Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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July 7, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Report: 25 Killed in Syrian Jail Riot (BBC News)
    At least 25 people were killed on Saturday after military police fired live bullets at Islamist inmates at Saydnaya Prison near Damascus, which houses chiefly Islamist and political prisoners, human rights groups have said.

U.S. Removes Uranium from Iraq - Brian Murphy (AP/Washington Post)
    The last major remnant of Saddam Hussein's nuclear program - a huge stockpile of concentrated natural uranium - reached a Canadian port Saturday to complete a secret U.S. operation that included a two-week airlift from Baghdad and a ship voyage crossing two oceans.
    The removal of 550 metric tons of "yellowcake" - the seed material for higher-grade nuclear enrichment - also brought relief to U.S. and Iraqi authorities who had worried the cache would reach insurgents or smugglers crossing to Iran to aid its nuclear ambitions.

Netherlands Bans Iranian Students from Nuclear Studies (AFP)
    The Netherlands will ban Iranian students from studying nuclear technology at its universities, the government said Friday.
    "It is grant Iranian nationals access to special training or teaching that could contribute to nuclear proliferation activities in Iran and the development of systems for transmitting nuclear arms," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
    The measure adds to a Dutch decree adopting international sanctions against Iran that were put in place last year.

Teaching Arabic and Propaganda - Joel B. Pollak (Washington Post)
    Since Sept. 11, 2001, the number of Americans studying Arabic has more than doubled. Nearly 24,000 U.S. students enrolled in Arabic classes in the fall of 2006, the Modern Language Association reported in November. In 2002, 264 colleges offered Arabic; as of the 2006-07 academic year, 466 did.
    Young, ambitious Americans are responding constructively to our country's new challenges by demanding Arabic classes. But there are not enough teachers to meet this demand, and the available textbooks are suffused with the stale prejudices and preoccupations of the pre-Sept. 11 Middle East.
    Most maps of the Middle East in the standard textbook do not include Israel. The last lesson in the book features a mother speaking wistfully of her childhood in Palestine.

