Thursday, December 30, 2004

December 2004

Comments on Bush; on Iran, Syria, "Stray Weeds", Polarization in Israel, Poll on Democratic Values in Israel, Internal Politics, Ami Ayalon, Palestinian Elections, France, Nieman Fellowships at Harvard, Conference in Memory of Mark Biano, Democracy for a Safer World Summit, Israeli Theatre, New Book, Happy New Year

Dear friends and colleagues,

This is my end-of-the-year Newsletter. It highlights some of the main issues that will occupy Israel in 2005, delineating new trends and discussing crucial developments. Please read carefully and circulate among friends and interested parties.

Comments on Bush

Jason Rosenberg, from Washington DC, related to my last posting on Bush's win:


It's great to hear from you. I hope you are doing very well in Israel. Let me say I enjoy so much reading your point of view and hold your views in the highest of regards.

However, your analysis of the election is a little off. This election was not decisive, it was terribly close. As the 2000 election hinged on Florida, the 2004 election was again determined by one state. This time it was Ohio. In 2000, had Al Gore won just two votes per voting precinct, he would have won Ohio and been president. Of course he didn't and of course neither did John Kerry. Over 250,000 Ohioans (Buckeyes) who had jobs in 2000 didn't have work in 2004. But Bush still won the state. Why? One reason, there were up to 4 hour long waits to vote and of course it was cold and rainy after a beautiful weekend and Monday.

The other reason people are scared of war and terror, etc. I can't believe that there were 9 million people in the US who didn't vote for Bush in 2000, looked at his record as president, saw record unemployment, an unjustified war, out of control deficit spending, record number of Americans without health care and voted for him in 2004.

I was in Ohio for election day I started work at 5:30 am and left the state at 9pm. At that time there were still voters waiting in line to vote and I assumed that the election was won for Kerry. The election was close and the Kerry campaign should have looked into voter fraud including the precinct where 6000 votes were cast for Bush, out of a possible 600 or so voters.

Having spent time with John Kerry, I've heard him make very pro Israel comments. I've read comments he said about his time when he flew with Israeli pilots and when he called Israel a friend. Israel had a friend with both candidates. And now that Arafat is dead, Israel, the PA, the US and the world missed out on a true leader to bring a true and lasting peace to the

I wish you the best and I hope you have a great new year!


My brief answer:
Hi Jason,

Well, I think Bush's win was quite decisive, esp. in light of the forecasts prior elections, and also given that he won by a margin of more than 3 million people, and he coloured most states in red.

You need not convince me that Kerry is a friend of Israel. As you well know, I supported him and wanted him to win. I wouldn't if he was not a friend of Israel.

The very best,


In turn, Valerie Alia from Leeds, the UK, commented:
Dear Rafi

I find your 'reading' of the US election both distressing and in contradiction to much of the other information about the true nature of the exit polls vis-a-vis the actual vote (numerical/popular and electoral). You fail to mention the harassment and the array of illegal, semi-legal and otherwise questionable activities used (e.g., in Ohio) by Republicans and/or their supporters to intimidate potential Democratic voters and obliterate existing votes.

I am distressed as well to see your echo of assumptions of some (and only some) Israelis that Bush is the 'better friend' to Israel. I agree that Kerry missed some opportunities and campaigned rather weakly. But I do not share your apparent conviction that (a) Bush actually won and (b) Bush should have won. I am surprised to see no mention of the growing influence and involvement of the radical 'Christian' right.

With all best wishes for a happy Hanukkah and a peaceful 2005,


Dear Valerie,

Thanks for your comment. I don't think there is any point to argue with facts, and the facts are that Bush won quite convincingly, especially bearing in mind the last elections, and the predictions prior this elections. Bush won in the great majority of states, and by a margin of more than 3 million votes. There are many reasons to explain his win, and I did not attempt to provide an exhaustive explanation. I concentrated on the main reason, which is Kerry's mistakes.

