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Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

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DAILY ALERT

May 27, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Cairo Won't Stop Arms Smuggling into Gaza - Aaron Klein (WorldNetDaily)
    "We have not seen the Egyptians lift a finger to stop the tunnels and the arms smuggling, which is happening regularly," said an Israel Defense Forces officer stationed at the Egypt-Gaza border on Tuesday.
    "If Israel doesn't work to stop the Palestinians from bringing in weapons, no one is going to do it."
    Another officer said, "The Egyptians have not given one indication they will protect the border."
    Since February, security sources report, there have been approximately 30 incidents of smuggling from Egypt's Sinai region, with weapons transported including approximately 1,000 rifles, dozens of RPG launchers, about 150 handguns, five anti-aircraft shoulder missiles, and tens of thousands of bullets.
    The weapons are being smuggled with the help of Hamas and Palestinian forces on the Israeli side, said Reuven Erlich, director of Israel's Center for Special Studies.
    "The PA claims to have shut down the tunnels, and they did close some, but others are open, and they are actively helping the smugglers," said Erlich.


Israel HighWay
- May 26, 2005

Issue of the Week:
    Lag B'Omer Edition: The Struggle To Preserve Israel's Wildlife

Hamas Has Built an Army (Jerusalem Post)
    Avi Dichter, who retired as Shin Bet head last week, warned on Wednesday, "An army of thousands of people who belong to Hamas are building on the model of Hizballah in Lebanon."
    "In the Gaza Strip, despite our pinpoint [military] actions, the terrorist infrastructure remains intact," Dichter said.


PA Suspends Retirement of Security Officers (Middle East Newsline)
    PA sources said Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has decided to delay plans to retire about 1,000 security officers after he was told that the PA did not have the funds to pay pensions to the departing officers.
    The sources said about 20 officers were dismissed, and the rest would remain until the PA received funds to pay for their pensions.


Congressmen Join Jerusalem Amicus Brief (JTA/Jerusalem Post)
    14 U.S. congressmen led by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) filed an amicus brief in an appeal against a court decision permitting the U.S. State Department to leave "Israel" off the passports of Jerusalem-born citizens.


Arkansas Cancer Survivor Back Home from Jerusalem - Jennifer Woody (KTHV-Little Rock)
    14-year-old Dakota Hawkins and his family went to Jerusalem to be treated for a rare blood cancer (acute myelogenous leukemia) after hospitals in the U.S. exhausted treatment options.
    The Hawkins found out about a cell transplant procedure in Israel not approved by the FDA, and Dakota's mom and brother were the donors.
    And the results, they say, can only be called a miracle. Today Dakota is cancer free.


Pakistan Helped Foment Afghan Riots - Sarah Chayes (New York Times)
    Afghans and Westerners living in Kandahar have often wondered at the number of Pakistani students in what passes for a university there.
    Our unshakable conclusion has been that the Pakistani intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, is planting operatives in the student body.
    These students can also provoke agitation at Pakistani officials' behest, while affording the government in Islamabad plausible deniability.


Conflicting Claims About al-Zarqawi's Fate - Paul Garwood (AP/Newsday)
    Speculation about Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's fate and conflicting claims Thursday over who is running al-Qaeda in Iraq suggest confusion or perhaps even a power struggle within Iraq's most lethal terror group.
    On Tuesday an Internet announcement in the name of the media coordinator for al-Qaeda's Iraq branch, Abu Maysara al-Iraqi, said that al-Zarqawi had been wounded and that Muslims should pray for him.
    Another web statement Thursday said Saudi Arabian militant Abu Hafs al-Gerni had been made the group's interim leader.
    Al-Gerni has been al-Zarqawi's military adviser and is the head of al-Qaeda's military committee in Iraq, two Middle East experts on Islamic militants said.
    A U.S. defense official said the military's most credible sources lean toward the idea that al-Zarqawi is wounded, not dead.


