Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Hamas Aims to Control West Bank - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
Carter Urges Iowa Voters Not to Back "Knee-Jerk Supporters" of Israel (AP/Sioux City Journal-Iowa)
- April 19, 2007
Issue of the Week:
Israel Independence Day
The Limitations of Standoff Firepower-Based Operations - Ron Tira (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
Israeli Lawmakers to Attend Conference in Indonesia (DPA/Khaleej Times-Dubai)
Defying a Clan Code of Silence on Unspeakable Crimes - Isabel Kershner (New York Times)
Iran to Clamp Down on "Women Dressed Like Models" (Middle East Times-Egypt)
Jewish Life in Independent Ukraine: Fifteen Years After the Soviet Collapse (Part 1) - Betsy Gidwitz (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Distortions of Memory - Manfred Gerstenfeld (Jerusalem Post)
Birthright Breaks Record (JTA)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni urged the Arab League on Thursday to agree to wider talks instead of setting conditions. She said Israel was prepared to meet with an Arab League working group composed of Egypt and Jordan, but wanted other Arab states that do not already have full relations with Israel to take part from the start. "Israel, on its part, is open to dialogue," Livni said during a closed-door meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates. But she said the Arab League should show "some flexibility" in order to "reinforce the positive steps that Israel takes."
At a meeting on Wednesday in Cairo, the Arab League named Egypt and Jordan as the members of a working group which will contact Israel over an Arab peace plan. The Arab League said the working group could be expanded at a later stage if the Israeli government met a list of Arab demands. "The fact today that the Arab League is apparently sending a delegation to Israel, this is of importance," said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev. (Reuters)
Theresa Walsh was one of the last people to see Liviu Librescu alive. "He looked horrified, almost as if he knew what was going to happen," said the Virginia Tech math major, who had stepped into the hallway from a second-floor classroom across from his when she heard gunshots.
"A lot of us would not be around today were it not for our colleagues warning us and giving us more time," said Ishwar Puri, chairman of the Engineering Science and Mechanics department, where Librescu was a professor, who said students in Librescu's second-floor classroom jumped from windows as Librescu barred the door. Librescu was hit at least five times and died on the classroom floor, according to Edgar Gluck, a Brooklyn rabbi who flew to Virginia to help prepare Librescu's body for burial. (Newsday)
See also Virginia Professor Laid to Rest in Israel - Haviv Rettig
The funeral of slain Virginia Tech Professor Liviu Librescu took place in Ra'anana on Friday morning. (Jerusalem Post)
Syrians, or rather a fraction of them if predictions are correct, will go to the polls on Sunday to choose from almost 10,000 government-vetted candidates for 250 parliamentary seats, of which 170 are reserved for the ruling Ba'ath party and its allies. The other 80 go to independents, including many rich businessmen and industrialists who in practice do not dare diverge from the government line. It all seems part of a consolidation of power in the hands of President Bashar al-Assad. (Financial Times-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Two months ago, security forces arrested Omar Ahmed Abu al-Rob, 25, an Islamic Jihad terrorist, in Bat Yam, south of Tel Aviv, after he ditched his explosive device in a dumpster. An indictment filed against him this week revealed that the would-be bomber attempted to activate the device on a bus from Jaffa to Rishon Lezion, but it failed to explode because he had apparently inserted the batteries incorrectly. The investigation revealed that it was sheer luck which prevented the death and injury of dozens of Israelis. The terrorist had made his way from Jenin in the West Bank to Tel Aviv via Jerusalem, taking advantage of breaches in the separation fence. (Ynet News)
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said during his visit to Israel that Washington has decided to sell Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) bombs to Saudi Arabia. The Israel Air Force has purchased the high-accuracy JDAMs, and used them against Hizbullah targets during the Second Lebanon War. Israel argues that the presence of such weapons in Arab countries undermines Washington's pledge that Israel will enjoy a qualitative edge in the region.
