Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 22, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran Pledges Financial Aid to Palestinian Authority (Reuters)
    Iran pledged on Wednesday to provide financial assistance to the PA following threats by Western nations to halt aid to a Hamas-controlled government.
    "We will definitely provide financial aid to this government so that they can stand up against the oppression of America," said Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, after a meeting with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.

    See also Hamas Divided on Iranian Role - Orly Halpern (Jerusalem Post)
    While Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said during a meeting in Teheran that "The ayatollah's regime will have a major role in Palestine," newly-elected Hamas councilman Ghazi Hamad said in Gaza, "We are not rushing to take money from Iran."
    Another Hamas council member from Gaza, Dr. Atef Adwan, said that accepting Iranian money would make "Hamas a tool of [Iranian] policy and this is not good for Hamas."
    Hamas expert Shaul Mishaal of Tel Aviv University said Iran cannot foot the bill for the PA. "Hizballah costs them $40-$50m. a month. Here it's $250-$300 million."

The Rockets Are Getting Closer: IDF Finds Kassam in West Bank - Amir Buhbut (Maariv-Hebrew)
    Based on intelligence information from the Shin Bet, Israel Defense Forces troops uncovered a tunnel concealing a 40 kg. Kassam rocket near Kabatiya, close in Jenin in the West Bank.
    "The Palestinian terror organizations are continuing their efforts to develop their missile capabilities in order to attack Israeli citizens," said a source in the IDF Central Command.

Hamas and Nuclear Terror - Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook (Palestinian Media Watch)
    The homepage of Az A-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, the terrorist wing of Hamas, features a graphic of the destruction of the Star of David - the symbol of Israel - in a nuclear holocaust.
    The scene of the atomic destruction of the Star of David repeats every few seconds.
    View the scene

