Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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July 15, 2004

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In-Depth Issues:

Presbyterian Group OKs Divestment from Israel - Eric J. Greenberg (Forward)
    The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) approved in a 431-62 vote a decision equating Israel with apartheid South Africa.
    The resolution calls for the church to divest itself from companies that receive $1 million or more in profits per year from investments in Israel or have invested $1 million or more in Israel.

Muslim-Christian Rioting in Bethlehem (Reuters)
    Hundreds of Muslims and Christians fought each other with metal rods and stones Tuesday night in the West Bank town of Beit Sahour, adjacent to Bethlehem.
    The incident began when a Muslim man snuck a camera into a changing room in a Beit Sahour clothes shop as a woman was dressing and snapped several pictures of her, residents said.
    Inter-religious tension has been brewing for some time in the Bethlehem area, with Christians citing land seizures by Palestinian Muslims and a rise of Islamic radicalism among their grievances.

Iranian Agents Helping Sadr's Militia Regroup, Rearm - Ann Scott Tyson (Christian Science Monitor)
    Hundreds of militiamen loyal to Iraqi rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr are rearming in their sanctuary in Najaf in possible preparation for a new offensive, say U.S and Iraqi officials.
    As many as 80 Iranian agents are working with an estimated 500 Sadr militiamen, providing training and 57-mm Russian antiaircraft guns to add to stocks of mortars, antitank weapons, and other armaments, according to Iraqi and U.S. intelligence reports.
    "They are preparing for something, gathering weapons; people are coming in buses from other parts of Iraq," says Michael al-Zurufi, the Iraqi security adviser of Najaf Province.
    At the same time, Sadr militiamen are waging fear tactics, kidnapping local Iraqi police and family members, occupying buildings, and arresting Iraqis deemed critical of Sadr.

    See also Shiite Leadership Clash in Iran, Iraq - Hamza Hendawi (AP/Washington Times)
    With Shiites empowered in postwar Iraq, the leadership of the world's estimated 170 million Shiites involves a contest between the holy cities of Najaf in Iraq and Qom in neighboring Iran.
    Najaf's "quietest" school of thought places a cleric's spiritual calling ahead of involvement in politics.
    The fall of Saddam's regime signaled the rebirth of Najaf and the start of its journey to replace Qom as the foremost seat of Shiite learning.
    The independence and energy of Najaf's seminaries is a far cry from Qom under the rule of the Iranian clergy.

