Friday, July 29, 2005

July 2005

Difficult Month, Gaza First, Incitement, London Attacks, Netanya Attack, Attack on Sharm el-Sheikh, Terror in Numbers, Darfur, Civil Disobedience, 15 August

Dear friends and colleagues,

Difficult Month

It has been a difficult and painful month all around: Attack on Netanya; two attacks on London; attack on Sharm el-Sheikh; dozens of missiles on Gush Katif and other targets in the south Israel, some within the Green Line; numerous clashes between settlers and their supporters, on the one hand, and police and army forces on the other; constant calls against the government; mounting tension as Israel is approaching the date of evacuating Gaza.

Gaza First

On July 13, 2005, the government finally closed the Gaza Strip and declared it a military zone. Better late than ever. According to the estimations, there are roughly 9,500 people in the Strip, 2,000 "irregulars", in addition to the 7,500 settlers. Most of them came to "identify" with the settlers, and to oppose the idea of evacuation. For them, any "Jewish land" should remain Jewish.

I am glad about the closure. The army cannot afford daily provocations that stretch its resources and stress the soldiers. The idea is to devote all energies to the dealing with the settlers who reside in Gaza, not with the fanatics who arrived to make the lives of both soldiers and settlers difficult.

Next month, on August 15, Sharon's disengagement plan (Gaza First) is scheduled to go ahead. Nineteen settlements will be evacuated:

Three in the north of the Strip:
Elei Sinai (many of them are settlers who were evacuated from Yamit in the late 1970s. Many of them see this second time as traumatic and difficult).


Netzarim at the heart of the Strip (I would like to have a candid talk with the person who planned this settlement. I am curious to know what exactly he had in his feeble mind when he designed this truly extraordinary visionary creation). As you can imagine, the majority of the settlers of Netzarim belong to the hard core who believe in "Jewish Gaza".

The rest of the settlements in the south of the Strip (Gush Katif):
Kfar Darom
Ganei Tal
Netzer Hazani
Kfar Yam
Peat Sade
Gan Or
Neve Dkalim
Tel Ktifah
Rafiah Yam

I hope and pray for a relatively peaceful evacuation, without any bloodshed. The Israeli government is still debating whether or not to destroy the beautiful settlements, in which many governments, Israeli and American, invested money and resources. I hope common sense will prevail and that the settlements will be transferred as they are, green and flourishing, to the Palestinians. To be generous and kind is a virtue that we all need to adopt and cherish. This will be a token of compensation for years of hardship and occupation. To destroy is easy. I am yet to hear one convincing argument for such destruction.

On July 6, 2005 I wrote to Shimon Peres in this regard, pleading to reconsider the issue. I hope my letter will fall on eager ears and the wrong decision will be replaced by a prudent one.

On July 10 President Moshe Katzav went out of his presidential way and got himself involved in political affairs, calling on the government to change its erroneous decision decision and let the Palestinians have the beautiful settlements. He said quite explicitly that there is no security consideration to back the destructive decision and that the only reason for the massive and costly destruction is avoid joyful scenes of Palestinians dancing on the roofs of the building, ridiculing Israel's withdrawal. Amazing. This is really a most convincing reasoning.

If you wish to do something in this regard, please write a.s.a.p to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Government Hill, Jerusalem. Pleas from the national and international communities may influence his decision. You may recall that Defence Minister Mofaz also said that it won't be prudent to demolish the settlements.


The incitement against Sharon continues. He has been called "dictator" and "traitor" for some months, dressed in kafiya, dressed in Stalin's uniform, and recently was referred to as "inhuman", clarifying explicitly that he does not deserve to be called "a person" and to be treated as a human being. Stripped of his identity, he may be treated as a being inferior to a person, say a sheep, or a donkey, that may be sacrificed for a higher goal.

