Wednesday, October 27, 2004

On Sharon's Gaza Plan, Comment on Sharon's Government, Sharon Rejects Settlers' Plea for Referendum, the Terror Attack on Hilton Taba, Terror Campaign on Israel in Numbers, American Involvement in Iraq, Bush v. Kerry, Ethical Presuppositions and Implications of Warfare in the Twenty-First Century, Dim Prospects for Palestinian Reform, The Role of WMD in Iranian Security Calculations, Discussion on Iran, Oxford Workshop, Comment on Guidelines for Media Coverage of Terrorism, Brit Tzedek v'Shalom Appeal, Useful Website, The Report That Nails Saddam, The Gollnisch Affair in France, Democracy Fellowships, Christopher Reeve, Two Israelis Won Noble Prize, London Theatre, Film Warning, New Books

Dear friends and colleagues,

Sharon's Gaza Plan

On 26 October Prime Minister Ariel Sharon won a resounding Knesset victory for his historic disengagement plan. As you can imagine, it was a moment of personal satisfaction. I yearned to see it coming for years, worked hard to promote awareness of Gaza First since 2000, thinking it was the best alternative to break the deadlock. Back on 29 May 2003, when I wrote to Sharon and explained why it is the most viable plan I received no response from my prime minister. I did receive responses from political leaders of the Labour Party and Meretz. If my tireless efforts to make the Plan visible on the Israeli and international public agenda were only a scratch in history then I am satisfied. I believe many leaps in history are the result of many scratches combined together. In this forum I voiced my wish time and again that Sharon will surprise me and justify his reputation as a pragmatic leader. Kudos to him for his vision and bravery. I am most appreciative of his courage, to face his old friends, to renounce his old deeds, to admit his mistakes, to lead Israel to a new, brighter future. I raise my hat and say: Kol Hakavod.

Some interesting facts about this important vote in the Knesset: Traditional Knesset's party lines shattered as Labor, Meretz-Yachad and two Arab MKs joined about half of the Likud faction and all of Shinui to deliver Sharon a victory vote of 67 for, 45 against, and seven abstentions. Seventeen Likud MKS voiced against Sharon. Twenty three Likud members voted for, including the incapable chess players Bibi Netanyahu, Limor Livnat, Danny Naveh and Israel Katz. These four ministers who wished to stab Sharon in the back crawled to the Knesset in the last moment to join Sharon. Sharon celebrated his victory in a stoic mood, enjoying himself as the Labour MKs, with Yossi Sarid, mocked the four Brutus-like gang. Interestingly, Michael Nudelman of the extreme right wing party National Union vote for Sharon's plan. All religious parties represented in the Knesset voted against the plan. The rabbis, who know best what is good for Israel, showed yet again that they care more about land than about life. What a sad Jewish tale.

Shimon Peres can expect an invitation for talks to join the coalition. However, Sharon can expect further challenges from Bibi Netanyahu, Silvan Shalom and Limor Livnat who like to present themselves as better defenders of Eretz Israel, to Sharon's right. We all can expect many twists and turns in this saga: Sharon will fight hard to retain his position in government and party. He should not be too optimistic. The SHABAC should work hard to protect his security. The settlers will stage further fights. The Likud "rebels" will give all of us hard time. As ever, it will be interesting. I hope not TOO interesting.

Comment on Sharon's Government

Professor Sam Lehman-Wilzig commented on my critique of the Sharon government by saying:

Hi Rafi:
A quick comment on your latest newsletter. You can't think of one major accomplishment of this Sharon Government. I can! Bibi Netanyahu's economic reforms -- with Sharon's strong support -- are a MAJOR accomplishment that will be felt (and appreciated) for years to come: privatizing Bezeq (phone co.), privatizing the 3 ports, changing the Municipal rules of the budgetary game, separating the pension funds from the banks, removing slough-offs from the welfare roles, etc. One can argue that the government has not done enough to help the truly poor and needy, but the MACRO-economic policy is a HUGE accomplishment, given Israeli history's unsuccessful attempts at real economic reform.
Kol tuv,

Sharon Rejects Settlers' Plea for Referendum

Meanwhile, Sharon finally announced his willingness to meet with the settlers. Better later than never. Common sense does prevail. Sometimes it takes time. The meeting took place on 17 October. The heads of settlers described the meeting as "charged and difficult," noting they were up against "a solid wall and a prime minister who could drag the nation into an internal war, a civil war." It was "a dialogue of the deaf," said settler leader Pinhas Wallerstein. The settler leaders said the prime minister was continuing to behave like "a destructive dictator." Spokesman Yehoshua Mor Yosef said that the movement would continue to apply pressure on politicians to bring the disengagement plan to the public, adding that "Sharon is disengaging from the nation."

