Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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September 7, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

German Technology Ends Up in Iranian Nuclear Plant - Andreas Wassermann (Der Spiegel-Germany)
    German technology has made it into an Iranian nuclear power plant despite an export ban.
    Prosecutors are investigating the case and the German Foreign Ministry is concerned about the damage to Germany's credibility.
    Between 2001 and 2004, electromagnetic brakes, switchgear, spring elements and special cables were bought up in Germany, bound for the Iranian nuclear power plant in Bushehr.
    A number of German companies, working hand-in-hand with foreign dealmakers, are suspected of circumventing export bans.
    Potsdam prosecutors believe they can prove that the now-liquidated Berlin company Vero Handels GmbH was involved in the acquisition of illegal material from Germany on behalf of the partially state-controlled Russian nuclear company Atomstroiexport (ASE) - material intended for export to Iran.
    In 1991 the German government decided not to approve any further shipments to Bushehr.
    "It looks as if Putin's nuclear firm deliberately violated German law," says one investigator.

Hardline Takeover of British Mosques - Andrew Norfolk (Times-UK)
    Almost half of Britain's mosques are under the control of a hardline Islamic sect whose leading preacher loathes Western values and has called on Muslims to "shed blood" for Allah, an investigation by The Times has found.
    Riyadh ul-Haq, who supports armed jihad and preaches contempt for Jews, Christians and Hindus, is in line to become the spiritual leader of the Deobandi sect in Britain.
    The ultra-conservative movement, which gave birth to the Taliban in Afghanistan, now runs more than 600 of Britain's 1,350 mosques, according to a police report.
    Ul-Haq, 36, was educated and trained at an Islamic seminary in Britain and is part of a new generation of British imams who share a similar radical agenda.
    17 of Britain's 26 Islamic seminaries are run by Deobandis and they produce 80% of home-trained Muslim clerics.

Hamas Disbands Journalists Union (Reporters Without Borders)
    Reporters Without Borders Thursday condemned Hamas' decision on September 3 to dissolve the Gaza branch of the Union of Palestinian Journalists, most of whose members are affiliated to or support Fatah.

U.S., Israel Launch High-Tech Forum - George Leopold (EE Times)
    The Bush administration announced creation of a U.S.-Israel High-Tech Forum on Thursday, designed to bolster two-way technology trade and investment.
    The agreement was reached during a recent visit to Israel by Mario Mancuso, undersecretary of commerce for industry and security.
    "The High Technology Forum will accelerate, elevate and institutionalize a senior-level dialogue to address bilateral high-technology trade, investment and related security issues within the context of our larger strategic relationship," Mancuso said.

