Friday, May 27, 2005

Tranquility, Speech, Media, and Ethics, Petition of The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) against the Fence Route, The Palestinian Authority, PCU Patients and Pain, Modern Times, The ATU Boycott, New Website, World Press Freedom Day, We Are the Champions!, Israel Cup, Films

Dear friends and colleagues,


Many people who do not live in Israel have asked me throughout the years: How is it to live in Israel? My answer in the past few years was: Imagine your life here (i.e., in the USA, England, Canada, etc.) but without one crucial dimension: tranquility. Then you can start fathom living in Israel, if you are capable to imagine such a thing. Many have said they cannot figure out what does it mean to live without this important aspect of one's life.

In contrast, the month of May, after many many months of living in Israel, has been tranquil, at least for me. There is a different atmosphere, different feeling. What a relief to lead a life that is free of the constant threat of terrorism over your head. Be it because of Abu Mazen and his stern belief that terrorism inside the Green line does not serve the Palestinian best interest, because of the fence, because of the successes of our intelligence, combination thereof and/or other reasons, living in Israel has improved. This does not mean that we are free of problems. Far from it. There are still Kassam missiles in the Gaza Strip; there are more and more incidents of corruption, or of "bad smell"; the Ministry of Education terminates thousands of teaching contracts. But there was not one single incident of terrorism inside Israel (knock on wood). What a relief.

The improvement is immediate. Le are happy to go out. Restaurants and coffee shops are full again. People are strolling the streets and the malls. Buses are full as ever. The economy is improving. More tourism. In my immediate surroundings, more friends and colleagues are coming; international conferences with guests from all over the world; hotels are full. You hear English and French in the streets of Tel Aviv, especially near the wonderful promenade (to my taste, one of the most beautiful promenades I have ever seen, second only to Rio's). I hope June will continue the same pattern. I'll think about July in late June. Life in Israel has taught me not to be too greedy.

Speech, Media, and Ethics

The paperback edition of Speech, Media, and Ethics: The Limits of Free Expression (Houndmills and New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2005) is now available worldwide. It includes some ten years of thinking and research on different aspects of freedom of expression and media ethics. I would like to reiterate gratitude, expressed in the book, to friends and colleagues who conversed with me on pertinent questions, who read parts, or all of my writings, and who supported this project in various ways. Isaiah Berlin was a kind supporter. I greatly miss his friendship, advice, and the intellectual aspiration he offered me when we used to meet in his room at All Souls College, Oxford. I am deeply thankful to Geoffrey Marshall, my academic mentor and source of inspiration who is also no longer with us. Geoffrey read several drafts of this book and commented with his usually precision and sharp mind. Further gratitude is expressed to Wilfrid Knapp, Bob O’Neill, David Heyd, Eric Barendt, Ed Lambeth, Jim Weinstein, Jack Pole, Dave Boeyink, and Sam Lehman-Wilzig. I am also indebted to Wayne Sumner, Ronald Dworkin, David Feldman, Yitzhak Zamir, Haim Zadok, Aharon Barak, Zelman Cowen, Adam Roberts, Dick Moon, Valerie Alia, Georg Nolte, Eike-Henner Kluge, David Lepofsky, Ron Robin, Gabriel Weimann, Jonathan Cohen, Rivki Ribak, Cliff Christians, Hugh Stephenson, David Allen, Art Hobson, David Goldberg, Ejan Mackaay, Godfrey Hodgson, Jan Sieckmann, and Conrad Winn for their thoughtful remarks and incisive comments. Their knowledge, experience, and insight were truly enriching and illuminating.

Infra please find its table of contents. Please consider ordering it to your respective libraries.


