Tuesday, December 23, 2003

23 December 2003

On Olmert, Gaza, Positive Proposed Legislative Amendment, Rutgers, and Other Concerns

Dear friends and colleagues,

Ehud Olmert

The closest person to Sharon in government is his deputy Ehud Olmert, hence it is interesting to note what he's saying. In a public lecture on the occasion of the annual memorial for David Ben-Gurion, Olmert spoke of the need for a two state solution, of splitting the land, and of the urgency of demography. Some people at the lecture inferred that Olmert, former Mayor of Jerusalem, did not rule out the possibility of giving up East Jerusalem in return for a peace settlement.

Just a few days have passed and Sharon spoke of the possible need for unilateral steps and evacuation of settlements. I do believe in the power of common sense. Sometimes its prevalence is delayed, sometimes it is hesitant, but in most cases it does prevail. The only issues are time and costs.

Sharon also met with Peres. A "routine meeting for updates", so it was claimed. I hope the update was about exploring coalition possibilities in the event the extreme right wing parties will retire from the coalition in the face of a determined Sharon to pursue this moderate line of conduct.

Israeli government continues to spread all kind of messages, some of which are radical and owkish in essence; some of which recognize the need for evacuating land and settlements, even unilaterally. I hope Sharon will surprise me and actually do something further than bombing, killing, and retaliating. Surely he understands, as a former general, that beyond defence there is a need to do something creative to address pressing concerns. I hope Sharon will eventually prove himself as a statesman. As a general, he was excellent in mapping the situation, understanding the alternatives and crafting solutions. He needs to prove that he is capable of doing this also in the political/diplomatic arenas. We know that he is capable of mastering the corridors of the Likud Party. Now it is time to see whether he's able to master world corridors and to put his mark on Israel's history for the better.

Gaza Settlements

During the past month or so, Haaretz took upon itself to publish at least one piece on Gaza, showing the futility of Israel's stay there. I hope this campaign will continue until some common sense will prevail also in governmental corridors. On Wednesday, December 3, 2003, Haaretz published the following article on one Gaza settlement:

Delusional disorder By Avihai Becker

After more than a month of reserve duty in Netzarim, a group of Paratrooper officers declare: Israel has no reason to be there.

Three days after completing an intensive stint of reserve duty in Netzarim, after they had all dispersed and gone back to their homes, several officers from Paratroop Batallion 9263 got together to talk things over. They were united by a sense of urgency. By the feeling that they could
not just go back to the routine after what they'd experienced during their reserve duty. By their shared view that a great outcry was needed, one that they could not express when they were in uniform. "As long as we hadn't talked about it, it was as if we hadn't finished that reserve duty," they say.

The reserve duty they just completed gives their words
special weight. Their battalion left Netzarim showered with praise. The brigade commander told them half-jokingly, `We'll issue you emergency call-up orders so you won't leave." The secretary of Netzarim sent them enthusiastic thank-you letters "for dedicated and successful work in foiling terror attacks ... Thank you for all that you gave, thank you for all that you did."

They were there, they carried out their assignments, did as they were ordered, did not refuse to serve, did not protest, did not try to evade responsibilities. And now they wish to say what's on their mind in the expectation that the society that sent them to risk their lives in Netzarim will listen to them.

It was an impressive bunch that showed up for this conversation: The battalion commander, Tzahi Minervo, 41, who was born and raised on Kibbutz Baram, in the Hashomer Hatzair spirit. His family subsequently moved to the neighboring kibbutz of Malkiya. He has a master's degree in social work, works as a therapist at a mental health clinic in Safed, and specializes in treating anxiety disorders. He also leads a therapy group for violent
husbands in Kiryat Shmona. This year, he will be studying psychotherapy at Haifa University. He missed the first five weeks of the academic year due to this reserve duty. His wife, Michal, is a teacher in the Psagot regional school and leads workshops on promoting dialogue between Jews and Arabs. Their fourth child was born while he was in Netzarim. The others at the meeting were A Company Commander Major Yoav Te'eni, 30, a Tel Aviv bachelor who recently got his law degree and will soon be starting an internship at the State Prosecutor's Office; Operations Officer Major Ahab Becker, 38, a software specialist from Nes Tziona; Intelligence Officer Major Itai Cohen, 33, an analyst from Modi'in; Assistant Operations Officer Major Ronen Samocha, 37, a computer technician from Ramat
Gan, who is married and the father of a little girl; adjutant Major Gil Garash, 40, from Haifa, a refinery manager.

