Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
"Madrid Attack" Averted in London (BBC News)
$600M of Arafat's Funds Returned to PA - Roi Nahmias (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew)
Israel Helps Alleviate U.S. Shortage of Humvees - Mitch Potter (Toronto Star)
FBI Searches Saudi Arabia's PR Firm - Sari Horwitz and Dan Eggen (Washington Post)
Court Records Tell of Sheik's Promise to Spread Around Financing for Terrorists - William Glaberson (New York Times)
Iran Increases Efforts to Recruit Israeli Arabs (Middle East Newsline)
Palestinians Kill Suspected Collaborator in Bethlehem - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
America's Developing High-Tech Arsenal -
Denis D. Gray
(AP/San Antonio Express-News)
Used Israeli Buses End Up in Iraq - Dan Gerstenfeld (Jerusalem Post)
IDF Helps Free Palestinian Boy from Olive Press - Margot Dudkevitch (Jerusalem Post)
White House Menorah Honors Hero Student (New York Jewish Week)
See also World's Largest Menorah at Entrance to Jerusalem (Maariv International)
Recommendations for Reforms in Palestinian Textbooks (Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Israeli Prime Minister Sharon kept his plan to pull out of Gaza on track when he won approval from his own party to form a new national unity coalition government. The Likud party's central committee approved a proposal by Sharon to open negotiations with the main opposition Labor party and ultra-Orthodox parties about a new broad-based coalition by 1,410 votes to 856. The result on Thursday reverses a central committee decision in August when members voted against Labor's entry into the government. By quitting Gaza and four small Jewish enclaves in the northern West Bank next year, Sharon is hoping to alleviate pressure on Israel to undertake a more comprehensive withdrawal from other parts of the West Bank. (AFP/Yahoo)
Top Israeli strategists have drawn up a proposal to return parts of the Golan Heights to Syria under a peace deal and will put it to a key policy conference next week. Israeli officials said the initiative did not reflect government thinking, but the Herzliya Conference has often served to float ideas that later became policy.
Under the proposal by former Mossad intelligence operatives Uzi Arad and Shmuel Bar and academic Gideon Biger, Israel would withdraw to the Golan ridgeline overlooking the Sea of Galilee, keeping most of its settlements on the strategic plateau. In exchange for giving up its demand for a return of all of the Golan, Syria would receive land on its frontier with Jordan, and Jordan would receive a valuable swathe of desert land on its border with Israel. The strategists also suggest inviting Lebanon to develop a joint tourist site on Mount Hermon. Israel has ruled out rapprochement until Syria stops harboring Palestinian militant groups sworn to the Jewish state's destruction and backing Hizballah, which dominates southern Lebanon. (Reuters)
See also Syria "Can Do a Lot" to Stop Terrorism in Iraq
Iraq's national security adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie said, "There is no shadow of a doubt that the Syrian government can do a lot if it wishes to stop terrorism in Iraq," citing evidence retrieved from the ruins of rebel bases in Falluja. "It is very difficult to convince me that the Syrian government does not know about these activities." (Reuters/Washington Post)
One thing binds Iranians of all ideologies: a fervent belief in the Islamic Republic's right to its nuclear program. Even Iranians who oppose weapons development insist that the nation has a right to the technology. In a country that still tends to think of itself as a superpower, nuclear capabilities represent progress and modernity. The nuclear standoff with the West comes at a time when Iran's conservative mullahs have consolidated power and are running the country virtually unopposed. The brief spell of reformist fever and whispers of a cultural and international opening that swept the country in the late 1990s and early in this decade have been smothered, analysts say. (Los Angeles Times)
Radical Islamic cells in Europe are financing terror networks by withdrawing hundreds of thousands of dollars a month from cash machines with fake credit cards, according to France's top anti-terrorism judge, Jean-Louis Bruguiere. The judge said two years ago investigators uncovered one such financing cell in France. Ten suspected Islamic militants were withdrawing more than $100,000 a month from cash-machines in other European countries. "The (Islamic) European networks finance themselves primarily through microfinancing systems - criminal activity that is very profitable," he said Wednesday. (AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Syrian security forces stopped human rights activists from holding a protest in Damascus Thursday to protest against the continued detention of about 500 political prisoners. Nine demonstrators, most of them Kurds, were briefly questioned. On Tuesday, Syrian authorities released 112 political prisoners under a presidential amnesty. (AFP/Yahoo)
Public art in Melbourne's central business district depicting dead militant Palestinian leaders has sparked an outcry from the Australian and Jewish Affairs Council, the nation's peak Jewish group. The exhibition, on the exterior of an office building, depicts the faces of four Palestinians including former Hamas leaders Yassin and Rantisi. "Hamas is a terrorist organization with the blood of hundreds of Israeli civilians on its hands," said Council senior policy analyst Ted Lapkin, who likened the exhibition to artwork depicting the Bali bomber, Amrozi. "Amrozi comes from an organization that specializes in the deliberate killing of Australian citizens. What's the difference?" (The Age-Australia)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Jamal Abu Samhadana, the head of the Popular Resistance Committees in Rafah, survived a second IDF strike at him in four months Thursday. Two missiles were fired at his car, but Abu Samhadana and two aides noticed an IDF unmanned aerial vehicle and fled their car before the missiles struck. The Abu Samhadana family is known to play a central role in the smuggling operations from Egypt, in road-side bombings, and the launching of Kassam rockets. (Ha'aretz)