Foreword by Geoffrey Marshall


Part One
Freedom of Expression

I. Harm Principle, Offence Principle, and Hate Speech

II. The Right to Demonstrate v. the Right to Privacy: Picketing Private Homes of Public Officials

III. The Right to Participate in Elections: Judicial and Practical Considerations

Part Two
Media Ethics, Freedom and Responsibilities

IV. Objective Reporting in the Media: Phantom Rather than Panacea

V. Ethical Boundaries of Media Coverage

VI. Media Coverage of Suicide: Comparative Analysis

VII. The Work of the Press Councils in Great Britain, Canada, and Israel: A Comparative Appraisal

Appendix: Perceptions of Media Coverage among the Israeli-Jewish Public: A Reflection of Existing Social Cleavages? (with Itzhak Yanovitzky)


In his Foreword Geoffrey Marshall wrote:

The principle of free communication is probably the most complex and controversial of all constitutional guarantees. Traditionally it has been spoken of as the free speech principle. But that expression conceals the fact that the principle it enunciates is both narrower and wider than its language suggests. The principle does not protect many things that are in a literal sense speech. On the other hand it does protect many things that are not speech. Defamation, obscenity, and fraud may be perpetrated through speech acts but are unprotected. Marching, picketing, and voting are non-speech activities but the free speech guarantee may in certain circumstances protect them.

In 1994, in The Boundaries of Liberty and Tolerance, Raphael Cohen-Almagor published a pioneering study of the challenge to liberal principles of toleration posed by extremist political parties in Israel. In Speech, Media, and Ethics: The Limits of Free Expression, the examination of the limits of tolerance is extended to embrace the problem of maintaining a free press in the face of challenges from forces that if left unrestrained would destroy the institutions of a free society. This is the classic dilemma of liberal toleration. To the extent that liberal theory can distinguish between what John Stuart Mill - the Founding Father of free speech theory - called discussion and expressive activities that go beyond discussion the classic question whether we should tolerate the intolerant has a simple answer. The toleration of discussion or advocacy extends to the advocacy of violent or extremist policies since ex hypothesi it extends to the advocacy or discussion (if that is what it is) of anything. But the application of that principle and the analysis of what it is that carries communicative activities beyond advocacy are complex. It is also best explored, as here, in relation to concrete instances and experiences.
Though much of this study focuses on the necessary limitation of the communicative and journalistic function, it is written from a liberal rather than a communitarian standpoint. Communitarian critics of liberal ideology sometimes write as if liberal theory in its nature were incapable of entertaining societal considerations or limitations on individual aspiration. Liberals are sometimes said to be committed to a metaphysic of the atomic individual. But - unless it is definitionally so arranged - there is nothing in the concept of being an atomic, molecular, or just plain individual that determines how such individuals should behave in relation to each other. Separate identity is not inconsistent with mutual restraint. Individual personalities may wish to limit their activities for good reasons for the sake of other individual personalities - in other words, society. In relation to expression, liberal theory is neither in principle nor in practice incapable of accepting limitations on freedom. It is true that some few American constitutionalists have spoken energetically and unreflectively of the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee as being absolute within the boundaries of political speech. But that has not been the general consensus, and everywhere courts and commentators in the liberal tradition operate on the assumption that there are principled limitations on expression that may be imposed in a free society and on a free press and, in the latter case, that some of them are best when self-imposed.

It is even possible that defenders of liberal and democratic principles may be too modest in expounding them. Raphael Cohen-Almagor presents his conclusions as principles that are fitted for democratic societies rather than doctrines having universal application. It is of course true that non-democratic and non-liberal societies would reject them. Nevertheless, if such principles are advanced as moral propositions they must be universalisable. That is only to say that they will apply in all societies unless there are good reasons for making exceptions and modifications to them.

Whether there are such reasons and how the relevant principles should be formulated are matters for close argument. But denial of their relevance or validity by non-democratic societies should not persuade democrats to refrain from proclaiming them as universal moral principles. This does not of course mean that they apply absolutely or in uniform fashion in all places and circumstances. But the same is equally true within one society.

Of all the dilemmas in the operation of free governments, the dilemma of free discussion and the delimitation of press freedom are the most intractable. In these essays Raphael Cohen-Almagor tackles the dilemma at the points where its complexities are most apparent. Political theorists, politicians, and philosophical journalists (if such there be) will have good reason to ponder what he has to say.

