Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 5, 2004

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In-Depth Issue:

One-Quarter of Guantanamo Detainees are Saudis - John. C.K. Daly (UPI)
    At least 160 of the 650 detainees being held at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo, Cuba, are from Saudi Arabia - almost a quarter of the total.
    The other top nationalities being held are Yemen with 85, Afghanistan with 80, Pakistan with 82, Jordan and Egypt, each with 30.
    China has at least 12 its citizens in Guantanamo, although they are all identified as ethnic Uighurs rather than Han Chinese.
    Nine British citizens and 8 Russians of Muslim background are in Guantanamo.
    A Yemeni and 6 Algerians in the camp were originally arrested in Sarajevo, Bosnia.

Suicide Bombers in Iraq Follow Palestinian Model (Middle East Newsline)
    Iraqi security sources said Sunni insurgents and al-Qaeda operatives have been advised by Palestinian insurgents from the ruling Fatah movement and Hamas on methods to launch suicide operations against the U.S. and allied military presence in Iraq.
    The methods include the choice of targets, use of explosive belts, and the infiltration of operatives.
    The Palestinian model was said to have been employed in the twin suicide strikes against Kurdish targets in Irbil on Sunday.

Report Says Prisoners Tortured in Syria - Thanaa Imam (UPI)
    Lashings with copper cables, electrical shocks, cigarette burns, and other forms of torture have caused deaths and serious injury to political prisoners and other inmates in Syria, says a report by the Syrian Organization of Human Rights.
    The report said that 30 Syrian nationals living in exile in Iraq had returned home and were arrested, taken to Daraa' prison near Damascus, placed in solitary confinement, tortured, and refused any contact with the outside world.
    Najdat Berri suffocated at a detention center in Latakia when his torturers plunged his head in a bucket of water, and Firas Mahmoud Abdullah was tortured to death at a security detention center in Damascus last month, the report said.

