Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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October 31, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Israeli Elections Set for Feb. 10 - Mazal Mualem (Ha'aretz)
    Israeli Knesset elections will be held on Feb. 10, 2009, Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik announced Thursday.
    The date was officially set after most parties agreed on it in principle in a meeting with Itzik on Tuesday.

Israel Wants to Renew Indirect Talks with Syria (Reuters-Washington Post)
    Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert wants to renew indirect talks with Syria that were suspended some weeks ago when he resigned, Israeli officials said on Friday.
    Olmert will remain in office as caretaker until a new government is formed after a mid-February election. He wants to avoid a diplomatic vacuum for this period.

Petraeus Proposed Visiting Syria, Bush Administration Said No - Jonathan Karl (ABC News)
    Gen. David Petraeus proposed visiting Syria shortly after taking over as the top U.S. commander for the Middle East, ABC News has learned.
    The idea was swiftly rejected by Bush administration officials at the White House, State Department and the Pentagon.
    Officials familiar with Petraeus' thinking on the subject say he wants to engage Syria in part because he believes that U.S. diplomacy can be used to drive a wedge between Syria and Iran. He plans to continue pushing the idea.

Cairo Court Fines Egyptian Broadcaster for Protest Footage - Joseph Mayton (Middle East Times)
    An Egyptian court Sunday ordered the chairman of Cairo News Company (CNC), Nader Gowhar, to pay a fine of 150,000 Egyptian pounds ($27,000) for publishing footage of a protest earlier this year that was carried by the pan-Arabic news network Al-Jazeera.
    Cairo considered the footage broadcast to be disruptive to Egypt's national image. It showed demonstrators in Mahalla al-Kobra in April stomping on a large photograph of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak.
    Egypt has been leading the charge across the Middle East to increase government control over media outlets, especially those run and based in Egypt.
    This year, Egypt led a campaign in the Arab League to establish a charter that enabled Arab governments to crack down on satellite broadcasters.

Oldest Active Fighter Pilot Retires (Journeyman Pictures)
    At 61, Uri Gil is the oldest active fighter pilot in the world. A passionate painter as well as a soldier, Uri talks with surprising candor about his values and life in the Israel Air Force.
    Uri was flying over the Suez Canal in 1973 when a missile whizzed past him: "If I'd broken a fraction of a second later, I wouldn't be here today."
    Over his 41 years of service Uri downed many enemy planes and he can't hide the pride he feels: "I'm the only pilot who downed planes in all the wars."
    Yet Uri never gloated: "I was never happy afterwards. I like to show the enemy some respect."
    Just before his last flight, he takes his granddaughter to see his F16 fighter plane: "This plane's on call. If enemies come to our borders, then someone has to make sure these planes don't enter the country, right? So we take off in this and we run them off."

The Contemporary Rivalry over the Chosen People: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives - Avi Beker (Institute for Global Jewish Affairs)
    The Saudi government, which is the world's leading distributor of the anti-Jewish forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, blames the Jews in its official publications for deceiving the world into thinking that "they are the chosen people and that God wants them to once more take possession of Palestine, the promised land."
    A 2004 article in the Saudi armed forces journal refers to the "Jewish sense of superiority in the world" and "quotes" Jewish leaders who claim that "[w]e are the ones who invented the story of a 'chosen people' and we established ourselves as saviors of the world."
    The writer is the Goldman Visiting Professor at the Department of Government of Georgetown University, former secretary-general of the World Jewish Congress, and author of The Chosen: The History of an Idea and the Anatomy of an Obsession (2008).

