Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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November 13, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Hamas Losing Grip on Gaza - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    The Hamas gunmen who sought to disperse the crowd at the rally Monday in Gaza did not use rubber-coated bullets or tear gas; they simply opened fire on the crowd.
    The recent violence is expected to reduce Hamas' status further on the Palestinian street, as people in Gaza see Hamas using its terror tactics against its own people.
    Al Jazeera, not known for its support of Fatah, estimated that 200,000 demonstrators were present. This is an important sign of the frustration in Gaza with the Hamas regime.
    A recent Palestinian poll conducted by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Center revealed that Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh is still the second-most popular leader in the territories, after Mahmoud Abbas.
    However, Haniyeh is almost completely uninvolved in decision-making now. Israeli intelligence sources say Ahmed Ja'abari, who leads the Hamas military wing, is the real man in charge in Gaza now.

Trampling Hamas and Hizbullah Flags Is Free Speech, Judge Rules - Bob Egelko (San Francisco Chronicle)
    U.S. Magistrate Wayne Brazil ruled last week in Oakland that it's an unconstitutional restriction on speech when California State University's policy is used to investigate or discipline students, such as the College Republicans whose members stomped on Hamas and Hizbullah flags, each with Allah written on them in Arabic, during an anti-terrorism rally at San Francisco State on October 2006.
    Brazil said he would issue a preliminary injunction barring the university from enforcing its civility standard in any disciplinary proceeding.
    He said the university can continue to enforce another rule prohibiting intimidation or harassment - but can use the rule to punish students only for threatening someone's health or safety, and not merely for offensive statements or conduct.

Educating for Violence (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
    On Oct. 21, Al-Arabiya TV broadcast a report about Palestinian children who play with toy guns, imitating the fighting methods of the terrorist organizations.
    The toy guns, imported from China, are almost identical to the genuine weapons in the possession of the terrorist organizations.
    That sometimes makes it difficult for soldiers to distinguish between terrorist operatives and children playing with toy guns.
    Children taking part in ceremonies with toy guns, beginning in kindergarten, are common events in the Palestinian areas.

