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June 15, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Hamas Executes Fatah Men as Their Wives and Children Watch (AP/Washington Times)
    A witness named Amjad said men were killed as their wives and children watched.
    "They are executing them one by one," Amjad said by telephone. "They are carrying one of them on their shoulders, putting him on a sand dune, turning him around and shooting."
    Fatah officials said Hamas shot and killed seven of its fighters outside the Preventive Security building. A doctor at Shifa Hospital said he examined two bodies that had been shot in the head at close range.

    See also Hamas Gunmen Hunt Down Fatah Rivals in Gaza - Nidal al-Mughrabi (Reuters)
    Security officers loyal to Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction were fleeing Gaza City as Islamist Hamas death squads roamed the streets.
    After the battles, Hamas men hunted down their foes, blowing up their houses, witnesses said.
    One Fatah member, who called himself Ahmed, said Hamas gunmen had killed eight of his friends: "I escaped by a miracle. Hamas is carrying out an execution campaign against us."
    Hamas gunmen deployed near the Rafah border crossing with Egypt and the Erez crossing with Israel to prevent any Fatah officials from escaping.
    "There is no dialogue with Fatah any more. It is only the rifle between us and them," said top Hamas official Nizar Rayyan.

Israel HighWay
- June 14, 2007

Issue of the Week:
    What Israeli Teens Are Doing this Summer

Explosive-Filled Tunnels Targeting Abbas Found in Gaza (Maan News-PA)
    Tunnels filled with explosive devices were discovered under Salahaddin Street in Gaza City, Palestinian security sources announced Wednesday.
    According to these sources, the explosives were targeting Mahmoud Abbas in anticipation of future visits to Gaza.
    After Palestinian television networks showed footage of the tunnels and explosives, Hamas' armed wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, accused PA TV of "treason" for broadcasting images of their fighters preparing tunnels.

As Gaza Unravels, Palestinians Flee - Ilene R. Prusher (Christian Science Monitor)
    Figures collected by European monitors at Rafah, the crossing into Egypt, show that some 14,000 Palestinians have left Gaza in the past year.
    Palestinian officials had asked to close the Rafah crossing into Egypt when they saw they could not protect European monitors there.
    "The real people controlling Rafah are Hamas, because they're just outside the checkpoint and they're controlling who can come and go," said Shlomo Dror, Israel's spokesman for the coordinator for government activities in the territories.
    Gazans who hope to leave are turning to agents who demand several thousand dollars for a plane ticket and a visa. The idea is to get to Egypt, and then, when the plane stops somewhere in Europe on its way west, to get off and ask for political asylum.
    Assad Abu Nihad paid $2,500 to a broker to arrange his son's trip. The son got off the plane in Spain on his way to Cuba and claimed asylum.

House Ties Military Aid to Egypt to Human Rights Progress (AFP/Yahoo)
    The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday approved legislation aimed at pressuring Egypt to improve its human rights record by withholding $200 million in military funds until progress is made.
    Egypt, a leading recipient of U.S. economic and military aid, has received more than $60 billion since 1979.
    Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit on Thursday responded: "Egypt cannot accept to abandon its sovereign rights, (or accept) any encroachment on the right of the Egyptian people to freedom of choice and independence."

    See also Egypt Vote Shows Unease with Democracy - Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor)
    Monday's elections for the consultative upper house of the Egyptian parliament proved to be much like previous polls - marked by intimidation and abuse.
    Nearly 800 members of the Muslim Brotherhood were arrested, and at least four polling places blocked Brotherhood supporters from entering.
    The Islamist group alleged on its website that already full ballot boxes were delivered to some stations, and that others where their candidates were running were shut completely.
    Egypt's new electoral rules have been crafted to prevent the use of Islamic symbols and slogans, which effectively disqualified the Brotherhood, whose campaign banners usually carry the words: "Islam is the solution."

