Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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June 3, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Assad Admits Israel Never Pledged to Cede Golan - Smadar Peri (Ynet News)
    Syrian President Bashar Assad said on Monday that there is no agreement on a full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights.

U.S. Says It Erred in Case of Gaza Strip Students (Reuters/Ynet News)
    The U.S. said on Monday it had erred by not approaching the Israeli government earlier to help seven Palestinians from Gaza obtain Israeli exit visas to take up U.S. Fulbright fellowships.
    "Was there a faulty decision-making process internal to the State Department in this particular case? Yes, there was," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

Assailants Beat Guards, Steal Bus from Christian School in Gaza (AP/International Herald Tribune)
    Assailants Saturday beat up guards and stole a bus from a Christian school in Gaza run by the Baptist Church, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights said.
    Since Hamas came to power a year ago, attacks on Gaza's 3,000 Christians have increased.
    See also Increasing Attacks Against Christians in Hamas-Controlled Gaza (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)

The Gaza Breakdown - Mark Matthews (Baltimore Sun)
    Psychiatrist Eyad el-Sarraj, director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, speaks with admiration approaching awe of Israelis' kindness during his own bone marrow treatment two years ago at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, outside Tel Aviv. Other Palestinians there got similar attention, he says, adding, "This is something I will never forget."
    El-Sarraj compares how he was treated in an Israeli hospital with the "viciousness" displayed in Gaza during factional fighting a year ago. In the heat of battle, wounded fighters were pursued inside hospitals and killed, he said.

Chavez Pressures Venezuelan Jewish Community (Diario El Universal-Venezuela)
    The first vice-president of the Venezuelan Confederation of Israeli Associations (CAIV), David Bittan, denounced on Monday a campaign launched by the Venezuelan government to link the Jewish community with a coup attempt in April 2002.
    "Over the past few years, we have bumped into a stumbling block in the development of the Jewish community due to attacks coming directly from the state media or where the state is somewhat involved," he said in Madrid.
    "We have been the victim of two police raids in search for arms and subversive materials in our schools," recalled Bittan, who labeled the situation since President Hugo Chavez took office as "difficult."

