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Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

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September 5, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Israeli Commandos Took Soil Samples at Nuclear Site in Syria - David Horovitz (Jerusalem Post)
    Aware that some members of both the American and the Israel intelligence communities were not entirely convinced that Syria was building a nuclear facility in the summer of 2007, Israel in mid-August sent 12 members of the Sayeret Matkal commando unit into Syria in two helicopters to collect soil samples outside the nuclear site.
    The commandos' mission was almost exposed when a Syrian patrol drove past the landing site where the helicopters were parked.
    These revelations are contained in a new book by Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman, The Secret War with Iran, that is being published next week in the U.S.
    Bergman writes, "The results provided clear-cut proof of the joint nuclear project." The following month, the Israel Air Force destroyed the facility.

Hamas Detains Islamist Leader in Gaza (Reuters)
    Hamas security forces have detained Abu Hafss, a senior leader of Jaish al-Umma, a pro-al-Qaeda group in Gaza, one of his aides said on Thursday.
    See also Jaish al-Umma - "The Army of the Nation" - An Al-Qaeda Affiliate in Gaza - Jonathan D. Halevi (ICA/JCPA)

Terror "Merger" Opens New Front for Al-Qaeda in Algeria - Souad Mekhennet (Scotland on Sunday)
    Hiding in caves and woodlands, Algerian insurgents were all but finished a few years ago. Then the leader of the group, Abdelmalek Droukdal, sent a secret message to Iraq in the autumn of 2004.
    The recipient was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, and the two men engaged in what one observer describes as a corporate merger.
    Today, as Islamist violence wanes in some parts of the world, the Algerian militants - renamed al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb - have grown into one of the most potent bin Laden affiliates, reinvigorated with fresh recruits and a zeal for Western targets.
    Its most audacious attack came last December when suicide bombers struck UN and court offices in Algiers, killing 41 people and injuring 170 others.

Hizbullah Finds Friends Abroad - Raed Rafei (Los Angeles Times)
    Hizbullah has extended its international reach by establishing contacts with groups opposed to U.S.-led economic globalization, analysts say.
    The Lebanese Shiite Muslim militant organization, which is designated as a terrorist group by the U.S., has participated through a front organization in dozens of gatherings.
    "Hizbullah succeeded in incorporating the idea of resistance as part of the international anti-globalization movements," said Abdel-Halim Fadlallah, vice president of Beirut's Center for Strategic Studies, a Hizbullah-affiliated think tank that often participates in activities abroad.

Israel Building Underground Hospitals - Julie Stahl (CNSNews)
    Two major hospitals in Israel are building underground facilities in preparation for Israel's next war.
    Both Rambam Hospital in Haifa and Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv plan to use their new underground facilities as parking lots in peacetime.
    They can be converted to 650-bed hospital facilities within 48 hours, said architect Arad Sharon who is designing the two underground hospitals.
    They will be self-sufficient facilities with their own water, electric and hospital gases supply. They will also be protected against chemical and biological attacks, said Sharon.

Chinese Tourists Head to Israel (People's Daily-China)
    The first Israel-bound Chinese tour group will depart later this month, Israeli Tourism Minister Ruhama Avraham-Balila said Thursday.
    Previously, Chinese tourists needed invitation letters to get business visas to visit Israel.
    China and Israel signed an agreement last year making Israel an approved destination for Chinese tour groups.
    More than 10,000 business tourists visited Israel last year, and the number is expected to rise sharply this year.