Israel Experiences Economic Miracle - Amotz Asa-El (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
    Data released last week by the Central Bureau of Statistics indicates that Israel's GDP soared during the first half of the year by 6.6%; unemployment dropped since 2002 from 10.9 to 7.5%; inflation stood at 1.1%, and interest rates sank below the U.S. Federal Reserve's level.
    An economic miracle has turned the Jewish state into the developed world's fastest-growing economy.
    Structurally, Israel launched in 2003 market reforms that shook the economy loose:
    Taxes were cut, public-sector hiring was capped, and an elaborate social safety net was slashed; the jobless were enticed to seek work rather than social security; almost any sellable state asset was sold, from the El Al airliner and the ZIM shipping giant to the major banks, oil refineries and telecom monopoly Bezeq; the seaports were forced to compete with one another; the pension age was raised, and the pension industry itself was snatched from the unions.
    As it turned out, Israel's lack of natural resources, like Japan's, was a blessing, as it forced it to seek wealth in human brains rather than natural resources.
    The bottom line of all this is that there are ways to thrive in the Middle East, even without oil.
    It would help if objective parties, such as the EU and UN, would tell Arab governments that their economic condition is self-inflicted and treatable; all they need to do is look at Israel a little less emotionally and learn from its efforts.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel and Syria Seek to Calm Tensions over Alleged Syrian Airspace Incursion - Isabel Kershner
    Israel and Syria appeared to be trying to scale down tensions Thursday after Damascus said Israeli warplanes had violated its airspace and been chased away by its air defenses. Eyal Zisser, a Syria expert at Tel Aviv University's Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, said both sides appeared to be "trying to lower the tone." (International Herald Tribune)
        See also U.S. Declines Comment on Syria Charge Against Israel
    The U.S. would not comment on Thursday on Syria's accusation that Israel bombed its territory. U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey said, "I have seen press reports of Syria claiming one thing and Israel denying it. I don't want to comment on what at this point in time is speculation....I'm not going to speculate on stories that as far as I know don't have any basis in fact." (Reuters)
  • Lebanon War Rebuke "Nonsense," Israelis Say - Oakland Ross
    Israeli officials reacted with anger Thursday, following accusations by Human Rights Watch that their country launched "indiscriminate" attacks resulting in unnecessary civilian deaths during last summer's war in Lebanon. "It's nonsense," said retired Maj.-Gen. Yaakov Amidror, former chief of the Israel Defense Forces' research and assessment division. "They are living in a bubble. They don't have to protect their citizens against terrorist attacks."
        Amidror insists that Israel did everything required of it, and more, to ensure its forces attacked only legitimate military targets. Unfortunately, he said, Hizbullah fighters often used civilians as a human shield, and that left Israel at times in a difficult position. Amidror said that two-thirds of the 4,000 rockets fired at Israel by Hizbullah during the conflict were launched from populated areas. Last month Human Rights Watch condemned Hizbullah for repeated rocket attacks in northern Israel that resulted in dozens of civilian deaths. (Toronto Star)
        See also Does Human Rights Watch Single Out Israel for Excessive and Disproportionate Criticism? (NGO Monitor)
  • Islamic Party Confident in Morocco: Moderate Muslims Predict Big Gains in Friday's Vote - Ellen Knickmeyer
    Saad Eddine el-Othmani, the head of the Justice and Development Party, an Islamic party expected to triumph in Morocco's parliamentary elections Friday, mentions the economy and economic development seven times in the course of a 20-minute conversation. He mentions Islam only once. After an introduction, Othmani reaches out to shake this woman reporter's hand - a quick reflex that marks him as a moderate Muslim man. A party official pointed to campaign ads featuring the party's dozens of female candidates, many of them without the head scarf increasingly being worn by women in some parts of the Muslim world. Othmani acknowledges that his political inspiration comes from Turkey, where an Islamic-based party last month gained control of Turkey's presidency, in addition to the parliament and the prime minister's post. (Washington Post)
        See also The Moroccan Parliamentary Election: More Gains for Islamists? - Emma Hayward (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Foils Bid to Kidnap Soldier - Avi Issacharoff
    The Israel Air Force killed six Palestinian militants from Islamic Jihad and the Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades Thursday in a missile strike on their vehicle as it approached the security fence in central Gaza. "The planned attack included the taking over of an IDF post and the abduction of an IDF soldier," an army statement said. Also Thursday, three Palestinian militants from Hamas and Islamic Jihad were killed and six others wounded in an IDF strike in southern Gaza. IDF troops backed by tanks and bulldozers moved a kilometer inside Gaza to strike at Palestinian militants.
        Also Thursday, IDF undercover troops arrested a senior Islamic Jihad militant in the West Bank city of Jenin. Ahmed Salah was armed with an assault rifle and two suicide belts when he was arrested. He put up no resistance, and led troops to his vehicle, in which some 30 explosive devices were found. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Soldier Wounded in Palestinian Mortar Attack Near Gaza Fence
    An IDF soldier was wounded Thursday night when Palestinians fired two mortar shells which landed near the border fence in northern Gaza. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Lands Near School in Sderot Thursday - Yaakov Lappin
    Palestinians in Gaza fired two Kassam rockets at the Israeli town of Sderot Thursday afternoon. One landed near a high school and a house was damaged in the attack. (Ynet News)
        See also House Damaged in Mortar Attack Friday
    A house was damaged Friday morning when two mortar shells were fired by Palestinians at Kerem Shalom in Israel's western Negev. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hamas Rejects Red Cross Request to See Abducted Soldier Gilad Shalit - Avi Issacharoff, Amos Harel, and Jack Khoury
    A senior Hamas official in Gaza, Osama Al-Mazini, on Thursday turned down a request by the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, who was captured in a cross-border raid in June 2006. The request was made Wednesday by the director-general of the Red Cross, Angelo Gnaedinger, during a visit to Gaza. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Syrians Don't Know What They Saw - Ron Ben-Yishai
    The Syrians don't know what they saw Wednesday night on the radar screens and what they fired at. Israel has no interest in helping them understand what they saw. It is reasonable to assume, however, that the Syrians will not turn the recent aerial incident into a catalyst for launching hostile activities against Israel. The Syrians cannot say with certainty or prove that there was an aircraft, and they are also unable to describe the route used by that unidentified object.
        This happens often as part of intelligence efforts: One side spots something and then sends up a trial balloon via the media in order to be able to complete the missing details through the response. This is probably why the IDF Spokesperson's Office says, "We do not comment on reports of this nature." Whether the Syrians saw something or not, whether it was an Israeli aircraft or something belonging to another country - there is no reason why Israel should help the Syrians in their interpretation efforts, helping them improve their aerial defense system.
        What is really worrying is the Syrian information minister's declaration that his country "would find the way to respond to the Israeli infiltration." It is possible that Syria is now looking for an excuse to initiate an escalation with Israel. However, it appears that Syria still does not view itself as ready for an all-out war with Israel. (Ynet News)
  • Anatomy of Syrian-Israeli Tensions: A Background Analysis - Jerusalem Center Strategic Affairs Unit
    Syria served as a primary conduit for the build-up of Iranian-backed Hizbullah prior to the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War in July 2006. Damascus supplied the majority of the heavy-payload rockets Hizbullah fired at Israel. Syria has undertaken a massive military build-up over the past few years, focusing primarily on Scud (B, C, and D) heavy rockets and chemical warheads. Syria has become a regional superpower in chemical weaponry.
        Syria's destabilizing role in the region was underscored by Gen. George W. Casey Jr., former U.S. Commander in Iraq, who confirmed that Syria has acted as a primary line of supply for weaponry and volunteers that continue to stream unfettered over the Syrian-Iraqi border to support the Iraqi insurgency against U.S. and coalition forces. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    The Israel Lobby Controversy

