Comment on Paris, on PA Elections, Kassam Missiles, Civil Disobedience, Center for Democratic Studies, Using the T-Word, Syrian Wins Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, Peace One Day, Prince Harry in Nazi Uniform, British Theatre, Photos from Israel
Dear friends and colleagues,
Comment on Paris,
Agnes Lefranc from Paris commented on what I had written on Paris and Parisians:
I have to say, even if it hurts, that I agree with what you write about people living in Paris in your last newsletter: a large proportion of them can be totally awful with everyone they consider as a "foreigner" (their definition of a foreigner sometimes including "someone living on the other side of the city's limits"). As another example of that, there is now a lot of buzz around the application of Paris for the 2012 Olympic Games, and Paris authorities try to give the best "image" of the city... Anyway, some Parisians are already complaining about the "invasion" (visitors, tourists) that is going to happen during summer 2012 if the Olympic Games take place in Paris. It was the same for the 1998 soccer world cup, and finally, people were totally ecstatic during the event (the fact that France won the world cup certainly had something to do with it !!). I think that for most of the people living in Paris, the ungracious, grumbling appearance is more an attitude than their real "nature". And I really can understand that this is not an excuse and that this attitude can be totally offending for people visiting Paris.
Anyway, I hope that this will not prevent you from visiting Paris in the future, and I would be very glad to see you then (and perhaps have you meet some "nice" Parisians, if I can find them !!).
The first post-Arafat elections took place on January 9, 2005. As was expected, Mahmoud Abbas won 62.3 percent of the vote for Palestinian Authority chairman. This margin of victory would give Abbas a clear mandate to renew peace talks with Israel, rein in militants and reform the corruption-riddled Palestinian Authority. Abbas' main challenger, independent candidate Mustafa Barghouti, won about 20 percent, and five other chairmanship candidates - ranging from a Marxist ex-guerrilla to an academic under U.S. house arrest on suspicion of funneling funds to Hamas militants - scored in low single digits. Hamas, the largest Palestinian militant opposition group, announced it will work with Abbas. Don't be too impressed with verbal declarations. Abu Mazen's test will be his ability to fight down terrorism and to put a stop to the launching of Kassam missiles. At least, unlike Arafat it seems that Abu Mazen does not lack the will to stop violence. He declared openly that violence did not serve the interest of the Palestinian people, and that there are other, more fruitful ways, to achieve independence and freedom. Israel will evaluate the new leader according to his actions, not necessarily according to his success. We first want to see a genuine attempt to stop violence and terror. I hope the Hamas and Islamic Jihad will also revise their policies and strategy. If not we may expect to see bitter internal clashes, with the IDF doing its share to assassinate militants. Those targeted killings proved useful from Israel's view but at the same time did not relax the atmosphere. Quite the opposite. Targeted killings served as a unified mechanism. Palestinian rivals forget all differences when facing Israel's military retaliation.
Senior Palestinian security official and West Bank strongman Jibril al-Rajoub resigned on January 11, saying he wanted to encourage President-elect Mahmoud Abbas to enact reforms. The resignation of Rajoub, a leading security official and West Bank strongman rival to Gaza's Mohamed Dahlan, suggests that Abbas is at least moving quickly to restructure the PA's notoriously corrupt and fractious security forces. Their reform is essential if Abbas is to have any hope of curbing the likes of Hamas and Fatah's own Al-Aqsa Brigades both of which have dismissed his calls to halt the terrorism of their "armed struggle". Rajoub, one of several security advisers, had been at odds with late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat over calls to slim down the range of separate competing Palestinian security forces. Rajoub has called for the merging of some dozen competing security forces to help end chaos that gripped Palestinian streets in the months before Arafat died in a Paris hospital on Nov 11. "I recommend speeding up the combining of the security forces into three, and making radical, immediate changes in the organisational structure and leaderships," Rajoub said. Abbas is expected to carry out such changes, also wanted by Israel and Western countries.
Indeed, security reform is a key issue for Abbas, who may also need more effective forces to bring militant groups under control. Stirring Israeli concerns, Abbas has said he would rather co-opt militants than use force to rein them in. Don't be too amazed if Abbas would reappoint Rajoub in the near future. He needs him and co-optation is a proved mechanism to bring potential rivals to back your own camp.
