Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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January 11, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

UN Security Council Condemns Attack on UN Vehicle in South Lebanon, Rocket Attack Against Israel (United Nations)
    The Security Council Thursday condemned the Jan. 8 attack targeting the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which wounded two peacekeepers and damaged their vehicle.
    The Council also strongly condemned the rocket attack launched against Israel on Jan. 8 from Lebanon.

Pentagon Sacks Specialist on Islamist Extremism - Bill Gertz (Washington Times)
    Stephen Coughlin, the Pentagon specialist on Islamic law and Islamist extremism, has been fired from his position on the military's Joint Staff, following opposition to his work by pro-Muslim officials within the office of Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England.
    Coughlin is one of the U.S. government's most important figures in analyzing the nature of extremism and ultimately preparing to wage ideological war against it.
    Pentagon officials have initiated an aggressive "outreach" program to U.S. Muslim groups that critics say is lending credibility to a budding support network for Islamist extremists, including front groups for the radical Muslim Brotherhood.
    Coughlin wrote a memorandum several months ago based on documents made public in a federal trial in Dallas that revealed a covert plan by the Muslim Brotherhood to subvert the U.S. using front groups.
    See also Counterterrorism Analyst Supported - Bill Gertz (Washington Times)
    Some Pentagon and military leaders, along with lots of working-level officials, are quietly rallying to support ousted Joint Staff counterterrorism analyst Stephen Coughlin.
    Pentagon officials said a number of generals and admirals who share Coughlin's assessment of the Islamic law underpinnings of Islamist terror are voicing support for the lawyer and former military intelligence official.

Even with Sanctions, Syrians Embrace KFC and Gap - Julien Barnes-Dacey (Christian Science Monitor)
    The political bitterness between Washington and Damascus has not dampened the appetite for U.S. products in Syria - nor has it stopped American companies from finding a way past sanctions in order to do business in the country.
    America's iconic brands are popping up all over Damascus despite years of that country's own self-imposed economic isolation and U.S. trade sanctions imposed in 2003 to punish the Syrians for meddling in Lebanon.
    Cargill, one of America's largest private companies, is currently building a sugar refinery in the town of Homs.
    "Sanctions on Syria haven't worked. Officially, trade has gone up between the two countries and the Syrian market is full of American goods," says Andrew Tabler, Syrian analyst for the Stanley Foundation.

Feminist Magazine Rejects Ad Featuring Israeli Women Leaders - E.B. Solomont (New York Sun)
    Ms. magazine refused to accept a full-page advertisement featuring three prominent Israeli women.
    The advertisement, submitted by the American Jewish Congress, featured photographs of the president of the Israeli Supreme Court, Dorit Beinisch; Israel's foreign minister, Tzipi Livni; and the speaker of the Knesset, Dalia Itzik.
    Underneath the photographs, the advertisement included the text, "This is Israel."

Belgian Court Jails Iraq Suicide Bomb Recruiters - Julien Ponthus (Reuters/ Washington Post)
    A Belgian court convicted five Islamist militants on Thursday of belonging to a group that recruited suicide bombers in Belgium to go abroad, including a female convert who blew herself up in Iraq.

Goods Smuggled in Gaza Tunnels, Taxed by Hamas - Erica Silverman (Washington Times)
    An elaborate network of tunnels from Egypt has become the primary transport route for commercial goods entering Gaza, subject to taxes by Hamas.

Dubai Billionaire Honors Former U.S. Congressman - Charles Storch (Chicago Tribune)
    Illinois College, a small liberal arts college in Jacksonville, is getting a contribution of nearly $1 million from Dubai multibillionaire Khalaf Al Habtoor who wants to honor former U.S. congressman Paul Findley.
    Findley, 86, is mostly known today for his extensive writings and speeches on the influence of the Israeli lobby.

Report: Al-Qaeda Controls U.S. Prisons in Iraq (MEMRI)
    A report on Al-Arabiya TV on Dec. 21, 2007, examined how life in U.S. prisons in Iraq is largely controlled by al-Qaeda members.
    According to the report, "some of these prisons have turned into factories for converting innocent people into extremists."
    One former inmate stated, "When you enter prison, either you become one of them, or else they kill you."

