Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference: click here
Aksa Martyrs Gunmen Attack Meeting of Fatah "Rebels" - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
Damascus Proposes Beirut Embassy - Roula Khalaf (Financial Times-UK)
Sheik Convicted of Terror-Funding Charges (AP/New York Times)
Egypt Bars Detained Opposition Leader's Newspaper (AFP/Yahoo)
Saudi Spokesperson Condemns Terror - Except Against Israel
Ran Dagoni (Globes)
Rejecting the U.S. Anti-Semitism Act - Gihan Shahine (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
The Vanishing Jews of the Arab World - Semha Alwaya (San Francisco Chronicle)
Internet Penetration in Arab World Below 5%
- Joseph Braude (New Republic)
Crossing Lines on the Middle East - David Gonzalez (New York Times)
Israeli Teens Impress Canadian Astronaut - Matthew Kalman (Toronto Globe and Mail)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Secretary of State Rice said the U.S. still considers Hizballah a "terrorist" organization and that "the American view of Hizballah has not changed." The New York Times had reported that the U.S. was grudgingly moving into line with efforts by France and the UN to get the Shiite group into the Lebanese political mainstream. (AFP/Yahoo)
In a meeting set for Saturday, top UN envoy Terje Roed-Larsen plans to inform Syrian President Bashar Assad that the international community is united in insisting that Damascus comply with UN Resolution 1559 - and is prepared to impose wide punitive sanctions if it does not act quickly, officials said. "If he doesn't deliver, there will be total political and economic isolation of his country. There is a steel-hard consensus in the international community," a senior UN official said.
Roed-Larsen will tell Assad that Syria must honor the independent sovereignty of Lebanon and not undermine its spring elections for a new parliament. Assad must provide a complete timeline for a full pullout of troops as well as 5,000 intelligence agents. Finally, Roed-Larsen will discuss the need to disarm and dismantle foreign and domestic militias operating in Lebanon, all of which Syria supports. "Clearly the presence of Syrian forces and Syrian intelligence agents is incompatible with a fully fair election, untainted by outside interference. And that's the basis of 1559," State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said Thursday. (Washington Post)
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan proposed an international treaty outlawing terrorism at a conference marking the one-year anniversary of the deadly attacks in Madrid last March 11 in which Islamic extremists killed nearly 200 people and injured 1,500. He said the world must move quickly to deny terrorists the means to launch a nuclear attack that could cause international chaos. "The UN must be at the forefront at fighting against terrorism and first of all in proclaiming loud and clear that terrorism can never be accepted or justified in any course whatsoever," he said. (VOA News)
See also Arab Reaction to Annan Address - Maggie Farley (Los Angeles Times)
See also A Global Strategy for Fighting Terrorism - Kofi Annan (United Nations)
President Bush has decided to join European allies in offering economic incentives to persuade Iran to abandon any effort to build nuclear weapons, senior administration officials said Thursday. By agreeing to try incentives first, U.S. officials believe they will later gain European support for taking the matter to the UN Security Council if talks fail. Secretary of State Rice said Thursday that Iran would have to commit to not using its civilian nuclear power program as a cover for secret weapons development and would have to submit to intensive inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. (Washington Post)
See also U.S. and European Allies Agree on Steps in Iran Dispute - David E. Sanger and Steven R. Weisman
The U.S. agreed to offer incentives that would go into effect only if Iran agreed to halt the enrichment of uranium permanently. (New York Times)
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Wednesday offered a point-by-point rebuttal of President Bush's argument that the Middle East is opening to an era of democracy stimulated by the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Aboul Gheit criticized Bush's speech Tuesday in which he listed elections held by Iraqis and Palestinians and anti-Syrian demonstrations in Lebanon as signs that "clearly and suddenly, the thaw has begun" in the largely authoritarian Middle East. "What model are we talking about in Iraq? Bombs are exploding everywhere, and Iraqis are killed every day in the streets," Aboul Gheit said. "Palestinian elections? There were elections seven years prior."