A Terror Trial in Tampa - Editorial (Washington Times)
    The trial in U.S. District Court of Sami al-Arian, a former college professor accused of coordinating the terrorist activities of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, is likely to last several months.
    Particularly chilling are the intercepts of telephone calls - many of them included in the indictment of al-Arian and his codefendants - that were apparently picked up by American and Israeli intelligence.
    In these, al-Arian, usually in Tampa, is heard brooding over Iran's insufficient generosity in financing the PIJ and asking for money to help the families of the Beit Lid suicide bombers.
    See also Feds: Tampa Central to Palestinian Islamic Jihad Leadership - Vickie Chachere (AP/TC Palm)


Insurgents Flourish in Iraq's Wild West - Mark Mazzetti and Solomon Moore (Los Angeles Times)
    The Iraqi insurgency's base of operations was once the eastern corridor between Fallouja and Ramadi.
    Now, Pentagon officials say, it is in villages and cities closer to the Syrian border.
    Commanders also believe the insurgency is now made up of a larger percentage of foreign jihadists than the U.S. military previously believed.
    U.S. and Iraqi military leaders view Al Anbar province as the insurgency's supply line.
    Insurgents freely cross the long, unguarded border with Syria and have taken over a string of small villages along the Euphrates River to stage guerrilla attacks in cities to the east.


CIA War Game Prepares for Internet Attack (AP/Globe and Mail-Canada)
    The CIA conducted a secretive war game, dubbed "Silent Horizon," this week to test the ability of government and industry to respond to escalating Internet disruptions


Unemployment in Israel at 5-Year Low - Zeev Klein (Globes)
    Unemployment in Israel in the first quarter of 2005 has fallen to its lowest level in five years - 9.1%, down from 9.8% in the preceding quarter and 10.9% in the first quarter of 2004, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported Wednesday.


World Bank to Open Office in Israel - Daniel Kennemer (Jerusalem Post)
    World Bank President James Wolfensohn agreed last week in Washington to open a contact bureau in Israel, to be operated by the Israel Export Institute, IEI director-general Yehiel Assia said last week.
    Assia predicted that the office's activity would lead to a 30% jump in the number of winning bids by Israeli companies in international tenders, to a value of $100 million in business annually starting this year.
    The World Bank invests more than $20b in developing countries yearly.


India, Israel to Set Up Joint R&D Fund (PTI News-India)
    India and Israel set up a joint R&D fund to encourage new investors and joint industrial ventures this week during the visit of Indian Minister of Science and Technology Kapil Sibal to Israel.


