Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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October 10, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel Air Force Jets Scrambled to Northern Border - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    The Israel Air Force scrambled fighter jets to the border with Lebanon on Thursday, Yom Kippur, after a suspicious aircraft was detected approaching Israeli airspace.
    The plane turned around and flew back north into Lebanon.

Report: Hamas Accepts Extending Abbas' Presidency for Six Months - Saed Bannoura (IMEMC-PA)
    Hamas delegates participating in the first day of the Cairo dialogue with Fatah said that the movement accepts extending Mahmoud Abbas' presidency for an additional six months, the Palestine News Agency reported Thursday.

Iran's Current Defense Minister Helped Plan 1983 Attacks on U.S. Forces - Col. Timothy J. Geraghty, U.S. Marine Corps (ret.) (Proceedings-U.S. Naval Institute)
    The 1983 bombings of the U.S. embassy and the Marine barracks in Beirut were the first time Islamic suicide bombers had attacked significant American targets.
    Our timidity to respond created an aura of impunity that the Islamic extremists sensed and pursued all the way to the 9/11 attacks, which finally awakened America.
    The U.S. intelligence community compiled an all-sources damage assessment after the Marine barracks bombing. They studied signals, overhead, and human intelligence and concluded the evidence was overpowering that Iran had been behind it.
    In August 2005, Mustafa Mohammad-Najjar was named the new defense minister of Iran.
    Najjar's previous assignment as senior commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps earned him a reputation of ruthlessness and ideological loyalty. In 1983, he commanded the 1,500-man expeditionary force sent to Lebanon's Bekaa Valley.
    This Iranian unit provided security, planning, training, and operational support for the truck bombings on 23 October 1983.
    Col. Geraghty commanded the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit in Beirut, Lebanon, at the time of the bombings. He served over 25 years in the Marine Corps and seven years in the Special Operations Group of the Central Intelligence Agency.

China to Explore for Oil in Syria - Stephen Starr (Asia Times-Hong Kong)
    Syria's key oil and gas sector, which contributes a quarter of its GDP, is suffering from declining production as oil fields dry up.
    State-owned companies pumped 610,000 barrels out of the ground every day in 1995. Today, that is down to 350,000 barrels a day, with slightly less than half going to export. Meanwhile, consumption is soaring.
    In a move that may improve output, Chinese oil giant Sinopec has bought out a Canadian firm's oil exploration interests in Syria for $2 billion.

Saudi-Syrian Relations Worsen - Sami Moubayed (Asia Times-Hong Kong)
    In a further sign of just how low Syrian-Saudi Arabian relations have sunk, Syrian authorities have banned the distribution of al-Hayat, the Saudi-owned mass circulation Arab daily.
    Nearly two years ago, Asharq Alawsat, another Saudi daily, was banned from Syria for running articles that were considered critical of the Syrian government during the war in Lebanon in 2006.
    Subsequently, the Syrians hailed Hizbullah in Lebanon as a resistance organization while the Saudis criticized it because of its links to Iran.

