Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
U.S. Intelligence Chief: Al-Qaeda Expanding Its Global Reach - Dafna Linzer and Walter Pincus (Washington Post)
- January 11, 2007
Issue of the Week:
Driving in Israel
Abbas Rejects Gunfire at Fatah Rally Amid Salvos - Mohammed Assadi (Reuters)
The Community Security Trust: On the Street, Standing Tall - Mary Wakefield (Telegraph-UK)
Conference of Radical Islamists Banned in Australia - Sarah Smiles (The Age-Australia)
Israel Sells Spike Anti-Tank Missiles to Spain (Middle East Newsline)
Israeli Firm Wins Belgian Arms Contract (Military and Aerospace Electronics)
Israel to Assist Sri Lanka in Emergency Medicine (Israel Today)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
U.S. troops launched two raids on Iranian targets in Irbil, a Kurdish city in northern Iraq, on Thursday, following through on President Bush's vow to confront and break up Tehran's networks inside Iraq. Six Iranians were detained, and vast amounts of documents and computer data were confiscated. The U.S. is trying to identify and detain top officials of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' al-Quds Brigade operating in Iraq. The al-Quds Brigade is active in arming, training, and funding militant movements, such as Lebanon's Hizbullah, throughout the Middle East.
While the public focus is on Iraq, the administration is now spending as much time on plans to contain Iran as on a strategy to end Iraq's violence, U.S. officials said. Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, said Thursday, "We will do all we need to do to defend our troops in Iraq by going after the entire network regardless of where those people come from." (Washington Post)
See also U.S. Forces Detain Six Iranian Envoys - Molly Hennessy-Fiske (Los Angeles Times)
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday: "We have to base our regional strategy on the substantially changed realities of the Middle East. This is a different Middle East. This Middle East is a Middle East in which there really is a new alignment of forces. On one side are reformers and responsible leaders who seek to advance their interests peacefully, politically, and diplomatically. On the other side are extremists of every sect and ethnicity who use violence to spread chaos, to undermine democratic governments, and to impose agendas of hatred and intolerance."
"On one side of that divide, the Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia and the other countries of the Gulf, Egypt, Jordan, the young democracies of Lebanon, of the Palestinian territory led by Mahmoud Abbas and in Iraq. But on the other side of that divide are Iran, Syria, and Hizbullah and Hamas. And I think we have to understand that that is a fundamental divide. Iran and Syria have made their choice and their choice is to destabilize, not to stabilize."
"And so with all respect to those who talk about engagement with Syria and Iran, I think we need to recognize that if Iran and Syria wish to play a stabilizing role for their own interests, then they will do so. If on the other hand, they intend to offer a stabilizing role because they believe that in our current situation in Iraq we are willing to pay a price, that's not diplomacy, that's extortion." (State Department)
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice departs Friday on another difficult sales mission: winning the support of Arabs for President Bush's plan to boost troops in Iraq and seeking momentum for a renewed push on Middle East peace. Analysts and administration officials acknowledged that the moment is not auspicious for any sort of breakthrough. Abbas is battling against Hamas, which won legislative elections a year ago and refuses to renounce its goal of eliminating Israel. Abbas has suggested he will call elections to end the political crisis, but there is no guarantee that he will win. "The moon, the sun and stars are not in auspicious alignment," said Aaron David Miller, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center and longtime peace negotiator. "With due respect to anyone who wants to deal with this, it has 'loser' written all over it." (Washington Post)
Fourteen members of a Carter Center advisory board quit Thursday in protest of Jimmy Carter's latest book. In a letter to Carter, the members of the Board of Councilors wrote that the former president had "clearly abandoned your historic role of broker, in favor of becoming an advocate for one side." (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
An anti-tank rocket was fired at the U.S. Embassy in Athens early Friday, striking the third floor at the front of the building but causing no injuries. A senior police official said the blast was an act of terrorism. (AP/Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
There is growing anxiety within the Israeli defense establishment regarding the stability of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's regime and the possibility that an Islamic takeover there could lead to war with Israel. The IDF's work plan for 2007 includes a section dedicated to "finding answers to counter Western military equipment in the region." High-ranking officers warned this week that while certain countries in the region might appear to be stable, they could easily collapse.
