Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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June 30, 2004

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In-Depth Issue:

Amnesty: Syria Torturing Children - (Amnesty International)
    Amnesty International Tuesday condemned the unfair trial by Syria of seven Kurdish prisoners of conscience, and the alleged torture and ill-treatment of Kurdish minors held in custody for months without trial.
    The seven were arrested on 25 June 2003 for taking part in a peaceful demonstration in front of the UNICEF building in Damascus calling for the rights of Syrian Kurds to be respected including their right to be taught in the Kurdish language.
    Amnesty has also received the names of more than 20 Kurdish children, aged 14-17, arrested in March 2004 in northern Syria, who have reportedly been subjected to various types of torture while held incommunicado at security and police detention centers.
    Among the torture techniques were electric shocks on hands, feet, and sensitive parts of the body; extraction of toe nails; banging the heads of children violently against each other; and beating with electric cables and rifle butts.

Israel Won't Allow Return of Bethlehem Church Siege Gunmen (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel will not allow 13 Palestinian terrorists deported to European countries in May 2002 following the siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem to return to the Palestinian territories.
    According to EU reports, the fugitives' stay in EU countries has been extended twice, and cannot be legally extended a third time.
    Israeli officials said that should the fugitives find their way into the Palestinian territories, "they would meet with justice," Army Radio reported.
    Residents of Bethlehem have complained that some of the fugitives, especially those belonging to Fatah, had imposed a reign of intimidation in the city.

Hizballah Extorting Funds from West Africa's Diamond Merchants - Edward Harris (AP/San Francisco Chronicle)
    Lebanon's Hizballah terrorist movement is siphoning profits from West Africa's diamond trade, in part by threatening Lebanese diamond merchants, U.S. diplomats charge.
    Larry Andre, deputy chief of mission for the U.S. Embassy in diamond-rich Sierra Leone, citing interviews by embassy staff with Lebanese merchants, said, "There's a lot of social pressure and extortionate pressure brought to bear: 'You had better support our cause, or we'll visit your people back home.'"
    More than 100,000 Lebanese live in West Africa, where they have long handled much of the diamond business.

