Thursday, February 24, 2005

February 2005

Comment on Prince Harry, Israel’s Punitive House Demolitions Since 2000, Human Rights in Israel, Peace Index, Syria, Dan Halutz, Excessive Media Ownership and Its Potential Threats to Democracy, Research and Lecture Tour to Holland and Belgium, Interview to Volkskrant, International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation's Campaign, Israel Affairs, Vol. 11, No. 1 (January 2005), Books, Photos

Dear friends and colleagues,

Comment on Prince Harry

SBK from Washington commented on Prince Harry:

No one has pointed out that, added to his evident ignorance and immaturity, the British press has implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, compared Israeli actions in the territories to that of the Nazis. Same among leftist politicians, and polls showed (at least before this incident) that a sizable portion of the British population (40% or so) do equate Israel with Nazi Germany. So why should he have any more reverance for Nazi symbolism that the British press, parliament and citizenry ?? Like any adolescent of average intelligence, Harry can presumably sense hypocrisy a mile away. Perhaps he's learned enough to know that the swastika is a symbolic toy and weapon, to be used for whatever purposes -- demonizing opponents, or amusing friends -- may be convenient.

Israel’s Punitive House Demolitions Since 2000

B’Tselem, the Israeli Human Rights organization, has issued its report on this issue. Its principle findings are:
· Since the beginning of the al-Aqsa intifada, the IDF has demolished 628 housing units, which were home to 3,983 persons.
· These homes were demolished because of the acts of 333 Palestinians. On average, 12 innocent people lost their home for every person suspected of participation in attacks against Israelis.
· Almost half of the homes demolished (295, or 47 percent) were never home to anyone suspected of involvement in attacks against Israelis. As a result of these demolitions, 1,286 persons lost their homes even though according to Israeli officials they should not have been punished.
· Contrary to its argument before the High Court of Justice that prior warning is given except in extraordinary cases, B’Tselem’s figures indicate that in only three percent of the cases were occupants given prior notification of the IDF’s intention to demolish their home.
· Extensive destruction of property in occupied territories, without military necessity, constitutes a war crime.

Three Different Kinds of House Demolitions

Over the last four years, Israel has demolished some 4,100 Palestinian homes in the Occupied Territories. About sixty percent of the demolitions were carried out in the framework of what Israel calls “clearing operations.” Some twenty-five percent were destroyed because Israel claims they were built without permit. The remaining fifteen percent were demolished as a means to punish the families and neighbors of Palestinians suspected of involvement in carrying out attacks against Israelis. These punitive demolitions are the focus of this report.

Punitive Demolitions Over the Years

Israel has demolished Palestinian houses as a punitive measure since the beginning of the occupation in 1967. The extent of such demolitions has varied over the years:
· From 1967 to the outbreak of the first intifada, in December 1987, Israel demolished or sealed at least 1,387 housing units, most in the first few years following occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
· Following the outbreak of the first intifada, Israel dramatically increased its use of house demolitions as a punishment. From 1988-1992, Israel completely demolished 431 housing units and partially demolished fifty-nine.
· From 1993 to 1997, Israel completely demolished eighteen housing units and partially demolished three units.
· From 1998 to October 2001, Israel did not demolish or seal any houses as punishment.
· In the course of the al-Aqsa intifada, Israel renewed with increased vigor its use of punitive house demolitions. As part of this policy, Israel demolished 628 homes from October 2001 to 20 September 2004. The official decision to renew the policy of punitive demolitions was made at a meeting of the Political-Security Cabinet on 31 July 2002, about nine months after the policy began in practice. This report analyzes Israel’s policy during this period.

Punishing the Innocent as Official Policy

The declared purpose of the punitive house demolitions is to deter potential attackers, by harming the relatives of Palestinians suspected of attacks against Israelis. Testimonies given to B’Tselem indicate that security forces occasionally use the threat of demolition to convince relatives of wanted persons to cooperate and turn over their relatives. Israel’s policy has left 3,983 Palestinians homeless since the beginning of the current intifada.

This measure does not directly harm the suspects themselves, who at the time of the demolition are not living in the house. According to B’Tselem’s statistics, thirty-two percent of the suspected offenders were in detention at the time of demolition, twenty-one percent were “wanted,” and forty-seven percent were dead. In addition, in many instances the IDF also destroyed houses adjacent to the house that was the target for demolition. These cases involved both apartments in the same building as the suspect’s apartment, and adjacent buildings. B’Tselem’s research indicates that in some cases the IDF explicitly intended to destroy the nearby houses. Yet, even if the IDF did not intend to damage nearby houses, the fact that there have been many such cases makes the lack of intention irrelevant. Since the beginning of the al-Aqsa intifada, the IDF demolished 295 such adjacent homes (about one-half of all homes demolished), in which 1,286 persons lived. However, statements made by the IDF Spokesperson’s Office following demolitions always mention one house, that in which the relevant individual lived, as the residence that was demolished.

Reason for Demolition: Not Just Suicide Bombings

The text of the decision made by the Political-Security Cabinet and reports in the media give the impression that Israel’s policy is directed only against Palestinians who were directly involved in attacks that caused many Israeli casualties. Yet in practice, Israel demolishes houses in response to involvement in any attempted violent act against Israelis, regardless of the results: from suicide bombings that leave many casualties to “failed” attacks against soldiers. Furthermore, the demolitions are aimed not only at the perpetrators, but also against the homes of individuals with any level of involvement in such attacks, either in the planning, the dispatching of the persons who carried out the attacks, or by providing assistance of some kind. According to B’Tselem’s figures, sixty-six percent of the demolitions were directed at the families of suspects who carried out attacks, while the remaining thirty-four percent were directed at those involved in other ways. In forty percent of the Palestinian attacks because of which the suspects’ homes were destroyed, no Israeli was killed.

No Prior Warning

Contrary to prior practice, since the policy was renewed in 2001, the IDF has generally not issued a demolition order, and has not given prior warning to the occupants before demolishing their home. The IDF gave prior warning in only seventeen cases, representing three percent of the total. Most of the demolitions take place at night, and the occupants are given only a few minutes to remove their possessions from the house.

