Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Islamic "Enemy Combatant" Convicted of Terrorism in U.S. - Abby Goodnough and Scott Shane (New York Times)
Polish European Parliament Members to Boycott Anti-Israel UN Conference - Yaakov Lappin (Ynet News)
Remembered in Kurdistan - Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz)
Palestinian Soccer Tournament Named for
Terrorist - Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook (Palestinian Media Watch)
Karachi's Forgotten Jews - Patrick Belton (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
Archaeologists Discover Footprint of Roman Soldier - Ofri Ilani (Ha'aretz)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
The victory of the radical Islamic movement Hamas in Gaza and Fatah's rapid collapse there have focused the diplomatic mind and shaken Israel, the U.S. and Sunni Arab states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, already nervous about a rising Iran. For Martin S. Indyk, a Clinton administration official and ambassador to Israel, there is a new "alliance of fear" that makes it possible to progress. The U.S. has finally decided to re-engage, pushing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel and Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinians to talk about peace.
Yet Indyk, at the Brookings Institution, warned: "If (Secretary of State) Rice goes for final status she'll drive it into the ground." Israel does not have enough confidence in Abbas or a divided Palestinian polity to pull out of large sections of the West Bank, fearing Gaza-like chaos that could rain rockets on Ben-Gurion airport. Rice speaks carefully about negotiations on the principles of a final settlement - not the final settlement itself, which will be carried out over many years. The new American initiative comes late in President Bush's term, but what may make it work is its essential modesty, given Rice's apparent understanding that a full settlement is out of reach. (New York Times)
Along the roadways of southern Lebanon, thousands of banners festoon street lights and utility poles. They feature a distinctive symbol, a red inscription from the center of Iran's flag, protectively swathing Lebanon's iconic green cedar. The emblem belongs to the Iranian reconstruction organization. Its presence delivers a message that is not lost on those who have watched cratered roads filled in, damaged school walls resurrected, and life return to some semblance of normalcy over the last year.
Iran is a Shiite Muslim majority country that sees itself as the patron of Shiites around the world, including those in Lebanon, who make up a third to half of the population. Whenever the Lebanese government, nonprofit organizations or other donor nations have faltered, Iran and its ally Hizbullah, which dominates most of the municipal governments of the south, have quickly swooped in. For example, when Qatar slowed reconstruction efforts several months ago because of corruption worries, Iran quickly upped its contribution. (Los Angeles Times)
Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, which faces the prospect of severe U.S. financial sanctions as a "terrorist organization," represents a tempting target given its multibillion-dollar commercial empire ranging from oil fields to honeybee farms. According to the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, the IRGC's engineering arm, Ghorb Khatam, won a string of major contracts from the Ahmadinejad government, including a $1.2 billion deal to build part of the Tehran subway, a $1.3 billion oil pipeline contract, and a no-bid $2 billion commission to develop parts of the vast South Pars natural gas field. Brig. Gen. Abdolreza Abed, the Ghorb chief who is also IRGC deputy commander, said in June 2006 that the total worth of the company's 1,200 projects prior to the big new deals was about $3.5 billion.
The Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran said IRGC commercial enterprises include firms and investments in construction, finance, movie production, poultry farming, import licensing and real estate. "On several occasions, the IRGC has taken over huge pieces of land in posh areas of major cities, Tehran in particular, and [has used force] to suppress the other government agencies that had claims to these lands," the council said. (Washington Times)
An Iranian court has summoned five former Argentine government officials to Iran to answer charges of working against the country's security, Iranian state television reported Thursday. The five were all involved in an investigation that implicated Iran in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Argentina's capital, Buenos Aires, that killed 85 people and wounded 200. The report said that if the five officials did not appear in an Iranian court in the coming days, international arrest warrants would be issued against them.
