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May 13, 2011

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Two Charged in Plot to Attack New York Synagogues with Grenades, Guns - Rocco Parascandola, Alison Gendar and Bill Hutchinson (New York Daily News)
    Two anti-Semitic "lone wolves" planned to dress up as Hasidic Jews and slaughter worshipers at city synagogues - after selling guns and drugs to finance the plot, New York City police said Thursday.
    The ringleader, Algerian-born Ahmed Ferhani, 27, also fantasized about blowing up the Empire State Building and a Queens church. Ferhani enlisted a Moroccan pal, Mohamed Mamdouh, 20.
    Ferhani and Mamdouh were nailed in a sting operation after being caught on wiretaps discussing the plot. They made arrangements with an undercover NYPD cop - a foreign-born officer - to purchase weapons.

Egypt Muslim Brotherhood Member to Seek Presidency - Marwa Awad and Abdelrahman Youssef (Reuters)
    Abdel Moneim Abul Futuh, a leading reformist member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's shura council, said he would run for president as an independent, although the Islamist group has said it will not field a candidate.
    A poll published on April 22 in Al Ahram showed Abul Futuh and outgoing Arab League chief Amr Moussa with the highest voter support at 20%, while Mohamed ElBaradei, a retired UN diplomat, had 12%.
    "The Brotherhood will get around 25% of seats in the new parliament and there'll be no more protest votes going its way now that the wheel of democracy is rolling," said Abul Futuh.

Egypt's Revolution - Amir Taheri (New York Post)
    Egyptians are developing a taste for elections as a means of choosing leaders and policies. Over the last three months, scores of elections have renewed the leadership of trade unions, student associations and bodies representing key professions. In almost every instance, pro-democracy coalitions won.
    The Muslim Brotherhood and its more radical Islamist allies seldom won more than a quarter of the vote. Even in their traditional stronghold of Alexandria, the "Brothers" suffered defeats in voting for trade unions and student associations.
    Attempts at injecting anti-American and anti-Israeli slogans into the public debate have failed. A pro-Hamas group's calls for a protest in front of the Israeli embassy in Cairo last week drew just 30 individuals.

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Israel Shows Off Missile Defense Against Palestinian Rockets - Joel Greenberg (Washington Post)
    To demonstrate Israel's new missile defense capabilities, the military took foreign journalists Thursday to the Palmachim air force base, south of Tel Aviv, for a rare look at its latest air defense weapons.
    A highlight was the Iron Dome system, designed to defend against short-range rockets that can travel up to 45 miles, which in its first operational deployment in April downed eight of nine rockets fired at Ashkelon and Beersheba by Palestinian militants in Gaza.
    Israel's multi-layered missile defense system also includes the Arrow for long-range ballistic threats and David's Sling, still under development, designed to intercept medium-range rockets.

The Copts: Egypt's Scapegoats - Benny Avni (New York Post)
    This is an old Arab tradition: Unite the people by distracting them from issues like jobs, the rule of law, education and prosperity while igniting passions that are irrelevant to their daily lives. The new attacks on Copts fit that tactic perfectly.
    This isn't only about Copts. Egypt won't be fully free of its pharaohs until it rids itself of a culture that seeks scapegoats in lieu of policy that benefits its people.
    Only when a minority ceases to be the target of riots, and only when its talented members are reintegrated into Egypt's leadership, will we know that a true Arab Spring is around the corner.

Intel Israel to Produce New Ivy Bridge Computer Processor - Shmulik Shelah (Globes)
    Intel Israel Ltd. will produce Intel Corporation's new Ivy Bridge processor, one of two such fabrication sites in the world.
    CEO Paul Otellini said, "We will begin production of the 22-nanometer technology processor at the end of the year."
    This revolutionary technology increases the number of processors on silicon chips and marks a fundamental change in chip design, enabling processors to operate in three dimensions.