Ella Abuksis, age 17, was walking in the street in Sderot together with her little brother Tamir when she heard the frightening noise. She embraced her brother and fell with him on the ground. The missile fell five meters behind her. Tamir came out with small injuries. Ella, on the other hand, is now declared brain-dead.
Every country has the right to defend its sovereignty. It is impossible to continue this way. The people of Sderot cannot continue living in this way. The town is becoming a ghost city. Just imagine missiles on York, Ann Arbor and Windsor. Would the UK, the USA and Canada allow this to continue? There are only two possibilities: either the PA will put a stop to it, and this is certainly the preferable option; or Israel will enter the Gaza Strip yet again. To remind, the last time the IDF went the Gaza the result was dozens of casualties on both sides, especially the Palestinian. There is no third option, i.e. letting the missiles continue falling.
On January 18, Abu Mazen declared that he intends to locate one thousand policemen hoping that their presence will serve as deterrence. He says he needs "time and patience", precious commodities in our region. The people of Sderot have lost their patience and now exert pressure on Sharon to retaliate. Retaliation is not the issue. It is simply not enough. The missiles have to stop.
The past few weeks I had several public appearances in which I was invited to express my views on different topics:
Incitement in Israel, calling upon the Attorney General to be alert and to fight down concrete calls for murder: Incitement is not protected under the Free Speech Principle.
Euthanasia and mercy killings: I was invited to present my new book in various forms, and to speak on the legislation process that is now taking place to settle the issue of medical treatment at the end-of-life. I was a member of a public committee, known as the Steinberg Committee, assigned by the Ministry of Health, to draft a law. After a long process this law is now considered by the Knesset Constitutional, Law and Justice Committee for final shape-up before moving on to legislation.
Payment for interviews: Concerning the case of Azam Azam, recently released from Egyptian jail after eight years of prison. Interesting story this one because Egyptian officials, from Mubarak down claimed that he was an Israeli spy, in service of the MOSSAD, while Israeli officials, from Sharon down, claimed that he was an innocent business man. Someone is not telling the truth. Anyway, Azam decided to take advantage of his release and do for his home, demanding a fee for his exclusive first interview. After a short and extensive race TV Channel 10 won the race by paying him some dozens of thousands of dollars. I was asked to comment on this issue.
Civil disobedience and conscientious objection: tricky and complicated question that has been occupying my mind for many years. Israel is a fascinating country in many respects, including demography. In the 1970s, we were about 3.5 million people. In a period of thirty years we doubled our size. Don't know if any other country in the world has such a record. Anyway, in the 1970s and 1980s I used to think that conscientious objection is a luxury we cannot afford. Morally speaking I felt that we should recognize refusal on such grounds, but practically I felt that as a state we are unable to afford it. Things have changed. The army grew beyond its needs. There are less external threats to wage war on us by one of our neighbours. There is peace (cold, but still peace) with the strongest potential rival, Egypt. The army does not recruit all eligible citizens, young men and women, age 18, for various reasons: religion, marriage (for girls), criminal record, poor health (physical or mental). And Israel had a problematic presence in Lebanon, and still has such presence in the occupied territories.
Thus, in the 1990s I expressed my views that it is a democratic right to declare conscientious objection; that Israel should recognize this right, and as people have the right not to serve due to religious reasons, so people should have the right not to serve on conscientious grounds. I backed the "Four Mothers" Movement which called Israel to pull out from Lebanon. The movement grew and made an impact on our society, more so when Yossi Beilin and others became vocal supporters of this motion, and even more so when Prime Minister Ehud Barak became a supporter and in 2000 had the foresight and courage to take our troops out of Lebanon.
