Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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August 22, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran Has Remote-Controlled Launch Pads - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    Iran has developed a remote-controlled launch system that can be used to operate dozens of unmanned Shihab ballistic missile launchers in underground bunkers.
    After recent upgrades, the Shihab-3 ballistic missiles are believed to have a target range of 2,000 km.
    According to informed Western sources, the launch system was developed by the Iranians in conjunction with North Korea and by employing Chinese technology.
    Israeli defense officials recently said that if Iran launched missiles at Israel, Israel's Arrow missile defense system was capable of intercepting all of Iran's operational missiles.

Fatah Militant: U.S. Training Was Key to Intifada's Success - Aaron Klein (New York Sun)
    American-run programs that train Fatah militias were instrumental in the "success" of the Palestinian intifada that began in 2000, said Abu Yousuf, a senior officer of Mahmoud Abbas' Force 17 Presidential Guard.
    "I do not think that the operations of the Palestinian resistance would have been so successful and would have killed more than one thousand Israelis since 2000 and defeated the Israelis in Gaza without these [official American] trainings," he said.
    "All the methods and techniques that we studied in these trainings, we applied them against the Israelis," he added.
    Many members of Force 17 also openly serve in Fatah's "military wing," the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

Gaza's Public Workers Paid to Stay Home - Steven Gutkin (AP/Washington Post)
    Gaza's public employees are getting paid on one condition: Stay home - now that Hamas militants are firmly in charge.
    A rival pro-Western government in the West Bank is delivering salaries to most of Gaza's civil servants as long as they don't work.
    Mahmoud Abbas doesn't want its money propping up Hamas, but neither does it want to punish Gaza's mostly pro-Fatah 90,000 civil servants whose salaries form the backbone of the economy.
    The result is a lot of inactivity. And many fearful for their safety in a Hamas-dominated land.
    In practice, few public employees outside the health sector are working.
    Gaza's schools have been on vacation since the Hamas takeover, and it's not clear if teachers will return to work when school resumes in September.

