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July 25, 2011

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In-Depth Issues:

The Norway Carnage - Manfred Gerstenfeld (Ynet News)
    President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other cabinet members have expressed Israel's condolences to Norway after the barbaric massacre.
    The Israeli Embassy in Oslo lowered its flag to half mast to express its horror at the tragedy.

Israeli Military Intercepts Boat on Dead Sea with Weapons, Two Palestinians (AP-Washington Post)
    Israeli security forces on Monday intercepted a boat on the Dead Sea carrying two Palestinians along with assault rifles, ammunition, and other weapons.
    The military said the incident was seen as a weapons-smuggling operation and not as an attempted attack.

Alawi Activists Attack the Assad Regime (MEMRI)
    Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported Friday that a group of Syrian Alawi activists published a communique on Facebook following the violent suppression of protests in Homs. The activists accused the regime of attempting to spark sectarian war, and leveling accusations at demonstrators in order to justify their violent suppression of the protests.
    It states that the Alawi minority has suffered at the hands of the Assad regime over the years, and the authors called to unite in the face of the regime's attempts to divide the Syrian people.

Iran Denies Nuclear Scientist Slain (VOA News)
    Iran said the victim of a deadly shooting Saturday was a university student - not a nuclear physicist as first reported by the state media.
    Initial reports said a pair of gunmen firing from motorcycles killed nuclear scientist Darioush Rezaei.

Italy and Netherlands Join Durban Boycott - Anne Bayefsky (Jerusalem Post)
    Italy and the Netherlands on Saturday joined the growing coalition of states that plan to boycott Durban III, the controversial UN conference on racism set to take place in September.
    "The Durban Process has been transformed from a forum for debate on and coordination of international action against racism, discrimination and xenophobia, into a tribunal for accusations against Israel," said Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.
    Israel, the U.S., Canada and the Czech Republic have already announced they will not attend.

Iran Poster Depicts U.S. Leaders as "Slaves of Zionism"  (Mehr-Alef-Iran)

Gaza Student Killed by Celebratory Gunfire (Ma'an News-PA)
    Fatima al-Masdar was accidentally shot dead Sunday by her brother while celebrating her success in passing the high school exit exams, police said.
    In the Middle East, it is customary for men to fire gunshots into the air to celebrate weddings and other significant events.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Protests' Size Shows Gain in Momentum Across Syria - Nada Bakri
    Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets on Friday across Syria, with enormous protests in two of the country's five largest cities suggesting a growing momentum that the government of President Bashar al-Assad seemed at a loss to stanch. (New York Times)
        See also Syria Protesters Attack Homs Army College - Adrian Blomfield
    Syrian opposition sympathizers in Homs attacked a military college on Saturday. Later in the day, a passenger train was derailed in central Syria. The train, which was carrying troops and civilians, crashed after a section of track was torn up, killing the driver and injuring a number of passengers. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Was Friday a Turning Point for Syria? - James Miller
    In Syria, July 22 may be remembered as a turning point. There were massive demonstrations in every major region and in every major city in the country. At least 11 people died, in the latest chapter of the Arab Spring. On Friday, a video posted on the Internet shows that military cadets joined the protesters in Aleppo, the second largest city in Syria. How can the Assad regime possibly expect to survive this level of democratic upheaval? (Huffington Post)
  • Egypt Protesters Clash with Knife-Wielding Men - Sarah El Deeb
    Groups of men armed with knives and sticks attacked thousands of protesters trying to march to the headquarters of Egypt's military rulers Saturday, setting off fierce street clashes and leaving dozens injured. An estimated 10,000 people set out from Cairo's Tahrir Square but were stopped from reaching the military headquarters in Abbasiyah by a line of army barricades. (AP-Toronto Star)
        See also Egypt Loses Billions as Tourists Stay Away - Mohannad Sabry
    Egyptian tourism officials say the country had lost more than $2.6 billion by the end of June because of the upheaval surrounding former President Hosni Mubarak's resignation and ongoing protests. The Tourism Ministry says a lack of security and reports of violence topped the reasons that tourists canceled trips to Egypt this year. In January, one million tourists fled the country in just three days.
        Since the revolution, when police disappeared from the streets, there's been no sign of an active police force. Residents of Cairo report an increase in crime, even in usually safe, upscale neighborhoods. (McClatchy-Miami Herald)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Egypt's Military Leader: We Will Respect All Previously Signed Agreements - Jack Khoury
    The head of Egypt's ruling military council Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi said on Saturday that Egypt intends to keep all previously signed agreements and will keep working toward achieving a stable and sustainable peace in the Middle East. Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in 1979.
        Tantawi also stated that Egypt will continue to strengthen its ties with all Arab states, and will once again be a major player in the Arab, Middle Eastern, and African worlds. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinians Ramp Up Weapons Smuggling into Gaza - Amos Harel
    Egyptian security forces' diminished control in Sinai has allowed the Palestinians to exponentially increase their weapons smuggling into Gaza, senior Israeli defense officials say. In the past few months, Hamas has acquired improved high-trajectory rockets, ready-made explosive devices, anti-tank missiles and possibly anti-aircraft missiles, the sources told Ha'aretz. In recent years much of the weapons smuggling into Gaza has been coordinated by Iran, rising steeply after the Israeli withdrawal from the Strip in 2005. After the Libyan army lost control of vast weapons stores in the east of the country, local arms dealers made contact with Gaza smugglers, and new weapons began to flow by a much shorter and easier route.
        Former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter told Ha'aretz: "The Sinai went from being an area through which they smuggle weapons to an area through which they simply transfer weapons....No Egyptian security official dares to confront the Bedouin anymore." Dichter said parts of the steel fence on the Rafah border, which Egypt began to construct last year, were already being dismantled by the Bedouin. He said Iran and Hamas want to concentrate large stores of weapons in Gaza and, when the opportunity arises, to deliver them to the West Bank. (Ha'aretz)
  • France to Buy Israeli-Made Drones - Anshel Pfeffer
    42 years after French President Charles de Gaulle placed an embargo on weapons sales to Israel, the French Defense Ministry decided last week to purchase unmanned aerial vehicles from Israel. The Heron TP, or Eitan, being sold to France is the largest and most sophisticated drone made in Israel, where it is manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries. The Eitan is capable of carrying out reconnaissance and intelligence missions at an altitude of up to 40,000 feet, and can remain airborne 36 hours. It can carry radars, sensors and cameras, and, theoretically, missiles. (Ha'aretz)
  • Rare Gold Bell Discovered in Excavations in Jerusalem
    A rare gold bell with a small loop at its end was discovered during an archaeological excavation in the drainage channel that begins in the Shiloah Pool and continues from the City of David to the Jerusalem Archaeological Garden, near the Western Wall. According archaeologists Eli Shukron and Professor Ronny Reich of Haifa University, "It seems the bell was sewn on the garment worn by a high official in Jerusalem at the end of the Second Temple period (first century CE).
        The high priests who served in the Temple used to hang a gold bell from the fringes of their robe. In the Book of Exodus, there is a description of the high priest Aaron's robe: "Upon the skirts of it thou shalt make pomegranates of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, round about the skirts thereof; and bells of gold between them round about."  (Israel Antiquities Authority)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The Arab Recession: How the Revolution Turned Six Countries into Economic Basket Cases - T.Y. McCormick
    The protests in the Arab world, which were spurred by rising food prices and unemployment, have bequeathed a cruel irony: a worsening of the very same conditions that sparked the Arab Spring. The economies of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, and Tunisia are projected to shrink by a collective 0.5% this year, reversing 4.4% growth in 2010, according to a report published by the Institute of International Finance in May. Jordanian Finance Minister Mohammed Abu Hammour recently estimated that $500 million is "leaving the Arab world" every week as a result of the unrest.
        But not all the economic news is bad. Before the revolution, governments across the region were playing an "impeding role" in the economy, said Ossama Hassanein, senior managing director of Newbury Ventures. Today, he estimated that the number of entrepreneurs in the Middle East has multiplied by a factor of ten. (Foreign Policy)
  • Hizbullah's Triumph and Agony - Bruce Riedel
    Few terrorist groups ever succeed in taking over a country. The Lebanese Shia group Hizbullah has done so this year. Hizbullah, or the Party of God, was created in 1982 by Syrian and Iranian intelligence agents. It rapidly gained support among the downtrodden Shia community which had been at the bottom of Lebanon's archaic political and economic system for decades. Hizbullah suicide bombers blew up the U.S. Marine and French paratrooper headquarters in October 1983, driving America and Europe out of Lebanon. Along the way Hizbullah held dozens of foreigners hostage, murdered a CIA station chief, hijacked airliners, and blew up Israeli targets as far away as Argentina.
        Without Syrian help, Hizbullah would never have become the monster it is today. Yet the next Syrian government is likely to be dominated by the Sunni majority, not the Alawi minority that the Assads come from. A Sunni Syrian regime, especially one heavily influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood, will be a fierce enemy of Shia Hizbullah, particularly after it has been exposed as the assassin of the popular Lebanese Sunni former prime minister Hariri. The writer, a former longtime CIA officer, is a senior fellow in the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution. (Daily Beast)
  • An Alternative Diplomatic Process: A Renewed Regional Framework for Cooperation in the Middle East - Joshua Teitelbaum
    Beginning in 1991 as part of the Madrid framework, five multilateral working groups addressed key regional issues: environment, arms control and regional security, water, refugees, and economic development. Restarting the multilateral talks and adopting a "code of conduct" for the negotiating process would allow the West to influence political evolution in the Arab world in a democratic and positive way. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Will Population Trends Overtake the Jewish State? - David P. Goldman (Tablet)

  • It is claimed that Israel is fighting the clock - that fast-breeding Arabs will overwhelm the population balance between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. However, the facts speak against the notion that time is running out for Israel. Time, on the contrary, seems to be on Israel's side.
  • The Israeli Jewish fertility rate has risen to three children per female while the Arab fertility rate has fallen to the point where the two trend lines have converged and perhaps even crossed.
  • A 2006 study by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies claims that the West Bank and Gaza population in 2004 was only 2.5 million, rather than the 3.8 million claimed by the Palestinian authorities. Presumably the numbers were inflated to increase foreign aid and exaggerate the importance of the Palestinian population.
  • Most of the phantom population, the report argues, comes from births that never occurred: The Palestine Central Bureau of Statistics "projected that the number of births in the Territories would total almost 908,000 for the seven-year period from 1997 to 2003. Yet, the actual number of births documented by the PA Ministry of Health for the same period was significantly lower at 699,000, or 238,000 fewer births than had been forecast by the PCBS."
  • Jewish births rose from 96,000 in the year 2000 to 125,000 in 2010, while Arab births fell slightly over the same period - from about 40,781 to 40,750, according to a study by Yaakov Faitelson at the Institute for Zionist Strategies. The percentage of students in the Arab educational system out of all Israel's total first grade student body will decrease from 29.1% in 2007 to only 24.3% in 2016 and 22.5% in 2020.
  • Muslim fertility is falling faster than anywhere in the world, with some Muslim countries - notably Iran, Turkey, Algeria, and Tunisia - reaching levels well below replacement. Once Muslim women leave the cocoon of traditional society for secondary or university education, their fertility drops quickly to levels below replacement.

    The writer is the Spengler columnist for the Asia Times.

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