Thursday, April 24, 2008

Politics – April 2008

Peace is constructed, not fought for - Brent Davis

This has been a difficult month as the south of Israel is boiling. Clashes between the IDF and Hamas are frequent, with casualties on both sides. Hamas continues to fire Qassam rockets, and attacks soldiers with car bombs at the border crossing and shooting. A series of Israel Air Force strikes killed Hamas gunmen. They kill us. We kill them, and there is no end of bloodshed in sight. Here is a sample of four bloody days:

On Thursday, April 17, 17 rockets were fired at the western Negev, including an upgraded Qassam rocket aimed at Ashkelon.
On Friday, April 18, Qassam rockets hit residential areas and high-tension power lines in Sderot, causing an electricity blackout in several neighborhoods of the western Negev town and a nearby Kibbutz.

On Saturday, April 19, an IAF aircraft fired a missile at a Hamas group spotted approaching Israel's border fence with the coastal territory. The group was on its way to launch Qassam rockets into Israel.

The same day, as Israel was preparing for the Passover Seder, two explosive-laden vehicles disguised as military jeeps exploded at the Kerem Shalom crossing on the Israel-Gaza Strip border, leaving 13 Israel Defense Forces soldiers injured.

On Sunday, 20 April, the clashes continued with more air strikes on terrorist targets in Gaza.

And so it continues. On the positive side, there is progress in the negotiations for prisoner exchange, which might bring back home Gilad Shalit, the kidnapped soldier who has been held hostage since June 25, 2006. Despite all efforts, the IDF was unable to find his whereabouts in Gaza.

Moshe Alkalay (1926-2008) - The Hamas Terror against Israel - Syrian Threats
Suicide Attacks on the Rise - Radio Interview - Textbooks in Palestinian and Israeli Schools - The Global Financial Crisis in the Arab World - New Website on Freedom of Expression and Human Rights in the Arab World - Islam 2008: A Bibliography The Egyptian Ambassador on Proliferation of WMD in the ME
Comment on New Electoral Initiative - US Elections - School Prayer, Moment of Silence, and Other Policies Concerning Religion in the USA - STOCKHOLM TO HOST LITERARY HUMAN RIGHTS CONGRESS - Thank You - My Lectures - New Article - New Books - Big America - Gem of the Month – The Natural Bridge -
Poem of the Month - Light Notes – British Humour

Moshe Alkalay (1926-2008)

On March 29, 2008 I lost my dear uncle, Moshe Alkalai. Moshe came to Palestine immediately after WWII from Bulgaria. Starting from scratch, he built a small electric firm that installed all electricity wires in many buildings in Israel. Together with his wife Clara, he also built a beautiful family. Moshe was my favourite uncle, one of the kindest and gentle-souls I ever known. As a child and a teen, I had spent a few weeks of every summer at his home in Tel Baruch. I have never heard a bad word coming out of his mouth (not in Hebrew anyway, possibly in Bulgarian). Even when we were behaving like boys, my brother and I, doing naughty things that would transform “normal” people into red eggplants, he would remain calm, hardly raising his voice. A beautiful man that was part of my life for many years and now gone.

I will cherish his memory all my life. May his soul rest in peace. Amen.

The Hamas Terror against Israel

Almost 700 rockets and 470 mortars fired from Gaza have struck southern Israel since the beginning of the year

Total rocket attacks:Since the first rocket fell on Israel on 16 April 2001: 2,994.
Since the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in August 2005: 2,411.
Since the Hamas takeover of Gaza in mid-June 2007: 979
This year: - From 1 Jan through 31 Mar 2008: 694
For more information, see the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs site,
A new report was just published by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center on Hamas’s buildup in Gaza. I’d be happy to send it to interested parties.