Sharon explained his objection to a referendum by saying that it would lead to demands for more referendums on a variety of issues such as the status of Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, matters of kashrut, Shabbat, marriage laws and more. I should say that I am not against the referendum. I think it is important to appeal to the people on crucial matters that divide the nation, that concern everyone, and that affect our future. Sharon's objection is derived from viewing it as a red herring, as an invention of the opposition to delay the execution of his disengagement plan. He should carefully reconsider the issue, especially in light of reiterated threats of violence and civil war. A leader should not ignore clear red lights that blink forcefully.

Some two weeks ago, Rabbi Avraham Shapira, a leading religious Zionist rabbi, urged soldiers to refuse to evacuate settlements; 60 other prominent religious Zionist rabbis joined his call. Shapira was the Israel Chief Rabbi and is a very important figure in the religious national circles. They listen to him carefully and respect his judgment. The National Religious Party, Mafdal, is squarely against the disengagement plan and its sitting in the government is only a matter of time. In their hearts, they are against.

The incitement campaign against Sharon and his government continues. In comparative terms, looking back to the 1990s vis-à-vis Rabin, it is still mild. But it does not relax. It is gathering momentum and it continues as long as Sharon is conceived as "a destructive dictator."

To my surprise, the newspapers in Israel announced that Sharon intends to destroy the settlements upon evacuating Gaza. This is a gross mistake. I still recall the photos of the destruction of Yamit. I thought that there will be a way to compensate Israel for the property we leave behind. Certainly the Palestinians should be interested in it. Certainly the USA and Europe have vested interest that the property will not be destroyed. I hope a compensation formula will be devised. In any event, I would not like to see the blowing up of the settlements when we leave Gaza.

The Terror Attack on Hilton Taba

On 7 October 2004, Blasts hit three Sinai resorts populated by Israelis. Thirty two people were killed, including thirteen Israelis. The most devastating attack occurred around 10 P.M. when a blast ripped through the Hilton Hotel in the resort town of Taba, close to the border with Israel. Hilton Taba is a very popular hotel for Israelis as its prices are far cheaper than similar five-star hotels in the nearby city of Eilat. About two hours after the Taba blast, three other explosions occurred in the area of the nearby resort towns of Ras Satan, a camping area full of Israeli tourists, and Nueiba. In previous weeks, security officials issued a serious travel warning to Israelis planning to vacation in the Sinai peninsula. Intelligence warned that there are concrete details about possible attacks on Israeli targets in Sinai. But the warning of a possible terror attack fell largely on deaf ears, with up to 15,000 Israelis crossing the border at Eilat over Sukkot and heading for the resorts that pepper the Sinai coastline.

The previously unknown Jama'a Al-Islamiya Al-Alamiya (World Islamist Group) claimed responsibility for the terror attack on Hilton Taba. Palestinian Authority security adviser Jibril Rajoub, told Al-Jazeera television that no Palestinian factions were responsible for the explosions. The pattern of the terror attack resembles Al-Qaeda's methods.

The Terror Campaign on Israel in Numbers

On 28 September 2004 the SHABAC published a summary of four years of terror. In Israel there are less than 7 million people. Translate the numbers, proportion-wise, to your own society and receive a glimpse of the magnitude of the horror Israel has been suffering since 2000.

Since September 2004 1,017 Israelis were killed (703 civilians and 314 soldiers and policemen);

5,598 Israelis were injured (4,566 civilians; 1,032 soldiers and policemen);

The bloodiest year was 2002: 452 Israelis killed and 2,309 injured.

There were 138 incidents of suicide bombings (in 2002 alone there were 60 such incidents);

Among them there were 8 women suicide murderers; all educated, single, in their twenties;

45 potential female ticking bombs were arrested;

292 teens were involved in terror attacks, including suicide bombings;

There were 13,370 incidents of shooting;

460 Qassam rockets were launched.

The IDF was successful to uncover 98 tunnels between the Rafah refugee camp and Egypt. The tunnels are used to smuggle weapons and explosives.

959 Palestinians involved in terror operations were killed (according to Palestinian resources, 3,268 people were killed. This number includes people involved in terrorism and bystanders. 23,930 Palestinians were injured);

6000 Palestinians were arrested;

In the first 34 months of terror there were 73 successful (from the Palestinian perspective) terror attacks. Since the building of the fence till now there were 5 such incidents.

In 2004 there were 14 suicide bombings.

190 km of the fence are completed. The suicide murderers who were able to infiltrate Israel came from places where the fence is not built yet.