I believe people should be congratulated for their achievements. It does not mean that I turned to be a Bush supporter. If you read my previous political Newsletters closely then you know I wanted Kerry to win. I thought Kerry will be good for Israel. However, also on this issue my views are not similar to the wide Israeli public. Polls conducted here showed that the wide majority of Israelis wanted Bush to win, believing that he is a true supporter of Israel, whereas Kerry did not say enough to convince people here that he is an ardent supporter of Israel as Bush was, and is believed to be. I gave the Maariv newspaper headline to show the extent of support Bush enjoys in Israel. This does not mean that I share this view.

With my best wishes,


Dear Rafi,

The problem with our 'discussion' is that I do not think you have stated 'the facts'. As we all know (and as I have written, over the years) 'facts' are variable, malleable, and subject to interpretation and misinterpretation. There has been quite a bit of reporting, in the US and internationally and by reputable journalists and others, questioning the 'win' and linking it to Bush's previous, also questionable 'win'. I am not arguing with 'facts', I am questioning which 'facts' you are using and your understanding of the conditions of the election and voting process. If you follow the daily papers, you surely are aware there are legal discussions and actions, particularly around the events in Ohio.

I agree there was a large (and to many of us, frightening) show of support for Bush. I do not agree that he clearly and unequivocally won the election. I am in quite a large company of people who are asking these questions.

I didn't mean to imply I thought you had gone over to Bush. I also agree that Kerry made mistakes, and never did consider him the best of candidates, though I wanted him to win. I do not consider his mistakes 'the main reason' Bush 'won'. I'm not alone in this.

Forgive the cliche, but I think we will have to agree to disagree.


Dr Valerie Alia
Professor of Ethics and Identity
School of Applied Global Ethics
Leslie Silver International Faculty
Leeds Metropolitan University

Steve Newman, Toronto, Canada, added:

Perhaps the most decisive factor in the election was the Republican's superior ground organization, which built on church groups and other pre-existing civil society organizations initially mobilized to oppose abortion rights, gay rights, women's rights, and other conservative shiboleths. The Republicans also showed that they had a superior game plan when it came to getting out the vote. The Democrats had invested heavily in improving their ability to get out the vote, but their tactics proved less effective. The religious right did not win the election for Bush, but its leadership is now making that claim. It is something to watch, for if taken seriously by the administration it bodes ill for the cause of religious tolerance in the US. Another point: Bush did in fact win the popular vote this time around, but he hardly won the popular mandate he claims. His fifty-one percent of the vote to Kerry's forty-eight percent is no landslide. And the Electoral College vote was fairly close, too. Had Ohio gone for Kerry instead of Bush --and it wouldn't have taken more than 170,000 votes (not much when you consider the size of the American electorate) --Kerry would be the president-elect. Finally, Jewish supporters of Bush may yet rue the day they gave their support to the president. The war in Iraq is a disaster. Bush has stoked the fires of terrorism rather than extinguishing the threat. And the flames may yet engulf more of the region.

As always,



In talks in Paris with Britain, Germany and France, Iran agreed on November 15 to freeze all its nuclear activities. But on November 27, Iran said it wanted to retain 20 centrifuges for research purposes. Iran's foreign minister said that Iran had every right to keep, for research purposes, some centrifuges that could be used to enrich uranium, an indication that a standoff on the country's nuclear program may not be easily resolved. "Iran's demand to keep 20 centrifuges is not against its commitments," said the minister, Kamal Kharrazi, the IRNA news agency reported.

On November 28 Iran backed off a demand to operate uranium enrichment equipment that could be used either for energy purposes or in a nuclear bomb-making project. The retreat came in the form of a letter from Iran to the International Atomic Energy Agency. In the letter, Iran withdrew its demand to operate 20 centrifuges - uranium enrichment machines - for research and development purposes.

"Iran will permit the I.A.E.A. to place these centrifuges under agency surveillance," said Hossein Mousavian, the chief Iranian negotiator, in a telephone interview from Vienna. "Iran will not conduct any testing."

Asked specifically whether the machines would be turned off, as the Europeans have demanded, Mr. Mousavian said, "We say Iran will not conduct any testing," adding that the matter of Iran's desire to continue research will be discussed when Iran and the European countries begin talks in the coming weeks on possible economic, technological and political incentives for Iran under the European agreement.

