Friday, July 23, 2004

July 2004
On the Fence, Sharon's Coalition, Palestinian Poll, Consolidating PA Military Organizations, Incitement, My Newest Book Euthanasia in the Netherlands, The European Football Championship, Film Recommendation, Beautiful Photos
Dear friends and colleagues,
The Fence
On June 30 the Israel's Supreme Court ordered the army to remove a small portion of the barrier it is building along the West Bank and to reroute other sections to reduce the harm imposed on Palestinians cut off from lands they need. I trust this is only the start. More accommodations need to be done.

The unanimous decision by the three-judge panel (Justices Aharon Barak, Eliahu Matza and Mishael Cheshin) asserted that Israel has a genuine security reason for building the barrier and can expropriate land in the West Bank for it. But it said the army has a legal duty to balance properly between security and humanitarian considerations: "this reduction in security must be endured for the sake of humanitarian considerations."

The barrier's planned path along a 20.5-mile section, the court ruled, could not be justified because of the suffering it would cause: "The fence's current path would separate landowners from tens of thousands of dunams [quarter-acres] of land, and the planned regime of authorizations to access that land would not substantially reduce the harm. The fence's current path would generally burden the entire way of life in petitioners' villages."

The decision affects eight Palestinian villages with 35,000 residents northwest of Jerusalem. It is related to a section of the Fence running near Jerusalem's Ramot neighborhood, Mevasseret Zion, and the settlements of Givat Ze'ev and Har Adar. It should be noted that the residents of Mevasseret Zion had joined the Palestinians in arguing that a barrier between them would increase animosity and thus lessen safety. Just last week, children from the two towns joined together to fly kites as a sign of the friendly relationship that could be damaged.

The ruling sets an important precedent for how Israel can complete the Fence. Though the ruling applies only to one particular stretch, it obviously has implications for the rest of the Fence, as well. Indeed, on July 1, the Court issued a temporary restraining order barring completion of construction work on the West Bank separation fence in a section near Har Homa, south of Jerusalem. In the past, Har Homa was the site of protests over construction of new Jewish housing on lands which Palestinians claimed were theirs.

To remind, when complete, the barrier is to run from the northern West Bank, wrap around some settlements deep in the West Bank, and stretch to the area's southern rim. The barrier consists mostly of an electronic fence with coils of razor wire, adjoining trenches and guard towers, but about 5 percent consists of concrete walls rising 20 feet. In all, the complex of fences, concrete walls, trenches and razor wire is to run 680 kilometers (437 miles). It is currently one-fourth complete (about 125 miles).

The court rejected an argument put forward by the Council for Peace and Security, which joined the petitions, that the army's security considerations were flawed. On security matters, it said, the court will always prefer the judgment of the army, which bears bottom-line responsibility for Israel's security. It also rejected claims by Palestinians and by residents of Mevasseret that the Fence was being built not for security reasons, but rather to annex land to Israel. While it agreed that the army would have no right to build a fence for political reasons, such as annexing territory, it found that the actual stretch of fence at issue appeared to be a security barrier rather than a political one. This finding, however, applies only to that particular stretch of fence, and thus does not prevent petitioners from charging that other stretches of the fence are political.

The ruling did not address whether the Fence can extend deep into Palestinian territory. I expect the court would closely scrutinize any challenged sections to make sure they conform to principles set today.

The Ministry of Defense said it would abide by the ruling and reroute 18.6 miles of the 25-mile contested section of the Fence. It will also destroy or move 1.9 miles already built. The ministry had contended that it drew the route to leave enough distance and take in the right topographical features to stop potential gunfire from Beit Sourik or to detect the approach of a suicide murderer. It is likely that in a new route for the Fence, some farmland will still be taken, but the petitioners say it will be a lot less than planned.

