Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Three Charged in 2005 London Transit Attacks - Jane Perlez (New York Times)
Teachers Drop the Holocaust to Avoid Offending Muslims - Laura Clark (Daily Mail-UK)
Ukrainian President Not Going to Israel (Kommersant-Russia)
Synagogue in Chicago Vandalized - Yaniv Salama-Scheer (Jerusalem Post)
Yemeni Jews Face Growing Sectarian Troubles - Ginny Hill (Christian Science Monitor)
Israelis Laud Alaska Sailor for 1947 Exodus Mission - Brandon Loomis (Anchorage Daily News)
Rise in Arab Volunteers for National Service - Yoav Stern (Ha'aretz)
Israeli Arabs Big Consumers of Matza - Yoav Stern (Ha'aretz)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Senior British diplomat Richard Makepeace, the British consul general in Jerusalem, met with Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya of Hamas in Gaza on Thursday to discuss the fate of kidnapped BBC correspondent Alan Johnston. It was the first meeting between a senior Hamas official and an official EU envoy since the new Palestinian unity government was formed in mid-March. The meeting was described by a British diplomat as having taken place on "humanitarian grounds" and not as a change of policy. (New York Times)
Along the southern stretches of Gaza City, in a stronghold surrounded by concrete barriers and patrolled by armed guards, a powerful clan has evolved into a force that the PA is afraid to confront. Palestinian officials suspect Mumtaz Dagmoush and his extended family of 15,000 of involvement in every major recent crisis in Gaza, from the capture of an Israeli soldier last summer to the unresolved kidnapping of a BBC correspondent last month. "If I try to arrest someone I will end up in a confrontation with the whole society," said Ali Sartawi, a member of Hamas and the PA's new justice minister. "An agreement with the families is very important for establishing law and order. They have to be partners. Confrontation is not an option."
This week Talat Dagmoush said his family is willing to cooperate with the new government only if it demonstrates that it's willing to crack down on all crime in Gaza, not just on one group. The Dagmoush alliance with Hamas crumbled in December when two family members were killed in a clash with Hamas militants. Since then, the clan has demanded that Hamas turn over 18 men who it says are responsible for the deaths. (McClatchy-Tribune)
Christians are fleeing Lebanon to escape political and economic crises and signs that radical Islam is on the rise in the country. According to a poll, nearly half of all Maronites, the largest Christian denomination in the country, said they were considering emigrating. More than 100,000 have submitted visa applications to foreign embassies. About 60,000 Christians have left since last summer's war between Israel and Hizbullah. "Lebanon has always been a bastion of religious tolerance, but now it is moving towards the model of Islamization seen in Iraq and Egypt," said Fr. Samir Samir, a Jesuit teacher of Islamic studies at Beirut's Universite' Saint-Joseph. (Sunday Telegraph-UK)
See also Hizbullah's Mix of Prayer and Politics - Alia Ibrahim (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Zakariya Zubeidi, a commander in Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades who is wanted by Israel for a series of terror attacks, took responsibility on Thursday for a bomb attack against Israeli soldiers in Jenin. He said his group would not heed calls by Mahmoud Abbas to halt attacks against the Israeli army. (Ynet News)
See also Fatah's Al-Aqsa Brigades Fire Rockets at Ashkelon and Sderot
The Al-Aqsa Brigades, the main military wing of Fatah, have announced their responsibility for launching a rocket at the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon on Thursday. The Brigades said in a statement that their launching operations will continue "in all areas of Palestine," referring to historic pre-1948 Palestine. In a separate incident, the Al-Aqsa Brigades also claimed responsibility for launching three rockets at the Israeli town of Sderot on Wednesday. (Maan News-PA)
PA security sources said 25 Palestinians were killed in Gaza last month in internal fighting. Another four were killed in the West Bank. "The Gaza Strip is full of thugs and gangsters who are responsible for the ongoing anarchy. Soon the Gaza Strip may be declared a dangerous zone, which means that all international organizations would have to leave," said Yasser Abed Rabbo, a close aide to Mahmoud Abbas. "Thousands of gunmen continue to roam the streets and the new government hasn't done anything to restore law and order. Every day you hear horror stories about people who are killed and wounded," said a human rights activist in Gaza City. He said at least 46 civilians had been kidnapped in Gaza in the past four weeks.