Note that the 20 centrifuge machines would not be sealed but placed under camera surveillance. Also note that Iran said in their letter that there would be no "testing," rather than no "research and development." One may assume that the sage will continue.


On December 1, 2004 Maariv reported that Syrian President Bashar Assad was willing to come to Jerusalem and address the Knesset in 2003, as a first gesture before resuming peace talks with Jerusalem, senior defense and political sources reveal. However, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon rejected the offer.

“Israel missed a golden opportunity to return to the negotiating table in ideal conditions as first as it was concerned”, the sources said.

Assad’s proposal was brought up during the secret contacts held between Israel and Syria at the beginning of 2003. All those involved believed Assad was serious about peace: The Syrians themselves, who kept on stressing that Assad himself was in the loop, Israeli military officials who identified Damascus’s positive approach, the international bodies involved and even Foreign Minister Sylvan Shalom who was of the opinion that Jerusalem should try and resume the dialogue course. However, the only person who objected Ariel Sharon.

The 2003 talks, which were held in Jordan, were headed by the Director General of the Foreign Ministry at the time, Eitan Bentzur, while the Syrians sent the president’s brother, Maher Assad. Bentzur confirmed the information but refused to elaborate. “The contacts were very serious. I am sorry that there were those in Israel who dismissed them”, he said.

The defense establishment estimated that while contacts were held, Assad was under heavy pressure due to the planned US invasion of Iraq and rumors that American Marines would continue on to Damascus after conquering Iraq.

The official excuses aired by officials and Likud MKs was that Assad wanted to use this as a valve to release the pressure mounting on him due to his support of terror. Further, they argued that he should first withdraw his forces from Lebanon and dismantle the Hizbullah. The unofficial reason, I suspect, is that Sharon is unwilling, possibly also feels unable, to make concessions also in the Golan. To recall, Prime Minister Rabin offered the Syrians a complete withdrawal till Sea of Galilee in exchange for true peace. It is difficult for me to see Sharon committing himself in this same way.

In 1971, Anwar Sadat delivered a message to Prime Minister Golda Meir that he was willing to negotiate peace. Meir ignored the signs and offers. Two years later the Yom Kippur War broke. And we say about the Arabs that "they" learn only in the hard way. Here we had, maybe still have, a genuine offer to negotiate from the highest official in Syria and Sharon is rejecting the offer. Maybe Sharon has very good reasons to decline the offer, but not in the way he did. At least he should do some research, conduct some polls about public wishes to see whether the Israeli public is willing to make concessions in both fronts, Gaza and the Golan, simultaneously.

"Stray Weeds"

The Israeli media has been occupied this month, more than any month I can recall in the past few years, with the evils of occupation. The incident that sparked the debate was the killing of one Palestinian girl, Ayman al-Hams, age 13, who was in her way to school, carrying books and notebooks in her bag. For some reason, on that faithful morning she did not go on the usual route and entered a no passing zone, safeguarded by IDF troops. The soldiers, always on high alert and fearful of potential suicide bombers, fired. The girl collapsed, wounded. Captain R., the commander of the troops, verified that the "enemy" was dead by jumping out of his post, getting close to the wounded girl, and shooting her several times from a close range. Later on it was revealed that the poor girl was shot twenty times.

The tragic story of the girl touched everyone who has a heart. Following this incident, reports came flooding about atrocities conducted by IDF troops in the occupied territories: confiscation of land; uprooting olive trees by soldiers and settlers; harassing and humiliating people; torturing suspects; killing peaceful civilians; mutilating dead bodies. People who have the unfortunate job of "explaining" the occupation acknowledged every once in a while the evil of occupation, but always emphasizing that the IDF is a moral army and that "stray weeds" always exist, but they are the exception rather than the rule. The flood of information brings one to suspect that there are far too many "stray weeds". Occupation corrupt; power corrupt; absolute power corrupt absolutely (Lord Acton), especially when you give it to frighten young soldiers in too-many road posts that make the lives of civilians miserable.

The occupation should be finished the sooner the better. Every person aspires to be free. People are born free and we wish to live as free human beings. Historian Lord Acton (1834-1902) said: "Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end... liberty is the only object which benefits all alike, and provokes no sincere opposition."

