Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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July 10, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Abbas: Hamas Is Giving Al-Qaeda a Foothold in Gaza (Reuters)
    "Through Hamas, al-Qaeda is entering the Gaza Strip," Mahmoud Abbas told Italian state television RAI on Tuesday.
    "It is Hamas that is protecting al-Qaeda, and through its bloody behavior Hamas has become very close to al-Qaeda," he said.
    See also The Growing al-Qaeda Presence in the Hamas-Controlled Gaza Strip - Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan D. Halevi (JCPA)

Hamas Army Established in Gaza - Ronny Sofer (Ynet News)
    According to a senior intelligence officer in the IDF Southern Command, a real "Hamas army" of 7-10,000 soldiers exists in Gaza, who are being armed with weapons smuggled from Egypt.
    "This army's goal is to hurt innocent Israeli citizens living around the Gaza Strip," the officer said.

Chavez: Iranian Penetration of Latin America Spreading - Amir Mahdi Kazemi (VHeadline-Venezuela)
    In an interview with Iran's Press TV, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said:
    "Iranian technology and industries are now being used in Venezuela, Venezuelan technicians are trained in Iran and Iranian experts are training them in Venezuela."
    "Iran and Bolivia are talking over having the same relations with Bolivia. The same happened in the case of Nicaragua."
    "The relations between Iran and Venezuela have an impact on the whole world."

Fatah Men Say Mistreated by Hamas in Gaza - Nidal al-Mughrabi (Reuters)
    Palestinian policeman Tareq Asfour, 43, said the two blood-encrusted holes in his legs were made by nails hammered in by Hamas gunmen who tortured him.
    After handcuffing him and tying him up with wire, "they hit me with the wooden handle of a shovel and they used hammers to hit my joints. They put nails in my legs," he said.
    Asfour's allegations of mistreatment have been echoed in reports Fatah members have filed with human rights organizations since the fighting.

Fatah Gunmen Assert Authority in West Bank - Scott Wilson (Washington Post)
    In West Bank cities, Hamas-affiliated local council members are returning cautiously to city halls, in some cases defying death threats to do so, as initial fears of broad factional violence are fading.
    After the Hamas takeover in Gaza, Fatah militiamen had asserted themselves in the streets.
    The emergency government Abbas appointed last month has pledged to disarm all party militias, including the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. There is no sign that is happening.

