Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 17, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Abbas Okays "Collaborator" Executions - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has ratified death sentences against three Palestinians found guilty of "collaboration" with Israel.
    Senior PA officials said the three were Gaza Strip residents who had been convicted of tipping off Israeli security forces about the whereabouts of wanted gunmen.

Islamic Militants Targeted Eiffel Tower - Pierre-Antoine Souchard (AP/Guardian-UK)
    Islamic militants of Algerian origin, detained Jan. 11 for allegedly planning an attack on the Russian Embassy in Paris in support of Chechen rebels, had other targets on their list, including the Eiffel Tower, police and judicial officials said Wednesday.
    Also targeted were a clothing store in the central Paris district of Les Halles, Israeli interests, and police stations.

Poll: Presbyterians Oppose Divestment Campaign Against Israel (Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, 16Feb05)
    A survey by the Presbyterian Church (USA) of 4,000 Presbyterians showed 42% opposed the church's planned divestment from Israel, with only 28% in favor.
    Among lay leaders, known as "elders," 46% opposed divestment with only 30% in favor.

    See also Protestant Churches Consider Anti-Israel Divestment - Eric J. Greenberg (Forward)
    Two more mainline Protestant denominations - the United Church of Christ and Disciples of Christ - are weighing divestment proposals aimed at Israel.

Cash Weans Pakistani Tribes from Al-Qaeda - Owais Tohid (Christian Science Monitor)
    Pakistan has paid more than $800,000 total to four tribal commanders as part of a November peace deal, a senior army official revealed last week.
    The four led a bloody fight against Pakistani forces hunting foreign al-Qaeda fighters in South Waziristan, a mountainous tribal region believed to be a possible hideout for Osama bin Laden.
    The sizable sums were given so that tribesmen could pay back loans from al-Qaeda. Hundreds of foreign fighters have been relying on local militants for shelter, supplies, and protection - and have paid them handsomely for it.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Tensions With Syria Escalate - Robin Wright and Peter Baker
    The Bush administration intensified its search Wednesday for punitive actions - from freezing assets to tightening diplomatic isolation - to force Damascus to withdraw troops from Lebanon, end support for terrorism, and block assistance to the Iraqi insurgency through Syria. The U.S. is now using the world furor over the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri to generate momentum against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The assassination put Syria back on the Bush administration's front burner. (Washington Post)
        See also Iran and Syria Confront U.S. with Defense Pact - Ewen MacAskill and Duncan Campbell
    Iran and Syria directly confronted the Bush administration Wednesday by declaring they had formed a mutual self-defense pact to confront the "threats" now facing them. The move was announced after a meeting in Tehran between Iranian Vice President Mohammed Reza Aref and Syrian Prime Minister Naji al-Otari. (Guardian-UK)
  • Allies Resisting as U.S. Pushes Terror Label for Hizballah - Steven R. Weisman
    The Bush administration is arguing with European governments over whether they should designate Lebanon-based Hizballah a terrorist organization. In the past two weeks, France has rebuffed appeals by Secretary of State Rice and Israeli Foreign Minister Shalom to list Hizballah as a terrorist organization, which would prevent it from raising money in Europe through charity groups.
        Israeli and American officials say that Palestinian chairman Abbas has told them that he, too, regards Hizballah as a destructive force, one determined to undermine peace talks by supporting militant groups that attack Israelis. The Netherlands, Italy, and Poland support the Bush administration's view, while Germany and Britain believe the issue is moot unless the French change their minds. (New York Times)
        See also below Commentary: Terror Litmus Test - Editorial (Wall Street Journal Europe)
  • War Helps Recruit Terrorists, Hill Told: Intelligence Officials Talk of Growing Insurgency - Dana Priest and Josh White
    "Islamic extremists are exploiting the Iraqi conflict to recruit new anti-U.S. jihadists," CIA Director Porter J. Goss told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. "They represent a potential pool of contacts to build transnational terrorist cells, groups, and networks in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and other countries." "It may be only a matter of time before al-Qaeda or another group attempts to use chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons," Goss added.
        Gen. Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee that foreign fighters "are a small component of the insurgency," and Syrian, Saudi, Egyptian, Jordanian, and Iranian nationals make up the majority of foreign fighters. (Washington Post)
  • Breaking the Al-Qaeda Code - Christina Lamb
    Charleston, S.C., is home to the master computer of the world's largest free-standing database of intelligence on Islamic terrorism. Investigators have discovered that the July 2001 meetings in Spain of the 9/11 hijackers included individuals who took part in the Madrid bombings. "We also discovered transfers from the Saudi ministry of interior directly to the Madrid cell," said Jack Cordray, a lawyer involved in the lawsuit on behalf of the families of people killed on 9/11. "You are not telling me that money was for building mosques." The class action case is based on the argument that the 9/11 hijackers could not have carried out the attacks without generous - largely Saudi - backing. It rests on the premise that those who finance terrorist organizations are liable for the damage they cause. (Times-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Knesset Approves Disengagement Compensation Law - Gideon Alon, Zvi Zrahiya and Mazal Mualem
    The Knesset Wednesday passed the enabling legislation for the Gaza disengagement plan, known as the evacuation-compensation law, by 59-40. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinians to be Freed Include 44 Involved in Attacks - Arnon Regular
    The 500 Palestinian prisoners who will be released by Israel in the coming days include 44 Fatah members who were convicted of involvement in shooting or bombings. Many of those to be released are members of the PA security services. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinians Fire Kassam Rocket at Gush Katif
    A Kassam rocket landed in northern Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip Thursday, Army Radio reported. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Terror Litmus Test - Editorial
    To help bring peace to the Middle East and support fledgling Muslim democracies, the least Europe could do is call a leading terrorist group by its name. Alas, even that might be too much to ask for. Thanks once again to French resistance, backed by Spain and Belgium, there seems little chance that the EU will put Iran-backed and Lebanese-based Hizballah on its terrorist blacklist. The French, who hold a veto on such matters, cite Hizballah's status as a political party in Lebanon to justify opposition to any EU sanctions against Hizballah.
        The chance for an Israeli-Palestinian peace that Arafat's death opened can be lost all too quickly. "We know that Hizballah has been trying to recruit suicide bombers in the name of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades to wage attacks that would sabotage the truce," said a Palestinian official. Palestinian sources say Hizballah threatened to kill Abbas should he continue his policy of conciliation. But with French President Chirac, logic often takes a back seat to his main political goal of ensuring that France always opposes any policy that has an American endorsement. So much for the chances of a new beginning in U.S.-European relations. (Wall Street Journal Europe, 15Feb05)
        See also Europe and Hizballah - Editorial
    "Political factions" don't have thousands of missiles or dispatch terrorists. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Ban Hizballah in Europe - Matthew Levitt (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Challenging Syrian Imperialism - Thomas L. Friedman
    There is no excuse anymore for Syria's occupation of Lebanon, other than naked imperialism and a desire to siphon off Lebanese resources. Rafiq Hariri openly challenged Syrian imperialism. If the Lebanese want to be free, they have to summon the same civic courage that Hariri did and that the Iraqi public did - the courage to look the fascists around them in the eye, call them by their real names, and confront the EU and the Arab League for their willingness to ignore the Syrian oppression. (New York Times)
        See also Syria Must Leave Lebanon - Editorial (Telegraph-UK)
        See also The Ramifications of Hariri's Assassination - Rami G. Khouri (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Observations:

    Death of a Businessman - Fouad Ajami (Wall Street Journal)

    • Rafiq Hariri was the unlikeliest of martyrs for the cause of Lebanon's independence. He had risen to the upper reaches of Lebanese and Arab society, largely through the patronage of the House of Saud and the inner dealings of Arab rulers.
    • He had made his accommodation with Syrian power, no doubt paying off Syrian intelligence operatives and officers, cutting their sons and daughters and wives into business deals, while staying on the safe side of Syria's hegemony in Lebanon.
    • A Syrian political and military class had come to a belief that Lebanon was its rightful claim, and the country was to pass into the control of the conquering army of a brutal, backward regime. There was money there for the Syrian kleptocracy, opportunities for drug dealings and contraband, a border from which the Syrians could wage intermittent little wars and deeds of terror against Israel, while maintaining the most quiet of borders on the Syrian-Israeli front.
    • Hariri was struck down as he had set out to find his own way, away from Syria's embrace. There is an old tradition and an old saying in Lebanon about killing a man and walking in his funeral procession. The only antidote to this terrible, senseless death is the eviction of Syria from Lebanon.
    • There is talk nowadays of spreading liberty to Arab lands, changing the ways of the Arabs, putting an end to regimes that harbor terror. The restoration of Lebanon's sovereignty ought to be one way for the Arabs to break with the culture of dictators and police states.

      The writer is a professor at Johns Hopkins University.

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