Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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November 18, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel Faces Elections Within Four Months - Harvey Morris (Financial Times-UK)
    Israelis will go to the polls to choose a new government within four months, as agreed in a meeting Thursday between Prime Minister Sharon and Amir Peretz, the new Labor challenger.

Israel HighWay
- November 17, 2005

Issue of the Week:
    A Review of Israel's Rich Musical Scene

Head of Pakistani Delegation in Israel to Lead Friday Prayer in al-Aqsa - Amna Khokar (Kuwait News Agency)
    The head of a Pakistani delegation, currently on a week-long visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, will lead the Friday prayer in Al-Aqsa Mosque after having brunch with Israeli Prime Minister Sharon on Friday.
    Maulana Ajmul Qadri spoke with the Kuwait News Agency from Ramallah on Thursday and said he was heading a 174-member delegation of retired generals, bureaucrats, traders, bankers, industrialists, and religious officials who arrived in Tel Aviv on Saturday from Cairo.

Heard on Tapes, a Chilling Voice of Islamic Radicalism in Europe - Elaine Sciolino (New York Times)
    Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed and Yahia Ragheh, his 22-year-old disciple, will be tried in Milan in January.
    The indictment calls Ahmed an "organizer of the terrorist group responsible for the Madrid attacks," a "recruiter of numerous people ready to commit suicide attacks," and a "coordinator of terrorist cells" abroad.
    The police report charges that he used cassette tapes, cellphones, CDs, and computers as recruitment tools, highlighting how the Internet potentially can transform any living room into a radical madrasa.
    Substantial information about Ahmed surfaced through wiretaps of telephone conversations. In one conversation, Ahmed appeared to be recruiting people to carry out suicide attacks in Iraq and preparing a second attack, perhaps in Europe.

Italy: Arrested Algerians Were "Ready to Strike" (AKI-Italy)
    Three Algerian men were arrested in the Italian cities of Naples and Brescia on Tuesday, suspected of being linked with an Algerian group connected to al-Qaeda.
    Investigators say they were actually "potential operatives" who were "ready to attack."
    One of the three, Yamine Bourhama, is thought to have undergone training at terrorist camps in Chechnya and Georgia and may be capable of making explosive belts used by suicide bombers.
    See also Norway Link to Italian Terror Suspects (Aftenposten-Norway)
    Two of the three Islamist terrorism suspects arrested in Italy lived in Norway under false identities, allegedly using forged identity papers acquired in France.

The World of Bin Laden - Francis Harris (Telegraph-UK)
    Osama bin Laden wants the U.S. to convert to Islam, ditch its constitution, abolish banks, and jail homosexuals, according to the first complete collection of the Saudi's statements, The Statements of Osama bin Laden, published Thursday.
    In bin Laden's world, a global conflict is underway between the umma, or Muslim community, and unbelievers.

Muslim Group Flees Russia for U.S. - Peter Finn (Washington Post)
    Thousands of Muslims from a small ethnic group known as the Meskhetian Turks are fleeing Krasnodar in the Black Sea region of Russia for the U.S.
    The exodus is caused by what human rights groups call a campaign of persecution sanctioned by local authorities and spearheaded by the Cossacks, a Russian militia that fought for the czars and is being revived.
    In the past year, more than 5,000 Meskhetian Turks have resettled in the U.S. as refugees, and 4,400 have approval to immigrate, according to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Another 7,000 have filed applications.
    "I call it soft ethnic cleansing," said Alexander Ossipov, an analyst at the Institute for Humanities and Political Studies in Moscow.

The 21st Century Total War Against Israel and the Jews: Part Two - Manfred Gerstenfeld (JCPA)
    The term "anti-Zionism" came into systematic use only after the Six-Day War by the Soviet Union's Ministry of Information, and thereafter by the media of the French extreme Left.
    Hildegard Muller, a German Christian Democratic parliamentarian, notes:
    "Many newspapers have no editors anymore for specific topics. They take their news from press agencies, such as Agence France-Presse. The next day one finds the same news in tens of newspapers."
    "No journalist in any of these media has checked the truth of this information. Slowly an overall picture is created: a small Palestinian force fights against the high-tech Israeli army. This creates the distorted image of David versus Goliath."