Red Hat Acquires Israeli Virtualization Pioneer for $107M (Information Week)
    Red Hat has acquired the Israeli firm Qumranet for $107 million, the company announced Thursday.
    "Qumranet's KVM and virtual desktop infrastructure technologies are at the forefront of the next generation of virtualization," said Jim Whitehurst, Red Hat president.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Syria Says Israeli Peace Talks Postponed - Robert F. Worth
    President Bashar al-Assad of Syria said Thursday that the latest round of indirect negotiations with Israel had been postponed. Syrian and Israeli representatives have held several rounds of meetings this year via Turkish mediators. But the Israeli negotiator, Yoram Turbowicz, announced his resignation as Olmert's chief of staff in July. (New York Times)
        The Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem confirmed that the talks had been postponed due to the resignation of Turbowicz. (Ynet News)
  • Israel Bans Five British-Based Charities - Richard Kerbaj
    Israel banned five British-based charities operating in Gaza for their links with Hamas, including Muslim Aid, Human Appeal International, Muslim Hands, Human Relief Foundation, and Educational Aid for Palestinians. This came as the Israeli Embassy in London warned that action would be taken against charity organizations that were dealing with terrorism groups. The military wing of Hamas, Izz al-Din al-Qassem Brigades, which has been responsible for numerous suicide attacks in Israel, was banned by Britain in March 2001.
        An Israeli embassy spokesman said: "Israel in principle deserves the right to protect the lives of our citizens. So if we have to stop, or to act against, terrorist organizations or organizations which are somehow involved in financing, aiding terrorist activities, we have to act against them." The British charities are among 36 predominantly Muslim organizations that are part of the "Union of Good" umbrella body "composed of dozens of extremist Islamic foundations worldwide," according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry. (Times-UK)
  • New U.S. Covert Techniques, Not Surge, Responsible for Success in Iraq - Steve Luxenberg
    In his new book The War Within: A Secret White House History, 2006-2008, scheduled for release Monday, Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward says the U.S. troop "surge" of 2007 was not the primary factor behind the steep drop in violence there during the past 16 months. Rather, "groundbreaking" new covert techniques enabled U.S. military and intelligence officials to locate, target, and kill insurgent leaders and key individuals in extremist groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq. (Washington Post)
  • U.S. Hopes Rice's Visit to Libya Highlights Potential for Pariah States to Come In from the Cold - Howard LaFranchi
    When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visits Libya Friday for a sit-down with once-reviled leader Muammar Qaddafi, it will symbolize from the Bush administration perspective the potential for pariah states to come in from the cold, and the U.S. will be hoping that Iran and North Korea, in particular, are taking note. Instead of confronting the U.S. and the international community with a nuclear weapons program, U.S. officials say, Libya is reaping the economic and diplomatic benefits of having renounced its terrorist avocation and weapons-of-mass-destruction ambitions in 2003.
        But not everyone sees Rice's stop in Libya in such glowing terms. "It's doubtful the Libya example will mean much to Iran, in large part because Iran is in a better position as it faces down the international community than Libya was," says James Phillips, senior research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • U.S. Ground Forces Hit Al-Qaeda Targets in Effort to Catch Bin Laden - Sara A. Carter
    U.S. ground forces crossed the border from Afghanistan and attacked suspected al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan on Wednesday as part of an aggressive new strategy to kill or capture Osama bin Laden before President Bush leaves office, U.S. officials said. "I know the hunt is on; they're pulling out all the stops," said a Defense Department official with knowledge of the situation. "They want to find bin Laden before the president leaves office and ensure that al-Qaeda will not attack the U.S. during the upcoming elections." The attack, mounted by U.S. commandos backed by helicopter gunships, took place in South Waziristan, a tribal area that has become a safe haven for al-Qaeda and Taliban militants. Bin Laden and his No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahri, are thought to be hiding there. The Pakistani Foreign Ministry called the raid "a grave provocation" and "a gross violation of Pakistan's territory." (Washington Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Nasrallah: Hizbullah at War with Israel - Roee Nahmias
    Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah said Thursday that "Hizbullah is still at war with Israel" and stressed that even if Lebanon receives control of the Shebaa Farms, Hizbullah will continue to battle Israel. (Ynet News)
  • PLO Rejects Proposal on Jerusalem's Arab Neighborhoods
    Secretary General of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Yasser Abed Rabbo rejected on Wednesday an Israeli proposal to cede "certain neighborhoods" of eastern Jerusalem that could become part of the Palestinian capital in any future peace agreement. In an interview with Ma'an, he said that Israel must withdraw from all areas it occupied in 1967. Palestinian negotiators, he said, would accept nothing less. "Even the no-man's land," i.e., the Musrarah area [in central Jerusalem], Israel has no entitlement to, he added.
        The unofficial Israeli proposal by Minister of Defense Ehud Barak was aired by Al Jazeera on Wednesday. "Our basic position is that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, but that we can find a formula under which certain neighborhoods, heavily-populated Arab neighborhoods, could become, in a peace agreement, part of the Palestinian capital that, of course, will include also the neighboring villages around Jerusalem," Barak said.
