Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 20, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran Indoctrinating Children in Islamic Supremacism - Eli Lake (New York Sun)
    A new Freedom House report, "Discrimination and Intolerance in Iran's Textbooks," finds that the Islamic Republic is teaching its children to embrace Islamic supremacism, preparing them to enter a political system that discriminates against women and non-Muslims.
    "The discourse of the textbooks has not been written with the concept of equality of all human beings, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," the study concludes.
    "In the textbooks' reasoning, human beings cannot be equal with one another on this earth....Some individuals are born first-class citizens, due to their identity, gender, and way of thinking, while others become second- and third-class citizens."
    "In the Farsi textbooks of Grades 1 through 11, 31 lessons discuss martyrdom and death for the sake of religious or political beliefs," the study notes.

Hamas Funds Gaza Regime with Taxes, Help from "Islamic Friends" - Daniel Williams (Bloomberg)
    Gaza's Hamas government is funding its bureaucracy and rocket-launchers through fees on license plates, birth certificates and the like; taxes on smuggled cigarettes and other items; and aid from Islamic and Arab allies.
    Cigarettes smuggled through tunnels are taxed at $3 a pack, increasing the price to $5.
    Hamas also charges a levy of $3,000 from each of 150 underground- tunnel operators.
    Hamas has also taken over sales of one thing that dune-abundant Gaza has plenty of - sand. Construction companies, which use sand for cement, used to harvest it free. Now, Hamas sells it.

Saudi Clerics Back Death for Liberal Writers (Reuters)
    Sheikh Abdul-Rahman al-Barrak, the leading independent authority of Saudi Arabia's hardline version of Sunni Islam, often termed Wahhabism, said in a fatwa last week that two columnists should be tried for apostasy for "heretical articles" and put to death if they do not repent.
    The two had questioned the view that adherents of other faiths should be considered unbelievers.

Trial of Jihadist Recruiters Opens in Paris (Reuters)
    Six French men and one Algerian went on trial in Paris on Wednesday accused of involvement in a network smuggling Islamist fighters to Iraq.
    Prosecutors accuse the main suspect, preacher Farid Benyettou, 26, of recruiting "jihadists" from worshippers at a mosque in northern Paris and organizing their transfer to Iraq via radical establishments in Syria and Egypt.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Cheney: Iran May Have Restarted Nuclear Weaponization
    U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney said Wednesday that Tehran may have restarted the nuclear weaponization program that a U.S. intelligence report said was halted in 2003. Speaking in Oman, Cheney told ABC News, "What it (the NIE) says is that they have definitely had in the past a program to develop a nuclear warhead; that it would appear that they stopped that weaponization process in 2003. We don't know whether or not they've restarted." "What we do know is that they had then, and have now, a process by which they're trying to enrich uranium, which is the key obstacle they've got to overcome in order to have a nuclear weapon," he added. "They've been working at it for years." (AP/International Herald Tribune)
  • U.S. to Transfer $150 Million to Palestinians
    The U.S. agreed on Wednesday to transfer $150 million in budgetary support to the Palestinian Authority as part of past pledges to boost Mahmoud Abbas' government. The U.S. had pledged $550 million at a donors' conference in Paris in December. (Reuters)
  • Information Security Experts to Testify for Ex-AIPAC Duo - Ron Kampeas
    Two former staffers of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee who are facing charges that they traded in secrets now have on their side the two most recent arbiters of what is and isn't a U.S. secret. William Leonard, who led the Information Security Oversight Office until last year, and his predecessor, Steven Garfinkel, were listed March 14 on the docket of the U.S. Court for the Eastern District of Virginia as among eight expert defense witnesses in the case against Steve Rosen, AIPAC's former foreign policy chief, and Keith Weissman, its former Iran analyst.
        The Oversight Office, a branch of the National Archives, interprets the law and presidential directives to determine what should remain classified and what should be made available to the public. The agreement of Garfinkel and Leonard to serve as experts for the defense sets up the trial as a precedent-setting fight over the limits of secrecy. The trial is currently scheduled to begin April 29, but is likely to be postponed for a sixth time. (JTA)
  • Israel Suffers Worst Drought in Decade - Laurie Copans
    Israel is suffering its worst drought in a decade and will have to stop pumping from one of its main sources of drinking water, the Sea of Galilee, by the end of the summer, Water Authority spokesman Uri Schor said Wednesday. This winter was the fourth in a row in which Israel had only about 50-60% of average rainfall in most areas. Despite the shortage, Israel will probably not reduce the amount of water supplied to Jordan according to a peace treaty between the countries since Jordan's drought is much worse than Israel's, Schor said. Israel has two desalination plants, with three more scheduled to be completed by 2013. (AP/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel to Egypt: Must Seal Border Before Gaza Cease-Fire - Yaakov Katz
    On Tuesday, the head of the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau, Amos Gilad, traveled to Cairo for talks with Egyptian Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman. Israeli defense officials said Gilad told Suleiman that Israel would not be able to agree to any type of cease-fire with Hamas if the border between Gaza and Egypt were not first sealed and the smuggling of weapons completely stopped by the Egyptian troops deployed there. "A continuation of the smuggling into Gaza will defeat the purpose of a cease-fire," one defense official said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Egypt Agrees to Take Over as Gaza Power Supplier - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
    Israel and Egypt agreed on Wednesday to have Egypt replace Israel as Gaza's sole electricity provider. Egypt will set up a new 150-megawatt power line that will be operational within two years, which will effectively free Israel from supplying Gaza with electricity. The project will be funded by the Saudi Islamic Development Bank. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Terrorists Target Jerusalem with Local Assistance - Nadav Shragai
    For years now, Jerusalem has been an optimum target for terror organizations. During the first four years of the second intifada, there were 600 terror attacks in the city (of which 30 were suicide bombings), in which 210 people were murdered and thousands injured. The involvement of Arabs from eastern Jerusalem and surrounding villages in terrorism increased over the years, mainly in accessory roles. They gathered intelligence, selected potential targets for attacks, exploited their familiarity with the city, and guided terrorists to the sites where major attacks were carried out. What greatly reduced the attacks in recent years was Israel's command of intelligence and thwarting capability in the neighborhoods of eastern Jerusalem and its surroundings, where hundreds of major terror attacks were prevented thanks to Israeli control. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Revolutionary Guards Post Gains in Iranian Elections - Amir Taheri
    In the next Iranian parliament, the number of members with backgrounds in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) will be twice as large as that of the mullahs. The IRGC fielded candidates in three factions. The largest of these, with 100 out of the 290 seats, looks to Ahmadinejad as its standard-bearer. The second faction, led by Tehran Mayor Muhammad Baqer Qalibaf, an IRGC general, may end up with 30 seats. A third faction, sponsored by former IRGC Commander Gen. Mohsen Rezai, is slated to win 20.
        At least half of the 40 men elected as independents are also former or active members of the IRGC or security services. Some 30 seats are likely to go to elements close to former President Rafsanjani, who describe themselves as "reformists" and promise to form the core of opposition to Ahmadinejad. (New York Post)
        See also A Rival for Iran's Ahmadinejad - Nahid Siamdoust
    Muhammad Baqer Qalibaf, the mayor of Tehran, is emerging as a quiet rival to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Described as a moderate conservative, Qalibaf is likely to be a contender for the presidency in next year's national elections. Many political observers believe Qalibaf is behind the Reformist Fundamentalists' Coalition, which split from the main conservative coalition before last week's elections. Candidates loosely allied with the coalition have captured 70 seats in the new parliament. (TIME)
  • Two Decades On, War Victims of Saddam Hussein's Gas Attacks Draw Their Last Breath - Martin Fletcher
    Although the Iran-Iraq war ended 18 years ago, at least 55,000 Iranians are now being treated for the effects of gas poisoning. A million Iranian soldiers and civilians may have been exposed to chemical agents during the 1980-88 conflict. Saddam Hussein launched more than 350 chemical weapon attacks. Iraq has since admitted using 1,800 tons of mustard gas and 740 tons of the highly toxic nerve agents sarin and tabun. It was the worst use of mustard gas since the First World War and the first use of nerve agents. (Times-UK)
  • Observations:

    Preparing U.S. Jews for Assault on Gaza - Eric H. Yoffie (New York Jewish Week)

    • Israel's response to the rocket fire directed at its cities has been far more restrained than what would be expected from any other civilized, democratic government. Since 2001, more than 7,000 rockets have been fired from Gaza at civilian targets in Israel. A "proportionate" response would involve 7,000 Israeli rockets fired at civilians in Gaza.
    • Is the "occupation" responsible for the rocket fire? Prime Minister Sharon pulled out of every inch of Gaza in 2005, yet there has not been a single day of quiet following that withdrawal. Indeed, rocket strikes significantly increased after it was completed. The simple fact is that if terror and rocket fire were to come to an end in Gaza, Palestinian suffering there would end as well.
    • Virtually all of Israel's political leaders are reluctant to escalate the military conflict with Hamas, but most of those to whom I spoke indicated that there would soon be no alternative to an Israeli move against Hamas forces in Gaza. Israel will almost surely decide that it can no longer protect Palestinian civilians at the cost of sacrificing the well being of its own.
    • Confronted by challenges to its sovereignty, by expanding attacks on its civilian population, and by the unrelenting hatred of an anti-Semitic, religiously fanatic regime, it is moving toward the military action in Gaza that it had desperately hoped to avoid.
    • This is not a welcome scenario. It would be preferable by far if international diplomacy could arrange a cease-fire that would end the rocket fire without allowing Hamas to build up its forces for future attacks. But chances for such a diplomatic resolution are small, and Israel must prepare for the worst.
    • An Israeli attack on Gaza is certain to unleash a barrage of international criticism. American support will be essential if Israel's military is to have the time it needs to complete its mission. Our task now is to support Israel in its time of need, to make its case to our fellow citizens, and to do all that we can to rally the Jewish people and good people everywhere to its side.

      Rabbi Yoffie is president of the Union for Reform Judaism.

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