Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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November 2, 2004

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In-Depth Issues:

Arafat Financed Aksa Martyrs' Brigade - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Arafat pumped millions of dollars into the Aksa Martyrs Brigades even as he let his security forces go without pay for months, according to Cain's Field: Faith, Fratricide, and Fear in the Middle East, a new book by Matt Rees, the Time Magazine bureau chief in Jerusalem.
    Rees reveals the inside story of Arafat's divisive, self-destructive rule, detailing how the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah, ruled Palestinian towns like gangsters in defiance of security officials who gradually learned they didn't have Arafat's backing.

"Image Is All" for PLO Leader's Fashion-Loving Young Wife - Kim Willsher (Telegraph-UK)
    The spendthrift image of Mrs. Arafat was enhanced when French authorities launched an investigation into claims that $11.4 million had been transferred to two of her French bank accounts between July 2002 and 2003.
    The sums were on top of an allowance of $100,000 which Mr. Arafat sends his wife each month.
    She has lived in Paris full-time since 2000 and has been granted French citizenship.
    Last year, Mrs. Arafat bought a multi-million pound flat in the chic 16th arrondissement, and she owns another property in the wealthy suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine.
    She is often seen in the front rows of Paris fashion shows, or shopping with the wife of Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi.
    "She is obsessed by image. Everything about her screams money. She is immaculate, from her Chanel eyeshadow to her manicured fingernails," said a friend in Paris.

Dispute Splits Bulgaria's Muslims - Nicholas Wood (International Herald Tribune)
    Since 2002, rival members of Bulgaria's Muslim community, most of whom are ethnic Turks, have been in a dispute over the appointment of Bulgaria's chief mufti.
    The courts have appointed a triumvirate of three Muslim leaders to govern in the chief mufti's place, who control the religious teaching in Muslim schools and the community's considerable assets.
    Former chief mufti Nedim Gendzhev has begun a campaign focusing on the triumvirate's connections with religious groups in Saudi Arabia, revealing that one of the three, Fikri Sali, had traveled there in July as the guest of Al-Waqf Al-Islami, a charity that promotes Wahhabi Islam.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Fading Arafat Fights to Keep $1 Billion War Chest
    While fighting for his life in a French military hospital, Arafat was engaged in another, secret battle last week as he tried to keep control of bank accounts that are central to his survival in power. Arafat's godfather-like sway over his people derives less these days from his revolutionary credentials than from the estimated $1 billion in bank accounts to which he alone has access. He was resisting all efforts to pry the key to this impressive war chest out of his hands.
        Arafat was constantly doling out money. "From flight tickets to refurnishing a house, from money for needy families to money for medical treatment, everything went through Arafat," said a Palestinian source. "Now there is nobody to authorize these payments." No wonder they were all praying for a speedy recovery. Palestinians can only hope that Arafat does not fall unconscious again before explaining how to access the bank accounts. (Times-UK)
  • An Arab "Martyr" Thwarted - Neil MacFarquhar
    He shaved his beard to appear less conspicuously religious and then slipped into Iraq through Syria, willing to die to defeat the Americans. The young Lebanese teacher says he found himself in a safe house in Baghdad, with a long list of Saudis and Kuwaitis ahead of him waiting to become suicide bombers. The Iraqis in Falluja eventually suggested that he and all of the mujahedeen with him return home. Arab governments and Western intelligence officials express growing concern that Iraq is becoming the training ground that Afghanistan was in the 1980s, breeding another generation of fanatical warriors ready to carry their jihad back home. (New York Times)
  • French Push Limits in Fight on Terrorism
    In many countries of Europe, former inmates of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo have been relishing their freedom. Not so in France, where four Guantanamo prisoners were arrested as soon as they arrived home in July, and haven't been heard from since. Under French law, they could remain locked up for as long as three years while authorities decide whether to put them on trial. Armed with some of the strictest anti-terrorism laws in Europe, the French government has aggressively targeted Islamic radicals deemed a potential terrorist threat, with scant public dissent over tactics that would be controversial, if not illegal, in the U.S.
        French counterterrorism officials say their preemptive approach has paid off, enabling them to disrupt plots before they are carried out and to prevent radical cells from forming in the first place. (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Tel Aviv Bombing Victims Laid to Rest - Matthew Gutman
    Monday's suicide bombing in the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv killed Shmuel Levy, 65; Leah Levine, 64; and Tatiana Ackerman, 32. More than 35 people were wounded, 6 seriously. The suicide bomber had planned to strike in Jerusalem, but, daunted by a checkpoint, he and his driver headed for Tel Aviv, security sources said. This was the 14th suicide bombing inside Israel since the beginning of the year. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Tel Aviv Bombing a Signal to Abu Mazen - Danny Rubinstein
    Monday's Tel Aviv suicide bomber, Amar al-Far, was only 16. "It is forbidden to give a mission of this kind to a boy," his tearful mother, Samira, said on television. Palestinian analysts said that in Arafat's absence there could be a marked increase in attacks against Israel since every faction would try to emphasize its existence by carrying out attacks. Abu Mazen, who is standing in for Arafat, is considered a moderate who favors talks and dialogue, and opposes terror. Monday's attack by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a faction of Arafat's PLO, was intended as a sign to Abu Mazen that the intifada activists do not accept his ways. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (IDF)
  • Military Intelligence Reviews Scenarios If Arafat Dies - Gideon Alon
    Military Intelligence research chief Brig. Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Monday that he does not expect the armed Palestinian groups to disarm or that there will be any change on the ground if Arafat goes into decline. He predicted that there would not be a Palestinian civil war because the heads of the PA will do everything they can to prevent one.
        Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said, "I believe that on the day after Arafat's death, their various leaders will behave differently. I believe there is a chance for the rise of pragmatic leadership. The test of that leadership will be the test of action with regard to the war against terror and conducting reforms in the PA." (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Renewing the Arab-Israeli Peace Process - Aaron David Miller
    It's a pretty safe wager that there will be no serious movement by any side toward Arab-Israeli peace until sometime next year - at the earliest. The past four years has made a viable agreement between Israelis and Palestinians much less likely. On the Palestinian side, warlords run Gaza, the PA is weakening, and economic deterioration and leadership stagnation abound, paralyzing the formation of any serious strategy. Israelis, on the other hand, see their salvation in unilateralism - the security fence, targeted killings, and Gaza disengagement.
        The organizing principle should be to distinguish between reaching a permanent status agreement (which is not possible now) and helping to create an environment for serious permanent status negotiations (which is possible). Gaza disengagement - now the only game in town - might provide an entry point back into this process. The writer was a U.S. State Department adviser on Arab-Israeli negotiations for 25 years. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestine is Not Israel's Fault - Andrew Burmon and Victoria Degtyareva
    Harvard professor Ruth Wisse told Stanford students on Friday that Israelis should not be blamed for the hardships of Palestinians. "The Palestinian people suffer - it is genuine, it is undeniable, they can't advance; the Jews would love to cure that suffering, but it is not a problem that the Jews created, and it is not a problem that the Jews can solve," she said. "The greatest scandal is that the Palestinians have allowed their people to remain refugees. This is not a creation of Israel, it is a creation of Arab rulers." (Stanford Daily)
  • The Global Challenges Ahead - Henry A. Kissinger
    Never before has it been necessary to conduct a war with neither front lines nor geographic definition and, at the same time, to rebuild fundamental principles of world order to replace the traditional ones which went up in the smoke of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The contemporary security challenge arises from two unprecedented sources: terror caused by acts until recently considered a matter for internal police forces rather than international policy, and scientific advances and proliferation that allow the survival of countries to be threatened by developments entirely within another state's territory.
        The basic adversary is the radical, fundamentalist militant fringe of Islam, which aims to overthrow both moderate Islamic societies and all others it perceives as standing in the way of restoring an Islamic caliphate. September 11 taught that threats could be organized by private groups operating from the territory of sovereign states for goals transcending the purposes of the host countries. Cold War strategies ceased to apply, since deterrence cannot work against an adversary with no territory to defend; and diplomacy does not work when the adversary rejects any limitation of objective and seeks the overthrow of societies. (Newsweek/MSNBC)
  • Observations:

    Terrorist Leader Arafat Fades, Leaving Chance for Peace - Editorial (Chicago Sun-Times)

    • Arafat might have been president of a real nation - in the mid-1990s the Palestinian Authority was printing up postage stamps with Arafat's picture on them, to be used in the state that seemed so tantalizingly within reach. Arafat tossed it away. The man who created modern terror ended up unable to let it go. Arafat was responsible for the 1972 massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, and too many individual evil acts to begin to list. The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were no doubt inspired by his efforts.
    • Somehow, in the minds of his ever-forgiving apologists, the blood never stuck to his hands. Arafat presented himself as a statesman with a pistol, and people bought it. Three years after he enthusiastically backed Saddam Hussein in his 1991 invasion and pillage of Kuwait, Arafat won the Nobel Peace Prize for his feint toward a Mideast peace after the 1993 Oslo accords he would ultimately turn his back on.
    • As terrible a toll as Arafat extracted from those he saw as enemies, the crime he committed against his own people is also monstrous. It was a crime that can be measured in millions of dollars siphoned away by his corrupt Palestinian Authority while his people suffered grinding poverty. A crime that can be measured in years lost that could have been used productively building a Palestinian state. A crime measured in thousands of lives lost and even more ruined.
    • He stole the Palestinians' money, sacrificed their lives for naught, and they clung to him as the symbol of their cause. It is difficult to imagine that those who tolerated Arafat as their leader for so long have the capacity to seize the day now.

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