Hassan Khraisheh, deputy speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said that the commanders of the PA security forces knew where kidnapped BBC correspondent Alan Johnston was being held, but were doing nothing to release him. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Hamas, Fatah Clash in Gaza on Friday (Reuters)
Some of those involved in formulating policy in the face of the anticipated Iranian nuclear threat are convinced that a nuclear war can be won, a nuclear strike is survivable, and an active and optimistic society can be rebuilt. Such claims are generally based on game theory and war games that would result in a severe blow to the Israeli population, but one that we could live with.
Anyone wishing to adopt these optimistic scenarios should look at the estimates of the damage that a nuclear strike in the heart of Tel Aviv would wreak. They are based on a study by U.S. nuclear scientists who used data collected during nuclear testing in the U.S. If a single 100-kiloton bomb fell in greater Tel Aviv, out of 2.5 million residents, about 500,000 would be killed by the explosion and 1 million would be injured. It is easy to guess what would happen if several nuclear bombs were dropped. The ensuing radiation could not only double and triple the number of fatalities, but also render the affected areas uninhabitable for years. Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Yitzhak Yaakov was head of research and development in the Israel Defense Forces. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
The seizure of hostages is based on an ancient tradition first practiced by early Islamic conquerors. The Arab general Saad Abi Waqqas realized that Muslim fighters were awestruck by the Byzantine soldiers. He solved the problem by putting captured Byzantine soldiers on show to demonstrate that the "Infidel" were fragile men, not mythical giants.
The mullahs' first aim was to capture some Americans. Last September, they set a trap for a platoon of GIs from the 101st Airborne Division patrolling the Iraqi border with Iran. After an intense shooting match with the Iranian force sent to capture them, the Americans managed to flee to safety. So the British, whose rules of engagement prevent them from fighting Iranians even in self-defense, were chosen as the softer target.
The seizure of the British naval personnel is the latest episode in a low-intensity war that the Islamic Republic has waged against the West for almost three decades. In this war, Iran has killed hundreds of Western, especially American and French troops, in suicide attacks in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. More recently, its agents have killed at least 200 American troops and an unknown number of British soldiers in Iraq. (Times-UK)
Will the Security Council reward Tehran for taking hostages as a diversionary tactic - or turn up the heat? The message from the hostage incident: Sanctions are working. Tehran is squirming. The regime knows it has a lot to lose. You want to stop Iran from going nuclear? Dial up the pressure fast. (Chicago Tribune)
The satisfaction of a diplomatic challenge eventually handled with skill is soured by the string of psychological humiliations that Britain has suffered. First, there is the apparent incompetence of the Royal Navy in providing insufficient protection to lightly armed inflatables. Second, the seized personnel lost no time in admitting to having trespassed and in apologizing for their mistake. The old military practice of giving name, rank and number, and no more, has obviously been abandoned. Third, the denouement of this crisis showed Ahmadinejad in the most favorable of lights. (Telegraph-UK)
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected mayor of Teheran in 2003, although the turnout was only 12%. As mayor, he ordered the police to arrest any couples seen holding hands in the streets. One retired diplomat who served in Iran describes Ahmadinejad as nothing more than an "over-promoted municipal politician." All candidates standing in Iran's presidential contest must be vetted by the Council of Guardians, a powerful committee of hardline clerics. The Council barred reformers from standing in the 2005 presidential contest, giving Ahmadinejad an easy run.
Ahmadinejad knows little about the outside world and appears to glory in Iran's isolation and poverty. The rules of diplomacy, the history of Europe, even the Arab countries of the Middle East mean little to him. (Telegraph-UK)
Tehran's sinister hand is seen in all the key problems facing Israel, including Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas, and in the fostering of what Professor Amnon Rubinstein calls Israel's "sense of abandonment surrounded by a rising sea of Islamism." The Ahmadinejad phenomenon represents by common agreement an existential threat. It is radically altering the way Israel views its neighborhood.