Petition of The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) against the Fence Route

My reading of Sharon is the following: Sharon understood that it is impossible to ignore demography, and that Israel needs to take concrete steps to secure its future against both bullets and babies. He understood that Israel needs to make sacrifices. Gaza seemed as the ultimate solution. Israel will get rid of 1.3 million Palestinians residing in Gaza plus all the advantages that I reiterated when I began advocating the Gaza First Plan back in 2000. But the Palestinians will have to pay a high price for this sacrifice: the West Bank. Sharon wants the majority of the West Bank to remain in Israeli hands. All that he does suggest that he wishes to have a relatively large Israel and a very small Palestine. He thinks he could succeed in this, that the Palestinians are too weak to influence the international community to exert pressure on Israel to evacuate the West Bank, and that with the help of the fence Israel will be able to defend itself against terror attacks.

I am very worried. I am worried because I am vehemently opposed to the occupation. As long as the occupation remains, both Palestinians and Israelis are doomed to suffer. The deal should be fair to both sides, Israel and Palestine, not only to one side. We are born free and wish to remain free.

On May 5, 2005 The Association for Civil Rights in Israel petitioned the Supreme Court against the existing route of the fence.

ACRI submitted to the Supreme Court:

A statement of opinion that the ruling issued by the International Court of Justice in The Hague is binding to Israel:

The route of the separation barrier represents a gross violation of international law and severely violates Palestinian human rights

If the barrier is required it should coincide with state borders

The route of the separation barrier that has been constructed, the majority of which is located within the West Bank represents a clear violation of international law, as determined by the International Court of Justice in The Hague (ICJ), and therefore the route must be amended – as required – to adhere to the country’s borders. This was the explicit position voiced by ACRI in its statement of opinion that was submitted today to the Supreme Court. ACRI submitted the statement to the court in response to the state’s stated official position on the issue, and in relation to the upcoming hearing of the petition regarding the barrier that is due to be heard on Monday before an expanded panel of nine Supreme Court Justices. The petitions refer to the route of the barrier surrounding the villages of Budrus and Shuqba. In response to the petitions, the court ordered the parties to prepare a written position on the significance and relevance of the ICJ ruling in the context of these two cases. ACRI’s written response was prepared by ACRI Attorney Limor Yehuda, and includes sections which relate specifically to the cases of the two villages: part of the response was prepared by Attorney Ronit Robinson, who is representing the residents of Budrus on behalf of ACRI, and another section was prepared by Attorney Muhammad Dahleh, who is representing the residents of the village of Shuqba.

ACRI made clear, in the submitted document that the international court is the most senior judicial tribunal that is authorized to interpret and determine what constitutes international law, and therefore the contents of the advisory opinion are binding. The aforementioned contravenes the states’ claims that the ICJ ruling is non-binding. ACRI further emphasizes that, even after the changes that have been introduced to the route of the barrier after the ICJ ruling, the overwhelming majority of the barrier is still situated beyond the sovereign borders of the State of Israel, in territory that is held in a state of belligerent occupation. The status and powers of Israel in this territory, ACRI’s response adds, is drawn from international law and is dependent upon it. Therefore, the normative framework, upon which the actions of the state in these areas should be examined, is first and foremost by this judicial system. Thus, when one considers the fact that the construction of the separation barrier, which Israel is currently carrying out in the occupied territories, represents a violation of international law, it can in practice be considered to be an illegal act.

