Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

in association with Access/Middle East
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
If your email program has difficulty viewing this page, see web version.


May 15, 2003

To contact the Presidents Conference:
[email protected]

In-Depth Issue:

IDF Activity in Gaza to Disrupt Palestinian Rocket Fire (IDF)
    Following an escalation of Palestinian rocket and mortar fire directed at Israeli communities, IDF forces operated on Wednesday in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip.
    During the past two weeks, Palestinians fired 43 mortars, 12 Qassam rockets (10 fired at the Israeli city of Sderot in the Negev), 5 explosive devices, and 3 anti-tank missiles at Israeli targets.

U.S. Recovers $950 Million Stolen from Iraq - Timothy L. O'Brien (New York Times)
    American Treasury officials announced Wednesday that they had recovered $950 million in Iraqi assets that they believe constitutes the bulk of the $1 billion looted by Saddam Hussein's family in mid-March.
    Separately, the officials said they had frozen $495 million in stolen assets that the Hussein government had secreted in Lebanese banks, and that Lebanese authorities have agreed to return the money to Iraq.

Shi'ites Demand Role in Sunni-Ruled Saudi Arabia (Reuters/Ha'aretz)
    Leaders of Saudi Arabia's Shi'ite Muslim minority have petitioned Crown Prince Abdullah to demand a greater say in the affairs of the conservative Sunni-ruled kingdom, a Shi'ite activist said on Sunday.
    "The petition was signed by 450 members of the Shi'ite community, who raised their voices in unison to demand reform," said Shi'ite activist Jaffar al-Shayeb, who led the delegation to meet Abdullah, the kingdom's de facto ruler, late last month.

Iraqi Pupils Turn Over a New Leaf - Catherine Philp (London Times)
    "Open your books and turn to page four," the teacher instructed the pupils.
    Obediently they flicked through the pages until they reached the familiar photograph of a smiling Saddam Hussein standing in front of an Iraqi flag.
    "Now rip it out," the teacher said.
    With the fall of the old regime has come the purging of Saddam from the national curriculum.
    "I felt very sad when they made us rip out his pictures and all the other things about him. As we read in the books, he did good things. That's why I still love him," said Atta Jamal, 12.

Useful Reference:

New: Who Shot Mohammed al-Dura? - James Fallows (Atlantic Monthly)
    See also Who Killed Muhammad al-Dura? - Amnon Lord (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Key Links

