Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 23, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Academic Boycott of Israeli Universities Likely to be Overturned - Jon Boone (Financial Times-UK)
    Sue Blackwell, an academic at the University of Birmingham who attracted worldwide condemnation for leading calls to cut academic links with Bar-Ilan and Haifa universities in Israel, said she expected the boycott to be rescinded on Thursday by the British Association of University Teachers.
    Anti-boycott activists hope they will overturn the original motion, which they say was not properly debated and did not represent the balance of views of the whole membership.
    David Hirsh, a lecturer at Goldsmiths College and one of the coordinators of the campaign to overturn the boycott, said: "The logic of their position is that Israel is an illegitimate state and that Jewish nationalism is unlike that of any other nationalism. I think that is essentially an anti-Semitic position."

Israel Campus Beat
- May 22, 2005

Point Counter-Point:
    What's Wrong with the British Boycott of Israeli Universities?

Hamas Protests Koran Desecration (AP/Jerusalem Post)
    Some 2,500 Palestinian Hamas members, unmollified by a now-retracted magazine allegation that U.S. soldiers desecrated a copy of the Koran, streamed out of mosques in the West Bank city of Nablus Friday chanting, "Death to America, death to Israel."

Palestinians Harangue Laura Bush at Muslim Shrine in Jerusalem Adam Entous (Reuters)
    A small crowd pressed in on U.S. first lady Laura Bush as she entered the Dome of the Rock Muslim shrine in Jerusalem on Sunday.
    A Palestinian worshipper cried out at her: "You are not welcome here. Why are you hassling our Muslims? How dare you come in here."

Bashar Assad's Uncle Plans Comeback - Roi Nahmias (Ynet News)
    Rifaat Assad, 68, brother of late Syrian leader Hafez Assad and uncle of current president Bashar Assad, has announced he intends to return to Syria after more than 20 years in exile in Paris, according to the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat.
    Rifaat's return is not being coordinated with Syrian officials.