  • Book Review: A Prosecutorial Brief Against Israel and Its Supporters - William Grimes
    The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy by Professors Mearsheimer and Walt lays out the case for a ruthlessly realistic Middle East policy that would make Israel nothing more than one of many countries in the region. Mearsheimer and Walt mount a prosecutorial brief against Israel's foreign and domestic policies, and against the State of Israel itself. They describe a virtual rogue state, empowered by American wealth and might, that blocks peace at every turn.
        Most American readers will bristle at the authors' characterization of Israel. The general tone of hostility to Israel grates on the nerves. Israel is not simply one country among many, for example, just as Britain is not. Americans feel strong ties of history, religion, culture and, yes, sentiment. "It is time," Mearsheimer and Walt write, "for the United States to treat Israel not as a special case but as a normal state, and to deal with it much as it deals with any other country." But it's not. And America won't. That's realism. (New York Times)
        See also Understanding the U.S.-Israel Alliance: An Israeli Response to the Walt-Mearsheimer Claim - Dore Gold (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Anti-Semitism and the Anti-Israel Lobby - Jeff Robbins
    A crop of Israel's critics - most prominently Jimmy Carter and now Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer - have managed something of a feat: They express no concerns about the massive pro-Arab effort, funded in significant measure by foreign oil money, taking American Jews to task for participating in the American political process; meanwhile, they inoculate themselves against charges of anti-Jewish bias by preemptively predicting that "the Jewish lobby" will accuse them of it.
        The Saudis have not been shy about supplementing their considerable leverage in the U.S. by targeting expenditures to affect the debate over Middle East policy by funding think tanks, Middle East studies programs, advocacy groups, community centers and other institutions. Just last year Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal donated $20 million each to Harvard and Georgetown Universities for programs in Islamic studies.
        Walt and Mearsheimer have repackaged the "the-Jews-run-the-country" stuff which has long been the bread and butter of anti-Semites. But if anti-Semitism is too harsh a term, perhaps one can conclude that "anti-Jewish bias" fits the bill here. After all, where there is nothing wrong with foreign money from Arab countries advancing a pro-Arab agenda, in Walt's and Mearsheimer's world there is something very wrong with American citizens who are Jewish exercising their civic right to speak out on behalf of Israel and taking issue with the pro-Arab agenda. The writer was a U.S. Delegate to the UN Human Rights Commission during the Clinton administration. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Deadliest Lies - Jeff Barak
    Abraham Foxman's new book, subtitled "The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control," successfully demolishes the claims of two American academics that U.S. policy in the Middle East is biased towards Israel, to the detriment of American interests, because of the power of the Israel lobby. (Ynet News)
        See also Misreading the Power of the "Lobby" - Ira Forman (New York Jewish Week/Baltimore Sun)