It should be noted that in 1995, in order to determine who is a genuine CO and who is just trying to avoid the military service for reasons of personal comfort, the Minister of Defence set up, within the Israeli Armed Forces (IDF), a Conscientious Objection Committee. This move was considered necessary after the State of Israel adhered to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1991.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights do not explicitly mention the right to conscientious objection to military service. However, in 1993, the Human Rights Committee, the body of experts monitoring the implementation of the Covenant, adopted General Comment N. 22 on the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and affirmed that the right to conscientious objection to military service can be derived from article 18. Paragraph 11 states that :
"Many individuals have claimed the right to refuse to perform
military service (conscientious objection) on the basis that
such right derives from their freedoms under article 18. In
response to such claims, a growing number of States have in
their laws exempted from compulsory military service citizens
who genuinely hold religious or other beliefs that forbid the
performance of military service and replaced it with
alternative national service. The Covenant does not explicitly
refer to a right to conscientious objection, but the Committee
believes that such a right can be derived from article 18,
inasmuch as the obligation to use lethal force may seriously
conflict with the freedom of conscience and the right to
manifest one's religion or belief. When this right is recognized
by law or practice, there shall be no differentiation among
conscientious objectors on the basis of the nature of their
particular beliefs; likewise, there shall be no discrimination
against conscientious objectors because they have failed to
perform military service. The Committee invites States parties
to report on the conditions under which persons can be
exempted from military service on the basis of their rights
under article 18 and on the nature and length of alternative
As you well know, I oppose occupation and think Israel is mistaken by lasting our presence in Judea, Samaria and Gaza Strip. There should be a two-state solution, and I hope this will materialize in my life time. I said time and again that I hope many soldiers declare conscientious objection and go to jail rather than serve in the occupied territories. In my last Newsletter I praised the four parents of soldiers who sign parents to oppose sending their children to serve in the occupied territories. A few days have passed and I was invited to express my views on TV. There the issue was civil disobedience and conscientious objection in general, including the right of soldiers to refuse evacuating settlers, and the right of settlers to refuse their evacuation. I said that I see conscientious objection as a democratic right; that I hope soldiers will have the decency to tell their commanders, before going on assignment, that they are not willing to abide the order of evacuation, and not to sabotage the activity on the spot; that I respect conscientious objection as long as people are willing to pay the price for their acts, meaning to serve in jail. Regarding the settlers I support their right to object to what they conceive as illegal and immoral order, to leave their homes, but said that the border line is violence: they should not resort to violence. There is a difference between passive resistance, not cooperating with the army and leave the soldiers with no option but grabbing them by their hands and legs out of their homes to the vehicles, and fighting the soldiers with force, feasts and guns. While I condone passive resistance, I condemn any form of force that might lead to bloodshed and civil war.
Within four days I became the darling of YESHA, the Judea, Samaria and Gaza Council. Suddenly, in the first time in my life, I had something in common with the settlers' camp. Strange feeling, I must admit. I don't wish to play into their hands, but at the same time I need to be loyal to my conscience. I believe conscientious objection is not one-sided, serving the interests of one camp only. When it is from the left, it is fine; when it comes from the right it is condemnable. My conscience is not that flexible. The YESHA Council invited me to debate the issue and after consultation with the Dean of our Law Faculty I agreed upon the condition that the debate will reflect all (or most) streams of thoughts in Israel, that it will be balanced and not one sided, and that it will be of academic nature.
In a previous Newsletter I already mentioned a pertinent Supre Court case. On December 20, 2002, the Court passed an important judgment on the Zonschein case reaffirming the possibility of granting exemptions from military service for reasons of conscientious objection. It noted that "all agree that exemptions for conscientious reasons are included in those 'other reasons', which allow exemption from regular or reserve service." It refers to total conscientious objection only. In fact, it ruled out the possibility of selective objection (that is the exemption from service deriving from an objection to a specific war or military operation) for reasons of national security. The Court held that "the phenomenon of selective conscientious objection would be broader than 'full' objection, and would evoke an intense feeling of discrimination 'between blood and blood'. Moreover, it affects security considerations themselves, since a group of selective objectors would tend to increase in size. Additionally, in a pluralistic society such as ours, recognising selective conscientious objection may loosen the ties, which hold us together as a nation. Yesterday, the objection was against serving in South Lebanon. Today, the objection is against serving in Judea and Samaria. Tomorrow, the objection will be against vacating this or that settlement. The army of the nation may turn into an army of different groups comprised of various units, to each of which it would be conscientiously acceptable to act in certain areas, whereas it would be conscientiously unacceptable to act in others. In a polarised society such as ours, this consideration weighs heavily. Furthermore, it becomes difficult to distinguish between one who claims conscientious objection in good faith and one who, in actuality, objects to the policy of the government or the Knesset, as it is a fine distinction - occasionally an exceedingly fine distinction – between objecting to a state policy and between conscientious objection to carry out that policy."
