Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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September 6, 2004

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In-Depth Issue:

Report: Al-Qaeda Financed Russian School Assault (CNN)
    Itar-Tass quoted an unidentified intelligence official as saying the Russian school assault was financed by Abu Omar As-Seyf, an Arab who allegedly represents al-Qaeda in Chechnya, and directed by Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev.

    See also Russians Play Up Arab Connection - Anton La Guardia (Telegraph-UK)
    Russian authorities played up the "Arab" dimension of the Beslan school siege, saying at least 10 Arabs were among the dead fighters and telling local papers the attack may have been financed by al-Qaeda.

    See also Islamic Cleric Blames Israel for Beslan (AP/China Post-Taiwan)
    Ali Abdullah, an Islamic scholar in Bahrain who follows the ultraconservative Salafi stream, said, "I have no doubt in my mind that this is the work of the Israelis who want to tarnish the image of Muslims."

Palestinians Test New Rocket - Amir Buhbut (Maariv)
    Hamas on Friday tested the "Nasser 4" - a new and improved model of the Kassam rocket, intelligence information that reached the defense establishment indicates.
    According to Palestinian sources, the rocket contains a larger quantity of explosives.

Hamas Leaders in Damascus Go Underground - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Hamas leaders in Damascus have left Syria for fear that Israel would target them in retaliation for last week's double suicide bombings in Beersheba.
    The London-based newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat quoted Arab diplomatic sources in Amman as saying that some of the Hamas officials moved to a secret location in Lebanon, where they are being looked after by Hizballah, while others have moved to Qatar.
    At least 10 different Palestinian groups are based in Syria, where they run military training camps.

Hamas Running in Palestinian Elections - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Hamas announced on Saturday that it will participate in the first municipal elections to be held in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1976, beginning December 9.
    In 1996, Hamas boycotted the elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council and the presidency of the PA.