BBC "Took Terrorist Trainers Paintballing" - Adam Sherwin (Times-UK)
    The BBC funded a paintballing trip for men later accused of Islamic terrorism and failed to pass on information about the 21/7 bombers to police, a court was told last month.
    Mohammed Hamid is charged with overseeing a two-year radicalization program to prepare London-based Muslim youths for jihad.
    The BBC paid for Hamid and fellow defendants Muhammad al-Figari and Mousa Brown to go on a paintballing trip at the Delta Force center in Tonbridge, Kent, in February 2005.
    The men, accused of terrorism training, were filmed for a BBC program called "Don't Panic, I'm Islamic," screened in June 2005.

Holocaust Denial as an Anti-Zionist and Anti-Imperialist Tool for the European Far Left - Dave Rich (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    The growth of an antiglobalization, anti-imperialist political movement has created a political space on the Left in which Holocaust denial is no longer taboo, if framed in an anti-Zionist context.
    Mainstream Holocaust commemoration is increasingly under attack as a Zionist or imperialist tool. For some leftists, the contradiction between their antifascism and their anti-Zionism is solved by casting Jewish communities and the European far Right as political allies.
    The writer is deputy director of communications at CST, which provides security and defense services to the UK Jewish community.

Silicon Wadi 2.0 - Shlomo Kalish (Jerusalem Post)
    The hi-tech industry is by far the fastest growing segment of the Israeli economy. The news from close observers of this sector is that the Israeli start-up industry is currently undergoing a major change.
    The technology sector is entering its second phase of development, laying the groundwork for the creation of larger companies positioned to become major global players.

Business Wire Founder Lorry I. Lokey Donates $30 Million to Weizmann Institute (Reuters)
    The American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science announced that Lorry I. Lokey of San Francisco pledged $30 million to further international scientific education and research at its Pre-Clinical Research Facility and its Research School of Biochemical Sciences.