Syria Blocking Internet Websites (AFP/Daily Star-Lebanon)
    Syria has stepped up its muzzling of the Internet, blocking access to a string of websites critical of the regime.
    Sites blocked by firewalls within Syria include the Saudi-owned Asharq Al-Awsat and the Beirut newspaper Al-Mustaqbal run by the family of slain Lebanese ex-Premier Rafik Hariri.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • IAEA Sees Slowdown in Iran's Nuclear Program: Seeking Better Centrifuge Performance or Is Pressure Working? - Robin Wright
    After boasting of rapid progress for months, Iran has slowed expansion of a controversial uranium enrichment program that can be used both for peaceful nuclear energy and to develop weapons. Mohamed ElBaradei, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Monday that UN inspectors detected the change during a visit to Iran's underground enrichment facility at Natanz last week.
        A senior European official said Iran's slowdown is most likely due to technical problems. "Iran may be trying to learn how to operate centrifuges better, so they produce more enriched uranium instead of trying to add more centrifuges," said David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security. Others suggest, however, that Tehran may be responding to mounting international pressure. (Washington Post)
  • With Pressure on Hamas, Gaza Is Cut Off - Steven Erlanger and Isabel Kershner
    Karni is the main cargo crossing on the Gaza-Israel border and the only one equipped for commercial imports and exports. While Congress has been asked to provide millions to help Abbas' Presidential Guard and to rebuild the Palestinian side of Karni, Rep. Steven Israel (D-NY) said during a visit to the region, "There is no appetite to fund Karni, no interest there." Some Israeli officials and Western diplomats say they believe Fatah is keeping Karni shut to squeeze Hamas - just as Egypt has agreed to keep closed the Rafah crossing on its border with Israel.
        At the height of the Hamas-Fatah fighting, the PA Presidential Guard, which had previously secured the Palestinian side of the crossing and which is loyal to Fatah, fled their posts. With them vanished the Israeli-Palestinian agreements for running the crossing. Abbas has ordered his forces in Gaza to stay at home and many believe he would rather see Karni stay shut for now. "That is my understanding," said Rep. Israel, who recently spent time with Palestinian leaders in Ramallah. (New York Times)
  • Ahmadinejad Silences His Critics - Colin Freeman
    A long-feared crackdown by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad finally appears to be coming into force. The regime has turned on its critics in all walks of life, harassing pro-democracy activists, shutting down dissident publications and dismissing independent-minded government officials and academics. When members of a pro-democracy group staged a demonstration at Teheran's Amir Kabir University last December, Ahmadinejad surprised the world by requesting that they should not be arrested. He later cited his move as proof of the "absolute, total freedom" Iranians enjoyed. Eight of those protesters have since been jailed.
        Some 70 students have been arrested since Ahmadinejad came to power; nearly half were seized in the last four months. More than 500 others have been suspended or expelled from university because of political activities, while about 130 student publications and 40 student organizations have been closed. The fact that many reformists were still at large to criticize the regime was not grounds for optimism, said Abdullah Momeni, the leader of Tahkim Vahdat, Iran's largest student organization and a prominent critic of the regime. "Now the judiciary and parliament and president feel so powerful that they don't really see us as a threat any more." (Sunday Telegraph-UK)
        See also Iranian Police Raid Pro-Democracy Group - Ali Akbar Dareini
    Iranian police and plainclothes security agents broke up a sit-in marking Monday's anniversary of a bloody raid on a Tehran university dormitory, then stormed the offices of the country's main pro-democracy student group. (AP/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Syria Rejects Offer to Hold Peace Talks
    Damascus has rejected Prime Minister Olmert's offer to hold peace talks with President Assad, Army Radio reported on Tuesday. In an interview with the Saudi satellite station Al Arabiya, Olmert invited Assad to Jerusalem to talk. Olmert said: "Bashar Assad, you know...I am ready to hold direct negotiations with you, and you also know that it's you who insists on speaking to the Americans. The American president says: 'I don't want to stand between Bashar Assad and Ehud Olmert. If you want to talk, sit down and talk.'"  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Mortar Barrages Pound Israel
    Palestinian terror cells bombarded Israel's western Negev region with rockets and mortars throughout the day Monday. Five mortar shells landed near the Kerem Shalom crossing. Earlier, a Kassam rocket landed near a kibbutz. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • They Honor Us with Their Hate - Richard Cohen
    A picture dated Sept. 12, 2001, made my heart stop. It showed Palestinians, most of them young, all of them male, cheering the deaths of about 3,000 innocent people in America the day before. This was before America's retaliatory invasion of Afghanistan or the war in Iraq. It was also before Guantanamo and before the outrage of Abu Ghraib. In other words, the demonstration by Palestinians in Shatila in Lebanon preceded most of the usual reasons given for why America today is held in contempt. One Islamic state (Iran) and a host of militant organizations - Hamas, Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad, and al-Qaeda - fervently wish for Israel's destruction. There is no way the U.S. could appease these groups and not, in the process, trample on its own moral values. (Washington Post)
  • The Thoughts of Ahmadinejad - Arnaud de Borchgrave
    A collection of Ahmadinejad's pronouncements makes edifying reading: "We don't shy away from declaring that Islam is ready to rule the world." "The wave of the Islamist revolution will soon reach the entire world." "Our revolution's main mission is to pave the way for the reappearance of the 12th Imam, the Mahdi" (a 5-year-old boy who vanished 1,100 years ago and who will lead the world into an era of peace and prosperity, but not before the planet is convulsed by death and destruction).
        "Is there a craft more beautiful, more sublime, more divine, than the craft of giving yourself to martyrdom and becoming holy?" " Iran can recruit hundreds of suicide bombers a day. Suicide is an invincible weapon." "The will to commit suicide is one of the best ways of life." "By the grace of Allah we will be a nuclear power and Iran does not give a damn about (IAEA) demands" (to freeze enrichment of nuclear fuel). (UPI)
  • The Case for Mistrusting Muslims - Theodore Dalrymple
    One of the most sinister effects of the efforts of the UK bombers is that they have undermined trust completely between Muslims and non-Muslims. This is because those under investigation turn out not to be cranks or marginals but people well-integrated into society; they are not the ignorant and uneducated. The perpetrators do not bomb because of personal grievance but because they have allowed themselves to be gripped by a stupid, though apparently quite popular, ideology: radical Islam. Nor are they of one ethnic or national group only: We have had Somali, Pakistani, Arab, Jamaican, Algerian and British Muslim terrorists. This means, unfortunately, that no one can ever be quite sure whether a Muslim who appears polite and accommodating is not simultaneously contemplating mass murder.
        The fundamental problem is this: There is an asymmetry between the good that many moderate Muslims can do for Britain and the harm that a few fanatics can do to it. The 1-in-1,000 chance that a man is a murderous fanatic is more important to me than the 999-in-1,000 chance that he is not a murderous fanatic. The problem causes deep philosophical discomfort to everyone who believes in a tolerant society. On the one hand we believe that every individual should be judged on his merits, while, on the other, we know it would be absurd and dangerous to pretend that the threat of terrorism comes from sections of the population equally. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Stop Denying Islam's Role in Violence - Irshad Manji (New York Post)
  • Observations:

    What About Muslim Moderates? - R. James Woolsey and Nina Shea (Wall Street Journal)

    • The Bush administration is building bridges to well-funded and self-publicized organizations that claim to speak for all Muslims, even though some of those groups espouse views inimical to American values and interests. After years of pursuing similar strategies - while seeing home-based terrorists proliferate - the British government is now more discerning about which Muslims it will partner with. Stating that "lip service for peace" is no longer sufficient, the British are identifying and elevating those who are willing to take clear stands against terrorism and its supporting ideology.
    • On the eve of his departure from office, Tony Blair gave a television interview taking on those he once courted - British Islamists who have been quick to level charges of Islamophobia and oppression against Britain and the U.S.: "The reason we are finding it hard to win this battle [against terror] is that we're not actually fighting it properly. We're not actually standing up to these people and saying, 'It's not just your methods that are wrong, your ideas are absurd. Nobody is oppressing you. Your sense of grievance isn't justified.'"
    • The Bush administration is now actively considering whether its public diplomacy should reach out to Muslim Brotherhood groups. By choosing those whose definition of terror does not include the murder of Jews, honor killings and lethal fatwas against Muslim dissidents and reformers, the U.S. government makes them look strong - particularly in the shame-and-honor culture of the Middle East - and strengthens their hand against the real moderates and reformers.

      Mr. Woolsey, co-chair of the Committee on the Present Danger, was Director of Central Intelligence 1993-1995. Ms. Shea is the director of the Center for Religious Freedom of the Hudson Institute.

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