Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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April 30, 2004

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In-Depth Issue:

Israel is the Only Middle Eastern Country with a Free Press (Freedom House)
    According to a new Freedom House study, "Freedom of the Press 2004: A Global Survey of Media Independence," of the 19 Middle Eastern and North African countries, only one, Israel, is rated "Free," with 90% of the countries in the region rated "Not Free."
    The Middle East is the only region in the world with an average rating of "Not Free."

State Department: Mideast of "Greatest Concern" in Terrorism War (Voice of America)
    The State Department's annual terrorism report called the Middle East the region of "greatest concern" in the global war against terror.
    The report maintained the State Department's designation of Iran, Libya, and Syria as state sponsors of terrorism.
    It said the Palestinian Authority did not take sufficient steps to stop terrorist operations and that Lebanon remained "problematic" by hosting militant groups like Hizballah.
    See also Patterns of Global Terrorism 2003 (State Department)

Robbers Killed by Suicide Bomber in Gaza (Scotsman-UK)
    A Hamas suicide bomber blew up two armed Palestinians who tried to rob him in the Gaza Strip, it emerged Tuesday.
    Rather than give up his bomb, the Hamas member detonated it, killing himself and the two robbers near the border fence between Gaza and Israel.
    Palestinian security officials said the gunmen were criminals involved in a car theft ring that brought stolen vehicles from Israel to Gaza.
    Hamas said the bomber was on his way to try to infiltrate Israel.

U.S., Israel Testing Nautilus Anti-Rocket System - Felix Frisch (Globes)
    The Nautilus anti-rocket system is designed to intercept a rocket in flight using a laser gun.
    In September 2000, the system intercepted two katyushas, and has subsequently shot down 28 katyushas and five 152-mm artillery shells.
    On Friday, Israel Radio reported that a successful test firing of the system took place at the White Sands missile range in New Mexico.
    The joint U.S.-Israel program was launched in 1995, with Northrop Grumman as the chief contractor.

Israel Orders Arrow Parts from U.S. (UPI/Washington Times)
    Israel has transferred $78 million to Boeing for components for Arrow anti-ballistic missiles, an Israel Aircraft Industries' spokeswoman said Wednesday.
    The Arrow is an Israeli missile interceptor developed locally with U.S. funding.

Israeli Firm Develops Laser Explosives Detector - Yuval Dror (Ha'aretz)
    International Technologies Lasers (ITL) has developed a device that can analyze and identify chemical elements by remote laser sensing.
    For the first time, cars and people may be scanned from several dozen meters away to detect explosives, drugs, or other illegal materials.
    "Any substance hit by the beam emits an invisible light with its own unique wavelength, like an individual fingerprint," and the spectrometer analyzes the result of the emission, said Dr. Mordechai Brestel.
    Ami Rodrich of ITL noted that where cargo and baggage have to be examined at airports, "Using our device, the check can be carried out in seconds."
    See also Israeli Brains Riding Wave of Counter-Terrorism R&D - Arieh O'Sullivan (Jerusalem Post)

Oil Hits 13-Year High Amid Low U.S. Inventories - Deborah Hargreaves and Neil Dennis (Financial Times-UK)
    Crude oil prices rose sharply on Wednesday to their highest level in 13 years.
    North Sea Brent crude futures reached $34.76 a barrel - the highest point since the price broke through $35 at the time of the first Gulf war.
    Low U.S. fuel inventories, rising Chinese demand, and tension in the Middle East have combined to push oil prices higher.

Useful Reference:

The Disengagement Plan (Prime Minister's Office/Jerusalem Post)

