Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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January 1, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Dramatic Drop in Terror Fatalities in 2007 - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    13 Israelis were killed by Palestinians in 2007, down from 24 in 2006 and 50 in 2005, according to data released Monday by the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet).
    There was only one successful suicide bombing last year, down from six in 2006.
    Palestinians fired 1,263 rockets and 1,511 mortar shells at Israel in 2007, compared with 1,722 rockets and 55 mortars in 2006. Rocket attacks accounted for two fatalities, both in Sderot.

U.S. Company Fined for Complying with Arab Boycott of Israel - Michael Freund (Jerusalem Post)
    The U.S. government has imposed a civil penalty on a Pennsylvania-based firm after one of its overseas subsidiaries repeatedly violated American legal restrictions regarding the Arab boycott of Israel.
    Colorcon, a manufacturer of inks and coatings for the food and pharmaceutical industries, agreed to pay $39,000 in fines after its UK subsidiary committed 21 violations of the law between 2001 and 2005 in a series of dealings with Syria.
    These included providing written assurances to the Syrians that the company's products did not contain materials manufactured in Israel, as well as an undertaking that Colorcon would comply with Damascus' boycott of Israel.

Hamas TV Host Sings: "We Liberated Gaza by Force" (MEMRI-TV)
    Child TV host Saraa Barhoum sang the following song on Al-Aqsa TV on Dec. 20, 2007:
    "We liberated Gaza by force, not by Oslo or by Taba - but with my steadfast people, and with its blazing fire."
    "We have proven that with our will, we can defeat the colonialist army. We have regained our freedom through bloodshed and the wrath of fire."
    "We will meet our death with no hesitation. We are the swords of Allah, we are the victorious armies."