Poster Series: This Is Zionism (Elder of Ziyon)
    Poster captions include: Jewish Heart for Africa brings Israeli technologies for solar energy, water filtering and drip irrigation to poor African villages.
    The Galilee Circus is made up of Israeli Arab and Jewish children from the north of Israel.
    Israeli medical specialists routinely save lives of children from Europe, Africa and the Arab world.
    The Bahais have been persecuted in many Middle Eastern and Arab countries, including Iran, Egypt and Afghanistan. Their world headquarters is in Israel.
    Israeli technology instantly turns contaminated water into drinking water in Tanzania and elsewhere.
    Israel's quick building of field hospitals after natural disasters helps thousands of people and saves countless lives.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Reversals Challenge Hope of Arab Spring - Liz Sly
    When popular rebellions began erupting around the Middle East earlier this year, the outpouring of democratic fervor was quickly dubbed the Arab Spring, a phrase that captured the heady optimism of what appeared to be a new era of freedom and hope. But as spring turns to summer, events across the region are taking an altogether darker and more sinister turn, one in which the prospect of a brighter future no longer seems so readily assured.
        The kingdom of Bahrain has decisively crushed its popular uprising with the help of Saudi troops. Now, human rights groups say, authorities there are engaged in a systematic persecution of the mostly Shiite majority that dominated the demonstrations earlier this year.
        In Syria, the government headed by President Bashar al-Assad is pursuing a remorseless effort to quell a pro-democracy movement, using tanks and artillery to pound neighborhoods that had participated in demonstrations, and detaining by the thousands whole communities of young men. In Egypt, deadly sectarian clashes between Christians and Muslims in Cairo have come as a sobering reminder that negative as well as positive forces may be unleashed by the removal of dictatorial governments. (Washington Post)
  • Clinton Toughens Tone toward Syria - Steven Lee Myers
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton moved the U.S. a step closer to calling for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria on Thursday as she denounced his government's intensifying crackdown on protesters. "Tanks and bullets and clubs will not solve Syria's political and economic challenges," she said. Clinton said the U.S. would pursue "additional steps to hold Syria responsible for its gross human rights abuses." "There may be some who think this is a sign of strength, but treating one's own people in this way is in fact a sign of remarkable weakness."  (New York Times)
  • UN Report: Syria Helps Iran Break Arms Embargo
    Russia is attempting to suppress a UN report that says Iran has been breaking a UN arms embargo by shipping weapons to Syria, which were to be passed on to Lebanese and Palestinian militants, Western diplomats said Thursday. (Reuters-MSNBC)
  • Pressure Mounts on Gaddafi within Tripoli - Diaa Hadid and Maggie Michael
    Pressure is mounting on Col. Gaddafi from within his stronghold in the Libyan capital, with increasing NATO airstrikes and worsening shortages of fuel and goods. Residents said Thursday there also has been a wave of anti-government protests in several Tripoli neighborhoods this week. (AP-Washington Times)
  • Demjanjuk Convicted of Helping Nazis to Murder Jews During the Holocaust - Karin Matussek
    John Demjanjuk, 91, a native of Ukraine, was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison by a Munich court for aiding the Nazis in the murder of at least 28,000 Jews at the Sobibor death camp during World War II. The former U.S. citizen was deported to Germany in 2009 and accused of being a guard who helped herd Jews to the gas chambers in 1943. The Nazis killed 6 million Jews in death camps throughout Europe during the war. Germany lifted its statute of limitation for murder in 1979, to allow prosecution of Nazi criminals to continue.
        Avner Shalev, chairman of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Authority, said, "While no trial can bring back those that were murdered, holding those responsible to justice has an important moral and educational role."  (Bloomberg)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Fatah Revolutionary Council Urges Palestinians to Escalate "Popular Resistance" - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addressed members of the Fatah Revolutionary Council at a meeting in Ramallah on Thursday. The Revolutionary Council issued a statement at the end of the meeting backing Abbas' plan to seek UN recognition of a state and to sign a reconciliation accord with Hamas. The council urged Palestinians to escalate "popular resistance" against Israel, especially in Jerusalem. The Fatah council also urged Palestinians to take part in events marking Nakba Day on Sunday by participating in marches and rallies. The statement warned against abandoning the "sacred right of return" for Palestinian refugees to their original homes inside Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Thousands of SMS Messages Call for Third Intifada - Saleh Naami
    In preparation for a third intifada, which it is hoped will be ignited on Friday, 13 May, tens of thousands of SMS messages flooded the mobile phones of Palestinians in the West Bank, urging them to take part. The messages, which also urged participation on Sunday, were signed "Muslim Youth Association."  (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
  • Gaza Weapons Smuggled from Egypt Pose Growing Threat to Israel - Hanan Greenberg
    Hundreds of rockets capable of hitting targets 25 miles away have been smuggled into Gaza since last year, according to an Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) report. In addition, 1,000 mortar shells, dozens of anti-tank missiles, and tons of explosives have reached Gaza militants in the past year. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Arab World