The meeting took place at the home of Sergeant Arik Wilensky, 45, in Beit Oren. Wilensky, a contractor who was discharged from the battalion and from reserve duty four years ago, came to Netzarim as a volunteer. He was the oldest of the participants in this gathering, the only one who fought in the brigade in the Lebanon War.

Verging on the absurd

From the start, these men wish to stress: "We do not represent all the officers of the battalion. There are many good people who came out of Netzarim feeling strengthened. We are presenting our views only."

On the other hand, they add, "We didn't make a big effort. If we'd made just a few more phone calls, we could easily have brought a lot more people here." The message they wish to convey is unequivocal: Israel has no reason to be in Netzarim.

Minervo: "It's our right to express ourselves, because the things one sees from there you don't see from here. We have a perspective that the ordinary citizen doesn't. And what we conclude from the experience that we've been through is that there is something here that is verging on the absurd. These are things that have absolutely nothing to do with right or left. It keeps on going and no one says anything about it. We want to say: Ladies and Gentlemen, Netzarim is not the same as Gush Katif or those weird, remote settlements in Judea and Samaria. Netzarim is the embodiment of delusion and illusion. It's enough to see the armored convoys with the mothers and children to understand."

Te'eni: "Unlike the familiar image of Netzarim residents, and unlike what I also thought, they are people whose outlook is not anti-establishment. I was very surprised when I heard them say that if the state decides to evacuate the place, they won't be an obstacle. This was a real revelation for me. In contrast to other encounters I've had with 'settlers,' these were good people, not fanatics."

Becker: "They're different than what I knew from before. When I served in Netzarim seven years ago, the residents were still spitting on the soldiers. On the other hand, it's a totally surreal place. When you see a pregnant woman with a baby in one hand and a stroller in the other getting out of the armored Safari truck, I think it's crazy. To me, the moral and social and economic price that Israel is paying to hold on to Netzarim is out of all proportion to the benefit."

Te'eni: "I have full respect for the suffering and sacrifice of the Netzarim residents, but the state is first and foremost responsible for the lives and security of its citizens. In
Netzarim, it's beyond reasonable bounds. Staying in Netzarim goes against all logic. The distance between the deaths of citizens and soldiers and so-called normal life is
infinitesimal. It all depends on luck. The state cannot afford to take such a gamble. Just as it decided to halt flights to Toronto when the danger was deemed to be greater than the need, it should behave in the same way now concerning the fate of Netzarim."

Cohen: "The reason we came here is that you could practically explode from the effort required and the unreasonable risk to human life that the mission entails."

Becker: "Such a small point amid 1.3 million Arabs. What are we doing there? Maintaining Netzarim the way it is maintained today is totally unreasonable."

Te'eni: "Just as I feel a duty to serve wherever the state sends me, because that's the basis of democracy, so I feel a civic duty to say the things that were building up inside me throughout the month that I was in Netzarim. If they call me tomorrow, I'll go there again, but it's important to me, for my conscience, to tell the state, even if it doesn't listen, that there are things that it ought to know. This is not a political opinion."

Wilensky: "This group here has put in countless days of reserve duty, well beyond what the average Israeli citizen knows. Why? It's a matter of upbringing. If they call us, we'll go to Netzarim tomorrow and the day after. Tzahi (Minervo) knows that if he summons the old men, two whole battalions will come. The question isn't us, it's our children. Each one of us here will think about whether he's ready to send his child who's about to be drafted into
three years of service in the Shimshon battalion [the battalion that is permanently posted in Netzarim]. I say that he should go to Australia and not to the Shimshon battalion, and it's not that I have anything against the commanders and their people, God forbid. The problem is Netzarim itself."