Polarization in Israel

On December 18-20 two very different initiatives were put in motion: Binyamin Regional Council head Pinhas Wallerstein declared that the settlers should oppose with force any attempt to evacuate them. Subsequently settlers began to collect signatures of those supported the rebellion against the "anti-democratic" decision to evacuate Jews from their land and homes. The rabbis' council officially endorsed the statement calling for settlers to fight the disengagement plan, even if it means breaking the law. This follows a ruling by the rabbinical council calling on all soldiers not to "uproot Jews from their homes."

Almost the same day four parents of soldiers: Racheli Merhav, Dubi Avigur, Rachel Hayuth and Nili Oshorov announced that sign parents to oppose sending their children to serve in the occupied territories. They explained that they hear and see on television terrible things that soldiers do to Palestinians and cannot sit in silence any longer. Zahal (IDF) no more represents the people of Israel. Soldiers are acting in inhuman, immoral and illegal ways. These parents called their own children as well as of others to oppose serving the occupation. They further rightly noted that the values of occupation infiltrate into our society and destroy our democracy from within. Young soldiers who feel like kings in the road blocks will continue to behave like masters-treating-human-dust in their daily life, looking down at people. They will not treat each other with respect and dignity.

The distinguishing factor between what is democratically permissible and what is not democratically permissible is the resort to violence. People have the right to disobey. It is a democratic right, the result of vital conscious. Thus settlers have all the right to disobey the IDF soldiers who will come to evacuate them, as was the case with the last settlers of Yamit. They need not cooperate with the army. However, they should not resort to violence; they should not open fire at soldiers as Wallerstein implied.

I congratulate the courage and initiative of the parents to say loud and clear: No More! Enough with the occupation that is eating us and is destroying the fabric of society. This is a significant step in the right direction. Like old Cato I will reiterate time and again: Occupation is bad. Occupation negates human rights. Occupation is undemocratic. Israel should better work for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. Both entities should fight down the zealots. We should not let a minority of fanatics on both sides of the fence to destroy our lives.

On December 22 Yedioth Ahronoth published a poll it conducted among settlers. The main findings: 52% will object to evacuation "with our bodies"; 10% will resist with violence; 42% will blockade themselves in their homes; 47% support illegal activities. On the other hand, 38% said they will evacuate peacefully.

The pool also provides analysis of the answers of the settlers in the Gaza Strip only. Here the figures are more worrying: 23% are willing to evacuate; 44% will object and apply "passive violence"; 11% will object with force. 22% did not decide what to do. It seems that the settlers' campaign against Gaza First is working, and many settlers in the Strip who were willing to take compensation and leave are now reluctant to do so.

Poll on Democratic Values in Israel

A new study conducted by Professor Eppie Yaar and Daniel Bar-Tal of Tel Aviv University examined political and personal stands of 1,750 youth ages 15-18 and 21-24 in both the Jewish and Arab sectors. Here are some of the main, highly disturbing, findings:

In the Jewish sector
67% agreed with the statement that "a few powerful leaders could amend the situation in our country better than all laws and talks".
30% agreed with the statement that it is possible to enforce a significant limitation on democracy when its security is threatened, even mildly.
20% prefer anti-democratic government that conforms to their world-view over a democratic government whose world-view negates theirs.
51% of the Jews in the sample said that Israeli-Arabs should be prohibited from being elected to the Knesset, i.e., only Jews should sit in the house of representative.
24% support violent actions of civil disobedience to oppose the disengagement plan.
71% estimated that there is "high likelihood" for another political assassination.

In the Arab sector
59% agreed with the statement that "a few powerful leaders could amend the situation in our country better than all laws and talks".
Only 9.8% thought that democracy is the most important value to achieve.
44% agreed with the statement that it is possible to enforce a significant limitation on democracy when its security is threatened, even mildly.
30% prefer anti-democratic government that conforms to their world-view over a democratic government whose world-view negates theirs.
15% support violent actions of civil disobedience to oppose the disengagement plan.

These findings put into perspective my urging the Israeli government to institute a new field of studies in primary and high schools: democracy and peace studies. This is as important as mathematics, biblical studies and literature.

