Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 7, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Palestinian Attacker, from Eastern Jerusalem, Was Driver at School; Family Flies Hamas Flag (AP/USA Today)
    Israeli defense officials said the gunman who attacked the school came from eastern Jerusalem, whose Palestinian residents have Israeli ID cards that give them freedom of movement in Israel, unlike Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
    Several residents of the neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber gave his name as Alaa Abu Dhein, 20, and said he had worked as a driver at the school.
    His family set up a mourning tent Friday and hung green Hamas flags outside their home.
    Abu Dhein was arrested by Israeli authorities four months ago and then released two months later, they said.
    See also Terrorist Confirmed His Kills - Amnon Meranda (Ynet News)
    Ariel Dela Rosa, 28, who was lightly injured in the attack, said the terrorist confirmed his kills.
    "He yelled 'Allahu Akbar.' I think he confirmed some of the kills. When I left the room I saw that the bodies had been shot in the head."

"Innocent" Civilian Home Was Assembly Line for Gaza Rockets - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    During the recent IDF operation in Gaza, Lt.-Col. Nir Ben-David noticed three Palestinians in civilian clothing entering a house at the edge of Jabalya.
    Using two Kalashnikov rifles and an RPG missile, the three then opened fire in the direction of the Israeli forces.
    If it wants to, Hamas will clash with the army in uniform and with weapons. Yet, if it so desires, it can also shed its uniforms, enter houses, and pull out weapons from a cache.
    In the battle for public opinion, Israel's explanation that civilian members of the Atallah family were killed in an Israel Air Force bombing in Gaza because they chose to build an assembly line for Kassam rockets in their home did not penetrate.
    The fact that Hamas shelled the Sufa crossing at a time when 60 trucks with food were entering Gaza remained unreported.

Egypt Walls Up Gaza Border - Ashraf Sweilam (AP)
    Egypt is building a 13-foot high concrete and rock wall interspersed with watch towers along its boundary with Gaza to prevent Hamas militants from breaching the border, an official said Thursday.

U.S. Steps Up Security Watch on Ships That Have Visited Syria (AFP)
    State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said Syria has been placed on the "Port Security Advisory List" because of "concerns about the connections between Syria and international terrorist organizations."
    The move allows the U.S. Coast Guard "to impose some additional port security measures to ships traveling to or arriving in U.S. ports that have previously been either departing from Syria or have called on Syrian ports," he said.

Former Navy Sailor Convicted of Leaking Details About His Ship to Terrorism Supporters - John Christoffersen (AP)
    Hassan Abu-Jihaad, 32, of Phoenix, an American-born Muslim convert formerly known as Paul R. Hall, faces up to 25 years in federal prison after being convicted Wednesday of providing material support to terrorists and disclosing classified national defense information by leaking details about ship movements to suspected terrorism supporters, an act that could have endangered his own crewmates.
    Abu-Jihaad, a signalman aboard the USS Benfold, was accused of passing along details about the makeup of his Navy battle group when it was to pass through the dangerous Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf on April 29, 2001.

Code Word for Hate - Alan Howe (Herald Sun-Australia)
    The people of the Israeli border town of Sderot are the most bombed on the planet.
    It's not that Gaza's militants hate them any more than other Israelis, it's just that their rockets only go that far.

One Palestinian Billionaire's Vision of Unity - Ilene R. Prusher (Christian Science Monitor)
    Palestinian billionaire businessman Munib al-Masri has launched al-Muntada al-Filistin, the Palestine Forum, through which he hopes to bring his society's warring political factions to a national reconciliation.
    The initiative calls for new elections in six months to a year for both the Palestinian legislative council and the presidency, a reconciliation conference within two months, and complete reform and integration of the various Palestinian security forces.
    His family fortune was built on gold, grain production, and olive oil presses, but in the post-Oslo era, Masri founded PADICO, Palestine Development & Investment Ltd., which employs more people than the PA.

The Academic Boycott of Israel: The Five-Year UK Campaign to Defeat It - Ronnie Fraser (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Israel's enemies have used academic calls for a boycott to draw attention to their campaign for Israel's delegitimization and destruction.
    The success of the boycott campaign is not the number of actions that have succeeded, but the fact that the issue is in the public domain.
    There is an urgent need for a proactive strategy especially on the part of the UK Jewish community to build positive relationships with the leadership of institutions, trade unions, and professional bodies.
    The writer, a lecturer at Barnet College in London, is director of the Academic Friends of Israel.

