Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Lebanese MPs Go into Hiding (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
Saudis Upgrade Their AWACS Fleet (Defense Industry Daily)
House Passes Bill Preventing Firms from Denying Life Insurance to Those Traveling to Israel - Hilary Leila Krieger (Jerusalem Post)
Egyptian Human Rights Group Shut Down by Government (AKI-Italy)
The Arabic Channel: The Islamist Trojan Horse - Youssef Ibrahim (New York Sun)
U.S. Detains Iranian in Iraq - Yahya Barzanji (AP/Washington Post)
Iranian Arms Destined for Taliban Seized in Afghanistan - Robin Wright (Washington Post)
Al-Qaeda's Popularity Plunges in Muslim World - Karen P. Hughes (Washington Post)
Recent Developments on the Academic Boycott - Manfred Gerstenfeld (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Statistical Abstract of Israel 2007 Online in English (Central Bureau of Statistics)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Israel's decision to attack Syria on Sept. 6, bombing a suspected nuclear site set up in apparent collaboration with North Korea, came after Israel shared intelligence with President Bush this summer indicating that North Korean nuclear personnel were in Syria, U.S. government sources said. The White House opted against an immediate response because of concerns it would undermine long-running negotiations aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear program. Ultimately, however, the U.S. is believed to have provided Israel with some corroboration of the original intelligence before Israel proceeded with the raid, which hit the Syrian facility in the dead of night to minimize possible casualties.
"There is no question it was a major raid. It was an extremely important target," said Bruce Riedel, a former intelligence officer at Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy. "It came at a time the Israelis were very concerned about war with Syria and wanted to dampen down the prospects of war. The decision was taken despite their concerns it could produce a war. That decision reflects how important this target was to Israeli military planners." (Washington Post)
See also U.S. Feared North Korea-Syria Link Before Israeli Strike - Demetri Sevastopulo
The U.S. had concerns about potential nuclear-related cooperation between North Korea and Syria before recently receiving Israeli intelligence on the issue that Israel reportedly used to justify an air strike inside Syria. One senior U.S. official said Washington had for some time possessed intelligence about potential nuclear cooperation between the two countries. (Financial Times-UK)
See also North Korea, Syria Hold Talks Amid Suspicions (AP)
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday during a visit to Jerusalem that the U.S.-backed peace conference proposed for later this year must "advance the cause of a Palestinian state," but acknowledged that much work remains to be done before Israeli and Palestinian officials agree on an agenda to achieve that goal. David Baker, an Israeli government spokesman, said Rice and Olmert "discussed the need to include moderate Arab states in order to enhance the meeting's chance for success," among other regional issues. (Washington Post)
See also Rice Glosses Over Mideast Differences - Anne Gearan (AP/Washington Post)
See also Prime Minister Sees "Partner" But Barak Doubts PA Can Deliver on Deal - Aluf Benn and Mazal Mualem (Ha'aretz)
The U.S. embarks this week on an effort to slap Tehran with a third Security Council resolution of sanctions over its nuclear program, with a meeting of high-level diplomats from the Security Council's five permanent members - the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, and China - plus Germany in Washington on Friday. That meeting - called by Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs - is in preparation for another meeting a week later of foreign ministers of the same countries, who will be in New York for the opening of the UN General Assembly. The U.S. will argue that because Tehran has done nothing to curtail uranium-enrichment activities, as demanded in two Security Council resolutions passed in March and December 2006, it's time to turn up the heat.
As usual, Russia and China are wary of quick action. Officials with knowledge of the diplomatic proceedings say Germany, too, has joined the foot-draggers on additional sanctions. Germany is key to the European diplomatic effort with Tehran and would have to sign on to any sanctions the EU would approve. (Christian Science Monitor)
An appeals court judge in Paris ordered France 2 TV to show the court 25 minutes of raw video footage shot on Sept. 30, 2000, in Gaza in which the Palestinian boy Mohammed al-Dura apparently was shot and killed in an exchange of gunfire between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants. Al-Dura's shooting death became an icon for Palestinian suffering, but the Israeli army concluded after an investigation that the boy could not possibly have been hit by Israeli bullets. When Philippe Karsenty, director of the media watchdog group Media-Ratings, called France 2's exclusive video of the incident "a hoax," he was found guilty of slander. He appealed the decision, and on Wednesday the appeals judge ordered that the video be released. Several French and U.S. journalists who have seen the raw footage have indicated the shooting might have been staged by Palestinians. (JTA)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Now that the Israel cabinet has defined Gaza as "hostile territory," the IDF is working on a proposal for a "complete disengagement" - involving the closure of all border crossings with Israel and the transfer of all responsibility over the Palestinian territory to Egypt. While Israel removed its military positions and settlements from Gaza in 2005, it has maintained a certain level of responsibility for the Palestinian population there, including coordinating the activities of humanitarian organizations such as UNRWA, the World Bank and the International Committee of the Red Cross. According to the proposal, Israel would completely disconnect from Gaza by closing the Erez, Karni, Sufa and Kerem Shalom crossings and directing humanitarian organizations to work with Egypt. "The idea is to finalize what was started with the 2005 disengagement," explained a senior defense official.
