Monday, March 29, 2004

March 2004

On Gaza, the Fence, Visit to Montreal, Targeted Assassinations, Palestinian Poll, Attacks on Madrid and Ashdod, Indoctrination of Children, Sharon's problems, Broadsheet Press, Justice Dorner, and Good Morning Lenin

Dear friends and colleagues,


Ben Kaspit of Maariv reported on March 12, 2004 that the National Security Council (NSC), headed by Maj. Gen. (Reserves) Giora Eiland, has presented Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with a detailed relocation plan for Gaza Strip evacuees. The document also extensively addresses the "Philadelphi" route separating Gaza from Egypt.

According to the document drafted by the NSC, the Gaza region is home to 7,800 residents (1,500 families) who own 400 land plots. The document notes that "there is potential for resettlement, which mostly necessitates the building of housing units", and offers a list of potential solutions involving relocation of settlements to existing or new Negev communities.

The options provided include maintaining activity in the current route, expanding "Philadelphi" towards Rafah, creating an enlarged enclave near the "Girit" IDF post, or establishing an expanded enclave featuring an access corridor.

Government sources said Israel is planning to leave all evacuated settlements in the Gaza Strip intact. “Our intention is to leave the settlements intact in their entirety. We would rather they be transferred into the hands of international organizations while their fate is decided”, one government source said without elaborating. A senior Palestinian official said the Egyptian intermediary passed on a message from Israel to the PA requesting “not to touch” the evacuated settlements.

The Fence

Art Hobson wrote:

I agree with you that a fence is, unfortunately, needed. However, I recall that you recently agreed with me (in a telephone call) that the fence should be only along the old boundary line, and should not cross over into disputed Palestinian territory in order to include the settlements. This is a crucial point. I believe that Americans would agree with the fence if it followed only the old borders. But if it slips into disputed territory, most people's opinions, including mine, become negative.

My response:

The fence should pass, as much as possible, along the Green Line, i.e., Six Day War borders. However, whenever this is impossible (e.g. the town of Ariel, more than 18,000 people strong, is inside the occupied territories), accommodation then deem necessary. Whenever such necessity presents itself, compensation for this territory should be made in another area. This is what Ehud Barak tried to achieve in Camp David 2000. He, however, heard only NO from Arafat. No doubt that many settlements, some of which quite old, should be evacuated because constructing the fence around them would make it encroach far inside Palestinian territory and would unjustifiably impede their daily lives and well-being.

I said time and again that Sharon's route is unfair, and will not stand forces of history. I think it is foolish on his part to think that the Palestinians could be fooled in such a way, and that they rightly object. The farce is that the entire Israeli economy is subjected to this project, that will not remain in its present form for long. That is, more money will be invested to move it in due course.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University routinely conduct polls among the Israeli population on the conflict. They have started this project a few years ago, when there were still hopes for peace. Then they called it "The Peace Index" and inertia made them stick to this misleading title. Anyway, the results of the last poll conducted on March 1-3, 2004 were published by Haaretz on March 10, 2004.

The construction of the separation fence is overwhelmingly supported by the Israeli-Jewish public, despite the internal debate and the international pressure against it. 84 percent support the fence, 13 percent oppose it and 3 percent do not know. The support for the fence is based on the widespread assessment that it can significantly reduce terror attacks, though only a small minority believes it can prevent them completely.

However, the Israeli majority believes the route of the fence should be determined according to security considerations of the government and should not necessarily follow the Green Line, even if the route causes suffering to the Palestinian population. Here, the voters of my party, MERETZ, the civil rights party, strike out in opposition to the prevailing view: 70 percent of them favor the Green Line as the route of the fence, compared to 40 percent of Labor voters, 31 percent of Shinui (Change, secular-liberal) voters, 21 percent of Shas (Sephardi-religious) voters, 13 percent of NRP (religious) voters, and 11 percent of Likud voters, and 0 percent of National Union voters (right-wing).

The Jewish public's adamancy on the issue of the fence is manifested in a low level of consideration for the suffering caused to the Palestinian population, such as harm to its ability to cultivate lands and difficulties in moving from place to place within West Bank territory. Thus, only 31 percent believe this suffering should be taken into account in determining the route of the fence, compared to 64 percent who see it is a secondary if not negligible consideration. Not surprisingly, here too a large majority of MERETZ voters hold the minority view, 88 percent of them saying that Palestinian suffering should be taken into account in determining the route.