Tennessee's Bruce Pearl Is a Real Gem - Uriel Sturm (Jerusalem Post)
    Bruce Pearl, the Jewish coach of the University of Tennessee Volunteers men's basketball team, has posted a 384-106 record in his 16th year as a head coach.
    His .784 career winning percentage ranks third among active coaches, and he was named the national coach of the year in 1995 and 2006.
    Pearl has been named coach of Maccabi USA Basketball and will lead the team to Israel for the 2009 Maccabiah Games.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Arab Gunman Murders Eight Jewish Students at Jerusalem School - Steven Erlanger and Isabel Kershner
    An Arab gunman entered the prominent Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem on Thursday night, killing at least eight students and wounding at least nine others, three of them seriously, the Israeli police said. The gunman killed two people at the entrance and then entered the library, spraying the students with gunfire from a Kalashnikov rifle.
        Avi Katz, 23, a medical volunteer, said, "We came to the library and saw two bodies at the entrance on the floor, and it was very bad. There were bodies and Jewish books all over the floor....They were shot one by one."  (New York Times)
        See also Names of Jerusalem Attack Victims
    The fatalities have been identified as Yochai Lipschitz, 18, of Jerusalem; Yonatan Yitzchak Eldar, 16, of Shilo; Yonadav Chaim Hirschfeld, 19, of Kochav Hashahar; Neriah Cohen, 15, of Jerusalem; Roey Roth, 18, of Elkana; Segev Pniel Avihayil, 15, of Neve Daniel; Avraham David Moses, 16, of Efrat; and Maharata Trunoch, 26, of Ashdod. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Mercaz Harav - Flagship of National-Religious Yeshivas - Yair Sheleg
    The Mercaz Harav rabbinic college is the most prominent yeshiva in the religious Zionist world. It trained the movement's leading rabbis as well as many yeshiva heads, city rabbis, and teachers in religious colleges and high schools. The school was central in shaping the evolution of religious Zionism. Founded in 1924 by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, then chief Ashkenazi rabbi during the British Mandate, it is seen as the first yeshiva to be Zionist in spirit. (Ha'aretz)
  • Libya Blocks UN Condemnation of Jerusalem Attack - John Heilprin
    Libya on Thursday blocked the UN Security Council from condemning an attack on a school in Jerusalem by a Palestinian from eastern Jerusalem. Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. ambassador to the UN, said the obstruction undermines the council's effectiveness in the region. "What happened today was clearly a terrorist act," he said after the council's two-hour emergency session. "We regret that this makes it difficult for the council to contribute positively to developments in this region, but those who blocked this possibility bear responsibility." Libya insisted any statement should include condemnation of Israeli actions in Gaza. Three other nations agreed with Libya, but most council members wanted to keep the issues separate, said council diplomats. (AP)
  • UN Rights Council Condemns Israel - Eliane Engeler
    The UN Human Rights Council on Thursday approved a resolution sponsored by Pakistan and Muslim countries condemning Israel's offensive in Gaza. Israel launched the offensive last week in response to Palestinian militants barraging southern Israel with rockets. (AP)
        See also below Commentary: Statement by Israeli Ambassador to UN Human Rights Council (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • U.S. Under Fire Over Iran N-Plan Report - James Blitz and Tony Barber
    A U.S. intelligence report into Iran's nuclear arms program was on Wednesday subjected to strong criticism by a senior UK diplomat, who claimed the assessment had been too categorical in stating that Tehran halted work on building an atomic weapon in 2003. The diplomat said the outside world could not be sure Tehran had stopped covert work on a weapon. "I have never seen any intelligence that gives me even medium confidence that these programs have not been resumed," he said.
        The remarks coincided with a call by Danny Yatom, former head of Mossad, Israel's intelligence service, who is touring Europe and Asia to persuade governments that a "wait and see" stance to Iran's nuclear program is no longer wise. He told the Financial Times that the world must act to stop Iran's nuclear program because Tehran is within a year of making a nuclear bomb. (Financial Times-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Thousands in Gaza Celebrate Jerusalem Terror Attack, Palestinians Distribute Sweets - Ali Waked
    Gaza's streets filled with joyous crowds of thousands on Thursday evening following the terror attack at a Jerusalem school in which eight people were killed. In mosques in Gaza City, many residents went to perform the prayers of thanksgiving. Armed men fired in the air in celebration and others passed out sweets to passersby. Hamas issued a statement saying it "blesses the (Jerusalem) operation." (Ynet News)
  • Israeli Injured by Palestinian Rocket in Sderot - Shmulik Hadad
    At least nine rockets were fired into Israel from Gaza on Thursday. Two rockets hit Sderot Thursday evening, one of which wounded a man with shrapnel. Earlier in the day, a rocket scored a direct hit on a house. Elisheva Turjeman, the owner of the house, said, "We managed to get to the secured room and take shelter. It was a real miracle. I still can't believe we escaped it unharmed." (Ynet News)
  • Bedouin Soldier Killed Thursday Encouraged Youths to Volunteer for IDF - Tova Dadon
    An IDF Bedouin tracker was killed by a roadside bomb on the Gaza border on Thursday. A cousin recalled, "He made every effort to convince youths to enlist in the IDF in order to help the country." Another cousin said most of the tracker's family had served in the IDF. The soldier's family asked that his name not be made public. (Ynet News)
  • A Deadly Game Along the Gaza Security Fence - Rebecca Anna Stoil
    The 51 kilometers of security fence separating Gaza - and thousands of terror operatives - from Israeli communities is the front line of a game between hi-tech monitoring solutions and years of planning and experimentation on the part of terror organizations. The touch-sensitive fence is patrolled multiple times a day, along a narrow road that parallels it. Bedouin trackers like the IDF soldier killed Thursday play an integral part in those patrols, checking the sandy shoulders for footprints or any other suspicious change that could indicate terror activity.
        Behind the patrol road, spotters from the IDF's Intelligence Corps keep their eyes glued to screens monitoring the fence, and the area around it, 24 hours a day, a task almost exclusively performed by female soldiers. For every mine like Thursday's, which was planted without being noticed by the spotters, dozens of bomb-planting cells are observed - and then neutralized. Observers noted that the attack, for which the Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility, bore similarities to attacks carried out by Hizbullah against IDF patrols along the Lebanese border. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Terror Attack in Jerusalem

