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
Terrorist Plot to Down El Al Jet in Geneva Foiled - Janine Zacharia (Jerusalem Post)
- May 18, 2006
Issue of the Week:
Iran Is Not Only Israel's Problem
Egypt Says Hamas Harboring Wanted Dahab Attack Plotter in Gaza - Aaron Klein (WorldNetDaily)
Hamas Official Caught at Border with More than $1 Million (AP/CNN)
UK Citizen Arrested for Transferring Money to Hamas - Efrat Weiss (Ynet News)
Iraq Backs Israel Boycott - Michael Freund (Jerusalem Post)
Israel's Exports to Arabs Rising (UPI)
West Bank Fence Provides Example for U.S. - Josef Federman (AP/Washington Post)
PA TV: Dreaming of Israel's Destruction - Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook (Palestinian Media Watch)
See also Hamas Video Calls for War - Yaakov Lappin (Ynet News)
UN Presses Syria on Ties with Lebanon - Edith M. Lederer (AP)
Vanishing Christians of the Middle East (Catholic World News)
Wearing a Kippa in Qatar - Daniel S. Brenner (New York Jewish Week)
Palestinians Attacked by Wild Boars in West Bank (PA Press Center)
The Mideast's Land of Paradox - Cathy Young (Boston Globe)
Israeli Economy Beats Forecasts with 6.6% Growth in First Quarter - Tal Levy (Ha'aretz)
Moody's Upgrades International Market Rating for Israel - Zeev Klein (Globes)
Fighting Back the Desert - Vita Bekker (Media Line)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel said Thursday that Israel would buy drugs and medical equipment urgently needed by Palestinian hospitals in Gaza out of funds Israel is withholding. In an interview in Jerusalem, Olmert vehemently denied that there was any Palestinian "humanitarian crisis," calling it "for the time being total propaganda." "We will pay if necessary out of our own pockets," he said, and get what is needed directly to the hospitals "as soon as possible," circumventing the Hamas government. "We wouldn't allow one baby to suffer one night." The Palestinians, Olmert insisted in his excellent English, "are the victims of their own extremist, fundamentalist, religious, inflexible, and unyielding leadership, and we will do everything in our power to help these innocent people."
Washington and the EU want Olmert to try to negotiate first with Abbas, but Olmert does not want to get trapped into talks whose failure could start another round of violence. Olmert called the Palestinians natural partners of Israelis but the historical victims of "irresponsible, reckless, corrupt leadership, and a total lack of democratic traditions that always drew them away from the mainstream and into the sidelines, and into tragedies and pain." (New York Times)
See also Israel to Free Funds for Palestinian Health Workers
Israel is prepared to release Palestinian tax revenues into a proposed aid mechanism being set up by Middle East mediators to avert the collapse of the Palestinian health sector and to pay some salaries, an Israeli official said Thursday. The official said the money transferred by Israel would be given to specific Palestinian hospitals and clinics, and could then be used to pay salaries to doctors, nurses, and other health workers. An independent auditor would ensure that the money is not diverted to the Hamas-led government or Hamas officials. (Reuters)
The return of Europe's jihadists from Iraq is giving the Continent's intelligence services nightmares. Last October, Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr warned that intercepted correspondence between Abu Musab Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, and other figures in the movement had revealed a decision to send large numbers of Islamist volunteers back to their countries of origin to wage holy war. Baltazar Garzon, a Spanish judge who has led inquiries into al-Qaeda in Spain, said last week that large numbers of veterans of the Iraqi jihad were returning to Europe. "Infrastructures are being put in place to accommodate them," he added.
Claude Moniquet, director of the Brussels-based European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center, estimates that there are "several hundred" former fighters from Iraq in Western Europe and says they are "potentially very dangerous." "Given the high motivation and the youth of these Iraqi volunteers, the risk that they will start to commit terrorist acts on European soil is very real," he said. (AFP/Washington Times)
An appeals court on Thursday upheld the fraud conviction of Ayman Nour, the candidate who challenged President Hosni Mubarak and his 25 years of one-man rule in elections last year, effectively consigning the fiery lawyer to five years in prison. Nour was convicted in December of forging documents needed to legalize his Tomorrow Party, even though a government commission had approved the papers in October 2004 and a witness at his trial said he was tortured into testifying against Nour. The State Department made the case a test of Mubarak's commitment to democracy. (Washington Post)
See also Egyptian Police Beat Pro-Reform Protesters - Mariam Fam (AP/Washington Post)
See also Egypt Detains Dozens Ahead of Opposition Hearings - Mona Salem (AFP/Middle East Times-Cyprus)
A poll of 500 "opinion elites" commissioned by The Israel Project shows that U.S. support for Israel remains strong and that there is significant concern among Americans regarding Hamas. 77% said they have a cold or unfavorable view of Hamas and only 4% had a warm or positive feeling. 80% agree that the U.S. should not fund the Palestinian Authority until its Hamas-led government renounces violence, recognizes Israel, and ends terrorism. 94% agree that Palestinian leaders must disarm terrorists. 93% agree that Palestinian leaders must end the culture of hate that encourages children to become suicide bombers.
