Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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November 18, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran Opens New Naval Base in Gulf (Telegraph-UK)
    Iran's official news agency, IRNA, said that the country's elite Revolutionary Guards had opened a fourth naval base along Iran's Gulf coast.
    Tension over Iran's nuclear program prompted the Guards' commander to threaten in June to seal off the Gulf's Strait of Hormuz, a waterway of huge strategic importance that is used to ship 40% of the world's oil production.
    The new base is in the port of Assalouyeh. It will control a 190-mile stretch of coastline west of the strait between Kish Island and the port of Dayyer.

U.S. Fears Opening Tehran Mission Will Aid Ahmadinejad - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns told a group of Israeli diplomats in Washington last week of concerns that opening a U.S. interests section in Tehran could strengthen President Ahmadinejad and help him win the presidential elections next June.
    Senior Washington officials believe the move would signal American weakness and enable Ahmadinejad to claim that despite the sanctions he has not given in, while the U.S. "folded."
    "The Americans have been told by too many officials the world over that opening an interests section in Tehran, as the last move of an outgoing administration, is not a good idea," a senior Jerusalem source said.

Sudan Liberation Movement Leader: "We Will Open an Israeli Embassy in Khartoum" (MEMRI)
    Sudan Liberation Movement leader Abd Al-Wahed Al-Nur told Al-Arabiya TV on Oct. 10, 2008:
    "People from Darfur and Sudan have gone to Israel, and they are there now, studying, eating Israeli food, and living among them. This has already happened."
    "As for political normalization, the Sudan Liberation Movement says loud and clear: If we come to power, we will open an Israeli Embassy in Khartoum next to the Palestinian Embassy and consulates, because we believe that people should resolve their problems by peaceful means."

Islamists Say Damascus Backed Lebanon Attack (AFP)
    The Lebanese newspaper Al-Mustaqbal, owned by anti-Syrian parliamentary leader Saad Hariri, on Saturday published statements purporting to be by members of Fatah al-Islam, showing the radical group had links with Syria and that Damascus had backed an attack in Lebanon.
    The 15-week struggle in summer 2007 in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared near Tripoli left 400 people dead, including 168 soldiers.
    Earlier this month, Syrian television broadcast alleged "admissions" by Fatah al-Islam members that the group was financed by Hariri's Future movement.

