Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 9, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Iranian General Defects with Hizbullah's Arms Secrets - Richard Beeston and Michael Theodoulou (Times-UK)
    Ali Resa Asgari, 63, a general in the elite Revolutionary Guards and former deputy defense minister, appears to have defected to the U.S., taking with him a treasure trove of his country's most closely guarded secrets.
    Several sources confirmed reports that Asgari had fled to the West, the first senior Iran official to defect since the revolution 27 years ago.
    "It means for the first time, Hizbullah's adversaries may have accurate estimates of stockpiles, weapons types, even perhaps placement and tactics," said Nicholas Noe, the author of a forthcoming book on Hizbullah.
    See also A Coup for Foreign Intelligence - Tim Butcher (Telegraph-UK)
    Asgari was the main Iranian point man in Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s when Iran help found, fund and run Hizbullah and there can be few better sources on how it receives weapons and support from Iran.
    He could also provide crucial information about a Hizbullah attack on the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in 1983 in which eight of the CIA's top regional specialists, including the CIA's Near East director Robert Ames, were among those who died, something that explains America's continued reluctance to downgrade its listing of Hizbullah as anything but a terrorist group.
    In spite of Iran's efforts to play down his significance, Asgari's defection represents a genuine coup for foreign intelligence.

Israel HighWay
- March 8, 2007

Issue of the Week:
    A Middle East Primer

Israel Targets Palestinian Terrorists Paid by Iran through Hizbullah - Isabel Kershner (New York Times)
    Ephraim Sneh, Israel's deputy defense minister, explained the arrest of 18 militants in a raid on PA military intelligence headquarters near Ramallah on Wednesday.
    He said Israel had repeatedly asked Palestinian authorities to stop the 18 men from carrying out attacks, including recent ones on Israeli vehicles. But the Palestinians permitted the men to take refuge in the intelligence compound, and it was there that the Israeli forces arrested them.
    Sneh said that although the 18 once were members of the Aksa Martyrs Brigade linked to Fatah, they had severed those ties in the past year and were paid by Iran through Hizbullah in Lebanon.

Palestinian Killed in Crush at Gaza-Egypt Border Crossing (AP/Ynet News)
    A crush of 5,000 Palestinians trying to get through the newly opened Rafah border crossing from Gaza into Egypt Thursday left an elderly man dead and seven people wounded, Palestinian medics said.
    Abdel Hadi Salama said the Palestinian security personnel at the crossing lost control of the crowds, who began pushing toward the terminal and throwing stones at the entrance gate.
    Security men opened fire in the air, he said. Medics said two of the wounded were hit by gunfire.

Hamas Terror Brigade on the March in Gaza (Maan News-PA)
    Dozens of Al-Qassam Brigades' fighters, the armed wing of Hamas, appeared in a military march through central Gaza City on Wednesday, the first such public appearance in several months.
    Hundreds of Al-Qassam members marched through the streets carrying machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades and shouting pro-Hamas slogans.

In Chaotic Gaza, the Internet Is a Target - (Bloomberg/Chicago Daily Herald)
    Soon after a firebomb exploded at 3 a.m. and destroyed four computers in the Al-Shawa Online Internet Cafe in Gaza, owner Alaa al-Shawa clicked onto his e-mail at an undamaged machine.
    The first message was from the bombers, explaining that establishments such as his were keeping Muslims away from prayer and providing pornography. That's why it was hit.
    "This just shows how confused these fanatics are," said Al-Shawa, 27. "Even they use the Internet to circulate their statements."
    About 45 Internet outlets have been bombed since Dec. 1, according to Gaza police.

