Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Was Wiping Israel Off the Map a Misquote? - Michael Rubin (National Review)
- June 21, 2007
Issue of the Week:
Chaos in Gaza
Israel Evacuates Wounded Palestinians from Gaza, Sends In Hundreds of Tons of Supplies (Jerusalem Post)
Conspiracy or Collapse in Gaza? - Dion Nissenbaum (McClatchy/Seattle Times)
Rival Palestinians Take Battle to TV Screens - Hossam Ezzedine (AFP/Yahoo)
Was It Really Dahlan's Fault? - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
Congratulations Hamas - Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed (Asharq Alawsat-UK)
Waiting Until It's Safe - Seth Gitell (New York Sun)
Running Guns to Gaza - Michael Slackman (New York Times)
Ortega's New Friends - Mary Anastasia O'Grady (Wall Street Journal, 18Jun07)
Turkey Detains 23 in Anti-Al-Qaeda Raid (Reuters)
Israel: A Hotbed of...Investment - Neal Sandler (Business Week)
25 of 36 New Judges Are Women - Greer Fay Cashman (Jerusalem Post)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
For much of the last week, Fatah gunmen in black masks have ruled the streets of Nablus, a city of 180,000 in the West Bank, abducting rivals, looting or burning their property, and intimidating elected officials inside the Hamas-run City Hall. Demoralized by Hamas' military defeat of their comrades in Gaza, the gunmen are sowing retribution across the West Bank. Most of the attacks have been carried out by the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a decentralized Fatah militia that is nominally loyal to Abbas but acts beyond his control. Like Hamas, it is branded by Israel and the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization.
In the last week, masked gunmen have arrested or kidnapped 120 Hamas activists across the West Bank. In Nablus, Fatah gunmen have burned or looted 12 businesses and dozens of offices of Hamas politicians and civic organizations, officials said. Ghassan Hamdan, a physician who directs the Nablus branch of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, said, "There is a sense here that things are out of control and anything can happen....Hamas has lost support because of what happened in Gaza, but people are disgusted with what Fatah is doing here." (Los Angeles Times)
The Lebanese army has halted its operations to flush out Islamist militants holed up in Nahr al-Bared for more than a month, but will continue besieging them until they surrender, Defense Minister Elias Murr said Thursday. He said "the army has destroyed all the Islamists' positions." He also said that a total of 76 soldiers had died since the battle broke out on May 20, and that another 150 had been wounded. (AFP/Yahoo)
New Jersey Thursday moved closer to barring investment of state pension funds in companies doing business in Iran as the Assembly voted 78-1 to approve the legislation. "Divesting our finances from entities associated with Iran will send a clear message in the universal language of money that New Jersey will have no part in Iran's pursuit of actions that would lead to Holocaust-like genocide and the complete destruction of a sovereign nation," said Assemblyman Neil Cohen, D-Union, citing Iranian threats to Israel. New Jersey recently divested $2.16 billion from 17 companies doing business in Sudan. (AP/Newsday)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Israel is expected to release withheld tax funds to the Palestinian Authority in time for a Middle East summit in Sharm el-Sheikh next Monday with Egypt, Jordan, and the PA. Israel is currently in control of about $400 million in Palestinian taxes, which have not been transferred to the PA as of yet due to Hamas' rise to power. However, following the establishment of a new emergency government headed by Salam Fayyad, the U.S. and Europe have resumed financial aid to the Palestinians, prompting Prime Minister Olmert to allow the flow of funds to the PA. The withheld tax funds will be transferred to the Palestinians in installments, through a mechanism that will ensure none of the funds reach terror organizations, or any groups associated with terror, including Hamas. (Ynet News)
Quiet returned to the streets of Gaza all at once this week. Gunmen (not members of Hamas) have disappeared from the streets, apparently due to a fear of the Hamas Executive Force. And now that Hamas has banned people from masking their faces, that phenomenon has also ceased. Hamas traffic cops dressed in civilian clothes now stand guard at intersections. At the same time, Iz a-Din al-Kassam, the Hamas military wing, is constantly searching the homes of suspects, collecting weapons of members of the Palestinian security services, and responding to the actions of the armed clans. The Durmush clan, which is holding BBC journalist Alan Johnston, is the last bastion of opposition to Hamas in Gaza.
