Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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October 21, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Foreign Fighters Captured in Iraq Come From 27, Mostly Arab, Lands - Dexter Filkins (New York Times)
    Some 312 foreign nationals, including one American, have been captured while taking part in the insurgency in Iraq since April of this year, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, the spokesman for American forces in Iraq, said Thursday.
    A breakdown lists Egypt, 78; Syria, 66; Sudan, 41; and Saudi Arabia, 32. The rest come from 23 countries, most of them Muslim nations, but also Britain, Denmark, France, and Ireland.
    The American in custody was of Arab descent, as were the two Britons and one Israeli.
    Non-Iraqis are believed to comprise less than 5% of the fighters in the insurgency, but American commanders say foreigners make up more than 90% of the suicide bombers.

In Unruly Gaza, Clans Compete in Power Void - Steven Erlanger (New York Times)
    When some of Gaza's many gunmen fired shots at his office, Tawfiq Abu Khoussa, spokesman for the Palestinian Interior Ministry, did not seek protection from the Palestinian police or security services.
    He called on gunmen from his own powerful clan to protect him.
    The world is prepared to provide billions of dollars in aid to help Abbas turn Gaza into a cornerstone for a Palestinian state that might live in peace and prosperity alongside Israel.
    But Gaza now seems more like a street-corner society, with the various security forces only more sophisticated varieties of the militant gangs that have their base in neighborhoods, refugee camps, and clans.
    "People in Gaza are loyal first to their family or clan, then to their party, and then to the Palestinian Authority," said Ziad Abu Amr, a Gazan legislator close to Abbas.

Beirut Wants Palestinian Bases Out - Nicholas Blanford (Christian Science Monitor)
    Camps in the hill country along Lebanon's frontier with Syria, manned by Palestinian militants protected by Syria for more than 30 years, have become a source of growing tension between Lebanon's government and the country's pro-Syrian Palestinian factions.
    There is a broad consensus demanding pro-Syrian Palestinian groups dismantle their bases.
    "If they [the Palestinians] want to launch a jihad, they should do that from Palestine, not from Lebanon," wrote Jibran Tueni, general manager of Lebanon's An-Nahar newspaper.
    The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command, headed by a Syrian Army officer, is headquartered in Damascus and works closely with Hizballah.
    In the village of Qussaya in the eastern Bekaa Valley, residents insist that a sprawling mountaintop PFLP-GC base by the border has grown in recent weeks.
    "There used to be about 10 Palestinians up there, now there's probably more than 100," says a resident, who claims to have seen large quantities of weapons, including antiaircraft guns, artillery, and rockets, stashed away in camouflaged dugouts.

Palestinians Rule Out Al-Qaeda Presence in Gaza (Reuters)
    The PA rejected on Thursday a report from Israeli intelligence that foreign Islamists suspected of links to al-Qaeda had slipped into the Gaza Strip after Israel withdrew last month.
    Israel's military intelligence chief said this week that around 10 "global jihad operatives" entered Gaza during chaos at the border with Egypt following Israel's troop pullout.

Police Say Islamist Terrorists Are Targeting Netherlands' Ruling Elite - Bruce Crumley (TIME)
    Last week, police in the Netherlands arrested seven Dutch nationals of Moroccan origin in four cities and sealed off government buildings in The Hague in response to what Dutch Interior Minister Johan Remkes described as an "acute terrorism threat."
    Security officials said they'd obtained evidence that Islamist extremists were planning assaults on politicians and government facilities.
    French terror expert Roland Jacquard warns that "jihadist terror literature has begun stressing the sensational, destabilizing effectiveness of assassinating key officials, and it's become almost common in Iraq."
    He notes that suspects arrested in France last month were considering killing two French political leaders and a former Moroccan security official now retired in Paris.

