Dear friends and colleagues,
On Gaza, Sharon's Setback, Targeted Assassinations, Sponsoring Settlements, Ford Foundation, Independence Day Parties, Interview to the Jewish Times, First Arab Team to Win the Israel Football Cup, and New Books
I was asked what I think of Sharon's Plan. I have to say that when I first heard of Sharon's plan I was quite skeptic. Now that is published in some more details, it is very much the way I wanted it to be implemented. If you look at what I wrote back in 2000 you will find many resemblances between my suggestion and Sharon's. The only places where we differ concern my suggestions to invite Arafat to declare his statehood in Gaza. Sharon is still reluctant to officially acknowledge and welcome a Palestinian State; and secondly, my idea of coordination with the PA. Actually, on this issue I think Israel did not reveal all pertinent information. I would not be surprised if Israel coordinates to one extent or another its maneuvers with Dachlan.
Meanwhile, more blood has been shed in Gaza. Killings on both sides. Israel carried out a wide scale operation after 13 soldiers were killed. At least 20 Palestinians were killed on May 18, 2004 as the Israel Defense Forces launched its operation in Rafah, on the Gaza-Egypt border, aimed at halting weapons smuggling, and arresting or killing militants. Three children, including a 13-year-old boy and his 16-year-old sister, were reportedly among the dead. On May 20, the IDF killed at least ten more Palestinians who were marching in protest against the Israeli curfew. Four of them children: Walid Abu Kamar, 10 y-o; Mubarac Al-Hashash, 11 y-o; Machmud Mansur, 13 y-o; Ahmed Abu-Said, 14 y-o. More than sisty people were injured, including 16 children. Hundreds of Palestinians were reported fleeing from Rafah as the IDF went in. How the Israeli prudent government thinks those measures are going to solve our problems is a great wonder to me.
Amnesty international has published a very critical report of Israeli conduct, arguing that in recent years the Israeli army has demolished thousands of homes and properties as well as vast areas of agricultural land in Israel and in the Occupied Territories. Tens of thousands of men, women and children have been made homeless or have lost their source of livelihood. Many more live in fear that they will be next.
The report maintained that although Israel has for decades been pursuing a policy of demolishing the homes of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and the homes of Israeli Arabs in Israel, in the past three and a half years the scale of the destruction has reached an unprecedented level.
House demolitions are usually carried out without warning, often at night, and the occupants are given little or no time to leave their homes and salvage their belongings. The victims are often amongst the poorest and most disadvantaged in society. In the wake of the demolitions, families return to the ruins of their homes searching for whatever can be salvaged from under the rubble – including passports or other documents.
Further information is available at http://web.amnesty.org/pages/isr-index-eng
On Sharon's Setback
On Sunday, May 2, Sharon had received a blow from his own party which rejected his disengagement plan from Gaza. Sharon, a lifelong hawk who has been a leading advocate of settlement-building for decades, was unable to persuade the Likud to back the plan. The party rejected the Gaza pullout proposal 60 percent to 40 percent. This casts doubts on the plan's future as well as on the stability of the government. It is a major blow to Israel. A day after his failure Sharon said that he would modify his plan for an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and would continue pressing for its approval. Most vocal in the coalition in support of Sharon, voicing disappointment of the referendum was Shinuy, the liberal-center-right party, the shining star in Israeli politics. Tomy Lapid, the Shinuy leader, proves himself as one who has a very sharp eye in mapping popular tendencies and putting his weight in the right directions.
The referendum results deserve some analysis. Speaking from my limited experience, prior to starting promoting the Gaza First Plan in 2000 I did a little survey. It was not an extensive methodological survey, but it did manifest some patterns. Most significant one was that the Plan appealed to people of different ideologies: left, middle and right. I spoke to many Likud supporters, more or less proportionally represented in my pool to their number in society. Most of them accepted the reasoning for a unilateral pullout from Gaza. Bearing this in mind, and the fact that Sharon does enjoy a strong hold over many Likud branches in the country suggests that there was a major effort to sabotage Sharon's disengagement plan.
