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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December 4, 2003

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In-Depth Issue:

U.S. Arab Population Surging - Jonathan Salant (AP/Washington Post)
    The Arab population in the U.S. has nearly doubled in the past two decades, according to the Census Bureau.
    The bureau counted nearly 1.2 million Arabs in the U.S. in 2000, compared with 860,000 in 1990, and 610,000 in 1980.
    About 60% trace their ancestry to Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt.
    Almost half of the Arabs live in five states - California (190,890), New York (120,370), Michigan (115,284), Florida (77,461), and New Jersey (71,770).

Revenue Files "Disappear" from PA Finance Ministry - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    PA Finance Minister Salam Fayyad has revealed that files and documents detailing revenues from oil products of the PA's Petroleum Authority have disappeared under mysterious circumstances from his ministry.
    At a special session of the Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza City on Tuesday, several legislators queried the finance minister about the embezzlement of hundreds of millions of dollars from the Petroleum Authority and the pocketing of $11m from the International Bank of Palestine.
    An initial investigation showed that much of the profits from the revenues of oil products had been deposited into a bank account under Arafat's name.
    Nablus legislator Mu'awyah al-Masri noted that "millions, if not billions, of dollars of the Petroleum Authority money have gone missing over the past few years."

Palestinian Militants Police West Bank - Dan Williams and Wael al-Ahmad (Reuters)
    Discovering his mobile telephone franchise burgled, Abu Sameh secured an audience with Zekariya Zubeidi, chief of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in Jenin.
    "Twenty-four hours later the police called to say two men had been caught and my phones returned," recalled Abu Sameh.
    A bigger surprise followed when one of the thieves became a Zubeidi lieutenant. "When we catch a crook, we let him off with a warning that next time he'll get hurt. And then we try to recruit him," Zubeidi said.
    "These guys are felons who committed theft, arms sales, and extortion, and were untouchable once they joined the Brigades," said Bassem Eid, director of Palestinian Human Rights Watch.
    Zubeidi says that several Jenin police officers double as gunmen in his group, receiving a stipend to supplement police wages.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Saudis to Expand Air Base Near Israel
    The Saudi Defense Ministry has launched a project to develop and expand the King Faisal Air Base in Tabuk, near the Israeli border. The base is home to about 50 advanced F-15S fighter-jets, which were sent to the facility on the eve of the war against Iraq in March 2003. Under a 1978 agreement, Saudi Arabia pledged not to deploy the aircraft in Tabuk. Israel has also warned the U.S. that the presence of the fighters at Tabuk could be used by al-Qaeda agents within the Saudi military to attack the Jewish state. (UPI/Washington Times)
  • Saudis Seize Terror Suspect with Surface-to-Air Missile
    Fears were raised over the safety of flights to Saudi Arabia Wednesday when Saudi security forces arrested a suspected terrorist with a surface-to-air missile. The man, detained in Riyadh on suspicion of involvement in a bomb attack on a residential compound that claimed 18 lives last month, was found with a shoulder-launched SA-7 missile, 85 lbs. of explosives, four rocket-propelled grenades, 20 hand grenades, eight AK-47 assault rifles, and 16,800 rounds of ammunition. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Origins of the Geneva Accord
    The faux-peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians celebrated with much fanfare in Geneva on Monday might never have happened had it not been for an obscure Swiss academic - Alexis Keller, 40, an associate professor at the University of Geneva - and close to a million dollars from his father, Pierre Keller, a retired Swiss banker. The Accord used drafts from the Camp David and Taba negotiations as a starting point, and was developed with the help of Clinton White House official Rob Malley. A two-year global public relations campaign will be undertaken to sell the virtues of virtual peace at a cost of $8 million from public and private sources (including some money from Mr. Keller's family), said Mr. Keller. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinian Suicide Bomber Caught on Way to Blow Up School - David Rudge and Margot Dudkevitch
    Palestinian Islamic Jihad, whose offices are in Damascus, sent two suicide bombers to attack Israeli schoolchildren at the ORT Alon junior high school in Yokne'am. The two were captured Wednesday by security forces. A security source confirmed that Munir Rabiah, 23, of Gaza City, and Morad Zeitoun, 20, of Zbubeh, near Jenin, are both members of the PA security forces. Security officials found the 10-kg. explosive belt that Rabiah was to have worn in the attack on the school after he was arrested inside a mosque in Bardaleh. Zeitoun had worked on renovations at a site near the school last year and knew the area well. The two told investigators they had chosen the location where they planned to cross into Israel because there is no security fence in the area. (Jerusalem Post/Yediot Ahronot)
  • Palestinian Alerts IDF to Bomb Threat - Margot Dudkevitch
    A 43-year-old Palestinian stopped an Israeli patrol near Tapuah in the West Bank and said, "there is a problem; please follow me." He led them to a bomb that had been stashed in a bag and placed near a main road. Border Police sappers estimated that the bomb, which they blew up, contained 10 to 20 kg of explosives. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Lebanon Pumping Water Headed for Israel - Uri Ash
    Lebanon is pumping thousands of cubic meters a day from the Wazzani springs instead of letting the water flow into Israel's Lake Kinneret, say officials in the Water Commission. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Egyptian Islamist Group Drops Guns, Turns to Print - Tom Perry
    Members of the militant Islamic group al-Gama'a al-Islamiya massacred 58 foreign tourists in Luxor, Egypt, in 1997, part of a bloody insurgency that cost the lives of 1,200 people in the 1990s and that aimed to set up a strict Islamic order in Egypt. Today, however, its leaders have published calls to renounce violence, condemn al-Qaeda, and ditch the idea of taking state power in order to make Egypt more devout. "There should not be anyone in our ranks who thinks about restarting the wheel of violence again," wrote al-Gama'a leaders. Some analysts say their rejection of violence might help tame radicals outside Egypt. "Al-Gama'a leaders are well-known and respected in the Arab world. When such people publish new arguments, for sure it will affect some of their friends in other Arab countries," said militant Islam expert Diaa Rashwan. (Reuters)
  • Realities Overtake Arab Democracy Drive - Glenn Kessler and Robin Wright
    Egypt, the second-largest recipient of U.S. aid, is also ruled by one of the Arab world's most autocratic governments. Egypt's government has a veto over what Egyptian institutions can get U.S. aid, a provision that effectively blocks funding of human rights groups and government critics. Funds labeled by Washington as promoting democracy ended up being used for projects such as sludge removal. Washington is trying to negotiate an agreement with Egypt that would allow it to channel about $20 million directly to independent organizations to promote democracy. Yet the funds are still only a sliver of the nearly $2 billion in annual U.S. military and economic aid, the largest chunk of which, $1.3 billion, still goes to Egypt's security forces, which have been repeatedly cited by the State Department's human rights report for torture, prolonged detentions without charge, and other abuses. (Washington Post)
  • A Library's Middle East - Fern Kupfer
    The public library in my small town in Iowa is one of the sponsors of a film festival, "Palestine Unabridged," that includes more than a dozen films, all purporting to show "the other side" of the Middle East conflict - the side that is pro-Palestinian. Understandably, the Jewish community here was upset that the library was a sponsor of what they considered anti-Israeli propaganda. As a secular Jew who passionately believes in free speech, I believe the library made a mistake that has divided our town. Would the library have sponsored a "Right to Life" film festival, with film after film depicting abortion as murder? (Newsday)
  • Observations:

    The Question of Palestine - Ambassador Dan Gillerman
    (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

    • Today the General Assembly, in an annual ritual of supreme irony, celebrates Palestinian rejectionism by taking up the "Question of Palestine" on the anniversary of the adoption of UN Resolution 181 (1947). One can easily forget that the Arab world rejected this resolution out of hand, for it contained a concomitant proposal of a Jewish state as well.
    • Today, however, the "Question of Palestine" is not a question about Israel's acceptance of Palestinian self-determination or even a Palestinian state, but rather a question of the Palestinian acceptance of the right of Israel to continue to exist as a state where the Jewish people can continue to concurrently realize their own right to self-determination, side by side with their Palestinian and Arab neighbors.
    • Throughout its history, Israel has demonstrated its willingness to compromise and make tremendous sacrifices for the sake of peace. When Israel met Arab leaders, like President Sadat of Egypt and King Hussein of Jordan - leaders who spoke the language of peace to their own people and were willing to take concrete steps for peace - Israel reached agreements with them and peace was achieved.
    • In his signed agreements with Israel, Arafat undertook to resolve all issues through negotiations, stop all violence, arrest terrorists, dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, collect illegal weapons, and end incitement to violence. Yet in more than a decade since the 1993 Oslo Accords, the PA has done almost nothing to fulfill these obligations. Instead, in these past ten years over 1,100 Israelis have been murdered in acts of terrorism.
    • Terrorism is not the tool of peacemakers and nation-builders. It is the tool of rejectionists and cowards. By creating alliances with brutal terrorist groups, the Palestinian leadership has sent every Israeli a chilling message that states: "Killing Israelis is more important to us than creating our own democratic state."
    • Peace requires a language and culture of peace, but that is not the reality we see today. Those Palestinians accused of cooperating with Israel are lynched in public squares, while those who kill themselves in suicide attacks against Israeli civilians are given unparalleled public praise.
    • The international community cannot and will not countenance the establishment of yet another repressive, terrorist state in the Middle East.
        See also UN Marks Partition Plan Anniversary with Anti-Israel Fest - Melissa Radler (Jerusalem Post)

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