        "We are not expanding. We did not announce even a single new settlement," he said. "But there is a well-known dispute. We clearly believe with Jerusalem we have the right to build as we need, and we have these settlement blocs, Ma'aleh Adumim, Gush Etzion, Givat Ze'ev, Ariel, and several other small ones, where we believe that according to the Bush letter to Sharon, we have the right to have them, even within a permanent agreement." (Maan News-PA/Palestine Media Center)
  • Israelis Warned of Terror Threats in Sinai, Thailand and Turkey
    Israel's Counter Terrorism Bureau, a branch in the Prime Minister's Office, advised Israelis currently in Egypt, and in particular in Sinai, to leave immediately. The unit also warned that a potential threat exists in Thailand, the Philippines, Turkey and Uzbekistan. (Ha'aretz)
  • PA Receives 1,000 Rifles from Jordan - Yaakov Katz
    Jordan recently facilitated the transfer of close to 1,000 automatic rifles and some 10,000 bullets to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, Israeli defense officials revealed Thursday. The PA requested the shipment, which it said would be used in the campaign against Hamas in the West Bank. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian TV Teaches Children of a World Without Israel
    Palestinian children are taught to see a world in which "Palestine" replaces all of Israel. A children's quiz broadcast Sep. 3 on Fatah-controlled PA television shows Palestinian children routinely identifying every Israeli city and landmark as part of "Palestine." Haifa, Ashdod and Eilat are described as Palestinian ports, the Sea of Galilee is said to be a Palestinian lake, and the area of the Palestinian state is said to be 27,000 sq. km. Since the total area of Gaza and the West Bank is 6,200 sq. km., the larger figure includes Israeli territory. "Palestine" is said to border Lebanon and the Red Sea; in fact, these are Israel's borders. (Palestinian Media Watch)
        Watch the Video (YouTube)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Beware, the Friends of Bashar Are Here - Michael Young
    Meeting Thursday in Damascus was a new fraternity, the Friends of Bashar. It includes the emir of Qatar, the prime minister of Turkey, and the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and their aim is to ensure that the Assad regime remains in power and breaks out of the international and regional isolation imposed on it after the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri. Sarkozy has proven to be the most destructive of opportunists. On Tuesday he declared that peace in the Middle East "went through France and Syria," and that his aim was to see Syria "regaining its place in the concert of nations."
        The Syrians want their peace talks with Israel to be a highway to Washington. Sarkozy is willing to broker that rapprochement if France is given a seat at the negotiating table too. However, Syria will only play seriously on the peace front if it can reimpose its hegemony over Lebanon. Therefore, France will look the other way as Assad rebuilds in Beirut what he was made to abandon in 2005. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Wanted: Palestinian Author of Al-Qaeda Bomb-Making Manual - Ronen Bergman
    "I know this bomb from somewhere," said the intelligence expert studying photos from a September 2006 blast at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus. The combination of explosives rigged to gas tanks was the trademark of Saif al-Din ("Sword of the Faith") - one of the world's most wanted terrorists. The international intelligence community doesn't even know what he looks like, but he is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. All the international intelligence community has to go on is the image of his hands, which appear in an instructional video - "Bomb-Making 101" - designed to teach eager terrorist-wannabes how to make explosive devices that can cause maximum casualties.
        Some five years ago, a Jihad activist logged on to a Hamas forum and introduced a series of lessons on bomb-making. He called himself "Saif al-Din" after one of Islam's ancient mythological heroes. After his posts were compiled into "Saif al-Din's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Explosives," his affiliation with al-Qaeda has become obvious. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Crimes Against Christian Arabs and Their Manipulation Against Israel - Interview with Justus Reid Weiner
    Under the Palestinian regime, Christian Arabs have been victims of frequent human rights abuses by Muslims. There are many examples of intimidation, beatings, land theft, firebombing of churches and other Christian institutions, denial of employment, economic boycotts, torture, kidnapping, forced marriage, sexual harassment, and extortion. Palestinian Authority officials are directly responsible for many of the human rights violations. Muslims who have converted to Christianity are in the greatest danger. Some have been murdered.
        The human rights violations against Christian Arabs in the territories are committed by Muslims. Yet for political and economic reasons many Palestinian Christian leaders blame Israel for these crimes rather than the actual perpetrators. This motif of the transference of blame has been adopted by several Christian leaders in the Western world. (Institute for Global Jewish Affairs)
  • The Forgotten Middle Eastern Jews - Daniel Brainich
    The expulsion of Middle Eastern Jews from their traditional homelands in the Arab world has long been one of history's less recognized tragedies. The Senate is currently considering a landmark bill that would call attention to the plight of nearly one million Jews who were forced to flee the Arab world in the twentieth century. The bill calls attention to the wholesale human rights violations faced by the Jewish minority of the Arab world, and affirms that the integrity of any comprehensive Mideast peace agreement is contingent upon "recognition of, and redress for, the uprooting of centuries-old Jewish communities in the Middle East, North Africa, and the Persian Gulf." To that end, the bill instructs representatives of the U.S. in all international forums to ensure that "any explicit reference to the required resolution of the Palestinian refugee issue" is matched by "a similar explicit reference to the resolution of the issue of Jewish, Christian, and other refugees."  (FrontPageMagazine)

