Sunday, February 12, 2006

February 2006

Dear friends and colleagues,

This past two weeks were dominated by news regarding the Hamas: the organization, leaders' statements, plans, reactions to, preventive actions, you name it. It seems that any substantial piece of news in Israel related in one way or another to Hamas, and the prospects we may have vis-à-vis this organization. Israel is in a state of high alert and caution, while Sharon is in state of prolonged unawareness. As the time is passing, his chances to awake are slimmer.

Comments on January Newsletter, Olmert, Amona Syndrome or Two, the Fence, The Settlements, Likud, Meretz, Offensive Cartoons, Terrorism Statistics, Clinton Sings

Comments on January Newsletter

On Suicide Murders

An American colleague wrote:
Unfortunately for all the victims, it is not true that
Palestinian terrorism is "unprecedented in scope and
ferocity." If the comparison is limited to 2002-2006, the
total number of suicide attacks in Iraq for this period is
more than 150. Of the more than 12,000 civilian deaths
(and more than 1500 coalition force deaths), about
two-thirds are attributable to suicide bombings, despite
the fact that civilians are explicitly targeted in fewer
than 5 percent of these attacks. In May 2005 alone, Iraq
suffered almost as many suicide attacks as Israel had
suffered over the previous decade.

It is depressing to think that the total number of
innocents killed by Iraqi suicide attacks is greater than
that of Al Qaeda victims, even if the 9/11 attacks still
claim the greatest number for individual attacks.
More depressing still, these numbers of innocents killed
may be surpassed by victims of Tamil Tiger attacks since
1987. The Tamil Tigers were, as of 2000, "unequivocally the
most effective and brutal terrorist organization ever to
utilize suicide terrorism" (according to Yoram Schweitzer
of the Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Israel). Since
1987, there have been over 180 such attacks, with more than
5,000 victims, among them several prime ministers of Sri
Lanka and India.

The only good thing that can be said about the violent
times we live in is that since the end of the Cold War,
state-led full-scale war has been on the decline. Let's
hope that this trend applies to suicide attacks as well.

On Amir Peretz
Guy Doron, from London, wrote:

I don’t agree that the Labour candidates list has not renewed. Labour has lots of new promising faces. Not only Ayalon and Braverman but also Yechimovich. Moreover, Peretz brings a new social-human spirit to the political debate, very similar to the European’s political agenda these days. For once we start to look like Western regimes, and more importantly, the political language has suddenly changed, focusing on citizens and human beings rather than on territories and land. Peretz may open a new era in Israeli politics.... I never thought this, but it seems that for the first time in my life, I will vote Labour.


In his first major interview since Sharon's devastating stroke, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on January 7, 2006 that his aim is to set the country's permanent borders, with Israel giving up significant parts of the West Bank but keeping the largest Jewish settlement blocs: Maale Adumim, east of Jerusalem, with about 30,000 residents; Gush Etzion, several miles south of Jerusalem, with more than 20,000 residents; and Ariel, north of Jerusalem, with close to 20,000 residents.

In his words, the direction is clear: We are heading toward a separation from the Palestinians. Israel will hold on to the main settlement blocs. But the borders will change. I always said: Wisdom does prevail. Sometimes it hesitates but at the end people do reach common sense.
Olmert's remarks reinforce the belief that he wants to relinquish additional Jewish settlements in the West Bank and would do so unilaterally. "We will disengage from most of the Palestinian population" in the West Bank, he said. "That will obligate us to leave territories under Israeli control today."

Amona Syndrome or Two

I wish to share with you the following piece, distributed by Yisrael Ne’eman on February 5, 2006 to subscribers of Mideast: On Target. Additional articles can be found at I am indebted for permission to circulate this piece on my Newsletter.

Over 200 were injured in last week’s clash between security forces and settlement activists at the Amona outpost on the edge of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) development of Ofra. Nine permanent structures built by settlers on Palestinian lands were torn down by the government. The left wing Peace Now movement brought this to the attention of the authorities even though it appears the Palestinians themselves were in the process of selling the property.

Just a few years ago it would be a non-issue if Jewish homes were built on Palestinian lands during their sale. Today, and especially after the Gaza and northern Samaria Disengagement of August 2005 radical changes are in place. If permanent settlements can be removed then there is no question concerning illegal (by Israeli law) outposts. There are another 22 to go.

The message is political/diplomatic. Acting PM Ehud Olmert’s Kadima party is committed to Ariel Sharon’s platform of “demographic boundaries” ensuring a Jewish majority in the State of Israel to the detriment of retaining the entire Land of Israel. The agreement made with the Americans committing Israel to take down all outposts built after March 2001 is the excuse, but the real answer is in the policy of unilateralism being pushed by Olmert and supported by Labor. Just to Kadima’s right is the Yisrael Beitanu Party led by Avigdor Leiberman who also hints strongly that they support such policies.

Ofra is seen to be outside Israel’s permanent borders-to-be. If such a neighborhood was built on the edge of an existing settlement inside the fence it is doubtful anyone would be enforcing the Supreme Court decision. All would seek compromise (as is happening in Modi’in Elite at the moment).

