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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July 9, 2003

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In-Depth Issue:

Transcripts Show USS Liberty Attack was an Error - Nathan Guttman (Ha'aretz)
    New documents released this week by America's National Security Agency support Israel's version of Israel's shelling of an American spy ship, the USS Liberty, off the coast of Gaza during the 1967 Six-Day War.
    The documents, originally defined as top secret, were made public by Florida Judge Jay Cristol, a former U.S. navy pilot who has been investigating the Liberty incident for years and published a book on the subject.
    On Monday, the NSA gave him a transcript of conversations by two Israeli Air Force helicopter pilots hovering over the Liberty after it was hit.
    An American spy plane recorded their conversations, as well as the orders radioed to the pilots by their supervisor, which instructed them to search for Egyptian survivors from the "Egyptian warship" that had just been bombed - thus supporting Israel's claim that it had believed the ship was Egyptian when it ordered it attacked.
    "It's the last piece of intelligence that remained classified, and every rational person that will read it will understand that there is no truth in these conspiracy theories against Israel," said Cristol.
    But he added: "Those who hate Israel, who hate Jews, and those who believe in conspiracy will not be convinced by anything."

Berlin Jewish Museum Was Terror Target - Claudia Otto (CNN)
    A Jordanian man trained by al Qaeda testified in a German court Friday that he and members of a radical Palestinian group plotted attacks against Berlin's Jewish Museum and a Jewish-run discotheque in Dusseldorf.
    Shadi Abdellah, 26, said he and members of Al Tawhid - a Sunni Muslim Palestinian organization linked to al Qaeda - visited both sites and considered using car bombs or grenades.
    Abdellah was arrested along with eight other people in April 2002 on suspicion they were planning terrorist attacks in Berlin and Dusseldorf.
    Abdellah said he agreed to work for the Al Tawhid network after meeting Abu Musab al Zarqawi, an associate of bin Laden, in Afghanistan.
    He said he attended three al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan where he learned how to build and use explosives and chemical weapons.
    Abdellah also claimed to have been bin Laden's bodyguard for a short time.