As for Lebanon, Aboul Gheit noted Tuesday's huge pro-Syrian demonstration mounted by Hizballah, showing that "there are other trends in society." Aboul Gheit warned that U.S. pressure might lead ethnically and religiously divided Lebanon into chaos. Aboul Gheit expressed irritation at reports that Secretary of State Rice canceled a trip to Egypt because of its slow pace of reform. She called off a trip to the region, not just to Egypt, he insisted. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Palestinians fired a Kassam rocket at an Israeli settlement in Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip Thursday. No injuries or damage were reported. (Jerusalem Post)
See also "The Terror Groups Are Practicing On Us" - Amir Buhbut (Maariv-Hebrew)
The IDF will evacuate the Philadelphi route, along the Gaza-Egyptian border, sometime after the disengagement from Gaza is completed, according to a tentative understanding reached by Israeli Defense Minister Mofaz and Egyptian President Mubarak at a meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh Thursday, Israeli security sources said. "The direction is already clear," said one Israeli security source. "It won't happen immediately, and apparently not as part of the disengagement, but the IDF will not remain on Philadelphi for long. Assuming that the disengagement from the Strip is carried out in coordination with the Palestinians, that the Egyptians assist, and that the volume of smuggling declines - we will leave Philadelphi."
The sources said they believe that Egypt will crack down on cross-border arms smuggling, both to placate Washington and because of worries over the growing ties between Islamic extremists in Egypt and Gaza. Mofaz said merely: "We have not yet decided that the IDF should leave Philadelphi. If the smuggling stops, we'll consider it."
Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. William Ward, the American "security coordinator" who will be overseeing reforms of the PA security services, has arrived in the region and begun work, alongside a team of several dozen advisers. (Ha'aretz)
The European Parliament on Thursday backed taking measures against Hizballah if evidence indicates that the group is involved in terrorist operations. However, they did not put Hizballah on a European list of terrorist organizations after a proposal to do so was dropped. Nonetheless, Israeli officials welcomed the resolution that was approved, which they said reflects a growing European awareness as to the real essence of Hizballah. (Jerusalem Post)
During a meeting in Geneva Thursday, Minister of Diaspora Affairs Natan Sharansky asked High Commissioner of the UN's Human Rights Commission Louise Arbour, how is it that Israel, a democratic nation which has many mechanisms to monitor human rights violations, is the only country to receive a "special" status in the commission's annual report on human rights across the globe and is the only country that is given a chapter of its own, while some UN members are totalitarian states in which citizens have no rights? Arbour replied that she hopes that in the framework of the new reforms being discussed in the UN, Israel will receive more balanced treatment, especially in forums that deal with human rights. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Lebanon and Syria
The March 8 mass rally in Beirut, organized by Hizballah to counter the popular Lebanese opposition movement, serves as a reminder that establishing genuine freedom and democracy in Lebanon will require more than a Syrian withdrawal. If Iran and Hizballah are permitted to fill the void created by a Syrian departure, Lebanon will continue to be subjected to foreign interference. Accordingly, while pushing for an end to Syrian domination, the international community should not neglect two other key implications of UN Security Council Resolution 1559: ending the Iranian presence and disarming Hizballah.
Resolution 1559 "calls upon all remaining foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon" and requests the "disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias." Hizballah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah has specifically rejected the resolution's call to disarm Lebanese militias, claiming that Hizballah is not a militia but a legitimate resistance movement against Israel (despite the long-completed Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon). IDF Brig. Gen. Michael Herzog is a visiting military fellow at the Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
Not only is there no desire in Lebanon, even among many in the Shiite community, to bear the potentially devastating consequences of continued conflict with Israel; there is also no consensus to continue providing Hizballah with the cover it needs to pursue a regional agenda that might harm broader Lebanese interests. The most the party should expect once the Syrians leave is a refusal on the part of all Lebanese religious communities to sign a separate peace treaty with Israel; beyond that, the bets are off. Hizballah would do well to avoid hitching its fortunes to the sinking Syrian ship. Despite the party's demonstration on Tuesday, the national consensus in Lebanon is clearly behind a complete end to Syrian hegemony.
