Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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October 15, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

German Official Attends Tehran's "Destroy Israel" Rally - Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
    German Ambassador to Iran Herbert Honsowitz violated EU guidelines by allowing a military attache to attend an anti-Israel military parade in Tehran last month, according to a spokeswoman for the German Foreign Ministry's Iran section.
    "Israel must be wiped off the map" was one of the slogans painted on Shihab-3 missiles featured at the event.
    In uncharacteristically strong language, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier ordered Honsowitz to return to Berlin on Sep. 29.
    Social Democratic Party head Steinmeier, a partner in the coalition of Chancellor Angela Merkel, refuses to enact legislation banning trade with Iran.
    Many Israeli government officials view an end to German-Iranian economic relations as the litmus test on combating Iranian anti-Semitism and ensuring Israel's security.

    See also Maverick Lebanese Christian Leader Cozies Up to Iran - Raed Rafei (Los Angeles Times)
    Lebanese Christian leader Michel Aoun, who returned to the country in 2005 after 15 years of exile in Paris and then banded together with Hizbullah, is on a high-profile official visit to Tehran.
    In a joint news conference with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, Aoun praised the Islamic Republic for its help to the Lebanese.
    The step has angered many Lebanese who still consider Iran as a major source of instability in their country.

British Army Translator Spied for Iran - Michael Evans (Times-UK)
    An army interpreter who translated for the senior British commander in Afghanistan plotted to become a secret agent for Iran because he was passed over for promotion, a British court was told Monday.
    Daniel James, 45, an Iranian-born corporal, who changed his name from Esmail Mohammed Beigi Gamasai in 1997, sent e-mails and telephoned Col. Mohammad Hossein Heydari, a military assistant at the Iranian Embassy in Kabul, over a period of months.
    On Nov. 2, 2006, the defendant sent an e-mail to Col. Heydari in which he revealed the whereabouts of a military camp on the northern Iran/Iraq border. It concluded, "I am at your service" and was signed: "Esmail, the interpreter."

