Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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June 3, 2004

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In-Depth Issues:

Palestinian Security Forces on Strike in Gaza - Nidal al-Mughrabi (Reuters and Maariv International)
    More than 100 members of the Palestinian security forces have gone on strike in Gaza over what they charged was rampant corruption among senior officers.
    The protesters took over a position belonging to the elite Force 17 in the central Gaza Strip on Tuesday.
    They said senior officers of the National Security Forces were "pursuing their personal interests at the expense of the homeland" and had turned the security forces into "fiefdoms."
    The wives and children of some of the officers had been put on the payroll of security agencies.
    The men claimed that their top commander, General Abdel Razak el Mujeida, is corrupt, and complained that while low-ranking officers and enlisted men are ordered to oppose IDF incursions, the senior command leaves for safe areas, taking their families with them.
    They also accused the top brass of stealing their salaries and supplies.

Two Senior Palestinian Militants Arrested (AP/New York Times)
    Israeli troops Thursday arrested Jamal Nablusi and Sultan Tashtush, leaders of the Al Aqsa Brigades, who were hiding in a secret compartment in a four-story building in the West Bank city of Nablus.
    The two suspects were allegedly responsible for preparing explosives belts for suicide bombers, who they sent on attacks in Israel, Army Radio reported.

Young Israelis Cope with Stress of Conflict - Rob Winder (BBC News)
    A recent Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma survey of young people in Jerusalem found that 50% had been exposed to a terrorist attack and that 20% had lost a relative.
    Despite this, researchers found that Israeli children are "extraordinarily resilient" and that only 5% had developed full blown post-traumatic stress disorder.
    The study found that young people living on settlements in the West Bank and Gaza were less susceptible to trauma despite being exposed to more frequent attacks

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Accuses Iran of Nuclear "Denial and Deception"
    U.S. ambassador to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Kenneth Brill said Wednesday that Iran's refusal to fully cooperate with the agency "fits a long-term pattern of denial and deception that can only be designed to mask Iran's military nuclear program." "What is it that the Iranians are so intent on hiding?" Brill asked. "Iran is still stalling, providing last-minute declarations and contradicting earlier definitive statements....The IAEA continues to find new, incriminating evidence of undeclared activity," Brill said. "The question is how long the (IAEA) board of governors and the international community will tolerate this." (AFP/Yahoo)
        See also Iran Still Making Nuclear Materials, UN Agency Says (New York Times); Agency Details Iran's Ambitious Pursuit of Advanced Centrifuges (Los Angeles Times)
  • Saudis Shutting Down Charity Tied to Terrorists
    The Saudi government said on Wednesday that it was dissolving a large Riyadh-based charity, Al Haramain Islamic Foundation, that has raised as much as $50 million a year and has been linked to the financing of terrorist organizations. Saudi Arabia said it would merge assets held by Al Haramain and other charities into a single account to be overseen by a new national commission, whose distribution of Saudi funds overseas would be subject to strict accounting. The shutdown of Al Haramain had been a major goal for both the Clinton and Bush administrations. (New York Times)
  • Bush: Reform-Minded Palestinians Must Step Forward
    President Bush said Wednesday: "Prime Minister Sharon's plan to remove all settlements from Gaza and several from the West Bank is a courageous step toward peace. His decision provides an historic moment of opportunity to begin building a future Palestinian state....Success will require reform-minded Palestinians to step forward and lead and meet their road map obligations."  (White House)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Weapon-Smuggling Tunnel Uncovered in Rafah
    A weapon-smuggling tunnel was uncovered Wednesday in the outskirts of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, IDF officials said. This is the 15th tunnel uncovered since the beginning of 2004. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinians Reject U.S. Anti-Terror Pledge - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The Palestinian Legislative Council Wednesday rejected a U.S.-sponsored demand that Palestinian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) refrain from transferring funds to individuals or groups that engage in terrorism. After the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) presented the pledge to NGOs in 2003, entitled "Certification Regarding Terrorist Financing." It includes a pledge that NGOs will not engage in activity with groups deemed as terrorist, such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The ABCs of Hatred - Thomas L. Friedman
    In the latest terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia against foreigners, there were reports from the scene about how the Saudi militants tried to kill or capture only the non-Muslims, and let Muslims and Arabs go. Now where would the terrorists have learned such intolerance and discrimination? Answer: in the Saudi public school system and religious curriculum.
        The liberal Saudi Raid Qusti wrote recently in the Saudi English-language daily Arab News: "Have we helped create these monsters? Our education system, which does not stress tolerance of other faiths - let alone tolerance of followers of other Islamic schools of thought - is one thing that needs to be re-evaluated from top to bottom. Saudi culture itself and the fact the majority of us do not accept other lifestyles and impose our own on other people is another. And the fact that from the fourth to the 12th grade, we do not teach our children that there are other civilizations in the world and that we are part of the global community, and only stress the Islamic empires over and over, is also worth re-evaluating." (New York Times)
  • Aktham Naisse's Ordeal - Editorial
    On April 13, the Syrian military secret service arrested human rights activist Aktham Naisse, incarcerating him in the notorious Sednaya prison. His crime? Naisse reported on human rights violations in his country. After years of hesitation, the U.S. last month finally slapped sanctions on Syria for its support of terrorists, its violations of human rights, its oppressive occupation of Lebanon, and its quest for weapons of mass destruction. But how does the EU, which claims to have put a new emphasis on human rights in its foreign policy, deal with the situation? Business as usual, it seems. The EU is pushing for a free trade agreement with Damascus. President Assad met Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero in Madrid Wednesday, who said that his government was playing a key role to reach a free trade pact with Damascus. "Europeans care about economics, but they don't care about human rights," said Maan Alhasbane, a member of the Committees for the Defense of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights in Syria, founded and headed by Naisse. Sadly, it appears he is right. (Wall Street Journal, 3 June 04)
  • The Religious Sources of Islamic Terrorism - Shmuel Bar
    It cannot be ignored that the lion's share of terrorist acts and the most devastating of them in recent years have been perpetrated in the name of Islam. To treat Islamic terrorism as the consequence of political and socioeconomic factors alone would not do justice to the significance of the religious culture in which this phenomenon is rooted and nurtured. In traditional Islam - and certainly in the worldview of the Islamic fundamentalist - there is no separation between the political and the religious.
        The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan revived the concept of participation in jihad to evict an "infidel" occupier from a Muslim country as a "personal duty" for every capable Muslim. This duty - if taken seriously - is no less a religious imperative than the other five pillars of Islam. It becomes a de facto (and in the eyes of some a de jure) sixth pillar; a Muslim who does not perform it will inherit hell. The writer is a senior research fellow at the Institute for Policy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya and a veteran of the Israeli intelligence community. (Policy Review)
  • Observations:

    Wartime Witch Hunt: Blaming Israel for the Iraq War - Dore Gold
    (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • An insidious but steady drumbeat can be discerned over the last several weeks charging that the primary interest of the Bush administration in going to war against Saddam Hussein was to defend Israeli security interests. This newest wave is often more subtle but also far more mainstream than what was voiced in this regard just last year.
    • Yet from Israel's perspective, by 2003 the Iraqi Army had been severely degraded in both military manpower and equipment. Continuing UN sanctions had made Iraqi re-armament difficult and Iraq was clearly not Israel's primary concern. Former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens concluded in August 2002 that in the immediate future, "the [missile] threat that Israel most likely will have to contend with" is that of Syria. He described the Iraqi capability as "relatively limited." During the same month, Israel's current chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon, declared in Jerusalem that the threat posed by Iraq "doesn't make me lose sleep."
    • If prior to the Iraq War the Israeli security establishment was somewhat ambivalent about the extent of the Iraqi threat, there was one state that threatened Israel about which Israeli statements were unmistakably clear: Iran. Israel used language with respect to Iran that it did not apply to Iraq. Thus, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would call Iran "the main existential threat to Israel."
    • In other words, the American war against Iraq may have had an unintended side-effect of removing a secondary or tertiary threat to Israel, but not a primary threat.
    • There is something persuasive about Richard Clarke's thesis that in the case of Iraq, the dominant consideration was concern over the long-term stability of the House of Saud and the need for the U.S. to replace a shaky Saudi Arabia with an alternative friendly source of oil for the industrial West. Considering the widespread presence of al-Qaeda cells across virtually all parts of Saudi Arabia that now has become evident after repeated terrorist attacks in that country, this American consideration has been proven to be prescient. But this has absolutely nothing to do with Israel.

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