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BICOM Daily Briefing November 28 2003

Last updated: 2003-11-28

All UK papers cover the arrest of a suspected al-Qaeda terrorist in Gloucester yesterday. The Daily Telegraph, in addition, reports on the high state of alert in the UK in preparation for a possible Islamist terror attack. The Times, meanwhile, has a piece depicting responses to anti-Semitic vandalism at the offices of the Italian Rai TV station. The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, Reuters and The Times all report on statements made in the last few days by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and other Israeli ministers on the question of ‘illegal outposts’, and their fate. The Financial Times and The Independent focus on criticism of Israel expressed by international aid donors. In another Israel-related story, the decision by Alessandra Mussolini to quit the National Alliance Party after remarks made by party leader Fini in Israel was reported in The Guardian and The Independent. The cover story of The Spectator is on renewed anti-Semitism, and its links to the anti-globalisation movement. In the Israeli press, Haaretz speculates on the implications of the Israeli-Palestinian seminar taking place in London, and the Jerusalem Post reports on difficulties in the attempt to bring about a meeting between PM Sharon and Palestinian PM Abu Ala.

Quotes of the Day:

On the diplomatic process and concessions:

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (Daily Telegraph, 28/11): “I spoke in the past about the need for painful concessions. It is clear that in the future we will not be in all the places we are now…What is legal is legal, what is illegal is illegal, and the illegal outposts will be removed.”

London meeting between Israeli and Palestinian lawmakers:

Omri Sharon, Likud MK (Maariv, 28/11): “There is an opportunity for progress, because there is a strong coalition in Israel. Ariel Sharon is the only one who can deliver the goods.”

Jibril Rajoub, Palestinian Adviser for National Security (Maariv, 28/11): “The Palestinian Authority can stop the violence, but will do so only if Israel ceases construction of the Security Fence.”

Ya’acov Herzog, Labour MK (Maariv, 28/11): “The importance of the London seminar was that it took place at all. The very fact that political and professional figures from both sides were there is in itself a significant achievement.”

Diaspora Affairs Minister Sharansky on anti-Semitism:

Natan Sharansky (Jerusalem Post, 28/11): “It is important to have freedom of speech, but a double standard against Israel is something we have to work against…The 'new anti-Semitism' is just the same double standard used in the past against Jews and now directed against the Jewish state.”

Behind the News:

Israeli-Palestinian meeting in London:

A meeting between Israeli and Palestinian officials began yesterday in London. The main participants were Likud Member of Knesset Omri Sharon, son of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and Jibril Rajoub, Palestinian National Security Adviser. MK Ephraim Sneh, also a participant, suggested that while the talks in London in no way constituted official peace negotiations, they should be seen as ‘more than academic.’ In an interview with Israel Radio, Sneh described the idea behind the seminar as an opportunity “in which the top echelons of the British government in the defence and political arenas would be able to learn first hand on the situation between us and the Palestinians and what can be done.” Sneh was sceptical regarding the notion of the talks acting as a forum for the transmission of the views of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to the Palestinians via his son. He pointed out that Omri Sharon, as a member of Knesset, should be seen as a figure in his own right. British Middle East Minister Baroness Symons is due to attend the seminar today.

According to Palestinian sources, Labour Friends of Israel, host of the London meeting, will also host private talks between Omri Sharon and Jibril Rajoub. According to the sources, the purpose of the meeting is to discuss issues related to the implementation of the roadmap.

In related news, a further meeting between Israeli and Palestinian officials is set to begin in Madrid. This conference will include American, European and Jordanian officals. Israel is to be represented by Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar, Labour MKs Dalia Itzik and Danny Yatom and Balad MK Ahmed Tibi. The Palestinians will be represented by Mohammed Dahlan, former security affairs minister, and the Foreign Minister, Nabil Sha’ath.

Preparations for Sharon-Qureia Summit:

Dov Weisglass, head of the Prime Minister’s Bureau, will meet with top Palestinian aide Hassan Abu Libda next week, to prepare for the planned summit meeting between PM Sharon and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala). At a press conference yesterday, PM Sharon, responding to a question on the Jewish communities in Gaza, declined to guarantee the future of the Netzarim settlement. "I don't mean to give any promises to anyone about one settlement or another," he said, "We have to make a decision ... I'm not making any commitments now regarding this or that community."

Police swoop on terror suspect in UK:

In the wake of the killing of 28 people in Istanbul in an al-Qaeda attack on British targets last week, British security forces arrested a suspected major international terrorist yesterday. Sajid Badat, 24, a resident of Gloucester, has been taken to London for questioning. 100 homes in the city of Gloucester were evacuated as a search for explosives began. Badat, a former student at the College of Islamic Knowledge and Guidance in Blackburn, is suspected of links with the al-Qaeda organisation.

