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DAILY ALERT

June 3, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

UN: Weapons Material Taken From Iraq (AP/FOX News)
    UN satellite imagery experts have determined that material that could be used to make biological or chemical weapons and banned long-range missiles has been removed from 109 sites in Iraq, UN weapons inspectors said in a report obtained Thursday.
    Acting chief weapons inspector Demetrius Perricos said the items could have been moved elsewhere in Iraq, sold as scrap, melted down, or purchased.


Israel HighWay
- June 2, 2005

Issue of the Week:
    Israel Commemorates Jerusalem Day

Dancing in Streets as 400 Palestinians Freed - Nidal al-Mughrabi (Reuters)
    Palestinian militants welcomed hundreds of prisoners freed by Israel on Thursday, carrying them on their shoulders and firing into the air.
    Cheering, whistling, clapping, singing, and dancing erupted as buses full of prisoners, many flashing V-for-victory signs and waving Palestinian flags, pulled up to delivery points.
    A total of 400 prisoners were to have been freed but two opted to remain in jail, one to stay with a brother, and the other to complete an academic course, an army spokeswoman said.
    A first batch of 500 prisoners went free on Feb. 21.


PA Police Raid Parliament Building in Gaza - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    For the second day, PA security officers demonstrated in the Gaza Strip in protest against PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas's decision to reconstruct the Palestinian security services.
    On Thursday, hundreds of officers belonging to the PA's Military Intelligence Force went on the rampage inside the Palestinian Legislative Council building and exchanged gunfire with policemen in Gaza City.
    Some of the attackers briefly occupied the PLC chamber, smashing windows, doors, and furniture, and forcing the guards and policemen to flee the scene.
    PA officials in Ramallah accused the ousted commander of Military Intelligence, Gen. Musa Arafat, of standing behind the unrest.
    Eyewitnesses said at least 600 officers and masked gunmen belonging to the ruling Fatah party marched in the streets of Gaza City, chanting slogans against Abbas and condemning his interior minister, Gen. Nasser Youssef, as a "traitor."


Suicide Attacks Rising Rapidly - Carol J. Williams (Los Angeles Times)
    Suicide bombings have become the Iraqi insurgency's weapon of choice, with a staggering 90 attacks accounting for most of May's 750 deaths at the militants' hands.
    In April, there were 69 suicide attacks, more than in the entire year preceding the June 28, 2004, hand-over of sovereignty.
    Baghdad saw five suicide bombings in a six-hour span Sunday.
    With U.S.-led forces now better protected with concrete blast walls and rings of concertina wire and sandbags, militants have taken to targeting Iraqi police and civilians.


Saudi Religious Police Arrest 8 Christians (WorldNetDaily)
    Saudi Arabia's religious police arrested eight Christians, all Indian nationals, including one who was beaten in front of his 5-year-old son, according to the Washington, D.C.-based human rights group International Christian Concern.
    The State Department's annual report says that in Saudi Arabia "religious freedom does not exist" and non-Muslim "worshippers risk arrest, imprisonment, lashing, deportation and sometimes torture for engaging in religious activity that attracts official attention."


U.S. to Rebuke Saudi on Human Trafficking - Arshad Mohammed and Saul Hudson (Reuters)
    The U.S. plans to rebuke Saudi Arabia for doing too little to stop the trafficking of people as Washington pushes its ally to improve its human rights record, U.S. officials said on Thursday.
    The State Department will cite Saudi Arabia on Friday as one of the world's worst offenders in an annual report evaluating countries' efforts at combating the trafficking of thousands of people forced into servitude or the sex trade every year.


Lawmakers Oppose Saudi Deal to Join WTO - Marc Perelman (Forward)
    The Bush administration is under fire from a bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress for supporting a deal for Saudi membership in the World Trade Organization despite Saudi Arabia's anti-Israel stance and tepid counter-terrorism efforts.
    A letter to U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman initiated by Rep. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), co-signed by 47 House members from both parties, called it "premature to reward Saudi Arabia with this benefit when we should be demanding more progress on a variety of key foreign policy, national security, and human rights issues."


