Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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October 18, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

Jordanian-Syrian Dam May Dry Up Jordan River - Tzafrir Rinat (Ha'aretz)
    An environmental group, Friends of the Earth - Middle East, warns of a dramatic drop in the quantity and quality of the water in the southern section of the Jordan River, following the completion of a joint Jordanian-Syrian dam.
    The river could dry up completely over the next summer, the group also warns.
    92% of the Jordan's waters are already being used for human consumption. The new dam would reduce the water flow by a further 25%.

Boston Suburb to Vote on Divestment (JTA)
    Voters in the 27th Middlesex District, representing half of the precincts of Somerville, Mass., will decide Nov. 7 on a nonbinding resolution instructing the district's state representative to support legislation calling for the state to divest from Israel Bonds or companies supplying military equipment to Israel.
    This is the "last gasp of the divestment-from-Israel movement," says Alan Ronkin, deputy director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, which supported a local coalition that aggressively fought an earlier, unsuccessful divestment campaign in Somerville in December 2004.

TV Spot Dissects Suicide Bombing - Anna Johnson (AP/Washington Times)
    A television commercial aimed at thwarting terrorism has begun airing on Al Arabiya, Lebanese Broadcasting Corp., and several Iraqi channels, using high-tech effects to show the anatomy of a suicide bombing in graphic detail.
    The $1 million ad is packed with special effects, including bodies, cars, and broken glass flying in slow motion through the air "Matrix"-style.
    Some think the U.S. government is behind it.
    The 60-second ad opens with a young boy seeing a man walk by in a crowded market. The man stops and exposes yellow explosives strapped to his body. The boy sees the bombs just before they go off, sending cars flying and people crashing through the windows of a cafe.
    The ad then shows the aftermath: wreckage, weeping, and fires. It ends with the words "Terrorism has no religion" in Arabic.

Merrill Lynch: "Pick Israel to Avoid Global Slowdown" - Susan Lerner (Jerusalem Post)
    Anticipating the U.S. economic slowdown will continue, Merrill Lynch on Monday recommended that investors "park their money in Israel" by year-end to protect themselves.