On July 21, 2005 a group of extreme-right activists had held a ceremony to place a Pulsa Denurah, a halakhic curse, on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in order to bring about his death. Michael Ben-Horin, among the organizers of the ceremony, said that in view of the tight security around Sharon, which "is ten times tighter than [was] the security around Hitler and Stalin," no man would be able to kill him. They had therefore called on the Angels of Destruction to kill Sharon, Ben-Horin said. (Amiram Barkat, "Extremists put pulsa denura death curse on PM Ariel Sharon", Haaretz (July 27, 2005).

Twenty people reportedly took part in the ceremony, held in the small northern town of Rosh Pina. The participants believe that Sharon will die in the coming 30 days, or else all those who took part in the ceremony would die. Pulsa denurah - or "whip of fire" in Aramaic - is a curse with origins in Kabbalistic mysticism. It first came to light in Israel when far-right rabbis pronounced the curse during the turbulent period that preceded the death of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

In October 1995, on the eve of the most sacred day in the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, a person named Avigdor Eskin, together with some other people, distributed this curse which was composed by three Cabbalists (Mekubalim) against Prime Minister Rabin. Eskin was photographed during the recitation of the Pulsa Denurah prayer outside the Prime Minister’s official residence in Jerusalem. The prayer called on Rabin to cease his wrongful deeds in this world; it was recited in the presence of media reporters who were invited to the scene to publicize the ceremony and to deliver an inciting message to the public. The message was that Prime Minister Rabin could not escape the curse that was placed upon him because of his evil policies. In effect, Rabin’s blood was allowed. This was a provocative measure calling for his death.

The legal authorities took no action against Eskin. The Attorney General office adopted a strong liberal stand favoring free speech, and exhibiting manifest tolerance regarding those who repeatedly called to murder their political opponents. There was no sense of urgency to fight down such calls, believing that Israeli democracy could cope with such assertions, and that there was lack of proximity between the hateful and harmful speech and consequential harmful action. Only after the assassination on November 4, 1995, when Eskin appeared on television and declared that “our prayer was fulfilled in full” did the authorities begin to look for him. Liberals may dismiss the entire story as ridiculous, saying “Pulsa Shmulsa.” But liberals are not prone to believe in such curses. They will not be moved to help God in executing such wishes. This prayer constituted an incitement that – with the help of the curious media -- fell on eager ears and helped to generate an atmosphere that was conducive to trigger Yigal Amir and encouraged him to carry out his heinous act.

In early March 1996 Palestinian terrorists launched a series of vicious attacks which caused the death of tens of civilians. Following those massacres, on March 6, Eskin approached the media and announced that it was his intention to perform the Pulsa Denurah ceremony once again, this time against Prime Minister Shimon Peres. After all, the curse proved very effective the first time, so why not give it a second shot. Once again, the media served as a good mobilizer of his intentions. On March 7, 1996 the two popular daily newspapers, Yedioth Ahronoth and Maariv, published Eskin’s contentions in full. In doing so they provided an unfettered platform for incitement. They should have informed the public of the occasion, with explicit condemnation, not to provide unfettered platform for Eskin's incitement.

Same or similar people. Same voices. Same ideas. Only the target is different. Then Rabin. Now Sharon. Did we learn something, or not? I hope the Legal Advisor to the Government will wake up before it is not too late. His liberalism might be very costly. We certainly cannot afford another political assassination.