    Weekend Features

  • Can Iran Be Stopped? - Zalman Shoval
    A new pessimistic report jointly compiled by 16 American intelligence agencies noted that all efforts to halt or impede Iran's nuclear development have failed, as have the measures to end the support Tehran is granting various terror organizations in the Middle East, including Hizbullah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Shiite terrorists in Iraq. American intelligence agencies found that the economic measures the international community has adopted to coerce Iran to change its ways are futile. Although Iranian banks found it temporarily difficult to conduct international transactions, it appears that they have overcome the hurdle. The U.S. and its Western allies have announced plans to impose further sanctions on Iran via the Security Council within the coming weeks. However, based on past experience and considering the new political line adopted by Russia, these sanctions are unlikely to have any effect. (Ynet News)
  • Deconstructing Apartheid Accusations Against Israel - Interview with Prof. Gideon Shimoni
    The historical context of the Jewish-Arab conflict in the Middle East is fundamentally different from that between the whites' Afrikaner ideology of apartheid and the blacks in South Africa. The latter was a system of discrimination and inequality based upon racial criteria; a system of domination by a minority over a majority and refusal to negotiate a bilaterally agreed solution. Furthermore, while for Palestinians, violence aimed primarily at civilians has been the first choice for many decades, for the African National Congress it was the last resort and never aimed intentionally at the murder of civilians. Many anti-Zionists apply identifiable double standards of judgment to Israel traceable to the characteristic anti-Semitic premise that all things Jews do are inherently evil, including their nationalism. Prof. (Emeritus) Gideon Shimoni is a former head of the Hebrew University's Institute of Contemporary Jewry. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Sunny Arab Satire Slaps Anti-America Reflex - Youssef Ibrahim
    The brilliant Egyptian playwright Ali Salem described in a cute essay how Arabs are programmed to oppose anything America says or does. Secretary of State Rice ends a fictitious press conference somewhere in the perpetually angry Middle East by sighing that, when all is said and done, "The sun shall again rise in the east." A crisis immediately ensues. A talk show host at an Arab network launches an instant survey inviting viewers to respond to the question, "Does the sun indeed rise in the east as the Americans assert?" Within minutes, the network reports that 89% have responded with an assertive "no," and 5% of the viewers said "yes."
        In the following days, airwaves from Cairo to Riyadh buzz with weighty analyses of Rice's true intent: American politicians, many note, never speak of the sun nor the moon nor the weather without ulterior motives. In Saudi Arabia, one bearded and disheveled-looking blind sage opines that the American infidels are planning to block the sun from ever again rising from the "Muslim East." With mounting emotion, he calls for jihad against "all American science." In the Egyptian Parliament, one member of President Mubarak's majority National Assembly Party says, "Just because the Americans give us a couple of billion dollars a year does not mean they can tell us where the sun rises."
        Ali Salem's opposition to Arab dictators, rotten regimes, and faux militancy has long been a hallmark of his humorous plays and film scripts. It has not earned him friends in high places, but to judge from his immense commercial success, it seems he speaks for a silent majority. (New York Sun)
  • Observations:

    An Embargo on Gaza: Economic Sanctions Are Permitted by International Law - Dov Weisglass (Ynet News)

    • There is overall consent that Israel must respond forcefully and with resolve to the Hamas rampage in Gaza. Since Israel disengaged from Gaza, Israeli occupation there came to an end. Israel is not currently positioned in Gaza; it is not occupying it and is not responsible for the welfare of its residents. Control of Gaza, in practice, is in the hands of the Hamas administration. Although no one recognizes it, de facto, Gaza is being run as a state under the rule of that regime.
    • The "State of Gaza" is conducting a war against the State of Israel: A daily barrage of rockets on Israeli territory is a blatant act of aggression, and therefore the State of Israel has the right to employ every means of defense and assault accepted by international law as an appropriate response to such acts.
    • Economic pressure (embargo) has for years been recognized by international law as a legitimate act for a country to resort to in times of conflict. Such measures inevitably harm innocent civilians. The international embargo on Iraq during Saddam Hussein's reign harmed innocent Iraqis who were Saddam's victims; the American embargo on Iran is harming tens of millions of Iranians who have absolutely nothing to do with military nuclear development. An embargo, by definition, is collective punishment imposed against a country and which primarily harms the civilian population with the aim of coercing the government.
    • The UN charter lists economic sanctions in chapter 6. Israel is entitled to respond to attacks by imposing economic sanctions on the residents and regime of Gaza, and to cease or cut back supplies of goods, fuel, food, raw materials, communication services and other infrastructure-related services, including electricity and water. This is a harsh response but a necessary one, and is nonetheless preferable to a military maneuver inside Gaza.
    • Ultimately, every regime is sensitive to the will of the population, its desires and distress. It is hard to believe that a scaled yet resolute and significant economic embargo would not force the Hamas rulers to consider their ways. And of course economic sanctions are a proper response to the criminal incarceration of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. This is the only means that could lead to a change in the "balance of power" required for his release.

      The writer, a lawyer, was former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's bureau chief and senior adviser.

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