Samocha: "People have already asked me - `Don't you think it's time to give up this nonsense and not to go if they call you again?' I know that we will all go back and do the job if we are called to do it again, but the dilemma of serving in Netzarim is growing stronger. Look, we all have an alternative. In the end, no one absolutely has to do this reserve duty. Netzarim is not defensible, that's all there is to it. There is no logical reason for civilians
to live there. Not too many years ago, one platoon guarded the road to Netzarim, and the whole area was cultivated and blooming. Now there's a battalion plus guarding Netzarim, there's no trace of the orchards and olive groves, the road is strewn with islands of rubble from factories and residential buildings. The lives of the Palestinians who live nearby have been made substantially worse. Their movement is severely restricted and their lives are in constant danger."

Wilensky: "The IDF got two nuclear submarines, this month we bought 100 planes that cost $24 million each, and at the same time, in the invention of the century - the ultimate solution to terror - we set up a series of
Turkish-era pillbox bunkers along the corridor to Netzarim."

Te'eni: "Netzarim is kept going by politics and ignorance. How many Israeli citizens actually know where it is? The vast majority of the population has no idea. At best, they'll be able to tell you that it's in Gaza. In other words, the argument is about something that's out there somewhere, far off, on the side. When women soldiers are killed, there's an outcry for a moment, and then it immediately subsides and the world goes back to business as usual."

Samocha: "The energy that goes into maintaining `normal life' there is inconceivable, not to mention the calculation of the economic cost versus the benefit. I'm not talking about the cost in the narrow sense - Doing a crude calculation, we found that the direct cost of the month that we served in Netzarim is NIS 12 million. Add to that the indirect costs and the sums are tremendous, I'm talking about the total cost of sanctifying the residency of 60 families, whose lives are in danger, and the lives of the soldiers guarding them, while gravely harming the lives of the Palestinians."

Becker: "The issue isn't money, but how we Israelis look within a society that allows the illusion of Netzarim to exist."

Samocha: "Moving a convoy in and out every 20 minutes is devoid of any military logic. The public also doesn't know that the reason there is no electronic fence surrounding the whole place, so I understood, is due to ambitions of
expanding the greater Netzarim area. To build an expanded Netzarim, another neighborhood in Gaza would have to be evacuated. There's no limit to it."

Te'eni: "My grandfather was in Gdud Ha'avoda, his brother was a leader of the Haganah in Haifa, my father was in the paratroops during the period of the reprisal operations, Arik Sharon was his commander, I was brought up to give and to sacrifice. And it was always
obvious to me that I had to serve in the `vanguard.' On the eve of my departure for Netzarim I was with my father, a person who by every criterion would be seen by the state as one of its finest sons, and I suddenly hear things from him that stunned me. My father, whom I followed into the paratroops, told his son that it wasn't worth it. That he shouldn't go, that he should refuse. This calls for an explanation."

Becker: "When won't we be in Netzarim? When the losses become intolerable."

Te'eni: "I don't remember returning from any other service so emotionally drained. I have no problem with the burden of professional responsibility that I bear as a company
commander and I have no problem with the effort to prevent infiltrations. It's the personal conflict that is so hard. The soldiers have questions and you don't always have answers because you, too, are unable to resolve all the contradictions. It's not easy when you yourself don't understand what you are doing in Netzarim. We need explanations about where they're sending us. We're not doing our compulsory service. And we're certainly not the
Roman legion."

Netzarim, which began as a Nahal settlement in 1972, has never been as fortified as it is now - a month and a half after Hamas gunman Samir Fouda, under cover of fog, snuck into the residential quarters in the heart of the military camp and killed three soldiers: Sergeant

Sarit Shneor, Sergeant Adi Osman and Staff Sergeant Alon Avrahami. Evidence of the tragedy is not easy to find here, apart from a modest memorial corner in one room and the breach in the fence through which the terrorist infiltrated, which has been left as is as a warning. It is surrounded by new concertina wire that was put up after the incident. Another observation post has also been added, overlooking the path the terrorists used. Last week, Reserve Battalion 9263 completed 32 days of reserve duty in Netzarim and handed responsibility for the sector back to the Shimshon battalion. The last time their battalion was called up, in May 2002, they were posted in Gush Katif for 24 days. This summer, when battalion commander Tzahi Minervo was informed where his battalion would be sent in October, he asked his brigade commander, Colonel Motti Baruch, to consider sending them to a hotter sector. "What's there to do in Netzarim?," he protested. "It's a shame to waste such a quality unit on guard duty."