Tourists to Israel Staying Longer - Shir Elron (Globes)
    Tourist overnights rose 28% in April 2005 compared with April 2004, according to figures published Tuesday by the economic department of the Israel Hotel Association.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Bush Offers Palestinians Aid - Peter Baker and Glenn Kessler
    President Bush offered an unstinting vote of confidence and $50 million in direct aid to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas Thursday in an attempt to bolster his newly elected government and reinvigorate the Middle East peace process. The money infusion represents the largest direct financial boost to the Palestinians during Bush's presidency. Bush also announced he will dispatch Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for her first extended trip to the region as America's top diplomat. Still, Bush did not give Abbas written commitments in the form of a letter, as he previously gave Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and as some Palestinians had wanted. (Washington Post)
        See also Bush Welcomes Palestinians In From the Cold - Francis Harris (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Bush Rejects Abbas Call for Final-Status Talks - By Akiva Eldar, Nathan Guttman, and Arnon Regular
    An official in Prime Minister Sharon's office said Thursday that President Bush rejected a demand by Abbas at their meeting to skip the road map's intermediate phase to move directly to final-status talks. The Israeli official insisted there was nothing new in Bush's statements about the settlements, and also expressed satisfaction over the fact that Bush did not give Abbas any written document similar to his letter to Sharon last April. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Text of Bush-Abbas Statements (White House)
  • UK Vote Ends Israeli Boycott - Matthew Taylor
    The British Association of University Teachers voted Thursday to overturn a controversial boycott of two Israeli universities which had provoked a backlash at universities around the world. Delegates voted to "revoke all existing boycotts of Israeli institutions." Jon Pike, a senior philosophy lecturer at the Open University and founder of anti-boycott group Engage, said: "I am relieved that...the membership has mobilized and made clear its view that the boycott was an infringement of academic freedom and contributed nothing towards peaceful resolution of the conflict." (Guardian-UK)
        See also UK Academics Overturn Israel Boycott
    Boycott opponents claimed three-quarters of members had voted to end the sanctions. Luciana Berger, a member of the Union of Jewish Students, from Birkbeck, University of London, said: "It's a victory for peace and open dialogue. It's a victory that we shouldn't have had to have won in the first place." (BBC News)
  • U.S. PR Blitz Aimed at Palestinians - Karin Laub
    A blitz of billboards and television commercials filled with grinning Palestinian children is trying to chip away at America's negative image in the West Bank, telling Palestinians they have cleaner water and more classrooms thanks to U.S. generosity. But no Palestinian entertainer or athlete was willing to serve as the U.S. government's goodwill ambassador, reflecting widespread anti-American sentiment. The three-week ad campaign was commissioned by USAID, a U.S. government agency that previously kept a low profile while giving $1.5 billion to the Palestinians over the past decade. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Hamas Dominates Bethlehem City Council - Karin Laub
    Hamas's gains in the May 4 local elections had special resonance in Bethlehem, where Muslims now make up 65% of the population. A quota system assures Christians 8 seats on the 15-member city council, including the posts of mayor and deputy mayor. The council consists of 5 members from Hamas, 4 from Fatah, 3 from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), 2 independents, and 1 from Islamic Jihad.
        Mayor Victor Batarseh, 70 - affiliated with the formerly Marxist PFLP - chose Hamas as a partner in building his coalition. Batarseh, a U.S. citizen whose three grown children all live in the U.S., acknowledged he might have won by default. Voters supported "anyone who was not with the (Palestinian) Authority or with Fatah," he said. (AP/Los Angeles Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Egypt Urges NPT Conference to Take Tough Line with Israel - Shlomo Shamir
    Egypt is demanding that a conference of members of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty issue a summary statement urging treaty members to take operative steps to compel Israel to permit international supervision of its nuclear program. However, it vehemently opposes any mention of Iran's nuclear program. Egypt is insisting that the document focus solely on Israel's nuclear program in order to isolate Israel diplomatically and bar it from scientific ties with other countries in the field of nuclear research.
        Sources said a sizable number of conference delegates feel that Egypt has gone too far this year. Egypt has tried to block any practical, substantive discussion at the conference. Analysts said the U.S. "wouldn't shed a tear" if the conference adjourned without a summary statement (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Legislative Vote May be Postponed Until Next Year - Arnon Regular
    Jibril Rajoub, national security adviser to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, met Thursday with jailed Fatah Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti to garner his support for postponing elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council until January 2006. Fatah would thus have time to make necessary internal reforms before facing the expected challenge from Hamas in the poll. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel and U.S. to Collaborate on Troop Carrier Upgrade - Ran Dagoni
    Israel and the U.S. are about to launch a joint industrial venture for upgrading M-113 Bardelass armored personnel carriers (APCs), the Israel Defense Forces' workhorse. 50 APCs will be upgraded in the first stage, at a cost of $18 million. U.S. aid will pay for most of the cost, since a U.S. company will carry out some of the upgrading in the U.S. Israel Military Industries and RAFAEL Armament Development Authority will participate together with California-based United Defense Industries. The plan for the joint venture includes production of improved engines, tire tracks, and steering systems at U.S. facilities. (Globes)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Abbas's Responsibilities - Editorial
    The administration has worked hard to bolster Mr. Abbas, who is seen as someone interested in making peace. But responsible American and Israeli policy-makers will not continue to hold this belief forever if Mr. Abbas can't take the most basic steps to rein in the terrorist groups. He has flatly refused to take any steps against Hamas, which is using the temporary quiet with Israel to stockpile a much more lethal arms infrastructure, particularly in Gaza.