Openly, Bibi Netanyahu, Silvan Shalom and Limor Livnat declared their support of the Plan, which makes things rather confusing. If Sharon and those three powerful figures all support the disengagement plan, how come it failed so miserably? Two explanations may be offered: (1) the four are loosing their grip over the Likud and other people are rising in influence: Uzi Landau, Israel Katz and Gila Gamliel. (2) at least some of the four (most likely Netanyahu) are playing double language: in public they support the Plan and privately they instruct their followers to vote against it. Cynics may even suggest that Sharon himself had masterminded the results. Personally I would rule out this possibility but I would not rule out stabbing his back, Brutus style.
I was asked: Why did Sharon consult his party in the first place? The answer, simply put, is that he is obliged to do so by party statutes and regulations. For once he feels like the opponents he sabotaged so many times during his tenure in politics. Sharon now finds himself in a difficult situation. Polls show that some two thirds of the Israeli public support his plan but his own party does not. He would not like to alienate them but he would not like to give up his disengagement plan. He will seek ways to pursue the disengagement plan, maybe with some moderate revisions so as to shut up critique stemming from his own party. Maybe the Attorney General will help to further resolve the problem…
On Targeted Assassinations
The discussion continues. This time people think that I am too restrictive in my approach. Thus, for instance, Jonathan Zasloff wrote on 18 April:
Good to hear from you. One note, just to get this off of my chest: I think that you let your interlocutors on targeted killings off way too easily, by conceding to them that the Yassin (and now presumably the Rantisi) killing was not justified. I think that this is quite wrong, for reasons that you yourself suggest.
Let's start with M's argument that it would have been impermissible to kill Al Capone, so why Yassin or anyone else? The answer, as you suggest, is that the political and military context is completely different. M's and Steve's argument contain a critical assumption: behavior under world politics is equivalent to that under domestic politics. I believe M said something to the effect that if it would be illegitimate under domestic law, then it should be under international law. This is inaccurate.
The reason why something would be illegitimate under domestic law is the assumption that the state has the adequate power to use a law enforcement approach and engage in due process: if it isn't, then it really isn't a domestic situation at all. We can put it another way: any attempt to use force against a criminal, or a terrorist, must be done without excessive force. This is hornbook international law. But excessive force varies greatly according to the circumstances. Again, as you point out, the IDF could not simply enter Gaza and arrest Yassin and/or Rantisi: if it could have, it would have done so already. Had it tried, not only would dozens of IDF soldiers have been killed, but dozens of Palestinian civilians would have as well. The reason why it would have been illegitimate to do the same to Capone is that law enforcement in the United States could have accomplished this--thus any attempt at a targeted killing would have been excessive. Al Capone was in 1920's Chicago, and actually submitted to federal jurisdiction; had he been an outlaw in the 19th Century west, the situation would have been completely different.
The touchstone, then, is excessive force, NOT whether the killing was "extrajudicial" or not. And this goes to the nature of the conflict. Virtually every international conflict yields extrajudicial killings. There is word for that: war. I continue to be amazed at the assertion that somehow it is okay to shoot at the grunts and the corporals, but if you target the generals, then you are somehow engaging in a war crime. Somehow it is "progressive" to protect the elite. It won't work.
It is no answer to say that one doesn't trust the executive to carry out these attacks, and that is why there must be due process. That, again, is the standard situation in war.
The REAL reason why M and Steve believe the attacks to be illegitimate, then, has nothing to do with whether they are extrajudicial. I'm not accusing them of bad faith, but rather of not thinking through their assumptions. At the bottom, they do not regard the current conflict as a war: they see it as a struggle for independence and self determination. If it illegitimate to use targeted killings on Hamas because Hamas is engaged in a legitimate struggle. This is their second critical assumption.