Israeli Airport Lie Detector Could Spot Terrorists (AP/Jerusalem Post)
    An Israeli high-tech innovation aims to take airport security to the next level, analyzing the voices of suspect passengers, Channel 2 TV reported Thursday.
    "The system analyzes voice waves for every passenger, to draw conclusions about their emotional state and from that to deduce if they are a security risk," said Amir Liberman, CEO of Nemesysco Ltd., which developed the GK-1 access control system that has been tested successfully in Russian airports.

India, Israel Trade to Reach $2.7b in 2005 (Press Trust of India)
    "Last year, bilateral trade between India and Israel stood at $2.2 billion. The commercial ties between both countries have improved and will cross $2.7 billion by this December" - a 23% increase, Israel Consul General Daniel Zohar Zonshine said in Mumbai.

The Fine Points of Stopping Terror - Stewart Ain (New York Jewish Week)
    Senior Israeli terrorism experts spent two days on Long Island this week briefing law enforcement authorities from New York and three other East Coast states about terrorist tactics and how best to detect and prevent attacks.
    More than 300 law enforcement officials from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts were on hand.

Israeli Singer in Concert to Benefit Pakistan Earthquake Victims (Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid)
    The Israeli band, the Idan Reichel Project, and Anath, a Tunisian-Palestinian singer, performed together Tuesday at Columbia University in a benefit to assist the victims of the recent earthquake in Pakistan.

Blindness No Handicap for Israeli Golf Ace (Reuters)
    Blind Israeli golfer Zohar Sharon realized the dream of every amateur hacker when he shot a hole-in-one on the 160-meter, 15th hole at the Caesarea Golf Club on Monday.
    Sharon was delighted when his caddy, Shimshon Levy, found the ball nestled in the cup.
    "He went crazy. I did not understand what he was shouting about, I thought a snake had bitten him," Sharon said of Levy, who lines him up for his shots.
    Sharon, a 53-year-old former paratrooper, took up golf after he was blinded by chemicals sprayed in his face during a combat operation with the Israeli army.

Useful Reference:

Human Rights of Christians in Palestinian Society - Justus Reid Weiner (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Living amidst a xenophobic Muslim population plagued by endemic violence bordering on anarchy, the Christians have shrunk to less than 1.7% of the population in the Palestinian areas.
    This study provides an in-depth look into the nearly uninterrupted persecution of Christians throughout the decade since the Oslo peace process began.
    Read the full report - pdf format (1.4M).

