Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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September 4, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Terror Cell Stalked El Al Crew in Toronto - Zohar Blumenkrantz (Ha'aretz)
    Terror cells have recently been seen observing El Al crew members in Toronto, apparently in preparation for a terror attack targeting airline personnel.
    The suspected terrorists were seen at the Sheraton Center Toronto Hotel, one of the hotels where El Al pilots and crew stay between flights.
    U.S. television stations reported in mid-June that a Hizbullah cell had been caught collecting information on Israeli targets in Canada, including the Israeli Embassy in Ottawa.

Hamas Security Forces Arrest, Beat Striking Health Workers in Gaza (Maan News-PA)
    Hamas security forces in Gaza on Tuesday arrested a number of doctors and other employees of Gaza hospitals because they are on strike, said Bassam Zakarnah, head of the Palestinian union of civil servants.
    He said security forces assaulted the arrestees, beating them while in detention at Al-Mashtal prison in order to pressure them to end the strike.

Islamic Jihad Leader Al-Arian Is Freed in U.S., But More Charges Await - Joseph Goldstein (New York Sun)
    Sami al-Arian, who has been in government custody since he was charged with being the leader in America of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad more than five years ago, was released from jail Tuesday but faces a second round of criminal charges.
    In June, prosecutors in Alexandria, Va., charged al-Arian with criminal contempt for refusing to provide testimony to grand juries that were investigating financial transfers involving a think tank called the International Institute of Islamic Thought.

