Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Iran Building Secret Underground Nuclear Facility (VOA News)
Report: Hamas Looking to Make Peace with Fatah - Roee Nahmias (Ynet News)
Virginia Appointee Resigns After Videos Show Him Advocating "the Jihad Way" - Bob Lewis (AP)
UN Lebanon Force Goes on Defensive After Summer Bomb Attacks - Gregory Viscusi (Bloomberg)
The Threat of al-Qaeda and its Allies in Lebanon - Shaul Shay (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
A Kinder, Gentler Islam? - Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz)
For Gazans, Fatah Does Not Yet Offer a Better Alternative to Hamas - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
The Hamas PR Machine in America - Rachel Ehrenfeld and Alyssa A. Lappen (Jewish Policy Center)
Malaysia: Anti-Semitism Without Jews - Moshe Yegar (Jewish Political Studies Review)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
The Senate on Wednesday approved in a 76-22 vote a nonbinding measure sponsored by Sens. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., calling on the State Department to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as "a foreign terrorist organization." The measure also noted: "It is the Sense of the Senate...that it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its foreign facilitators such as Lebanese Hizbullah, and its indigenous Iraqi proxies." (FOX News)
A new squad of morality police has begun detaining Palestinians in the West Bank who eat or drink in public during Ramadan. The 12-member squad appears to be an attempt by Mahmoud Abbas' government to challenge the monopoly on religious righteousness claimed by Hamas, the rival ruler of Gaza. The sudden deployment of Ramadan police was unexpected in Ramallah, the most cosmopolitan and well-to-do of the Palestinian cities.
Morality police Lt. Murad Qendah got a radio call telling him a suspect had been spotted in the street imbibing a soft drink. He ordered his six-man squad to seize the man's identity papers pending investigation. Police spokesman Adnan al-Damari said police have arrested at least 50 alleged public morality offenders in Ramallah since the start of Ramadan on Sep. 13. Hamas has imposed no Ramadan patrol of its own in Gaza, where the population is overwhelmingly conservative and social pressure alone is enough to stop public violations of the fast. (AP)
One of the kidnappers of the BBC journalist Alan Johnston was killed Wednesday when an Israeli missile hit the vehicle he was traveling in. Muqtassar Khatab, who appeared in a video making demands for the release of Johnston, was one of five members of the Army of Islam killed in the air strike in Gaza City. The Army of Islam held Johnston for three months. (Guardian-UK)
See also IDF Attacks Palestinian Rocket Cell
On Wednesday night, combat helicopters attacked an armed terrorist cell identified as having launched Kassam rockets into Israel from northen Gaza. A vehicle containing terror cell operatives, who had Kassam rockets in their possession ready for launch, was attacked from the air. During wide-scale operations Wednesday afternoon in northen Gaza, IDF forces identified rocket launchers used to launch Kassam rockets into Israeli territory. During the operations IDF forces attacked operatives of an anti-tank-rocket terror cell about to open fire at Israeli forces. (Israel Defense Forces)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Israel has no intention of stopping work on the security barrier to lure Saudi Arabia to the U.S.-sponsored conference on the Middle East later this year, senior diplomatic sources said Thursday in response to comments made by the Saudi foreign minister in New York. "Israel has its own security needs that we have to address," an official said. At the same time, the official characterized Prince Saud al-Faisal's comments, which included some upbeat remarks about the upcoming Mideast meeting, as "interesting," and added that Israel always listened to what the Saudis have to say. The New York Times reported Thursday that Faisal said Israel should stop work on the security barrier and stop settlement activity as good-will gestures to assure Arab states and show it was serious about comprehensive peace talks. (Jerusalem Post)
Nine days ago, the Israeli government declared Gaza "hostile territory" in an attempt to pressure Hamas to end the rocket attacks. But the shooting has only intensified. Terrorist groups in Gaza, including Hamas' military wing, have also increased efforts to carry out attacks inside Israel. Most of the 54 mortars fired Wednesday landed near the Sufa crossing terminal. The mortars fired Thursday by Hamas targeted crossing points at Erez and Kerem Shalom. There has also been a great deal of intelligence on Hamas' plans to target the crossing points into Gaza. Hamas is doing its best to shut down the crossings - perhaps assuming that if the civilians suffer more, they will side with Hamas. (Ha'aretz)
IDF soldiers arrested two Palestinians at the Bir Zayit checkpoint near Ramallah on Thursday night after finding two explosive devices, which were ready for deployment, in their car during a routine check. (Jerusalem Post)
Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket that hit a house in Kibbutz Shaar Hanegev on Wednesday. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
The Great Wall of China in exchange for the moon. One can see Abbas and Olmert shaking hands, embracing, smiling and ceremoniously signing a document of principles, a statement of intentions and a scout's oath to exchange between themselves what isn't theirs and what they don't have the power to concede. The present diplomatic frenzy that is supposed to lead within two months to a "meeting" does not reflect genuine progress, but rather a virtual process. Within it, ritual moves empty of content are being registered and photographed.
