Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 15, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Mideast Training Program Backfires: Palestinian Security Officers Schooled by U.S. Used Tactics Against Israel - Matthew Kalman (San Francisco Chronicle)
    In June 1998, officers in the Palestinian General Intelligence Service, charged with hunting down terrorists and preventing attacks on Israel, completed a training course near CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., paid for by the U.S. government, in which they learned firearms and counterterrorist tactics.
    But some of the men later swapped sides and began using the skills they learned in Virginia against the Israelis.
    Such training courses will be an integral part of Washington's aid package for the new government of Mahmoud Abbas.
    One member of the group was Raafat Bajali, a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, killed in Bethlehem in December 2001 when a bomb he was making blew up in his face.
    Another was Khaled Abu Nijmeh from Bethlehem, one of 13 gunmen from the Church of the Nativity siege, exiled to Europe.
    "I am a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and a first sergeant in Palestinian General Intelligence," Abu Nijmeh says. "I personally received a course in antiterrorism and VIP protection."
    "Both the CIA and British efforts to train Palestinians during the Oslo process helped strengthen terrorist capabilities," said Israeli political analyst Gerald Steinberg of Bar-Ilan University.

BBC Erases Latest Fabrication (Backspin-Honest Reporting)
    BBC Radio has removed its February 10 edition of "Daily Thoughts," in which presenter John Bell talked about an Israeli Arab allegedly "conscripted" by the IDF and later "imprisoned for refusing to shoot unarmed schoolchildren."