Reflecting on the role of the media in this Pulsa Denurah affair, in the Israeli culture and social context, printing photos showing the zealots reciting the curse is unethical. This assertion relates to a distinction made in my forthcoming book, The Scope of Tolerance (London: Routledge, 2006), between direct and indirect reporting of incitement. It is one thing to report about the small gathering of the extremists who call for the death of Prime Minister Sharon, and quite another to actually print the pictures in the newspapers and by this serve the interests of the inciters. The media should not serve as a platform for spreading hatred and violence. Indeed, David Landau, editor of Haaretz newspaper, applied self-censorship and refrained from printing these pictures. This is an example of applying ethical codes without the need for governmental or legal interference. Maariv, I am sorry to say, had published the hateful recitation of the curse on its first page along with words of the editor, Amnon Dunkner, dismissing the ceremony as "nonsense" (July 27, 2005). Yedioth Ahronoth, the major newspaper in Israel, at least in terms of its circulation, printed the ceremonial photo on its third page with a reminder that the same took place regarding Prime Minister Rabin. Yedioth's editor, Rafi Ginat, apparently thinks the public has the right to know, and to see, what people are willing to do to bring about the death of their prime minister who is about to evacuate the Holy Land of Gaza. Consequences of printing? This is reserved for ethical newspapers.

Next month I am invited by the Israel Bar Association to speak on Freedom of Speech and Sharon's Disengagement Plan. I hope maybe the Bar will be more involved as we are approaching trying times. The Legal Advisor to the Government, Meni Mazuz, continues his lenient and liberal policy vis-à-vis the settlers. I truly hope he is right.

London Attack
(July 9, 2005)

In my interview to Volkskrant last February I said that London is the perfect target for the terrorist for a variety of reasons: international central city, in Europe, great ally of the USA, part of the Iraq campaign, dedicated to fight down terrorism, carries a significant symbolic value, major player in the western world. Thus, the July 7, 2005 attack did not come as a surprise. Londoners can expect more to come. There are more destructive ways to spread mayhem and take dozens and hundreds of life, and I refrain from mentioning them for good reasons. Immediately after the attack I sent a message to all friends and colleagues in Britain. One person I know was seriously wounded, and I send John my hopes and prayers for full and swift recovery. I personally see no end to that. It will continue, and will grow, unless more players will get themselves involved in the war against terror.

In the front line fighting terrorism should be the Muslim countries. Right now, they don't jump to take this role. The United States should work to see that the Muslim world be proactive and vocal in fighting down terrorism. The western world should help and finance the campaign, but the work should be conducted by the countries that export the terrorists to the western world. Political and religious figures, who believe in freedom and tolerance, peace and mutual understanding, who are familiar with the Muslim world -- its ideas, ideologies and cultures, should take up the challenge. This is our only hope.

To my friends in London, NY and DC: Please take care of yourself and try to be alert and cautious as possible. Don't insist to stay on a bus, a tube, a station, if you see someone suspicious. This might save your life. Try to avoid close places and crowds. Remain in the open air. Be careful in crossing lights, where many people assemble to cross the road.

After the attack I was told that the BBC remains loyal to its erroneous policy of sitting-on-the-fence and continues its so-called neutral between good and evil. I was told the BBC had sent round a notice saying that the word "terrorist" should not be used for those who committed the atrocities. I made some inquiries that refuted the allegation:
Use of the word "terrorist"
Publication date: 13 July 2005
We have received complaints that the BBC has used the word "bombers" instead of "terrorists" in some of its coverage of the London bombings.

The BBC's response
It is not the case that the BBC has stopped using the word "terrorist". The word "terrorist" is not banned from the BBC.

We try to be as precise as possible in our language and the word "bomber" is a more precise description, but we also use the word "terrorist".

BBC Editorial Guidelines are advisory, but Editors will exercise their own judgement on a case by case basis. The Guidelines are aimed to support the BBC's journalism not only in the UK but around the world, and to cover a wide spectrum of global and political scenarios.

They advise that we should report acts of terror quickly, accurately, fully and responsibly but that we should take care in the use of language that we use in our own scripts and reports. For more information please follow the link to BBC Editorial Guidelines in Related links on this page.
In fact, we have used the word "terrorist" on our main news bulletins and the perpetrators have been described as such on numerous occasions in recent days by BBC reporters and independent commentators. No one who has followed the BBC coverage of the London bombings could be in any doubt of the full horror of the atrocity

On July 21 I added: Today London suffered another terror attack. One person was reported injured. In this pace London might replace Jerusalem as the most attacked capital in the free world.