Labor voters are almost split on this question, with 52 percent saying the suffering should be taken into account while 42 percent regard it is a secondary consideration. Among Shinui voters the proportions are similar but in reverse: a small majority of 54.5 percent view the suffering as a secondary or negligible consideration compared to 43 percent who see it as significant or important in determining the route.

However, among NRP, Shas, and Likud voters an overwhelming majority - 80 percent, 79 percent, and 75 percent, respectively - believe Palestinian suffering should not be an important consideration in determining the route.

The widespread assumption is that in deliberating the case of the fence, the International Court of Justice at The Hague is biased in favor of the Arab side.

In the present situation in which the negotiations with the Palestinians are not being renewed, the unilateral-separation plan is widely supported and the majority views it as preferable - because of its immediacy - to the alternative of waiting to achieve a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

In the context of a unilateral separation, a majority (60%) supports the evacuation of all the settlements in Gaza and of the small, isolated settlements in the West Bank, but only a minority supports the evacuation of all the West Bank settlements. 32 percent oppose such steps, and the rest have no clear opinion.

In the Arab sector, in contrast to the Jewish population, there is wide opposition to the separation fence, the prevalent view being that it will not help reduce terror. Similarly, most believe that in determining the route, great weight should be given to the suffering caused to the Palestinian population and not to security considerations of the government.

The Arab public is divided on the question of a unilateral separation, and in contrast to the Jewish public clearly prefers the alternative of waiting to achieve a peace agreement with the Palestinians. As expected, most of the Arabs favor evacuating the West Bank and Gaza settlements in the context of a unilateral separation, and the vast majority believe the assassinations policy should be stopped.

Visit to Montreal

This month I traveled to the charming city of Montreal by the invitation of University de Montreal and Concordia University. I delivered two lectures: on compromise and coercion at the Montreal Political Theory Workshop, and on the failed peace process in the ME at the Dept. of Political Science, Concordia. Concordia is known for its Palestinian students who control the social life. A few years ago they managed to prevent Bibi Netanyahu from carrying his speaking obligation at the university. My lecture was attended by professors who asked candid and fair questions in a peaceful atmosphere.

Actually I had more trouble in my first lecture that revolved on probing the concepts of compromise and coercion. One professor asserted that there is nothing that binds together Israeli society, no common norms, no social agenda. When I responded that I think there are two binding norms that bind all democracies, including Israel, respect for others and not harming others, his response was: but surely this is not the norm vis-à-vis Arab citizens. One may recognize that the situation is not perfect in this regard, that there are instances of discrimination and racism. But to say that this is the norm is far reaching and misleading. Israeli society tries to fight such tendencies, as indeed it fought with notable success Meir Kahane and the Kach and Kahane Is Alive Movements. Palestinian citizens can voice their grievances, appeal to the Supreme Court, and strive for equality. Those who infringe equality try to disguise their discriminatory efforts. To present Israeli society as fundamentally racist, South-Africa style, is far from truth.

I thank Daniel Weinstock and Fred Lowy for their kind invitation.

On Targeted Assassination

I opened my Concordia lecture by relating to the assassination of Ahmed Yassin a day earlier (21 March 2004). I knew people would be interested in this issue anyway, and wanted to clear this issue and concentrate on the subject of my lecture, why the Oslo peace process collapsed. I am not a pacifist. Being a pacifist is a luxury that we Israelis cannot afford. Every government has the right, and obligation, to defend its citizens. Hence targeted killing cannot be ruled out tout court. When intelligence obtains verified information on ticking bombs, suicide murderers on their way to blow themselves up amidst citizens, Israel has the right and duty to kill those terrorists: Hakam lehargecha Hashkem Lehorgo (Hebrew slogan on the right to self-defence). Furthermore, it is justified to kill chiefs of terrorist operations who plan and orchestrate murderous attacks. Therefore I thought Prime Minister Shimon Peres was right when he ordered the assassination of Yichye Ayash, "The Engineer", who prepared many terrorists for their heinous attacks.

Yassin was in a different category. Hardly a saint, but he was not an architect of terrorist operations, nor a potential ticking bomb. In a calculus of harms, trying to estimate when more blood would be shed, when Yassin is alive and free to instigate to murder, as he did for many years, or now that he became a dead martyr, I am hasten to think more blood will be shed after the assassination. Recruitment to avenge his elimination is in progress. We can expect more suicide murderers who will attack bitterly when opportunities present themselves. The Hamas will not be satisfied by just another "regular" murder. They will try to make a point, preparing something "special" in the name of Yassin. They will plan a mega-attack with many people killed, and also targeting a political figure, or/and a top general. One should not rule out major operations not only in Israel but also against Jewish targets around the globe, especially in countries where the Hamas has the infrastructure. Expect the worse.