  • Conference of Presidents Condemns Barbaric Terror Attack on Jerusalem Yeshiva Students
    The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations condemns and deplores the outrageous and barbaric attack on the young students in a Jerusalem yeshiva, Mercaz Harav, which resulted in the deaths of eight people and the wounding of many more. The nature of this attack, against civilians in a religious institution, like the rockets against civilians in southern Israel, targeting particularly women and children, underscores the nature of the enemy which Israel confronts and the extremist ideology of hatred that drives them. We extend to the families of the victims, their friends and to all the people of Israel our sympathy, support and unyielding solidarity.
        We welcome and appreciate the statements which have been issued by the President of the United States and others. We hope that many of the leaders who were so quick recently to condemn Israel for defending its citizens, and who adopted resolutions ignoring Israeli victims while expressing concern for the wellbeing of the terrorists and the human shields that they employ, will be heard now in equally assertive ways. This attack and other attempts in recent days make clear the need for Israel to take whatever measures are necessary to prevent, deter and destroy those who perpetrate such heinous crimes or aid and abet them. (Conference of Presidents)
        See also President Bush Condemns Terrorist Attack in Israel (White House)
        See also Wave of International Condemnation for Shooting Attack (ABC-Australia)

    Palestinian Rocket Fire

  • Ashkelon, the New Target for Hamas Missiles - Donald Macintyre
    Israeli surfing shop owner Elan Biton was standing in the parking lot at Ashkelon's marina when he heard a whoosh followed by a very loud explosion a mere 10 meters away. It was only as he started to head down to the water's edge that he noticed the small hole in his lower stomach, where he had been hit by shrapnel from a Katyusha rocket fired from Gaza. At Ashkelon's hospital Tuesday, Biton said: "I can't know that I will leave this hospital and not be hit by another rocket."
        Ashkelon, a growing city of 120,000 people with its 12 km. of sandy Mediterranean beaches, gardens and tree-lined boulevards, has suddenly moved into the front line as a result of the 15 Katyusha rockets launched from Gaza in the past week. (Independent-UK)
        See also Hamas Rockets Bring Israeli City in Range - Rory McCarthy
    A few minutes after 5 a.m. on Saturday, Silvio Grinberg, 61, and his wife Alba were in bed when a 122mm Katyusha rocket fired by Palestinians in Gaza crashed through the ceiling of their sixth-floor apartment and into their kitchen. (Guardian-UK)
        See also Ashkelon Family Trailed by Rockets - Joshua Mitnick (New York Jewish Week)
  • Teaching in the Rocket Zone - Ehud Zion Waldoks
    Many Israeli schools in the Gaza periphery have received red-roofed secure rooms that formerly served the residents of Gush Katif. Smaller concrete shelters dot the campuses near where students get dropped off. On bad days, movement narrows to quick walks between shelters. "We go from shelter to shelter," Sha'ar Hanegev School geography teacher Zohar Nir Levi said Wednesday. "Last week, when the Kassams were falling all the time, I was taking a bunch of students from the bus to the school and a Color Red warning alert went off. We were too far away, so we just threw ourselves down in the field and hoped for the best. I was thinking about how to choose which of the nine kids to throw myself on top of if a rocket fell." "Some kids come from out of Kassam range, into range here at school," said Nir Levi.
        To try to achieve normalcy, the school has a strong network of psychological professionals who come to talk to the kids. "We do exercises where I will ask: how do you deal with stressful situations? Water, food, calling mom, Internet. It helps other kids find new ways to relieve stress. Every kid has permission, no matter what is happening, to call their parents or to get calls from their parents after every Color Red alert," Nir Levi said. (Jerusalem Post)