Saudi Prince Buying "Flying Palace" Airbus - Barbara Surk and Anna Johnson (AP/Washington Post)
    Saudi Arabian billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is purchasing an Airbus A380 to be a "flying palace" at a cost more than $320 million, the manufacturer, Airbus SAS, announced Monday.
    The A380 is as tall as a seven-story building with each wing big enough to hold 70 cars. It is capable of carrying 853 passengers. Take out the seats, and the plane can be transformed into a flying mansion.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Hamas Forces Disperse Fatah Rally in Gaza, Kill Six Palestinians - Samuel Sockol and Islam Abdel Kareem
    Hamas militiamen on Monday violently dispersed a massive rally organized in Gaza by Fatah to mark the third anniversary of Arafat's death. Six people were killed and 75 wounded, Palestinian officials said. While Hamas Interior Ministry spokesman Ehab Ghussein charged that "armed men from the Fatah movement initially opened fire," a Washington Post reporter on the scene saw no Fatah gunmen at the rally or in its vicinity. Palestine TV reported that Hamas militiamen fired into the crowd from the roof of Al-Azhar University. Other Hamas militiamen moved in to arrest and beat people in the crowd, and ordered journalists not to film the event. (Washington Post)
  • Britain Proposes Ban on Aid for Iranian Energy Development - Philip Webster
    British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Monday proposed a worldwide ban on companies developing Iran's oil and gas fields if it failed to curb its nuclear ambitions. In his first major speech on foreign policy, he promised to take the lead in seeking tougher penalties through the UN and the EU. (Times-UK)
        See also Merkel, Sarkozy Warn of More Sanctions on Iran
    French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Monday more sanctions may be necessary to persuade Iran to suspend nuclear work. "We are on the same wavelength: no nuclear weapons for Iran," Sarkozy said after talks with Merkel in Berlin. (AFP)
  • Connecticut Schools Cancel Palestinian Dance Troupe Performances - Gary Libow and Joseph O'Brien
    After receiving a complaint that a Palestinian dance troupe's performance at the high school was offensive to Jews and Israel, school officials canceled scheduled appearances by the Al-Ghad Folklore Dancing Troupe of Beit Sahour this week at Old Saybrook's elementary and middle schools. Resident Ginger Horton said she felt compelled to complain to school officials after the troupe's performance at the high school Monday. "[My] grandchildren came home very frightened," Horton said Thursday. They told her the performance depicted Israeli soldiers beating and torturing Palestinians.
        Bob Fishman, executive director of the Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut, said public schools should not host groups with a perceived political agenda. He lauded upset local students and family members who "stepped up." "It was a very disturbing report [Horton] got from her grandchildren," Fishman said. "I advised her that it's not appropriate for a sponsor to say it's cultural when it's primarily political."  (Hartford Courant)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Olmert: Israel to Release Hundreds of Palestinian Prisoners; No Implementation of Agreements Until Palestinians Fight Terror - Amnon Meranda
    Prime Minister Olmert told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Monday that Israel planned to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners ahead of the Annapolis meeting. "These will not be prisoners with blood on their hands," he said.
        "This time, we have agreed on a rule that will spare possible unpleasant results, if we reach an agreement that the Palestinians are unable to fulfill," Olmert said. "The innovation is that we will try to reach an understanding of all the components of the solution based on two states side-by-side, but we will not have to implement something before the implementation of the Road Map's first stage," the prime minister added. Olmert indicated that Israel would talk to the Palestinians on a variety of diplomatic and security issues, but will not implement a thing until the Palestinians fight terror. (Ynet News)
  • Chief PLO Negotiator: Palestinians Will Not Accept Israel as "Jewish State" - Barak Ravid
    Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator for the Palestine Liberation Organization, rejected on Monday Israel's demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Earlier Monday, Prime Minister Olmert said, "We won't have an argument with anyone in the world over the fact that Israel is a state of the Jewish people. Whoever does not accept this cannot hold any negotiations with me," Olmert said. "This will be a condition for our recognition of a Palestinian state." (Ha'aretz)
        See also What Most Palestinians Believe - Rick Richman
    In a joint Palestinian-Israeli public opinion poll in June, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research and the Harry S Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace found that only 60% of Palestinians agreed that, after reaching a permanent agreement on all issues of the conflict, there should be recognition of Israel as the state for the Jewish people. In other words, about 40% opposed the recognition of a Jewish state - even after a resolution of "all issues of the conflict." (New York Sun)
        See also Palestinian Poll: Most Support Right of Return to Israel, Want Jerusalem as Muslim Capital
    According to a Palestinian poll conducted by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center on Nov. 3-6, 67% favor the return of all Palestinian refugees to their original homes and not just to a Palestinian state. 53% see the best solution for Jerusalem as being a capital of the Muslims. (JMCC)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Jordan, Fearing Islamists, Tightens Grip on Elections - Thanassis Cambanis
    This month's legislative elections were supposed to be a watershed in Jordan's slow but committed march to democratic change. But Hamas' rise to power in the Palestinian Authority and its violent takeover of Gaza in June have cast a heavy shadow over politics in Jordan, where a Hashemite monarch maintains a tight, authoritarian grip on a restive Palestinian majority and an activist Islamic opposition. Jordan's system restrains not only Islamists but also secular liberal parties and advocates of Palestinian rights.
        Jordan's only significant opposition party, the Muslim Brotherhood's Islamic Action Front, commands deep support in urban areas, especially among Jordanians of Palestinian origin. The party has put forward 22 candidates, even fewer than it did in 2003, saying they would not stand a chance against the widespread government fraud it expects. Zaki Bani Rsheid, the secretary general of the Islamic Action Front, contends that in a completely open election, Islamists would win a plurality of votes and the right to form a government. (In the last parliamentary election in 2003, the Islamic Action Front won 17 of 110 seats.) (New York Times)
  • Iranian Intelligence: "We Know Where You Live" - Maziar Bahari
    Mohammadi is the nickname of choice for the agents of Iran's ministry of intelligence - the country's equivalent of the CIA. While on assignment for Newsweek magazine, I met three Mr. Mohammadis in four days. Mr. Mohammadi is responsible for the security of Iran. That includes protecting the values of its government. It's a tough job. The values change so often that the officials who put former colleagues on trial today are careful not to be incarcerated by the same people tomorrow.
        These days, Mr. Mohammadi's main concern is that the American fifth column, disguised as civil rights activists, scholars and journalists, is destabilizing the Islamic Republic. Throughout its history, the Islamic Republic has looked for foreign enemies and has usually found them in abundance. Yet on many occasions it has undermined its own legitimacy by linking genuine domestic opposition to its foreign enemies. (New Statesman-UK)
  • Observations:

    The Crime of Being a Jewish State - Bradley Burston (Ha'aretz)

    • Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat declared Monday that "No state in the world connects its national identity to a religious identity." This ignores the fact that the Saudis are a theocracy of such sectarian dimension that tourists are forbidden from entering the country with Bibles, crucifixes, or items bearing the Star of David.
    • The bottom line is that if Palestinians want an actual state and not just the trappings, they are going to have to reconcile themselves to the idea of an overtly Jewish neighbor.
    • The world has shown its willingness to let Palestinians suffer indefinitely. The world has shown its impatience with the glorious victories of Palestine, whether that means Kassam rockets butchering six cows about to give birth in a dairy barn on a Negev kibbutz, or raising an army which spends much of its firepower on fellow Palestinians, as in the memorial rally which left as many as eight dead in Gaza.
    • What matters, in the end, is not whether the Palestinians choose to formally recognize Israel as a Jewish state. What matters is whether the Palestinians can live alongside a state which happens to be Jewish in character. Can they share the Holy Land with a state in which the dominant religion is not Islam?
    • Most Jewish Israelis, meanwhile, have come to accept the idea of an independent Palestinian state, in which the dominant religion will certainly be Islam.
    • If Palestinians cannot bring themselves to accept a Jewish Israel, there is always the default option. For Palestinians to choose not to accept a Jewish state is to choose statelessness.

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