Three days after the operations of the Naval Commando unit in the territories were suspended, the IDF decided that the elite unit should resume its role in hunting down Palestinian suspects. The suspension followed the fatal shooting of Mohammed Kamil, a member of Islamic Jihad, on Dec. 3. Details of the incident showed that the injured man had surrendered a pistol to Palestinian civilians, but was shot and killed from a distance of 40 meters by commandos who saw him move and said they thought he had another weapon. A reconstruction of the incident, says the IDF, shows the soldiers had a legitimate concern that the suspect was still armed. (Ha'aretz)
Say good-bye disengagement; hello to the plan to leave Gaza. Prime Minister Sharon, who since last December has referred to his initiative to move out of Gaza and four northern Samarian settlements as the "unilateral disengagement plan," suddenly opted for the "plan to leave Gaza" in Thursday radio interviews. Such changes in Sharon's lexicon are not deemed accidental. One Foreign Ministry official suggested it indicates Sharon no longer sees the plan as unilateral, and that with Arafat's death and a new wind blowing from Egypt, "disengagement" is becoming less one-sided.
One senior official in the Prime Minister's Office said the new name places limits on the scope of the proposal. "Unilateral disengagement" is an open-ended phrase, leaving open the idea that Gaza is just the first step of a process that will lead to the ultimate removal of perhaps most West Bank settlements. The "plan to leave Gaza," on the other hand, is precise and clearly defined. The official said Sharon will henceforth use the new name when addressing his Likud party, but still use the old one in conversations with foreign officials and statesmen. (Jerusalem Post)
The Aksa intifada is over. The statistics speak for themselves. The level of terror has been reduced drastically in the past few months to what appears to be on a par with that before September 2000. From the IDF's perspective, the relative calm is not connected to Arafat's death, but is rather the direct result of the aggressive action against terrorists. The army said it has arrested six suicide bombers since Arafat died a month ago, showing that motivation is still there. In the past two months, security forces have arrested nearly 300 wanted fugitives. Families have also turned in 20 suspected suicide bombers since September.
There are roughly 40 terrorist cells operating throughout the territories, mostly inside the large Arab cities. There is no longer any organizational discipline among terrorist groups. IDF intelligence holds that nationalist terror is on the decline and global terrorism is taking its place, as seen in the involvement of Hizballah in about 75% of all Palestinian West Bank terrorist cells. (Jerusalem Post)
The EU said Thursday Israel is among seven nations that will be part of its new European Neighborhood policy, even though the Foreign Ministry said Israel has not yet formally agreed to the EU's "action plan" for membership. The program offers free access to goods, services, people, and capital to countries neighboring the EU in exchange for economic and political reform on a country-by-country basis. The EU-Israel neighborhood agreement also means that "Israel clearly acknowledges the role of the EU in the Quartet" that has written the "road map" to a peace plan that is to lead to a Palestinian state.
The "European Neighborhood" accords with Moldova, Ukraine, Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Israel and the PA are aimed at making Europe more secure by bringing stability and prosperity to volatile regions. EU External Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said the neighbors will qualify for easy access to the EU's 450 million consumers, "the biggest single market in the world," if they bring their laws in line with EU rules and regulations. (AP/Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Abbas is running as a moderate and practical politician who will avoid repeating the abject failures of the Arafat years. Abbas has courageously and publicly condemned the violent methods of the second intifada, calling it "the total destruction of all we have built and all that had been built before that." Barghouti is known as one of the chief architects of the disastrous 4-year-old armed uprising that has pushed Palestinians deeper into poverty and despair while costing hundreds of innocent lives on both sides. Barghouti is serving five life terms for his complicity in a series of deadly terrorist attacks. Barghouti is no Mandela. He's a promising politician who turned thug and he belongs in jail. He may be popular among some Palestinians, but his popularity is the kind that Arafat courted, the kind that makes real negotiations and compromise impossible. His popularity is a promise of more violence. (Chicago Tribune)
The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) recently passed a resolution "to initiate a process of phased selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel." By singling out companies doing business in Israel, and making no reference to the terrorism directed from Palestinian territory against Israelis, the resolution appears to depart from the PCUSA's longstanding policy of evenhandedly supporting both parties as they struggle toward peace amidst threat, fear, and retaliation. As Presbyterians, we cannot support a resolution that appears to focus blame on Israel alone.
