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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October 2, 2003

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In-Depth Issue:

Spreading Saudi Fundamentalism in U.S.: Wahhabi Network Probed by FBI - Susan Schmidt (Washington Post)
    On Aug. 20, 2001, Saleh Ibn Abdul Rahman Hussayen, soon to be named a minister of the Saudi government and put in charge of its two holy mosques, arrived in the U.S. to meet with local fundamentalist Sunni Muslim leaders.
    His journey was to include meetings and contacts with officials of several Saudi-sponsored charities dedicated to the spread of Wahhabism that have since been accused of links to terrorist groups, including the Muslim World League and the World Assembly of Muslim Youth.
    During the 1990s, Hussayen was a director of the SAAR Foundation, whose northern Virginia offices were raided in 2002 for suspected terrorist financing.
    Backed by money from Saudi Arabia, Wahhabis have built or taken over hundreds of mosques in North America and opened branches of Saudi universities in the U.S. for the training of imams as part of the effort to spread their beliefs, which are intolerant of Christianity, Judaism, and even other strains of Islam.
    On the night of Sept. 10, 2001, Hussayen stayed at a Herndon, Va., hotel that also housed three of the Saudi hijackers who would slam an aircraft into the Pentagon the next day, though there is no evidence that he had contact with them.
    After the attack, FBI agent Michael Gneckow interviewed Hussayen and his wife, but the interview was cut short when Hussayen "feigned a seizure, prompting the agents to take him to a hospital, where the attending physicians found nothing wrong with him."
    The agent recommended that Hussayen "should not be allowed to leave until a follow-up interview could occur," but on Sept. 19, the day air travel resumed, Hussayen and his wife took off for Saudi Arabia.

Palestinian Poll: 55% Support Suicide Attacks, 74% Support Arafat (IMRA)
    According to a poll of Palestinian adults conducted on September 25-29, 2003, by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion (PCPO) headed by Dr. Nabil Kukali, 74% support Arafat; 55% support the continuation of suicide attacks.
    56% support continuing the intifada, while 31% favor a halt.