Syrian Threats

Hezbollah's TV station Al-Manar reported on April 17, 2008 that Syrian President Bashar Assad has said that Syria is preparing for war with Israel as a real possibility.
According to Haaretz of the same day, Assad noted that he did not expect a conflict between the two states to break out under current circumstances.
Assad argued that the United States and Israel wish to turn Iran into the enemy of the Arab states. He emphasized that while mistakes may have been made over the supervision of Iranian policies and interests, this cannot be interpreted as meaning Iran is an enemy of the Arab world.

Tension between Israel and Syria is on the rise recently as a result of the Israeli air attack on a Syrian facility, suspected to be nuclear, and the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh on February 12, 2008.

Don’t be surprised if a senior Israeli official will sooner or later publish a statement about the air attack on Syria. The failing prime minister needs all brownie points he could garner in order to retain his position. History will judge whether Olmert is the worst prime minister in the modern history of Israel. He is a remarkable contender for this unflattering title.

Suicide Attacks on the Rise

On April 18, 2008, Robin Wright of the Washington Post who recently published her new book, Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East, (

published data on the use of suicide bombing in the world. This threat was largely mitigated in Israel thanks to the fence and improved intelligence, but it is on the rise in other parts of the world. Suicide bombers conducted 658 attacks around the world last year, including 542 in U.S.-occupied Afghanistan and Iraq. The large number of attacks -- more than double the number in any of the past 25 years -- reflects a trend that has surprised and worried U.S. intelligence and military analysts.
More than four-fifths of the suicide bombings over that period have occurred in the past seven years, the data show. The bombings have spread to dozens of countries on five continents, killed more than 21,350 people and injured about 50,000 since 1983, when a landmark attack blew up the U.S. Embassy in Beirut.
The unpublished data show that since 1983, bombers in more than 50 groups from Argentina to Algeria, Croatia to China, and India to Indonesia have adapted car bombs to make explosive belts, vests, toys, motorcycles, bikes, boats, backpacks and false-pregnancy stomachs.
Of 1,840 incidents in the past 25 years, more than 86 percent have occurred since 2001, and the highest annual numbers have occurred in the past four years. The data show more than 920 suicide bombings in Iraq and more than 260 in Afghanistan, including some that killed scores of U.S. troops. All occurred after the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003.

More than 3,420 Americans have died in at least 10 major suicide bombing incidents, beginning with the embassy bombing in Beirut, which killed 63 people, including 17 Americans, and injured more than 100. The bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut six months later killed 241 and still ranks as the largest loss of American military life in a single incident since the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.
Both attacks caught Washington by surprise, despite suicide bombings against the Iraqi Embassy in Beirut in 1981 and an Israeli military headquarters in south Lebanon in 1983. "We at the embassy collectively saw the political situation as improving," said Richard Gannon, the regional security officer at the time.
The FBI and the CIA still do not know the identity of the bomber who, 25 years ago, drove a dark delivery van loaded with explosives past the red-and-white-striped security booth straight into the seven-story embassy overlooking the Mediterranean, ripping off the entire front facade.
At least two-thirds of suicide bombings since 1983 have targeted U.S. policy goals, intelligence officials say. "They may be targeting the U.S. but not hitting either the American homeland or American interests in other countries," said Gary LaFree, director of the University of Maryland's National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism.

Radio Interview

I was invited to speak on Kol Israel radio about politics and the Supreme Court. Twenty minutes before the show I learned that the exact issue was: Who decides the agenda in Israel, politicians or the courts? The interviewer, Peer-li Shachar obviously did not like what I had to say, and kept interrupting me. She began by asking this question, which I dismissed on the spot. I said that of course the politicians are those who decide the agenda in Israel, and this question is designed to attack the Supreme Court. I was surprised that Kol Israel found it suitable to dedicate an hour, in a prominent time slot, to such a ludicrous proposition.

It seemed Ms. Shachar was unable to fathom arguments more complex than "I am against the fence" or "I am in favour of the fence". I am disappointed to hear the success of the anti-Supreme Court camp, to the extent that this ridiculous idea can serve as platform for discussion. I said that the Supreme Court is pushed to deal with political issues, either because the Knesset pushes “hot potatoes” over its threshold, or because human rights organizations appeal against government and Knesset decisions, and seek justice from the courts. People do not get it: It is the occupation and all its derivatives that put us in such dire circumstances. Granted we cannot evacuate the West Bank now. But people in Israel grew complacent about the occupation, as it is part of our lives, here to stay. This is terrible.