The soft spot in the security system is East Jerusalem, this for geo-strategic reasons and also because residents of East Jerusalem are citizens of Israel and carry Israeli IDs. Since September 2000, 150 East Jerusalem Palestinians were arrested. They were involved in more than 20 terror attacks.

The Hezbollah is investing lots of resources in building a terror infrastructure inside Israel. More than 100 organizations in which Israeli-Palestinians were involved were uncovered by the Israeli security police.

Since my return to Israel I heard many people speaking, most of them in harsh terms: Israel needs to invest more in retaliation. Israel had turned right and never looked back. More killing is not the solution. The only solution is ending the occupation, evacuating most of the settlements and the IDF, and establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The sooner the better.

American Involvement in Iraq

Post September 11, United States had understood that the oceans cannot serve as protection against world terrorism. The administration was forced to change the concept, the thinking. It has taken time, with noticeable rigidity. Those applying for visas, or just flying in and from the USA felt this. It is huge bureaucratic machinery with the usual notorious inflexibility. While the Israeli culture is largely based on improvisations, the very concept itself is alien to the American thinking. Americans are accustomed to work in rubrics and when something falls outside the known rubric, the solution is usually to say "No". Sorry. This is not allowed. Those of us who understand this mentality will sure appreciate the strategic change that the US was forced to take. September 11 compelled the US to look differently at the world.

Iraq is the first stone, not the last. The planning of the military campaign was careful. The idea was to capture Baghdad as quickly as possible while trying to stop Saddam from launching missiles that might involve unwanted parties, like Israel, in the campaign as well as preventing Saddam from setting fire in the oil wells. This idea was put into practice with notable success. The USA army penetrated swiftly deep into Iraqi territory without a stop. However, little thinking was paid regarding the aftermath: How to build and maintain the post-Saddam Iraq? Moreover, the result of this rapid progress to Baghdad was that the Iraqi army dispersed with its ammunition and with the support of hostile elements is now conducting brutal guerrilla warfare against the American army. The US and its allies are now facing harsh reality in Iraq.

The American army, unlike the Israeli, is a professional army. There is no strong link between the military and the people as is the case in Israel. In Israel it is the people's army, a nation in uniform. In the US only people who wish to serve take part in the fighting. There is no forced conscription. Thus the soldiers understand that this is their role and they feel committed to the task assigned to them by the American government. The USA is now committed to democratize Iraq and to bring the voice of liberty and justice to the Middle East. Lots of money is now tunneled to carry out this mission.

One of the consequences of the US involvement in the region is its understanding of the reality in which Israel operates. In Israel the US has found today as before a strategic ally that is fully committed to fighting terror. Now the US appreciates more Israel's security needs and interests. I would say that September 11 constitutes a watershed in this respect. I do not think that ever before Israel enjoyed such latitude and understanding from any American regime as it enjoys now from the Bush administration. Israel and the US are united in their determination to fight down terrorism, understanding that there is a zero sum game between democracy and terror: any win for the one is a loss for the other.

Bush v. Kerry

I wish to draw your attention to the Washington Post article which compares the stances of the two candidates on various issues. For your consideration.

Comparing the Candidates

Attached please find one reflection on the elections in Florida.

Ethical Presuppositions and Implications of Warfare in the Twenty-First Century

In the new issue of Ethical Perspectives, philosophers, political scientists, lawyers and U.S. military scholars debate the ethics of warfare for the twenty-first century. They assess the use of just-war arguments, address different aspects of the war on terror and the doctrine of pre-emptive intervention and discuss issues related to the ius in bello such as biological enhancements of soldiers and the combatant/non-combatant distinction.

More info at

Journal of the European Ethics Network

Volume 11, Issue 2-3


Ethical Presuppositions and Implications of Warfare in the Twenty-First Century
Johan Verstraeten

From Just War to Ethics of Conflict Resolution: A Critique of Just-War
Thinking in the Light of the War in Iraq
Johan Verstraeten

Regrounding the Just War's 'Presumption Against Violence' in Light of George Weigel
John Hymers

The Terrorist Threat. A Post-Modern Kind of Threat
Herman De Dijn

The Preventive and Preemptive Use of Force. To be Legitimised or to be De-Legitimised?
Tom Sauer

The Impact of the Fight Against Terrorism on the ius ad bellum
Frederik Naert

Can War Be a Moral Action? Towards a Normative Theory of Humanitarian Intervention Reinold Schmücker

Combatant, Non-Combatant, Criminal. The Importance of Distinctions
Michael Brough

Mediums and Messages. An Argument against Biotechnical Enhancements of Soldiers in the Armies of Liberal Democracies
Jeffrey Wilson