Al-Qaeda Targets France - Bruce Riedel (Los Angeles Times)
    One of al-Qaeda's top priorities in the last year has been to create a franchise in Algeria to serve as a node for jihad in North Africa and throughout the Maghrebi diaspora in Western Europe.
    Bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman Zawahiri, negotiated with the Algerian Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat for two years on the terms for having the group join the movement.
    Late last year, Bin Laden ordered that the group be renamed Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and it began conducting attacks in that name soon thereafter, starting with a series of strikes at police stations and Western oil targets.
    In announcing al-Qaeda's new Maghrebi franchise on Sept. 11, 2006, Zawahiri declared that it would be "a source of chagrin, frustration and sadness for the apostates [of the regime in Algeria], the treacherous sons of France," and he urged the group to become "a bone in the throat of the American and French crusaders."
    French intelligence officials anticipate attacks on French targets in North Africa and probably in France itself. Jihadist websites in Europe have predicted an attack on French interests since Sarkozy's victory.
    The first-ever plan to fly a hijacked airliner into a target on the ground was a thwarted 1994 plot by Algerian jihadists to crash an Air France jet into the Eiffel Tower.
    The writer is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Collaborators Face Death in Town Where They Hoped to Find Safety - Sonia Verma (Times-UK)
    More than a dozen Palestinian collaborators with Israel who fled Gaza with their families have since settled in Sderot, where they are forced to dodge rockets fired at Sderot from Gaza.
    In some cases their relatives are tied to the very militant groups behind recent rocket attacks on the town.

Survey Shows Most Israelis Are Happy - Ruth Eglash (Jerusalem Post)
    83% of Jewish Israelis are satisfied or extremely satisfied with their lives, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics annual Social Survey 2006 released Tuesday.

Israeli Kibbutz to Provide Armor Protection for U.S. Forces - Navit Zomer (Ynet News)
    The Plasan Sasa armor protection manufacturing company, located in Kibbutz Sasa, won an international bid to provide 1,200 resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles for the U.S. Marine Corp.

Rise of 225 Percent in High-Tech Deals in Israel - Asaf Malichi (Ynet News)
    High-tech deals carried out in Israel in 2006 totaled $12.047 billion, compared to approximately $3.7 billion in 2005, a rise of 225%.
    Start-up companies raised $1.260 billion last year, compared to $1.215 billion in 2005.

