Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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Palestinians Fire Rocket at School Bus, Four Rockets Hit Israeli Town
- Nir Hasson (Ha'aretz)
Worst Spate of Anti-Semitic Violence in 15 Years (AFP/Yahoo)
Arab-South American Summit Worries U.S., Israel - Andrew Hay (Reuters)
NGOs Target Israel at UN Human Rights Meeting (NGO Monitor)
Poll: Strong American Support For Israel Continues (Anti-Defamation League)
Russians Say Jordanian Mercenary Planned Attacks Using Poison (ITAR-TASS-Russia)
Georgia's Notorious Pankisi Gorge Appears to be Free of Terrorists - Mark McDonald (Knight Ridder/Kansas City Star)
Surge in Tourism Brings Hope to Israel and the West Bank - Conal Urquhart (Guardian-UK)
Prime Minister Sharon at "The March of the Living" in Birkenau, Poland (Prime Minister's Office)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
President Bush on Thursday renewed economic sanctions on Syria implemented a year ago, saying its government still supports terrorism and is undermining efforts to stabilize Iraq. The measures include a ban on all U.S. exports to Syria except for food and medicine; no flights to and from the U.S.; authorization to the Treasury Department to freeze assets of Syrian citizens and entities involved in terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, the occupation of Lebanon, or terrorism in Iraq; and restrictions on banking relations between U.S. banks and the Syrian national bank. (AP/Washington Post)
See also Syria Ignoring U.S. Requests on Terrorists
Syria has ignored U.S. demands to stop foreign fighters from crossing the border into Iraq and "terrorists" operating from Syrian territory, a top U.S. commander said. "We have provided Syrians with very specific information and asked them to help in securing the Iraq-Syrian borders to stop foreign fighters from crossing into Iraq," Gen. John Abizaid, commander of the U.S. forces in the Gulf, told the Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai Al-Aam. "More importantly, we asked them to cooperate with us in chasing terrorists operating out of Syria, in addition to Iraqi Baathists present in Syria who are trying to organize military operations inside Iraq." "We have been very specific and clear in our demands. Unfortunately, all these demands fell on Syrian deaf ears, and they did not respond to any of it." (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
See also Report: Syria Holding 137 Saudis Headed for Iraq
Syrian authorities are holding 137 Saudi nationals suspected of trying to cross into Iraq, the Saudi newspaper Al-Watan said on Thursday. The 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq enraged many conservative Muslims in neighboring Saudi Arabia and militant web sites have urged Saudis to slip across the border and fight. (Reuters)
Led by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, thousands of Jews from around the world on Thursday remembered the victims of the Holocaust in the "March of the Living" at the site of the largest Nazi death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, where some 1.5 million people, most of them Jews, were killed in Nazi-occupied Poland. Many marchers carried Israeli flags and wore jackets with Israel's blue-and-white colors, bearing witness to the failure of the Nazi goal of wiping out the Jews of Europe.
The march coincided with the annual Holocaust memorial day in Israel. At 10 a.m., air raid sirens wailed throughout Israel for two minutes as people stopped whatever they were doing and stood in silence, and traffic came to a standstill. (AP/Washington Post)
Egyptian authorities detained about 1,000 people during nationwide demonstrations organized by the banned but usually tolerated Muslim Brotherhood in favor of political reform, judicial sources said on Thursday. "We had 60,000 people over 15 provinces," Mohamed Habib, deputy leader of the Brotherhood, said Thursday, suggesting that the demonstrations were the most successful protests this year in Egypt. (Reuters)
Student leader Abdullah Momeni is looking forward to the start of the campaign for Iran's presidential elections in June to mobilize students for a boycott. In a country where more than half the population is under 25, students played a crucial role in mobilizing votes for Iran's reformists. "During the past eight years we were hoping that through parliament and government, we could make the structure of the regime democratic. So we came to the scene and we paid a high cost," says Momeni, who spent 40 days in solitary confinement in 2003 after student protests. "We're not passive, we're active, our goal now is to deprive the system of legitimacy." (Financial Times-UK)
See also U.S. Offers Grants to Help Oppose Iran's Clerics - Guy Dinmore
The Bush administration has put the democratization of Iran out to tender - offering money to groups and individuals inside the Islamic republic - in what officials describe as the start of a long-term effort to pay for opposition to the ruling clerics. A notice posted on the U.S. State Department website is soliciting bids for grants totaling $3m for "promotion of democracy and human rights in Iran." Priorities include development of political parties and media, labor rights, civil society, and human rights, particularly women's rights.
