Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

in association with Access/Middle East
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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June 23, 2003

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In-Depth Issue:

Al Qaeda Sets Up Base in Lebanese Refugee Camp - Damien McElroy (Telegraph-UK)
    More than 200 hardened al Qaeda and Taliban veterans arrived in Ain Al-Hilweh in Lebanon last year and took control of a district known as Emergency Street after a bitter turf war with Fatah.
    The fundamentalist Esbat Al-Ansar (League of Warriors) faction has imposed Islamic customs on residents of the 100,000-strong camp. Three men have been killed in the past month after they smuggled alcohol past Lebanese army checkpoints.
    "There are many foreigners who have come to this camp in the last one or two years," said Zain Farhoud, 42. "They are taking the young boys and filling their heads with the glories of martyrdom for Islam."
    In the office of Lebanese intelligence on a hill opposite Ain Al-Hilweh, the resident commander gave out his telephone number, but with a warning. "Don't use it in Ain Al-Hilweh," he said. "There's nothing I can do for you there."

Chasing Al Qaeda in America - Daniel Klaidman and Mark Hosenball (Newsweek)
    Earlier this month, U.S. intelligence intercepted chat-room conversations between suspected al Qaeda associates about attacks in Texas around the Fourth of July.
    One of the operatives, known only as "Sakr," said the attacks had been planned for a long time and that the terrorists were simply waiting for approval from "the sheik."
    Why did Sakr's warning get attention? Two days before the deadly Casablanca bombings on May 16, he predicted "good news" coming from "Morocco," according to Homeland Security documents.

The Saudi Kingdom's Leading Executioner - Mahmoud Ahmad (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
    Saudi Arabia's leading executioner Muhammad Saad Al-Beshi will behead up to seven people in a day.
    "It doesn't matter to me: Two, four, 10 - As long as I'm doing God's will, it doesn't matter how many people I execute," he said in a newspaper interview.
    When executing women he will use either gun or sword. "It depends what they ask me to use," he adds.
    An executioner's life, of course, is not all killing. Sometimes it can be amputation of hands and legs.
    Al-Beshi describes himself as a family man. "My family...aren't afraid when I come back from an execution. Sometimes they help me clean my sword."

