Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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April 5, 2005

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In-Depth Issue:

U.S. Court Rejects PA Claim of Sovereign Immunity - Dan Izenberg (Jerusalem Post)
    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit rejected the PA's claim that it enjoyed sovereign immunity and upheld a lower court ruling ordering it to pay $116 million to the estate of Hamas terror victim Yaron Ungar.
    Ungar, an American-Israeli, his wife, Efrat, and their son Ishai were driving home from a wedding on June 9, 1996, when Hamas terrorists opened fire, killing both parents.
    "The defendants [the PA and the PLO] argue that the state of Palestine exists," wrote the court, "that they constitute core elements of the state and that therefore they are immune from suit."
    "This argument has a quicksilver quality. It is hard to pin down exactly when or how the defendants assert that Palestine achieved statehood."
    "However, the defendants have not carried their burden of showing that Palestine satisfied the requirements for statehood under the applicable principles of international law at any time."
    The next step for the plaintiffs is to ascertain the assets of the PLO and the PA as a first step in collecting the damages awarded by the court.

Simultaneous Bombings Are Ominous Signs for Thailand - James Rupert (Newsday)
    Three bombs exploded simultaneously Sunday in Thailand's far south, killing at least two people and injuring at least 30.
    The bombings - at an airport, a department store, and a hotel - appeared to signal an escalation in a sporadic Muslim insurgency that has killed several hundred people in the past 15 months.
    The use of sophisticated, simultaneous bombs - and the shift of targets from security forces to civilians and, potentially, foreigners - is unprecedented in this conflict and suggests that the Muslim rebels have absorbed some new training, technology, and ideas.
    Muslims form about 9% of Thailand's 66 million people.

Al-Qaeda Lures Middle Classes to Join Its Ranks - Nick Fielding (Times-UK)
    The typical recruit to al-Qaeda is upper middle class, has been educated in the West, and is from a professional background, according to a new study of 500 of its members.
    Dr. Marc Sageman, a forensic psychiatrist who conducted the study, said he assumed it would find that most al-Qaeda recruits were poor and ill-educated.
    However, his study showed that three-quarters of al-Qaeda members were from upper middle-class homes and many were married with children; 60% were college educated, often in Europe or the U.S.