58% said they backed Israel while 10% said they supported the Palestinians. 48% said the U.S. should "take Israel's side, in the conflict," while 7% said "the Palestinian's side." 65% said "the Israelis are doing more to advance the peace process in the Middle East" and 7% said "the Palestinians." (The Israel Project/News Blaze)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Senior U.S. government sources, speaking ahead of Olmert's Washington visit, say that the U.S. won't support or object to the convergence plan. Washington prefers to wait to see if Hamas will change path or lose power. While the U.S. prefers to wait, Europe has made an unequivocal declaration that unilateral steps are unacceptable in its view. (Ynet News)
Two Israelis, a husband and wife, were injured on Thursday evening when Palestinians fired shots at their car near the West Bank settlement of Tapuah. (Ha'aretz)
A midnight gun battle erupted in Gaza Thursday night in front of the Palestinian parliament building between security forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas and a new militia run by the Hamas-led government. At least four people were hurt. Witnesses said a Hamas force surrounded the main police station in Gaza City and traded fire with those inside. (Ha'aretz)
Just one day after Israel fully reopened the main Israel-Gaza cargo crossing for the first time in several months, it was closed again due to a terror warning. An intelligence alert indicated Palestinians intended to carry out an attack at the Karni crossing. (Ha'aretz)
Palestinians in the northern Gaza Strip fired six Kassam rockets Thursday toward Israel. One rocket landed near a strategic facility, while another one fell outside an IDF base. (Ynet News)
Nablus has become the Palestinian terror capital. Nightly raids carried out by IDF troops in Nablus and the nearby Balata camp are, according to the army, what was keeping suicide terrorists out of Israel's cities, a senior IDF officer stationed in the region said Thursday. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Views of Convergence
While the international community will likely applaud Olmert's decision to withdraw settlers, it is unlikely to bestow international recognition in return. Olmert will find this reaction inadequate, which could have profound implications for his domestic political standing. The question is whether, short of international recognition, alternatives exist that could satisfy Olmert. These would have to enable him to demonstrate in some fashion that Israel is not responsible for the civilian Palestinian population in areas that Israel would evacuate and would contain some form of explicit acknowledgement that Israel's control of carefully defined and agreed-upon settlement blocs is essentially permanent. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
When he meets with President Bush on Tuesday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will be seeking Washington's support for his "convergence" plan. By far the major obstacle right now to the implementation of Olmert's unilateralist vision is the rapidly deteriorating situation in Gaza and the danger of replicating it in the West Bank. Since Israel pulled out of Gaza, terrorists based there have fired 500 rockets at the Jewish state. Security has collapsed on the Gaza-Egyptian border, permitting terrorists and weapons to cross the border unimpeded.
On a daily basis, Israelis are deluged with reports of kidnappings, and of Hizballah and al-Qaeda operatives and a slew of Palestinian terrorist organizations training in Gaza, armed groups storming ministries, and Fatah-Hamas warfare in the streets. For Israelis, including many who support Olmert's concept of relinquishing some settlements, there is a deep reluctance to cede additional territory in the West Bank right now. This is particularly true in view of reports that Hamas and al-Qaeda continue their efforts to establish bases on the West Bank - a development that would not only threaten Israel but Jordan - which has become a prime jihadist target as well. (Washington Times)
In his forthcoming visit to Washington, Prime Minister Olmert is likely to encounter indifference sugared with ceremonial niceties. The Bush administration made a serious blunder and allowed Hamas to take part in the elections, on the basis of a complacent supposition that Hamas would not win - a mistake that has left the Israeli-Palestinian process completely stuck. Until its consequences are overturned - which will not happen quickly - Israel is being asked not to be a nuisance. (Ha'aretz)
The widespread perception in the Arab and Islamic world of an Israeli retreat and its consequent destabilization of Israel and Jordan will be seen for what they are: strategic defeats for America. This will, in turn, likely translate into thousands of additional recruits for global jihad against the United States. (Center for Security Policy)
The aid proposal most being talked about is having Western governments pay 160,000 PA employees. They would have no control over the wage levels determined by the PA, which the EU last year held to be too high. Moreover, the donors would have to pay a list of employees including hundreds of non-existent workers, whose salaries are pocketed by PA officials. Among the real civil servants taking regular salaries from Western donations would be teachers, officials, and clerics who tell their students how Israel and the West are demonic; who incite or even facilitate terrorism; and who advocate genocide. Many of those who would be supported by Western taxpayers are themselves active terrorists, either for Fatah or Hamas. (Jerusalem Post)
The Palestinian economy was in dire straits long before Hamas' ascension to power resulted in the withholding of financial support by the international community. Over the last decade billions of dollars were donated with few tangible, and almost no self-sustaining, benefits to show for such well-meant assistance. The international community must internalize the lessons of having thrown money into the bottomless pit of a terror-ridden, corrupt, and economically directionless PA.