Netanya Attack

Less than a week after the first attack on London, on July 12, 2005 an Islamic Jihad suicide bomber killed three women and injured 90, five seriously, outside a shopping mall in Netanya. The bomber, identified as 18-year-old Ahmed Abu Khalil from the West Bank village of Atil, blew himself up on a pedestrian crossing near the entrance to the mall. The tranquility in Israel, so perfect for the hot summer days of July, and the school vacation, was brought to an end. To recall, The bombing at a Tel Aviv club last February was the last suicide bombing to be carried out inside the Green Line. Five people were killed in that attack.

The Israel Defense Forces responded to the Netanya attack by closing off the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, banning Palestinians from entering the country. The closure means that thousands of Palestinians who have work permits will not be allowed to enter Israel. The military said the ban, a routine security measure after such an attack, would be in effect "until further notice."

At a consultation with Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, intelligence officials said that Islamic Jihad had made a strategic decision to disrupt the disengagement plan by carrying out a series of suicide bombings. They said the group was trying to drag Hamas into joining this effort to undermine the Gaza pullout.

Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas sent a message to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon through his advisor, Dov Weissglas, saying he would act immediately to catch those responsible for the attack and indict them. Israel responded that the PA must act firmly against terror and that Israel would give it the required intelligence. From past experience we know there is a significant gap between the explicit declarations of Abbas and his actual actions to halt terror. He apparently thinks that he has better chance to survive without fighting the extremists.
Defense sources said that Israel will intensify the manhunt for the Jihad network in the West Bank, headed by Louis Sa'adi, also of Atil, about 13 kilometers east of Netanya. Israel will also continue its targeted assassinations of Jihad activists.

Netanya and Jerusalem, Baghdad and Basra, London, New York and Washington are the prime targets for today's terror. Terror will not destroy democracy, but it disrupts our lives and make us very concerned and stressed citizens. A zero sum game exists between terror and democracy: a win for the one is a loss for the other. We need to devise ways to make us win at the expense of the terrorists and their ilk. Fighting terror needs to involve people of influence who are closely attached to the sources of terror, spiritually, ideologically, religiously.

Attack on Sharm el-Sheikh

Two days after the second London attack, on Saturday July 23, 2005, two car bombs, possibly suicide attackers, went off simultaneously at 1:15 A.M. some 4 kilometers apart in the Egyptian resort city, Sharm el-Sheikh. A third bomb, believed hidden in a sack, detonated around the same time near a beachside walkway where tourists often stroll at night. Egyptian Interior Minister Habib el-Adli earlier said at least 62 people were killed, 119 people were wounded, and that at least eight foreigners were among the dead. Officials said that the victims included British, Russian, Dutch, Kuwaitis, Saudis, Qataris and Egyptians.

Group citing ties to al-Qaida claimed responsibility for the bombings according to a statement posted on an Islamic Web site. The group, calling itself the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, al-Qaida, in Syria and Egypt, said that its "holy warriors targeted the Ghazala Gardens hotel and the Old Market in Sharm el-Sheikh."

The brigades were one of two Islamist groups that claimed responsibility for the October 7 bombings at Sinai Peninsula Taba and Ras Shitan that killed 34 people.

"Your brothers, the holy warriors of the martyr Abdullah Azzam Brigades succeeded in launching a smashing attack on the Crusaders, Zionists and the renegade Egyptian regime in Sharm el-Sheikh," said the statement. "We reaffirm that this operation was in response to the crimes committed by the forces of international evil, which are spilling the blood of Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan and Chechny." "We declare it loud and clear that we will not be frightened by the whips of the Egyptian torturers and we will not tolerate violation of our brothers' land of Sinai," the statement added in an apparent reference to tourists who travel from neighboring Israel to Sinai Peninsula for holidays.

