Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 1992, pages 46-48

Issues In The News

Compiled by Greg Noakes

From the Jewish Press:

Immigrants Advise Others to Wait:

A Jewish Agency poll of new Soviet immigrants to Israel shows that 36 percent of those surveyed would advise other Soviet Jews to postpone their immigration, while only 21 percent would advise them to come to the Jewish state. The Israeli daily Hadashot reported that another 10 percent of the respondents say they would tell friends to go somewhere besides Israel.

Sharon, Likud Rocked by Report:

A report compiled by Israeli State Comptroller Miriam Ben Porat accused Ariel Sharon's Housing Ministry of "corruption, maladministration and professional incompetence," and triggered calls for Sharon to resign, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Ben Porat asked Attorney General Yosef Harish to consider criminal prosecution against Housing Ministry officials responsible for illegal practices and political favoritism. The Likud party had sought to delay the report's release until after the June 23 elections.

Israel Considering Eilat Casinos:

The state-owned Israeli lottery authority, Mifal Hapayis, is seeking permission from the Israeli government to operate casinos in the Red Sea resort town of Eilat, Forward reports. Egypt is currently establishing a gambling resort to be called "Dolphin City" south of Eilat in the formerly disputed Taba enclave. Israeli officials believe that Eilat tourism could be threatened. Mifal Hapayis, which last year had an income of $238 million, has pledged $11 million to launch the first Israeli casino.

Boschwitz Receives Moroccan Honor:

Former Minnesota Senator Rudy Boschwitz was recently honored by Morocco for his work on behalf of the North African kingdom, particularly in dealing with foreign aid appropriations, the American Jewish World of Minneapolis reports. Moroccan Ambassador to the U.S. Mohammed Belkhayat presented Boschwitz with the "Ouissin Alaouite," the decoration of the royal family, honoring him "as a friend of peace and freedom."

IDF Loses Hill:

Israel Defense Force officers returning from Passover leave were unable to locate an earthen mound used for training purposes in the Golan Heights, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports. A Druze from the nearby village of Majd Al Shams was detained on suspicions that he bulldozed the hillock away, but the IDF was unable to suggest a motive.

New Highway Named For Begin:

A recently completed four-to-six-lane highway bisecting Tel Aviv will be named for the late Menachem Begin, according to the Queens (NY) Jewish Week. The highway has become an important traffic artery for the city, while construction on an adjoining commuter railway is continuing.

U.S. Will Continue Arrow Missile Project:

Despite recent reports of corruption and the failure of its first three prototypes, Israel's Arrow (Hetz) missile project will receive an additional $320 million from the United States, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports. The Arrow, Israel's contribution to the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative, has already received $160 million in funding from Washington, and is not due to be operational until 1996. The Arrow's manufacturer, the state-owned Israel Aircraft Industries, also announced an agreement with the General Dynamics Corporation to build F-16 jet fighters in Israel.

Bedouin, Druze in IDF Special Units:

Ma'ariv reports that the Israel Defense Force includes Bedouin volunteers and Druze soldiers in its special "Shamshon" ("Samson") and "Duvdevan" ("Cherry") units, which disguise themselves as Arabs in raids on Palestinian activists. The Israeli daily termed the units' composition "another step towards deepening the involvement of the Druze in the Army."

Pepsi in Trouble with the Ultra-Orthodox:

A recent ad campaign by Pepsi Cola has landed the company in trouble with Israel's ultra-orthodox Jews. Orthodox rabbis have threatened to withdraw Pepsi's kosher certificate, which allows it to market food and beverages in Israel. The ad campaign featured two apes and revolved around the theory of evolution, which Judaism rejects. The advertisements have been suspended pending further discussions.

Israel TV Bows to Shamir Complaint:

A top-rated Israeli television investigative program has been moved from its prime-time slot as a result of complaints by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, according to Israel radio. "Weekly Magazine" scheduled discussions of corruption in the Housing Ministry and the killing of Palestinians by the Israeli army's undercover squads, prompting government ministers to charge that the show is anti-Likud. The decision by Israel TV's government-appointed board to move the show from Friday to Thursday or Saturday will cut the program's 1.7 million viewer audience in half, according to television executives.

Israel Permits Syrian Overflight:

Israeli authorities, responding to a request relayed through a third party, allowed a Syrian military helicopter to fly over Israeli territory in order to reach a Syrian army post on Mount Hermon cut off by snow. The Israeli dailyMa'ariv reported that several Syrian soldiers died, while the survivors were in poor condition.