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News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • Top Iraqis Targeted in U.S. Strike
    U.S. Defense officials said Sunday that they were investigating whether a strike on a three-vehicle convoy fleeing Iraq near the Syrian border last Wednesday killed top officials in the government of former president Saddam Hussein, perhaps including Hussein or his sons. A Bush administration official said that U.S. forces followed the convoy into Syrian territory and attacked it there. (Washington Post)
  • Long Island Couple Survive Terrorist Shooting
    Brooklyn-born Tzvi Goldstein, 47, was shot dead by Palestinian terrorists as he drove with his wife and parents to Jerusalem on Friday, just hours after dancing at his son's wedding. His parents, Lorraine and Gene Goldstein, both 73, of Plainview, L.I., were seriously wounded. According to one report, Tzvi, the driver of the car, was sitting next to Gene in the front seat. After Tzvi was shot, Gene, who was also shot, leaned over and steered the car as best he could for some six miles. As a person close to the family said, "He realized his son was dead, thought his wife might be, and was himself fighting for his life. Not having any idea where he was, uncertain what to do other than keep the car going, get out of the area and avoid an accident, he did an amazing job." (New York Daily News/AP)
  • Powell: Hamas No Partner for Peace
    During a joint press conference with Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas on Friday, Secretary of State Colin Powell said: "We would expect that, as the prime minister said, anybody participating in public life, in the state of Palestine...would be individuals and organizations that are firmly committed to democracy, to the rule of law, and not to terrorism, and not to having armed components that are committed to terrorism or are a threat to the nation." "Hamas is committed to terror and celebrates the terrorist attacks we are seeing. And it is no longer possible to separate one part of Hamas out from another part of Hamas. That is why I believe the entire international community must speak out strongly against the activities of Hamas....The organization that we are dealing with today, right now, has not demonstrated, in my judgment, that it is a partner for peace." (State Department)
  • Israel Questions Hamas Cease-Fire
    IDF Maj.-Gen. Amos Gilad, who is leading security talks with the Palestinians, said on Monday, ''As far as Hamas is concerned, the 'hudna' is a ceasefire for the purpose of reorganization, so that it can carry out even harsher acts of murder....No hope should be put in this 'hudna'." (Reuters/MSNBC)
  • Iran Students Say Hundreds Arrested in Crackdown
    Iranian student leaders on Sunday said hundreds of students had been arrested following a wave of protests against Islamic clerical rule, and warned the crackdown could make them adopt more radical and violent methods. The student leaders, who came to parliament to protest the arrests, said that since Thursday, 87 students had been detained in Tehran, 250 in the northwestern city of Urumiyeh, 105 in the northeastern city of Sabzevar, and 30 in Hamadan in western Iran. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • Hebron Hamas Leader Was "Father of All Ticking Bombs"
    Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told the Cabinet on Sunday that the death of Hamas leader Abdullah Kawasme on Saturday night in Hebron, who was killed while attempting to escape arrest, was an "an essential operation designed to provide security to the citizens of Israel." Security officials described Kawasme as the "father of all ticking bombs," suspected of organizing four terror attacks that have killed 52 Israelis, including 17 people murdered in a suicide bus bombing in Jerusalem on June 11. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Ready to Transfer Security Responsibility to Palestinians
    At the weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday, Prime Minister Sharon said that Israel is ready to transfer security responsibility to the Palestinians in any designated area. In all places where the Palestinians assume security responsibility, they will be responsible for stopping violence and carrying out comprehensive counter-terrorist operations in order to prevent attacks. In the event that the Palestinians do not carry out their responsibilities satisfactorily, Israel will be forced to operate in those areas. Prime Minister Sharon emphasized that Israel would not agree to any settlement that does not include dismantling the infrastructure of, and disarming, the terror organizations. A ceasefire can only be part of the overall process and it will be unacceptable if it comes instead of a real war against terror. The process must include stopping of all incitement, which is in no way connected to responsibility over security and can take place without delay. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz noted that although more than two weeks have passed since the Aqaba summit, efforts to perpetrate terror attacks against Israel continue without respite. (Israeli Cabinet Secretariat/IMRA)
  • Four Palestinian Terrorists Die in "Work Accident" - Tsahar Rotem, Amos Harel, and Arnon Regular
    On Sunday night, four Palestinian militants from Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades were killed in the northern Gaza Strip in an explosion. An IDF spokesman said the men were killed when a bomb they were planting exploded prematurely. (Ha'aretz)
  • U.S. Losing Patience with Syria - Daniel Sobelman
    A senior American official will visit Damascus soon to issue another warning that Washington is losing its patience with Syria's failure to meet demands it already agreed to, including those about rejectionist Palestinian organizations. Washington's sense that its messages are not getting through to the Syrians intensified following a report on the front page of the Lebanese newspaper A Safir, considered close to Syria. The newspaper quoted a senior Syrian official as saying Damascus had sensed a weakening in American pressure because of signs that American forces were becoming "entangled" in Iraq. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Can the PA Security Services Do the Job? - Gil Sedan
    The structure of the Palestinian security services was determined in the Cairo Agreement signed with Israel on May 4, 1994. The agreement referred to a "strong police" force that would consist of not more than 9,000 policemen. In the nine years since the agreement was signed, the force has grown to some 40,000 to 45,000 people - a veritable Palestinian army, which was not called for in the accords. (JTA)
  • The Connection Between Wahhabism and Terrorism - Wael Al-Abrashi
    Most of the Wahhabi sheikhs have in the past forbidden the study of geography, English, philosophy, and drawing. Wahhabism bans democracy, seeing it as an alternative religion to the religion of Allah. Wahhabism attributes great importance to the [outward] forms of Islam - growing a beard, ankle-length garments for men, and the requirement to use toothpicks instead of the satanic Western toothbrush. The extremist religious groups have moved to the stage of "annihilation and destruction," in accordance with the strategy of al Qaeda - which Saudi authorities must admit is a local Saudi organization that drew other organizations into it. All the organizations emerged from under the robe of Wahhabism. In all cases of terror that harmed Egypt [in the 1980s and 1990s], I determined that there was not a single case in which Saudi Arabia was not the main station for the extremists. The only solution for the Saudi crisis is to trim the claws of Wahhabism, and to purify it and empty it of its content, so that it can become mainstream, moderate Islam. The author is deputy editor of the independent Egyptian weekly Roz Al-Yousef, and an expert on Sunni terrorist movements. (MEMRI)
  • Saudi, Born and Bred - Ze'ev Schiff
    It is not surprising that the publication of Dore Gold's book about Saudi Arabia and its link to international terror has generated so much interest and critical acclaim in the U.S. According to the press, the president even has a copy on his desk. The recent bombings in Riyadh and Casablanca, attributed to a new wave of al Qaeda terror, has refocused attention on the question of Saudi Arabia's real connection to these incidents. Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. and political advisor to the Netanyahu administration, wrote his Ph.D. on the history of Saudi Arabia. Hatred's Kingdom is an English-language publication targeting an American readership, but Israelis will also find plenty to interest them, considering Saudi Arabia's reputation as a generous backer of Hamas, the mastermind of so many terrorist attacks in these parts. (Ha'aretz)
  • Observations:  

    U.S. Micro-Managing Israeli-Arab Conflict - Aluf Benn (Ha'aretz)

    • A seasoned American official with years of experience in the Israeli-Arab conflict remarked recently that he could not recall a time when the U.S. had so "micro-managed" the Mideast political process as it was doing today.
    • Secretary of State Colin Powell told his hosts in Jerusalem on Friday that the close American supervision reflects President Bush's deep involvement in the peace process. Powell's visit will be followed next week by the arrival of National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. Special American envoy John Wolf has already begun actively participating in the security talks.
    • The meetings Rice and her staff held last week with Dov Weisglass, the head of the Prime Minister's bureau, Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter, and the prime minister's military secretary, Yoav Galant, sounded like an "operational forum" at army headquarters. The sides reached understandings on the "rules of the game" during the period between the IDF's withdrawal (from parts of Gaza) and the acceptance of security responsibility by the PA.
    • The Americans said, "If there are terrorists who are hiding, action has to be taken," and that "ticking bombs" must be taken out as quickly as possible. It was agreed that Israel would only act if the Palestinians failed to do so.
    • The view in the Prime Minister's Office is that the understandings reached with the Americans are essential, and that the White House has kept its promise to take into consideration Israel's reservations regarding the road map. The discussions on the implementation of the plan are focusing on the security aspects, as Israel requested; and the mechanism for monitoring implementation is limited in size and mandate, and is made up solely of Americans.

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