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Foreign Network at Front of CIA's Terror Fight - Dana Priest
    The CIA has established secret joint Counterterrorist Intelligence Centers in more than two dozen countries where U.S. and foreign intelligence officers work side by side to track and capture suspected terrorists and to destroy or penetrate their networks, according to current and former American and foreign intelligence officials. The Americans and their counterparts at the centers, known as CTICs, make daily decisions on when and how to apprehend suspects, whether to whisk them off to other countries for interrogation and detention, and how to disrupt al-Qaeda's logistical and financial support.
        The network of centers reflects what has become the CIA's central and most successful strategy in combating terrorism abroad: persuading and empowering foreign security services to help. Virtually every capture or killing of a suspected terrorist outside Iraq since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks - more than 3,000 in all - was a result of foreign intelligence services' work alongside the agency, the CIA deputy director of operations told a congressional committee in a closed-door session earlier this year. (Washington Post)
  • Behind the Scenes, Saddam in Fighting Mood -
    Ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein admitted to investigative judges that helicopters were used to machine-gun civilians in the central shrine city of Karbala. Asked about the shrines of the imams Hussein and Abbas that were targeted, Saddam responded, "Who do you mean, those [expletive deleted]?" the lawyer quoted him as saying, provoking two of the court's clerks to lunge at the fallen dictator and start pummeling him. The 68-year-old former strongman fought back before the chief judge restored order. (AFP/Yahoo)
  • Polemic and Purges Pile Up Troubles for Iran's Leader - Simon Tisdall and Ewen MacAskill
    Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has divided the powerful clerical establishment as well as alienating moderates, an informed Iranian source said Thursday. "He is defying everybody. But he is not a power that cannot be challenged." Ahmadinejad's planned extension of state controls of the economy and his peremptory sacking of seven state bank presidents has undermined business confidence. (Guardian-UK)
  • U.S. National Security Council Puts Scholar in Charge of Middle East - Robin Wright
    Michael S. Doran ended up at the National Security Council staff in charge of the Middle East because of his unusual specialty: He is a 21st century scholar of Muslim extremist Web sites. Doran deals with topics including Iran's nuclear program, the Arab-Israeli conflict, Syria's ties to terrorists, and reform in the oil-rich Persian Gulf kingdoms.
        Doran described Middle East studies on American campuses as "stultifying, homogenous, and conformist." The field has "gone into a dead end. It's highly politicized and dominated by one point of view," reflecting the pro-Arab "orientalism" of the late Palestinian-born Columbia University scholar Edward W. Said. (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Hamas: We Oppose Renewal of "Calm" - Ali Waked
    Khaled Mashal, head of Hamas' political bureau, said Thursday that the movement does not think that the "calm" (ceasefire) should be renewed.
        Mashal also claimed that sources in the PA are working together with Israel in order to harm Hamas. "Unfortunately, we have information that a number of Palestinian security organizations have transferred to the Zionist side lists of Hamas activists recently arrested by Israel," he said. (Ynet News)
        See also Hamas Building Army to Resist Disarmament - Julie Stahl
    Hamas is using the current period of "calm" to build a popular army in Gaza that would resist any future Israeli incursions or any attempt by PA Chairman Abbas to disarm the organization, a senior Israeli military source said. Hamas believes that following the parliamentary elections, the Palestinian public will have a "crisis in expectations" and Hamas will regain the "legitimacy for violent confrontation," the source said. (CNS News)
  • Two Tanzim Operatives Killed in Arrest Operation -
    Tanzim operatives Ahmed Sabar Mahmud Abhara and Mahmud Jamal Mujamed Zaid were killed Thursday in an arrest attempt near Jenin in the northern West Bank. A roadblock was set up to arrest two armed wanted Palestinians who were traveling in a private vehicle. The soldiers at the roadblock signaled for the vehicle to stop but it accelerated. As it was passing the roadblock, one of the wanted men pulled out a handgun and aimed it at the force. The force opened fire in response, killing the two men. Abhara collaborated with Islamic Jihad terrorists in the region and had been a member of a Jenin-based cell that manufactured rockets. (IDF Spokesperson/IMRA)
  • Palestinians Stage Mass Armed March in Gaza
    Defying a PA ban on public displays of weapons, about 1,000 members of the Al Aksa Martyrs' Brigades marched through Gaza City on Thursday brandishing assault rifles and rocket launchers and vowing to hold on to their arms. The PA has had great difficulty trying to impose order in Gaza, where terrorists routinely flaunt their power. (AP/Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Expert Downplays Iranian Spy Satellite Claims - Arieh O'Sullivan
    Iran's claim that its Sina-1 satellite is capable of spying on Israel is more wishful thinking than a strategic threat, Yiftah Shapir, editor of the Middle East Military Balance at the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, said Thursday. "According to the Iranians, its camera has a resolution of about 50 meters. That means that it has no military significance," he said.
        Iran's Deputy Telecommunications Minister Ahmad Talebzadeh, who heads the space program, told AP, "Technically speaking, yes it can monitor Israel, but we don't need to do it. You can buy satellite photos of Israeli streets from the market." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Arab-Israeli Conflict

