Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Police Confront Arab Rioters Friday on Temple Mount - Efrat Weiss (Ynet News)
Israel Weighs Webcast at Old City Dig - Marshall Thompson (AP/Guardian-UK)
- February 8, 2007
Issue of the Week:
Media Bias and Israel
Lebanon Warns of Threats Against UNIFIL (AP/International Herald Tribune)
Israel, U.S. Sign Homeland Security Pact - Rebecca Anna Stoil (Jerusalem Post)
Israeli Hospital Treats Palestinian Fighters - Joshua Mitnick (Washington Times)
Inside Jordan's War on Al-Qaeda - Ian Black (Guardian-UK)
Islamic Jihad Claims Multiple Rocket Launcher (Jerusalem Post)
Ten Killed in Ramallah Gas Station Blast (AP/Jerusalem Post)
Ties with Israel Possible, Says Iraqi Official - Eric Fingerhut (Washington Jewish Week)
Palestinian Refugees: The Longest-Running Reality Show - Sarah Kass (Jerusalem Post)
U.S. Fire Chiefs Visit Israel (Fire Chief)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
A power-sharing deal between the secular, U.S.-backed Palestinian leader and his Islamic militant rivals complicates an emerging U.S. effort to invigorate dormant peace prospects with Israel. The deal announced Thursday between warring Palestinian factions does not expressly commit the new government to conditions the U.S. has called essential first steps toward any political accommodation between Israel and the Palestinians. Officials were troubled at the prospect of a unified Palestinian government that will not renounce violence or recognize Israel. (AP/Washington Post)
See also State Department: New PA Government Must Meet International Demands - Hassan M. Fattah
Israel and international powers have said that they would lift their boycott of the Palestinian government only if it agreed to three conditions: recognize Israel, renounce violence against Israel, and abide by previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. The Mecca accord addresses only the last of those and does so rather imprecisely. In Washington, a State Department spokesman, Tom Casey, said, "The international community has made it clear that in order to be able to have a broader relationship with the Palestinian Authority government, that those principles are going to have to be met." (New York Times)
Speaking Thursday after agreement was announced in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, between Fatah and Hamas for a unity government, Israeli government spokeswoman Miri Eisin said: "Israel expects a new Palestinian government to respect and accept all three of the international community principles." (AP/International Herald Tribune)
See also Israel: Quartet Will Not Accept New PA Government - Rebecca Anna Stoil
Iranian influence over Hamas will preclude the Quartet from approving a Palestinian national unity government, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter predicted on Thursday. Dichter said that the talks in Mecca were "one of the main issues" he discussed this week in Washington. "We have found common ground between America and Israel that the creation of a unity government without accepting the three conditions of the Quartet is meaningless." (Jerusalem Post)
Israeli Public Security Minister Avi Dichter Thursday accused Egypt of failing to halt arms smuggling into Gaza, thus bolstering Hamas at the expense of the Palestinian leadership supported by the U.S. "There is no doubt that Egypt is not doing enough," Dichter said, asserting that "tens of tons" of explosives are being smuggled. "I am sure that if Egypt decides to block this flow of smuggling, they can do it, 100 percent....It is very easy to be done. It is a matter of determination," he said. (Washington Post)
Hizbullah demanded the return of a truck carrying munitions seized by Lebanese authorities on Thursday. Information Minister Ghazi Aridi said customs authorities had stopped a truck carrying weapons on the outskirts of Beirut. Hizbullah said the authorities had confiscated a "truck carrying munitions to the resistance." The Lebanese government is supposed to halt the flow of weapons to Hizbullah from abroad under a UN resolution. (Reuters)
The FBI's worst fears that hidden homegrown terrorist groups could take root in the U.S. were fanned in Los Angeles in the summer of 2005 when four young Muslim men were charged with conspiring "to levy war against the United States" via deadly attacks on military installations and synagogues in southern California. The men, who were discovered before they could carry out their alleged plans, belonged to what Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales called a "radical Islamic organization" named Jamiyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh (JIS), or Assembly of True Islam. But the FBI had only stumbled upon JIS. Numbers on a cellphone dropped during a gas-station holdup led local police to an apartment and a computer with documents that authorities said outlined a terrorism spree. None of the four - three U.S.-born citizens and one Pakistani immigrant - fit a terrorist profile.