I said clearly that politicians are those who by action or omission brought upon the Palestinians and ourselves the occupation, evil of all sorts. I was unwilling to lend even a bit of hand to speak negatively of the Supreme Court, often in an impossible situation to address human rights in such a setting. Prior the interview it was agreed that she will read one of my poems, published in my book Masaot (Voyages) last year. As she did not like my views (I am against the occupation; I support the Supreme Court, and I think the route of the fence is unjust, hence will need to move) Shachar read only four lines of the poem “Fences”.

Possibly in order to calm their conscience, many Israelis deny the occupation. Israel does not occupy the territories. Israel “maintains” or “administers” them until a solution can be reached (people on the right claim Israel “liberated” the territories belonging to Greater Israel, Biblical Israel). Shachar made such a remark (“some people will disagree with your use of the term ‘occupation’”) to counter me when I denounced the occupation. This is not the first time I hear Israelis speaking in denial terms. This is also most troubling. As long as the conscience of many Israelis is calm and complacent about this, the occupation will continue. We need to wake up and recognize the misery and suffering we inflict on other people.

In this context, I should mention that in the last Peace Index of Eppie Yaar and Tamar Herman, the co-authors write: “We were surprised to discover that even though, over the years, the concept of “occupation” has become more common both in the political discourse and the media, today a majority of the Jewish public defines the West Bank as “liberated territory” (55%) and not as “occupied territory” (32%). This may explain the new popularity of the position (57%) that the Green Line should not be considered the future border between Israel and the Palestinians, and that a new borderline should be established so that most of the settlements will be on the Israeli side and large Israeli Arab communities would move to the Palestinian side (only 23% of the Jewish public currently favors the Green Line as the future border; only among Meretz voters does a majority take the opposite view). Interestingly, even among those who see the West Bank as “liberated territory” there is a clear majority—albeit small compared to the majority among those who see it as “occupied territory”—of supporters of a two-state solution. Here too the pessimism about the chances of ending the historic conflict with the Palestinians is widespread among both groups, though, as expected, more so among those who view the West Bank as liberated.” (March 2008 Peace Index).

In the radio interview I said that I do not argue with success. The fence reduces the number of attacks on Israel significantly. This is acknowledged by both Israel and its enemies. Recently, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Abdallah Shalah was interviewed in Damascus by the Qatari newspaper Al-Sharq.

He said that the second intifada was currently characterized by rocket fire, which had replaced the previous stage of suicide bombing attacks. That, he said, was because Israel had found ways and means to protect itself from such attacks: “… For example, they built a separation fence in the West Bank. We do not deny that it limits the ability of the resistance [i.e., the terrorist organizations] to arrive deep within [Israeli territory] to carry out suicide bombing attacks, but the resistance has not surrendered or become helpless, and is looking for other ways to cope with the requirements of every stage [of the intifada]…” (Al-Sharq, March 23, 2008).

Source: Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.

Textbooks in Palestinian and Israeli Schools

IPCRI finds that the main problem that exists is the almost total lack of any reference in each side's textbooks to the other side. Israelis and Palestinians learn almost nothing about each other. This intentional lack of reference is an indication of the fact that both sides have yet to come to terms with the political and national existence of the other.
Gershon Baskin of IPCRI rightly notes that education is a reflection or a translation of the society's values into real terms - this is what we decide to pass on to our most valued assets - our children. In this respect, in evaluating textbooks, it is impossible to determine that either side has made a clear and real determination to seek and to reach peace.

There is much work to be done on this subject on both sides.