But just five days before the battalion's arrival in Netzarim, tragedy struck and the place became a hot topic in the news. When they got there, they found the people from the Shimshon battalion not only dejected and exhausted, but also, to the best of their judgment, not properly prepared. On the day of the changeover, Ronen Glick, a studio manager at Channel 1 in civilian life, could not stop thinking, "Could it happen to us, too?"

He lives in Anatot, is very right-wing in his political views and did not take part in the meeting in Beit Oren. "It's totally clear to me what we're doing in Netzarim, but I never thought for a moment that someone from the
company who holds views that are the opposite of mine would try to get out of the job. The political debate doesn't interfere with the operational work. Though there are some guys who express their quiet protest by not accepting a drink from the residents."

During preparations for the assignment, Minervo often had to contend with this issue, which is dividing Israeli society. "There are voices that always come up. In a reserve battalion, you certainly cannot avoid a political debate. The issue is never off the agenda. Of course, I permit a dialogue to take place. In the battalion, views from all over the spectrum are represented, from the son of Rabbi Levinger to as far left as you can go. With soldiers who are unsure, I instructed the company commanders to do what they can to make it easier for them to deal with their consciences. They don't have to be put in the vanguard, they can also do guard duty or KP duty. Instead of going out on ambushes, they can be in the observation posts. At the same time, I also made it very clear what the red line is, where I, as commander of the unit, am not prepared to compromise at all. When there's a sudden call to action, there are no exemptions."

Out of the 448 soldiers in the battalion who have served in Netzarim at one time or another and for various periods of time, Minervo has only encountered two cases of refusal to serve. One was eventually persuaded to change his mind, and the other was sentenced by the battalion commander to 28 days incarceration. "A decision that made the adjutant and me cry," says Minervo. "He explained to me that this decision had been building up for years, since the Rabin assassination basically, and that despite his profound doubts he had enlisted in the paratroops and insisted on combat service even on reserve duty, but that just now, he could no longer settle the inner conflict he felt.

"This was no knee-jerk leftist, but a serious fellow who presented the conflict he felt in a genuine, honest way and it wasn't easy for me. I told him that, unfortunately, he left me no choice but to incarcerate him."

Minervo says that the soldier replied, "Tzahi, I take responsibility for my actions."

"In any case," says Minervo, "I admire him a lot more than I do another soldier, a teacher from Jerusalem, who had some big problems. He did not refuse to serve, but his actions were much more destructive. In an attempt to resolve his inner conflict over serving in the territories, he sent letters to the residents of Netzarim in which he explained why they shouldn't be there and why he had to come defend them. The time before that when we were on reserve duty, it happened with the people in Gush Katif.

"This political discussion that he holds when he is in uniform is explicitly against army orders. The explanation that he gave for his actions was that it helped him go back to his circle of friends that is opposed to serving in
the territories and to prove to them that he didn't go to reserve duty for nothing, but to confront the settlers with the facts. But that's not all there was to it. Because of the
friction that arose between him and the platoon commander during outside operations, we had to send him back to Netzarim itself. As soon as he got there, he had comments to make about the orders, and, in my opinion, the damage that he caused to the unit's morale was a lot worse than that caused by the one who refused to serve."

On the way to redemption

A week before the battalion completed its reserve duty, four mortar shells and Qassam rockets landed on Netzarim and the army base there. There was also a hot warning of a roadside bomb on the access road and also a warning about anti-aircraft fire, so movement in and out of the settlement was halted.