The fact that the PCUSA has taken the divestiture step only once previously, when it supported withdrawing investment from the apartheid regime of South Africa, has led some to conclude that the PCUSA equates the government and political system of free and democratic Israel with a regime that silenced all criticism through assassination, imprisonment, or forced exile. The cause of peace is not helped by perceptions, erroneous or not, that the PCUSA draws such a simplistic analogy. (San Antonio Express-News)
We in the West are not facing "terrorism" in the Middle East, but something quite different: a sophisticated, asymmetrical, broad-based and irregular political insurgency. "Terrorism experts" often note the existence of "terrorist training camps" in Afghanistan, Yemen, and the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon. I knew these camps. For 20 years they produced guerrillas, in the tens of thousands, trained in irregular warfare techniques, in modules that allowed men with different linguistic and ethnic backgrounds to mesh as a single fighting unit. They were trained to fight an insurgency against Western forces and against pro-Western regimes in the region.
By failing to call an insurgency an insurgency, we have clung to a misreading of the situation that represents all violence by Muslims as criminal and people who use violence as marginalized within their own societies. A small proportion of Islamists, the extreme jihadists, are marginal, and have alienated many Muslims by their capricious use of violence. But for both, this is a struggle to restore the standing of Muslim societies, to assert Muslim identity and autonomy, and to find the transition to modernity of their economies and society on Muslim terms - not on Western secular ones.
I have witnessed many insurgencies. The Afghan mujahideen understood that their task was to gain the psychological advantage and to keep it, that more and more people should be convinced that your current would ultimately prevail - not only in military terms, but by winning the struggle for legitimacy. The writer, a former British intelligence officer, served as the EU Security Advisor, working with the Palestinians until 2003. (Guardian-UK)
See also Lessons from Northern Ireland for the Arab-Israeli Conflict - Dean Godson (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Unlike the Palestinians, the Iraqi suicide bombers don't even bother to tell us their names or do a farewell video for mom. They not only are ready to commit suicide on demand, but they are ready to do it anonymously. That bespeaks a very high level of commitment or psychosis, or both. U.S. forces have been hit with over 200 of these human missiles. What we are facing is a crude underground suicide supply chain - a mutant combination of Wal-Mart and Wahhabism. (New York Times)
Saudi Arabia claims to uphold and exemplify the harsh, purified, stripped-down form of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism, which is the state religion. Wahhabis are forbidden to mix with other Muslims, and are indoctrinated to hate Shia Muslims as apostates, to angrily despise Christians, Jews, and Hindus. In the phrase so often heard among Wahhabi terrorists from Gaza to Falluja, they "love death by martyrdom more than life." Saudi Wahhabis preach the destruction of the Judeo-Christian West and incite Islamic youths to die in jihad in Iraq and elsewhere. Saudi Arabia, with its commitment to promoting Islamic extremism worldwide, remains the key to defeating the terrorists we face. (Weekly Standard-FrontPageMagazine)
See also The Trojan Horse of Wahhabism - Stephen Schwartz (TechCentralStation)
The long-simmering internal debate over political violence in Islamic cultures is swelling. On one side are mostly secular intellectuals horrified by the gore, joined by ordinary Muslims dismayed by the ever more bloody image of Islam around the world. Arrayed against them are powerful religious institutions like Al-Azhar University, prominent clerics, and a whole different class of scholars who argue that Islam is under assault by the West. Fighting back with any means possible is the sole defense available to a weaker victim, they say. (New York Times)
Lebanon is facing extinction as a sovereign state. The government of Omar Karami is trying to impose a new electoral law designed to prevent the emergence of a democratic majority that might defy Syrian hegemony. The Syrians have some 40,000 troops and secret agents in Lebanon in key slots within the Lebanese administration, including the cabinet. Syria also has a long history of having its Lebanese critics assassinated - 37 leading politicians, academics, and journalists over the past quarter-century. (Wall Street Journal Europe, 7 Dec 04)
The anti-Zionists claim that Jews have no right to the Land of Israel because, before Israel was re-created in 1948, it had been almost 1900 years since Jews had exercised sovereignty there. The anti-Zionists claim it is absurd to argue that anyone still has rights to land that was last governed with sovereignty 1900 years ago. Yet the Arabs last exercised sovereignty over that land 933 years ago; the last time Palestine had an Arab ruler was before 1071. So 1900-year-old-claims are inadmissible but 993-year-old claims are indisputable. The Arab claim is also not the same as a claim on behalf of Palestinian Arabs. After all, there has never been a Palestinian Arab state in Palestine. (Chronwatch)
