Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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August 21, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Kidnapping Alert for Israelis Overseas - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    New intelligence on Hizbullah's intentions to abduct Israelis abroad prompted the Prime Minister's Office Counterterrorism Bureau on Wednesday to issue a special warning to travelers.
    The bureau urged Israelis abroad to be wary of "unusual events," to turn down unexpected, tempting business or recreational offers, and to avoid letting anyone suspicious or unknown visitors into their hotel rooms or apartments.
    Security experts said Hizbullah is more likely to attempt a terrorist attack in Third World countries, especially in South America, India and southeast Asia.

Syrian Olympic Swimmer Quits Race to Avoid Israeli (MEMRI)
    The Syrian government daily Teshreen reported on Aug. 17 that Syrian swimmer Bayan Jum'a dropped out of the 50-meter freestyle at Beijing because one of the other competitors was Israeli swimmer Ania Gostamelski.

BBC Charity Funded Jihadists - Ben Quinn (Times-UK)
    The BBC's Children in Need charity donated £20,000 to an organization that funded the propaganda activities of the July 7 bombers.
    The financial support was provided between 1999 and 2002 to the Leeds Community School, which funded and shared premises with an Islamic bookshop where the suicide bombers Mohammed Siddique Khan and Shezhad Tanweer regularly met.
    Khan attempted to radicalize youths by showing propaganda films at the bookshop, a focal point at the time for young Muslims.

Liberal Pockets in Saudi Arabia's Rigid State - Andrew Hammond (Reuters)
    The Saudi government has a project to develop at least four "economic cities" where many expect the religious establishment will be kept at a distance from social life, the workplace and education.
    Women will be able to drive and there may even be cinema houses.
    There are already some spaces in the country where the religious police are nowhere to be seen, such as Jeddah and the tri-city area of Khobar-Dhahran-Damman.

