The Saudi Separation Fence. (Also: Rumsfeld on Israel)

February 13, 2004

CONTENTS

1. The Saudi Separation Fence: No world condemnation as yet (MEMRI, Feb. 13, 2004)
2. Donald Rumsfeld: Israel "would prefer not to get put in the sea"
3. John Kerry writes of his admiration for Israel
4. U.S. Envoy says anti-Semitism "nearly as bad as 1930s" (Reuters, Feb. 12, 2004)
5. Chirac: "France unfairly seen in Israel as anti-Semitic" (AFP, Feb. 13, 2004)


THE SAUDI SEPARATION FENCE

Yotam Feldner, of MEMRI, writes (February 13, 2004): "Two months ago, the Saudi government began to build a fence [made of pipes and concrete] along its border with Yemen in an attempt to separate the residents along both sides of the border. The border between the two countries was set out in the 2000 Jeddah border treaty, which included a 20 kilometer-wide neutral zone as a strip of grazing land permitted to both sides. The building of the fence has enraged the Shi'ite Wayilah tribe on the Yemenite side. Tribal leaders are comparing the Saudi fence to Israel's separation fence, and claimed that it was being built five kilometers over the border into Yemenite territory... The late Wayilah tribal head Sheikh bin Shag'e died in 2002 under mysterious circumstances... According to the Saudis, most of the explosives and weapons captured by Saudi security forces in recent months have been smuggled in by Islamists from Yemen." [Full article below]

SAUDIS DEFEND YEMEN BORDER "SCREEN" PLAN

Reuters, Feb. 9, 2004: "Saudi Arabia announced plans to build a security "screen" on its border with Yemen, in the hopes of curbing the influx of militants and weapons into its territory. The neighboring countries, who only recently resolved a long-running border dispute, stepped up security cooperation after suicide bombings in Riyadh killed more than 50 Saudis last year. However, the Yemeni government complained that the barrier would stand in a 20km zone that an agreement signed in 2000 designated as an open area. Saudi officials refused to acknowledge similarities between the Saudi "screen" and Israel's anti-terrorism fence."

Tom Gross adds: The U.S. and Egypt have criticized the Saudi Arabian fence, but so far we have heard nothing from all those who have been complaining about the Israeli terror prevention fence. This week alone, among those who have taken time to make harsh public criticisms of Israel's fence: The Pope, the UN, the EU, the Russian Government, the US government, members of the British parliament who have called for economic sanctions against Israel because of the fence; and so on. Will the Saudi fence be taken up by the ICJ in the Hague?

DONALD RUMSFELD

[Note by Tom Gross]

Many people have taken note of US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's own particular brand of expressing himself. Some have criticized it. Last year he was awarded the "Foot in Mouth prize" by Britain's Plain English campaign, for the following comments on the search for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction:

"Reports that say something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known unknowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there also unknown unknowns - the ones we don't know we don't know."

(John Lister, the spokesman for the campaign for plain English, responded: "We think we know what he means. But we don't know if we really know.")

DONALD RUMSFELD ON ISRAEL

Responding to a question last Saturday Feb 7, about Israel and nuclear weapons, Donald Rumsfeld said, "Israel is a small state with a small population. It's a democracy and it exists in a neighborhood where many - over a period of time - have opined from time to time that they'd prefer it not be there and they'd like it to be put in the sea. And Israel has opined that it would prefer not to get put in the sea, and as a result, over a period of decades, it has arranged itself so it hasn't been put in the sea." [Text supplied by U.S. Defense Department]

COMMENTS ON JOHN KERRY ARTICLE

I attach two of the several replies I received from members of this email list to the dispatch of February 10, 2004 ("John Kerry's family 'hid Czech Jewish heritage just like Albright's'").

Peter Brod, a senior editor of the BBC Czech Service, writes:

"Perez' article says that Kerry's grandparents' mother tongue was Yiddish. That is highly doubtful because in the late 19th century no Jews in Bohemia and Moravia spoke Yiddish (apart from a few recent migrants from Galicia or other points East like Sigmund Freud's parents in the Moravian town of Pribor/Freiberg). Perez has done a good job, but there are one or two errors (for Miller read Mueller, for Konigen read Koenigin; and I find it difficult to believe that a Viennese authority would have approved the name change to an English-sounding Frederick Kerry in 1902). We also don't know where the Kohns spent the last three years in Europe - Austria (where?), Germany (as I have seen on the internet) or Hungary (as reported by Die Welt last week)? In other words, Kerry's Michael Dobbs is yet to appear."