Don't Dare Say Hello to Your "Infidel" Neighbor - Nathan Guttman (Ha'aretz)
    A document signed by the cultural attache at the Saudi embassy in Washington instructs Muslims arriving in the U.S. not to initiate a greeting when meeting Christians or Jews, and never to convey good wishes marking a Christian or Jewish holiday.
    The attache recommends that the Muslim believer avoid friendships with the infidels, be careful not to imitate their customs (e.g., not to wear a cap and gown at a graduation ceremony), and try not to remain in the country any longer than required.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Blames Syria for Lebanese Leader's Assassination - Steven R. Weisman
    The Bush administration, condemning the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri Monday in Lebanon, suggested that Syria was to blame and moved to get a new condemnation of Syria's domination of Lebanon at the UN Security Council. White House spokesman Scott McClellan called the killing "a terrible reminder that the Lebanese people must be able to pursue their aspirations and determine their own political future free from violence and intimidation and free from Syrian occupation."
        American officials said the killing underscored growing American impatience with the role played by Syria in the Middle East. "We're going to turn up the heat on Syria, that's for sure," said a senior State Department official. "It's been a pretty steady progression of pressure up to now, but I think it's going to spike in the wake of this event. Even though there's no evidence to link it to Syria, Syria has, by negligence or design, allowed Lebanon to become destabilized." (New York Times)
        See also Israel Believes Hizballah Responsible for Hariri's Murder - Amir Buhbut
    Despite the fact that an unknown Islamic organization took credit for the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Hariri, Israel's security services are convinced that Hizballah is behind the act. "I have no doubt that Hizballah is involved in the attack," a senior officer said Tuesday. (Maariv-Hebrew)
        See also Lebanon's Tortured History of Political Assassination (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Palestinian Police Won't Stop Militants - Lara Sukhtian
    Palestinian policemen, who have been given the task of restraining militants, say they can't or won't do the job. A tour of four Palestinian security posts near the southern Gaza town of Khan Yunis found the policemen are there largely as symbols. "I will never raise my weapons against the fighters," one officer said. "I can only ask them not to fire." Many officers are more loyal to their clans or to militant groups than to the Palestinian leadership. Gaza residents are happy to see uniformed officers in the streets, yet most believe the officers are incapable of making them safe. "They can't stop anything or anyone right now," said Bassam Qannan, 42, in Khan Yunis. "It's all for show. They're useless."  (AP/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • U.S. Urges PA to Halt Flow of Money to Terrorists - Yossi Melman
    The U.S. hopes the PA will cooperate with Israel to halt the flow of money to terrorist organizations, Undersecretary of the Treasury Stuart Levey, who heads the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said Monday during a visit to the region. Levey said there has been a slowdown in fund transfers to Hamas from the U.S., Europe, and Saudi Arabia. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Abbas Unfreezes Hamas Funds - Khaled Abu Toameh
    PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has agreed to unfreeze Hamas funds held in a number of Palestinian banks, Palestinian sources in Gaza City said Monday. Abbas, who served as prime minister in 2003, had then ordered the freezing of several bank accounts belonging to nine charities affiliated with Hamas. (Jerusalem Post)
  • France Nixes Request to List Hizballah as Terrorist Group - Aluf Benn
    French President Jacques Chirac on Monday turned down a request from Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom to support placing Hizballah on the EU's list of terrorist organizations. France's objections are considered the main obstacle to an EU move to add Hizballah to the terror list. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Tries to Stab IDF Soldier in Hebron - Margot Dudkevitch
    A Palestinian armed with a knife, who tried to stab an IDF soldier near the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, was shot and killed on Monday. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Gaza Gunmen Beat Palestinian Journalists - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Three Palestinian journalists who work for a Gaza radio station affiliated with Islamic Jihad were kidnapped and beaten on Sunday by unidentified gunmen. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Hit Job in Beirut - Editorial
    The assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, is a political crime of the first magnitude. It killed at least 11 other people, wounded 100 more, and targeted one of Lebanon's most principled politicians, its hard-won civil peace, and its hopes of reclaiming independence from Syrian domination. The best response would be intensified international pressure to force Syrian troops from Lebanon. (New York Times)
        See also The Murder of Hariri Could Boomerang - Orly Halpern
    Hariri was the key figure of the Lebanese opposition to the Syrian presence in Lebanon. The bomb that ripped through his armored motorcade may have a boomerang effect. Lebanese opposition leaders on Monday sounded braver than ever, saying their country was "captive" and holding the Syrian and Lebanese governments responsible for Hariri's death. Lebanese and foreign analysts say the opposition will now "double its efforts" to push Syria out and gain power in the parliamentary elections in May. (Jerusalem Post)
  • A Call for Palestinian Maturity - Carlos Alberto Montaner
    Anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism are attitudes based not on an objective analysis of facts but on hallucinatory beliefs contained in conspiracy theories of history that are based almost always on the paranoid suspicion that a small group of villains pulls strings throughout the world to seize all wealth and bring misfortune to their victims. Just as there is no such thing as a former idiot, there are no former anti-Semites or former anti-Americans. The disease is incurable.
        In 1948, when the UN assigned to the Palestinians a substantial area of the old British Mandate to create a state parallel to the Israelis, they chose to play the card of war against the young Hebrew nation. From that original, bloody error derived all the subsequent ills. Of course, it is no longer possible to return to the borders of 1948, and the greatest proof of maturity the Palestinians could give is to accept that. Nor is it reasonable to ask once again for the partition of Jerusalem. Ramallah must be the permanent capital of the future Palestinian state. (Miami Herald)
  • Lights, Camera, Inaction? Saudi Arabia's Counterterrorism Conference - Simon Henderson
    Riyadh hosted a four-day international counterterrorism conference in February that served as a showcase for the purported success of Saudi counterterrorism efforts. The conference lent authenticity to Saudi perceptions and definitions of terrorism that are likely to impede U.S. policy initiatives in the Middle East. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Syria's Salvation is Through Reform - Ammar Abdulhamid
    Syria's only real card now is a credible process of political reform. This should involve such "radical" steps as establishing a dialogue with opposition parties and dissidents inside and outside the country, freeing all political prisoners, lifting the state of emergency, and adopting a national reconciliation pact that can accommodate Syria's diverse ethnic, religious, and political groups. Only such a process would enable the Syrian regime to break out of its isolation, regain international legitimacy, and become an active participant in the emerging order in the Middle East. The writer, a Syrian novelist and social analyst based in Damascus, is coordinator of the Tharwa Project that seeks to bring greater awareness of the living conditions of minority groups in the Arab world. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Observations:

    The Saudi Illusion of Democracy - Editorial (Chicago Tribune)

    • There was the illusion of a democratic election in Saudi Arabia last week. It had all the trappings, including a city plastered with campaign billboards. But what happened in the Islamic kingdom should in no way be confused with a real election. Women were barred from running or voting. Half the seats were to be appointed by the royal family.
    • Perhaps there was a time when even such a sham election would be hailed in the Middle East. But now that genuine elections have inspired millions of voters to choose their leaders in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Palestinian territories, the Saudi vote looks like little more than a whisper of progress.
    • The hunger for real elections - and real elected leaders - is out there and growing, even in countries like Saudi Arabia, where political gatherings are generally illegal and outright criticism of the royal family can bring a prison sentence.
    • As tyrants across the world have learned, once the power of democracy is unleashed, it cannot be easily stifled. Saudi citizens, tossed a tiny scrap from the banquet of democracy, will crave more.

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