Because of all issues discussed above, among others (I did not discuss this time the secular-religious schism that is very much alive and kicking) I established the Center for Democratic Studies at the University of Haifa. It is designed to fill an important lacuna and to promote liberty, tolerance, equality, pluralism and peace. However, my university is in the business of survival after suffering a major cut of 40 (forty!) per cent in its budget during the past 4 years. Without money the Center could not do much. I plead each and every one of you: If you have the ability to help in any meaningful way, please do.

I spoke with many leaders of Israeli society about the Center: President of State Moshe Katzav; President of the Supreme Court Aharon Barak; present and former Justices of the Supreme Court Yaakov Tirkel, Dalia Dorner and Yitzhak Zamir; MKs Shimon Peres, Yossi Sarid, Yossi Beilin and Amram Mitzna, and many leaders of the Israeli academia. All of them support the idea of the center and endorse the ends it aims to achieve. Good will of these people is very nice and their support is much appreciated. Alas, what the Center needs is significant budget.

Internal Politics

Sharon went down quickly from the tree of insisting not to invite Peres to serve in his government. His last month's decision, discussed in my November Newsletter, was not very prudent, to use an understatement.

Peres is heading back to government. Good for him. He lives for this. The only reason why the establishment of the new coalition is delayed is that Peres insists on the title "Deputy Prime Minister". However, existing law permits only one deputy. So now the Knesset amends the law for Mr. Peres so he will be satisfied with the title. He thinks that with such title he could make more impact in his meetings with politicians and diplomats around the world. I should explain it is a mere title as Ehud Ulmert, the present deputy, insisted to continue having all responsibilities emanating from the title, and the Likud will not allow Peres to replace Sharon even for one moment. Meaning that when Sharon is out of the country, Ulmert will continue to carry all responsibilities. It is amazing to see how much effort Peres is investing for an empty title, perhaps his last, just to satisfy his sense of dignity and pride. I should note that the Attorney General refused to take responsibility for amending the law just for Peres.

Recently Ehud Barak made a fool of himself by jumping on stage and taking possession of the microphone by force during a Labour convention. I think this is the result of stress and frustration. Almost all leaders of the party are united to halt his way back to politics. He does not have many supporters among the present leadership. I had lunch with the former leader of Labour, Amram Mitzna, and he still believes in him, not as a first choice but as a default. He does not see anyone else that is electable and could lead Labour to successful elections. On this issue, see Ami Ayalon infra.

As ever I remain adamant to the idea of unification government in times other than times of war. I think this is a bad idea for democracy. Democracy is about adhering and promoting certain rights and values through mechanisms of checks and balances, government and opposition. Referring to American politics, Lord Acton once said (third and last quote for today): “The great novelty of the American Constitution was that it imposed checks on the representatives of the people". Unified governments are a recipe for corruption, as no adequate guards are left to monitor the government. Members of Labour can speak endlessly that they join the government only to help Sharon to push forward the Gaza First Plan. I remain unconvinced. They could supply him the security net Sharon needs also from the opposition. Their rushing into coalition cannot be explained only in terms of pure greed. True, it is hard to refuse an offer to become a minister. Politicians live for this as Peres epitomizes. I am afraid the more substantial reason is that Labour feels it has nothing to sell. Sharon killed the remains of the Israeli center-left with his Plan. Most of the center-to-left in Israel disappeared thanks to Arafat who lost all credibility after Camp David 2000, and the terrorist campaign that followed the failed Camp David talks. The grains that remain do not justify replacing Sharon. After all, he wishes to execute an old Labour plan, and he has the better ability to do it, so why electing something else? Thus Labour feels that it might gain some points by joining the government, maybe they will be affected by the Sharon-Midas touch. This is perfectly understandable in terms of internal politics, when you put the party before the nation. It is completely unjustified in terms of national responsibility and democracy.

