Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Syria Plans War of Attrition in the Golan Heights - Smadar Peri (Ynet News)
Terrorism Thrives with Saudi Support - Stephen Schwartz (Weekly Standard)
Iranian "Brain Drain" - Amir Taheri (New York Post)
West Bank's Own Slice of America - Martin Patience (BBC News)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Saudi Arabia has placed conditions on attending a U.S.-proposed Middle East peace conference as the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, attempts to drum up support for the initiative during a regional tour. The foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, said after talks with Rice in Jeddah Wednesday that his country favored a peace conference dealing with "the substantive matters of peace, the issues of real substance and not form or insubstantive issues." He added if that were the case "it becomes of great interest for Saudi Arabia and should we then get an invitation from the Secretary [Rice] to attend that conference we will look very closely and very hard at attending the conference." (Independent-UK)
The U.S. is beginning work on tens of millions of dollars worth of aid projects aimed at boosting the Palestinian economy and Mahmoud Abbas at the expense of Hamas. USAID expects to spend about $190 million over the next year on projects such as road and water infrastructure, health care and agriculture. Within the coming weeks, the agency is expected to award a $20 million contract that will fund about 200 road-upgrade projects aimed at easing unemployment. (Washington Times)
The New England Conference of the United Methodist Church is advising congregations and individuals to divest their holdings from a wide variety of American corporations doing business with Israel. The action is giving new energy to the divestment movement, which had lost steam in other mainline Protestant denominations. In June, after two years of research, a committee released a list of 20 companies from which it recommends divestment, including Blockbuster, Boeing, General Electric, Raytheon and Volvo. Blockbuster was criticized for maintaining video rental kiosks in Israeli settlements.
Leading Jewish organizations argue that divestment is not appropriate because Israel is unable to work with a Palestinian government that is associated with terrorism. Among the individuals who are not supporting the action is Bishop Peter Weaver of the New England Conference. "I believe we ought to be continuing in conversation with the Israeli leadership, as well as the Palestinian leadership, and trying to be evenhanded in our call for justice," he said. (Boston Globe)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
One Hamas man was killed and six Islamic Jihad members wounded Wednesday after the Hamas militia fired a rocket at a house in Gaza City and traded fire with Islamic Jihad militants inside for several hours. Hamas said in a statement that the Islamic Jihad militants were ordered to hand over their weapons but failed to do so. The incident is an indication of growing animosity between the two extremist Islamic groups, now that their common enemy, Fatah, has been vanquished. (Ha'aretz)
Four Kassam rockets landed in Sderot on Wednesday evening. No one was wounded and no damage was reported. (Jerusalem Post)
The good news is that for the first time in seven years an Israeli prime minister declares that there are Palestinians to talk to - namely PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayad. The bad news is that the initiatives and plans are based on an imaginary reality and on establishing a make-believe Palestinian state - a PlayStation Palestine. The basic assumption is that Abbas and Fayad are too weak and will not be able to impose security and order in the West Bank.
Israel will not tolerate having its population and airport within Palestinian rocket range. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said recently that Israel would not be able to relinquish its security control over the West Bank, at least until it obtains the means of intercepting short-range rockets. Barak has no doubt that it is the IDF's presence on the mountains overlooking Ben-Gurion Airport that is preventing fire on it, rather than any self-restraint on the part of Palestinian terror organizations. In the absence of an effective Palestinian security force and an Israeli rocket interception system, there can be no significant pullout from the West Bank and handing over territory to a Palestinian state. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
As Fatah struggles to contain the spread of Hamas in the West Bank, some Palestinians are pushing for an Islamic critique to compete with the militant brand of religion practiced by the new rulers of Gaza. Some advocate a liberal brand of Islamic politics that would support territorial compromise, while those with a strict interpretation of the Koran are attacking Hamas for straying too far by mixing religion and politics. But most agree that any challenge to Hamas must include a new spiritual formula.
The recent dominance of Islamic politics in Palestinian life is part of a pan-Arab trend in which religious parties have become the main opposition to regimes perceived as corrupt and undemocratic, says Hanna Siniora, codirector of the Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information in Jerusalem. "Thirty or 40 years ago, it was fashionable to be leftist and socialist. Now it is becoming fashionable in the Arab world to be an Islamist," he said.
Recognizing Palestinian society's traditionalist leanings, Mohammed Dajani, a political science professor at Al Quds University, argues that the only way to challenge Hamas is by setting up a separate religious party that will push interpretations of Islam that back non-violence and tolerance. Dajani named his party Wasatia - a term used in the Koran that means moderation. "What we want to do is change the culture of the people," he says. "Our goal is to teach youth that suicide bombing is not Islam." (Christian Science Monitor)
If the British union members deny Israeli academics any discourse at all in what is usually called "the academic marketplace of ideas," of banishing them from the world of dialogue, research, and learning, have not they already struck a fatal blow to the core guiding principle of the academy? Since when has it been the responsibility of the university to control the actions of the state, or for its members to share culpability for the political decisions of a nation? And if the union members in fact feel that academics shape and influence national policy and political behavior, their choice of the Palestinians, now being led by homicidal Islamists, Hamas, seems a bit troublesome.
In what has been deemed by observers to be essentially child abuse, young Palestinians are inculcated, nearly from birth, with seething, blind, unrelenting, and obsessive hatred of Jews and the "Zionist regime"; kindergartners graduate with blood-soaked hands while toting plastic AK 47s and dedicating their lives to jihad; and older children are recruited to hide explosives on their bodies to transform themselves into "shahids" - a new generation of kindling for radical Islam's cult of death. (History News Network-George Mason University)
Over the past year and a half, senior U.S. Treasury officials have traveled the world, briefing their finance ministry counterparts and the private sector on the range of Iran's deceptive financial activity. This includes: Iran's use of front companies; frequent requests by Iranian state-owned banks to remove their names from financial transactions; and the involvement of these same banks in Iran's nuclear and missile programs and terrorist financing.
One international organization that would be well positioned to reinforce the American message would be the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force, which seeks to set global standards on combating money laundering and terrorism financing. Launched by the G7 in 1989, FATF includes 31 member countries, including the U.S. and the European Commission. FATF should be pressed - through the UK, its sitting president - to blacklist Iran. Were Iran blacklisted by FATF, past history suggests that many governments would follow suit, placing Iran on their own domestic blacklists. This could have a significant impact, particularly if Iran's main business partners in Europe or Asia were to act. The writer is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former senior advisor in the Treasury's Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. (Jerusalem Post)
Syrian Muslim: Why I Admire Israel - Farid Ghadry (Reform Party of Syria)
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