Saudi Cleric: Veil for Women Should Reveal Only One Eye (BBC News)
    Sheikh Muhammad al-Habadan, a Muslim cleric in Saudi Arabia, has called on women to wear a full veil that reveals only one eye.
    He told the Muslim satellite channel al-Majd that showing both eyes encouraged women to use eye make-up to look seductive.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Russian Scientist May Have Aided Iranian Nuclear Program - Elaine Sciolino
    International nuclear inspectors are investigating whether a Russian scientist helped Iran conduct complex experiments on how to detonate a nuclear weapon, according to European and American officials. The officials made it clear that they did not think the scientist was working on behalf of the Russian government. These concerns are based on a lengthy document in Farsi obtained by the International Atomic Energy Agency that offers a detailed narrative of experiments aimed at creating a perfectly timed implosion of nuclear material. (New York Times)
  • Russia Indicates No S-300 Anti-Aircraft Missiles for Iran
    Russia's Foreign Ministry suggested Thursday that Moscow would not sell advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Iran, a possibility that has alarmed Israel. Asked whether Russia had promised Israel it would not sell weapons to Syria such as S-300s, Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said: "We have declared more than once at the very highest political level that we do not intend to supply those types of armaments to countries located in regions that are, to put it mildly, uneasy." (AP/Washington Post)
  • FBI: CAIR Is a Front Group; Holy Land Foundation Tapped Hamas Clerics for Fundraisers - Jason Trahan
    The FBI took a new slap at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on Tuesday at the Holy Land Foundation trial. FBI Special Agent Lara Burns was going over transcripts from a Philadelphia meeting in 1993 between Holy Land officials and Hamas sympathizers. Defendant Shukri Abu Baker is quoted on the wiretap transcript talking about how it would be beneficial to have more traditional, secular American organizations to help spread the Islamist message. Prosecutor Barry Jonas asked Burns whether any groups formed after the Philadelphia gathering fit this mold. "CAIR," she said.
        CAIR is one of about 300 unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land case, and testimony has shown that its founder, Omar Ahmad, and current executive director, Nihad Awad, both participated in the Philadelphia meeting. Later Tuesday, FBI Special Agent Robert Miranda began his testimony detailing the type of people Holy Land routinely called on to speak at its fundraisers in the U.S., including Mahmoud al-Zahar (a Hamas co-founder), Jamil Hamami, Mohammed Siam and Hamed Bitawi - all Hamas leaders. (Dallas Morning News)
  • Iran Halts New Sales Tax After Merchants Strike - Thomas Erdbrink
    A series of private-sector strikes has forced the Iranian government to suspend the implementation of a new sales tax, marking a setback for President Ahmadinejad. Angry shopkeepers in the central bazaar in the city of Esfahan refused Wednesday for the second straight day to open stores, and the strike spread to Tehran, Mashad and Tabriz. Inflation rose in September to 29.4%, according to Iran's Central Bank. (Washington Post)
  • Israel Comes to Standstill for Yom Kippur
    Israel came to a standstill on Thursday as the country marked Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement - the most sacred observance in the Jewish calendar. Public transport and air traffic stopped, as did television and radio programming, while schools and offices - including the Tel Aviv stock exchange - were closed. Pedestrians, skaters and cyclists took over the car-free roads. Thursday's observance also marked the anniversary of the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war which cost the lives of 2,700 Israelis. (AFP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Police on Heightened Alert after Akko Riots - Ayiha Raved
    Severe clashes between Jewish and Arab residents of Akko in northern Israel erupted Wednesday night when an Arab resident drove through a predominantly Jewish area on the evening of Yom Kippur and local residents began hurling stones at his car. After the Arab's relatives came to his rescue, a rumor spread that the Arab driver had been killed, prompting hundreds of Arabs to arrive at the scene. The incident quickly developed into a mass riot involving hundreds of people, during which dozens of cars and some 30 shops were vandalized. Clashes between Arabs and Jews resumed Thursday, in what Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen described as a "local" incident. (Ynet News)
  • Gaza Tunnel Owners Register with Hamas, Get Electricity
    Owners of the scores of tunnels running under the Gaza-Egypt border have registered with the Hamas authorities, pledged to pay workers' compensation and hooked up their operations to the electricity network. In one place, dozens of large tents, each marking a tunnel work site, were pitched just yards from an Egyptian watchtower beyond the border wall. Hamas inspectors are notified of each delivery and check it on site. Officials from the municipality of Rafah confirmed they supervise tunnel operations. (PMC-PA)
  • Rise in Number of Israeli Arab IDF Recruits in 2008 - Yoav Stern
    The number of Israeli Arab Bedouin recruits to the IDF has increased dramatically in the first nine months of 2008. The number is estimated to have increased by 50 to 100 from the beginning of the year, bringing the total number of recruits in 2008 to some 300. The rate of non-Bedouin Arabs' recruitment has also increased in recent years. The law exempts non-Druze Arab citizens from compulsory military service.
        Lt. Amir Juamis, 27, of Beit Zarzir, who commands a military team, was asked how he feels about fighting with his people on the other side of the border. He said: "A terrorist is a terrorist. Islam doesn't say you have to kill. He comes to kill here and can kill a Jew or an Arab. It's my duty to prevent that." (Ha'aretz)
  • Iranian Boy to Undergo Surgery in Israel - Nurit Felter
    A 12-year-old Iranian boy suffering from brain cancer is scheduled to arrive in Israel on Friday for emergency surgery. The boy, who already underwent surgery in Tehran, was later admitted to a Turkish hospital. The Turkish doctors suggested the family seek medical assistance in Israel, and so they did, through Israeli liaison Jacob Levin. "When a child's life is at stake, religion and origin play no part," said Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit. "If we can help, we are more than willing to do so." (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The President Who Will Deal with Iran - Michael Gerson
    Economic downturns are wrenching but cyclical. Nuclear proliferation is more difficult to reverse, creating the permanent prospect of massive miscalculation and tragedy. America's next leader may be known to history as the president who had to deal with Iran. Former chief UN weapons inspector David Kay says the Iranian regime is about 80% of the way toward its nuclear goals - perhaps two to four years from "effective, deployable weapons."