Israel to Host Emergency Medical Care "Olympics" - Judy Siegel-Itzkovich (Jerusalem Post)
    A four-day "Lifesaving Olympics," starting on September 7, is expected to attract 180 medics and paramedics from Israel and 12 other countries.
    Teams from Turkey, Canada, Ireland, England, Holland, Norway, the U.S., Germany, the Czech Republic, France, Jordan and Poland will participate.
    The teams will deal with various scenes that will test their capabilities for giving proper treatment responses, including responses for "victims" of a mass casualty incident, treatment for conventional and non-conventional incidents, and life-saving treatment for patients with problems of trauma, cardiology, pediatrics, and respiratory emergencies.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • French President on Visit to Syria - Alia Ibrahim
    French President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed Wednesday in Damascus to pursue improved relations with Syria, during a visit that ended more than three years of Western isolation of the country. Sarkozy's visit was the first by a European leader to the Syrian capital since the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri. UN investigators have implicated Syrian officials in the attack.
        Syrian officials and analysts said Sarkozy's visit is a victory for Assad. "People were betting the regime was living its last days," said Mahdi Dakhlalla, a former Syrian information minister. "Now, the regime has proved how strong it is. It is the French who changed their policy, and not Syria."  (Washington Post)
        See also France's Total to Sign Syrian Oil, Gas Deals
    The chief executive of France's Total oil company said on Thursday that Total would sign deals for an oil block extension in Syria and for a gas development deal in the country. (Reuters)
        See also Sarkozy Brings Assad In From the Cold - Yoav Stern (Ha'aretz)
  • Bank of China May Escape Terror Funding Probe - Saibal Dasgupta
    The Chinese government has indicated it is not interested in investigating allegations that the Bank of China (BOC) was involved in transferring millions of dollars to Hamas and Islamic Jihad for carrying out terrorist activities in Israel between 2004 and 2007. The allegations have been made in the form of lawsuits filed in U.S. courts by a group of 100 Israelis. Jiang Yu, spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, told reporters that the bank has not been questioned by China's anti-money laundering authorities. She indicated that there is very little chance of a local investigation taking place as authorities in the U.S. have not sent any inquiries to the BOC. (Times of India)
  • Palestinian Rights Group Accuses PA of Judicial Abuse
    The Palestinian human rights group al-Haq accused the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday of undermining judicial independence in the West Bank. Al-Haq director Shahwan Jabbarin said Palestinian security services in the West Bank and in Hamas-ruled Gaza were functioning illegally, with 280 Palestinians detained on political grounds in the West Bank and 100 in Gaza. "I tell the donors it's high time they pressured the Authority to implement its commitments towards the independence of the judiciary," Jabbarin said. (Reuters)
  • Jerusalem Dig Uncovers Ancient City Walls
    Israeli archaeologists unveiled on Wednesday a 2,100-year-old Jerusalem perimeter wall on Mount Zion at the southern edge of Jerusalem's Old City, which dates back to the Second Jewish Temple. The 3.2-meter (10.5-foot)-high wall formed part of a 6 km. (3.5-mile)-long fortification around the city in biblical times, said Yehiel Zelinger, who headed the excavation for the Israel Antiquities Authority. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Foreign Ministry Cautions EU Against Restoring Ties with Syria - Roni Sofer
    Foreign Ministry Deputy Director-General Yigal Palmor warned Wednesday that "the Europeans should be very careful when they consider restoring their ties with Syria." Ahead of French President Nicolas Sarkozy's visit to Damascus, Palmor said that "the Syrian policies have remained unchanged - whether in terms of its support for terror groups, the violent oppression of its dissidents in Lebanon and the exploitation of the tensions between Russia and the West." (Ynet News)
  • PA: No Agreement with Israel on Any Issue - Tovah Lazaroff
    Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians continue on almost a daily basis, but not a single word has been set on paper and there is no real agreement on the smaller points, let alone the core issues, of a peace deal, PA Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki told the Israel Council on Foreign Relations in Jerusalem on Wednesday. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Firemen Training in France Rescue Girl from Drowning - Raanan Ben-Zur
    A team of Israeli firemen performing rescue drills in France saved the life of a local girl found drowning in a river Wednesday. The men had arrived at the Mieux River to practice in its strong current when they noticed that the kayak of a ten-year-old girl had turned over, and that her head was in the water below the kayak. "Two men immediately jumped in and swam to the overturned kayak," said Oren Shishatzki, of the Petah Tikva fire station. "The kayak couldn't be righted, so they dove under the water, released the girl, and pulled her out onto the bank." (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Sderot Children Feel Truce Relief - Heather Sharp
    Tal, 7, says she is excited to be going back to school in the Israeli town of Sderot, and says she is not afraid of the Palestinian Kassam rockets. Since June, a truce between the Palestinian militant group Hamas and Israel has brought the number of rockets fired into Israel from Gaza down from more than 50 on some of the worst days, to one every few days. Tal and the other children in her second grade class know the drill perfectly. As soon as the "Code Red" siren sounds, they have 15 seconds to rush to a secure classroom or concrete shelter. "If there isn't enough time, we get under the desks," Tal says.
        Even so, says her mother Roha, the tension remains. "I was once parked in town and just as I reversed, a rocket hit exactly where I had been parked," she said. Another parent, Michel, points out marks in the tarmac, a few meters from the school, where a rocket struck last February, hitting 8-year-old Osher Twito, who lost his leg. Most Sderot residents believe it is just a matter of time before the rocket fire returns. (BBC News)
  • In Iran, Women's Rights Activists Score Victory on Marriage Legislation - Borzou Daragahi
    Female activists in Iran scored a rare but significant victory this week when parliament decided to shelve legislation that they said would have reduced the rights of women in marriage. The legislation set aside Monday, titled The Family Protection Bill, would have allowed husbands to get religiously sanctioned "temporary" marriages or take additional wives without the consent of their first spouses. Temporary marriages, called sigheh in Persian, are religiously sanctioned unions that can last as long as a lifetime or be as short as 30 minutes. They traditionally have been popular with male travelers or seminary students who find themselves far from their wives for long periods. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Iran Sentences Women's Rights Activists to Jail
    Iran has sentenced four women's rights activists to six months in jail over articles written on feminist websites, the Korgozaran newspaper reported on Wednesday. The four are active members of an initiative that seeks to change Iran's Sharia-based laws for women by collecting one million signatures. (AFP)
  • Observations:

    Saudi-Backed Hate Propaganda, Exposed - Jack Fairweather (Washington Post)

    • British Muslim leaders have helped generate the impression that everyone is working together to separate rogue extremists from the religious establishment. But Monday night, the "Dispatches" documentary series on Channel 4 TV in the UK revealed a very different picture of what goes on in some of the UK's flagship Muslim institutions.
    • The filmmakers went undercover at the London Central Mosque in Regent's Park to show the discord between what imams preached outwardly to the public and what they preached to their faithful in private. According to the documentary, they teach the faithful that God orders them to kill homosexuals and apostates; that they should curtail the freedom of women; and that they should view non-Muslims in a derogatory manner and limit contact with them.
    • Many of these leaders are trained in Saudi Arabian Wahhabi philosophy, and use Saudi-approved textbooks and pedagogical materials to teach young students.
    • Saudi Arabia's education and religious outreach programs, whether in the form of textbooks, library endowments or madrassah construction, constitute one of the largest aid programs in the world - roughly $4 billion a year - and introduce hundreds of millions of schoolchildren to radical Wahhabi doctrine via Saudi Embassy-run schools and educational programs in mosques.

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