The main component of the JDAM is not the bomb itself, but rather its tail kit, which can also be installed on an ordinary bomb. The target location is fed to the system by satellite and a computer determines the best moment for the pilot to release the bomb. Pilots say this type of bomb "can be aimed through a window." (Ha'aretz)
See also U.S. Reassures Israel about Arms Sale to Saudis - David S. Cloud
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday that he had reassured Israel that a planned major American arms sale to Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries would not threaten Israel's military superiority and was necessary to counter a threat from Iran. Gates emphasized that Iran posed a greater threat to Israel than did the Arab countries that were to receive the sophisticated weaponry. (New York Times)
The foreign press corps has abandoned Gaza in the five weeks since the kidnapping of BBC reporter Alan Johnston, leading to a significant decrease in coverage. A statement on Thursday by the Foreign Press Association said that "effectively, Gaza has become a 'no-go' zone for our members." Simon McGregor-Wood, bureau chief for ABC and FPA chairman, acknowledged that "foreign press coverage from Gaza is almost gone." At Tuesday's FPA annual meeting, some members proposed threatening the PA with a boycott of all coverage of its affairs until it ensured journalists' safety. Most of the nongovernmental aid organizations have also dramatically reduced the number of their foreign personnel working in Gaza.
In the absence of foreign reporters, news from Gaza is coming almost exclusively from Palestinian stringers. "The people who use the stringers have to sift their material very carefully," says Jay Bushinsky, a veteran FPA member. "They have a mission and they don't give anything detrimental to their leadership." In its meeting on Tuesday, the FPA also condemned the decision by Britain's National Union of Journalists to boycott Israeli goods. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Given my dissident politics, I should be up in arms about the Israel lobby. Somehow, though, when I think of pernicious foreign lobbies with disproportionate sway over American politics, I can't see past Saudi Arabia and its royal house, led by King Abdullah. Ever since President Franklin D. Roosevelt met aboard ship in 1945 with King Ibn Saud, the special relationship with the desert kingdom has only grown stronger. The House of Saud is usually happy to sell us oil at a consistent and reasonable price. In exchange we arm the Saudis to the teeth and turn a blind eye to their medieval approach to crime and punishment.
Lately, King Abdullah has been making anti-American noises, calling the U.S. presence in Iraq an "illegitimate foreign occupation." But like the Saudis' paper-thin devotion to the Palestinian cause, this is just so much realpolitik. Today, as the Shi'ism scholar Amal Saad-Ghorayeb told Mohamad Bazzi of Newsday, "the Saudis are being more autonomous, but it's a very contrived sense of autonomy" designed "to give [them] more political cover so they can rally Arab support against [Shi'ite] Iran." The writer is the publisher of Harper's Magazine. (Harper's)
See also Saudi Hypocrisy - Editorial
Contrary to its solemn undertakings, Saudi Arabia has not dropped its anti-Israel trade boycott. The Saudi deception is quite overt, yet no government had seen fit to take the world's largest oil exporter to task for fear of offending it. Israel is invariably called upon by the international community to demonstrate goodwill to even the most overtly hostile neighbors via risky confidence-building measures. But why not apply a fraction of such pressure to the Arab world's most prosperous and powerful regime, one that can truly alter wider Arab attitudes to Israel? (Jerusalem Post)
See also Congressmen Blast Saudis for Continued Boycott - Michael Freund
Powerful U.S. congressmen have sharply criticized Saudi Arabia for breaking its pledge to drop the Arab League boycott of Israel. "Saudi Arabia's boycott of Israel never should have existed in the first place and they should end it immediately," said Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), a member of the House Foreign Relations Committee. Another member, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Cal.), said, "The Saudis made a commitment to end the boycott to then-U.S. trade representative Robert Portman, and I expect Saudi Arabia to live up to that promise." (Jerusalem Post)
There is a civil war between the Shi'ites and the Sunnis in Iraq, who have been in power for hundreds of years. Of late, a Shi'ite victory looks imminent. The turning point took place over a year ago after the Sunnis attacked the great mosque in Samara, killing hundreds of worshippers. In the wake of the attack, the Shi'ites mobilized all their forces. The outcome has been a gradual Shi'ite takeover of the capital and the Sunni neighborhoods lie mostly in ruins. The Sunnis have allowed al-Qaeda to operate in Iraq, which has only increased the level of violence. It is hard to escape the conclusion that if Arabs and Muslims can be so cruel to one another, imagine what they are capable of doing to others.
The lesson is not to rely on their promises and to maintain a very wide safety zone for defense purposes. If the Shi'ites strengthen their grip on Iraq, it will be the first time in modern Arab history that a Shi'ite regime rules an Arab country. Victory in Iraq will bring the power that comes with oil resources. Shi'ite leaders in Iraq told respected Middle East expert Fouad Ajami, a Shi'ite of Lebanese origin, that they plan to devote most of their energies to rehabilitating Iraq, and will have no taste for adventures outside the country, like Saddam.