Key Links 
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Syria to Meet with Weapons Inspectors on Site Bombed by Israel - Robin Wright
    Syria has agreed to allow the UN nuclear watchdog agency access to the al-Kibar site on the Euphrates River, but has turned down the IAEA's request to go to at least three other facilities that U.S. intelligence says may be connected to a reactor and a clandestine nuclear weapons program. The IAEA visit to Syria is scheduled for June 22-24. "They will only go to the bombed site," said a diplomat close to the IAEA. "They did request to go to other places. It's the first visit. There will be other visits, to be sure."
        "They'll want to use ground-penetrating radar to look for evidence of certain particles associated with this kind of reactor," said David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security and a former UN weapons inspector. "But it's not something you do in a couple of hours."  (Washington Post)
  • Nuclear Bomb Blueprints for Sale on Black Market, Experts Fear - Ian Traynor
    Nuclear bomb blueprints and manuals on how to manufacture weapons-grade uranium for warheads are feared to be circulating on the international black market, according to investigators tracking nuclear smuggling. Alarm about the sale of nuclear know-how follows the disclosure that the Swiss government, allegedly acting under U.S. pressure, secretly destroyed tens of thousands of documents from a massive nuclear smuggling investigation.
        The information was seized from the home and computers of Urs Tinner, a Swiss engineer in custody for almost four years as a key suspect in the nuclear smuggling ring run by A.Q. Khan, which trafficked nuclear materials, equipment and knowhow to at least three countries: Iran, Libya, and North Korea. While the Tinner files, believed to number around 30,000 documents, had been shredded, "We know that copies were made," said Mark Fitzpatrick, an expert on the illicit networks at the British-based International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS). (Guardian-UK)
  • Saudi Sunni Clerics Criticize Shiites - Donna Abu-Nasr
    Hardline Sunni clerics accused Shiites Sunday of destabilizing Muslim countries and humiliating Sunnis. In a strongly worded statement, 22 clerics savaged Iranian-backed Hizbullah, saying the Lebanese Shiite group has tricked other Muslims into believing it is against Jews and Americans. A Saudi official said the clerics who issued the statement do not represent the official Saudi religious establishment, but the clerics' anti-Shiite diatribe reflects growing Sunni distrust of Shiites and Iran. (AP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Soldier Wounded by Gaza Sniper - Hanan Greenberg
    An IDF soldier was wounded by Palestinian sniper fire near the Kissufim crossing on Tuesday during an operation to uncover explosive devices planted along the Gaza border. (Ynet News)
  • Prime Minister Defends Jerusalem Construction - Khaled Abu Toameh
    On the eve of his departure for Washington on Monday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert took a firm stand in defense of a peace process that included construction in eastern Jerusalem. "I believe there is no contradiction between the people of Israel's total allegiance to Jerusalem and its unity and our ambitions to create peace within it," he said at a celebration to honor the 41st anniversary of the reunification of the city. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Barak: Hamas Is Exhibiting Signs of Distress - Shahar Ilan
    Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday that Israel has identified signs of distress coming from Hamas. Some 70 Hamas fighters have been killed during the last two months, and more than 300 have been killed during the past six months, he said. "Hamas is very stressed. The most effective action is the siege."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Egyptians Fighting Israeli Upgrade of Relations with EU - Barak Ravid
    Egypt has recently been attempting to thwart a proposed agreement to upgrade Israel's relationship with the EU. The proposed deal would significantly improve Israeli access to European markets, and could add billions of dollars to Israel's economy. Egyptian ambassadors in London, Paris, Brussels, Madrid, Rome and other European capitals have met with high-level foreign ministry officials in their respective countries to ask them to reconsider the agreement with Israel. Senior Israeli Foreign Ministry officials warned their Egyptian counterparts that Israel views this effort very gravely and wants it stopped.
        Israel's assessment, a senior government official said, is that the Egyptian campaign constitutes retaliation for a U.S. Congress decision to freeze up to $200 million in American military aid to Egypt. Cairo blames Israel for this freeze, because Israel has frequently complained to Washington about Egypt's failure to combat arms smuggling into Gaza.
        Israel also sent a formal protest to the PA Monday over a letter sent by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to the OECD, in which he asked the organization to reconsider its invitation to Israel to join. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who met Monday with PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, told Abbas that Israel deems the letter completely unacceptable. (Ha'aretz)
  • Three Israeli Arabs Charged with Planning to Kidnap, Kill Soldier - Yuval Azoulay
    The Israel Security Agency arrested three Israeli Arabs from Lod last month on suspicion that they planned to kidnap an Israel Defense Forces soldier, murder him, and demand the release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the body. The men, activists in the Islamic movement, were indicted Monday. One of them studies sharia at a Jordanian university. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket at Israel on Tuesday morning. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Why Has Israel Succeeded Where the Arab States Have Failed? - Martin Peretz
    The return of half the Jews dispersed in the world to Israel is unprecedented, and the revival of an antique prayer language, Hebrew, is no less revolutionary. Add to these the realization of the essential conditions of serious democracies: civilian primacy over military power; the rule of independent legal institutions; an utterly free (and obstreperous) press; a plural society; and an indigenous culture open to foreign cultures.
        In contrast to these achievements, the surrounding world of the Arabs is a functional and philosophical calamity. The political development of the Palestinians has shriveled. They did not take up the UN partition plan, which allotted them a state that would now also be celebrating its sixtieth anniversary. The Palestinians are as much and as little a nation as the warring tribes and clans of Africa and Pakistan. They have to make peace among themselves before they can even conceive of peace with Israel. (New Republic)
  • Why the Jewish Lobby Punches Above Its Weight - Gerard Baker
    One of the most enduring myths about American politics, one laced with just the faintest hint of the world's oldest hatred, is that of the all-powerful Jewish lobby. Yet in a country as diverse as America, candidates are constantly trying to ensure that they are in the good graces of people of almost all faiths and traditions.
        AIPAC is undoubtedly one of the most effective lobbying organizations in Washington. But it succeeds because very large numbers of Americans share its aims, not because it somehow strongarms politicians into supporting it. Candidates want AIPAC's approval because they know that being seen as pro-Israel is central to their foreign policy credentials. In opinion polls, Americans express overwhelming support for Israel. They see it in kindred terms - a thriving democracy forged in an inhospitable climate. (Times-UK)
  • Observations:

    UN Targets World Union for Progressive Judaism - Anne Bayefsky (New York Daily News)

    • More than 3,000 non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, are officially accredited by the UN, entitling these groups to enter UN premises, get access to meetings and decision-makers, and speak at UN bodies like the Human Rights Council. However, on Tuesday, the UN Committee on Non-governmental Organizations is poised to revoke these basic access rights from the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), which represents more than 1.7 million reform, progressive, liberal and reconstructionist Jews all over the world. The WUPJ offers a rare but tenacious voice that confronts Islamic human rights abuses at the UN at every turn.
    • Bureaucrats at the UN trace the problem back to a Jan. 24, 2008, session of the Human Rights Council. As the council conducted its predetermined witch hunt against Israel, WUPJ representative David Littman referred to Hamas' genocidal charter. He began three times, quoting the charter's words that "Israel will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it," and calling upon the council to invoke the Genocide Convention.
    • Each time, the council president interrupted and warned him to "focus on the issue." Littman stood his ground: "The issue is what Hamas and the government in Gaza wishes to do to Israel." Bang, bang, bang went the gavel. Stymied, Littman recalled his Shakespeare and said: "There is a general malaise in the air. A feeling that something is rotten in the state of this council." Those words were "disrespectful" to the Human Rights Council, the diplomats from the Muslim world declared.

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