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March 9, 2009
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In-Depth Issues:

Diaspora Jews Learn in Israel How to Protect Community Institutions - Eli Bardenstein (Maariv-Hebrew)
    Representatives of Jewish communities throughout the world are coming to Israel for courses in security to learn how to protect synagogues and schools, in the wake of a rise in anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews in many places.
    Another course in public institution security concluded two weeks ago, attended by tens of representatives of Jewish communities.
    A European Jewish official explained that the course did not involve self-defense or weapons training, but rather the internal security of institutions, checking identification papers, and learning about types of threats.
    The principal problem is not with embassies or organizations such as the Jewish Agency and the JDC, which have advanced security systems, but with the smaller organizations.

British Muslim Leader Urged Attack on Foreign Navies Seeking to Halt Gaza Arms Smuggling - Jamie Doward (Observer-UK)
    Dr. Daud Abdullah, deputy director-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, is facing calls for his resignation after it emerged that he signed a public declaration in support of Hamas and military action.
    He is accused of advocating attacks on the Royal Navy if it tries to stop arms for Hamas being smuggled into Gaza.
    Abdullah also led the MCB's boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day.

Buenos Aires Bombing Investigator Kidnapped, Tortured (Jerusalem Post)
    Argentinean Jewish community leaders were demanding an immediate probe Sunday into the kidnapping and torture of a senior investigator in the 1994 Iranian-Hizbullah bombing of the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires.
    Claudio Lifschitz said masked attackers nabbed him at his home on Friday, threw him into the trunk of a van and violently interrogated him for several hours.
    "They put a plastic bag over my head and with a blowtorch, they burnt the letters AMIA on my arm and my back," Lifschitz said.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel: Iran Using Nuclear Talks to Buy Time for Bomb
    Iran is trying to use the talks with Western powers on its nuclear ambitions to buy time to produce an atomic bomb, Israel's military intelligence chief said on Sunday. "Iran has crossed the technological threshold. Reaching a military-grade nuclear capability is a question of synchronizing its strategy with the production of a nuclear bomb," Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin told cabinet ministers. "Iran continues to stockpile hundreds of kilograms of low-level enriched uranium and hopes to use the dialogue with the West to buy the time it requires in order to move towards an ability to manufacture a nuclear bomb," a senior official quoted Yadlin as saying. (AFP)
        See also Military Intelligence: Iran Capable of Creating Nuclear Bomb - Roni Sofer
    According to figures released by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran has enriched 1,010 kilograms of low quality uranium. The amount of low quality enriched uranium needed for the creation of one nuclear bomb is 1,500 kilograms. (Ynet News)
  • Senior U.S. Envoys Hold Talks in Syria - Raed Rafei and Borzou Daragahi
    The Obama administration dispatched two senior U.S. diplomats to meet top officials in Damascus on Saturday. Jeffrey Feltman, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, called discussions with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem "very constructive." (Los Angeles Times)
  • Iran, Hamas, Hizbullah and Syria Back Sudan's President Over Darfur
    Officials from Iran, Hamas and Hizbullah joined Syria's parliament speaker and the leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad for talks in Khartoum on Friday to express support for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. The visit comes days after the International Criminal Court at The Hague issued a warrant for al-Bashir's arrest on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan's Darfur region. Ali Larijani, Iran's parliament speaker, said the ICC arrest warrant is an "insult directed at Muslims." Meanwhile, the Khartoum government shut down 13 foreign and local aid agencies after accusing them of passing information to war crimes prosecutors. (Al-Jazeera-Qatar)
  • Protestors Riot at Sweden-Israel Tennis Match
    More than 100 demonstrators clashed Saturday with Swedish police outside a sports arena in Malmo at a Davis Cup tennis match between Sweden and Israel. Youths clad in black, their faces covered with masks, threw bottles of paint, stones and firecrackers at police. (AFP)
        See also Israel Beats Sweden 3-2 in Davis Cup and Advances to Quarterfinals (AP/Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Closes Embassy in Mauritania - Isabel Kershner
    Israel closed its embassy in Mauritania on Friday at Mauritania's request, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman said. The military junta that took over Mauritania last summer is said to have been growing closer to Iran and Libya, countries hostile to Israel, after being refused assistance by the West. (New York Times)
  • Morocco Severs Relations with Iran - Alfred de Montesquiou
    Morocco cut off diplomatic relations with Iran on Friday, accusing Tehran of trying to spread Shia Islam in this Sunni Arab kingdom. Morocco's Foreign Ministry accused Iran's Embassy in Rabat of trying to "alter the religious fundamentals of the kingdom" and threaten Morocco's religious unity. The Moroccan press has repeatedly accused the Iranian Embassy of proselytism in recent years. (AP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • U.S. Warns It Won't Recognize PA Unity Government without PM Fayyad - Akiva Eldar and Avi Issacharoff
