Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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June 27, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

The Palestinians: Ever Divided (Economist-UK)
    The charter of Fatah, the more secular of the two main Palestinian political parties, says that unless there are "exceptional circumstances," a general party congress must be held every five years. The last one was in 1989.
    Fatah's election defeat in 2006 by its Islamist rival, Hamas, owed a lot to splits in Fatah between a cabal of leaders clinging to power and various factions of a "young guard" that is already far from young.
    Mahmoud Abbas' term as president and Fatah head was due to end next January, but he has extended it by means of a decree tying the presidential poll to a parliamentary one, due a year later. Hamas does not recognize the decree.
    Fatah is also starting to divide over reconciliation with Hamas. Among the older generation of Fatah, hatred of Hamas runs deep.

German Trade with Iran Growing - Assaf Uni (Ha'aretz)
    Trade between Germany and Iran is expanding despite Berlin's declarations that it is curtailing its trade. Ha'aretz has calculated that in the first four months of the year, German exports to Iran increased by around 18% from the same period last year.
    Germany, Iran's biggest trade partner in the EU, is under American and Israeli pressure to reduce its economic ties with Iran, after Tehran's refusal to suspend uranium enrichment and its threats against Israel.
    In the first four months of 2008, Germany exported to Iran 1.35 billion euros worth of merchandise, consisting of chemical and iron products, cars, engines and engineering equipment.
    Some 1,700 German companies are operating in Iran, including giants such as Siemens and chemical group BASF.

No Peace in Lebanon - Michael J. Totten (Commentary Magazine)
    The truce agreement reached last month in Doha, Qatar, between the Lebanese government and the Hizbullah-led opposition, is no more operative than the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.
    Fighting broke out in the northern city of Tripoli on June 24 between Sunni supporters of the "March 14" majority bloc in parliament and gunmen from the Alawite sect loyal to the Syrian Baath regime and Hizbullah.
    Machine guns, mortars, and rocket-propelled grenades were deployed. Several houses and a gas station were burned to the ground. Ten people were killed and at least 52 people were wounded.
    See also The End of Lebanese Factional Fighting? - Jonathan Spyer (Jerusalem Post)
    The Doha agreement, far from ending unrest in Lebanon, may well be remembered as opening the door to a period of greater strife still ahead.
    From Israel's perspective, it is worth noting that a point of agreement between Islamists, both Sunni and Shi'ite, is their equal hatred of Jews and Zionism.
    The writer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya.

Israel's Murder Rate Among Lowest in World and Declining - Abe Selig (Jerusalem Post)
    The murder rate in Israel is one of the world's lowest and is declining, according to a new study by the University of Haifa.
    The murder rate per 100,000 residents has remained almost unchanged over the last 28 years and has even gone down over the past few years, concluded Prof. Arye Rattner and Prof. Gideon Fishman of the Center for the Study of Crime, Law and Society.
    While the incidence of crime has risen, these figures create a false impression without taking into account the dramatic rise in the country's population.
    The number of murders in Israel per 100,000 people was 2.35 in 1980 and 2.29 in 2006. In 2004, in the U.S. the number of murders per 100,000 was 7.5, and was 18 in Russia.

New MK Wants Israeli-Palestinian Soccer Field - Rebecca Anna Stoil (Jerusalem Post)
    MK Shakib Shanan (Labor) held talks Thursday with Palestinian Authority officials over plans for a soccer stadium, which would be used for both international matches and ones between Palestinian and Israeli athletes, to be built on the "green line."
    "The money exists, the agreement exists, and now all we need to do is work out the technical details," he said.