U.S. Doctors Learn from Hadassah How to Deal with Terror - Daphna Berman (Ha'aretz)
    Like all terror drills at Hadassah Ein Karem hospital, this week's practice involved frightening scenarios, a seemingly endless stream of victims, and even a surprise non-conventional attack.
    Joining the drill at the newly inaugurated emergency medical center in Jerusalem was a team of medical and health professionals from the U.S., in Israel to hone their own preparedness for possible terror attacks on American soil.
    "Whereas our drills are based on planning and training, what they're doing here is actually based on real life experience," said Dr. Cliff Lacy, former commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health Services.
    "This is thoroughly impressive and illustrates a great deal of preparedness and experience," said P.E. Estacio, a senior medical adviser for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.


eBay Buys Israel's Shopping.com for $620m - Yuval Mendelson (Globes)
    Online auction site eBay reported Wednesday that it was buying Israeli online comparison shopping company Shopping.com.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Syria Test-Fires Missiles - Steven Erlanger
    Syria test-fired three Scud missiles on May 27, including one that broke up over Turkey - a member of NATO - and showered missile parts down onto unsuspecting Turkish farmers, Israeli military officials revealed Thursday. The Israelis have film of the launching and breakup. These were the first such Syrian missile tests since 2001, and were part of a Syrian missile development project using North Korean technology and designed to deliver air-burst chemical weapons. The missiles included one Scud B with a range of 185 miles, and two Scud Ds with a range of 435 miles.
        Israeli military officials said they interpreted the launchings as a gesture of defiance to the U.S. and UN by Syrian president Bashir al-Assad. "This is really putting your fingers in the eyes of the Americans, saying, 'I'm not dancing to your flute,'" a senior Israeli military official said. "The tests are probably needed for the missile project, but this is Bashir taking a risk here and sending a message."
        Syria harbors the leadership of the Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad and helps them, as well as the Iranian-sponsored Hizballah, with money, arms, and sponsorship. "The message from Syria to the Palestinians is not to stop shooting," a senior Israeli official said. (New York Times)
  • Kurdish Cleric Murdered in Syria a Moderate Voice of Change - Paul Koring
    The lifeless body of outspoken Kurdish cleric Sheik Machouk Alkhaznawi was returned to his family in Syria on Wednesday, three weeks after he went missing. Amnesty International and members of the Kurdish Democratic Party said he was killed by authorities, citing evidence of torture on the body. Days before his disappearance, Globe and Mail correspondent Paul Koring interviewed Alkhaznawi in Damascus for a story about Syria's newly emboldened political dissidents. "Either the regime will change, or the regime must go," he said in the interview. Engaging, passionate, inspiring, and funny, Alkhaznawi was every despot's worst nightmare. He was a champion of tolerance, respect between Arabs and Kurds, and the compatibility of democracy and Islam. (Globe and Mail-Canada)
  • U.S. Calls Killing of Anti-Syrian Lebanese Journalist "Heinous"
    The U.S. condemned the killing of a prominent anti-Syrian Lebanese journalist in a bombing Thursday in Beirut. "It's a heinous act," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said of the killing of Samir Kassir, 45, an editorial writer for the Lebanese An-Nahar newspaper and a frequent commentator on Alhurra, the U.S.-funded, Arabic-language satellite television channel. Kassir helped found Lebanon's Democratic Left movement, a main force behind the protests that led to Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon. (Bloomberg)
        See also Lebanese Enraged by Kassir Murder Point Fingers at Syria - Jessy Chahine
    At the scene of Samir Kassir's assassination, angry crowds accused Lebanon's pro-Syrian regime of murdering opposition journalist Samir Kassir. "Assassins! Agents of Syrian corruption! Who will be the next victim?" they yelled. Kassir, who had an eloquent way with words that made him one of the widest-read writers in Lebanon, authored countless fiery editorials against Syria's tutelage over Lebanon during his lifetime. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Nabs Islamic Jihad Terrorists Who Planned to Kidnap Soldier, Fire Rockets - Efrat Weiss