Virtually all 56 FBI field offices and many local police departments have invited Muslim leaders to join multicultural advisory boards and to teach classes in the basics of Islam to agents and police. At community meetings, the FBI listens to Muslim complaints and asks for assistance in finding potential terrorists in their own communities. But many FBI officers have grown impatient with what they see as Muslim resistance. The Muslims are "in denial" over the threat in their midst, one senior officer said, adding: "All they say is 'There is no problem. Stop picking on us.'" (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Saudi Arabia promised $1 billion in aid to the Palestinians after they agreed to the formation of a unity government, a senior Hamas official said Thursday.
Hamas and Fatah agreed that the political platform of the unity government would not require Hamas to abide by previous agreements signed between the PLO and Israel, one of the three conditions the Quartet had set for granting the Hamas government legitimacy. Moreover, the Fatah-Hamas agreement does not require the unity government to explicitly recognize Israel's right to exist or Hamas to renounce violence, other Quartet requirements. Even if they are part of a unity government that accepts the Quartet principles, the U.S. government would continue to boycott Hamas ministers, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Jewish leaders Thursday.
Vice Premier Shimon Peres issued a statement saying "a united Palestinian government without a united policy in favor of peace doesn't solve any problem....The Palestinians don't only need to form a new government, they need to embark on a new path toward peace." (Jerusalem Post)
See also Shots of Joy in Gaza - Attila Somfalvi
The news of the Hamas-Fatah agreement in Mecca was received with reservation in the Palestinian Authority. Nonetheless, a few dozen gunmen, mainly from Hamas, fired shots of joy in the air in Gaza. "We want to believe that this is the real thing and that this agreement wasn't reached just to get the billions of dollars promised by the Saudis," said a Fatah activist in Jenin. (Ynet News)
PA Chairman Abbas wanted a national unity government agreement in Mecca to stave off a Palestinian civil war, even if it meant antagonizing Israel, the U.S. and the EU, according to Western diplomatic assessments. The widespread feeling in Jerusalem is that the U.S., along with Britain and Germany, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU, would remain adamant about the need for the three Quartet principles to be upheld, while Russia would push to recognize the unity government even if it did not fully meet the requirements.
According to Western diplomatic assessments, the Palestinians themselves have no illusions the unity agreement would satisfy the Quartet principles. However, there was a feeling among the Palestinians that this was the most that could be gotten from Hamas at the present time. Nobody expected that Hamas would change its fundamental positions. (Jerusalem Post)
The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) accepted on Thursday Israel's version of the events that concluded in an exchange of fire between the Israel Defense Forces and the Lebanese Army at the border on Wednesday. UNIFIL patrolled the area around Israel's and Lebanon's shared border, photographed the site, and concluded that IDF troops operated entirely within Israeli territory. (Ha'aretz)
See also IDF: Border Clash Seen as Isolated Incident - Yaakov Katz and Herb Keinon
Deputy Northern Command chief Brig.-Gen. Alon Friedman said Thursday that Hizbullah did not appear like it was ready to attack Israel and that the border incident Wednesday seemed to be an isolated incident. Friedman said that all of the parties involved understood that the Lebanese army had made a mistake opening fire at Israel. Sources in the Prime Minister's Office said that all of the IDF's activity Wednesday took place within Israel's recognized border. "Everything was done in cooperation with the UNIFIL forces," one source said. (Jerusalem Post)
The most recent wave of killings in Gaza was sparked by a suspicion: Hamas feared that containers Israel allowed to enter Gaza held weapons for Abbas' Presidential Guard. They fired on the trucks, killing four members of the Guard, and Gaza once again entered a lethal whirlpool: 30 dead and more than 200 wounded. No rifle or bullet was displayed for the TV cameras, which made it clear to everyone that Hamas propagandists either lied or relied on false information. The containers held only routine equipment. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
It remains to be seen whether Hamas is willing to join Fatah's leader, Mahmoud Abbas, in recognizing Israel. Before Europe and the U.S. provide further assistance, the government must acknowledge Israel's right to exist. That right is enshrined in UN Security Council Resolution 242, passed after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and repeatedly reaffirmed, calling for a "just and lasting peace in which every state in the area can live in security."
It isn't enough for Hamas to "respect" past agreements or to hint that it now embraces a document drawn up by Palestinian prisoners last summer that seemed to endorse a two-state solution. A Palestinian "unity" government that can't unite on this question will remain suspect in the eyes of some of the countries that can most help the Palestinian people. (Los Angeles Times)
There is plenty of enthusiasm for a diplomatic surge to solve Iraq. The Iraq Study Group, much of Congress, think-tankers and media pundits urge diplomacy as the way out. "Give diplomacy a chance," they say. "Talk to everybody, especially the bad guys, and we'll find common ground." Diplomacy cannot resolve Iraq's internal conflicts, though it may help lubricate a deal reached by Iraqis. Region-wide diplomacy can help over the long term, if based on a sound policy to re-establish American power in the Mideast, Gulf and worldwide. But diplomacy by itself rarely changes the facts on the ground, and right now, the facts appear to be a nonfunctioning central government, half the country sunk in civil/sectarian war, and Sunnis leaving Iraq in droves. Nor do the neighbors have the power to compel a settlement.