The encroachment of the route into West Bank territory is the result of a number of motivations. The first and principle motivation, to which the state has fully admitted to in its response to the Supreme Court, was and remains – the desire to relocate the barrier to surround Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and to ensure that the majority of the Jewish settlers are located on the “Israeli” side of the barrier. On this issue, the international court’s absolute ruling that was endorsed by all 15 justices is still relevant. The ruling stated that the route of the barrier, as it relates to the creation of territorial contiguity between the Jewish settlements and territory belonging to the State of Israel, with its effective annexation of land, represents a clear violation of international law that cannot be justified under any circumstances. The stated necessity to protect Jewish settlements can also be achieved by the construction of a barrier around settlements themselves. Thus there would be not need for de-facto annexation of West Bank territory to Israel by pushing the route of the barrier deep into occupied territory. With regard to sections of the barrier that encroach on West Bank territory for other reasons – this will be considered to be illegal unless the state is able to prove that the reasoning does not contravene the provisions of international law, and that the infringements resulting from the chosen route are proportional. The data provided by the state is not sufficient to remove the clear and heavy onus on the state to show that the chosen route is the only one that can satisfy a military necessity, and that this legitimate goal, namely – the protection of the residents of the State of Israel – cannot also be achieved by changing the route of the barrier to coincide with the pre-1967 border, in a manner that does not violate the Palestinian residents’ human rights and remains within state territory.

Israel, as a country that would like to strictly adhere to honoring international law, and as a state that wishes to continue to be “ a legitimate member” and entitled to rights in the international community, ACRI states, must honor and act in accordance with the court’s published advisory opinions which represent, in fact, a ruling within the context of international law in its current format. In this context one should expect that in light of the ICJ ruling in The Hague, that Israel will amend the route of the barrier in such a way as to comply with its legal obligations as prescribed by international law.

It is also stated that according to the present authorized route of the barrier, approximately 9.5% of the West Bank territory will be cut off from the rest of the West Bank and will find itself to the west of the barrier. The land in question is among the most fertile of the West Bank, and many Palestinian farmers will, as a result, be unable to reach their agricultural land. Some 24,000 Palestinians will find themselves trapped in the seam zone, the closed military area to the west of the barrier, and some 230,000 others will be forced to reside in residential areas that are surrounded on three sides at least, by the barrier. Approximately 220,000 Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem will be cut off from the West Bank, with the resultant enforced separation from the society to which they belong. In addition to which, the construction of the barrier results in the severe and sweeping violations of the right to private property, including the expropriation of thousands of dunams of land (1dunam = 4 acres), the destruction of plantations, agricultural land, structures, wells and more. The route of the barrier has also resulted in severe violations of freedom of movement for many of the residents, limited access to public services, including health and educational services, the isolation of communities and the prevention of the maintenance of family and social ties. All the aforementioned represent a gross violation of international law.

For further details please contact: Attorney Limor Yehuda at: 02-6521218, or Yoav Loeff, ACRI spokesman, at: 02-6521218 / 052-3410631 / Beeper: 03-6106666, subscription no: 36477.

ACRI’s website:

The Palestinian Authority

Recently the Carnegie Endowment released a paper in its Rule of Law Series, Evaluating Palestinian Reform. In it, Arab governance expert Nathan Brown measures reform efforts to date and proposes concrete steps in four priority areas: political parties, security services, judiciary and media. The full report is attached.

PCU Patients and Pain

In a recent posting I provided evidence that physicians do not know whether PCU patients suffer pain. Prof. Sam Lehman-Wilzig has sent me the following article that suggests that things may have changed recently, and that technology is capable to play more significant role in deciding whether patients suffer pain. I welcome your reflections, especially from those who might have used this technology to measure brain activity of PCU patients.

Mind-reading machine knows what you see
15:26 25 April 2005 news service

It is possible to read someone’s mind by remotely measuring their brain activity, researchers have shown. The technique can even extract information from subjects that they are not aware of themselves.
So far, it has only been used to identify visual patterns a subject can see or has chosen to focus on. But the researchers speculate the approach might be extended to probe a person’s awareness, focus of attention, memory and movement intention. In the meantime, it could help doctors work out if patients apparently in a coma are actually conscious.
Scientists have already trained monkeys to move a robotic arm with the power of thought and to recreate scenes moving in front of cats by recording information directly from the feline’s neurons (New Scientist print edition, 2 October 1999). But these processes involve implanting electrodes into their brains to hook them up to a computer.
Now Yukiyasu Kamitani, at ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto, Japan, and Frank Tong at Princeton University in New Jersey, US, have achieved similar “mind reading” feats remotely using functional MRI scanning.