    Weekend Features

  • Remembering 9/11 Hero Daniel Lewin: An Israeli Commando on AA Flight 11 - Marco Greenberg
    Seven years ago, two planes barreled into the World Trade Center. Little did I know that one of my best friends had been on one of those planes. I first met Daniel Lewin in 1986 when he was working part-time at Samson's, a weight-lifting gym in Jerusalem. His family had made aliyah to Israel from Denver. After high school he went to serve in the IDF's Sayeret Matkal commando unit. In 1996, he accepted a scholarship to study computer science and mathematics at MIT. Two years later, he founded Akamai Technologies, which offered a new and revolutionary way to deliver content over the Internet.
        When the 9/11 Commission issued its report, based in part on transcripts of conversations between flight attendants and ground control, it confirmed that Danny fought back on American Airlines Flight 11, from Boston, the first plane to be hijacked, and was mortally wounded trying to stop the terrorists. Yes, the men and women of Flight 93 were heroes, but Danny resisted alone and with no warning as to the larger plot that was unfolding. (Ha'aretz)
  • Pardon Sought for Man Who Aided Israel's War for Independence - Diana Moskovitz
    Charles Winters was a Protestant from Boston who served 18 months in prison for his help flying weapons to the Jews in Palestine, fighting for what would later become Israel. Winters received no money for his clandestine work. Now, nearly 25 years after his father's death, his son is working on a presidential pardon for his father. After World War II, Charles Winters got into the airplane business, buying decommissioned military cargo airplanes and using them for shipping products like fruit. In 1948, three of his planes took off from Miami for Puerto Rico on flights meant to mimic a typical produce run. The planes did stop in Puerto Rico. But they kept going, first to the Azores, then to Czechoslovakia, where they picked up weapons. Then they flew into Palestine, dropping off the weapons and the airplanes. Months later, someone turned Winters in.
        Charles Winters died in 1984 at 71. His son Jimmy was 19. ''When he died, the funeral parlor was full of Israeli flags and blue and white flowers. This Israeli official came to escort my mom back to Israel for a ceremony there,'' Jimmy said. "And I thought, 'Wow, this is big time.' At that point, I realized how important he was to the Israeli community.'' (Miami Herald)
  • Senior Cleric Blows Out Candles on Saudi Birthday Parties, Declaring Them Un-Islamic - Donna Abu-Nasr
    Saudi Arabia's most senior Muslim cleric, Sheik Abdul-Aziz al-Sheik, recently denounced birthday parties as an unwanted foreign influence. Saudi Arabia's top religious authority said such celebrations have no place in Islam and gave a list of foreign customs he finds unacceptable. "Christians have Mother's Day, an eid (feast) for trees, and an eid for every occasion," al-Sheik told the newspaper Al-Madina. "And on every birthday, candles are lit and food is given out." The Saudi ban on birthdays is in line with the strict interpretation of Islam followed by the conservative Wahhabi sect dominant in the kingdom. All Christian celebrations - and even most Muslim feasts celebrated elsewhere in the Islamic world - are prohibited. (AP/Chicago Tribune)
  • Exploring the Basic Forces of the Universe
    On September 10, 2008, Tel Aviv University's Prof. Erez Etzion from the School of Physics and Astronomy will be in the control room of the new CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC) on the border of France and Switzerland when the LHC is first turned on. Scientists are calling it the largest experiment in the world. It's taken about 6,000 researchers, $8 billion and ten years to build. Of the 50 countries that have participated in the project, Israel is among those which have made the greatest contributions. Tel Aviv University in particular has played an essential role in constructing equipment for the collider tunnel, dug deep inside the Swiss-French Alps. Prof. Etzion, an experimental physicist in high-energy research, expects the impact of the LHC to be greater than that of the first moon landing. "It is hard to grasp the dimensions of the practical benefits from this project," he says, "but we're expecting to explore the basic forces that hold the world together."  (
  • Observations:

    End Flow of European Energy Technology to Iran - Emanuele Ottolenghi (Ha'aretz)

    • In July it was reported that the German company SPG (Steiner-Prematechnik-Gastec) had signed a 100-million euro deal with Iran to build three plants for compressed natural gas production.
    • There are three lessons to be learned from this: First, European technology remains indispensable for Iran, if it is to be able to exploit its energy reserves and become a regional superpower. Second, if economic sanctions against Iran were to include exports, investments and joint ventures in the energy field, it could have severe repercussions for Tehran. Finally, tougher sanctions against Iran are the only non-military way to pressure Tehran to renounce its nuclear ambitions.
    • UN-backed sanctions have crucially failed to target Iran's energy sector, and with Europe keen to reduce its dependence on Russian oil and gas, big energy interests may ignore the political side effects of involvement in Iran.
    • In the field of gas extraction, and export in particular, Iran would forever sit on an inaccessible treasure, were it not for European know-how - an expertise that Russia and China cannot currently match or replace. Hence, it is in the energy field, particularly natural gas, where European sanctions can make a difference and squeeze Iran's regime where it hurts most.
    • What are we waiting for?

      The writer is executive director of the Transatlantic Institute in Brussels.

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