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Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 22, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Hizbullah Planned Attacks in Rome, Paris: French Police Suggest - Melanie Phillips (Spectator-UK)
    Italy's Libero reported on Jan. 31 that the French security service intercepted what appears to have been a Hizbullah plot to kidnap major figures in France, Germany, Italy and Britain.
    The police broke into an apartment in Paris and seized six Arabs, including two Lebanese and one Syrian who held diplomatic passports.
    The agents seized several documents and opened a diplomatic bag containing tourist maps of Paris, London, Madrid, Berlin, and Rome, with red highlighter marks showing routes, addresses, car parks, and "truck stopping points."
    This seems to connect with very confidential information that reached the DGSE (French external security intelligence service) from Beirut that Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the pro-Iranian Hizbullah, convened a meeting at a secret location in Lebanon where he ordered the Hizbullah militias to activate all their cells in Europe to organize kidnappings of major figures.
    DGSE agents are very well acquainted with Nasrallah and do not underestimate the danger posed by Hizbullah, which has a logistical support network in all the European capitals.
    The British, Spanish, German, and Italian secret services have been notified.

Flights to Israel Buckle Up Amid Hizbullah Threats - Dan Williams (Reuters)
    Israel is requiring that passengers on all incoming flights be confined to their seats in the half-hour before landing as part of heightened precautions against hijacking, aviation security sources said on Friday.
    The Transport Ministry order, issued to local and foreign airlines on Wednesday, cited threats by Hizbullah.
    "It's a precaution against hijackers storming the cockpit in the final approach, given the current terrorist threat level," an Israeli security source said.

Southern Lebanon Obsessed by New Conflict with Israel (AFP/Naharnet-Lebanon)
    In the southern Lebanese village of al-Hallousiyeh, which suffered heavy destruction during the 2006 war between Hizbullah and Israel, Hassan busies himself digging a shelter in the mountainside.
    Residents across south Lebanon are fearful of a new conflict following the vitriol unleashed on Israel in recent days by the head of Hizbullah and its ally Iran.

Fearing Civil War, Lebanese Arm Themselves - Sylvie Briand (AFP)
    As street clashes between rival political factions in Beirut fuel fears of a new civil war, many Lebanese have started to arm themselves as they prepare for the worst, arms dealers say.
    "If a Kalashnikov would sell for $100-150 on the black market a year ago, the price today is $1,000," one dealer said.
    Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, a prominent anti-Syrian politician, charged in the past week that "some groups in the mountains and elsewhere" have recently "been armed by their main arms supplier" - an allusion to Syria.

Islamic School Kept Copies of Race-Hate Books - Sophie Borland (Telegraph-UK)
    The King Fahad Academy in London, that claimed to have destroyed all its copies of extremist books in which Jews were described as "monkeys" and Christians as "pigs," secretly photocopied them beforehand, a tribunal heard Wednesday.
    Colin Cook, who taught English there for 18 years, told the Watford employment tribunal how pupils often made "inappropriate" remarks about killing Americans and praised Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 attacks.
    Cook is claiming unfair dismissal and racial discrimination against the school.

Syrian-Saudi Ties Continue to Deteriorate - Marwan al-Kabalan (Gulf News-Dubai)
    Syrian-Saudi relations have deteriorated markedly in recent months. Media representing the two countries have embarked on a war of words, accusing one another of trying to split the Arab world and collaborating with foreign powers to undermine Arab interests.
    On a more official level, Saudi Arabia has threatened to boycott the Arab summit in Damascus in March if Syria does not facilitate the election of a new Lebanese president.
    Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal toured major world capitals last week to get them to apply greater pressure to Damascus to change its Lebanon policy.
    The Saudi government also announced it would contribute to financing the international tribunal investigating the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

Pop Preacher Sings of a Tolerant Islam - Mark MacKinnon (Globe and Mail-Canada)
    Egyptian pop star Moez Masoud, 29, is one of a new wave of Muslim "televangelists," converting many to an interpretation of Islam that encourages social contacts between men and women and a rejection of anti-Western fundamentalism.
    Critics call his message "Islam lite," but Masoud sees himself as helping reclaim a religion that for too long has been controlled by angry fundamentalists who preach in the name of Islam without following its basic precept of loving other human beings.
    "These people have presented views that are just blatantly wrong about women, about homosexuals, about Jews, about jihad," he said.
    "I'm just removing the extra baggage that extremists have put in," he said. "If Islam says kill your neighbors, I don't want to be a Muslim."