The quiet can be attributed, at least in part, to the fear Hamas struck into residents' hearts last week. Testimony collected from the days of fighting indicates that Hamas imposed a methodical system of terror and scare tactics intended to deter, shock and frighten Fatah operatives and Gaza residents in general. Every Hamas patrol carried with it a laptop containing a list of Fatah operatives in Gaza, and an identity number and a star appeared next to each name. A red star meant the operative was to be executed and a blue one meant he was to be shot in the legs - a special, cruel tactic developed by Hamas, in which the shot is fired from the back of the knee so that the kneecap is shattered when the bullet exits the other side. A black star signaled arrest, and no star meant that the Fatah member was to be beaten and released.
Hamas also killed innocent Palestinians, with the intention of deterring the large clans. To overpower the Bakr clan from Shati, Hamas removed all the family members from their compound and lined them up against a wall. Militants selected a 14-year-old girl, two women aged 19 and 75, and two elderly men, and shot them to death in cold blood. (Ha'aretz)
See also Gaza Clan Chief Bargains with Hamas for BBC Reporter - Khaled Abu Toameh
Mumtaz Durmush, the head of the Gaza clan that has been holding BBC correspondent Alan Johnston for the past 100 days, is refusing to release the journalist for fear that Hamas will kill him and most of his clan members. Since last Saturday, sources said, dozens of Hamas militiamen have been surrounding the area where the Durmush clan lives in Gaza City's Sabra neighborhood. Hamas has warned that it will use force unless Johnston is freed by Monday. (Jerusalem Post)
About 150 Fatah supporters marched in central Ramallah in the West Bank on Thursday to express support for PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. "What are they celebrating, their defeat in Gaza?" asked Hisham Atiyeh, a 29-year-old shopkeeper. "The people here don't like Fatah because they are corrupt and because they have many thugs on the street." Atiyeh said he was "100 percent sure that if elections were held tomorrow morning in the West Bank, Hamas would win. I'm not a religious person, but I will certainly vote for Hamas, because I don't like what these Fatah guys are doing."
Asked if the resumed U.S. and EU financial aid could boost Fatah's standing, he said: "Fatah does not need money and weapons. It needs reforms and change. Fatah must do something good to convince the Palestinians that they are not corrupt and bad. Otherwise, the people will never support them." (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Mahmoud Abbas represents moderation and should be helped as he tries to demonstrate both authority and success in running his part of Palestine. But let's remember who Abbas is. He appears well intentioned, but he is afflicted with near-disastrous weaknesses. He controls little. His troops in Gaza simply collapsed against the greatly outnumbered forces of Hamas. His authority in the West Bank is far from universal. He does not even control the various factions within Fatah. But the greater liability is his character. He is weak and indecisive. When he was Yasser Arafat's deputy, Abbas was known to respond to being slapped down by his boss by simply disappearing for weeks in a sulk. During the battle for Gaza, he did not order his Fatah forces to return fire against the Hamas insurrection until the fight was essentially over. (Washington Post)
To appease Hamas now would be wrong and counterproductive. It would be wrong given what Hamas has just done. Hamas gunmen ransacked many Palestinian institutions in Gaza, took over crossing points, seized Palestine television, fired into hospitals, summarily executed some of their rivals, and even pushed some people out of windows. It would be counterproductive because it would undercut moderates. Why would Fatah support a two-state solution if a group that perpetrates terror attacks and received aid from Iran was being treated as a legitimate interlocutor? (International Herald Tribune)
Massive Western financial, diplomatic and even military support for Fatah has been for naught. Though Fatah has more men under arms in Gaza than Hamas, its corrupt leadership has not even been able to rally its own forces, let alone popular support. We are now seeing the results of two failed policies: turning a blind eye toward massive arms smuggling across the Egypt-Gaza border for almost two years; and propping up an utterly corrupt and unreformed Fatah as an alternative to Hamas, rather than linking international support to real steps toward peace, democratization and state-building.
