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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March 3, 2003

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In-Depth Issue:

Baghdad Awaits Bush - Amit Cohen (Maariv)
    In their latest round of interviews in Iraq three months ago, the Belgian-based International Crisis Group researchers were surprised to hear unprecedented opinions, with a new willingness to speak freely, even in public.
    Many Iraqis supported an American attack and hoped the American "occupation" would last a long time.
    According to Yost Hilterman, the institute's director for the Middle East, "The Iraqi people anticipate change, and perhaps because of this they spoke more freely and were less afraid."
    To return to the normalcy that most seek, they understand the need for outside help.
    "We have nothing to lose," said one young Baghdad architect. "Look at the Gulf States. Their governments bow to the Americans and their people eat much better than we do."

Israel Aided FBI in Al-Arian Case - Marc Perelman (Forward)
    Intelligence supplied by Israel played a key role in the indictment last week of University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian on charges that he is a leader of the Islamic Jihad Palestinian terrorist group.
    An FBI delegation traveled to Israel late last year to collect intelligence obtained by Israel during the mid-1990s, a former top counterterrorist official said.
    "The evidence the U.S. government has is intelligence, much of it from the Israeli government, relating to 1994 - when the Mossad had a penetration of [Islamic Jihad] headquarters in Damascus," the official said.

PA Investment Report Made Public - Lamia Lahoud (Jerusalem Post)
    Palestinian Finance Minister Salaam Fayad has published a report detailing PA investments and has released it on the Internet. See Full Report.
    The report lists the companies in which the PA has invested, including the Oasis casino in Jericho owned by the Austrian-based Cap Holding, the Jordanian Mobile Telecommunication Company, and the Canadian biopharmaceutical company Bioniche.
    PA investments in local companies total $327.9 million. For example, the PA owns all of the Palestine Cement Company, which is worth some $45m. The company controls most of the cement market.