Is There a Future for Jews in Switzerland? - Simon Erlanger (Jewish Political Studies Review)
    Swiss Jewry seems to be set for steady decline. There are today some 18,000 Jews in Switzerland the same number as in 1900, whereas the general population has doubled since then.
    Assimilation and emigration, mainly to Israel, have reduced the Jewish population.
    In recent years a largely homemade anti-Semitism has arisen that gained momentum with the restitution debate of the 1990s.
    A 2006 study by the University of Geneva's Department of Sociology found that 20% of the Swiss are "affected by anti-Semitism" - in other words, openly anti-Semitic.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel: Syria Deploying Thousands of Rockets on Border - Ron Bousso
    Syria has positioned on its border with Israel thousands of rockets capable of striking major towns across northern Israel, Israeli military and government sources said. This deployment, coupled with other recent reports of Syrian troop mobilization, is seen in Israel as an indication that Damascus may be preparing for future "low intensity warfare," they said. "We have noticed that in recent months Syria has deployed hundreds, possibly thousands, of medium- and long-range rockets along the border," one military source said. "Many of the rockets are hidden in underground chambers and in camouflaged silos." Syria has built a system of fortified underground tunnels along its border with Israel. According to the sources, such a massive deployment of well-entrenched rockets poses "a real strategic threat" to Israel. (AFP/Yahoo)
        See also Syria Arms for War - Aluf Benn
    In an interview, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he tends to accept the assessment of Mossad espionage agency head Meir Dagan that Syria is not heading toward peace. Netanyahu quotes intelligence assessments that the Syrian military acquisitions budget has increased tenfold. (Ha'aretz)
  • EU: Palestinians Must Give Clear Recognition of Israel
    The Palestinian unity government being formed by Hamas and Fatah must clearly state that it recognizes Israel, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said Thursday. "It has to be sufficiently clear that the statement can be read and not only imagined," he said. (AP/International Herald Tribune)
  • UN Nuclear Agency Curtails Technical Assistance to Iran - Molly Moore
    The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meeting in Vienna on Thursday agreed to suspend or reduce 22 of the 55 technical aid projects it funds for improving Iran's civilian use of nuclear technology, as part of an international effort to pressure the country to halt its uranium enrichment program. (Washington Post)
  • Leader of Germany's Catholics Deplores "Ghetto" Simile by Bishops
    Cardinal Karl Lehmann, chairman of the Conference of German Catholic Bishops, deplored Wednesday remarks by bishops who said walls around Palestinian communities reminded them of the Warsaw Jewish ghetto. In a letter to Avner Shalev, chairman of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Israel, Lehmann said it was not right to "link contemporary problems or situations of injustice in any way whatever with the Nazi genocide of the Jews." Two Catholic bishops that visited Yad Vashem this week had been quoted saying they were shocked to see on the same day images of the ghetto where the Nazis confined Warsaw Jews and the confinement of Palestinians in the West Bank. Lehmann said, "The German bishops are aware of their historical responsibility. We know that we have to constantly show this anew by being sensitive in our choice of words." (Deutsche Presse-Agentur/EUX-TV)
        See also Ramallah Isn't Warsaw - Eldad Beck (Ynet News)
  • Iranian Influence Soaring in Iraq - Liz Sly
    In the cafeteria of Iraq's parliament, Shiite legislators slip into Persian when they don't want their conversations overheard. In the holy city of Najaf, an Iranian charity helps newlyweds buy furniture. Iranian weapons are turning up in arms caches seized from insurgents in Baghdad. These are among the many ways in which Iran's soaring influence is being felt in Iraq. (Chicago Tribune)
  • Sudanese Seek Refuge in Israel from Darfur - Jennie Matthew
    Collective farms in Israel such as Kibbutz Maagan Michael today shelter scores of Muslim refugees from Sudan who walked to the Jewish state to flee persecution. More than 100 Sudanese are staying at 20 different farms. Sharon Harel, a protection officer at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said there are 330 Sudanese refugees in Israel, 90 of them from Darfur. However, authorities fear that setting a precedent could encourage hundreds of thousands of non-Jews from neighboring enemy states to seek refugee. (Agence France-Presse)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • "Egyptian Prisoners" in Film Controversy Were Palestinian Fedayeen - Tovah Lazaroff
    Ran Edelist, the director of the documentary film about the Shaked Reconnaissance Unit which has provoked a diplomatic uproar between Israel and Egypt, admitted Thursday that he had erroneously described 250 Palestinian fedayeen killed by the unit at the end of the Six-Day War as Egyptians. That error, it appears, is at the root of a wave of Egyptian allegations that Israelis killed Egyptian POWs. The unit in question - while technically under the auspices of the Egyptian army - was made up of Palestinian fedayeen terrorists.
        Former unit commander and current Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer has already released a statement insisting that the incident involved Palestinian fedayeen, and that they were killed in battle and not after being taken prisoner. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Accuses Palestinians of "Hiding" $100 Million
    Israeli officials in Jerusalem accused Palestinian officials on Thursday of "hiding" $100 million which the Israeli authorities had delivered to Mahmoud Abbas a few weeks ago. Maariv quoted Israeli officials as saying, "The Palestinians have not invested that money for humanitarian purposes, but they have rather paid back earlier debts of the government." The officials regarded this as breaking past promises. During a meeting between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in December, Israel had promised to transfer $100 million of the Palestinian tax revenues currently withheld by Israel, to be used for humanitarian objectives. (Maan News-PA)
  • Egyptian Bank Fined for Israel Boycott - Michael Freund