Causing Severe Physical and Mental Harm

Testimonies given to B’Tselem indicate that the harm suffered by families affects almost all aspects of life: disruption of the family unit, as some families are forced to split up and live separately; sharp decline in the standard of living, as a result of the loss of property, even after the family finds substitute housing; and feelings of dependence and instability as a result of the loss of their home, which is more than just a place to provide shelter. Research on the psychological effects indicates that house demolitions have a substantial post-traumatic effect, primarily on children.

Violation of the Right to Housing

The right to adequate housing is well enshrined in international law. The right to housing is important because it is a prerequisite for the exercise of other rights, among them the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, and the right to family life. The right to housing is a vital component of the protection of the rights of children, who are entitled to special protection in international law. As the force in control in the Occupied Territories, Israel is required to respect the Palestinians’ right to housing.

Collective Punishment

Israel’s policy not only infringes the right to housing, it also breaches one of the most fundamental principles of justice: the prohibition on punishing a person for acts committed by another. The prohibition of collective punishment is especially stringent when the victims are children. The Fourth Geneva absolutely prohibits collective punishment without exception.

The Hague Regulations, on the other hand, recognize a narrow exception to this prohibition. The exception applies when occupants of the house intended for demolition knew or could foresee the act for which the army intends to demolish the house, and had the opportunity to prevent it. Despite this, state officials have often declared that prior knowledge or responsibility is not a precondition for the legality of the demolition. In the few cases in which the High Court addressed the question of indirect responsibility of family members for failing to prevent an attack, the justices relied on baseless assumptions to determine that the relatives knew about the attack during the planning stage. This approach is completely inconsistent with the High Court’s handling of the identical offense known in Israeli law as “failure to prevent a felony,” which calls for an extremely heavy burden of proof, in which the prosecution must prove that the defendant had positive, concrete, immediate, and significant information that a felony was about to occur.

Israel further argues that house demolitions are not punishment, but rather a means of deterrence. Therefore, the state contends, the act does not comprise collective punishment and thus does not violate international humanitarian law. The High Court accepted the state’s argument by making an analogy between house demolition and incarceration of the head of a family, which also harms the family. However, the comparison is flawed. The purpose of imprisonment is to deny certain rights to the offender. The suffering of his family is only a by-product which is not necessary to achieve the objective of the imprisonment.

Denying the Right to Due Process

Finally, demolition of houses is an administrative procedure based solely on suspicion, in which the occupants are denied the right to due process of law. Since the policy was renewed in 2001, Israeli has further denied due process by denying victims of the policy the fundamental right to plead their case to the authorities before the demolition is carried out. Israel justifies its failure to give prior warning on the grounds that the warning is “liable to endanger our forces, and cause the action to fail, because warning will enable the enemy to booby-trap the houses scheduled to be demolished, ambush our troops taking part in the action, and the like.” This justification is baseless. At least as far as the West Bank is concerned, the IDF has effective control throughout the area, and is constantly present in almost all the cities, villages, and refugee camps. Also, making demolitions an openly declared policy enables some families to anticipate the demolition of their home. Following recent suicide attacks, the Israeli media reported that the IDF intended to demolish the houses of the persons who carried out the attacks. Thus, the state can no longer justify denial of the right to be heard on the need to preserve the element of surprise.

In perfect timing, after the publication of this report the Ministry of Defence announced earlier this week that it no longer supports demolition of houses as a punitive measure, arguing that it does not really serve as deterrence and only increases hostility and hatred by Palestinian families who were affected by this draconic measure. Prudence does prevail. Sometimes it hesitates, sometimes it takes time, more than necessary.

Human Rights in Israel:
An Overview with Special Reference to Administrative Detention

Just published a short piece of mine: News and Journal 2004, The 21st Century Trust, London. I am thankful to the Trust (Paul and John) for permission to publish it in this forum.


Israel is a young democracy under constant stress. It is situated within a hostile environment. Since its establishment in 1948 it experienced six wars (the 1948 Independence War; the 1956 Suez War; the 1967 Six Day War; the 1969-1970 War of Attrition; the 1973 Yom Kippur War; the 1982 Lebanon War), a Palestinian uprising (Intifada) that lasted six years (1987-1993), and since September 2000 it has been under constant terror attacks. Terrorism is not a new phenomenon. Israel has been facing terrorism since its inception but the last four years have been particularly harsh. In such a strenuous and abnormal reality respect for human and civic rights is held secondary to security considerations.
Israel is a land of immigrants. The Law of Return, passed on 5 July 1950, gives the Zionist doctrine its most forceful legal expression. It accords every Jew who decides to make aliya (immigrate) and to settle in Israel an automatic citizenship. Effectively, the Law of Return is a nationality law, granting only Jews nationality status in the state of Israel. There are still schisms between different immigrant groups as well as between these groups and people who were born in Israel. Generally speaking, three groups of people are being discerned in the Jewish population in Israel: Sephardim whose origins lie in Asia and Africa; Ashkenazim whose origins lie in Europe and America; and Sabras, native born Israelis. The large Sephardi sector holds justified grievances against the Ashkenazi elite, speaking of systematic discrimination and violation of basic civic rights during the formative years of the state and arguing that some residuals of this discriminatory attitude continued to linger for decades, some say until today.[1]
In this short piece I chose to reflect on the status of Arab-Palestinian citizens in Israel, on some of the problems that the Jewish character of the State present, especially to women, and then on the occupation, specifically on the administrative detention mechanism employed in the occupied territories and sporadically also in Israel.