  • Breaking Thoughts of Engagement with Syria - Josh Rogin
    Now that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has proven that he has no problem killing peaceful protesters in the streets, some of the most prominent advocates of engaging with his government are rethinking their views including Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), who has served as Congress' point man on engaging the regime. In an interview, Kerry said Assad "obviously is not a reformer now." "We can't [continue to engage] right now," he said. "There are a lot of human rights abuses and we have to respond appropriately."  (Washington Post)
  • No Reform Option in Syria - Michael Young
    There simply is no reform option in Syria, and there never was. Genuine reform means dislodging the bricks holding up the authority of Bashar Assad and his powerful cousin, Rami Makhlouf. Bashar Assad's open-ended presidency, the crony capitalism practiced by his cousin and other members of Syria's elite, the abuse practiced by the all-powerful security services, even Alawite predominance, would never survive a system shaped by free elections, the rule of law, and the existence of independent media. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
        See also In Syria, Destroying the Country to Save the Regime? - Larisa Epatko interviews Andrew J. Tabler (PBS)
  • Is Syria Too Big to Fail? - Aaron David Miller
    Libya had few significant air defense systems and no friends. Syria presents a profoundly different situation. Syria is a country with a sophisticated air defense system, chemical and biological weapons, and a great many friends - including Iran and Hizbullah, which are capable of striking back. Marshaling support at the UN, mobilizing NATO, and getting buy-in from the Arab League in the way that made the Libya intervention possible are not in the cards. Some of America's closest friends, including Israel and Saudi Arabia, are also not at all sure that Syria without Assad would be better than with him.
        I could never quite understand my colleagues' fascination with the brutal Syrian regime. To me, Bashar al-Assad was a brutal dictator who wanted to be the Frank Sinatra of the Middle East - obsessed with doing things his own way to the point that he priced himself out of peace with Israel and a relationship with the U.S.
        Obama knows his options on Syria aren't great. He's being told that American leverage isn't great and that if he calls for Assad's head and the Syrian despot survives, he'll have lost access to a key player in the region. And after all, what could he do that would deter a regime in a fight for its life? Simply put, the Obama administration is worried about creating a worse situation if Assad falls. (Foreign Policy)
  • Crime Wave in Egypt - David D. Kirkpatrick
    Three months after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, a crime wave in Egypt has emerged as a threat to its promised transition to democracy. The spike in crime is a remarkable contrast to life in the Mubarak police state, when violent street crime was a relative rarity and few feared to walk alone at night. (New York Times)
        See also Tourism in Egypt Drops in Wake of Uprising - Matt Ford
    Malaka Hilton, CEO of Admiral Travel International of Sarasota, Fla., said 90% of her company's trips to Egypt have been canceled since the revolution that ousted President Mubarak in February. Tourism accounts for 14% of jobs in Egypt, and the drop in visitor numbers has worsened the economic troubles that helped fuel the revolution. (AP-Washington Times)
        See also Egypt May Be Broke by September - Spengler (Asia Times-Hong Kong)

  • Bin Laden

  • Double Standard When Fiends Slain - Brian Smith
    On March 22, 2004, a rocket fired from an Israeli helicopter gunship terminated the life of the terrorist leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, a founder of Hamas. World reaction was swift and almost unanimous in its condemnation of Israel. In contrast, the same countries have reacted quite differently to the assassination of Osama bin Laden by the U.S.
        Ahmed Yassin was responsible for some 425 brutal attacks on Israeli civilians carried out by Hamas. At least 377 Israelis were murdered and 2,076 wounded in the 3 1/2 years preceding his death. A rough calculation shows that approximately one in 18,500 Israelis was murdered by Hamas, while the number of those murdered in the 9/11 attacks was one in 102,000 Americans. It is time for the world community to abandon its double standard and accord to Israel the same right of self-defense that is claimed by every other people on the face of the globe. (Montreal Gazette-Canada)
  • The Cultural Gap between the West and the Muslim World - Zvi Mazel
    While the West regards the elimination of bin Laden an important step in the fight against terrorism, in Arab and Muslim countries there were mixed reactions. In Lebanon, President Michel Suleiman (a Christian) and Druze politician Walid Jumblatt praised the U.S., along with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. However, the reactions of many other countries such as Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates were much less apparent.  Egypt, which only three months ago led the fight against terrorism in the Arab world, decided not to comment officially.
        Islamists like Hamas, the armed wing of Fatah, and many Salafist organizations condemned the U.S. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh described bin Laden as a "holy Muslim warrior." Only if major educational reforms are executed in the Muslim world can we expect different reactions; otherwise, the cultural gap between the West and the Islamic world will remain wide. The writer served as Israel's Ambassador to Egypt and Sweden. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs-Hebrew)

  • Other Issues

  • Hamas and Fatah: A Temporary Marriage of Convenience - Mordechai Kedar
    Both parties to the Hamas-Fatah "unity" agreement are acting on the basis of expediency. Despite the agreement, PLO-Hamas relations will continue to be ridden with suspicions from both sides. The world has ceased to count the number of accords that the PLO and Hamas have signed. Hamas' security apparatus will never give in to the PLO agenda. The armed wing of the PLO, as well, will not consider, even for a moment, abiding by demands dictated by anyone from Hamas. Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a 25-year veteran of Israeli military intelligence, is a senior research associate at the BESA Center. (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • The Logos of Terrorism - Yechiel Leiter
    How is the rational mind to understand the targeting of children for murder as instanced in the slaughter of the Fogel family and the firing of an anti-tank missile at a yellow Israeli school bus by Palestinian terrorists? Daniel Goldhagen, author of the critically acclaimed book, Hitler's Willing Executioners, began his research with a similar question. To implement the final solution, Goldhagen calculated, the Nazis needed many millions of ordinary Germans to participate, as it was a massive undertaking. These ordinary people were willing participants in mass murder because they had been conditioned, for years, to believe, that Jews were not humans.
        No less than 33% of the Palestinians questioned in a joint Hebrew University-Palestinian think tank poll openly support the murder of the Fogel family because, in mosques throughout the cities and villages of Palestinian residence, Jews are commonly referred to as sons and daughters of pigs and apes, and because sport stadiums in Gaza and Ramallah are named after suicide/homicide bombers. (Ynet News)
  • Jerusalem and the Politics of Unreality - Editorial
    Nine years ago, Menachem Zivotofsky (a U.S. citizen) was born in Jerusalem, Israel. But when his parents wanted his U.S. passport to accurately reflect where he had been born, they were told that because of controversy surrounding the eventual status of Jerusalem (due to the Arab-Israeli conflict), "Israel" would not be listed on their son's passport as the country of his birth. This occurred shortly after Congress enacted a law that said Americans born in Jerusalem are entitled to have Israel listed on their official papers as their birth country.
        While the case presents many legal complexities, there is one simple fact that cannot be disputed: Menachem Zivotofsky was born in Israel. As the boy's father recently stated in an interview: Even though "Jerusalem is subject to dispute as to its future status, its current status seems pretty clear. When the U.S. government mails its consular officials mail, they mail it to Jerusalem, Israel." Zivotofsky is right. We hope that the U.S. Supreme Court agrees. (Washington Jewish Week)
  • The State of Progressive Palestinians - Mishy Harman
    In April I attended the TEDx (Technology Entertainment and Design) Ramallah conference, which took place simultaneously in Bethlehem, Amman and Beirut. I came to TEDx expecting to meet liberal counterparts: forward-looking individuals with ideas "worth spreading." But after hearing the Palestinian speakers - many educated in leading institutions abroad, all eloquent, smart and ostensibly progressive - I felt they represented something far from what I was willing to endorse.
        Whether it was the elderly gentleman who lamented how borders are an unnatural addition to the pristine hills of his childhood, or the Palestinian-American businessman from Youngstown, Ohio, who argued that the only just solution to the conflict is a full right of return for the Palestinian refugees of 1948, many seemed to be saying the same thing: No longer is a two-state solution desirable, and one state from the Jordan to the Mediterranean is the only acceptable outcome. There was no attempt to sugarcoat the implications - they were talking about the end of the Zionist enterprise, advocating for an end to Jewish self-determination. (New Republic)

  • Weekend Features

  • Do Jews Still Support Israel? - Ted Lapkin
    Assertions of a weakening in Jewish affection for Israel are grossly overstated. In fact, they're patently false. The American Jewish Committee's (AJC) "2010 Annual Survey of Jewish Opinion" found that 74% of American Jews felt "fairly close" or "very close" to Israel. A whopping 94% thought that any formal peace treaty with the Palestinians must include formal recognition of Israel's Jewish character.
        A 2010 Brandeis University survey entitled "Still Connected: American Jewish Attitudes Towards Israel" found that 75% felt affection for Israel is an important part of their Jewish identity. Even more surprising was the finding that younger American Jews were more hawkish in their support for Israel than their older ethnic kin. Fully 58% of the 18-to-29 age bracket opposed Israeli territorial concessions in Jerusalem, compared to only 43% of 45-to-59-year-olds. (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
  • Tapping Israel's Natural Gas - David Wurmser and Jonathan M. Baron
    Israel's discovery of approximately 25 trillion cubic feet of offshore natural gas since 2009 presents the Jewish state with an unprecedented opportunity. Accelerating instability elsewhere in the Middle East has not escaped the attention of major financial institutions, some of which have now concluded that Israel's energy-production sector merits closer examination and, possibly, greater consideration for investment.
        Israel confronts a troubling reality: A significant proportion of its natural-gas consumption today depends on unreliable imports from Egypt. Its remaining gas demands are satisfied by one domestic resource - the Mari-B field, offshore of the city of Ashkelon, which holds only enough gas to supply Israel through 2013. With Israel generating nearly 50% of its electrical power from natural gas, the importance of developing additional domestic sources cannot be overstated.
        Israel's proven offshore reserves in the Tamar and Leviathan fields far exceed the volumes of natural gas needed to satisfy its domestic market for the foreseeable future; Israelis consume less than 200 billion cubic feet of natural gas annually. Nonetheless, the policy obstacles to bringing this energy to market could prove considerable. More than most, Israel needs to create and project an atmosphere conducive to high-risk offshore exploration and production to win the confidence of potential operators and investors. (Wall Street Journal-Europe)
  • Amsterdam "Jewish Houses" Project Hits Home - Toby Sterling
    A project called "Jewish Houses," part of this month's commemorations of World War II victims, asked Amsterdam residents to put up posters marking the 21,662 houses where Jews are known to have lived before the community was systematically sent to be killed in Nazi concentration camps. The May 4-5 Committee, named for the dates the Netherlands mourns the war dead and celebrates its liberation from German occupation in 1945, worked with Jewish organizations, city archives, and an art think-tank to create an Internet database that is searchable by name or address.
        I typed my street name in, and it came up instantly. Hemonystraat 46, third floor: Elsje Wagenhuijzen, died at Auschwitz Oct. 1, 1942, and Arnold Kater, died at Auschwitz on Dec. 7, 1942. It sent a chill through me. (USA Today)

Why Should Israel Make Peace with Failed States? - Martin Peretz (New Republic)

  • In Syria, 10% of the population governs. The majoritarian rest, the Sunnis and their Muslim Brotherhood vanguard, have been cowering since 1982. Pity the Alawites when the Sunnis will strike for revenge. On the other hand, how much can you pity the Alawites who have been plundering and imprisoning and also murdering for four decades?
  • What had Obama in his head when he tried to jumpstart Israeli negotiations with Syria? Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, what else? Israel's retreat from territories it had captured while they were being used by enemies trying to vitiate Israel itself. This is the president's steady trope. Israel should withdraw from the West Bank and ancient Jerusalem and east Jerusalem and, yes, the Golan Heights, too, without a shred of evidence that it would be protected, could be protected from attack by armed soldiers, armed aircraft and armed terrorists, by a deadly admixture of regular troops with guerrillas somehow coddled by human rights organizations which define the latter virtually as civilians.
  • Do you believe that the Arabs truly want peace? Well, I don't. Why am I not a believer? Because the only unifying strand in the disparate state systems of the Arabs is their struggle against the Jews, the Zionists, the Israelis. Nothing else motivates them so doggedly.
  • We are now being sermonized, mostly by journalistic oracles, to believe that these last months are a Prague Spring for Muslims. They have an agenda and it is to convince Israel not to be a killjoy but to join the party and ease the path to peace. I happen to believe that Arabs need to learn to live with each other before Israel opens itself to its neighbors' villainy now being practiced on their own.
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