Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
McCartney Wows Israel - David Brinn (Jerusalem Post)
Report: Israel Sought U.S. Go-Ahead to Bomb Iran Nuclear Sites - Jonathan Steele
Chemical and Biological Air Filters Required on Shelters in New Israeli Homes - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
Iran Needs Oil above $90 per Barrel to Break Even - (Dow Jones/Gulf Times-Qatar)
Solar Energy - The Israeli Connection - Eric A. Taub (New York Times)
Muslims and Jews in Switzerland - Simon Erlanger (Institute for Global Jewish Affairs)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
In Arab eastern Jerusalem, Islamist groups are gaining more of a foothold through charity, such as free iftar meals during Ramadan, opening schools, and offering services. Sheikh Raed Salah's Islamic Movement of the North, based in Umm el-Fahm, Israel, feeds up to 5,000 people a day at iftar meals in Jerusalem.
"Sheikh Salah has managed to fill the vacuum left by the internal fighting between the Jordanian Waqf and Palestinian Waqf, and has succeeded in highlighting the conflict over the Al Aqsa Mosque locally, regionally, and internationally," says Rasem Abaidat, an eastern Jerusalem writer and activist. The result, he says, is an increasing identification with an Islamic agenda. "The people of eastern Jerusalem have been swept into this wave of Islamicism and are enjoying the attention given to them by such activities." The trend comes against a backdrop of an upswing in attacks on Israelis perpetrated by eastern Jerusalemites, who had not been particularly active in the last intifada. (Christian Science Monitor)
In recent days, anti-Syrian politicians in Beirut have been crying wolf about an increase in Syrian soldiers on the border with northern Lebanon. They worry that the buildup is a prelude to Syrian incursions on the pretext of stamping out radical Islamist fighters there, but really aimed at reasserting Syrian hegemony. The Syrians say the buildup is part of an attempt to clamp down on smuggling, and there is reason to believe them.
Syria's social subsidies on diesel and gasoline have created a big black market in oil smuggling that is one of Syria's biggest financial problems. The Syrian government estimated that the 1.5 billion liters of diesel smuggled out of the country last year accounted for 15% of all Syrian consumption. Mules can carry 100 liters each. A mule train can cross the mountain paths at night without any guides, since they know the routes by memory. "With two mules, you don't need to work for a living," said one Syrian gas station owner. (TIME)
See also Syria Pushes the Envelope in Northern Lebanon - Michael Young
The most ridiculous reason explaining the deployment of thousands of Syrian troops along the northern Lebanese border is that this was done to thwart smuggling. What we're seeing is, quite simply, intimidation and a reminder that Syria's President Bashar Assad never truly reconciled himself with ending his country's military role in Lebanon. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
The UN atomic watchdog's probe into illicit nuclear work in Syria has been delayed because the agency's contact man in Syria was murdered, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei revealed Thursday. According to Arab media reports last month, Brig.-Gen. Mohammed Sleiman, thought to be the Syrian regime's liaison with Hizbullah in Lebanon, was assassinated in Syria. (AFP)
The Quartet, the key international players trying to promote peace in the Middle East, met Friday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. Quartet members are also scheduled to attend an iftar - the meal that breaks the day's fast during Ramadan - with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Arab partners on Friday night. On Friday, at the request of Saudi Arabia, the UN Security Council will hold a debate at the ministerial level on ongoing Israeli settlement building in disputed territory. (AP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
American elementary and high school textbooks contain many "gross misrepresentations" of Judaism, Christianity and Israel, according to a five-year study released this week by the San Francisco-based Institute for Jewish and Community Research. In examining the 28 most widely-used history, geography and social studies textbooks in America, researchers Dr. Gary Tobin and Dennis Ybarra found some 500 instances of "errors, inaccuracies and even propaganda."
Among the "outrageous misrepresentations" was the statement in the textbook The World that "Christianity was started by a young Palestinian named Jesus." "Textbooks include negative stereotypes of Jews, Judaism and Israel," the authors write. "For example, textbooks tend to discredit the ties between Jews and the Land of Israel." According to Tobin, "you're much more likely to learn about Jewish terrorism before the founding of Israel than about terrorism against Israel since that time."
