Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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September 16, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel Assesses Damage from Lehman Collapse - Sharon Shpurer (Ha'aretz)
    Israel's Bank Hapoalim said its exposure to the floundering Lehman Brothers investment bank totals about $109 million. Bank Leumi's risk is estimated at $90-$95 million. Israel's central bank has about $4 million exposure to Lehman Brothers.

Report: Aide to Hamas Chief Shot Dead in Syria (Ha'aretz)
    Hamas Chief Khaled Meshaal's secretary was shot and killed in Homs, Syria last Thursday, according to the Reform Party of Syria.
    According to an article on the party's website, Hisham al-Labadani was dragged from his car and shot to death.

Eleven Dead as Hamas Battles Clan in Gaza (DPA)
    At least 11 Palestinians were killed in violent clashes in Gaza between Hamas and the powerful Dughmush clan.
    At least one Hamas policeman and four members of the Dughmush family were among the dead, security officials said.

Freed Lebanese Terrorist Kuntar in Demo for Jailed "Cuban Five" (AFP)
    About 100 Lebanese, including Samir Kuntar, who was freed by Israel this summer in a prisoner swap, marched on Friday near the U.S. embassy outside Beirut to demand the release of five Cubans held prisoner in the U.S.
    "The Cubans are supporting the Palestinian cause so this is an act of solidarity with the five political prisoners in the U.S.," said Kuntar's brother Bassam, who organized the march.

U.S.: Al-Qaeda "Imploding" - Pamela Hess (AP)
    Al-Qaeda is "imploding because it's not a message that resonates with a lot of Muslims," Dell Dailey, the State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism, said Monday.
    Vastly more Muslims than Westerners are killed by al-Qaeda bombs, particularly in Iraq. Extremist violence claimed more than 9,500 civilian victims in Muslim countries in 2007.

Oil Falls Below $100 a Barrel - Jad Mouawad (International Herald Tribune)
    Oil prices dropped sharply Monday to below $100-a-barrel, the lowest figure in six months.

"Damascus Spring" Fades from Memory - Andrew England (Financial Times-UK)
    In 2001 economics professor Aref Dalila was among activists buoyed by a sense of optimism as Bashar al-Assad, the young, new president, was feeling his way into office in the period that was dubbed the Damascus spring.
    But a reality check hit in September of that year as Dalila and nine others were rounded up in a government crackdown.
    Dalila, 65, was released on August 7 after spending six of his seven years of detention in solitary confinement.
    His crime was to argue for reforms and speak out against corruption from the top down.