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iran Plans Secret Nuclear Experiments - George Jahn
    Iran has recently tested ways of recovering highly enriched uranium from waste reactor fuel in a covert bid to expand its nuclear program, according to an intelligence assessment by a member of the 145-nation International Atomic Energy Agency. Experts say the experiment appears plausible as an incremental step that could move Iran further along the path to weapons capability. If the information is accurate, then Iran is "trying to get their nose in the tent" of reprocessing material potentially suitable for a warhead, said David Albright, whose Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security tracks suspect secret proliferators. (AP)
  • U.S. Condemns Jailing of Syrian Dissidents - JoAnne Allen
    The U.S. on Thursday condemned the sentencing of 12 leading Syrian dissidents sent to jail for advocating for freedom of expression and a democratic constitution in Syria. "The United States condemns the sentencing of 12 members of the Damascus Declaration National Council to two and a half years in prison," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said in a statement.
        "This judgment once again underscores the Syrian regime's contempt for the fundamental rights and freedoms of their people," Perino said. "The Syrian regime cannot expect to be treated as a respected member of the international community when it engages in such systematic repression of its own citizens." The U.S. called for the immediate release of the 12 Damascus Declaration members, as well as all other political prisoners in Syria. (Reuters)
        See also As If on Cue, Syrians Protest U.S. Incursion on Their Soil - Graham Bowley
    Thousands of people demonstrated Thursday in the Syrian capital, Damascus, in a protest, apparently stage-managed by the government, against the American military raid across the Iraqi border into Syrian territory on Sunday. (New York Times)
  • Iran: America Beware of Our Martyrdom-Seekers
    Following the recent U.S. strikes in Pakistan and Syria, Iranian Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani threatened suicide attacks against the U.S., the Iranian news agency IRNA reported Tuesday. "The weak point of the Americans and the Zionists is that they lack a force of jihad fighters and martyrdom-seekers. The military experience of recent decades has shown that military power does not depend on advanced [technological] means but on the ability to take risks - an ability that is grounded in a strong will," he said. "Today, this path [of martyrdom] has defeated the unilateral aggressiveness of America and the Zionists, and has forced them to withdraw." (MEMRI)
  • Hamas Producing Another Palestinian Generation that Believes in Resistance - Taghreed El-Khodary
    At a sports stadium in Gaza one recent October evening, 300 newly married couples along with relatives and friends gathered for a mass wedding celebration, the 10th here this year courtesy of Hamas. Hamas has been observing a truce with Israel since June, allowing its underground fighters to resurface but leaving them without much to do. At the same time, hundreds of the group's women have been recently widowed, their husbands having been killed either in confrontations with Israel or in fighting between Hamas and Fatah. Taking advantage of the pause in violence, the Hamas leaders have turned to matchmaking, bringing together single fighters and widows, and providing dowries and wedding parties for the many who cannot afford such trappings of matrimony.
        "Marriage is the same as jihad," or holy war, said Muhammad Yousef, one recently married member of the Qassam Brigades, the Hamas underground. "With marriage, you are producing another generation that believes in resistance." The night before the mass wedding party, Yousef said, his wife shared with him her ultimate wish: to carry out a joint suicide attack against Israel. (New York Times)
  • Holy Land Jurors Get Sample of Hamas Martyr Propaganda - Jason Trahan
    Jurors in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing trial on Thursday saw some disturbing examples of Hamas propaganda glorifying young suicide bombers. One poster features 18-year-old Abdel Mu'ti Muhammad Salih Shabanah. According to the FBI's translation, he is a "high school student who preferred the martyrdom certificate over the life's he headed to Jerusalem to attain martyrdom." The poster is one of several that the Israeli military confiscated from the offices of the Islamic Charitable Society of Hebron, one of several groups in the Palestinian territories that received millions of dollars from Holy Land. "Avi," one of two anonymous Israeli government witnesses, testified that these charity groups were fronts for Hamas, not only because of Hamas propaganda found there, but also because they were led by known Hamas operatives. According to the FBI, Holy Land sent the Islamic Charitable Society of Hebron about $1.6 million from 1991 to 2001. (Dallas Morning News)
        View Hamas Posters Found at the Islamic Charitable Society of Hebron (Dallas Morning News)
  • Iraqi Christians Forming Militias
    Members of the Christian community in northern Iraq are setting up ad hoc militias to secure their neighborhoods, rights advocates said Wednesday. A campaign targeting the minority Christian community in Iraq erupted in September. Mustafa Gundoghu with the Kurdish Human Rights Project told World Politics Review in a feature published Wednesday that Christians have received death threats through pamphlets, letters, e-mails and text messages from a group calling itself "al-Mujahadin." With Baghdad struggling to contain the situation, several Christian neighborhoods have established their own security forces, setting up various checkpoints throughout the city, he said. (UPI)
        See also Christians On the Run in Iraq - Peter Wensierski and Bernhard Zand (Der Spiegel-Germany)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinians Fire Antitank Missiles at IDF Soldiers Patrolling Gaza Border Fence - Hanan Greenberg
    Palestinians fired two antitank missiles Friday at an IDF force patrolling inside Israel near the Gaza border fence not far from Kibbutz Nir Oz. (Ynet News)
  • Reform of the Palestinian Security Apparatuses - Shlomo Brom