A Shi'ite victory will also affect Israel's security. The growing Iranian influence in a Shi'ite-controlled Iraq could be detrimental to Israel, and the same holds true for a Shi'ite Iraqi pact with Hizbullah. Meanwhile, if an American pullout from Iraq is interpreted by the Arabs as a sign of American defeat, we can look forward to a radical Arab shift that will strengthen all the extremists around us. (Ha'aretz)
The decision of the National Union of Journalists to urge a boycott against Israel is a curious business. How seriously can one take the union's decision to urging the boycott of all Israeli goods in protest at that country's "savage pre-planned attack on Lebanon"? If it were press freedom in the Middle East that truly concerned delegates, Israel - which has a comparatively open and robust domestic press - would hardly be the obvious starting point. One might, for example, rather focus on Iran, Libya or Syria. If, on the other hand, the journalists' union prefers to busy itself with individual governments' foreign policies then, again, there is no shortage of unsavory regimes around the world which might merit some form of consumer boycott.
In a statement this week the union's general secretary, Jeremy Dear, pointedly said that it was open to union members to seek to overturn the decision. They would be well advised to do so. (Guardian-UK)
'What moderate Muslims?" is the near-inevitable retort to my stating that radical Islam is the problem and moderate Islam the solution. Moderate Muslims do exist. A just-published study from the RAND Corporation, Building Moderate Muslim Networks, methodically takes up and thinks through this concept.
They start with the argument that "structural reasons play a large part" in the rise of radical and dogmatic interpretations of Islam in recent years - one of those reasons being the Saudi government's generous funding over the last three decades for the export of the Wahhabi version of Islam. Saudi efforts have promoted "the growth of religious extremism throughout the Muslim world," permitting the Islamists to develop powerful intellectual, political and other networks. "This asymmetry in organization and resources explains why radicals, a small minority in almost all Muslim countries, have influence disproportionate to their numbers."
The RAND study promotes four partners: secularists, liberal Muslims, moderate traditionalists, and some Sufis. The study proposes de-emphasizing the Middle East, and particularly the Arab world, because this area "offers less fertile ground for moderate network and institution building than other regions of the Muslim world." (Jerusalem Post)
In Algeria, they're called heittists. Out of jobs and out of luck, they are the thousands of men who spend their days leaning against the wall. In 1962, the Algerian people brought 132 years of French occupation to an abrupt end. But in the 45 years since then, the liberators have become the oppressors. A tiny clique of 1.5 million people now monopolizes 90% of the wealth of the country. After coming to power, those who fought in the hills - and from exile - immediately declared Algeria to be an Islamic nation of Arab nationalism and socialism. It was not. They then eviscerated French-language education but failed to replace it with an Arabic equivalent. Within a decade, the whole school system had collapsed, graduating illiterates who can speak neither French nor Arabic.
Confident of its control, the ruling elite decided to experiment with the semblance of democracy in 1991. A somewhat free election was held, with the big winners being the "Islamic Salvation Front" - an offshoot of the genocidal Muslim Brotherhood movement. The ruling elite promptly canceled the election's results and banned the winning party. In the 16 years since, more than 100,000 Algerians have died in a civil war, shot by the army or chopped to pieces by jihadists with swords in the name of Allah. (New York Sun)
For a country painted by many as an international pariah, Syria's economy last year swelled by 5%. President Bashar Assad's relations with the governments of neighboring Turkey and Iraq have warmed. He has strengthened Syria's long-standing alliance with Iran, yet seems also to have reconciled with Saudi Arabia. The resuscitated Arab League peace plan of 2002 includes a demand that Syria be given back the Golan Heights, and there is talk within the newly-formed Arab Quartet of moderate states (Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE) that Syria should be included, partly to detach it from its ally, Iran.
