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
The Murder of Muhammad Mansour (Prime Minister's Office/IMRA)
Unemployed Demonstrate Against PA - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
PA's $76,000 Audis Rev Up Public Outcry - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
A Haircut in Iraq Can Be the Death of the Barber - Robert F. Worth (New York Times)
Unemployment in Israel Lowest in Three Years (Jerusalem Post)
Israel Joins Two OECD Panels
- Moti Bassok (Ha'aretz)
University Students Returning to Israel - Tom Tugend (Los Angeles Jewish Journal)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Hizballah's al-Manar television channel, branded a terrorist organization by the U.S., will no longer be available on European satellites from Monday, media regulators said Thursday. The announcement came at a meeting of EU broadcasting regulators in Brussels, where the 25-nation bloc agreed to step up action against TV broadcasts which incite hatred or promote racism and xenophobia. (Reuters)
The Arabic-language London daily Al-Hayat reported that Egypt used diplomatic channels to express its dissatisfaction with the "negative atmosphere" created by leaks to the American media from various circles within the U.S. administration, the latest of which quoted American intelligence sources suggesting Egypt had been a partner in the development of Saddam Hussein's chemical weapons programs. Another Arabic-language London daily, Al-Quds Al-Arabi, reported that Egyptian President Mubarak would not hold his annual visit to the U.S. this year.
The Egyptian government daily Al-Akhbar published a cartoon on March 14 in which Bush looks in a mirror and sees the image of Adolph Hitler. On March 16 it published a cartoon showing President Bush as a gun-toting cowboy standing on top of a pile of bodies. Columnist 'Adli Barsoum wrote in the government daily Al-Gumhuriyya on Feb. 22: "Egypt staunchly rejected American attempts to interfere in the MP Ayman Nour affair. America does not have any right to impose upon us its false role of defense of human rights, democracy, and free speech, when it has [both] an early and recent history of human rights violations in forms unknown to [even] Hitler's Nazis." (MEMRI)
See also Egyptian Parliament Speaker Rejects Visiting Israel - A. Zeitoun and S. Younes
Speaker of the Egyptian Parliament Ahmed Fathi Srour refused Wednesday an invitation to visit Israel from the head of the Israeli Knesset. (SANA-Syria)
Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa predicted Thursday the upcoming Arab summit would not approve normalizing relations with Israel. Mousa was quoted in the Tunisian daily al-Shourouk as saying: "The Arab leaders will reiterate their commitment to the 2002 Arab peace initiative and there is no intention to break that framework." (UPI/Washington Times)
Fatah, the party that dominated Palestinian politics for decades, stands to lose a significant portion of its power this summer to the militant Islamic group Hamas, officials and analysts say. Fatah's image as a broadly spun web of corruption and ineptitude has become so ingrained in the minds of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip over the past decade that most people who monitor politics here say its descent is inevitable. Independent Palestinian lawmaker Abdel Jawad Saleh said the list of scandals tainting Fatah leaders was so long that even staunchly secular Palestinians like himself were ready to see Islamic fundamentalists gain influence. Other observers say many Palestinians are ready to reward Hamas in the July 17 election for spearheading the intifada.