Israel plans to begin immediately restricting the amount of fuel it allows to enter Gaza. Diesel will be allowed in to fuel ambulances, sewage pumps, generators and garbage trucks, but gasoline will be restricted. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Israel: Illogical to Supply Electricity to Manufacture Rocket Launchers - Adel Zaanoun
Gazans stocked up on food and fuel on Thursday after Israel decided to brand Hamas-run Gaza a "hostile entity" and possibly cut its basic supplies, while promising not to aggravate the humanitarian situation. Israel on Thursday defended its decision, saying it was necessary to stop the rockets that Gaza militants launch on a near daily basis into the Jewish state. "You can either carry out an extensive military operation, or take other steps," Amos Gilad, the defense ministry's political chief, told army radio. "There is an illogical situation where we supply the petrol with which they manufacture the rocket launchers, the electricity to manufacture them," Gilad said. He emphasized that Israel would not shut off the supplies completely, but reduce the amounts supplied to a bare minimum. (AFP/Yahoo)
The Israel Defense Forces Friday captured Nihad Shkirat, 34, who headed a joint Hamas and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine cell in the West Bank city of Nablus. According to intelligence information, the cell was planning to carry out a suicide bombing attack in central Israel during the Jewish holidays. The IDF also arrested the person who recruited the bomber and another militant who was to lead the terrorist to his target. (Ha'aretz)
On Thursday, Ahmed Yusef, political adviser to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, revealed that his movement was conducting secret talks with Fatah. He told the Bethlehem-based Maan news agency that some people in Abbas' office and within Fatah were more willing than ever to accept mediation to resolve the crisis between Hamas and Fatah. Yusef said Hamas would be prepared to hand back security installations in Gaza to Fatah in the context of reconciliation between the two parties. He also expressed Hamas' readiness to declare a long-term truce with Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
According to a Palestinian poll conducted on Sep. 6-8, 2007, 73% disapprove of Hamas' takeover in Gaza, while only 22% approve. In the aftermath of the developments in Gaza, 62% support new elections. 19% said they trust news from Hamas, 27% trust news from Fatah, and 45% said they trust news from neither side. 71% said they are supportive of the peace process, while 13% say they are opposed to the peace process. (Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research)
See also Poll: Palestinians See Hamas Incapable of Managing Gaza
A Palestinian poll conducted on Sep. 13-15, 2007, asked: Do you think Hamas is capable of managing the affairs of people in Gaza? Yes - 22%, No - 68%. I believe Fatah media - 31%, I believe Hamas media - 14%, I believe neither of them - 42%. (Center for Opinion Polls and Survey Studies - An-Najah University/IMRA)
Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket that struck Israel's western Negev region Friday morning. Five mortar rounds fired by Palestinians in Gaza landed on the Israeli side of the Gaza security fence on Friday morning. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
On Sept. 6, something important happened in northern Syria. We do know that Israel carried out an airstrike. How do we know it was important? Because in Israel, where leaking is an art form, even the best-informed don't have a clue. They tell me they have never seen a better-kept secret. Only two countries registered strong protests to the Israeli strike: Turkey and North Korea. What business is this of North Korea's? Unless it was a North Korean facility being hit.
The al-Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards is training and equipping Shiite extremist militias in the use of the deadliest IEDs and rocketry against American and Iraqi troops. Iran is similarly helping the Taliban to attack NATO forces in Afghanistan. Why is Iran doing this? Because it has its eye on a single prize: the bomb. It needs a bit more time, knowing that once it goes nuclear, it becomes the regional superpower and Persian Gulf hegemon.
Iran's assets in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq are poised and ready. Ahmadinejad's message is this: If anyone dares attack our nuclear facilities, we will fully activate our proxies, unleashing unrestrained destruction on Israel, moderate Arabs, Iraq and U.S. interests - in addition mining the Strait of Hormuz and causing an acute oil crisis and worldwide recession. This is an extremely high-stakes game. The time window is narrow. In probably less than two years, Ahmadinejad will have the bomb. Which makes it all the more urgent that powerful sanctions be slapped on the Iranian regime. (Washington Post)
Stephen Walt of Harvard and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago have accused the "Israel Lobby" of managing to "manipulate the American political system" into actions that undermine U.S. interests. Accusations of disproportionate Jewish influence are as old as the pharaohs. The novelty here is the endorsement of respected, mainstream academics - though both characterizations are increasingly disputed.