    One of the main obstacles preventing the signing and implementation of a permanent Israeli-Palestinian agreement is the Palestinian Authority's inability to maintain security control in the West Bank and prevent the area from becoming a base for attacks. Since Gaza's fall to Hamas in June 2007, the PA has labored to reform its security apparatuses and strengthen their capabilities, with the help of the U.S., EU, Jordan, and Egypt. The National Security Force is the chief force to confront Hamas militias and other opposition groups. It operates according to a plan that calls for creating five regiments. So far two regiments have concluded training in Jordan; the first was posted in Jenin and the second in Hebron.
        Both the National Security Force and the Civil Police suffer from a severe shortage of effective capabilities. On paper, these apparatuses comprise tens of thousands of salaried employees, but the actual ability to activate effective forces is small. This is part of the Arafat legacy, whereby it was customary to pay salaries to thousands of individuals who essentially weren't filling any jobs. From Israel's perspective, the major test is the ability to prevent terror and take action against secret Hamas cells and other groups. It appears that the PA is acting effectively against the Hamas civilian infrastructure, which serves first and foremost the political interests of the PA government.
        The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which were aligned with Fatah itself, represent a special challenge to the PA. They are being handled within the framework of an amnesty agreement that also involves Israel. This agreement, barring some isolated exceptions, is considered a success. It is hard to expect effective security so long as the entire PA law enforcement system lacks requisite institutions, especially a functioning judicial system and prison system. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • More Arab-Israelis Performing National Service - Brenda Gazzar
    The number of Arab-Israelis performing national service has quadrupled in the last two years, according to government statistics. The figure increased from 230 two years ago to 630 last year, before already surpassing more than 1,000 volunteers for the 2008/2009 fiscal year. More than 80% of the Arab participants are women. "The young Arabs - male and female - who have joined the national service in the last year or two have reached very high levels of satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment, and a strong sense of helping their own community. And that has spread by word of mouth," said Dr. Reuven Gal, head of the Administration for Civilian National Service. Gal said the administration had not initiated any recruiting campaign in the Arab sector. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Democracy, Solidarity, Sovereignty and Tolerance - Shlomo Avineri
    The democracy deficit is the major challenge facing the Arab countries of the Middle East region. Turkey, Indonesia and Bangladesh show that democratization can take place in Muslim-majority countries. Even Iran shows elements of representation, including participation of women, that are far more developed than anything to be found in Arab countries.
        Any attempt to impose democratization from outside by force is both morally reprehensible and politically doomed to failure. The burden is on Arab societies themselves to create the preconditions necessary for the emergence of democracy. This means not only elections but the whole panoply of democratic culture, including how to integrate Islam into a modern, open society.
        With some Arab countries enormously rich due to oil and sparse populations and other countries poor and heavily over-populated, an overarching Arab Marshall Plan could have transformed the entire Arab world into a rich, economically developed region, a mega-Korea. The writer is professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a former director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (
  • Iran: Militant Challenges from a Common Enemy - Gary Rosenblatt
    Israelis are well aware that Tehran, with its perilous mix of Islamic fundamentalism, quest for nuclear superiority and hatred of Zionism, represents an existential threat to the Jewish state. It's hard not to be aware of the situation when President Ahmadinejad keeps reminding the world of his pledge to wipe Israel off the map. Israeli leaders have been trying to focus Western attention on this looming threat, pointing out the dire consequences for all of the Mideast, and beyond, should Iran acquire a nuclear bomb. So far, efforts to convince the international community to impose tougher sanctions have not been successful and Iran continues its feverish efforts to prepare a nuclear warhead.
        One senses that Americans see the danger as once removed rather than directly affecting them, but that is a mistake, since a nuclear Iran would advance its quest to impose Islam on the Mideast and could easily provide its deadliest weapons to its surrogate terror groups, Hizbullah and Hamas, enflaming the region. (New York Jewish Week)
  • UN Human Rights Commissioner's Failed Term - Glenn Cohen
    On June 30 former Canadian Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour's four-year term as UN high commissioner for human rights ended. From the record compiled by the UN Human Rights Council under Arbour's direction, you'd think there was only one major human rights violator in the entire world: Israel. In 2006, over 46% of the council's resolutions were directed at, and critical of, the Jewish state. In 2006, only four UNHRC resolutions dealt with the situation in Darfur. In that same year, the council was silent on Burma, Cuba, China and all of the Arab states in the Middle East except Iraq. Under her watch, UNHRC members China, Libya, Iran and Cuba systematically blocked almost all critical scrutiny of any state behavior but Israel's.
        Israel doesn't need the UNHRC for its daily dose of censure; the newspapers published in that country do a fine job of reproaching their government every day. But it is not so in Iran, or Russia, or China, or Burma or Cuba. (National Post-Canada)
  • When Evil Is Applauded - Robert Horenstein
    Albert Einstein once said, "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it." Today, the world is a dangerous place because evil is applauded at the UN, given airtime on U.S. national television and radio, honored at an interfaith gathering, and given serious consideration for inclusion on the UN's most powerful body, the Security Council. An international community ready to confront Iran would look and feel different. And the Security Council, rather than acting like helpless bystanders, would refer Ahmadinejad to the International Criminal Court to stand trial for inciting genocide. The writer is Community Relations Director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland. (Jerusalem Report)

    Weekend Features

  • Explaining Israel's High-Tech Success - Charles Cooper
    High-tech services now comprise about half of the country's total industrial exports. What's more, the country boasts the highest number of publicly traded companies on the Nasdaq outside of the U.S. and Canada. Some, like Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, are in the health or scientific fields, but the list is tech-heavy, featuring the likes of Check Point Software and Aladdin Knowledge Systems. Israel's ratio of engineers to population is 135 engineers per 10,000 employees, compared to 80 in the U.S.
        The Israeli political-military establishment was keen to build up a qualitative edge in weaponry to compensate for Israel's tiny population and small size and to adequately equip itself in the face of conflict with its Arab neighbors. "The idea was to build and design everything that we needed to defend ourselves," said Yair Shamir, the chairman of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), which has since developed a range of UAVs. (Some that can travel as far as Iran.) The company also developed Israel's first spy satellite; eight of them currently circle the globe. (CNET News)
  • Jerusalem Sound and Light Show Traces Israel's Past - Linda Gradstein
    A new outdoor sound and light show called "The Night Spectacular" at the Tower of David Museum complex in Jerusalem's Old City offers a virtual-reality experience that shouldn't be missed. There is no narration, just a few biblical verses spoken in both Hebrew and English. Most of the 45-minute show is vignettes from different time periods presented with blazing colors and dramatic soundtracks. There's no screen and no need for one. The dramatic computer-generated scenes from 20 projectors cover the Old City's walls, towers and turrets, surrounding you with images that can make you gasp. (Washington Post)
  • Observations:

    U.S. Escalates the War on Terror - Eli Lake (New Republic)

    • With the strike in Sukkariyeh, Syria, we have entered a new phase in the war on terror. In July, according to three administration sources, the Bush administration formally gave the military new power to strike terrorist safe havens outside of Iraq and Afghanistan.
    • Before then, a military strike in a country like Syria or Pakistan would have required President Bush's personal approval. Now, those kinds of strikes can occur at the discretion of the incoming commander of Central Command, Gen. David Petraeus.
    • The new order could pave the way for direct action in Kenya, Mali, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen - all places where American intelligence believes al-Qaeda has a significant presence, but can no longer count on the indigenous security services to act.
    • The administration is genuinely worried about al-Qaeda's resurgence, not just in Pakistan, but across Asia and Africa.

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