Joshua Marcus, a student at Brown university, Rhode Island (and editor of the Brown University publication, "Perspectives: An Israel Review"), writes:

Regarding John Kerry's stance on Israel: Senator Kerry was the only one of the Democratic presidential candidates last year that agreed to write for Perspectives: An Israel Review. I thought it was personal, passionate, supportive and intelligent, and I was truly impressed by his generosity in taking the time to contribute this article to a new college publication. As the other selections you enclosed in your email seemed critical in tone, I think it would be appropriate to share this.

JOHN KERRY WRITES

Tom Gross adds: "Perspectives: An Israel Review," which came out last fall, is an impressive publication for a student body. I attach Sen. Kerry's piece from it:

A Powerful Journey, An Essential Dream
By Senator John Kerry

My first trip to Israel made real for me all I'd believed about Israel.

I was allowed to fly an air force jet from the Ovda Airbase. It was then that Israeli insecurity about narrow borders became very real to me. In a matter of minutes, I came close to violating the airspace of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. From that moment on, I felt as Israelis do: The promise of peace must be secure before the Promised Land is secure on a thin margin of land.

Back on the ground on that first trip, I toured the country from Kibbutz Mizgav Am to Masada to the Golan. I stood in the very shelter in a kibbutz in the north where children were attacked and I looked at launching sites and impact zones for Katousha rockets. I was enthralled by Tel Aviv, moved by Jerusalem and inspired by by standing above Capernaum, looking out over the Sea of Galilee, where I read aloud the Sermon on The Mount. I met people of stunning commitment, who honestly and vigorously debated the issues as I watched and listened intently. I went as a friend by conviction; I returned a friend at the deepest personal level.

As the only true democracy in the Middle East, Israel has both the burden and the glory of a vigorous public square. We as Americans must be the truest and best kind of ally - forthright enough to say what we think - and steadfast enough to stay the course in hard passages as well as easy days.

Herzl's famous words - "If you will it, it is no dream" - signify the promise and the greatest power of Israel - and the hope that a fair and secure peace can be achieved. We must be committed to support Israel in the exacting, essential search for that dream.

I will never forget a moment on top of Masada, when I stood on that great plateau where the oath of new soldiers used to be sworn against the desert backdrop and the test of history. I had spent several hours with Yadin debating whether or not Josephus Flavius was correct in his account of the siege - whether these really were the last Jews fighting for survival - whether they had escaped since no remains were ever found. After our journey through history - which we resolved with a vote in favor of history as recorded - we stood as a group at the end of the cliff and altogether we shouted across the chasm - across the desert - Am Yisrael Chai. And across the silence we listened as voices came back - faintly we heard the echo of the souls of those who perished - Am Yisrael Chai. The State of Israel lives. The people of Israel live.

In this difficult time we must again reaffirm we are enlisted for the duration - and reaffirm our belief that the cause of Israel must be the cause of America - and the cause of people of conscience everywhere.

"U.S. ENVOY SAYS ANTI-SEMITISM NEARLY AS BAD AS 1930S"

(Reuters, February 12, 2004) "The U.S. envoy to the European Union said on Thursday that anti-Semitism in Europe was nearly as bad as it was in the 1930s, a decade which saw the rise of German Nazism and led to the extermination of six millions Jews. The remarks by Ambassador Rockwell Schnabel are likely to rekindle controversy over charges that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe, which prompted the European Union's executive to schedule a major seminar on the issue next week."

[Full article below. Some may find Ambassador Rockwell Schnabel's remarks alarmist and exaggerated. Others may agree with him.]

"CHIRAC: FRANCE UNFAIRLY SEEN IN ISRAEL AS ANTI-SEMITIC "

(Agence France Presse, February 13, 2004). "President Jacques Chirac said in an interview with an Israeli newspaper that his country is being unfairly criticized in Israel as anti-Semitic while France is leading a "tireless struggle" against such discrimination. "France works relentlessly to combat the scourge of anti-Semitism," he told Yedioth Aharonoth in an interview days before a visit by Israeli President Moshe Katsav... In the interview, Chirac also reaffirmed his opposition to the route of Israel's West Bank separation barrier." [Full article below.]

 



FULL ARTICLES

THE SAUDI SEPERATION FENCE

The Saudi Separation Fence
By Yotam Feldner
MEMRI
February 13, 2004

Yotam Feldner is Director of Research at MEMRI (The Middle East Media Research Institute)

Two months ago, the Saudi government began to build a fence along its border with Yemen in an attempt to separate the residents along both sides of the border. The border between the two countries was set out in the 2000 Jeddah border treaty, which included a 20 kilometer-wide neutral zone as a strip of grazing land permitted to both sides. The building of the fence enraged the Shi'ite Wayilah tribe on the Yemenite side, which even before its construction had objected to the location of the border.

The Wayilah tribe owns approximately 200 military vehicles and thousands of rifles, and in the past has waged fierce battles against the Saudi Yam tribe. In 2000, it battled the Yemenite Dahm tribe, which is said to have the support of the Saudi government.