Surfing for Peace (AP/FOX News)
    Dorian Paskowitz, 86, a retired Jewish doctor from Hawaii and a surfing guru, on Tuesday donated 12 surfboards to Gaza's small surfing community in a gesture he hoped would get Israelis and Palestinians catching the same peace wave.
    Paskowitz's project was part of a larger effort called "Surfing for Peace."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Growing Muslim Movement Offers Alternative to Hamas - Mark MacKinnon
    Founded in 1953, Hizb ut-Tahrir's goal is the establishment of a worldwide caliphate, a global Islamic empire. A newly assertive Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation) has been showing its strength across the Muslim world, most impressively drawing 100,000 people to a soccer stadium in Indonesia earlier this month. They noisily called for a return to the time of the caliphs, a line of centuries of Islamic rulers that ended with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire more than 80 years ago.
        A recent rally in Ramallah in the West Bank drew tens of thousands of Palestinians. But Hizb ut-Tahrir won't try to capitalize on its new popularity in the next Palestinian elections. It teaches members that there should be no democracy, because democratic systems are a tool of Islam's chief enemy, the U.S. Nor does Hizb ut-Tahrir see value in Hamas' policy of using violence against Israel. Sending poorly armed Palestinians to fight the Israeli army is "fruitless," said Sheik Abu Abdullah. The Jewish state and its occupation of Palestinian lands will be dealt with later by the combined armies of Islam.
        The movement also shrugs off Hamas' takeover of Gaza, charging that Hamas is not Islamic enough because it pursues the goal of a Palestinian state instead of a borderless caliphate. While Hizb ut-Tahrir professes non-violence, many experts believe that it serves at least as a "conveyor belt" for groups including al-Qaeda, radicalizing young Muslims who are later recruited by more violent groups. (Globe and Mail-Canada)
  • Iran Releases U.S. Scholar on Bail - Robin Wright
    Washington scholar Haleh Esfandiari, 67, was released Tuesday after more than 100 days in Iran's notorious Evin Prison. Esfandiari, director of Middle East programs at the Smithsonian's Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, was released on bail in exchange for the deed to her 93-year-old mother's home, where she is staying now. (Washington Post)
  • British Civics Class Asks, What Would Muhammad Do? - Jane Perlez
    There is something new in Britain's mosques: a government-financed effort to teach basic citizenship issues in a special curriculum, written by a Bradford teacher, Sajid Hussain, 34, who holds a degree from Oxford. It is intended to reach students who might be vulnerable to Islamic extremism. The British government hopes that such civics classes, which use the Koran to answer questions about daily life, will replace the sometimes hard-core religious lessons taught in many mosques across the land. An estimated 100,000 school-age Muslim children attend religious classes held at mosques in Britain daily.
        Muslim students "understand that it's wrong to go out and commit suicide bombings," Hussain said. "But some got really confused when you put jihad next to it. Jihad has got a sacred context, so things that were unacceptable became acceptable. We had to dig down to defuse the misconception." (New York Times)
        See also Britain Remains a Major Source of Publishing and Distribution of Hamas Incitement (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinians Send Children to Retrieve Rocket Launchers After Attacks on Israel - Yuval Azoulay, Yoav Stern and Mijal Grinberg
    Israeli forces combating Palestinian gunmen in Gaza killed Yehia Habib, a senior Hamas field commander in Gaza City, in an airstrike Wednesday on a group of armed men who had approached the border fence with Israel.
        On Tuesday two figures were seen moving in a field near Beit Hanun toward rocket launchers immediately after Kassam rockets had been fired on towns in Israel. The two were killed by a tank shell. Later it was learned that they were a 9-year-old and a 12-year-old sent to collect Kassam rocket launchers. "If these were children or youths, we regret the use that the terrorist groups are making of them," the IDF spokesman said Tuesday. An IDF source said: "Every Palestinian, including the militants, knows that anyone who hangs around these launchers is endangering themselves."
        "This is a cynical use of children but we are no longer surprised by anything we see. A 14-year-old child has already fired an RPG rocket against an IDF force, a grandmother aged close to 70 fired a light weapon against a Givati [Brigade] force recently in the Strip. What were these children doing there anyway? The militants fled immediately after the launch and then sent the children to collect the launchers," a source added. (Ha'aretz/Jerusalem Post)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Hits Vacant Israeli Kindergarten - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in Gaza fired two Kassam rockets toward Israel on Tuesday. One rocket struck a vacant Na'amat daycare center in Sderot. "The center is currently undergoing fortification works, and this is apparently why there were no kids inside. I don't want to imagine what would have happened had the center been open," said a local resident. (Ynet News)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Damages Factory Near Sderot (Jerusalem Post)
  • EU Says It Will Resume Fuel Aid for Gaza's Electric Company - Barak Ravid
    The EU said Tuesday it will resume vital fuel aid to the Gaza electric company. The EU cut off aid funding on Sunday because of suspicions that Gaza's Hamas rulers were pocketing electricity revenues. The move left many Gaza residents without power. In a statement, the EU said payments would resume Wednesday on a provisional basis. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Next War with Hizbullah - Andrew Exum
    Hizbullah, a year after its last war, is making serious preparations for the next one. The most significant development in southern Lebanon since the end of the 2006 war is Hizbullah's construction of a defensive line north of the Litani River which is off-limits to UNIFIL. Even as Hizbullah continues to train village units south of the Litani in the hope that they could slow an Israeli ground invasion, the group has constructed its main defensive positions to the north, where the terrain favors the defender.
        Hizbullah positions north of the Litani include entrenched positions that can house medium- and long-range missiles. From positions north of the Litani, Hizbullah katyushas could comfortably reach major Israeli population centers, while its longer-range missiles could reach more distant potential targets such as Haifa and even Tel Aviv. All along the new Iranian-built road north of the Litani, new roads and trails are springing up, many leading to closed "military areas" patrolled by Hizbullah gunmen. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Hamas Promises Something New, But Delivers More of the Same - Editorial
    Hamas, as the self-appointed unilateral ruler of Gaza, has a duty to ensure the welfare of the territory's population. But the humanitarian situation in Gaza has been in a freefall since their takeover. Hamas rode to power largely as a result of popular frustration with the corruption, nepotism and cronyism that have long plagued Fatah. But Hamas now risks falling into the same traps as their political rivals. Over the past few weeks, Hamas members have been cracking down on political freedoms by either arresting their rivals or purging their ideological opponents from state-run institutions. These moves have only served to further polarize the political scene, and have thus served to undermine the Palestinian national cause. The Palestinians of Gaza had hoped for a change from Fatah's old ways, but they are witnessing a new era characterized by more of the same - and sometimes worse. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Uniting to Exclude Saudi Arabian Airlines - Daniel Pipes
    Saudi Arabian Airlines declares on its English-language Web site that the kingdom bans "Bibles, crucifixes, statues, carvings, items with religious symbols such as the Star of David." Until the Saudi government changes this detestable policy, its airline should be disallowed from flying into Western airports. As Stephen Schwartz of the Center for Islamic Pluralism points out, signs in Saudi airports warn Muslim travelers that the airport's religious police confiscate Korans, other Islamic literature, and Muslim objects of non-Saudi origin. While discriminating specifically against Shiites and Ahmadis, this policy manifests a wider insistence on Wahhabi supremacism.
        More broadly, the Saudi leadership runs a country that the American government has condemned repeatedly as having "no religious freedom" and being among the most religiously repressive in the world. Saudia, the state-owned national carrier and its portal to the world, offers a pressure point for change. Western governments should demand that unless the Saudi government at least permits "that stuff" in, Saudia faces exclusion from the 18 airports it presently services in Europe, North America, and Japan. (New York Sun)
  • Observations:

    Tougher on Iran: The Revolutionary Guard Is at War with the United States. Why Not Fight Back? - Editorial (Washington Post)

    • Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps is a sprawling organization involved in myriad activities, including guarding borders, pumping oil, operating ports, smuggling, manufacturing pharmaceuticals, building Iran's nuclear program - and supplying the weapons that are killing a growing number of American soldiers in Iraq. Iran also delivers rockets and other weapons to Shiite militias.
    • In effect, the Revolutionary Guard, a radical state within Iran's Islamic state, is waging war against the United States and trying to kill as many American soldiers as possible. In response, the Bush administration is considering categorizing the Guard as a "specially designated global terrorist" organization under a post-Sept. 11 executive order aimed at blocking terrorists' access to their assets.
    • This seems to be the least the U.S. should be doing, given the soaring number of Iranian-sponsored bomb attacks in Iraq. What's puzzling are the murmurs of disapproval from European diplomats and others who say they favor using diplomacy and economic pressure, rather than military action, to rein in Iran. So far, the diplomacy and sanctions haven't been working and tougher measures are being blocked in the UN Security Council by China and Russia.
    • Designating the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization could cause banks and exporters in Europe and Asia that do business with Guard affiliates to pull back. So what's the objection? Some European diplomats say they fear that an escalating confrontation between the U.S. and Iran will end in war. But sanctions are the alternative to war - Iran already rejected initiatives aimed at ending its nuclear program by offering economic concessions and other carrots.
    • Others suggest that the administration's labeling of a principal arm of the Iranian regime as a terrorist group would contradict its recent embrace of bilateral talks with Tehran about Iraq. Yet that regime participates in those discussions while escalating its surrogate war against American troops. If Iran chooses to fight as well as talk, the U.S. should not shrink from fighting back with all the economic weapons it can muster.

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