Russia's Islamic Revolt Is Spreading - Mark Franchetti and Alexei Shvedov (Sunday Times-UK)
    The diehard gang of Muslim extremists responsible for last week's attack on the southern Russian city of Nalchik consisted mainly of local militants intent on creating a strict Islamic state independent of Moscow.
    The gunmen were not from Chechnya but belonged to a group from Kabardino-Balkaria, the Russian republic of which Nalchik is the capital, providing alarming evidence that - far from dying down as claimed by President Putin - the bloody Chechen conflict is spreading.
    Most of the gunmen were thought to be members of Yarmuk, a homegrown fundamentalist group that the local authorities twice claimed to have destroyed. Yarmuk has close ties with Shamil Basayev, Russia's most wanted terrorist, who was behind the Beslan school attack.

    See also Islamists Hit Russia - Editorial (Washington Times)
    The U.S. and its Western allies should clearly demonstrate their solidarity with Russia and be prepared to assist with any counterterrorism help.
    The attacks in Russia serve as yet another reminder of the danger posed by aspiring jihadists in other parts of the world.

Iran Explosions Kill Four (AP/Fox News)
    Two bomb blasts Saturday at a shopping center in Ahvaz, the capital of oil-rich Khuzestan province, near Iran's border with Iraq, killed four people and wounded at least 75 others, state television reported.
    Iran blamed the deadliest attacks in Iran in more than a decade on Iranian Arab extremists with ties to foreign governments, including British intelligence.
    A senior British official said Iran's Revolutionary Guard had given insurgents the technology for powerful roadside bombs able to pierce armored vehicles, which have killed eight British troops in southern Iraq since May.

U.S. Group: "AIPAC Case Hampers Freedom of Press" - Nathan Guttman (Jerusalem Post)
    The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is attempting to file an "amicus brief" in the case of two former AIPAC lobbyists accused of communicating classified information, claiming that the broad use of the espionage law would have negative consequences for journalism.
    "While the government certainly has a legitimate interest in keeping national security information out of the wrong hands, an overly aggressive approach that interferes with the flow of information to the public and its ability to hold its government accountable can undermine the democratic principles we all seek to defend," the group wrote in its request to the court.

Useful Reference:

Temple Mount Video Tour (Ynet News)
    A video filmed by an Israeli provides rare images of places where Jews are banned from entering, including Solomon's Stables, the al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Dome of the Rock.
    The video shows the immense renovation project undertaken by Muslims in the mosques below the Temple Mount.