IPCRI's work on text books can be found at:

I should mention that an episode of the children's program called “Brilliant Children,” broadcast by Hamas's satellite channel Al-Aqsa TV on April 2, featured a puppet of a Palestinian child stabbing a puppet of American President Bush. The child said he was killing Bush in revenge for the deaths of his father in Iraq, his mother in Lebanon and his brothers and sisters by the “Zionist criminals” in the “Gaza holocaust". I thank Reuven Erlich for bringing this to my attention.

The Global Financial Crisis in the Arab World
Abdulaziz Sager - Chairman of the Gulf Research Center

What started as an allegedly isolated crisis of the subprime segment of US credit markets has developed into a major financial threat on a global level. The old saying that the world catches a cold if America sneezes still holds validity. Cash-strapped European banks and tumbling Asian stock markets bear witness to this fact. Yet, up to this point, the Arab region, and especially the Gulf, have stood apart of this financial turmoil and have shown the least correlation with negative global developments in recent months. Oil prices at $100 continue to fuel a successful diversification drive in industry, services and construction. Yet, there is also the danger of easily falling into a false sense of complacency. True, the direct exposure has been limited; subprime write-offs of Gulf banks have been modest compared with their peers in other world regions, and direct investments like Emaar's purchase of John Laing Homes have been limited. But Gulf corporations have also felt the worsening credit conditions with credit spreads of GCC bonds widening from around 50 basis points above LIBOR to up to 200. Moreover, central banks had to follow the monetary easing of the Fed in Washington as their currencies are pegged to the dollar. This further exacerbated the risk of inflation which has reached double digits in countries like the UAE and Qatar and is now a problem in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and others as well. Should the current financial problems lead to a worldwide recession, export-led growth models in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt might experience considerable setbacks and oil prices could be affected negatively as well. Thus, it is paramount for Arab countries to increase their economic cooperation in order to be able to weather the financial storms to come in a better way. More independent monetary policies, currency unions and more intra-regional trade could all help to reduce overt exposure to global volatility and could harness synergi es between labor-abundant and resource-rich countries of the Arab ld.
This month, read our Country Report on the State of Reforms in Morocco (1996-2007) and a short analysis of the Egyptian Local Elections, by Rabha Seif Allam (in Arabic).
From: The newsletter of Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)

New Website on Freedom of Expression and Human Rights in the Arab World
Cairo, on March 24, 2008

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information released a new website titled Qadaya (- which provides a legal and human rights service for journalists, lawyers and human rights activists in Egypt and the Arab world.
The new website includes many important departments such as an agenda for the human rights court cases against journalists, political and human rights activists, in addition to important judicial verdicts supporting human rights, especially freedom of expression. The site is providing the texts of Arab constitutions, legal acts, examples of cases and procedures related to human rights causes which would help researchers, journalists and lawyers to have information about cases related to human rights and session dates in regard to cases considered by the courts.
Establishing the Qadaya site was to fill the journalists' and activists' need to know about the number of cases which are considered by courts, dates of the hearing sessions and locations, and it also aims to granting experience for lawyers interested in working in this field by providing information on journalists lawsuits or political causes in Egypt and Arab world.
Qadaya is characterized by publishing a group of the most important judicial verdicts in Egypt that contributed in enforcing many basic rights for citizens such as the "judgment of the case of January 18 & 19 uprising, judgments approving the legitimacy of demonstrations, judgments cancelling the confiscation of a book., a judgment affirming the necessity of full judicial supervision over elections and judgment of confirming online freedom of expression…etc".
Qadaya website:

Islam 2008: A Bibliography

Compiled by Glenda Armstrong, Bibliographer, Muir S. Fairchild Research Information Center, Maxwell AFB, AL April 2008

The Egyptian Ambassador to the US on Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle East

On April 11, 2008, Nabil Fahmy, Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the United States, delivered a lecture at the Woodrow Wilson Center on Experience and Challenges in Combating the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle East.

Ambassador Fahmy, an astute and experienced diplomat, offered a personal assessment of the contemporary proliferation challenges in the Middle East region, drawing on his more than thirty years of work in Egypt’s diplomatic service on arms control and nonproliferation issues. The backdrop of his analysis is the region’s major wars and “sustained tensions,” which has been the major driver of regional arms races, including for unconventional weapons.