In recent years, the Supreme Court forbade harsh physical measures during interrogations and barred many deportations of relatives of suicide bombers from the West Bank to Gaza. The recent decision, written by Chief Justice Barak, ended with an eloquent assertion of the quandary faced by the judges. It said that while they recognize they are making the army's task harder, they believe that in the end, conscience and law must prevail because "there is no security without law... Only a separation fence built on a base of law will grant security to the state and its citizens." This decision gives Israeli citizens one more reason to be proud of their Supreme Court under the leadership of Barak.

Senior government sources expressed satisfaction with the ruling, noting that the court accepted the state's position in principle: that the Fence was a security barrier rather than a political one, and that, therefore, the government has a right to build it in the West Bank, rather than being obligated, as the petitioners had argued, to build it along the Green Line.
Senior army officials said they'd need two or three months to submit an alternate route for Cabinet approval, and would have to carry out new geological surveys and issue new land appropriation orders. In many parts of the relevant stretch, the Fence has already been built. At this point it is estimated that Israel will spend $11.1 million to alter portions of its West Bank barrier, building new roads, underpasses and tunnels to try to ease Palestinian conditions. I hasten to think this will not be the ultimate figure.

Defence Ministry officials said Israel has no plans to remove existing portions of the Fence. We shall see. I trust they don't have such plans at this point. They might have in the future. Quite likely, I would say.

As expected, on July 9, the International Court of Justice ruled that the West Bank separation fence contravenes international law, that it must be dismantled, and that compensation must be paid to the Palestinian owners of property confiscated for its construction. Fourteen justices supported the decision and the sole opponent was the American judge, Thomas Buerghenthal. For full text, see

In building the Wall, the court rules, Israel violated international humanitarian law, by infringing on Palestinians' freedom of movement, freedom to seek employment, education and health. It also states that Israel violated international treaties it had signed which deal with these topics: "The construction of such a wall accordingly constitutes breaches by Israel of its various obligations under the applicable international humanitarian law and human rights instruments."

The court also rules that Israel must halt construction of the wall and pull down those sections built inside the West Bank. "Israel is under an obligation to... cease forthwith the works of construction of the wall being built in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, to dismantle forthwith the structure therein situated..." the ruling says.The judges also rightly question the route of the wall determined by Israel, saying they are "not convinced that the specific course Israel has chosen for the wall was necessary to attain its security objectives."

The ruling says: "The wall, along the route chosen, and its associated regime, gravely infringe a number of rights of Palestinians residing in the territory occupied by Israel, and the infringements resulting from that route cannot be justified by military exigencies or by the requirements of national security or public order."

On the issue of compensating Palestinians harmed by construction of the wall, the court rules that, "Israel is under an obligation to make reparation for all damage caused by the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem."
The ruling maintains that, "Israel is bound to comply with its obligation to respect the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and its obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Furthermore, it must ensure freedom of access to the Holy Places that came under its control."

The Hague decision mentions the threat of terrorism four times, all of which quoting Israel's stance. There is no mentioning that some 900 Israelis have been killed and thousands injured in more than 20,000 attacks since September 2000. No mentioning of the fact that there is a 90 percent drop in terrorist attacks in areas where the Fence was completed. There is very little sympathy in the Court to Israel's intricate security situation. I wonder whether they would have taken a similar position were one of their countries attacked day in, day out by terrorists. Israel's position in the world at large and in Europe in particular continues to erode and little has been done to change the course of events. Having said that, the Court is right in its view that Israel should alter the Fence in way that will show more respect for the rights of our neighbours, honouring the Palestinian right to self-determination in their own land, beyond the Green Line.

The Hague decision is not binding. As expected, Israel immediately reacted by saying that it will not honour the decision. Justice Minister, Yosef Lapid, said Israel would honor only its own court rulings, such as the June 30 High Court of Justice ruling ordering the defense establishment to reroute a 30-kilometer stretch of the separation fence northwest of Jerusalem.
On July 20, the General Assembly of the UN overwhelmingly adopted a resolution demanding that Israel comply with the world court decision. The vote was 150 in favour, six opposed (including the USA and Australia), and 10 abstentions (including Canada). We are popular.
Like the Hague Court, this decision is also not legally binding. But it speaks volumes about Israel's position in the world. My government's determination to continue the erection of the Fence according the original plan reminds me of King Pharaoh in Egypt: The more condemnation we receive, the more the government hardens its heart. I strongly recommend the heads of my government to speak to the former leaders of South Africa during the apartheid. They could explain them in some detail how bad the future can be.