The late Wayilah tribal head Sheikh bin Shag'e, who died in 2002 under mysterious circumstances, had explained that he had in his possession 240 year-old documents proving the tribe's ownership of the lands included in the Jeddah treaty. Saudi Arabia tried to pacify the Wayilah, giving 500 of them Saudi citizenship, but the tribesmen nevertheless rioted on various occasions, including when the Saudi authorities arrested a Shi'ite sheikh of the tribe and shut down his mosque.[1]

The Wayilah Tribe: We Do Not Recognize the Border

When Saudi Arabia began to build the separation fence, the Wayilah tribe announced that if the Saudis did not stop the construction and remove all trace of it from the area, they would "blow everything up," including the Jeddah treaty. The tribe compared the Saudi fence to Israel's separation fence, and claimed that it was being built five kilometers over the border into Yemenite territory.

The Wayilah tribe also claimed that it did not recognize the international borders that crossed their territory and ripped apart their tribal unity, let alone the fence that as far as they were concerned violated their human rights. The tribe said, "The blood of thousands of our tribesmen has been shed in tribal wars against the Saudi Yam tribe for the sake of the border . and our tribesmen are willing to sacrifice their lives in order to preserve the borders of their tribal lands."

The Wayilah claimed that the tribal borders between the Wayilah and Yam were set down in written tribal agreements even before the Saudi and the Yemenite states were established, and that these agreements were officially recognized by the first Saudi monarch Abd Al-'Aziz Aal Saud and by the Yemenite monarchy during the time of the Imam Yahyah Hamid Al-Din.

A communiqué published by the Wayilah tribe stated: "We are renewing our objection to the agreements that created a barrier between us and our lands and our property. Similarly, we reject the principle of compensation or the division of land or of the tribe... Every new border route will be null and void, and has nothing to do with the tribal border route recognized by the Wayilah and Yam tribes..."[2]

Saudi Government: Most Explosives and Weapons Captured by Saudi Security Forces were Smuggled In by Islamists from Yemen

Saudi officials told the London Arabic-language daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that the "barrier of pipes and concrete" could in no way be called a "separation fence." Saudi Border Police Commander Talal 'Anqawi said: "What is being built within our borders is a barrier of pipes full of concrete, aimed at deterring infiltration and smuggling. This barrier does not in any way resemble a fence. The site chosen to establish it is located within sovereign Saudi territory."[3]

The Saudi prince of Najran, Mash'al bin Abd Al-'Aziz, also denied that the barrier was a separation fence. According to him, Saudi authorities built a barrier of pipes 95 km-long in an open area between two mountains to block smugglers in cars from infiltrating Saudi lands, north of the region of the agreed upon 20 km-wide strip. According to the Saudis, most of the explosives and weapons captured by Saudi security forces in recent months have been smuggled in by Islamists from Yemen.[4]

Yemen Claims Saudi Arabia has Backed Down

Following the media reports, the regime heads in Saudi Arabia and Yemen denied any crisis. The leaders of the countries tried to solve the problem behind the scenes, and Yemenite President Ali Abdallah Saleh went to Egypt so that it would mediate between the sides. At the same time, a Yemenite delegation visited Saudi Arabia in order to resolve matters. But according to a report in the English-language Yemen Times, the Wayilah tribe was preparing for war:

"A prominent sheik of the Wayilah tribe . told Yemen Times that up to 3,000 tribesmen are preparing to fight Saudi forces unless Saudi Arabia pulls out of Yemen. The sheik claims that Saudi Arabia has already built a security fence 4 to 7 km beyond the neutral zone inside Yemen, stretching from Jabal Hobash to Jabal Al Fara. 'Saudi Arabia has already built a security fence inside Yemen,' said the sheik, 'and we are ready to fight any time if Saudi Arabia doesn't remove what they have built in our country.'

"Even though tribes are preparing for a conflict, a Yemeni government official told Yemen Times on Tuesday that Saudi authorities did accept to remove the separation fence along its border with Yemen after extensive Egyptian and U.S. efforts paid off in convincing Saudi authorities to do so. 'Both the U.S. and Egypt exerted efforts with Yemen and Saudi Arabia resulting in an agreement to remove all constrictions made by the Saudis,' said the Yemeni official."[5]

[1] www.islamonline.net/iol-arabic/dowalia/alhadath2000-oug-29/alhadath7.asp.
[2] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), February 9, 2004.
[3] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 9, 2004.
[4] Al-Hayat (London), February 10, 2004.
[5] Yemen Times, February 12, 2004.

 

U.S. ENVOY SAYS ANTI-SEMITISM NEARLY AS BAD AS 1930'S

U.S. Envoy Says Anti - Semitism Nearly as Bad as 1930s
Reuters
February 12, 2004

The U.S. envoy to the European Union said on Thursday that anti-Semitism in Europe was nearly as bad as it was in the 1930s, a decade which saw the rise of German Nazism and led to the extermination of six millions Jews.

