Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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July 31, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Official: Iraqis Told Me WMDs Sent to Syria - Ryan Mauro (WorldNetDaily)
    Don Bordenkircher, who served two years as national director of prison and jail operations in Iraq, said that about 40 prisoners he spoke with "boasted of being involved in the transport of WMD warheads to Syria" in the three months prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
    He said he was told the WMDs were shipped by truck into Syria, and some ended up in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley.
    Prisoners who said they worked at the al-Muthana Chemical Industries site said the cargo included nitrogen mustard gas warheads for Tariq I and II missiles.

Syria Tries Dissidents Over Call for Democracy (AFP)
    Twelve Syrian dissidents went on trial in Damascus on Wednesday for signing a declaration calling for democracy in the biggest collective trial of dissidents since 2001.
    They were charged with "spreading false information which weakens the morale of the nation and national sentiment, joining a secret organization with the aim of modifying the nation's political and economic status, inciting racial and sectarian dissent and harming the state."

Al-Qaeda's Sinister Creep into North Africa - Amir Taheri (Times-UK)
    Since the tide of the war turned last winter, thousands of al-Qaeda jihadists have fled Iraq.
    Some returned home and resumed normal life. Others ended up in Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Thailand to help reignite the fires of jihad.
    However, North Africa appears to have attracted the largest number of returnees.
    A new arc of terror is taking shape in Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania - the five countries of the so-called Arab Maghreb in North Africa.

Roadside Bomb Wounds Fatah Commander in Lebanon - Hussein Dakroub (AP/Washington Post)
    A roadside bomb in Lebanon Tuesday critically wounded Talal Sleim, a Fatah military commander, setting off gunbattles at Ein el-Hilweh, where Fatah guerrillas exchanged machine-gun fire with Palestinian gunmen of the Jund al-Sham group, which follows the extremist ideology of al-Qaeda.