Between the lines
The pair showed patterns of parallel lines in 1 of 8 orientations to four volunteers. By focusing on brain regions involved in visual perception they were able to recognise which orientation the subjects were observing.

Each line orientation corresponded to a different pattern of brain activity, although the patterns were different in each person. What is more, when two sets of lines were superimposed and the subjects were asked to focus on one set, the researchers could work out which one they were thinking of from the brain images.

In a separate study, also published in Nature Neuroscience, John-Dylan Haynes and Geraint Rees at University College London, UK, showed two patterns in quick succession to 6 volunteers. The first appeared for just 15 milliseconds - too quick to be consciously perceived by the viewer.
But by viewing fMRI images of the brain, the researchers were able to say which image had been flashed in front of the subjects. The information was perceived in the brain even if the volunteers were not consciously aware of it.

The study probed the part of the visual cortex that detects a visual stimulus, but does not perceive it. “It encodes what we don’t see,” Haynes says. He thinks that, further along the visual pathway, brain regions consciously take note that there has been a stimulus. But this does not happen for the “invisible” stimulus.

Consciousness kicks in
By understanding the perception pathway and working out the point at which consciousness kicks in, patient consciousness could be diagnosed. This would mean the setup could be used as a “consciousness-meter,” says Haynes; “a device that allows us to assess whether a patient is consciously perceiving his or her outside environment.”
Yang Dan, a neurobiologist at the University of California in Berkeley, agrees this would be possible. But she cautions that there is little agreement over what consciousness actually is.
More subtle forms of mind-reading such as working out intentions or beliefs are much more speculative, she argues. Even if such subtle information could be gleaned from brain scans both studies suggest the patterns are unique to individuals.

And using the technique as an alternative to the polygraph would be very risky, says Dan. “The relationship between brain patterns and lies may be very loose.”
Journal reference: Nature Neuroscience (DOI: 10.1038/nn1445 and 10.1038/nn1444)

Modern Times

My friend, Art Hobson, has asked me to publish his piece and I do this with pleasure.

