Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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August 25, 2004

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel Army Chief of Staff Slams Egypt for Smuggling - Arieh O'Sullivan (Jerusalem Post)
    IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon blamed the Egyptian government Tuesday for facilitating arms smuggling into Gaza.

    See also Smuggled Weapons Still Reaching Hamas Despite Egyptian Moves - Amos Harel and Nir Hasson (Ha'aretz)
    In the last two weeks, at least two deliveries of smuggled weapons reached Hamas in Gaza.
    Large shipments of RPGs have also reached Gaza in recent months, some with advanced capabilities for more precision, posing a threat to IDF armored vehicles.
    In addition, Palestinian mortars fired at Gush Katif in recent weeks were 100mm in diameter and had a more effective explosive payload.
    Egyptian forces last week uncovered two weapons-smuggling tunnels in Egyptian Rafah and blew them up.
    While Israeli defense sources concede there has been some improvement in Egyptian efforts to halt smuggling of weapons, there are concerns that Egypt is not truly interested in ending the smuggling.
    Apparently, the smuggling networks have contacts in Egyptian intelligence, which uses them to collect information about what happens on the Israeli side of the border.
    A large shipment of munitions that the army calls "tiebreakers" - katyushas and anti-aircraft weapons - is apparently still waiting in Sinai for Hamas to get it through.
    The Palestinian Preventive Security forces are involved in the smuggling, with a key person being Nabil Tamos, commander of a secret group of Mohammed Dahlan loyalists calling themselves the "Death Units," who specialize in intimidating Dahlan rivals.

Israel Wins First Ever Olympic Gold - Ron Koffman (Ha'aretz)
    Gal Friedman took the gold medal for windsurfing in Athens on Wednesday, Israel's first ever gold at the Olympics.