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News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • Lebanese Troops Take Over Key Syrian Checkpoint - Roula Najem
    Lebanese troops took over a key Syrian checkpoint on the Beirut-Damascus highway on Monday and the Syrians, now committed to leaving Lebanon by April 30, prepared to abandon a nearby intelligence building. Witnesses said Lebanese soldiers were manning the roadblock at the eastern town of Shtoura in the Bekaa Valley, replacing Syrian intelligence agents who held it for nearly three decades. (Reuters/Washington Post)
  • Families Yearn for News of Syria's Lebanese Prisoners - Dexter Filkins
    Hundreds of Lebanese men were spirited across the border by Syrian agents after Syria first sent troops into Lebanon 29 years ago, human rights groups say. With the Syrian Army compelled by Lebanese popular opinion and international pressure to end its military occupation, calls are rising for Lebanese leaders to demand an accounting of their citizens held in Syrian jails. Two years ago, Fouad Saad, a member of the Lebanese opposition in parliament, headed a commission that determined that 120 Lebanese were probably either in Syrian jails or had died there. A Lebanese group claims 280 Lebanese were taken to Syrian jails and never released. (New York Times)
  • Bush to Discuss Settlement Activity with Sharon
    The White House said on Monday it opposed Israeli plans to expand a large Jewish settlement near Jerusalem and that President Bush would raise the issue when he meets with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon next week. (Reuters)
  • Prime Violators Hold Seats on UN Rights Panel - Desikan Thirunarayanapuram
    The world's most repressive countries hold more than a quarter of the seats in the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Commission and their presence has subverted the panel's mandate, Freedom House reported Thursday. In its annual report on the world's biggest human-rights abusers, 6 of the 18 countries listed as the "worst of the worst regimes" are members of the commission: China, Cuba, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. (Washington Times)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • IDF: Kassam Rocket's Range Increased - Nina Gilbert
    Palestinians are testing Kassam rockets off the Gaza coast to improve their range and accuracy, an IDF Operations Branch official told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday. According to Brig.-Gen. Gadi Shamni, the missiles' range has been increased from 7 km. to 9 km. Shamni said the accuracy of the rockets was also being checked by boats deployed to check the nautical landing sites. IDF intelligence research chief, Brig.-Gen. Yossi Kupperwasser said Hamas and Islamic Jihad are "looking for excuses" to renew attacks on Israeli targets, and that the threat of terror attacks was "increasing with time." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Shin Bet Foils Museum Attack in Israel - Efrat Weiss
    Security authorities foiled a planned terror attack in February at the Armored Corps Museum at Latrun near the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway. The General Security Service said a Popular Front cell planned to dispatch two suicide bombers and a car bomb to the busy tourist site. The group also planned a shooting attack on an IDF jeep on the Ramallah bypass road. They charted IDF movements in the area, and even sought out hiding places in Bir Zeit in which to hide the kidnapped bodies of their victims. (Yediot Ahronot-Ynet)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Politics of Churlishness - Martin Peretz
    The great diversion from the real politics of the Arab countries, and from the prospect of political reform, was the Palestinian grievance against Israel. In the early years of their conflict with the Zionists, the Palestinians thought that these countries would fight their battles for them, at the negotiating table and on the battlefield, which they did. But what happened in reality was that the various Arabs exploited the Palestinians as pawns in their own ambitions to pick off pieces of Palestine for themselves.
        Bush had had the good sense to pay no attention to Arafat, despite the urgent imprecations of the usual apologists: the EU, the UN, France, Russia, and the editorial page of the Times. Had Bush made even a single accommodation to Arafat, Arafat's way in the world would have been enshrined in Palestinian lore for yet another generation as the only way. Bush made no gestures to the hyperbolic fantasies of Palestinian politics. He gave them one dose of reality after another. Bush gave Israel the confidence that he would not trade its security for anything - which means that Israel is now willing to cede much on its own. (Israeli dovishness for American hawkishness: This was always the only way.) (New Republic)
  • Columbia Whitewash - Richard Baehr
    Predictably, as night follows day, the ad hoc faculty committee appointed by Columbia University President Lee Bollinger to examine the behavior of several Columbia faculty towards Israeli or pro-Israel students has concluded that little or nothing of concern occurred. Rather, the faculty committee concluded that the more disturbing problem is found elsewhere - with pro-Israel students disrupting lectures on Middle Eastern studies, and some faculty members feeling that they were spied on. So the real problem at Columbia is not anti-Semitism, biased and untruthful teaching, or harassment of pro-Israel students, but pro-Israel troublemakers. Wouldn't you know. (American Thinker)
  • Listen To Arab Voices - Marina Ottaway
    The third Arab Human Development Report, finally released by the UN Development Program after a lengthy controversy, should be required reading for Bush administration officials and for anyone interested in promoting Middle East democracy. (See Observations below.) The report reveals a complete acceptance of democratic principles and a complete mistrust of the Bush administration's efforts to promote democracy.
        The report, authored by a group of prominent Arab intellectuals represents an unambiguous embrace of liberal democratic ideals. There are no "buts" and "ifs" in the report, no claim that Arab countries need to develop their own form of democracy in keeping with the cultural specificity and conditions of the region. There is no claim that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict must be settled first. On the contrary, the report addresses and rebuts all such claims, concluding instead that liberal democratic values are not Western but universal, and that change must come now.
        Despite its hostility to U.S. policy, the report admits that pressure from the outside, particularly from Washington, may help the cause of political change in the Middle East. The writer is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. (Washington Post)
        See also Third Arab Human Development Report (UN Development Program)
  • Observations:

    "The Time Has Come": A Call for Freedom and Good Governance in the Arab World - Regional Bureau for Arab States (UN Development Program)

  • The third Arab Human Development Report (AHDR) systematically surveys the pace of political change in the Arab world and strongly urges a rapid acceleration of democratic reform, with specific proposals for new regional human rights institutions, robust and freely elected legislatures, and truly independent judiciaries.
  • The AHDR 2004 presents a persuasive and detailed case for many far-reaching legal and political reforms aimed at fortifying the institutional foundations of freedom and limiting the monopoly on power currently enjoyed by the executive in most countries in the region. While this calls for a broad range of corrective action, the authors underscore these immediate needs for reform:
    • Total respect for the key freedoms of opinion, expression, and association.
    • Ending all types of marginalization and discrimination against social groups and minorities.
    • Guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary and ending reliance on military tribunals and other "exceptional" courts.
    • Abolishing the "states of emergency" that have become permanent features of governance in the region.
  • The report demonstrates that pressure for political change has been intensifying within the Arab world for several years now, and the authors warn that unless Arab governments move much more quickly towards reform they could face "chaotic" social upheaval.
  • The authors underscore that the status quo is no longer sustainable. If the Arabs themselves do not take real steps toward change, the global powers will step in and lead the process of reform from outside.
  • The authors of the AHDR 2004 reiterate their previous condemnations of violence against unarmed civilians, whatever the source: "Extremist groups which perpetrate assassinations and bombings and espouse the use of violence also violate the right to life," the authors write, just as "armed confrontations between security forces and armed groups result in civilian casualties that can outnumber victims in the ranks of the combatants."

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