Sheriff Returns from Training in Israel - Stephen Gurr (Gainesville [GA] Times)
    Hall County Sheriff Steve Cronic traveled to Israel as part of the two-week Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange, to study the counterterrorism techniques and emergency management methods. Two years ago, Israeli police visited Hall County.
    "I came away from it with the idea that there are certainly a lot of things they do better by necessity, and certain things we do better," Cronic said.
    Cronic noted a conversation he had with an Israeli couple who previously lived in Atlanta. "They said when they lived in Atlanta, they never had to worry about their house being hit by a rocket, but they would never have let their children walk home at night."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • White House Seems Ready to Let Hamas Seize Gaza - Helene Cooper
    Bush administration officials said Thursday they had been discussing the idea of largely acquiescing in the takeover of Gaza by Hamas and trying instead to help Fatah's Mahmoud Abbas retain control in the West Bank. The U.S. had quietly encouraged Abbas to dissolve the Palestinian government and dismiss Prime Minister Haniyeh, steps that Abbas announced Thursday. Before the announcement, Secretary of State Rice telephoned Abbas to reiterate American support for the move. (New York Times)
        See also Abbas Dissolves Palestinian Unity Government - Glenn Kessler
    After Abbas, whose bouts of vacillation have irritated U.S. officials, dissolved the Palestinian government in response to Hamas' takeover of Gaza, U.S. officials signaled that they will move quickly to persuade the Quartet to lift aid restrictions on the Palestinian government, allowing direct aid to flow to the West Bank-based emergency government that Abbas will lead. "There is no more Hamas-led government. It is gone," said a senior administration official. He said that humanitarian aid will continue to Gaza, but that the dissolution of the Palestinian government will allow the U.S. and its allies to create a "new model of engagement." The evolving U.S. strategy would let Hamas-run Gaza fend for itself while attempting to bolster Abbas as a moderate leader who can actually govern and deliver peace with Israel. (Washington Post)
  • Arabs Fear Spread of Gaza Conflict - Lee Keath
    Arab governments have been stunned by a battle that is rapidly creating a dramatically new reality on their doorsteps. Egypt sent police to beef up security on the border with Gaza, deploying armored vehicles and water cannons to prevent any potential mass flight of Palestinians out of Gaza. There are fears that if the fighting spreads to the West Bank, it will further weaken Abbas and ultimately stir up trouble for Jordan, said a Jordanian government official.
        The fighting is a major blow - if not a death knell - to months of attempts by U.S. Arab allies Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia to unify the Palestinians and allow a resumption of the peace process with Israel. "Gaza is steadily turning into a failed mini-state," wrote Abdel-Bari Atwan, editor-in-chief of Al-Quds Al-Arabi. "And in failed states, small or large, extremism breeds and spreads." Arab states fear a Hamas-run Gaza could become a power center for the group's allies Iran and Syria. (AP/Washington Post)
  • EU Halts Aid Projects to Gaza - Robert Wielaard
    The European Union suspended its humanitarian aid projects in Gaza on Thursday as the stridently anti-Israel Islamic Hamas movement took control of the area. EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Louis Michel announced a halt to 16 EU relief projects in Gaza, citing a "lack of security." (AP/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Hamas Seizes Final Fatah Positions in Gaza City - Avi Issacharoff
    Hamas fighters seized control of the Palestinian presidential compound in Gaza City on Thursday, the last of four key Fatah-run security compounds in the city which are now all under Hamas control. Hamas gunmen broke into the homes of Mahmoud Abbas and Mohammed Dahlan in Gaza and looted them. 99 Palestinian policemen loyal to Fatah who were border guards at Rafah fled to Egypt. (Ha'aretz)
  • Fatah's Collapse in Gaza Rocks its West Bank Status - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Fatah gunmen and PA policemen rounded up more than 30 Hamas officials and supporters in Bethlehem, Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin and Tulkarm on Thursday in an attempt to consolidate Fatah's grip on the West Bank. Hamas does not have security bases in the West Bank, nor does it have armed groups that roam the streets openly. Yet Hamas remains popular in several cities. In the last municipal elections, Hamas candidates scored major victories in Ramallah, el-Bireh, Bethlehem, Nablus and Kalkilya.
        It's true that many West Bankers are unhappy with what Hamas has done in Gaza. But there are still many Palestinians who are fed up with the scores of Fatah armed gangs that have long been running wild in the West Bank. Fatah gunmen may control the streets of the West Bank, but this does not mean they enjoy the support of the majority of the Palestinian public. In fact, Fatah's humiliating defeat in Gaza is likely to undermine its standing in the West Bank. (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S., Israel Reach "Accommodation" on Saudi Smart Bomb Deal - Herb Keinon
    Israel and the U.S. have reached an "accommodation" regarding the proposed sale of state-of-the-art weaponry to Saudi Arabia, and the issue is not expected to be a source of friction when Prime Minister Olmert goes to Washington for talks next week. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Eyes in the Sky - Yaakov Katz
    Israel's successful launch of the Ofek 7 on Monday proves again that it has the ability to independently develop, manufacture and launch satellites into space. Israel is one of seven countries in the world with independent satellite launch capabilities. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also New Satellite Gives Israel Intelligence Edge - Rachelle Kliger
    The Ofek 7 satellite is equipped with a sophisticated camera that can identify objects as small as 70 cm. in size. Israel already has two satellites in space with high-quality imagery capabilities - the Ofeq-5 and the Eros B. However, they are constantly orbiting the earth and are not always available to film a desired site at a given time. An extra satellite provides a wider scope of coverage, said Yiftah Shapir, a researcher at the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University. (Media Line)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Hamas Takes Control in Gaza

