Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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June 4, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran President Sees "Countdown" to Israel's End (Reuters)
    Iran's President Ahmadinejad said on Sunday, "the countdown button for the destruction of the Zionist regime has been pushed by the hands of the children of Lebanon and Palestine."
    "By God's will, we will witness the destruction of this regime in the near future," he said.

Iranian Flow of Weapons to Iraqi and Afghan Groups Increasing - Robin Wright (Washington Post)
    Iran has increased arms shipments to both Iraq's Shiite extremists and Afghanistan's Taliban in recent weeks in an apparent attempt to pressure American and other Western troops, according to senior U.S. and European officials.
    In Iraq, Iranian 240mm rockets, which have a range of up to 30 miles and could significantly change the battlefield, have been used recently by Shiite extremists against U.S. and British targets in Basra and Baghdad.
    U.S. officials said remnants of such rockets bearing the markings of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps were found dated 2007.
    Iran has supplied the same weapon, known as the Fajr-3, to Hizbullah.
    In Afghanistan, British forces have intercepted at least two arms shipments from Iran to Afghanistan's Helmand province since late April.

Gaza Kindergarten Graduation Theme: "Death for the Sake of Allah!" (MEMRI)
    Hamas' Al-Aqsa TV aired a report of a graduation ceremony for the kindergartens of the Islamic Association in Gaza on May 31, 2007.
    The boys shouted in unison: "Allah Akbar. Praise be to Allah. What is your path? Jihad. What is your most lofty aspiration? Death for the sake of Allah."
    View the Video (MEMRI)

