Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
View this page at


February 16, 2009

Daily Alert Needs Your Support

In-Depth Issues:

IDF: Only 3 - Not 40 - Noncombatants Killed Near UN School During Gaza War - David Horovitz (Jerusalem Post)
    The most emblematic distortion of the death toll in the Gaza war relates to the deaths near the UN school in Jabalya on Jan. 6. Palestinian medical officials claimed that some 40 Palestinians, many of them women and children, were killed at the school by IDF shells.
    These claims sparked condemnation from the UN, widespread allegations of a "massacre" against Israel and escalated international political demands for an urgent end to the fighting.
    The IDF's Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration (CLA) reported on Sunday, after careful checking, that the Palestinian death toll in that incident - which involved Israel returning fire against Hamas gunmen outside the school facility - caused 12 fatalities, nine gunmen and three noncombatants.
    See also IDF: World Duped by Hamas' False Civilian Death Toll Figures - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    While the Palestinian Center for Human Rights reported that two-thirds of all fatalities in Gaza were civilians, IDF figures put the civilian death toll at no higher than a third of the total.
    With regard to the incident near a UN school in Jabalya, IDF Col. Moshe Levi said, "From the beginning, Hamas claimed that 42 people were killed, but we could see from our surveillance that only a few stretchers were brought in to evacuate people."
    The IDF has identified more than 1,200 of the Palestinian fatalities, listing their names, their official PA identity numbers, the circumstances in which they were killed and, where appropriate, the terrorist group with which they were affiliated.
    Several fatalities who had been classified by the Palestinians as "medics" were in fact Hamas fighters, including Anas Naim, the nephew of Hamas Health Minister Bassem Naim. The IDF showed photographs of Naim posing holding a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and a Kalashnikov assault rifle that had been posted on a Hamas Web site.

Suspect Gaza Arms Ship Had Munitions Supplies - Menelaos Hadjicostis (AP)
    The Cypriot-flagged "Monchegorsk" was carrying material that could be used to make munitions, Cypriot Defense Minister Costas Papacostas said Friday as authorities began unloading the cargo in Limassol, after the government said it breached a UN ban on Iranian arms exports.
    Papacostas said more than 90 containers loaded with seized material will be stored at a naval base near the port.
    The U.S. military said it found artillery shells and other arms aboard the ship after stopping it last month in the Red Sea, saying the ship was headed for Syria.

Israeli Tennis Player Denied Entry into Dubai - Sa'ar Haas (Ynet News)
    Israeli tennis star Shahar Peer was denied entry to take part in the Dubai Tennis Championships this week.
    Women's Tennis Association Chairman Larry Scott said, "We are deeply disappointed by the decision of the UAE denying Shahar Peer a visa."
    The "WTA Tour believes very strongly, and has a clear rule and policy, that no host country should deny a player the right to compete at a tournament for which she has qualified by ranking," Scott said. The Tour "will review appropriate future actions with regard to the future of the Dubai tournament."

Key Links 
Media Contacts 
Back Issues 
Fair Use 
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. to Help Plan "Durban II" Conference - Matthew Lee
    The Obama administration said Saturday it would participate in planning for the World Conference Against Racism, to be held in Geneva, Switzerland, in April. The U.S. and Israel walked out the first UN conference on racism in Durban, South Africa, in 2001 over efforts to pass a resolution comparing Zionism - the movement to establish and maintain a Jewish state - to racism. Israel has already decided to boycott the "Durban II" conference, while Canada has also said it will not participate, maintaining the meeting will promote racism and not combat it. (AP)
        A number of Obama officials reportedly pressed Secretary of State Clinton to announce the U.S. would participate in the conference, including U.S. ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, and Samantha Power, an adviser at the National Security Council. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israel Trusts U.S. "Durban II" Involvement - Abe Selig
    Eitan Levon, the Israel Foreign Ministry's coordinator for the conference, said: "I think that we see eye to eye with the Americans on the subject of Durban II, doesn't appear that they would continue taking part in the conference if they see outright anti-Semitism or the singling out of Israel by other members of the forum....If you look at the State Department's official statement, it says that their intent is to try to 'change the direction in which the review conference is heading,' and that their involvement now does not indicate that they will participate in April in the World Conference Against Racism itself, so I think that it's quite clear that they will walk away if they see the same kind of hate-fest developing as was the case in the previous forum." (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. Commerce Department Waives Syria Sanctions - Claudia Rosett
    The U.S. Department of Commerce has approved a license allowing Boeing to go ahead with major overhauls of two 747 jetliners belonging to Syria's state-owned Syrian Arab Airlines. This aircraft repair looks like the leading edge of a U.S. diplomatic overhaul to try to wean Syria away from Iran and create a new atmosphere of "mutual respect" between Washington and Damascus. There is talk that Obama will soon be sending an ambassador to Syria to fill the spot left empty since George W. Bush pulled out the previous ambassador in 2005.
        The fundamental problem with Syria is the terror-based character of the Syrian regime. Assad runs a dynastic, tyrannical system, which has survived for decades not by making peace, but by making trouble. One under-reported aspect of Syria's current regime is its busy partnership with North Korea. Assad's government enlisted the help of North Korea to build a secret, illicit plutonium factory on the Euphrates (the nearly completed nuclear reactor destroyed by an Israeli air strike in September 2007). (Forbes)
        See also Are We Helping Syria to Fly the Terrorist Skies? - Michael Singh (Foreign Policy)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF: Iran No. 1 Threat to Israel - Alex Fishman
    The Israel Defense Forces' annual work plan for 2009 officially defines Iran as "a threat to Israel's existence." This is the first time in years that the defense establishment has declared that the State of Israel is under an "existential threat." The plan defines the Iranian peril as "the No. 1 threat the IDF is now preparing for." (Ynet News)
  • Israel: Egypt's Anti-Smuggling Measures "Slow"
    Yuval Diskin, head of the Israel Security Agency, told cabinet ministers on Sunday: "We see a great effort on the part of Hamas in trying to re-dig its tunnels, and since the ceasefire, we've identified a number of arms shipments....The Egyptians are acting in a way which suggests that they are combating smuggling. This is a positive trend, but their actions are relatively slow." Officials in Jerusalem have insisted that any long-term truce agreement include provisions to prevent Hamas from rearming. Public Security Minister Avi Dichter told the cabinet: "When Hamas speaks about rehabilitating Gaza, they are talking about rehabilitating their supply of rockets which will be fired into Israel." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues Monday - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in Gaza fired two Kassam rockets that struck Israel on Monday morning. One landed in a kibbutz, where residents woke up to the sounds of the Color Red rocket alert system and to a loud explosion, not far from the houses. The rockets were launched as some of the children were making their way to school, and local officials said this was no coincidence. In several other incidents in the past few days, Palestinian gunmen fired rockets shortly before the schools and kindergartens opened. On Sunday evening, a rocket was also fired at Israel. (Ynet News)
        See also Palestinians Fire Grad Rocket at Israel - Hanan Greenberg
    A Grad rocket fired by Palestinians in Gaza struck the Yavne region in Israel Friday evening, the farthest-reaching rocket fired at Israel since the end of the IDF's Gaza operation. In another incident, an explosive device planted near the security fence along the Gaza border was detonated just as an IDF patrol vehicle was passing on Saturday. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • "U.S. Shouldn't Interfere in Israeli Politics" - Etgar Lefkovits
    "It is not correct for Americans and American Jewish organizations to interfere in Israeli domestic politics," said Alan Solow, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, at a Jerusalem press conference Sunday. "We are confident that whatever government emerges here, the relations between Israel and the U.S. will remain strong," he said. "It is not appropriate for American Jews to tell Israel what government to form any more than it is for Israelis to tell us who to vote for in America," concurred Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents. The American Jewish leaders, in Israel after a tension-soothing meeting with the Pope in the Vatican, also called upon the U.S. administration to boycott the upcoming Durban II UN conference on racism. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The Gaza Operation and Hamas' Weakness in the West Bank - Shlomo Brom
    One of the interesting aspects to the fighting in Gaza was the behavior of the Palestinian population in the West Bank. While there were expressions of public protest, they were on a relatively small scale. The relatively low participation reflected the mood of the Palestinians who have tired of the ongoing failing struggle, and understand that terrible damage was suffered by the Palestinian people as a result of the recklessness on the part of Hamas, which did not correctly assess the Israeli response.
        It also reflected the serious weakening of Hamas' political infrastructure in the West Bank where a significant number of Hamas political activists were arrested. The PA succeeded in taking control of a large number of mosques where Hamas operated, and the organization's financial assets were impounded. An indication of Hamas' weakness in the West Bank was its failure to launch even one single significant terrorist attack from the area during the fighting. The writer is a Senior Research Fellow and Director, Program on Israel-Palestinian Relations at the INSS. (Strategic Assessment-Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • Hampshire Divests from Israel, So Contributors Should Divest from Hampshire - Alan M. Dershowitz
    Hampshire College has become the first college in the U.S. to divest from Israel. This divestment campaign has absolutely nothing to do with human rights. It is motivated purely by hatred for the Jewish state. Hampshire President Hexter acknowledged that "it was the good work of SJP" - the virulently anti-Israel group called Students for Justice in Palestine - "that brought this issue to the attention of the committee."
        It may well be that the anti-Israel student group has hijacked the voice of the college, but if so, the hijacking has not been strongly resisted. Until and unless the Hampshire administration makes it unequivocally clear that it rejects any and all efforts to single out Israel for divestment, contributions to that otherwise fine school should be placed on hold. (Hudson Institute-New York)
  • Observations:

    Beyond "Evenhandedness" - Abraham Foxman (Forward)

    • There has been a lot of talk about the need for the Obama administration to engage on Israeli-Palestinian issues early and often. The primary purpose of such engagement should be to stabilize the situation and set the stage for an ultimate resolution of the conflict via a two-state solution. Two pitfalls, however, must be avoided.
    • The first is the temptation to see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the key to solving all of America's problems in the Middle East. Adopting such a view would create unnecessary tensions between America and Israel. It would put too much weight on this specific issue and inevitably lead to demands that Israel be the party to make the greatest concessions. And it would not yield progress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue or on any of the other major challenges America faces in the region.
    • Second, the administration must avoid taking what some refer to as an "evenhanded" approach. "Evenhandedness" fails to take into account the vast differences in the historic relationships the two sides have had with America, in the institutional characters of the two societies, in the meaning of democratic values in each and in their respective approaches to peace. Israel is an American ally in every sense of the word - strategically, morally and in terms of public attitudes. While the U.S. should help find a solution that serves the interests of both Israelis and Palestinians, there is no moral equivalence between the two sides.
    • What, then, should American engagement focus on? It should, above all, provide an answer to what has increasingly become the accepted Israeli view that concessions to the Palestinians produce not moderation but greater extremism. How can Israel consider tangible concessions when all the evidence seems to be that concessions make Israel more vulnerable and lead to more Palestinian violence?
    • Confidence-building measures for the Palestinians must be accompanied by American insistence on getting the Palestinian Authority to stop the teaching of hatred of Israel on television and in schools, to deal with terrorists in a more serious and consistent way, and to continue to develop responsible security forces.
    • Final-status issues are resolvable only in the context of a process that fundamentally changes the dynamic with respect to the impact of Israeli withdrawals and concessions. Insisting that Palestinian leaders behave differently and providing mechanisms to reduce the ability of Hamas to make trouble are the best things engagement by the Obama administration can produce.

      The writer is national director of the Anti-Defamation League and the author of The Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).

    Unsubscribe from Daily Alert