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

  • IAEA Chief: Traces of Uranium Found at Syria Site - Adam Schreck
    International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei confirmed Monday that traces of radioactive material were found at a site in Syria bombed by Israeli planes, but said the source was inconclusive. "It's not highly enriched uranium. It could have come from so many different ways," he said in Dubai. ElBaradei called specifically for more cooperation from Damascus, saying the agency needs "a lot of transparency on the part of Syria."  (AP/Washington Post)
  • Israel: "All Options Are on the Table"
    In order to stop Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb, "We are ready to do whatever is demanded of us," Israeli Air Force Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan told Der Spiegel in an interview. "The Iranian regime is not only a problem for the Air Force or the State of Israel. It is a problem for the entire free world. It is shameful that 70 years after the Reichskristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) there are still heads of state who call for the destruction of our people. History teaches us that we have to take those announcements seriously. And we take them very seriously."
    Spiegel: Iran's nuclear facilities are spread around the country and are partly located underground. Is it even technically possible to destroy them?
    Nehushtan: "I can only say this: It is not a technical or logistical question." (Der Spiegel-Germany)
        See also Ex-IDF Chief: Military Option Against Iran Still Exists - Bradley Burston
    Former IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya'alon told the United Jewish Communities General Assembly in Jerusalem on Monday that keeping the military option on the table was a vital element of a wider strategy encompassing political isolation of the Tehran regime, and international economic "smart sanctions." "I believe that most of the Western armed forces, especially air forces, have the right capabilities to deal with the Iranian regime, where it comes to intelligence, precise munitions, the ability to launch air strikes, penetrating defense systems, targeting the right facilities....Technically speaking, there is a military option," Ya'alon said. (Ha'aretz)
  • Lebanon: Puritanical Sunnis Team Up with Pro-West Hariri - Borzou Daragahi
    Lebanon's Salafists, often equated with terrorists in much of the Arab world, have teamed with Saad Hariri and his mainstream Future Movement, with ties to the Bush administration. "They used to be very marginal," Benedetta Berti, a terrorism specialist at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Massachusetts, said of the Salafists. "Now, they have to be taken into account by any political movement. They have become a significant political force. Not by number, but in terms of the political impact they could have."
        The curious experiment could have implications for the rest of the region. "One of the main reasons Salafists join the jihadist...and terrorist groups is because of alienation and marginalization," said Mustafa Allouch, a Future Movement lawmaker from Tripoli. But some wonder whether the Salafists are gaming the system to expand their reach and achieve their extreme goals, which include the radicalization of Sunni Muslims throughout the Middle East. (Los Angeles Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel to Free 250 Palestinian Prisoners in Goodwill Gesture - Roni Sofer
    Israel will release 250 Fatah prisoners in honor of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha in December, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced Monday during a meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Jerusalem. Sources at the Prime Minister's Office said that Israel releases Palestinian prisoners every year ahead of the Muslim holiday. (Ynet News)
  • British Foreign Minister in Sderot: Israel Must Protect Its Own - Roni Sofer
    Defense Minister Ehud Barak toured Sderot Monday with British Foreign Minister David Miliband, who said, "Israel should, above all, seek to protect its own citizens." "I'm here today because Sderot has become the front line of Israel's security....Israeli people need to know that the British people know of Sderot, and we know of the tragedy they are facing, and we stand with them."  (Ynet News)
  • Ashdod Linked Up to Rocket-Warning System, Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
    The IDF Home Front Command connected the city of Ashdod to the Color Red rocket warning system in recent days, following an estimate that Hamas now possesses long-range rockets capable of reaching the coastal city. Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai visited the city Monday to supervise preparations, noting that "the cease-fire is crumbling." Palestinians fired at least 13 Kassam rockets and three mortars at Israel from Gaza on Monday. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Will Mideast Reformers Have a Friend in Obama? - Jackson Diehl
    Kenya declared a national holiday when Barack Obama won the U.S. presidential election. In Egypt the celebration was somewhat different: Government-controlled goons burned down the headquarters of the liberal democratic party that tried to embrace President Bush's "freedom agenda." Ayman Nour, the leader of that party, challenged Hosni Mubarak in Egypt's first contested presidential election in 2005, in large part because of Bush, who called on Egypt to "show the way" in the democratization of the Middle East. Mubarak won the election handily, then used a handpicked judge to sentence Nour to prison on trumped-up charges. The would-be democratic reformer has been behind bars ever since.
        The episode is significant because it demonstrates a principal conclusion that Mubarak and other "pro-Western" autocrats seem to have drawn from Obama's election: that the threat of U.S. pressure for political liberalization has passed. Mubarak is convinced that the next president won't pester him about human rights, reports the Egyptian press. (Washington Post)
  • Why Is Israel Missing from the G20? - Adam Hanft
    Am I the only person wondering why Israel isn't included in the G20? According to their own description, the G20 is composed of "systemically important industrialized and developing economies" that come together to "discuss key issues in the global economy." Israel is clearly an economic powerhouse, both in the region and globally. They have the second-highest number of startups in the world after the U.S. and the largest number of NASDAQ-listed companies outside of North America. The G20 might actually learn more about healthy economics from a country that turned nothing into something. (Huffington Post)
  • Swiss Attack Israeli Policy While Refusing to Sanction Iran - Neil Clark
    In an attack which shocked Tel Aviv by the harshness of its tone, Switzerland has accused Israel of wantonly destroying Palestinian homes. In addition, the Swiss called east Jerusalem an "integral part of the occupied Palestinian territory." The Swiss attack is only the latest incident in a rising "cold war." Earlier this year, Israel summoned Swiss Ambassador Walter Haffner to its Foreign Ministry offices in Jerusalem to protest against Switzerland's signing of a multi-billion dollar energy deal with Iran.
        So incensed were Zionists when Swiss Foreign Minister Michelle Calmy-Rey wore a headscarf and was pictured smiling and joking with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran, that the Anti-Defamation League placed a series of advertisements in various national newspapers - including Swiss ones - which claimed that Switzerland's energy deal with Iran made Switzerland the "world's newest sponsor of terrorism." Calmy-Rey reacted angrily to Israel's criticism, saying that Switzerland was "an independent country that has its own strategic interests to defend." It wasn't always like this. The very first Zionist congress was held in Basle in 1897. (FirstPost-UK)
  • Observations:

    Do Not Compare Israel's Security Fence to Nazi Ghettoes - Deborah Lipstadt (Emory Wheel)

    • In the Emory Wheel of Nov. 14 there was a disturbing cartoon directly comparing the Nazi ghettoes with the separation fence the Israelis have erected on the West Bank. This equation is historically spurious and highly prejudicial. The Germans put Jews from throughout Europe in ghettoes to either die a slow death of starvation, deprivation and disease or a faster death with a bullet or poison gas.
    • Irrespective of what one thinks of the fence/wall (most of it is a fence), it was not built for this purpose. It was built as a defensive mechanism. Even if one opposes it, one cannot ignore the fact that it has tremendously reduced homicidal bombings (sometimes mistakenly called "suicide bombings") of Israeli targets. There was no fence/wall before there were these bombings of busses, schools and other civilian targets. It was built in response to them.
    • The Palestinian Authority has received countless billions of dollars to help its people. During the corrupt regime of the late Yasser Arafat most of these funds disappeared. (Look under Swiss Banks to find some of them, or in Paris, where his widow lives a life of supreme splendor.) The funds obviously were not used to aid the Palestinian people, many of whom are suffering terribly.
    • When Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, it left behind fertile farms, hothouses filled with advanced hydroponic systems for growing vegetables, and other installations which could have been used to better the Palestinians' lot. Most were destroyed by the Palestinian people.
    • Whatever one thinks of Israeli policy, to describe it as akin to the Nazi policy of murdering all of European Jewry is to engage in anti-Semitism and a form of Holocaust denial.

      The writer is the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies in the Institute for Jewish Studies at Emory University.

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