Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 9, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Syria's Intelligence Operates Through Hizbullah Lebanon Communications (Naharnet-Lebanon)
    Hizbullah has linked its private telephone networks to the Syrian Army's communications system as well as to Syria's mobile telephone network, allowing Syrian intelligence to operate freely in Lebanon and avoid Lebanese controls, al-Mustaqbal reported Tuesday.

Canadian Prime Minister Condemns Criticism of Israel as Thinly-Veiled Anti-Semitism - Mike De Souza (Ottawa Citizen-Canada)
    Some of the criticism in Canada against the State of Israel is similar to the attitude of Nazi Germany in the Second World War, Prime Minister Stephen Harper warned Thursday.
    "What I see happening in some circles is anti-Israeli sentiment, really just as a thinly disguised veil for good old-fashioned anti-Semitism, which I think is completely unacceptable," Harper said in an interview.
    "We learned in the Second World War that those who would hate and destroy the Jewish people would ultimately hate and destroy the rest of us as well, and the same holds today."

Israel Sending Aid to Myanmar After Cyclone - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    The Israel Foreign Ministry is sending $100,000 in initial emergency food and medical supplies to survivors of the deadly cyclone that battered Myanmar over the weekend, killing over 22,000 people.
    The Israeli aid is being sent in coordination with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

Saudi Prince Gives UK Universities £16M for Study of Islam - Richard Garner (Independent-UK)
    Cambridge and Edinburgh universities will share a £16m endowment from Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Abdul Aziz al-Saud, a member of the Saudi Arabian royal family.
    Both universities will set up study centers with the aim of fostering better understanding between the Muslim world and the West.

Poll: Arabs in Israel Identify as Arabs First, Palestinians Second - Kobi Nahshoni (Ynet News)
    A study by the Israel Democracy Institute reveals that 47% of the Israeli public sees itself as Jewish first and Israeli second, as opposed to 39% which consider themselves first and foremost Israeli.
    In the Arab sector, 45% percent identified themselves first as Arab, 24% as Palestinians, 19% define themselves by their religious affiliation, and 12% said they were Israelis.
    See also Who Are We? National Identity in the State of Israel - Yael Hadar and Naomi Himeyn-Raisch (Israel Democracy Institute )

Car of Bedouin Woman Who Lit Independence Day Torch Set on Fire - Yonat Atlas (Ynet News)
    Sana Elbaz, a Bedouin who lit a celebratory torch at Israel's 60th anniversary ceremony in Jerusalem, saw her car set ablaze by unknown persons outside of her house on Thursday. A Molotov cocktail was also thrown at her door.
    Elbaz heads a unique daycare center and was responsible for a revolutionary educational program in Bedouin society.

Jewish Astronaut Sends Israel Greetings from Space - Steven Gutkin (AP)
    NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman, the first Jewish crew member on the international space station, sent a greeting from space to the people of Israel for Israel Independence Day.
    "Every time the station flies over the State of Israel, I try to find a window, and it never fails to move me when I see the familiar outline of Israel coming toward us from over the horizon," said the American-born astronaut.

Israeli Agent Trains Police in Terrorism Questioning - Jon Gambrell (AP/Fayetteville [Ark.] Morning News)
    David Harel, who once worked as a sky marshal for El Al Airlines, spoke to more than 100 federal, state and local officers as part of a conference put on by U.S. Attorney Jane Duke of Little Rock.
    Much of Harel's talk focused on learning the right way to spot and question suspicious individuals at airports and important events.
    Harel said the U.S. Transportation Security Administration has begun using behavioral profiling methods in about 40 airports around the country.

Israel's Contribution to Britain - Stephen Pollard (Spectator-UK)
    Israeli companies own £734 million of direct investments in the UK, employing an estimated 14,000 people and creating £630 million in gross value added in the UK.