In Israel many people say about the Arabs: "They" understand only the language of force. This statement is no less true about Israel. The Fence should have been built along the 1967 Green Line, with some accommodations necessary to include large settlement in the Jerusalem area and Ariel inside the Fence, and compensating the Palestinians in other areas. The idea of using the Fence to create geographic facts that in effect make greater Israel and smaller Palestine was unfair, discriminatory, unwise and unjust. The Fence should be moved, and it will. The questions revolve only about time, money and blood involved.

In the Bible, there is one word for both money and blood: "Damim". Israeli politics eloquently and forcefully explains why.
Sharon's Coalition
Meanwhile, Sharon has to foster and bolster his shaky coalition and began talks with Shimon Peres who always found it intolerable to sit in the opposition. You know my views about unified coalitions: only in severe state of emergency. So I am very much against. Peres said that he does not mind being blamed by his critique for advancing the cause of peace. I always admired his eloquent tongue. No wonder he's still in politics. His critique don't blame him for advancing peace but for rushing into Sharon's shaking boat and not fulfilling the role of critical opposition that is necessary for democratic life and for fighting against corruption. This is the essence of the checks-and-balances mechanism that is part and parcel of other democracies, of any democracy, necessary to keep functioning. My praising goes to MKs Tamir, Avital and Cabel who stood against their leader and who try to fight against this wrong decision. They fully understand that Labour could never retain its leadership position by playing a second violin. People will prefer the first fiddler. Party that rushes in testifies about its lack of authority and capacity to win election on its own right. It’s a phony leader. In election time, people are prone to prefer the original. But patience in Peres's age is too much to ask.
Palestinian Poll
A poll conducted in December 2003 among the Palestinian population shows that 63.1 percent support suicide murderers, a slight increase compared to October 2003 (61.8%). Hatred does not die easily.
Consolidating PA Military Organizations
Amidst of all the bad news that we constantly hear about the governance of the Palestinian Authority, on July 21 it was reported that Chairman Yasser Arafat issued a decree to condense at least a dozen security branches into three agencies. The decree unifies the manifold Palestinian security forces into three agencies - national security, general or domestic security, and intelligence. This is a long-awaited move. Arafat, who enjoys dividing-and-ruling, created all those military agencies to assure that no one will gather enough power to contest him. He has the mentality of a terrorist who does not trust anybody and keeps his back clear by sitting against the wall, unleashing and provoking one organization against the other. Arafat was forced to take this initiative by his close allies who understood that the divide-and-rule tacticts creates anarchy and disrespect for law and order.
On Incitement
A poll conducted by Ami Pedhazur, a colleague and friend from Haifa, among Israeli Jewish population revealed that 11 percent of people who identified themselves with the right agreed with the statement: "When national disaster is on the threshold and all protest measures exhausted, inflicting physical harm on politicians might be forgiven." Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called upon the Justice Ministry to act vigorously to uproot dangerous incitement from the far right-wing. "It saddens me that one who has spent his whole life defending Jews in Israel's wars now needs to be protected from Jews out of fear that they will harm him," Sharon said (Haaretz, July 5, 2004).  Minister of Internal Security, Tzachi Hanegbi, said: "I have no doubt that there are people who have already decided that they will 'save the people of Israel' and will assassinate a minister, the prime minister, an army officer or a police officer" - in imitation of Rabin assassin Yigal Amir (Haaretz, July 7, 2004).   The SHABAC Director, Avi Dichter, warned against growing extremism among militant opponents of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip (the so-called "Gaza First Plan"). Spurred by Dichter's comments, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz plans to convene the SHABAC chief, the IDF Judge Advocate General, and senior police and Justice Ministry officials to discuss policies regarding bringing suspects to trial over incitement to violence.