Among the claims in the textbooks are that Arab countries never initiated wars against Israel, Arab nations desire peace while Israel does not, and that it was Israel that placed Palestinians in refugee camps in Arab lands, not Arab governments.
The publishers are not bigots, Tobin emphasizes. "I learned in graduate school that you should never try to explain something with conspiracy when you can account for it with incompetence." (Jerusalem Post)
The Egyptian stock market plummeted 10% in two days, and foreign investors withdrew hundreds of millions of dollars. The Egyptian pound has also fallen to its lowest level in half a year, and inflation has soared to 26.5%. Less concerned about the global market plunge are the Gulf states, which raked in a fortune from the rise in oil prices and created vast monetary reserves that allowed their governments to inject funds into their financial markets to stabilize them. (Ha'aretz)
See also A Saudi Titan Watches Wall Street's Meltdown - Bobby Ghosh (TIME)
On the eve of the Jewish New Year 5769, Israel's population stands at 7,337,000 people, including 5,542,000 Jewish Israelis (75.5%) and 1,477,000 Israeli Arabs (20.1%). Another 318,000 Israelis are listed as "others," including some 200,000 foreign workers. The population has grown by 1.8% since last year. Jewish women live an average of 82.5 years and Jewish men live 78.8 years. (The Marker-Ha'aretz)
See also Israelis More Optimistic, Feel More Secure than Europeans
51% of Israelis expect their lives to improve in the coming years, while only 35% of the population within the European Union expressed similar optimism, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported Thursday. 73% of Israelis feel safe walking the streets alone after dark, compared with 59% in Greece, 69% in Italy and 70% in the EU in general. (Ynet News)
See also Israel Home to Largest Jewish Population
There are currently 5.55 million Jews living in Israel and 5.3 million in the U.S., the Jewish Agency said Friday. The two countries account for the vast majority of the world's 13.3 million Jews. The third-largest community resides in France, which has a Jewish population of 490,000. Some 20,000 Jews moved to Israel in the past 12 months. (AFP)
See also World Jewish Population Grows by 70,000 - Matthew Wagner (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
I had breakfast this morning with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a session for about 20 media types, arranged by Iran's ambassador to the UN. U.S. politicians tend to be the glossiest in the room, always camera-ready. Ahmadinejad was, by contrast, the scruffiest of his crew. Sitting among them, in his trademark beige sports coat that looks like something like a thrift store windbreaker, Ahmadinejad reminded me of a criminal defendant with his better-dressed legal team. But he seemed anything but uncomfortable - and why should he be? He had arrayed before him, with still and video cameras to record the scene for the folks back home, titans of the U.S. media establishment. He proceeded to deliver a lecture that could be summarized as the Farsi version of "The Times They Are A-Changin'," with a pounding anti-Zionist backbeat.
The age of the American empire is over, Ahmadinejad said - you could imagine that the folks back home would eat this up - and he was simply "giving assistance to the politicians here so they can think about changing their behavior." As a politician, Ahmadinejad plays a good net game. Every time he was challenged, he stepped up and volleyed right back. If people were worried about Iran in possession of nuclear material, well, what about all the nuclear weapons in the United States? (Washington Post)
See also An Interview with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - Neil MacFarquhar (New York Times)
Iran's president had his big day at the UN Tuesday, giving a speech slamming Zionists and replete with classic anti-Semitic motifs: The Zionists are murderers, deceitful and dominate global finance despite their "minuscule" number. Then Ahmadinejad went on CNN to talk with Larry King about how the Zionists start wars, have no religion, and are "uninvited guests." King was outmaneuvered by Iran's president when it came to Israel's right to exist and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
King should have pointed out that Jews are indigenous to the holy land, and not a European people - to say nothing of the fact that half of Israel's Jews are immigrants or children of immigrants from the Middle East; that Jews continually lived in Palestine/Israel since the last Jewish state there 2,000 years ago; and that Israel is a democratic nation of all its citizens and not just its Jews (Israeli Arabs have the vote, too).