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News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • Alleged Sept. 11 Planner Captured in Pakistan
    Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the al Qaeda lieutenant alleged to have organized the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, was captured Sunday by U.S. and Pakistani intelligence agents in Rawalpindi, a five-minute drive from Pakistani army headquarters. Mohammed was apprehended along with two other suspected al Qaeda members whom authorities identified as a Pakistani and an Arab. Pakistani officials said word of Mohammed's presence in Rawalpindi was passed to them this week by U.S. intelligence officials in Islamabad. Mohammed had been hiding since January in the house of a Pakistani identified as Abdul Qudoos Khan, an active member of Pakistan's largest religious party, Jamaat-e-Islami. Considered the best-organized political party in Pakistan, Jamaat is part of a coalition of religious parties that forms the third-largest bloc in parliament. (Washington Post)
        See also Mohammed - "the Brain" in Al Qaeda (Washington Post)
        See also Arrest of Comrade Led to Mohammed's Capture (Washington Post)
  • Saudi Envoy in UK Linked to 9/11
    The new Saudi ambassador to Britain, Prince Turki al-Faisal, is not what he seems. Behind him lies a murky tale of espionage, terrorism, and torture. Relatives of the victims of 11 September accuse him of funding and supporting Osama bin Laden. Turki has now admitted for the first time that Saudi interrogators have tortured six British citizens arrested in Saudi Arabia and accused of carrying out a bombing campaign.
        A Taliban intelligence chief called Mullah Kakshar alleges that Turki had two meetings in 1998 with al Qaeda and that Turki helped seal a deal whereby al Qaeda would not attack Saudi targets. In return, Saudi Arabia would make no demands for extradition or the closure of bin Laden's network of training camps. Turki also promised financial assistance to Mullah Omar. A few weeks after the meetings, 400 new pick-up vehicles arrived in Kandahar. Turki also arranged for donations to be made directly to al Qaeda and bin Laden by a group of wealthy Saudi businessmen. (Guardian-UK)
  • Suspected Al Qaeda Leader Killed in Lebanon Explosion
    Farouk al-Masri, an Egyptian Muslim fundamentalist, was killed and two other people were wounded Saturday when a booby-trapped car exploded inside the Ein el-Helweh Palestinian refugee camp in south Lebanon, according to security sources. According to Israeli claims, al-Masri was the al Qaeda leader in Lebanon. Ein el-Helweh has been the scene of almost daily bombings in the past months. (UPI)
  • U.S. Warplanes Face Down Iraqi Jet Over Saudi Arabia
    U.S. warplanes were within two minutes of firing at an Iraqi Mig-25 fighter jet when it sneaked into Saudi airspace Thursday. "He came 15-20 miles into Saudi airspace and went nose-to-nose with us at 70,000 feet," F-15C fighter pilot Lt. Col. Matt Molloy said.
        The issue of what foreign troops on Prince Sultan Airbase, 50 miles southeast of Riyadh, will do if war with Iraq breaks out has become increasingly contentious. Saudi authorities have repeatedly said they are against an attack on Iraq and will not allow U.S. forces to launch any invasion of the country from their territory. (Reuters)
  • Arab Summit Shows Sharp Divisions on Iraq
    At an Arab summit aimed at finding unity over the Iraq crisis Saturday, Saudi Arabia's crown prince and Libya's Moammar Gadhafi shouted insults at each other and the United Arab Emirates called on Saddam Hussein to step down. Syrian President Bashar Assad accused the United States of seeking to secure Iraq's "oil and redrawing the region's map and destroying Iraq's infrastructure." "We are all targeted ... we are all in danger," Assad said. Gadhafi said Saudi Arabia had formed "an alliance with the devil" when it asked U.S. troops to protect it from Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War. Abdullah interrupted angrily from across the room, calling Gadhafi "an agent for colonizers." (AP/Washington Post)
        See also The Summit of Arab Differences (Jerusalem Post)
  • Muslim Countries Block RAF Overflights
    Only half of the RAF jets due to move to the Gulf have yet reached their destination, the Ministry of Defense has confirmed. The rest are stuck at bases in Cyprus and Britain because Muslim countries have refused to allow them to fly over. (BBC)
  • Israel Eyes Hizballah Missiles
    Israel "must sooner or later get rid of the threat posed by the rockets in the hands of Hizballah," a senior Israeli army officer said Saturday on army radio. The prospect of a U.S.-led war against Iraq "will create a new situation in the Middle East" that could allow Israel to take action against the missile threat, he added. The official said Syria's Scud D missiles, capable of striking Israel, were also a threat. (Agence France-Presse)
        See also Sharon Prepares to Settle Scores with Hizballah
    "It is clear to us that Hizballah is our job in the war against terrorism," said an officer in Israel's anti-terror branch. "If they are stupid enough to open a second front during the war with Iraq, it will give us a great pretext." The Israelis believe the group has 10,000 rockets; most are short-range Russian Katyushas, but the real cause for concern are Iranian-made Zelzal-2 and Fajr rockets, with a range of 120 miles or more, that could hit Tel Aviv and Haifa, handled by Iranian Revolutionary Guards based in the Bekaa valley. (London Times)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • Hamas Planned to Attack Prime Minister - Amos Harel
    The Shin Bet and IDF have arrested three members of a Hamas cell that planned to attack the motorcade of prime minister Ariel Sharon. The Bethlehem cell received orders from the Hamas leadership in Gaza. They also plotted to carry out a terror attack inside a synagogue and to carry out a rocket attack on an Israeli town. The cell detonated a roadside bomb on January 26 on the Tunnels Road between Jerusalem and Hebron.
        Security sources report they have prevented over 30 suicide missions since the last such attack two months ago in Tel Aviv. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Operations in the Southern Gaza Strip
    As part of the ongoing war against terror infrastructures, IDF infantry, armor, border police, and engineering forces, assisted by combat helicopters, operated in the city of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. The operation was in response to the killing of Sergeant Doron Levy on February 23, 2002, by a Palestinian sniper, and to the recent rise in shooting attacks against IDF forces and Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip. During the operation, IDF forces demolished an eight-story structure used 14 times in the past four months as a post from which Palestinians fired on IDF forces.
        During the course of the operation, ten explosive charges were detonated toward IDF forces. In addition, hand grenades were thrown and sniper fire was directed toward IDF forces. Two IDF soldiers were lightly wounded by one of the explosive charges. During the course of the operation, a terrorist cell infiltrated a local school and attacked IDF forces, while an additional terrorist cell attacked while taking cover in a mosque. IDF combat helicopters returned fire. (IDF)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Lying about Islam - Stephen Schwartz
    A USA Today "Q&A on Islam and Arab Americans" appeared as a mass mailing sent out by the "International Institute of Islamic Thought" (IIIT) in Herndon, Va., one of a group of Muslim organizations raided by federal authorities in an anti-terrorism investigation last year. IIIT advocates for the Wahhabi sect of Islam, the most extreme, separatist, and violent trend in the faith of Mohammed. Wahhabism is the official religion in Saudi Arabia. Saudi oil royalties are spent to spread Wahhabism throughout the world - including right here in America. Wahhabism is murderous in its attacks on non-Wahhabi Muslims, especially the Shi'as who comprise a majority in Iraq and in the oil-rich Saudi eastern province, as well as in Iran. Just last week, nine Shi'a Muslims were murdered in Pakistan. The finger of blame has been pointed at Lashkar i Janghvi, the same Wahhabi terror gang that killed American reporter Daniel Pearl. The "Q&A" is part of a not-so-sophisticated campaign to convince Americans that there is only one Islam, represented by Saudi-Wahhabism. (New York Post)
  • Middle East Democracy by Evolution - Eytan Bentsur
    There is a quiet dynamic in the Arab countries that many are not aware of, that should be allowed to evolve slowly, and ultimately generate a certain kind of democracy. There is a need to create a recognition among the Arab population that there is value to cooperation; that peace, even relative peace, will bring them more dividends than the lack of peace. In 1991-1992, the Middle East was on its way to renewal with the Madrid process. We all need to remember the atmosphere then, what communication existed between the countries, what hope there was. Remember the multilateral discussions, the discussion on regional cooperation, the economic and environmental work groups? (The writer is former director-general of the Foreign Ministry.) (Jerusalem Post)
        See also The Way to Peace Emerged at Madrid - Eytan Bentsur (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Observations:

    Between Rome and Jerusalem - Yossi Klein Halevi (Jerusalem Post)

    Reporting on the differing perspectives he encountered at a conference in Rome about religion, media, and "regions of conflict":

    • Rome believes that there are solutions to every problem, if only people would overcome their fears and resentments and start talking. In Jerusalem we know that much of the Arab world is still dreaming of military glory and revenge rather than prosperity and reconciliation.
    • Rome doesn't understand that, in the past two years, both America and Israel have glimpsed the Islamist apocalypse. Rome thinks of September 11 as a criminal attack by a marginal group, rather than as part of a widespread anti-Western assault nurtured by key Middle Eastern regimes.
    • Rome views the collapse of the Oslo process as a technical failure which a bit of tinkering can repair. Rome doesn't understand that when former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak placed Jerusalem on the negotiating table - the first time in history that any nation offered to share sovereignty over its capital - and received suicide bombings as the counter-offer, the Oslo process was over.
    • Rome doesn't understand that, after the first intifada, the centrist Israeli majority accepted the legitimacy of Palestinian national claims, while no reciprocal shift occurred on the Palestinian side in accepting the legitimacy of Jewish national claims.
    • Astonishingly, Rome has forgotten that this terrorist war was declared not against a government headed by Sharon but against the most peace-minded government in Israel's history. Rome doesn't understand that the second intifada, unlike the first, isn't a war of desperation against the occupation but a war of religiously-incited triumphalism against Israel's existence.
    • Rome sees how the world can be, but dangerously deludes itself into believing that that is how it actually is.

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