FBI Hate Crime Statistics for 2004 (FBI/Department of Justice)
    The FBI's annual report "2004 Crime in the United States" records 1,003 anti-Jewish offenses and 193 anti-Islamic offenses.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • President Bush Welcomes Mahmoud Abbas to the White House
    After meeting with Mahmoud Abbas at the White House Thursday, President Bush said: "Israeli withdrawal creates new opportunities, creates responsibilities for the Palestinian people. The way forward must begin by confronting the threat that armed gangs pose to a genuinely democratic Palestine. And those armed gangs must confront the threat that armed gangs pose to lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians."
        "In the coming days, I'll be naming our new coordinator to build on the progress General Ward has made. This person will take on an enhanced mission to help President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority carry out their responsibility to end terror attacks, dismantle terrorist infrastructure, maintain law and order, and, one day, provide security for their own state."
        "One thing that will not happen is that we will try - the United States will try to conform and force parties to make decisions based upon the political schedule in America. That doesn't make any sense....I'd like to see two states. And if it happens before I get out of office, I'll be there to witness the ceremony. And if it hadn't - if it doesn't, we will work hard to lay that foundation so that the process becomes irreversible." (White House)
        See also Bush Backs Away from Timetable for Setting Up Palestinian State - Guy Dinmore
    President George W. Bush Thursday backed away from the goal he set a year ago to help establish an independent Palestinian state by the end of his second term. (Financial Times-UK)
        See also Palestinian Leader Urged To Confront Militant Groups - Glenn Kessler
    President Bush "pressed on security pretty hard," said Edward Abington Jr., a former State Department official who advises the PA. He said Bush urged Abbas to "assert your authority." A senior administration official said the Bush administration believes that allowing armed groups to participate in elections is a "fundamental contradiction" to building a democratic state, but "we are not going to write election laws for the Palestinians." (Washington Post)
  • Israeli Official Analyses Bush Comments - Joshua Brilliant
    Israeli officials maintained there was a basic difference between the demands that U.S. President George W. Bush Thursday presented to the Palestinians and to Israel. A senior official specifically alluded to Bush's statement that, "The way forward must begin by confronting the threat that armed gangs pose." The key word was "begin." The official noted the Palestinians have been pushing for final status negotiations, now, even though the Roadmap envisaged such talks only when the sides reach the third and final phase of that plan; not when they are still in the beginning stage. "The Palestinian commitment to dismantle terror organizations is a condition for advancing the peace process," the source stressed.
        On the other hand, Bush's demands of Israel were not conditions for progress, the senior official continued. Israel accepts them but they relate to matters that are "part of the next stages in the roadmap." The roadmap calls for a settlement freeze that should be implemented in Phase 1, but Israel has maintained the sides have not yet reached Phase 1. The Israeli official dismissed the idea that Hamas militants would lay down their arms once they enter the political arena. Speaking after the Bush-Abbas meeting, the Israeli government official said Hamas' participation in the elections is "an internal Palestinian issue. However, terror is not an internal Palestinian issue. It concerns us and therefore we operate against it." (UPI)
  • Syria Involved in Killing Lebanon's Ex-Premier, UN Report Says - Warren Hoge
    The assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri of Lebanon was a carefully planned terrorist act organized by Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services, according to a report by the chief UN investigator, Detlev Mehlis, made public on Thursday. The report said, "The assassination of 14 February 2005 was carried out by a group with an extensive organization and considerable resources and capabilities....There is converging evidence pointing at both Lebanese and Syrian involvement in this terrorist act." (New York Times)
        See also Top Syrian Officials Named in Report on Hariri Killing - James Bone and Richard Beeston
    The inquiry implicated Gen. Assef Shawkat, the brother-in-law of President Assad of Syria and his military intelligence chief, in the plot to murder Hariri. One witness told the inquiry that two weeks before the assassination, Shawkat forced a scapegoat, who was later killed, to record a videotape claiming responsibility for the suicide bombing. (Times-UK)
        See also Accused General: "We Are Going to Send Him on a Trip - Bye, Bye Hariri" - Mayssam Zaaroura, Majdoline Hatoum, and Leila Hatoum
    Hariri's son, Beirut MP Saad Hariri, said his father "told me that President Bashar Assad threatened him, telling him: 'This is what I want. If you think that President Chirac and you are going to run Lebanon, you are mistaken. It is not going to happen. President Lahoud is me. Whatever I tell him, he follows suit. This extension [of Lahoud's term] is to happen or else I will break Lebanon over your head and Walid Jumblat's....So, you either do as you are told or we will get you and your family wherever you are.'"
        The UN report states: "General Jamil Al-Sayyed [head of Lebanese general intelligence], according to the witness, cooperated closely with General Mustapha Hamdan [commander of Lebanon's presidential guard] and General Raymond Azar [head of Lebanon's military intelligence] in the preparation of the assassination of Mr. Hariri. He also coordinated with General Rustum Ghazali [head of Syrian military intelligence in Lebanon]....Another witness approached the Commission and stated that he had met with General Hamdan in the middle of October 2004. General Hamdan talked very negatively about Mr. Hariri, accusing him of being pro-Israeli. General Hamdan ended the conversation by stating: 'We are going to send him on a trip - bye, bye Hariri.'"  (Daily Star-Lebanon)
        See also Report of the International Investigation Commission (Mehlis Report) (United Nations)
  • Syrian Opposition Groups Unite to Demand Reform - Ferry Biedermann
    Syria's fractious opposition groups are taking advantage of international pressure on the Ba'athist regime and joining forces to demand domestic political reform. The "Damascus declaration," a statement issued by secular and leftwing parties over the weekend and calling for radical change, has gained support from the Muslim Brotherhood. (Financial Times-UK)
        See also Next Year in Damascus - Syrian Democracy Is Thriving - in Exile - Jeffrey Gedman
    I attended a meeting of about 40 Syrian exile oppositionists in Paris last week. These folks all seem to believe that after 42 years in power, the Baathist order in Damascus is ready for meltdown. The author is director of the Aspen Institute Berlin. (Weekly Standard)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Kills Bomb Thrower on Jerusalem-Beitar Road - Arieh O'Sullivan
    Six people were wounded when their vehicles were hit by stones thrown on the Jerusalem-Beitar road near Husan in the Bethlehem area Thursday night. A few hours earlier, soldiers shot dead a Palestinian man throwing petrol bombs in the same area, the army said. A motorist had complained that a petrol bomb had landed near his vehicle. Soldiers dispatched to the scene detected a Palestinian tossing more petrol bombs and opened fire at him. The military said three firebombs were found next to the body, and noted that thousands of Israelis use the road every day. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Saddam's Trial a Day of Joy for Victim's Sister in Israel - Orly Halpern
    Tens of thousands of joyous Iraqis crowded Baghdad's Liberation Square 37 years ago to watch Haviva Hanuka's brother, Naim, being hanged. He and 13 others - 9 of them Jewish - had been found guilty of treason and spying for Israel and the U.S. On Wednesday, Hanuka watched the man who put her brother to death as he sat in a cage, facing the death penalty for mass murder. "It's as if he is now on trial for my brother's murder," she said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • 5,000 Christians Show Solidarity in Sukkot Jerusalem March - David Bradley
    Thousands gathered along the streets of downtown Jerusalem Thursday for the annual Sukkot Jerusalem March, featuring some 10,000 Israelis performing traditional songs and approximately 5,000 Christians marching in solidarity with Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    The Palestinians

