Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
German Technology Ends Up in Iranian Nuclear Plant - Andreas Wassermann (Der Spiegel-Germany)
Hardline Takeover of British Mosques - Andrew Norfolk (Times-UK)
Hamas Disbands Journalists Union (Reporters Without Borders)
U.S., Israel Launch High-Tech Forum - George Leopold (EE Times)
Israel Experiences Economic Miracle - Amotz Asa-El (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
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)
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)
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:
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)
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)
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 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)
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
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
An Embargo on Gaza: Economic Sanctions Are Permitted by International Law - Dov Weisglass (Ynet News)
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