Abbas is ostensibly a refreshing change when compared with Arafat. In fact, Abbas is a continuation of Arafat in his exploitation of the power of weakness. The more Abbas is weakened, the more Rice is willing to give him, at Israel's expense, so he won't get lost entirely. The result is a shelving of the staged approach at the heart of the "road map," and an agreement to Abbas' pleas to ignore the milestones and to skip verbally to the third and last stage. (Ha'aretz)
The partition of the Palestinian Authority and the turning of Gaza and the West Bank into two hostile states are a positive development. The acts of murder and atrocities perpetrated in Gaza, and the radical Islamist regime that has taken over there, have made it clear to the majority of West Bank residents that radical Islam, both religious and political, is their main problem - and not Israel. Rumors circulating in the West Bank as to a hit list comprising 250 senior Fatah names prepared by Hamas has contributed to a better understanding of the meaning of terror. (Ynet News)
The brainstorming in Israel on how to strengthen PA Chairman Abbas has again raised the possibility of releasing Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti from prison. But it is doubtful that Barghouti can be his movement's savior. In certain circumstances, freeing Barghouti could definitely help Abbas in the internal Palestinian arena, but in other conditions it is even likely to hurt him. On the eve of the elections, Barghouti advocated an extremist doctrine that was very similar to that of Hamas. In addition, Barghouti pressured Abbas to form a unity government with Hamas. (Ha'aretz)
"It's about time" was the reaction of most Israelis to the government's decision to impose further economic sanctions on Gaza and to define it as "hostile territory." Since June, when Hamas took control of Gaza, it has allowed Islamic Jihad and other terror groups to continue rocketing Israel, and it supplies these groups with Kassams when they run short, according to Israeli intelligence. Hamas engineers are said, also by Israeli intelligence, to be hard at work on producing Kassams with more powerful warheads and longer ranges. (Los Angeles Times)
It's common to claim it is impossible to defeat terrorism. But over the years of combating Palestinian terrorism during the second intifada, the IDF and the Shin Bet have reached the closest possible point to achieving a victory. Since the beginning of the year, two soldiers and six Israeli citizens were killed as a result of terrorism. At the high point of the intifada, 450 Israelis were killed in 2002. The last suicide bombing in central Israel occurred 18 months ago, in April 2006. The winning formula is a combination of aggressive intelligence-gathering by the Shin Bet, the obstacle created by the separation fence, and the complete freedom of operations granted to the IDF in the Palestinian cities. (Ha'aretz)
See also The "Nonexistent" Military Solution? - Evelyn Gordon
In March 2002, Israel reconquered the West Bank in Operation Defensive Shield - and Israeli fatalities dropped dramatically, that year and every year thereafter. In 1993, many Israelis hoped that a peace agreement would end terror. Fourteen years later, after having suffered more fatalities from Palestinian terror post-Oslo than during the entire preceding 45 years, most Israelis have concluded that the allegedly nonexistent military solution does a much better job of protecting their lives. And until there is concrete evidence of Palestinian willingness and ability to do the job as well or better, there will be no Israeli majority for any deal with the PA. (Jerusalem Post)
Political analysts in Iran say they are surprised at the degree to which the West focuses on their president, saying that it reflects a general misunderstanding of their system. Unlike in the U.S., in Iran the president is not the head of state nor the commander in chief. That status is held by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader. Ahmadinejad's power stems not from his office per se, but from the refusal of his patron, Ayatollah Khamenei, to move beyond Iran's revolutionary identity, which makes full relations with the West impossible. "Iran has never been interested in reaching an accommodation with the United States," said an Iranian political scientist.
