Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 8, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

Palestinians Attack International Mission in Hebron (AP/Ha'aretz)
    About 300 Palestinians, some throwing stones and bottles, attacked an international observer mission in the West Bank city of Hebron on Wednesday, smashing windows and trying set one of its buildings afire to protest Danish cartoons seen as insulting Islam.
    Sixty members of the mission were inside at the time, said Gunhild Forselv, a spokeswoman for the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH).
    Eleven Danish members of TIPH left more than a week ago.
    The protesters initially chased away outnumbered Palestinian police stationed outside, who were then reinforced.
    TIPH, made up of unarmed observers from Scandinavian and other European countries, was established in 1994 to help reduce friction between the city's Jewish and Palestinian residents.

New Wave of Terror at Israel's Door - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel is on the verge of a new round of Palestinian violence, security officials told the Jerusalem Post Tuesday.
    This week the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) recorded 55 terror alerts, compared with less than 50 last week.
    "We don't expect them [Hamas] to suddenly turn peaceful," one official said.
    "They say things as they are, they don't lie to you, and if they hate you they tell it to your face as opposed to other Palestinian leaders who hate you in private and pretend to love you in public."

Israel Has Little Say at Gaza-Egypt Border Crossing - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    The deal Israel reached with the PA and Egypt on operating the Rafah border terminal does not allow Israel to prevent the entrance of terrorists from Egypt into Gaza.
    Senior security officials confirmed that Israel has virtually no say in who crosses the border.
    In practice, this means terrorists can pass through unhindered.
    Indeed, not a single Palestinian has been stopped at the border since the Rafah agreement was reached in mid-November.
    See also EU Welcomes 100,000th Crossing at Rafah (Kuwait News Agency)

Castro Invites Ahmadinejad to Cuba (Gulf Daily News-Bahrain)
    Iranian President Ahmadinejad has accepted an invitation to visit Cuba from President Fidel Castro, in gratitude for Cuba's support of Iran's nuclear program, and will attend the September 11-16 Non-Aligned Summit in Havana.
    On Saturday, Cuba, Venezuela, and Syria voted against a resolution of the International Atomic Energy Agency to refer Iran to the UN Security Council.

