Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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June 13, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

A Year after Hamas Takeover: "Gaza Has Become Afghanistan" - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    From the June 2007 coup until the beginning of this month, human rights groups say, 118 Palestinians have been killed in internecine fighting.
    Hundreds of Fatah members populate the jails as the result of political persecution, and arrests are carried out almost every day.
    "We live better from the personal safety perspective," said S., referring to the crackdown on armed gangs. "But what is it all worth on an empty stomach and an empty pocket? There was a dream of making Gaza into the Singapore of the Middle East, but we have become Afghanistan."
    See also A "Black Year" for Palestinian Human Rights (AFP)
    Palestinian Mazen Shahin, 41, says the torture he suffered in a month in Mashtal prison in Gaza as a prisoner of the Islamist Hamas was worse than the several years he spent in Israeli jails.
    The Mashtal underground prison is a former PA intelligence center where members of Hamas were themselves locked up and tortured in 1996.
    In the 12 months since Hamas seized power from Fatah, Shahin says he has been detained six times - and on each occasion he was badly thrashed. He recalled the first time he was picked up "by 50 masked men." He had the soles of his feet beaten with heavy electric cables and his captors shaved his head and beard.
    "It's been one of the blackest years for human rights in two decades," said Raji Surani, director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

Former Palestinian Collaborators Forge New Life in Israel - Rory McCarthy (Guardian-UK)
    Eighty Palestinians who assisted Israel, and their families, enjoy relative safety in the front-line Israeli town of Sderot.
    Samir, 52, looks out over a garden neatly planted with rose bushes. "I don't regret any of my story," he said. "I'm very happy that I helped the State of Israel."
    Samir began after his brother was wrongly accused of being a collaborator and killed in the early 70s. By giving information on the groups who killed his brother, he sought revenge.

IsraAID Provides Relief in Myanmar - Sheri Shefa (Canadian Jewish News)
    The presence of Israeli relief teams is still being felt in Myanmar (Burma), as IsraAID recently dispatched a third team of medical and relief professionals to offer aid to the victims of the May 3 cyclone.
    The Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid (IsraAID) - an organization that represents 15 NGOs in Israel - sent a small team of doctors, nurses and water specialists to Myanmar just four days after the cyclone hit. One month later, Israelis are still working in the field to try to help survivors.
    IsraAID has already shipped 10 tons of relief supplies, including food, water, mattresses, buckets and clothes to distribute to the survivors.
    "They are not used to dealing with massive natural disasters, so our teams went into a couple of hospitals in Yangon (Rangoon) and trained them on how to deal with massive casualties, [sharing] the expertise that our doctors gain in Israel because of suicide bombings," said Shachar Zahavi, the director of IsraAID.

Pope Benedict XVI Sets Up Anti-Terrorist Squad - Malcolm Moore (Telegraph-UK)
    The Vatican has created an anti-terrorist unit to guard the Holy See and the pope from a possible attack.
    Vatican security forces now include an anti-bomb squad and a rapid response team, according to Domenico Giani, the head of the Holy See's 130-man gendarmerie.
    Earlier this year, Osama bin Laden repeated threats against Pope Benedict, who he accused of "leading a crusade against Islam."

The Myth of the Shia Crescent - Michael Broning (Daily News-Egypt)
    A recent poll by the University of Maryland indicates that a large majority of Arabs consider Iranian President Ahmadinejad one of the three most popular political leaders worldwide.
    Only 11% identified Iran as the biggest threat to their security.
    So if a Shia threat organized by Iran really does exist, why is it being ignored by those whom it purportedly targets - the Sunni Arab majorities?
    The writer is director of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) in Amman, Jordan.