Fatah is despised and discredited in the West Bank as much as it is in Gaza, but Hamas does not yet have sufficient power in the West Bank to challenge Hamas. The Quartet now has the opportunity to hold Hamas fully accountable in Gaza, Fatah fully accountable in the West Bank, and Egypt fully accountable for policing its border.
The international community failed to hold its favorite Palestinian leaders accountable for fear that worse ones would take over. This has led precisely to the outcome it sought to avoid. The alternative is a policy that does not support the search for a Palestinian ally to support at all costs, but holds all factions to basic standards of legitimacy, governance and movement toward peace. (Jerusalem Post)
Neither Egypt nor Israel want the responsibility over Gaza, but all are failing to ask a simple question: Egypt is after all an Arab country, the Palestinians' elder sister, which connects them to the Arab world historically. In Gaza, Arabic is spoken with an Egyptian accent. Why then, after full Israeli disengagement, should the burden fall on the shoulders of Israel, the Palestinians' enemy, of all countries?
Hamas' Gaza now presents an opportunity to fix our failure to fully disengage from there. Israel is continuing to supply water, gas, and fuel. If there's disengagement, let it be full. So please, let them fend for themselves or with their great Arab sister Egypt. If we retake responsibility over this Palestinian area, which is controlled by global radicalism, the entire painful episode of disengagement would have been wasted.
Egypt should have no doubt that the terror regime in Gaza will impact the entire Sinai Peninsula, and ultimately Cairo as well. The Egyptians must understand that there are no more excuses and that now they are obliged to act: Prevent arms from flowing into Gaza, while entering the Strip and getting increasingly involved, first and foremost for their benefit of their own regime. (Ynet News)
The best that can be said about the rush by the U.S. and EU to pour in aid to the new government of Mahmoud Abbas is that it is an overdue move to strengthen moderate Palestinians, such as they are. It brings a sense of urgency to the task of trying to prevent Hamas, dominant in Gaza, from radicalizing the West Bank and ousting Fatah from there as well. In March I spoke to Hamas officials in the West Bank who laid out plans for radicalizing the territory and prying it away from its traditional support for Fatah. One tool was to set up new schools and offer scholarships to poor families, they said, reckoning that communities would appreciate and come to rely on Hamas' ability to deliver services, more than the chaotic and corruption-prone Fatah.
Sheikh Salah al-Arouri, recently let out of an Israeli jail after 15 years for helping to set up Hamas' armed wing, said the radical Islamist group now faced a tricky tactical problem because most Palestinians would settle for peace. For the West to lift the embargo on aid "is the most dangerous thing for us," he said. "People start eating, the government will start up services...and the political situation is put aside." That would "shift the Palestinian cause from one of nationalistic freedom to one of the circumstances of living," he said, with disgust. (Times-UK)
It now looks as though there will be a one-state solution after all - Israel, alongside two failed states, both Palestinian, and fighting each other. The persistent refusal of the Palestinian Authority, first under Arafat, then under Abbas, to disarm all militias and dismantle all terror networks yielded the outcome all predicted. Hamas' takeover in Gaza has created a small Islamic state on the shores of the Mediterranean, next door to Israel and to Egypt. Helped by Iran and Syria, Hamas has now opened a southern front in their war against Israel, but in the process, it has made Palestine as a state even less viable than before.