Idan of Arabia - Itamar Eichner (Ynet News)
    Idan Raichel, one of the most successful modern Israeli musicians, recently starred in a one-hour interview on the Arabic television network Al-Jazeera.
    "Raichel utilizes Israel's different ethnicities in order to promote tolerance and understanding. He blends sounds from an array of cultures and creates unique musical fusion," said interviewer Riz Khan, the main news broadcaster on Al-Jazeera English.
    "I'm happy that I received an opportunity to present Israel's other sides, beyond the conflict," said Raichel.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Palestinian Rocket Hits Israel Thursday, Second Violation of Gaza Truce - Mark Lavie
    Gaza militants fired two rockets into southern Israel on Thursday, the second rocket attack since the cease-fire was announced last week. The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a violent offshoot of Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah, claimed responsibility for firing the rockets. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said it should not matter who was behind the rocket attack. "I am not interested in who fired and who didn't fire at Israel," she said. "It is a violation, and Israel needs to respond immediately, militarily, for every violation." Since the cease-fire agreement took effect June 19, Israel has responded to rocket attacks by closing crossings rather than retaliating with airstrikes at Palestinian rocket squads. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Palestinians in Gaza Fire Mortars at Israel on Friday - Nidal al-Mughrabi
    Palestinian militants in Gaza fired two mortar shells into southern Israel on Friday in the latest challenge to a cease-fire deal that Gaza's Hamas rulers have vowed to uphold. One shell landed near Kibbutz Kfar Aza. Israel has kept border crossings into Gaza closed since Wednesday but it allowed fuel to reach the territory's sole power station on Friday. An EU official said an estimated 600,000 liters of industrial fuel would be pumped through the Nahal Oz border terminal to Gaza's power station. (Ynet News/Reuters)
  • Canada Terror Suspect on Trial for British Bomb Plots
    The trial of an Ottawa software developer who plotted a series of terrorist attacks in Britain is the first-ever prosecution under Canada's Anti-Terrorism Act. Mohammed Momin Khawaja, 29, faces seven criminal charges of conspiracy to commit terrorist acts, including developing bomb detonators, possession of explosives, financing terrorism, and training as a terrorist. He was arrested in March 2004 in connection with a foiled bomb plot against several British targets, including a popular London nightclub, a shopping mall and a gas network. (AFP)
  • Al-Arian Indicted for Refusal to Testify in Charities Cases - Josh Gerstein
    A Palestinian Arab activist and former college professor who has been locked in a long-running legal battle with federal prosecutors, Sami Al-Arian, was indicted Thursday on two counts of criminal contempt for refusing to testify before grand juries investigating Islamic charities based in Virginia and elsewhere. (New York Sun)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF: "If Hamas Wanted, Fire Would Cease" - Roni Sofer
    IDF sources say the rocket fire from Gaza was not perpetrated by Hamas, but rather by other Palestinian factions. However, Israel is taking Hamas' condemnation of the rocket fire with a grain of salt, and one official said Thursday that "if they wanted to, they would stop them. Hamas has previously proven its total control over Gaza." (Ynet News)
  • Israeli Defense Minister: "He Who Seeks Peace Should Prepare for War" - Yonat Atlas
    "We seek peace with every fiber of our being and detest war, but we are sober, and we know that he who seeks peace should prepare for war," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Thursday at an Air Force flight school graduation ceremony. "Only deterrent military strength and superior excellence lead to a swift victory, and they are what will lead to peace." (Ynet News)
  • Ambassador to Ireland Slams Call for Israel Boycott - Jonny Paul
    Ambassador to Ireland Zion Evrony condemned last week's decision by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) to call for a boycott and disinvestment campaign against Israel. ICTU President Patricia McKeown, who had visited the area in November, said in a report, "We witnessed [in Gaza] the consequences of a siege which international law defines as the collective punishment of a people and consequently a war crime." According to Evrony, the ICTU report "erroneously absolves the Palestinians of any responsibility for the conflict and the current situation. It ignores the death and destruction caused by Palestinian terrorists and Hamas' refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist."