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News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • Israel's Cabinet Approves Barrier Inside West Bank
    Israel's government on Wednesday approved construction of new barriers deep inside the West Bank to shield several large Jewish settlements. Despite criticism, the government overwhelmingly backed the next phase, which includes building several horseshoe-shaped barriers 10 to 15 miles inside the West Bank. The new fences would run along three sides of Ariel. The Israeli proposal calls for eventually extending the fences westward from the open side of the settlements until they connect with the main barrier.
        Dore Gold, an adviser to prime minister Sharon, said Israel had suffered nearly 1,000 dead in Palestinian attacks over the past decade, and the government believes "it has every moral right in the world to put this fence where it sees fit." Israel will erect two parallel fences east of Ben-Gurion Airport to keep potential attackers with shoulder-fired missiles well away from Israel's main airport. To the south of Jerusalem, Israel will extend the barrier to incorporate the Gush Etzion bloc of settlements. (New York Times)
  • New Al-Qaeda Chief in Saudi Arabia Heads Anti-U.S. Operations in Persian Gulf
    Abu Hazim al-Sha'ir, 29, a former bin Laden bodyguard from Yemen who is now living in Saudi Arabia, is believed to be the new head of al-Qaeda terrorist operations in the Gulf, U.S. intelligence officials said. Al-Sha'ir is believed to have trained in al-Qaeda's Afghan camps in 1999. Before Sept. 11, he traveled frequently to the Arabian peninsula, to southeast Asia, and to Afghanistan. Al-Sha'ir's presence in the Saudi kingdom is telling, said Vince Cannistraro, a former CIA counterterrorism chief. "The whole locus of al-Qaeda, in terms of its power and its strength, has moved to Saudi Arabia," he said.
        A U.S. intelligence report notes, "Saudi Arabia has always been al-Qaeda's primary base of popular and religious support and funding....While not as permissive an operating environment as Afghanistan was, the kingdom offered enough acquiescence for al-Qaeda to actively recruit, obtain and store explosives and weapons, plan terrorist attacks, and fundraise." (FOX News)
  • Ex-Fighters from Afghanistan Stream to Saudi Arabia
    Since the Afghan war with the U.S. ended, the surrounding villages in Waziristan, Pakistan, and the local madrasa have served as pipelines to send ex-fighters to Saudi Arabia. The Taliban are regrouping there, as Saudis come to Waziristan with money and passports for those loyal to their cause. It used to be that Wazirs would dream of going to America, because it was the land of opportunity. Now that land is Saudi Arabia. (Harper's; Sep03)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • U.S. to Reduce Involvement in Israeli-Palestinian Dispute - Ben Caspit, Eliel Shahar, and Miriam Fox
    Jerusalem believes the U.S. is planning to reduce its involvement in the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. According to a recent estimate in diplomatic circles, "it is possible that the current situation, with its heavy external and internal pressures, will require the [U.S.] government to focus on Iraq and free the president, to a certain extent, from intensive involvement with other issues, including Israeli-Palestinian ones." In Jerusalem it is believed that the problems in Iraq and the decline in Bush's popularity have affected American self-confidence in its ability to broker a deal between Israel and the Palestinians. (Maariv-Hebrew)
  • Car Bomb Prepared by Arafat's Fatah Foiled - Eli Waked and Efrat Weiss
    A car bomb discovered Wednesday by IDF forces in Nablus had been prepared by Arafat's Fatah organization for use against a Jewish settlement in Samaria, a senior Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades activist said. After paratroopers spotted the suspicious vehicle, a tank fired a single round and the car exploded. The Palestinian warned that "more car bombs were on the way." (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew)
  • Fatah Terrorists Murder Alleged Collaborator in Ramallah Hospital - Eli Waked
    Armed men from the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the military arm of Fatah, shot to death Nasser Kalawla, 25, in a Ramallah hospital Wednesday night after accusing him of cooperating with Israel. Kalawla, a resident of the Jenin area, had been shot in the leg the previous week by Al Aqsa men and was transferred from Jenin to a hospital in Ramallah due to fears for his safety. (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew)
  • Japan Freezes Hamas Assets
    "After reviewing information that our government has received and after studying similar steps taken by the U.S., the EU, and Canada, we have decided to freeze Hamas-related assets," a spokeswoman for the Japanese foreign ministry said Tuesday. (Al-Bawaba-Jordan)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Hunt for Foreign Terrorists in Western Iraq - Christian Lowe
    From early April until mid-May, coalition special forces operated out of a compound called H-1 on the grounds of a captured Iraqi air base in western Iraq. Commando teams from the 5th Special Forces group, British and Australian Special Air Service, and CIA special tactics teams operated in the western desert along Highway 12, the main road between Baghdad and Syria. According to Army soldiers who administered the camp for the commandos, the prison at H-1 held as many as 250 captives - nearly all of them foreign terrorists from Iran, Syria, and other Middle Eastern countries, hailing from groups including Hamas, Hizballah, and Islamic Jihad. The soldiers even reported capturing al-Qaeda members. (Weekly Standard)
  • Young Blood Led by Mubarak's Son Seeks Change in Egypt
    Led by Gamal Mubarak, 40, second son of the long-serving president, young reformers in Egypt scored their first major success Sunday at the National Democratic Party's three-day annual convention when their slate of reform proposals was adopted. The younger Mubarak's political star has risen steadily since last year, when his father created a new position for him leading an influential policymaking committee. A former Bank of America executive with a degree from American University in Cairo, Gamal Mubarak has stacked his nine-member committee with English-speaking technocrats who can combat the party's image of corruption, patronage, and stale conservatism. (Chicago Tribune)
  • Pentagon Jihadis - Daniel Pipes
    The news that two Muslim military personnel had been arrested on suspicion of aiding al-Qaeda prisoners at Guantanamo Bay (with another three Muslim servicemen under watch) seemed to prompt much surprise. It should not have. At least six prior cases of Islamist servicemen have come to light. Islamists who despise America have penetrated U.S. prisons, law enforcement, and armed forces. Executive-branch insistence on "terrorism" being the enemy, rather than militant Islam, permits this Islamist penetration. The U.S. government should consider breaking off contact with organizations like the Islamic Society of North America and the American Muslim Armed Forces and Veterans Council that place Islamists in government jobs, working instead with anti-Islamist Muslim groups such as the Islamic Supreme Council of America for Sunni Muslims and the American Muslim Congress for Shi'ites. (New York Post)
  • Observations:

    After 3 Years, Some Palestinians Disillusioned with Intifada
    - Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson (Knight Ridder/Jewish World Review)

    • "We wasted three years for nothing," says Mahar Tarhir, 25, of Ramallah. "This uprising didn't accomplish anything." Anger and disillusionment have replaced the fighting spirit that had propelled the Palestinian movement.
    • Many Palestinians blame Arafat and his PA for allowing the popular uprising to evolve into an unwinnable armed conflict between extremist groups and the IDF, grinding on from year to year as Israel steadily tightens its military grip on Gaza and the West Bank.
    • "There's no vision, no strategy, no leadership," said Sari Nusseibeh, president of al Quds University. "The whole thing just went haywire."
    • Critics say the PA's failure to establish achievable goals for the movement allowed it to fall into the hands of the militant Islamic groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, whose dual ambitions of destroying Israel and the Palestinian secular government have defined the uprising ever since.
    • Arafat's Fatah political party countered the militants by introducing an armed faction of its own, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, only adding to the death and destruction.

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