Now, Hamastan needs to conquer the West Bank to make itself the credible and legitimate champion of the Palestinian struggle. Meanwhile, Fatahland will try to regain its lost territory of Gaza before it can even begin to negotiate credibly with Israel. An endless war will further contribute to Palestine's demise. (Guardian-UK)
Since President Bush laid out his "vision" for a two-state solution, Israel has frozen expansion of Jewish communities beyond the armistice lines of 1949 (a major Palestinian demand). As Caroline Glick wrote in the Jerusalem Post, "Israel expelled all Israeli residents of Gaza and northern Samaria in order to render the areas Jew-free to the Palestinians." What was the Palestinian response to Israel's construction halt? Did they suddenly embrace the two-state solution of peace and harmony with Israel? No. The Palestinians held elections in January 2006 and instead of picking leaders to make peace with Israel, they overwhelmingly voted in members of Hamas to head the Palestinian Authority. A flood tide of terrorists and arms subsequently flowed into Gaza. (Washington Times)
The 411-2 vote by the U.S. House of Representatives to implore the UN Security Council to charge Iranian President Ahmadinejad with violating the 1948 Genocide Convention represents a significant milestone in the campaign to use the instruments of international law against Teheran. The legislation makes a legal determination that Ahmadinejad has engaged in "incitement to commit genocide" through his call that Israel be "wiped off the map."
The effort to divest from companies operating in Sudan due to the Darfur genocide is extremely important, but it should be broadened to divest from genocide, as a principle, wherever it has occurred. The legal determination that Ahmadinejad is indeed violating the Genocide Convention, through his repeated acts of incitement, should now be used to create a global alliance for punishing those who engaged in genocide in the past as well as those declaring their intent to carry it out in the future. (Jerusalem Post)
In recent days, some have suggested that Hizbullah intends to do in Lebanon what Hamas did in Gaza. A statement on Sunday by Hizbullah's Nabil Qaouk could be read as notification that the party might defend what he termed "Lebanon's unity" by force - shorthand for a military coup. Qaouk's warning that foreign observers should not deploy on the Lebanese-Syrian border, his describing such a project as "Israeli," his presumption that he had the right to impose a new "red line" on the state, all suggest a new mood in Hizbullah, one that is dangerous.
Hizbullah's attitude is only convincingly explained in the framework of Iran and Syria implementing a project to reclaim Lebanon, but more importantly perhaps to eliminate international, particularly Western, involvement in the Levant. After having won in Gaza, Tehran and Damascus are now pushing forward in South Lebanon. Their joint objective appears to be to remove the Siniora government, undermine UN Security Council Resolution 1701, and create a situation where the international community would have to accept a Syrian return to Lebanon, which would, by extension, scuttle the Hariri tribunal.
Some UN members with troops in south Lebanon have to stop trying to cut deals with Damascus to protect their own troops. Efforts to offer Syria "incentives" miss the point that Syria intends to win back, with Iran, the whole Lebanese pot once international forces are intimidated. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
Iran is in the midst of a sweeping crackdown that both Iranians and U.S. analysts see as an attempt to steer the oil-rich theocracy back to the rigid strictures of the 1979 revolution. The campaign includes arrests, interrogations, intimidation and harassment of thousands of Iranians as well as purges of academics and new censorship codes for the media. The move has quashed or forced underground many independent civil society groups, silenced protests over issues including women's rights and pay rates, and quelled academic debate. "The current crackdown is a way to instill fear in the population in order to discourage them from future political agitation as the economic situation begins to deteriorate," said Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Ahmadinejad's economic policies have backfired, triggering 20% inflation over the past year, increased poverty and a 25% rise in the price of gas last month. More than 50 of the country's leading economists wrote an open letter to Ahmadinejad warning that he is ignoring basic economics and endangering the country's future. (Washington Post)
The UN Human Rights Council concluded its year-long session last week by singling out one member state - Israel - for permanent indictment on the council agenda. This discriminatory treatment is not only prejudicial to Israel; it is a breach of the UN charter's foundational principle of the equality "of nations, large and small." Council sessions of the past year reflected the systematic singling-out of a UN member state for selective and discriminatory treatment, while granting the major violators exculpatory immunity.