Multatuli Lecture 2003: Imprisoned by Categories. Fuelling Cultural Conflicts with Emotions and Stereotypes
David Grosmann

Dim Prospects for Palestinian Reform
Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat's Fatah will emerge as the leading political bloc after forthcoming municipal elections in the areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but Islamist candidates will gain ground, according to a recent poll by Bir Zeit university. Some 34 percent of the 1200 voters sampled in the survey intend to vote for Fatah and 32 percent for Hamas or Islamic Jihad, according to the survey funded by the International Republican Institute (
Apathy is minimal in highly politicized Palestinian society, so the results suggest a high degree of alienation, if not hostility towards the available options, on the part of about a third of the electorate. Some 39 percent of respondents do not support any of the political factions, suggesting that many will hold their noses as they cast their ballots.
Palestinian President Yassir Arafat announced last month that he intends to hold presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections soon. But no schedule for presidential or parliamentary elections has been announced. The local elections will give Palestinians the first chance to vote since the 1996 general election, which was boycotted by Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
While the elections are limited to municipal levels, some 73 percent of poll respondents support holding presidential elections, and 82 percent want fresh legislative elections. Less than half - only 46 percent -- would support Arafat in a presidential election. Arafat has come under pressure from internal and external sources to yield more power.
Asked why Arafat has been unwilling to grant more authority to current Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei, former PA PM Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) told the Jordanian daily Al-Rai newspaper "He [Arafat] probably believes that if they were to take these powers away from him, then they would get rid of him." Abbas has also conceded that "the Intifada in its entirety was a mistake and it should not have continued." Jordanian Prime Minister Faisal al-Fayez recently suggested that the overbearing PLO leader Arafat should devolve greater responsibility to Prime Minister Qurei in an effort to enhance the strategic position of the Palestinians in the run-up to the US presidential election.
But would-be reformers who recently challenged the Fatah hierarchy do not fare well in the Bir Zeit poll. The second most popular Palestinian figure after Arafat, with 12 percent support, is former West Bank Fatah leader Marwan Barguthi, founder of the self-styled Al-Aqsa Brigades, who is currently serving five life sentences in Israel for terrorist activity. There is little support for Fatah-linked reformists such as Gaza-based strongman Muhammed Dahlan (1.6 percent), Sa'eb Erekat (1.2 percent) and Ahmad Qurei (1 percent) or for relatively liberal and democratic Palestinian politicians like Haydar Abdul Shafi (6 percent), Mustafa Bargouthi (1.7 percent) or Hanan Ashrawi (1.4 percent). These are sad news for the Palestinian people as well as for Israel.
Meanwhile, we all hold our breath to see whether Arafat will be able to overcome his illness and rise, yet again, like a wounded cat, from the depth of fever to run the show.

The Role of WMD in Iranian Security Calculations

I wish to share with you an article by Amin Tarzi, an analyst at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). Previously, Tarzi worked as a senior researcher on Iran at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at Monterey Institute for International Studies in California. This issue is of major consideration for the future of the Middle East and the world at large. Miscalculation on the American side, the Iranian side or both might draw the ME into yet another cycle of blood. I hope Iran will have more common sense than Saddam and will cooperate with the UN monitors.

Tarzi's article is attached in WORD.

Discussion on Iran

During my visit to Oxford I was invited to dinner at the home of an International Relations professor who invited a visitor from Japan, lecturer in the same field. W began to talk about Iran and I said that Israel will not tolerate Iranian nuclear capacity. I said that Israel reserves itself the right to attack Iranian installations as an act of self-defence, and that both Defence Minister Mofas and Chief of Staff Yaalon said that Israel monitors closely the situation in Iran and will not hesitate to attack in case of need. The combination of unconventional weapons, missiles and radical regime that supports terror constitutes a lethal threat that the free world cannot afford to understate. The Japanese professor looked surprised. I presume she had never heard such a blunt statement before. She wanted to hear some qualifications or reservations on my part. I said that after the 1981 attack on the Iraqi Tamuz installation I criticized the Begin government for this decision, intervening into the sovereignty of another country in such a brutal way. In 1991, during the Gulf War, I changed my mind. Just imagine that Saddam would have had nuclear capacity. Trusting his sense of judgment upon witnessing his misguided calculations vis-à-vis the American campaign against his country would not be prudent. By implication, judging the good sense of judgment of any dictatorship is a tricky and dangerous thing. Israel cannot afford tolerating an Iranian atomic bomb.

I wish to thank Alan Budd, Anthony Smith, Idit and Mike Goodisman, Alan Roth, Prinky and Adam Roberts, Jerry Cohen and Avi Shlaim for their kind hospitality. You made my trip to England memorable.