Center for Democratic Studies
The Center is taking its formative shape. First on the agenda was to establish a reputable Governing Board that will involve capable people whose activities showed their commitment to the values and ideas that underlie the Center. The Board includes at this stage the following dignitaries:
Former Justice of the Supreme Court Dalia Dorner, a leading liberal voice in Israel whose imprint on our legal history is noticeable and admirable
Recipient of Israel Prize in Philosophy, Professor Asa Kasher of Tel Aviv University, a leading expert on ethics, with a sharp mind and careful eye
Rabbi Uri Regev, one of the leaders of the Reform Movement in Israel and in the world. He exemplifies humane Judaism in its best
Former Deputy Speaker of the Knesset (Meretz – the Civil Rights Party), Professor Naomi Chazan of the Hebrew University Dept. of Political Science, a most capable scholar who is spending her sabbatical now at MIT
Professor Eppie Yaar of Tel Aviv University, a leading sociologist who is known also for the Peace Index that he monitors for some years
Former Cabinet Minister (Labour) and Ambassador to the UN Gad Yaakobi, one of the brightest politicians I've ever known, a true intellectual with a passion for poetry
Professor Ben-Zion Zilberfarb of Bar Ilan University Department of Economics. He was the head of the Economic Planning Authority of the Israeli government (1982 –1985) and the Director General of the Ministry of Finance (1988 – 1999).
Head of the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute Dr. Shimshon Zelniker. Van Leer is a leading research center in Israel that has been working for many years to promote peace and understanding within Israel and with its neighbours
Professor Bernard Susser of Department of Political Science, Bar Ilan University. Barney is a leading political theorist in Israel. He supervised my MA thesis on Marx, Engels and Lenin some years ago (who counts…)
Professor Aharon Kellerman, former Vice President of my university, a man of many qualities and capabilities with lots of administrative experience
Professor Yedidya Stern of Bar Ilan University Faculty of Law, a leading activist in promoting understanding between secular and religious Jews, on constitutional issues, and a Senior Fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute
Mr. Gil Weiser, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the University of Haifa. He comes from the high-tech, a successful businessman who cares deeply about the future of Israeli democracy and who knows the inside out of my university
Professor Moshe Zeidner, Dean of Research whose responsibilities include overseeing the work of all centers within the university
I have also invited Professor Majid Al-Haj to be affiliated to my Center and he agreed. Majid heads the Center for Multiculturalism at my university and for this reason cannot be an official member of the Governing Board. He is a respected sociologist who works on the relationships between Arabs and Jews in Israel, and the absorption of the Russian immigrants in Israeli society.
The list is not conclusive as other members who have passion to better the future of Israeli democracy might join. I would like to have on board more business people, with contacts and access to people who care about Israel, and have the resources to invest in various projects and activities. I am also contemplating the establishment of an International Steering Committee. The Governing Board is scheduled to convene in early March and upon their approval I would like to invite people from four corners of the world to officially join the Center. Some already expressed interest, including Nobel Prize laureate Elie Wiesel.
Some of you took the initiative and sent checks in support of the Center. You touched my heart. I am most thankful for your care and concern.