The insulting thing is that unlike unification governments that we knew from the 1980s and 1990s, this one is not built on parity and some equilibrium. The major ministries: Security, Foreign Affairs and Finance remain in the hands of Likud, and were not open for bargaining. Even ministries of lesser importance, but still very significant like Education, Justice and Internal Security were beyond negotiation. Labour was "compensated" by having eight ministries (two without portfolios, one new tailored especially for Peres that would duplicate the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and when the coalition will come true you should expect some bitter arguments between Shimon Peres and Silvan Shalom), two deputy ministers, and two chairpersons committees in the Knesset. The only significant ministry that was given to Labour is Ministry of Internal Affairs. The others are Communication, Environment, Infrastructure, and Building. The last two should have been unified a long time ago, possibly also with the Ministry of Industry.

While Sharon apparently would have found it difficult to remove Silvan Shalom (Foreign Affairs), Benjamin Netanyahu (Finance), Shaul Mofaz (Security/Defence) and Limor Livnat (Education) from their seats, given their influence and powerful position inside the Likud (all of them see themselves as contenders to succeed Sharon in the near or more remote future), it is somewhat surprising that Labour did not fight hard to receive the Ministries of Internal Affairs (with the newly nominated Gideon Ezra) and Justice (vacant after the dismissal of Shinui). I say somewhat surprising because one has to bear in mind that police investigations regarding Sharon and his family in fishy financial affairs, just on the border of legality, are still in motion. Sharon preferred these ministries to remain with people from Likud, and Labour apparently understood and did not stage a fight.

I met Beilin a few weeks ago. We had a pleasant discussion. He seems a nice guy. Don't know if anything concrete will develop but we said we'll keep in touch. Meretz-Yachad tries at this point to retain its small power.

Ami Ayalon

After many hesitations and much studying, Ami Ayalon decided to join establishment, main-stream politics and became a member of the Labour Party. General Ayalon was the commander of the navy. Upon his retirement he was nominated head of the SHABAC and after reported successful service he decided to work for peace. He was one of the leading figures behind the Geneva initiative, which was reported here quite critically as I believed in that time it could not lead anywhere because both Arafat and Sharon did not endorse it. However, Ayalon has many talents and he has the potential to emerge as the leader the Labour Party was seeking for quite a while now. Ayalon is aiming very high, and already declared his destination: to become the leader of his party and then prime minister. This is why he joined politics, understanding that there is no way to bypass main-stream politics. You need to work within the system. Ayalon was courted after also by Likud, and he had the chance to compete for leadership there as well. But Labour better suits his ideology and beliefs, hence decided to put his cards on a declining party, believing that he is able to salvage it and make it a viable competitor for national leadership. Time will tell whether he will succeed. Ayalon is quite naïve politically, but he is eager and able to learn, and unlike Barak will not attempt to import military norms into the political arena. He understands that politics is all about compromises, listening, finding common ground and securing enough allies to resolve solutions. We can see some light at the end of the tunnel: Labour now has a figure that is of prime-ministerial material. I wish him lots of luck and success.

Palestinian Elections

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas seems assured of victory in the January 9 presidential election after the withdrawal of chief rival Marwan Barghouti. Barghouti succumbed to pressure from the dominant Fatah faction of the PLO which threatened to expel its former West Bank leader, currently serving five life prison terms for his role in terrorist attacks.
His candidacy had threatened to split the PLO vote, with opinion polls showing Barghouti and Abbas running neck and neck. The prospect of an electoral victory for the founder of the Al Aqsa Brigades, who still refuses to renounce violence, also worried US and European officials. "Such a development would not only mean a setback to peace efforts," said a State Department official, "but an egg on the face of our policy to democratize the Middle East.

The European Union will deploy over 260 election observers for the poll, including a delegation of 30 European Parliament members. The mission is headed by Euro-parliamentarian and former prime minister of France, Michel Rocard. The EU has allocated €14 million euros (about US $18.6m) since 2003 to prepare the elections, and €2.5 million euros ($3.33m) has been designated for the election observation.

The withdrawal of Barghouti is not an unmitigated blessing for the PLO leadership or for prospects for peace. A seriously contested race--had he won it-- would have given Mahmoud Abbas the legitimacy and political capital he needs to constrain violence and to sell a peace agreement with Israel, said Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research. Other commentators are skeptical of both the pacifying and democratizing potential of the elections. Although the election will still be contested by candidates of less stature than Barghouti, they do not offer the same potential for generating democratic ferment, and Abbas seems assured of at least 80 percent of the vote.