Saudi Hip-Hop's Painful Birth - Faiza Saleh Ambah (Washington Post)
    For many years, the members of the Saudi hip-hop group Dark2Men performed mostly in living rooms for their friends. But last month the group auditioned for a hip-hop competition on MTV Arabia and became one of eight finalists.
    Their appearance was viewed by thousands in the Arab world, but their fathers, who had never seen them perform, were ashamed and angry as they watched them rapping and dancing on television.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Security Council Weighs New Sanctions on Iran - Warren Hoge
    The UN Security Council on Thursday began formal consideration of a new resolution introduced by Britain and France on Iran's nuclear program that imposes restrictions on cargo to and from Iran, travel bans, the freezing of assets for people involved in the program, and tightened monitoring of Iranian financial institutions. The Council has twice voted unanimously to impose sanctions to stop Iran from enriching uranium, in December 2006 and March 2007. This third measure tightens and extends earlier ones but does not significantly broaden them. The text has the backing of the five permanent members of the Council. Dan Gillerman, the Israeli ambassador, said, "The assessment is that this is the best you can get, given the present composition of the Security Council." (New York Times)
        See also Iran Could Have Enough Uranium for a Bomb by Year's End - Markus Becker
    New simulations carried out by European Union experts come to an alarming conclusion: Iran could have enough highly enriched uranium to build an atomic bomb by the end of this year. When the U.S. released a new National Intelligence Estimate last year, it seemed as though the danger of a mullah-bomb had passed. The report claimed that Tehran mothballed its nuclear weapons program in autumn 2003.
        As part of a project to improve control of nuclear materials, the European Commission Joint Research Center (JRC) in Ispra, Italy, set up a detailed simulation of the centrifuges currently used by Iran in the Natanz nuclear facility to enrich uranium. The results look nothing like those reached by the U.S. intelligence community. For one scenario, the JRC scientists assumed the centrifuges in Natanz were operating at 100% efficiency. Were that the case, Iran could already have the 25 kilograms of highly enriched uranium necessary for an atomic device by the end of this year. Another scenario assumed a much lower efficiency - just 25%. But even then, Iran would have produced enough uranium by the end of 2010. (Der Spiegel-Germany)
        See also Iran Says God Protects Nuclear Program - Nasser Karimi
    Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Sunday that God would punish Iranians if they do not support the country's nuclear program, state radio reported. (AP)
  • Sanctions on Businessman Target Syria's Inner Sanctum - Robin Wright
    The Bush administration Thursday froze the U.S. assets and restricted the financial transactions of Syrian businessman Rami Makhluf, a cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and a powerful behind-the-scenes middle man for the Syrian government, in a move targeting the political and economic inner sanctum in Damascus. "Once you hit Rami Makhluf, you're at war with Syria," said Joshua M. Landis, a former Fulbright scholar in Syria. "When you sanction Rami Makhluf, you're also sanctioning all the people who deal with him, including the wealthiest and most powerful people in the country." Makhluf is a top player in Syria's telecommunications, commercial, energy and banking sectors, said Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Washington Post)
  • EU Pressures Israel to End Gaza Blockade
    The European Parliament on Thursday adopted a resolution calling on Israel to lift the blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said that any talk of ending the sanctions only weakens Mahmud Abbas. "Any indirect support of Hamas, even if it is done through discussions on the crossings or the humanitarian situation, weakens those interested in reaching an agreement," Livni said. She told EU Middle East envoy Mark Otte,"Europe should understand that Gaza represents a 'zero sum game.' It is either Hamas or the moderates. We should not allow Hamas to win points." (AFP)
  • Arab Leaders Say the Two-State Proposal Is in Peril - Michael Slackman