Humankind is not adjusting well to the scientific age. The problem is that we are only too happy to accept the fruits of science, but unwilling to accept the accompanying responsibilities.
The Terri Schiavo saga illustrates the problem. We are eager to accept life-extending technology, but reluctant to accept the accompanying responsibility to limit that technology when it's doing more harm than good. Most of us would probably prefer not to be kept alive in a zombie-like state for years when there is essentially no hope of recovery, yet the political charade surrounding Terri Schiavo illustrates that society has a difficult time allowing people to die when it makes no sense to live. Some argue that society should not have played God by allowing Schiavo's feeding tube to be removed, but society decided long ago to play God by developing the technology that extends human life. We cannot have it both ways: If we use medical technology to keep people alive, we must make the hard decision to allow people to die when that technology becomes counterproductive. Examples of similar science-and-society problems are legion. Earth is overpopulated because we welcome the fruits of agricultural and medical technology without accepting the responsibility to limit births. The automobile destroys our environment, our cities, and our lives because we love its mobility so much that we will not accept reasonable limits on its use. In one of the planet's greatest challenges, we guzzle fossil fuels without attending to the global warming that comes with them.
Modern technology is miraculous, but its side effects are deadly. I'm convinced that we can all live like kings and queens if we can learn to use technology wisely. Yet much of the planet remains poor, miserable, and uneducated.
The problem is partly embedded in our genes. Billions of years of biological evolution, capped by some 6 million years of specifically human evolution since we parted ways with our closest cousins, the chimpanzees, have not prepared us well for modern technology. Consider, for example, overpopulation. The universal biological urge, instilled in our genes by eons of evolution, is to procreate. But with the rise of agriculture some ten thousand years ago, and of modern medicine during the past few centuries, human numbers skyrocketed and our urge to procreate became counterproductive. Scientists estimate that Earth can sustain a human population of about four billion living at the consumption level of Mediterranean nations such as Italy, or two billion living at the USA's consumption level. Yet our population is over six billion and still climbing, because we have not accepted family planning as a moral responsibility.
Overly individualistic ideologies often lead to harmful uses of technology. The automobile is a good example. It has given many of us unparalleled freedom of movement, but that freedom is now destroying our cities and our environment. It's a freedom that didn't even exist until about a century ago. Yet people get incensed at suggestions that even a small part of that freedom be sacrificed for the greater good by, say, raising the driving age, or increasing the gasoline mileage standards. We accept the technology, but reject the responsibility. Cultural habits, especially as expressed through many of the world's religions, often stand in the way of rational decision-making about science and technology. Science is certainly compatible with humane and liberal religious values, including a belief in God, but it is not compatible with fundamentalist beliefs such as the so-called "literal truth" of particular religious texts. Thus fundamentalists around the world tend to oppose the changes needed to overcome, for example, overpopulation: family planning, sex education, and the education and economic freedom of women.
We stand with one foot in modernity and the other in medieval superstitions, a contradiction that cannot endure. If allowed to continue for many more decades, such consequences as resource shortages, failed nations, terrorism, and environmental collapse will put both our feet back into the middle ages.
But don't despair, for our predicament is eminently solvable. The solution is to use the part of our anatomy that has gotten us this far: our brains.
Education is the place to start. As Doctor Frankenstein discovered, it's dangerous to use powerful technology without understanding its possible consequences. We are not paying our dues for the modern age. Paying our dues means, primarily, learning more than we are learning today. Education must be more rigorous and universal, must spend far more time on science, and must emphasize critical rational thinking. Unfortunately, superstition continues to inhibit science education as fundamentalists seek to replace or "supplement" the fundamental principle of biology, namely biological evolution, with creationism. This is exactly like supplementing the notion that our planet is spherical with the notion that it's flat. There is no debate among scientists about this issue, yet fundamentalists continue their noisy public spectacle. Until we can rid ourselves of such distractions, we won't get the educational system we need.
Scientists themselves have been leading shirkers of responsibility for the humane use of science. It's up to scientists to spend the time and energy required to help educate teachers, students, politicians, reporters and others. But we scientists have spent nearly all of our time doing narrowly-focused research, earning prestige and profits but spending little time with even the undergraduates on our own campuses, much less concerning ourselves with the broader society.
The most important part of the solution is not difficult, and in fact it's a lot of fun. It's called education. But we'd better get busy.

Previously published in the Northwest Arkansas Times of Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA. Art Hobson is Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Arkansas, and the author of a liberal-arts physics textbook for non-scientists, "Physics: Concepts and Connections"
(Prentice Hall, 3rd edition 2003).

The ATU Boycott

The ATU is about to convene on Wednesday to reconsider their decision. It will be very good if the Post will publish something about this before then to exert further pressure on them. The decision is so unfair, so sweeping, so judgmental, and so damn wrong, relying on a testimony of one person who is full of hate that you cannot help thinking: There is more behind this. Call it anti-Semitism, Pro-Palestinianism, radical leftism. The decision was ill-considered and utterly biased. One of my colleagues found that the pusher and mover behind the decision, Sue Blackwell, was saying the Holocaust was exaggerated, and is obviously supporter of the Palestinians and against the occupation. Well, we at the University of Haifa are not Holocaust deniers, but the wide majority opposes the occupation, no less than the infamous Ilan Pappe. We are responsible for the occupation to the extent that he does.