The French ambassador to Israel made an undiplomatic statement, saying that Israelis are suffering from anti-French mental disorder, that Israelis hate the French people, and cab drivers in Israel throw French people out of their cars when they hear they speak French. This controversial statement evoked quite a discussion in Israel, where people stated what they love about the French, and what they dislike. The undercurrent of all this debate is the hostile political attitude to Israel, as manifested by Chirac, and the anti-Semitic sentiments that are noticeable in France.

What was striking is what many people said about Paris. Of course, Paris symbolizes France to the extent that London symbolizes England, Ottawa symbolizes Canada, Jerusalem symbolizes Israel, etc. Citizens of all countries know that their respective capitals do not really reflect the national character and culture of their countries. Having said that, many Israelis -- including myself -- of all walks of life express exact same feelings regarding Paris: We all appreciate its beauty, culture, food, style, fashion; we all were offended, if not hurt, by the Parisians when we visited this lovely city, one of most beautiful cities in the world. Once upon a time I thought this attitude is because I am an Israeli. Until a few French people told me not to take this too personally: it is not that Parisians do not like Israelis; they simply don't like everybody, without exception, so I should not feel privileged. They don't even like French people who live outside of Paris. There is a certain sense of pride in them: "We live in this human treasure, and you should keep out of our treasure".

Nieman Fellowships at Harvard

The Nieman Foundation for Journalism is accepting applications for the 2005-2006 Nieman Fellowships, which allow accomplished mid-career journalists to spend an academic year of study at Harvard University.

Established in 1938, the programme awards 12 fellowships each year to working journalists outside the United States who have at least five years of full-time, professional experience in the news media. The fellowships are open to reporters, editors, photographers, producers, editorial writers and cartoonists, and Internet specialists.

While at Harvard, fellows can design their own course of study in any of the university's schools or departments. They will also be able to network and share experiences with other fellows through Nieman seminars and other events.

For more information and to apply, visit:

Conference in Memory of Mark Biano

On December 11 I participated in a conference at my university in memory of my former student, Mark Biano, who was murdered by a suicide bomber last year, age 29. He was having Shabbat meal with his wife at the Maxim restaurant in Haifa when that murderer entered the restaurant and blew herself to pieces. He was killed instantly, with his newly married wife. The department of communication decided to honour his memory by holding an annual conference in which graduate students present papers based on their MA and doctoral dissertations. Four professors served as chairpersons and discussants of the sessions. The keynote lecture was given by Joseph Turow of University of Pennsylvania.

For the first time I met Mark's mother. We spoke over the phone a few times but never met before. She and her husband who could not find the energies to attend the conference are grieving and looking for further ways to remember Mark publicly. It was an emotional event for me.

Democracy for a Safer World Summit

On March 8-11, 2005, Club de Madrid and the Varsavsky Foundation, in Barcelona, Spain will host an International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security. The conference, sponsored by the Club de Madrid and the Varsavsky Foundation, is supported by the Government of Spain, the Regional Government of Madrid and the City of Madrid. More than 50 former and current Heads of State and Government, decision and policy makers, world experts, and citizens will participate in this forum.

Further information at

Israeli Theatre

I saw "Eye Witness" in Hakameri theatre. It tells the story of Franz Yegershtatdter, the Austrian young man who refused to serve in the Warmacht, was locked up in a Nazi jail and eventually executed for his refusal to wear Nazi uniforms. I saw the production in English, a task that was not easy for some of the Israeli actors. The script and plot are interesting and telling. Yegershtatdter tells the story of all those who saw, who smelled, who knew, and played the three monkey. Yegershtatdter did not want to be one of the three monkeys, and obviously did not want to take part in the Nazi atrocities. Yehoshua Sobol, who wrote the play, says that only 1300 people acted like Yegershtatdter and refused the Nazi draft.

New Book

You may like to consider a book that came to my attention: Contemporary Debates in Applied Ethics, Edited by: Andrew Cohen and Christopher Hea Wellman

Happy New Year

May I wish all of you a joyful New Year and an excellent start of 2005. May it be a year of peace and tranquility, of positive achievements and sweet surprises.

With my very best wishes, as ever,


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