Iraq bought some 400,000 tons of Syrian farm produce last year. Near Qamishli, a queue of Syrian trucks heading for Iraq stretches 30 km. The influx of a million Iraqi refugees has brought a boom in Syrian property, plus a surge in consumer demand. Large natural-gas fields lie just across the border in Iraq. The easiest export route for Iraqi oil is through Syrian ports. New discoveries in Syria of gas and oil - most recently, by British-based Gulfsands Petroleum - may slow the predicted decline in reserves. (The Economist)
See also The Political Economy of Syria Under Bashar Al-Assad - Nimrod Raphaeli (MEMRI)
On May 3, 1945 - in the worst friendly-fire incident in history - Britain's Royal Air Force killed more than 7,000 survivors of Nazi concentration camps who were crowded onto ships in Lubeck harbor, Germany - one day before the British accepted the surrender of all German forces in the region. In the closing weeks of World War II, thousands of prisoners from the Neuengamme concentration camp near Hamburg, the Mittelbau-Dora camp at Nordhausen, and the Stutthof camp near Danzig were marched to the German Baltic coast. Almost 10,000 camp survivors were crowded onto three ships: Cap Arcona, Thielbeck, and Athen. Although the final surrender was imminent, British Operational Order No. 73 for May 3 was to "destroy the concentration of enemy shipping in Lubeck Bay."
At 2:30 p.m. on May 3, at least 4,500 prisoners were aboard the Cap Arcona as the first attack began. Sixty-four rockets and 15 bombs hit the liner in two separate attacks. As the British strafed the stricken ship from the air, Nazi guards on shore fired on those who made it into the water. Only 350 prisoners survived. The Thielbeck - which had been flying a white flag - was packed with 2,800 prisoners. It sank in just 20 minutes, killing all but 50 of the prisoners.
Most who were familiar with the Cap Arcona disaster believed that the Nazis intended to sink the ships at sea to kill everyone on board. In this case, however, RAF Fighter Command did their killing for them. The RAF records of the disaster are sealed until 2045. (Jerusalem Post)
"It's a dream come true," a smiling Michael Levin tells the camera at his induction ceremony into the IDF more than two years ago. The scene is part of the newly released documentary "A Hero in Heaven," a poignant tribute to Levin, 22, an American-Israeli who was killed on August 1, 2006, by Hizbullah fire in the Lebanese village of Aita al-Shaab in the Second Lebanon War. He had been on a short furlough to visit his family in the U.S. when news of war broke, and he boarded a plane and returned to Israel. To obtain a copy of "A Hero in Heaven" or to contribute to the Michael Levin Memorial Fund to benefit soldiers without family in Israel, contact Harriet Levin at Harriet@aHeroInHeaven.com (Ha'aretz)
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights' Public Education Campaign to End Campus Anti-Semitism website reports that "anti-Semitic bigotry is no less morally deplorable when camouflaged as anti-Israelism or anti-Zionism." "Substantial evidence suggests that many university departments of Middle East studies provide one-sided, highly polemical academic presentations and some may repress legitimate debate concerning Israel." It also gives suggestions to students on how to react to anti-Semitic incidents.
The battle against anti-Israel sentiment on campus will be a long struggle and not an easy one, but recognizing that much of it is motivated by old-fashioned bigotry is part of a winning strategy for Israel's friends on campus and even for those who merely believe that no student in an American university should be discriminated against based on religion. (New York Sun)
More Arab students than ever are trying to get into one of the four accredited American universities in the Mideast - not to mention the branches of U.S. campuses that are sprouting like mushrooms. The American University in Cairo received 2,500 applications for the 1,000 places in its incoming class, 20% more than last year.
The universities offer encouraging evidence of why a mission to spread liberal and democratic values in the Middle East is not quixotic. U.S.-chartered or accredited universities are training the elite of countries such as Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, the Persian Gulf states and, soon, Iraq. They are teaching women equally with men; opening programs in Western-style journalism; offering cutting-edge courses in capitalism, science and politics; and providing a refuge for free intellectual and political debate. Together, the four American universities have more than 20,000 students, as well as more than 100,000 alumni. (Washington Post)
Lebanese sociologist Abdo Kahi has made a study of modern technology's impact on the larger Arab world. "The huge change happening in the Middle East today can be reduced to one sentence: New technology is an earthquake," said Kahi, founder of the Lebanese Center for Societal Studies at Notre Dame University-Louaize. "It is destroying the single most important attribute of governments in this region - the ability to control information. That era is dying. Now, we can all be our own ministers of information." (Toronto Star)
Approach Tehran with Sticks, Not Carrots - Dennis Ross
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