Israel "Dismayed" by New Zealand Anti-Semitism - Matt Calman (Dominion Post-New Zealand)
    The Israeli embassy has accused New Zealand of accepting anti-Semitic behavior, following an advertising campaign that featured billboards, created by advertising agency Draft FCB, that said: "Advertising Agency Seeks: Clients. All business considered, even from Jews."
    The campaign was withdrawn hours after New Zealand Jewish Council chairman Geoff Levy complained.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Syria's Improved Standing Poses Challenge to U.S. Policy of Isolation - Julien Barnes-Dacey
    With the recent Doha agreement, which settled - for now - Lebanon's longstanding internal bickering, Syria's regional and international standing is seemingly on the mend. "There is certainly a relaxation of the strength of the criticism directed at Syria," says Rime Allaf of Chatham House, a London think tank. "The Syrians are stronger today than they were just a few months ago." The May settlement essentially met Syria's longstanding desire to prevent the emergence of a pro-U.S. government. The new Lebanese president is relatively pro-Syrian and the Syria-backed opposition has a cabinet veto.
        France has reestablished diplomatic ties cut last year. Syria's minister of culture was welcomed Tuesday in Paris, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been invited to attend a French-backed Mediterranean summit in Paris next month. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Panel: Saudi-Run U.S. School Promotes Hate - Eli Lake
    The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is singling out a Saudi-run school in northern Virginia for teaching its students Islamic supremacism, after obtaining copies of the Islamic Saudi Academy's textbooks. The move comes ahead of a deadline next month, agreed on by America and Saudi Arabia, for the school to revise its textbooks and delete references that "disparage Muslims or non-Muslims or that promote hatred toward other religions or religious groups." One example cited is in a 12th-grade textbook in Koranic interpretation that says it is "permissible to kill an apostate," a belief of the Salafi strain of Sunni Islam which is Saudi Arabia's state religion. A textbook on social sciences says: "The Jews conspired against Islam and its people." (New York Sun)
  • Saudis Pushing UN Move Against Israel - Benny Avni
    Amid reports of a widening rift between Saudi Arabia and America, Riyadh's diplomats at the UN are pushing for passage of a UN Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements, a move that would likely force an American veto, which in turn could alienate American allies in Europe. (New York Sun)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinians Rain 65 Mortars and Rockets on Israel - Shmulik Hadad
    An Israeli woman was wounded in the Yad Mordechai area on Thursday as Palestinian terror groups launched a barrage of mortar shells and Kassam rockets against Israeli communities near the Gaza border. At least 40 mortars and 25 Kassam rockets landed in Israel. In addition, a Grad missile landed near Ashkelon. (Ynet News)
        See also IDF Blocks Major Gaza Border Terror Attack
    The Israel Defense Forces foiled a large-scale Palestinian terror attack planned to coincide with a barrage of Kassam rockets and mortar shells fired from Gaza on Thursday. A heavy vehicle approached IDF troops stationed at the Gaza border fence at an alarming speed. The soldiers opened fire and forced the vehicle to stop. (Ha'aretz)
  • 7 Palestinians Killed, 40 Wounded in Gaza Terrorist "Work Accident" - Ali Waked
    At least seven people were killed and 40 more wounded in a large explosion in northern Gaza on Thursday during a meeting at the home of Ahmed Hamouda, a member of the Izz al-Din al Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. Hamas sources said two of those killed were senior Hamas operatives. The IDF said its forces had launched no attacks in the area and that it involved a Palestinian "work accident."  (Ynet News)
        See also Hamas Admits Gaza Blast Caused by Accident - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Relays Gaza Truce Conditions to Egypt - Roni Sofer
    Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry's Security-Diplomatic Bureau, returned from Egypt Thursday after relaying Israel's conditions for a temporary truce: Israel requires any truce in Gaza to include a total halt in terrorist and smuggling activity and the return of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. Should the militant groups in Gaza adhere to these guidelines, Israel would cease its actions against the militias and reopen the crossings with Gaza. (Ynet News)
        See also Poll: 68% of Israelis Oppose Gaza Truce without Return of Kidnapped Soldier - Etgar Lefkovits (Jerusalem Post)
  • Arab Rivalries Delaying Cease-Fire - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The ongoing power struggle between Fatah and Hamas, as well as rivalries within Hamas itself, are largely responsible for the delay in reaching a cease-fire agreement between the Palestinians and Israel. Fatah is afraid that a cease-fire would consolidate Hamas' grip on Gaza and encourage Hamas to try to extend its control to the West Bank. Within Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh has been pushing for accepting the Israeli conditions, first and foremost that abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit be part of a cease-fire deal. Other Hamas leaders, however, including Khaled Mashaal, Mahmoud Zahar and Said Siam, continue to insist that Shalit be dealt with only after a truce goes into effect.
        Furthermore, Islamic Jihad, Fatah's Aksa Martyrs Brigades and the Popular Resistance Committees continue to express reservations about the Egyptian plan. "Even if Hamas accepts the truce plan, there is no guarantee that it would be able to enforce its will on the other groups operating in Gaza," said a Palestinian political analyst in Ramallah.
        In addition, Egyptian President Mubarak is desperate to prove that his country remains a major player in the Middle East. But it is highly unlikely that Syrian President Assad would allow Mubarak's efforts to succeed. Relations between Assad and Mubarak have deteriorated to a point where the two have made it clear they will never agree to be seen in the same room. (Jerusalem Post)
  • No Large-Scale Israeli Action Expected in Gaza - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
    No large-scale military offensive is expected in Gaza in the coming months, absent a hit by a "strategic" Kassam rocket that exacts many casualties in Israel. According to the most optimistic IDF assessments, it would take many months of physical presence on the ground in parts of Gaza to bring about a significant decrease in attacks on the communities in the Gaza envelope. The army is not certain whether the public or the government can muster such patience, when it is obvious that the prolongation of any fighting will cost the lives of many soldiers. We can occupy parts of the territory, says a senior officer, with the aim of gradually reducing the rocket fire and preventing the strengthening of Hamas, which relies on weapons being smuggled in from Sinai. "However, under what arrangement will the territory be transferred into responsible hands? An answer of 'It'll be okay' will no longer suffice in this round." (Ha'aretz)