  • Palestinian Conflict Could Hit Home - From Oil Prices to War on Terror
    The consequences of Western failure in Gaza could be dire, according to Dennis Ross of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "Every brand of radical Islamist will be there - from al-Qaeda to Hizbullah joining Hamas," he said. If radical Islamists are able to establish a heavily armed state of their own in Gaza, it will be another sign to their adherents that this group is on the march and that the West is in retreat. "If they're expanding their presence there and they believe that time is on their side and they're winning, then in fact they will focus more and more on us," Ross said.
        And the challenges go beyond Gaza and the Arab-Israeli dispute, as the Taliban is back in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. Al-Qaeda is also flexing its muscles in Lebanon, and Hizbullah is resurgent. (ABC News)
  • A "Two-State Solution," Palestinian-Style - Martin Indyk
    All Palestinian leaders will continue to declare the indivisibility of the Palestinian homeland. But in private, Abbas and other Fatah leaders may take solace from the dilemma Hamas will now have to confront. Gaza's water, electricity and basic goods are imported from Israel, whose destruction Hamas has declared as its fundamental objective. Egypt turned a blind eye to the importation of weapons and money that helped ensure Hamas' takeover. But would Egypt allow on its border a failed terrorist state run by an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood with links to Iran and Hizbullah? Or will it insist on the maintenance of certain standards of order in return for its cooperation?
        In the West Bank, Abbas can depend on the Israel Defense Forces to suppress challenges from Hamas, and on Jordan and the U.S. to help rebuild his security forces. A failed terrorist state in Gaza is hardly what Secretary of State Rice had in mind for a legacy. Some will argue that it's time she talked to Hamas. But its thuggish, extraconstitutional behavior in Gaza and its commitment to the destruction of Israel make it an unlikely partner. The writer is director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. (Washington Post)
  • Multinational Forces in Gaza Won't Help Israel, Israeli Diplomacy Should Focus on Egypt - Dore Gold
    According to past experience, international force deployments have been extremely problematic in areas still afflicted by active combat operations. Such forces spend most of their energies seeking to protect themselves from attacks by the more aggressive party and, as a result, these forces inevitably decide to appease the party that threatens them more. For example, UNIFIL established intimate ties with Hizbullah over the years, in order to protect itself. It failed to address serious cease-fire violations by Hizbullah and even refused to take any effective action when the organization kidnapped Israeli soldiers in broad daylight. Many times UNIFIL was more preoccupied with Israel Air Force surveillance flights than with the flow of new Iranian weaponry to Hizbullah through Syria.
        Israeli diplomacy should focus right now on the role of Egypt. Cairo has no interest in the emergence of a state belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood (Hamas defines itself as the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood) along its northeastern border. Prime Minister Olmert should focus in his meeting with Bush on obtaining a firm commitment from Egypt to at long last seal the Philadelphi route.
        European monitors deployed on the Egypt-Gaza border have not blocked the massive flow of arms and trained terrorist personnel that have been flowing into Gaza without interruption. Israel should not support any initiative involving international forces that could block the freedom of movement of the Israel Defense Forces in the event that the security situation in Gaza deteriorates even further. (Ynet News)
  • Fundamentalists Threaten Israel from All Sides - Con Coughlin
    Hamas makes no secret of the fact that it now receives most of its financial and military support from Iran. The Iranian government signed a memorandum of understanding with the Hamas leadership in June last year in which it agreed to fund the militant group to the tune of £400 million. In addition, Iran provides military training to Hamas members by sending them to camps in Lebanon and Iran run by the elite Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards.
        Earlier this year, the Iranians sought to establish new supply lines to Gaza. On February 24, Khaled Mashaal, Hamas' supreme leader, traveled to Khartoum where he met senior Quds Force officials and Sudanese politicians who are broadly sympathetic to Hamas' political objectives. The main topic of conversation was setting up a supply route that would enable Iran to smuggle rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank missiles, guns and explosives through the porous border between Gaza and Egypt.