In December, Argentine federal Judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral declared that former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani and eight other officials were "fugitives from justice" for not responding to Argentina's arrest warrants for them. The judge said he had serious evidence linking the Iranians, which included former intelligence chief Ali Fallahijan and former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, to the bombing. (AP/International Herald Tribune)
Inside the bustling new Hamas television headquarters, Saraa Barhoum, 11, the young star of Hamas television's best-known children's show, said she wants to be a doctor. If she can't, she'd be proud to become a martyr. ''Of course,'' Saraa said. ''It's something to be proud of. Every Palestinian citizen hopes to be a martyr.'' Saraa offers a jarring mix of innocent charm and militant rhetoric as the sweet face of ''Tomorrow's Pioneers,'' a weekly, hour-long Hamas television children's show best known for bringing the world a militant Mickey Mouse look-alike and then having him killed off by an Israeli interrogator. During the show, Saraa fields calls from Palestinian children who warble songs about Islam, liberating Jerusalem and finding answers in the barrel of a machine gun. (McClatchy/Santa Barbara News-Press)
See also Animal Rights Activists Criticize Hamas TV Show
A show on Hamas TV depicting a man in a bee suit abusing cats and lions at a Gaza Strip zoo drew protests from the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. In the segment on the children's program Tomorrow's Pioneers, one of the show's characters, a human-sized bee named Nahoul, swings cats around by their tails and throws stones at lions through the bars in their cage at the zoo. "They say this is supposed to be educational on how not to treat animals, but it is common knowledge that children will mimic the behavior they see," U.S.-based Peta spokesman Martin Mersereau said. "This will not win Hamas any sympathy now the world sees how they teach their children cruelty." (Evening Echo-Ireland)
See also Video: Cruelty to Animals on Hamas TV (YouTube)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
The new $30 billion American defense package for Israel is not conditioned on diplomatic progress or concessions to the Palestinians, U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said Thursday as representatives from both countries signed the memorandum of understanding in Jerusalem. Burns said the aid to Israel was meant to counter "an axis of cooperation between Iran, Syria, Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas that is responsible for the violence in the region." "A strong and secure Israel is an American interest," he said. "There is no question that...the Middle East is a more dangerous region now even than it was 10 or 20 years ago and that Israel is facing a growing threat." (Ha'aretz)
See also U.S. to Try to Maintain Israel's Military Edge - Herb Keinon
Israeli and American officials are now discussing what military equipment Israel can buy and Saudi Arabia can't, in order for Israel to retain its qualitative military edge. Burns said maintaining Israel's qualitative edge was a "major consideration." (Jerusalem Post)
See also America's 10-Year Military Aid Package - Herb Keinon
If Washington viewed Israel as a liability following last year's war against Hizbullah in Lebanon, it would not be investing $30 billion in its military over the next decade. Ron Dermer, Israel's economic attache to Washington, said, "The most important part of the agreement is the message it sends to Israel's enemies that America remains fully committed to Israel's security." (Jerusalem Post)
Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket that landed south of Ashkelon Thursday. (Jerusalem Post)
Two Palestinians were arrested south of Nablus Thursday after 2,000 handgun bullets were found in their car. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Before opening wide the sluice gates of aid, the U.S. and other donor nations need to join with Abbas to develop plans to use the funds both to boost Palestinian support for the Abbas government and to promote long-term economic policies that improve the lives of Palestinians. The best way to raise Palestinian public support for Abbas would be to focus on health, education, and law and order. Programs for inoculations, distributing micronutrients, primary care, and mental health would undercut Hamas' great claim to fame - its local health clinics - by providing something better.
The Palestinian institutions of justice are feeble and often nonexistent. In many places there are no police to apprehend criminals, no place to jail them, no courts to try them, no judges, no prosecutors and no defense attorneys. Finally, measures must be put in place to ensure that international aid does not fall into the black hole of corruption. Hamas' election success was fed by public revulsion at blatant official theft by members of Fatah. Abbas will not regain credibility unless he puts an end to it. David Aaron is director of the Center of Middle East Public Policy for the RAND Corporation. Ross Anthony is co-director of the Center for Domestic and International Health Security at RAND. (International Herald Tribune)
Iran today is the largest executioner of children in the world. Hundreds of people are killed annually for no crime, just for political reasons. According to most experts, 85% of Iranians reject Ahmadinejad's policies. When he hosted the Holocaust cartoon contest in Teheran, a city of 13 million people, less than 50 people a day went to see it. When Yad Vashem started a Persian language website, it got many e-mails from Muslim Iranians who rejected Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial.