One Palestinian pollster said Hamas would draw as much as 35% of the votes in July. Israeli officials are concerned that a large Hamas contingent in parliament would force Abbas to take a harder line in peace talks and abandon some of his more pragmatic policies. (Boston Globe)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
The Palestinian factions ended their internal talks in Cairo Thursday with a decision to continue the current lull in the fighting for an indefinite period. The participants also agreed to set up a "new PLO" by the end of the year, which would, for the first time, include the Islamic organizations Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Participants also discussed the possibility of having Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which are currently headquartered in Damascus, move their headquarters to Gaza following Israel's planned withdrawal this summer. (Ha'aretz)
See also Text of Declaration by Palestinian Groups Meeting in Cairo (AP/ABC News)
The Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committees said on Friday it would not abide by the terms of the Cairo agreement. Spokesman Mohammad Abdelal, who goes by the name of Abu Abir, said, "Saturday, March 19, is the end of the honeymoon that we have given to Israel. We reject completely the result of the Cairo conference since we did not participate." (Ha'aretz)
Palestinian terror leader Abu Abir warned, "I say to the residents of Sderot: you'd better prepare your bomb shelters. You've never seen what we've got in store for you." (Yediot Ahronot-Ynet)
Prime Minister Sharon on Thursday told Egyptian President Mubarak "that the arrangement achieved in Cairo is a positive first step," according to a statement from Sharon's office. "At the same time the prime minister emphasized that this is only an interim step, and in order for there to be progress in peace efforts, terrorist organizations cannot continue to exist as armed groups, and certainly not as terror organizations," it added. (Jerusalem Post)
See also U.S.: Cairo Agreement "Very Provisional"
Deputy State Department Spokesman Adam Ereli said Thursday: "What we're really looking for and what we think is important is an end to all violence. And at the end of the day, that's what's going to make a difference, is a renunciation of violence, a dismantling of terrorist capabilities, and a full and complete embrace of the notion of peaceful engagement and peaceful dialogue. The steps we're seeing today...are...incremental progress toward that ultimate goal. But I would stress the word "incremental" and I would call them very provisional and...they don't go as far as we'd like....What's important is to get at the root causes of all this, which is the acceptance of...terrorist violence as a means to solve a problem." (State Department)
IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon said Friday that until PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas disarmed Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the Israel-Palestinian conflict would not be over. "Don't get too excited by the temporary calm," he said, adding that terror groups were regrouping and rearming under cover of a temporary period of calm. (Yediot Ahronot-Ynet)
The EU's anti-fraud squad, Olaf, released a long-awaited report Thursday that found "no conclusive evidence" to link EU funds to Palestinian terror, a conclusion dismissed in Israel as "mistaken" and a "whitewash." At the same time, the report also said, "some of the practices of the past, such as the payment of salaries to convicted persons or the financial aid given to families of 'martyrs' as well as the Fatah contributions by PA staff, are liable to be misunderstood and so to lead to allegations that the PA is supporting terrorism."
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said, "We know that this is not true. There is specific, detailed, incontrovertible evidence that shows the contrary is the case." Following Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, when boxes of documents were taken from Arafat's offices in Ramallah that Israel said showed a clear link between the EU money and terror payments, Israel provided the EU body with what it believed to be hard evidence. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Though Israel's neighbors have neither the strength nor the stomach for a fight these days, the Palestinians' intifada has spawned a ruthless breed of militants, Hizballah harries Israel from its south Lebanon encampments, and the prospect of being nuked by Iran seems to loom ever larger. Yet, says Shai Feldman, until recently head of Israel's Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies and now at Brandeis University in the U.S., "regionally, Israel is in a much better situation than it's ever been." Its one-time foes are weaker militarily and economically; Russia, despite a recent arms deal with Syria, is still more Israel's friend than the Arabs' - the reverse of the Soviet stance; and Iraq, post-Saddam, no longer growls at Israel. (Economist-UK)
The Syrians officially have left Beirut, but a few secret operatives undoubtedly are still in the city. According to Reuters, 8,000 to 10,000 Syrian troops remain in the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon. They won't leave without continued, unyielding international pressure. Lebanon has been too rich a prize. And if Syria can't fight its political battles in Lebanon any longer, those feuds may come home - and tear apart Syria's own fragile stability.
This week's departure of the Syrian moukhabarat, as the intelligence officers are known in Arabic, was an important moment. The iron curtain of fear dropped a bit; Lebanese people began to breathe more easily. And best of all, these small but exhilarating moves toward freedom were broadcast live on al-Jazeera, so that the rest of the Arabs could watch - and dream. (Washington Post)
There are now some 10 Arab television stations using new-generation satellites to broadcast news and current affairs programs 24 hours a day. The totalitarian regime's monopoly over the media and over the information that reaches citizens has totally collapsed. According to journalist Uriya Shavit, who published a study on the subject in Hebrew, Dawn of an Old Day (Keter, 2003), the modern media did not bring a new day to the Middle East; rather it is the same dawn of an old day. He describes the methods used by Arab regimes to cope successfully with the threats of freedom of information.
However, Yigal Carmon at the Middle East Media Research Institute says he sees the social and political changes caused by Arab satellite broadcasts. The competition is leading to a huge abundance of news reports and current events programs, and the result is that the public at large is getting to know the weaknesses of the regimes. It encourages opposition elements who see that their voice is being heard, and that they are not alone and have a chance to have an impact.