Like any investors looking for return on their investment, they should have insisted on a "business plan," an overall strategy intended ultimately to reduce the Palestinians' dependence on international aid. They should have set out the goals to be achieved with donated funds, and the benchmarks for determining progress. And the funding should have been explicitly conditioned on such progress. (Jerusalem Post)
The Islamic Jihad has refused to join the Hamas ceasefire. The group has carried out seven suicide bombings in the past year, including an April 17 attack in Tel Aviv. Hamas officials have applauded the bombings. Their statements have fueled suspicions that Hamas is using Islamic Jihad as a surrogate for killing Israelis, and made it even more unlikely that the international community will rescue the bankrupt government. That may explain why the general Palestinian public has begun to swing against Islamic Jihad and its suicide bombers.
Ibrahim Ajami, whose son, Suheib, blew himself up at a checkpoint, killing two Palestinian bystanders and an Israeli soldier, indicated that many Palestinians have begun to blame Islamic Jihad for their sorry living conditions. "For normal people, Islamic Jihad is not popular. My neighbors tell me, 'Look at our lives now, because of your son.'"
Eighty-two bombers, most of them from Islamic Jihad, have tried to pass through breaches in the security barrier since January, according to Israel's State Attorney's Office. The Israel Defense Forces are pursuing the remnants of Islamic Jihad relentlessly; the entire generation of Islamic Jihad members over the age of 25 in Tulkarem has been wiped out. (New Republic)
As the UN Security Council ponders sanctions to punish Iran for developing technology that could be used for making nuclear weapons, Iran's president and interior minister have threatened to deploy the oil weapon. But senior policymakers within the Bush administration and their French and British counterparts have concluded that Iran would continue to sell oil abroad even in the face of heightened economic and diplomatic pressure from Western powers. Oil accounts for 85% of Iran's exports, and revenue from those exports makes up 65% of government income.
Moreover, in recent years Iran has shifted its oil exports away from the West. It sells substantial amounts to China and India, though Japan, Italy, and France are still the major buyers. None is sold to the U.S. because of sanctions dating to the 1979 hostage crisis. All oil is fungible.
"I think that the issue of Iran using oil as an economic weapon has been highly exaggerated," said Abdulsamad al-Awadi, the former head of European operations for Kuwait Petroleum Corp. "From talking to a lot of their officials, I don't believe that they would use the oil weapon unless they were attacked." (Washington Post)
What Washington must communicate above all is the choice Iran faces as the crisis deepens over its nuclear program. The U.S. strategy is to warn the Iranians that they are approaching a fork in the road and to sketch what lies down each path. For an administration that is still regarded in much of the world as belligerent and unilateralist, the Iran strategy is almost painfully multilateral. It seeks to build as broad a coalition as possible to steer Iran away from acquiring nuclear weapons. And if this broad but shallow coalition fails to deter Iran? Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Undersecretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns are already planning a narrower "coalition of the willing" that would impose a tougher set of financial sanctions. (Washington Post)
Iran, radiating potency, announces advances in uranium processing, yellowcake mining, the construction of a breeder reactor to produce plutonium, and the deploying of more sophisticated and mirved ballistic missiles. In response, gray beards in the U.S. and Europe sincerely counsel peacefulness, generosity, dialogue, mutual respect, timeless patience. What is to be done with Iran's nuclear appetite and the genocidal Ahmadinejad? Stand up to Iran with words and deeds; do not accommodate, do not retreat, do not, as did Chamberlain, choose disgrace rather than war and get both. (New York Sun)
The Arab World
On March 31, Syrian military intelligence arrested Internet journalist and human-rights activist Mohammed Ghanem, 51, most likely because of his work at www.surion.org where he wrote a recent series of articles detailing Syria's political realities and the plight of its Kurdish community. He joined the ranks of close to 1,500 political prisoners being held without trial. In the past three months, Human Rights Watch has documented the arrests of 26 activists that appear to be tied solely to their attempts to speak freely about political conditions in Syria.
