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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January 30, 2003

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In-Depth Issue:

Ansar al-Islam: Iraq's Al Qaeda Connection - Jonathan Schanzer (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

    Ansar al-Islam, an al Qaeda affiliate active in Iraqi Kurdistan since September 2001, is a textbook example of the ongoing challenges posed by the war on terror.
    Following a visit by several Kurdish Islamist leaders to the al Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan in August 2001, Ansar al-Islam was created using $300,000 to $600,000 in al Qaeda seed money, in addition to funds from Saudi Arabia.
    Today, Ansar operates in fortified mountain positions along the Iran-Iraq border known as "Little Tora Bora." There, the group's Kurdish, Iraqi, Lebanese, Jordanian, Moroccan, Syrian, Palestinian, and Afghan members train in a wide array of guerrilla tactics.
    The U.S. State Department has yet to designate the group as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

PA Columnist: Silent Majority Opposes Firing Rockets at Israel - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)

    Talal Okal, a columnist for the PA daily Al-Ayyam, has criticized the use of home-made mortars and rockets as ineffective and harmful.
    Referring to the meeting of 12 Palestinian factions in Cairo last week, he asked. "Why didn't they pay attention to the silent Palestinian majority, which is opposed to some forms of the resistance, like the firing of rockets?"
    Representatives of families from the Gaza Strip have urged the PA to intervene to halt the firing of the rockets, but to no avail.
    The families have also published statements in Palestinian newspapers calling on the gunmen to stop launching their attacks from populated areas.

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News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • U.S. Focuses on Iraqi Links to Group Allied to Al Qaeda
    The Bush administration is focusing on possible links between Ansar al-Islam, an Islamic extremist group that may have produced poisons in northern Iraq, and the Baghdad government. Members of the group were trained in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. (New York Times)
  • Jordan to Allow Limited Stationing of U.S. Troops
    Jordan has decided to allow the discreet stationing of U.S. troops in the country to man air defenses and launch search-and-rescue missions from its airfields, and to allow the passage of allied planes across its airspace in any war with neighboring Iraq, according to Jordanian officials and diplomats. This would enable U.S. warplanes to overfly Jordan from aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean Sea on the way to bombing runs over Iraq. (Washington Post)
  • Some U.S. Forces in Northern Iraq, Military Chief Says
    Small numbers of American military forces are now operating in northern Iraq, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff acknowledged Wednesday. Over the past several weeks, Special Operations Forces have entered the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq to work with teams of CIA operatives who are organizing Kurdish opposition groups, military officials said. (New York Times)
  • Eight European Leaders Back U.S. on Iraq
    Eight European leaders have declared their solidarity with the U.S. in dealing with Iraq, saying the 9/11 attacks "showed just how far terrorists - the enemies of our common values - are prepared to go." In their solidarity statement published in newspapers across Europe on Thursday, the leaders of Britain, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland declared that it was vital to preserve unity and cohesion now "more than ever before." Noticeably absent were Germany and France. (CNN-Europe)
        See Full Text of Statement (London Times)
  • Backlash Against Jews Seen in Iraq War
    Even as it prepares for a possible war with Iraq, the Bush administration is working urgently to avert what it believes could be a widespread anti-Semitic backlash in Europe triggered by a confrontation with Saddam Hussein. In recent weeks the State Department has used a variety of diplomatic channels to send the same message: European leaders have to do much more to prepare for and thwart the expected anti-Semitic surge. (New York Jewish Week)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • Two Wounded in Shooting Attack North of Jerusalem - Margot Dudkevitch
    Dvir Kinarti, 8, of Ofra, was shot in the back and Jack Steinmintz of Ma'aleh Levona was wounded in the hip and hand when two terrorists ambushed them on the Ramallah bypass road near Ofra on their way from Jerusalem. The Palestinians, armed with Kalashnikov rifles and other weapons, sprayed the vehicle with bullets from both sides of the road, then fled to a waiting car and escaped. (Jerusalem Post/Ha'aretz)
  • Mubarak Invites Sharon for Talks - Aluf Benn
    Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak surprised the Prime Minister's Office with a phone call on Wednesday to congratulate the premier and invite him for talks after the new government is formed. Mubarak has so far refused to meet with Sharon, often attacked him, and the two have exchanged quite a few barbs. But Mubarak said in a recent interview that "we must step up the contacts with Sharon, who will be reelected, and deal with him in a different way, because silence has not helped."
        Israeli officials believe Egypt will ask the Americans for special aid on the eve of the Iraqi war. The Egyptians responded a few weeks ago to recent American threats to cut off aid and released a high-profile jailed civil rights activist, Saad Eddin Ibrahim. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • No Missiles Will Fall on Israel Again - Yehuda Avner
    Col. John Caldwell served with the 82nd Airborne Division during the 1991 Gulf War, and had commanded squads of Scud-hunting commandos to scour Iraq's western desert in search of the mobile missile batteries. "The Great Scud Hunt" turned out to be a fiasco due, largely, to abysmal intelligence. Apart from knocking out a few cunningly fabricated decoys, the 2,493 missions dedicated to the anti-Scud operation failed to score a single confirmable kill.
        When asked to explain his pledge that no Scud missiles will rain down again on Israel, he replied, "Schwarzkopf [the then commander-in-chief] made the greatest mistake of that war by refusing to invest the necessary assets to neutralize the Scud threat from the start. This time, before the Iraqis will know what has hit them, our commandos will be swarming all over western Iraq. With the help of Israeli special forces we have already mapped out their likely launching sites, hiding places, and elevations. We can call in air strikes instantly. We also have vastly improved reconnaissance systems. And if, by chance, one of Saddam's few remaining Scuds is launched, the chances of their penetrating our Patriot shield and your Arrow shield are virtually nil." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Midnight for Baghdad - Mortimer B. Zuckerman
    Iraq is located in the midst of a region that has been a hotbed of global terrorism, including Shiite Islamists, personified by their ruling mullahs in Iran; Sunni Islamists of al Qaeda, funded primarily by Saudi Arabia; and Baathists from Iraq. They all have America in their gun sights. They would all be inspired if Saddam is allowed to flout the UN resolutions and erode America's credibility. They would all be less constrained if Saddam could get away with his deception.
        We must live with the fact that we are the No. 1 target in the world because we are the No. 1 country. We cannot be put in a position of having our security decided by the U.N. Security Council, some of whose members merely vote to serve their own national commercial interests, while others just blindly hope for the best. (U.S. News)
  • EURODAC in the European War Against Terror - Uzi Eilam
    About 10-20% of the 400,000 people who seek asylum in Europe each year do so in more than one country. Eurodac, the European Automated Fingerprints Identification System launched on January 15, is designed to prevent abuses of the system by these "asylum shoppers." (Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies)
  • Talking Points:

    Dispelling Common Myths about the Proposed Palestinian State
    - Zalman Shoval (Jerusalem Post)

    Many regard the question of Palestinian statehood in terms of "inevitability," i.e., that there won't be a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict without it. That was also the gist of President Bush's June 24 speech. Let us examine some of the conventional wisdoms with regard to Palestinian statehood:

    • A disarmed Palestinian state - Prime Minister Sharon and others who support statehood in principle speak about a neutralized and disarmed entity. Yet the Palestinian Authority has never lived up to its commitment with regard to illegal arms, let alone to severing its links with terrorist and terrorist-supporting forces. Why should it be easier to enforce all those limitations once the Palestinians have achieved full sovereignty?
    • Two states for two peoples - Large parts of the Arab and Muslim worlds, including no small number of Palestinians, have not yet come to accept the Jewish people's right to a national homeland in a region which they claim to be theirs alone, and they would regard a Palestinian state alongside Israel as a temporary stage toward creating a Palestinian state instead of Israel.
          A mere two years ago, former prime minister Ehud Barak offered Yasser Arafat 98% of the "territories," including most of east Jerusalem plus 3% of Israel proper, only to be rebuffed by the PA chairman, who then went on to unleash the al-Aksa Intifada which has already caused more than 700 Israeli deaths.
    • A democratic, stable, and viable Palestinian state - One may wonder how "viable" economically, demographically, politically, etc., such a mini-state would actually be, especially in light of the fact that there doesn't exist a single Arab state to which any of the above definitions could easily apply.
    • Solving the Palestinian problem - The real Palestinian problem has to do with the cruel reality of millions of "refugees" who have been languishing in camps, often under inhuman conditions, for over 50 years, among their inhospitable brethren in the various Arab states. The planned Palestinian mini-state isn't going to absorb even a fraction of those artificially and deliberately perpetuated "refugees."
    • Instead of saying either "Yes" or "No" to the Quartet's unrealistic road map, Israel would be better advised to think about a road map of its own.

    Israel Launches Family Ties Program with 50% Hotel Discounts
    Travel World News

    Israel's Ministry of Tourism is beginning the New Year with an ambitious initiative that encourages visitors to stay in Israeli hotels with their Israeli family and friends.

    Under the FAMILY TIES program, Israeli friends or relatives of tourists from the U.S. and Canada will receive a 50% room rate discount when they join North American visitors at the same hotel, at the same time. The minimum stay is five nights, and visitors can choose from the over 100 hotels across Israel that are participating in the program. North American travelers are encouraged to invite 2 relatives/friends to take advantage of the Family Connection half-price offer. The discount is applicable for North American visitors staying at Israeli hotels on an individual basis, not for those traveling with a group, and is valid through March 31st.

    "This is an exciting and novel program," says Consul Rami Levi, Tourism Ambassador of Israel to North and South America, "because it will encourage North Americans and Israelis to take vacations together and to experience Israel together." A million tourists visited Israel in 2002, and, says Levi, more are expected in 2003.

    For more information on the FAMILY TIES program, visit or call 1-888-77-Israel.

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