  • Since Israeli Withdrawal from Gaza, Palestinians Now Give Top Priority to Improving Living Standard, Not End to Occupation - Bernard Gwertzman interviews Khalil Shikaki
    Khalil Shikaki, director of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, says there has been a profound shift in the attitudes of Palestinians since the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in August. Prior to the withdrawal, Palestinians overwhelmingly gave the "end to the occupation" as their top priority. Now, he says, the priority is for an improvement in the economic life in the Palestinian areas, with an end to political corruption, and an end to the occupation falling far behind. Ironically, he says, the Palestinians now are strongly in support of a permanent ceasefire, even though most of them believe the Gaza pullout was due to the Palestinian use of force. (Council on Foreign Relations)
  • The Politics of Demographic Public Relations - Ike Seamans
    Hamas sought two goals after Israel's Gaza disengagement. The first has been achieved: the establishment of a base for terrorist operations. Weapons are pouring in through Egypt because Israel has lost control of the border. Hamas is convinced that its second objective will spell the end of the Jewish state: the return of Palestinians, most of whom fled in 1948 and 1967, and their descendants, an estimated seven million people. ''The right of return is next,'' predicts Khaled Mashal, Hamas' majordomo. Jordan's King Abdullah agrees. ''We should stand [against] any plan that aims to deprive Palestinians of their right to return to their homeland,'' he said just after Israel evacuated Gaza. (Miami Herald)
  • The Revolution Eats Its Own - Barry Rubin
    Terrorism is merely a tactic, though one which is revealing about the nature and goals of movements which make it the centerpiece of their strategy. The real problem is that of extremist revolutionary movements, without constraints on their behavior and with genocide as their goal, which are applauded by most regimes, media, and publicly vocal people of the Arab world and Iran. In short, an extremist minority sets the agenda for means and ends for a majority that accepts these things.
        In the Gaza Strip, it is increasingly clear that the Palestinian movement's goal remains Israel's complete destruction. Whatever average Palestinians or moderates think, those setting the agenda - radical nationalists or Islamists - put total victory and revenge above raising their people's living standards or getting a state. Abbas gives nice interviews to the Western media explaining how he will persuade militias to give up their guns and implement development programs for Gaza when it is obvious these things are never going to happen. (FrontPageMagazine)
  • Hamas, A Political Party? - P. R. Kumaraswamy
    Many have argued that the induction of Hamas into the electoral process is essential for reducing the violence, that given the strong public support of Hamas, its absence would undermine the credibility of the electoral process. But is Hamas ready to be a player? Hamas has yet to establish its unqualified willingness to recognize the supremacy of the Palestinian Authority. To be a player, Hamas must learn to play the role of an opposition rather than opponent of the authority. It would be naive to suggest that Hamas militants were capable of making a transition towards seeking a political, not maximalist, solution vis-a-vis Israel since they are driven by an uncompromising religious extremism.
        Without moderation and the willingness to compromise, enlisting Hamas in the electoral process would only complicate matters for Abbas.If it is to compete with and perhaps replace the PLO, Hamas needs to present itself as a political party guided by compromise rather than a militant group driven by ideological militancy. It is far from certain whether Hamas has the ability to make that transformation. (Indian Express-India)
  • Hamas's Tactics: Lessons from Recent Attacks - Jamie Chosak and Julie Sawyer
    Hamas continues to radicalize, recruit, and train students-turned-terrorists, and it maintains an intense effort to acquire and use chemical and biological weapons in terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. There is good reason to assume that Hamas will attempt to advance its military capacity to include chemical and biological agents if provided with the opportunity to do so. (Washington Institute for Middle East Policy)
  • The Un-Arafat Comes Calling - David Makovsky and Dennis Ross
    Mahmoud Abbas seeks to build a political culture of responsibility. He has repeatedly said (in both English and Arabic) that violence is counterproductive to Palestinian aspirations. While Arafat saw the misery of Palestinian refugees as a tool to be exploited for political purposes, Abbas has now given two speeches in the last month, in Arabic, declaring that it is time that Palestinians built housing for the refugees and that the Palestinian cause is not served by keeping refugees in wretched conditions. (Los Angeles Times)