    See also Syrians Call for Democratic Reforms in Petition to Assad (AP/Billings Gazette)
    More than half a million Syrians demanded political and economic reform in a petition to be handed to President Bashar Assad, the Committees for the Defense of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights in Syria said Saturday.
    See also Syrian Intellectuals Petition for Reforms - Joseph Nasr (Jerusalem Post)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • As Fence Hearing Approaches, Jewish Groups Prepare for Fight - Rachel Pomerance
    When the International Court of Justice holds hearings on Israel's West Bank security fence later this month, it could become a repeat performance of Durban, Jewish activists fear. The anti-Zionist agitation at Durban's UN World Conference Against Racism in Sept. 2001 shocked a Jewish world horrified by the virulence of the anti-Semitism on display. There's "no question that the Arabs intend to turn The Hague into another Durban" and "to put pressure on the court by making demonstrations," said Arye Mekel, Israel's deputy permanent representative to the UN. In the meantime, Israel and Jewish groups are hoping they can mount a more effective response than they did in Durban. (JTA)
        See also Groups Win Support for Israel on Fence - Ori Nir (Forward)
        See also North Korea Backs Palestinians in The Hague - Sefi Hendler and Eliel Shahar
    Several countries have submitted statements to the International Court of Justice opposing Israel's construction of the separation fence on grounds that it violates human rights. North Korea is the latest. Other states opposing Israel include Cuba, Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Morocco, Sudan, and Brazil. (Maariv-Hebrew; 5 Feb 04)
  • Suicide Bomb Survivors Face Worlds Blown Apart - Keith B. Richburg
    Two years ago, Alona Shaportova, 17, and a friend were at Tel Aviv's popular seaside Dolphinarium discotheque when a Palestinian wearing explosives and copper ball bearings blew himself up outside, killing 21 people, mostly teenagers, and wounding 100 others. Five ball bearings smashed into her head and face, her left eye was shattered, and the left side of her brain was torn away, leaving her paralyzed on the right side and mentally impaired for good. The blond-haired, blue-eyed girl, who once thought of becoming a model, now has a plastic prosthetic and a mop of curls that artfully cover the missing part of her head. In addition to about 500 Israelis killed in suicide attacks, more than 3,000 people have been burned, maimed, scarred, blinded, paralyzed, left hearing-impaired or with missing limbs. (Washington Post)
  • Wahhabism Splits Saudis - John R. Bradley
    Sami Angawi, self-proclaimed Sufi leader of the Hijaz, a Saudi region that runs along the Red Sea and contains Mecca and Medina, says Wahhabi Islam - imported from Najd, the central region of Saudi Arabia - gradually stamped out the non-Wahhabi thinking once taken for granted in the Hijaz and eroded the historic Hijazi urban culture of tolerance and diversity. Angawi said Wahhabi domination had led to the destruction or neglect of almost all of the Islamic and pre-Islamic history of the Hijaz. "Most of the Islamic heritage in Hijaz has been destroyed by the Saudis," said Ali al-Ahmed, head of the Washington-based Saudi Institute, a prominent Saudi opposition group. The writer is former managing editor of the Jidda-based Arab News. (Washington Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Sharon Supports Referendum on Evacuation of Gaza Settlements - Gideon Alon and Aluf Benn
    Prime Minister Sharon Wednesday expressed support for a national referendum on the evacuation of Jewish settlements from Gaza. Sharon said, "it sounds like a good idea, so that it will be clear what the public thinks." Likud MK Michael Eitan, chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, said, "I believe that if Sharon has reached the conclusion that he has to create new diplomatic initiatives, he should be allowed to do so, but not without broad legitimacy - especially when it involves uprooting thousands of people from their homes." (Ha'aretz)
  • U.S. Offers $5M Reward for Information on Gaza Attack
    The U.S. announced Thursday it would give up to $5 million to anyone who provides information that leads to the "conviction or arrest" of those responsible for an attack on a U.S. convoy in the Gaza Strip that killed three Americans on October 15. On Wednesday, top Arafat adviser Jibril Rajoub accused the U.S. of "blackmailing" the Palestinians by threatening to disengage from peace-making and stop U.S. aid unless they find those behind the bombing. (AP/Ha'aretz)
  • Upcoming: Israeli Humanitarian Aid Mission to Afghanistan - Eliel Shahar
    Afghanistan discovers Israel. In the last few days, the Afghans have made two official requests for Israeli aid in two fields in which Israel is known to have advanced capabilities: medicine and agriculture. Eight months ago, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom received a letter from the Afghan foreign minister, who sought Israel's vote for his election to the board of UNESCO. On Wednesday, Israel's deputy minister of trade and industry met with Afghanistan's deputy minister of agriculture in New Delhi. (Maariv-Hebrew; 5 Feb 04)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Gaza in Exchange for the West Bank - Aluf Benn
    Sharon is prepared to pay with the evacuation of Gaza for American consent to Israel's continued control over a large part of the West Bank. That is why he instructed his national security advisor, Giora Eiland, to chart security lines that Israel could hold for years, "until there is a partner." Sharon has been kicking around these ideas for a long time. The common denominator is Israeli control over the "security regions" of the Jordan Rift and Western Samaria. Sharon is trying to follow in the footsteps of Menachem Begin, who conceded Sinai so that Israel could stay in the West Bank; Ehud Barak, who left Lebanon in order to perpetuate Israel's control of the Golan; and Shimon Peres, who championed "Gaza First" and a deferral of a solution in the West Bank and Jerusalem. All of them enjoyed success in the short term, but left diplomatic time bombs for their successors. (Ha'aretz)
  • What Price Withdrawal? - Matthew Gutman
    A quarter of a million dollars was offered as compensation in April 1982 to each of some 2,000 families, according to Shmuel Albeck, the architect of the Begin administration's removal and compensation plan for the Sinai settlements. In all, the government of Israel shelled out $500 million (about $1 billion in 2003 dollars) to compensate the evacuated, said Albeck. Removing 7,500 settlers from Gaza this time around will cost the Israeli government far more than that. Prime Minister Sharon aims to evacuate a much larger population, with much deeper roots, and far more extensive infrastructure. Economists believe the evacuation of the Gaza Strip could cost nearly $10 billion. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Explaining the Addiction to Jihad - Jessica Stern
    My interviews over the last five years suggest people join religious terrorist groups in the belief that they can make the world a better place for the population they aim to "serve." But over time, terrorism can become a career as much as a passion. Jihad becomes addictive. Violence turns activists and mystics into evil men. Grievances end up as greed - for money, political power, status, or attention. The adversaries of terrorist groups need to respond not just with guns, but also by sowing confusion, conflict, and competition among terrorists, and between terrorists and their sponsors and sympathizers. The writer is a lecturer at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. (Beirut Daily Star)
  • Observations:

    Israel's Gift to a Terrorized World - Yossi Klein Halevi (Jerusalem Post)

    I couldn't make the BBC's panel discussion on the subject "Is Israel Losing Its Soul?" But if I had participated, here's what I would have said:

    • Before dissecting the flawed soul of Israel, I suggest we discuss the collective soul of Palestine and, by extension, of the Arab world. Israel, after all, was ready to become the first country in history to voluntarily withdraw from its historic heartland and share sovereignty over its capital city.
    • By contrast, Palestinian society has become prisoner of a death cult that celebrates mass murderers as religious martyrs and educational role models. And, unlike the Israeli soul, which is torn over the price we must pay for self-preservation, the Palestinian soul shows few signs of remorse for its culture of national suicide.
    • No country's soul has been more severely tested than Israel's. Only Israel has faced terrorism from its creation; only Israel confronts an enemy that considers its existence an offense.
    • The fact that we haven't surrendered to a terrorist assault intended to atomize Israeli society by frightening us away from our public spaces is Israel's gift to a terrorized world.

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