        An Irish government spokesman said they oppose any form of boycott directed towards Israel. "A biased, simplistic approach to the conflict, demonizing one side and totally ignoring the responsibility of the other side, will neither help the Palestinians nor will it promote peace," the spokesman said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Facebook in the Middle East - Nir Boms
    Facebook, with 75 million users, is quickly turning into a hotbed of activism and a cause for alarm for many autocratic regimes in the Middle East attempting to block it and curtail its reach. In April, an Egyptian youth group used Facebook to mobilize 80,000 supporters to protest the rising cost of bread. The site also played a crucial role in broadening turnout for an April 6 textile-workers' strike. In Syria, the government has banned Facebook due to an anti-regime, e-mail spam campaign channeled through the site in 2007. Before it was blocked, it had 28,000 registered Syrian members. In the Persian Gulf states, censorship attempts to block only the more threatening applications of Facebook and other Web sites like video content, photographic images and computer based phone services.
        The Internet provided Arab activist groups with a new medium for expression. It quickly became the preferred domain for many opposition groups who otherwise had little or no access to traditional forms of media. Add to that the growing number of political blogs that often utilize video streaming aimed at exposing the brutality of government, political corruption or police violence. The writer is vice president of the Center for Freedom in the Middle East and a fellow at The International Institute for Counter-Terrorism. (Washington Times)
  • When Does Hebron's Story Begin? - Jonathan Mark
    When explaining black America, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof looks to America's "legacy of slavery, Tuskegee and Jim Crow," context spanning 250 years. But when it comes to Hebron, for Kristof history begins June 11, 1967, the seventh day of the Six-Day War. That's convenient, of course, because the story of Hebron - the world's oldest Jewish city - becomes too sympathetic if you start the day or the decades before that. If Kristof can go back to slavery in the 1800s, Rivka Slonim says Slonims were living in Hebron in 1845. At what point does a settlement graduate to the dignity of being a neighborhood? How about a settlement that was established before 23 states were admitted to the Union?
        On Oct. 13, 1912, the Times reported that Jews "owned 40 villages" in what is now Israel, including 23 villages in what is now the West Bank. In Hebron, there were yeshivas, Hadassah Hospital, and a Jewish branch of a London bank. If slavery was America's "original sin," the 1929 ethnic cleansing was Hebron's. For three days, Aug. 26-28, the Times ran daily stories about an Arab attack that started at Hebron's Slabodka Rabbinical College, killing 30. The toll of the dead and wounded from further rampages neared 120. (New York Jewish Week)
        See also Some Facts About Jews and Arabs in Hebron - Nadav Shragai
    The city of Hebron is about 18 sq. km. - 15 sq. km. of which were handed over to the PA in the Hebron agreement. This area is closed to Jews, although the agreement guaranteed Jews freedom of movement in the city. In most of the remaining area, (H2), a Jewish presence was also forbidden, but most of it is open to Arab movement and presence. The Jews are today limited to 0.6 sq. km., or 3% of Hebron, where thousands of Arabs continue to live. The houses, the stores, and land left behind by the Jews of Hebron, who were expelled after the 1929 riot, were confiscated after the Jordanian conquest in 1948 and were never returned. In the past 20 years, building permits in the tiny Jewish district have been given to only three houses, so that those suffering from urban suffocation are not the Arabs, who are building high-rises in the west of the city, but the Jews. (Ha'aretz)
  • Anti-Western Discourse Ignites Violence - Khaled Aljenfawi
    A negative and hostile discourse against Western cultures and civilizations was adopted by pan-Arab political writers and commentators during the 1950s and 60s, paving the way for the spread of a culture of violence and hostility which is threatening to engulf our entire Middle Eastern region. Hostility toward non-Arab and non-Muslim cultures through quasi-journalistic analysis and the continuation of biased Arab media coverage in the region creates a disastrous combination of violence and extremism.
        One reason for the rise of hostility, violence, and the intimidation of cultural and racial minorities is the lack of sufficient educational programs about the importance of "diversity." A typical Arab school may offer the most advanced scientific curricula while at the same time maintain part of it to demonize the "other," the non-Arab or non-Muslim and sometimes the Arab pro-Western intellectual. Due to many cultural reasons, the "other" has always been associated with the West. (Arab Times-Kuwait)