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  • Bush: Israeli-Palestinian Peace Agreement Must Ensure "Defensible Borders" for Israel
    President Bush said in Jerusalem on Thursday: "There should be an end to the occupation that began in 1967. The agreement must establish Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people, just as Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people. These negotiations must ensure that Israel has secure, recognized, and defensible borders. And they must ensure that the state of Palestine is viable, contiguous, sovereign, and independent."
        "While territory is an issue for both parties to decide, I believe that any peace agreement between them will require mutually agreed adjustments to the armistice lines of 1949 to reflect current realities and to ensure that the Palestinian state is viable and contiguous. I believe we need to look to the establishment of a Palestinian state and new international mechanisms, including compensation, to resolve the refugee issue."
        "I know Jerusalem is a tough issue. Both sides have deeply felt political and religious concerns. I fully understand that finding a solution to this issue will be one of the most difficult challenges on the road to peace, but that is the road we have chosen to walk. Security is fundamental. No agreement and no Palestinian state will be born of terror. I reaffirm America's steadfast commitment to Israel's security."  (White House)
        See also Defensible Borders for a Lasting Peace (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also Linking the Gaza Strip with the West Bank: Implications of a Palestinian Corridor Across Israel (pdf) (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Bush Names General to Monitor Mideast Roadmap
    President Bush has named Lt. Gen. William Fraser to monitor Israeli and Palestinian implementation of the Roadmap peace plan, the White House said on Thursday. Fraser, who has served as assistant to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, was asked by Bush to "serve as the head of the monitoring mechanism for ensuring implementation of the Roadmap," said Stephen Hadley, the White House national security adviser. In Ramallah Thursday, Bush said: "We have agreed to a trilateral process and want to help the Israelis and the Palestinians resolve their differences over Roadmap issues." (Reuters)
  • Bush to Palestinians: Break from the Past, Redefine the Future
    During a visit to Ramallah on Thursday, President Bush said: "Look, the UN deal didn't work in the past. And so now we're going to have an opportunity to redefine the future by having a state negotiated between an elected leader of the Palestinian people, as well as the prime minister of Israel. This is an opportunity to move forward. And the only way to defeat the terrorists in the long run is to offer an alternative vision that is more hopeful. And that's what we're attempting to do. We can stay stuck in the past, which will yield nothing good for the Palestinians, in my judgment. We can chart a hopeful future, and that's exactly what this process is intending to do; to redefine the future for the Palestinian citizens and the Israelis." (White House)
  • Bush at Yad Vashem: U.S. Should Have Bombed Auschwitz
    President Bush visited Israel's official Holocaust memorial on Friday, placing a red-white-and-blue wreath on a stone slab that covers ashes of Holocaust victims taken from six extermination camps. ''I wish as many people as possible would come to this place. It is a sobering reminder that evil exists, and a call that when evil exists we must resist it,'' he said.
        At one point, Bush viewed aerial photos of the Auschwitz death camp taken during the war by U.S. forces and called Secretary of State Rice over to discuss why the American government had decided against bombing the site. ''We should have bombed it,'' Bush said, according to Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev. In the memorial's visitors' book, the president wrote simply, ''God bless Israel, George Bush.'' (AP/USA Today)
        See also Bush Ends Israel Visit, Heads to Kuwait - Paula Wolfson (VOA News)
  • The Collapse of the Saudi Sunni Bloc Against Iran's Aspirations for Regional Hegemony in the Gulf - Y. Yehoshua, I. Rapoport, Y. Mansharof, A. Savyon and Y. Carmon
    The Saudi-Gulf bloc collapsed about six weeks ago when Qatar, without consulting the other Gulf states, invited Iranian President Ahmadinejad to attend the summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Doha. The Saudi magazine Al-Majalla called this collapse "the end of the American game." The disintegration of the bloc was also the result of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate report which assessed that Iran had suspended its nuclear weapons program.
        Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal expressed support for the invitation; moreover, following the summit, Saudi King 'Abdallah invited Ahmadinejad to attend the Hajj ceremonies in Mecca. The NIE report, in addition to being perceived as a significant Iranian victory, removed the threat of a U.S. military attack on Iran, giving rise to concerns in the Gulf that the report could herald a U.S.-Iranian understanding which would compromise the safety of the Gulf states. (MEMRI)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel to Continue to Build in Jerusalem and in Major Settlement Blocs - Etgar Lefkovits
    Israel will continue building in Jerusalem as well as in major settlement blocs in the West Bank, even as a construction freeze continues elsewhere in the territories, a senior Israeli official said Thursday. "It is very clear that we are committed not to build new settlements, and Israel has taken action to curtail settlement activity over the last years," the Israeli official said. "[But] it is well understood that there are some areas, [the] most populated areas [where] some activity will continue." "Building in Jerusalem and West Bank population centers are "not [of] the same status." Israel plans to keep several major West Bank settlement blocs as part of any final peace treaty with the Palestinians.
        The official added that Israel was determined to continue building in Jerusalem. "Nobody...could expect Israel to interpret this matter [of a building freeze] to be relevant to our capital," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • UNIFIL Leaks to Hizbullah Worry IDF - Yaakov Katz
    After two Katyusha rockets struck Shlomi in the Galilee, Israeli defense officials raised concerns Wednesday that information they were regularly passing on to UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) was also making its way to Hizbullah. The IDF regularly updates UNIFIL and the LAF on its assessments concerning Hizbullah's military buildup in southern Lebanon. The IDF is constantly debating the "depth" of the information it is willing to share with UNIFIL and the LAF, out of fear that the information will find its way through the LAF to Hizbullah. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    President Bush Visits Israel