    Five Islamic Jihad terrorists who planned to kidnap an IDF soldier stationed in the Jerusalem area and fire an RPG rocket at an IDF post were arrested by security forces Thursday. (Ynet News)
  • IDF Chief of Staff Ya'alon's Record - Ari Shavit
    What will history say of just retired IDF Chief of Staff Moshe ("Bogey") Ya'alon? Simple things: Director of Military Intelligence Ya'alon was one of the first to be suspicious of Arafat. Head of Central Command Ya'alon was the first to understand that an Arafat war was in the offing. Deputy Chief of Staff Ya'alon shaped the concept of the IDF's war against Arafat. Chief of Staff Ya'alon repulsed Arafat and, together with Prime Minister Sharon and Shin Bet security service chief Dichter, led Israel to a military victory over terrorism. (Article includes interview.) (Ha'aretz)
  • Peres: 100,000 Gaza Palestinian Families to Get $100 a Month
    Some 100,000 Palestinian families in the Gaza Strip will each begin to receive $100 a month from a fund aimed at helping those in distress, Vice Premier Shimon Peres announced Thursday. (Ha'aretz)
        See also A New New Middle East - Ari Shavit
    As head of the coordination and strategy team in the Prime Minister's Office, reserve brigadier general Eival Giladi is to a great extent the father of the separation fence. He is also one of the architects of the disengagement plan. This week he revealed another dimension to his indefatigable creativity: the Portland Trust, a foundation that aims to revive the Palestinian economy in order to strengthen Israeli-Palestinian stability in the post-disengagement era.
        Standing behind the Portland Trust is the new owner of the Bezeq telephone company, Sir Ronald Cohen, an Egyptian-born Jew who acquired his billions in London. Along with two partners - Sir Harry Solomon and Sir Martin Gilbert - Cohen decided to try to save the region through a project that somewhat recalls Shimon Peres' New Middle East project. It supposes that the Palestinian economy will not be integrated into the Israeli economy. The man who devised the strategy of disengagement from the Palestinians is raising loan guarantees for the Palestinians and pushing for an international project to build 150,000 housing units in Gaza. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Islamists Are Intrinsically Anti-Democratic - Michael Rubin
    Election participation does not make candidates democratic. Hamas ran on a platform rejecting the compromises necessary for Palestinian statehood. Its charter embraced imposition of Islamic rule, with the Koran as its constitution, and it has eschewed rule-of-law. Well-known for its attacks on Israelis, it has also targeted liberal Palestinians. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, another recipient of recent State Department outreach, also has a long legacy of violence. Its armed wing has murdered thousands. Engaging any group that has been involved in terror only legitimizes the violence that propelled that group to prominence.
        The Arab world is capable of democracy. When mechanisms for electoral accountability exist, Islamists lose their charm. In Jordan, the Islamic Action Front lost half its seats between 1989 and 1993, after it failed to fulfill its promises.
        For democracy to succeed, all parties have to embrace not only elections as the path to power, but also regular subservience to the electorate as their master. Because Islamists base their legitimacy upon a higher power, they are intrinsically anti-democratic and unwilling to accept popular rebuke. One man, one vote, one time makes dictatorship, not democracy.
        By embracing Islamists in Iran, President Jimmy Carter replaced one dictatorship with another. The Bush administration's flirtation with Arab Islamists risks doing the same. Washington should push for democracy, but only work with groups willing to abide by democratic precepts. The writer, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is editor of Middle East Quarterly. (Bitterlemons.org)
  • The Insurgents' Power Play - Gary Anderson
    The insurgency in Iraq is shifting from being a fairly popular resistance against foreign occupation to a more classic brand that attempts to overthrow a struggling government. The U.S. military leadership in Iraq recently conceded that the center of gravity of the insurgency has shifted away from the Baathist holdouts and toward the foreign fighters. Many Sunni Baathists appear to be biding their time to see whether the new government will include them.