Hizballah's destiny is a Lebanese one, and must be negotiated with all other Lebanese communities. If that means the party must one day peacefully disarm, so be it. Lebanese society is under no obligation to accept permanent revolution and open-ended Syrian domination just so Hizballah can remain regionally relevant. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
The aerial pictures showing the size of the demonstrations in Beirut have dealt a nasty jolt to all those hoping that Lebanon might smoothly slide out of a quarter-century of Syria's over-warm embrace. Like Sinn Fein, Hizballah has one foot in parliament and one in terror, and it now faces a similar existential dilemma. It cannot move farther into the mainstream without surrendering some of its founding inspiration: allegiance to Syria and Iran, and hostility to the U.S. and Israel. But if it continues to fight for its Syrian backers, it will set itself against many Lebanese - and the UN as well. It could lose the foothold in mainstream politics that it has worked so hard to build. On Tuesday Hizballah came out for a cause that much of the country has shunned. It may have seriously damaged its future in doing so. (Times-UK)
Here's a simple agenda for Lebanese democrats and their supporters around the world: First, Syrian troops must leave Lebanon, and Assad must set a clear and unambiguous timetable for their withdrawal. Second, negotiations should begin on finding ways to adapt the Lebanese political formula to the reality of Hizballah's power. That agenda puts the issue squarely to Nasrallah: Is he a Lebanese patriot or a Syrian stooge? (Washington Post)
Lebanon's Cedar Revolution could, and must, become a prelude to the liberation of Syria from half a century of despotic rule. There is as much pent-up energy for change in Syria as there is in Lebanon. (New York Post)
This week Hizballah - the Lebanese terrorist organization responsible for the murder of more than 250 Americans - struck back, staging the first of what is to be a series of demonstrations meant to counter the Cedar Revolution. With no apparent sense of irony, demonstrators shouted "No to foreign intervention!" while holding up portraits of Bashar Assad. How many of the demonstrators were actually Syrians - a million Syrians reportedly now live in Lebanon - is unclear. And there are plenty of Lebanese who do not vote for Hizballah but fear it and are anxious not to provoke it. With Syrian and Iranian support, Hizballah maintains an armed militia that is more powerful than the Lebanese government's military forces.
Hizballah, Assad, and the Iranian theocrats all understand how important Lebanon has become. They foresee that if freedom advances there, other revolutions will follow. By the same token, if freedom can be defeated in the Levant, a chill wind will blow across the Middle East. The writer is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. (townhall.com)
Since the killing of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, many Lebanese have intensified their opposition to the presence of Syrian troops as an affront to the country's sovereignty. In Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, Syria's deep reach has long been a daily burden, variously irksome and frightening to thousands of Lebanese eager to see it end but skeptical it ever will. Many Sunni and Shiite Muslims and Christians in the valley said they had lost income and property as a result of Syria's occupation. For thousands of Syrians living in Lebanon, the gradual development of a parallel system of preferences offers convenience and clout potentially worth fighting for. (Washington Post)
Democracy in the Arab World
It will take time before it becomes clear whether the Arab world is an arid wilderness, in which the seeds of government by the people will never take root, or whether careful irrigation and infinite patience could produce the first shoots of regimes of a different strain from those prevalent until now. Although there are many Americans who are not enthusiastic about Bush's policy, the Arabs are taking it very seriously. Democratic patterns are slowly but surely being put to the test, and the rulers are edging backward in the hope that if they bend a little, they will survive. (Jerusalem Report)
Deep down we may have suspected Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak of double-dealing and bad faith in the diplomacy he pursued in the region, in the kind of official culture his regime spread in that surly, unhappy land. We suspected he was taking our dollars while nurturing a culture of anti-Americanism and antimodernism. But we tolerated that terrible bargain. We accepted with resignation that the Islamists were a worse alternative than the military regime. (US News)
One of the most important new growths of freedom bloomed this week in Kuwait City. All this week, hundreds of women have been demonstrating outside the Kuwaiti parliament building where the all-male legislature is debating a bill that would give women the right to vote and stand in elections. The liberation of Iraq has injected the broader women's movement with energy and immediacy that did not exist previously. After the fall of Saddam and the election of Jan. 30, it is harder than it was for authoritarian regimes to force their women into the shadows. (Wall Street Journal)
The Arab nationalism that has prevailed since the Nasser revolution is increasingly being dubbed "black Arabism" by those of us who do not want to abandon a yearning for closer integration between societies separated by arguably artificial colonial borders. Black Arabism, in this perception, is characteristically fascist, and is epitomized by the former Baath system in Iraq and the present one in Syria.