Home, Home on the Golan Heights for Israeli Cowboys - Joel Greenberg (Chicago Tribune)
    Sporting an Australian-style bush hat, a gun in a holster, a big-buckled belt on his jeans and a plaid shirt, Avshalom Ferstman, 40, herds cattle for a living at Merom Golan ranch in the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and the subject of recent diplomatic feelers.
    The Golan has the most extensive cattle-grazing areas available to Israeli ranchers.
    Many Israelis have come to see the scenic region as an integral part of their country. "This is ours and we can be proud of it," said Ferstman.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Shiite Gunmen Seize Control of Beirut Neighborhoods
    Shiite opposition gunmen seized control of several Beirut neighborhoods from Sunni foes loyal to the U.S.-backed government on Friday, in street battles that left 11 dead, security officials said. The TV station of top Sunni politician Saad Hariri's Future Movement was forced off the air, and the offices of the affiliated al-Mustaqbal newspaper were set ablaze. Shiite gunmen roamed unopposed through the deserted streets of neighborhoods once dominated by supporters of Hariri and the government. Dozens of cars and shops had been damaged by the fighting.
        About 100 Hizbullah gunmen in camouflage uniforms and black flak jackets marched down the Muslim sector's main commercial Hamra Street. Dozens of fighters from the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, a Hizbullah ally, also appeared in the streets off Hamra, some masked and carrying rocket-propelled grenade launchers. The army has largely avoided getting involved in the street battles. (AP/International Herald Tribune)
        See also Hizbullah "Ready for War" with the Lebanese Government - Damien McElroy (Telegraph-UK)
        See also U.S., Saudi Arabia, Egypt Blame Hizbullah
    The White House on Thursday demanded that Lebanon's Hizbullah "stop their disruptive activities" as fierce gun battles raged in Beirut. "Hizbullah needs to make a choice: Be a terrorist organization or be a political party, but quit trying to be both. They need to stop their disruptive activities now," said U.S. National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Bush Extends Syria Sanctions
    President Bush said Wednesday he was extending U.S. sanctions against Syria, continuing a freeze on Syrian assets and the ban on the export of certain goods to Syria. "I took these actions to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States constituted by the actions of the Government of Syria," Bush said. He accused Syria of "supporting terrorism...pursuing weapons of mass destruction and missile programs including the recent revelation of illicit nuclear cooperation with North Korea." He also said Syria was "undermining U.S. and international efforts with respect to the stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq." (AFP)
  • Olmert: Iran Never Stopped Its Military Nuclear Program - Lally Weymouth
    From an interview this week with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert:
    Q: It's widely believed in the U.S. that after the latest National Intelligence Estimate, the U.S. will not act.
    Olmert: "We have a different opinion...and we haven't changed our attitude."
    Q: You mean that you think [Iran's nuclear program] is closer to being usable?
    Olmert: "The main point of the NIE, the estimate, was that there is no evidence that the Iranians restarted their [covert] military program since it was closed in 2003....Based on the information we have, the military program continues and has never been stopped. If this program continues, at some point they will be in possession of a nuclear weapon." (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • U.S. Pushing Hard for Border Agreement - Herb Keinon
    Israel and the Palestinians need to "draw a map and get it done," according to U.S. Secretary of State Rice, using language conveying a degree of impatience a week before President George W. Bush is scheduled to visit the region. The U.S. president, accompanied by Laura Bush, will arrive in Israel on Wednesday. U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said Bush "will reaffirm his personal commitment to peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and encourage continuing efforts for a two-state solution, a democratic Israel and a democratic Palestine living side-by-side in peace and security."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hamas Holding Gaza Population Hostage
    Hamas is targeting the border crossings between Israel and Gaza in order to prevent the transfer of humanitarian aid to the civilian population, thus cynically depriving its own population and causing an artificial humanitarian crisis in order that international pressure will be placed on Israel. On May 4, Israel Radio reported that Hamas was in fact holding the civilian population hostage. Hamas has nationalized all the fuel supplies transferred by Israel for the civilian population, and for operation of the electricity plant, and is using them solely for its own purposes. In addition, food sent by the donor countries is allocated in accordance with Hamas instructions. Of the thousands of tons of grains, food and fuel that were transferred, none was able to reach the civilian population. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire at Israel Continues - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in Gaza fired three rockets at Israel on Thursday. One rocket landed inside Gaza. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Condi, George Marshall and Israel - Editorial
