Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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June 7, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Islam Gaining a Foothold in Mexico - Jens Glusing (Der Spiegel-Germany)
    The indigenous Mayans in southern Mexico, long a bastion of Catholicism, are converting to Islam by the hundreds.
    Anastasio Gomez, a Tzotzil Mayan from Mexico, fondly remembers his pilgrimage to Mecca.
    In his home state of Chiapas, Mexico's poorest, the indigenous people are viewed as second class humans, and whites and Mestizos treat the Indian majority as if they weren't there.
    Today, Muslim women in headscarves have become a common sight on the streets of the southern Mexican provincial metropolis San Cristobal de las Casas.
    The Mexican government suspects the new converts of subversive activity, and Mexican President Vincente Fox has said he fears the influence of the radical fundamentalists of al-Qaeda.

Iraq's Ho Chi Minh Trail - John F. Burns (New York Times)
    The Americans are trying to close off insurgent infiltration routes that run from the Syrian frontier into the Iraqi heartland down the Euphrates River corridor.
    There are Sunni Arab mosques sympathetic to the insurgency in almost every village and town from Damascus to Baghdad that American officers say have become relay stations straight into the heart of Iraq.
    As of last week, only 370 of the 14,000 men held as suspected insurgents in American-run detention centers in Iraq were foreigners, according to U.S. figures.
    Yet the foreign Arabs' impact has been out of proportion to their numbers, primarily because of the willingness of the non-Iraqis to die in suicide bombings.