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Back Issues

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Sharon's Party May Reject Disengagement Plan
    Four separate public opinion surveys published Thursday reported growing opposition within the Likud party to Prime Minister Sharon's plan to withdraw Jewish settlers and Israeli soldiers from the Gaza Strip. The party's 193,000 members are to vote Sunday in a nonbinding referendum. (Washington Post)
  • Al-Qaeda: Foiled Jordan Attack Not Chemical
    Al-Qaeda planned an attack on Jordanian intelligence services but not using chemical weapons as Amman has charged, according to a new audio tape purportedly from leading al-Qaeda figure Abu Musab al-Zarqawi aired on Friday. "Yes, the plan was to totally destroy the building of the intelligence apparatus," he said. "(But) their claims of unimaginable casualties and that it was a chemical bomb that would have killed thousands of people is a pure lie....God knows, that if we possessed such a bomb that we would not have hesitated for a second to avidly seek to strike Israeli cities such as Eilat, Tel Aviv, and others." (Reuters)
  • Seeking to Punish Syria for Broken Promises on Iraq
    Syria has failed to fulfill key promises to cooperate on Iraq, particularly to close down the traffic of foreign fighters and smugglers across its border, which is triggering new congressional efforts to impose tougher U.S. restrictions on Damascus, according to U.S. and congressional officials. Assad has also not returned to Iraq $3 billion from Saddam Hussein's government held in Syrian banks, or closed offices of Islamic extremists and Palestinian radicals in the Syrian capital. Pressure is now mounting on the Bush administration to finally impose the sanctions outlined in the Syrian Accountability Act. Some House lawmakers said they intend to introduce a new Syria-Lebanon liberation act that would mandate broader sanctions against Syria than are called for in the current law. (Washington Post)
  • France Struggles to Curb Extremist Muslim Clerics
    France has expelled dozens of radical Islamic clerics since 2001. Since there is a dearth of domestically trained clerics to lead congregations of European-born Muslims, mosques often import imams who espouse fundamentalist beliefs that grate against Europe's more tolerant societies. Only about 10% of the imams preaching in France's mosques are citizens, and half do not speak French, according to the Interior Ministry. Interior minister Dominique de Villepin said last week that France would have to help Muslims to train moderate prayer leaders to encourage the emergence of a tolerant "French Islam." (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Two Soldiers Wounded in Gaza Missile Attack
    Two IDF soldiers were lightly wounded when an anti-tank missile was fired at an IDF outpost in Gush Katif in Gaza, Army Radio reported Friday. Palestinians also opened fire at two other IDF positions in Gaza. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Explosives Belt Found at Gaza Crossing - Margot Dudkevitch
    A security guard at the Karni crossing in the north Gaza Strip found an explosives belt hidden in a pile of jeans Thursday. The belt, containing at least five kilograms of explosives, was hidden among clothes and textiles being sent from Gaza to a merchant in the West Bank. Security guards became suspicious after spotting something in the load of clothes as it underwent x-rays. (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF: Palestinian Killed in Crossfire by Mistake - Amos Harel
    The IDF admitted Thursday that Dr. Yasser Abu Laimun, 32, a lecturer in hospital management at the Arab-American University in Jenin, was accidentally shot and killed last Friday when troops were pursuing two Hamas operatives. An investigation by the IDF Central Command found that he had wandered into the area of the chase and had no connection to the wanted men. The IDF said soldiers spotted two armed men and opened fire, but both suspects managed to flee. An attack dog was then released, who gave chase, but for some reason attacked Abu Laimun. The soldiers then fired at him from a distance, believing he was one of the wanted men. (Ha'aretz)
  • Don't Write Off Hamas Yet - Ze'ev Schiff
    The fact that the number of volunteers willing to perpetrate terrorist attacks is increasing indicates that the current silence of Hamas does not diminish the possibility that it will take Israel by surprise. The current decline in Hamas's operational capability can be traced back to last December when the army struck at the Hamas infrastructure in the Ramallah area when the members of three squads that were engaged in terrorism were killed or apprehended. Most of those caught were former prisoners who returned to terrorist activity after their release. One of those apprehended carried an American passport. Also caught was the liaison man who transferred money from Syria to finance the terror attacks. (Ha'aretz)
  • Schwarzenegger in Israel on Saturday - Etgar Lefkovits
    California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is coming to Israel this weekend to take part in the groundbreaking ceremony for Jerusalem's Museum of Tolerance, at the invitation of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center which is building the museum. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • A Wall - and a Way Forward - Mortimer B. Zuckerman