    Syrian Involvement in Lebanon

  • The UN Report on the Hariri Assassination - Michael Young
    The Mehlis report will be discussed by the Security Council on Tuesday. The Council may pass two resolutions next week against Syria - the first in response to the Mehlis report. The second may condemn Syria's incomplete compliance with Resolution 1559, which calls for both a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon and the disarmament of militias, including Hizballah and Palestinian groups. Syria is said to have recently encouraged the flow of weapons to Palestinian militants in Lebanon, to help destabilize the country.
        With his back to the wall, what can Assad do? He can, of course, fully comply with the UN. But that would be political suicide amid the fingers pointed at members of his inner core. Efforts to put Syrian suspects on trial at home, meanwhile, would be rejected out of hand by the international community. At best, the Syrians can pray that eventual wrangling over a mixed or international tribunal means Lebanon must try the case itself, under Syria's threatening eye. That will not protect Syria, however, from the retaliation of hostile states once the Mehlis report has been fully digested.
        Or Assad can pursue brinksmanship - in Lebanon, Iraq, and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict - assuming this will strengthen his hand at a time when there is no ready alternative to his rule. He may be right, and his regime's collapse may take some time as nobody wishes to see Syria descend into chaos. However, such an impasse only heightens the chances that Syria will face increasingly harsher sanctions and perhaps even military retaliation from the U.S. over Iraq. Assad is being offered several ways to impale himself; his only leeway is choosing which is the most painless. The writer, a Lebanese national, is opinion editor at the Beirut Daily Star. (Wall Street Journal, 21Oct05)
  • Damaging Report Could Topple Assad - Ze'ev Schiff
    With the publication of the interim UN report, it is believed that opposition to Assad's regime will expand to include members of the Alawi sect. The president's continued power would depend to a great extent on whether leading elements of the sect believe he will jeopardize its long-standing rule, thereby making it preferable to replace him. Sources say that at least seven senior intelligence officers, including seven Alawis, have been put in the investigators' crosshairs. The danger to Assad's regime is great, and the central government in Damascus could be paralyzed. (Ha'aretz)

