Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

in association with the Fairness Project
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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July 12, 2002

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In-Depth Issue:

Saudis Abhor the Term "Wahhabism"
    The austere teachings of Muhammad bin Abd al-Wahhab have been prevalent in Saudi Arabia for more than two centuries. The ruling Saud dynasty owes its very control over the peninsula's once fractious tribes to the fact that their ancestors championed his teachings.
    Saudis abhor the term "Wahhabism," feeling it sets them apart and contradicts the notion that Islam is a monolithic faith. But Wahhabi-inspired xenophobia dominates religious discussion in a way not found elsewhere in the Islamic world.
    Bookshops in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina sell a 1,265-page souvenir tome of "greatest hits" of fatwas on modern life. It is strewn with rulings on shunning non-Muslims: don't smile at them, don't wish them well on their holidays, don't address them as "friend."
    "Well, of course I hate you because you are Christian, but that doesn't mean I want to kill you," a professor of Islamic law in Riyadh explains to a visiting reporter.
    Al Wahhab "is a larger-than-life figure in Saudi Arabia, like George Washington," said Mushairy al-Zaidy, who writes about religious issues for Al Madina. (New York Times)

Oliver North: Israeli Agent Amiram Nir "the Bravest Man I Ever Knew"
    Former White House aide Oliver North had close ties with Amiram Nir, counterterrorism adviser to prime minister Shimon Peres, who was killed in a mysterious plane crash over southwestern Mexico on December 1, 1988.
    "Ami was the bravest man I ever knew, and I knew a lot of brave men," said North, in Israel this week to broadcast his radio show, Radio America, from the Jerusalem Post's studios.
    North was deputy director of counterintelligence for the US National Security Council in the Reagan administration and Nir was North's main Israeli contact.
    They flew together from Tel Aviv to Teheran in May 1986 in hopes of securing the release of American and Israeli hostages held by pro-Iranian terrorist groups in Lebanon. (Jerusalem Post)

Useful Reference:

Visions for Peace

In a special series of reports, Ariel Sharon, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Shimon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Ehud Barak discuss their visions for Israel's future. (JTA)

Key Links

Media Contact Information

Back Issues

News Resources - USA and Europe:

  • Bush's Mideast Consultations Proceed, Quietly
    Arafat sent a long letter to Secretary of State Powell on Tuesday, insisting that the Palestinian Authority had embarked on major restructuring efforts, an administration official said. American Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer met with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Thursday to urge him to "create an atmosphere" in which Palestinian reform could proceed, one official said. There were some signs that European and Arab leaders were adjusting their own policies in light of Mr. Bush's stance. One Middle Eastern diplomat said, "There are a lot of bureaucrats in the United States and Europe working on different ideas for Palestinian reform." (New York Times)
  • Iraq Building Up Deadly Arsenal, Say Defectors
    Saddam Hussein has made important progress in developing weapons of mass destruction capable of killing millions of people, senior Iraqi defectors say. Terence Taylor, a UN weapons inspector in Iraq for four years up to 1997, believes Saddam's biological arsenal posed the greatest immediate threat. According to Taylor, president of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Washington, Iraq has failed to account for 17 tons of growth media used for culturing anthrax and other biological agents, 4,000 tons of chemicals which could be used in the manufacture of VX nerve gas, and thousands of tons of chemical weapons munitions. (Times - UK)
  • Palestinians Kill 3 Lebanese Soldiers in Sidon
    Three Lebanese soldiers from the intelligence service came under fire from armed Palestinians and were killed on Thursday while attempting to arrest a wanted Palestinian in the Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp near Sidon. Ein el-Hilweh, with 75,000 people, is controlled by Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction and other rival groups. (Washington Post/AP)
  • A Few Saudis Defy a Rigid Islam to Debate Their Own Intolerance
    "Before Sept. 11, it was just an opinion, 'I think we should hate the others,'" said Khaled M. Batarfi, managing editor of the Saudi daily Al Madina. "After Sept. 11, we found out ourselves that some of those thoughts brought actions that hurt us, that put all Muslims on trial." After scores of Saudi religious scholars and academics issued a manifesto this spring suggesting that Muslims might find common ground with the West, they were subjected to withering rebuke by those who accept the Wahhabi notion that Islam thrives on hostility toward infidels. (New York Times)
  • Palestinian Media Glorify Homicide Bombers to Children
    Roa Salameh is a 12-year-old girl living in Bethlehem, and she wants to become a homicide bomber. The airwaves are filled with songs dedicated to martyrdom, and Palestinian television regularly runs music videos that pay tribute to martyrs. Itamar Marcus, of Palestinian Media Watch, says they tell Palestinian children what's expected of them. "What's expected of you is to write a farewell letter to your parents where you say how sweet martyrdom is and then go off and die for Allah." (FOX News)
  • 30 Million Christians Have Zionist Beliefs
    Forgotten amid all the excitement about the arrival of the largest contingent of American immigrants to Israel in years is the fact that many of the newcomers received grants from U.S. evangelical Christians, who regard the return of Jews to the Holy Land as part of an apocalyptic prophecy foretold in the Bible. Religious experts believe that some 30 million Christians have some Zionist beliefs. In addition, financial support to the settlements has doubled during the past 21 months, said Sondra Oster Baras, director of Christian Friends of Israeli Communities, which runs an "Adopt-a-Settlement Program" with 40 pairings. (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • Americans Trapped in Saudi Arabia
    Amjad Radwan was born in 1983 in Houston to an American mother and Saudi father who had met at the University of Dallas. When she was taken to Saudi Arabia as an infant, along with her older brother, Rasheed, her mother was shocked to learn that her husband Nizar already had a wife and family.
        When Ajmad's mother, Monica Stowers, said she wanted to return home, an Islamic court awarded Nizar custody because she was a Christian.
        In 1990 Stowers went back to Saudi Arabia, and Rasheed met her at the airport. They picked up Amjad at school and fled to the American Embassy, believing they would find refuge. In testimony to the House Government Reform Committee, Stowers says that Karla Reed, a State Department officer, coldly informed her that the American Embassy was "not a hotel," and brought in the Marines to eject her and her children. (Wall Street Journal)
  • News Resources - Israel and Mideast:
  • Rice: Entire PA Leadership Must Go
    In an interview with Israeli Channel 2 news, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said Thursday that the Bush administration had concluded that the entire Palestinian Authority leadership should be replaced, and not just Yasser Arafat. "It's not just a question of one man," said Rice, "it's an entire political regime that needs to be changed, so that one man does not control the lives of the entire population." (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel: Prisoner Swap with Hizballah Near
    A prisoner swap with Hizballah, including the return of businessman Elhanan Tennenbaum and the bodies of three soldiers abducted in October 2000, is near, Israeli sources said on Friday. According to the Lebanese daily al-Mustakbal, West Bank Fatah head Marwan Barghouti will be exiled from the area as part of the exchange. Some 100 Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners, together with the bodies of dozens of terrorists will be released to Hizballah as part of the deal. (Jerusalem Post)