Mussolini granddaughter quits party following Fini remarks in Israel:

Alessandra Mussolini, the granddaughter of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, has quit the National Alliance Party, following remarks made by party leader and Italian Deputy Prime Minister Gianfranco Fini, during his visit to Israel. In the course of his visit, Fini described fascism as an “utter evil”. He called anti-Jewish laws introduced by the dictator “disgraceful”, and declared that “anti-fascism is a value shared by all, even by us.”

Comment and Opinion:

Michael Strauss (The Spectator, 28/11): “They’re at it again: the Jewish conspiracy to take over the world is back in session. The former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad’s recent claim that the modern-day Elders of Zion ‘now rule the world by proxy’ not only garnered loud applause at the summit of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), but most likely earned silent approval worldwide. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the oldest hatred has been making a global comeback, culminating in 2002 with the highest number of anti-Semitic attacks in 12 years. According to public opinion polls conducted that same year, 28 per cent of people in Austria think that Jews are more willing than others to use ‘shady practices’ to get what they want, while in the United Kingdom 21 per cent believe that Jews have too much power in the business world.

Why now? Rising hostility toward Israel is certainly a significant factor. But another element of the new anti-Semitism, which has little to do with Middle East politics, is often overlooked: the backlash against globalisation. Throughout the Middle East, where economic growth remains stagnant everywhere but Israel, Islamists and secular nationalists alike portray globalisation as the latest in a series of US-Zionist plots to subjugate the Arab world to Western economic control and erase its cultural borders. Echoes of that view are heard in the West, where anxiety over globalisation provides opportunities for far-Right political parties to exploit the fears of those who see their way of life threatened by migrants from the developing world, and who believe their sovereignty is besieged by regional trade pacts and monetary union. In their war against globalisation, the far Right has also found common cause with the new Left. Matt Hale, the leader of the US white supremacist World Church of the Creator, praised the 1999 anti-globalisation protesters in Seattle for shutting down ‘talks of the Jew World Order’.

Although the anti-globalisation movement isn’t inherently anti-Semitic, it shouldn’t be surprised that it attracts the likes of Matt Hale. The movement enables anti-Semitism by peddling conspiracy theories. In its eyes, globalisation is less a process than a plot hatched behind closed doors by a handful of unaccountable bureaucrats and corporations.”

“The new Left and far Right share another common cause: opposition to Israel. The Jewish state enjoys a unique pariah status among the anti-globalisation movement because it is viewed as the world’s sole remaining colonialist state — an exploitative, capitalist enclave created by Western powers in the heart of the developing world. Opposing the policies of the Israeli government does not make the new Left anti-Semitic. But a movement campaigning for global social justice makes a mockery of itself by singling out just the Jewish state for condemnation. Worldwide, protesters carry signs that compare Sharon to Hitler, while waving Israeli flags where the Star of David has been replaced with the swastika. Such displays portray Israel as the sole perpetrator of violence, ignoring the hundreds of Israelis who have died in suicide bombings and the role of the Palestinian Authority in fomenting the conflict. And equating Israel with the Third Reich is the basest form of Holocaust revisionism, sending the message that the only ‘solution’ to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is nothing less than the complete destruction of the Jewish state.”

Mitchell Symons (Daily Express, 28/11): “Whenever I write about Jews or anti-Semitism- which isn’t that often- I always preface my comments with the fact that I’m Jewish. It’s called declaring an interest. Whenever I do, however, there’s this reader who writes in to berate me. “Good God, you’re an Englishman, why don’t you stop defining yourself as a Jew?”

And every time I reply: “Because as soon as I forget I’m a Jews, something comes along to remind me.”

There has been a lot to remind me recently. Following bomb attacks on synagogues in Paris and Istanbul, international delegations at the United Nations- led by the French naturellement- are doing their damndist to remove “anti-Semitism” from the list of official racist and hate crimes cited by the UN.”

“I’d like to be able to report that here in Britain, at least, things aren’t so bad but how can I do that when the evidence of desecrated cemeteries and anti-Semitic attacks proves otherwise?

While synagogues and Jewish schools in this country are on the highest alert against terrorist attacks, Muslim fundamentalists preach hatred against Jews and Arab publications openly on sale, spew out anti-Semitic poison. Isn’t there anyone in a position of power who’s prepared to make the connection between these two facts?”

But in any event, Jews are here to stay: we’re non-negotiable and we’ll not negotiate on the issue of anti-Semitism, which is racism by any other name. and as for my correspondent who urges me to stop mentioning my Jewishness, here’s a promise. If the world stops reminding me, I’ll stop mentioning it.”

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Israel Briefing supplied by BICOM