Against it we propose "White Arabism," which harks back to such figures as Saad Zaghlul in Egypt, Kamel Chadirchi in Iraq, and Kamal Jumblatt in Lebanon. At the core of the message is the need for democratic, non-violent change at the top in the Middle East, with Arabism read as a liberal call that unifies people irrespective of their religion or sect. The writer is European Union Jean Monnet Law Professor at St. Joseph's University in Beirut. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
See also The Quest for Democratic Political Reforms in the Middle East and the Prevailing Arab Political Culture - David Govrin (JCPA)
Zimmerman: The American Research Initiative team examined the published population figures of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics and found a 1.4 million gap. Our research indicates that the PA population is closer to 2.4 million than to the 3.8 million figure reported by the PCBS. These numbers indicate that the Jewish population between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea stands at 60% Jewish to 40% Arab, similar to the ratio that existed in 1967.
DellaPergola: Out of a total population between the river and the sea of 10,263,000, 51% are Jews and 3 percent are non-Jewish members of Jewish households. The high level of fertility of the Arabs gives them demographic momentum. By 2020, on the whole territory, according to a medium projection which assumes a decline of Arab fertility, Jews will be about 47% of the total. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
For many terrorist groups, a state's tolerance of or passivity toward their activities is often as important to their success as any deliberate assistance they receive. This passivity in the face of terrorism can be deadly. In conducting the September 11 attacks, al-Qaeda recruited and raised money in Germany with relatively little interference, enjoyed financial support from many Saudis unobstructed by the government in Riyadh, planned operations in Malaysia, and sent operatives to America. (Saban Center for Middle East Policy-Brookings Institution)
Former French Prime Minister Laurent Fabius, the no. 2 in the opposition Socialist Party and a longtime staunch Palestinian advocate, wrote a praiseworthy article of Israel last week in the left-wing, traditionally pro-Palestinian weekly Le Nouvelle Observateur. The spokesman at Israel's embassy in Paris sent excerpts of the article back to the Foreign Ministry Sunday as an example of a "revision" taking place in France regarding Israel and Prime Minister Sharon. The article, which deviated greatly from the traditional French Left line on Israel, said that French Socialists had not understood the complexity of the conflict.
Fabius wrote that his camp's sympathy and solidarity had been reflexively with the Palestinians, "as if the suffering and despair were not evenly divided between the two sides." Fabius said that the Socialist camp should support the Israeli people. The article appeared during a week when Syria largely replaced Israel, at least for the time being, as the Middle East's "bad boy" in the French press. (Jerusalem Post)
The UN delegitimizes the self-determination of the Jewish people, denies Israel the right to defend itself, and demonizes it in the framework of the international regime of human rights protection. The UN also encourages terrorism directed at Israelis. The UN has played a major role in the failure to defeat racism. The organization has become the leading global purveyor of anti-Semitism, intolerance, and inequality against the Jewish people and their state. In June 2004 the UN organized its first conference on anti-Semitism after almost 60 years of existence. It became just one more element in the organization's effort to separate anti-Semitism and Jews from Israel. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
At the regional level, relations with Israel are no longer controversial. With the sole exception of Egypt, none of the Arab and Islamic countries has publicly expressed any concerns over Indo-Israeli ties. Even Iran, known for its anti-Israeli rhetoric, is keen to promote political and economic ties with India rather than be concerned about Indo-Israeli ties. The ongoing debate in Pakistan over the need to reexamine Islamabad's traditional hostility towards Israel is also favorable to India. (Power and Interest News Report)
Sherri Mandell has yet to be infected by the new mood of optimism that has swept Israel and the Palestinian territories. "I'm a mother, and I have to have hope," she said. It's just that nearly four years ago, what she describes simply as evil burst into her life and forever changed it. On May 8, 2001, her 13-year-old son, Koby, and his friend Yosef Ish-Ran, 14, were stoned to death in a cave near the family's home in Tekoa on the West Bank. For Sherri Mandell and her husband, Seth, both born and reared in the U.S., the savagery of Koby's assailants exemplifies a hate and fury that permeate Palestinian society. More than 1,000 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians since September 2000, 97 of them under the age of 16.
"They have to say, 'It's not OK to kill innocent Jews. That wasn't OK.' I don't hear them saying that," said Sherri. "The Palestinian mothers have to say, 'We're not sending our children on suicide bombings. We're not going to affirm this kind of martyrdom in our culture.' That's what I'm waiting for," she says. Meanwhile, the pain of Koby's killing never disappears. "There's a constant background of pain that you can't escape," Seth Mandell said. "It's like being in jail." (Cox/Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Palestinian Peacemakers vs. Their Spoilers - Jonathan S. Paris (Newsday)
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