Right-wing groups and neo-Nazis are no longer the only ones who agitate against Israel and Jews. Germany has seen a growth of leftist anti-Semitism along with anti-imperialist, antiglobalization, and anti-Zionist attitudes, all reinforcing the new German claim of having been victims in WW II. There is a widespread animus against Israel, clearly not only toward Israeli policies, that often goes along with pro-Palestinian partisanship. This development is intensified by anti-Israeli media coverage in Germany, often accompanied by anti-Semitic language and images. Laying the blame for "immoral" conduct on Israel and, therefore, "the Jews," Germans see themselves as having learned the lessons of the Shoah by being watchmen against "immoral" politics. (Jewish Political Studies Review)
According to a Technion study by Gideon Czapski and Yael Ilan on the "International Status of Israeli Research," in computer science, Israel ranks second in the world in "productivity" (scientific publications per capita) and third in the world in "quality" (the frequency with which other scholars cite publications in their own articles). In chemistry, Israel ranks 4th and 5th, respectively; in molecular biology, 3rd and 4th; in biology and biochemistry, 5th and 10th; and in physics, 2nd and 9th. Israel ranks first in research "productivity" in economics and business, mathematics, psychology, and psychiatry. (Globes)
See also Israelis to Receive Nobel Prize Friday
Professors Avram Hershko and Aaron Ciechanover will receive the Nobel Prize for chemistry at a ceremony Friday in Sweden. (Ha'aretz)
Governments throughout the Middle East and North Africa are cracking down on the Internet. A study of 11 countries carried out by the Cairo-based Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRINFO) titled, "The Internet in the Arab World: A New Space of Repression?" finds many of the area's estimated 14 million Internet users facing shutdowns of Web sites, the closing of Internet cafes, and prosecution for a variety of crimes, real or imagined. The study charges that "Arab governments typically use the protection of Islamic values and public morals to justify banning Web sites of human rights or political opposition groups."
Some states arrest Internet users for surfing Web sites of opposition groups. The most active censorship is found in Syria, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia. In 2004, Saudi Arabia banned and filtered some 400,000 Web pages to "protect Islamic values and culture." The Saudi government has blocked several Shiite and Islamic Web sites that offer interpretations different from the official Wahhabi line. It has also banned international Web sites like Yahoo and American Online. (Beirut Daily Star)
The intensified immigration to Israel from affluent France has given rise to a strange kind of commuter who keeps his family here and his job there. Patrick Haddad works as a radiologist in France and visits his family only once a month, for four or five days. The Haddads moved to Israel from France with their two children, Alexis, 17, and Lorraine, 20, in August 2003. (Jerusalem Post)
See also 30,000 Jewish Youth Visit Israel in 2004
In 2004, over 30,000 Jewish young people visited Israel on short term educational programs of the Jewish Agency. Around 700 Jewish grade 12 pupils from 12 Jewish high schools in France, half the total number of France's Jewish high school seniors, will land in Israel on Sunday. At the end of January, 300 high school seniors from South Africa will arrive, 60% of the total in that country. It seems that the intifada no longer poses a barrier for thousands of Jewish youths from the diaspora interested in spending time in Israel during school break. (Jewish Agency for Israel)
Beersheba, Israel, once known as a biblical oasis, became in its later incarnation a desert backwater. But one man's vision has helped turn it into the city with the most chess grandmasters per capita in the world. "For every 20,000 inhabitants we have a grandmaster," said Beersheba chess club founder Eliyahu Levant, referring to the eight members of his club who have achieved chess's highest ranking. (Boston Globe)
The only known diary written during the 27-day Warsaw Ghetto uprising was recently uncovered at the Ghetto Fighters' House at Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot. The diary, which begins April 24, 1943, five days after the uprising began, and continues for 10 days, provides a harrowing account of a group of dozens of unarmed people, young and old, hiding in fear in their confined bunker, all too aware of the certain death that awaits them. Surrounded by the well-armed Nazis, the group finds itself slowly running out of food and with no running water as more and more people try to cram inside, with lice and disease rampant in the overcrowded bunker which is eventually enveloped by flames.
"A hand grenade explodes nearby. A deep silence fills the room. The enemy surrounds the house, looking for us. Our sole method of defense is complete and utter silence." "Grenades are thrown at the house. People inside behave bravely. With complete tranquility they look death in the eye," she writes on May 2, the last full day of the diary. "The Germans are shooting every Jew they find." "Hell has come to earth. Dante's Inferno. It is unbelievable and indescribable." (Jerusalem Post)
Peace Can Only be Made with Adversaries Who Want to Make Peace
Israel's UN Ambassador addressed the UN General Assembly on November 30, 2004:
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