Gaza Gunmen Storm Customs Office (Palestinian Center for Human Rights)
    On Saturday, 40 gunmen, some of them masked, stormed the Customs Office in Gaza City.
    Armed with rifles and hand grenades, some of the gunmen removed the safety pins from grenades while inside the building.
    The assailants threatened to kidnap staff members if they did not comply with their demand to sign the papers to release a shipment that was being held at the Rafah international crossing point with no supporting documents.
    The papers were signed at gunpoint.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Bush: Hamas Government "Not a Partner in Peace"
    President Bush said Tuesday: "So long as Hamas does not recognize Israel's right to exist, my view is we don't have a partner in peace, and therefore shouldn't fund a government that is not a partner in peace."
        "But I recognized that, one, elections are the first step in many cases in evolution of a true democracy; and secondly, that elections show - give everybody a true look at how - what people are thinking on the street; and thirdly, though, that because the Palestinians spoke, doesn't necessarily mean we have to agree with the nature of - the party elected. And the party elected has said, we're for the destruction of Israel. And our policy is, two states living side by side in peace. And therefore, it's hard to have a state living side by side in peace when your stated objective is the destruction of one of the states."  (White House)
        See also Abbas Asks Hamas to Form New PA Government - Greg Myre (New York Times)
  • Rice Finds Egypt Unreceptive to Hamas Aid Cutoff - Joel Brinkley
    Secretary of State Rice on Tuesday began a four-day visit to the Middle East, where she hoped to persuade Arab leaders to cut off financial aid to Hamas. Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Egypt's foreign minister, told her that Egypt believed funds to the Palestinian government should continue, though Egypt gives little money to the Palestinians. Another of Rice's major goals for this trip - to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates - is to lock down commitments from the Arab leaders to stand firm against Iran's nuclear program. But once again, Egypt disappointed her. (New York Times)
        See also Rice Urges Hamas to Choose between Terror and Politics (AFP/Yahoo)
        See also Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood to Raise Funds for Hamas - William Wallis (Financial Times-UK)
  • Anti-Semitism Alleged in French Torture-Killing - Sebastian Rotella
    An investigative magistrate in France ruled Monday that some of the seven suspects who kidnapped Ilan Halimi, a Jewish store clerk, tortured him for more than three weeks, and killed him last week, would face hate-crime charges in addition to kidnapping and murder charges. France's Jewish community held an angry street protest Sunday and accused politicians of minimizing the crime to avoid increasing tension that lingers from riots by predominantly Muslim youths last year.
        The kidnappers, who called themselves "The Barbarians," beat, burned, and mutilated Halimi during 24 days of captivity in a cellar in Bagneux, southwest of the capital. The gang taunted Halimi's family and a rabbi with anti-Semitic epithets and recited Koranic verses during telephone calls and e-mails demanding wildly diverging amounts of ransom that never were collected. The kidnappers also sent photos of the victim with a gun to his head, bound and blindfolded, mimicking images of hostages in Iraq.
        "This gang massacred this young man. They cut off ears and fingers. It was like they had a trophy, a Jewish kid, and everybody abused him," said Sammy Ghozlan, a Jewish leader who is a retired police chief. "If Ilan hadn't been Jewish, he wouldn't have been murdered," Halimi's mother, Ruth, told Ha'aretz. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also French Interior Minister Sarkozy: Murder Was Anti-Semitic Crime - Kim Willsher
    French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy Tuesday told the French parliament that the abduction, torture, and killing of a young Jewish man was an anti-Semitic crime and that the gang had also tried to kidnap four other Jews. The police found literature linking some of the suspects to Palestinian and Muslim groups. (Guardian-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Former IDF Chief of Staff Yaalon: Disengagement Empowered Hamas - Neta Sela
    Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza had a huge impact on public opinion in the Palestinian street that credited Hamas with forcing Israel to withdraw, former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon told a conference sponsored by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on Tuesday. "No doubt, the disengagement caused the reinforcement of Hamas and weakened Mahmoud Abbas." "Instead of making the Palestinians understand they will pay a heavy price for terror, they learned they are better off as terrorists, and that is a serious problem," he said.
        "In Hamas' victory speech, leader Khaled Mashaal expressed the line of thought and the spirit pervading al-Qaeda, global Jihad, the Islamic movement, and the Iranian regime - all of which direct their struggle against the West and its culture. Israel is the first target for occupation and destruction on the way to conquering the West and establishing a Muslim regime across the world," Yaalon said. Hamas' victory will fuel the ambitions of Islamic groups in Western-friendly Arab countries like Egypt and Jordan to depose the secular regimes, he added. Yaalon warned that al-Qaeda will try to set up terror cells in Gaza now that the IDF has withdrawn.
        "In any case, the young Palestinian generation, who's brought up on incitement, is more prone to embrace al-Qaeda's ideology." "Is it not clear yet that a society that teaches its children to choose death instead of life is not a peace partner? A society whose narrative is based on denying Israel's right to exist is not open to negotiations but to war," Yaalon said. (Ynet News/Jerusalem Post)
        See also Yaalon: "We've Gotten Use to Palestinian Rockets As If It Was Rain" - Tal Yamin-Walbovitz
    Yaalon suggested that Israel take steps to cause the other side to face the dilemma of deciding whether or not it is worthwhile to continue firing rockets at Israel. He added, "The paradigm that there is a solution involving two states for two peoples is no longer relevant." (Maariv-Hebrew)
  • Mubarak Refuses to Meet with Hamas - Ze'ev Schiff
    Egyptian authorities turned down a request from Hamas to meet with President Hosni Mubarak following the victory in the Palestinian legislative election. Apparently, the rejection stems from Hamas' failure to respond to Egypt's demand that it recognize Israel, accept signed agreements, and end the violence against Israel. This is why Egypt decided after the election to recall most of its representatives from Gaza. Egyptian authorities are also criticizing Russian and Turkish decisions to invite Hamas officials for a visit. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Rocket Hits Israeli Kibbutz
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket Wednesday that landed in Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, south of Ashkelon, Israel Radio reported. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Palestinian Gunfire Wounds Israeli Driver in West Bank
    An Israeli man was lightly wounded Wednesday when Palestinians fired at his car near the village of Azon east of Kalkilya in the West Bank. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Hamas Is In for the Long Run - Barry Rubin
    Hamas does not expect to change everything overnight. Its members often say that 20 years will be needed to wipe out Israel. It is now trying to establish hegemony over the Palestinian movement in a way that will ensure Hamas is the permanent leader. A key aspect of Hamas' strategy is ensuring that the educational system raises a generation that will reject any peace or compromise with Israel, extol terrorism, and vote Hamas. At the same time, even the smallest improvements in government performance and reduced corruption can be used to show that Hamas is superior to Fatah.
        The priority will be on the anti-Israel struggle, virtually outlawing moderation and enthroning the Hamas perspective of a long-term, life-or-death struggle in which no real compromise is possible. Since there is basically no political difference between Hamas and Fatah except for Islamism, this should not be too difficult. Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar explains: "Anyone who thinks the [period of] calm means giving in, is mistaken. The calm is in preparation for a new round of resistance and victory." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Empty Pockets, Angry Minds; Muslim Reaction to Cartoons Excessive - Thomas L. Friedman
    There is something in the worldwide Muslim reaction to these cartoons that is excessive. Today, Muslim youth are enraged by cartoons in Denmark. Earlier, it was a story about a desecrated Koran. Why? This explosion of Muslim rage is not just about some Western insult. It's also about the failure of many Muslim countries to build economies that prepare young people for modernity. India is the second-largest Muslim country in the world, but the cartoon protests there, unlike those in Pakistan, have been largely peaceful. One reason for the difference is surely that Indian Muslims are empowered and live in a flourishing democracy. India's richest man is a Muslim software entrepreneur.
        The Arab world is the only area in the world where productivity did not increase with GDP growth. That's because so much of the growth was driven by oil revenues, not by educating workers to do new things with new technologies. Nearly 60% of the Arab world is under the age of 25. With limited job growth to absorb them, the ILO estimates, the region is spinning out about 500,000 more unemployed people each year. No wonder backward religious leaders and dictators in places like Syria and Iran are so quick to turn their young people's anger against an insulting cartoon and away from themselves and the rot they have wrought. (New York Times)
  • Observations:

    Stand Up for Denmark - Christopher Hitchens (Slate)

    • A small democratic country with an open society, a system of confessional pluralism, and a free press has been subjected to a fantastic, incredible, organized campaign of lies and hatred and violence. And nobody in authority can be found to state the obvious and the necessary - that we stand with the Danes against this defamation and blackmail and sabotage.
    • Instead, all compassion and concern is apparently to be expended upon those who lit the powder trail, and who yell and scream for joy as the embassies of democracies are put to the torch in the capital cities of miserable, fly-blown dictatorships. Let's be sure we haven't hurt the vandals' feelings.
    • Various Islamist groups and regimes have dug deep into their sense of wit and irony and proposed a trade-off. You make fun of "our" prophet and we will deny "your" Holocaust. Only a moral cretin thinks that anti-Semitism is a threat only to Jews. The memory of the Third Reich is very vivid in Europe precisely because a racist German regime also succeeded in slaughtering millions of non-Jews, including countless Germans, under the demented pretext of extirpating a nonexistent Jewish conspiracy.
    • Not a dollar of Wahhabi money should be allowed to be spent on opening madrasahs in this country, or in distributing fundamentalist revisions of the Koran in our prison system. Not until, at the very least, churches and synagogues and free-thought libraries are permitted in every country whose ambassador has bullied the Danes.

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