        In March, Israel and the PA reached agreement on a plan to deal with 495 fugitive Palestinian terrorists in the West Bank. In stark contrast to Washington, which since September 11 has followed a policy of capturing or killing al-Qaeda members across the globe, Prime Minister Sharon agreed that Mr. Abbas could neutralize the terrorists in a different, much softer way: Instead of arresting them, the PA could take alternative steps like seizing their arms or confining them to the West Bank cities where they reside. 52 of the fugitives live in Tulkarm and Jericho, the first two cities Israel turned over to Mr. Abbas several months ago, and he is nowhere near compliance with his promise to neutralize the fugitives. Until Mr. Abbas does this, Israel will continue its postponement of its scheduled pullback from three other West Bank cities.
        Mr. Sharon is preparing to release 400 additional Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, which would bring to 900 the number released since February. But none of this has persuaded Mr. Abbas to deal seriously with the terrorism problem. Last week, Hamas, embroiled in an internal political dispute with the PA, fired approximately 80 rockets and mortars at Jewish towns in Gaza and Israel. We expect that Mr. Bush will remind Mr. Abbas that this situation is intolerable. (Washington Times)
  • Hamas and the Rebirth of Illusion - Jonathan Spyer
    A process of rethinking is currently taking place in British and American foreign policy establishments regarding Hamas and engagement with Palestinian Islamism. The trouble is that this is asking us to ignore the actual, openly proclaimed aims and practices of Hamas. This is a movement whose founding charter contains in its opening paragraph: "Israel will rise and will remain until Islam eliminates it as it had eliminated its predecessors." The charter goes on to advocate the creation of an Islamic state, aiming "to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine."
        There is no doubt that the popular support enjoyed by radical Islamist forces raises a serious question for advocates of regional democratization. History is replete with examples of movements that sought to combine the use of the tools of democracy with the substantive rejection of its goals, and the desire eventually to subvert and destroy it. The continued health and existence of democracies required that they identify those threats in good time, and did not lack the will to act against them. It is therefore essential to make clear that the disarming of Hamas and the defeat of its ideas is the common, urgent interest of Israelis, Westerners, and Palestinians alike. The writer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hamas Blackmail - Samir Ghattas
    Hamas has no right to threaten a resumption of military activities if elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) are not held on 17 July, as scheduled. It is irrational. Legislative elections are a domestic Palestinian affair. The state of calm is a Palestinian-Israeli issue. There is no logical connection between the two. But it is easy to understand why Hamas is irked over talk of postponement. Having won 65% of the vote in municipal elections in Gaza, Hamas wants to contest the PLC elections as soon as possible.
        Hamas is not acting reasonably. Some people within Hamas have made a habit of embarrassing the PA through military operations against Israel. The same people are now threatening to break the state of calm with Israel if the PLC elections are delayed. Political differences should be resolved through dialogue, not blackmail. The writer is director of the Maqdis Centre for Political Studies in Gaza. (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
  • The Timeframe for Preventing Iran's Nuclearization - Michael Herzog
    While Israelis talk in terms of months, Americans talk in terms of years. These differing timeframes are the result of different approaches to defining the "point of no return" in the Iranian nuclear project. The Israeli approach emphasizes the time needed for Iran to master the fuel cycle and become capable of independently enriching uranium to a level of purity suitable for a nuclear device. Israeli intelligence estimates that it could take the Iranians six to twelve months to overcome technical hurdles, and then about three more years to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear device. From the Israeli point of view, once Iran masters the technology of the fuel cycle, it could move secretly to build atomic bombs.
        The prevailing American approach identifies the point of no return as when Iran gathers enough fissile material to complete its first nuclear device. The most recent intelligence testimony to Congress estimates this achievement as taking no less than five years, and probably more. Most Western intelligence agencies believe that Iran is running a parallel, clandestine nuclear program in addition to its openly declared program. IDF Brig. Gen. Michael Herzog is a visiting military fellow at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
        See also Europe Gets Iran to Extend Freeze in Nuclear Work - Elaine Sciolino (New York Times)
  • A London Hysteria - Amnon Rubinstein
    A Martian landing in today's London would assume that the earth is a haven of peace and human understanding - except for a country called Israel, which clings to a fascist-Nazi philosophy, infringes on human rights, and endangers world peace. In this make-believe world, only Palestinians are victims. Even British casualties of Islamic terror are ignored. A recent book, The Question of Zion by Jacqueline Rose, a British Jewish academic, describes Zionism as "collective insanity" and the creation of Israel as an aggressive offense against international law and morality. We are dealing not merely with opposition to the occupation of areas Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War, but with a rejection of the basic tenet of Zionism - the right of the Jewish people to a national homeland and self-determination. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Foundations of an Israeli Grand Strategy toward the European Union - Yehezkel Dror
    Israel has many strategic assets it can use to improve its political and security relations with the EU. A first step is to dispel Israeli misperceptions about the EU; more difficult is to cope with the deep disagreements and with the EU's misperceptions. Seventeen principles can help Israel craft a grand strategy toward the EU. The writer is professor of political science (emeritus) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and founding president of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute. (Jewish Political Studies Review)

