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BICOM Daily Briefing November 7 2003

Last updated: 2003-11-07

Israel continues to weigh the prisoner exchange deal with the Hizballah that would bring home Israeli hostage Elhanan Tennenbaum and the bodies of three IDF soldiers killed in action in Lebanon, in return for the release of several hundred Palestinian and Hizballah prisoners. Talks also continue over the long-running labour dispute, as the 2004 budget makes its way through the Knesset with more cuts in social benefits. Haaretz contains a feature by UK journalist Melanie Phillips on Michael Howard’s election to the head of the Conservative Party, and the implications for the British attitude towards Jews. The Jerusalem Post considers the role of the Military Censor in an era of modern communications.

The UK press gives wide coverage to a speech by President George W. Bush at the National Endowment for Democracy. The Guardian and the Independent report on a blunder in which secret missile test pictures were broadcast on Israeli national TV, which is watched by several Arab states. Ahead of the broadcast of its BBC Two documentary Arafat Investigated on Sunday evening, BBC Online profiles the Palestinian leader. Sky News features an article about a Palestinian woman who has been jailed for luring a sixteen-year-old Israeli to his death.

Quotes of the Day:

Lord Guthrie, former Chief of Defence Staff: “How on earth can you allow your people to be attacked without trying to stop it? The only way to stop the suicide bomber is to attack the people who send them.”

George W. Bush (6/11): “For the Palestinian people, the only path to independence and dignity and progress is the path of democracy. And the Palestinian leaders who block and undermine democratic reform, and feed hatred and encourage violence are not leaders at all. They're the main obstacles to peace, and to the success of the Palestinian people.”

Behind the News:

UN passes draft Egyptian resolution; postpones vote on Israeli submission:

An Egyptian-sponsored resolution demanding that Israel protect Palestinian children, was adopted by a UN General Assembly panel on Thursday, while a corresponding measure on Israeli children was postponed until next week. The Egyptian draft resolution was passed by a vote of 88 to 4, with 58 abstentions. The United States, Israel, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands voted against it, while the 15 European Union nations and Canada were among the abstentions. Israel's deputy UN ambassador, Arye Mekel, told the committee that the Egyptian-sponsored resolution was one sided because "we believe that all the world's children are deserving of equal protection, including Israeli and Palestinian children." Israeli diplomats said the chances of passing their resolution, the first ever Israeli resolution submitted to the General Assembly, were slim. The Israeli draft resolution condemns attacks on Israeli children by Palestinian suicide bombers.


Delays in launch of Geneva initiative:

The planned launch of the unofficial Middle East peace initiative by Israeli and Palestinian politicians in Geneva has been postponed. The Swiss Foreign Ministry said the ceremony, scheduled to take place in two weeks' time, would be held at a later date, still to be determined. The statement came amid reports that the parties involved are planning to distribute the document to Israeli and Palestinian households. Switzerland said it was considering granting more logistical and financial support to the initiative.

Al-Hayat al-Jadidah: “Collective mutiny” in PA military intelligence:

Commenting to PA daily Al-Hayat al-Jadidah, Chief of Military Intelligence General Musa Arafat attributed the recurrence of cases of collective mutiny inside his department to the weakness of the PA. He said that some junior officers in the military intelligence wished to move to other places of work, against the background of a lack of desire to be committed to office hours and military discipline. He emphasised that there were hundreds of staff in other security departments who got salaries without being committed to do any work but that this was something that was not allowed to happen in the military intelligence.

This week, 30 members of the military intelligence staged a “sit-in” at the Provincial Building in Khan Yunis, placing explosives and gas cylinders at the entrance, brandishing machine-guns and hand grenades and threatening to blow up the building if it was assaulted by the National Security forces.

There have been three similar incidents within the Palestinian intelligence apparatus in less than a year. All ended in meeting the demands of the mutineers, who all belong to Fatah.

Palestinian unemployment dropping:

A new survey carried out by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) on the employment in Palestinian areas during the third quarter of 2003 said that unemployment continued to drop and has reached 271,000 from 302,000 in second quarter of 2003. According to International Labour Organisation standards, the number of participants in the labour force increased by 25,000 persons between the second and third quarters of 2003.

Comment and Opinion:

Damian Thompson (The Daily Telegraph, 7/11): “As for the Middle East, I defy anyone, however sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, to trawl through the BBC's website archive and conclude that its reports are even-handed. One practice in particular strikes me as repugnant: the refusal to describe the blowing up of innocent families in restaurants as "terrorism" in case it offends Arab sensibilities, when even the BBC's beloved Kofi Annan cheerfully uses the word.

Subliminal tricks abound …[such as] the following headline on a story about a Palestinian suicide killer and his two Jewish victims: "Three dead in West Bank attack." Does the BBC have any idea how much damage to its international reputation is being done by its website?”

Melanie Phillips (Haaretz, 7/11): ”So have the Tories suddenly learned to love the Jews? Not quite.

The Conservatives are in the grip of a protracted nervous breakdown, because they've been out of power for six years and the country regards them as a hopeless joke. So lacking are they in talent, and so bad is their disarray, they would have elected a Martian if they thought he might win the general election.

Howard is by far the most successful politician they've got. He has authority and experience, and through his forensic approach does serious damage to the Labor government in House of Commons debates. He is therefore the Conservatives' only reliable weapon. And the Tories will do anything to win power.

Crucially, moreover, Howard's Jewish profile has always been low. True, in his leadership bid he drew attention to the fact that he was the child of immigrants. True, he says Jewish values are still "an important guide and influence on my life," and he attends a (Liberal) synagogue on the High Holy Days. But he has never made much of his Jewishness. His wife, the former model Sandra Paul, is a member of the Church of England; and his son Nick not only became a Christian, but provoked controversy as a student when he started trying to convert Jews to Christianity as well.

Despite the gushing compliments about Howard in the media in the past week, there have still been uncomfortable reminders of the prejudice lurking below the surface. With the press going overboard to describe how his father fled the Nazis in Transylvania, there was also a reference to Howard posing as a "proper English gentleman" who stood for "those very Anglo-Saxon virtues of fair play and decency" - whereas according to his enemies, he was a "chilly, calculating, heartless, ruthless, ambitious, calculating political machine, bent on passing himself off as something he wasn't." In other words, not an English gentleman at all.”


Israel Briefing supplied by BICOM