    Weekend Features

  • Palestinian-Israeli Cooperation at - Guy Griml
    "I'm very proud of this Palestinian-Israeli cooperation. A project of this kind contributes to the Palestinian economy," says Rami Abdulhadi, 32, director of marketing communications at Abdulhadi, who lives in Ramallah, is one of the company's 35 Palestinian employees. "'s motto 'no walls' has two meanings," he says. "One is technological, 'no walls' in the sense that you can take your desktop anywhere; and the second is that ghosts go through walls and circumvents the walls between Israelis and Palestinians." (Ha'aretz)
        See also The Man with the Plan - Guy Griml is an unusual high-tech collaboration of Palestinians and Israelis. The startup employs some 40 people, most in Ramallah and the rest in Modi'in, including Zvi Schreiber, the company's founder and CEO. Having already successfully realized two previous startup ventures, Schreiber, 39, wanted to do something with ethical value, and he chose to establish an Israeli-Palestinian startup. The company's product is a virtual computer - an Internet site that allows anyone to create a virtual personal computer online, which he or she can access from any computer. The company's name is an acronym for Global Hosted Operating SysTem. (Ha'aretz)
  • King of the West Bank - Donald Macintyre
    Munib al-Masri, 74, built a replica of a 16th century Renaissance palace on top of a mountain overlooking the West Bank city of Nablus. He admits to being "maybe" the richest Palestinian in his native land "though there are plenty of richer ones outside it." A multi-millionaire, philanthropist and close friend of Yasser Arafat, he turned down the prime ministership of the PA three times. His refusal was based in part on his short-lived experience as a minister in the immediate post-Oslo PA. Arafat "knew nothing about management. I could not work like that. I could not tolerate the privileges Arafat bestowed on people - $50,000 for this, $20,000 for that. You have to have systems. You have to have procedures."
        Masri's recent venture into politics with the Palestine Forum faces an uphill struggle in representing a "silent majority" outside Fatah and Hamas. The company he formed, Padico, owns among much else a 30% stake in PalTel, the mobile phone company operating in Gaza and the West Bank. (Independent-UK)
  • The French Connection - Meir Zamir
    Secret French documents, published for the first time, reveal clandestine cooperation between France and the Zionist movement in the years leading up to Israel's establishment. France formed ties with various anti-British movements, groups and figures in the Middle East. Of all these ties, it was the bond the French forged with the Zionist movement that proved most effective. The writer teaches in the Department of Middle East Studies at Ben-Gurion University. (Ha'aretz)
  • Book Review: Malevolence and the Mufti - David Pryce-Jones
    Time and again the Arab world throws up absolute rulers who do nothing but harm, working their way into power by exploiting and imprisoning and killing as they see fit. A perfect example of the type is Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem between the world wars. As David G. Dalin and John F. Rothmann's Icon of Evil recounts, the British acquired their Mandate in Palestine as a result of World War I and in 1921 made the crucial mistake of contriving Haj Amin's election to be Mufti. This position - as the country's senior Islamic official - gave Haj Amin unique standing to wield unchecked power over the Palestinians. It also afforded him access to large sums of money.
        Under the British aegis, Jews began to seek refuge in Palestine from persecution at the hands of Nazis. Still largely tribal and rural and in any case not militant, many - probably most - Palestinians were willing to cooperate with these immigrants. But Haj Amin was not so amenable; instead, he recruited and commanded a national movement of violence with the aim of forbidding all compromise with Jews. Regular and severe anti-Jewish riots and attacks culminated in the great Arab Revolt of 1936, which aimed simultaneously to end British rule and Jewish immigration but cost thousands of lives, mostly Arabs. Haj Amin perpetuated the absolutism of the Muslim world, in which the killing of enemies is the natural end of the political process, and altogether a matter of culture and custom. Palestinians who opposed him were blackened as collaborators and traitors; they were murdered by his agents in larger numbers than Jews. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Observations:

    Understanding the Hamas Takeover of Gaza - Amir Kulick (Strategic Assessment-Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)

    • On June 17, 2007, two days after Hamas took over the Gaza Strip, Mahmoud Abbas appointed a commission of inquiry to investigate the failure of the PA. Its report was published in February 2008.
    • After the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, the Palestinian leadership under Arafat did not relate to the new entity as the seeds of "the state to come." There was no clear strategy for coping with Islamic movements, Hamas foremost among them. Ten small security forces were set up with the establishment of the PA, reflecting both the semi-military bodies that existed under the PLO and the internal rivalries among senior PLO officials. The forces' leaders acted based on a perception that the system is "a feudal-security territory and their private property." This perception had a severe impact on the functioning of the security forces in general, and during the crisis with Hamas this was reflected in a lack of coordination, organizational and internal weakness, and loss of direction.
    • The report asks, "How is it possible that a force numbering over 50,000 people in a geographic area of slightly more than 300 sq. km., with experience, resources, and legitimacy, collapses before 20,000 militiamen?!" The answer the report offers is simple: in practice, no more than 10-15% of the armed force at the disposal of the Palestinian security apparatus took part in the confrontation.
    • The most fundamental reason was the transformation of the apparatuses into "a social welfare organization." Over the years, membership in the security apparatuses was a way for the PA to fund its supporters. So, in the words of the committee, the security forces were turned into "no more than a facade" and "a system that was closer to a welfare organization with no military discipline, with no trained command, and with no positions or assignments."
    • The committee stated, "the commanders had no control over their charges." The report cites "a preference for the family connection at the expense of the organizational commitment and military discipline." To this should be added the success of Hamas fighters in integrating into the PA's security forces and disrupting their functioning. Several of the bodyguards of force commanders were Hamas activists.
    • The Presidential Guard was to spearhead the fight against Hamas, and in the months preceding the conflict it acquired substantial sums and equipment. Yet even before the Hamas assault, the commander of the Presidential Guard took off his uniform and went to the residential complex of the Egyptian delegation in civilian clothes, abandoning his post. "The Presidential Guard did not take part in the confrontation."
    • The leadership that failed in handling the conflict with Hamas is still in place, the institutional system that is no less responsible for this failure has not been changed, and there are no signs on the horizon of this happening any time soon. Without a substantial, internal change within the PA and without a different national leadership, any arrangement reached between Israel and the PA in the foreseeable future is likely to remain an arrangement on paper only.

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