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Back Issues

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel Moves Against Low-Tech Attacks
    Two or three Palestinian men, usually masked, arrive by truck in some quiet corner of Beit Hanoun in Gaza and set up a launcher no larger than a camera tripod. Within moments, a resounding boom echoes as another Kassam rocket - an unguided, 5-foot-long homemade projectile that is little more than a flying pipe bomb - is airborne. The men are gone before the smoke has time to dissipate. Palestinian militants had launched more than 320 of the rockets without causing serious damage, but on June 28, one of the rockets landed in front of a nursery school in the Israeli desert town of Sderot, killing a 3-year-old and a bystander. (Los Angeles Times)
  • In Chaos, Palestinians Struggle for a Way Out - James Bennet
    In the West Bank and Gaza, a contest is under way between warlords and democrats, between Islamists and secular leaders, between those who would destroy Israel and those who would live beside it. Zacaria Zubeidah, 28, a leader of the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades, administers what passes for law in Jenin with a silver Smith & Wesson pistol at his hip. "I am the highest authority," said Zubeidah, echoing a view widely held in Jenin.
        President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon speak of a state of Palestine as almost a historical inevitability. But on the ground, the economy is growing more dependent on foreign donors, and institutions of statehood are crumbling. Donors contribute a billion dollars a year, one-third the Palestinian gross national product, with Palestinians receiving more aid per capita than any country has received since World War II, the World Bank says. (New York Times)
  • Egypt's Gaza Venture Causes Misgivings
    Egyptian President Mubarak is contemplating sending Egyptians to help keep the peace in Gaza if Israel withdraws, yet his detractors say it is a dangerous misstep that will have unpredictable repercussions. Taking a measure of responsibility for security in Gaza could draw Egypt into Palestinian factional disputes, or Egypt could wind up in the Palestinian-Israeli crossfire. Israel has rejected Egypt's demands that it rule out military strikes while Egyptian security advisers are there. "Egypt will not send one soldier to have a security role on the ground. The Palestinians will do the job. We will only train them," said Mohammed Bassiouni, Egypt's former ambassador to Israel. (AP/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Arafat Aide: UN Envoy Larsen Unwelcome in Palestinian Areas
    The top UN envoy to the Middle East will no longer be welcome in the Palestinian territories after he harshly criticized Arafat at the Security Council on Tuesday. "Terje an unwelcome person in Palestinian territories," senior Arafat adviser Nabil Abu Rudeineh said Wednesday. (Ha'aretz)
        See also UN Backs Larsen's Criticism of Arafat - Khaled Abu Toameh and Herb Keinon
    UN Secretary General Kofi Annan gave full backing to his Middle East envoy Terje Roed-Larsen, who was banned by the Palestinians over his harsh criticism of Arafat. "There is a consensus within the quartet that the Palestinian Authority must carry out its reform process, including the full empowerment of the Palestinian prime minister," said Annan's spokeswoman Marie Okabe. An Israeli diplomatic official said Arafat is a major stumbling block for the Europeans and the UN because Israel will not give an active role in the diplomatic process to those who continue to deal with Arafat, which includes the EU and the UN. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Planeload of North American Immigrants Arrives in Israel - Sam Ser
    More than 400 new immigrants from North America arriving in a single flight were greeted at Ben-Gurion Airport on Wednesday by Prime Minister Sharon and a half-dozen senior officials. Nefesh B'Nefesh, a group which provides financial aid and social support to Americans and Canadians interested in making aliya, organized the flight and two others scheduled to bring a total of 1,500 new immigrants this year. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Group Helps U.S. Jews Move to Israel (New York Times)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Hague Decision Won't Make Any Difference - James Besser
    Edward Walker, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel who now heads the Middle East Institute, said that "in terms of boots on the ground, the ICJ decision won't make any difference. It will just give the Palestinians the false impression that they have actually won a victory. The reality is that this is just an advisory opinion." Walker, a strong peace process supporter, said he agrees with the dissenting opinion of American judge Thomas Buerghenthal, who said the court failed to take into account Israel's legitimate security concerns. "In terms of changing the wall, the High Court of Justice [in Israel] is making the change. And that's as it should be."
        Walker counseled the Palestinians to abandon the effort to castigate Israel over the fence and "get their act together and take advantage of the opening Sharon has offered them [with the Gaza disengagement plan] and create a rational, reasonable government which can be the basis for a state." (New York Jewish Week)
  • An Egyptian Intelligence Base in Gaza? - Uri Dan
    Egypt may well exploit the foothold being offered it in Gaza, as part of the disengagement plan, to construct a forward base for collecting vital intelligence against Israel. Veteran intelligence personnel are warning against this dangerous development. The cruel truth is that Egypt regards Israel as a potential enemy about whom intelligence must be gathered by every means - even in the guise of "friendly talks with the Israelis" - as though no peace agreement had been signed. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Obstacles to Reform in the Palestinian Authority - Mohammed Najib
    The Palestinian Authority is often criticized, and for good reason, for resembling a Mafia state with Arafat as the godfather. All too often, the Old Guard likes to use the Israeli occupation as an excuse to evade the corruption issue. Struggling to eliminate corruption, and to a lesser degree, to establish positions of power themselves, are the Young Guard, which considers Arafat the greatest obstacle to reform. The challenge lies in defeating Arafat's stature as the ultimate leader of the Palestinian people, as a "god" or godfather above accountability and transparency. (Chicago Tribune)
  • Mubarak the Pharaoh - Saad Eddin Ibrahim
    After 23 years Egyptians have grown weary not only of the state of emergency, but of the entire Mubarak regime. They now realize that those early years of stability have been paid for with later years of utter stagnation and loss of liberty for all Egyptians. Mubarak's deceptive masks about his health are symptomatic of nearly all aspects of his performance at home and abroad. He has presided over a catastrophic economic decline. His top propagandist, Safwat Sherif, boasted about Egypt's leadership of "free media" in the region. Yet nearly every Egyptian turns to Al-Jazeera or the BBC for reliable news even about their own country. The writer, an Egyptian pro-democracy activist, is professor of sociology at the American University of Cairo. (Wall Street Journal, 15 July 04)
  • Observations:

    World Court Shares UN Anti-Israel Bias - Jeff Robbins (Boston Globe)

    • UN bodies can be counted upon to lay the blame for the conflict on Israel, whatever the issue, whatever the context.
    • This is so despite the disturbing evidence - from the events preceding the 1967 war to the Arab spurning of peace with Israel after that war to the Palestinian rejection of an independent Palestinian state on virtually all of the territories when offered in exchange for peace in 2000 - that the conflict is not soluble unless and until the Arab world, including the Palestinian leadership, decides that it is genuinely willing to permit Israel to live in peace.
    • This campaign of straightforward terror has been called for, paid for, facilitated, protected, praised, and encouraged by the Palestinian leadership.
    • Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have concluded that these deliberate attacks on civilians constitute "crimes against humanity" and "war crimes" - in short, the most egregious forms of human rights violations.
    • Predictably, the UN has remained largely silent about them.

      The writer served as a U.S. delegate to the UN Human Rights Commission.

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