Amnesty: Executions Surging in Saudi Arabia (BBC News)
    Amnesty International says executions are surging in Saudi Arabia, and those most likely to face death by the sword are migrant workers and poor Saudis because they are unable to use the "blood money" system.
    Amnesty's report - "Affront to Justice: Death Penalty in Saudi Arabia" - says there were 158 recorded executions in 2007 and the figure between January and August 2008 stood at 71.
    There were at least 1,695 executions between 1985 and May 2008, of which 830 were foreign nationals - a highly disproportionate figure.
    In some cases, execution is followed by crucifixion, Amnesty said.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Rice Pledges Pursuit of Mideast Peace until Term Ends
    U.S. Secretary of State Rice said Tuesday she "will leave no stone unturned" to reach a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians in the next three months. Rice has visited the region multiple times - including eight trips this year. (VOA News)
  • West Bank Foreign Investment Grows - Jay Solomon
    Efforts to attract foreign investment into the West Bank are accelerating, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said in an interview. Intel is building a minicomputer lab in Hebron, while TouchStar is committing $1.5 million for a Middle East-focused call center in eastern Jerusalem. Cisco is overseeing a $10 million, three-year investment plan to create jobs and economic projects in the Palestinian territories. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Syria Establishes Diplomatic Relations with Lebanon
    Syria formally established diplomatic relations with Lebanon on Tuesday, ending six decades of nonrecognition. Syria and Lebanon said they planned to open embassies by the end of the year. (AP/New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer: Financial Crisis to Last a Year, Israel's Banking System Solid - Sever Plocker and Gad Lior
    Prof. Stanley Fischer, the governor of the Bank of Israel, is trying to put Israelis' minds at ease in wake of the financial crisis enveloping world markets, and convince everyone that the Israeli market is "doing just fine." "We are in the eye of the storm. I assume it won't last long, but we are sure to experience some jolts. We will probably hit rock bottom sometime this year and start growing from there. I believe we would need to be in crisis management mode for about a year." (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Fire-Bomber Killed in West Bank - Avi Issacharoff
    Abdel Kader Zeit, 17, from Jalazoun, who tried to throw a fire bomb near the West Bank settlement of Beit El, was shot dead by IDF forces on Tuesday. Troops found a cache of ten other fire bombs, which he planned to hurl together with two other Palestinians who fled the scene. (Ha'aretz)
        See also IDF Soldiers at West Bank Checkpoint Thwart Terror Attack - Efrat Weiss
    Soldiers thwarted a potential terror attack in Israel Monday evening, when they shot and wounded a Palestinian attempting to smuggle three explosive devices through the Hawara checkpoint near Nablus. After soldiers searching his possessions found the explosive devices, he attempted to escape. In recent months, a number of attacks have been foiled at this same checkpoint. (Ynet News)
  • Israel to Allow 700 Additional Armed PA Troops into Hebron - Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel
    The PA is expected to deploy a battalion of security forces to the West Bank city of Hebron, Palestinian sources said Sunday, in a move to be coordinated with Israel. The armed battalion is the second unit of the Palestinian National Security Forces to undergo American training in Jordan. It has 650 to 700 soldiers and officers, and 150 vehicles. Samih al-Sifi, the commander of the security forces, said the deployment does not mean the PA is taking security responsibility for the Palestinian part of Hebron. He said Israel authorized the PA to restore order and security in the city. Some 600 to 700 Palestinian police currently patrol Hebron, and that number will be doubled. (Ha'aretz)
        See also PA Raids Hamas "Bomb Factory" in West Bank
    PA security forces raided a Hamas bomb factory and arrested 11 members of the rival Islamist faction in the West Bank city of Hebron on Friday. Ramadan Awad, chief of the PA police in Hebron, said more than 100 kg. of explosives were seized along with ammunition and homemade firearms. "The factory was preparing bombs," he said. (Reuters)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Hamas-Ruled Gaza Becoming Like Afghanistan - Tariq al-Homayed
    Gaza is following in the footsteps of Afghanistan with regard to an abundance of arms, poverty, and division between one armed group and another, who are more than prepared to fight, leading to even greater divisions. The transformation of Gaza into Afghanistan is a future whose first casualty will be the Palestinians and their cause, which has been shattered by Hamas. The first thing we must do is stop this nonsense of saying that Hamas came to power through elections. Those who come to power via elections do not have the right to be selective with regard to agreements made by the legitimate authority - the very same authority which pushed for the elections which Hamas won. Those who call for elections must respect all previous agreements.
        Hamas is a very real danger to the Palestinian cause. They have already blown the chance of creating a Palestinian state thanks to their division from the legitimate authority of Mahmoud Abbas. We have yet to see a reasonable trend within Hamas which appreciates the consequences of governing Gaza. So we must take a decisive stand against Hamas, and for a simple reason: the boat which they are drilling holes in will not only drown them, but drown all of us, and we will all be the victims. We cannot allow Hamas to fragmentize the Palestinians as they wish, or to plot with Iran as they see fit. The writer is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Alawsat. (Asharq Alawsat-UK)
  • Shi'ite-Sunni Clashes Stretch to Egypt and Sudan
    The religious rift between Sunnis and Shi'ites in the Middle East, and the tension between the Arab countries, particularly the Gulf states and Egypt, on the one hand, and Iran, on the other, are also manifested in Sudan-Iran relations. While the Sudanese regime maintains close ties with Iran, some Sudanese, especially those residing outside the country, have voiced concerns that Sudan may join the countries under Iranian influence. Over the past few years, there have been several uproars in the Arab press over perceived attempts by Iran to spread Shi'ism in Sudan, whose Muslim population is predominantly Sunni. (MEMRI)
  • Hanged for Being a Christian in Iran - Alasdair Palmer
    A month ago, the Iranian parliament voted in favor of an "Islamic Penal Code" which would codify the death penalty for any male Iranian who leaves his Islamic faith. Women would get life imprisonment. The vote in favor of the new law was 196 to 7. Imposing the death penalty for changing religion blatantly violates one of the most fundamental of all human rights. The right to freedom of religion is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and in the European Convention of Human Rights. It is even enshrined as Article 23 of Iran's own constitution, which states that no one may be molested simply for his beliefs.
        Hossein Soodmand was the last man to be executed in Iran for apostasy, the "crime" of abandoning one's religion. He had converted from Islam to Christianity in 1960, when he was 13 years old. Thirty years later, he was hanged by the Iranian authorities for that decision. His son, Ramtin, also a Christian, was arrested on August 21. It is feared he may become one of the first to be killed under Iran's new law. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Christians Targeted in Iraq - Atul Aneja
    Christians in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul are fleeing after facing attacks that apparently have been masterminded by al-Qaeda. According to provincial governor Duraid Kashmula, around 1,000 Christian families have fled Mosul after gunmen blew up at least three Christian homes in Mosul's Sukkar district. Kashmula said 11 Christians have been killed since violence flared up on Sep. 28. (The Hindu-India)
  • Observations:

    When Will the Arab World Tell Its People "Israel Is Not the Enemy"? - Barry Rubin (Jerusalem Post)

    • In pursuit of its vendetta against Israel and the West, the Arab world is committing suicide. On a daily basis, this means rejecting the reforms its societies need. In the long run, it means risking takeover by radical Islamists. What's the effective voice in the region? Not the "peace process" concept used in talking with the West, but the "resistance" concept, used in talking among themselves.
    • Even in countries with genuinely moderate governments, no official or state-controlled newspaper (and very few intellectuals) dare say: Israel is not an enemy; America is a friend; the true struggle is to raise living standards and promote freedom. What does it matter if Arab notables speak soothingly at diplomatic parties or in Western media interviews while millions at home are inundated by a very different message?
    • Hamas member of parliament Fathi Hammad told al-Aksa television (7Sep08): "The approaching not limited to Palestine. You are creating the ethos of victory for all Arabs and Muslims, and Allah willing, even on the global level. Why? Because Allah has chosen you to fight the people he hates most - the Jews." Is Arab victory approaching? Well, no. But this kind of talk has kept the suckers in line for 60 years now. It's just so useful for rulers and revolutionaries.

      The writer is director of Global Research in International Affairs Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal.

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    Today's issue of the Daily Alert was prepared in Israel on Chol Hamoed.