And this, of course, is patently false, as you point out by referencing Camp David 2000 (you could have also referenced the Clinton Plan of 2000, Taba of 2001, and the Palestinian reaction to the Nusseibeh/Ayalon Declaration of Principles, which has been complete rejection). This is NOT a war to determine whether there will be a Palestinian state: it is a war to determine whether there will be a Jewish state. Those who oppose targeted killings by Israel, and have thought through their assumptions, simply respond: "yes, that is what this war is about, and I would like the Palestinians to win it." But again, that has nothing to do with whether "extrajudicial" targeted killings are legitimate: it is about whether Israel is. It is about ends, not means.
Thus, I remain mystified as to your view of the Yassin killing. He was the political head of Hamas (at least in the territories); he was a key link in their strategic and operational command. He was able to unite and coordinate their various military commanders, and provided critical political unity to their operations in the territories. He was thus was a perfectly legitimate target. Killing him (and before him Shanab, and after him Rantisi) drove other leaders underground, made their communications more difficult, made their political activities more dangerous. (See Greg Myre's piece in the NYT today for some evidence regarding this) I simply fail to see why this was illegitimate. If during World War II we had been able to use the threat of an Apache strike against Hitler, we certainly would have done it, because it would have made it much more difficult for him and the Nazi Party to control military operations and the state apparatus. And we would have been perfectly justified in doing so. If we would have been able to do the same thing to Ho Chi Minh in the 50's and 60's, we would have tried to do so for the same reasons. Now, maybe that would have been less justified--but that is because of the justness of the war itself, not the technique.
Keep in mind as well that neither the killing of Yassin nor of Rantisi resulted in a single civilian casualty: the only people killed were their bodyguards and their adult families, who were themselves intimately involved in Hamas operations. And even if family members NOT involved in operations were killed, keep in mind again that this was Yassin's and Rantisi's choice: why is it that Israel should be condemned when Hamas leaders choose to turn their families into human shields just eludes me. Those who say that it does are in effect saying: Hamas should be given a free pass to commit terrorist acts, and Israel should not be able to respond. That makes no sense on an argument about means; it makes perfect sense if you want Israel to lose the war.
I do not want Israel to lose this war, despite my contempt for the Sharon government. I thus conclude that targeted killings that do not cause substantial civilian casualties are essentially justified and in fact the most moral form of warfare for Israel to wage. If they caused substantial casualties, then they MIGHT be another story, but neither the Yassin, Rantisi, nor Shanab operations caused such casualties. This is, so far, a very easy call.
Thanks for your comments. Yassin was not the political head of the Hamas. He was their spiritual leader. I don't think he was a key link in their strategic and operational command. The appropriate comparison therefore would be to Alfred Rosenberg rather than to Hitler. Rantisi is a different matter. His official title was not spiritual leader, like Yassin's, but the Head of the Hamas in the region. He was involved in the planning and operation of terror attacks on Israel. His past is saturated with blood. Hence I am more inclined to justify his assassination. I remain opposed to the Yassin assassination.
Yael Paz-Melamed, a leading columnist for Maariv, not only pondered the assassination of Yassir Arafat but recommended it. After Yassin's assassination, this is the natural, unavoidable next step. After all, Arafat's hands are not cleaner than the hands of Yassin. Quite the contrary. I wonder whether people on this list who condone Yassin's killing are also in favour of killing Arafat.
The State Comptroller, Eliezer Goldberg, issued a new report that relates to funding settlements. His hardly surprising report found that the Housing and Construction Ministry inappropriately funneled $6.5 million to construction projects in the West Bank. Between January 2000 and June 2003, the Housing Ministry approved 77 contracts for projects in 33 West Bank areas without receiving the required approvals from the cabinet and the Defense Ministry. The report found that 18 of the contracts, worth about $4 million, were for outposts that the government had never approved, so-called "illegal settlements". In two cases the ministry paid for roads and building foundations at outposts that had already been slated for demolition. Credibility is a precious thing.