This growing wave suggests that the Syrian opposition - a group that was invisible only three years ago - is beginning to show some real resistance to the regime. Assad's weakness and ineptitude, combined with an increased international focus on Syria's involvement in Lebanon and Iraq, have helped reinvigorate the opposition. Indeed, it is becoming difficult to keep track of the large number of Syrian groups and activists who are working on the cause of political reform inside and outside Syria. (Washington Times)
See also Syria Detains Writer in Dissident Crackdown - Ferry Biedermann
Syrian authorities have detained prominent writer and government opponent Michel Kilo in a continuing crackdown on dissidents. Kilo had been involved in a petition calling for a halt to Syrian interference in Lebanon. (Financial Times-UK)
UN investigators have said the February 2005 car bombing in Beirut that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri may have been partly intended to cover up a corruption and bank fraud scandal that siphoned hundreds of millions of dollars to top Syrian and Lebanese officials. Bank documents show that some of the officials were deeply involved from the late 1990s until early 2003 in a kickback scheme that supplied them with cash, real estate, cars, and jewelry in exchange for protecting and facilitating a multibillion-dollar money-laundering operation at Lebanon's Bank al-Madina that allowed terrorist organizations, peddlers of West African "blood diamonds," Saddam Hussein, and Russian gangsters to hide income and convert hot money into legitimate bank accounts around the world.
Several sources, including one alleged conspirator in the oil-for-food scandal, put the amount transferred and laundered through al-Madina at more than $1 billion, with a 25% commission going to Syrian officials and their Lebanese allies. The source says that among the recipients were Bashar Assad's brother Maher and the head of military intelligence in Lebanon at the time, Ghazi Kanaan. (Fortune/CNN)
On May 7, Lebanese Druze leader and member of parliament Walid Jumblatt told reporters in Cairo that Hizballah should disarm. Four days earlier Jumblatt offered his assistance to the Syrian opposition in establishing "a democratic and free Syria." Since the Hariri murder, Jumblatt has emerged as a key leader in the March 14 Movement, the anti-Syrian coalition headed by Hariri's son Saad Hariri, a parliamentarian and leader of the Future Party. Jumblatt is head of the Progressive Socialist Party and leader of the Lebanese Druze community, which comprises roughly 10% of the population and controls 15 of 128 parliamentary seats. But his role in Lebanon today - and his moral authority - far exceeds his Druze constituency. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
The State Department has announced that the U.S. would establish full diplomatic relations with Libya and remove it from the terror list. The decision is a mistake because the Libyan government has suspended but not renounced terrorism to achieve political gains. The State Department's decision undermines U.S. credibility. Realists say the administration is sending a positive message to the Arab world that it will reward good behavior in the war on terror. What despots hear, though, is that lip-service will obviate the need to reform or respect human rights. The writer is a Libyan-American activist whose brother, Fathi Eljahmi, is imprisoned in Libya for speaking out in favor of political reform. (Wall Street Journal, 18May06)
The total funds the Arab League has been able to collect for the Palestinian people do not surpass the paltry sum of $70 million, $50 million of which was from Qatar alone. Is this all that the entire Arab world can offer the Palestinians at this moment of crisis? An additional scandal is that the Arab League is incapable of delivering this meager sum to the Palestinians. At the Arab Summit financial allotments that each Arab state was supposed to pay to the Palestinian people were determined. These allotments were intended to be obligatory. (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
In Saudi Arabia almost all of the Islamic historical sites are gone. In 1803, an army led by the sons of Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab (the founder of Wahhabism) and Muhammad ibn Saud occupied the holy city of Mecca where they executed a campaign of destruction in many sacred places and leveled all the existing domes, even those built over the well of Zamzam. In 1998 the grave of Amina bint Wahb, the Prophet's mother, was bulldozed in Abwa and gasoline was poured on it. The mosque and tomb of Sayyid Imam al-Uraidhi ibn Ja'far al-Sadiq, four miles from the Prophet's Mosque, was destroyed by dynamite and flattened on August 13, 2002. Imam al-Uraidhi is ninth in line from the Prophet. Dar al-Arqam, the first school in Islam where the Prophet taught, has also been demolished. The authorities plan to demolish the house of Mawlid, where the Prophet was born, to make way for a car park and hotels. (Islamica Magazine)
Intellectual isolation is a widespread Arab phenomenon. According to the UN's 2003 Arab Human Development Report, five times more books are translated annually into Greek, a language spoken by just 11 million people, than into Arabic. No wonder the Arab world and Western-style modernity have collided with a shock. They are virtually strangers.