Oxford Workshop

On my panel there was an American journalist who, like quite a few of her colleagues, does not like the idea of guidelines or code of ethics. "We are to tell the story as we see fit in the given circumstances". She also claimed that the First Amendment negates the idea of adopting a Code of Ethics, as free speech rules supreme and should have no constraints. A very convenient excuse to have journalism stripped of any responsibility. I cannot think of any other profession that tries to relieve itself of any sense of responsibility with notable success as journalism does.

Comment on Guidelines for Media Coverage of Terrorism

Commenting on my Guidelines for media coverage of terrorism, and specifically on the use of the T-Word, Professor Menachem Kellner had sent me the following article:

Daniel Pipes in NY Sun on "They're Terrorists Not Activists"
September 7, 2004
"I know it when I see it" was the famous response by a U.S. Supreme Court justice to the vexed problem of defining pornography. Terrorism may be no less difficult to define, but the wanton killing of schoolchildren, of mourners at a funeral, or workers at their desks in skyscrapers surely fits the know-it-when-I-see-it definition. The press, however, generally shies away from the word terrorist, preferring euphemisms. Take the assault that led to the deaths of some 400 people, many of them children, in Beslan, Russia, on September 3. Journalists have delved deep into their thesauruses, finding at least twenty euphemisms for terrorists: Assailants - National Public Radio. Attackers – the Economist. Bombers – the Guardian. Captors – the Associated
>Press. Commandos – Agence France-Presse refers to the terrorists both as "membres du commando" and "commando." Criminals - the Times (London). Extremists – United Press International. Fighters – the Washington Post. Group – the Australian. Guerrillas: in a New York Post editorial. Gunmen – Reuters. Hostage-takers – the Los Angeles Times. Insurgents – in a New York Times headline.
>Kidnappers – the Observer (London). Militants – the Chicago
>Tribune. Perpetrators – the New York Times. Radicals – the
>BBC. Rebels – in a Sydney Morning Herald headline. Separatists
>– the Christian Science Monitor. And my favorite: Activists – the
>Pakistan Times. The origins of this unwillingness to name terrorists
>seems to lie in the Arab-Israeli conflict, prompted by an odd
>combination of sympathy in the press for the Palestinian Arabs and
>intimidation by them. The sympathy is well known; the intimidation
>less so. Reuters' Nidal al-Mughrabi made the latter explicit in advice
>for fellow reporters in Gaza to avoid trouble on the Web site
>, where one tip reads: "Never use the word terrorist or terrorism in describing Palestinian gunmen and militants; people consider them heroes of the conflict." The reluctance to call terrorists by their rightful name can reach absurd lengths of inaccuracy and apologetics. For example, National Public Radio's Morning Edition announced on April 1, 2004, that "Israeli troops have arrested 12 men they say were wanted militants." But CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, pointed out the inaccuracy here and NPR issued an on-air correction on April 26: "Israeli military officials were quoted as saying they had arrested 12 men who were ‘wanted militants.' But the actual phrase used by the Israeli military was ‘wanted terrorists.'" (At least NPR corrected itself. When the Los Angeles Times made the same error, writing that "Israel staged a series of raids in the West Bank that the army described as hunts for wanted Palestinian militants," its editors refused CAMERA's request for a correction on the grounds that its change in terminology did not occur in a direct quotation.) Metro, a Dutch paper, ran a picture on May 3, 2004, of two gloved hands belonging to a person taking fingerprints off a dead terrorist. The caption read: "An Israeli police officer takes fingerprints of a dead Palestinian. He is one of the victims (slachtoffers) who fell in the Gaza strip yesterday." One of the victims! Euphemistic usage then spread from the Arab-Israeli conflict to other theaters. As terrorism picked up in Saudi Arabia such press outlets as The Times (London) and the Associated Press began routinely using militants in reference to Saudi terrorists. Reuters uses it with reference to Kashmir and Algeria. Thus "militants" become the press's default term for terrorists. These self-imposed language limitations sometimes cause journalists to tie themselves into knots. In reporting the murder of one of its own cameraman, the BBC, which normally avoids the word terrorist, found itself using that term. In another instance, the search engine on the BBC website includes the word terrorist but the page linked to has had that word expurgated. Politically-correct news organizations undermine their credibility with such subterfuges. How can one trust what one reads, hears, or sees when the self-evident fact of terrorism is being semi-denied? Worse, the multiple euphemisms for terrorist obstruct a clear understanding of the violent threats confronting the civilized world. It is bad enough that only one of five articles discussing the Beslan atrocity mentions its Islamist origins; worse is the miasma of words that insulates the public from the evil of terrorism.