What is most troubling for Israel is that Egypt has built up a powerful and massive, Westernized military force. Egypt recently increased its defense expenditures by 30% and has ballistic missiles from North Korea and missile patrol boats from Germany, as well as F-16 combat jets, Abrams tanks, and Apache helicopters. Egypt has 450,000 regular troops as compared to Israel's tens of thousands. As long as Mubarak remains in power, a defense official said, Israel doesn't need to worry. "But the moment he falls and the Muslim Brotherhood takes over we could find ourselves facing a new front," he warned. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Mubarak: "Muslim Brotherhood Is Danger to Egyptian Security" - Roee Nahmias
In an interview with the Egyptian weekly al-Osboa Thursday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned against the establishment of a religious Islamic state in Egypt, and against the ascendance of the Muslim Brotherhood to power. "The Muslim Brotherhood is a danger to the security of Egypt because it is walking in a religious path....We support a secular country in which citizens can enjoy civil rights." (Ynet News)
Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket that landed in the western Negev Thursday night. (Jerusalem Post)
Last Thursday Hamas militants killed Sufian Abu Zeida's neighbor and fellow Fatah member Mohammed Gharib, head of Preventive Security in Gaza, in a raid on his home in Jabalya. The same force also blew up Abu Zeida's home. Abu Zeida, a senior Fatah official and former PA cabinet minister, said: "Mohammed Gharib had been my friend since childhood....The Hamas activists executed him with smiles, with pleasure. They laughed and joked among themselves and then shot him to death. Afterwards they tied up his nephew and held him for several hours, a boy of 16. At one point he asked for water. They returned a few minutes later with a suspicious-looking liquid and the boy understood that he shouldn't drink it. Then they poured it on his hands. Do you know what it was? Acid. Do you understand the depths of the hatred?"
G., a member of Gharib's family, joined one of the processions of unarmed civilians that were organized in an attempt to create a human barrier between the Hamas gunmen and the house. Then the gunmen opened fire at the marchers, wounding dozens. "Three of them pushed [Mohammed] Gharib into the wall and shot him in the legs, before our eyes....Three more came. They approached Gharib and shot him in the legs again....They took Thar, the teenaged nephew who used to escort him around, sat him next to his Uncle Mohammed, who was still conscious, and shot Thar dead."
"In the end they shot him in the head and the back and killed him," G. concluded. At that point, the other occupants of the house began to surrender as well. The gunmen waited for them outside, and each man who emerged was shot in the knees. (Ha'aretz)
In recent Hamas-Fatah clashes, children have been deliberately killed. Last month, the three small children of Fatah General Intelligence officer Baha Balusha were murdered while traveling to school in their father's car. Last week, Hamas attacked the home of a senior official in Fatah's Preventive Security Service, Mohammed Gharib. The officer begged the assailants to spare him and his young daughters; however, they killed him and four of his bodyguards, and seriously wounded his daughters.
A few months ago, the earth shook when Palestinian civilians were killed by the IDF's misguided artillery fire on Beit Hanun. Tempers ran high in the UN, and some in Israel demanded that an international commission of inquiry be established. When Palestinians kill Palestinian children - and not by accident - no criticism is heard. Perhaps the professional critics consider such incidents too minor. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
A squabble over construction of the first mosque in formerly communist East Berlin is becoming the latest flash point between Muslims intent on asserting a strong identity in Europe and Europeans increasingly fearful that their secular societies are threatened by Islamic fundamentalism. The fight also highlights a new willingness to confront Muslims emerging not only in Germany but across the continent. Spain and Italy have been the scene of similar attempts to block mosques. Mistrust of Islam, once the provenance of cranks, is becoming mainstream.