    The U.S. will only recognize a future Palestinian unity government if Salem Fayyad is reappointed prime minister, according to a message relayed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to European and Arab leaders at last week's donor meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh. Fayyad announced his resignation over the weekend, but Palestinian sources believe that the American threat, which is likely to be backed by the EU and Egypt, will lead to Hamas changing its opposition to Fayyad, enabling him to rescind his resignation. Support for the U.S.-educated Fayyad, a former senior staffer at the World Bank, translated into massive amounts of foreign aid for the Palestinians. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Hamas: PA Unity Government Would Not Recognize Israel
    Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar told the UAE-based Al-Khalij newspaper that any PA national unity government would not recognize the Zionist entity. He added that Hamas would not recognize the agreements signed between the PLO and the Zionist entity. (Hamas-Gaza)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues - Ilana Curiel
    Palestinians in Gaza fired four Kassam rockets that exploded in southern Israel on Sunday morning. (Ynet News)
  • Jerusalem Police Officers Describe Tractor Attack - Efrat Weiss
    Two Israel Police officers who survived a tractor attack by a Palestinian in Jerusalem on Thursday described the event. "We were sent to deal with a routine traffic incident," said Staff-Sergeant Major Camal Zahaika. When we were finished, "we got into the car and then I felt a strong thump. I saw a tractor and understood immediately that this was a terror attack...we were flipped over to the left and the tractor kept pushing us."
        Sergeant Hila Shmuel, a mere week on the force, said that at first she thought a car had accidentally crashed into the police cruiser. "Then I heard the tractor's noise....You feel it dragging you and you think that somehow you're in this crazy action film. I was sure we were going to be slammed into the bus and that it was all going to end very badly. My life just flashed before my eyes. I didn't think anyone could save us. We're both grateful to the other police officers and the taxi driver who were there." (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Modest Hopes for Direct Diplomacy with Iran and Syria - Editorial
    During her first tour of the Middle East as secretary of state, Ms. Clinton got an earful from Arab rulers alarmed both by Iran's continued belligerence across the region and by the notion that a deal between Washington and Tehran might be in the works. "There's a great deal of concern about Iran in the entire region," she said after three days of talks; a senior State Department official said that Ms. Clinton had expressed doubt in one of her private meetings that Iran would respond to a U.S. offer of engagement.
        There are also big and probably insurmountable obstacles to any breakthrough with Syria. Mr. Assad heads a murderous regime; a UN tribunal was established last week to consider political murders in Lebanon that most likely were authored in Damascus. Mr. Assad continues to seek hegemony over Lebanon, something the U.S. should not countenance. (Washington Post)
        See also U.S. Seeks to Woo Syria, But Price Could Be Steep - Jay Solomon and Dada Raad (Wall Street Journal)
  • Talk with Iran? Then Move Fast - David Ignatius
    There's wide support, in principle, for a process of "engagement" between the U.S. and its adversaries in the Middle East. Does Iran really imagine that it can engage the U.S. when its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said last week that Barack Obama was following the "crooked ways" of his predecessor and that Israel was a "cancerous tumor"? That's a recipe for stopping dialogue rather than starting it.
        The first challenge in Iran is what might be called the "two clocks" problem. Administration officials want a slow clock, in the sense that they favor a careful process of sustained, direct dialogue. But they also realize that a fast clock is ticking on the Iranian nuclear program and that by next year the Iranians could have enough fuel to make a bomb. Efraim Halevy, a former chief of Mossad, the Israeli spy service, highlighted this problem in a recent e-mail to me. "The strategy of engagement will succeed only if the Iranians realize they do not have all the time in the world to negotiate." He argued that the U.S. should "limit the dialogue to a very few months." (Washington Post)
  • Observations:

    Islam Should Prove It's a Religion of Peace - Tawfik Hamid (Wall Street Journal)

    • Many Muslims seem to believe that it is acceptable to teach hatred and violence in the name of their religion - while at the same time expecting the world to respect Islam as a religion of peace, love and harmony.
    • Scholars in the most prestigious Islamic institutes and universities continue to teach things like Jews are "pigs and monkeys," that women and men must be stoned to death for adultery, or that Muslims must fight the world to spread their religion.
    • The stoning of women exists in both the Old Testament and in Islamic tradition. The difference, though, is that leading Jewish scholars agreed to discontinue these practices centuries ago, while Muslim scholars have yet to do so. Hence we do not see the stoning of women practiced or promoted in Israel, the "Jewish" state, but we see it practiced and promoted in Iran and Saudi Arabia, the "Islamic" states.
    • So, Islamic scholars and clerics, it is up to you to produce a Sharia book that will be accepted in the Islamic world and that teaches that Jews are not pigs and monkeys, that declaring war to spread Islam is unacceptable, and that killing apostates is a crime. Such a book would prove that Islam is a religion of peace.

      The writer, a former member of an Egyptian Islamist terrorist group, is an Islamic reformer and senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.

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