Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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July 16, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Palestinian Court Sentences Collaborators to Execution by Firing Squad (Reuters/ Jerusalem Post)
    A Palestinian military court on Tuesday sentenced two Palestinians to death by firing squad for collaborating with Israel.
    Human rights groups have sharply criticized Palestinian military courts, saying trials are unfair because there is no right of appeal, and arguing they should not try civilians.
    At least 65 Palestinians have been sentenced to death by various PA courts since 1995. Most were accused of collaborating with Israel.
    However, only 13 have been executed by hanging or firing squad. Many others were killed while they were in detention, the hospital, on their way to court, or even while they were inside courtrooms.

Report: Saudis Offer Moscow Billions to Break with Tehran (AFP)
    Saudi Arabia has offered to buy Russian arms worth $2.4 billion if Moscow stops supporting Iran.
    "The kingdom's government advised Moscow to cut back its cooperation with Tehran, and in exchange it held out the prospect of profitable contracts with Saudi Arabia," the Russian business newspaper Kommersant reported Tuesday.
    Citing sources in Russia's defense industry, the newspaper said Saudi Arabia was ready to buy at least 100 BMP-3 combat vehicles, 150 T-90 tanks and 160 Mi-17, Mi-26 and Mi-35 helicopters.
    A spokesman for Russian Prime Minister Putin denied the report.

Britain Bans Military Wing of Hizbullah (AP)
    British lawmakers voted Tuesday to include the military wing of Hizbullah on Britain's list of banned terrorist organizations, charging it supported terror activities in Iraq and the Palestinian territories.
    Britain's minister in charge of fighting terrorism, Tony McNulty, charged, "I can say unequivocally that Hizbullah's military wing is providing active support to Shia militant groups in Iraq" that had attacked coalition soldiers.
    McNulty insisted that Hizbullah's social and political work in Britain will be unaffected, but the ban will place tight limits on fundraising.