As for Arab-Israeli talks helping to settle Iraq - that's an illusion. Iraqi leaders don't care much about the Palestinians. They see them as past supporters of Saddam Hussein.
Iran is a politically divided and economically poor country; it is not a regional superpower. Most Iranians don't like their present political leaders and are open to the U.S. connection. Without giving up, or giving in on key security concerns, Washington can let the great majority of Iranians in and out of government see the benefits of better relations with the U.S., and allow that thought to settle in. As for Syria, it causes a lot of trouble in the region, but its leaders, with their own internal problems, also have demonstrated they can act on national self-interest.
Jumping into diplomacy without a careful weighing of underlying policy and power could strengthen the bargaining hands of the tyrannical regimes, confuse and unsettle friends, and put all the pressure for making concessions on the U.S. Mr. Abramowitz is a senior fellow of the Century Foundation. Mr. Gelb is president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. (Wall Street Journal, 9Feb07)
The champion of globalization is in fact a puritanical desert-nomad from the sands of Arabia who died in 1792, and the evidence was there in this week's Islamic panic front pages. Mohamed ibn Abd al-Wahhab had a dream. He dreamed of an Islam stripped down to a cold list of mechanical rules, strictly enforced, severely upheld. He ordered whippings and beheadings of Muslims to "purify" the faith. He smashed up and burned down the worship places of the softer, more mystical Muslims all around him. And - his smartest move - he cut a deal. He met the chief of the desert bandits who lived in nearby Najd - a man named Mohamed Saud - and offered him his allegiance, in return for enforcing his severe, new brand of Islam. The Saud ruling family and the Wahhabi doctrine have been locked in a stiff waltz ever since.
More than two centuries later, oil was discovered under the territory of these bandits, and billions of dollars began to soak into the kingdom. True to their ancestor's deal, the House of Saud used this black gold to promote the ideas of Wahhab across the world. By paying for thousands of schools, mosques and trained imams, they dispersed the reactionary preacher's ideas to every continent. Slowly, steadily, they are succeeding in eroding other, gentler forms of Islam. They are globalizing Wahhabism - and your petrol purchases are paying for it.
In Sweden, almost every Islamic school is either funded by the Saudis or seeking out their cash, according to the investigative program "Kaliber." In the U.S., 80% of imams are trained by the Saudis, and in France 70%. In Pakistan, there were 246 madrassas at the time of independence in 1945. Today, there are 6,607 - the majority using Saudi textbooks provided for free. (Independent-UK)
The Saudis have no special formula to end the killing among the Palestinian Arabs. Indeed, they have promoted, with their checkbook diplomacy, the fundamentalists in Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other groups for years. They have built scores of mosques and madrassas in the West Bank and Gaza to spread their fanatical Wahhabi creed and have actively undermined Palestinian Arab Christian political leaders and mayors in the West Bank. (New York Sun)
On January 14, 2007, one of the leading Jihadi-Salafi scholars, the Kuwaiti Sheikh Hamed bin Abdallah al-Ali, published "The Covenant of the Supreme Council of Jihad Groups," which was immediately circulated in Jihadi forums and received enthusiastic support. The document is the first of its kind since Osama bin Laden issued the declaration of the founding of the World Islamist Front against the Crusaders and the Jews in February 1998. The document is an official stamp marking the opening of the anti-Iranian and anti-Shi'a front alongside the traditional anti-"Crusader-Jewish" one. Al-Ali places the Iranian-Shi'a threat as the first of the two. The writer is Director of the Project for the Research of Islamist Movements (PRISM) at the GLORIA Center, IDC Herzliya. (Institute for Counter-Terrorism/IDC Herzliya)
On Feb. 1, a Chicago jury acquitted Muhammad Salah and Abdulhalim Ashqar of charges that they were involved in a racketeering conspiracy by financing and supporting Hamas terrorist activities in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Like the 2005 prosecution of Sami al-Arian and several other Palestinian Islamic Jihad supporters in Tampa, Florida, the case highlights the difficulty of prosecuting individuals for providing support to terrorist groups under the cover of humanitarian or political activity. Criminal prosecution is only one of several means available to counterterrorism officials seeking to disrupt terrorist networks. In this case, the trial was important more for its presumed deterrence of other U.S.-based financiers and facilitators than for its disruptive effect. The writer, who served as an expert witness in the Salah/Ashqar case, is director of the Washington Institute's Stein Program on Terrorism, Intelligence, and Policy. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
Israeli historian Benny Morris was cited by anti-Israel activist Norman Finkelstein as an "informed commentator" who agrees with Carter's apartheid comparison. In response, Morris said: "Israel is not an apartheid state - rather the opposite, it is easily the most democratic and politically egalitarian state in the Middle East, in which Arab Israelis enjoy far more freedom, better social services, etc. than in all the Arab states surrounding it. Indeed, Arab representatives in the Knesset, who continuously call for dismantling the Jewish state, support the Hizbullah, etc., enjoy more freedom than many Western democracies give their internal oppositions."