Nearly every Arab home in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has a satellite dish, and residents are exposed to dozens of local radio and television stations. The PA's ability to control the information reaching the residents has been drastically curtailed. The large Palestinian newspapers, Al-Quds and Al-Ayyam, are publishing reports about corruption, rivalries at the top, and demands for reforms. (Ha'aretz)
See also Arab Television Beams Pro-Democracy Images Across Middle East - Meredith Buel (VOA News)
American Jews have an almost pathological fear that the media will turn the American people against Israel and the public will demand that the U.S. government change its policy toward Israel in a way that will lead to its destruction. While Henry Kissinger's remark that it's not paranoia if people are really out to get you has a ring of truth here, the evidence suggests the media's bias has not had the malevolent impact the pro-Israel community fears. Most Americans don't feel that strongly about Middle East issues; in fact, polls indicate they wish the whole mess would just go away. Other than foreign aid, most Israel-related issues are not decided by Congress, so public opinion has at best a marginal impact by shaping the climate in which a president makes foreign policy.
Many people have a perception that Americans once loved Israel, particularly in the wake of the dramatic victory in the Six-Day War, but that public support has gradually eroded over time because of Arab propaganda and the anti-Israel media bias. The data tells a different story. American public support for Israel has consistently exceeded that of the Arabs and Palestinians by huge margins, and the overall trend over the years has been in Israel's favor. Large majorities of Americans also view Israel as a friend and reliable ally. (FrontPageMagazine)
The Saudi municipal elections, which began on February 10, have provoked glib predictions of "the first step on the road to democracy." Yet the elections represent simply another - and for the time being - successful coping mechanism for a skilled royal family that has ruled almost continuously for 250 years. Although similar elections were held in the 1950s and early 1960s, for most Saudis today, this is the first exercise in electoral politics in living memory. The elections created a space for a new kind of public activity.
The Saudi decision to hold limited municipal elections is not a decision born of a commitment to the values of participatory politics but rather one more reactive step in a successful, age-old tradition of maneuvering between conflicting forces to stay in power. This maneuver, like others before it, is intended to preserve Saudi Arabia as a country appropriately named after a family. (Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies-Tel Aviv University)
At the Athenaeum, one of London's celebrated gentlemen's clubs, I met Sir Herbert, a friend from the '80s during my London ambassadorial days and his colleague, an old MI6 hand, now retired, a Sir Charles somebody. Sir Charles brooded: "We've never had a security problem like this in England before. And it's getting bigger all the time." "It's not like Northern Ireland during the Troubles, when we could do our undercover work like a fish in water. Even the most diehard Irish Republican nationalist cracked under a little bit of coercion, or the promise of a little cash. But your average Muslim fanatic - he'd rather blow himself up first, and take you with him into the bargain."
As we left the Athenaeum and stepped out into the street, Sir Herbert halted in his tracks, outraged. Propped up against a nearby wall, an Evening Standard billboard bellowed: "Police Bust Finsbury Park Arab Terrorist Cell." Sir Herbert exclaimed: "This is the Battle of Britain Part Two, and it's more insidious than the last. Think about it: Western civilization has been locked in an historic war with Islam now for 1,000 years. We had thought we had settled it for good in our favor, thanks to our technological superiority. But look what's going on now. All our modern gadgetry is impotent in the face of their fanaticism. By George, yes - the MI6 and the CIA could do with a strong infusion of Mossad and Shin Bet savvy. Do me a favor and tell your people that when you get back home." The writer, a veteran diplomat, is a former ambassador to Great Britain. (Jerusalem Post)
Sixty years ago, President Franklin Roosevelt, on his way back from the Yalta conference, met King Abdulazziz, founder of Saudi Arabia, aboard the USS Quincy, in Egypt's Bitter Lake. The meeting led to a special relationship based on oil and security. (Jerusalem Post)
Life is getting better all the time, says Sami Kabariti, even though the young dentist is unable to find a wife among Syria's other 99 Jews. (Toronto Star)
Jews were only occasional visitors in Iceland from the 17th century onward. Jews in the flesh materialized as Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Most of the refugees moved on to other countries, and some were even expelled or deported. In the postwar period, Jews living in Iceland remained an isolated group. Some tried to conceal their Jewish background altogether. At present, the small Icelandic Jewish community keeps a low profile amid rising anti-Semitism centered on the Middle East. (Jewish Political Studies Review)
Beware the Results of Arab Democracy - Tony Karon (Ha'aretz)
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