    Israel has finally concluded that it cannot expect to live in peace with a Palestinian state led by Yasser Arafat. A protective wall, virtually everyone in Israel believes, is the only way left to protect innocents from anarchic terrorism. Every day, 40 to 50 murderous assaults are threatened against Israeli citizens and foiled only by the vigilance of Israeli security forces, with no help from the Palestinians, whose leaders have betrayed every promise on security. The security barrier doesn't prejudice any final-status issues, including borders. It will encompass less than 10% of the West Bank and leaves 99.4% of the Palestinian population on the east side. If it is to jump-start the peace process, Washington will have to make sure the Palestinians get the message - that here is another test of their capacity to behave like a respectable government and halt the corruption and the terror that have so tainted the Arafat regime. (U.S. News)
  • Double Talk: Saudi Diplomat's Charm Fails Him - Editorial
    Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the longtime Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S., is by most accounts an extremely charming and capable man. But his social grace and diplomatic skill failed him the other day when Tim Russert of NBC News' Meet the Press questioned him about the Saudi government's connections to terrorism. Russert aired a jaw-dropping video of a Saudi government-sponsored telethon that raised $92 million for Islamic suicide bombers who blow up Jews in Israel. An increasingly exasperated Prince Bandar either denied the accusations or said they were part of the pre-Sept. 11 past. But Russert reminded him that the telethon occurred in April 2003. Should anyone be surprised if the American people consider Saudi Arabia part of the problem rather than part of the solution to the scourge of terrorism? (Dallas Morning News)
  • Al-Qaeda's Poison Gas - Editorial
    Jordanian authorities say that the death toll from a bomb and poison-gas attack they foiled this month could have reached 80,000. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi - the man cited by the Bush Administration as its strongest evidence of prewar links between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, and the current ringleader of anti-coalition terrorism in Iraq - may be behind the plot, which would be al-Qaeda's first ever attempt to use chemical weapons. The bomb trucks and funds are said to have entered Jordan via Syria. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Think Again: Al Qaeda - Jason Burke
    Al-Qaeda is less an organization than an ideology. Although bin Laden and his partners were able to create a structure in Afghanistan that attracted new recruits and forged links among preexisting Islamic militant groups, they never created a coherent terrorist network. Instead, al-Qaeda functioned like a venture capital firm - providing funding, contacts, and expert advice to many different militant groups from all over the Islamic world. Today, there is no longer a central hub for Islamic militancy. But the al-Qaeda worldview, or "al-Qaedaism," is growing stronger every day. Sustained by anti-Western, anti-Zionist, and anti-Semitic rhetoric, many groups act in the style of al-Qaeda, but are only part of al-Qaeda in the loosest sense. That's why Israeli intelligence services now prefer the term "jihadi international" instead of "al-Qaeda."  (Foreign Policy)
  • Rival Groups Jostling for Power in Syria - Editorial
    The gunfight and attempted bombing of a well-guarded diplomatic district in Damascus is a significant indicator of the plotting, power struggles, and fragilities beneath the surface of what is a monolithic, totalitarian regime. A large part of the Sunni population has never accepted the domination of the Alawite minority, to which the Assad family belongs. What is significant is that any group now feels emboldened to challenge the Baathists. Assad is floundering, unable to reduce the influence of the fossilized old guard or push through changes for which a frustrated younger generation is yearning. A power struggle is taking place beneath the surface as the instability in Iraq and Syria's growing unpopularity in Lebanon increase domestic political tension. (London Times)
        See also Was It All Fabricated? - Matthew Gutman
    The still unexplained attacks in Damascus on Tuesday were a fabrication of Syria's Ba'ath Party hoping for carte blanche for a crackdown on the regime's opponents, claimed the dissident Reform Party of Syria (RPS) Wednesday. (Jerusalem Post)
  • In the Face of Fanaticism, Israel is Justified in Targeted Killing - Brian David Goldberg
    Israel's policy of targeted killing is an attempt by a democratic government to protect the lives of its citizens. The hatred of Hamas for Western civilization and all that it stands for will not be appeased, even if Israel ceases to exist. We in the U.S. are engaged in a war on terrorism, as is our ally Israel. The greatest threat to world peace is not the existence of the State of Israel but the appeasement of militant Islamic fundamentalism. These individuals have declared war on Israel, the U.S., Christians, Hindus, Jews, and all they see as non-believers; having done so they are legitimate military targets. The writer is executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater San Jose. (San Jose Mercury News)
  • The End of American Jewry's Golden Era - Interview with Daniel Pipes
    The mega-events of the last few years may mean that the Jews' Golden Age in America, which began in 1950 when social restrictions were eased, may now be ending with the growth of the American Muslim population and, in particular, its militant elements. Militant Islam has to be destroyed and marginalized like fascism and communism were, a process that may take several decades. Part of this effort involves assisting those who want to construct a moderate, anti-Islamist version of Islam. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    Weekend Features:

  • Made in Israel - Oded Hermoni
    Israeli women who rave about the products of the American lingerie chain Victoria's Secret would likely be surprised to discover that there is a small tag on the bras noting that they were manufactured in the Tefron factory in Israel. Israelis who drive Opel, Peugeot, or Porsche models are probably unaware that the oil pan at the bottom of the automobile's engine is produced in Israel by Tadir-Gan (Precision Products). It's doubtful whether users of Intel's new mobile computers, equipped with the Centrino chipset, know that this chipset was developed in Haifa. Dozens of Israeli firms in various fields - agriculture, automotive, pharmaceuticals, textiles, and technology - have succeeded in making an impact on the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world. (Ha'aretz)
  • Book Review - Illegal Construction: a Legal Deconstruction - Max Davis
    Arab landowners have turned to the Jerusalem municipality for aid in halting illicit, intrusive construction by fellow Arabs on their property. Illegal Construction in Jerusalem: A Variation on an Alarming Global Phenomenon by Justus Weiner uses historical, legal, and governmental sources to demonstrate the Jerusalem municipality's continued cooperation with Arab neighborhoods in planning and enforcing construction laws. Yet attempts to aid Arab neighborhoods have been slowed by the longstanding Palestinian boycott of Jerusalem's political process. During the past decade, thousands of structures have been built without permits in Arab neighborhoods. Some of them are structurally unsound, proving to be dangerous, while others occupy land designated for schools and roads. (Harvard Israel Review)
  • Israelis Develop DNA Computer - Joyce Howard Price
    Researchers in Israel have developed a molecular computer that someday could allow doctors to use genetic material to detect and treat cancer and other diseases from inside the body. Ehud Shapiro of Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science told the journal Nature, "It is decades off, but future generations of DNA computers could function as doctors inside cells." Biocomputers could diagnose disease within cells as well as dispense drugs as required. Instead of being controlled by silicon chips and electrical circuits, the molecular or DNA computer harnesses DNA strands to store information. Researchers point out that the computer power of 1 trillion compact discs could be stored in less than an ounce of dried DNA. (Washington Times)
  • Middle East on the Potomac - Janine Zacharia
    While many think tanks in Washington regularly sponsor programs or distribute analyses on the Middle East, including the Council on Foreign Relations, Heritage Foundation, Hudson Institute, American Enterprise Institute, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, there are three that are exclusively devoted to the study of the Middle East - the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy, and the Middle East Institute, all run by former Clinton administration officials. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Faith Trumps Fear for Israel Tourists - Brent Hopkins
    As Israel's tourism ambassador to North America and South America, Rami Levi encourages Jews and Christians alike to visit the land they revere as the holiest in the world. "There's only one Holy Land," Levi said. "We can compete with 170 other nations because we have Jerusalem." With an ambitious campaign targeting synagogues and churches across the U.S., Israel has steadily won back the tourists its economy depends on, with local religious leaders playing a key role in the process. One million tourists came to the Jewish state last year, though only around one in four was a Jew. Visits from the Americas are up 52% this year. (Los Angeles Daily News)
  • Observations:

    The Real Mideast "Poison" - Charles Krauthammer (Washington Post)

    • Kofi Annan's personal representative in Iraq now singles out the policies of the world's one Jewish state - and only democratic state in the Middle East - as "the great poison in the region." The Egyptian government daily Al-Gumhuriya is less diplomatic, explaining in an article by its deputy editor that, "It is the Jews, with their hidden, filthy hands, who...are behind all troubles, disasters, and catastrophes in the world," including, of course, the attacks of Sept. 11 and the Madrid bombings.
    • It is in this kind of atmosphere that Israel offers unilateral withdrawal from Gaza - uprooting 7,000 Jews, turning over to the Palestinians 21 settlements with their extensive infrastructure intact, and creating the first independent Palestinian territory in history - and is almost universally attacked.
    • The notion that Israel will not be forced to return to the 1967 armistice lines goes back 37 years - to 1967 itself. The Johnson administration was instrumental in making sure that the governing document for a Middle East settlement - Security Council Resolution 242 - called for Israeli withdrawal to "secure and recognized boundaries," not "previous boundaries."
    • To argue that neither Israel nor the U.S. can act in the absence of negotiations is to give the Palestinians a veto over any constructive actions. This is a prescription for perpetual violence and perpetual stalemate.

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