Google Opens Second Israel R&D Center - Batya Feldman (Globes)
    Google Inc. has announced the opening of its second R&D center in Israel. The company's existing center is in Haifa while the new one will be located in Tel Aviv and headed by Prof. Yossi Matias of the School of Computer Science at Tel Aviv University.
    See also IBM Establishes New Software Lab in Israel (Israel21c)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Suspicion of UN Peacekeepers Increasing in South Lebanon - Thanassis Cambanis
    The 6,000 international peacekeepers deployed in southern Lebanon are supposed to provide a buffer between Israel and Hizballah. Instead, the UN forces are increasingly the object of popular suspicion and anger, fueled by the alarmist proclamations of some Hizballah leaders - raising serious obstacles for a mission that depends heavily on Hizballah's cooperation. Units from the beefed-up force of UN peacekeepers from 11 nations now crisscross the hilly terrain each day. But in Beirut mosques, clerics preach that the UN troops are being used as a "tool of Israel and the U.S." to de-fang Hizballah's "resistance." Hizballah supporters liken the peacekeeping troops to the Israeli occupation in southern Lebanon from 1982 to 2000. "The next war won't be with Israel. It'll be against the UN," said Abdullah, who identified himself as a Hizballah fighter. (Boston Globe)
        See also Peacekeepers Wary of Al-Qaeda Threat - Alistair Lyon
    UN peacekeepers in Lebanon take seriously the threat implied by al-Qaeda's Ayman al-Zawahri when he branded them "enemies of Islam" a month ago. The risk of attack by Sunni Islamist militants lurks for UNIFIL. "The large presence of Western forces in UNIFIL could make it a tempting target for al-Qaeda or a loosely affiliated group," said an official of a non-Lebanese Islamist group. Thomas Jaensch, the captain of a German frigate patrolling the coast, said worst-case scenarios included attack by an "airborne device" or from an explosives-packed speedboat.
        Acting Lebanese Interior Minister Ahmad Fatfat on Saturday identified the Tripoli area in north Lebanon, the Palestinian camp of Ain al-Hilweh, and parts of the southern Bekaa Valley as areas where al-Qaeda might gain a foothold. (Gulf Times-Qatar)
  • Hamas Official: Images of Palestinian Violence Hurting Cause - Nidal al-Mughrabi
    Senior Hamas figure Ghazi Hamad wrote on Tuesday in the Palestinian newspaper al-Ayyam that the presence of armed men on almost every street, and their attendance at every rally had created an atmosphere of guns and violence. It also meant that television pictures broadcast around the world too often showed armed men and images of violence, casting the Palestinian struggle in a poor light, he suggested. "Shouldn't we be ashamed of this ugly behavior which scandalizes us before our people and before the world?"
        Hamad wrote that 175 Palestinians had been killed by "Palestinian gunfire" since the beginning of the year. "All of us have the desire not to see arms in the streets except with policemen. We want to disown this disease, this cancer, which has damaged our brains and paralyzed our hearts." (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Targets Gaza Smuggling Tunnels - Amos Harel and Yoav Stern
    The Israel Defense Forces launched an operation on Tuesday against smuggling tunnels in the southern Gaza Strip along the Philadelphi Route. Two tunnels were discovered and one was destroyed. In recent months, 15 tunnels were discovered and destroyed in Gaza. Some were used for smuggling from Egypt, but others were meant to serve Palestinian terrorists in carrying out raids inside Israel. (Ha'aretz)
        See also IDF Preparing for Gaza Incursion - Yaakov Katz and Khaled Abu Toameh
    With Kassams still being fired at the western Negev and Hamas claiming to be building up an army, the IDF has set in motion preparations for a massive ground incursion into Gaza. (Jerusalem Post)
  • New Electricity Line to Connect Israel and Gaza - Tani Goldstein
    Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer Tuesday approved the construction of a 6-mile-long high-voltage electrical line connecting the Israeli city of Netivot and the Gaza Strip in order to help restore electricity there. The funds for the project will likely be taken from the taxes Israel has been withholding from the PA since Hamas came to power. (Ynet News)
  • New Jerusalem Mufti Endorses Suicide Bombers - Yaniv Berman
    Sheikh Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, the newly appointed Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, during an interview endorsed the phenomenon of suicide bombers as part of the Palestinian people's legitimate resistance. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Preventing Gaza from Becoming Somalia - Ilene R. Prusher
    Over the past few weeks, there's been a steady resumption of Palestinian Kassam rocket launches into Israel. But the lessons of the war between Israel and Hizballah this summer have led the Israeli establishment to some new conclusions: Waiting while a neighbor arms itself is out; preemptive attacks may be the new norm. "Israel cannot afford to let Gaza turn into a southern Lebanon," says Gerald Steinberg, a political scientist at Bar-Ilan University. "The link is that the longer Israel waits, the more likely that they'll have the same abilities for longer-range and better weapons in Gaza." For Israel's strategic-minded, the major error before the war in Lebanon was allowing Hizballah to build up a large arsenal of short- and medium-range weapons. Now Israel is concerned that Hamas is trying to emulate Hizballah.
        "Israel's basically run out of alternatives," says Steinberg. "It's been a year since disengagement. The rocket attacks continue and the range of the missiles grows. There's no effort to enforce the arrangements that were agreed on at the time of disengagement," he charges, such as Egypt patrolling its border with Gaza to prevent smuggling, and the use of EU monitors. "The PA is in total disarray, and there's no attempt to prevent Gaza from being used as a launchpad. All of those pieces together lead to a need to pay whatever price is necessary to keep it not just from becoming Lebanon, but Somalia." (Christian Science Monitor)
  • How French TV Fudged the Death of Mohammed Al-Durah - Richard Landes
    On September 30, 2000, images of 12-year-old Mohammed al-Durah and his father - cowering behind a barrel at Netzarim Junction in Gaza - circulated globally, along with a claim that they had been the targeted victims of Israeli fire. Indignant observers dismissed any Israeli attempt to deny responsibility. Palestinians and anti-Zionists, insisting that Israel killed the boy on purpose, used al-Durah as the first blood libel of the twenty-first century. Within a week, crowds the world over shouted: "We want Jewish blood!" and "Death to the Jews!"
        Raw footage from that day reveals pervasive staging; no evidence of Israeli fire directed at the barrel, much less of Israelis targeting the pair; given the angles, the Israelis could scarcely have hit the pair at all; there was no sign of blood on the ground where the father and son reportedly bled for 20 minutes; and none of the dozen cameraman present filmed anything that could substantiate the claim that the father and son had been hit, much less that the Israelis had targeted them. The raw footage features a long succession of obviously faked injuries. One fellow grabbed his leg in agony, then, upon seeing that no one would come to carry him away, walked away without a limp. It was stunning. That was no cameraman's conspiracy: It was everyone - a public secret about which news consumers had no clue.
        Two documentaries - one German, one French - sparked a demonstration in Paris outside the France2 offices by citizens outraged to discover that so horrendous an image may well have been a fake. Now, four years later, the lawsuits over the event are finally coming to trial in Paris. The writer is a medieval history professor at Boston University. (New Republic)
        See also The Birth of an Icon - Al-Durah: What Happened (Second Draft)
  • The Hamas Network: The Case for Boycotting Terrorist Media - Mark Dubowitz and Jonathan Snow
    With its Al Manar television station launched in 1991, Hizballah pioneered the use of mass media as a weapon. It uses the station to recruit suicide bombers, raise money for terrorist operations, conduct pre-attack surveillance, and incite violence. This fall, the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas is poised to follow in Hizballah's footsteps. Until now, Hamas' Al Aqsa television has been broadcast only within Gaza, but this month it will begin satellite distribution via Nilesat, allowing Hamas to spread its message of hatred across the Middle East, North Africa, and most of Europe. Al Aqsa TV routinely broadcasts Hamas leaders calling for jihad, songs of incitement to murder, and videos of Hamas gunmen.
        Washington designated Al Manar a terrorist organization. Eight out of ten satellite providers have removed Al Manar from distribution. Similar steps can be taken to curb Hamas' Al Aqsa TV. Finally, the U.S. and Europe must put more pressure on the Egyptian government to deny Al Aqsa, as well as Al Manar, distribution over Nilesat. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Observations:

    Our Failure to Confront Radical Islam Is There for All to See - Denis MacShane (Telegraph-UK)

    • At long last, the debate on Islamism as politics, not Islam as religion, is out in the open.
    • A fight-back is beginning to reclaim Britain from the grip of those who refuse to acknowledge the centrality of British values of tolerance, fair play, and parliamentary democratic freedoms - notably those of free speech and respect for all religions, but supremacy for none.
    • The struggle is not between religion and secularism, nor between the West and Islam, and still less between Bush-Blair and the Taliban or Iraqi insurgents. It is the ideologization of religion that needs confronting.
    • An all-party commission on anti-Semitism that I chaired reported recently. Our most worrying discovery was the complacency on many university campuses about harassment of Jewish students.
    • Jew-baiting behavior that would have had the Left outraged in the 1930s is now actively encouraged by an unholy alliance of the hard Left and Islamist fundamentalists, and the odious anti-Semites who have infiltrated some lecturers' unions.

      The writer is Labour MP for Rotherham and worked at the Foreign Office as PPS and minister, 1997-2005.

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