One result has been the effective downgrading of the Palestinian issue. Officials welcome the latest U.S. peacemaking efforts. But they say ongoing, low-level conflict can be "managed" almost indefinitely. Similarly, Israel's relations with Arab governments, including Saudi Arabia, have reached a high in recent months, driven not by a developing affinity, but by shared fear of Iran. (Guardian-UK)
Three times Israeli forces entered Lebanon and fought on that country's soil, but never against its people. In the '70s it was Yasser Arafat and the PLO who built a country within a country and chose Lebanon to be the frontline in their war of terror against Israel. In the '80s, Syria came to Lebanon claiming an attempt to keep the peace and chose instead to keep the country. Of late it is Iran that has chosen to make Lebanon its sacrificial lamb, with Hizbullah the executioner. A whole generation of those living in northern Israel and southern Lebanon has grown up knowing the horrors of wars designed not in Beirut or Jerusalem but rather in Tehran, Damascus, and Gaza.
Tel Aviv and Beirut are like sister cities on the Mediterranean. They welcome visitors from across the world with rich cultures and a firm embrace of diversity, while working to give their guests and inhabitants a sense of normality shielded from the surrounding conflicts. In the Middle East the struggle has always been between those who wanted to spread freedom and democracy and those who feel threatened by it. For decades Islamic extremists have tried to destroy both Lebanon and Israel because our way of life offers an alternative to their dark and oppressive existence.
In Buenos Aires and Los Angeles, Lebanese and Israeli immigrants work and flourish together. Lebanese families send their children to Jewish schools and befriend Jewish neighbors. Lebanese businesses even employ young Israeli men and women as security advisers. My hope is that the coastal road between Haifa and Beirut will one day be reopened. My prayer is that we will end this vicious war, Israel's kidnapped sons will be returned to their families, and Lebanon will be returned to its people. The writer is the Atlanta-based Consul General of Israel to the southeastern U.S. (Charlotte Observer)
Egyptian-American writer Nonie Darwish, interviewed on Al-Arabiya TV on March 23, said: "We should begin to view the Palestinian Arab cause in a different manner. For 58 years we have been fighting Israel....Enough, we must resolve this problem, because it hinders the progress of the Arab peoples." "We must be just and grant the Jews security. There are five million of them, and we are 1.2 [billion] Muslims. What are we afraid of - five million Jews? We must welcome them, so they can live in our midst."
"We must stop the terrorism in Israel, and we must not encourage Hamas to say it wants to annihilate Israel. Ahmadinejad is not even an Arab - what does he have to do with Israel? Is he acting this way in order to unify his people?...We call upon the Arab countries to stop teaching hatred to the Arab children, and to stop teaching them to hate the Jews and the Christians." (MEMRI)
Factional fighting, political bickering and a failure to establish law and order have turned Gaza into a symbol of Palestinian shame and are pushing the Palestinian national movement toward collapse, according to prominent Palestinian intellectuals. "It is time that Palestinian leaders looked at their own weaknesses instead of blaming everything on Zionism, imperialism and other outside forces," said Rashid Khalidi, director of Columbia University's Middle East Institute. Raji Sourani, director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza, said, "officials with the mind-set of a banana republic are causing tremendous damage to the Palestinian cause." (Reuters)
The lack of credibility and professionalism reflected in the chapter on "Israel and the Occupied Territories" of the annual U.S. State Department report on human rights seriously undermines the credibility of the rest of the report. The main reason is the almost total reliance on allegations made by the large number of non-governmental organizations active in this conflict zone. Instead of doing their own research, the authors of this report parrot the claims of highly political NGOs. Groups such as Adalah, Mossawa, HaMoked, B'Tselem, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), and Human Rights Watch are the real authors of this chapter. With the exception of HRW, these NGOs are funded by European governments, radical church groups, and similar donors. (JTA)
Britain's Humiliation - and Europe's - Charles Krauthammer (Washington Post)
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