Twenty percent of Israel's population consists of Palestinian-Arabs who do not share the raison d'etre of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. They often claim, quite rightly, that they are being discriminated against and do not enjoy the same rights as Jews. The Orr Inquiry Report about the circumstances leading to the killing of 13 Arab citizens by the Israeli security forces in October 2000, issued in September 2003, sheds light on this continued discrimination in all spheres of life. Formally all Israeli citizens are equal before the law, regardless of national affiliation, religious beliefs, and political stands. I say 'formally' because in this connection an important distinction has to be made between formal citizenship and full citizenship. Israeli Jews can be said to enjoy full citizenship: they enjoy equal respect as individuals, and they are entitled to equal treatment by law and in its administration. The situation is different with regard to the Israeli-Palestinians, the Bedouin and the Druze. Although they are formally considered to enjoy liberties equally with the Jewish community, in practice they do not share and enjoy the same rights and burdens.[2] For example, Israeli-Palestinians pay more income tax than Jews since they do not enjoy discounts given to those who serve in the army. Arabs will find it more difficult than Jews to receive licences for extending their flats, or for building new ones. They also find it difficult to buy, or even to rent a flat in a Jewish neighbourhood. Furthermore, budgets of Arab municipalities stand in no comparison to those of Jewish municipalities. There are not enough classes in Arab towns and villages. Arabs who graduate find it difficult to get a job in government offices. In addition, being a Palestinian-Arab in many cases 'guarantees' that a worker's salary would be lower than that of a Jew who is doing the same work. The Oslo peace process, which started in September 1993, has reinforced the status of the Palestinians in Israel as a “double periphery”: being placed at one and the same time at the margins of Israeli society and at the margins of Palestinian National Movement.[3]

State and Religion

Further twenty percent of the population are orthodox and ultra-orthodox who will be happy to transform Israel into theocracy. They also complain about prolonged discrimination and denial of basic civic rights, although in recent years there are also complaints from the secular majority about reverse discrimination that bluntly favours the religious minority. In Israel there is no division between state and religion. The concept of a Jewish state has been imbued with religious values, and gender equality rights clash with religious norms. Jewish women are subject to male pre-dominance under Jewish Law, the halakha. Women in Jewish (and also Moslem and some Christian denominations) are subject to discrimination in property and inheritance laws. At present, some religious practices are offensive to the sensibilities of women, and involve coercion, which conflicts with the liberal elements of democracy that vouchsafes the rights of individuals. One of these is the right to follow one’s conscience and to practice one's beliefs as one sees fit, as long as this practice does not entail harm to others.
There is no civil marriage in Israel and persons must be married according to the law of their religious communities. Divorce is also regulated by such law and generally speaking constitutes the jurisdiction of the religious courts. Requiring all who wish to marry to do so by religious law is a serious incursion on the fundamental right to marry. Furthermore, there is a large population of people in Israel who cannot marry at all under Israeli law, either because they belong to different religious communities or to non-recognized religious communities, or because they are not allowed to marry under the law of their community. These incursions on the right to marry are compounded by the fact that both Jewish and Muslim law discriminate between men and women, in the laws of marriage and divorce themselves, as well as in the laws of evidence. Women cannot be judges in the courts in which they comprise half the parties to the disputes.[4]
The system of marriage and divorce is not the only sphere in which religion has an effect on individual rights. Sabbath observance laws, which may potentially impose unacceptable limitations on such rights, have in practice been relaxed in recent years. Their existence and level of enforcement now vary from town to town. Thus, in many towns cinemas and other places of entertainment are open on the Sabbath and some shopping centers operate too. However, in most towns, and in interurban routes, public transport does not operate on the sabbath, a restriction that obviously has an inordinate impact on the poorer sections of the population who do not have their own cars, and curtails exercise of their right to freedom of movement.[5]
Democracy is supposed to allow each and every individual the opportunity to follow her or his conception of the good without coercion. Israel today gives precedence to Judaism over liberalism. I submit that on issues such as this one, the reverse should be the case.[6]


In addition, there are noticeable tensions between left and right: while people associated with the left concede of the necessity to make grave territorial concessions and end the occupation, the people who associate themselves with the right wish to retain the settlements and maintain control over "Greater Israel", i.e., Israel including the territories that were occupied during the Six Day War. Certainly occupation qua occupation is inconsistent with a human rights regime. Ending the occupation and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel is the key for promoting basic human rights in Israel.
In this short survey it will be impossible to cover all aspects of negation of human rights in the occupied territories. They are numerous. The reader is advised to consult the reports of B'tselem and other human rights organizations that monitor human rights in the occupied territories.[7] The remainder of the article addresses one concern: administrative detention, a procedure that is frequent in the territories and infrequent inside the Green Line. This procedure enables the State to detain a person without trial for six months and, if needed, to prolong the denial of freedom further because of "state security considerations". Since the outbreak of the 1987 Palestinian Intifada in December 1987 until today Israel has detained thousands of people. In 2003, 1007 Palestinians were detained. As of 1 August 2004, the Israel Defence Force (IDF) has detained 731 Palestinians.[8] Some detainees remained in jail for years.[9]