  • 15 Homicide Bombers Ready and Waiting
    The IDF knows of at least 15 would-be homicide bombers who are ready and waiting to carry out attacks inside Israel, Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer told Labor Party ministers Thursday. Palestinian terror organizations have also prepared several car bombs, he said - and if the IDF were not in the territories, these suicide bombers and car bombs would already have made their way into Israel. (Ha'aretz)
  • Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction
    In less than two decades, all of the countries in the "third" concentric circle threatening Israel's survival - Iran, Iraq, and Libya - will possess long-range, surface-to-surface missiles, and some will have chemical, biological, and even nuclear weapons. In the future the Israel Air force may have to conduct long-range operations to deal with this threat. (Ha'aretz)
  • Pups for Peace
    Pups for Peace is a project by American Jews to train and provide sniffer dogs to Israel to help find Palestinian suicide bombers and attack them before they kill, Internal Security Minister Uzi Landau said Thursday. The Los Angeles-based group has offered to buy the dogs and set up a school in the Golan Heights to train them and their Israeli handlers. The prevention of bombings like the one on Seder night at a Netanya hotel, where 29 people were killed, "would have been an easy one for a dog" stationed at the entrance with the task of sniffing out explosives, said the group's founder, Glenn Yago. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Replicating Lebanon in the West Bank
    "How, with our own hands, did we bring Lebanon to within 20 kilometers of my house?" asks Lieutenant Colonel Amir Baram, commander of paratroop battalion 890. Baram views the fighting in the territories as "satisfying work, with daily rewards for the sweat." "You don't have to work too hard to persuade a soldier of the justness of an operation when he sees bags of explosives that could have blown up outside his house." (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Fiction of Security Behind a Wall - David Grossman
    There is an urgent need to establish a border between Israel and the Palestinians, with defensive and barrier devices, open only at crossings established by mutual consent. Such a border will protect the two sides from each other, help stabilize their relations, and require them to internalize the concept of a border. Yet to establish such a border fence right now, without a peace agreement, would give the Israeli public only a temporary illusion of security.
        Yasir Abed Rabbo, the Palestinian information minister, tells Israelis from the peace camp that if Israel withdraws behind a fence, Palestinians will spend a day celebrating that most of the occupation has ended, and the next day will continue the intifada, in order to obtain the rest of their demands. (New York Times)
  • Call a Terrorist a Terrorist - Norah Vincent
    Why is the U.S. government in so much denial about the motives and label to apply to Hesham Mohamed Hadayet? As Middle East Forum Director Daniel Pipes pointed out, Hadayet's crime "fits a well-established pattern." Rashid Baz, a Lebanese, opened fire on a van of Hassidic Jews in New York City in 1994. Ali Hasan Abu Kamal, a Palestinian professor from Gaza City, shot seven tourists--killing one--on top of the Empire State Building. Gamil El Batouty, an Egypt Air copilot, crashed a plane full of passengers leaving Kennedy Airport in 1999. (The author is a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a think tank set up after Sept. 11 to study terrorism.) (Los Angeles Times)
  • Anti-Israel Sentiment Too Deep to Achieve Peace - Becca Rothschild
    "The hatred for Israel and for America's unwavering support of the Jewish state was so palpable it felt at times like hands around my throat," concludes the author after a visit to Egypt and Saudi Arabia with the National Conference of Editorial Writers. (Detroit Free Press)
  • Talking Points:

    The Coming Saudi Showdown - Simon Henderson (Weekly Standard)

    • The House of Saud has decided to distance itself from Washington. An unnamed senior Saudi official told the Washington Post in February that U.S. forces in his country had "overstayed their welcome."
    • Crown Prince Abdullah sent his son, Prince Mitab, to Pakistan at the end of May to witness the test launch of a Ghauri surface-to-surface missile with a range of 900 miles.
    • A major question had been whether Saudi Arabia could deliver the endorsement of the Arab world to Crown Prince Abdullah's peace plan if the United States put pressure on Israel. President Bush always knew the answer was probably "no," and soon concluded that the House of Saud never really intended to put itself on the line.
    • Now that the strongly pro-American 81-year-old King Fahd has gone to Switzerland for what insiders describe as "last-gasp" medical treatment, the new Saudi policy appeals to Crown Prince Abdullah's Arab-nationalist instincts.
    • An observer in the British Foreign Office sees Saudi Arabia moving by "drift rather than revolution" toward a strict Islamic state as antagonistic to Western interests as Iran.
    • Within a few years, perhaps months, the military facilities in the Saudi kingdom will be closed to U.S. and British forces, though the smaller Gulf states may well fill the void.
    The author is a London-based adjunct scholar of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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