Opposition to the Berlin mosque comes not just from ultra-rightists, but from apolitical residents who see no reason why they should welcome a Muslim sect that preaches subservience of women and the supremacy of religious law. "Why should we be giving welcome to a group that hates German values and considers Christianity to be its enemy?" asked Joachim Swietlik, spokesman for the group opposed to the mosque. "Our concern isn't based on their skin color or their countries [of origin]. It's based on their contempt for the ideals of our liberal-democratic society." (Boston Globe)
See also Saudi Role in Boston Mosque Questioned - Charles A. Radin and Stephen Kurkjian
The Islamic Society of Boston acknowledged Tuesday receiving a $1 million loan from the Islamic Development Bank in late 2005 - principal owners of which are Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iran, and Egypt - to finance construction of the region's largest mosque. Jeffrey Robbins, a lawyer representing organizations and private citizens raising questions about the funding and leadership of the mosque project, said, "The role of the government of Saudi Arabia in funding Wahhabism and other forms of Islamic extremism in the U.S. and around the world is amply documented." (Boston Globe)
A recent tour of Arab capitals shows that Arab leaders appear resigned to a military showdown with the Islamic Republic of Iran and are preparing for it. Tehran has spent vast sums of money and energy to procure clients in the Sunni Islamist Hamas movement and leftist guerrilla groups. The Islamic Republic has launched a new program under which thousands of Palestinian "volunteers for martyrdom" are trained in Iran, Lebanon, and Syria to fight both Israel and the secular faction of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
One reason for Tehran's "increasing cockiness" is Ahmadinejad's success in convincing the Khomeinist leadership in Iran that the U.S. is in "strategic retreat." "The American Great Satan is wounded and bleeding," says Hassan Abbasi, Ahmadinejad's strategic advisor. "If we break Bush, no other American leader would have the heart to defy Islam," he says. Tehran started beating the drums of war over a year ago. If one listens carefully, one can now hear the response from the Arab side - in the form of faint drumbeats that are bound to get louder in the months ahead. (New York Post)
Even though Hossein Derakhshan cannot live in Iran at present, he is still an Iranian patriot. He despises Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is a friend of Israel, and thinks that Ahmadinejad's anti-Israeli policy is the leader's stupidest mistake. He's also an enthusiastic supporter of the Iranian nuclear program. The Canada-based Derakhshan, 31, is a journalist and a well-known blogger. Some 700,000 bloggers are active in Iran today. Even Ahmadinejad himself has started his own blog. Derakhshan was a guest at a conference this week at Ben-Gurion University and spoke during the session on "Blogging as a Realm of Opposition in the Middle East." Derakhshan's visit to Israel, his second within a year, had two purposes: to show his Iranian readers that Israel is not an enemy, and to explain to Israelis that the terrible image they have of Iran is distorted and without connection to reality.
Derakhshan says Ahmadinejad was elected on the basis of promises to improve the standard of living, but instead all he does is talk about Israel, Holocaust denial, and nuclear capabilities. Derakhshan is convinced that the Iranian public is either put off by these things or simply not interested in them. He says the Iranian public is not hostile toward Israel. "The Iranians remember that the Palestinians supported Saddam Hussein when he fought against Iran," he says. "Iran and Israel have a common interest: They live in a region controlled by Sunni Muslims." (Ha'aretz)
There are at least 64,000 madrassas in Bangladesh, most of which are beyond any form of governmental control or supervision. Funding for the madrassas comes from donations from local communities and international Islamic charities, such as the Saudi Arabia-based and immensely wealthy Rabitat Al Alam Al Islami. Moderate Muslims note that the Taliban was born in similar madrassas in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province and in Afghan refugee camps, where they promoted a new radical and extremely militant model for Islamic revolutions.
Islamist radicals are intolerant. They don't want anyone to raise a voice and say "enough to the increasing trend of spreading religious hatred and provoking people with false interpretations of the Koran." Islam surely does not forbid friendship between Muslims and non-Muslims. The author is a journalist on trial and facing the death penalty in Bangladesh for praising Jews and Christians, attempting to travel to Israel, and opposing Islamic militants. (New York Jewish Week)
The killing of women and girls by male relatives who think the females have brought shame to the family's honor is an atrocity that has plagued Turkey and other Islamic countries for generations. Thousands of women have died, been attacked or compelled to commit suicide in so-called honor killings.
In Turkey, the government has launched a major campaign against honor killings, at a level and with a breadth virtually unheard of in the Islamic world. Turkish imams have joined pop music stars and soccer celebrities to produce TV spots and billboard ads condemning all forms of violence against women, and the nation's top Islamic authority has declared honor killing a sin. Last year, jail sentences for men and boys who commit the crime were stiffened, and new provisions in the penal code make it harder for a court to reduce sentences.
In cities and towns with the highest honor killing rates, officials working with advocacy groups are holding town hall meetings and setting up rescue teams and hotlines for endangered women and girls. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the head of an Islamist-rooted party, went before the Organization of the Islamic Conference in November to condemn honor killings as a scourge that must be eradicated from Islamic societies. (Los Angeles Times)
Squeezing Iran - Editorial (Wall Street Journal, 12Jan07)
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