        Ordinary Palestinians, it is true, in both Gaza and the West Bank, are suffering hardship. But this is not because of a lack of funds entering the Palestinian territories: it is because successive Palestinian administrations have made no effort to distribute the resources available equably among the population. By forcing the majority of Palestinians to exist in dire poverty, Hamas succeeds in attracting widespread sympathy from international do-gooders who do not understand the sadistic economic manipulation that is taking place.
        Hamas is trying to replicate Hizbullah's success in Gaza, not a pleasing prospect for Israel, which now faces the threat of having two Iranian-backed, Islamic fundamentalist organizations dedicated to its destruction camped on its northern and southern borders. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Hamas Takeover in Gaza Makes Defining Targets Easier for IDF - Yaakov Katz
    Some Israeli defense officials said there was reason to be thankful for Hamas' takeover of Gaza. Prior to this, Israel had to distinguish between Fatah and Hamas gunmen in Gaza and make sure that Abbas loyalists were not targeted. Now, all gunmen are Hamas and therefore fair game. "The bank of targets has grown tremendously with Hamas' takeover," explained one official involved in planning policy in Gaza. "Hamas is a clear and defined enemy, and that means that when we decide to respond it will be easier than before, since all their buildings are now targets, as is anyone walking around with a weapon."
        Hamas operatives man roadblocks throughout Gaza with laptops that contain lists of Fatah officials, supporters and families. Anyone found on the list is either executed or severely beaten. Hamas' brutality was demonstrated on Wednesday when it raided Shati in central Gaza and rounded up female members of the Baker clan, known Fatah supporters. Hamas gunmen executed three of them, aged 13, 19 and 75.
        Regarding proposals to send a multinational force into Gaza, the assumption in Israel's defense establishment is that no European country would be willing to send troops unless Hamas supported the idea. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Corruption and Quarreling Plague Fatah - Karin Laub
    Fatah's lack of leadership, petty quarreling, and corruption contributed to its dismal showing in the fight against Hamas in Gaza. While the disciplined Hamas systematically built and hoarded weapons, Fatah failed to prepare in time for the inevitable showdown with the Islamic militants. In this week's fighting, disorganized Fatah fighters were outgunned and overrun by the smaller Hamas. Left without a central command or plan, Fatah forces quickly disintegrated. Many angry West Bankers, watching the fall of Gaza on their TV screens, pinned the blame on Fatah's leader, Mahmoud Abbas, who was seen as far too indecisive and detached to lead a countercharge against Hamas.
        In recent days, Hamas also gained a definite advantage by seizing weapons and ammunition from captured Fatah positions. Yet in the end, it came down to mind-set, not hardware. "Hamas has leadership, a goal, an ideology and funding," said Gaza analyst Talal Okal. "Fatah has neither leadership, nor a goal, a vision or money." (AP/San Francisco Chronicle)
  • From Gang Wars to Delegitimization - Editorial
    How can it be that the Fatah and Hamas leaderships have been so incompetent and brutal as to allow their followers to stoop to this level of political imbecility and human irresponsibility? Some gunmen may find it fulfilling to capture the headquarters of a rival group in Gaza. Most of the Palestinian people and all their many Arab supporters find this an act of juvenile political immaturity at best, and depraved criminality at worst. Whether these gunmen think they are acting in the name of God or a nationalist revolution is beyond any reasonable credibility, because their actions in recent months have deeply scarred the powerful authenticity and legitimacy of the Palestinian cause. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • The Consequences of the Civil War in Gaza - Shmuel Rosner
    After Ariel Sharon pulled Israel out of Gaza two years ago, Israel didn't get the security it wished for; the daily shelling of Israeli towns continued and even intensified. However, he did succeed in transforming Gaza from an Israeli headache into a Palestinian problem. "The American strategy has totally collapsed," Israeli officials said this week. First, they carried out an exercise in democracy, and that led to the election of Hamas. Then they abandoned democracy and tried to arm Fatah operatives in Gaza so they would fight Hamas. This approach didn't work out very well, either. The next step will be to isolate Gaza and hope to prevent the internal struggle from spilling into the West Bank. The one idea no one in his right mind is taking seriously this week is the old formula of the two-state solution that will solve, once and for all, the "Palestinian problem." (Slate)