Israel 4th in Eurovision Song Contest - Ziv Cohen (Ynet News)
    Shiri Maimon, who represented Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest finals Saturday with "The Quiet that Remains," took fourth place.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Sharon Demands End to Palestinian Attacks - Josef Federman
    Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Sunday demanded an end to recent Palestinian attacks in the Gaza Strip, saying there must be "complete quiet" for peace-making to move forward. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas "knows what he has to do," Sharon said. "There certainly has to be complete quiet. Without quiet, it will be impossible to move forward on the peace process."
        Sharon arrived in New York for a three-day visit to the U.S. to bolster ties with American Jews. (AP/ABC News)
        See also below Observations: Sharon's Address to American Jewish Leaders
  • Rice Broadens Indictment of Syria - Barry Schweid
    Secretary of State Rice on Friday broadened U.S. accusations that Syria was contributing to violent insurgencies in Iraq. Rice said Syria may also be providing financial support for insurgents as well as "allowing its territory to be used to organize terrorist attacks against innocent Iraqis." Moreover, Rice said, Syria was supporting Palestinians trying to undercut cooperation with Israel on a projected withdrawal from Gaza. (AP/Miami Herald)
  • U.S. Senator at Mideast Forum Tells Arabs to Focus on Injustices in Their Own Countries - Mariam Fam
    Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) on Saturday advised Arab leaders at a World Economic Forum in Amman, Jordan, to focus on injustices in their own countries. "It's a mystery to me why Arab countries can't work on their own countries before Palestine is fixed," he said. "Obviously one of the greatest commitments that we have is to the Jewish people and the State of Israel, to try and manage the difficult process of the peace there and securing that nation, and doing so in a way that, if possible, is just to the Palestinians," Smith said. (AP/ABC News)
        See also U.S. Lawmakers: Israel First in Mideast Policy
    Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) said at the conference that America is not a neutral player in the Middle East. "We are Israel's strong ally....It would be foolish for people to think that somehow we are neutral."  (AP/Jerusalem Post)
  • Episcopal Bishop Backs Off Push to Divest Funds - Michael Paulson
    Massachusetts Episcopal Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, a leading Christian advocate for Palestinian rights, has told the American Jewish Committee that he will oppose efforts, now sweeping through mainline Protestantism, to divest church funds from Israel. Shaw wrote, ''I do not support proposals for divestment in Israel." He said divestment is ''especially inappropriate" now, at a moment he described as a ''period of hope for peace," and he also said divestment would harm Palestinians because of the interrelationship of the Israeli and Palestinian economies. (Boston Globe)
  • Sunnis End Boycott of Iraqi Politics - Ellen Knickmeyer and Naseer Nouri
    More than 1,000 Sunni Arab clerics, political leaders, and tribal heads ended their two-year boycott of politics in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq on Saturday, uniting in a Sunni bloc that they said would help draft the country's new constitution and compete in elections. The Sunni leaders called for "liberating'' Iraq from U.S.-led forces "by all legal means.'' The statement condemned "all terrorist acts that target civilians, no matter the reason,'' but said, "resisting the occupier is a legitimate right.'' (Washington Post)
  • Most Iran Reform Candidates Disqualified - Ali Akbar Dareini
    Iran's hard-line constitutional watchdog, the Guardian Council, has rejected all reformists who registered to run in next month's presidential elections, approving only six out of the 1,010 hopefuls, state-run television reported Sunday. Reformers threatened to boycott the election. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Leading Reformer Banned from Poll in Iran - Gareth Smyth and Najmeh Bozorgmehr (Financial Times-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Teenage Palestinian Suicide Bomber Arrested at Nablus Checkpoint Israel Defense Forces soldiers arrested 15-year-old Ahmed al-Nadi from Askar with a bomb belt tied around his waist at a checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus on Sunday. "The teenager was asked to lift up his shirt and it revealed a bomb belt containing two pipe bombs tied around his waist," an army spokeswoman said. The youth apparently intended to detonate the bombs at the checkpoint by igniting a crude detonator with a cigarette lighter, the spokeswoman said. It was the 14th time in the past two months that a Palestinian teenager had attempted to detonate a bomb or smuggle arms and explosives through a military checkpoint despite a de facto truce declared in February. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hizballah Fires Mortar Barrage at Israel
    On Saturday the Hizballah terrorist organization fired a large number of mortar shells at IDF posts in the Har Dov region on the Israeli-Lebanese border. This incident is a continuation of the provocative attacks carried out by Hizballah. Last week Hizballah fired 15 rockets and mortar shells into Israel. The Lebanese government has continuously failed to deal with the terror activities carried out within its jurisdiction and must act immediately to fulfill its obligations to stop terror. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • An Agenda to Win Back Moderate Islam - Interview with King Abdullah of Jordan - Lally Weymouth
    "I think at the end of the day Iraq will succeed and stand on its own two feet and be independent and completely capable....The turning point was the elections on January 30....All the different sectors of Iraqi society are beginning to reach out to each other."
        "President Bush actually triggered reform in that it became a subject for debate, which it wasn't as of two years ago. If you look at the Palestinian and Iraqi elections in January, both of which I think were largely successful, I think that set the tone. Whenever you have successful elections and signs of democracy moving in the right way in the Middle East, it creates a positive energy that makes countries move faster."
        "The Amman message says the taking of lives of innocent people, hatred, anger, and suspicion against your fellow man have nothing to do with Islam. Winning the Muslim street back is not a 5-, 10-, or 15-year process. You have to reverse wrong education that has been used in the madrassas and other institutions that taught in the name of Islam you could kill your fellow man."  (Washington Post)
  • Nightmare in Bangladesh - Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
    We do not expect people to be arrested, tortured, and imprisoned for favoring global peace, interfaith dialogue, and ending religious hatred. But that is precisely what happened to me. What was my "crime"? Being a living contradiction: a Zionist and a devout Muslim living in Bangladesh, the world's second-largest Muslim country. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also "Hello My Brother, I am Free!"
    Congressman Mark Kirk (R-IL) and freelance writer Dr. Richard Benkin teamed up to win the release of pro-Israel journalist Shoaib Choudhury from a Bangladeshi prison on April 30. Choudhury spent more than 17 months in prison simply for advocating Jewish and Muslim dialogue and establishing ties between Bangladesh and Israel. (U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk)
  • Observations:

    Disengagement Will Guarantee a Jewish Majority in the State of Israel - Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (Prime Minister's Office)

    Prime Minister Sharon addressed the American Jewish community leadership in New York on Sunday:

    • I am honored to stand here and feel the strong bond between Israel and the rest of the Jewish world. We share a history, and we share a future as well.
    • The future of the Jewish people depends also on Israel's character as a Jewish and democratic state. In this spirit we initiated the disengagement plan. This plan will improve our security and offer a chance to start a political process with the Palestinians. It will guarantee a Jewish majority in the State of Israel. It is thanks to this plan that we can make certain that important parts of the cradle of the Jewish heritage will remain part of Israel forever.
    • As part of the plan, President Bush and I exchanged letters. The President's letter, endorsed by both Houses of Congress, clarified the United States' position on several critical issues for our future: Israel's right to defend itself by itself against any threat, and to have secure and defensible borders; the major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria will remain part of Israel under any permanent agreement; there will be no return to the 1967 borders; and there will be no entry of Palestinian refugees into Israel.
    • We also agreed that the Roadmap will be the only political plan towards an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
    • I believe that the day will come when we will sign a peace agreement with all our neighbors....Unfortunately, our Arab neighbors still do not recognize the Jewish people's birthright to an independent state in our homeland - the Land of Israel. Such recognition can only come through comprehensive change in their education system.
    • The decision about the disengagement was a very hard decision for me. I know the settlers in Gaza well. As a farmer, I followed with appreciation their agricultural achievements. As a soldier, I followed with admiration their bravery....I am confident that...we will emerge from this experience strong and united.

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