At the Netzarim army camp at the entrance to the settlement, 70 schoolgirls, first through eighth-graders, and their teachers waited for the trouble to pass. During the day, they had been on a tour of Jerusalem, following in the footsteps of Rabbi Aryeh Levin, who ministered to Jewish prisoners in the 1920s and `30s. When the buses arrived at the checkpoint, seven kilometers from home, they were forced to wait. There was nothing to do but be patient. A few prayed, some played games or tried to get some group singing going. The tired ones fell asleep.

Netzarim residents are used to being held up this way on their way home. It's a routine part of life there. This time, they were stuck for two and a half hours. Then tanks were spread out near the road, three armored Safari trucks were sent to the army camp, the buses were left behind and the armored, heavily guarded convoy was on its way.

The view along the way, with the pillbox bunkers dotting the road, was eerily reminiscent of scenes from when the IDF was in southern Lebanon.

In the center of the settlement, the girls' parents came to meet them. A visitor did not notice any obvious signs of worry. "I'm here on a mission for the nation," said Sharon Cohen, who had also returned from Jerusalem, from a weekly lesson in the teaching of Rav Kook. "Netzarim is the soft underbelly of the State of Israel, there is no Temple here and no Lake Kinneret. That's why our being here is of such tremendous importance and why this place has to be strengthened. Living in Netzarim requires a dedication that many people are incapable of. I see it as a certain step on the way to redemption."

Call them bourgeois

Meanwhile, a fifth Qassam is heard. In response, the tanks in Netzarim fired on the fourth building of the Zahara neighborhood. The other three high-rises had been blown up in response to the lethal infiltration.

"Since the terror attack, we've seen a sharp increase in the number of incidents," says Itzik Vazana, one of the settlement's spokesmen. "We have no doubt there is a direct connection between this and the propaganda campaign that was waged against us. Clear and simple. To be honest, we prepared ourselves emotionally for such reactions, but we didn't anticipate that it would be this strong. What angered us the most was the distinction that was made between the soldiers and us. We could handle what was written in the articles, but it was the headlines that were especially evil. We found ourselves under assault both by the terror and from home. At times it seemed like the only thing we weren't being accused of was the Black Plague in Europe.

"There are parts of the public that tend to ignore the very basic fact that Netzarim is not just fighting its own war. People have to understand that the roots of the conflict with the Arabs are very deep and even if Golda Meir hadn't founded Netzarim, it wouldn't change anything. I'll tell you something else: Certain elements in politics have marked us as a target. To them, this is the test case for the whole settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria. They're not just after Netzarim; they're searching for the crack that will
constitute the precedent."

Vazana came to Netzarim from Atzmona 10 years ago. He is married, a father of six, and a religious studies teacher at a yeshiva high school in Ashkelon. His wife is responsible for the girls who are doing their National Service (Sherut Le'umi) at the settlement. In April 1995, he was seriously injured when a car bomb exploded near the settlement. "My hand was messed up and I lost an eye, but thank God, I came out of it alive. Exactly two hours earlier, eight soldiers and an American citizen were killed by a car bomb at Kfar Darom. I was going home with the family, we were listening to the news on the radio, the road was empty, and then suddenly a suspicious-looking car appeared in front of me. I was able to swerve
jut a little bit to the side and then it happened."

He envisions Netzarim one day being home to 1,500 families. He says there's nothing to talk about in terms of evacuation, or as he prefers to call it, "uprooting" or "exile." "Believe me, we're not thrill-seeking types here. We haven't climbed the Himalayas and we haven't crossed the Amazon. The residents here are simple people, totally ordinary - if you want, you could even call us bourgeois."

Though its population is small, Netzarim is spread over a very large area that includes the abandoned houses of the old kibbutz, the greenhouse area, the military camp and the corridor leading to the settlement. The ratio of soldiers to residents now stands at 1:1. Minervo's company was charged with securing the corridor to and from Netzarim, another was charged with carrying out external missions, and a third was charged with guarding the settlement itself. And another armored company from the 401st brigade is also available if needed.

According to information from the settlement's spokesmen, there are 58 families living in Netzarim. Minervo laughs when he hears this. "Just like what happens at demonstrations, there's a big gap between the numbers the reporter gives, the number the police give and what the organizers say. Some of the houses here are basically empty."