During the 1960s, when concerns about the nuclearization of the Middle East initially arose, the immediate focus of attention was on Israel and Egypt. By the late 1970s and 1980s, two additional countries of proliferation-concern had emerged – Iraq and Iran. Prior to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Saddam Hussein threatened to “burn” Israel, which responded with its own deterrent threat.

After the 1991 Gulf War and the ensuing Arab-Israeli peace conference in Madrid, Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) multilateral talks where launched as part of an effort to design a new security architecture for the region. But according to Fahmy, those talks floundered on the absence of Iran and Iraq from the ACRS process, as well as a lack of consensus among those states participating in the talks “about what the region should look like in the future.” In particular, Egypt opposed Israel’s efforts to preserve its qualitative and quantitative military edge.

Turning to the current crisis over Iran’s nuclear program, Fahmy stated that Tehran’s past resistance to addressing the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) concerns had generated distrust and questions about Iran’s nuclear intentions. But, Fahmy noted, Iran is currently in compliance with its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) commitments, with the exception of residual IAEA questions regarding Iranian activities possibly linked to weaponization. He stated that the problem with the European Union’s proposals to Iran is that they seek to limit Iran’s rights under the NPT, rather than address the motivations fueling Iran’s nuclear intentions. Fahmy proposed that, in exchange for assurances, Iran should unilaterally cap its uranium enrichment program for a period of time – not indefinitely. During that interim period, a diplomatic effort should be made to revive a regional dialogue. This regional forum should address security motivations and concerns with the aim of moving toward a more intrusive inspection regime to ensure these states’ compliance with nonproliferation norms. That will not happen, however, if a double standard persists.

Fahmy warned that the NPT increasingly could become “irrelevant.” The treaty has not been useful in terms of Egyptian national interests since it has not constrained the countries of greatest concern to Cairo – Israel (which never joined the treaty), Iraq (which cheated from within the treaty), and Iran (whose current activities are ambiguous). “We’re always asked to take the high road,” Fahmy stated, “but there is not much oxygen up there anymore.”

I thank Robert Litwak, Director of the International Security Studies, for this piece of information.

Comment on New Electoral Initiative

Reflecting on my last posting (March 2008) my friend Murray Smith, who used to serve on the New Zealand parliament, wrote the following:

I was very interested to see the piece on Ofir Pines Paz. The electoral system he is proposing is the same as we use in NZ. It is called "Mixed Member proportional." The main difference is that in NZ the threshold is 5% which is much better than 2% or 3%. One other variation in the NZ system is that there is a provision whereby a minor party will be allocated seats according to their proportion of the total national vote providing one of their candidates wins a regional seat. In other words in NZ we have a minor party (United Future Party) that in the last election of 2005 received only 2.67% of the national vote but their party leader actually won his regional seat. So the party was awarded 3 seats in the parliament. Of further interest perhaps is that in all there were 4 parties that polled less than the 5% threshold but achieved representation in parliament. Three of them were awarded seats in accord with their total percent of the national vote because they won a regional seat.

US Elections

Empires tend to disintegrate and break internally. If Obama will win the Democratic nomination and Americans will face the choice – him or McCain, one can expect that much of the internal societal rivalries will surface. This may have a cleansing effect on society, or constitute a chapter in the downfall of the American Empire.

I was invited to speak on the Iranian-government sponsored TV station in Washington about American politics. I respectfully declined, not knowing the invitation came from an Iranian TV station (its name does not disclose its identity), simply because I don’t consider myself an expert on American politics. I referred the TV station to a colleague here at the Center. As soon as he realized who the host is, he declined for different reasons.

School Prayer, Moment of Silence, and Other Policies Concerning Religion in the USA
Religion in public schools is an issue that is analyzed through the lens of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which provides, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The government, including public school officials, must act neutrally with respect to religious expression in schools, and can neither favor religion(s) nor discriminate against them.