Ford money is still being used for anti-Israel activities, a recent NGO Monitor advises, drawing particular attention to the NGOs funded by Ford that engage in blatantly political anti-Israel activities. On 15 March 2004, NGO Monitor published an update (http://www.ngo-monitor.org/editions/v2n07/v2n07-3.htm) to ongoing investigations of Ford’s activities. Following publicity generated by NGO Monitor and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Ford Foundation President Susan V. Berresford initiated a review and declared that it would act to ensure that funds no longer went to "groups that promote or condone bigotry or violence, or that challenged the very existence of legitimate, sovereign states like Israel." (http://ngo-monitor.org/editions/v2n04/v2n04-2.htm)
Some progress was noted, as Ford ceased funding for the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights (LAW) and initiated a review of funding for the anti-Israel Habitat International Coalition (HIC) (http://www.ngo-monitor.org/editions/specialannouncement.htm). However, a number of recipients of Ford funding have continued to take part in anti-Israel activities that warrant a close review in the framework of the Ford Foundation’s funding policy.
Ford is listed as a donor (http://www.pchrgaza.org/about/funding.htm) to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), an organization analyzed by NGO Monitor that played a major role in the 2001 Durban conference and has demonstrated that its primary objective is the political and ideological demonization of Israel, in sharp contrast to its claims to promote universal human rights. (http://www.ngo-monitor.org/editions/v2n08/v2n08-4.htm)
Following the initial responses to the revelations of Ford’s role in funding anti-Israel NGOs, the Foundation has not moved quickly to fulfill the pledge to halt funding to groups that promote or condone bigotry or violence, or that challenge "the very existence of legitimate, sovereign states like Israel." However, Ford’s general guidelines have been incorporated in contracts for grants provided to universities. The Wall Street Journal of 6 May reported that this has led to some protests, based on the charge that these requirements could threaten academic freedom by inhibiting campus presentations of partisan lectures or films. However, according to press reports, two dozen universities have signed the new grant agreements without comment, and the Rockefeller Foundation has adopted similar guidelines. Alex Wilde, a spokesman for the Ford Foundation, said his organization is committed to academic freedom and plans to discuss the concerns with the schools. (Associated Press – 6 May 2004 http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/nation/8600831.htm?1c)
The main speaker at the Independence Day party in Washington was Collin Powell. It was heartening to listen to his speech which was warm and friendly to Israel, expressing deep support for our nation, appreciation to Israel's constant pursuit of peace; describing Israel as a democracy that seeks to promote justice and works to improve the well-being of our region. Powell reiterated American support of Israel, viewing Israel as a close and reliable ally. The speech included some words in Yiddish and some knowledge of Kabalah. Powell received loud applause for his efforts in those spheres and overall for his remarkable friendly tone and substance.
My family and I organized an Independence Day party at our home. People of different religions and nationalities gathered to celebrate the day. Our living room was coloured with white-and-blue ribbons and balloons. Aviva Raz-Shechter and Guy Shadmy from the Embassy had graciously sent us some material about Israel that received attention. Most of it was gone by the end of the party. Israeli music was playing at the background; Israeli dishes were served, and at the end of the party a video on Israel was played. It was a lively and enjoyable evening. Gilad, Dana, Roei and mostly Zehavit shared the organization efforts without which the party would never have materialized.
Interview to the Jewish Times
What follows is an interview I gave to the Jewish Times: first excerpts of the interview, and then the profile as published by the Senior Editor, Neil Rubin.
At Hopkins, completed a 10-year project, the book, “Euthanasia in the Netherlands.” Also working on another long term project, a book titled “The Scope of Tolerance,” which deals with media ethics and free speech issues. This is his third authored book on the topic.
Also working on two edited volumes on Israeli democracy/ started three years ago/ titled “Israeli Democracy at the Crossroads”
Also writing two academic journal articles/ media ownership in Israel, Canada and Germany and an article on “objectivity in the media,” something that fascinates him.
(Tell me about your work here.)
Taught 2 courses at Hopkins since arriving at the US in August 2003, one per term/ "Media, Violence and Pornography"/ this term “The Theatre of Terror,” about the triangle between government, media and terrorists. Will teach this course also in the summer term.
One may think that the media would side with the government vis-à-vis the terrorists. I show that was not always the case. During the course we develop some guidelines for responsible behavior by the media.
Last two courses were taught in D.C. at the School for Advanced Studies. The summer course will be taught in Baltimore.
In addition, I’m trying to raise money for the Center for Democratic Studies of which I am the director. The Center is designated to promote liberty, tolerance, equality and multiculturalism in Israel (look at material on website and provided. Please mention in article.)
The teaching and research have been productive and fruitful. The fund raising for the Center not so much. Unfortunately, without money the Center won’t move anywhere.
(You did your dissertation on Kahane. What was his impact on Israel?)
It was the first time in Israeli history that almost all of the house (Knesset) from left to right, were united to fight one member of the Knesset. It was unprecedented. The main issue is that Likud was part of the fight against Kahanism. The Knesset tried to deny Kahane of basic MK rights and Kahane appealed to the Supreme Court in protest. Kahane was a very isolated, marginal member of the Knesset and very frustrated. Then he was banned as a result of a law passed precisely in order to stop him.
In 1985 the Knesset amended 7-A to the effect that a racist and anti-democratic party could not compete in the elections. Then, when the legislator said its word, there was no way for Kahane to appeal successfully to the Supreme Court.
Kahane was conceived as racist and as a person working against Israeli democracy. So his representation in the Knesset was a short lived experiment. In the next election Kach was banned as was a splinter group, Kahane Chai. They tried to disguise themselves as other groups carrying different names, but it didn’t matter. All of those groups were not successful. They remained marginal. Their hardcore are among the settlers. If you would like those people resemble the militias in the United States – people (many of them American) who are against the government and the establishment. In this country they are Christian. In Israel they are Jewish. They collect arms. They are racists. They hate others. They are very similar.
I once talked to the Attorney General in Israel whom I won’t name. I asked him how you can allow Izhar, Kfar Tapuach and other settlements like this who have settlers who explicitly break the law, who enter Arab villages with the manifest intention to maim and inflict harm. He said, “I can’t stop them. It’s almost impossible to infiltrate those organizations.” The same thing is happening in the U.S.
(But going back to Kahane, does he have a legacy?)
He has followers. Whether he has a legacy, I don’t know. There are people who believe Kahane was right. Especially after the collapse of the Oslo Accords there were many signs saying “Kahane was right.” It was the first time in Israel’s short modern history that we had in our midst a Jewish Fascist, the first time we had a Jew living among us who was speaking of the Arabs as Nazis spoke of Jews. Some of us found it incomprehensible and disgusting.
Kahane was never mainstream, but his ideas are still appealing to some peripheral groups in Israeli society.
The groups are now associated with Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir. Even among the settlers those extremist groups are secluded, described as zealots. The settlers are quite cautious of them and often do not wish to cooperate with them.
(Can you tell me more about your views on the American militias?)
I just spoke about this yesterday evening in my class. The militias were more visible after Oklahoma City, but you hear very little about them now.
I asked my students what they know about the militias. This is a well educated group. They said these groups operated outside the law, are in the Midwest, and that the police are reluctant to go inside their territory. They did not know more than this.
There are some 400 hate groups in the US. Researchers often lump them all together – racists, Aryan supremacists, cults and militias. They operate in the Midwest and in the south. The U.S. has to ask itself whether it can afford to have so many groups operating outside the law. The police need to have the support of the community in order to monitor those groups successfully. The militias claim: we have the right to hold weapons just as the police does and we dare you to come to our places without a warrant or justified reason, or we’ll shoot you. I’m quite certain the FBI is cautiously following these people now, after September 11. They can’t afford another Oklahoma City, but people are prone to err, as Sept. 11 proved.
We’re talking about a few thousand activists in those groups. Many of them are now diverting their attention to the Internet. Some of the most magnificent sites are associated with those groups. It is a way for them to spread their vicious ideology and to attract followers.
In recent years the security forces have collected more information about those groups, but humans are prone to err and we know how determined these people are.
One thing that Americans have to understand is that they are isolated. I am amazed watching your news. You are so ignorant about what’s happening in the world. There are significant things happening all over the world, in Europe, Asia and Africa and most of the media don’t care, couldn’t care less. The insularism of the Super Power.
(Should Israel move toward separation of religion and state?)