When Ahmadinejad was talking about Palestinian suffering, King could have pressed him about the Arab attacks against Israelis that perpetuate the conflict - and Palestinian suffering. The point is to understand the context for the suffering of the Palestinian side and its root causes: the refusal of powerful Palestinians to give up their war against Israel. (JTA)
The time for polite diplomatic exertions in response to the looming Iranian threat is long past. Direct contact with Iran is not intrinsically problematic; indeed, it can be central in conveying the urgency of Iranian compliance with its obligations in halting its nuclear drive, and emphasizing the costs of failing to do so; the problem, rather, is that the diplomatic community has proved itself woefully incapable of addressing the threat with the necessary seriousness. Nothing has been done so far to give the Iranian regime a compelling reason or interest to stop its relentless push for the bomb. Yet it must be stopped.
Hope now rests with the U.S. and the EU to act swiftly, decisively and independently to ratchet up their own sanctions efforts, and to apply their own severe pressures. With French President Nicolas Sarkozy as EU president, now is the time. (Jerusalem Post)
The Palestinians present their case using maps of the Land of Israel showing how Palestinian territory has gradually shrunk. They have forgotten that between the various maps, their leadership turned down offers of partition and decided to go to war - and lost. "The shelf agreement" Olmert is offering is not as good as the "permanent agreement" Prime Minister Barak offered in 2000, mostly because in the meantime the Palestinians lost the second intifada, and Fatah lost Gaza to Hamas. That is the price of failure. (Ha'aretz)
A recent article explored the appeal of America's iconic talk-show host Oprah Winfrey for the marginalized women of the Arabian peninsula. Is it any wonder that women trapped in a culture that treats them so wretchedly idolize someone like Oprah, who epitomizes so much that is absent from their lives? A nation that degrades its women degrades itself, and Oprah's message is an antidote to degradation. Why do they love her? Because all the lies of the Wahhabists cannot stifle the truth she embodies: The blessings of liberty were made for women, too. (International Herald Tribune)
The Jewish year 5768 was the year in which anti-Semitism, while not dying out completely, certainly lost most of its vital signs. When you read the annual reports of various organizations and research centers, you will notice that even the experts are having trouble differentiating between attacks and acts of vandalism that specifically target Jews and those that are just regular juvenile street crime.
The conflict in the southern Caucasus could have produced a major anti-Jewish backlash, but so far, there is not even the remotest sign. The easiest thing, and perhaps the most natural based on historical precedent, would have been for the Russian government to point out the prominent Jews in Georgian leader Saakashvili's administration and the close defense ties between Georgia and Israel, stirring up the nationalistic and anti-Semitic feelings that have never been far from the surface in Russia. Why did Putin not use the Jewish card? Putin is ruthlessly instrumental; if he did not foment anti-Semitism as part of the anti-Georgia campaign, he must have reached the conclusion that it just does not work anymore.
Of course anti-Semitism is not disappearing, but it is steadily becoming irrelevant in Western society and international politics. More than anything, it is a sign of backward thinking, depraved culture and societies that are still stuck in the Middle Ages. (Ha'aretz)
When one-and-a-half-year-old Anna Sherevenko was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, her physicians in St. Petersburg, Russia, recommended a bone marrow transplant in the U.S., Germany or Israel. Her parents chose Israel because it was the least expensive of the three. Anna is one of many who come to Israel to receive medical treatment. The money that these "medical tourists" spend is a valuable contribution to the economy. In 2006, 15,000 foreigners came to Israel's hospitals for treatment, generating some $40 million in revenue; in 2007 the number of patients grew to 20,000 and hospitals more than tripled their intake to $150 million because more complex, and therefore, costlier, procedures were performed. The sum includes money spent by family members who stay at hotels and might do some sightseeing and shopping on the side.
Amitai Rotem, marketing director at the Hadassah Medical Organization, says Hadassah started the medical tourism program in earnest just five years ago and it generated some $500,000 in its first year. Today revenue has topped $10 million, with 200 to 300 admissions each month. Herve Deknuydt, administrative director of medical tourism at Sheba Hospital, near Tel Aviv, says his institution treated several hundred patients in 2008. Most came from Mediterranean countries, such as Cyprus, Greece and Turkey, or from the former Soviet Union, particularly the eastern states, such as Azerbaijan, Georgia and Kazakhstan. (Jerusalem Report)
A Wakeup Call on Iran's Nukes - John Bolton (New York Daily News)
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