Administrative detention

Administrative detention is widely used in many countries. According to the International Commission of Jurists, at least 85 countries have legislation permitting this practice.[10] Israel made use of administrative detention from its first days as an independent state. This measure has been used both in the occupied territories and in Israel within its Green Line borders. While the military govern and adjudicate the detention procedures in the territories, the civilian executive and judicial authorities govern these procedures inside the Green Line and in East Jerusalem, which was officially annexed to Israel.
The power to implement administrative detention was created at the time of the British Mandate by the Defence (Emergency) Regulations, 1945.[11] When Israel declared its independence in 1948, a state of emergency was announced and the Defence Regulations became part of Israeli law. After the Six Day War, military orders were issued that enabled the use of Defence Regulations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. From the first year of occupation, Israel resorted to administrative detention as a security measure against the Palestinian population and, on occasion, against Jews involved in espionage and similar activities believed to endanger state security. In 1979 and 1980, it was decided to change the existing procedures relating to administrative detention in the Green Line borders and subsequently in the occupied territories. First, the Defence Regulations were replaced with an Israeli law through the enactment of The Emergency Powers (Detention) Law, 5739-1979.[12] Section 2 of this law provides: ‘Where the Minister of Defence has reasonable cause to believe that reasons of state security or public security require that a particular person be detained, he may, by order under his hand, direct that such person be detained for a period, not exceeding six months, stated in the order’.[13] Israeli courts rely heavily on the statements of the Defence Minister who is not obliged to produce substantial evidence, as is required in an ordinary court of law, to justify the detention.
The issue of administrative detention should be viewed, especially in the occupied territories, within the general framework of security considerations that justify the demolition of houses, deportations, controversial instructions for the opening of fire, methods of interrogation that some may regard as torture, closure of newspapers, and the like.[14] Israel does not hesitate to endorse illiberal methods when it comes to defending its security. Those illiberal patterns of ‘militant Zionism’ are being advocated, legalised, implemented, and justified by the legislature, the government, and the court of justice.[15]
Administrative detention is one of the most anti-democratic procedures that exist in Israel. It has severe consequences for the persons concerned, and it contravenes some of the most important documents in international law. Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights postulates: ‘No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile’. And Article 9(1) of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights reiterates that ‘Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention’. The right to due process of law grossly infringed by resorting to administrative detentions is protected in Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.[16]
The reader should not infer from this discussion that democracies should stand idle in the face of grave threats to their security and/or their very existence. Democracies have every right to defend themselves against such threats. I object only to the implementation of what I conceive as an unjust procedure that denies basic rights and liberties and infringes on due process of law at times other than those of real emergency. Obviously, security considerations necessitate taking some restrictive measures such as questioning, detention for 48 hours, house arrest, and the initiation of criminal proceedings, but they do not justify brute denial of rights in the form of administrative detention. This act should not be considered as just another preventive measure to be selected from the arsenal of preventive measures. During normal times, it should not be contemplated at all. It should not be a substitute for criminal proceedings. The courts hold that administrative detention is justified as a last resort, but I have serious doubts as to whether this is, indeed, the case.[17]
Administrative detention is manifestly unjust. It is contrary to the democratic spirit and to liberal reason that proscribes arbitrary arrests. This procedure is the kind of instrument despots use to suppress opposition. In contrast, democracies require that all legal procedures be exhausted before putting individuals behind bars. In a court of law, the prosecution must prove that criminal offences have been committed that justify penalties. Defendants have the right to be represented by lawyers, to summon witnesses and to cross-examine them. The administrative detention procedure omits these rights and, therefore, is contrary to the notion of justice. My contention is simple: if the detainees have committed criminal offences (sedition, incitement, violent or terrorist acts, etc.), they should stand trial, and it is for the prosecution to show why they should be kept out of society. Let the prosecution prosecute, the defendants defend themselves, and the court of justice mete out justice in accordance with material evidence. And if there is not sufficient evidence to prosecute, or if the prosecution is unable to produce relevant material, the defendants should retain their freedom. No procedure should exist to override the administration of justice.[18]


Israel is saturated with schisms. Those schisms challenge the foundations of liberal democracy (liberty, equality, tolerance, justice) and the ability to maintain human rights.
After the Holocaust, the goal was to found a safe haven for Jews all over the world so as to avoid the possibility of another horrific experience of that nature. Indeed, the United Nations acknowledged the need of establishing a Jewish state. This creation, however, based on a Jewish conception of the good, discriminates against the Israeli Arabs. Israel acknowledges the problems involved in the introduction of this perfectionist element in its framework of ruling. To assure an equal status for the Arab minority, the Declaration of Independence holds that Israel will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; that it will be based on the foundations of liberty, justice and peace; that it will uphold complete equality of social and political rights to all of its citizens irrespective of religion, race or sex, and that it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture. It is time to translate these words into deeds and to strive to achieve real equality between Arabs and Jews, and to secure civic and human rights for all.
Israel, being the only Jewish state in the world, should endeavor to retain its Jewish character. The symbols should remain Jewish with some accommodations in order to make the state a home for its Palestinian citizens as well. Shabbat should remain the official day of rest. Palestinian villages and towns may make Friday their day of rest. Hopefully, one day, when security considerations would become less dominant and pressing, and the Israeli economy could afford two days of rest, as is the case in many parts of the world, then Friday and Shabbat will become the two official days of rest.
The preservation of the Jewish character of the state should not entail coercion of the predominant secular circles of Israel. The guiding principle should be Live and Let Live. We need to differentiate between the symbolic aspects and the modus operandi aspects. As far as the latter are concerned, separation between state and religion should be achieved. People are born free and wish to continue their lives as free citizens in their homeland. Coercion is foreign to our natural sentiments and desires to lead our lives free as possible from alien restraints and impediments. Hence, while Shabbat should be observed, malls and shopping places outside the cities should be available for the many people who work during the week and do their shopping during weekends.
Public transportation should be made available for all people who cannot afford having a car and for those who do not drive. The state should cater for the needs of as many citizens as possible. Kosher shops and restaurants should be available and with them non-Kosher shops and restaurants for the secular, agnostic population.
Most importantly, the significant events in one's life: birth, wedding, divorce and death should be handled in accordance of the people's own choices. If they so desire, people may involve rabbinate and other religious institutions in their private lives. But this option should be left to them. If people wish to have secular ceremonies then they should have the ability to conduct them and not to be forced to undergo practices which mean very little to them, if anything. The state should have as little as possible say in family, intimate affairs.[19]
Israel should end the occupation, the sooner the better. The state of occupation harms primarily the Palestinians but it also damages the civic foundations of democracy. Decision makers thought that it is possible to maintain the duality of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: being an occupier outside the Green Line, and a citizen inside the Green Line. However, norms of the occupation infiltrate inside Israel and damage the democratic foundations of the State. The Gaza First Plan is a possible route to follow as -- indeed -- the first step in a calculated process designed to evacuate the territories and shifting responsibility to the Palestinian Authority.[20]
As for administrative detention, this measure should be regarded anti-humanitarian and be objected to in the same way we protest against torture, collective punishment, harming children, deportation, and forced transfer of the population. While recognising that security considerations are of paramount importance, and that without security a democratic state would not exist, there is still a limit to what we can do in the name of democracy. As Justice Aharon Barak contended in the Schnitzer case, our strength lies in our moral power and in our adherence to the principles of democracy, especially when we are encompassed by such dangers.[21]
Security is not an end in itself, but a means. We must secure a democratic system, an administration of the people, for the people, by the people, that guarantees individual freedoms and fundamental human rights.