On May 6, 2005 I received the following message from Prof. RP:

Sent: Friday, May 06, 2005 4:38 PM
Subject: Re: Special Newsletter


Thought you might be interested in this statement just issued by AAUP Committee A, on which I sit:

Release date: 5/03/05
Contact: Jonathan Knight

Washington, D.C. - The American Association of University Professors issued the following statement:

Academic Boycott

Delegates to a recent meeting of the British Association of University Teachers (AUT) approved resolutions that damage academic freedom. The resolutions call on all members of AUT to "refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration, or joint projects" with two universities in Israel, Haifa University and Bar Ilan University. Excluded from the ban are "conscientious Israeli academics and intellectuals opposed to their state's colonial and racist policies," an exclusion which, because it requires compliance with a political or ideological test in order for an academic relationship to continue, deepens the injury to academic freedom rather than mitigates it.

These resolutions have been met with strong condemnation and calls for repeal within the United Kingdom and elsewhere. The American Association of University Professors joins in condemning these resolutions and in calling for their repeal. Since its founding in 1915, the AAUP has been committed to preserving and advancing the free exchange of ideas among academics irrespective of governmental policies and however unpalatable those policies may be viewed. We reject proposals that curtail the freedom of teachers and researchers to engage in work with academic colleagues, and we reaffirm the paramount importance of the freest possible international movement of scholars and ideas. The AAUP urges the AUT to support the right of all in the academic community to communicate freely with other academics on matters of professional interest.

The American Association of University Professors is a nonprofit charitable and educational organization that promotes academic freedom by supporting tenure, academic due process, and standards of quality in higher education. The AAUP has 45,000 members at colleges and universities throughout the United States.

On May 26, 2005 UK academics have voted to overturn the boycott. The academics' body now says it is time to "build bridges" between those with opposing views and support peace moves. A statement from the AUT said: "After a lengthy debate involving deeply held views on both sides of the argument, AUT's special council has today voted to revoke all existing boycotts of Israeli institutions. AUT council has decided to base its policy on providing practical solidarity to Palestinian and Israeli trade unionists and academics, by agreeing a motion committing the union to having a full review of international policy, working alongside NATFHE and the TUC. UK higher education has a long and proud tradition of defending academic freedom. The struggle to maintain academic freedom whenever it is under threat is one that AUT will always support and this principle will continue to guide our work."

A small group of demonstrators from both sides had gathered outside the London venue for the vote. Among them was Luciana Berger, a member of the Union of Jewish Students, from Birkbeck, University of London. She said: "We are very happy. It's a victory for peace and open dialogue. It's a victory that we shouldn't have had to have won in the first place."
Earlier, Jon Pike, a senior philosophy lecturer at the Open University, said pressure to end the sanctions had come "from below", with 80% of AUT members nationwide against them.

The Royal Society, which represents UK science, said that boycotts of Israeli universities "grossly violate" existing efforts to protect academics' human rights.

Common sense does prevail. Sometimes it hesitates but eventually it materializes. Having said that, knowing the people involved I am sure the last word has not been said, and that we can expect more rounds of struggle to come.

New Website

The website of the Centre for Democratic Studies was launched recently. See Center for Democratic Studies

World Press Freedom Day

Thousands of newspapers world-wide commemorated World Press Freedom Day on Tuesday, May 3, 2005 by publishing editorial and advertising materials on press freedom themes from the World Association of Newspapers.

World Press Freedom Day marks the anniversary of the 1991 Declaration of Windhoek, a statement of principles calling for a free, independent and pluralistic media throughout the world. The Declaration affirms that a free press is essential to the existence of democracy and a fundamental human goal.

It has become a day to raise awareness of press freedom problems worldwide, and to recognise the sacrifices that independent media and journalists make to keep their societies informed.


The World Association of Newspapers also announced plans to launch a new electronic network in September 2005 to support media reform and help build a stronger independent press in the Arab world.

The Arab Press Network (APN) aims to contribute to the professionalism of newspapers in the region by promoting the exchange of ideas and experiences between media executives throughout the Arab world. WAN says the initiative will fill a gap in Arab media, which currently does not have an Internet-based forum where media professionals can learn more about their rights, develop professionally and share their ideas and experiences.