Israel's Right to Exist - Megan McArdle (Atlantic Monthly)
    The justification for Israel, like the justification for Northern Ireland, is simply that it exists. The people are there and they are not going anywhere.
    The wrongs of yesteryear cannot be righted without doing further injustice, so whatever the rightness or wrongness of their cause, the Palestinians are going to have to accept that they cannot have things as they would have been if Zionism had not happened.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Hamas Finds It Hard to Halt Attacks - Dion Nissenbaum
    The Egyptian-brokered truce is slowly unraveling as Hamas leaders in Gaza struggle to keep militants - especially their Fatah rivals - from firing the occasional rocket at Israel. After years of derailing Palestinian peace talks with Israel by staging suicide bombings, Hamas is now the one asking rivals to halt their attacks on Israel. Since the cease-fire took hold on June 19, Gaza militants have fired 11 rockets and mortars at southern Israel.
        In a Gaza mosque, a group of Islamic Jihad fighters wearing black facemasks and combat vests proudly showed off Chinese-made machine guns and Russian rocket-propelled-grenades. "It's like rain coming down," said Abu Thabet. "You can get all kinds of weapons." "This cease-fire is a matter of rest," said Abu Mohammed. "It's a fighters' break, to prepare for the next stage." (McClatchy)
  • U.S. Ties Caracas to Hizbullah Aid - Martin Arostegui
    The Bush administration is accusing the government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez of providing cash and refuge to the militant Islamist group Hizbullah. An investigation by the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) names Venezuelan diplomat Ghazi Nasr al Din and Venezuelan-Arab businessman Fawzi Kanan as key links between the two. "It is extremely troubling to see the government of Venezuela employing and providing safe harbor for Hizbullah facilitators and fundraisers," said Adam Szubin, political affairs director of OFAC. The Treasury Department froze assets of al Din and Kanan and banned them from conducting business in the U.S. or with U.S. citizens and residents. (Washington Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel: Reports About Iran Strike Plans Reflect Internal U.S. Debate - Herb Keinon, Yaakov Katz and Etgar Lefkovitz
    The recent spate of reports from Washington about whether Israel should take military action against Iran is a reflection of deep divisions on the matter inside the Bush administration, Israeli diplomatic and defense officials said Sunday. The officials said that the two sides of the argument, the "hawkish camp," led by Vice President Dick Cheney, and the "dovish camp," led by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, are leaking assessments about Israeli intent to further their own agendas.
        One Israeli diplomatic official said, "Everyone understands that we could not take action without U.S approval, both because we would need to fly through [Iraqi] airspace controlled by the U.S, and we would need their help in dealing with repercussions from any attack....We would have to deal with possible military action from Hizbullah and Syria, and also diplomatic fallout. Don't expect the world to clap if we attack Iran, and as a result oil prices spiral from $140 a barrel to $300 a barrel." (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF to Step Up Campaign Against Hamas in West Bank - Amos Harel
    Israel's legal authorities have approved Israel Defense Forces' plans to target Hamas' civilian infrastructure. After receiving permission to seize property that provides Hamas-affiliated associations with income, even if they are not directly linked to terrorism, the IDF has shut down a mall in Hebron, confiscated buses and prohibited the opening of a new school in Hebron due to ties with Hamas-linked Islamic associations. Offices and storehouses have also been shut down. The IDF argues that closing Hamas-affiliated institutions cuts off a crucial source of funding earmarked for terror activities. The move is also a bid to stem Hamas' rising popularity and keep it from wresting control from the Palestinian Authority.
        A senior IDF officer said of Hamas, "They have knowledge, funds and skilled people, much more so than Fatah....They won the elections in many towns and local authorities [in the West Bank], and they are gradually gaining control of more education, health, welfare and religious institutions." "We're talking about strengthening the moderate elements that is, the Palestinian Authority, but actually the PA has little control over the area. Hamas has taken over all the associations - not just blatantly Islamic bodies, but also those that used to be under PA control. The Palestinian public prefers Hamas, because they are less corrupt and more efficient." (Ha'aretz)
  • Life Sentence for Palestinian Rocket Engineer - Ali Waked
    The Beersheba District Court handed down two life-sentences on Sunday to Gaza resident Sharif Ziyada, who was convicted of attempting to bring the Kassam rocket manufacturing industry to the West Bank. Ziyada, who was arrested while trying to infiltrate the Egyptian border into Israel in October 2005, was convicted of heading an initiative to begin manufacturing rockets in the West Bank on behalf of the Salah al-Din Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Hizbullah Bargains for a Child-Killer's Freedom - Editorial
    In 1979, four terrorists based in Lebanon landed in northern Israel in a raid that quickly went awry. Hiding among rocks on the beach, one of the infiltrators, Samir Kuntar, shot and killed one of his hostages, then took the man's 4-year-old daughter and smashed her head between his rifle butt and a boulder until she was dead, too. Israel captured Kuntar and sentenced him to four life terms. Great changes must take place across the Middle East before a lasting peace can be achieved. A good place to start would be to declare that people such as Samir Kuntar deserve to rot in prison, no matter what the religion or nationality of the children they kill. (Washington Post)
  • Time for Iran to Face More Sanctions - Peter D. Zimmerman
    Iran is testing an improved third generation of indigenously codeveloped enrichment centrifuges, the IR-3 series, demonstrating its technical mastery of the technology. It has 320 tons of uranium hexafluoride gas to feed its centrifuges, enough for almost 100 bombs. Iran announced months ago that it is installing 6,000 centrifuges in its uranium enrichment plant, in addition to the 3,000 in operation. The new ones have twice the capacity of the originals.
        If Iran begins enriching uranium to weapons grade on an assembly-line basis, it could transfer this material to groups such as Hizbullah and Hamas, which might fabricate low-technology nuclear explosives. These would probably have yields nearly as high as the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. The writer is emeritus professor of science and security at King's College London and the former chief scientist of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (Boston Globe)
  • Tony Blair's Second Coming as Middle East Peacekeeper - Lesley White
    In his new role as Middle East envoy, our former prime minister, now 55, looks tanned and relaxed. It is oddly startling to see again the man who ran our lives for a decade, now reveling in his new role. He looks like a man given a second chance, a prisoner released from jail. His job is to help prepare the Palestinians for statehood. "It's true that I feel a great sense of responsibility for this region. I don't feel I'm putting something right, because I see all this as the same basic struggle: getting rid of Saddam, the Palestinian peace process, pushing back against Iran, sorting out Lebanon, a struggle about which the Western world is pretty much asleep."
        The American Colony Hotel in eastern Jerusalem is where you find Tony Blair for at least a week of every month. He has 13 full-time diplomats at his disposal, some provided by the UN and foreign donors, some from the World Bank, the Gendarmerie, the Foreign Office. "You will not get a peace deal first. It has to begin on the ground, with people seeing changes in their daily lives. I think the two sides want peace. I am optimistic." "You have to have some understanding of Israel's problem, which, by and large, they think Europeans don't. If Israel got out of the West Bank tomorrow, Hamas would take over." (Times-UK)
  • Observations:

    Bush Offered Palestinians a State; They Said No - Clifford D. May (National Review)

    • Six years ago, on June 24, 2002, President Bush announced that the U.S. would support the creation of a Palestinian state. His only condition was that Palestinians first choose "leaders not compromised by terror." He asked also that they "confront corruption," and "build a practicing democracy based on tolerance and liberty."
    • In 2006, elections were held in Gaza and the West Bank. Hamas, a terrorist organization, declared itself a political party and won. In 2007, Hamas launched a wave of violence against rival Fatah security forces. Since then, Hamas has been unchallenged in Gaza and no one talks of new elections or civil rights.
    • Nor has Hamas attempted to build an economic base. Instead, it turned to Iran's rulers for money and guidance - and then complained that Palestinians were living in squalor because they weren't receiving sufficient funds from the U.S. and Europe.
    • Hamas rains missiles on Israeli towns, sends terrorists into Israel on killing and kidnapping missions, and assigns suicide-bombers to blow up the few border crossings with Israel. Then Hamas complains that Israel is not delivering as much food, medicine, gasoline, and electricity as Palestinians require.
    • President Bush believed that Palestinians wanted a state to call their own - and that they wanted that more than they wanted the destruction of the Jewish state next door. In 2002 Bush said: "If liberty can blossom in the rocky soil of the West Bank and Gaza, it will inspire millions of men and women around the globe....This moment is...a test to show who is serious about peace and who is not."
    • He was right. It was a test. And now it's time to be candid about the results. Israelis, Americans, and Europeans are serious about peace. The enemies of Israelis, Americans, and European are serious about defeating Israelis, Americans, and Europeans.

      The writer is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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