  • Bush in Israel - Editorial
    President George W. Bush began his Middle East trip in Israel where he emphasized the strong relationship the U.S. and Israel share. "The source of that strength," said Mr. Bush, "is a shared belief in the power of human freedom. Our people have built two great democracies under difficult circumstances. We built free economies to unleash the potential of our people. And the alliance between our two nations helps guarantee Israel's security as a Jewish state." President Bush urged Palestinians to support President Abbas in his efforts to negotiate a Palestinian state. If Palestinians support terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hizbullah, they will miss the chance to have their own state. (VOA News)
  • Security and Skepticism for Bush in Ramallah - Joseph Schuman
    It is a fairly safe bet that no arm of the U.S. government was more anxious Thursday than the Secret Service, with President Bush traveling to the West Bank under the nominal protection of the Palestinian security forces. While Mr. Bush said he's ready to push both sides to compromise, there were signs his sentiments lie closer to those of the Israelis. CNN reports that White House aides upset the Palestinians by forcing them to change the room where Bush and Abbas would meet because a picture of Arafat hung on one of its walls. Asked by a journalist about Israeli checkpoints, Bush expressed sympathy for such Palestinian hardships, but then emphasized that Israel can only live beside a state that doesn't threaten it.
        To the Palestinians, Bush said in blunt and simple terms: "Do you want this state? Or do you want the status quo? Do you want a future based upon a democratic state? Or do you want the same old stuff?"  (Wall Street Journal)
  • Needed: A Strategy for Ending the Jihad Against Zion - Marty Peretz
    How many times have I heard this refrain? "This president is the best friend Israel has ever had." Hundreds of times. About Ronald Reagan. About Bill Clinton. And now about George Bush. I suppose, it is true in a certain abstract sense about each of them. They probably also understood that the prime impediment to a peace between the Israelis and those who now call themselves Palestinians (this nomenclature is relatively new to the Arabs of Palestine) is fanatic resistance to the non-negotiable reality of a Jewish state in the Holy Land. America is the only country with the power to induce Israel to make perilous concessions and, therefore, it is the only country whose government Arabs - both in Palestine and in the surrounding countries - are motivated to influence.
        Yet there are some realities that neither the American president nor the best laid plans of other mice and men can influence or affect. You can force this bloc of settlements to close down and draw the border here rather than there and even color code Jerusalem to allow the Arabs to control the Temple Mount (which would be a terrible affront to Jewish history that the Muslims want especially to affront) and to hand sovereignty over Palestinian neighborhoods in the city to the Palestinians and contrive some cynical and unprecedented formula for allowing some "refugees" (they are almost all dead actually) to "return" and creating a fund for compensation of zillions of dollars (to which Israel should not contribute because it has absorbed since 1948 a larger number of true Jewish refugees from the Islamic world) - yet not even all of this would end the jihad against Zion.
        The fact is that the great impediment to peace with Israel is the fanatic obstinacy of the Palestinians. Does anyone have a strategy for negotiating with that? (New Republic)
  • Where Bush Needs to Nudge - Editorial
    President Bush seems to be finally succumbing to the pressure that he resisted during his whole presidency to see the peace process primarily as a function of U.S. "engagement." At best, engagement means pushing both sides. At worst, it is a euphemism for mainly pushing Israel, the more compliant party, while ignoring the Palestinians' failure to abide by their commitments - even those under the PA's complete control, such as ending official glorification of suicide bombers and incitement against Israel. The first prerequisite for peace is ending Arab incitement to terrorism, hatred and war. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Bush in Jerusalem - Editorial
    President Bush will be greeted in Israel this week as a hero of the global struggle against Islamist terror and a great friend of the Jewish state but also with concern about American policy in respect of Iran and the future borders between Israel and any Palestinian Arab state. Using the 1967 border model as regards Gaza has not worked. Right now, the downside at the Gaza-Sinai border outweighs any benefits accrued to Israel for complying with the long-standing wishes of the international community. (New York Sun)
  • Are the Palestinians Waiting for the Next U.S. Administration? - Aluf Benn and Shmuel Rosner
    Bush's trip to the region was to a large extent designed to reassure Saudi Arabia and Israel, and to promise them that America is still committed to confronting Iran, "which was, is and will be a threat," as the president said in Jerusalem. Some are already identifying signs that the Palestinians have decided that it might be better for them to wait for the next U.S. administration. These signs are manifested in a toughening of Palestinians' demands: full withdrawal, full sovereignty, military capabilities. That does not bode well for the negotiations that are supposed to begin next week between Israel Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Ahmed Qureia on the core issues. (Ha'aretz)
  • Why the Bush Vision of Peace Is Still Somewhere Over the Rainbow - Calev Ben-David
    Bush has talked plenty about "vision" during this visit, dubbing direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations over a final-status settlement as the "vision track." U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley was more specific, saying: "When the people of Gaza are presented with this vision, they can make a choice and invite the Palestinian Authority back in to administer Gaza." Really? Entranced by a final-status agreement that involves painful concessions, the people of Gaza somehow "invite" Fatah back, and Hamas and its radical Islamic allies simply lay down their arms and pass on power peacefully to Mahmoud Abbas?
        Unfortunately, the problem with those Palestinians who oppose a two-state solution isn't that they lack a vision of a Palestinian state - it's that they lack a vision for a Jewish state existing alongside it. This isn't to say that having a vision of peace isn't a good or necessary thing. But it is naive, or disingenuous, to think it can be implemented, or can even move the process of implementation forward, without first changing some of the current harsh realities on the ground. (Jerusalem Post)