Iran's nuclear program is not just Israel's problem. Of course Israel needs to be active and has the right to defend its citizens. The Europeans need to do more and work together with the U.S. We hope the U.S. will expand the number of companies on the Iran boycott list, and include all of the institutions connected to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. We also have to make sure that proper action will be directed against the Iranian banks as quickly as possible. This is not to punish the people of Iran, but to limit the ability of the government to engage in global terror and support its nuclear weapons program. (Conference of Presidents)
The Islamic Republic of Iran has flouted international law with impunity over the last three decades, a trend that has become more dangerous in recent years with Iran's illegal pursuit of nuclear weapons. This paper specifies which international laws have been violated by Iranian government actions, analyzes the weak international reactions to these violations, and concludes that Iran has yet to be meaningfully sanctioned for any of these violations.
The paper also examines the Iranian regime's ideology. While some have argued that President Ahmadinejad's statements calling for the destruction of the U.S. and Israel are not reflective of the overall Iranian leadership, similar calls have been made by Supreme Leader Khamenei and by Hashemi Rafsanjani, the current third-ranking official. (Syracuse Law Review)
Nearly two years ago, Harvard and Georgetown received separate $20 million gifts from Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal of Saudi Arabia. These were generous gifts from one of the world's richest men. But will they help? "The problem with Middle Eastern studies on campus isn't money - the problem is ideas," warns Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia-based think tank. "Just about everywhere, the state of Middle Eastern studies is a disaster," says Pipes. He and other critics say the field has become deeply flawed and radicalized. "Unfortunately, the colleges and universities are almost useless to policymakers," says Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official and now a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
Martin Kramer outlined the problem in Ivory Towers on Sand: The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America, which he authored for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in 2001. Kramer explained: "In the 1980s and 90s, Middle Eastern studies were transformed into a field where scholarship took a backseat to advocacy, where a few biases became the highest credentials, where dissenting views became thought crimes."
In an April interview with London's Daily Telegraph, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff warned about complacency toward terrorism and pointed a finger at professors: "Where you find some softness is in some elements of the media or in some elements of the intellectual class who convince themselves that this is our fault, or that there's an easier way to avoid the problem if we can just figure what price we have to pay. That is a plea to the sensibility of exhaustion, and history has shown that's a very damaging and destructive impulse." (Philanthropy Roundtable)
Internet-Haganah.com reports that Hamas purchased more than 61% of its Internet services for 18 Web sites from U.S. and Canadian providers. According to the Patriot Act, everyone affiliated with or supporting them are also deemed terrorists. Thus, North American corporations that sell server space and IP services to Hamas aid and abet a terrorist network. The Lebanon-based "Palestine-info" operation, run by Nizar Hussein, takes marching orders directly from Hamas chief Khaled Meshal in Damascus. Its 20 Web sites in eight languages target Middle East and Western Muslims alike, as well as the international community. We need not stand helplessly by while terrorist groups work to destroy us. Their Web sites can be shuttered, especially when IP companies are American. (Washington Times)
Less than 20% of the value of Jewish assets stolen by the Nazis and their collaborators has been restored. At least $115-$175 billion (2005 prices) remains unreturned despite numerous clear and explicit international agreements and country promises made during World War II and immediately thereafter. Even the highly publicized resurgence of restitution efforts since the mid-1990s resulted in the return of only 3% of Holocaust property. A key reason for these meager results was the failure to make a comprehensive, and timely effort to deal adequately with an event unequaled in the annals of modern history - the extermination of more than two-thirds of continental European Jewry and the confiscation of nearly all of its assets. (Jewish Political Studies Review)
The Dark Genius of Hizbullah - Jonathan Kay (National Post-Canada)
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