    Peace Process

  • PA Report on Hamas Gaza Takeover Raises Questions About Abbas' Leadership - Zvi Bar'el
    The report of the Palestinian commission to investigate the capture of Gaza by Hamas in June 2007 makes fascinating reading. It paints a terrifying picture of military and political helplessness, internal disputes, family loyalties, a lack of talent and ability to administer military and political forces, and a huge waste of money (Mohammed Dahlan received $25 million to build a trained military force, which collapsed in one moment). Its most significant revelation is that Mahmoud Abbas knew Hamas was about to take control of Gaza and did not manage to prevent it. This raises questions about the assumption that Israel can depend on the Fatah leadership and on Abbas personally to be able to control the situation.
        The report provides a harsh response to the dilemma of whether to strengthen Abbas. It suggests that the diplomatic horizon or its absence and the Israeli attitude toward the PA had little effect on the strengthening or weakening of Abbas vis-a-vis Hamas. The internal disputes, the power struggles over jobs and money, the weakness of the central government, the subversion of commanders against their leadership, intergenerational conflicts, and family loyalties all overshadowed the ability of any political initiative to turn Abbas into a leader who determines policy and is capable of implementing it. (Ha'aretz)
  • Abbas Should Try Leadership - Con Coughlin
    It is a commonplace that whenever Mahmoud Abbas is faced with a tough choice, he will invariably go for the easy option. It was his failure to rein in Hamas' hardline militants that allowed them to stage the equivalent of a coup d'etat in Gaza last summer.
        Unlike Hamas militants, who rejoice at the death of any Israeli, ordinary Israelis feel much anguish over the loss of innocent Palestinian lives. But the increasing effectiveness and improved technological capability of the rockets at Hamas' disposal has left the Israelis with no option but to intervene militarily. (Telegraph-UK)
  • In Search for Peace, a Shrinking White House Role - Glenn Kessler
    As Secretary of State Rice headed back to the Middle East this week, three months after President Bush hosted a peace conference bringing together Israelis and Arabs in Annapolis, prospects for peace have shifted dramatically. There has been little clear movement in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, while the Iranian-backed militant group Hamas has shown increasingly that it can set the region's agenda. A poll published in the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot last week showed that 69% of Israelis surveyed believed the talks would not bring peace, while 78% believed the talks were being held only for political reasons. (Washington Post)
  • Gaza First - Calev Ben-David
    It is the current status of Gaza - and not the future dispensation of the West Bank - that occupied the ranking position on the agenda of Secretary of State Rice' discussions in Israel. It is now more than abundantly clear that Gaza is not an obstacle that can be circumvented and left for last. If anything, the opposite is true. Now is the time to focus preeminently on Gaza first, and the task of changing the reality on the ground there, before whatever precious little is left of the peace process heads permanently south. (Jerusalem Post)


  • Irresolution on Iran - Editorial
    The Bush Administration is hailing as a diplomatic triumph Monday's 14-0 Security Council resolution further sanctioning Iran for its nuclear programs. For its part, Tehran calls the UN action "worthless," and unfortunately the Iranians are closer to the mark. The resolution adds a handful of names to the list of Iranians who are subject to travel bans and asset freezes. It also calls on states to exercise "vigilance" in dealing with two Iranian banks - Melli and Saderat - implicated in Iran's nuclear programs, but falls short of sanctioning them.
        The weakness of this resolution, though masked by the show of unanimity, demonstrates that the "international community" has reached the outer limit of what it is prepared to do to stop Iran from becoming the world's 10th nuclear-weapons state. There is no more juice to be squeezed out of this lemon. Pursuing a multilateral track on Iran has given Iran vital time to develop its nuclear knowhow and technical skill, perhaps to a point of no return. (Wall Street Journal)