On Tues. December 9, 2003 the Labor Party debated the submition of a bill to the Knesset calling for a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the evacuation of settlements with compensation to the settlers. According to a document prepared by the party's political committee and presented by MK Haim Ramon, in the absence of an agreement with the Palestinians, Israel would undertake a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. The army would line up on the border, air and naval control would remain in Israeli hands, and the security zone between Gaza and Egypt would be broadened. Settlers would be evacuated; they would be guaranteed financial compensation and arrangements would be made for their resettlement inside Israel.

MK Benjamin Ben-Eliezer supported the resolution but doubted the public would accept it. He said it would be preferable to start with an evacuation of Netzarim, Morag and Kfar Drom. MK Avraham Burg proposed the faction unite to support the Geneva Accord. Party Chairman MK Shimon Peres supported the initiative, saying, "there's nothing for us to look for in Gaza."

MK Matan Vilnai, however, opposed a unilateral withdrawal, as did MK Ephraim Sneh. Because of their opposition, and the fact that some MKs, including Sneh, did not get a chance to speak on the issue yesterday, the debate was postponed to an unspecified later date. What a shame!!

When I approached Haim Ramon some two years ago to suggest Gaza First he was preoccupied with the Fence. He answered that the fence will be the solution. I am glad he now recognizes the importance of the evacuation of Gaza. Amram Mitzna promised me that if he would be elected to the Prime Minister office, he will carry out the Plan. You know what happened. Shimon Peres did not answer my letter. As some of you know, I have complicated relationships with Peres. I am in a very good company. It seems that most thoughtful people, who are unafraid to express independent opinions, have complicated relations with Peres. He is undoubtedly the shrewdest politician I've ever met but like all humans he has his faults. A major one is his inability to take criticisms.

Proposed Legislative Amendment: A Small Step in the Right Direction

In the Knesset, private bills were tabled to increase the election threshold to 2 percent. This is a positive move in the right direction. The Knesset has far too many parties. Consequently, its legislative effectivity is relatively small, and the government’s ability to sustain power is lessened. The multi-fraction composition opens the way to manipulations, gives rise to blackmail and undermines coalition effectiveness. The existing threshold to enter parliament, 1.5 percent of the electoral vote, gives a lot of leeway to representation and exploitation at the expense of stability, working to further the ends of partisan groups. I would suggest raising the threshold to five percent, as is the case in Germany. Effectively, this law restricts the number of splinter parties in the Bundestag and the regional parliaments and promotes political stability. The five percent clause has been a factor in every federal election since 1957.

Germany has certainly learnt the lessons of its history and can serve as a model also with regard to the voting system. Germany is using a mixed electoral system in which part of the Bundestag is elected in single majority districts in which a candidate must gain the greatest number of votes to win, and part is elected through proportional representation, which gives all parties a fair opportunity to gain some representation in the legislature based on their electoral strength. Germany’s policymakers after WWII wanted to avoid a repetition of the Weimar proportional representation system, which encouraged multiplicity of parties to run candidates for the Reichstag, thereby contributing to political instability and to the rise of National Socialism. In the early 1990s, Russia, Mexico and Japan adopted a similar mixed electoral system. I suggest the same for Israel. Sixty percent of the Knesset to be elected directly via a party list as is now the case in the proportional system, and forty percent to be elected in the provinces. The idea is to split Israel into several provinces in a way that would reflect the various groups in society and their relative prominence. Each voter will cast two ballots: the first for one of the competing party candidates in the province; the second for one of the lists of candidates drawn up by each party. The number of mandates received by the party is based on its percentage of votes in the entire country. The seats are then distributed to the parties according to their strength in each province. The combination of a relatively high threshold and a mixed electoral system would reduce the ability of small interest parties to be elected, will make the Knesset less diversified, with five or six parties at most, and reduce the extortion power of the small parties, some of which would altogether disappear. The Knesset’s power will rise and its effectiveness as a legislative body would grow.