First Israeli Film Show in Cairo - Magdi Abdelhadi (BBC News)
    An Israeli film has been shown in Cairo for the first time since Egypt and Israel agreed on a peace deal nearly 30 years ago.
    The award-winning Israeli film, "The Band's Visit," was shown for a selected audience that included about 30 Egyptians at a hotel in Cairo on Thursday. The event was not advertised in advance.
    The film was not allowed to be shown at the Cairo International Film Festival last year after fierce opposition from Egyptian and Arab artists, since opposition to any cultural or economic ties with Israel remains very strong in Egypt.
    The campaign against normalizing ties with Israel enjoys broad support among the public and Israel is often described by Egyptian intellectuals as the enemy.
    Some remain radically opposed to the idea of a Jewish state founded 60 years ago on what they still regard as Arab land.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Hizbullah Hands Over Coffins in Prisoner Swap - Aron Heller
    Hizbullah on Wednesday turned over to the Red Cross two black coffins believed to contain the bodies of Israeli soldiers captured two years ago, in a prisoner exchange with Israel. If Israeli forensic experts positively identify the bodies as Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, Israel will turn over five Lebanese prisoners including Samir Kuntar. Witnesses recounted that in a 1979 terror attack in Nahariya, Kuntar shot Danny Haran in front of his 4-year-old daughter, then killed her by smashing her skull with his rifle butt. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Lebanon Declares State Holiday Marking Return of Prisoners - Aron Heller
    Moshe Sasson felt the gun pressed against his head, a Lebanese assailant poised to shoot, when the lights in the hall of his apartment building suddenly went out, allowing him to escape and take cover under a car. The gunman, Samir Kuntar, went on to kill three other people in one of the most notorious attacks in Israeli history. Three decades later, he is to be freed in exchange for two Israeli soldiers whose capture set off a month-long Mideast war. Kuntar is expected to receive a hero's welcome when he returns to Lebanon. The Lebanese government has announced that Wednesday will be a national holiday "to celebrate the liberation of prisoners from the jails of the Israeli enemy and the return of the remains of martyrs." (AP)
        See also Berri, Jumblatt Urge Lebanese to Welcome Prisoners Home - Jessica Naimeh (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • U.S. Envoy to Join Meeting with Iranian on Nuclear Program - Steven Lee Myers
    President Bush has authorized the most significant American diplomatic contact with Iran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, sending the State Department's third-ranking official to Geneva for a meeting on Saturday on Iran's nuclear program, administration officials said Tuesday. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William J. Burns will attend the meeting with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iran's nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, who is expected to present Iran's formal response to a package of economic and diplomatic incentives presented to Iran in June.
        The decision appeared to bend the administration's insistence that it would not negotiate with Iran over its nuclear programs unless it first suspended uranium enrichment. Clifford Kupchan of the Eurasia Group, a consultancy in Washington, said, "Disclaimers notwithstanding, the precondition that Iran must suspend [enrichment] before the U.S. will talk about the nuclear issue will by every standard have been dropped." (New York Times)
  • Arrest Is Sought of Sudan Leader in Genocide Case - Marlise Simons, Lydia Polgreen, and Jeffrey Gettleman
    The prosecutor at the International Criminal Court formally requested an arrest warrant on Monday for Sudan's president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the past five years of bloodshed in the Darfur region of his country. It was the first time the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court had brought genocide charges against anyone. It was also the first time the prosecutor had brought charges against a sitting head of state since the court opened its doors in 2002.
        But the request for a warrant against Bashir seemed unlikely to lead to his arrest soon. Bashir has scoffed at two arrest warrants the court has already issued against two other Sudanese figures, even promoting one of them to minister of humanitarian affairs. (New York Times)
        See also Indictment for Genocide - Editorial
    Despite the risk that indicting Bashir for his crimes may induce new dangers for Darfur, holding him accountable is the right thing to do. (Boston Globe)
        See also More Darfur Posturing: A Global Court Strikes a Moral Pose - Editorial
    If the civilized world is serious about saving Darfur, it is toward that end that it must set its sights - and not the false moral comfort of a meaningless indictment from an illegitimate court. (Wall Street Journal)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinians Congratulate Hizbullah for "Freeing Heroes" - Ali Waked
    Palestinians sent their warm wishes to Hizbullah and its Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah on Wednesday for getting Israel to release prisoners. Ziad abu Ein, director-general of the PA Ministry for Prisoner Affairs, said, "The Palestinians congratulate Hizbullah and its leader and send their best wishes to all the Lebanese people and to all the Palestinians upon the completion of the deal and the release of heroes, headed by the prisoners' leader, Samir Kuntar." Abu Mujahed, a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees, said the deal "proves that kidnapping soldiers will continue to be the most efficient, favored and ideal way to release Palestinian prisoners, particularly those defined by the enemy as having blood on their hands."  (Ynet News)
        See also Video: Who Is Lebanese Terrorist Samir Kuntar? (YouTube)
  • Hamas Using Former Synagogues to Train Gunmen - Ronen Bergman
    When Israel pulled out of Gaza in September 2005, the government decided to leave public buildings, kindergartens, libraries, schools and other structures whole for the benefit of the Palestinian population. Terrorist organizations, most notably Hamas, have been using these buildings for training purposes. Several videos produced by various terror organizations present gunmen training at the sites of public buildings once used in Gush Katif. One of the structures identifiable is the Atzmona synagogue, in which terrorists train using live ammunition. The buildings also serve as the backdrop for kidnapping scenarios. (Ynet News)
  • The War on Financing Hamas Terrorism
    Israel recently outlawed 36 "Union of Good" Islamic foundations which raise money for Hamas institutions. The money supports Hamas in building a political alternative to the PA and maintaining a terrorism-support system. Outlawing the foundations was the most comprehensive and extensive action ever taken by Israel against the global network supporting Hamas. The Union of Good was established in October 2000 as an umbrella organization for more than 50 Islamic foundations around the world. Its chairman is Sheikh Dr. Yussuf al-Qardawi, an Egyptian now living in Qatar, who has issued Islamic religious edicts (fatwas) calling for jihad against Israel and the Jews and sanctioning suicide bombing attacks. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Deal Shores Up Hizbullah's Standing
    The prisoner swap with Israel boosts the standing of Hizbullah, which vowed to secure the release of all Lebanese detainees through resistance, even at a high cost for Lebanon, analysts say. Hizbullah expert Amal Saad-Ghorayeb said the lesson was that "abduction works. It is effective, and diplomacy is futile." "The deal is undoubtedly a victory for Hizbullah, because it was made according to its conditions, while Israel gained nothing," said Nabil Bou Monsef, a political analyst for the pro-government daily An-Nahar. "It has surely become more powerful," he said. Timur Goksel, former spokesman for the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon, said, "Hizbullah will play the other cards in their hands. They will talk now about the Shebaa Farms and the issue of airspace violations....They will not run out of issues to keep the pot boiling."  (AFP/Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • God Bless Al-Jazeera - David Keyes
    Every Tuesday night Al-Jazeera superstar Faisal al-Qassem hosts "The Opposite Direction," far and away the best program in the Arab world. The show pits two guests against one another who, to put it mildly, hate each other's guts. Qassem will invite a Kurd whose entire family was killed by Iraqi forces and a Baath party loyalist who served under Saddam. He will invite a democratic Syrian dissident and an Assad lackey, a secular feminist and a radical Islamist. Guests storm off the show and regularly curse each other and threaten bodily harm.
        Few tools have done as much to break the wall of Arab ignorance and lack of accountability as Al-Jazeera. Debates that were previously thought unimaginable in the Arab world are now heatedly discussed night after night and broadcast to tens of millions. Vociferous secularist Wafa Sultan, Lebanese neocon Fouad Ajami, critic of radical Islam Daniel Pipes and terrorist-hunter Steve Emerson have all had significant face time on Qassem's show. They have defended secularism, democracy, and the West to tens of millions of Arabs. And Qassem's Arab guests are tyranny's most eloquent critics.
        Al-Jazeera still has a long way to go. Sheikh Qardawi's weekly program, "Sharia and Life," is an uncontrolled gush of irrationality and divisiveness. Qassem himself said in July 2001: "'Hizbullah' is a beautiful, mighty name, and as many have said, it succeeded in expelling the Zionists from southern [Lebanon] like dogs - my apologies to the dogs." Yet Al-Jazeera has set a new gold standard for Arab media. That Faisal al-Qassem is banned from most Arab countries and would be thrown in prison in Syria is a sure sign that he is doing a lot right. (National Review)
  • Observations:

    Israel: Hamas Prevented Improvement of Living Conditions in Gaza (Maan News-PA)

    • Hamas prevented the improvement of living conditions in Gaza after the Israeli disengagement, Col. Nir Press, head of the IDF Liaison and Coordination office in Gaza, told journalists in eastern Jerusalem on Monday.
    • "During the first year after disengagement, 44 million flowers and 13 tons of strawberries were exported from Gaza to Europe," Press said. After the Hamas takeover of Gaza, the situation deteriorated rapidly.
    • "What made things even worse was that crossing points were attacked and targeted with mortar shells and Kassam rockets, given that the crossings were meant to serve Palestinian citizens," he added.
    • "We continued with liaison in order to ship basic materials and medicines because we see the residents of Gaza more as neighbors than as enemies." "The Palestinians must decide - strawberries or Kassams, flowers or mortars."

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