Peace Index

Prof. Ephraim Yaar and Prof. Tamar Hermann published the Peace Index of January 2005. In recent months they found cautious optimism among the Israeli Jewish public about the chances of calming the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and at present it has grown. Along with overwhelming support for conducting political negotiations with the Palestinian side, along with greater belief that such negotiations could lead to peace in the coming years, the majority also thinks new Palestinian leader Abu Mazen is making sincere efforts to end the terror and has the ability to end or at least reduce it substantially.

In the domestic sphere, despite enhanced fears that the resistance to the disengagement plan could lead to a civil war, and the widespread view that the plan’s opponents have been “marketing” their message more successfully than its supporters and also are prepared to invest more effort in promoting the policy they favor, support for the plan among most of the Jewish public remains stable, with a clear majority also believing the government will eventually be able to implement it. The majority favors taking various measures to make the domestic process easier, including increasing the financial compensation to the evacuated settlers, preventing the transfer to the Palestinians of their homes and infrastructures without suitable compensation, allowing soldiers who oppose the evacuation not to take part in it, and closing the zones of the evacuation to the media. In addition, the Jewish public supports—by a rate of two to one—holding a referendum on the plan and stepped-up civic activity by its supporters.

Seventy-seven percent of the Jewish public currently support or strongly support holding peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, and 51% believe strongly or moderately that this will lead to Israeli-Palestinian peace in the coming years (in the Arab sector the optimism is high indeed: 94.5% favor negotiations and 78% believe in their chances of bearing fruit in the coming years).

The broad support for the disengagement plan—59%—remains unchanged, and a segmentation of the rates of support and opposition by voting for the large parties also indicates great stability. However, the Jewish public is split regarding the danger that implementing the plan will ignite a civil war—49% see the danger as very high or high (in September this rate was 40%), 46% as low or very low (interestingly, an overwhelming majority—67%—of the Arab public sees little such danger). Some 56.5% think the disengagement opponents are currently “marketing” their message to the Israeli public more effectively than the supporters, and just about the same total say the opponents—more than the supporters—are prepared to invest effort in advancing the policy they favor. It is not surprising, then, that about 60% of the public—similar to the rate of supporters—see it is desirable that the disengagement supporters express their position more effectively via petitions, demonstrations, and the like. However, despite the assessment of the marketing success and determination of the disengagement opponents, a very large majority—74%—expect the government will ultimately succeed in implementing the plan and evacuating the settlements. This is higher than the public’s evaluation of the plan’s chances of success in December (63%). A cross-section of expectations on this issue with positions on disengagement shows, as expected, that among the plan’s supporters there is unanimity (91%) that the government will be able to carry it out. Interestingly, though, among the opponents as well a majority, albeit not large (52%-41%), holds this view.

Seventy percent support increased compensations to the settlers, 68% favor ensuring that their homes and infrastructures are not transferred to the Palestinians without suitable compensation, 53% believe soldiers who oppose the evacuation should be allowed not to take part in it, and the same rate supports closing the zones of the evacuation to the media. Furthermore, despite the prime minister’s opposition to a referendum on the disengagement plan, most of the Jewish public, at a similar rate to support for the plan (61%), favors a referendum. Indeed, a segmentation of support rates for a referendum by position on the disengagement plan shows that even among the supporters a majority, albeit small (52%-45%), wants one to be held. As expected, the rate of those favoring this is higher among opponents of the plan (79%).


President Bush declared on January 17 that Syria was "out of step" with democratic trends in the Middle East and that the Syrian government needed to cut off support for Iraqi insurgents and stop interfering in Lebanon to avoid becoming further isolated internationally.

The Bush administration announced the recall of the ambassador, Margaret Scobey, to express American displeasure after the assassination on Monday of Rafik Hariri, a former Lebanese prime minister who was a close ally of the United States and France and also a critic of Syria's involvement in Lebanon.

Frankly, I would not be surprised if Syria was not behind the assassination and if the investigation will reveal that one of the factions who wish the Syrians out of the country committed the murder, knowing that Syria will be the prime suspect. Syria has an interest to calm down the situation at time when the American lion lies at its gate. They would have committed the assassination only if felt that Hariri became too successful in his anti-Syrian activities. I do not have sufficient knowledge about his range of activities and the extent of his success in the Lebanese internal politics. I presume the clouds will clear soon.

Dan Halutz

Maj. Gen. Dan Halutz was named on February 22 by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz as the next chief of staff, the first ever air force general to reach this position. Halutz, 57, will be the 18th chief of staff. Ariel Sharon was a full partner in the decision to appoint Halutz, who is known to be one of the prime minister's favorite officers.

Halutz is the controversial officer who authorized the "targeted assassination" of Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh by a one-tone bomb dropped by an Air Force bomber on Shehadeh's Gaza home. As a result, 15 civilians, including 11 children, were killed. Quite a collateral way to conduct targeted assassination. Asked how he felt about the death, Halutz said that he "sleeps very well at night." He added that the only thing he felt was "a slight jolt to the airplane - it was gone within a second." Now that this great humanitarian is heading the military pyramid I will not sleep well at night.

Excessive Media Ownership and Its Potential Threats to Democracy

As some of you may know, for the past few years I have conducted research on this issue. The study, which analyses the situation in Canada, Israel and Germany, was just published. The reference is "Excessive Media Ownership and Its Potential Threats to Democracy: A Comparative Analysis", by Raphael Cohen-Almagor with Stefan Seiterle, Annual Rev. of Law and Ethics, Vol. 12 (2004), pp. 437-463. Abstract infra. Those interested are welcome to ask for a copy.

The aim of this essay is to examine the issue of media ownership in Canada and Israel, and to reflect on the situation in Germany. In Canada and Israel there is the dual problem of excessive ownership of the media by a small number of people who control the print press and the electronic press. I shall first review the press industry in each country and then reflect on the broadcasting industry. It is argued that the situation of both the Canadian and Israeli markets is alarming because in both societies single individuals have accumulated far too much power. Excessive media ownership threatens diversity of opinions and free journalism and it provides avenues for partisan, partial interests. Germany should learn from the experiences of both countries. Democratic governments should invest efforts to diffuse the power among players with different interests and worldviews.