Political analysts in Iran say a desire to preserve vested interests will drive Iran's agenda. That means that the allegiance of the political elite is to the system, not a particular president. If this president were ever perceived as outlasting his usefulness, he would probably take his place in history beside other presidents who failed to change the orientation of the system. Iranians will go to the polls in less than two years to select a president. But whether Ahmadinejad wins or loses, there is no sense in Iran that the outcome will have any impact on the fundamentals of Iran's relations with the world or the government's relation to its own society. (New York Times)
Iranian President Ahmadinejad has transcended national and religious divides to become a folk hero across the Middle East. Ahmadinejad's appeal is especially strong in Egypt, where he is compared to the late President Gamal Abdel Nasser, whose bold, yet doomed, vision of pan-Arabism in the 1950s was also aimed at stemming Western influence. What's striking in Ahmadinejad's case, however, is that the leader of a non-Arab Shiite nation has ingratiated himself with the Middle East's predominantly Sunni Arab population. (Los Angeles Times)
The six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program were set to resume on Sept. 27 in Beijing. But the entire diplomatic minuet has been reduced almost to insignificance by news of the apparently successful Israeli air attack on Syria. With its objection to the raid, North Korea may have tipped its hand. For years, North Korea has been an aggressive proliferator of ballistic-missile technology, especially to the Middle East. Iran's increasing hegemony over Syria makes Syrian-North Korean cooperation in nuclear matters unlikely without its consent.
Where are Syria's ballistic missiles - and its weapons of mass destruction - aimed? With American forces at risk in Iraq, no increase in the threats they face is acceptable, especially given Syria's record on Iraq to date. Syria remains at war with Israel and with Lebanon's Cedar Revolution. No one concerned about Israel's security or Lebanon's democracy should countenance giving North Korea a pass on the terrorism issue. The writer, a former U.S. Ambassador to the UN, is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. (Wall Street Journal)
Syria currently possesses about 200 Scud-Bs, 60-120 Scud-Cs, and a smaller number of Scud-Ds, which are kept in hardened underground shelters located in hillsides and tunnels in various parts of the country. Although the Scud-Bs must be launched from forward positions near Damascus, where they are susceptible to detection and destruction prior to launch, Scud-Cs and Scud-Ds can reach targets in Israel from launch sites anywhere in the country. This fact would significantly complicate any Israeli efforts to locate and destroy these missiles (though Israeli forces performed well against Hizbullah's long-range rockets during the summer 2006 war in Lebanon, destroying many before they could be launched).