When religious expression in public schools is voluntarily initiated by students, the First Amendment protects their right to express themselves. The government cannot enact policies that restrict or prohibit voluntary religious expression on the part of students. For example, students desiring to form a school- sanctioned Bible study group must be afforded the same rights and access that a non-religious group has. On the other hand, the government is prohibited from establishing a religion or favoring specific religious expression, and controversies are typically analyzed by the courts using what is known as the “Lemon test”, established in the Supreme Court case of Lemon vs. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602. The Lemon test poses three questions when analyzing a specific policy: does the statute have a secular purpose, is its principal or primary effect to either advance or inhibit religion and does the provision foster an excessive government entanglement with religion? If any of these questions are answered affirmatively, the statute must be overturned.

A new research study published in March 2008 by the Education Commission of the States shows that:
Thirty-four states either require or permit prayer, moments of silence, meditation, reflection at the start of or during class. Thirteen states require all schools to participate, 10 states allow the students/teachers the option to participate, seven states give discretion to the local district board to make the decision and four states allow voluntary participation by students/teachers but also authorize local districts to require participation.

• Four states allow the posting of the Ten Commandments in public schools.
• Seven states allow the teaching of religion and/or the Bible in classrooms


In June 2008, the Swedish Writers' Union will launch WALTIC - the Value of Words, a world congress for writers, translators, scholars and activists to gather in one common manifestation of the value of words and in support of human rights.

From 29 June to 2 July in Stockholm, Sweden, WALTIC will focus on three global issues: literacy, intercultural dialogue and digitalisation. The programme offers a number of seminars, lectures and best practices around freedom of expression, including censorship and freedom of speech on the Internet, how to use words to mobilise the marginalised and fight oppression, and the right to freely express yourself in your mother tongue, whomever or wherever you are.
Contemporary Egyptian novelist, sociologist and medical doctor Nawal El Saadawi and one of Africa's most prominent writers, Mia Couto, are the keynote speakers.
For info, contact: info(@)waltic(.)com or see:
Source: "IFEX Communiqué" at:

Thank You

My gratitude to Jerrold Post for the opportunity to present my work at the Political Psychology Seminar.

I am also thankful to Karen Cantor for her kind and warm hospitality during Pesach. Karen and her husband Don opened their home for us and made us feel welcome.

My Lectures

On March 19, 2008 I delivered a lecture at the Woodrow Wilson Center about Israel at 60 – Challenges on the Road to Tranquility. Here is the summary:

Raphael Cohen-Almagor, Chair and Professor of Politics at the University of Hull in the United Kingdom and currently a fellow at the Wilson Center, delivered a presentation on March 19th on the challenges facing Israel sixty years after the country’ s founding. His presentation divided Israel’s challenges into four main areas: relations with its neighbors, the integration of Israeli-Palestinians into Israeli society, the relationship between the state and religion, and the economy. Cohen-Almagor used his presentation to propose solutions for each of these groups of challenges.

Many of the challenges described by Cohen-Almagor relate to the divided nature of Israeli society. Cohen-Almagor cites a variety of schisms: between the secular and religious, citizens of Western and Middle Eastern origin, the rich and poor, and of course between Israeli-Palestinians and Israeli-Jews. Given that context, his presentation’s recommendations focused on transforming Israel’s diversity from a source of conflict into a source of strength. These recommendations included: ending the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, ensuring that all Israeli citizens are treated equally, and separating the state from religion. Demographic concerns played a considerable role in the formulation of Cohen-Almagor’s proposals. Cohen-Almagor’s recommendations address how Israel can remain both a Jewish state and a democracy in that eventuality. He maintains that the key to Israel’s survival continues to be its security. Israel should attempt to build trust and good will between Israel and its neighbors, and between Arabs and Jews inside Israel; maintain uncompromising emphasis on security, with zero tolerance for all forms of terror.
Cohen-Almagor argues that it would be far-fetched at present to aspire for peace. Israel should aspire to enter a long-term interim agreement. It needs to evacuate isolated settlements; to consolidate economic conditions for Palestinians; to bolster security on both sides; to stop enlarging existing settlements; to dismantle checkpoints to make the lives of Palestinian civilians easier. Both Israelis and Palestinians should clean the atmosphere: fight bigotry, racism, incitement and hate on both sides of the fence. This includes a close study of the education curricula, utilizing the media to promote peaceful messages of reconciliation and mutual recognition.
Drafted by David Linfield - Middle East Program