Anti-Semitic Incidents in UK Rise 9% (BBC News)
    There were 266 anti-Semitic incidents in the UK in the first half of 2008, compared with 244 in the same period last year, a 9% rise, according to the Community Security Trust (CST).
    Incidents involving Jewish students or academics and at colleges rose 88%, from 26 to 49.
    "Every anti-Semitic attack is a blight on society," said MP John Mann, chair of the parliamentary group against anti-Semitism.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israeli Prime Minister Olmert Declares Intent to Resign in September - Isabel Kershner
    Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced on Wednesday that he would resign after his Kadima party chose a new leader in September elections. The leadership race has been set for Sept. 17, with a runoff, if necessary, on Sept. 24. The main contenders are Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, a former defense minister. (New York Times)
        See also Olmert to Continue Serving as Prime Minister Until New Government Formed - Shmuel Tal
    The person who is elected to head Kadima will be asked to form a government and until he succeeds in doing it, Olmert will continue to serve as prime minister. If the new chairman of Kadima fails to form a government, Olmert will serve as prime minister until after the coming general elections. (Israel Radio/IMRA)
        See also Text of Prime Minister Olmert's Statement (Ha'aretz)
  • Rice Says Talks with Israel, Palestinians Fruitful - Anne Gearan
    The U.S. is trying to keep Israel and the Palestinians talking through the waning months of President Bush's term, because not talking is worse. Rice called the joint Israeli-Palestinian meeting in her office Wednesday "very fruitful." "We're going to try to push it as far as it will go, as far as the parties will go," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack. Rice says she will act as a prod and mediator, but there is no indication now that she intends to lean hard on either side to make concessions they aren't ready to make. (AP)
  • German-Iranian Gas Deal Criticized
    The Simon Wiesenthal Center on Wednesday urged Chancellor Angela Merkel to block a $156 million deal between Germany's Steiner and the Iranian government to build three gas liquefaction facilities, saying it would "embolden" an anti-Semitic regime. "It is an outrage that bureaucrats would be allowed to concoct a deal that thwarts the stated policies of the government of Germany," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Vienna-based center. "This deal...helps Iran in this sensitive sector and makes a mockery of the international community's efforts to isolate a nuclearizing Iranian regime." (AFP)
  • U.S. Defense Strategy Shifts Focus to Fighting Terrorists - Josh White
    Defense Secretary Robert Gates says that even winning the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will not end the "Long War" against violent extremism and that the fight against al-Qaeda and other terrorists should be the nation's top military priority over coming decades, according to a new National Defense Strategy he approved last month. The strategy document calls for the military to master "irregular" warfare rather than focusing on conventional conflicts against other nations. (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Gaza Summer Camps Teach Kids to Fire Rockets - Ali Waked
    In the past few weeks, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been holding summer camps, some of them proudly displaying rockets and other weaponry. Hamas alone is conducting 300 summer camps for tens of thousands of children. The focus is on familiarizing kids with the Palestinian towns and cities destroyed in 1948, as well as instilling religious fervor in them. The camps also feature military-type training such as crawling under barbed-wire. At Islamic Jihad summer camps, children learn how to hold a Kassam rocket-launcher. (Ynet News)
  • Hamas' Christian Convert: I've Left a Society that Sanctifies Terror - Avi Issacharoff
    Masab, son of West Bank Hamas leader and MP Sheikh Hassan Yousef, has become a Christian. He says, "You Jews should be aware: You will never, but never have peace with Hamas. Islam, as the ideology that guides them, will not allow them to achieve a peace agreement with the Jews. They believe that tradition says that the Prophet Mohammed fought against the Jews and that therefore they must continue to fight them to the death." "An entire society sanctifies death and the suicide terrorists. In Palestinian culture a suicide terrorist becomes a hero, a martyr. Sheikhs tell their students about the 'heroism of the shaheeds.'" (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Starts Using Lasers near Gaza - Yaakov Katz
    The IDF Southern Command has begun using a laser system developed by Rafael to detonate explosive devices planted alongside the border fence. "With the laser, there is no need to send troops across the border to destroy the bomb," one official explained. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Olmert Departure Likely to Slow Peace Talks - Eli Lake
    Israeli peace talks with Syria and the Palestinian Arabs will likely stall in the aftermath of Ehud Olmert's decision to step down as prime minister. This is a problem for Secretary of State Rice, who has been pushing for a document detailing progress in Israeli-Palestinian talks. David Makovsky, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, noted, "Basically, Secretary Rice would like a summation document that points to the disagreements and the points of convergence between the two parties. The problem is that no political figures like to expose to the public the concessions they make in the absence of a diplomatic breakthrough....There is not much hope for such an agreed-upon document."
        On the Syria track, "The key question is, can you peel Syria away from Iran," Makovsky said. "For that to happen, there needs to be a series of conversations...that will require the United States. I don't believe this was ever going anywhere this year. This is a classic 2009 issue." (New York Sun)
        See also Syria: Olmert Exit Could Affect Israel Talks
    Syria's UN Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari said Wednesday the resignation of Israeli Prime Minister Olmert could affect Syria's indirect peace talks with Israel. (Reuters)
        See also U.S. Prepared to Work with Any Israeli Leader (AFP)
  • Islamic States Use UN to Stifle Free Speech - Globally - Luiza Ch. Savage
    The Organization of the Islamic Conference has been leading a remarkably successful campaign through the UN to enshrine in international law prohibitions against "defamation of religions," particularly Islam. Their aim is to empower governments around the world to punish anyone who commits the "heinous act" of defaming Islam.
        The trend has rights advocates worried. "Defamation of religions" is not about protecting individual believers from damage caused by false statements - but rather about protecting a religion, or some interpretation of it, or the feelings of the followers. Religions by definition present competing claims on the truth, and one person's religious truth is easily another's apostasy. The subjective perception of insult is what matters, and what puts the whole approach on a collision course with the human rights regime.
        "Islamophobia is a problem. But this is not a practical solution, and it destabilizes the human rights agenda," said Angela Wu, international law director for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in Washington. "The defamation of religions protects ideas rather than individuals, and makes the state the arbiter of which ideas are true. It requires the state to sort good and bad ideologies." By doing so, she said, the approach "violates the very foundations of the human rights tradition by protecting ideas rather than the individuals who hold ideas." (Maclean's-Canada)
  • Observations:

    Escalation in Fatah's Position Toward Israel After Gaza Cease-Fire - C. Jacob (MEMRI)

    • Under the tahdiah agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, which went into effect on June 19, 2008, the Palestinians agreed to stop the rocket attacks on Israel in exchange for a cessation of Israel's military activity in Gaza. It was also agreed that there would be negotiations for opening the Rafah crossing, with the participation of Palestinian Authority, Hamas and EU representatives.
    • The tahdiah has motivated Hamas to escalate the fighting in the West Bank - first, out of a sense that only force will compel Israel to make concessions, and second, as a signal that it has not sacrificed the West Bank in favor of Gaza, and that - in spite of the tahdiah - it has not relinquished the path of resistance.
    • In the wake of the tahdiah, Fatah officials have also escalated their positions vis-a-vis Israel. According to the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, the PA is considering options regarding future contacts with Israel: the first is to terminate all contacts and to announce the end of the political process; the second is to unilaterally declare the establishment of a Palestinian state.
    • PA senior officials have also escalated their positions concerning the armed conflict with Israel. This is reflected in statements praising Samir al-Quntar and Dalal al-Mughrabi, who perpetrated terrorist attacks in Israel. Senior officials have also stressed that Fatah will not give up armed resistance.
    • Mahmoud Abbas, who, like Arafat before him, also heads Fatah, congratulated the families of Samir al-Quntar and the other released prisoners. A Fatah spokesman, Ahmad 'Abd al-Rahman, congratulated Hizbullah and all the resistance forces on their "victory" over Israel and on the return of "the heroes of freedom, the prisoners and the martyrs [to Lebanon] - especially the great fighter Samir al-Quntar and the martyred fighter Dalal al-Mughrabi, who led the most glorious martyrdom operation in the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict."

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