Terror in Numbers

On July 19, Head of the Shabac Yuval Diskin appeared in the Knesset and presented a summary of the Palestinian terrorism against Israelis since the eruption of the terror campaign in October 2000. Until today there were 25,375 terror attacks, including 142 suicide bombings in which 1,048 Israelis were killed and 5,600 were injured.

18,000 Palestinians and 225 Israeli-Palestinians were involved in the attacks. The age of 90 percent of those Palestinians was between 16 to 35.

Source: Yehuda Golan, "25 thousand attacks in less than five years", Maariv (July 20, 2005), p. 16.


The Sudanese Government, using Arab "Janjaweed" militias, its air force, and organized starvation, continues to systematically kill the black Sudanese of Darfur. Over a million people, driven from their homes, now face death from starvation and disease as the Government and militias attempt to prevent humanitarian aid from reaching them. The same forces have destroyed the people of Darfur's villages and crops, and poisoned their water supplies, and they continue to murder, rape and terrorize.

Thank all those of you who reacted to my previous e-mails and donated some money for the campaign
Those of you who didn't can still do it.

You can also help by distributing this e-mail among your colleagues and friends, faxing it to your government officials, congress representatives, media specialists, and other people of influence. We, the Jewish people, who know something about mass murders, genocide and immense suffering, should not stand idly by while such atrocities are taking place.

Civil Disobedience

A timely article in the Israeli context is:
"Democratic Disobedience", Yale Law Journal, 2005

Yale Law School

Paper ID: Yale Law School, Public Law Working Paper No. 90

Postal: Yale Law School
P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215 UNITED STATES

Traditional justifications for civil disobedience emphasize the limits of even democratic political authority and defend civil disobedience as a just response when governments overstep these limits. Such liberal justifications are well suited to disobedience in protest of laws or policies that violate basic rights, including the historical cases of civil disobedience (for example, in the American civil rights movement) to which the traditional treatments of civil disobedience responded. But the traditional liberal theory fares less well when civil disobedience is directed against laws or policies that fall within the scope of democratic political authority, and such cases figure increasingly prominently in the political landscape, making the traditional theory increasingly inadequate to the practice of disobedience on the ground.

This Essay develops an alternative approach to civil disobedience - a theory of democratic disobedience - that can explain cases that trouble the liberal account. According to this theory, even laws that fall within the scope of democratic political authority become illegitimate when there is a democratic deficit in the processes that produced them. Civil disobedience is justified, in such cases, to correct democratic deficits and functions not to limit but rather to enhance democracy.

The argument presents an account of democratic politics that displays the possibility of democratic deficits as an inevitable side effect of the basic mechanisms of democratic political authority. It explains how democratic disobedience might correct democratic deficits and therefore casts disobedience as a necessary practice within even well functioning democracies. The argument develops the theory of democratic disobedience by exploiting an analogy to another seemingly antidemocratic practice, judicial review. It also illustrates the theory through concrete historical applications to protests against nuclear weapons, the Vietnam war, and globalization.

The argument concludes by speculating about the rising prominence of democratic disobedience and connects this phenomenon to broader trends in democratic politics. These speculations emphasize the importance of developing an adequate theory of democratic disobedience.

15 August

Please note and celebrate the International Peace Day on August 15. We, individually and collectively, should do more to promote the cause of peace on this planet. To have more communication with the Muslim world; to bring peace to the Middle East; to see that Darfur return to be a safe place; to fight against any brutality by involving the UN, the USA, and other powerful entities that can make this place a better place to live and to grow. Is it possible, through awareness, to have one day of quiet, with zero killings in all continents? If it is, then we should strive for two days of peace and quiet. And who knows, maybe we'll have international peace one day, that will last more than one day.

With my very best wishes for a beautiful summer, as ever,

My last communications are available on http://almagor.blogspot.comEarlier posts at my home page:
Books archived at
Center for Democratic Studies

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