Women in Gaza Protest Threat of Beheading (AP/International Herald Tribune)
    A group of female TV anchors from government-run Palestine TV marched through Gaza City on Sunday to protest the threat from a group calling itself the Swords of Truth to behead them if they did not don modest Islamic dress.
    "We will cut throats...if needed to protect the spirit and morals of this nation," the group said in a statement Friday, accusing the female anchors of being "without any...shame or morals."
    Most of the 15 female anchors on Palestine TV wear headscarves, but they also wear makeup and Western clothing.
    Headscarves are uncommon on television in Lebanon and Jordan, and Egypt's secular regime keeps newscasters who wear them off its TV stations.
    Yet hard-line Islam has been on the rise in Gaza in recent years, and today it is more common to see women with their entire face covered with a veil - once an extremely rare practice in the Palestinian territories - than it is to see women with their hair uncovered.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Four Accused of Plot to Blow Up Kennedy Airport in New York - Cara Buckley and William K. Rashbaum
    Four men, including a onetime airport cargo handler - Russell Defreitas, 63, a Guyanese native and naturalized American citizen who lives in Brooklyn - were charged Saturday with plotting to blow up fuel tanks, terminal buildings and the web of fuel lines running beneath Kennedy International Airport. Mark J. Mershon, the assistant director in charge of the FBI field office in New York, said all four men had "fundamentalist Islamic beliefs of a violent nature." Law enforcement officials said the plot was only in a preliminary phase and the conspirators had yet to lay out detailed plans or obtain financing or explosives. Officials said the four men conducted "precise and extensive" surveillance of the airport using photographs, video, the recollections of Defreitas, and satellite images downloaded from Google Earth. (New York Times)
        See also A Potential Threat Seen in America's Backyard - Josh Meyer
    At least two of those charged were alleged to be longtime associates of the Trinidad-based radical group Jamaat al Muslimeen. The FBI and CIA have closely monitored the group since at least 1990, when it tried to overthrow the government of Trinidad and Tobago and replace it with one based on Islamic law. Since Sept. 11, U.S. officials also have become alarmed by the presence of other suspected extremists on the islands, including some from al-Qaeda. According to the charges, Defreitas boasted to an informant that he had been taught to make bombs in Guyana and had linked up with half a dozen "brothers" from Guyana and Trinidad who "wanted to do something bigger than the World Trade Center." (Los Angeles Times)
  • Islamic Radicals Hit Lebanese Army from Second Palestinian Camp - Ellen Knickmeyer
    Islamic radicals attacked Lebanon's army from a second Palestinian refugee camp Sunday, heightening fears that the country faces a gravely destabilizing offensive by the militant groups that hide out in the country's 12 camps. Sunday's clash occurred on the outskirts of Ein al-Hilweh near the southern city of Sidon, where authorities said Jund al-Sham fighters - who are mostly Lebanese but with strong links to Syria - fired rocket-propelled grenades at an army checkpoint on the camp's edge. Residents and authorities described three hours of fighting with heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons. (Washington Post)
        See also Fighting Spreads Around Lebanon
    A Lebanese army officer said nine Lebanese troops had been killed in the fighting at the northern Nahr el-Bared camp since Friday, raising the army's death toll to 44 since the standoff there began two weeks ago. Fatah Islam spokesman Abu Salim Taha said that five militants, including a senior leader, had been killed and seven wounded since Friday. (AP/Newsday)
  • Harvard Legal Expert Vows to Sue UK Lecturers Boycotting Israel - Jon Boone
    Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor renowned for his staunch defense of Israel and high-profile legal victories, has threatened to wage a legal war against British academics who seek to cut links with Israeli universities. He told the Times Higher Educational Supplement he would use a U.S. law - banning discrimination on the basis of nationality - against UK universities with research ties to U.S. colleges. "I will obtain legislation dealing with this issue, imposing sanctions that will devastate and bankrupt those who seek to impose bankruptcy on Israeli academics," he said. (Financial Times-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinian Mortar Attack on Gaza Border Crossing Wounds Four IDF Soldiers - Amos Harel and Mijal Grinberg
    Four Israel Defense Forces soldiers were wounded by shrapnel Sunday when Palestinians in Gaza fired four mortar shells at the Erez crossing between Gaza and Israel. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack. Palestinians fired nine Kassam rockets at Israel over the weekend, including one that damaged a Sderot house on Saturday. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel to Ask U.S. to Slow Down, Soften Benchmarks Initiative - Aluf Benn and Shmuel Rosner
    Israel is expected to give its official response to the U.S. benchmarks plan before Prime Minister Olmert's meeting with President Bush later this month, proposing that the administration delay the recommended implementation for the plan, and asking that the lifting of roadblocks be subject to Israel's security considerations. The American document calls on Israel to remove many West Bank roadblocks and improve operations at Gaza's border crossings. Despite the American demands, there are steps Israel will not take until the situation radically improves, such as lifting the Hawara checkpoint at the entrance to Nablus. "Lifting Hawara would mean that a suicide bomber could get from Nablus to Jerusalem undisturbed," diplomatic sources explained. (Ha'aretz)
  • Anti-Rocket System Could Defend Sderot - Yaakov Katz
    A rapid-fire cannon called the C-RAM (Counter-Rocket, Artillery and Mortar), currently used by the Americans to protect the Green Zone in Baghdad, reportedly has a 70-80 percent success rate in intercepting incoming shells and rockets. The C-RAM, manufactured by Raytheon, is a variant of the Vulcan Phalanx, a radar-controlled 20mm cannon designed to defend navy ships from missiles. Uzi Rubin, a missile expert and a former director of Israel's Missile Defense Agency, said Sunday that the C-RAM was capable of providing medium-level protection for places such as Sderot. According to Rubin, four C-RAM systems - at a cost of $15 million a piece - could effectively defend Sderot from Kassam rockets. While also calling for the development of a laser-based system to defend Sderot in the long term, Rubin said the C-RAM - which is capable of protecting isolated military outposts and installations - could provide an effective defense in Sderot. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Iran and Egypt to Hold Talks on Renewing Ties - Zvi Bar'el and Yoav Stern
    Egypt and Iran will hold a round of talks in the coming days aimed at restoring full diplomatic relations, which were severed in 1979 following the Islamic revolution in Iran. "The U.S. is itself engaging in direct contact with the Iranians, so no one can argue now that renewing relations is an anti-American motion." an Egyptian source said. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Malicious Boycotts - Editorial
    The University and College Union, a newly formed British union of college teachers, shamefully called last week for a boycott on contacts and exchanges with Israeli academic institutions. That follows on the shameful call in April by the National Union of Journalists in Britain to boycott Israeli goods. It is hard to imagine two organizations that should be less given to such nonsense. Who would respect the judgment of a scholar who selects or rejects colleagues on political grounds? Who would trust the dispatches of a reporter who has been openly engaged against one side of a conflict? The lack of similar "solidarity" by these unions with any other oppressed or suffering people in the world, and there are plenty, reduces these gestures to an exercise in hypocrisy, or worse. (New York Times)
  • The Specter of "Hamastan" in Gaza - Dennis Ross
    In several days of discussions in Jerusalem and Ramallah recently, the debate I witnessed in both places wasn't about the stalemate in the peace process or the Arab peace initiative. It was about the conflict between Hamas and Fatah in Gaza - and whether Gaza was in fact already lost to the Islamists. The consensus was that Hamas had made a deliberate calculation to attack all key security positions held by Fatah in Gaza and that the Fatah forces now had few, if any, senior commanders still in that area. All those I spoke with were worried about the consequences of Gaza's becoming an Islamist enclave. They saw it offering inspiration to other Islamists throughout the Middle East and providing a new haven for Islamists of all stripes. (Washington Post)
  • Observations:

    What If Israelis Had Abducted the BBC Man? - Charles Moore (Telegraph-UK)

    • Watching the horrible video of Alan Johnston of the BBC broadcasting Palestinian propaganda under orders from his kidnappers, I found myself asking what it would have been like had he been kidnapped by Israelis, and made to do the same thing the other way round.
    • The first point is that it would never happen. There are no Israeli organizations - governmental or freelance - that would contemplate such a thing. That fact is itself significant.
    • But just suppose that some fanatical Jews had grabbed Johnston and forced him to spout their message, abusing his own country as he did so. What would the world have said? There would have been none of the caution which has characterized the response of the BBC and of the government since Johnston was abducted on March 12. The Israeli government would immediately have been condemned for its readiness to harbor terrorists or its failure to track them down.
    • But of course in real life it is Arabs holding Johnston, and so everyone treads on tip-toe. Throughout Johnston's captivity, the BBC has continually emphasized that he gave "a voice" to the Palestinian people, the implication being that he supported their cause, and should therefore be let out. One cannot imagine the equivalent being said if he had been held by Israelis.
    • Well, he is certainly giving a voice to the Palestinian people now.
    • It is mad to try to expend Western culture's reserves of moral indignation on a country that is part of that culture in favor of surrounding countries that aren't. How can we have got ourselves into a situation in which we half-excuse turbaned torturers for kidnapping our fellow-citizens while trying to exclude Jewish biochemists from lecturing to our students?

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