        There should be a concerted effort on the part of the Iraqi government to split the insurgency and play off the differences in goals between the secular Baathist holdouts, whose primary complaint is their exclusion, from the foreign insurgents, whose religious motivations are at odds with secular Sunnis as well as Shiites and Kurds of all persuasions. The writer is a retired Marine Corps officer who has advised the Defense Department on the Iraqi insurgency. (Washington Post)
  • Something is Brewing in Egypt
    Egypt's desire for change is all too clear, whether signaled by the government's own promises or by the sour, agitated mood on Cairo's streets. Growing numbers of Egyptians want big changes now, and the sooner the better. A case in point was last week's referendum on a constitutional amendment that would allow, for the first time, more than one candidate to run for president. The three main legal opposition parties, plus the influential but illegal Muslim Brotherhood, plus a budding protest movement called Kifaya (Enough!), which wants Mubarak to resign, all boycotted the referendum. Most polling stations seemed empty of all but government employees, pensioners, and a scattering of poor folk, some of whom cheerfully told journalists they thought they were voting, as usual, to return Mubarak for another term. Citizens with relatives in the police say officers received orders to vote as many times as possible. Testing the system, one enterprising reporter claimed to have voted in eight different districts.
        Yet Egypt's mood is changing. Government heavy-handedness is now met, as never before, by exposure and fierce criticism. Trade and student unions are growing restive. A score of human-rights organizations detail such abuses as torture and arbitrary arrest. Satellite television, beyond the control of the state's terrestrial monopoly, magnifies the scale of dissent. Contrasting Egypt's referendum with the French vote on a European constitution, one cartoonist pictured an Egyptian official telling Jacques Chirac not to worry: "We'll send some of our boys to take care of all those people who voted no." (Economist)
  • Making Iran Play Ball - Dennis Ross
    The Iranians seem to believe they can continue to move incrementally toward developing fissile material openly and clandestinely and without incurring any real costs - and recent history would suggest they're right. In October 2003, Iran reached an agreement to suspend its nuclear efforts with the Europeans; then in 2004 it reneged and paid no price for doing so. So the threat of referring the Iranian nuclear question to the UN Security Council is likely to ring hollow. Having engineered $100 billion worth of deals with China, the Iranians probably believe they're protected by a Chinese veto of any UN sanctions by the Security Council. (U.S. News)
  • The Goose, the Gander, and Iran - Akbar Atri
    In Iran the government never seeks the consent of the governed, the people. It stacks the deck. While we have regularly scheduled elections, the Guardian Council, a committee of Muslim clerics - mullahs - decides which of the registered candidates may stand and which will be ruled off the ballot. And this unelected body has veto power over the elected government's actions.
        Eight years ago our growing student democratic movement was assured by then-presidential candidate Khatami that he would institute a number of democratic reforms if elected. They supported him. He won, but now, eight years later as his second and last term ends, the reforms have yet to take place. Election for a new president will take place June 17, but the student movement is urging voters to boycott the election. (Approximately 15 million voters - 21% of those eligible - voted in the last presidential election in 2001.) (American Spectator)
  • National Socialism and Anti-Semitism in the Arab World - Matthias Kuentzel
    Anti-Semitism based on the notion of a Jewish world conspiracy is not rooted in Islamic tradition but, rather, in European ideological models. The decisive transfer of this ideology to the Muslim world took place between 1937 and 1945 under the impact of Nazi propaganda. Although Islamism is an independent, anti-Semitic, anti-modern mass movement, its main early promoters - the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Mufti and the Qassamites in Palestine - were supported financially and ideologically by agencies of the German National Socialist government. Haj Amin el-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, was the first to translate European anti-Semitism into an Islamic context. (Jewish Political Studies Review)