Russian Agents Convicted of Assassination of Chechen Leader in Qatar (AP/Washington Post)
    A Qatari court found two Russian intelligence officers guilty Wednesday of the assassination of a Chechen rebel leader and sentenced them to life in prison.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Palestinians Cool to Egyptian Bid to Reengage in Gaza
    While the PA is welcoming renewed Egyptian involvement in the Strip - Egypt ruled Gaza from 1948 to 1967 - Hamas and other Palestinian opposition factions so far have rejected Cairo's plans to dispatch 200 military advisers to train the Palestinian security forces. "We don't need Egyptian security training in Gaza because the Palestinian Authority has good experience in arresting people," says Ghazi Hamed, editor of the Hamas-affiliated Al Risala newspaper, referring to the PA's 1996 security crackdown against Hamas.
        Some analysts in Cairo are already warning that Egyptian involvement could boomerang. "Once an Egyptian is shot, that will inflame the public opinion in Egypt and put us on a collision track with the Palestinian national movement," says Mohammed al-Sayed Said of the Al Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Bush Criticizes Nations that Compromise with Violent Extremists
    Speaking in Istanbul, President Bush criticized unnamed U.S. allies in the Middle East for compromising with extremists and suppressing dissent and called on the Islamic world to move toward democracy as a way to safeguard the U.S. and reduce violence in the Middle East. Bush said: "Any nation that compromises with violent extremists only emboldens them and invites future violence." A Bush aide and outside experts said that Saudi Arabia was among those countries to which he was referring. (Washington Post)
  • Two Iranian Guards at UN Expelled for Filming New York Sites
    The U.S. has expelled two security guards at Iran's UN mission after they were seen filming and photographing New York landmark buildings and parts of the city's transportation system. "They were asked to leave because we were very concerned about their activities, which weren't compatible with their stated duties," said American mission spokesman Richard Grenell. The language is common diplomatic wording for espionage cases. The two men were ordered out last weekend after pairs of Iranian guards had been seen for the third time in two years videotaping bridges, tunnels, the Statue of Liberty, and other landmark buildings, according to an American diplomat. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinian Rockets Hit Sderot During Prime Minister's Visit - Nir Hasson
    Palestinians fired a barrage of Kassam rockets into the southern Israeli town of Sderot on Tuesday afternoon while Prime Minister Sharon was visiting the area. At least three rockets landed near Sderot in the attack, bringing to at least seven the number of rockets to hit the area Tuesday. Two Israelis were killed in a rocket attack on Monday. "We don't plan to ignore what happened here. The security services have begun taking actions whose aim is to prevent the firing of these missiles," Sharon said. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Terror Comes to Nursery School - Tovah Lazaroff
    A frightened little boy, his lunch bag covered in blood, ran into his nursery school shouting, "My mother is dead." The rocket, one of four to land Monday morning, knocked the boy's mother onto the ground, lightly wounding her. But the little boy was scared and assumed she was dead, said Ilanit Benker, a teacher at the Yasmin nursery school in Sderot. When the rocket hit, teachers quickly pushed the children into bomb shelters. The 62 children that attend the Yasmin and Lilach nursery schools were lucky, as the windows shattered but no one was wounded. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Stopping the Kassams - Arieh O'Sullivan
    Palestinians in Gaza have launched about 300 Kassam rockets in the past two and a half years; 70 have hit Sderot. In addition, some 4,000 mortar rounds have been fired. The Palestinians are experimenting with the Kassam design to boost its warhead and range. Their ultimate goal is to hit Prime Minister Sharon's ranch, some 10 kilometers from the northeast corner of the Gaza Strip. While the IDF has the Arrow 2 anti-ballistic system designed to shoot down Scud missiles, there is nothing seriously available to stop the Kassam. A U.S.-made incoming artillery detection system called TPQ can immediately locate the source of fire, but the crews who fire these rockets are long gone by the time retaliatory strikes are launched. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Palestinian Rockets Improving (AP/Washington Post)
  • Israeli High Court Orders Changes in Separation Fence Route - Yuval Yoaz
    Israel's High Court of Justice on Wednesday ordered changes to 30 kilometers of the route of the West Bank separation fence northwest of Jerusalem, saying that everything must be done to minimize hardship to Palestinians living in the area. "The state must find an alternative that may give less security but would harm the local population less. These alternative routes do exist," the court said. (Ha'aretz)
  • Plot to Kidnap Israeli and Negotiate Body Thwarted - Arieh O'Sullivan
    Security sources revealed Tuesday that they thwarted a plot by the Al-Aksa Martyr's Brigade, planned with the assistance of Hizballah, to lure a Jewish businessman to the Israeli Arab town of Taibe, murder him, and then smuggle his body to the West Bank town of Tulkarm, using it to negotiate the release of Palestinian terrorists. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Cabinet Discusses Situation of Jewish People
    The Israeli cabinet decided to hold an annual meeting to discuss the global situation of the Jewish people, around the release of the Annual Assessment of the Situation and Dynamics of the Jewish People published by the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, after a presentation to the cabinet by Dennis Ross, the Institute's chairman, on June 27, 2004. The cabinet also decided to establish a professional working group, to work in cooperation with the Institute, to examine the implementation of the findings and recommendations. (Jewish People Policy Planning Institute)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • A Connection between Gaza Disengagement and the Sderot Missile Strike? - Editorial
    Palestinians were firing Kassams at Sderot long before Prime Minister Sharon announced his decision to dismantle the Gaza settlements. The missile that killed little Afik Zahavi and Mordechai Yosefov was, simply and tragically, a lucky shot for the Palestinians. The government seems to understand that the only way disengagement will work is by making sure the Palestinians don't take it as a message of weakness. In that sense, the plan has forced the government into being more proactive in the fight against terror, not less. The barbaric attack on Sderot reminds us for the thousandth time that this generation of Palestinian leaders is not prepared to live in peace alongside us. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The Terrorism of Gaza - Amit Cohen
    The difference between the Gaza Strip and Judea and Samaria can be summarized in the words, "Operation Defensive Shield." The massive offensive in March 2002 was a turning point in the strategy of crushing terrorism in Judea and Samaria, but it took the IDF two more years of nearly daily operations within the cities to wipe out the remnants.
        Yet it is hardly certain that an operation like "Defensive Shield" would change the picture. The situation in the Gaza Strip is completely different, in terms of the quantity of arms, the density and even the fanaticism of the residents. Gaza City is filled to the brim with many tons of explosives and weapons, experienced field commanders, and thousands of Kalashnikov rifles. Even after a large operation, the IDF would still need a long period of local operations in order to reach the third and forth echelons. (Maariv International)
  • Israel Needs to Be at the Table, Too
    A meeting on the Palestinian crisis had little hope of success without the participation of Israel, Democratic Alliance party spokesperson Douglas Gibson said Tuesday, commenting on the UN African Meeting in Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, which opened in Cape Town. Gibson said the DA supported President Mbeki's call for a resolution to the Palestinian/Israeli problem, but emphasized that the delegates could learn from South Africa that in order to secure a just and lasting solution, both sides in the conflict needed to be involved.
        "There are far more pressing issues which demand a great deal more of the attention of the African Union. The scourges of war, poverty, and disease blight this great continent and need to be addressed urgently. Surely Africa has enough problems of its own without going to look for some more?" Gibson asked. (IOL-South Africa)
  • Observations:

    Israel Responds to Foreign Press Association on IAF Attack on Hamas in Gaza
    (Israel Government Press Office/IMRA)

    • We find the Foreign Press Association in Israel's condemnation of Israel puzzling, hypocritical, and pretentious.
    • Puzzling, since if there were no persons present in the building attacked, in what way does the FPA consider this "callous disregard for the life and security of journalists"?
    • Hypocritical, because the FPA has repeatedly demanded that Israel not prevent the entry of journalists into Gaza, despite it being an area of conflict and regardless of the obvious dangers to the journalists themselves.
    • Pretentious, since if members of the press are going to involve themselves in business relations with elements known to have connections with - and in service of - terrorist organizations, one would expect them to also assess the risks involved with such a venture.
    • Finally, we are curious as to whether the FPA will also protest the reckless behavior of Hamas, whose indiscriminate shelling of Sderot must certainly be endangering the many journalists who are there.

          See also Foreign Press Critical of Israeli Gaza Attack
      The Foreign Press Association in Israel says a helicopter attack on a building in central Gaza City housing several international news organizations including the BBC, CNN, NBC, and Al-Jazeera demonstrated a "callous disregard" for the lives of journalists. Israel says the target of the operation was the third-floor office of the Al-Saada weekly, which has close links to the Palestinian radical Islamic movement Hamas. (ABC Radio-Australia)

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