  • Jordan Sentences Three Hamas Militants over Anti-Israel Plots
    Jordan's military court has sentenced three Hamas militants to between five and 15 years in jail for conspiring to attack Israeli businessmen, Jordanian intelligence officers and other targets across Jordan. The three - Ayman Naji al-Daraghmeh, Ahmed Abu Rabee and Ahmed Abu Thiyab - are all Jordanians of Palestinian origin. They were charged with photographing the Israeli Embassy, the homes of the Israeli ambassador and his staff, and the offices of Jordanian companies dealing with Israeli firms. (AP/Ha'aretz)
  • Defense Official: Joseph's Tomb Should Be on Agenda with Palestinians - Nadav Shragai
    Israeli negotiators should tell the Palestinians that Jews should be able to return to Joseph's Tomb in Nablus, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai told the Knesset on Wednesday. With the outbreak of the second intifada, in September 2000, the Palestinians demolished and looted the site, removing any sign of Jewish presence and turning it into a refuse dump. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iran's Nuclear Program: Will More Sanctions Work? - Scott Peterson
    Sanctions as a tool have had mixed success globally in recent decades, and analysts say record oil prices give Iran an advantage. "So long as we are selling the oil, nothing will work" to force Iran to give up its nuclear efforts, says a senior Iranian banker interviewed recently in Tehran. "We could survive in this country with $15 billion per year, and now we're making $100 billion," says the banker, whose operational costs have "increased tremendously" under current sanctions. That economic gusher has helped President Ahmadinejad mask an array of problems, from overspending and inflation near 25% to high unemployment. Strategically, it has also enabled Iran to lock in its anti-Western and anti-Israel stance.
        Saddam Hussein survived 12 years of sanctions, and even bolstered his power by manipulating them. "The sanctions on arms and military imports had a massive impact," says Anthony Cordesman, a veteran military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "Iraq's forces steadily declined [after 1991]," and the years of sanctions meant a far easier fight in the 2003 invasion. "We had tremendous success in restricting Iraq's military development [and] a massive impact on their WMD programs. But the broader sanctions...that impacted the Iraqi people were far less effective and had significant negative impact." (Christian Science Monitor)
  • History Textbooks Unbalanced in Presenting Islam - Robert Holland
    Modern textbooks shy away from presenting a positive picture of Christianity and Judaism as important influences in molding America. Thanks to multicultural activism, that caution does not hold for the way many history textbooks now present Islam. History Alive: the Medieval World and Beyond, a middle-school text adopted by California for statewide use, offers a decidedly unbalanced characterization of jihad, a concept invoked by radical Islamists as a rationale for warring against Americans.
        "Jihad represents the human struggle to overcome difficulties and to do things that would be pleasing to God," the textbook asserts. "Muslims strive to respond positively to personal difficulties as well as worldly challenges. For instance, they might work to become better people, reform society, or correct injustice." History Alive devotes five chapters, 62 pages, to putative accomplishments of Islam, complete with an entire chapter on such teachings as the Five Pillars of Faith, lavishly illustrated. (Washington Times)
  • Few Jordanians Will Mention "Israel" - Rhonda Spivak
    As Israel celebrates its 60th anniversary, it is difficult to find people in Jordan who are willing to utter the word "Israel." For the majority of Jordanians I spoke to, all of the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River is "Palestine," notwithstanding the existence of a 1994 peace agreement between Israel and Jordan. In Amman and its environs, many tourist shops sell coffee mugs with a map of the West Bank and Gaza, as well as Israel proper, with the word "Palestine" on it. The map has the Israeli cities of Tel Aviv and Netanya marked on it.
        In the five-star Royal Amman Hotel, Mohammed Alkalq, who is studying hotel management and was raised in Jenin, in the West Bank, said he left Jenin because "there is no tourism in Palestine, because of the war there." When asked who the war is between, he answered, "Between Palestine and the Jews." When asked if he means that there is a war between Palestine and Israel, he refused to use the word "Israel." He answered, "No, between Palestine and the Jews." The relatively few Jordanians I encountered who were willing to use the word "Israel" are not of Palestinian origin. (Canadian Jewish News)
  • Standing By the Minority - Uri Elitzur
    The Arabs will not drown us in a demographic sea and won't become the majority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, neither today or in 50 years. Their birthrate is declining, and it is already quite close to our birthrate. Their emigration numbers are higher than ours and it has been going on for 60 years. In the Middle East, we are the minority and they're the majority. We are 5.5 million Jews surrounded by 250 million Arabs. In terms of land, we are one of the poorest nations on earth, while the Arabs are amongst the wealthiest nations.
        In the post-modern world, we have a Palestinian narrative that clashes with the Jewish-Zionist narrative. The problem is that they cling to their narrative, while we aim to represent both us and them. If we cling to our justice, the decent people of the world will stand by us, because we are more just, and also because we're the minority, and a decent person stands by the minority. (Ynet News)
  • Anti-Semitism Embedded in British Culture - Interview with Robert Wistrich
    Anti-Semitism has been present in Great Britain for almost a thousand years of recorded history. English literature and culture are drenched in anti-Semitic stereotypes. In the new century, the UK holds a pioneering position in promoting academic boycotts of Israel. The same is true for trade-union efforts at economic boycotts. There is also no other Western society where jihadi radicalism has proved as violent and dangerous as in the UK, and where the anti-Zionist narrative has greater legitimacy. Successive British governments neither share nor have encouraged such attitudes - least of all Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Prof. Robert Solomon Wistrich has held the Neuberger Chair for Modern European and Jewish History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for almost twenty years. Since 2002 he has been director of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism at the Hebrew University and is editor of its journal Antisemitism International. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Observations:

    The Myth of Linkage - Martin Kramer (Middle East Strategy at Harvard)

    • Thanks to war, the Middle East of early 21st-century America has been re-centered - away from Israel and toward the Persian Gulf. The war has cycled well over a million Americans through Iraq and Afghanistan - as soldiers, administrators, and contractors - and is where conflict commands American attention.
    • I have identified nine clusters of Middle Eastern conflicts. Given so long a list, it is obvious that conflict involving Israel is not the longest, or the bloodiest, or the most widespread of the region's conflicts. In large part, these many conflicts are symptoms of the same malaise: the absence of a Middle Eastern order to replace the old Islamic and European empires. But they are independent symptoms; one conflict does not cause another, and its "resolution" cannot resolve another.
    • Why are there still people who see one particular conflict as "the Middle East conflict," and who believe that in seeking to resolve it, they are pursuing "the Middle East peace process"?
    • The concept of linkage requires the belief that the Middle East is a system, like Europe, and that its conflicts are related to one another. Linkage, I propose, is a projection of the memory of Europe's re-creation onto the Middle East. The pacification of Europe was the signal achievement of the U.S. and its allies in the mid-20th century. It then became the prism through which the U.S. and Europe came to view the Middle East, providing the template for visions of the future Middle East.
    • The flaws in the analogy only began to appear after Egypt and Israel achieved peace in 1979. From that point onward, the Arab-Israeli conflict moved in fits and starts toward resolution. Yet other conflicts in the region intensified.
    • By any objective reading, the Middle East is not analogous to Europe, it has multiple sources of conflict, and even as one conflict moves to resolution, another may be inflamed. This is because the Middle East is not a single system of interlocking parts.

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