9 in 10 Still Get Saudi Visas - Joel Mowbray (New York Post)
    Despite supposed reforms implemented by the State Department, nearly 90% of all Saudi visa applicants get approved.
    Applicants in most other Arab nations - the ones that didn't send us 15 of 19 9/11 hijackers - are refused visas three to five times more often than Saudis.
    The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, found in October 2002 that "consular officers in Saudi Arabia issued visas to most Saudi applicants without interviewing them, requiring them to complete their applications, or providing supporting documentation."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Two Russian Passenger Planes Crash, Terrorism Feared
    Two Russian passenger jets on domestic flights crashed nearly simultaneously after departing from Moscow on Tuesday. At least 88 people were presumed dead. The second plane issued a distress signal indicating it had been hijacked. (New York Times)
  • Battle for Najaf Shrine Nearing End
    American forces, newly supplemented by Iraqi National Guard troops, tightened the screw on the insurgents occupying Shia Islam's holiest site in Najaf. Iraqi forces were expected to stage the final assault, almost certainly supported by U.S. special forces soldiers in Arab dress. Radical cleric Muqtada Sadr appears to be increasingly unpopular. Local resident Mustafa Hussein said Sadr's forces were responsible for killing more civilians than the Americans and had also abused the bodies of their victims. "When they captured the police station they slaughtered the officers and gouged out their eyes." (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Fed-Up Residents of Najaf Turn Against Iraqi Rebel Cleric
    In Najaf, there is growing frustration with Muqtada Sadr's lengthy standoff at the Imam Ali shrine, revered among Shiites around the world as the burial place of their sect's founder, Ali, the son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Gaza Gunmen Shoot Senior Palestinian Official
    Gunmen opened fire at a convoy carrying deputy Palestinian intelligence chief and Arafat ally Tareq Abu Rajab on Wednesday, wounding him in the chest. (AP/Washington Post)
  • U.S. Holds Hamas Man After Videotaping at Maryland Bridge
    Ismael Selim Elbarasse, who was implicated in a scheme to raise money for Hamas, was in federal custody on Tuesday as officials analyzed a suspicious videotape of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Maryland shot from his vehicle last week. Two police officers noticed Elbarasse's wife videotaping the bridge, and grew suspicious when she saw their police car and lowered the camera. Police Chief Gary McLhinney of the Maryland Transportation Authority voiced concern that the tape could be used as a surveillance tool for an attack. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • U.S. Deliberately Ambiguous on Settlements - Janine Zacharia
    The U.S. states publicly that it remains opposed to settlement activity, but will permit new construction within major settlement blocs which are expected to be absorbed into Israel as part of a final peace deal. Bush endorsed Israel's retention of settlement blocs in his April exchange of letters with Sharon, which led to a reevaluation of U.S. rhetoric on settlement expansion. The road map peace plan of 2002 called for an end to Israeli settlement activity, but Israel says it never accepted a freeze on natural growth and that such a freeze would be impractical.
        Israeli officials say the Bush administration has privately endorsed the so-called Peres-Powell formula, which says: There will be no new settlements built; no confiscation of new land for residential activities; construction only in already built-up areas; and that the issue of settlements should be resolved as part of a final peace agreement. "Everybody knows the U.S. does not object to natural growth," said Ed Abington, a former U.S. consul general in Jerusalem and a political consultant for the Palestinian Authority. (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF Thwarts Suicide Bombing - Margot Dudkevitch
    Security forces thwarted a planned suicide bomb attack Tuesday after finding two explosive belts and a powerful bomb in Al Ashamiya west of Jenin. Further details were barred from publication. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Eight Hurt in Rival Fatah Clashes in Gaza - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Eight Palestinians were wounded in armed clashes between rival Fatah militias in Gaza on Sunday. Supporters of former PA security minister Muhammad Dahlan exchanged gunfire with members of the National Security Forces and Military Intelligence, headed by Gen. Musa Arafat, a cousin of Yasser Arafat. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Gaza Residents Block PA Officials from Seizing Land - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Residents of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on Sunday thwarted an attempt by senior PA officials to seize publicly owned land in the Amal neighborhood which had previously been allocated for the construction of a school and courthouse. Eyewitnesses said scores of angry residents, armed with clubs and chains, blocked a truck carrying construction material to the disputed land dispatched by Khan Yunis police chief Jamal Abu Hassan. In the past 10 years, there have been dozens of complaints from Palestinians accusing the PA leadership of illegally seizing control over open lands. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • How Europe's Drive for Independence from America Hurts Israel - Jeffrey Gedmin
    It was hard for many Europeans to accept the kind of dependence they had on the U.S. during the Cold War. Dependence breeds resentment, and many things that were suppressed have risen to the surface across Europe because Europe wants some space from the U.S. after independence. In the changed relationship between Europe and the U.S., with increased competition and touches of rivalry, Israel is seen as a partner or an outpost of the U.S. As some European thinking seeks to cut America down to size, some European thinking also believes it is good to cut Israel down to size, too. Much of what we are seeing has to do with pathology, to define Europe in opposition to the U.S., rather than according to national or regional interests. The writer is Director of the Aspen Institute Berlin. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Iraq's Dwindling Christians - Daniel Pipes
    Attacks targeting Iraq's Christian minority, culminating in a series of coordinated explosions at five churches on August 1, have prompted Christians to leave the country in record numbers. One estimate finds that about 40% of the community has left since 1987, when the census recorded 1.4 million Iraqi Christians. Due mainly to Islamist persecution and lower birth rates, Christians are disappearing from the Middle East as a whole. (CNS News)
  • Iranian Hand in Najaf Game - Claude Salhani
    Who could be pulling Sheik al-Sadr's strings? The answer seems to point in one direction: Iran. Sheik al-Sadr has traveled twice to Iran in recent months, where he maintains close links with Ayatollah Kazem al-Haeri, a close confident of Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei. Analysts believe he receives support and most probably financing from Iran. (Washington Times)
  • Observations:

    Abusing "Apartheid" for the Palestinian Cause - Gerald M. Steinberg
    (Jerusalem Post)

    • Although the comparison between Israel and the apartheid regime that ruled South Africa is entirely fictitious, demonization efforts that repeat this analogy are the embodiment of the new anti-Semitism that seeks to deny the Jewish people the right of equality and self-determination among the nations.
    • Zionism and the revival of national sovereignty in the Jewish homeland are not manifestations of European colonialism, in contrast to the white settlers who created Johannesburg and Pretoria.
    • While Black labor was exploited in slavery-like conditions under apartheid, in contrast, Palestinians were dependent on Israeli employment due to their own internal corruption and economic failures.
    • While South African apartheid was based on denial of sovereignty for the Black population, Israelis accepted the "two-state solution" from the beginning, including the 1947 UN partition plan.
    • Arab citizens of Israel have the same democratic rights as Israelis, including full parliamentary representation and free speech - in sharp contrast to the Blacks under apartheid, or minorities in most Arab countries.
    • The racism and denial of legitimacy characteristic of apartheid are actually applicable to Arab and Islamic rejection of Jewish rights. In the Middle East, Jews are a tiny and oppressed minority, struggling to maintain cultural identity and survive in a hostile and violent environment.

      The writer directs the Program on Conflict Management at Bar-Ilan University and is the editor of the NGO Monitor.

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