Iranian analysts say there is little chance of groups inside Iran accepting U.S. money. They would risk retaliation from the government, and also their credibility among some sectors of society. However, the tender does not exclude funding for Iranian opposition groups in exile. (Financial Times-UK)
A clutch of brave pro-democracy activists are daring to speak out in Syria, emboldened by intense pressure on Bashar Assad, the country's president. Assad "promised us reform and democracy, and then we found ourselves in prisons," said Muhammad Kamal al-Iabwani, a physician who is among a group of ten activists known collectively as the Damascus Spring. Some of the dissidents say the hard line adopted by U.S. President George W. Bush has forced Assad into a corner. (Globe and Mail-Canada)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Abbas's ruling Fatah movement came out ahead in the latest round of Palestinian municipal elections despite a strong showing by Hamas, unofficial final results showed on Friday. Hamas won in the West Bank town of Kalkilya and was headed for victory in the Gaza Strip town of Rafah, Palestinian election officials said. The ruling Fatah movement appeared to have won 52 of the local races and Hamas won 30. However, seizing two major towns would be considered an achievement for the Islamists, analysts said. (Ha'aretz)
See also Voting Fraud Accusations in PA Election - Khaled Abu Toameh
Hamas and Fatah traded allegations of irregularities and voting fraud as hundreds of thousands of Palestinians headed to the ballot boxes on Thursday to elect 84 new municipalities and village councils in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. More than 2,500 candidates ran in the elections, 400 of them women. Hamas leaders said that many of the candidates who ran on an independent ticket were actually members of their movement. (Jerusalem Post)
On Wednesday, May 4, around 300 Palestinians from Beit Likiya, southwest of Ramallah, attacked a six-man IDF unit guarding civilian contractors working on the security fence, hurling rocks at the soldiers. An initial inquiry, headed by the Commander of the Judea and Samaria Division, Brig.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, found that the IDF unit tried to disperse the riot using non-lethal means, but the Palestinians continued to throw rocks, wounding an IDF officer. When the Palestinians continued to attack, the commander fired in the air, and then at the legs of one of the rioters and at the rocks near the rioters, in order to avoid firing at the Palestinians. The IDF was informed that three Palestinians were wounded during the riot, two of whom died of their wounds. Head of Southern Command, Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh, decided to suspend the unit commander from operational activity until the full inquiry into the incident has been completed. (Israel Defense Forces)
The Israeli government Thursday issued a firm denial that it was recalling a diplomat linked to Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin, who has been charged with illegally passing "top-secret" U.S. defense information to AIPAC officials. However the diplomat in question, Naor Gilon, is understood to be finishing his three-year stint in Washington shortly. Gilon, the minister-counselor for political affairs at the embassy, is known to have met with Franklin, a specialist in Iranian and Middle Eastern affairs, in the routine course of his duties.
The fact that two longtime AIPAC officials to whom Franklin allegedly passed his classified information are not named in the affidavit accompanying the criminal complaint against Franklin, and the fact that it specifies that the exchange of information was "verbal" - no documents are alleged to have changed hands - is said to be a source of relief to the pair themselves and to AIPAC, which is not mentioned in the affidavit. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
As long as the Kassam rockets and mortar shells fired intermittently from Gaza do not take a toll in lives, it is unlikely that Israel will respond with force. However, if there are casualties, Israel will not be able to stay its hand. This is also the case if the Palestinians open fire during the disengagement itself. Abu Mazen does not like the shooting of rockets toward Israel but is doing virtually nothing to prevent it. He has sent orders to his forces but they are not being carried out on the ground. What is strange is that Abu Mazen does not take action even when those that violate the cease-fire are small and relatively weak Palestinian organizations with ties to Fatah, such as the Abu Rish group or the Popular Resistance Committees. (Ha'aretz)
Secular Europeans see Jews as a foreign element, always and everywhere - a landless foreign people. So if they're on land, it must belong to someone else, to the "natives" - Arabs who migrated to Israel in the 1940s and decided, in 1964, to usurp the old Roman name for the Jews and call themselves "Palestinians" in order to lay claim to the 24% of the Palestine Mandate that was left after Great Britain gave 76% to the Arabs to create the new state of Jordan. In postmodern secular American circles, outright demonization of Israel is often restricted to everybody's favorite whipping boys - "the settlers" - but the essential view of Israel and the Jews is the same.