    Arab leaders will threaten to rescind their offer of full relations with Israel in exchange for a complete Israeli withdrawal unless Israel gives a positive response to their initiative, indicating the Arab states' growing disillusionment with the prospects of a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "There will be a message to Israel emphasizing the need to respond to the initiative; otherwise, Arab states will reassess the previous stage of peace," said Muhammad Sobeih, assistant secretary general of the Arab League in charge of the Palestinian issue. However, Sobeih said he would never, under any circumstances, accept Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. (New York Times)
  • Palestinian Offices in Jerusalem Remain Shut - Steve Weizman
    Israel this month renewed its order to keep closed the Palestinian center known as Orient House and other symbolic buildings that are rallying points for the Palestinians' claims to Jerusalem's eastern sector. "As the PLO Headquarters in the occupied city, the Orient House aspires to develop Arab East Jerusalem as the capital of the emerging Palestinian state," the center's Web site says. Israeli police shut down the institutions in 2001, shortly after the second Palestinian uprising erupted. It has issued orders every six months since then renewing the closure. Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirmed that officers periodically visit Orient House to ensure that it is not being used, citing a law prohibiting Palestinian political activity in the city. (AP/Washington Post)
        The closure has led to a dramatic reduction in anti-Israel activity in eastern Jerusalem, and an increase in security in the Old City, according to Brig.-Gen. (res.) Shalom Harari, a former senior adviser on Palestinian affairs at the Defense Ministry. "Since its closure, the Palestinians have been mourning the loss of Orient House, and say they have lost the center of their revolutionary zeal in Jerusalem." During the Oslo peace process, Orient House acted as "an organizing factor" for riots and demonstrations, Harari said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Christians Say Conditions in Gaza Worsen for Them, Moderate Muslims - Judith Sudilovsky
    Living conditions for Christians and moderate Muslims are becoming increasingly difficult in Gaza, Christians say. "First there was the murder of (Christian bookstore owner) Rami (Ayyad), now the YMCA (bombing). We can feel it step by step," said one young Christian. A Christian youth was injured Feb. 16 when the "modesty patrol" attacked his car after he was seen driving a former female classmate to her home. The girl also was injured.
        Msgr. Manuel Musallam, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Gaza, said, "We are moving toward the unknown. The Christians are worried about the general tone in the country." He said the conditions in Gaza and relations with government ministries have changed drastically following the militant Islamic group Hamas' takeover last June. Msgr. Musallam said the character of the parish school has changed, with Muslims students increasingly coming from Hamas-affiliated families. "The children are more fanatic, very violent toward each other and also with the teachers." In addition, he said people could not speak openly. "When you are in a conservative Muslim society you can't live an open life." (Catholic News Service)
        See also Human Rights of Christians in Palestinian Society - Justus Reid Weiner (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israeli Minister: Jerusalem Arabs Oppose Division of Capital - Nadav Shragai
    Minister of Pensioners' Affairs Rafi Eitan on Thursday said that Jerusalem must not be divided as part of the peace process with the Palestinians, saying, "we took a poll and found the [Arab] residents themselves don't want to leave. They like it with us." Eitan said that he did not believe that the Palestinian government was able to fight terror, "and therefore we must keep the capital whole, and fight to have it all under Israeli control." (Ha'aretz)
  • Two Islamic Jihad Terrorists Killed in Gaza Airstrike - Ali Waked
    Two Palestinian gunmen, members of Islamic Jihad's al-Quds Brigades, were killed Thursday by an Israeli missile in central Gaza, sources in Gaza reported. Home Front Command officials said this week that some 400 rockets have landed in Israel since the beginning of 2008. (Ynet News)
        See also Palestinians Fired 60 Rockets, 50 Mortars in Past Week
    In the past week, Palestinians fired over 60 Kassam rockets and approximately 50 mortar shells at Israeli communities. IDF forces continue to operate in Gaza to distance terrorists from the security fence and to target rocket and mortar launching cells and armed gunmen. (IDF Spokesman)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues Friday
    Palestinians in Gaza fired two Kassam rockets at the Israeli town of Sderot on Friday. (Jerusalem Post)
  • 10,000 Israeli Shoppers Head to Sderot