Oil Bonanza Boosts Saudi Finances (BBC)
    Soaring world oil prices have provided Saudi Arabia with a budget surplus, said Crown Prince Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz.
    While the government had previously forecast a deficit of $8bn for 2004, experts now claim the Saudi surplus could be as high as $35bn.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Survivors of Russian School Siege Recall the Nightmare
    The Islamic militants, numbering between 30 and 40, arrived at School No. 1 in Beslan, Russia, in a large military truck. They were well-equipped, carrying night-vision goggles, sniper rifles, and silencers as well as an arsenal of explosives. About 1,200 hostages, at ceremonies for the opening of the school year, were packed into the basketball court inside the gymnasium. The terrorists set up two large explosive charges connected to a pedal mechanism beside the feet of two sitting terrorists. They placed mines among the crowd and at entrances. Five more mines were hung from a wire that was run between the basketball hoops and over the sitting crowd. About 22 men were taken to build barricades around the gym - and then were executed.
        At least 340 hostages, including 150 children, were killed and another 700 people were wounded, many seriously. The survivors described a number of their captors as "Wahhabis," a reference to the Wahhabi sect of Islam originating in Saudi Arabia, because of their long beards and prayer caps. "They told us to pray to Allah," said Fatima Alikova, 27, a photographer who had gone to the school for the local newspaper. (Washington Post)
        See also 52 Hours of Horror and Death for Captives at Russian School
    "The terrorists ran in yelling, 'Allahu Akhbar,'" said Asamaz Bekoyev, 11, overwhelming the few police officers at the school's opening ceremony. A man tried to run out the back door to freedom, but a terrorist followed him, calmly sighted him through the rifle and shot him in the back. The man's body was then dragged through the gymnasium by the feet, leaving a long trail of blood. (New York Times)
        See also An Agonizing Vigil Leads to Reunion or Despair (New York Times)
        See also below Commentary: Beslan is Russia's 9/11: It Will Change the World - William Rees-Mogg (London Times)
  • Spy Case Renews Debate Over Pro-Israel Lobby's Ties to Pentagon
    The investigation into whether AIPAC officials passed classified information from a Pentagon official to Israel has become one of the most byzantine counterintelligence stories in recent memory. So far, the Justice Department has not accused anyone of wrongdoing and no one has been arrested. Skeptics of the case have said that the U.S. and Israel routinely share highly sensitive information on military and diplomatic matters under an officially sanctioned understanding. In addition, most of the contents of policy drafts affecting either country are well known to people outside the government who follow American-Israeli affairs.
        As a result, some of Pentagon analyst Lawrence Franklin's associates regard his efforts as an attempt to obtain AIPAC's help to influence the Bush administration rather than an effort to provide Israel with information. They believe the case is the latest in a series of assaults by intelligence and law enforcement agencies, who they believe are determined to diminish the influence of conservative civilians at the Pentagon. (New York Times)
  • Hebron's Middle Classes Choose America Rather than Martyrdom
    Young, middle-class Palestinians are leaving the West Bank with their families' blessing and moving abroad to escape the clutches of the terrorist group Hamas. Parents in cities such as Hebron, a center of Hamas recruitment for recent "martyrdom" operations, are increasingly fearful of losing their children to the militants. Tareq Natsha, 18, acknowledged that Hamas had had extraordinary success in secretly recruiting and persuading young middle-class men to die for the cause. In the past four years, 11 young men living in his neighborhood have met premature deaths while carrying out suicide bombings and gun attacks, including the two bombers who killed 16 people in Beersheba last week. (Telegraph-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel to Propose Security Cooperation with Russia
    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is to hold talks Monday with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, amid media reports that in the wake of the Beslan tragedy, Israel is to propose unprecedented anti-terrorism security cooperation with Russia, including sharing of sensitive intelligence data. Israel is also expected to offer to treat and rehabilitate a significant number of child victims of the hostage siege. (Ha'aretz)
  • Mofaz: Israel Still Committed to Removing Arafat
    Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Monday on Army Radio, "The State of Israel will find the way and the right time to bring about the removal of Yasser Arafat from the region." Mofaz noted the Israeli security cabinet's decision last year to "remove" Arafat following a series of Palestinian suicide bombings.
        "The State of Israel is determined to act against terror anywhere in the world....Terror leaders in Damascus should know that Israel will get to them, wherever they are," he said. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Begins Work on Southern Section of Separation Fence - Arnon Regular and Amos Harel
    Bulldozers began Sunday to prepare the ground for the construction of a 40-kilometer stretch of the separation fence southwest of Hebron, five days after Palestinian suicide bombers from the Hebron area carried out a terror attack in Beersheba. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Beslan is Russia's 9/11: It Will Change the World - William Rees-Mogg
    Beslan changes many of the major factors of world relations, including both Russian and Western relations with Islam, the response to the growing threat of nuclear proliferation, and the basic relationship between Russia, Europe, and the United States. Beslan has reinforced the American understanding that it is at war. Russia has been committed by Beslan to the war against terrorism, and Iran is on the side of the enemy. Strategically, Beslan pushes Russia towards working with the U.S. against terrorism and in the Middle East.
        The people who planned this massacre are every bit as evil as the people who planned Pearl Harbor or 9/11, or as the SS men who ran Auschwitz. There is a blank horror about what they did to young children which fortunately has few parallels in the history of evil. It is important to hold onto that because the world's sense of horror will influence everything that will follow. A certain degree of wickedness is never forgotten or forgiven, whatever its motive or political justification. The writer was editor in chief of The Times from 1961 to 1981. (London Times)
  • A Deadly Common Denominator - Ze'ev Schiff
    There is a line connecting this weekend's mass murder in a school in North Ossetia, the ongoing genocide in Sudan, the bomb blasts on Madrid trains, the bombing of Istanbul synagogues, and the suicide bombings in Beersheba. That line is Islamic - for the most part Arab - terrorism and it endangers world peace, particularly as some of the organizations involved are trying to acquire nonconventional weapons, including nuclear arms. In October 2002, more than 120 hostages were killed when Russian special forces stormed a Moscow theater where Chechen terrorists held hundreds of civilians. But the theater was only the second-choice target of the terrorists: The primary target had been a nuclear plant. (Ha'aretz)
  • Observations:

    Innocent Religion is Now a Message of Hate - Abdulrahman al-Rashed
    (Al-Sharq Al-Awsat/Telegraph-UK)

    • It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims. The majority of those who manned the suicide bombings against buses, vehicles, schools, houses, and buildings all over the world were Muslim. What an abominable "achievement." Let us acknowledge this reality instead of denying it.
    • The mosque used to be a haven, and the voice of religion used to be that of peace and reconciliation. Then came the Neo-Muslims. An innocent and benevolent religion, whose verses prohibit the felling of trees in the absence of urgent necessity, that says explicitly that if you kill one person you have killed humanity as a whole, has been turned into a global message of hate and a universal war cry.
    • We cannot tolerate in our midst those who abduct journalists, murder civilians, explode buses; we cannot accept them as related to us, whatever the sufferings they claim to justify their criminal deeds. These are the people who have smeared Islam and stained its image.
    • We cannot clear our names unless we own up to the shameful fact that terrorism has become an Islamic enterprise; an almost exclusive monopoly, implemented by Muslim men and women.

      The writer is general manager of the Al-Arabiya news channel. This article appeared Saturday in the pan-Arabic newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat under the headline, "The Painful Truth: All the World Terrorists are Muslims!"

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