US Airways Adding Tel Aviv Route - Linda Loyd (Philadelphia Inquirer)
    US Airways Group Inc. confirmed on Tuesday that it will start flying nonstop to Tel Aviv, Israel, next summer.
    The carrier will have one flight a day, seven days a week, starting in July.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Fear of New Mideast "Cold War" as Syria Strengthens Military Alliance with Russia - Kevin O'Flynn and James Hider
    As Syrian President Assad arrived in Moscow to clinch a series of military agreements, many in Israel fear that the Middle East could once again become a theater for the two great powers to exert their spheres of influence, militarily and politically. Russia has wooed Syria in recent years, as it has tried to increase its influence in the Middle East and increase arms sales. (Times-UK)
        See also Russian Aircraft Carrier Heads for Syria
    Russia's only aircraft carrier, the "Admiral Kuznetsov," will sail from Murmansk to the Syrian port of Tartus. The mission comes after Syrian President Assad said he is open for a Russian base in the area. The mission will also include the missile cruiser "Moskva" and several submarines. (MINA-Macedonia)
        See also Assad's Shopping List - Jonathan Spyer
    The leading item on Assad's shopping list in Moscow is thought to be the sophisticated S-300 long-range anti-aircraft missile system. This state-of-the-art system has already been purchased by Iran, which is expected to deploy it by March 2009. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Iranian Execution Revives Debate Over Punishment of Minors - Nazila Fathi
    Reza Hejazi, 20, was hanged Tuesday in the Iranian city of Isfahan for stabbing a man in a fight in 2003, when he was 15, reviving an international debate over Iran's punishment of minors. Four others, including three drug smugglers, were also hanged on Tuesday, bringing the number of executions in Iran to more than 190 this year, according to Amnesty International. Last year, Iran executed 317 people, more than any other country except China, the organization says. According to Iran's Islamic law, boys are punishable from the age of 15 and girls from the age of 9. Iranian officials say they wait until offenders reach 18 before they carry out death sentences. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • U.S. Rejects Israeli Request for Refueling Aircraft - Yaakov Lappin
    The U.S. turned down a request by Defense Minister Barak to purchase a Boeing 767 aircraft to be used for mid-air refueling, amid fears that the sale would appear to support an Israeli strike on Iran, Channel 10 news reported on Thursday. The Israel Air Force already has mid-air refueling capabilities and possesses seven F-16I fighter jets with a range which would enable them to strike targets deep within Iran without the need to refuel. Israel also possesses dozens of F-15I long-range fighter jets which are also capable of flying thousands of kilometers without refueling. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Russian President Phones Israeli Prime Minister to Ease Tensions - Roni Sofer
    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev phoned Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Wednesday in an apparent effort to ease tensions between the two countries amid Moscow's conflict with Georgia. The leaders spoke at length about the situation in the Caucasus, the Middle East peace process, and Syrian President Assad's current visit to Moscow. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Syrian Gambit: Russia Should Not Pretend It Can Drag the Middle East Back to the Cold War - Editorial
    The ripples created by the crisis in the Caucasus are spreading fast, and there is a risk that a wholesale realignment of the Middle East along Cold War lines could follow. Russia's reasons for seeking to draw Syria back into its orbit are clear: strategically, the Russian Navy gains the prospect of access to two Syrian warm-water ports just as Ukraine attempts to rewrite its rules for Russian use of bases in Crimea. Moscow has also been able to announce the dispatch of Russian air defense systems to Syria on the very day that the U.S. signed a missile defense pact with Poland. Diplomatically, a rapprochement (after years of strained relations because of unpaid Syrian debts) sends a signal to NATO that containing the new Russia will take more than merely co-opting its neighbors. (Times-UK)
  • Gaza-Bound Activists Disregard Israeli Terror Victims - Frimet Roth
    Two boats chartered by the California-based Free Gaza Movement are heading for Gaza, transporting 45 self-proclaimed humanitarians from 15 nations. Yet the "Free Gaza" activists exhibit total disregard for the innocent Israeli victims of Gaza's past terror attacks. And what of the Palestinians who suffer at the hands of their own regime? Are the "Free Gaza" supporters at all disturbed by Hamas' recent brutal attacks on their own brethren, Fatah activists? Would any group members consent to live, for even a day, under the Islamist totalitarian regime they are now bolstering? Would they send their own children to the sort of military training camps that Hamas runs as summer camps?
        Organizers of this project say their cargo includes 200 hearing aids intended for Gaza children. They seem unaware of the fact that Israel routinely admits Gazans into its hospitals to receive cutting-edge medical care free of charge and transfers many tons of humanitarian aid daily into the Strip. The author's daughter, Malki, was murdered seven years ago this week in the bombing of Jerusalem's Sbarro restaurant that took 15 innocent lives. (Ynet News)
  • Progress in Preventing PTSD in Soldiers - Dina Kraft
    Dozens of group therapy sessions for Israeli soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after the war with Hizbullah two years ago are a sign of the progress Israel has made in reducing the stigma traditionally associated with PTSD in Israeli society. Even public service announcements on the radio urge war veterans who suffer from trauma symptoms - difficulty sleeping or concentrating and problems interacting with family and friends - to call a help hot-line.
        Miri Shalit, who supervises the Defense Ministry's Tel Aviv rehabilitation department, says patients are encouraged to recount in detail the traumas they endured so they can begin to process the events and overcome them - for better success in treating PTSD. The concept, based on years of research conducted in Israel and abroad, is to debrief as soon as possible after the traumatic event in a safe place away from the battlefield. In providing a supportive framework within the soldiers' units to discuss traumatic incidents soon after they happen, the focus is on preventing PTSD, said a senior army psychologist. (JTA)
  • Observations:

    London's Terror Bank - Editorial (Wall Street Journal)

    • Almost two years after the U.S. cut off Bank Saderat's access to American finance, and close to a year since the Bush Administration diagrammed the electronic money trail from Tehran to terror via London, Bank Saderat PLC continues to do business in the UK.
    • In March, the UN Security Council imposed its third round of sanctions against Iran for its refusal to halt its nuclear weapons program. Included in the sanctions package was a warning to all countries "to exercise vigilance" on transactions with all Iranian banks, but especially Bank Saderat and Bank Melli, due to the risk that such transactions could support illicit nuclear activities.
    • Just this month, the Brits joined with U.S. and French officials in sending a letter to the UN Security Council warning against "Iran's continued attempts to conduct prohibited proliferation-related activity and terrorist financing." Given that Bank Saderat PLC has been precisely the mechanism to get money to terrorists, it's hard to understand why the rogue financial institution still enjoys a home in London.
    • British action could be particularly beneficial now, as the policy of isolating Iran from the international banking system appears to be putting genuine stress on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government. Almost all of the world's commercial banks have ceased doing business with Iran, making even routine trade a logistical challenge. It's not a coincidence that Iran's economy has been struggling even amid an oil boom, or that internal dissent against the Iranian government is increasing.

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