I am not the first to suggest these reforms. They have been put on the public agenda time and again, and every time had been turned down due to pressure exerted by the small parties fighting for their survival. Most notably, the religious parties have resisted such attempts with notable success. Israel needs strong and bold leaders who are able to rise above and beyond their immediate interest to sustain power in order to carry out these reforms to better legislative ability. The Shinui Party is instrumental in pushing this small change in the right direction of increasing the threshold to 2 percent.

Rutgers' anti-Israel Campaign

The photo I attached to my last monthly communication evoked some reactions. Here are a few:

Arthur Lenk wrote from Jerusalem:

The Rutgers poster was a satire organized by Jewish students to protest a controversial pro-Palestinian meeting. It is not real.

Ilana Berman, a student at Rutgers, wrote on the other hand:

hi, yes, the photo is real. The Palestinian Solidarity Movement, in its third year, as well as Charlotte Kates and the attached quote are all real. Though, it should be noted that the rally (for the dates written Oct. 10-12) was clearly very controversial and for many logistical reasons, actually didn't end up being as grand as Charlotte would have liked. This Charlotte (a grad. student of Rutgers - I think in law) was also present outside the auditorium when Sharansky came to speak at Rutgers. She was rallying among many other Muslims and/or anti Israel, pro Palestinians as well as the neturei karta. there's definitely tension on campus and the attachment was definitely accurate. We're trying our best though to spread some peace, and maybe more importantly, some education here on campus.

Norman Cantor of Rutgers Law School wrote:

Rafi, the story is complicated. Ms. Kates is a law student and head of a New Jersey organization that supports the Palestinian interests. The organization as a whole supports the Palestinians, but it is not radical. That is, it pushes for peace through creation of a Palestinian state.

Ms. Kates, herself, is far more radical than most members of her organization. She believes that Israel is a racist, colonialist state and has no right to exist. She supports a "one-state solution" involving destruction of Israel as a Jewish state. She supports "any means" that the Palestinians choose to attain their goals (including, apparently, suicide bombings of civilians). Some Arab student members of her organization resigned because her views were so extreme.

I do not know who wrote the pamphlet. I believe that it was circulated by pro-Israel persons who were satirizing Ms. Kates, mocking Ms. Kates, and seeking to bring pressure on Ms. Kates. She deserves to have pressure applied to her, because her views are, in my estimation, despicable.

In response to the "conference" of Palestinian supporters in early October, Rutgers students and Jewish organizations organized a massive pro-Israel demonstration and conducted many educational sessions on campus. The pro-Israel demonstration attracted approximately 4,000 people and many politicians, including both N.J. senators and the governor of the state. I was there and it was a good way to express support for the Israeli people and the struggle against terrorism.

I hope this explains the complex situation that led to the pamphlet that you saw. It was a satiric document, though it accurately captures part of Ms. Kates' position.

Best wishes, Norman

Terry Heinrichs, York University, Toronto, had sent me the following link

Martin Golding, Duke University, wrote:

Thanks for your email that contained information about terrorist attacks and terrorism and the media. I should say that I am suspicious about the authenticity of the Rutgers anti-Israel rally. It is of course shocking. But it uses the term "homicide" bombers. This term is typically used by people who do not want to call such bombers "suicide" bombers, and who wish instead to emphasize that murders are being committed by them. Regards, Martin

Rashumon indeed. The search for truth is demanding.

Useful Website

Aviad Ivri from Copenhagen brought to my attention a very useful resource on Israel and current affairs. Please look at http://www.embassy-of-israel.dk

The holiday season is time for fun and Hollywood productions this year are better than average. If you wish to see a film that will warm your heart, go to Love Actually, a must for all Hugh Grant fans. Runaway Jury is a very good court drama, with an original and surprising twist. The script is just on the edge of reality. Mystic River is a very good film, excellent script and wonderful actors, another gem of Director Clint Eastwood. Undoubtedly one of the best films this year. Enjoy!!

May I wish you and your loved ones happy holidays, lots of light, warmth and love all around, and all the very best for a Happy New Year,


My last communications are available on http://almagor.blogspot.com

Earlier posts at my home page: http://lib-stu.haifa.ac.il/staff/rcohen-Almagor

Raphael Cohen-Almagor
Institute for Policy Studies
Johns Hopkins University