  • Suicide Terrorism in the Middle East - Martin Kramer
    The Palestinian case is not simply one of struggle against occupation; it is also a struggle for primacy among rivals. Israel had been in occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank for nearly thirty years before the first Palestinian suicide bombing. Why did it take so long? Palestinian suicide bombings coincide with intensified political struggle for dominance in the Palestinian arena, specifically between Hamas and the Arafat-led PLO. Suicide bombing as an alternative strategy has had obviously negative results, such as the loss of international sympathy and the construction of Israel's security fence. This suggests that ending the occupation is not the prime objective of the suicide campaign. The attacks are used to win converts and to build identity over time. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
        See also The Puzzle of the Suicide Bomber - Anne Applebaum
    Wearing a white headscarf, speaking in a monotone, Sajida Rishawi described on Jordanian television how she and her husband, an Iraqi linked to the insurgent Abu Musab Zarqawi, had prepared to blow themselves up in Amman. To stop the Rishawis of the future, her community - her family, her compatriots, the Jordanians marching in the streets last week - must change the culture that celebrates self-immolation and that sick form of honor and pride. If the desire for murderous glory is what makes suicide bombers act as they do, then scorn from all across the Muslim world on whose behalf she thought she was acting is the only lasting deterrent. (Washington Post)
  • The Jihad Obstacle to Progress; No "Process" Will Work Without an End to Terror - Saul Singer
    Even though the Arab-Israeli conflict is the flashpoint between dictatorships and democracy in the region, it is never portrayed, even by the U.S., as a front within the wider struggle between darkness and light, but as a conventional border dispute. The U.S. continues to relate to the Arab-Israeli conundrum as a head-banging enterprise where Israel must be induced to give up land and the Palestinians to offer peace.
        The obstacle to peace is Greater Palestine, the idea that Israel has no right to exist. Accordingly, the standard U.S. formulation juxtaposing Israeli settlements and Palestinian terrorism in the same breath - as Rice again did this week - is not just harmless lip service. The whole enterprise of posing as an honest broker between a jihad and its intended victim is a harmful anachronism.
        It is time for the U.S. to state what the "peace process" has become: a matter of waiting for the Arab world in general, and the Palestinians in particular, to recognize that the Jewish people have a right to a small national home in the midst of a sea of Arab states. The U.S. should, in short, put the Arab jihad against Israel on the same plane as the fight against the global jihad on the West. They are, after all, one and the same. It is impossible to conceive of victory against the wider jihad while politely genuflecting toward its first and most virulent manifestation. (National Review)
  • Who Needs Normalization? - Guy Bechor
    Overtures from the Arab and Muslim world towards Israel stem from the recognition that Israel is a strong economic and diplomatic player in the Middle East, and do not represent any legal or diplomatic recognition. They are establishing relations with "Tel Aviv" as a general, non-binding term, rather than eternal, symbolic "Jerusalem." A working relationship is the most Israel can expect today from the Arab world, especially after five years of intifada have so poisoned the regional atmosphere. Public opinion of Israel on the Arab street is worse than it has ever been.
        Perhaps the time has come to learn the lessons of the failed 1990s. Here in the Middle East, we must be modest, we must act without signing ceremonies or loud proclamations. If Israel says, "there is a solution to the conflict," opposing forces will do everything they can to destroy that vision. On the other hand, if Israel says, "there is no solution," these forces will breathe easy and agree to local and temporary arrangements. In the meanwhile, everyone in the region would be able to live in peace. (Ynet News)

    The Jordan Bombings

  • Keeping Secrets in Jordan - William M. Arkin
    King Abdullah II, himself a former commander of Jordan's special operations force, has forged ever closer military and intelligence ties with the U.S. U.S.-Jordanian intelligence cooperation grew in the 1990s as Iraqi refugees, businessmen, and defectors in Amman were recruited, and Amman became a hub for anti-Saddam operations. Jordan's General Intelligence Directorate today is considered the most effective allied counter-terrorism operation in the Middle East. Jordanian secret services and intelligence personnel are reported to have done much "dirty work" for their American counterparts, including interrogations and targeted killings.
        In March 1995, 1,200 personnel and 34 American F-15s and F-16s set up camp at two airbases - Shaheed Mwaffaq and H-5 near Azraq - for almost three months, partly to enforce the Iraqi southern no-fly zone. These bases eventually became part of the secret network of U.S. facilities in the Gulf region. As the 2003 Iraq war neared, U.S., British, and Australian special operations forces and intelligence operatives flooded into the country. (Washington Post)
  • Unique Learning Opportunity - Daniel Pipes
    Palestinians have established a worldwide reputation not just for relying heavily on suicide murder but for doing so enthusiastically. No other media and school system indoctrinates children to become suicide murderers. No other people holds joyous wakes for dead suicide bombers; no other parents hope their children will blow themselves up. None other receives lavish endorsement and funding for terrorism from the authorities.
        Queen Noor of Jordan stated that the Amman terrorists "made a significant tactical error here, because they have attacked innocent civilians, primarily Muslims," implying her approval had the victims been non-Muslims. The message to Palestinians needs to be simple, consistent, and universal: Everyone condemns suicide terrorism, unequivocally, without exceptions, whether the bombing is in Amman or Hadera. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Most Arabs Revolted by Al-Qaeda Barbarism - Frida Ghitis
    Observers have rushed to describe the targets of the Amman attacks as ''Western.'' But anyone who has witnessed the wedding receptions in Amman hotels knows the guests are almost all Muslim Arabs, probably Palestinians, who make up the majority of Jordan's population. The bombers who killed at least 57 people knew they were not killing scores of Americans. The reality is that, as with most operations by al-Qaeda and its affiliates, the overwhelming majority of the victims were Muslim, and that was not a fluke.
        Killing other Arabs, especially Palestinians, is no way to make friends in the Muslim world. But al-Qaeda is not waging a popularity campaign; al-Qaeda has no democratic aspirations. The real objective is to undermine and ultimately depose the secular Jordanian government of King Abdullah II. (Miami Herald)
  • After Amman, Pity What Islam Has Lost - Khaled Duzdar
    Last week's suicide attacks against innocent civilians in Amman shocked us all. There should be no excuse for neglecting and denying the dangerous reach of the carriers of a new and mad disease of violence. Serious actions should be undertaken to exterminate this spreading disease from our Muslim societies and from Islam itself. Muslims and Arabs should not only have better condemned the terrorist acts carried out everywhere around the world, but also should move to isolate the destructive, invented beliefs promoted by a group of insane people and carried out in the name of defending Islam. The writer is the Palestinian co-director of the strategic affairs unit at the Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information in Jerusalem. (Daily Star-Lebanon)