I have firsthand knowledge concerning Walt and Mearsheimer's accusations. They have argued that the "Israeli government and pro-Israel groups" have shaped President Bush's "grand scheme for reordering the Middle East." In fact, Israeli officials have been consistently skeptical about the main policy innovation of the Bush era: the democracy agenda. One senior Bush administration official recently told me, "The Israelis are generally convinced that Arab cultures are particularly resistant to democracy; that democracy is likely to lead to victories by the Muslim Brotherhood."
Perhaps many Americans actually prefer Israel's flawed democracy to the aging autocrats and corrupt monarchies of the region. Perhaps they root for a reliable ally that is surrounded by nations still committed to its destruction. Perhaps many Americans recall that the Jews, just six decades ago, lost one-third of their number to genocide and believe that this persecuted people deserves a secure home and sanctuary. Perhaps Americans understand that anti-Semitism was the greatest source of evil in the 20th century and is not dead in this one.
Every generation has seen accusations that Jews have dual loyalties, promote war and secretly control political structures. These academics may not follow their claims all the way to anti-Semitism. But this is the way it begins. This is the way it always begins. The writer, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, served as President George W. Bush's chief speechwriter and as a senior policy advisor from 2001 until 2006. (Washington Post)
By the skin of their teeth, German security services, with the help of their U.S. colleagues, prevented earlier this month what might have been the worst terrorist attack in European history. The amount of explosives 28-year-old Fritz G., 22-year-old Daniel S. and Adem Y., a 28-year-old Turkish-German, had prepared in an inconspicuous vacation home would have been many times more destructive than the Madrid and London bombs.
The would-be bombers aren't some neglected immigrants on the margins of society. No, the danger came directly from children of good, solid homes. Fritz G.'s father was an engineer in Munich, his mother a doctor. In the 1990s, the son found support in Islam and became a regular of the "Multi-Kulti-Haus," a German center for fanatical Muslims in the small Bavarian town of Neu-Ulme. Daniel S. from Saarland converted from Catholicism to Islam in 2004 after dropping out from high school. German security services believe he visited a terror camp last year in Pakistan. Even the most alarmist German politician could hardly have imagined so much "home grown" terrorism at once.
The phenomenon of extremist converts should worry us for it shows that Islam can be decoupled from its native religious and cultural background. Al-Qaedism is becoming a universal, radical ideology of protest. Young Westerners in search for the most brutal anti-Western position find bin Laden's ideas seductive. The French Islam expert Olivier Roy writes about the attraction of Islamism: "Only two radical protest movements in the West still claim to be internationalist: the anti-globalization movement and radical Islamists....Al-Qaeda has clearly occupied an existing space of anti-imperialism and protest....Al-Qaeda is a successor to the ultra-left and third-world movements." The writer is a journalist with the German weekly Die Zeit. (Wall Street Journal)
See also Converts to Islam Move Up in European Terror Cells - Craig Whitlock
Religious converts are playing an increasingly influential role in Islamic militant networks, having transformed themselves in recent years from curiosities to key players in terrorist cells in Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Britain. Religious converts are sometimes more prone to radicalization because of their zeal to prove their newfound faith, analysts said. They are also less likely to attract police scrutiny. (Washington Post)
See also New Terrorism Case Confirms that Denmark Is a Target - Nicholas Kulish (New York Times)
The coup launched by Hamas against the PA in Gaza in May 2007 was a monumental event for the Middle East as a whole. Ahmadinejad's Iran, the proud sponsor of Hizbullah, was once again signaling, through the actions of its Palestinian client, that it has taken on the behavior of a regional hegemon. One central aspect of Iran's hegemonic ambitions is its growing alliance with Hamas, a relationship that dates back to December 1990 when Hamas' leaders were invited to Iran on an official visit. (Henry Jackson Society)
The Islamist website www.ekhlaas.org/forum/, which is hosted by Layered Technologies, Inc. in Texas, posted on September 20, 2007, an 80-minute video of al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri speaking on the occasion of the sixth anniversary of 9/11. Al-Zawahiri called on the Muslims in the Maghreb to bring Andalusia [the Spanish peninsula] back into the fold of Islam, and stated that this could only be done by "purging the Islamic Maghreb of the French and the Spanish who have returned there." He calls on the Sudanese to wage jihad against the Crusader invasion of Darfur, as their brothers did in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Al-Zawahiri also addresses the issue of jihad in Somalia, Chechnya, and Palestine, and calls on the Islamic nation to support the jihad fighters "under the victorious banner of the Prophet." (MEMRI)
Saudi Arabia has become a world-class exporter of Islamist violence. Well over 3,000 Saudi citizens roaming the world - and just as many schemers actively involved at home - are managing terrorist networks and planning and executing suicide bombings and jihadist attacks that span the globe. More than 1,000 Saudis are currently training in a Qaeda camp in Syria, which itself is the subject of contentious negotiations between Saudi Arabia and the Syrians, who still refuse to arrest them or shut down the camp. Young Saudi men are also training in al-Qaeda camps in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran. At least 700 Saudi nationals are held in Iraqi and another 100 in Jordanian jails, all of them charged with terrorist acts.
