Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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June 7, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Syria's Secret Surrogate: The Truth about Fatah al-Islam's Uprising in Lebanon - Barry Rubin (IMRA)
    Most journalists identify Fatah al-Islam in Lebanon with al-Qaeda. In fact, what is happening is a major deception operation by Syria.
    Syria wants to sponsor violence and terrorism in Lebanon to bring that country back under its control and intimidate the Lebanese from supporting an international tribunal to investigate and punish those responsible for murdering Lebanon's former prime minister Rafiq Hariri.
    Since all the evidence points at Syria's leaders as the murderers, killing the investigation is their highest priority.
    Fatah al-Islam's uprising came at the very moment the UN Security Council was voting to approve the tribunal.
    Fatah al-Islam is part of an older group, Fatah al-Intifada, which has been a Syrian front group for almost 25 years. The leader of this group is Col. Abu Khaled al-Amleh who lives and operates out of Damascus.
    The field commander of the group, Shaker al-Absi, has been working as a Syrian agent since 1983.
    Since Hariri's murder three years ago, there have been 15 major terrorist attacks, mostly aimed at assassinating critics of Syrian attempts to dominate Lebanon. There is a pattern here.

Iran Caught Red-Handed Shipping Arms to Taliban - Brian Ross and Christopher Isham (ABC News)
    NATO officials say they have caught Iran red-handed, shipping heavy arms, C4 explosives and advanced roadside bombs to the Taliban for use against NATO forces.
    According to an analysis by a senior coalition official, "This is part of a considered policy" on the part of Iran, "rather than the result of low-level corruption and weapons smuggling."
    The analysis says munitions recovered in two Iranian convoys, on April 11 and May 3, had "clear indications that they originated in Iran. Some were identical to Iranian-supplied goods previously discovered in Iraq."

Hamas-Fatah Fighting Kills 616 Palestinians Since 2006 - Mohammed Assadi (Reuters)
    616 Palestinians have been killed in factional fighting since Hamas defeated Fatah in elections in January 2006, the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens' Rights said in its annual report on Wednesday.
    345 Palestinians were killed in factional fighting in 2006, while another 271 Palestinians were killed In the first five months of 2007.
    The commission also reported an increase in the number of Palestinians tortured by members of the Palestinian security services.

Useful Reference:

Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive (Hebrew University)
    The Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive at Hebrew University has completed a major upgrade and expansion of its "virtual cinema" project.
    The Archive has launched a new, contemporary and user-friendly portal to access over 400 films from its collection.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Cool to Israeli Dialogue with Syria - David Gollust
    As U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz discussed Syria and the Iranian nuclear program in Washington on Wednesday in a meeting that opened an annual bilateral strategic dialogue, U.S. officials are making clear their misgivings about an early resumption of Israeli-Syrian talks. Some U.S. officials say Syria may be seeking dialogue with Israel to relieve diplomatic pressure over its behavior in Lebanon and Iraq. State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said: "Take a look at Syria's behavior over the recent past, and I don't think you're going to find many indications of Syria showing the rest of the world that they are interested in playing a constructive, positive role in trying to bring about a more secure, peaceful region." (VOA News)
        See also Mofaz to Rice: Hizbullah Rearming with Missiles that Can Strike Deep into Israel - Yitzhak Benhorin
    Mofaz told Rice on Wednesday, "Hizbullah will never leave southern Lebanon. It is arming with missiles that could hit central and even southern Israel." (Ynet News)
  • Turkish Force of 250,000 Set for Kurds - Eli Lake
    Ankara, Washington, and Baghdad all rushed Wednesday to deny an AP dispatch that the Turks had begun an invasion of northern Iraq in pursuit of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, a group listed as a terrorist organization by the State Department. Nonetheless, the director of the Turkish research program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Soner Cagaptay, estimates there are now 250,000 soldiers, most of whom have gathered in the last four weeks, massed at the Qandil mountain range on the border with northern Iraq. Those troops include heavy artillery and tanks, the most significant troop buildup by the Turks since they nearly invaded Syria in 1998 while accusing Damascus of harboring PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. (New York Sun)
  • California Assembly OKs Divestment from Iran
    Proposed California legislation that would require two state employee retirement systems to divest from companies with ties to the energy and defense sectors in Iran passed the state assembly on Tuesday, said Chip Englander, chief of staff for Assemblyman Joel Anderson, who wrote the bill. The bill requires the $245.3 billion California Public Employees Retirement System and the $167.2 billion California State Teachers’ Retirement System to divest stocks totaling $2 billion and $1.4 billion, respectively. (Pensions and Investments)
        See also Assembly OKs Bill to Drop Investments Tied to Iran - Matthew B. Stannard
    Divestment as a means of pressuring foreign governments has become increasingly popular, with proponents pointing to the example of South Africa, said David Cortright, president of the Fourth Freedom Forum in Goshen, Ind., which focuses on using economic power to resolve international conflicts. "The beginning of the end for the apartheid regime came around '86 and '87 when the big banks in New York rolled over South Africa's debt short term," he said. Soon after, some in government began to encourage negotiations with imprisoned anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela. But Iran is not South Africa, said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Like UN sanctions, divestment may impact the average Iranian, he said, but may not affect the ruling elite's positions. (San Francisco Chronicle)
        See also Ohio Divestment: Deal or No Deal? - Aaron Marshall
    A controversial bill forcing Ohio pension systems to pull $1.1 billion worth of investments in businesses with ties to Iran and Sudan was stopped in its tracks Tuesday on the House floor with pension fund managers in an uproar at the mandatory requirements. House Speaker Jon Husted offered to pull back the divestment bill if the pension systems agreed to a voluntary divestment of half of those funds (more than $500 million) by the end of 2007. But Rep. Josh Mandel said Wednesday that he plans to push forward for a House floor vote next Tuesday. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Disputes Scuttle Olmert-Abbas Meeting - Herb Keinon
    Officials from PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' office called Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's bureau on Wednesday to cancel a planned meeting of the two in Jericho on Thursday. Palestinian officials said Israel rejected demands to release hundreds of millions of dollars in frozen Palestinian tax revenues or accept Abbas' proposal for restoring a cease-fire in Gaza and extending it to the West Bank. Abbas' cancellation of the meeting underlines growing apprehension in Jerusalem that he is too weak of a leader to be able to carry out any commitments.
        Israeli officials said Jerusalem would not agree to a cease-fire in the West Bank, since daily IDF military activity there is essential to keep terrorism from returning to higher levels. Olmert was apparently willing to release some of the frozen tax funds, but only through a mechanism that would ensure the money would not be used by the Hamas-led PA for terrorist purposes. Officials said that Israel was not satisfied with the mechanism set up to channel $100m. in frozen tax funds that Israel transferred to Abbas earlier this year. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues
    Palestinians in Gaza fired four Kassam rockets that landed in the Sderot area on Wednesday. (Ynet News)
  • Israel to Sell UAVs to Britain for $110 Million
    Israel's Elbit Systems has made a $110 million deal with Britain for the sale of a fleet of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), Israel Radio reported Thursday. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • In the Middle East: Ballot Boxes? Yes. Actual Democracy? Tough Question. - Michael Slackman
    This is election season in the Middle East. Syria just held presidential and parliamentary elections. Algeria held parliamentary elections. Egyptians will be asked to vote next week on a new upper house of Parliament. There will soon be elections in Jordan, Morocco and Oman, followed by elections in Qatar. So is democracy suddenly taking root in the region?
        The consensus among democracy advocates is that the reverse is true. Elections, it appears, have increasingly become a tool used by authoritarian leaders to claim legitimacy. "The system is rigged to bring to power people who are already in power," said Daoud Kuttab, director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al Quds University in the West Bank city of Ramallah. From Syria to Bahrain, elections have helped bleed off some internal and external pressure for change without making any substantial alteration to the power structure, opposition political leaders and diplomats said. (New York Times)
  • Dangerous Illusions - Reuel Marc Gerecht
    The West Bank and Gaza are increasingly convulsed by civil strife, yet many think that an Israeli-Palestinian deal is still possible, provided Washington has the will to force Jerusalem to make concessions. Yet the Islamic fundamentalist movement Hamas has grown powerful electorally and militarily by advancing an uncompromising hostility to the existence of Israel. Fatah, the backbone of the now-defunct Palestine Liberation Organization, has grown noticeably more anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic. Competition with Hamas, more popular and more religious, now defines Fatah's themes. There is a reason Fatah has moved closer to Hamas ideologically. Religious Muslims, let alone fundamentalists, loathe the idea of a Western, Jewish state in what they see as the Muslim Middle East.
        The Palestinians have enthusiastically rejoined the mad rush of modern Islamic history. They are no longer a separate, special people. The Palestinians are in the early stages of their "civil war," and it's impossible to know where it will finish - though one could make a decent guess that in these early rounds, Hamas will win and the illusion of a Palestinian partner for peace will end. (Weekly Standard)
  • Observations:

    The Campaign to Delegitimize Israel - David Horovitz (Jerusalem Post)

    • Modern Israel is not some upstart Western invention, supplanting the state of Palestine, but the ancestral homeland of the Jewish nation, the land where our nation long lived and has always sought to live. The world is filled with Muslim nation-states and Christian nation-states. Ours is the only Jewish nation-state. It is the only nation-state that the Jewish nation has ever sought.
    • It was revived by the international community too late to save the stateless Jews from the Holocaust. But when belatedly relegitimized, after millions had died because of the international community's failure to protect the stateless Jews of Europe, its reconstitution was predicated on the establishment of a nation-state, too, for the Arab inhabitants of Mandatory Palestine.
    • The revived State of Israel, and a first-ever Palestinian state, could and would have coexisted here since 1948 were it not for the fact that those who spoke for the Arab inhabitants eschewed the partition and sought instead to overrun Israel altogether.
    • Israel stated its desire for peaceful relations with its neighbors in its 1948 declaration of independence and has restated it, and acted upon it, ever since. When Arab nations sought peace with us, we rushed to embrace them, even at the price of relinquishing territory from which we had been attacked and that we had captured in wars designed to eliminate us.
    • Why are Palestinians still living in refugee camps in Gaza when there is no Israeli presence there? Why are Kassam rocket squads firing into sovereign Israel from Jew-free Gaza, and bringing more suffering on their fellow Palestinians as Israel tries to stem the fire?
    • Israel's only real reservation about Palestinian independence is that the state of Palestine not be established at the expense of the State of Israel. But that, to date, is the price that the Palestinian leadership has set.
    • Israel's war against Islamic extremism is the world's war. If the extremists prevail, the consequences will be cataclysmic for Israel. But they will be cataclysmic, too, far beyond this region.

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