    Democracy in the Middle East

  • Now Please Vacate Your Thrones
    At a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Jordan last weekend, Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the Arab League, barked "Palestine" every time Liz Cheney, an assistant secretary at the American State Department, had the temerity to mention George Bush's vision of an Arab democratic spring. Moussa is right to say that the Palestinian cause resonates throughout the Arab world. But it is nonsense to say that Arabs want to shelve their own democratic hopes until Palestine is resolved. On the contrary, many Arabs have noticed that being a democracy has strengthened rather than weakened Israel during the long years of conflict. Most Arabs say in polls that they would like democracy for themselves.
        If Mr. Bush wants democracy for the Arabs, and they want it for themselves, why is there no meeting of minds? Part of the answer is indeed Palestine. In Jordan, the Arab audience winced every time Laura Bush mentioned Mr. Bush's belief in "freedom." However, there is another reason for the wincing. Whatever Arabs want, the last thing their leaders want is to lose power by introducing the democracy that America now demands of them.
        The U.S. and its Arab allies are therefore locked in an almost surreal dialogue. Bullied, nagged, and cajoled by their superpower patron, the kings of Jordan and Morocco, the emirs of the Gulf, the Saudi crown prince, and the ever-ruling presidents of Egypt and sundry North African states are forced in public to mouth the jargon of political reform and democracy while straining every muscle in private to ensure that their version of democracy denies the masses the one thing they most desire: a peaceful way to boot the said kings, emirs, crown princes, and presidents out of office. (Economist-UK)
  • If People in the Middle East Are Not Sure What Democracy Means, Let Them Look to Israel - Sen. Hillary Clinton
    Sen. Hillary Clinton told the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington on Tuesday: Israel is not only a friend and ally for us, it is a beacon of what democracy can and should mean. It is, after all, a pluralistic democracy. It is, as many of us know from personal experiences, a very dynamic democracy with many points of view, and those are expressed with great frequency and vigor. So if people in the Middle East are not sure what democracy means, let them look to Israel, which has been and remains a true, faithful democracy.
        In a democracy, even a fledgling democracy, leaders must be held accountable. And President Abbas must be held accountable for the actions taking place under his leadership. We must also demand that President Abbas dismantle the structures of terror that the Palestinian leadership has employed for so long. Making progress toward peace and security also requires the end of the barrage of hate and incitement that is still officially sanctioned by the Palestinian Authority. So we must continue to shine a bright spotlight on these messages of hatred and these enticements for martyrdom in these textbooks and on the media that take young minds and twist and pervert them and create a new generation of terrorists and insurgents.
        When it comes to children, whoever those children are, shielding them from hate and violence should be the number one priority of their families and their governments and the entire global community to prevent this hatred from festering. Using children as pawns in a political process is tantamount to child abuse, and we must say it has to end now. (Federal News Service)
  • Lebanon: Birth of a Nation - Bret Stephens
    For the better part of the 29 years during which Syria was in Lebanon, its occupation was considered comparatively benign. The world had had enough of watching Beirut and the other cities reduced to rubble by quarreling factions, and so had most Lebanese. Yet, Syria's occupation was not benign, not even remotely: A local NGO knows of at least 630 Lebanese prisoners who are unaccounted, a number that continues to rise as former prisoners and their families no longer fear coming forward with information.