The main funding source for every radical Islamist movement in the world today, from the Muslim Brotherhood to Hamas, has Saudi origins, and their funders include the country's billionaire businessmen and its royal family. The question is why the Saudis keep doing it and why America looks the other way. (New York Sun)
See also Teaching Terror: Violence Is Inherent in Saudi Education - Nina Shea
Saudi Arabia now supplies jihad fighters for conflicts near and far, often in numbers far disproportionate to its size. The Saudi kingdom is the world's leading exporter of suicide bombers and terrorists. A Saudi was the mastermind of the terror in Chechnya, Saudis figured prominently in recent suicide attacks against Spanish tourists in Yemen, and a Saudi doctor was a principal in the attack against the airport in Glasgow. In Guantanamo, Saudis are the second largest contingent after those from Afghanistan.
Saudi royal advisers, after reviewing the state's curriculum a few years ago, concluded: "[The Saudi official religious curriculum] encourages violence toward others, and misguides the pupils into believing that in order to safeguard their own religion, they must violently repress and even physically eliminate the 'other.'" The writer is director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom. (National Review)
Mordechai Gihon, 85, a professor, archaeologist and historian, was a former intelligence officer in the pre-state Haganah's astronomers unit - amateur astronomers who assisted in gathering intelligence about the Arab Legion's movements in and around Jerusalem. Gihon recalls that in the fall of 1947, David Zaichik, a botany professor and an amateur astronomer, "said that he could help us with his telescopes. We tried it and discovered that his telescopes permitted us to see deep into enemy territory, 100 times better than we had in the past." About 30 amateur astronomers from Jerusalem were enlisted by Gihon and Zaichik to observe enemy positions from hills, towers and tall buildings in the city. The astronomers, who worked in shifts throughout the day, provided daily close-ups of Arab Legion positions at a level of definition that permitted the identification of firing apertures and gun barrels pointed at Jewish forces. Zaichik's people attached cameras to the telescopes and produced detailed pictures for intelligence officers. (Ha'aretz)
As the only Jewish kid in his small New Mexico hometown, Ben Rubin says he was "clueless" about Israel. But that all changed this summer for the 26-year-old Los Angeles marketing executive when he visited Israel as part of the Taglit-birthright israel program launched by the American Jewish community and the Israeli government to deepen connections with young Jews. Rubin said he was transformed by the 10-day visit, during which he saw the Holocaust Museum, the battlefields of Masada and the Golan Heights, the ancient Western Wall and modern nightclubs. "Going to Israel really opened my eyes to what the Jewish people have gone through to survive," Rubin said. "It's really made me want to do what I can to support Israel."
Other communities also attempt to forge ties - the Japanese government sends a dozen young Japanese American leaders to Japan each year and Taiwan's government brings over about 1,000 Chinese Americans. But the Jewish program dwarfs those numbers. Since its inception in December 1999, the birthright program has sent 150,000 young Jews, most of them from North America, to Israel. (Los Angeles Times)
Israel is a tiny country less than half the size of Nova Scotia, much of which is uninhabitable. It is surrounded by neighbors who have constantly pledged its destruction since the day it came into being - well before there was any issue of the so-called "occupation" - and have often acted on that pledge. Israel has been the subject of a stream of condemnatory resolutions issued out of the UN and its various organizations, out of all proportion to anything it has ever been accused of - much of which is false, like the so-called "Jenin Massacre."
Israel is governed by a democratically elected government consisting of representatives from all spheres of Israeli society - including Arabs. It is guided by Jewish values much in the same way that Canada, the U.S. and the UK are guided by Christian values. Arab citizens of Israel are full citizens of the state and have the right to vote, the right to free speech, the right to religious freedom, and the protection of the rule of law. Where does that exist anywhere else in the Middle East? (Halifax Chronicle Herald-Canada)
Israel Retaliates - Marty Peretz (New Republic)
Unsubscribe from Daily Alert