    The U.S. government has imposed a civil penalty on Egypt's largest state-owned bank for violating American legal strictures prohibiting compliance with the Arab boycott of Israel. In a formal order issued in January, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Enforcement Darryl W. Jackson levied a fine of $22,500 on the National Bank of Egypt's New York branch. Last April, the Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security accused the Egyptian bank of providing commercial invoices on four separate occasions in 2001 and 2002 to the Al Issar Trading Company, a Syrian firm, all of which included declarations that the goods had not been manufactured or produced in Israel. U.S. law bars firms from providing information to comply with boycott-related requests. (Jerusalem Post)
  • New Israel Air Force Drones Can Better Identify Rocket Fire - Amos Harel
    The Israel Air Force took delivery Wednesday of the new "Shoval" drone, manufactured by Israel Aircraft Industries, which has an improved ability to identify the launch of rockets and will also be able to provide better assistance to troops on the ground. It can fly for 30 hours without refueling and can be operated from a large distance. (Ha'aretz)
        See also New Israeli Robot to Take Heat Off IDF Infantry
    A new, smart Israeli military robot can fight its way down dark alleys, through caves and over rubble, seeking out bombs and booby traps along the way and warning human foot soldiers of enemies and danger ahead, its manufacturer, Elbit Systems, said Thursday. The robotic point man, designated VIPeR, 9 inches tall, can be fitted with a mini-Uzi automatic pistol, fragmentation, stun and smoke grenades, explosives sniffer, and day and night vision cameras. The VIPeR is currently making its first public appearance at the winter exhibition of the Association of the United States Army in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (AP/Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues
    A Kassam rocket fired by Palestinians in Gaza landed in a chicken coop in a western Negev kibbutz on Thursday afternoon, hitting several chickens and damaging the coop. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • West Bank, Gaza Drifting Apart - Joshua Brilliant
    Gaza and the West Bank are drifting apart. "We are seeing the beginning of two states. A state of Gaza under Hamas' control and the State of the West Bank governed from Ramallah," says Shalom Harari, a prominent Israeli analyst of Palestinian affairs. The West Bank is slightly smaller than Delaware with 2.5 million Palestinians. The Gaza Strip is double the size of Washington, D.C. and cramped with 1.5 million people. About a million of them are registered refugees. Israel is 22 miles wide between the two territories. Ramallah is more affluent, and Ramallah's residents seem more sophisticated, leading many West Bankers to look down upon the Gazans. In the last Jerusalem Media and Communications Center poll of Palestinian opinion, 43% of the West Bankers supported suicide bombings against Israelis, but in Gaza 56% favored it. (UPI)
  • Killing Muslims: The Saudis Strike Again - Ralph Peters
    When Sunni suicide bombers murdered 118 Shia pilgrims (and wounded almost 200 more) on Tuesday, Sunnis around the globe looked away: Shias only count as Muslims when America can be blamed for their suffering. Shouldn't Muslims have denounced the attacks on the pilgrims? Shouldn't such an atrocity have sparked Arab anger that transcended Islam's internal divide? After all, those murdered Shias were fellow Arabs. Islamic unity is a sham.
        The two suicide bombers who killed those pilgrims were Saudis. Saudi money is spent lavishly to divide struggling societies, to block social and educational progress for Muslims, and to preach deadly hatred toward the West. In the slums of Mombasa or Cairo, in Lahore, Delhi and Istanbul, the Saudis do everything in their power to make Muslims hate us. (New York Post)
  • The Trouble with the Apartheid Analogy - Joel Pollak
    Last month, former U.S. president Jimmy Carter in a speech at Brandeis University cited a letter to the New York Times by Nelson Mandela laying out the case against Israel. Unfortunately for Israel's critics, the letter was a hoax, the creation of Arjan El Fassed, who runs an anti-Israel website called The Electronic Intifada. El-Fassed has admitted that he made the whole thing up, but the Mandela letter has now entered the anti-Israel canon alongside countless other fictions. (Business Day-South Africa)
  • Changing Gods in Egypt - Timothy Garton Ash
    They're changing gods again at the pharaoh's palace, 26 years into the reign of President Hosni Mubarak, age 78. Politics, seen from the perspective of 5,000 years of Egyptian history, is something very different from what you find in American civics textbooks. It's about rulers borrowing, bending and merging gods, ideologies and legal systems, adapting to internal and external forces, mixing coercion and patronage, sharing some of the spoils where necessary, but always with the goal of maximizing your own power and wealth and hanging on to it for as long as possible - for yourself, and your children, and your children's children. The gods come and go; what endures over the millenniums is men's lust for power and wealth and their vain quest for immortality. The writer is professor of European studies at Oxford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. (Los Angeles Times)
  • The New Anti-Semitism - Rabbi Marvin Hier
    The new anti-Semitism is largely fueled by Islamic fundamentalists whose real objective is the destruction of Western civilization. Those who counsel us to understand what it is that motivates these fanatics should remember that billions of people live on this planet suffering from intolerable living conditions, illness, hunger and poverty without seeking to avenge their cause by becoming suicide bombers who target innocent civilians. Let us take an example from the survivors of the Nazi Holocaust who lost their entire families, had no homes to return to, found no countries that would harbor them, yet, despite this, picked themselves up, married, had children and taught them to love rather than to hate, how to dignify the world rather than destroy it, how to rebuild a community rather than demean it. Those are the people who need our understanding and who merit our admiration. The writer is the dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. (Jerusalem Post)