Dissident Saudi Blogger Arrested - Faiza Saleh Ambah (Washington Post)
    Saudi Arabia's most popular blogger, Fouad al-Farhan, has been detained for questioning, a Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman confirmed Monday.
    Farhan, 32, used his blog to criticize corruption and call for political reform. Unlike most of those who blog in the kingdom, Farhan used his real name.
    In December, Farhan listed his 10 least favorite Saudi personalities, including a businessman prince, a prominent cleric, a minister, a mayor, and the head of the judiciary.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Egypt Warns Israel of Diplomatic Reprisals
    Egypt's foreign minister warned Israel against trying to undermine Cairo's ties to Washington, the state news agency MENA said. "If they continue to push and try to affect Egypt's relationship with the U.S. and harm Egyptian interests, Egypt will certainly respond and will try to damage their interests," Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Sunday. "We have capabilities in every direction...which may inflict profound damage," he added. Israel last month sent a videotape to Washington that Israeli officials said showed Egyptian security men helping Hamas militants smuggle arms across the border to Gaza. Egyptian President Mubarak accused Israel of fabricating evidence to implicate Egyptian security men in arms smuggling. (Reuters)
  • Palestinians Pay Tribute to Saddam Hussein One Year after Hanging
    Some 700 Palestinians in Halhoul in the West Bank observed a minute's silence on Monday as they marked the first anniversary of the hanging of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, one of the most popular Arab leaders among Palestinians. Holding Saddam portraits and gripping Iraqi and Palestinian flags, rally participants recited poems praising the dictator and burned Israeli and American flags. (AFP/Yahoo)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Hamas Trying to Develop Kassam Rockets in West Bank - Yaakov Katz
    Hamas terror operatives in the West Bank have recently increased efforts to develop Kassam rockets that could be fired into central Israeli cities, the Israel Security Agency revealed Monday. The agency's year-end report also warned of global Jihad and al-Qaeda attempts to bolster their presence in the West Bank and Gaza. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Air Attacks in Gaza More Precise, Fewer Innocents Hurt - Amos Harel
    In December alone, at least 40 armed terrorists were killed in IDF air attacks. In all the attacks of recent weeks, only gunmen were hurt, as confirmed by Palestinians. The rate of civilians hurt in these attacks in 2007 was 2-3%. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel Wants U.S. and EU to Snub Durban II - Haviv Rettig
    Israeli diplomats are quietly working to convince the U.S. and the EU to boycott - and defund - a follow-up to the 2001 World Conference Against Racism conference in Durban, South Africa. The Israeli move comes after the Dec. 22 passage of the UN budget for 2008-2009, which includes funding for "Durban II." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Eight Palestinians Killed in Hamas-Fatah Fighting in Gaza - Ali Waked
    Eight Palestinians were killed and 30 others were wounded as Hamas and Fatah exchanged fire Monday and Tuesday at Fatah anniversary celebrations. (Ynet News)
        See also Hamas Raids Fatah Institutions in Gaza
    According to PCHR investigations, on Saturday the Palestinian police raided an office of Fatah in al-Remal in Gaza City where they arrested six people. Later on the same day, the police, accompanied by masked militants in civilian clothes, raided Fatah offices in al-Daraj in Gaza City. On Sunday, police accompanied by masked militants raided the Fatah office near Ansar, as well as the office of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, confiscating equipment.
        On Friday, Palestinian police raided the campus of al-Azhar University in Gaza City and arrested 35 students who were preparing for the celebration of the anniversary of the Fatah movement. (Palestinian Center for Human Rights)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israel: The Overlooked Issues of 2007 - H.D.S. Greenway
    We all know the Israel of wars and precarious security, but what about Israel of the humming economy with 90 Israel-related companies on NASDAQ? What about Israeli films garnishing honors around the world: "Jellyfish" and "The Band's Visit" at Cannes, "Beaufort" in Berlin, "My Father My Lord" in Tribeca, "Sweet Mud" at Sundance, and "Aviva, My Love" in Shanghai?
        What of Israeli solar power in California that has been saving 2 million barrels of oil annually for nearly 20 years? What of Arava Valley high-tech agriculture, with exports exceeding $100 million? Natafim, the drip irrigation system patented by Kibbutz Hatzerim, is now a multinational conglomerate selling millions of systems throughout the world. What of the Israel that is taking in Darfur refugees, and what of the first Israeli-initiated UN resolution, calling upon countries to share agricultural technology with developing countries, adopted overwhelmingly in December? It's this other Israel that's underreported. (Boston Globe)
        See also Economic Growth Rate in Israel Is Double the OECD Average - Zeev Klein
    Israel's economic growth reached 5.3% in 2007, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported. Growth has exceeded 5% in four of the last five years. Israel's economic growth rate is double that of OECD countries and almost three times that of the U.S. Per capita growth reached 3.5%, the highest of all Western countries. (Globes)
  • Propaganda from the Los Angeles Times - Alex Safian
    "Pistol-toting" Israeli settlers who allegedly "covet" (note the biblical reference) and steal Palestinian land are described by Richard Boudreaux of the Los Angeles Times in a Dec. 27 front-page story, "A West Bank Struggle Rooted in Land." Boudreaux includes all the usual dreary cliches: the Palestinian protagonist, Daoud Nassar, is described as "a square-jawed man of 37 with a calm, hopeful disposition."
        Boudreaux cites as credible claims made by the group Taayush, which he describes as "a Tel Aviv-based organization that advocates Israeli-Palestinian cooperation." Yet according to the Taayush website, the only "Israeli-Palestinian cooperation" the group would support is the dismantling of Israel. Quoting Taayush, and affording them credibility, is like quoting the KKK on race relations. (CAMERA)
  • Sarkozy's Courageous Step - Freddy Eytan
    Nicolas Sarkozy is a brave president who says publicly what he sincerely thinks and feels. His pragmatic policy is a good lesson for conservative French diplomacy. Sarkozy said clearly that Syria's Bashar Assad must prove he is a statesman with whom one can deal, and that Assad must stop his double game toward Lebanon and Israel. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs-Hebrew)
  • Islamist Groups in Lebanon - Gary C. Gambill
    Lebanon is a unique amalgam of 18 officially recognized religious sects. Lebanon's weak state, acute socioeconomic and political inequities, and experience of pervasive external intervention converged to create an unusually permissive environment for Islamists. There is a code of understanding among Salafists in Lebanon that accepts the formation of underground armed networks so long as they do not antagonize the authorities. Persuading them otherwise will be virtually impossible so long as Hizbullah remains armed, which clearly will be the case for the foreseeable future. (MERIA Journal/GLORIA Center/IDC-Herzliya)
  • Observations:

    The Powers of Petrocracy - Fouad Ajami (U.S. News)

    • The harsh Arabian Peninsula, where locusts were once a valued source of protein, is awash with wealth, and the modern global economy itself has been restructured in favor of the oil producers. A handful of sheiks in Abu Dhabi - sons of a once-simple ruler on the Persian Gulf - now dispose of a sovereign-wealth fund that approximates a trillion dollars.
    • Oil is the dictators' dream and their weapon, their means of escape from accountability and from the limits societies have drawn for their rulers. From Russia under Vladimir Putin to Muammar Qadhafi's Libya - save perhaps for the atypical case of Norway - oil is a pillar of autocracy. The great democratic wave of the last quarter century has bypassed the oil lands.
    • The clerical dictatorship in Iran is an oil-trust baby, as it were. Mullahs rule, but we should not be taken in by the cult of Shiite Islam, and by appeals to its symbols of martyrdom and solitude. Oil underpins the Iranian dictatorship, frees it from the scrutiny of the bazaar and the merchants, plays upon its nuclear ambitions, and buys it allies in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.
    • With oil wealth, the tiny principality of Qatar has launched and sustained a television channel, Al Jazeera, that gives this small land a voice way beyond its demography and weight in the balance of nations. Right next door in Saudi Arabia, an antimodernist cultural and religious ban on women driving cars persists because, at the very least, oil grants that society waiver from the imperatives of economic rationality.
    • Society shrivels in the oil lands; the state grows more confident, casting aside popular will.

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