Palestinian Collaborator Kills Soldier:

A Palestinian village leader, thinking that he was being attacked by other Arabs for his collaboration with Israeli authorities, mistakenly shot and killed an Israeli soldier, according to Israel army radio. The soldier was in an Israeli patrol that did not recognize the village chief's house and stormed in to investigate shooting. Two Israel Defense Force officers were dismissed as a result of the incident.

Rabbi Says Jews Should Not Wear Fur:

Rabbi Chaim David Halevy, the Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Tel Aviv, has ruled that it is contrary to Jewish law for Jews to wear or manufacture fur "because of the sorrow to living creatures, specifically because it involves brutality." The Boston Jewish Times says the ruling grew out of a dispute between concert-goers and animal rights activists in Tel Aviv.

Saudi Sheikh Visits Jerusalem:

Sheikh Ishaq Idris Sakhouta, a senior adviser to the Mecca-based Islamic League, recently visited Jerusalem and met with Israeli President Chaim Herzog, Mayor Teddy Kollek and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Avraham Shapira. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that the sheikh's visit was in connection with several Islamic League grants to Islamic institutions inside Israel and the occupied territories.

Pro-PLO Candidates Beat Islamists at Polls:

A list of candidates who support PLO policies won 9 of 12 seats in the Nablus Chamber of Commerce's executive committee, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports. Although the pro-PLO candidates took 48.5 percent of the vote against 45 percent for the Islamist list, the election system gave 75 percent of the seats to the PLO nationalists. Islamists had won previous elections for the Hebron and Ramallah chambers. Occupants of positions in these institutions are the only ones Palestinians in the occupied territories can elect under Israeli regulations.

Rabbi Approves of Woman's Action:

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Avraham Shapira has ruled that Bella Freund, a 40-year-old Orthodox mother of eight, acted correctly when she shielded from a Jerusalem mob an Arab who had stabbed two Israelis in the back. Freund suffered bruises when outraged Israelis kicked and punched her as she prevent them from getting to Adnan Al Afandi, a 21-year-old who had stabbed two Jewish youths in the Mahane Yehuda market. Shapira was quoted in the Queens Jewish Week as saying that once an assailant "is apprehended and there is no danger that he can harm anyone, it is forbidden to do anything to hurt him."

From the Middle East Press:

Camp David "Only a Cease-fire," Israeli Says:

The director general of the Israeli Defense Ministry, David Irvi, was quoted by several Egyptian papers as saying the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty "is only a cease-fire. The possibility of war again is still open." Irvi's remarks have set off a controversy, with the Cairo daily Al Ahram warning, "The drums of war are sounding again...What does Israel want?" Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa called the Israeli's statements "frozen thoughts which have not changed with international developments."

Yemen Cracks Down:

The Yemeni government is taking steps to tighten security in the country after a series of attacks on senior officials, San'a radio reports. President Ali Abdullah Saleh has offered rewards totaling $165,000 for information leading to the arrest of those involved in terrorist acts, and under new regulations a special license is required to possess a gun in major cities.

New Transit Service to Link Egypt and Saudi Arabia:

Two 250-seat high-speed "marine buses" will cross the Red Sea between Egypt and Saudi Arabia beginning next year, the Arab News reports. The Norwegian-built buses will cut seaborne travel time between two countries from 48 to 6 hours.

Restoration Work at Mecca, Jerusalem Mosques:

Two gates installed at the Grand Mosque in Mecca contain 130 pounds of gold donated by the Saudi Monetary Agency and took a year to complete, the Riyadh Daily reports. The goldsmith who oversaw the work estimated the cost of the gates at $3.5 million—in addition to the cost of the gold. King Hussein of Jordan is personally footing an $8.25 million bill to install a fire alarm, restore tilework and repair the gold-colored cupola at Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock, the Petra news agency reports. King Fahd of Saudi Arabia had offered several times to pay for the work, and sources say Hussein's actions reflect his impatience with Fahd's attempts to bypass Jordan's role as custodian of Jerusalem's Islamic sites. Hussein reportedly sold his house in London to pay for the work.

Iranian Magazine Raided:

Demonstrators ransacked the Tehran offices of a science magazine which published a cartoon of a man kicking a soccer ball bearing the face of the late Ayatollah Khomeini. The Iranian news agency IRNA said that the raid on the offices of Farad followed an announcement by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance that the magazine had been banned.

Islamic Scholars OK Euthanasia:

Some 110 Islamic theologians, doctors and other experts meeting in Mecca as part of the Islamic Fiqh (Jurisprudence) Academy approved of euthanasia for desperate cases. The Arab News reported that the terminally ill individual must give his or her own consent, if able; otherwise relatives can stop the treatment. Nevertheless, the scholars said, "we should keep the flame of hope alive and never despair of the bounties of God."