    Other Issues

  • Statement by Israeli Ambassador to UN Human Rights Council - Amb. Itzhak Levanon
    I cannot compete with the exaggerations, distortions and inaccuracies I have heard here. The truth is that the Hamas terrorists took over Gaza by force and established an irredentist entity. They have smuggled lethal weapons into this territory with the sole purpose to kill Israelis. Since the beginning of this year, in only two months, they have fired 671 missiles at civilians, women and children. They received these missiles from countries in the Middle East, such as the Iranian-made 122mm Grad missile. Hamas is committing war crimes and collectively punishing a population of a quarter of a million citizens living in Ashkelon, Sderot, the Negev, and Netivot. They call for the physical destruction of my country and translate these words into deeds. They brought al-Qaeda to Gaza, a fact confirmed by Mahmoud Abbas.
        The truth is that in the 12 resolutions regarding the Palestinian-Israeli situation that have been passed by this Council, not one has made even passing mention of the relentless aggression against Israel. Not one of them has called explicitly to halt the deluge of Kassam rockets and Grad missiles. Not one of them attempted to recognize that Palestinians do not have a monopoly on suffering; not one of them acknowledged that the children of Israel have the same right to safety as Palestinian children. Not one of them attempted to empathize with the cries of an Israeli mother protecting her children, or the fear and trauma experienced while running to a bomb shelter, know that only 30 seconds separates you from death. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Costa Rica's President Makes Mischief - Richard Schifter
    Costa Rica has traditionally had excellent relations with both the U.S. and Israel, and it is home to a significant Jewish community. It is, therefore, a matter of concern to many friends of Costa Rica that the country's foreign policy has taken on a strongly anti-Israel bent under its current president, Oscar Arias, elected a second time in 2006. One of his first acts following his inauguration was to order Costa Rica's embassy to be moved from Jerusalem to Ramat Gan. He also saw to it that Costa Rica changed its vote from "abstain" to "yes" in support of the UN General Assembly resolutions that reauthorize annually the operation of a UN-funded, anti-Israel propaganda apparatus.
        Aria's actions earned sufficient support from the Arab League and its allies to allow Costa Rica to win election to the UN Security Council for a two-year term that started on Jan. 1. On the Security Council, Costa Rica has clearly demonstrated a highly unfriendly attitude toward Israel. The writer, a former U.S. ambassador to the UN Human Rights Commission, chairs the American Jewish International Relations Institute. (Washington Jewish Week)
  • Observations:

    The Way of Terror and the Response - Alan Baker (Toronto Star)

    • Day after day we are treated to footage on our TV screens of what we are told is a "cycle of violence." The equation, so glibly presented through the media, between pure, deliberate terror on the one hand, and the attempts to prevent it on the other, is misguided, misleading, and creates an utterly false and unfair equivalence.
    • Hamas and the other terror organizations functioning under its control and supervision in Gaza are involved in directing the daily rocket firings, which willfully and deliberately target Israeli homes, schools, hospitals, religious seminaries, and kindergartens for the singular purpose of terrorizing and killing as many Israelis as they can.
    • Death is their only motive. That is the way of terror. They fire 40 or 50 rockets every day in the hope that all will kill. It is deliberate and indiscriminate, and it is directed to terrorize a civilian population. It is not merely illegal and immoral, but it is a violation of the most basic norms and principles of international law. As such it is a war crime of the first dimension, going against all accepted norms of civilization.
    • Israel does not willfully and deliberately target civilians, schools, homes and hospitals. Israel has no reason to harm any Palestinian wishing to live peacefully. Israel is obliged - through a very basic need for survival - to defend its citizens against the very terrorists who are actively engaged in firing the rockets and operating the suicide bombers, and only them.
    • If there were no daily, deliberate rocket-fire against Israeli towns and villages; if the industry of importing missiles, weapons and ammunition from Egypt were to be stopped; if the ongoing and prevalent industry of terror-planning, rocket-building, ammunition-manufacturing, and jihadist religious incitement and glorification were to give way to normal industries and economic growth; if the psyche of hatred and terror that prevails over Gaza were to give way to a psyche of peaceful coexistence, then Israel would have neither justification nor need to respond to terror and to defend its citizens.

      The writer is the Israeli ambassador to Canada.

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