Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 17, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Report: Syria Secretly Dispatching Palestinians to Lebanon - Yitzhak Benhorin (Yediot Ahronot-Ynet)
    Damascus has been secretly dispatching dozens of Palestinian youths to Lebanon during the past two weeks, alongside the apparent withdrawal of Syrian forces from the country, Farid N. Ghadry, president of the Reform Party of Syria, a U.S.-based opposition party, said this week.
    "The youths underwent training by Syrian security services, designed to incite and disrupt Lebanese opposition," he said.
    The young men were told their Palestinian brothers in Lebanon were about to be massacred and needed their help.
    Ghadry said he expects hundreds of additional Palestinians to be dispatched to Lebanon after undergoing Syrian training.

Hamas Scores Decisive Win in Hebron University Elections (AP/Ha'aretz)
    In student elections at Hebron University Wednesday, Hamas won 25 of the 41 council seats, followed by Fatah with 13 and Islamic Jihad with 3.
    In recent years Hamas has been increasing its support in universities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and controls the majority of student councils.

Syrian Hackers Outsurfing the Secret Police (Jerusalem Post)
    The Internet has punctured the Syrian regime's ability to exercise the full control of information it used to maintain.
    You can log on to the Jerusalem Post website at Internet cafes all over Damascus, even in the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp.
    It is now estimated that up to 500,000 Syrians (out of 18 million) use the Internet on a regular basis.

Whither Saudi Arabia's Shiites?- John R. Bradley (FrontPageMagazine)
    In recent elections for municipal councils in Saudi Arabia's oil-rich Eastern Province, Shia candidates were returned in districts where there was a clear Shia majority population.
    Where there was not, Sunni candidates, who had the semi-official backing of the Wahhabi religious establishment, were elected, just as their Wahhabi cousins in Riyadh were a few weeks earlier.
    Hussein Abdul Rahman Al-Khamis, one of the most popular Shia candidates in Al-Hasa region, was disqualified from running just a day before polling day.
    Throughout the ruling Al-Saud family's various victories and defeats there has remained only one constant: outright hostility from the Wahhabis to the Shiite sect.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Syria Completes First Phase of Pullback from Lebanon - Bassem Mroue
    Syria's army and intelligence agents on Thursday completed the first phase of their pullback to eastern Lebanon's Bekaa Valley and Syria, a senior Lebanese army officer said. Of the 14,000 troops that were in Lebanon, at least 4,000 crossed into Syria in the past week and the rest remain in the Bekaa. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Syrian Intelligence Leaves Empty Cells in Beirut - Cynthia Johnston (Reuters)
  • Hizballah Rejects Bush's Suggestion - Sam F. Ghattas
    Hizballah's leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah on Wednesday rejected a suggestion by President Bush that his militants disarm and enter the political mainstream. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Bush, Lebanese Christian Leader Call for Freedom - Nedra Pickler
    President Bush said he has a deep desire to see Lebanon secure religious and political freedom as he welcomed Maronite Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, head of Lebanon's 900,000-member Maronite Catholic Church, at the Oval Office on Wednesday. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Most Iraqis Say Future Looks Brighter - Barbara Slavin
    More Iraqis believe their country is headed in the right direction than at any time since the U.S. invasion two years ago, according to a new poll by the International Republican Institute (IRI). The poll showed continuing sharp differences among Iraq's ethnic and religious groups, with 33% in Arab Sunni areas believing the country is headed in the right direction, compared with 71% of Kurds and 66% in the Shiite south. (USA Today)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Hamas, Jihad Refuse to Discuss Cease-Fire with Fatah in Cairo - Arnon Regular
    At the cease-fire talks in Cairo, representatives of Hamas and Islamic Jihad were steadfast in their demand that the current period of quiet be extended rather than a full cease-fire declared, Palestinian sources reported Wednesday. As a result, it is likely that instead of a signed accord, there will only be agreement to a continuation of the current situation. (Ha'aretz)
  • "Palestinians Anxious for Change" - Nina Gilbert
    The PA economy showed marked improvement in 2004, with a decline in unemployment and poverty, Maj.-Gen. Yusef Mishlev, the IDF's coordinator of activities in the territories, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Wednesday. Mishlev described the Palestinians as "worn out, tired, depressed, and totally broken down," and said they were anxious for change. He emphasized that they are optimistic about the future. He noted that 300 aid organizations operate in the PA that employ 25,000 and contribute $788 million to the economy.
        Mishlev said PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas is making efforts to combat the problem of anarchy, but in some cases some of his security personnel are not cooperating. The main problem areas are Nablus and Jenin. Mishlev noted that the PA school system has been instructed to reduce hostile terminology against Israel. Some of the maps in the schools have begun to show the borders of the PA. However, one example shown to the committee from a third grade class showed all of Israel and the Golan Heights as Palestinian territory. (Jerusalem Post)
  • New Egyptian Ambassador Arrives in Israel - Ali Waked
    Egypt's new ambassador to Israel, Muhammed Assem Ibrahim, arrived in Tel Aviv Thursday. The former ambassador, Mohammed Bassiouni, was recalled to Cairo in late 2000 at the start of the intifada. Assem, 60, is a career diplomat who has held posts in Egyptian embassies in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Sudan. (Yediot Ahronot-Ynet)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Why Do We Bother?: The Jewish Community and the UN Human Rights Commission - Daniel S. Mariaschin
    Year after year, representatives of B'nai B'rith and other Jewish organizations go to Geneva to witness one of the UN's most offensive and discouraging exercises: the meetings of the Human Rights Commission, which opens its deliberations this week. In the past, this body has been chaired by serial violators of human rights like Libya, and staffed by others like Sudan and Cuba. Invariably, Israel is placed in the dock, tried, and impugned by those eager to divert attention from real human rights abuses by scapegoating a free democracy, the world's only Jewish state.
        So why do we bother going? We go because often no one else will stand up and say that the commission, as currently constituted, is in desperate need of reform. We go in the hope of fostering a more fair and productive UN, one where the language of human rights is not invoked only to mask violations of these rights. The writer is Executive Vice President of B'nai B'rith International. (Yediot Ahronot-Ynet)
        See also Israel to Tell UN Human Rights Commission to Shape Up - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
  • Lebanon's Meaning in the Wider Arab Context - Rami G. Khouri
    Having attended all the demonstrations, I am convinced that Lebanon these days represents a historic, unprecedented drive for national self-determination by Arab citizens. Major Western powers that now champion Arab freedom and democracy for half a century installed, anchored, armed, and assuaged the stubborn autocrats whose long reigns have made the Arab world the globe's last nondemocratic region. Lebanon is the first serious example of spontaneous, indigenous Arab political activism to challenge and replace the ugly power structures that have plagued this region. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Time to Take Saudi Arabia Seriously - Stephen Schwartz
    On March 12, three democratic reform leaders went on trial in the Saudi kingdom: Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamed, Dr. Matrook Al-Faleh, and the poet Ali Al-Domaini were arrested on March 16, 2004, for demanding adoption of a constitution by the Saudi monarchy. The kingdom continues to maintain the ultra-radical Wahhabi sect of Islam as the state religion. Wahhabism is more an ideology than a faith, and is the inspiration for al-Qaeda and much of the terrorism launched against U.S., coalition, and Iraqi democratic forces. The kingdom is the only Muslim country in the world which forbids non-Muslims to practice their faith. It is the largest absolutist monarchy in the world. (Weekly Standard)
  • Observations:

    There is No "Right" of Return - Amnon Rubinstein (Jerusalem Post)

    • Is the State of Israel allowed to act to maintain its Jewish majority and, if so, what measures can it legitimately employ for that purpose?
    • Responsibility for putting the subject on the table rests primarily with the Palestinian leadership, which brought up the right of the descendants of refugees to return to Israel as a main item on the agenda.
    • It is clear that their intention is to flood Israel so that its character (and name) disappear with the creation of an Arab majority in the country. Drowning the Jewish state in an Arab majority means there would be two states for one people, thereby denying the Jewish people its right to self-determination.
    • Israel's Supreme Court justices have already stated explicitly that the meaning of a "Jewish state" includes the existence of a Jewish majority. In a nation state, the national majority has the right to safeguard its existence and the identity of its state. Because of that natural right, special rights are granted to minorities who cannot become majorities and who have the right to defend their culture so they are not assimilated into the majority culture.
    • A nation's right of self-definition must include its right to maintain a democratic majority in its country - and if that is true for all peoples, it is all the truer for the Jews: The national majorities of North Ireland and Cyprus have other states (Britain, Greece) where they can realize their cultural identity and speak their language. The Jews have no other such state except for Israel.
    • Because of that right, international law allows states to discriminate between nationalities when it comes to immigration and acquiring citizenship. That is why the various laws of return of the European countries have not been attacked in the European Court of Human Rights.
    • Israel, therefore, is entitled to object to the "right of return," as opposed to family unification on a humanitarian basis.
    • The Supreme Court offered a fine analogy: The key for entering the Israeli home is held by the Jews, but inside the home there has to be full equality between Jews and Arabs.

      The writer, a former education minister, is dean of the Radzyner School of Law at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.

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