There are some 400 people on this listserve, and more than 1500 people have visited the blog since its inception. If each will donate $100 the Center could kick-off to a good start. People who wish to donate money are welcome to send a check to:
Ms. Michal Zach
(for the Center for Democratic Studies)
The Research Authority
University of Haifa
Those of you who wish to donate larger sums of money and want to receive charitable donation tax receipts are welcome to contact:
Ms. Estie Becker
Resource Development Department
University of Haifa
Using the T-Word
Together with a former student, Amit Rahat, I am conducting research on ombudsmen in the United Kingdom, Canada and Isssrael. For this purpose I recently visited the UK and met with some people in the BBC. I will not elaborate on my findings in this forum but would like to mention only one issue: The BBC cautious refrain from using the word "terrorism". Even those involved in the horrific seizure of a school in the town of Beslan on September 3, 2004 were not described as terrorists. I asked why. Senior people at the BBC explained that the BBC broadcasts worldwide to people with different point of views, and it does not wish to alienate anyone. They continued the explanation by the well-known cliché that one's terrorist is another's freedom fighter and therefore opt to the simple solution of not using the T-Word in principle. Then one of them maintained that a certain horrific act may be described as terrorist, but "we don't call the people who conduct the act as terrorist". Do you understand this?
Bear in mind that when the UK was subjected to IRA attacks the BBC had no problem calling the people involved "terrorist". After the Good Friday agreement terrorism no more exists. September 11 was tricky, though. Interesting.
Journalists are morally required to be conscious of the terminology they employ in their reports. An ephemeral terrorist organisation is not "an army." People who kidnap and murder randomly are not "students" or "saints" or "soldiers" or "freedom fighters." The killing of innocent civilians traveling on a bus or a train should not be described in terms of a "military operation." A difference exists between covering news and providing terrorists an equal platform to declare their agenda. To remain objective in the sense of moral neutrality with regard to terrorism is to betray ethics and morality. Terrorists deserve no prize for their brutality. Here I take issue with the BBC and also with the CBC Ombudsman, David Bazay, who in comments about the use of the word "terrorist" wrote that "There is nothing in the CBC's journalism policy that prevents the public broadcaster's journalists from calling a spade a spade or a terror attack a terror attack." But, at the same time, he instructed the CBC to be careful with the use of language. While quoting his colleague Jeffrey Dvorkin, Ombudsman for the American National Public Radio, Bazay explained that while the use of "the 't' word" may be accurate it also has a political and "extra-journalistic role of de-legitimizing one side and enthroning the views of the other." In his view, this is not the role of responsible journalism, "which is and should be to describe with accuracy and fairness events that listeners may choose to endorse or deplore." Indeed, this is the role of responsible journalism and therefore journalists should resort to the term "terrorism" when such acts are conducted. Bazay took pain to explain that sides to a given conflict use and abuse the word "terrorist" to frame the issues to advance their political agenda, but it does not matter how one side or another characterizes the acts of violence it carries. What does matter is whether the acts fall within the definition of terrorism. However, because the description of a given event as terrorist might be difficult and controversial, both the BBC and the CBC are opting, in general, for the simple solution of refraining from using the term.
I am most grateful to Wilfrid Knapp, Prinky and Adam Roberts, Eric Barendt, Jack Pole and Alan Budd for their kind hospitality.
Syrian Wins Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders
Aksam Noaisse, the Chairman of the Committees for the Defense of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights in Syria has won the prestigious Martin Ennals Award. Noaisse was one of the founding members of the Committees, created in 1989, and of the publication "Sawt al-Dimokratiyyah" (voice of democracy). Naisse has courageously spoken out in national, regional and international forums. He has been arrested six times, held incommunicado and tortured. He is currently not allowed to travel abroad. A trial against him will resume on 16 January 2005 and he risks 15 years prison.
The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) is a unique collaboration among eleven of the world's leading non-governmental human rights organizations to give protection to human rights defenders worldwide. The jury comprises Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, International Federation for Human Rights, the International Commission of Jurists, World Organization Against Torture, German Diakonie, International Service for Human Rights, International Alert, Huridocs and DCI.
Peace One Day
The British Council organized an evening to show the documentary film "Peace One Day" and have a Q&A session with the film maker Jeremy Gilley. The film documents the truly amazing journey of a visionary man, who is also a doer, who wanted to better this world by declaring one day of universal peace. To reach 365 days of global peace is somewhat more difficult, but let us start with one day during which all rivals will put down their guns, allow food and medicine to pass securely to people who need them. On this day there will be no firing, no bombings, no launching of missiles, no terrorism, no guerrilla warfare, no assassinations, no military operations. A global armistice and break of violence.