Iraq's Sufi Community Shaken by Deadly Attack - Ashraf Khalil (Los Angeles Times)
    A deadly attack Thursday on a Sufi house of worship in Mazaari north of Baghdad killed 10 worshipers and injured 12.
    Adherents to the mystical brand of Islam fear they will be increasingly targeted by puritanical insurgents bent on a widening sectarian war.
    Several Iraqi Sufi leaders said Saturday that hostility to Sufism was typical of the extremist ideology espoused by Jordanian insurgent Abu Musab Zarqawi.
    Sufis tend to be viewed with a certain bemused suspicion by mainstream Muslims in Iraq and elsewhere, particularly as Wahhabism, a fundamentalist Islamic doctrine, has spread from the Gulf states.
    Sufism is banned in Saudi Arabia but is officially recognized and respected in most other states.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. to Shun Hamas Members, Even if Democratically Elected - Steven R. Weisman
    The Bush administration will continue to refuse to have contact with the militant group Hamas even if some of its leaders win elections in Palestinian areas, a senior administration official said Monday. The official said that a ban on contacts with Hamas was required because the group was listed by the U.S. as a terrorist organization. "We don't recognize that you have changed your behavior just because a group is running candidates as well as suicide bombers," said the official. (New York Times)
        See also Britain's "Low-Level" Talks with Hamas - Simon Freeman
    Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, was facing pressure Tuesday to sever emerging diplomatic ties between Europe and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, as he met his counterpart in Jerusalem. Straw admitted that British officials had met elected leaders of Hamas twice since the faction gained in last month's municipal elections in the West Bank and Gaza.
        A spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry said: "Hamas is part of the problem, not part of the solution. They are committed to jihad, they do not believe Israel should exist....When we have a period of relative quiet, we know that Hamas is stockpiling weapons, training suicide bombers, and is getting ready for a third wave where they will launch suicide bombers against Israelis."  (Times-UK)
  • Experts: Hizballah Unlikely to Disarm - K.I. Marshall
    Popular support for the militant Lebanese Shiite Hizballah organization and the group's strength prevents Lebanese or international authorities from seeking its disarmament, experts say. "Most of the other Lebanese factions would love to see Hizballah disarmed but no foreign intervention could force this," said James Phillips, a research fellow with the Heritage Foundation in Washington. "It may not publicly say this, but privately the Lebanese state does want them disarmed." Many experts question whether Hizballah will be able to make the transition from an armed group to a political party, or whether it even wants to do so. The disarmament of the group is a key demand of UN Security Council Resolution 1559. (UPI/Washington Times)
  • Former Archbishop of Canterbury Condemns Anglican Anti-Israel Divestment Plan - Ruth Gledhill
    The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, on Monday condemned plans by Anglican church leaders to disinvest from companies that do business in Israel. He said that the Anglican Consultative Council would be making a grave mistake if it approved an Israel divestment proposal at a meeting on June 22. Lord Carey said: "Israelis are already traumatized and feel that the world is against them. This proposal, if it is agreed, would be another knife in the back. Christians who owe so much to the Hebrew Scriptures and to Israel itself should not be among those who attack Israel in such a way." (Times-UK)
        See also French Founder of Doctors Without Borders Attacks Anti-Israel Boycott - Judy Siegel-Itzkovich
    Doctors Without Borders founder and former French health minister Dr. Bernard Kouchner said Monday during a visit to Israel that those who dismiss Israel's right to exist suffer from "historical amnesia." He dismissed those who support an academic boycott of Israeli institutions of research and higher education. "Boycott science? That's nonsense. They want to hurt Israel but they hurt the Palestinians as well." (Jerusalem Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinians Rocket Southern Israeli Town - Shmulik Haddad and Hanan Greenberg
    At least two Kassam rockets fired from the Palestinian town of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip landed in the southern Israeli town of Sderot on Tuesday, causing damage to a residential building. A woman and her two children were treated for shock. One rocket hit the home of the Melech family, at a time when all family members were home. "We heard a huge explosion," they said. "The whole house shook and a Kassam rocket hit the second floor, causing a lot of damage." (Ynet News)
  • Spain's Ex-PM Aznar to Israel: Ignore Europe - Herb Keinon
    Israel need not pay much attention to Europe, which is using its Middle East policy to separate itself from the U.S., has a tendency toward appeasement, and is largely pro-Palestinian, former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar said Monday during a visit to Israel. "Do we Europeans have the capacity to change the situation and influence this area? The answer is no," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Offers PA Rail Link between West Bank and Gaza - Aluf Benn
    Israel has offered the Palestinian Authority a rail line linking the Gaza Strip and West Bank. The offer was made by Minister Haim Ramon with the approval of Prime Minister Sharon. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Opening Up Egypt - Editorial
    Egypt's security forces have busied themselves in recent weeks stamping out the country's tiny flames of political reform. It's too much to expect the balloting in September to be "free and fair," as President Bush said he hoped. But less rigging than usual would be progress. Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazief said last month that it's up to Cairo to determine the pace of reforms. Fair enough, but the country that receives $2 billion a year in U.S. aid should be willing to listen to suggestions on how to open its politics to all peaceful participants and end decades of emergency rule and repression. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Bush and the Saudis - Editorial
    Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has seemingly dismissed a study indicating that some 40% of the suicide bombers in Iraq have turned out to be from Saudi Arabia. Rumsfeld preferred instead to focus on accusations that Syria is permitting fighters to enter Iraq. Few states are as autocratic as Saudi Arabia. Yet Saudi citizens are somehow flowing out of the country and into Iraq.
        The status quo amounts to a de facto Wahhabi-directed Muslim civil war on destroying a democratic state of Iraq. The time for excuses from the Saudi princes is over. It's time for the administration to start talking tough with them - and, more to the point, getting tough with them. (New York Post)
  • Amnestyís Absurdity - Anne Bayefsky
    Amnesty International deliberately used the word "gulag" to describe U.S. actions at Guantanamo in the foreword to the organizationís 2005 annual report. This is only the latest in a multi-year slide by Amnesty away from universal human-rights standards toward a politicized and anti-American agenda. At the UN World Conference Against Racism that took place in September 2001, the final declaration of the forum of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) said Zionism, or the self-determination of the Jewish people, equals racism.
        On the final day prior to the adoption of this declaration, international NGOs, including Amnesty, deliberated about their position as one caucus. As a representative of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists I was about to enter our meeting place along with the president of Amnesty, Irene Khan, when the chief representative of Human Rights Watch, Reed Brody, told me in the presence of the others that I was not welcome and had to go. Said Brody - to the objection of no one (although I had worked professionally with many of them for years) - I represented Jews and therefore could not be trusted to be objective. (National Review)
        See also Al-Qaeda Operative May Be At Large Today Thanks to Amnesty International - Editorial
    Natan Sharanksy - a man who actually spent time as a Soviet political prisoner - described Amnesty's gulag analogy as "typical, unfortunately," for a group that refuses to distinguish "between democracies where there are sometimes serious violations of human rights and dictatorships where no human rights exist at all."
        On November 19, 2001, Amnesty issued one of its "Urgent Action" reports: "Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of Iraqi citizen Ahmad Hikmat Shakir, who is being held by the Jordanian General Intelligence Department." The pressure worked; Shakir was released and hasn't been seen since. Shakir is believed to be an al-Qaeda operative who abetted the USS Cole bombing and 9/11 plots. In its eagerness to suggest that every detainee with a Muslim name is some kind of political prisoner, and by extension to smear America and its allies, Amnesty has given the concept of "aid and comfort" to the enemy an all-too-literal meaning. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Observations:

    Jerusalem Will Never Again Be in the Hands of Foreigners - Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (Prime Minister's Office)

    Prime Minister Sharon spoke at the Jerusalem Day Ceremony on Monday:

    • For 19 years Jerusalem was divided, besieged, reclusive, and for double that time - 38 years - it has been united and open.
    • The majority of the Israeli population has not known a different reality. The younger generation could not visualize the line crossing the city, strewn with mines and barbed wire. They could not imagine the enemy soldiers on the walls of the Old City, and no access to the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, and the Mount of Olives. They could not imagine that the city's suburbs, from Ramot and Neveh Yaacov in the north, to Gilo and Har Homa in the south, were barren hills, with cannons aimed at the heart of Jerusalem.
    • For us, there is only one Jerusalem, and no other. It will be ours forever, and will never again be in the hands of foreigners. We will honor and cherish all lovers of Jerusalem, of all faiths and religions. We will carefully guard all its sites of prayer, churches and mosques, and freedom of worship will be ensured, which was not the case when others ruled it.
    • We will fearlessly face the entire world and will ensure the future of united Jerusalem. For Jerusalem is the anchor, root of life, and faith of the Jewish people and we will never again part with it. Whoever wishes to know this should open the Bible, read, and understand.
    • Historic Jerusalem, the heart of the Jewish people for over 3000 years, will always be one, united, the capital of the State of Israel forever and ever.

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