Those familiar with my The Boundaries of Liberty and Tolerance know that it ends with an alarm that the radical right might assassinate an Israeli political leader. The book was published in 1994. A year later Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. I raise the same cautionary alarm today. There are enough people in Israel who conceive Yigal Amir as a hero and who think that his terrible deed helped to avert the "disastrous" Oslo Accords. Some may try the same method to forestall Sharon's "catastrophic" Gaza disengagement plan. After all, if murder was successful once, why not giving it a second shot? The Israeli authorities are not complacent regarding the instigating calls for murder, and rightly so. Incitement does not enjoy the protection of the Free Speech Principle. The book I am completing now, The Scope of Tolerance, addresses and elaborates on this issue.
My Newest Book Euthanasia in the Netherlands
R. Cohen-Almagor, Euthanasia in the Netherlands: The Policy and Practice of Mercy Killing (Dordrecht: Kluwer, July 2004), ISBN 1-4020-2250-6, Hard cover

I started working on this book in 1994 when I was a Fellow at the Hastings Center in New York. The data was available but I could not figure out what to make of it as the interpretations are so contradictory: some said that the Dutch serve as a model for the world; other said that we should deduce from the Dutch way all the reasons why euthanasia should never become legal. Baffled and confused I did not write a word about the issue and delayed publication of my previous book, The Right to Die with Dignity until having the opportunity to visit Holland and have a more confirmed opinion. In 1999 I went to the Netherlands for the first time for research purposes, visited hospitals and research centers across the country, and interviewed some 30 people, the cream de la cream of the policy makers, the movers and shakers of Dutch euthanasia. I repeated this research trip twice, in 2000 and 2002. The book is largely based on the interviews.

This is my tenth book and it is special to me for several reasons: It is the first book I write that is based largely on interviews; like all my books it is based on some ten years of thinking and research, but unlike my other books the actual writing of the book was like an eruption: the first draft was written in less than 4 months; the book was attacked and criticized even before it was published: it thought me great and painful lesson about academic freedom (before I retire I will probably write a book on this intriguing subject); I changed my mind as a result of my research: from pro-euthanasia advocate I became an anti-euthanasia campaigner, although I still support physician-assisted suicide.

Infra please find two assessments of the book by two learned authorities, Professors Winslade and van Leeuwen:
Professor William R. Winslade, Institute for the Medical Humanities, University of Texas:
Euthanasia in the Netherlands is an excellent book on an important topic.  It succeeds in giving an even-handed appraisal of Dutch euthanasia practices, providing a better understanding and valuable insights of the Dutch experience with euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.  Cohen-Almagor analyses clearly and accurately the weaknesses of the policy and offers recommendations for correcting the deficiencies and developing a sounder policy. He combines an overview of the literature with analyses and interpretations of the intriguing interviews he conducted with key people in the Netherlands. 
Cohen-Almagor’s book is critical but judicious.  He gives a balanced account of the views with which he disagrees and he carefully explains the basis for his disagreement.  His style of writing is straightforward, clear, easy to follow, logical, and coherent. Bioethicists and other scholars in medicine, public health, and law will be interested in this book.  College teachers of medical ethics will also find it valuable, and educated general readers with a special interest in euthanasia will find it helpful. 
Prof. Evert van Leeuwen, Faculteit der Geneeskunde, Section Philosophy and Medical Ethics, Free University of Amsterdam.
Writing a book on the Dutch experience with euthanasia is not an easy matter. Several reasons can explain the difficulty. First of all the ethics of the present palliative and terminal care has not been spelled out in detail until recent years. The difficulties every physician meets more than once in his career when confronted with a sincere wish of the patient to die in a humane way in a situation of unbearable suffering, are still puzzling for moral and legal thinking. Secondly, our ways of legal and public thinking are still not adapted to the situation in which death is a part of life, not so much as a natural fact but as a process that can be controlled. The goals of medicine to uphold human dignity and to alleviate suffering are at stake in this process. The Dutch policy to aim at a system of both legal clarity and control is perhaps at this moment the most articulated answer to the difficulties, but will almost certainly not be the last word in the issues of death and dying.
Rafi Cohen-Almagor has contributed much to the ongoing discussions by interviewing all the prominent legal, moral, political and medical people involved in the development of the Dutch legal ruling. His analysis of the interviews is based on clear, lucid thinking and argument. Unlike some others he tries to stay with the facts without entangling them with moral or political prejudice. Instead he tries to develop a view according to best standards of academic thinking. In the end he gives his own conclusion based on his experiences. One does not need to subscribe them in order to appreciate the work Prof. Cohen-Almagor has done. This book will certainly be helpful in every discussion on the legal and moral principles of assistance in dying, in traditions of legal philosophy such as the schools of Dworkin, Rawls and Kelsen. It can help physicians, nurses and others engaged in palliative care to sharpen their views in the ethics of palliative care as well in the forms of public and legal control that are needed in the burdensome but rewarding work of assistance in dying.