The biblical claim to the Holy Land is the great unmentionable in American foreign policy. Secular Americans and Europeans, the UN, and the Arab League insist with lockstep unanimity that religious claims have no legitimate place in our Middle East policy. But to see what a perfectly senseless double standard this is, try applying it equally to Muslim Holy Lands, arguing that religious claims should play no role in determining who rules Mecca and Medina. No Christian or Jew would dare suggest such a thing, and no self-respecting Muslim would stand for it.
Even the tolerant Hanafi Muslim Turks, proud citizens of a republic as secular as our own, while they might prefer the stewardship of a sect less fanatic than the Wahhabis, would be up in arms at the thought of non-Muslim rule in Saudi Arabia. Could they ever accept Jewish sovereignty over the whole of Israel as we accept Muslim sovereignty over the whole of Saudi Arabia? (National Review)
As Arab immigration into France increased, successive French presidents extended de Gaulle's policy of closely linking France and the Arab states. In the decades after the 1967 war, France steadily nourished the ambition to lead what would become the EU and to assemble a bloc powerful enough to rival the U.S. In line with this, the principal objective in the Middle East was to broker a peace that would satisfy Arab demands on Israel and thus eliminate American influence.
Measures taken included the pursuit of favorable oil contracts, the sale of Mirage fighter planes to Libya, and the building of the Osirak nuclear reactor for Iraq; a vote at the UN accusing Israel of committing war crimes in the occupied territories; the denial of landing rights to American aircraft during the 1973 Yom Kippur war; permission granted to the PLO to open an office in Paris and the reception of Arafat at the Elysee Palace; and diplomatic initiatives to protect Saddam Hussein from the consequences of his multiple aggressions. With the exception of the former Soviet Union, no country did more than France to promote a PLO state, and thereby to endanger the existence of Israel.
In the Middle East, France has forfeited whatever leverage it might once have enjoyed. At home, meanwhile, it has had to come to terms with a growing Arab underclass, one whose resentments and tendencies to violence have been whipped up in no small part by the inflexible hostility displayed by the French state to Jewish self-determination. (Commentary)
Perspectives on Disengagement
Sharansky's basic argument is that disengagement ought to be linked to democratization among the Palestinians and that failure to hinge it on fundamental reforms in fact undermines the likelihood of change and underpins terror. True democracy, as Sharansky often stresses, requires more than merely holding elections. The Arab world has plenty of elections - often with a single candidate, sometimes with a puppet challenger - but precious little true people-power. Saddam Hussein was "elected" by whopping landslides.
Democracy must be inculcated as a sociocultural mind-set, accompanied by a genuinely free press, independent judiciary, incitement-free education, and a free market. Above all, there must be freedom from fear. All that is absent from the PA's ambit, where executions of those accused of helping Israel thwart terror atrocities were recently approved. Crucially for Israel's interests, only a truly free society can make a truly lasting peace. And so, as Sharansky is rightly saying, in order to give peace a chance, the cause of freedom next door should be placed high on our national agenda and pursued in earnest. (Jerusalem Post)
There is a real chance that the Gaza withdrawal could provide a new beginning for Israelis and Palestinians. Sharon does not believe in a conflict-ending deal on Jerusalem or refugees. But Sharon knows that only the Gaza withdrawal will have a chance to improve Israel's political and international position. Gone are the illusions of the Israeli public of a warm peace with the Arabs and Palestinians. Arafat's perfidy, the highs of the Camp David summit meeting, and the lows of a bloody intifada have converted the peace process from a religion for believers into a business proposition for pragmatists.