    Other Issues

  • Radical Islam vs. Democracy - Stephen Hadley
    U.S. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on 18 Oct 05: "As we continue these efforts to disrupt, degrade, and ultimately, defeat al-Qaeda and its supporters, we are better able to define the enemy. We are facing a transnational movement of extremist organizations, networks, and individuals - as well as their state and non-state supporters - that share an extremist ideology and pursue a common strategy."
        "In al-Qaeda's vision, Iraq would then become the safe haven from which to launch attacks against non-Islamist governments, including Israel, as well as Iraq's neighbors. Ultimately, al-Qaeda hopes to rally the Muslim masses, overthrow the moderate governments of the region, and reestablish the Islamic caliphate that, in our current day, would rule from Spain to Indonesia and beyond. The aspirations of these terrorist extremists do not end with the Middle East....Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, the al-Qaeda affiliate responsible for deadly bombings in Indonesia, recently declared: "If the West wants peace, they'll have to accept to be governed by Islam."
        "From the beginning, the war on terror has been both a battle of arms and a battle of ideas....The antidote to this radical vision is democracy, justice, and the freedom agenda....Yussuf al-Ayyeri, one of Usama Bin Laden's closest associates, wrote: 'It is not the American war machine that should be of the utmost concern to Muslims. What threatens the future of Islam, in fact its very survival, is American democracy.'" (White House)
  • Pakistan's Dirty Laundering - Jeff Jacoby
    "Pakistan on Saturday welcomed an offer of earthquake assistance from Israel," the Associated Press reported on Oct. 15, "but said it would have to be channeled through the United Nations, the Red Cross, or donated to a relief fund." The statement speaks volumes about the real stakes in the war between the civilized world and radical Islam. Loathing of Israel and Jews is not just a quirk of Pakistani politics. It is a hallmark of the radical Islamists whose terrorism worldwide has shed so much blood - and who hold sway over more than 70% of Pakistan, according to Tashbih Sayyed, editor of the weekly newspaper Pakistan Today.
        An outspoken Muslim moderate, Sayyed sees Musharraf's recent overtures toward Israel as an insincere tactic intended to impress Washington. "The Muslim world is plunged into an abyss of darkness, antimodernity, anti-Americanism, and anti-Semitism," Sayyed says. Only a minority of Muslims are personally hateful or fanatic. But a minority can wreak enormous damage when the majority is unwilling to act. (Boston Globe)
  • The Myth of International Law - Gerald M. Steinberg
    Israel's High Court of Justice recently ruled that the separation barrier built to protect Israelis against Palestinian terrorist attacks was morally justified as well as legal. While ordering some changes in the routing to limit the impact on Palestinians, the Israeli court rejected the International Court of Justice's advisory opinion, which called the barrier illegal. The ICJ's majority had erased the context of terrorism, and focused exclusively on distorted political claims.
        Claims regarding international law and universal human rights norms, whether made with respect to Israel, the U.S., Britain, or other countries do not reflect any consistent moral position. Instead, they are used to pursue a political and ideological agenda that is essentially anti-democratic. If the principles of universal justice were the objectives, rather than simply the means for supporting personal goals, then Palestinian, Syrian, Saudi and other terrorists would have been tried for war crimes and human rights violations long ago. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The Cure for the Wahhabi Virus - Rachel Ehrenfeld
    The National Intelligence Reform Act, passed in December 2004, requires the development of a presidential strategy for confronting Islamic extremism in collaboration with Saudi Arabia. So far, according to the September Government Accounting Office (GAO) report on the subject, U.S. agencies have been unable to determine the extent of Saudi Arabia's domestic and international cooperation to end radical Islamist propaganda. Indeed, the evidence suggests that the Saudis have done precious little to comply.
        Furthermore, the Saudis are continuing to fund terrorist activities as evident from the August capture of Y'akub Abu Assab, a senior Hamas operative who with Saudi money opened a Hamas communication center in eastern Jerusalem. Assab transferred hundred of thousands of dollars from Hamas headquarters in Saudi Arabia to Jerusalem, and from there, following instructions he received from Saudi Arabia, he distributed operational instructions and funding for Hamas activities in the West Bank and Gaza. and gave money to families of suicide bombers.
        Under U.S. pressure, Saudi Arabia declared repeatedly that it would close some of the charities that have been identified as spreading Wahhabism and funding terrorism. However, the September GAO report notes that: "in May 2005, a Treasury official told us it was unclear whether the government of Saudi Arabia had implemented its plans." As for the Saudi promise to establish a new National Commission for Relief and Charity Work Abroad, the GAO said: "as of July 2005, this commission was not yet fully operational." (FrontPageMagazine)
  • Details and Lies - The Systematic Mendacity of a Palestinian Atlas - Benny Morris
    The political goal of the Atlas of Palestine 1948: Reconstructing Palestine by Salman Abu Sitta is to delegitimate Zionism and Israel and to promote the re-Palestinization of Palestine/the Land of Israel through a process that includes the return of the refugees and the dismantling of the Jewish state. While this vast treasure-house of maps is a major boon to researchers, Abu Sitta's narrative is unabashedly propagandistic and often factually wrong. There are dozens of cases in which there is no correspondence between Abu Sitta's assertions in the text and the references that he purportedly bases them on.
        From reading this atlas, the reader will not know that it was the Palestinian Arab onslaught on the Jewish community in Palestine in November to December 1947 that provoked Jewish counter-violence, and that it was the follow-up invasion of the country by the armies of the surrounding Arab states in May to June 1948 that turned what might have been an ephemeral phenomenon into a still larger tragedy. The reader will come away believing that the Zionists unleashed a pre-planned campaign of "ethnic cleansing" against hapless Palestinian Arab villagers who were simply sitting at home embroidering folksy shirts.
        A more accurate description would go something like this: the UN General Assembly voted by more than a two-thirds majority in favor of partition and the establishment of Jewish and Arab states. The Palestinians and the Arab states rejected the resolution and vowed to prevent its implementation. Throughout the Arab world the cry went up for "jihad." On November 30, 1947, the day after the partition vote, Arab gunmen ambushed two Jewish buses near Petah Tikva, killing seven passengers, and Arab snipers began firing from Jaffa into Tel Aviv's streets. These attacks marked the start of the war. (New Republic)
  • Observations:

    Putting Saudi Arabia in Its Place - Nibras Kazimi (New York Sun)

    • Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York in late September, was prolifically doling out advice to America about its project in Iraq. Al-Faisal, along with his brother Prince Turki, who is slated to become his country's ambassador in Washington, and their brother-in-law Prince Bandar, the outgoing ambassador who is assuming the job of national security adviser, are the three leading lights of a concerted Saudi effort to reclaim their influence along the Potomac. Their game plan is simple: throw around a lot of money just like the good old days. Their motto is even simpler: "We told you so."
    • The trio's refrain is "this whole democracy business is messy and dangerous. We have our own way of doing things in the Middle East. Do not disturb our delicate balancing act with your crazy notions of freedom. Your decades-long support for our archaic dictatorships is not why young Middle Easterners are angry at you. They are angry because of what Israel is doing to the Palestinians. You should have listened to our plan: substitute Saddam with Saddam-Lite. Now Iran is getting all the spoils.
    • But then, something unexpected happened: Iraq's Interior Minister Bayan Jabr entered the scene screaming out "Wrong!" and proceeded to trash-talk the Saudi talking points. Mr. Jabr said the following: "Iraq is heir to an ancient civilization and does not need advice from a Bedouin riding a camel." Prince Saud should worry about the problems of Saudi Arabia, where minorities are treated like third and fourth class citizens, women are not allowed to drive, and its embittered youth are fueling the ranks of Islamic radicals all over the Middle East.
    • Mr. Jabr's outburst revealed an inherent truth about power dynamics in the Middle East: Saudi Arabia's influence is artificial. The Saudis bought their way to the table, a regime that survived and continues to survive at America's pleasure and benevolence but has come to believe itself entitled to push America around. Who cares if the Saudis control Mecca and Medina? That does not give them moral authority over Islam: when the first Muslims expanded their empire beyond the Arabian Peninsula, the first thing they did was move the capital to Kufa in Iraq. Thence it went to Damascus, and then back to Baghdad, and for a while, under the heterodox Fatimid Caliphs, to Cairo. There are three "real" power centers in the Arab Middle East: Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo. Throughout Islamic history, coups in these three capitals determined who got into power, not control over the holy sites in the Peninsula.

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