    Weekend Features

  • Israel's Grassroots Defenders - Barbara Kay
    "Israeli Apartheid Week" (IAW) once again blotted intellectual landscapes on university campuses throughout February in the U.S., Europe, and Canada (Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa, Montreal). For a heartening change, though, the third annual IAW has robust competition. March 5-9 marks "Freedom and Democracy Week" at the University of Toronto and Radical Islam Awareness Week at Montreal's McGill University. IAW lectures are in reality one-sided, anti-Israel hate sessions, and many of the "student" organizers are full-time professional activists. Among those countering anti-Israel propaganda is the Betar-Tagar group. Rather than getting bogged down in the endless he-said-she-said about the specifics of Palestinian grievances, they shine a light on the gigantic iceberg beneath: radical Islam. Democratic Israel's existential battle for survival within a hostile Islamic world is a preview and warning for Western democracies. (National Post-Canada)
  • A Mission to Deter Extremist Muslim Ideology - Huda al Saleh
    The Riyadh-based Al Sakina campaign consists of seven women and 23 men whose mission is to surf the Internet for people embracing terrorist ideology and to debate with these people according to the scholarly principles of Shariah to change false and mistaken concepts. The women's department has succeeded at convincing half of the 200 women that it has spoken to over the past three years to renounce extremist ideology.
        The principle of "Hiba" that is endorsed by extremists and that refers to the "giving" of a daughter or sister from one extremist or mujahid to another, is one of the oddest elements revealed by the Al Sakina campaign. The Al Sakina campaign was launched independently four years ago and is not associated with any governmental authority. Coinciding with the rise in acts of violence in Saudi Arabia, its launch was supported and encouraged by the Saudi Ministry for Islamic Affairs. (Asharq Alawsat-UK)
  • Choosing Israel, Not the Hamptons - David Kaufman
    From downtown Tel Aviv to the heart of Jerusalem, foreigners - especially Americans - searching for second homes are redefining Israel's high-end real estate market. Part of Tel Aviv is, in fact, in the midst of a mini-Manhattan makeover with the recent arrival of New York-style residential projects. Real estate analysts estimate that foreigners snapped up a third of the luxury properties. Taking advantage of a decrease in terrorism and property prices still far below Western levels, foreigners bought over $1.2 billion in Israeli real estate in 2006, according to the Israel Central Bank, more than double the $445 million in sales just three years earlier.
        In Jerusalem, a quarter of all homes sold in 2006 went to foreigners. The majority of foreigners remain concentrated in several neighborhoods including Rehavia, German Colony, Old Katmon, Kiryat Shmuel, Mamilla, and Talibeh, areas where roughly half of last year's home sales were to foreigners. (New York Times)
  • Observations:

    Iran: It's Not Just the Nukes - John Davis (Ynet News)

    • Israel and America must shift the debate in the world from potential military interventions to Iran's violations of the principles and norms of the international community.
    • When Iran frames its quest as an effort to evict and deter America and Israel from the Middle East, we need to generate the conversation with China, Russia and Muslim states around the point that an aggressive Iran with aspirations to dominate is a threat to them.
    • When Iran seeks to attract actors to it by focusing on values and culture, we should make every effort to expose the contradictions between human values accepted by the international community and human rights abuses in the Islamic Republic.
    • While Iran seeks to maintain the Islamic revolutionary character of its regime yet yearns for foreign trade and investment, we need to expose to the international community that investment in Iran finances its client terror organizations that block the agenda of the international community and disrupt governments across the Middle East.

      The writer is an analyst at the Reut institute.

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