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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom Appeal
Brit Tzedek v'Shalom [] is organizing an appeal and ask American Jewry to join. Their call says: Regardless of personal political aspirations, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not remain on the back burner for long. We have been recently reminded of this by the surge of violence in the Gaza Strip. We must seize this opportunity to mobilize our community behind a message that is at once pro-Israel and pro-peace, so that the new presidential administration must take notice. Together, we must build an American Jewish voice for peace. Please sign the Open Letter at

Useful Website
I would like to call your attention to a new information page on the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and the Situation in the Gaza Strip, (

The page provides concise legal analysis concerning demolition of houses, urban warfare and the Government of Israel's Disengagement Plan in the Gaza Strip.

Other recent additions to the "IHL and the Occupied Palestinian Territory" portal include a topic page on General Movement Restrictions and Humanitarian Access. This section contains selected resources on the IHL implications of checkpoints, closures and curfews in the occupied territories. The resources include a selected listing of reports on the topic, as well as a catalog of relevant UN documents, including General Assembly and Security Council Resolutions. Also featured are links to statements made by Palestinian and Israeli authorities concerning the IHL implications of the general movement restrictions. Additionally, this page offers links to relevant Israeli Supreme Court decisions.

The Report That Nails Saddam
I wish to share with you the following article by DAVID BROOKS, published in the NY Times, October 9, 2004.
Saddam Hussein saw his life as an unfolding epic narrative, with retreats and advances, but always the same ending. He would go down in history as the glorious Arab leader, as the Saladin of his day. One thousand years from now, schoolchildren would look back and marvel at the life of The Struggler, the great leader whose life was one of incessant strife, but who restored the greatness of the Arab nation.
They would look back and see the man who lived by his saying: "We will never lower our heads as long as we live, even if we have to destroy everybody." Charles Duelfer opened his report on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction with those words. For a humiliated people, Saddam would restore pride by any means.
Saddam knew the tools he would need to reshape history and establish his glory: weapons of mass destruction. These weapons had what Duelfer and his team called a "totemic" importance to him. With these weapons, Saddam had defeated the evil Persians. With these weapons he had crushed his internal opponents. With these weapons he would deter what he called the "Zionist octopus" in both Israel and America.
But in the 1990's, the world was arrayed against him to deprive him of these weapons. So Saddam, the clever one, The Struggler, undertook a tactical retreat. He would destroy the weapons while preserving his capacities to make them later. He would foil the inspectors and divide the international community. He would induce it to end the sanctions it had imposed to pen him in. Then, when the sanctions were lifted, he would reconstitute his weapons and emerge greater and mightier than before.
The world lacked what Saddam had: the long perspective. Saddam understood that what others see as a defeat or a setback can really be a glorious victory if it is seen in the context of the longer epic.
Saddam worked patiently to undermine the sanctions. He stored the corpses of babies in great piles, and then unveiled them all at once in great processions to illustrate the great humanitarian horrors of the sanctions.
Saddam personally made up a list of officials at the U.N., in France, in Russia and elsewhere who would be bribed. He sent out his oil ministers to curry favor with China, France, Turkey and Russia. He established illicit trading relations with Ukraine, Syria, North Korea and other nations to rebuild his arsenal.
It was all working. He acquired about $11 billion through illicit trading. He used the oil-for-food billions to build palaces. His oil minister was treated as a "rock star," as the report put it, at international events, so thick was the lust to trade with Iraq.
France, Russia, China and other nations lobbied to lift sanctions. Saddam was, as the Duelfer report noted, "palpably close" to ending sanctions.
With sanctions weakening and money flowing, he rebuilt his strength. He contacted W.M.D. scientists in Russia, Belarus, Bulgaria and elsewhere to enhance his technical knowledge base. He increased the funds for his nuclear scientists. He increased his military-industrial-complex's budget 40-fold between 1996 and 2002. He increased the number of technical research projects to 3,200 from 40. As Duelfer reports, "Prohibited goods and weapons were being shipped into Iraq with virtually no problem."
And that is where Duelfer's story ends. Duelfer makes clear on the very first page of his report that it is a story. It is a mistake and a distortion, he writes, to pick out a single frame of the movie and isolate it from the rest of the tale.
But that is exactly what has happened. I have never in my life seen a government report so distorted by partisan passions. The fact that Saddam had no W.M.D. in 2001 has been amply reported, but it's been isolated from the more important and complicated fact of Saddam's nature and intent.
But we know where things were headed. Sanctions would have been lifted. Saddam, rich, triumphant and unbalanced, would have reconstituted his W.M.D. Perhaps he would have joined a nuclear arms race with Iran. Perhaps he would have left it all to his pathological heir Qusay.
We can argue about what would have been the best way to depose Saddam, but this report makes it crystal clear that this insatiable tyrant needed to be deposed. He was the menace, and, as the world dithered, he was winning his struggle. He was on the verge of greatness. We would all now be living in his nightmare.