Formally Britain doesn’t have separation between state and religion. The Queen is the head of the Anglican Church. But the unity is symbolic. That’s what I wish for Israel. I want symbols and traditions to be in that way, but not religious involvement in everyday life, especially not in most private matters like marriage and death. I don’t see why the state should have a role in that. The result is resentment toward religion. Some people tell me, “I don’t go to synagogue” and when I ask “Why?” they say, “because of Ovadia Yosef.” What’s that? This is ridiculous. Because you don’t like one single individual and his religious outlook you don’t want to practice anything? You hear such resentful statements much too often. Ovadia Yosef should not involve himself in politics. He would be better off, as most rabbis are, staying away from politics. When rabbis do involved themselves, it is awful for the state.
It will change. It’s a process – but I don’t know in what direction (you said with a smile)
It might be the case that at some point Israel will return to the days of the Bible. In Jerusalem we see that already. There are not many secular people around. The establishment in Jerusalem is more and more religious. A religious community surrounded by non-Jews (the Palestinians are the new Amori, Chity and Yevusi). Policy is more centralized and conservative. The majority of schools in Jerusalem are religious. However, this is not the case in the rest of Israel. Tel Aviv is very different. A bastion of secularism. The tension builds. To change events for the better we need different leadership, someone who thinks not only in the most immediate terms, but as a visionary. I don’t know if and when that guy or lady will appear. Then you need the public support to do separate between state and religion. I don’t see it happening in the near future.
(Should Israel sponsor religion in any way?)
It’s part of the Jewish state’s responsibility to sponsor such Jewish institutions, as it is its responsibility to support institutions like Tel Aviv University, The Hebrew University and the University of Haifa. What troubles me is the gulf between the two parties. We secular believe in live and let live. The religious people, particularly those who are more extreme, say, `We can’t allow that. If we allow that, then you secular are going to put holes in the Jewish boat in which we all live and consequently all of us will sink. It’s our responsibility to show you the light, that God exists and the final authority is God.’ This is a clash between two very fundamentally different ideologies which are incompatible. One believes in live and let live. The other believes that belief is dangerous.
Religious people can’t have the cake and eat it too by saying `You leave us alone, but we are entitled to interfere in your lives.’ It’s not going to work in the long run.
(Can you share your views on the U.S. media and its role in reporting the Iraq War? There have been complaints by some that the media here is too pro-U.S. and not questioning the Bush administration.)
I’m not a big fan of the American electronic media. I watch CNN and as said they put much too emphasis on local issues and on fluffy news. I read the Baltimore Sun, The New York Times and The Washington Post. To say that they are soft on the administration is almost ridiculous. There’s constant criticism of the American administration. It’s true for all of three papers.
(Some people think CNN is biased against Israel. Do you see that?)
I watched the CNN coverage of one of the last suicide bombings. Four Israelis were killed and some were injured. CNN showed some pictures from the scene and the next item was about James Brown. There was no transition period. A second ago it was Israel, blood and terrorism and immediately afterwards we are back at the studio and the announcer, with the big smile on his face, speaks of “the new James Brown” and shows some ridicules photo of Brown. This lack of sensitivity to suffering does not happen in Israel. The geographic remoteness plays a role.
I think the electronic media, generally speaking, just don’t care much about what’s going on outside of the U.S. I have not conducted a detailed research, but it seems to me that 90 percent of the 7 to 8 a.m. news has to do with the U.S., and this is a very lenient estimation. The news are so secluded and insular. It’s the insularity of an empire.
Often times I confront my students with these questions. Many of my students work for the media or the government or P.R. I asked what do you have to say about the fact that the U.S. media are not interested in what’s going on in this world? Most of them say they understand this. The USA is a big country; there’s a lot going on, and it’s what people want to hear. Now I come from a very different culture, Israel, a very small country. Possibly you can make an argument that because we are so tiny and so vulnerable, and because we see ourselves as part of Europe that our media reflect that. We take care of what’s going on in Europe, the Middle East and America because they all affect us. Some people think it’s good that the American people and the American media (not the American government) are concerned mainly about the US, but I don’t think so. Anyway, when I discuss this with my students, I just want them to be aware of the peripheriality of their news.