Kuwaiti Reconstruction Indecisive:

A Kuwaiti research institute alleges that the country's reconstruction efforts are marked by indecision and places the blame on the government, according to the Arab Times. "The simplest fundamentals of planning are absent," the Al Shall Institute stated, adding that "perhaps the only achievement since the liberation is more destructive commitments like the program of armaments, bad debt settlement programs and unnecessary and costly reconstruction projects." Criticizing the government's economic legislation, expatriate worker policies and financial handouts, Al Shall charged that "what is happening is distribution of money rather than reconstruction."

Palestinians Shot in Curfew Protest:

Israeli troops shot and wounded 14 Palestinians in Gaza during protests over a four-year-old curfew, according to Beirut radio. Some Muslims are angry that the curfew prohibits them from attending evening prayers at mosques since the change to daylight savings time in April.

Yemen Appeals for Western Mediation:

San'a radio reports that Yemen has asked the U.S., Britain, France and Canada to help mediate with Saudi Arabia to resolve an oil drilling dispute on the Saudi-Yemeni border. Riyadh has previously warned oil companies not to operate in the territory under dispute. The Yemeni weekly al-Wahda reports that Yemeni officials are concerned at Riyadh's offer of Saudi citizenship to tribesmen in the oil-rich areas of Shabwa, Hadramawt and Al Mahara. Yemen has been out of favor with Saudi Arabia since the Gulf war, when it expressed sympathy with Iraq.

Saudis Target Baboons:

Saudi scientists are embarking on a program of vasectomies and hormone implant injections in an attempt to reduce the baboon population between Taif and Abha, the Saudi Gazette reports. An estimated 200,000 baboons live in the Kingdom, and in the past few years have encroached on cities and garbage dumps, posing health risks to humans and livestock. The Taif-based Baboon Research Project estimates that some 17 percent of the baboon population would attack humans if provoked.

Bleached Coral Investigated Off Bahrain:

Bahraini officials and private tourist company divers are teaming up to investigate a phenomenon of bleached coral in the Fasht Adham Jarada reefs off the eastern coast of Bahrain, the Gulf Daily News reports. The staghorn coral, normally brown, has been bleached white, blue or yellow. It is suspected that the discoloration could be due to cold water temperatures last winter, recent dredging in the area, a disease, or a combination of all three.

Canadians Find Opportunity in Iran:

Alberta's energy minister, Rick Orman, says that Iranian oil and gas industries represent "a tremendous opportunity" for Canadian companies, according to Dubai's Gulf News. Orman, who was leading a 16-member trade delegation to the region, added that "any time we can go into a market where Americans are not number one, that helps us." Iran plans to spend at least $4 billion this year to repair and modernize its petroleum industry.

Moroccan Harvest Hit Hard by Heat:

A week of temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, coming on top of a 120-day drought, has left Moroccan agriculture production devastated, according to the Maghreb Arabe Presse news agency. The Ministry of Agriculture estimates that the 1992 cereal harvest will be only 35 to 40 percent of last year's crop.

Qaddafi Destroys Libyan Title Deeds:

Muammar Qaddafi ordered all records of land sales and title deeds in Libya to be destroyed, saying "they were based on exploitation, forgery and looting." Qaddafi told the Libyan weekly Green March that the country has "no time to waste on disputes." The magazine reported that a new "socialist register" has been compiled, but gave no details.

Majority Shareholding for Foreigners Introduced in Iran:

Foreign investors doing business in Iran will now be able to own majority shareholdings in Iranian corporations, the IRNA news agency reports. Previously foreigners had been limited to a 49 percent share.

AMIDEAST Jerusalem Office Burned:

Propane gas and contact glue were used to ignite a nighttime explosion and fire in the East Jerusalem offices of American-Mideast Educational and Training Services (AMIDEAST). Office Director Bruce Stanley told Al Fajr that there had been no threats against the office, and that AMIDEAST had no idea who carried out the attack. Palestinians have expressed support for AMIDEAST in the wake of the fire, Stanley said, adding that "this is gratifying and we remain deeply committed to the Palestinian community." The Washington-based organization, which has offices in several Middle East countries, benefits about 1,000 Palestinian students annually with its educational programs.

Pakistani Politicians Pick Up Perks:

Pakistani legislators from the ruling and opposition parties unanimously passed six bills which doubled their salaries and provided perks for themselves, the president and prime minister. Included in the benefits are tax-free import of one car per term, free telephones, diplomatic passports for legislators and their spouses, and permission to keep one prohibited and one permissible weapon without a license. The bills include everyone who has served in parliament since 1975. The Nation of Pakistan criticized the legislation as "an expensive and privileged system of public representatives."