The Gollnisch Affair in France

Professor Christian Pihet had sent his reflections on the most recent case of Holocaust denial in France:

Dear Rafi,

I am well aware that presently in your country there is an important parliamentary debate about the Gaza strip and that the Gollnisch case is small talk compared to it. But I think that however it can highlight some of the worst aspects of the relationship between media and democracy.

In fact the Gollnisch case is a deliberate maneuver from some factions of the "National Front" to wipe out some of their opponents within the party. As you probably know, Le Pen is aging - now 76 - and the question of who will be the next leader in this party ( between 10 and 15 % of the vote) is not resolved. He favors his daughter, Marine, a young and bright attorney, which tries to get a modernist look and also tries to build bridges with the ruling Right-wing coalition.

But this apparent heir is deeply contested by the Gollnisch faction. Gollnisch , a somber intellectual, professor of Japanese studies at Lyon University has been for a long time the number 2. He is favored by die-hard extremists, very traditional Catholics and the Lyonese branch of the party - the second of importance in the country -

But he was not known as an antisemitic man...

He created deliberately the scandal. With the help of the media who are always looking for something new and spectacular. The TV amplified considerably the whole stuff.

But on a political point of view it looks as if behaving like an antisemitic is the key to get the party leadership in the future. In fact, he passed an exam in antisemitism.... and got it through. Marine Le Pen condemned at first these shocking assertions but after a while was obliged by his father to approve them... In fact the party activists, rank and file, are deeply antisemitic and only an approved antisemitic man can lead this party. This is my personal opinion about the whole thing. The Holocaust and its denial were used as a test to qualify for the party leadership...

To me the question is - why this denial work in this part of the French society?
I must tell you that 85 % of the French condemned the Gollnisch declaration -And more French are anti-Arab than antisemitic. But some components of our society are still mared by antisemitism. Historical tradition? Influence of Catholicism? Small farmers, shopkeepers, elderly people but also some intellectuals...

Anyway it works in the extreme fringe of the political right. And of course how to do to wipe these feelings from our national conscience?

I think it is a long way to go. In my opinion it could be wiped with two possible evolutions
- a deep consideration in Catholic circles about the historical impact of antijudaism (not antisemitism) and a reappraisal of the Jewish heritage in Catholicism, not only by learned clerics but by the mass of Catholics.
- a peace settlement in the Near East which will figure Israel as an ordinary state.

You know, the impact of the Middle East conflict is widely felt here in a country which is home to a significant Jewish community in the world ( roundly 700,000 ) and to an important Arabic population.


Democracy Fellowships
The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) invites applications to its Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program. Established in 2001 to enable activists, scholars, and journalists from around the world to deepen their understanding of democracy and enhance their ability to promote democratic change, the fellowship program is based at NED’s International Forum for Democratic Studies, in Washington, D.C.
Program: The program offers two tracks: a practitioner track (typically three to five months) to improve strategies and techniques for building democracy abroad and to exchange ideas and experiences with counterparts in the United States; and a scholarly track (typically five to ten months) to conduct original research for publication. Projects may focus on the political, social, economic, legal, and cultural aspects of democratic development and include a range of methodologies and approaches.
Eligibility: The Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program is intended primarily to support practitioners and scholars from new and aspiring democracies. Distinguished scholars from the United States and other established democracies are also eligible to apply. Practitioners are expected to have substantial experience working to promote democracy. Scholars are expected to have a doctorate, or academic equivalent, at the time of application. The program is not designed to support students working toward a degree. A working knowledge of English is an important prerequisite for participation in the program.
Support: The fellowship year begins October 1 and runs through July 31, with major entry dates in October and March. All fellows receive a monthly stipend, health insurance, travel assistance, and research support through the Forum’s Democracy Resource Center and Internship Program.
Application: For further details and instructions on how to apply, please download the “Information and Application Forms” booklet available online at or visit and follow the link to Fellowship Programs. Please note that all application materials must be type-written and in English.
Deadline: Applications for fellowships in 2005–2006 must be received no later than November 1, 2004. Notification of the competition outcome is in April 2005.
For questions, please contact:

Program Assistant, Fellowship Programs
National Endowment for Democracy
1101 15th Street, N.W., Suite 800
Washington, DC 20005
Tel.: (202) 293-0300
Fax: (202) 293-0258