The USA is a superpower, but very ignorant of other cultures and languages. Most Americans speak no languages other than American. There are consequences. An ignorant president is one of them. It’s not a very educated society about foreign issues.
(Can you share your views on the war in Iraq?)
I support the war in Iraq. I was one of the few people in my circle who supported it without any reservations. Having said that, when Bush declared war on terror I was puzzled because I didn’t know whether he knew what he was saying, what it meant, and I didn’t know if he was serious about it. I thought it was impossible. If you look at the webs of terror all over the world, you find dozens of organizations. It’s not only in the Middle East, but also in South America, the Philippines, Africa, Asia, there are so many of them. So what does it mean that he declares war on terror? Does he intend to wage war on terror in four corners of the world, on all countries that are involved? It is ambitious even for the only superpower of the world.
(How would you go about this?)
First you want to track down ways the money comes in. Terrorism is state-sponsored. We know what is the axis of evil of countries that support terror – Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Sudan, Yemen, Lebanon. All but one are Arab and Muslim countries. Are you going to declare war on all of them, together or one after the other? It’s ridiculous. It is not prudent to do it. So When Bush went after Iraq he shifted the emphasis to weapons of mass destruction in order to get the Congress' support.
I didn’t have any problem with the war in Iraq because as an Israeli I have been suffering from its sponsorship of terrorism. I don’t forget the 1991 Gulf War, the Iraqi missal attack on Israel. I am aware that Saddam gave $25,000 to each suicide murder’s family and $5,000 to people who cooperated with terrorists.
(One of your specialties is the limits of democracy. What do you think of the Bush administration’s push for democracy in the Arab world?)
Democracy in the Arab world is a very tricky issue. The U.S. can be successful in this only if they have the ability to sustain casualties in the long run, to convince the American public it’s worthwhile. American people may say: look at our great empire. Public education here is not very good, to use a British understatement. Public health is one of the worse in the western world, arguably the worst. Public transportation is horrible – Baltimore is a testimony. Much of the cities infrastructure is underdeveloped. One can ask why should the USA invest so much money in Iraq when I don’t have adequate basic needs -- healthcare, education and public transportation, to name only three?
The process of building a democracy in Iraq will take years if not dozens of years.
The American public could probably live for a long period of time with five casualties per week. But if there will be 50 casualties per week, I’m not sure. If you have many incidents like Fallujah, I don’t think any administration could take such heat.
Of course, a lot depends on the coming elections. Things may change by the end of the year.
Mr. Rubin had to cut substantial parts for the Profile he wrote. I think he did quite a good job. I thank him for his professional conduct. Here is what he wrote.
Israel Scholar Reflects On Year At JHU
Neil Rubin Senior Editor
APRIL 30, 2004
Like the man himself, Dr. Raphael Cohen-Almagor's office at Johns Hopkins University is simultaneously peaceful and on the run.
Spring sunlight streams into the room as pleasant jazz music dances from two small computer speakers, which themselves adorn one of three tabletops strewn with research documents ranging from medical ethics to democracy's limits to media behavior. After stuffing thick large envelopes for a pending conference, Dr. Cohen-Almagor sits for an interview. Sort of. The telephone keeps ringing, and he keeps answering. When off the phone, he responds to questions by citing academic articles and saying, "Wait, I can print it."
At age 42, the University of Haifa professor, soon wrapping up a year as a visiting fellow at JHU's Institute for Policy Studies, has penned more than 70 academic essays in English, French, Romanian, Spanish and Hebrew. Two books are in print, one more was finished this year and another is being polished. Five others have been edited, with two more nearing completion. Periodically, colleagues receive and participate in his "blog" — ruminations on the day's issues. The banter over Israel's policy of targeted assassinations was excerpted in the Sunday, April 25 Washington Post.
Perhaps sitting on Israeli buses for countless hours — he does not have a driver's license — offers more time. Maybe that's how he finished two volumes of Hebrew poetry.