Syria has used its rocket and missile forces for strategic signaling as well as deterrence. During the Syrian missile crisis in April 1981 and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in June 1982, Syria deployed several Scud-Bs to sites near Damascus - where they could be observed by Israel - as a warning not to attack. And in recent months, Syria reportedly deployed large numbers of long-range rockets opposite the Golan during several major Israeli military exercises there, apparently to deter what it saw as preparations for an attack. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
Is Basher Assad an asset or a liability? Would it serve Israel's purpose if Assad were toppled? Last week a conference attended by the Syrian opposition, united in its hatred to Assad and his regime, convened in Berlin. Hatred of Assad is not their only source of unification. Another unifying factor is their hatred for Israel. If we thought that this opposition would be democratic, pro-Western, and that it would perhaps reach some peace agreement with us, we were mistaken. Conference participants attacked Assad for not maintaining "Syrian honor" and for not embarking on a war against Israel. Clearly, the damage posed by the Assad family is less than the damage likely to be inflicted by the opposition. The writer is head of Middle Eastern Studies at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya. (Ynet News)
The Israel Lobby
Professors Mearsheimer and Walt, together with Jimmy Carter and their phalanx of backers at universities and research institutes, have to be answered, not by calling them anti-Semites, but on the merits. Instinctively and without being lobbied, American presidents don't want to gang up on Israel, since virtually every other state does so. While most countries hammer Israel for crackdowns on the Palestinians, they hardly ever criticize Palestinian terrorists or other Arab terrorists and say little about the misdeeds of Arab and Muslim dictators.
Mearsheimer and Walt don't seriously review the facts of the two most critical issues to Israel and the lobby - arms sales to Arab states and the question of a Palestinian state - matters on which the American position has consistently run counter to the so-called all-powerful Jewish lobby. For several decades, administration after administration has sold Saudi Arabia and other Arab states first-rate modern weapons, against the all-out opposition of Israel and the lobby. And make no mistake, these arms have represented genuine security risks to Israel. The two authors also minimize the lobbying influence of the Saudis and the oil companies, the other major forces on Middle East policy.
Their vitriol about the Iraq war is so overwhelming that they minimize two key facts. First, America's foreign policy community, including many Democrats as well as Republicans, supported the war for the very same reasons that Paul Wolfowitz and the lobby did - namely, the fact that Hussein seemed to pose a present or future threat to American national interests. Second, the real play-callers behind the war were President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. They hardly have a history of being in the pockets of the Jewish lobby (more like the oil lobby's), and they aren't remotely neoconservatives. The more we know, the clearer it is that the White House went to war primarily to erase the "blunder" of the elder Bush in not finishing off Saddam Hussein during the Persian Gulf war of 1991. The writer is president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. (New York Times)
What I really find difficult to swallow is Walt and Mearsheimer's account of how American media and specifically newspapers are molded in the hands of the Israel lobby. Those who work at newspapers would find the notion of inside agents of the Israel lobby (which is effectively what they are describing) as laughable. No columnist can pull off just spouting propaganda. They live and die by the intelligence of their argument. And, it should be remembered that newspapers are a reflection of their audience. There are many reasons why the American people support Israel. Walt and Mearsheimer undermine our intelligence by assuming that we are simply being manipulated. If more columnists support Israel it's partly because most Americans do. That's not the work of any lobby.
If the lobby is so influential over the media, how were Walt and Mearsheimer given such space in every major news outlet in the country to express their views? You want to tell me that a force that can impel us to go to war in Iraq can't find a way to censor two academics? Not much of a lobby, now is it? (Columbia Journalism Review)
From the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion in the 19th century to the charter of Hamas, a common claim by anti-Semites has been that Jews trick great powers into needless wars. That is why an article published in March 2006 by two American academics, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, caused such outrage. The power of the pro-Israel lobby, so far from being a secret, is legendary. What is new is to accuse Israel's supporters of dragging America into Iraq.
The muddle begins when the authors concede that those who pushed for the Iraq war genuinely expected it to benefit America as well as Israel. So the eye-catching implication in the headline - that Israel's supporters knowingly got America into a war that was in Israel's interest but not its own - is withdrawn in the fine print. Next, the authors admit that Israel, considering Iran the bigger threat, did not initiate the campaign for war against Iraq; it fell into line only after it realized that Mr. Bush was already leaning that way. Some argued in favor of the war who were neither neocons nor Jewish nor any part of the Israel lobby - Britain's Tony Blair, say.