"As to the occupied territories, Israeli policy is fueled by security considerations rather than racism - and indeed the Arab population suffers as a result. But Gaza's and the West Bank's (Arab) population are not Israeli citizens and cannot expect to benefit from the same rights as Israeli citizens so long as the occupation or semi-occupation continues, which itself is a function of the continued state of war between the Hamas-led Palestinians and Israel." (CAMERA)
Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian lawyer and 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner whose relentless campaign against discrimination has enraged the mullahs for more than 25 years, is helping to collect the signatures of one million Iranian women on a petition protesting their lack of legal rights. The concept is simple and revolutionary, melding education, consciousness-raising and peaceful protest. Starting last year, women armed with petitions began to go to wherever other women gathered: schools, hair salons, doctors' offices and private homes. Whether they sign or not, every woman receives a leaflet explaining how Iran's interpretation of Islamic law denies women full rights. (New York Times)
During the riots about the Danish Mohammed cartoons in February 2006, the leading Iranian daily Hamashahri announced a Holocaust-cartoon competition. Many of the over two hundred cartoons selected from 1,100 entries were from non-Muslim countries. Holocaust inversion was a frequent theme. Most other main anti-Semitic motifs, such as demonization of the Jews, deicide, conspiracy theories of world domination, blood libel, infanticide, and zoomorphism, were represented. The genocidal attacks on Israel and the distortion of Holocaust history should be seen as part of Ahmadinejad's overall political agenda concerning the West and Israel. (See 11 Holocaust cartoons in this report.) (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Pro-Israel critics of the media, and particularly of CNN, should check out "The Glenn Beck Program" sometime to give their high blood pressure a respite. The baby-faced former Top 40 radio disc jockey says that if America doesn't support and protect Israel, "we will lose our only strategic ally in the Mideast and we will lose our souls." "Prior to 9/11 my view of the Mideast was basically, 'will this fighting never stop, and just solve it yourselves'," he explained during a recent interview. The World Trade Center tragedy forced him to think about why "so much hatred was generated toward the U.S., and I started to do my homework." He concluded that Israel is "our only real hope for sanity" in the Mideast, and "my gut tells me that Israel is one of the world's great hopes."
Beck visited Israel several years ago and was at a bomb shelter where gas masks and injection kits were being distributed in case of attack. He said that when he noticed that the signs were in Hebrew, English and Arabic, he wondered why, if Israelis really hated the Arabs, they would "hand out medicine to save Arab lives." "That experience really opened my eyes and showed me that Israel is the closest to America" in shared values, he said.
Beck thinks the media spin on the Mideast situation is "horribly out of whack" and biased against Israel. The only solution, which he says applies to the U.S. as well as Israel, is to "to do the right thing, be good and just continue to beat your head against the wall until the truth prevails." (New York Jewish Week)
Each year I teach a university seminar in Paris. This year I spoke to 60 French Jewish community activists and I am sorry to report that there is a state of high anxiety among many of our French compatriots - Jew and non-Jew. They have a feeling of foreboding for what they believe will come. During my presentation, a woman said to me, "You American Jews are 15 years behind us. Our universities are now filling with anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist professors (funded through Islamic sources) who bring attacks on Israel into the classroom regardless of what the course subject is. What are you doing in America to stop what has become the reality in our universities from happening to you?"
The fluctuating numbers of anti-Semitic incidents or physical assaults does not really portray the daily onslaught of the new anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic slant of the newspapers and magazines, and the media and intellectuals' demonizing of Israel. I hear more often from Jews there is no future for us in France. They look to Israel and the U.S. as havens when the time comes to go. (Jewish News Weekly of Northern California)
Hamas' International Strategy Works - Michael Rubin (American Enterprise Institute)
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