Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 18, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

Palestinian Groups Seek Relief from Court Order in Terrorism Case - Toni Locy (AP/Boston Globe)
    The Palestinian Authority is asking a federal judge to reconsider an order to pay nearly $200,000 to the estate of a couple killed in Israel in a terrorist attack, saying the PLO Mission in Washington will have to close if the money is turned over.
    Relatives of Yaron and Efrat Ungar, who died in a June 1996 attack carried out by Hamas, the PA, and the PLO, filed suit in Rhode Island in 2000 under the Antiterrorism Act.
    Four years later, a federal judge there ordered the groups to pay the relatives $116 million. Last year, the judge froze the groups' assets.
    Last week, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler agreed to order the surrender of nearly $200,000 that the PLO Mission had in a bank account to be put toward the outstanding $116 million judgment.
    Kessler said the Palestinian groups had presented "no facts" to support their contention that turning over the money would result in the closure of the PLO Mission.

Iranian Diplomats Killed in 1982 by Lebanese Christian Phalange (Naharnet-Lebanon)
    Lebanese Forces (LF) leader Samir Geagea has said that four Iranians, including two diplomats, who were kidnapped by his militia in Lebanon in 1982, were all killed shortly after their disappearance, according to an interview published in As Safir Thursday.
    Elie Hobeika, who was in charge of the militia's military operations at the time, was responsible for their execution.
    Hobeika, who has been accused of the 1982 massacre of Palestinians at Sabra and Shatila, was killed in a car bomb in 2002.

Call Islamic Terrorism By Its Rightful Name - Nick Cohen (Observer-UK)
    Franco Frattini, the EU's Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security, has banned the use of the phrase "Islamic terrorism" to describe Islamic terrorism.
    The EU wishes to deny that political Islam inspires terrorists to blow up everything from mosques in Baghdad to tube trains in London, even when Islamist terrorists say explicitly that it does.

Israel Appointed to UN NGOs Committee - Rafael D. Frankel (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel has been appointed to serve on the UN committee on non-governmental organizations for four years beginning January 1.