Over the years everyone duped everyone else with a wink and a nod. For decades settlement leaders from the regional councils in Judea and Samaria built illegally and received monies and legal cover from Knesset members, ministers and the government after the fact. Ariel Sharon was the # 1 conniver. Olmert expressed no objections nor did other former Likud members in Kadima of today.

In true Israeli fashion we sent the ideologues forward to lead the people and the power elite stood behind them. Sacrificing the people in the name of development and security has always been part of the nation building syndrome. Look at the immigrants sent to development towns in the Galilee and Negev in the 1950s and 1960s far from the center of the country to guarantee population dispersal and Israel’s borders after the War of Independence. They were given not much better than minimum wage jobs in the Histadrut (Labor Union) industries and built an economy as they were exploited by state capitalism while the government reinvested in infrastructure. Kibbutz and moshav ideologues went to the frontiers, farming by day and guarding by night in the name of the socialist, agricultural and secular Jewish national ideal. Today they are marginalized, privatized and bankrupt ideologically. Those who moved to Sinai in the 1970s were removed by 1982 (Ariel Sharon was defense minister and razed their homes) to enable peace with Egypt. Very few doubted then or now that such a move was a mistake.
The difference is that with their Land of Israel ideals the National Religious settled anywhere and everywhere. The law was of no significance as they followed Godly (led by the rabbis) exhortations. As opposed to the above mentioned groups, certain parts of the younger generation of the National Religious separated themselves from the secular Jewish State and became a master unto themselves, going so far as to reject the Yesha Council leadership and members of Knesset from both the hard line secular and religious right. They were perceived as selling out by participating in the secular state apparatus.

Furthermore, enforcing the law seemed like an enormous plot to undermine the right of the Jewish People to the Land. The law was not enforced before, so why now? The world did not see legality in the housing developments where they lived and many of their families settled illegally (by Israeli law) but gained law abiding status in the aftermath. The long sustained legal evasion and law breaking was “the norm.” Law enforcement was considered theoretical and extraordinarily out of place.

As in a chess game some pawns will be sacrificed and others will survive. For 30 years the legitimacy of the State was undermined once one stepped across the 1949 -1967 armistice lines. For the settlers, today's “arbitrary” law enforcement is a rule change.

For the government such law enforcement is a tool to realize a larger domestic and foreign policy goal of a democratic Jewish State in alliance with the USA. It is no surprise that so many on both sides of the argument view these efforts of “law enforcement” with such a heavy dose of cynicism.

The Fence

There are more and more testimonials about severe violations of basic human rights as a result of the existing route of the fence. In a recent opinion paper, B’Tselem rightly argued that Israel, as the occupying force, is obliged to safeguard the human rights of the Palestinians under its control. Israel’s duty to protect the life of its citizens does not release it from its obligation to protect the Palestinians’ human rights. In erecting the separation barrier, Israel completely disregards this obligation, and in doing so breaches international law.

Even if we accept Israel’s claim that it has no choice and must erect a separation barrier, Israel is required to select the route that results in the fewest human rights violations possible. It has not done this. Rather, it has selected a route that, in at least some cases, ignores human rights considerations and is based on extraneous considerations, such as perpetuation of some of the settlements, the desire to transmit a political message that erection of the barrier is not a permanent political border, the quality of life of Israeli residents, preservation of antiquities, and access of Israeli citizens to a religious site. These considerations led to the choice of a route that gravely violates human rights, without any security justification whatsoever.

The overall features of the separation-barrier project give the impression that Israel is once again relying on security arguments to establish, unilaterally, facts on the ground that will affect any future arrangement between Israel and the Palestinians. In the past, Israel used “imperative military needs” to justify expropriation of land to establish settlements and argued that the action was temporary. The settlements have for some time been facts on the ground. In the peace talks with the Palestinians, the settlements are listed as one of the issues to be discussed in negotiating the final-status agreement. In the Camp David talks that took place in July 2000, Israel’s position was that some of the settlements established in the West Bank would be annexed to Israel.

It is reasonable to assume that, as in the case of the settlements, the separation barrier will become a permanent fact to support Israel’s future claim to annex territories. In any event, the geographic reality being created by the erection of the barrier will impair any political solution based on recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and the establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian state.

For these reasons, if it is decided that there is no choice other than to build the barrier, the government must set the route to run along the Green Line or, alternatively, within Israel. Deviations from this principle should be allowed only in exceptional cases, based on only two considerations: benefit to the local Palestinian population and meeting Israel’s military needs in the narrow sense of the term. In any event, any such deviation must be examined while taking into account its effects on the human rights of the residents residing near the barrier’s route.

The Settlements

Despite the disengagement form the Gaza Strip, the number of settlers in the occupied territories increased during the past year. During 2005, 12,000 settlers were added to the territories' population. Deduct from this some 9,000 settlers that left the Strip and Northern Samaria; the result is additional 3,000 settlers in real numbers the past year. After March 2001, 52 new settlements were created. The USA demands to evacuate all of them without exception. The only ray of light that should be mentioned is that during 2005 no new settlements were built.