        Kay believes that by simply saying a nuclear Iran is unacceptable, America is set up for a choice between "suicide" (a disastrous military attack on Iran) and "humiliation" (a galling acceptance of the unacceptable). Instead, Kay calls for a new round of "skillful diplomacy" to persuade Iran to stop at what he calls "virtual capability" - a global recognition that it could produce nuclear weapons in short order, without all the drawbacks caused by actually producing those weapons.
        Kay seems resigned to a policy of containment - holding Iran directly responsible if it transfers nuclear weapons to terrorists, providing nuclear guarantees to our friends in the region so they don't feel pressured to develop their own. The problem with this approach? Iran may be a different proliferation threat from any we have faced before. The regime cultivates ties to violent nonstate proxies in Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories. Iran's religious radicalism introduces an unpredictable element of irrationality. The writer, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, served as a policy adviser and chief speechwriter to President George W. Bush from 2000 to 2006. (Washington Post)
  • Iran's Political Motivation for Ridiculing the Holocaust Again - Richard L. Cravatts
    Iranian and Arab Holocaust denial has been growing in incidence, and particularly as part of Ahmadinejad's strategy. The Muslim world has taken this revisionist effort to another level: accusing Zionism of creating and perpetuating the Holocaust lie for the express purpose of justifying Israel's creation and the subsequent subjugation of the Palestinians.
        Muslims want the occurrence of the Holocaust to be proven false to eliminate the cataclysmic social and political event that led the world to accept and endorse the creation of the Jewish state. It is also politically expedient to position the Palestinians as the ultimate victims among victimized peoples, and this is much easier without the inexpressible evil of the Holocaust as core element of Israel's tragic heritage. (History News Network)
  • Islamic Leaders Seek to End Jewish Sovereignty in Israel - Ron Ben-Yishai
    An examination of the words uttered and written by the leaders of Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas, and even Syria, easily reveals their aspirations. Their strategy has a clear and defined long-term objective - bring about Israel's end as a sovereign Jewish entity - as well as two intermediate objectives.
        The first midterm goal is to make Israeli society crumble on the inside, in a bid to prompt Jews to emigrate and undermine their motivation to defend themselves, to the point where one military blow (either nuclear or conventional) would suffice to achieve the final objective. The second midterm goal is to gradually minimize Israel's territory, in a manner that would turn our population into a convenient and concentrated target for mortar shells, rockets, missiles, and terror attack, while making it difficult for the IDF to offer protection. This territorial objective also has a religious aspect: Liberating every centimeter of land, which in their view belongs to Muslims. (Ynet News)
  • UK Prime Minister Lauds Israel as "Symbol of Hope" - Jonny Paul
    British Prime Minister Gordon Brown paid tribute to the tenacity and achievements of the Jewish people on Monday and said that Israel is "a symbol of hope from which all the world can learn." Brown told the United Jewish Israel Appeal, "For 2,000 years, until 1948, the persistent call of the Jewish people was 'next year in Jerusalem.' For 2,000 years there was not one piece of land anywhere in the whole world that you could call your own."
        "For 2,000 years you had history but not a home. For 2,000 years you lived in the artistic and cultural and intellectual and scientific and political realm of every continent but you had no home. For 2,000 years you endured pogroms in so many countries, then the horror of the Holocaust - which is the shame of mankind - because you had no home yet for 2,000 years, yet nothing - no prison cell, no forced migration, no violence, not even the Holocaust itself - could ever break the spirit of a people yearning to be free."
        "What remarkable achievements Israel has achieved," he said. "A history of ingenuity that is a lesson to the boundless capacity of mind and spirit. Eight citizens have already been awarded Nobel prizes. In Israel today, there are more hi-tech industries, more symphony orchestras, more universities and research institutions than countries that are 100 times the size of Israel. The language of the Bible made the living tongue again, so your story, the story of Israel, is the symbol I identify with as a symbol of hope from which all the world can learn." (Jerusalem Post)
  • The Financial Crisis and the Arab World - Jonathan Spyer
    The seven stock markets in the oil-rich Gulf states shed around $150 billion of their capitalization in the course of the past week. The Arab world may well prove particularly vulnerable to the world economic downturn since a disproportionately large amount of Arab wealth is invested in global stock markets. The Kuwait Investment Authority, for example, placed a $2b. investment in Merrill Lynch last year. Merrill Lynch, of course, no longer exists. Instead of investing in education and in industry, money has been gambled on the stock markets, or invested in glittering real-estate projects, built by foreign labor and using foreign know-how. The writer is a Senior Research Fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center, Herzliya. (Jerusalem Post)
  • European Universities and the New Anti-Semitism: Issues, Examples, Prescriptions - Aryeh Green
    Anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic acts are proliferating at many universities in Europe - and not only among the Muslim minority population. Virtually throughout Europe, including Russia and the rest of the FSU, anti-Israel attitudes are accepted as unassailable among a large number of academics and political pundits alike. These attitudes are both supported by, and contribute to perpetuating, a general environment that is hostile to Israel and not friendly to Jews. This often makes it difficult - or extremely costly in terms of relationships, prestige, or advancement - for students and faculty to identify with Israel or Judaism.
        This "new anti-Semitism" - applying traditional anti-Semitic themes that delegitimize and demonize Jews and Judaism to the Jewish state and its leaders - threatens not only the support Israel receives from European elites and governments, but also the strength of Jewish identity among students and faculty, as well as European values of tolerance and liberty. The writer served as a senior adviser to former minister Natan Sharansky in the Israeli Prime Minister's Office. (Institute for Global Jewish Affairs)
  • Observations:

    Why the Candidates Need to Stop Talking about Israel So Much - Shmuel Rosner (Slate)

    • The presidential candidates are constantly asked about Israel by an American media that is sometimes obsessed with that country. But the constant mentions of Israel in every election cycle do little to serve Israel's interest.
    • They create the impression that Israel's problems, and especially the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, should be the highest priority for an American administration. They make Americans think that important and costly governmental actions, like the war in Iraq, were done for the sake of Israel, thus turning Israel into a nuisance rather than an asset. They mislead voters to think that dilemmas facing the next president - Iran is the most notorious example - would disappear had it not been for Israel.
    • But reality is different. Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as important as it might be to Israelis and Palestinians, will not be a strategic life-changing event for the U.S. Advisers to both candidates have recognized that.
    • But Iran is where the most serious damage was done by the repeated mentioning, by both campaigns, of Israel as the country threatened by Iran's nuclear program. Iran poses a challenge to the United States and its interests in the Middle East, it is a threat to governments and leaders in the Arab world, it is endangering vital energy resources, and it supports terror not just against Israel.
    • Yes, in their debates, both McCain and Obama also mentioned some of the other reasons for which a nuclear Iran will be more than just a nuisance, but they both started with Israel. Can one blame an American living under the false impression that Israel is the main, perhaps only reason for which to oppose Iranian expansionism?

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