    Other Issues

  • Ahmadinejad Loses Favor with Khamenei, Iran's Top Leader - Nazila Fathi
    A rift is emerging between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Iranian analysts all point to the U.S. National Intelligence Report last month, which said that Iran suspended its nuclear weapons program in 2003 in response to international pressure. The report sharply decreased the threat of a military strike against Iran, allowing the authorities to focus on domestic issues. "Now that Iran is not under the threat of a military attack, all the contradictions within the establishment are surfacing," said Saeed Leylaz, an economic and political analyst. While the pressure was on, the leadership was reluctant to let any internal disagreements show.
        A source close to Khamenei said: "Mr. Khamenei supported Mr. Ahmadinejad because he believed in his slogans of helping the poor, but his economic performance has been disastrous. Their honeymoon is certainly over."  (International Herald Tribune)
  • U.S. Can Beat Iran - But Not by Fighting - Roger Stern
    In a war game in 2002, Lt.-Gen. Paul Van Riper of the Marines was called from retirement to lead a surrogate Iranian force defending against a U.S. attack. The general was recruited for his special talent, devising creative ways to fight stronger, technologically superior opponents. Using motorbike messengers to keep his communications secure from high-tech eavesdropping, he launched a surprise attack on the U.S. Navy from a fleet of small, fast missile boats. The barrage was intended to saturate U.S. anti-missile radars, allowing at least a few missiles to reach their targets. This worked perfectly. A U.S. aircraft carrier and 15 other warships went to the bottom.
        Iranian naval doctrine is to strike hard, once, before being destroyed. To deliver this strike, Iran's Revolutionary Guards began building a fleet like Van Riper's long before the general showed what damage it could do. Anti-ship missiles have been sinking real warships in combat since 1982, when an Argentine fighter pilot fired just two at HMS Sheffield.
        Deeply unpopular, the Iranian regime now relies on constantly rising oil prices for survival. An oil price decline would be a mortal threat. If Bush wants to hit the regime where it hurts, conciliation should become his byword. In the price collapse that would follow, he'd find a brand new Iranian appetite for negotiation. This is because, unlike sanctions that might take years to bite, a peace initiative would threaten the mullahs tomorrow. The writer Roger Stern is a national security and energy policy analyst in the Oil, Energy and the Middle East Program at Princeton University. (International Herald Tribune)
  • Democracy: Inevitable No More - Madeleine K. Albright
    Arab democracy has shifted out of first gear and back into neutral. The Bush administration's grandiose plan for the democratic transformation of the Middle East has been shredded by the venomous politics of Iraq, the electoral gains of Hamas, the popularity of Hizbullah and the growing fear of Iran. President Bush no longer pressures Arab dictators to reform; instead, he calls them moderates and urges them to unite against extremist groups that are, awkwardly, both implicated in terrorism and proficient at competing in elections. (Los Angeles Times)
  • A Jewish State - Gerald M. Steinberg
    In response to the obsessive efforts to deny the Jewish people the right to national self-determination, Israelis have started to demand explicit public and unambiguous acceptance as a Jewish state, reflecting Jewish culture, holidays, language, etc., just as France is French, Italy is Italian, Iran is Islamic, etc. Fourteen years after the exuberance of Oslo, with the renewal of peace talks at the Annapolis meeting, Prime Minister Olmert put the recognition of the right of the Jews to sovereign equality squarely on the table. Unless the Palestinians, the Saudi leadership, Bashar Assad's regime in Syria, and others who claim to be interested in peace end their campaigns to delegitimize Israel, the conflict will continue. Similarly, as long as the demonization continues in the UN, and has strong support in the UK and Europe, these governments cannot be considered to be serious partners in peace efforts. (Canadian Jewish News)
  • $100 a Barrel: Rising Oil Prices Create New Regional Order - Guy Bechor
    Until the 1970s, the Arabs of the north - Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinians, and Iraq - were the leaders and commanders, while Gulf Arabs donated money. In the 1990s, a new generation of Gulf Arab leaders of the south sought to also take a leading role in the Arab world. When the price of an oil barrel reached $100, the Middle East changed as well and Saudi Arabia became the Arab world's political leader. Gulf Arabs accumulated unimagined wealth, while Arabs of the north went broke. States in the Arab north are sinking under the weight of huge birthrates, dry ideology, desperate unemployment, dysfunctional bureaucracy, and jammed capital cities that devour oil. Despair reigns as oil becomes more expensive. On the other hand, wealth and happiness are on the rise among Gulf Arabs.
        $100 a barrel is how Gulf states rule Arab politics, as they can reach every corner with money and aid. Gulf rulers throw a few million dollars in the direction of the Palestinians once in a while - pathetic sums of money in their view; charity. In the past they hid behind fake solidarity with their Palestinian brethren, but today they simply ignore them. (Ynet News)
  • Shared History and Values Unite Israel and the U.S. - Mitchell Bard
    The long-standing U.S.-Israel alliance exists because it is good for America. The relationship is far deeper than the ideology of an individual president and is based on a web of military, economic, academic and personal connections. While living in a region dominated by autocracies, Israelis have a commitment to democracy no less passionate than that of Americans. (Los Angeles Times)