Israel should see as its highest priority settling the Negev and Galilee. The occupied territories should become part of an independent Palestinian entity. Israel should cease the occupation, the sooner the better.


Likud is working on the deep sentiments of fear. Its campaign slogan: "Strong Against the Hamas: Bibi Netanyahu". Reminds me of kindergarten games: Against your bully we have our own Bibi, who is stronger, tougher, and … (add any adjective you want).


Meretz-Yachad party just published its political platform. Its ideas remain the closest to mine: A true liberal-socialist party that cares for each and every person in society, notwithstanding his or her religion, gender, or sexual preference. Meretz strives for a better Israel, with better protection of human rights. I urge every thinking person to read the Meretz platform and decide for him/herself. I'll be happy to e-mail the platform (in Hebrew) upon request.

Offensive Cartoons

The question is not free speech as such. By liberal standards, the cartoons should be protected speech. The question is what price liberals are willing to pay in this age of globalization and clash of cultures, when you publish in Denmark and then get your embassies burnt in Cairo, Damascus or London.

The offensive cartoons were printed in the Egyptian Newspaper Al Fagr back in October 17, 2005, during Ramadan, for all the Egyptian Muslim population to see, and not a single squeak of outrage was present. Al Fagr isn't a small newspaper either: it has respectable circulation in Egypt, since it's helmed by known Journalist Adel Hamoudah.

The source for this is Here is what the writer, who resides in Egypt, has to say:
Guess we will have to Boycott Egypt now as well, huh?
Now while the Arab Islamic population was going crazy over the outrage created by their government's media over these cartoons, their governments was benefiting from its people's distraction. The Saudi royal Family used it to distract its people from the outrage over the Hajj stampede. The Jordanian government used it to distract its people from their new minimum wage law demanded by their labor unions. The Syrian Government used it to create sectarian division in Lebanon and change the focus on the Harriri murder. And, finally, the Egyptian government is using it to distract us while it passes through the new Judiciary reforms and Social Security Bill- which will cut over $300 million dollars in benefits to some of Egypt's poorest families. But, see, the people were not paying attention, because they were too busy defending the prophet by sending out millions of e-mails and SMS-messages, boycotting cheese and Lego and burning Butter and the Danish Flag. Let's not even mention the idiots who went the usual route of "It's a Jewish conspiracy", spouted the stupid argument about the Holocaust, or went on a diatribe with the old favorite "There is an organized campaign-headed by the west and the Jews- to attack and discredit Islam, and we have to defend it". They proved, once again, that the Arab world is retarded and deserves no better than its leaders.

On February 8, 2006 the World Association of Newspapers and World Editors Forum have protested to the Jordanian government against the prosecution of two editors who published the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that have caused a storm of Muslim protest around the world.

"While appreciating that the cartoons have caused offence to many Muslims in Jordan and elsewhere, we respectfully remind you that the decision as to whether or not to publish such material is an editorial decision and not one with which the state ­ and in particular the criminal law ­ should interfere," the Paris-based WAN and the WEF said in a letter to Jordanian Interior Minister Awni Yerfas.

"The cartoons may have been in poor taste, but they were satirical in nature and did not incite violence," said the letter, which called for the charges to be dropped and for the journalists to be released from prison, where they are being held after requests for bail were denied.

Editors Jihad Momani of the weekly Shihan, and Hisham Khalidi of al-Mehwar, were arrested and charged with blasphemy after publishing the cartoons that were first published in Denmark. Shihan printed three of the cartoons alongside an editorial questioning whether the angry reaction of Muslims was justified, while Al-Mehwar reproduced the cartoons to accompany an article on the condemnation they had sparked.

To read the full letter to the Interior Minister, go to

Terrorism Statistics

The Department of Political Science at Ghent University (Belgium) has published its second research paper on terrorism. The paper offers a statistical assessment of terrorism in 2005, both international and domestic.

Main conclusions are the following:

1. As in our 2004 assessment, we conclude that a wide gap is still looming between perception and reality when dealing with terrorism. Since it is upon perceptions than men act in shaping their conduct, the risk of overreacting thus remains real.
2. In view of the number of international terrorist attacks and victims, it is difficult to uphold the view that international terrorism represents a major existential threat. International terrorism is more of a challenge than a threat.
3. Contrary to widespread belief, it is not international but domestic terrorism that presents the gravest danger. Moreover, instead of being a threat of a global nature, this terrorism is largely concentrated within one region, the Middle East.
4. The concentration of fatalities in this region shows that West is not the prime target of Jihadi terrorism. Muslims are the prime victims of terrorism perpetrated in the name of Islam. This helps to explain the decreasing sympathy for Jihadi terrorism and for Osama bin Laden in Muslim countries.

I'd be happy to e-mail the report upon request.

Clinton Sings

Enjoy the link, from Clinton's recent visit to Israel.

Don't forget to turn on your speakers and sing along

With my very best wishes,


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