    Other Issues

  • Tehran's Tentacles - Editorial
    It's impossible to talk about Hamas without talking about Iran. Iran has been arming Hamas terrorists via smuggling tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border. A Hamas takeover of Gaza would create immense new security problems for Israel and potentially carve out a terrorist haven in the region. It's impossible to talk about the murder of another prominent anti-Syrian lawmaker in Lebanon without talking about Iran and its partner, Syria. Tehran is funding and arming Hizbullah terrorists via Syria, and has rearmed them since Hizbullah's war against Israel last summer. It's impossible to talk about the Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan without noting that Iran is now apparently helping to arm its erstwhile arch foes.
        In short, it's impossible to view the serious violence across the Middle East without tracing the significant and rising influence of Iran. Now imagine a Tehran with nuclear weapons - and the ability to spread nuclear expertise to its terrorist clients throughout the region. (Chicago Tribune)
  • Syria's Export of Terrorism to Lebanon: Threat and Response - David Schenker
    Wednesday's car bombing in Beirut, which killed Future Party parliamentarian Walid Eido, underscores the Syrian-backed multifront campaign to undermine stability in Lebanon. One front is the Palestinian refugee camps, particularly Nahr al-Bared, where the Lebanese Armed Forces are currently fighting Fatah al-Islam, an al-Qaeda affiliate with ties to Syria. A second front is Beirut itself. The blast that killed Eido was the sixth such attack in the past month.
        For Washington, this latest assault on the Lebanese government is cause for great concern, particularly because al-Qaeda and Syria appear committed to destabilizing Lebanon. To help the Lebanese government weather what is sure to be a long war with Syria, Washington should pursue a second UN Security Council resolution to secure Lebanon's border with Syria. It may be time for Lebanon to request, with U.S. support, deployment of UN forces on this border. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
        See also Sinister Strategy Behind an MP's Murder - Robert Fisk
    A phone call came through on my mobile from a Lebanese MP when the carbonized skeleton of Walid Eido was still hot in his bombed car. "They only need to kill three more and Siniora has no parliamentary majority." True. The first words of L'Orient-Le Jour newspaper's lead story Thursday began: "70...69...68." If the MPs supporting the government of Fouad Siniora fall to 65, there is no more "majority" support in parliament. (Independent-UK)
  • British Boycott Is Not Just Wrong, It's Anti-Semitic - Anthony Julius and Alan Dershowitz
    Academic boycotts violate two important principles - the principle known as "the universality of science and learning" and freedom of expression. The first principle is that academics do not discriminate against colleagues on the basis of factors that are irrelevant to their academic work. Beyond formulaic denunciations of Israel, the boycotters rarely offer a rational account of why it is right to shun Israel's academic institutions.
        The boycotters are not just adopting bad politics derived from faulty thinking. There is an edge of malice to their campaign. Their desire to hurt, to punish, outstrips their ability even to identify with any precision their targets. Does this malice have a name? Is it anti-Semitic? The history of anti-Semitism is in part the history of boycotts of Jews. Each boycott derives from a principle of exclusion: Jews and/or the Jewish state are to be excluded from public life, from the community of nations. The boycott has indeed been an essential tool of anti-Semites for at least a thousand years.
        The boycotters would deny to Jews the rights that they uphold for other peoples. They adhere to the principle of national self-determination, except in the Jews' case. They affirm international law, except in Israel's case. They are outraged by the Jewish nature of the State of Israel, but are untroubled (say) by the Islamic nature of Iran or of Saudi Arabia. (Times-UK)
  • Boycotting Universities: Slamming Israel, Giving Palestinians a Free Pass
    Israel at present has a center-left government that proposes a two-state solution for the Palestine conflict. The Palestinians have voted into office an Islamist government under the Hamas movement that says it aims to end the existence of the Jewish state by a policy of armed struggle. By general consent, moreover, Israel's universities enjoy far greater academic freedom than any in the Middle East. Why, in these circumstances, should Israeli academics be shunned while those from the other side are welcomed? (Economist-UK)
  • Is Iran Abetting the Taliban? - Lionel Beehner
    U.S. officials say they have found evidence that Iran has supplied weapons to Taliban rebels operating along the Afghan-Pakistani border. Some experts say there are a number of reasons why a strengthened Taliban would serve Iran's interests, particularly in keeping U.S. forces off balance, as well as potentially deflecting pressure over its nuclear program. (Council on Foreign Relations/ New York Times)
  • Al-Qaeda's Terrorist Threat to UNIFIL - Bilal Y. Saab and Magnus Ranstorp
    The strengthened UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is likely to face a range of security threats that could undermine its peacekeeping duties and endanger its personnel. Among the more serious threats, underscored by intelligence reports that indicate a growing al-Qaeda presence in Lebanon, is a catastrophic terrorist attack against UNIFIL by local salafist jihadist entities. (Brookings Institution)