Key Links 
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Nuclear Agency Says Iran Has Improved Enrichment - Elaine Sciolino
    Iran has substantially improved the efficiency of its centrifuges that produce enriched uranium, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Monday. Iran is now running about 3,800 centrifuges, the machines that make enriched uranium, an increase of several hundred in the past four months. More significantly, it has increased the efficiency of its centrifuges to about 80% from 50%. That means the machines are processing more material, crashing less and running closer to their stated capacity.
        In its report, the agency charged the Iranians with continuing to stonewall about past research on designing a nuclear weapon. Last summer the agency gave Iran fixed deadlines to resolve questions about nuclear activities in the past two decades. "We seem to be at a dead end," said a senior official with links to the agency. "We would describe it as a gridlock." (New York Times)
  • Crackdown Squeezes Iranians in Dubai - Farah Stockman
    Dubai has always been the place where Iranians go to escape U.S. sanctions. When the U.S. Treasury banned key Iranian banks a year ago, Iranian businessmen flocked there to open new bank accounts. But in recent months U.S. pressure has prompted a crackdown in the United Arab Emirates, Iran's largest trading partner and home to some 450,000 Iranian citizens.
        Recently, UAE officials have dramatically reduced the number of business licenses to Iranian citizens and have begun to refuse to register Iranian work visas. In addition, most international banks in the UAE have stopped opening new accounts for Iranians. "The UAE is taking steps to be vigilant," said Treasury undersecretary Stuart Levey, a key architect of the banking sanctions. (Boston Globe)
        See also Defector Accuses Iran of Running Sleeper Cells in Gulf
    Iran runs a network of agents in the six Arab monarchies of the Gulf that could be used to destabilize the region, a senior defector charged in an interview published in Dubai on Monday. Adel al-Assadi, who was consul general in Dubai before defecting in 2001, said Shiite Iran's Revolutionary Guards started to set up the sleeper cells right after the 1979 Islamic revolution in Tehran. "Tehran has enough manpower to destabilize the GCC countries, which is bad news," said Assadi, who now lives in Sweden. (AFP)
  • Holocaust Scholars Urge Prosecution of Sudan's President for Genocide - Arthur Max
    Some 130 Holocaust scholars appealed Monday to International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo to pursue his indictment of Sudan's president on charges of genocide in Darfur, saying said the prosecution of Omar al-Bashir would "deter future atrocities." Moreno-Ocampo requested an arrest warrant for al-Bashir in July. The Arab League and the African Union have sought a UN resolution to suspend the indictment against the Sudanese leader.
        "The governments that are trying to protect al-Bashir should be ashamed of themselves," said Rafael Medoff, director of the Washington-based David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies which organized the appeal. (AP/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Intelligence: Syria Strengthening Ties with Radical Axis - Amnon Meranda
    "Syria is moving forward along the path of peace and openness toward the West while simultaneously strengthening its ties to the radical axis," the head of the research division of IDF Military Intelligence, Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Monday. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Stabs IDF Soldier near Dead Sea - Efrat Weiss
    A Palestinian stabbed an IDF soldier and stole his weapon on Monday at the Almog Junction on the Jerusalem-Dead Sea road. Israeli police located the terrorist's hiding place, detained him, and retrieved the weapon. (Ynet News)
  • PA Strengthens Control in West Bank - Avi Issacharoff
    The chaos that once reigned in the West Bank's cities and villages has vanished, replaced by Palestinian security forces. Armed militias are no longer part of the landscape. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades have been all but disbanded, and most of their members have joined the PA security apparatus. PA security has shut down or taken control of 45 Hamas and Islamic Jihad-run charities. Their schools and hospitals are now being run under the PA's watchful eye. Hamas' military apparatus in the West Bank still exists, but it no longer presents an immediate threat to PA institutions. The Hamas-run shopping center in Nablus, closed two months ago by the IDF, was recently reopened after the PA ousted its management in favor of its own people. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israel, U.S., PA Discuss PA Security Control in West Bank - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
    The U.S., Israel and the PA are discussing expanding the authority of Palestinian forces in the West Bank. Since May, the PA has been enforcing law and order in and around Jenin, and the pilot program may be expanded to Tulkarm. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Running for Jerusalem Council - Ronny Shaked
    Zohir Hamdan, 60, a Palestinian serving as the mukhtar (head) of the eastern Jerusalem village of Tzur Baher, is running for the capital's city council on an independent list, the first time a Palestinian is taking part in the city's municipal elections. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Come Together - Editorial
    Paul McCartney reassured his fans in Israel last week that he'll go ahead with a planned concert in Tel Aviv. A standard smear against Israel is that it is supposedly an apartheid state. In truth, Mr. McCartney will be performing in the only country in the Middle East where Jews, Christians and Muslims, as well as both men and women, can come together in freedom and listen to his songs. (Wall Street Journal Europe)
  • Mickey Mouse Must Die, Says Saudi Arabian Cleric - Martin Beckford
    Mickey Mouse is a corrupting influence and must die, Saudi Muslim cleric Sheikh Muhammad Munajid, a former diplomat at the Saudi embassy in Washington, has declared. "Mickey Mouse has become an awesome character, even though according to Islamic law, Mickey Mouse should be killed in all cases," he said. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Saudi Clerics Slam Ramadan TV - Andrew Hammond
    Across the Arab world, the month of Ramadan has become an orgy of food and TV consumption, Saudi clerics say. Television this year has seemingly pushed some clerics to apoplexy with romantic soaps showcasing liberal lifestyles, dramas that fan the flames of ancient tribal hatreds, and slapstick comedies that have captured the public's heart. The attacks on the Arab entertainment channels have raised eyebrows because the owners of MBC, ART, Orbit, Rotana and LBC are members of the Saudi royal family or business allies. (Reuters)
  • Who'll Speak Truth to the Arab Street? - Clifford D. May
    The New York Times reported that seven years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the "conventional wisdom" in the Middle East is that "the United States and Israel had to have been involved" in the planning, if not execution, of the mass murder. The report fails to raise the possibility that the persistence of such beliefs may reveal a pathology in the culture of the contemporary Arab Middle East. Instead, it suggests that it is due to the inadequacies of U.S. public diplomacy that the fabled Arab Street thinks Americans incinerated fellow Americans as part of a "crusade" against them.
        Yet Americans in recent years have repeatedly sacrificed blood and treasure to rescue Muslim communities. Americans intervened in the Balkans to protect Bosnia and Kosovo from hostile Christian neighbors. Americans saved Kuwait from the savagery of Saddam Hussein. America liberated Afghanistan from the Taliban, an al-Qaeda proxy. Then there are the billions in aid that American taxpayers have given to the Palestinians. The writer is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Washington Times)
        See also They Still Blame Us: World Believes U.S., or Israelis, Did 9/11 - Michele Malkin
    Who was responsible for 9/11? "Israel was behind the attacks, said 43% of people in Egypt, 31% in Jordan and 19% in the Palestinian territories," according to a survey released this week of 16,000 people in 17 nations. "The U.S. government was blamed by 36% of Turks, 30% of Mexicans, and 27% of Palestinians." (New York Post)
  • Observations:

    Freedom Under Fire: Israel and the Lessons of 9/11 - Charles C. Haynes (Janesville [WI] Gazette)

    • For a glimpse of life under constant threat of terrorist attack, travel to Sderot - the Israeli town that has endured thousands of rocket attacks from Hamas-controlled Gaza a few miles away. During my brief visit there last month, Sderot was enjoying a rare period of relative calm thanks to a truce declared in late June. Nevertheless, the inhabitants stay on edge, wondering where the next indiscriminate projectile will land and whom it will kill or maim. Despite the ceasefire, a rocket exploded in the town a few days before my arrival.
    • Bomb shelters dot the landscape at every bus stop and in every park. Kindergarten children don't go outside for recess because the 15-second warning of incoming rockets wouldn't give teachers enough time to get them back inside the fortified buildings.
    • When I asked Achlama Peretz, a college administrator, how the citizens of Sderot coped with the daily stress, she replied: "Sderot has become a symbol of resilience and freedom for all Israelis."
    • For Americans debating how to balance freedom and security in a post-9/11 world, Sderot - indeed all of Israel - offers a case study in how to combat terrorism while simultaneously maintaining a commitment to freedom of expression in Israeli society. With all of the images of war and conflict, and the legitimate debate about Israeli policies, the news media tell us far too little about Israelis standing up for the rights of others and working to build a democratic society in a hostile, dangerous neighborhood.
    • If Israelis can uphold free speech, value dissent and work for human rights in a nation where every day is a potential 9/11, then so can we.

      The writer is senior scholar at the First Amendment Center in Washington.

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