Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
in association with Access/Middle East
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Palestine: A Change of Direction - Joshua Hammer (Newsweek) In Jenin, Gunmen Are Now 'The Law' - Molly Moore (Washington Post) Syria Calls Shots in Lebanon Election (AP/New York Times)
Palestine: A Change of Direction - Joshua Hammer (Newsweek)
In Jenin, Gunmen Are Now 'The Law' - Molly Moore (Washington Post)
Syria Calls Shots in Lebanon Election (AP/New York Times)
News Resources - North America and Europe:
The Bush administration, moving to lend political support to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at a time of political turmoil, has modified its policy and signaled approval of growth in at least some Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, American and Israeli officials say. In the latest modification of American policy, the administration now supports construction of new apartments in areas already built up in some settlements, as long as the expansion does not extend outward to undeveloped parts of the West Bank, according to the officials.
For the last three years, American policy has called for a freeze of "all settlement activity," including "natural growth" brought about by an increase in the birthrate and other factors. As a result, when settlement expansions have been announced, American officials have called them violations. After the latest Israeli announcement, however, administration spokesmen said they were withholding judgment. The new American statements this week reflected "a covert policy decision toward accepting natural growth" of some settlements, despite repeated past statements, according to the official. (New York Times)
See also Arafat Aides Deplore Permissive U.S. Policy on Settlement Growth - Steven Erlanger (New York Times)
The Justice Department unsealed an indictment on Friday accusing a senior Hamas leader and two other men of a 15-year racketeering conspiracy that raised millions of dollars for the militant Palestinian group, which is labeled a terrorist organization by the United States for carrying out bombings, kidnappings and other attacks in Israel. The indictment, handed up in Chicago, includes the deputy chief of Hamas's political wing, Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, who was expelled from the United States in 1997, is believed to be living in Syria.
The new charges also signal an unusual strategy by the Justice Department, which for the first time has labeled Hamas a "criminal enterprise" and which is attempting to use racketeering and conspiracy statutes more commonly applied to drug gangs and mafia figures. Matthew Levitt, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former FBI counterterrorism analyst, said that focusing on alleged criminal activity allows prosecutors to more easily include activities before 1995, when Hamas was designated a terrorist organization. (Washington Post)
The disengagement administration, a new government office established to arrange compensation for residents of the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank who will be evacuated under the pullout plan, began officially operating Sunday. According to the Prime Minister's office, the new government body would conduct "all the necessary actions for advance payments and compensation for residents of the Gaza Strip and the northern [West Bank]." It will also coordinate contact with the settlers. (Ha'aretz)
Arson is suspected as fire razed a Jewish community center in eastern Paris before dawn on Sunday. Graffiti with anti-Semitic messages such as "Jews get out" were found, police said. No one was hurt as flames tore through the center on the first floor of a six-story building. (AP/Jerusalem Post)
In a surprise move, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is preparing to send his top three advisers to Israel to repair ties, with a clear message that the Jewish state holds a unique place for Turkey. Egemen Bagis, Omer Celik, and Saban Disli, advisers who accompany Erdogan on every visit to abroad and are known as his right arms, helping him to shape vital foreign policies, will arrive in Jerusalem on August 30. The trip is to take place just a month before Erdogan's planned visit to Syria. A Top Turkish government official said that the advisers' visit is meant solely to deliver the message of Erdogan's good will toward Israel directly to his counterpart, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. (Jerusalem Post)
Lebanon's southern border will remain a line of active confrontation with Israel because the plight of the Palestinians is a cause that affects the entire region, says Hizballah's deputy secretary-general, Sheikh Naim Qassem. Israel for months has been detailing Hizballah's penetration of the West Bank and Israeli Arab communities. Admitting Hizballah's involvement in the intifada, Qassem said that "the Palestinian cause is a cause for the whole region. The central point is that Israel occupies Arab land and launches attacks against the region. That's why we consider the problem is not only one of a few kilometers occupied by Israel (the Shebaa Farms). We believe we should stand by the side of the Palestinians because it is our cause too, for religious reasons ... and moral reasons. That's why we support the intifada with all the means we can." (Daily Star -- Lebanon)
This month saw the launch of Britain's first fully regulated and approved Sharia-compliant bank, the Islamic Bank of Britain. And the big banks have also developed Islamic banking arms. HSBC now boasts of "Our Sharia Board" stuffed with learned sheikhs and Justices from Arabia and Pakistan. What is being proposed with Islamic banking is actually a hardening of the religion, not an accommodation of its existing custom. HSBC's Sharia Board include members of the Deoband, the long-standing ultra-conservative group whose schools in Pakistan educated many of the Taliban. Two others are Wahhabis, trained by the intolerant and puritanical school of thought that dominates the religious life of Saudi Arabia.
We cannot just regard Islam in Britain as a charmingly exotic addition to the English country garden. Once there are Islamic financial institutions, how long will it be before Muslims insist that the state and business direct all their monetary dealings with Muslims through these institutions (boycotting businesses with Jewish connections en route)? (Telegraph -- UK)
Rather than compete against an Israeli, Iranian judo champion Arash Miresmaeili quit the Olympics entirely. As the jukoda told the Iranian government's official news service: "I refuse to fight my Israeli opponent to sympathize with the suffering of the people of Palestine." Under Olympic protocol, such ad hoc political boycotts are forbidden. This is a typical tale. Israel continually suffers sporting boycotts, and officials, Olympic and otherwise, continually turn a blind eye toward this injection of politics into sport. If international sports officials wanted to, they could easily stamp out the anti-Israel boycott. (Wall Street Journal)
Italy today has a government that views what is happening in the world not as French President Jacques Chirac does -- but as most Americans do. This was driven home to me during a series of interviews I recently conducted in Rome. "We are committed to fighting the War on Terrorism," Franco Frattini, Italy's foreign minister told me. "And though it is not easy to say in Europe these days, the other main task we have before us is to help spread democracy in the Muslim world." How can that be accomplished? "We have to stimulate, support and reinforce those in the Middle East who believe in democracy and human rights."
For his part, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi views Iraq as "the frontline in the War on Terrorism." A top aide to the Prime Minister elaborated: "Iraq today is a melting pot of terrorist tendencies," he said. "Every terrorist faction is represented there. International terrorists are experimenting in Iraq. We simply cannot let them defeat us. If we do, that will not be the last defeat we'll suffer." He added regretfully: "Too many of our allies in Europe do not understand this." Berlusconi's government also disagrees with many of its neighbors on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "The problem is that European policy is unbalanced," Frattini said. "So many Europeans lean to the Palestinian side, ignoring the terrorism inflicted on the Israelis and never seeing the Israeli perspective."
"Europe should play a role in the Middle East, in working for a peaceful settlement," he said. "But we can't do that if Israel doesn't trust Europe, and Israel doesn't trust Europe because of this unbalanced policy." (Townhall.com)
Something is Bubbling Up - Dennis Ross (Newsweek)
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