    It appears that President Bush and Secretary of State Rice have decided to ramp up the pressure on Israel to make life-and-death concessions to Mahmoud Abbas, a man whose serial incompetence got him run out of Gaza by Hamas, and whose own security record is shaky at best. Rice and other U.S. diplomats pronounce themselves dissatisfied over the pace at which Israel has been taking down anti-terror security roadblocks in the West Bank, and the secretary is dispatching observers to various West Bank locations in order to satisfy herself that Israel is jettisoning them quickly enough.
        While reducing limitations on Palestinian freedom of movement is a commendable goal, it needs to be balanced against the real danger that doing this could make it easier for terrorists to come and go without detection. These checkpoints are part of a layered system of security that has enabled Israel to dramatically reduce the number of suicide attacks directed at its civilian population in places like Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa during the past five years.
        Sixty years ago, Secretary of State George Marshall waged a last-gasp bureaucratic battle in an unsuccessful effort to dissuade President Truman from recognizing the coming State of Israel. Fast forward to today, and Secretary Rice seems determined to pound the Israeli government into a series of untenable security concessions. It's a State Department tradition that no one should be proud of. (Washington Times)
  • The Real Nakba - Shlomo Avineri
    While Palestinians may see themselves as the victims of the Zionist movement's successful establishment of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, the reasons for their historical failure should be sought elsewhere: in the inability of the Palestinian national movement to create the political and social institutional framework that is the necessary foundation for nation-building. The history of national movements teaches us that national consciousness is not enough: Movements that could not create the institutional system vital for their success failed.
        Even now the Palestinians are inclined to blame Israel, the Americans, the international community; but the real, essential responsibility ultimately lies with the Palestinians themselves. Elections were held, Hamas won, Fatah lost - and both groups have been unable to sustain a framework whose legitimacy is accepted by both sides. All pan-Arabic attempts to unite them, such as the Mecca agreement brokered by Saudi Arabia last year, have failed in the face of this reality. If the Palestinians do not find a way to extricate themselves from their harsh historical reality, they ultimately will not have a state. The writer, professor of political science at Hebrew University, served as director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Ha'aretz)
  • From Dove to Hawk - Benny Morris
    During the 1990s, as the Oslo peace process gained momentum, I was cautiously optimistic about the prospects for peace. But at the same time I was scouring the just opened archives of the Haganah and the IDF. Studying the roots of the Arab-Israeli conflict - in particular the pronouncements and positions of the Palestinian leadership from the 1920s on - left me chilled. Their rejection of any compromise was deep-seated, consensual and consistent.
        The Palestinian Arab "street" chanted "Idbah al-Yahud" (slaughter the Jews). So when Arafat rejected Israeli Prime Minister Barak's two-state proposals at Camp David in July 2000, my surprise was not excessive. Arafat's rejectionism and the election of Hamas persuaded me that no two-state solution was in the offing and that the Palestinians, as a people, were bent, as they had been throughout their history, on "recovering" all of Palestine. It has become clear to me that from its start the struggle against the Zionist enterprise wasn't merely a national conflict between two peoples over a piece of territory, but also a religious crusade against an infidel usurper.
        Those currently riding high in the region - like Hamas' Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Meshaal, Hizbullah's Hassan Nasrallah and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - are true believers who are convinced it is every Muslim's duty to extirpate the "Zionist entity" from the sacred soil of the Middle East. (Newsweek)
  • It's Not Apartheid - Benjamin Pogrund
    I was a journalist with the Rand Daily Mail in Johannesburg for 26 years, reporting and commenting on apartheid's evils. Labeling Israeli practices as apartheid is wrong because the situations are entirely different. Apartheid in South Africa, from 1948 until 1994, was a unique system of racial separation and discrimination, institutionalized by law and custom in every aspect of everyday life, imposed by the white minority and based on a belief in white racial superiority. Skin color decreed inferior status.
        I am among the Israelis who want two states, side by side in peace: That's an agreed-upon separation, not apartheid. Whereas the intention with apartheid South Africa was to force a change in regime, it is obvious that critics of Israel include those who seek the destruction of the state itself. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel Should Be the Plaintiff, Not the Defendant, in the Court of Public Opinion - Barbara Kay
    It is not about land. Israel is a hangnail-sized piece of land with no oil and no resources other than those produced by the sweat and brains of its inhabitants. Surrounding this minuscule plot, demonstrably the Jews' ancient homeland, are 22 Arab countries covering a tenth of the world's land mass, 640 times more land than Israel occupies. It is about Arabs' intolerance for any other people in their midst. In particular Jews. Instead of defending Israel's right to exist, the court of public opinion should be prosecuting the Arabs' crime of relentless hate speech and incitement to violence. (National Post-Canada)