    Weekend Features

  • We Are in Jerusalem - Natan Sharansky
    At the wedding of his daughter, Rachel, last week, Natan Sharansky said: This moment takes me back to our wedding, Avital's and mine, 34 years ago in a small Moscow apartment. All we could do was simply repeat every word after the rabbi, while hardly understanding many of them. But when it came to breaking the glass, the rabbi spoke about Jerusalem and we became instantly reconnected to our reality. It was so obvious to us that we were in the very last stages of the thousands of years of struggle to return to Jerusalem.
        Today, we are standing here with you, Rachel, the first sabra in the Sharansky family, and we are in Jerusalem! The dream has come true. This wedding is a victory of all the generations who were true to the Jewish people's oath of Jerusalem. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Former Jihadist Backs Alternate Islam - David Horovitz
    At Cairo University in the late 1970s, Tawfik Hamid joined the Jamaah Islamiyah fundamentalist organization and fell under the spell of an older fellow student, Ayman al-Zawahiri, described as a lieutenant to Osama bin Laden in al-Qaeda. Nearly thirty years later, Hamid, who left Egypt 13 years ago and now lives in the U.S., is visiting Israel with a group of moderate Muslim leaders on a trip sponsored by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Project Interchange institute of the American Jewish Committee.
        What is most crucial, Hamid stressed in an interview, is defeating Islamic fundamentalism at the ideological level and providing an alternative interpretation of the Koran. "Islam could be followed and interpreted in a peaceful way," he said, "but the current dominant way of interpretation has many violent areas that need addressing....It can be taught peacefully. The texts can allow you to do this."
        He said Muslims ought to be "incredibly respectful of Jews - on the basis of the Koran." He said there is repeated support in the Koran for the Children of Israel as the "preferred" and "chosen" people, and there are several references to "the land God promised" to the Jews as a "permanent inheritance."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Moderates Seek a Voice - Sheera Claire Frenkel
    Muhammad Dajani, 61, director of the American Studies Institute at Al-Kuds University in Jerusalem, recently founded a new Palestinian party - Wasatia - meaning "moderation," often used in the Koran to mean "middle ground," "centrism" and "balance." It is an Islamic religious party that advocates a peaceful, negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a tolerant, democratic society at home.
        Dajani founded Wasatia in March 2007. It is the only Palestinian political party that does not support the "right of return" - a perennial stumbling block in the peace talks. "We have to get over this. Why create such a big obstacle to the peace process when it's not practical to make this demand?" he says. Wasatia calls for establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with eastern Jerusalem as its capital. It defines itself as an Islamic party, but seeks to foster a tolerant society in the territories that protects freedom of religion and expression. Dajani is also creating a new textbook for kindergartens in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. "The current books that they use espouse a philosophy that supports Hamas. It is a philosophy which supports a jihadist approach," he says.
        Munbi al-Masri, a former Fatah loyalist, recently launched Muntada as another third-party movement. Educated in America, he returned to the West Bank to help establish the Paltel phone company and the Palestinian stock exchange. But in the last parliamentary election, centrist parties garnered just six of 132 parliamentary seats. Nicolas Pelham, a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group in Jerusalem, said that centrist groups such as Wasatia face serious problems. "Political power relies on patronage," he said. "Those factions which do maintain some form of popular allegiance are those which can offer services and jobs and some access to the remaining centers of power or salaries." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Seeds of Hate - "Jihad and Jew-Hatred: Islamism, Nazism and the Roots of 9/11" by Matthias Kuntzel - Jeffrey Goldberg (New York Times)