    More than 10,000 people from northern and central Israel traveled to Sderot on Friday to carry out their weekend shopping and show their solidarity for the residents of the beleaguered town. Numerous groups participated in the solidarity mission including student organizations, secular and religious communities, and sports clubs. Several municipalities even provided buses. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Who Is Pressuring Gaza? - Editorial
    Israel can no longer explain to itself that it has to become reconciled to the shooting of rockets and mortars against its communities. A responsible government is required, at the end of the day, to be accountable to its citizens who are under attack. Israel is not excited about a large-scale operation in Gaza, but the operation is nearing because the Kassam rocket terror is not coming to an end. Whoever wants to avoid the need for an IDF offensive must pressure Hamas to put an end to the shooting that is causing all this. (Ha'aretz)
  • Why Is There No Independent Palestinian State? - Moshe Elad
    Twenty years ago, on Nov. 15, 1988, the Palestinian National Council in Algeria declared the establishment of the state of Palestine within the 1967 borders, with east Jerusalem as its capital. This declaration was recognized by more than 100 countries. Again on May 4, 1999, the Palestinian National Council ratified the declaration of independence. Yet the conditions for the creation of a sovereign state do not only include a political entity that declares itself to be independent and enjoys broad international support. There is another basic condition that the Palestinians must fulfill: Displaying effective control over the area under its jurisdiction. Yet according to Israel and many world nations, Palestinian leaders over the years have completely failed on this front, unless the relationship between Abbas and the territories, and particularly Gaza, can be termed "control."
        The economic front is yet another reason why there is no independent Palestinian state. The PA's history since the Oslo agreement shows that there is good reason why the Palestinians are in love with the peace process more than they are in love with peace itself. The process is profitable. Kosovo can only be jealous of the puzzling pampering treatment enjoyed by Abbas and Abed Rabbo between one declaration of independence and another. Brig. Gen. (res.) Moshe Elad was a senior IDF official in the territories and is now a researcher for the Shmuel Neeman Institute at the Technion. (Ynet News)
  • Red Alert in Sderot: Living in the Most Heavily Bombarded Place in the World - Philip Jacobson
    My guide in Sderot takes me through the local ground rules: 1. I am not to fasten my seat belt. Buckling up prevents drivers and their passengers getting out of a vehicle quickly. 2. I am not to play my car radio. It may drown out the warnings. 3. I am not to have a shower if there is nobody else in the house to hear the alarms. 4. Be extra vigilant when it's foggy. It can confuse the laser-activated warning systems.
        And suddenly it comes, a noise like the slamming of a heavy door as a six-foot-long Kassam rocket bursts into the cloudless blue sky, its trajectory marked by a trail of white smoke as it curves towards the town. Almost simultaneously, sirens begin to wail. A woman's urgent voice repeats the words "Red Alert" over public address loudspeakers. For the next 72 hours "Red Alerts" will sound almost continuously as Islamic militant groups in Gaza rained more than 100 rockets on the town during a terrifying three-day attack. (Daily Mail-UK)
  • The Palestinians: Split by Geography and Politics
    The Palestinians are politically polarized between rival governments in Gaza and the West Bank that pursue radically opposed policies and that are economically dependent on the world's charity. Inside Gaza, the brief euphoria after last month's breach of the border with Egypt has dissipated. Hamas' leadership appears split between pragmatists, aware of the need to end their diplomatic isolation, and a stronger core of radicals who glory in posing as Muslim resistance heroes. Yet even the pragmatists shy from the kind of concessions - such as recognizing Israel - that might convince the world to grant them legitimacy.
        In the West Bank, Fatah's Mahmoud Abbas is surrounded by bickering, corruption-tainted aides, and faces a groundswell of opposition to what younger party members see as his overly soft negotiating strategy with Israel. "The trend that wants a return to resistance is very strong, and the world powers that support the peace process should be aware of this," says a junior Fatah leader in Ramallah, the Palestinian administrative center in the West Bank. (Economist-UK)