At one point the authors complain that Israel and its supporters in America are now rewriting history "to absolve Israel of any responsibility for the Iraq disaster." But it was not Israel that invaded Iraq. Their own book feels like an attempt to absolve America of responsibility for a decision it took by, and for, itself. (Economist-UK)
That there is a Jewish lobby in America concerned with the well-being of Israel is a silly question. It is insane to ask whether the 6 million American Jews should be concerned about the 6 million Israeli Jews, particularly in view of the massacre of another 6 million Jews in the Holocaust. Any people who do not care for their own are not worthy of concern. And what the Israel lobby does is what all ethnic lobbies - Greek, Armenian, Latvian, Irish, Cuban, and others - do in this democracy. What everyone has missed is that all these ethnic lobbies have been built from the bottom up, with but a single exception, a sinister lobby that works from the top down: the American lobby for Saudi Arabia.
There are hardly any Saudi-Americans. Yet we have a lobby composed of American businessmen, oilmen, and academics - all borrowed, hijacked, and, indeed, bribed into filling a void. The noise made on Capitol Hill, in the Pentagon, and inside the White House on behalf of the desert kingdom can be deafening. If Saudi Arabia wants American arms, Saudi Arabia gets arms; if Saudi Arabia cries foul over the bin Laden flock being stuck here the day after their next of kin blew up the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, President Bush lets all 50 of them out, no questions asked. (New York Sun)
The Arab World
The fact that nearly two-thirds of all countries in the world today elect their leaders bespeaks a revolutionary change in the norms of government over the past 30 years. And it puts the Arab lag into stark relief. Out of 171 non-Arab states in the world, the number of democracies is 123, or 72%. Of the 22 Arab states, the number of democracies is zero, according to data compiled by Freedom House. Of the 47 states in the world with Muslim majorities, nine or 19%, are democracies. On the other hand, of 146 non-Muslim states, 114, more than 3/4, are democratic. Yet, even if Islam discourages democracy, it does not pose an absolute barrier. Of the 25 non-Arab states with Muslim majorities, including Indonesia and Malaysia, more than 1/3 (nine) have democratically elected governments.
I believe the 60-year Arab obsession with Israel is the key factor blocking the political development of Arab states. We can see this in the bold assertions of Arab dictators who say that they cannot liberalize now because their countries must be strong in the face of the Zionist enemy. But we can also see it among reformers. In 2005, the Egyptian Movement for Change, or Kifaya, emerged in Egypt. Aside from demanding an end to Mubarak's rule, Kifaya sought to reverse Egypt's largely constructive relationships with Israel and the U.S. The political energies of the Arab world have been siphoned into the endless quest for redress of the great humiliation of Jewish sovereignty in the heart of the Arab region. This obsession has cost the Jews a lot. It has cost the Arabs even more. The writer is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. (Moment)
Is the march of Muslim fundamentalists towards power in the Arab world irreversible? Must we ready ourselves for a theocratic state? The problem with the Muslim fundamentalist project is that it is founded upon the utopian dream of reviving the Islamic state as it existed in its golden era. True, the ability of abstractions to tickle the deep religious grain of the Muslim people is a major reason for the widespread popularity of the fundamentalist project. However, when forced to deal with the difficulties that obstruct its path, or with the various demands of reality, the project runs out of steam.
The dream of reviving the glory of the Islamic empire ignores the fact that what enabled that empire to flourish was its openness to other cultures and civilizations. The decline of Islamic civilization began when the door leading to the application of reason and independent thought was slammed shut. Islamist fundamentalist groups fear the open door from which the winds of independent thought might shake their unity of rank. What remains, then, is the vast ability to cause problems, bring down disaster on others and generally obstruct progress and development. (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
Islamists Can Be Defeated - Moshe Ya'alon (Ynet News)
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Today's issue of the Daily Alert was prepared in Israel on Chol Hamoed.