    Weekend Features

  • Book Review: Who Started the Six-Day War? - Michael Oren
    The scenes flashed across the TV screens: tens of thousands of Arab troops massing on Israel's borders, frenzied demonstrations in every Arab capital demanding the demise of the Jewish state, the leaders of the Soviet bloc proclaiming unqualified support for Arab war aims while the French - Israel's only ally - abruptly changed sides. Egyptian President Nasser, who ousted UN peacekeepers from the Egypt-Israel border and blockaded Israeli shipping through the Straits of Tiran, foresaw a "total war...aimed at Israel's destruction." "We shall destroy Israel and prepare boats to deport the survivors," the Palestine Liberation Organization pledged, "if there are any."
        Tom Segev's 1967: Israel, the War, and the Year That Transformed the Middle East aims at overturning what Segev deems the most hallowed of Israeli myths - namely, that the Six-Day War was a just and existential struggle that Israel, isolated and outgunned, had no choice but to wage. Substantiating these claims requires Segev to engage in rhetorical acrobatics, not only contradicting himself but also committing glaring oversights. But the most telling omission relates to the Arabs. Segev's book is all but devoid of Arab calls for Israel's destruction and the slaughter of its citizens. There is no mention of pro-war demonstrations, of Egypt's willingness to use poison gas against its enemies, or of the detailed Arab plans for conquering Israel. The writer is a senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem and the author of Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East. (Washington Post)
  • My Brother the Bomber - Shiv Malik
    I had come to Beeston in September 2005 on assignment with the BBC to help put together a factual drama based on the lives of the four 7/7 bombers - three of whom came from Beeston. Although poverty and exclusion are themes that wound their way through the lives of the Beeston bombers, it is the internal frictions within a traditional Pakistani community in Britain that best explain the radicalization that led to the deaths of 56 people. Ariel Merari, a Tel Aviv University psychologist, has profiled 50 suicide bombers and concluded that the only factor linking all forms of suicide terrorism was the way bombers were recruited and trained. It is the psychology of the group, not the individual, that is key.
        I asked Gultasab Khan, brother of British jihadi Mohammad Sidique Khan, whether he thought 7/7 was halal (permitted) or haram (forbidden) in Islam. After a brief pause, he replied. "No comment." Everyday morality told him that his brother had committed a cold-blooded act of terror, while his own Islamic theology told him that maybe his brother was a hero. How many thousands of young British Muslims are similarly conflicted? (Prospect)
  • Declining Christian Population a Fact of Life in Arab Societies - Olivia Ward
    "There are 12 million Christians in the Middle East. If the current trend continues, there will be fewer than 6 million by 2025," says Hilal Khashan, political science chair at the American University of Beirut. Christians have been a traditional bridge between the mainly Muslim Middle East and the largely Christian West. Without them, says Nina Shea, director of the Washington-based Center for Religious Freedom, "we'll see greater Islamization of the people who stay behind." Throughout the Middle East, Christians complain that they are in the worst of all worlds - viewed as outsiders by Islamists but held in suspicion as Arabs by the West. In the Palestinian territories, Christians who once made up more than 7% of the Arab population now account for less than 2%, according to a recent survey.
        Ray Mouawad, a Lebanese historian, says growing fundamentalism is a threat not just to Christians but to all religious minorities, as well as to secular Muslims. For Islamic fundamentalists, he says, "no building of churches is allowed, no display of the cross, no processions, no equality in the law, no participation in the political process and, of course, no freedom of conscience. These are just some ideas that are prevalent in fundamentalist circles from Iran to Morocco." (Toronto Star)
  • The Cynical Use of Israel in Italian Politics - Interview with Fiamma Nirenstein
    Italy presently has a left-wing government. Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema was one of the strongest opponents of Israel when he was prime minister in 1998-2000. A few decades ago the Italian Left started to use the conflict as a strategic instrument to build domestic political alliances. It is not by chance that the radical shift in the EU's stance toward Israel occurred in a declaration at a 1980 conference in an Italian city, Venice, which demanded the creation of a Palestinian state. It was issued when the PLO still explicitly said that it wanted to destroy Israel. The new Italian Right led by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has to a large extent relegitimized pro-Israel positions in Italy. Yet almost the entire Left and large parts of the Catholic world retain their anti-Israel views. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Observations:

    Hamastan - Barry Rubin (Wall Street Journal, 15Jun07)

    • With the seizure of the Gaza Strip by Hamas, a new Islamist state is being established and it doesn't bode well for the West or regional stability.
    • Since the peace process began in 1993 with the Oslo Accords, the Fatah leadership made hardly a single effort to move Palestinian society toward peace and moderation. Fatah did have an attractive alternative it could have offered: We will get a state, return the refugees to live in it, develop our economy and culture and enjoy large-scale international aid in exchange for ending the conflict. Instead it continued to glorify violence, spread hatred of Israel and America, and raise a new generation with a belief in eventual "total" victory and the extinction of Israel.
    • Unwilling to make peace and uninterested in governing well, Fatah dug its own grave. Why should anyone be surprised that Hamas replaced it?
    • Let's get this straight: There is no near-term solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. There is no Palestinian side with which a compromise agreement can be negotiated. Western and especially U.S. policy must get beyond an obsession with solving this conflict. It is going to go on for decades.
    • Hamas will not be persuaded to moderate - why should it when it expects victory at home and appeasement from Europe? Hamas is the enemy, just as much as al-Qaeda, because it is part of the radical Islamist effort to seize control of the region, overthrow anything even vaguely moderate, and expel any Western influence.
    • It is time to support Israel proudly and fully. Israel has done everything possible for peace, taking great risks to do so.

      The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center.

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