The majority of Israeli-Jews supported Yassin's assassination. The majority on the whole support targeted assassination, even when it involves harming innocent Palestinians. The reason is the widespread assumption that the assassinations reduce terror that kills innocent Israelis.

A substantial majority - 70 percent - supported the statement that the assassinations should continue even if this involves harming innocent Palestinians and only 20 percent thought the assassinations should stop.

Among the voters for the large parties, a majority only of MERETZ voters - 59 percent - oppose the assassinations (35 percent support them), while Labor voters are divided between 53 percent in favor and 42 percent opposed. An overwhelming majority of 93 percent of National Union and NRP voters, 86 percent of Shas voters, 78 percent of Likud voters, and 64 percent of Shinui voters also currently favor continuing the assassinations.

A Palestinian Poll

A poll conducted by Dr. Nabil Kokali of the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion (published too on the MEMRI website), shows that Palestinian support for terror is gradually receding, as a result of IDF pressure.

One of the questions was: Will your support for the Intifada increase or wane if Israel continues to cordon off Palestinian cities? Whereas in February 2003, 35.9% replied that they would increase their support, and 21.7% said their support would lapse, the latest survey pulled a 25.7% response of greater support and 24.8% of reduced enthusiasm.
Another question was: Even if the Intifada makes your economic situation worse, will you continue to support it, or demand its cessation? 22.9% claimed they would continue to support it, while 33.8% would want it to stop. The results in February 2003 were dramatically different. Only a year ago, 44.2% said they would continue to support the Intifada, while 30% wanted to see it end.

The Palestinian public’s trust in the Palestinian Authority has reached an all-time low. Only 30% believe the Abu Ala’s government is capable of doing anything to improve their economic situation, as opposed to 49% who were optimistic in November 2003.

Madrid Attack

On March 11, powerful bombs exploded in three crowded commuter trains in Madrid. One day later Maariv reported that Spanish authorities remain skeptical about Al-Qaeda's claim of responsibility for the bombings and estimate that the Basque separatist terror group ETA is behind the attacks. Spanish Foreign Minister, Ana Palacio said that the explosive materials used and modus operandi adopted by the terrorists point to ETA complicity in the terror strikes. He said that for internal political reasons but still lost the elections. To the best of my knowledge, ETA had never carried such mega attacks. ETA does not operate in this fashion, and this operation requires a lot of organization and infra-structure that Al Qaeda has.

Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the lethal terror attacks in Madrid, which killed some 200 people and wounded over 1,400 others. The London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper received the announcement.

Attack on Ashdod

On Sunday, March 14, two Palestinian suicide murderers blew themselves up minutes apart at the Ashdod industrial port, killing 10 others and prompting Israel's prime minister to cancel a first meeting with his Palestinian counterpart.

The bombers, identified by Palestinian militants as young men, ages 17 and 18, from the Gaza Strip. This is very significant. If this information is correct, then it is the second time that suicide murderers were able to overcome the electronic fence that encloses the Gaza Strip to strike inside Israel. The first time the murderers were British tourists with foreign passports who blew themselves up on the Tel Aviv Beach Strip.

Hate-indoctrination of Palestinian children

A video showing that the hate-indoctrination of Palestinian children starts at the top, i.e., Yasir Arafat, and goes down via the mosques and the education system. See the following url:

In the past few weeks there were several incidents in which young youth were sent to carry out suicide attacks. One of them said: They promised me 100 shekels. The price of life is very cheap in some places. There is no limit.

Sharon's problems

Edna Arbel, Israel's state prosecutor, recommended that the attorney general indict Prime Minister Sharon on charges of taking bribes from Dudi Appel, a wealthy developer and a Likud prominent activist during the late 1990s, when Sharon was a member of the cabinet. Now it is up to Attorney General Meni Mazuz, nominated to office in early 2004, to decide whether to ensue with the legal proceedings. Keep your eyes open. Mazuz is likely to make a decision within the next six weeks or so. Never a dull moment.

On Broadsheet Press

Sam Lehman-Wilzig, enlightened:

As usual I enjoyed your monthly. Here's an interesting and enlightening tidbit on the broadsheet.