Program Titles Considered Anti-Semitic by Some at UC Irvine - Kimi Yoshino (Los Angeles Times)
    Controversial events scheduled at UC Irvine with such provocative titles as "Holocaust in the Holy Land" and "Israel: The Fourth Reich" are sparking outrage among Jewish students.
    Jewish students and community leaders say the program is the latest in a string of offensive incidents at the university.
    The U.S. Office for Civil Rights is investigating anti-Semitism at UCI, the first probe of its kind at a college.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • AIPAC Case Impacting Security Clearances - Josh Gerstein
    The Pentagon is invoking the prosecution of two pro-Israel lobbyists and a Defense Department analyst for illegal use of classified information as a basis for stripping security clearances from government contractor employees who have dual citizenship in America and Israel or family members living in the Jewish state. In at least three instances, Defense Department attorneys have used or attempted to use the AIPAC case to justify withdrawing a security clearance or denying one in the first place, according to Virginia lawyer Sheldon Cohen.
        Cohen, who recently completed a study of the Israel-related security clearance cases, found that "an unusually large number" of the public cases involving concerns about foreign influence appear to relate to Israel. One case involved a Lockheed employee who was born in Israel but emigrated to America 25 years ago. More than 7 years ago he was granted a "secret" clearance for work on the F-22 fighter jet project. A few months ago, defense department officials moved to revoke his clearance, citing his possession of an Israeli passport and the fact that his mother and siblings live in Israel. (New York Sun)
  • Merkel Angry Over Hamas Minister's German Visit - Louis Charbonneau
    German Chancellor Angela Merkel is deeply annoyed about a visit to Germany by a Hamas minister in the Palestinian government and would have preferred he had not come, government spokesman Thomas Steg said on Wednesday. "The German government rules out any contact with Hamas members. The Hamas minister who came to Germany is an unwanted person for the German government," Steg said. Palestinian Minister Atef Odwan traveled to Germany on a Swedish-issued EU "Schengen" visa. A German government official said Berlin had formally protested against Sweden's decision to issue Odwan an EU visa. (Reuters)
        See also Norway Grants Visa to Hamas Lawmaker (AP/Jerusalem Post)
  • Rice Names Anti-Semitism Adviser - Ron Kampeas
    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday named Gregg Rickman, a dogged investigator who has tracked the Swiss banks' role in the Holocaust, as the first special envoy for monitoring and combating anti-Semitism. He will head the State Department's office monitoring anti-Semitism, created in late 2004, and will deal both with official anti-Semitism and encouraging nations to combat anti-Semitism in their societies. (JTA)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • PA Purchased Weapons with Israeli and Foreign Aid
    Fuad Shubaki, Arafat's finance person, who was apprehended on March 14 at Jericho prison, has admitted that upon the outbreak of the current round of Palestinian violence and terrorism in the autumn of 2000, Yasser Arafat ordered him to purchase large quantities of weapons, as much as the various funding sources would allow. Shubaki also financed the independent production of war materiel for the PA, including grenades, explosives, and RPGs.
        According to Shubaki, the financing for this war materiel came from international assistance, tax revenues from the Gaza Strip, customs revenues transferred by Israel, and funds from Arab countries. Shubaki said that the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and the Tanzim used weapons supplied by the PA security services, with Arafat's knowledge. Shubaki and Arafat were also directly involved in the Karine A weapons ship affair, which was financed and guided by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hizballah. (Prime Minister's Office)
  • PA Calls New Hamas Security Force a "Declaration of War" - Khaled Abu Toameh
    PA officials in Ramallah on Wednesday warned that Hamas' launching of a new security force in the Gaza Strip undermined PA Chairman Abbas and was seen as a declaration of war on Abbas' Fatah party. The force is led by Jamal Abu Samhadana, a former commander of the Popular Resistance Committees who has long been wanted by Israel because of his involvement in terrorism. PA officials said the new force was actually a Hamas army, noting that over 90% of its members belonged to Hamas' armed wing, Izaddin al-Kassam.
        The launching of the new force comes amid mounting tensions between Hamas and Fatah, whose supporters have been fighting almost daily battles in Gaza. Hamas gunmen are believed to be responsible for a series of shooting attacks on the homes and cars of several PA security officers over the past few days. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Abbas to Hamas: Remove Your Police - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Mahmoud Abbas has told the Hamas-led government it must immediately remove its new security forces from the streets of Gaza, top Abbas aide Saeb Erekat said Thursday, as thousands of Palestinian police loyal to Abbas paraded in the streets of Gaza in a show of force. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also The Popular Resistance Committees: Hamas' New Partners? - Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan D. Halevi (ICA/JCPA)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Growing Anarchy in the Palestinian Territories - Mohammed Yaghi
    After its humiliating defeat in the January 25 legislative elections, Fatah leaders attempted to obstruct the new Hamas-led government's ability to function. To increase internal pressure on Hamas, Fatah has declared that the Hamas government is responsible for the international isolation of the PA and the deteriorating economic situation, and has encouraged public employees to hold sit-ins and protests over delays in the delivery of salaries. Fatah members, who comprise the majority of public sector employees, have suffered the most as a result of the financial crisis, while Hamas supporters benefit from a social service network that continues to function.
        The international isolation of Hamas has increased the polarization of Palestinian society and exacerbated the rivalry between Fatah and Hamas. On May 7, Hamas activists responded to the assassination of one of their members by launching a shoulder-fired missile at a truck belonging to the Fatah-dominated Preventive Security Service, killing two of its passengers. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Needed: Holistic Support of Middle Eastern Democracy - Danielle Pletka
    Certainly, the victory of Hamas has been a cautionary tale. Far from moderating their positions to accommodate the burdens of leadership, Hamas officials have toed their hard line and used the power of the state to back it up. Despite pressure from the West and other Arab governments to renounce violence, Hamas has appointed murderers to senior positions and applauded terrorist acts against civilians in Israel. The writer is vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. (Washington Post)
  • A Nuclear Test for Diplomacy - Henry A. Kissinger
    The world is faced with the nightmarish prospect that nuclear weapons will become a standard part of national armament and wind up in terrorist hands. A failed diplomacy would leave us with a choice between the use of force or a world where restraint has been eroded by the inability or unwillingness of countries that have the most to lose to restrain defiant fanatics.
        An indefinite continuation of the stalemate would amount to a de facto acquiescence by the international community in letting new entrants into the nuclear club. In such a world, all significant industrial countries would consider nuclear weapons an indispensable status symbol. Radical elements throughout the Islamic world and elsewhere would gain strength from the successful defiance of the major nuclear powers. Iran, and eventually other countries of similar orientation, would be able to use nuclear arsenals to protect their revolutionary activities around the world. (Washington Post)
  • Why the World Should Take Ahmadinejad Seriously - Amir Taheri
    Right from the start of the current crisis over Iran's nuclear program, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's administration has pursued three main objectives: to prevent the formation of a unified international front opposed to Tehran; to present the nuclear issue as the most pressing topic in Iran's domestic politics; and to transform the nuclear issue into a duel between the Ahmadinejad administration and the Bush administration in Washington.
        The disappearance of the various brands of Communism as challenger to the Western model has left a vacuum that other radical ideologies including Khomeinism are trying to fill. Ahmadinejad is forcing everyone in Iran and all those outside who are interested in Iran to take a side. (Asharq Alawsat-UK)
  • Observations:

    Blaming Hamas Sidesteps Regional Realities - Hala Mustafa (Financial Times-UK)

    • Three years after the "road map" was agreed to, even the first phase, which calls for "an unconditional cessation of violence and (the dismantling of) terrorist capabilities and infrastructure," has not been achieved. Mahmoud Abbas has proved unable to control the militant groups, including his own Fatah party's armed wing, which was responsible for one of the recent suicide bombings.
    • Why has there been so little progress? For the answer, look not just to the Israelis and Palestinians, but to other governments in the region which have been neither receptive nor helpful to reaching a lasting peace. While the roles of the Middle East's two most radical regimes, Syria and Iran, are usually at the center of the debate, very little attention has been given to the policies of the "moderate" regional governments.
    • Since Saudi Arabia is committed to the Islamic political agenda, it should not surprise anyone that its pledges to the U.S. contradict its real position regarding support for the Palestinian resistance and Hamas in particular. It has agreed to a large assistance package to the Palestinian Authority, which comes after the Arab League spearheaded the effort to unite the Arab world to fund Hamas under the banner of "saving the Palestinians."
    • Similarly, although Egypt signed the first peace accord with Israel and has played the role of mediator, its policy remains complex. Since a large part of the regime's legitimacy is based on its support of the Palestinian cause, it is fully dedicated to the "legitimate" national armed resistance.
    • So, while the Muslim Brotherhood is banned in Egypt, the regime gave full political recognition to Hamas - which is part of the Brotherhood's transnational network - even before the Palestinian legislative elections were held.

      The writer is editor of the Al-Ahram Foundation's quarterly journal al-Dimuqratia (Democracy) and Keston visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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