    • One day in Damascus not long ago, I visited the gift shop of the Sheraton Hotel, looking for something to read. There was a paperback copy of The International Jew, published in 2000 in Beirut, a collection of columns exposing the putative role of Jews in such fields as international finance, world governance and bootlegging, based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
    • Next to it was a copy of The Bible Came From Arabia, a piece of twaddle that suggests the Jews are not Jews and Israel isn't Israel. And then there was a pamphlet called "Secrets of the Talmud." Not knowing these secrets, I started reading. The Talmud apparently teaches Jews how best to demolish the world economy and gives Jews the right to take non-Jewish women as slaves and rape them. Anti-Semitic conspiracy literature not only posits crude and senseless ideas, but also tends to be riddled with typos, repetitions and gross errors of grammar, and for this and other reasons I occasionally have trouble taking it seriously.
    • The German scholar Matthias Kuntzel tells us this is a mistake. He takes anti-Semitism, and its most potent current strain, Muslim anti-Semitism, very seriously. His bracing, even startling, book reminds us that it is perilous to ignore idiotic ideas if these idiotic ideas are broadly, and fervently, believed. And across the Muslim world, the very worst ideas about Jews - intricate, outlandish conspiracy theories about their malevolent and absolute power over world affairs - have become scandalously ubiquitous.
    • The question is not only why, of course, but how: how did these ideas, especially those that portray Jews as all-powerful, work their way into modern-day Islamist discourse? The notion of the Jew as malevolently omnipotent is not a traditional Muslim notion. In subsequent centuries Jews lived among Muslims, and it is true that their experience was generally healthier than that of their brethren in Christendom, but only so long as they knew their place; they were ruled and taxed as second-class citizens and were often debased by statute. In the Jim Crow Middle East, no one believed the Jews were in control.
    • Obviously, then, these modern-day ideas about Jewish power were imported from Europe, and Kuntzel makes a bold argument: the dissemination of European models of anti-Semitism among Muslims was an actual project of the Nazi Party, meant to turn Muslims against Jews and Zionism. He says that in the years before World War II, two Muslim leaders in particular willingly and knowingly carried Nazi ideology directly to the Muslim masses. They were Haj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem, and the Egyptian proto-Islamist Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood.
    • The former Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi once told me that "the question is not what the Germans did to the Jews, but what the Jews did to the Germans." The Jews, he said, deserved their punishment. Kuntzel argues that we should see men like Rantisi for what they are: heirs to the mufti, and heirs to the Nazis.

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