The new consensus is driven not by sentimentality or ideology; it is driven by the reality that keeping the vast majority of the territories occupied in 1967 means losing a Jewish state and hope for the good life for themselves and their children. Israelis today have a credible Palestinian partner. The Gaza withdrawal offers Palestinians an end to Israel's occupation there and the opportunity to consolidate real economic and political authority. Economic support from the international community, the deployment of Egyptian forces to its border with Gaza, Israeli efforts to facilitate Palestinian economic life, Palestinian action against terror and violence, and a re-energized U.S. diplomacy will be critical to making it work. The writer served as an adviser on Arab-Israeli affairs to six U.S. secretaries of state. (International Herald Tribune)
According to historian Michael Oren: ''The minute you pull out of Gaza you signal to the Arabs that you're in retreat. It's a huge victory for the Palestinians. Palestinians will have huge celebrations in Gaza. You think they'll sit down and talk after that?" Journalist Yossi Klein Halevi noted: ''The psychological implications are to reinforce the post-Lebanon withdrawal perception in the Arab world that we are a defeatist society and with enough pressure we'll simply withdraw."
The terrorists will be the leading beneficiaries of a unilateral Israeli withdrawal, appearing vindicated in asserting that terrorism first and foremost is the way. Americans are fighting the same Islamist terrorist groups. The Bush administration should think twice about supporting policies that weaken its best Middle Eastern ally while emboldening the terrorists it is also fighting. The writer is associate director of the Middle East Forum in Philadelphia. (Boston Globe)
Beginning in August, Israel will seek to create a new environment for pursuing a meaningful resolution of the conflict with our Palestinian neighbors. This plan entails the very painful process of uprooting Jewish communities in Gaza and northern Samaria that have existed for decades. Nevertheless, the Disengagement Plan, combined with the continued construction of the security fence, are essential to consolidate the Jewish population behind secure borders, leaving areas where there is an overwhelming Palestinian majority.
After more than four years of Palestinian violence and terrorism resulting in the deaths of more than 1,000 Israelis and the serious injury of thousands more, the government of Israel takes the obligation to ensure the safety and well-being of its citizens extremely seriously. If the Palestinians continue to choose the path of violence, Israel will respond with appropriate but substantial force to make the Palestinians understand that violence will destroy their dreams for a better future. Despite the risks, the Israeli government and people are willing to pursue peace with all their might. The writer is Consul General of Israel to the Midwest. (Chicago Sun-Times)
There are 327,000 Holocaust survivors living in Israel today, according to a new report commissioned by the government and written by Dr. Jenny Brodsky of the Brookdale Institute and demographer Prof. Sergio DellaPergola of Hebrew University. About half of the survivors reached Israel after 1990. (Ha'aretz)
Even in the final days of the Third Reich when defeat was imminent there was a purposeful and uninterrupted resolve to eradicate all of European Jewry. "There were two wars going on at the same time," says Max Eisen, a 76-year-old Jew and resident of Toronto who somehow survived all this, returned now to Poland on the 60th anniversary of liberation, in the company of Canadian students and educators for whom he is a font of living memory. "There was the war being fought against the Allies. And there was the ideological war against the biological life of every single Jew. At the end, the Nazis didn't even have enough rolling stock to get supplies to their troops. But all day long, trains full of Jews kept pulling into Auschwitz."
Moved to another labor camp, Eisen recalls, "I went outside one morning and there were no guards anywhere. Suddenly, this tank with a white star on it came crashing through the gates. There were black soldiers on top of the tank. It was the Americans. We were staring at them and they were staring at us. I don't know who was in more disbelief. I saw our horror in their eyes." (Toronto Star)
Erna Flegel, 93, a German Red Cross nurse, describes being in Hitler's Berlin bunker during the final weeks of World War II. (Guardian-UK)
See also 1945 U.S. Army Intelligence Report on German Nurse (thesmokinggun.com)
Mel Gibson's film "The Passion" aroused great interest among both Jews and Christians. The film's anti-Semitic content and violence were the major reasons for the wide attention it received. On 3 October 2004, Pope John Paul II beatified Ann-Catherine Emmerich, whose visions were the basis for the movie, thus indirectly giving his blessing to the film. Several Vatican personalities have claimed that the film is not anti-Semitic. Among Jewish organizations, the debate centered on whether one should criticize the film or avoid doing so, in order not to increase interest in the movie. (Jewish Political Studies Review)
The Bush Doctrine's Next Test - Victor Davis Hanson (Commentary)
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