The remarks by Ambassador Rockwell Schnabel are likely to rekindle controversy over charges that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe, which prompted the European Union's executive to schedule a major seminar on the issue next week.

Speaking at a dinner given by the American Jewish Committee to launch a Transatlantic Institute in Brussels, Schnabel said relations between Europe and the United States had improved since last year's acrimony over the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

"There is one issue that we can work on together," he said. "It is to overcome the issue of anti-Semitism which... is indeed - as I understand it and read - getting to a point where it is as bad as it was in the 30s." He did not elaborate.

Some six million Jews were killed in Europe in the Holocaust that emerged from Nazi Germany's efforts to exterminate European Jewry during the 1939-45 World War II.

Many Jewish groups are now concerned about what they call a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe.

Synagogues and Jewish schools in France have been attacked repeatedly in recent years, violence authorities link to poor Muslim youths enraged by Israel's tough policies against Palestinian unrest. The country is home to both the largest Jewish and largest Muslim minorities in western Europe.

SPAT WITH EUROPEAN COMMISSION

Charges of anti-Semitism were fueled last year when a controversial survey carried out by the European Commission found that a majority of the bloc's citizens see Israel as a threat to world peace.

The EU's anti-racism agency also withheld a report blaming Muslim immigrants for a rise in anti-Semitism in Europe but finally released it under pressure from European parliamentarians and major Jewish groups.

The Commission reacted with fury last month when two leading Jewish groups -referring to the opinion poll and the withholding of the report - accused it of anti-Semitism through both "action and inaction."

Commission President Romano Prodi froze preparations for a seminar with Jewish leaders, but quickly revived them after the World Jewish Congress sought to end the standoff. The event is set for February 19.

Some EU officials are, however, concerned at what they see as a tendency to stigmatize legitimate criticism of Israel's policies toward the Palestinians as anti-Semitic.

"Recent acts and expressions of anti-Semitism in Europe are outrageous," EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told the 400 dinner guests. "The burning of synagogues, the physical and verbal abuse of Jews in the street are absolutely unacceptable."

"But let us not confuse two very different things,' he added. "Acts and expressions of anti-Semitism within the European Union are not acts of anti-Semitism by the European Union. The policies of the European Union are neither anti-Semitic nor anti-Israeli."

 

CHIRAC: FRANCE UNFAIRLY SEEN IN ISRAEL AS ANTI-SEMITIC

Chirac: France unfairly seen in Israel as anti-Semitic
AFP (Agence France Presse)
February 13, 2004

President Jacques Chirac said in an interview with an Israeli newspaper that his country is being unfairly criticized in Israel as anti-Semitic while France is leading a "tireless struggle" against such discrimination.

"France works relentlessly to combat the scourge of anti-Semitism," he told Yedioth Aharonoth in an interview days before a visit by Israeli President Moshe Katsav.

"Israeli criticism of anti-Semitism in Europe singles out France," he said. "I am surprised at this. I am told that in the streets of Tel Aviv, in newspaper cartoons and in conversations, the image of France as an anti-Semitic country is gradually spreading. These caricatures deeply hurt French people.

"No, France is not an anti-Semitic country. But we must remain highly vigilant. With the government, we lead a tireless struggle against anti-Semitic language and acts," he said.

He acknowledged there has been a "resurgence of anti-Semitic acts" in Europe in the past three years, which he termed "revolting and unacceptable" and which he linked to the Middle East conflict.

"People of Muslim descent across Europe react to events in the Middle East, and more specifically to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is a fact."

Last month, Israel's Minister for Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Natan Sharansky described the situation for Jews in France as "very problematic".

While anti-Semitic incidents across the globe fell by almost half last year to 983 from 1,979 in 2002, Sharansky said, they doubled in France to 141 from 77, figures disputed by French officials.

A tough new law against racially- and religiously-motivated attacks came into force last year, and the French government ordered even stronger measures to protect Jewish sites after a fire-bombing of a Jewish school in the Paris suburbs last November.

In the interview with Yedioth Aharonoth, Chirac also reaffirmed his opposition to the route of Israel's West Bank separation barrier

"Israel is entitled to exercise its right to legitimate self-defence and security. But the chosen route for the barrier, which diverges from the Green Line, dispossesses thousands of Palestinians of their land..."

He said the barrier will thus "trigger more frustration and anger."

The Israeli government insists the barrier is vital to the security needs of Israel in the wake of a string of suicide attacks since the start of the Palestinian intifada in September 2000.

But the Palestinians have argued that its route, which often juts deep into their farmlands inside the West Bank, is proof it is an attempt to pre-empt the borders of their promised future state.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.