reverse de-Baathification in effect traded the goodwill of Iraq's 14 million Shia and six million Kurds for the sake of, at most, 40,000 high-level Baathists. The Marines, against their better judgment (according to their own situation reports), lifted the siege of Fallujah. They appointed a Baathist general to lead the new Fallujah Brigade. Violence throughout the country skyrocketed. The writer is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and editor of the Middle East Quarterly. (National Review)
Hardly a day goes by without some Iranian security official threatening Israel. Officials in Tehran say their Shihab-3 missile is intended to counter the Israeli Arrow. This is strange since the Arrow is a defensive anti-ballistic missile designed to intercept missiles like the Shihab. Diverting the focus to Israel is an attempt to draw attention away from the fact that for the first time Iran, using the Shihab-3, has missiles that can reach NATO member Turkey and most Saudi cities and oil fields.
From Israel's point of view, this is more than a struggle to prevent a fanatic religious regime that calls for the destruction of the Jewish state from obtaining nuclear weapons. That regime is also involved in financing acts of terror against Israel and the establishment of extensive rocket systems by the Hizballah in southern Lebanon. Today Israel is not alone in this struggle, and is part of an international front which, although not united, also opposes the nuclear arming of Iran. (Ha'aretz)
At a meeting in Teheran last week, the Islamic Republic's supreme guide Ali Khamenei was asked: Is the Islamic Republic at war against the United States? According to leaks, the ayatollah claimed that it was the U.S. that was at war against "our Islamic revolution." It is fair to say that the U.S. has been at war with the Khomeinist regime ever since the mullahs seized power in Teheran in 1979. (Jerusalem Post)
When the Iraqi athletes walked into the stadium at the Olympics opening ceremony, boy, did they look happy. Olympians from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Afghanistan, Grenada, Kuwait, South Korea, the former captive nations of Romania, Bulgaria, the Czechs, Slovakia, Estonia, Lithuania, and the other former Soviet republics all have one thing in common: they come from nations the U.S. has liberated since the end of World War II. (Wall Street Journal)
The final report of the Sept. 11 Commission in the U.S. argued that al-Qaeda had ties with Iran and Hizballah, but it also concluded there was no collaboration between Iraq and al-Qaeda. The report noted that "the relationship between al-Qaeda and Iran demonstrated that Sunni-Shiite divisions did not necessarily pose an insurmountable barrier to cooperation in terrorist operations." It is true that Sunni-Shiite differences are in no way obstacles to cooperation between Islamist groups such as the Shiite Hizballah and Palestinian Islamist movements such as Hamas or Islamic Jihad. But the Sept. 11 Commission did not observe that al-Qaeda was a very different Sunni group than the Palestinian ones; it is an extremist Wahhabi movement that considers Shiites nonbelievers.
The relation between the Iraq's Baath regime and al-Qaeda began in 1998, when Saddam Hussein allowed the group to establish training camps in Iraq. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was reportedly the broker of this connection. The alliance may have resurfaced after the U.S. invasion through the unexpected cooperation between the two parties in attacking coalition forces, Iraqi policemen and civilians, and Shiite leaders and holy shrines. The tight organization and apparent logistical network behind the al-Qaeda suicide operations suggest there may have been preparation for those attacks with the Baath regime, which provided al-Qaeda with organizational and intelligence assistance as well as money and maybe combatants.
It was bizarre indeed that al-Qaeda and Saddam's followers should have focused their attacks so strongly against Shiite religious and political leaders, killing thousands of civilians, instead of focusing on targeting the occupation forces. That strongly implied both a deep hatred for the Shiites and a desire to prevent them from playing any major role in post-war Iraq. (Beirut Daily Star)
Expose the subversive activities of Islamist extremists around the world or in the U.S. and the speedy Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) pops up with accusations of Islamophobia. In most parts of the Muslim world, the war against global terrorism is viewed as a U.S.-Israel crusade against Islam and the Muslims, with a steady stream of hate-filled commentaries in Muslim newspapers and on Arab satellite TV channels. (Washington Times)
With the world focused on Iraq's bloody struggle to emerge as the first democratic state in the Arab world, an old question is being asked anew: Can Islam and democracy coexist? Contrary to conventional wisdom, the answer lies not in the Middle East, home to only 20% of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims. Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population, is in the middle of its first direct presidential election just six years after the collapse of the Suharto dictatorship.
The real question is whether Muslim moderates in countries like Indonesia can win the battle of ideas with Islamic reactionaries. And the battle for the future of Indonesia, like the battle for the soul of Islam itself, will be won or lost in its classrooms. Many fear the increasing militancy of a small minority of the madrasas, or Islamic day schools, and pesantrens, or Islamic boarding schools, that now enroll up to 20% of Indonesian schoolchildren. Saudi "charities" have spent millions promoting their intolerant Wahhabi strand of Islam in the most radical of these institutions. Their alumni include foot soldiers of Jemaah Islamiyah, the terrorist group responsible for attacks across Indonesia, including the Bali nightclub bombings of 2002. Muslim nations must make education a priority, and the U.S. must help. (International Herald Tribune)
Harel Moyal, 23, is a national hero after winning the TV talent competition show "A Star is Born" (Kochav Nolad), the Israeli equivalent of "American Idol." "He was a very nice, quiet, responsible boy," said Moyal's former teacher Effi Faintuch. "He was good at sports. But he never sang. I never knew he could sing until last year when he came in second [in the competition] here in Ma'ale Adumim." Faintuch says Moyal is an important example for local youth. "His victory shows them they can succeed in life if they try hard enough," he says. "And as a result of the show, more teenagers are learning to sing Hebrew songs again." (Jerusalem Post)
Israeli author David Grossman has transformed 54 bumper sticker slogans into the rhyming lyrics of a song, recorded by one of Israel's leading rap groups, that has become the surprise pop-music hit of the season. "The Sticker Song" offers an aural collage of the fractious and volatile Israeli political environment, as over a Jamaican beat the singer chants slogans as irreconcilable as "A strong people makes peace," "No Arabs, no terror," and "Long live the king Messiah." (New York Times)
The Bnei Sakhnin soccer team has become the first Arab squad to represent Israel in the qualifying rounds of the UEFA Cup European championship. As Sakhnin romped to a 3-0 victory in their first match against the Albanian Partizani Tirana, the club's Jewish coach announced: "This team is making history and I want to be a part of it." Sakhnin's exploits have attracted the attention of fans in the Arab world, a break with the traditional ostracism of Israel's Arab citizens by other Arab nations, which tend to assume that they have collaborated with the Jewish state. Several Gulf states are reported to have offered funding. (Al-Jazeera-Qatar)
According to Professor Larry Franklin of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Israelis have made an impressive leap into the Chinese business world. "They deserve very high marks for fitting in with the Chinese business culture....The Israelis' learning curve is absolutely amazing." "Israelis have an impressive capacity for flexibility when dealing with the Chinese character....In China, building confidence is more important than legal contracts, and Israelis grasped the point well." (Globes)
A Forward Strategy for Freedom for the Middle East - Condoleezza Rice (White House)
U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice addressed the U.S. Institute for Peace on Thursday about policies to deal with the long-term challenge of confronting Islamic extremism.
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