Research and Lecture Tour to Holland and Belgium

During the first historic meeting between Abu Mazan and Ariel Sharon after the former was elected to succeed Arafat, a meeting that certainly provides fresh and positive wind to our troubled region, I was in Holland and Belgium. I conducted research on euthanasia in the only two countries in the world that legalized euthanasia, research that updates my last book, Euthanasia in the Nethelrands. As ever, a fascinating experience that provides a lot to think and learn about. I need to find the time to sit and analyze the vast material that I have gathered.

I also gave a few lectures on the relationships between media and terror, global terrorism, political extremsism and incitement, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; was interviewed to the written press (one piece infra), and gave a brieifing at the Belgian parliament to some MPs about the heated atmosphere in Israel nowadays. I emphasized that Europe, and also the USA, may have a positive role to play in seeing that the property Israel intends to leave behind will not be demolished and will be transferred to the Palestinan Authority untouched. Both Europe and the USA have the ability to compensate Israel for the lost property. Secondly, I reiterated that Israel will not be able to tolerate the launching of Kassam missiles, and that the onus is on Abu Mazan to halt his extremists. Furthermore, Israel cannot live with the threat of Iranian WMDs and reserves the right to self-defence, including preemtive attacks on such sites in Iran. I expect Bush to increase his involvement in the ME in general, and in Israel-Palestine in particular but said I will be surprised if he will take upon himself to convene a Camp David summit, as Carter and Clinton did. Somehow, Bush does not strike me as a person with an eye on small details, and he lacks the commitment that the two humanitarian presidents had. But, who knows, maybe Bush will surprise me.

I wish to thank my kind hosts that made my visit memorable: Martine Bouman, Eldad Hayet, Sigrid Sterckx, Cas Mudde, Laurent Reichman, Pierre-François Laterre, and Simon Petermann.

Interview to Volkskrant

Mohammed B. is lang geen Osama bin Laden
The Volkskrant
10 February 2005

Raphael Cohen-Almagor maakt onderscheid tussen lokale terroristen en internationale terreurnetwerken
‘Een aanslag plegen
in Amsterdam zou
een vergissing zijn'
Hoe ver kan een democratie gaan in de strijd tegen het terrorisme zonder op te houden een democratie te zijn? Een Israëlische politicoloog is op zoek naar het antwoord.

Van onze verslaggever
Henk Müller

Europa is vergeven van de terreurnetwerken. Gestaag werken die aan hun groei en hun infrastructuur. Terrorisme staat of valt met de beschikbare infrastructuur en die is volop aanwezig, constateert prof. Raphael Cohen-Almagor.
De Midden-Oosten- en terrorisme-expert van de Universiteit van Haifa in Israël is ervan overtuigd dat Al Qa'ida hard werkt aan een nieuwe grootschalige aanval. Bijvoorbeeld op Londen. ‘Amsterdam aanvallen zou een vergissing zijn in de ogen van Bin Laden. Nederland heeft de infrastructuur voor een grote aanval en is misschien een gemakkelijk doelwit, maar dat zoekt hij niet. Bin Laden wil een belangrijk, symbolisch doelwit. Al Qa'ida kent de geopolitieke verhoudingen.'
Cohen-Almagor heeft in Nederland niet alleen enkele lezingen over terrorisme gegeven, maar ook onderzoek gedaan naar euthanasie. ‘Ik concentreer me in mijn werk op ethiek en ethische grenzen', legt hij uit. ‘Grenzen als die tussen liberalisme en multiculturaliteit, tussen terrorisme en hoe een democratie daarmee omgaat, en de vragen van leven en dood: de holocaust en euthanasie.'
In Israël en de Verenigde Staten doceert Cohen-Almagor de recente geschiedenis van het Midden-Oosten, die deze week een nieuwe fase lijkt te zijn ingegaan met het sluiten van een wapenstilstand.
‘Voetje voor voetje lopen premier Sharon en de Palestijnse leider Abbas door troebel water. Sharon, een zeer voorzichtig man, wil als eerste stap de Israëlische troepen terugtrekken uit Gaza, zien hoe dat uitpakt en wat de Palestijnen gaan doen. Abbas, die nog maar net aan de macht is, probeert de Palestijnse ‘‘legers'' van Hamas en de Islamitische Jihad op één lijn te krijgen om in Gaza zijn gezag te kunnen opbouwen. Hamas en de Jihad willen eerst wel eens zien wat voor vlees ze met Abbas in de kuip hebben. Daarom houden ze zich rustig.'
Cohen-Almagor maakt onderscheid tussen ‘terrorisme op lokaal niveau' in Israël en Europa en wereldwijde netwerken als Al Qa'ida. De moord op Van Gogh is volgens hem gepleegd door lokale terroristen, die niet bij Al Qa'ida horen. ‘Maar je moet oppassen dat je die lokale terreurgroepen geen extra munitie verschaft, en zorgvuldig afwegen waar en wanneer de staat moet ingrijpen. Dat hoeft niet bij alles wat onliberaal is, maar wel als er sprake is van geweld. Wederzijds respect en een ander niet schaden, dat is de basisregel.'
Om te zien waar de grenzen liggen, bestudeerde hij vrouwenbesnijdenis en de rechten van moslimvrouwen. ‘Wat zijn de consequenties van ingrijpen? Stel dat moslimvrouwen binnenshuis moeten blijven. Moet de staat ze dan dwingen de deur uit te gaan? Nee. Als een moslim een vrouw geen hand wil geven, wat dan nog? Maar de staat moet wel ingrijpen als er sprake is van geweld.
‘Of eerwraak terrorisme is? Nee, terrorisme is angst zaaien door willekeur. Eerwraak is geen willekeur. Vrouwenbesnijdenis van Somalische vrouwen bijvoorbeeld is systematisch geweld, daarom moet de staat ingrijpen. Maar vrouwenbesnijdenis onder de bedoeïenen in Israël bleek vooral symbolisch. Niet ingrijpen dus.'
Het gevaar komt niet van lokale terroristen, onderstreept Cohen-Almagor, die Al Qa'ida en Bin Laden ziet ‘als een soort land' dat het verdient harder te worden aangevallen dan Irak. ‘In mijn ogen is dat de belangrijkste prioriteit. De kop van de cobra moet eraf.'
Irak is volgens hem sinds de val van Saddam Hussein geen kweekvijver voor terroristen, zoals Afghanistan destijds. ‘Er is terrorisme, maar de aanwezigheid van de Amerikaanse leeuw voor de poorten van Damascus en Teheran heeft al met al tot minder terrorisme geleid.'
Toen Bush aankondigde het terrorisme wereldwijd te willen aanpakken, vroeg de Israëlische expert zich af of de Amerikaanse president wel wist wat hij zei. ‘Bush is geen Carter of Clinton, die zich intensief met het Midden-Oostenconflict hebben bemoeid. Het zou me verbazen als hij bijvoorbeeld een Camp David-top bijeenroept. Bush is er niet zo persoonlijk bij betrokken. Maar wel bij de bestrijding van terrorisme. Hij wil de geschiedenis ingaan als de man die een einde heeft gemaakt aan het terrorisme.'