400 years ago, newspapers tended to be tabloid size. However, after the Glorious Revolution (1689) when almost all government restrictions were removed from the press in England, a clerk in the treasury came up with an original idea for increasing treasury revenue: newspapers would pay a "neutral" tax based on number of pages. This was legislated (1711, I believe) and soon thereafter, many papers moved over to broadsheet size in order to pay less tax!! (Same content on fewer pages.) Soon thereafter (I don't know exactly when), in the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, new automated printing press machinery was developed -- and of course these were designed to fit the broadsheet size (as almost all papers at that point in England were that size). As the Industrial world leader, England exported this printing press machinery to other lands as well. Thus, even when the tax was ultimately abolished in England -- and in countries where there was no tax to begin with! -- the broadsheet became the standard of the "serious" papers, and it wasn't until much later that the penny press papers (tabloid) began to appear in smaller size. Of course, by then customary usage demanded that the elite press keep its "traditional" size. So it is only now -- ALMOST 300 YEARS AFTER THAT IDIOTIC CLERK'S IDEA -- that the world's press is beginning to free itself from its continued blind use of a very uncomfortable size (as you colorfully note).

Musar haskel on the stupidities of tradition and the consequences of being the "prime (first) mover".

All the best,

Until now, the Independent experiment in London has paid off beyond the paper's most ambitious expectations, sending its circulation shooting up after years of decline. Sarah Lyall of the NY Times (March 29, 2004) quotes Terry Grote, the managing director of The Independent, saying: "Without sounding boastful - you've only got to read some of the other media - this has changed the market dynamics in the quality end of newspapers". He proudly referred to the latest circulation figures released by the Audit Bureau of Circulation, showing that The Independent sold an average of 256,378 copies a day in February, an increase of 15 percent from the previous year. "We turned around 10 years of declines in 10 weeks," Mr. Grote said. "I'm not exaggerating to say that we have publishing groups from around the world visiting us three of four times a week, to study what we've done."

The London papers are watching carefully. Soon after The Independent's move, The Times of London started a tabloid version, which is also selling handily across the country and seems to be favored equally by commuters and non-commuters. Meanwhile, the other main broadsheets are looking nervously around and wondering how they should respond to this sudden shift.

"The very word 'tabloid' here has a certain stigma associated with it, I think unfairly," Robert Thomson, editor of The Times of London, said. Mr. Thomson prefers to call his new edition a "compact" rather than a tabloid. "Because the market is so competitive," he said, "and your competitors will do you no favors, it's in their interest to pretend that the stigma means something. But in the end, the format is meaningless."

London is arguably the most competitive place in the world for newspapers. Eleven national daily newspapers are published here, from The Sun, a popular yellow (rotten banana) tabloid, to The Financial Times, a sober broadsheet. Sometimes it seems as if there are too many newspapers and not enough news or advertising to go around. As the market has grown more competitive, sales - and the percentage of sales from subscriptions - have been steadily decreasing for the last decade, forcing the papers to fight ever more aggressively at the newsstand, through special offers, contests, racy photographs and eye-grabbing headlines.

The Independent's new tabloid, which requires several staff members to reconfigure and lightly re-edit the broadsheet's articles, cost more than $10 million last fall in production, staff and marketing costs. It has been successful in part because the paper seems to have applied the lessons of the populist, right-leaning press - traditionally the most successful tabloid publishers here - and applied them to the left. For example, when an independent report cleared the British government of misleading the public about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the front page of The Independent was given over to a one-word, unabashedly editorializing headline: "Whitewash."

"Being rather opinionated and eye-catching are good tabloid techniques, and not good broadsheet techniques," said Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, a left-leaning newspaper.

Mr. Grote said The Independent would most likely become solely a tabloid at some point. "We will get to one day where we will say, 'Is there any point in producing the broadsheet?' ", he said.

Having The Times and The Independent go tabloid has sent a shock through the industry and immediately forced the papers' competitors to consider their futures. They have good reason to be concerned, at least in the short term.

Justice Dalia Dorner

Justice Dalia Dorner has retired from the Supreme Court. One might not agree with all her numerous judgments, still it is impossible not to appreciate her independent voice on the Court. Dorner was a sound and clear defender of human and civil rights, a liberal woman with human compassion, courage to express unpopular views, and sharp understanding of intricate issues. I wish we could have many people of her sort on the Court and in other places. She made a significant mark on Israeli legislation. I wish her success and good luck in all future endeavors.

Good Morning Lenin

Go and see. I am always in favour of original scripts and clever ideas. This is a small, charming film, with some bitter moments, a film that will make you think. In German with English subtitles.

With my very best wishes, as ever,


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