    Israel at 60

  • A Reality Check as Israel Turns 60 - Fouad Ajami
    The Arab imagination could never reconcile itself to the permanence of the Jewish state. No victories could secure this state the acceptance of its neighbors. It was a fluke of history, they believed. Modern-day Arabs took to the history of the Crusader Kingdom that had lasted for two centuries (1099-1291), then pulled up stakes and left its castles and ruins. This, too, shall pass, it was believed.
        In its short history, Israel has held up a mirror for the Arabs, who have not liked what they have seen. Although outgunned and outnumbered, a mere 650,000 Jews prevailed over 40 million Arabs. In their fantasy, the Arabs were a martial people, while the Jews had been timid souls. These were different Jews, the Zionists, steeled by the horror of the Holocaust, who would hold their own in the field of battle. On a barren, small piece of land, the Zionists built a durable state. It was military but not militaristic. Under conditions of a long siege, it maintained a deep and abiding democratic ethos.
        Israel's 60th anniversary suggests what might have been. The Zionists opted for moderation and rescue; they would take a state, said their legendary leader Chaim Weizmann, even if it were the size of a tablecloth. The Palestinians held out for the whole thing. This month's festivities marking the return of the Jews to the world of nations should be an occasion for some honest Palestinian (and Arab) retrospection on how Arab history has played out in the intervening decades. (U.S. News)
  • Israel's Psyche at 60 - Walter Reich
    As Israel celebrates its 60th birthday, there's a remarkable spirit and courage here. Despite the rising tide of Islamism that surrounds the country and the constant threats to destroy it, Israel bustles with energy, commerce, science and the arts. And, most of the time, its people display a convinced optimism that Israel is here to stay.
        Hamas, which controls Gaza, is open about its intention to destroy Israel, however long it takes. And it, like its ally Hizbullah in south Lebanon, has adopted a military strategy that's strikingly effective in this age of television and the Internet: launching rockets at Israeli cities from places inhabited by civilians, provoking Israelis to strike back, and waiting for images of the resulting casualties to inflame world opinion. If Israeli leaders don't strike back, they fail to protect their own people; if they do, they receive global condemnation for using disproportionate force. And the threats from Hamas and Hizbullah pale in the face of the possibility that, after a peace deal, the West Bank, lying alongside the length of Israel's population centers, will become a launching pad for still more rockets.
        The writer, a psychiatrist, is the Yitzhak Rabin memorial professor of international affairs, ethics and human behavior at George Washington University and former director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. (Baltimore Sun)
  • Israel Celebrates 60 Years - Zalman Shoval
    The rebirth of the Jewish state, against extreme odds, was perhaps the greatest victory of the human spirit over adversity. On the very day it declared independence, Israel was invaded by seven Arab armies while it had no regular army, air force or navy - with all the major powers - sadly including the U.S., clamping an arms embargo on a people fighting for its life. In spite of it all, Israel did survive. Indeed, it is still fighting, as its enemies (presently led by a genocidal Iran that is quickly going nuclear) still dream that maybe "next time" they will be successful in exterminating the Jewish state.
        Zionist pioneers turned the land (which, as a result of Arab and Ottoman neglect and deforestation, had become desert and swamps) into the flourishing garden it once was. Israel also successfully absorbed and integrated millions of often-destitute newcomers, including 1 million people from the former Soviet Union and hundreds of thousands of Jews from Arab countries (in contrast to the much smaller number of Arab refugees who left Israel and are still languishing in ramshackle camps in Arab countries).
        The State of Israel reborn is seen by most Americans not only as justice done and as the realization of a dream, but also as the embodiment of a country which shares their values and ideals. The writer served as Israel's ambassador to the United States (1990-93 and 1998-2000) and is president of the Israel America Chamber of Commerce. (Washington Times)
  • Observations:

    1948, Israel, and the Palestinians - The True Story - Efraim Karsh (Commentary)

    • The "original sin" of Israel's founding "on the ruins of Arab Palestine," achieved through the deliberate and aggressive dispossession of its native population, is advanced not only by Israel's Arab enemies but by segments of advanced opinion in the West. The recent declassification of millions of documents from the period of the British Mandate (1920-1948) and Israel's early days paint a much more definitive picture of the historical record, revealing that the claim of dispossession is not only completely unfounded but the inverse of the truth.
    • Far from being the hapless objects of a predatory Zionist assault, it was Palestinian Arab leaders who from the early 1920s onward, and very much against the wishes of their own constituents, launched a relentless campaign to obliterate the Jewish national revival. Had these leaders, and their counterparts in the neighboring Arab states, accepted the UN resolution of November 29, 1947, which called for the establishment of two states in Palestine, there would have been no war and no dislocation in the first place.
    • Prior to the proclamation of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, Zionist spokesmen held hundreds of meetings with Arab leaders at all levels. These included Abdullah ibn Hussein, founder of the emirate of Transjordan (later the kingdom of Jordan), incumbent and former prime ministers in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Iraq, senior advisers of King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud (founder of Saudi Arabia), and Palestinian Arab elites of all hues.
    • As the Jews set out to lay the groundwork for their nascent state, shooting, sniping, ambushes, and bombings, which in today's world would be condemned as war crimes, were daily events in the lives of Jewish civilians. The U.S. consul-general in Jerusalem, Robert Macatee, wrote in December 1947, "Innocent and harmless people, going about their daily business, are picked off while riding in buses, walking along the streets, and stray shots even find them while asleep in their beds. A Jewish woman, mother of five children, was shot in Jerusalem while hanging out clothes on the roof. The ambulance rushing her to the hospital was machine-gunned, and finally the mourners following her to the funeral were attacked and one of them stabbed to death."
    • Arabs invented numerous nonexistent atrocities. The fall of Haifa, for example, gave rise to totally false claims of a large-scale slaughter, which circulated throughout the Middle East and reached Western capitals. Similarly false rumors were spread after the fall of Tiberias, during the battle for Safed, and in Jaffa, where in late April the mayor fabricated a massacre of "hundreds of Arab men and women." This scare-mongering was undoubtedly aimed at garnering the widest possible sympathy for the Palestinian plight and casting the Jews as brutal predators. But it backfired disastrously by spreading panic within the disoriented Palestinian society. By early April 1948 some 100,000 Palestinians had fled, though the Jews were still on the defensive and in no position to evict them.
    • On March 23, 1948, Iraqi general Ismail Safwat, commander-in-chief of the Arab Liberation Army, the volunteer Arab force that did much of the fighting in Palestine in the months preceding Israel's proclamation of independence, noted with some astonishment that the Jews "have so far not attacked a single Arab village unless provoked by it." By the time of Israel's declaration of independence on May 14, the numbers of Arab refugees had more than trebled. Even then, none of the 170,000-180,000 Arabs fleeing urban centers, and only a handful of the 130,000-160,000 villagers who left their homes, had been forced out by the Jews. The exceptions occurred in the heat of battle and were uniformly dictated by ad-hoc military considerations.

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