Russia Seeks Gas Route from Turkey to Israel (AP/Moscow Times)
    A pipeline carrying Russian natural gas to Turkey will be extended to Israel and Lebanon, Turkish energy minister Hilmi Guler said Friday.
    The underwater Blue Stream pipeline has been running for more than two years, stretching from southern Russia under the Black Sea to the Turkish port city of Samsun.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Nordics Find Generosity No Shield from Muslim Wrath - Per Bech Thomsen
    For years, Scandinavian countries have been among the most generous with aid to the Muslim world, but that generosity has stood for little in the scandal over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad. Norway and Sweden are the top single donors of aid to the Palestinians after the U.S. The Danish paper Jyllands-Posten commissioned the cartoons for a debate on whether it was acceptable to censor the media to avoid offending Muslims, thereby giving Muslims special treatment. (Reuters/Washington Post)
        See also below Observations: A Caricature of Respect - Sara Bjerg Moller (Los Angeles Times)
  • Radical Islamists Attack Austrian Embassy in Iran
    Some 200 members of the paramilitary Bassij force, an offshoot of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, held a violent protest outside the Austrian embassy in Tehran on Monday, attacking the building with fire bombs and stones. Austria currently holds the EU's rotating presidency. (Iran Focus)
        See also Iran: Italy Supports Israel? Ban Fiat Cars - Nir Magal (Ynet News)
        See also Cartoon Rage Spreads to New Zealand - Barney Zwartz
    New Zealand became the latest nation unwillingly drawn in after two newspapers ran the cartoons in a move likely to cost the country its $100 million sheep trade with Iran. Tim Pankhurst, editor of Wellington's Dominion Post - owned by John Fairfax, which also owns The Age - said the paper published the cartoons as an issue of solidarity and press freedom. More than 700 angry Muslims marched through Auckland Sunday. (The Age-Australia)
  • British Muslim Cleric Jailed for Inciting Murder - Michael Holden and Peter Graff
    Egyptian-born Abu Hamza al-Masri, 47, whose Finsbury Park mosque in London served convicted "shoebomber" Richard Reid and September 11 plotter Zacarais Moussaoui, was sentenced to seven years in jail on Tuesday for inciting murder of Jews and unbelievers. "Not only did he repeatedly advocate that Muslims should kill non-believers, he set out to persuade his listeners that it was part of their religious duty to do so," Britain's Crown Prosecution Service said. (Reuters)
        See also Police Found Weapons at Finsbury Park Mosque
    Only after the conclusion of Abu Hamza's trial can full details of what police discovered during a 2003 raid on the Finsbury Park mosque be revealed. A mini-arsenal of weapons, terrorist paraphernalia, and more than 100 stolen or forged passports were found inside. "Our assessment was that this was material that had been used in training camps, probably here in the UK," a senior police source said. The police raid followed the discovery of an envelope during an earlier raid which had the address of the mosque on the front, in which police found recipes for chemicals including ricin and cyanide. (Times-UK)
        See also Abu Hamza and the 7/7 Bombers: Cleric's Mosque Used to Shield Suicide Terrorists - Sean O'Neill and Daniel McGrory (Times-UK)
  • Church of England in Disinvestment Snub to Israel - Ruth Gledhill
    The General Synod of the Church of England voted on Monday to disinvest from companies whose products are used by the Israeli government in the territories. The motion was passed overwhelmingly, in spite of strong lobbying from leading members of Britain's Jewish community, concerned that Israel's right to protect itself from suicide bombers and other Palestinian terror attacks should not be compromised. The Church Commissioners have £2.2 million holdings in Caterpillar Inc., a U.S. company that manufactures bulldozers used in clearance projects in the territories and also by Palestinians in their own building work. The vote to disinvest was backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey of Clifton, believes the Church should support Israel. (Times-UK)
        See also Former Archbishop of Canterbury: "Ashamed to Be an Anglican" - George Conger (Jerusalem Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinian Rocket Lands Near Kindergarten - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in Gaza fired two rockets that landed in Israel Tuesday. The first rocket hit a house in the town of Sderot, causing damage to property and killing a cat in the backyard. The rocket landed a few meters away from two kindergartens. The second rocket landed near a western Negev community. (Ynet News)
  • IDF Targets Gaza Terrorists - Ali Waked
    Two members of Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades were killed after an IDF aircraft fired a missile at a vehicle in Gaza City Tuesday. "This is our answer to the firing of Kassams," military officials said. The latest strike reflects the IDF's superb intelligence capabilities, which have allowed the Air Force to target terrorists with such accuracy. Army officials noted all the recent strikes harmed only the terrorists and did not hurt any innocent bystanders. (Ynet News)
  • Hamas Demands Control Over Three PA Security Forces - Amos Harel and Arnon Regular
    Hamas sent a demand to chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday that he give them control of three of the PA's security force branches: The "regular" police, the counter-intelligence force, and the civil defense. Abbas reportedly denied these demands, which were forwarded to him through Egyptian mediators. The counter-intelligence department is considered the strongest branch in the PA security forces and a bitter rival of Hamas.
        Hamas' top political leader, Khaled Mashaal, and other officials met in Cairo with the head of the Arab League and top aides of Egyptian President Mubarak in talks on a formula for drawing up a government. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • After the Hamas Victory: The Increasing Importance of Israel's Strategic Barrier in the Jordan Valley - Dore Gold
    The massive electoral victory of Hamas has created an entirely new strategic reality for Israel which vastly increases the importance of the Jordan Valley (a desert zone almost devoid of population) for Israel's security in the near term. Should Israel face a new round of armed Palestinian violence, its ability to isolate the Hamas regime from external reinforcement will be a key security requirement.
        In the summer of 2005, bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, requested that Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi extend his Sunni insurgency to the secular states neighboring Iraq, meaning Syria and Jordan, and prepare for the "clash with Israel." Former IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Moshe Yaalon warned at the recent Herzliya Conference that Israel might face the threat of mujahideen from the Iraq war seeking to infiltrate into Israel.
        Control of the Jordan Valley enables Israel to deal with any likely eventuality to the east. Should Israel withdraw from the Jordan Valley to the line of the security fence, it would not be able to stop the flow of insurgents and equipment into the West Bank to the terrain dominating Ben-Gurion Airport and other vital parts of Israel's national infrastructure along its coastal plain. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also Enter al-Qaeda - Ehud Yaari
    Since Israel's disengagement from Gaza last summer, al-Qaeda has been concentrating its efforts on building an infrastructure in the Palestinian territories and, just as worrying, among the Palestinians of South Lebanon and in Sinai and Jordan. Zarqawi, "the Emir" of al-Qaeda in Iraq, is relocating some of his foot soldiers from Iraq to the countries of the Levant. (Jerusalem Report)
        See also Al-Qaeda's Lebanese Expansion - Emily Hunt (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Bonfire of the Pieties - Amir Taheri
    The "rage machine" was set in motion when the Muslim Brotherhood - a political, not a religious, organization - called on sympathizers to take the field. A fatwa was issued by Yussuf al-Qaradawi, a Brotherhood sheikh with his own program on al-Jazeera. Not to be left behind, the Brotherhood's rivals, Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islami (Islamic Liberation Party) and the Movement of the Exiles (Ghuraba), joined the fray. Believing that there might be something in it for themselves, the Syrian Baathist leaders abandoned their party's 60-year-old secular pretensions and organized attacks on the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus and Beirut.
        There is no Koranic injunction against images of Muhammad. Many portraits of Muhammad have been drawn by Muslim artists, often commissioned by Muslim rulers. In museums within the Muslim world are famous depictions of Muhammad riding to Jerusalem (16th century), Archangel Gabriel guiding Muhammad into Medina (16th century), and the prophet contemplating a rose (19th century). The Janissaries - the elite of the Ottoman army - carried a medallion stamped with the prophet's head. A statue of Muhammad can be seen at the U.S. Supreme Court, where the prophet is honored as one of the great "lawgivers" of mankind. Those horrified by the spectacle of rent-a-mob sackings of embassies in the name of Islam should not blame all Muslims for what is an outburst of fascist energy. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Observations:

    A Caricature of Respect - Sara Bjerg Moller (Los Angeles Times)

    • After the publication of 12 cartoons, all of Europe is on high alert. The questions raised by the caricatures have been asked with increasing frequency in European capitals recently: How much does a society have to change to welcome immigrants from different cultures and religions, and how much must newcomers have to change in order to become members of that society?
    • How, the newspaper's editor wanted to know, was Islam affecting traditional Danish values such as freedom of expression and tolerance? In the eyes of many Europeans, the problem is the immigrants' refusal to assimilate or compromise with Western culture and values.
    • Europe's strategic interest in retaining access to Middle East oil demands that governments soothe Islamic ire. But European politicians' interests lie in insisting that Muslim immigrants assimilate and in standing tough against censorship by standing up to Muslim mobs.
    • At issue is whether two cultures can coexist if Muslims refuse to accept one of the basic tenets of liberalism: the right of others to express their views, however offensive, without the threat of violent reprisal. The Muslims who torched embassies, and the governments that did not condemn them, have shown themselves incapable of understanding what pluralistic societies are all about.
    • It's not the decision by Jyllands-Posten and other European newspapers to publish the cartoons that is appalling, it's the response from the Muslim world. If the Muslim outrage is really about demanding respect for others' beliefs (a valid argument), Arabs should be insisting that their own media stop the almost-daily depictions of Jews and Christians as bloodthirsty cannibals and murderers of children.
    • The real issue is not that some of the cartoons portrayed Islam unflatteringly but that the prophet's image was drawn at all. While Muslims are prohibited from depicting Muhammad, and doing so is considered blasphemy, this prohibition should not apply to non-Muslims. Demanding that non-Muslims abide by such a religious edict is tantamount to ordering them to follow an Islamic halal diet or cover their women's hair. In a world with more than a dozen major religions, no faith can prescribe such behaviors to others.

      The writer, a native of Denmark, is a graduate student in security studies at Georgetown University.

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