    The Arab World

  • Insurgency in Waiting: Iraq May Be the Jihad Superbowl, But Saudi Arabia Is Still Al-Qaeda's Top Prize - Richard L. Russell
    Riyadh spends billions on defense and internal security forces every year, but it may not have what it takes to defeat a determined insurgency. Al-Qaeda's kinship with the Wahhabi religious establishment makes it popular within the kingdom and provides fertile ground for recruitment and operations. The Wahhabis also have a longstanding relationship with the royal family, through which they accept oil largesse in exchange for providing political and religious legitimacy to the regime.
        While the al-Qaeda insurgency in Saudi Arabia is likely to grow, the reliability of Saudi internal security is in doubt. The May 2003 bombings of residential compounds in Riyadh required insider knowledge that was almost certainly provided by the Saudi security detail at the compound. In June 2004, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula announced that elements in the Saudi police provided official uniforms and police vehicles to the group that carried out the execution of the American worker Paul Johnson, and set up false roadblocks as well.
        The problem will only get worse as Saudi insurgents begin returning from Iraq, ready to employ their on-the-job training. Tackling this entrenched problem will require political skill, grit, and determination. So far, it's not clear that the aging and conservative Saudi leadership is up to the task. The writer teaches at the National Defense University's Near East and South Asia Center for Strategic Studies. (Foreign Policy)
        See also Prince Salman Seems Most Likely To Succeed
    The succession of Saudi King Abdallah bin Abd al-Aziz and Crown Prince Sultan bin Abd al-Aziz has been smooth, but their respective ages of 83 and 81 raise the question of who will succeed them. The Basic Law of 1992 issued by King Fahd lays down that the king must be drawn from the direct descendants of King Abd al-Aziz with "the most upright person chosen." Prince Salman (69), the governor of Riyadh, is the most able of the remaining sons of Abd al-Aziz. For many years he has functioned as the unofficial CEO of the Al-Saud and has been responsible for fixing stipends to princes and resolving disputes. However, the irascible Prince Nayef (72), the interior minister, who is responsible not only for security but for relations with the Wahhabi religious establishment, is older and may insist that he gets his turn, despite his poor health. (Oxford Analytica/Forbes)
  • Christians Oppressed - Saad Eddin Ibrahim
    Egypt's population of nearly 75 million includes the Middle East's largest Christian minority, over seven million, the vast majority of whom are members of the Coptic Orthodox Church and have in the last half-century experienced institutionalized discrimination that renders them little more than second-class citizens.
        Nothing is as symbolic as the persistence of the Hamayonic Decree, which requires no less than a presidential permit for the building, renovation - or even the minor repair - of churches. Of course, no such restrictions exist on the building of mosques. This decree is expressly intended to restrict the ability of Copts to practice their faith. It is a monument to the Copts' lowly status in Egyptian society. There can be no genuine hope for true democracy, civil liberties, or the abatement of deeply entrenched religious discrimination in Egypt as long as the Hamayonic Decree stands in flagrant violation of the constitution and human rights. It would take no more than the stroke of a pen for President Hosni Mubarak to strike it down. The writer is an Egyptian pro-democracy activist. (Wall Street Journal, 18Nov05)
        See also Egyptian Reformist Thinker Tarek Heggy: "Egyptian Copts are Oppressed, Oppressed, Oppressed" (MEMRI)
  • Hizballah Takes a Hit - Zvi Bar'el
    Dalal al-Bizri, a Lebanese sociologist who lives in Egypt, attacked Hizballah in a recent column in the London-based Al-Hayat. How it is that Hizballah "says nothing about its Iranian patronage?...Iran, of which Nasrallah is the representative, as he himself presents it on his Internet site's home page, meddles in Lebanese affairs just as the U.S. meddles in Iraq's affairs." "Before the president of Iran declared that he wanted to erase Israel from the map, what were Hizballah demonstrators shouting, and are continuing to shout? 'Death to America and Death to Israel.'...And now, it turns out that Israel is not the danger that threatens the region and its residents." (Ha'aretz)
  • Striking a Syrian Pose? - Seth Colter Walls
    In April, just before the Syrian pullout from Lebanon, Hizballah feted Syria's then-intelligence chief - and de facto proconsul - in Lebanon, Rustom Ghazali. Hizballah Secretary-General Nasrallah stood for a photo op, in which he presented the retreating Syrian envoy with an Israeli rifle. Lokman Slim, head of an organization fighting for civil liberties in Lebanon, said: "It is remarkable that Nasrallah presented the gun to the head of the intelligence, and not the head of the army. This is a gesture that indicates Hizballah's allegiance lies with the man responsible for countless crimes against Lebanese, and consecrates the image of Hizballah as the Syrian regime's 'mercenaries' in Lebanon."  (Weekly Standard)