    Weekend Features

  • Saudi Arabia Debates Lifting Ban on Women Drivers - Donna Abu-Nasr
    Saudi legislator Mohammad al-Zulfa's proposal to allow some women, not all of them, to drive has touched off a fierce controversy in the kingdom. Conservatives, who believe women should be shielded from strange men, say women in the driver's seat will be free to leave home alone and go when and where they please. "Driving by women leads to evil," Munir al-Shahrani wrote in a letter to the Al-Watan daily. "Can you imagine what it would be like if her car broke down? She would have to seek help from men." Zulfa contends that the ban exists neither in law nor Islam, but is based on fatwas by senior clerics who say women at the wheel create situations for sinful temptation. (ABC News)
        Zulfa argued that lifting the ban would eliminate the social problem of some one million foreign drivers needed to enable Saudi women to move around. Zulfa said the obligation to hire a driver represented a financial burden for families with limited income, and cost the country more than $3.2 billion a year. (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
  • Israeli Family in Gaza Awaits End of Settlements - Ravi Nessman
    In less than three months the Israeli government is planning to evacuate the 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip, including Ganei Tal. Ezra and Naomi Eldar moved here 27 years ago after seeing a government ad in a newspaper inviting Israelis to start a new agricultural settlement in Gaza. The land that is now Ganei Tal was an expanse of empty sand dunes, Naomi said, and she armed herself with a broom in a constant fight to keep the sand from taking over her house. "There was nothing here, only sky," she said. "Even birds weren't here. After we put in the trees and grass, birds began to come."
        Now, 90 families live in Ganei Tal. The Eldars say they love it here. For kids it is "paradise," Naomi said. They ride their bikes to the beach. But many, like 13-year-old Avital, have been plagued by nightmares in recent years when the settlements have been barraged by mortar shells and rockets launched from nearby Palestinian towns. Naomi, who runs the community center, talks excitedly about the settlements' large annual summer party, which brings singers and entertainers from all over the country. Thousands of people attend, sitting near the artificial lake and singing. This year the party is set for Aug. 16. The pullout is to start the next day. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Philly Food Coop Nixes Israel Boycott - Jordana Jacobs
    In January, a small group of Arabs and Jews within Weavers Way Co-op, a Philadelphia food store owned and operated by members, threatened to boycott produce from the Israeli-administered territories, but when the proposal was brought to a vote at last month's biannual member's meeting, it was overwhelmingly rejected by at least 100 votes. The issue was first raised by Linda Hanna, an Arab-American, and four other members. At the same time, members of local Jewish organizations Germantown Jewish Center, Congregation Mishkan Shalom, P'nai Or Religious Fellowship of Philadelphia, the Jewish Children's Folkshul, Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, the Shalom Aleichem Club, and the Tikkun Community banded together to battle the potential boycott.
        As an alternative solution, some suggested purchasing olive oil produced by Palestinian firms, or goods grown and/or made by joint, progressive Israeli-Palestinian ventures. According to Glenn Bergman, general manager of Weaver's Way, the only produce possibly affected by a boycott would have been basil. (JTA/Baltimore Jewish Times)
  • Exhibit Opens in Austria on Women Who Resisted the Nazis - Danica Kirka
    An exhibit on women who defied the Nazis opened Thursday in Vienna, Austria, highlighting the efforts of resistance fighters and those who smuggled Jewish children to safety during World War II. The core of the exhibition, "Faces of Resistance: Women in the Holocaust," was drawn from Israel's Moreshet Archive, with a section added outlining resistance efforts in Austria.
        Haviva Reik emigrated from then-Czechoslovakia to Israel but felt compelled to return to Europe to fight the Nazis. Enlisting in a British parachute regiment, she eventually made her way back home and joined with partisan fighters, only to be executed. An Israeli educational institution - Givat Haviva - was founded in her memory and the group's branch in Austria helped organize the exhibition. (AP/San Diego Union-Tribune)
  • Observations:

    J'Accuse - Tom Gross (Wall Street Journal, 2June05)

    • A French court last week found three writers for Le Monde, as well as the newspaper's publisher, guilty of "racist defamation" against Israel and the Jewish people. In a groundbreaking decision, the Versailles court of appeal ruled that a comment piece published in Le Monde in 2002, "Israel-Palestine: The Cancer," had whipped up anti-Semitic opinion. The writers were ordered to pay symbolic damages of one euro to a human-rights group and to the Franco-Israeli association. Le Monde was also ordered to publish a condemnation of the article, which it has yet to do.
    • Responsible journalists strenuously avoid libelous characterizations of entire ethnic, national, or religious groups. They go out of their way, for example, to avoid suggesting that the massacres in Darfur, which are being carried out by Arab militias, in any way represent an Arab trait.
    • The exception to this seems to be the coverage of Jews, particularly Israeli ones. From Oslo to Athens, from London to Madrid, it has been virtually open season on them in the last few years, especially in supposedly liberal media.
    • In the British media, the Guardian equated Israel and al Qaeda; the Evening Standard equated Israel and the Taliban. The Independent's Middle East correspondent, Robert Fisk, implies that the White House has fallen into the hands of the Jews: "The Perles and the Wolfowitzes and the Cohens...very sinister people hovering around Bush." Bashing Israel even extends to local papers that don't usually cover foreign affairs, such as the double-page spread titled "Jews in Jackboots" in Luton on Sunday (Luton is an industrial town in southern England).
    • Although the French court ruling - the first of its kind in Europe - is a major landmark, no one in France seems to care. One would have thought such a verdict would prompt wide-ranging coverage and lead to extensive soul-searching and public debate. Instead, there has been almost complete silence, and virtually no coverage in the French press.
    • And few elsewhere will have heard about it. Reuters and Agence France Presse (agencies that have demonstrated particularly marked bias against Israel) ran short stories about the judgment in their French-language wires last week, but chose not to run them on their English news services. The Associated Press didn't run it at all. Instead of triggering the long overdue reassessment of Europe's attitude toward Israel, the media have chosen to ignore it.


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