Links to two other recent lectures are at

New Article

R. Cohen-Almagor, "Conceptualizing the Right to Privacy: Ethical and Legal Considerations", in Rita Watson and Menahem Blondheim (eds.), The Toronto School of Communication Theory: Interpretations, Extensions and Applications (Toronto and Jerusalem: University of Toronto Press and Magnes Press, 2007), pp. 305-336.

New Books

Avishai, Bernard, The Hebrew Republic (Harcourt, Inc., 2008).

Addressing the state of Israel's democracy as well as security, Avishai (The Tragedy of Zionism), a contributor to the New York Review of Books, presents a three-fold approach to obtaining long-term peace and security. Most original and no doubt controversial is the idea of establishing a Hebrew republic that would be patently the state of the Jewish people, but would not privilege Jews and Judaism. (Avishai details current discrimination against Arab Israelis.) The other parts are negotiating a peace accord with the Palestinians along the lines of the Geneva Initiative and forming an Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian economic union. Avishai distills his approach through conversations with 50 Israeli-Jewish, Israeli-Arab and Palestinian figures, including former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, novelist A.B. Yehoshua and Samir Abdullah, director of the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute. He also has a fascinating discussion with some young Israeli Jews who wrestle with how Jewish, and how integrated into the Middle East, Israel should be. His plan for economic union will be achievable only with a peace accord, and Avishai has little to say on how to get there. But he covers a great many key topics relating to Israel's internal dynamics as well as its regional and global position, now and in the future.

Diehl, Paul F., Peace Operations (Polity Press, March 2008), 9780745642079 Paperback

Dyzenhaus, David, THE CONSTITUTION OF LAW : LEGALITY IN A TIME OF EMERGENCY (Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2006).

Johnson, Norman A., Darwinian Detectives: Revealing the natural history of genes and genomes (Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2007).

Rejali, Darius M., TORTURE AND DEMOCRACY (Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, 2007).

Big America

The Washington Metro trains have combined two-seaters. I presume the cars were designed some years ago. Since then America and Americans grew bigger. Thus you see tactical maneuvering of passengers trying to avoid, or escape seats occupied by big people. I can tell you, it is not pleasant to sit for an hour squeezed against a large person who takes the majority of the combined seat. Designers of the next-generation trains should adjust, make broader seats, and 5’’ longer. Better still, make them 10’’ longer. This great nation does not stop growing on all sides.

Gem of the Month – The Natural Bridge

In Rockbridge County, Virginia there is a geological formation in which Cedar Creek has carved out a gorge in the mountainous limestone terrain, forming an arch of 66 meter high with a span of 27 meter. It is crossed by U.S. Highway 11. It is fascinating. I have never seen anything like it.

We visited the bridge during the day and returned at night to watch an audio-visual show of the creation. The Drama of Creation, depicting the seven days of creation as told in the Bible in the Book of Genesis, was inaugurated by U.S. President Calvin Coolidge in 1927. It is mystical and magical to watch it under the bridge, witnessing the beautiful symbiosis of nature and human power, how we can live together in harmony.

Poem of the Month

Aesthetics / Raphael Cohen-Almagor

External cover
Glorify beauty and grace
What there is in essence.
On its own it is nothing
Without it – flagrant content.

Light Notes –

If you wish to watch an elephant paint, open

Hard to believe. This guy is a serious painter. I thank Bill Dackman for this piece of elephant art.

With my very best wishes,

Yours as ever,


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