I'd be much obliged if you order the book to your respective libraries. Further information is available at
The European Football Championship
For three weeks most of the world followed the Championship. United States was not interested. If the US does not participate, who cares? Two continents, world apart. So much so that the cable company that has a monopoly in Maryland offered to watch the game only by pay-per-view: $20 at the beginning; $26 at the end, PER GAME.
Not many places in Baltimore broadcast the event that happens once every four years, to my mind the third most important world event in sports, after the Olympic Games and The Mondeal; this with much respect to the Winter Olympics, NBA, NFL, and American and Japanese Baseball. Luckily, the student union at Hopkins did. The medium-size room was packed with people from different nationalities, and only few Americans. Between 80 to 150 people filled the room, hungry for good football. Well, we did not see much of this precious merchandise during this tournament, and the best team that produced the most exciting games (Czech Republic) was able to reach only the semis. It was a championship of the small teams. All the semi-finalists represented relatively small countries in Europe: Greece, Portugal, Czech and the Netherlands). The big nations, with 60 million people and more, went out quite early in the games: Russia, Germany, England, France, Italy and Spain. Only England and France were able to advance to the quarter finals. They were ousted by the two finalists, Portugal and Greece.
Kudos to Greece for a wonderful achievement. Their defence is remarkable, flawless. Greece has been a power house in European basketball, and now will make a difference in football.
Here is my tournament team:
Antonios Nikopolidis (Greece) / Gianluigi Buffon (Italy)
Christian Panucci (Italy) / Giorkas Seitaridis (Greece)
Traianos Dellas (Greece)
Sol Campbell (England) / Angelos Basinas (Greece)
Marek Jankulovski (Czech Republic)
Louis Figo (Portugal)
Karel Poborsky (Czech Republic) / Edgar Davids (The Netherlands)
Michael Balak (Germany) / Nuno Maniche (Portugal)
Pavel Nedved (Czech Republic)
Wayne Rooney (England)
Milan Baros (Czech Republic)
Film Recommendation
Terminal By Steven Spielberg: Innovative, engaging, interesting. Based on a true story. With one of the best actors ever in the industry, Tom Hanks. Always a joy to watch him, and with Catherine Zeta-Jones who has magnetic and charming presence. Beautiful soundtrack by John Williams. Williams' elegant, light, capturing music is a constant reminder that we should see this drama with a wink in the eye.
Beautiful Photos
I wish to share with you some of the most beautiful photos of 2003. Take a few minutes, enjoy and circulate to your beloved people. 
With my very best wishes, as ever,


My last communications are available on http://almagor.blogspot.comEarlier posts at my home page: