Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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January 1, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel Is the Only Middle East Ally for Americans (Angus Reid Global Monitor)
    According to a poll by Opinion Research Corporation released by CNN, 42 percent of American adults describe Israel as an ally of the U.S., while an additional 39% describe Israel as a "friendly" country.

Amnesty and Human Rights Watch Claims on Lebanon War Discredited (NGO Monitor)
    During the Israel-Hizbullah war in summer 2006, major NGOs claiming to promote human rights, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, published numerous reports condemning Israeli military actions.
    This NGO Monitor report compares those claims with the documented evidence presented in a report prepared by the Intelligence and Terrorism Center at the Israeli Center for Special Studies.

Guns Are the Preferred Toy for Many Palestinian Children on Muslim Holiday - Amin Abu Wardeh (Palestine News Network-PA)
    On the Muslim holiday of Eid Al Adha, that began on Saturday, children rush to the shops to purchase the gun they have had picked out for months.
    Omar from Nablus chose a plastic M16; his sister chose the same. Mohammed chose a Kalashnikov, designed to resemble the real thing.
    Yousef Assawalhi, a student at Nablus' An Najah University, said every young child carries a plastic weapon on the first day of Eid.

Surveillance System from Israel Protects American Water Supply - David Brinn (Israel21c)
    A major water authority based on the east coast of the U.S. has selected an Israeli-developed solution to safeguard the utility's multiple sites from hazardous threats and malicious activity.
    Magal Security Systems' DreamBox is a state-of-the-art, intelligent video, audio, and sensors management platform - all in one box.
    DreamBox includes intelligent video analysis, digital recording, security management, and seamless integration with other security technologies, such as radar-based sensors.
    Founded as a department of Israel Aircraft Industries, Magal is the leading manufacturer in the field of "outdoor perimeter protection" worldwide, with its products currently used in more than 70 countries.

Gazans Fear Radio Rhetoric May Cause War - Diaa Hadid and Ibrahim Barzak (AP/Washington Post)
    Hamas and Fatah militants in Gaza also pummeled each other over the airwaves with such epithets as "mercenary death squads," "child killers," and "Zionists."
    The stations' power to quickly rally their armed supporters in the streets has led to fears that the broadcasters could fan the flames into full-blown civil war.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Palestinians Mourn Saddam's Execution - Dalia Nammari
    Saddam Hussein was mourned by Palestinians Saturday as a generous patron who remained one of their staunchest allies. Palestinians in Bethlehem opened a "house of condolence," where dozens of people gathered to mourn the executed dictator. At a parade in his honor in Gaza, Palestinians displayed a poster with his image next to that of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. During the first Gulf War in 1991, Saddam attacked Israel with Scud missiles as Palestinians chanted: "Beloved Saddam, strike Tel Aviv." (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Palestinians on Saddam: We Lost a Leader - Ali Waked
    Pictures of the "butcher from Baghdad" were hung in many places in the West Bank and Gaza. Hamas spokesman Fauzi Barhoum condemned the execution as "a political assassination." (Ynet News)
  • Al-Qaeda No. 2 Berates Moderate Arabs - Omar Sinan
    Ayman al-Zawahri, deputy leader of al-Qaeda, accused moderate Arab leaders of being traitors for cooperating with the U.S. in a message posted on the Internet Saturday. He lashed out at Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah movement: "Those who had sold Palestine, the secular traitors, cannot be your brothers. Do not recognize their legitimacy....And don't sit with them,'' al-Zawahri said. He also denounced Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak: "I greet my brothers inside the prisons of Mubarak, the traitor.'' He praised the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, and urged Muslims in Somalia, Chechnya, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Algeria to keep on fighting the "infidels and crusaders.'' (AP/Guardian-UK)
        See also Zawahri: Abbas Has Gone Fat on Jews' Bribes
    "How is it possible for Mahmoud Abbas to be a brother of ours, or for Muhammad Dahlan to be a brother of ours, when they have grown fat on the bribes of the Jews and gifts of the Americans?" Zawahri said. (AP/Ynet News)
  • Tomb-Raiding Tradition Thriving in West Bank - Matthew Kalman
    At least two nights a week, Abu Moussa and a small group of men head into the Judean hills to practice the trade passed down from his father and grandfather before him - raiding ancient tombs for treasures. The ancient treasures buried in the biblical landscape have become a major source of income for many residents of the West Bank. Abu Moussa and his men roam the mountains and valleys around Wadi Haritun (Wadi Tekoa), which winds from the first-century palace of Herodion through the Judean Desert to the Dead Sea. The barren landscape is perforated with thousands of caves, many of them used as burial tombs dating to the Canaanite period about 3,000 years ago. (Boston Globe)
  • Amid Political Upheaval, Israeli Economy Stays Healthy - Greg Myre
    Despite a month-long war in Lebanon this summer, Israel's economy expanded by nearly 5 percent, the country's third straight year of strong growth. For Israelis, per capita gross domestic product has risen over the last six years from a little over $15,000 a year to around $18,000. At the same time, the Palestinian per capita GDP, which was about $1,800 annually in 2000, plummeted to $1,200 last year and continues to fall. Israel's inflation rate has been averaging less than 1 percent annually for the past five years. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinians Fire at Convoy of German Diplomats in West Bank
    A convoy of four German diplomatic vehicles was fired upon Friday evening by Palestinian militants northeast of Ramallah. No one was hurt, but one car was damaged. (DPA/Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues - Yaakov Katz
    Palestinians in Gaza fired nine Kassam rockets at the western Negev over the weekend, causing light damages to buildings in Gaza-belt communities. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Hits Kibbutz House - Mijal Grinberg
    A house on a kibbutz in the western Negev sustained a direct hit from a Kassam rocket Friday evening. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Crime and Punishment - Editorial
    There will be few, beyond the Ba'athist terrorists in Iraq, who will mourn Saddam's death. If ever a man deserved to hang, it was Saddam, brutal dictator and mass murderer. Perhaps the link between Saddam's criminality and his subsequent execution will help establish the principle that tyranny will be punished rather than appeased. (Sunday Times-UK)
  • King Saddam Meets His End - Barry Rubin
    Saddam was really a king. His intention was to pass down power to his son, to create a republican monarchy. This is what happened in Syria, where Hafez I left the throne to Bashar I.
        What is most important is how Saddam is interpreted. To many, the great majority that accepts radical Arab nationalism and even lots of Islamists, Saddam is basically a hero. He fought America; he fought Israel. If this is what prevails, then there is no hope for the Arabic-speaking world. For in that case, Saddam's mismanagement, wasteful wars, murder, torture, and intimidation are simply not important. And if these things do not matter, they will continue to be repeated and exalted. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Saddam Hussein, 1937-2006: A Dictator's Arc of Power Ends in Utter Ignominy - Joshua Partlow (Washington Post)
  • It's Not About Israel - David A. Harris
    British Prime Minister Tony Blair and outgoing UN Secretary General Kofi Annan have been among the most prominent of those viewing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the root cause of many of the Middle East's problems. True, genuine peace between Israel and the Palestinians would remove one of the long-standing conflicts in the Middle East. But to suggest that such a settlement would take the wind out of radical Islam's sails is unsupported by the facts.
        Even if Israel did not exist, would Iraq and Iran have chosen not to pursue an eight-year war that cost more than a million fatalities? Would Iraq have decided not to invade Kuwait in 1990? Would it have rethought its use of chemical weapons against both its own Kurdish population and Iran? Would Syria have refrained from slaughtering over 10,000 of its own citizens in Hama in 1982? Would it have relinquished its hold on Lebanon? Would Saudi Arabia have stopped exporting its Wahhabi model of Islam, with its rejection of non-Muslims as so-called infidels? Would al-Qaeda not have attacked the U.S. in 2001?
        In reality, the destabilizing factors in the Middle East run far deeper than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The sad truth is that it is political oppression, intellectual suffocation, and gender discrimination that explain, more than other factors, the chronic difficulties of the Middle East. The writer is executive director of the American Jewish Committee. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Deluded to the Last - Fouad Ajami (Sunday Times-UK)

    • Saddam Hussein was once, in the 1980s, an enforcer of the Sunni Arab order of power, its gendarme against the hurricane of the Iranian revolution from the east. He took up his sword against the "fire-worshipping" Persians, and gave himself the task of quarantining the revolutionary brigades of Ruhollah Khomeini.
    • Egypt had walked away from its pan-Arab burdens, and the perennial hunger of a thwarted culture for a would-be redeemer gave Saddam his moment in the sun. The role that had been Nasser's in the 1950s and 1960s was there for Saddam to claim.
    • He presented his dominion, and the terror at its heart, as a pan-Arab secular enterprise. But Arab nationalism had been, for decades, covert Sunni hegemony. In the most cruel of historical swindles, Saddam "Persianized" his Shi'ite countrymen, even though Shi'ism in Iraq was Arab through and through.
    • In those shameless protests in the Palestinian territories and in Jordan that have erupted in support of this terrible man, Saddam Hussein has held up a mirror for the Arabs. And the image in the mirror has never been pretty.
    • If it took a foreign war to bring about this justice, and to introduce into Arab politics the principle of political accountability, so be it.

      The writer is Majid Khadduri Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

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