The network is being supported by the Danish press group JP Politiken. It is modeled after WAN's RAP21 (African Press Network for the 21st Century) project, which was launched in 2000 for African media professionals. RAP 21 disseminates media management, press freedom and related practical information via e-mail newsletters and a website ( to thousands of members across Africa.

The core of the APN will be an electronic newsletter, distributed in Arabic and English, which provides information on professional development, editorial issues, media law reform and press freedom. The network will also provide a channel to distribute leading-edge knowledge, information and strategies from WAN about the creation of better and more prosperous independent newspapers.

To join the network or request more information, contact Kajsa Törnroth, Director of Press Freedom Programmes at WAN:

The Paris-based World Association of Newspapers (WAN), the global organisation for the newspaper industry, defends and promotes press freedom world-wide. It represents 18,000 newspapers; its membership includes 72 national newspaper associations, individual newspaper executives in 102 countries, 11 news agencies and nine regional and world-wide press groups.

We Are the Champions!

On May 8, 2005 Maccabi Tel Aviv won the Euroleague title for the second consecutive year and the fifth time in the team's history on Sunday, beating Tau Vitoria of Spain by 90 to 78.

For an entire season, the Euroleague had been gearing up for a seemingly inevitable Final Four championship game: Maccabi Tel Aviv against CSKA Moscow. But the script was given an unexpected twist on the semis, when Tau Vitoria upset CSKA and the whole of Europe by knocking the host team out of contention. CSKA invested more than 20 million dollars in its team and finished in the fourth lace, after loosing to Pao from Greece in the game on the 3rd place. What an upset for the Russian investors. Maccabi, on the other hand, did exactly what we expected it to do. We won against Pao in the semis, and lead throughout the final game against the strong Spanish team.

Of all the teams Maccabi had in its history, I think this is the most talented team of all. It has three legitimate NBA players. Two were in the NBA in the past: Anthony Parker and Maceu Baston. The third, Sarunas Jasikevicius, is heading to the NBA, possibly to the Indiana Pacers.

I remember the first time Maccabi won the championship. The year was 1977 and we conceived this as sort of a miracle. A little Israeli team, with some Americans, beating the lions of Europe, much invested teams from Spain, Italy and Russia. Since then we went from strength to strength and Maccabi became one of the most reputable teams in Europe. Maccabi became one of the icons of European basketball. We won the championship also in 1981, 2001 and 2004. What an achievement for small Israel. What joy for all Israelis around the globe.

Israel Cup

On May 18, 2005 Maccabi Tel Aviv won the Israel Football Cup. It was a terrible game, with a sweet ending. The score after 120 minutes was 2:2, after horrid defence mistakes against Maccabi Herzliya, a second division team that was not the worse of the two teams. Then came the penalties, and my beloved Maccabi won 5:3. Experience does pay. At the end of one of the worse ever years in the history of Maccabi, the club won the Israel Cup and next year will compete in Europe. In order to succeed, it needs to completely change its face and shape, bringing new talented players. I would sell at least seven of its mediocre players and bring athletes who understand the game and are able to run (to be distinguished from walk) ninety minutes.


The Syrian Bride by Eran Riklis with Hiyam Abbass (as Amal). An Israeli-Druze production about a Druze woman from the Golan Heights who is engaged to marry a Syrian television soap-opera star whom she has never met. She tries t figure him out by looking at his dramatic-comic performance of TV. Upon moving to Syria she would leave her present life behind her as she will never be able to return to her home. Complications are inevitable, as expected when you count on the good faith of Israelis and Syrians on both sides of the border, especially when the bride's father supports the Assad family. A quality production, with magical and touching moments, humane scenes, political concerns, developed characters, good acting and interesting plot. In Arabic, with some Hebrew and little English. I recommend.

Stay away from Sin City. The only good thing I can say about this crap is that I was able to take a nap despite the horrible sound-track. These were the only quality moments I spent during this so-called "film".

Happy (slightly belated) Lag Baomer,

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