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News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • Palestinian Opposition to Cease-Fire More Widespread
    The bomb blast Monday that killed a 65-year-old Israeli mother of eight in her home came as other Palestinian militants threatened to continue attacking Israelis, suggesting that internal opposition to the cease-fire is more intense and widespread than Palestinian leaders have acknowledged. Islamic Jihad's leader in the West Bank, Sheik Bassam Saadi, confirmed that the bomber, Ahmad Fathi Yihia, 22, was a member of the organization from Kufeirat, a village near Jenin. Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) also faces a serious challenge from Fatah's militants, who are refusing to back the cease-fire. Four al-Aqsa units have come out against it. The head of al-Aqsa in the old city of Nablus in the West Bank denied that the group has agreed to the cease-fire, saying his unit was planning imminent attacks against Israelis. The group's leadership committee has not agreed to a truce, "and this is the official point of view from Jenin to Rafiah," he said. The group's branches in Jenin and Kalkilya, another West Bank city, have also come out against the cease-fire.
        The opposition reflects a lack of support for Abbas and could presage internal opposition to any attempts he may make to disarm his movement's militant wing, as the U.S. and Israel have demanded. "I think the opposition to Abu Mazen from within al-Aqsa is the most serious he's facing," said Ali Jerbawi, a political scientist at Birzeit University in the West Bank. "I don't think the Abu Mazen government has the capability or the intention of disarming them." (Washington Post)
  • U.S. Plans to Provide Direct Aid to Palestinians
    The White House has decided to provide direct funding to the PA for social service projects, Bush administration and congressional officials said Tuesday. The initial funding - $20 million - has great symbolic value. In the past, successive administrations and congressional restrictions had limited aid to the Palestinians to indirect channels, such as the UN or nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). President Bush will seek a waiver from congressional restrictions, officials said. Though the administration has placed great hopes in Mahmoud Abbas, the PA is still led by Yasser Arafat, who has been scorned by the administration over his links to terrorism and corruption. In the fiscal year ending in September, the U.S. plans to provide about $95 million in aid to a UN agency that assists Palestinian refugees and $125 million to NGOs working with the PA. (Washington Post)
        See also EU Announces 10 Million Euros in Humanitarian Aid to Palestinians (Maariv-Hebrew)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • Abbas Quits Fatah Central Committee, Threatens to Resign as PM - Danny Rubinstein
    The background to the crisis in the Palestinian government, with Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas threatening to resign and quitting the Fatah Central Committee, is actually the declining influence of the Fatah movement leadership. Those most critical of Abbas were angry about the pictures of the Palestinian ministers meeting with Israeli ministers and the reports that Abbas was planning to go to the Knesset (he has denied he plans to go). Most people in the Palestinian leadership believe Abbas' threats to quit are only a tactic to pressure his rivals, who know Abbas enjoys broad international support and cannot be replaced now. (Ha'aretz)
  • "This Hudna is Not Worth the Paper It's Written On" - Menachem Rahat and Amir Rappaport
    "This hudna is not worth the paper it's written on. It's all nothing more than empty words," Ra'anan Gissin, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said Tuesday after it became clear that Islamic Jihad was responsible for the attack Monday in Kfar Yavetz. The terrorist had crossed the "green line" near Tulkarm in an area where there is still no separation fence. Then he entered a house through the unlocked front door, saw Mazal Afari sitting in the living room, and blew himself up. (Maariv-Hebrew/MSNBC/Reuters)
  • Road Map Process to Continue Despite Homicide Bombing - Herb Keinon
    Monday's homicide bomb blast in Kfar Yavetz won't derail the diplomatic process because it happened inside the time frame Israel gave the PA to reorganize and combat terror, a senior diplomatic official said Tuesday. "The true test is one of performance, and we want to give Abbas the opportunity to perform," the official said, stating that the PA is starting to take some action. The official said Israel will not pay for the "maintenance" of the Palestinian cease-fire by releasing more or additional prisoners. He said it is absurd to expect that after the Islamic Jihad took responsibility for Monday's bombing attack, Israel would then turn around and release Islamic Jihad prisoners. (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. Presses Israel on Outposts and Prisoners - Aluf Benn, Arnon Regular, and Amos Harel
    U.S. envoy John Wolf, assigned by President Bush to monitor the progress of the road map, has told Israel that by their count, a total of one outpost has been removed because of all the new outposts raised after each old one is evacuated. After Wolf said, "there are a lot of people demonstrating [against Abu Mazen] with pictures of prisoners," Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom responded, "we also have a lot of women, fathers and mothers with pictures, but their loved ones will never come back and they have no hope." Shalom said the PA has to "dismantle the terrorist infrastructure for there to be any progress." (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Rutgers Puts Anti-Semitism on the Schedule - Andrea Peyser
    A student group at Rutgers University has snagged the third annual National Student Conference of the Palestine Solidarity Movement, to be held Oct. 10-12 - the first on the East Coast. The conference features tips for destroying the Jewish state and speeches from notable anti-Semites. Organizer Charlotte Kates, 23, a Rutgers law student, said that she, as well as the sponsoring organization, the New Jersey Solidarity Movement - an offshoot of International Solidarity - supports Palestinian homicide bombers. "Palestinian resistance in all its forms has been a very powerful tool of justice," said Kates. "I do not believe apartheid, colonial settler states have a right to exist." As a state school, Rutgers bestows public funding to Solidarity, said a spokeswoman. (New York Post)
  • A Muslim Wakeup - Ahmed Nassef
    When I lived in Amman, Jordan, last year, the anti-Jewish diatribes that usually followed the calls for justice for Palestinians during Friday sermons disturbed me a great deal. Out of disgust, I eventually stopped going to the congregational prayers there. Sadly, I encountered much of the same at mosques throughout the Arab world. For many Muslims today, the government of Israel has become synonymous with the Jewish people. This phenomenon is complicated by the fact that Israel invites this association by calling itself a "Jewish" state. But as Tariq Ramadan, European Muslim scholar and grandson of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood founder Hasan El Banna, states, "There is nothing in Islam that gives legitimization to Judeophobia, xenophobia, and the rejection of any human being because of his religion or the group to which he belongs." Muslim-Americans, especially, face a critical challenge that demands an unequivocal stand against the trap of ignorance and bigotry. Muslims must speak out forcefully against anti-Jewish hate speech in our institutions and mosques. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Observations:  

    A Pakistani Rapprochement with Israel? - Yossi Melman (Ha'aretz)

    • Pakistan, which has a population of 140 million, is one of the three most populous Muslim countries in the world (along with Indonesia and Bangladesh). It is currently the only Muslim country in the world that has nuclear weapons.
    • The strengthening of Muslim fundamentalism over the past decade has turned Pakistan into one of the world centers of hatred of Israel and of Jews. The murder of Jewish-American journalist Daniel Pearl by Muslim extremists in Pakistan is one example.
    • In 1952 Pakistan appointed Mohammed Assad deputy head of its UN delegation. Assad was a Jew from Galicia who was born Leopold Weiss, converted to Islam, lived in Saudi Arabia, and had a diplomatic career in Pakistan. Starting in the 1950s, Israel's diplomatic representatives held an unofficial dialogue with Assad-Weiss. Contacts in UN institutions have continued ever since.
    • Some experts in Israel believe President Musharraf's recent call to consider establishing relations with Israel was a trial balloon, designed to test the reaction of the Muslim opposition, and to prepare public opinion in his country for a step that may already have made considerable inroads beneath the surface, in secret contacts between representatives of the two countries.

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