    Other Issues

  • The Liberating Power of Nationalism - Shlomo Avineri
    Kosovo's declaration of independence marks a broader process: Nationalism is not disappearing. It continues to exist side by side with the trend toward creating broader political entities. The democratization of multinational societies does not lead different national and ethnic groups to want to live side by side. Instead, it heightens the will for self-determination, for a national home - however small - that the members of the national group can see as their own. Each national group thinks to itself: Why should I be a minority in your state when I could be a majority in my own? Size doesn't matter, but the consciousness of identity, belonging and every person's desire to live in a home of his own do.
        Nationalism can devolve into extremist, ugly and oppressive developments, but this is not inevitable. The possibility itself does not strip nationalism of its legitimacy. The past decades have shown that it is not nationalism that is the source of violent conflicts, ethnic cleansing, and oppression; rather, it is the attempt to impose a multinational framework on a place where there is no political will for it. The recognition of the liberating power of nationalism, which enables different national groups to express their identities, is in fact necessitated by the principles of nationalism and liberalism. The writer, professor of political science at the Hebrew University, is a former director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Ha'aretz)
  • Iran's Parliamentary Elections: Assured Victory for the Supreme Leader - Mehdi Khalaji
    As Iran's March 14 parliamentary elections approach, President Ahmadinejad is expected to lose ground, while the big winner will be Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, whose role as decisionmaker will be reinforced. The Interior Ministry and the Guardian Council have disqualified more than two thousand mostly reformist candidates, so that reformists can only compete for around 30 of the 290 seats in the Majlis (parliament).
        Yet the reformists lack the social power base required to take advantage of electoral opportunities in the first place. The reformist candidates failed in the most recent presidential and municipal elections because the Iranian people have lost faith in their ability to change the system and make real reforms.
        The basic difference between Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic, and Supreme Leader Khamenei is charisma: while the founder could achieve his goals by using his charisma to engender massive public support, his successor can only establish his authority through military and intelligence institutions. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Leaderless Jihad - Joshua Sinai
    Dr. Marc Sageman, a forensic psychiatrist and political sociologist, is also a former CIA case officer. In his important book, Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty First Century, Sageman asserts that the process of radicalization depends on an individual's sense of moral outrage in response to perceived suffering by fellow Muslims around the world; how he might interpret such moral outrage within the context of a larger war against Islam; whether or not the sense of "moral outrage" resonates with one's own experience, for example, discrimination or difficulty in making it in Western society; and, finally, being mobilized by networks that take one to the next level of violent radicalization in the form of terrorist cells.
        To counter the social movement inspired by al-Qaeda, Sageman proposes a strategy to "take the glory and thrill out of terrorism." Military operations against them should be conducted swiftly and precisely, with such terrorists considered "common criminals." The sense of "moral outrage" by young Muslims can be diminished by helping to resolve local conflicts that al-Qaeda's propaganda highlights as injustices against the Muslim world. The young jihadists want to become heroes, so they need to be provided with alternative role models, such as Muslim soccer stars and other successful community leaders. (Washington Times)
  • Why Aren't There More Jihadists? - Reuel Marc Gerecht
    It is by now accepted wisdom that the war in Iraq brought huge numbers of holy warriors to the anti-American cause. But is it true? If we make a comparison with the Soviet-Afghan war of 1979-89, which was the baptism for al-Qaeda, what's most striking is how few foreign holy warriors have gone to Iraq. While 25,000 Arab mujaheddin went to Pakistan to fight the Red Army, in Iraq we see nothing of this magnitude, even though Iraq, unlike Afghanistan, is in the Arab heartland and at the center of Islamic history.
        Furthermore, the arrival of foreign holy warriors is deradicalizing the local population. In Iraq, with the anti-al-Qaeda, Sunni Arab "Awakenings," Sunni extremism is now in retreat. If bin Ladenism is now on the decline - and it may well be among Arabs - then Iraq has played an essential part in battering the movement's spiritual appeal. The writer is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a former case officer for the CIA. (Washington Post)
  • Observations:

    Ahmadinejad, Israel, and Mass Killings - Ze'ev Maghen (Middle East Strategy at Harvard)

    • Ahmadinejad's recent words reducing Israel and its people to the status of a disease should serve as a wake-up call, but this is not a particularly noteworthy rhetorical escalation. Iranian leaders and Islamists in general have been speaking this way about Israel for a long time: Khomeini himself was particularly volatile and vulgar on the subject, and many of the "reformists" who still claim to follow his "line" are not so easily outdone in this area themselves.
    • The premier difference between previous governments and the present one in this connection is not one of intent or aspiration, but one of perceived ability to prevail. A variety of regional developments have contributed to the genuinely held outlook among members of Ahmadinejad's administration that Israel has deteriorated from a potent nemesis to a "hollow tree" that the "combined breath of the world's fasting Muslims [during Ramadan] can easily topple."
    • Few motifs have been as ubiquitous in the media of the Islamic Republic over the last several years than what is described as the implosion of the "Zionist entity": every ill plaguing Israeli society, including (believe it or not) the decline in Sabbath observance, is reported with relish as an indication of the increasing demoralization of the eternal foe.
    • If Iranian words lead to Iranian actions in the near future where they did not do so in the past, it is a result of the expanding belief among Iranian leaders that they can threaten Israel and chip away at its security with relative impunity. This perception must be changed by transforming the reality that led to it - by restoring to full throttle Israel's deterrent power. This, in turn, will bring about a softening of the rhetoric, which is a reflection of the reality and not vice versa.
    • Most Iranians have imbibed throughout their lives the notion - the "absolute truth" - that Zionism is a source of profound evil. When the time is ripe - and it will be soon - the decades of propaganda pounded into the brains of Iranians and other Muslims will be reactivated in order to create an atmosphere conducive to the eradication of an entire population. Here in Tel Aviv, we haven't slept well for a while now.

      The writer is lecturer in Persian language and chair of the department of Middle Eastern history at Bar-Ilan University.

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