In recent decades the Arab world has been singularly cursed with bad ideas. First came Marxism and its offshoots; then the fascistic nationalism of Nasserism and Baathism; now, radical Islamism. Those ideologies have in common authoritarianism and the suppression of any true private sphere. Instead of withering as they have done in open competition with liberalism, they flourished in the Arab world's relative isolation.
"The Internet is a historical opportunity for Arab liberalism," says Pierre Akel, the Lebanese host of metransparent.com. "In the Arab world, much more than in the West, we can genuinely talk of a blog revolution." The Internet provides Arab liberals with the platform and anonymity they need. The UN report notes that in the Arab world - a region of 284 million - a book that sells 5,000 copies qualifies as a best-seller. The Internet, in contrast, makes possible worldwide, instant distribution, at a nearly negligible cost. In the Arab world, the Enlightenment is going online. (National Journal/Reason)
The Israeli Embassy in China celebrated its 58th Independence Day by adopting the Xiaoliugezhuang village in the Beijing suburbs. According to Ambassador Yehoyada Haim, Israel will introduce advanced methods and technologies in agriculture, health, education, and community culture. Two advanced greenhouses designed for the village have a retractable roof, a modern irrigation system, and high-quality vegetables. Israeli agricultural experts also installed modern pressurized drip irrigation systems in 20 local greenhouses. Local farmers also received 25,000 quality seeds from Israel, along with training and professional consultation. Six mobile digital milking machines and data collection software were installed at a dairy farm to increase productivity.
In the village clinic, which serves 5,000 residents, the Israeli Embassy supplied medical equipment including an ultrasound machine. The Embassy has also helped a regional primary school by establishing a library and a playground, and offered books, computers, and tracksuits for children. In a mural painting on the school's gate, Israeli painter Rami Meiri and the school children jointly painted their dreams: an Israeli girl and a Chinese girl walking together up some stairs. Behind them are green forests, lawns, and the Chinese words "Love from Israel." (Xinhua/East Day-China)
See also Members of the Tribe Thriving in China - Amiram Barkat
"There are at least 3,000 Jews now living permanently in Beijing alone," says Dr. Avrum Ehrlich, a professor at the Center for Judaic and Inter-Religious Studies at the University of Shandong. There has been a continuous Jewish presence in China during the last 200 years, starting with Sephardi merchants who arrived there along with the British, and continuing with Russian Jews who settled in Harbin (one of whom was Ehud Olmert's grandfather). At least eight of China's 300 universities are now offering courses in Jewish studies. Ehrlich estimates about 100 students nationwide study Hebrew each year. He says the Chinese see studying the Jews as essential to understanding the underpinnings of Western thinking. (Ha'aretz)
The horror experienced by Jewish and anti-Nazi outcasts shipped to the Australian Outback by the British Government during the war has been documented in "Friendly Enemy Alien," a new film that highlights the darker side of Britain's fight against Nazi Germany. The men, mainly scientists, academics, and artists who had fled to Britain from Nazi Austria and Germany at the outbreak of the war, were considered a security threat after the fall of France. On the orders of Winston Churchill, the 2,500 internees were dispatched from Liverpool in July 1940 and told they were bound for Canada.
Their arrival in Australia - after a 57-day journey in appalling conditions - was seen as the greatest injection of talent to enter Australia on a single vessel. They were taken to a detention camp in the Outback, where they set up an impromptu university to pass the time. Among the passengers were Franz Stampfl, the athletics coach to the four-minute-mile runner Roger Bannister, Wolf Klaphake, the inventor of synthetic camphor, and the photographer Henry Talbot. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the men were reclassified as "friendly aliens," and hundreds were recruited into the Australian army. (Telegraph-UK)
Until recently, Romanian society has avoided any genuine confrontation with its own culpability for the murder of Jews in Romania and in Soviet territory under Romanian occupation. For decades Romanians have sought to negate their own role in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Jews. To the extent that the Holocaust in Romania was acknowledged, Romanians sought to blame it on others including even the victims themselves. In recent years, under international pressure, Romania agreed to convene an international commission of historians to investigate the facts of the Holocaust in Romania. The findings unequivocally indicate Romanian culpability: "Of all the allies of Nazi Germany, Romania bears responsibility for the deaths of more Jews than any country other than Germany itself." (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
The Iran Threat: Clear and Present Danger - Amnon Rubinstein (New York Sun)
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