        What began as an alliance of convenience between Christians, Sunnis, and Druze to expel Syria has deepened into an alliance of shared convictions. The growing demographic strength of the Shiites raises the question of their most notorious party, Hizballah, which the U.S. considers a terrorist organization and which receives $100 million a year from Iran. Hizballah remains the only armed faction in Lebanese politics after others were forced to disarm. Sooner or later, Hizballah will become the country's dominant faction, entirely through democratic means. In Lebanon, the impression is of a people determined never again to be dragged down by extremism. It is these Lebanese, one senses, and not Hizballah, who are making the country anew, and who are doing so, at long last, in the absence of fear. (Wall Street Journal, 27May05)
  • Lebanese Seek Disarmed Hizballah - Joshua Mitnick
    Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon in compliance with a UN Security Council resolution has led to growing support for the second part of the resolution - a demand that the Hizballah militia give up its arms. With parliamentary elections to begin this weekend, both politicians and citizens are questioning whether Hizballah should be left with the sole responsibility for "resistance" against Israel. "We can't let Hizballah decide alone whether there will be peace or war in Lebanon. They have to consult with the other Lebanese factions," said Massoud Ashkar, 47, a Christian businessman.
        According to Michel Lourna, a columnist for Lebanon's French-language daily Louraine Du Jour, most of the political parties that oppose continued Syrian influence in Lebanon also support forcing Hizballah to give up their weapons. If a coalition of anti-Syrian parties wrests control of parliament from the pro-Syrian loyalists that dominate the present government, the issue of Hizballah disarmament is likely to become a priority for the new government. (Washington Times)
        See also Bush Has Gotten It Right in Lebanon - Michael Young
    For the moment, Hizballah refuses to hand over its weapons and is trying to use a variety of means, including the forthcoming elections, to further anchor itself into Lebanon's political system. Getting Hizballah to accept Resolution 1559 will take time and threats, but also flexibility. To be successful, the international effort must dovetail with domestic endorsement of the effort. Most Lebanese want to see an unarmed Hizballah. The writer is opinion editor at the Daily Star in Beirut. (Slate)
        See also Hizballah's Strategy Following Syria's Withdrawal from Lebanon - Eyal Zisser
    In recent years, Hizballah's leader, Hasan Nasrallah, has adopted the ambitious goal of taking power in Lebanon through democratic means. But Hizballah's progress was disrupted, ironically, by Syrian bumbling in Lebanon. Druze, Maronite, and Sunni leaders all agree that Hizballah must eventually dismantle its military wing and transform itself into a purely political-social movement. (Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies-Tel Aviv University)
        See also Lebanon's Southern Border Remains an Economic Wasteland
    Lebanese residents near the border with Israel had high hopes for an economic recovery when Israeli forces unilaterally withdrew five years ago, but the boom never came. Hizballah has maintained a heavy armed presence since the last Israeli soldier withdrew on May 24, 2000. Hizballah fighters furrow themselves into ravines, transport mobile missile launchers, and spy with infrared binoculars over the barbed-wire border fence. (AFP/Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Syria's Voices of Change - Anthony Shadid
    Last spring, Syrian authorities barred entry to reformer Ayman Abdel Nour's web site, all4syria.org - a forum for unprecedented dialogue among groups, parties, and thinkers in Syria - nearly a year after he had inaugurated it. Nour collected the 1,700 e-mail addresses he had and dispatched his daily update. Two days later, the government blocked e-mails from that address. The next day, he changed the address and transmitted another bulletin. Then that address was shut down. And so it went for nearly a month and a half until the censors finally gave up. Since then, Abdel Nour's e-mail list has grown to 15,200 subscribers.
        The opposition in Syria remains weak, but emboldened by mounting U.S. pressure, a measure of government tolerance that alternates with capricious crackdowns, and a sense of national crisis as deep as any in a generation. (Washington Post)
        See also Syria's Unpredictable Force: The State-Sanctioned Clergy - Anthony Shadid (Washington Post)
        See also Syria in New Clampdown on Dissidents (AFP/Yahoo)