While in Baltimore with his wife, Zehavit, and their three children, he has taught a course on "media, violence and pornography" and another on the relationship between the government, media and terrorists.
"One may think that the media would side with the government vis-a-vis the terrorists. I show that's not always the case," he said. "During the course we develop some guidelines for responsible behavior by the media."
His only disappointment here is not raising funds for Haifa University's Center for Democratic Studies, which he heads. The institute arose after the Rabin assassination and focuses, he has written, on promoting "liberty, tolerance, equality, justice, peace and multi-culturalism in our troubled society."
Dr. Cohen-Almagor's doctoral thesis focused on the now late Knesset member Rabbi Meir Kahane, known for controversial hard-right views on the Israel-Arab conflict.
"It was the first time in Israeli history that almost all of the Knesset, from left to right, were united to fight one member," he said of Rabbi Kahane. "He was a very isolated, marginal member of the Knesset and very frustrated. Then he was banned as a result of a law passed precisely in order to stop him."
Today, a few radical groups praise Kahane and "Kahane was right" signs are seen throughout Israel. It is analogous, Dr. Cohen-Almagor said, to the militia movement here.
"In this country, they are Christian. In Israel, they are Jewish. They collect arms. They are racists. They hate others. They are very similar," he said.
The secularist believes Israel must promote Judaism, but symbolically — as in Great Britain. That includes promoting university study and Shabbat as an official day of rest, allowing Palestinians to do so on Friday. Coercion on issues of personal status or even shopping, however, should not be allowed.
Change, by the way, is likely on the country's religious/secular divide, but not to his liking, he said with a chuckle.
"It might be the case that at some point that Israel will return to the days of the Bible. In Jerusalem we see that already," he said, noting Tel Aviv is the inverse.
"We secular believe in live and let live," he said. "The religious, particularly those who are more extreme, say, `We can't allow that. If we allow that, then you secular are going to put holes in the Jewish boat in which we all live and consequently all of us will sink. It's our responsibility to show you the light, that God exists and the final authority is God.' This is a clash between two very fundamentally different ideologies which are incompatible."
While here, he has been disturbed by Americans' lack of connection to the global community.
"You are so ignorant about what's happening in the world," he said. "There are significant things happening in Europe, Asia and Africa and most of the media don't care, couldn't care less. The insularism of a super power ... Possibly you can make an argument that because we [in Israel] are so little and so vulnerable, and because we see ourselves as part of Europe, that our media reflects that. ... Some people think it's good that the American people and media — not the government — are mainly concerned about the U.S., but I don't think so.
"Most Americans speak no languages other than American," he continued. "There are consequences. An ignorant president is one of them. It's not a very educated society about foreign issues."
Yet, he favored the U.S.-led attack on Iraq as a citizen in a country that suffered from Iraq's sponsorship of terrorism. That said, the expert on democracy wonders about the patience needed for the long haul.
As he said, "Public education here is not very good, to use a British understatement. Public transportation is horrible; Baltimore is a testimony. One can ask, 'Why should we invest so much money in Iraq seeing as how I don't have adequate basic needs — health care, education and public education, to name only three?' The process of building a democracy in Iraq will take years, if not dozens of years."
First Arab Team to Win the Israel Football Cup
Bnei Sachnin football club on the Israel Cup after winning 4:1 v. Hapoeal Haifa. This is a truly historical event: first time in Israel's history for an Arab team to win the cup. Bnei Sachnin will represent Israel next year in the UEFA Cup, the third most important cup in Europe. Good luck!!
Hearty congratulations to Valerie Alia and Joseph Magnet on their new books:
V. Alia, Media Ethics and Social Change, Edinburgh University Press (published in US and Canada by Routledge, NY). Just released, April 2004.
J. Magnet, Modern Constitutionalism: Identity, Equality and Democracy (Butterworths, 2004).
I urge you to order the books for your respective libraries.
I read only the review of Ben Cramer, How Israel Lost: The Four Questions (NY: Simon and Schuster, 2004). Sounds like a good read.
With my very best wishes, as ever,
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