Cohen-Almagor is ervan overtuigd dat het Bush menens is als deze zegt het Midden-Oosten te willen democratiseren. ‘Irak was vanaf 11/9 kandidaat nummer één. Het klinkt cynisch, maar het aantal Amerikaanse body bags is niet zo groot dat de regering van mening verandert. Washington moet doorgaan met zijn pogingen van Irak een democratie te maken. Of dat lukt? Ik probeer optimistisch te zijn. Voor hetzelfde geld valt Irak uit elkaar'.

Maar tussen wens en werkelijkheid zit nog wel wat ruimte. Democratisering van de rest van het Midden-Oosten blijft vooralsnog beperkt tot veel geld voor instituten die rapporten schrijven over democratisering in het Midden-Oosten, constateert de Israëlische professor.

‘De regeringen in Egypte, Saudi-Arabië en de Golfstaten blijven zitten, het zijn bondgenoten, ze staan aan de Amerikaanse kant. Kadhafi heeft zijn lesje geleerd, Al-Assad van Syrië weet dat hij de VS nodig heeft om te overleven en Jemen houdt zich koest. Dan houd je alleen Iran over'.

Cohen-Almagor denkt niet dat de VS Iran zullen aanvallen. ‘Dat kunnen zelfs de VS niet aan, twee landen tegelijk aanvallen. Irak is kinderspel vergeleken met Iran. Maar naar Israëlische inschatting kan Teheran over een jaar een atoomwapen hebben. Dat zal Jeruzalem nooit toestaan en als Iran niet alsnog voldoet aan de eisen van het Internationaal Atoomagentschap zal Israël ingrijpen. Al dan niet met expliciete toestemming van Washington. Dat is een van de weinige zekerheden die ik heb inzake het Midden-Oosten'.

International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation's 100,000 Names for 100,000 Lives Campaign

I was asked to post the following. I signed and would appreciate your consideration.

January 17th 2005 marks the 60th anniversary of the disappearance of Raoul Wallenberg, who saved 100,000 lives in Nazi-occupied Hungary during WWII. On January 1945 Wallenberg was captured by the Soviet Army. Since then, his fate remains unknown.

Join the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation's 100,000 Names for 100,000 Lives Campaign to clear up the final destiny of the Swedish diplomat. It is a great opportunity to repair 60 years of silence, unanswered questions and injustice with the steadfast support of us all.

So please, sign your name and spread the word, invite your family and friends to do the same. Help us reach the goal of at least 100,000 names for the 100,000 lives saved by this "Hero without a Grave". If you prefer so, you can also forward this email to your contacts.

All the collected signatures will be presented to the Secretary General of the United Nations to urge the solution of one of the most controversial cases in history of humankind.

Congressman Tom Lantos and his wife Annette, who were saved by Wallenberg were the first to sign.

Sign your name!

The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation

Israel Affairs, Vol. 11, No. 1 (January 2005)

I am the editor of special issue of this journal that appears in London. For each topic I chose the best person in Israel. Hereby the table of contents:

Raphael Cohen-Almagor


From Socialism to Free Market – The Israeli Economy: 1948 – 2003
Ben-Zion Zilberfarb

Between Enlightened Authoritarianism and Social Responsibility – On Media and Politics
Dan Caspi

Rights and Schisms

Human Rights
David Kretzmer

Health Rights
Carmel Shalev

Women Rights: Legal Aspects
Frances Raday

Israel as a Multicultural Democracy: Challenges and Obstacles
Yossi Yonah

The Absorbtion of Immigrants from the Former Soviet Union
Tamar Horowitz

Is A Halachic State Possible? The Paradox of Jewish Theocracy
Aviezer Ravitzky

“A Jewish and Democratic State”: Present Navigation in the Map of Interpretations
Asa Kasher

Whither the Green Line? Trends in the Orientation of the Palestinians in Israel and the Territories
Majid Al-Haj

Israel and Its Arab Citizens
Hillel Frisch

Israel Facing Terrorism
Ariel Merari

Final Words

Revisiting the Zionist Dream
Claude Klein

Israeli Democracy at the Crossroads
Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Notes on Contributors


I thank the Journal's chief editor, Prof. Efraim Karsh, for his thoughtful cooperation. This volume will also appear as a book by Routledge later this year. Notification will be announced in due course.


A few years ago I saw the film Captain Corelli's Mandolin with Cruz and Cage. Now had the opportunity to read the book by Louis de Bernieres and enjoyed it tremendously. A very gratifying read indeed and -- as in most cases -- the book excels the film. I highly recommend.

Justine Burley (ed.), Dworkin and His Critics (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005).