Christopher Reeve

Christopher Reeve, age 52, a symbol of courage and determination, the cinematic Superman who became a real-life inspiration through his painstaking efforts to overcome total paralysis, while speaking out for stem-cell research and uncovering scientific potentials, died on 10 October.
Reeve acquired many fans throughout his life. In the first phase as The Superman; in the second phase as a victim of a riding accident that took place in 1995, accident that had left him paralyzed from the neck down. After briefly pondering suicide, Reeve had become a powerful proponent of causes ranging from insurance reform for catastrophic injuries to unleashing the possibilities many scientists believe lie in using embryonic stem cells for research. I became his fan in the second stage of his life.
Reeve was the major public proponent for stem-cell research, understanding the potential for people like him and in other tragic circumstances who lead their lives, day in, day out, in a constant struggle. Those of you who are still debating whom to elect, Bush or Kerry, should ponder also this issue in mind. Stem-cell research is the future of medicine. While Kerry is an advocate of expanding this research, of mobilizing more funds to accomplish science's potential, Bush has restricted funding for stem-cell research. Without adequate funding, his field will remain obscure and undeveloped.

Two Israelis Won Nobel Prize
Two Israeli professors at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa have won the Nobel prize in chemistry for 2004, along with a colleague from the University of California at Irvine.
Professors Avraham Hershko, 66, and Aharon Ciechanover, 56, won the prize with their American colleague, Irwin Rose, 78, for their work in the 1980s that discovered one of the cell's most important cyclical processes, regulated protein degradation, a central method in which cells destroy unwanted proteins.
In a statement they made in Haifa the two said that they believed their discoveries will assist in developing drugs for treating cancer. The three scientists uncovered a process that governs such key processes as cell division, DNA repair, maintaining quality control of newly produced proteins and functioning of the body's immune defenses.
The two scientists expressed their pride in being the first two Israelis to win Nobel prizes for science, and their satisfaction that their colleague at UC Irvine was also honored. The president of the Technion, Professor Yitzhak Apeloig, called their achievement a "diploma of pride and great satisfaction for Israeli science in general and the Technion in particular.

In a press conference, the two scientists cautioned against the state of Israel's education system. Since Sharon took power, the education system suffered from major cuts. The major victim were the universities whose budges were cut in the previous four years by some eighteen (18!) percent. The Education Minister, Limor Livnat, seems at times eager to destroy the achievements of higher education.
"Israel will always have limited resources so we have to focus on the important, innovative and ground breaking things," said Hershko, adding that "we couldn't do such things while the education system is collapsing." Ciechanover was sterner in his criticism: "Israel's academia is in a bad state. The Technion suffers badly from financial difficulties," adding that he envied the American universities' budgets. The winning of a Noble prize by Israelis was a rare event he said. "We don't have oil, uranium or diamonds. Israel depends on its academia. All we have - the Israel Defense Forces, Rafael [the Armament Development Authority] and the high-tech industry - depends on what we have in our heads," Ciechanover said. "Cutting off this head is an act of suicide". I hope Limor Livnat is listening. Although she detests the Israeli elite and made a point to fight against it, sometimes the elite has good things to offer.

Israel is not blessed with many Nobel laureates. Previously, S.Y. Agnon won the Nobel Prize in literature; Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres won the Peace Nobel Prize. A former Israeli, Daniel Kahneman, won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2002. Kahneman left Israel in 1978 and is presently Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology, Princeton University. He has been teaching at Princeton since 1993.

London Theatre
I recommend "Democracy" about politics in West Germany, 1969. Willy Brandt begins his brief but remarkable career as the first left-of-centre Chancellor for nearly forty years. Always present in his inner chamber but rarely noticed is Günter Guillaume, Brandt's devoted personal assistant - and no less devoted in his other role, spying on Brandt for the Stasi.
Another good play is "Journey's End" about the horror of war, this one is about WWI.
Both are recommended despite the lack of women on stage. In "Democracy" you hear about them constantly, ten pages of women; in the WWI trenches it's about men fragility and bravery.

Film Warning

Stay away from a film called, quite appropriately, "Trauma", unless you wish to sleep or to suffer. Question begs: How much did Collin Firth receive for participating in such inconceivable crap?

New Books

I recommend the following and urge you to order the books to your respective libraries:

Barry Rubin, Tragedy of the Middle East (Cambridge University Press, 2004).

Gregory Tardi, Law of Democratic Governing (Toronto: Carswell, 2004).

Stefan Braun, Democracy Off Balance: Freedom Of Expression And Hate Propaganda Law In Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004).

Neil L. Whitehead, Dark Shamans: Kanaima and the Poetics of Violent Death (Duke University Press, 2002).

With my very best wishes, as ever,


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