Iraq says No to New Border:

The Iraqi news agency reports that the government of Saddam Hussain has formally rejected the new border with Kuwait recommended by a United Nations commission. In a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ahmed Hussein Al Samaraei said that the recommended border "would create a permanent nucleus for tension."

Brothel Owner Turkey's Top Taxpayer:

For the second consecutive year, 83-year-old brothel owner Mathild Manukian was Turkey's biggest individual taxpayer, paying a record $700,000 on $1.7 million in profits. The IPS news service quoted the madam as saying that 1991 was a "slack year," since "Eastern Bloc prostitutes lowered the profits. If it were not for that unjust competition, I would have paid somewhat more," Manukian added. Prostitution is legal in Turkey within segregated, government supervised "red-light districts."

New Bridge for Baghdad:

Work has begun on a new two-tier bridge spanning the Tigris river in Baghdad, the Iraqi news agency INA reports. The bridge, which should be completed in eight months, will be named after President Saddam Hussain.

Dangerous Drivers in Abu Dhabi:

The Abu Dhabi traffic police, using a computer to process details on 3,625 road accidents, say that men are "incomparably worse" drivers than women, according to the Khaleej Times. The police say that the most likely driver to be involved in an accident is a male Pakistani or UAE national, driving a new car to work on a Saturday morning.

Libya Eyes Italian Islands:

Libya has warned Italy that it is considering annexing the Tremiti islands, located in the Adriatic, because of what Tremiti's chief magistrate terms Rome's "complete lack of interest" in them. The Libyan news agency JANA said that the islands' inhabitants, which it claimed were "100 percent of Libyan origin," have asked Muammar Qaddafi to take them over, and that Libya was "ready to assume its full responsibilities." Qaddafi earlier announced that he was offering to stand for election in Italy's presidential race.

Anti-Islamist Writer Slain:

Farag Fouda, an outspoken Egyptian anti-Islamist writer, was machine-gunned to death outside his Cairo office, the daily Al Ahram reports. His assailants were alleged to be members of the radical Islamic Jihad group who were angered by Fouda's secularist stance and his ridicule of Islamists in his weekly columns. The killing may signal the beginning of a government crackdown on radical Islamist groups, who have also been involved in recent violence against Christian Copts in Upper Egypt that left more than a dozen dead. President Hosni Mubarak, on a visit to Assiut near the scene of the clashes, condemned the Islamist attacks and appealed for national unity.

Baghdad Unrepentant Toward Kurdistan:

The Iraqi newspaper Babil, published by Saddam Hussain's oldest son Uday, characterized the recent Kurdish elections as "illegitimate...rejected by society like a rotten bastard." Noting that Iraq fought some 30 countries during the Gulf war in an attempt to hold Kuwait, the paper asked rhetorically, "How about a strip of land which is three times the size of Kuwait?" Finally, Babil warned Kurdish leaders that "the axe that will chop off their heads will become heavier with every passing day and every sin they commit."

Bourguiba III:

Former Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba, overthrown in a 1987 palace coup by Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali, is reported to be in grave physical health and is receiving "intensive" treatment, according to the Tunisian daily Al Wahda. Bourguiba, 89, has been living in a villa in his home town of Monastir and has suffered from arteriosclerosis, Parkinson's disease and deteriorating vision for some time. Doctors report that the ex-president has several "hours of lucidity" each day, but gave no further details of his condition. Bourguiba led Tunisia to independence in 1956 and ruled as president and "supreme combatant" for three decades.

Iraq Pumps Oil Back Into Ground:

Iraq is having to pump crude oil back into the ground after removing the associated natural gas "because there is nothing else we can do with it," according to an Iraqi petroleum industry executive quoted in the Baghdad Observer. The natural gas is being produced for domestic consumption, but Iraq does not have sufficient storage facilities for the oil found with the gas.

Libyan Press Coverage Confusion:

The director of the Libyan news agency JANA, Mohammed Lamari, was fired after an apparent takeover of the agency by radicals who declared in the pages of Al Fajr Al Jadid that "the Libyan people have the right to know the truth." Lamari had previously taken a hard line against the extradition of two Libyan suspects in the Lockerbie bombing. The British Broadcasting Corporation, though, reported that Lamari's successor made an unprecedented attack on Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, saying he had split the Arab nation and left Libya stranded internationally. Some journalists suspected Qaddafi himself planned the attacks on his policies to justify changing them.

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