Just imagine a planning meeting of the heads of the Hamas in which the intelligence officer points out that tomorrow there is a golden opportunity to launch a massive suicide attack in the heart of Tel Aviv, but then a Hamas leader rise and say: We cannot. Tomorrow is the International Day of Peace.
Or that the heads of the security forces in Israel convene and the intelligence officer says that tomorrow there will be a golden opportunity to "eliminate" the head of operations of the Islamic Jihad, but then Sharon will respond: Not tomorrow. Tomorrow is the International Day of Peace.
To achieve this end, Gilley started by contacting Nobel Peace Laureates, received the support of some leading figures and then of Costa Rica and the United Kingdom, and in September 2001 the United Nations had passed GA Resolution 55/282 that accepted the idea and initiative. The motion was passed unanimously. 21 September has become the International Day of Peace.
Gilley is continuing his efforts to spread the news about peace-one-day and is now filming his second film in which he documents his efforts. Indeed, we all yearn for peace one day. 21 September can be a good start. Please mark the day in your calendars. (Inter alia, I suggested Gilley to contact all manufactures of diaries to note the day in their products).
If you can, arrange that your respective universities buy the DVD.
For further information, see http://www.peaceoneday.org/
Prince Harry in Nazi Uniform
The photo of the young Prince dressed up as a Nazi was, in one word, revolting. I presume this is the result of sheer ignorance. The guy does not know what he is doing, and not for the first time. Young people are prone to make mistakes more than older guys, but this one shows he lacks good education. God knows what he did at Eton. Apparently not much. Or maybe Eton does not teach WWII, the Blitz, and the horrors of the Nazi regime? I wonder. Young Harry thought that that custom would be most appropriate for the party he attended, that it will be "fun", "cool", and attract attention. Well, it certainly attracted attention, probably more than he wished in the first place. I hope he will now learn something about the people he wished to represent in his fun party.
Here in Israel young people in general don't use the swastika and other Nazi motifs. They understand it is beyond the acceptable. Only political opponents resort to Nazi symbols, dressing the leaders they oppose in Nazi uniform. You may recall the notorious photo of Prime Minister Rabin dressed in Himler's uniform. I read that soldiers in the occupied territories pride themselves with the symbol of the skull with two crossed bones. I assume they don't know much of their predecessors who used this symbol of death. What they want to say, mostly to their comrades as they paint this symbol on their own private closets and put up posters with the symbol in their own private rooms: Be Aware!! I am here to inflict death and mayhem. I am cool. I am not afraid. I am here to gun down Palestinians and to show them who is the boss. In a sense, the skull symbol serves the same purpose of the Nazi symbol in other parts of the world. But, of course, not in Harry's case.
Harry just wanted to be cool per se. Nothing beyond that. What troubles me is that this shallow man serves as an idol for many young people around the world. If he is wearing this so-called ghastly swastika, why won't we? The old generation is too rigid, they might say. It is actually cool to rebel against them and wear Nazi uniform. Who were the Nazis anyway? Germans. We have nothing against Germany. A beautiful country, actually, and a prospering one too. Germany has a long history, with one terribly dark chapter of which Harry and others know very little. Oswiecim is a mere foreign word of no significance and meaning.
Festen – a solid drama that shows British theatre at its best. Patriarch Helge Klingelfeldt is celebrating his 60th birthday at a magnificent old house in the Danish countryside. Surrounded by his loyal wife Else, his daughter Helene, sons Christian and Michael and a host of family and friends this promises to be a very special occasion. And then Christian proposed a toast that transforms the celebration into a painful journey to the dark side of the family. Paul Nicholls, who plays Christian, gives an electrifying memorable performance and holds the play together. You are in for a thrill.
Any idea what festen means? Ideas are welcomed.
Photos from Israel
I wanted to share with you some photos from Israel. Enjoy. These are just few gems to appreciate.
With my very best wishes, as ever,
My last communications are available on http://almagor.blogspot.comEarlier posts at my home page: http://lib-stu.haifa.ac.il/staff/rcohen-Almagor
Books archived at http://almagor.fetchauthor.info