    Weekend Features

  • The Torture Rule Book - Ori Nir and Amos Guiora
    After being slammed annually in the State Department's human rights report for its abuse of Palestinian detainees, Israel has suddenly become a model in the eyes of many American jurists and politicians. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has repeatedly mentioned the Israel Supreme Court's 1999 ruling, which explicitly banned torture during interrogation of terrorism suspects, as an inspiration for his own measure outlawing torture. Most in Israel's security and political establishment have come to agree with the court's judgment that "a democracy must sometimes fight with one hand tied behind its back." McCain said he had been convinced by Israelis that the rules had not crippled their anti-terrorism efforts.
        U.S. legal scholars have recently praised the practical activism of Israel's Supreme Court for defining the balance between legitimate national security considerations and equally legitimate civil rights - and for doing so in a time of war. The Pentagon is also seeking Israeli expertise in educating soldiers on how to respect human rights while fighting terrorists in a civilian environment. Ori Nir is the Washington bureau chief of the Forward. Amos Guiora, the director of the Institute for Global Security, Law and Policy at Case Western Reserve University, once served as Commander of the IDF School of Military Law. (Los Angeles Times)
  • French-Jewish Philosopher Views Ethno-Religious Character of Riots - Dror Mishani and Aurelia Smotriez
    According to the French-Jewish philosopher Alain Finkielkraut, "In France, they would like very much to reduce these riots to their social dimension, to see them as a revolt of youths from the suburbs against their situation, against the discrimination they suffer from, against the unemployment. The problem is that most of these youths are blacks or Arabs, with a Muslim identity. Look, in France there are also other immigrants whose situation is difficult - Chinese, Vietnamese, Portuguese - and they're not taking part in the riots. Therefore, it is clear that this is a revolt with an ethno-religious character." (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel's "Forgotten" Settlers - Raffi Berg
    The Jerusalem Gold Hotel is home to some 42 families who do not want to be there. They are the former residents of the Gaza Strip settlement of Neve Dekalim, forced out of their homes under Israel's disengagement plan, bussed to Jerusalem and resettled in accommodation meant for tourists and transients. For those former settlers who did not have housing solutions of their own (the vast majority of the 8,500 evicted from Gaza), the government rented more than 2,000 hotel rooms meant as a temporary measure for just days. But the days have turned to weeks and the weeks to months, and, for some, there is no end in sight.
        Moshe Saperstein, 65, lost an arm and an eye in the 1973 Middle East war, and was badly wounded again in an attack by Palestinian militants in 2002. But he says he considers himself one of the lucky ones. As a disabled war veteran he receives a monthly pension from the government, while friends who were farmers and fishermen lost their livelihoods when the pull-out occurred. (BBC News)
  • Israel: Punching Above Its Weight. The Secret of Israel's Tech Success
    Israel is third only to America and Canada in the number of companies listed on NASDAQ, and the country attracts twice the number of venture-capital (VC) investments as the whole of Europe. In 2003, 55% of Israel's exports were high technology, compared with the OECD average of 26%. Tech giants such as IBM, Motorola, and Cisco have research centers in Israel, which is also where Intel developed its Centrino chip.
        The pump was primed by government grants in the 1970s, by the BIRD Foundation (a joint American-Israeli initiative that supported many start-ups before VC money was widely available), and by government schemes to encourage Russian immigrants who arrived after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Another big factor is the army, that gets hold of everybody at age 18, and if they have a glimmer of potential, it catalyzes their transformation into engineers or scientists. Israel has 135 engineers per 10,000 employees, compared with 70 in America, 65 in Japan, and 28 in Britain. (Economist-UK)
  • Observations:

    Expecting Regime Change in Syria - Douglas Davis (Jerusalem Post)

    • Bashar Assad has never lived up to his father's expectations. While Hafez managed to exploit - and somehow expand - the perception of Syria's power in the region, the weak and vacillating Bashar seems to have diminished it. The sclerotic "old guard" in Syria permitted the ineffectual Bashar Assad to remain in office, if not in power. The condition of his rule was that he must temper his visions of reform and modernization. Rather, sources say, he must maintain the status quo, which would allow them to preserve their vested interests.
    • But Bashar has failed to do even that. Through bad judgment and political incompetence he has failed to understand the new realities in Washington, refused to stop supporting Palestinian rejectionists, failed to cut his ties to Hizballah, etc. Not only has he roused Washington's ire by facilitating the passage of insurgents to Iraq, but according to numerous Syrian and Arab commentators, he also almost certainly had prior knowledge of the plot to assassinate former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.
    • True, the "old guard" does not pose an immediate challenge. Most of its most senior members are...well, senior. Vice President Abdul Khalim Khaddam, Foreign Minister Farouk a-Sharaa, Defense Minister Hassan al-Turkumani, and former deputy prime minister Mustafa Tlass are all in their late 60s and 70s. For many, ambition has long since been softened by the material cushion that corruption brings. But there are claims to succession both inside and outside the Assad family that will not remain dormant if Syria becomes dangerously unstable and power appears vulnerable in Alawite hands.
    • It should never have come to this. The succession belonged to the eminently suitable Basil Assad, Bashar's older brother. The "mysterious" car crash that killed the charismatic Basil, one well-placed Arab political source told me, was neither an accident nor a political vendetta. Rather, it was a crime of passion within the ruling family. Basil fell victim to the wrath of his sister, Bushra, who was incensed by his uncompromising disapproval of her affair with a then-rising star of Syrian military intelligence, Assef Shawkat, 15 years her senior and already married to two wives. When Basil discovered Shawkat and his sister together at the presidential palace one night, he was enraged. He not only banished Shawkat but physically beat Bushra - a woman of immense pride and formidable intellect - in the presence of the presidential guards.
    • Determined to avenge her humiliation, Bushra - known as the "Iron Lady" - arranged for the braking mechanism on her brother's brand-new Mercedes to be sabotaged just before his final, fatal journey to Damascus Airport for a flight to Germany. Nine months after Basil's death, Shawkat took Bushra as his third wife. He was embraced by the Assad family and propelled up the chain of command in Syria's military intelligence. These days, Shawkat, 55, is head of military intelligence and is a prime suspect in the Hariri killing.
    • All the old certainties that allowed Syria to sustain its despotic form of Ba'athism, develop stockpiles of chemical weapons and missiles, arm and train Palestinian terrorists, and provide logistical support for Hizballah have vanished. First, Washington no longer regards Syria as a pivotal regional player that must be courted and massaged. On the contrary, Syria has been labelled a pariah by the Bush administration. Second, the killing of Hariri has infuriated Riyadh, and Damascus can no longer rely on the unquestioned and substantial largesse of Saudi Arabia. Third, Damascus can no longer count on Iran.
    • Bashar's survival strategy appears to be based on destabilizing Lebanon abroad while simultaneously arming Alawite loyalists to protect his rule at home. In Lebanon, Bashar is said to be working via extremist Palestinian groups to threaten Lebanon's stability in an effort to simultaneously divert attention from Damascus and signal to the international community that Syria has not lost its capacity to rock the regional boat. Meanwhile, in Syria itself the arming of the Alawite community is likely to catalyze an arms race within other communities which will naturally feel an urgent need to defend themselves.
    • While there is speculation that Syrian Islamists are again on the move, perceptions of weakness in the presidential palace are red meat to coup-minded generals and to non-Alawite Syrians who have been excluded from the centers of power for so long.

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