There have been nine resolutions condemning one member state only (Israel), but no condemnation of the genocide in Darfur, or of the public and direct incitement to genocide and massive human-rights violations in Ahmadinejad's Iran. The council's discourse is an endless drumbeat of indictment and incitement against Israel, contrary to the council's founding principles and procedures. The tragedy in all of this is not only that it fuels the ongoing delegitimization, if not the demonization, of a member state of the UN, casting Israel as the collective, targeted Jew among the nations. Rather, the tragedy is that all of this takes place under the protective cover of the UN, with the presumed imprimatur of international law, and the halo banner of human rights. (Globe and Mail-Canada)
It is almost politically incorrect, practically heresy, to claim today that the Golan is not Syrian in the least nor a deposit or bargaining chip for negotiations. The Golan is a lot more "Israeli" than "Syrian." It has been Israeli for 40 years, double the time it was in Syria's hands. It has been under Israeli sovereignty for 26 years. It has neither a foreign people nor a demographic problem. The Golan has become a part of Israeli life. It is the most frequently visited part of the country, dotted with dozens of Jewish communities, agricultural fields, industrial areas and tourist resorts, nature reserves and wild landscape.
Whoever talks about "returning" the Golan to Syria is being misleading. The Golan was placed under a French mandate in the colonialist agreement that divided the region; Syria won independence only in 1946. In the brief period it was in the Golan - 0.5 percent of its territory - Syria turned the region into a launching pad for its attempt to conquer and decimate Israel. The Syrian army shelled the Israeli communities along the border, attacked the Lake Kinneret fishermen, tried to divert the course of its waters and made life "down below" a Sderot-style hell. The Golan was conquered in a justified defensive war. We paid for it with blood. The Syrians lost it fair and square.
In previous eras as well, the Golan was not considered a part of Syria, and it is replete with findings of Jewish heroism and sovereignty, starting with the reign of Solomon, through the Second Temple period, the heroic battle of the city of Gamla and the Talmudic period. It was no foreign land that we conquered. The results of the Second Lebanon War greatly increased the Syrian appetite and led it to threaten a war against Israel unless the Golan is handed over. This is exactly the time to tell the Israeli story of the Golan Heights. (Ha'aretz)
In recent years there has been a change for the better in Israel's portrayal in the Spanish media. Now at least a few columnists expose Palestinian terrorism, attack anti-Semitism, and outline the problematic context in which Israel has to operate. Both the terror attacks in Madrid on 11 March 2004 that killed about two hundred, and the Israeli disengagement in 2005 have changed Israel's image.
In general, the Spanish media remain biased against Israel, often portraying the Israeli government in a harsh light. The correspondents of Spanish papers are based in Jerusalem and spend a large part of their time with the Palestinians. One point of light is former prime minister Jose Maria Aznar. Through FAES, the think tank he heads, he promotes Israel joining NATO. Raphael Bardaji is head of International Policy Studies at the Foundation for Social Analysis and Study (FAES) in Madrid and is a personal adviser to FAES head Jose Maria Aznar. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Ze'ev Schiff, 74, who died Tuesday, was widely known as "the dean of Israeli defense correspondents" - an accolade he fully deserved. Schiff worked as the military correspondent for Ha'aretz since 1960. He epitomized old-school professionalism, checking facts carefully and avoiding flashy headlines without substance. As officials came and went, Schiff kept track of people and policies, becoming Israel's institutional memory in the critical areas of defense, security and foreign affairs. He eschewed the simplistic ideological divisions between Left and Right or hawks and doves that have distorted so much of what passes for journalism in Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Remembering Ze'ev Schiff - Amir Oren and Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
Arabs Losing Faith in "the Cause" - Youssef Ibrahim (New York Sun)
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