    Weekend Features

  • Amnesty International Loses Its Bearings - Editorial
    It's always sad when a solid, trustworthy institution loses its bearings and joins in the partisan fracas that nowadays passes for political discourse. It's particularly sad when the institution is Amnesty International, which for more than 40 years has been a tough, single-minded defender of political prisoners around the world. Lately the organization has tended to save its most vitriolic condemnations not for the world's dictators but for the United States. (Washington Post)
        See also Amnesty's 2004 Report: Too Much Politics, Not Enough Credibility (NGO Monitor)
  • We Must Discuss Why We Hate the Jews - Hussein Shubakshi
    A few days ago, one of the Saudi newspapers did a nice inquiry on vestiges of Jews in the Al-Ahsaa region in the Arab Peninsula [in eastern Saudi Arabia]. Is it possible that there were traces of Jews in the Arab Peninsula, and that they lived amongst us? The answer is, of course, yes. The Prophet Muhammad's relations with the Jews were clear. He made agreements with them, stood [in respect] at the funeral of one of them, maintained relations with them, married a Jewess, and entrusted his armor to his Jewish neighbor and asked about this Jew when he was missing and sick. Our religion permits us to eat the Jews' food, trade with them, and marry them. So what is the issue? There are Saudis who studied with Jews, were taught by Jewish teachers, and were treated by Jewish doctors. They tell good and normal stories about relations with the Jews. The writer is a Saudi columnist. (Al-Sharq Al-Awsat-UK-17May05/MEMRI)
  • Palestinian American Masters Art of Healing in Israel - Matthew Kalman
    Palestinian American Jubran Dakwar was brought up in San Jose and educated at the University of San Francisco, but when the time came to begin medical school, there was only one place he wanted to study - Israel. On Tuesday, he graduated from the Medical School for International Health at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba, the same college his father, Sajjiyeh, attended 30 years ago. The university hospital, Soroka, serves most of southern Israel and the Gaza Strip. Dakwar spent months treating Israeli soldiers wounded by rocket attacks and bombs in the intifada.
        In January 2004, while he was completing a surgery elective at Shaare Tzedek Hospital in Jerusalem, a suicide bomber blew up a commuter bus, killing 10 people and injuring more than 50. "The hospital I was at received the victims of the bombing," Dakwar recalled. "The surgeons get the worst patients right away, so we were there on the front line." "The first victim was burned from head to toe," he said. "Another person was bleeding from the back of his knee....The surgeon stuck his finger deep into the guy's wound and pulled out a big piece of scrap metal." (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • Is There a Future for French Jewry? - Shmuel Trigano
    Contrary to much of what is said today about anti-Jewish sentiment in France, its roots are to be found not in any specific Israeli policy with respect to the Palestinians. Rather, they lie deep within the French body politic. Political Zionism was itself conceived in Paris. As a young reporter covering the Dreyfus Affair in 1894, Theodor Herzl saw clearly how untenable was the condition of the Jew in modern Europe. Although Jews have been citizens of France for two centuries, in much of today's France, association with the Jewish community has become a basis for exclusion, and Zionism an unforgivable sin. (Azure-Shalem Center)
  • Observations:

    Breakfast With Sharon - Seth Lipsky (New York Sun)

    • The prime minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, says there are certain fundamentals for the Jewish state - that the Palestinian Arab refugees are not going to be able to return to Israel, that certain major blocks of Jewish population in the West Bank are going to stay, and that the Palestinians will not be able to force Israel back to the 1967 borders.
    • And that the only plan going forward can be the roadmap, the journey along which, he has long said, begins only when the Palestinian Arabs have halted terror and dismantled the structure for it.
    • It's important to get beyond treaties between leaders. He stresses the importance of education in the Muslim countries. Relations may have improved with Egypt, but beyond the friendly talk, he sees Egypt as behind the boycott against Israel that still obtains in many countries, with Israel not marked on maps and with exchanges blocked between academic and trade groups.
    • "One should be very, very careful," he says. "The Arabs until now do not accept the birthright of the Jews to have an independent Jewish state in the homeland of the Jews."
    • Sharon retells how the late pope, John Paul II, said to him: "I would like you to remember that the Land of Israel is holy to Muslims, Christians, and Jews - but it was only to the Jews that it was promised." "That," said the pope, "is the difference between terra sancta and terra promissa."


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