Paul Schotsmans & Tom Meulenbergs (eds.), Euthanasia and Palliative Care in the Low Countries (Leuven-Paris-Sterling: Peeters Publishers, 2005), ISBN 90-429-1556-0.

Raphael Cohen-Almagor, Speech, Media, and Ethics: The Limits of Free Expression (Houndmills and New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2005), 2nd edition, paperback.

Please consider ordering the books to your libraries.



With my very best wishes, as ever,
RafiMy last communications are available on http://almagor.blogspot.comEarlier posts at my home page:
Books archived at

[1] Raphael Cohen-Almagor, “Cultural Pluralism and the Israeli Nation-Building Ideology”, International J. of Middle East Studies, Vol. 27 (1995): 461-484.
[2] Ian Lustick, Arabs in the Jewish State: Israel's Control of a National Minority (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1980); David Kretzmer, The Legal Status of the Arabs in Israel (Boulder: Westview Press, 1987); Hillel Frisch, "Israel and Its Arab Citizens", in R. Cohen-Almagor (ed.), Israeli Democracy at the Crossroads (London: Routledge, forthcoming).
[3]. Majid Al-Haj, "The Impact of the Intifada on the Arabs in Israel: The Case of a Double Periphery", in Akiba A. Cohen and Gadi Wolfsfeld (eds.), Framing the Intifada. People and Media (Norwood: Ablex Publishing Corporation, 1993): 64-75; Majid Al-Haj, "Whither the Green Line? Trends in the Orientation of the Palestinians in Israel and the Territories", in R. Cohen-Almagor (ed.), Israeli Democracy at the Crossroads. See also The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Report 2002-2003 (Jerusalem): 17-23 (Hebrew).
[4] David Kretzmer, "Human Rights", in R. Cohen-Almagor (ed.), Israeli Democracy at the Crossroads.
[5] Ibid. See also Frances Raday, " Women Rights: Legal Aspects", in R. Cohen-Almagor (ed.), Israeli Democracy at the Crossroads.
[6] . For further discussion, R. Cohen-Almagor, “Israeli Democracy, Religion and the Practice of Halizah in Jewish Law”, UCLA Women's Law Journal, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Fall/Winter 2000): 45-65; Aviezer Ravitzky, "Is A Halachic State Possible? The Paradox of Jewish Theocracy" and Asa Kasher, “A Jewish and Democratic State”: Present Navigation in the Map of Interpretations", both in R. Cohen-Almagor (ed.), Israeli Democracy at the Crossroads.
[7]; The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Report 2002-2003 (Jerusalem): 30-33 (Hebrew).
· [8]
· [9] See, for instance, A.A.D. 10/94 Anonymous v. Minister of Defence, decision granted on 13 November 1997, involving Lebanese citizens who were kidnapped by Israel to serve as "negotiation cards" in the attempts to bring about the release of Israeli POWs.
· [10] Newsletter, International Commission of Jurists, No. 24 (Jan/March 1985), p. 53. For further discussion see Steven Greer, "Preventive Detention and Public Security: Law and Practice in Comparative Perspective", International J. of the Sociology of Law, Vol. 23 (1995): 45-58.
· [11] Cf. Palestine Gazette, No. 1442 (1945) (Supp. 2), at 1055.
· [12] 5739-1979, Laws of the State of Israel, Vol. 33 (1979), at 89.
· [13] Compare with the British Detention of Terrorists (Northern Ireland) Order 1972. Article 4 (1) of the Order empowers detaining any person ‘suspected of having been concerned in the commission or attempted commission of any act of terrorism or in the direction, organisation, or training of persons for the purpose of terrorism’ for a period of 28 days. At the end of that period the detainee should be released or could be further detained if the Chief Constable had referred his/her case to a judicially qualified commissioner appointed by the Secretary of State. For further discussion, see Antonio Vercher, Terrorism in Europe (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), esp. pp. 18-28.
· [14] For a critical account of the use of some of these measures, see Geoffrey Bindman and Bill Bowring, Human Rights in a Period of Transition (London: The Law Society and the Bar of England and Wales, 1994).
· [15] Pnina Lahav speaks of a variant of Zionism, which she terms ‘catastrophe Zionism’, whose major goal is defence. Those who adhere to catastrophe Zionism adopt a worldview that is permeated by anxiety. See Lahav, "Foundations of Rights Jurisprudence in Israel: Chief Justice Agranat’s Legacy", Israel L. Rev., Vol. 24, No. 2 (1990): 211-269, esp. pp. 216-223.
· [16] The concept of due process of law is derived from English common law probably during the reigns of Henry I (1100-1135) and Henry II (1154-1189). Chapter 29 (Chapter 39 in a later version) of the Magna Carta of 1215 declares: ‘No free man shall be taken, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will we proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgement of his peers and by the law of the land’. For further discussion, see Henry J. Abraham, Freedom and the Court (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982, Fourth Edition): 92-151; and Theodor Meron, Human Rights in International Strife: Their International Protection (Cambridge: Grotius, 1987), esp. pp. 18-22.
· [17] See detailed analysis in R. Cohen-Almagor, "Reflections on Administrative Detention in Israel: A Critique", in R. Cohen-Almagor (ed.), Challenges to Democracy: Essays in Honour and Memory of Isaiah Berlin (London: Ashgate Publishing Ltd., 2000): 203-241, and “Administrative Detention in Israel and its Employment as a Means of Combating Political Extremism”, New York International L. Rev., Vol. 9, No. 2 (1996): 1-25.
[18] For further discussion, see Prisoners of Peace, Report No. 16 (Jerusalem: B'tselem, June 1997); Dafna Golan, Detained without Trial (Jerusalem: B'tselem, October 1992) (both in Hebrew).
[19] R. Cohen-Almagor, "Final Word", in R. Cohen-Almagor (ed.), Israeli Democracy at the Crossroads.
· [20] R. Cohen-Almagor, "The best first plan", The Baltimore Sun (December 18, 2003);
· [21] Cf. H.C. 680/88. Schnitzer v. Chief Military Censor, P.D. 42 (iv), 617, p. 645.