Media Contact Information

Back Issues

News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • Saudis Didn't Heed U.S. Security Request
    U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Robert Jordan charged Wednesday that some weeks ago, American intelligence operatives picked up signs of an imminent terrorist attack and urged the Saudi government to improve security at foreign compounds in the country, but got little or no response. "Saudi Arabia must deal with the fact that it has terrorists inside its own country, and their presence is as much a threat to Saudi Arabia as it is to Americans and to others who live and work in Saudi Arabia," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Wednesday. (New York Times)
        See also U.S. Sent Envoy to Warn Saudis
    President Bush's deputy national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, went to Riyadh last week to personally warn Saudi Arabia of U.S. fears of an imminent attack, just days before the Riyadh bombings, U.S. officials said Wednesday. (Reuters)
  • Iran Said to Be Producing Bioweapons
    Iran has begun production of weaponized anthrax and is actively working with at least five other pathogens, including smallpox, in a drive to build an arsenal of biological weapons, according to an opposition group that previously exposed a secret nuclear enrichment program in the country. The group, Mujaheddin-e Khalq, citing informants inside the Iranian government, says the anthrax weapons are the first fruits of a program begun secretly in 2001 to triple the size of Iran's biowarfare program. The push for new biological weapons was launched in parallel with a more ambitious campaign to build massive nuclear facilities capable of producing components for nuclear bombs, said officials of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the political arm of the Mujaheddin, which seeks the overthrow of the Iranian government. (Washington Post)
  • Foreign Ministers of Israel and Qatar Meet
    Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom met Wednesday for an hour with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani in Paris. Qatar and Israel do not have diplomatic relations, although they have had low-level trade ties since 1996. Shalom said the meeting signaled "a major change." On Sunday, Sheikh Hamad said Qatar could consider a peace treaty with Israel if it served the Gulf state's interests. (BBC)
  • Israel Gala in Washington Postponed
    A gala concert in Washington marking Israel�s 55th anniversary has been postponed. The Spirit of Israel Concert, sponsored by the Israel Forever Foundation, had been scheduled for Monday, May 19, in the capital�s MCI Center. It will be held Thursday, Dec. 18, the night before Hannukah starts. (New York Jewish Week)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • Arafat Strengthens Grip on PA - Amos Harel
    Israeli security sources believe that Yasser Arafat is strengthening his hold on the Palestinian Authority. In the past weeks, Arafat is re-emerging as the one holding the purse strings. His bureau is allocating funds to various entities, from Fatah activists in Bethlehem through PA ministers to security groups in Jenin. Arafat still handles requests for funding the security organizations and instructs Finance Minister Salam Fayyad to transfer the money. Military intelligence and the Shin Bet are in accord that Abu Mazen is showing weakness in the face of Arafat's maneuvers. "Abu Mazen won no victory over Arafat," an Israeli security source says. "He formed a cabinet only under Egyptian and American pressure. The cabinet's legitimacy is shaky and it acts in Arafat's shadow." (Ha'aretz)
        See also Arafat Retains Clout Despite U.S. Boycott - Mark Heinrich
    Arafat's ability to parry those bent on consigning him to figurehead irrelevance comes from his unequalled street charisma and networks of loyalists in security and diplomatic spheres amassed in 35 years. "The age-old problem is that no Arab leader has ever willingly stepped aside to let someone else take over. Arafat is part of this cultural pattern," said Daniel Neep, chief Middle East analyst at the Royal United Services Institute in London. (Reuters)
  • Understanding Expected at Sharon-Bush Meeting Next Week - Aluf Benn
    American officials this week said the administration understands Israel's comments on the road map very well. It agrees to 12 of the 14 amendments and assumes a creative solution can be found for the two remaining. The prime minister's aides expect the final version of the road map to include the Israeli comments. (Ha'aretz)
  • Mofaz: Road Map is Bad for Israel - Herb Keinon and Tovah Lazaroff
    The road map in its current form is "bad for Israel" and not in the country's security interests, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told the cabinet Wednesday. In addition, Mofaz said that in the two weeks since Abbas has been in office there has been no sign of the PA taking on the terror organizations.
        "We see the road map as a framework for dialogue, not as instructions to be implemented by the book. It is impossible to implement it as it is, and changes will be made," Mofaz said. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Homegrown Fanatics - Sulaiman al-Hattlan
    Saudis have become hostages of the backward agenda of a small minority of bin Laden supporters who in effect have hijacked our society. What happened in Riyadh must wake us up to the reality that fanatics and terrorists live among us. Suicide bombers are attacking Muslims, too. Because of the dominance of Wahhabism, Saudi society has been exposed to only one school of thought, one that teaches hatred of Jews, Christians and certain Muslims, like Shiites and liberal and moderate Sunnis. It is time to stop blaming the outside world for the deadly fanaticism in Saudi Arabia. The writer is a columnist for the Saudi daily Al Watan and is a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard. (New York Times)
  • The Enemy Within - Editorial
    We can no longer ignore that we have a nest of vipers here. Those responsible, those who poisoned the minds of the bombers, must be tracked down and crushed - remorselessly and utterly - and the environment that produced such terrorism has to change. The suicide bombers have been encouraged by the venom of anti-Westernism. Those who gloat over Sept. 11, those who happily support suicide bombings in Israel and Russia, those who consider non-Muslims less human than Muslims and therefore somehow disposable, all bear part of the responsibility for the Riyadh bombs. We cannot say that suicide bombings in Israel and Russia are acceptable but not in Saudi Arabia. The cult of suicide bombings has to stop. (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
  • Saudis Top Religious Violators - Julia Duin
    Saudi Arabia was cited as the top violator Tuesday in an annual report issued by the U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom on the status of religious liberties worldwide. Commissioners called on Saudi Arabia to let non-Muslims at least practice their religion in private and criticized the kingdom for "harassment, detention, arrest, torture" and deportation of foreign Christians employed in the country. The commission also noted "offensive and discriminatory language" disparaging Jews, Christians, and non-Wahhabi Muslims found in government-sponsored school textbooks, in Friday sermons preached in prominent mosques, and in state-controlled Saudi newspapers. (Washington Times)
  • Observations:

    Arabia's Civil War - Daniel Pipes (Wall Street Journal)

    • The recent violence in Riyadh recapitulates the civil war of the 1920s when the less fanatical version of Wahhabism triumphed over the more fanatical - the Ikhwan - known for their hostility toward non-Wahhabis. The Saudi monarchs presided over a kingdom extreme by comparison with other Muslim countries but tame by Wahhabi standards.
    • Osama bin Laden, a Saudi, is the leading representative of the Ikhwan movement today. He wants to depose the corrupt and hypocritical Saudi monarchy, install a Taliban-like government, evict non-Muslim foreigners, and return women to the harem. It is widely reported that in a fair election, he would handily defeat the current Saudi ruler, King Fahd.
    • However unattractive, the Saudi monarchy is preferable to the yet worse Ikhwan alternative. The West must react by helping the Saudi family win this dispute, while putting serious pressure on it to reform everything from its school system to its sponsorship of Wahhabi organizations abroad.

    To subscribe to the Daily Alert, click here to send a blank email message.
    To unsubscribe, click here to send a blank email message.