Sunday, May 18, 2008

Politics – May 2008

"There is no one in Israel to whom the price of war is alien",
Ehud Olmert, at the official ceremony at the national military cemetery on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, May 6, 2008.

“A man may build himself a throne of bayonets, but he cannot sit on it", William Ralph Inge

“A man may build himself a throne of spins and political deals, but he cannot rely on them for long, not when there is no real substance or meaning to his survival and empty words”, Raphael Cohen-Almagor

This month Israel celebrates 60 years of independence. At the age of 60, Israel is mature enough to address the challenges ahead of us.

Independence Day has always been a special day for me. I love the celebrations on the streets, the happy masses, the fireworks, the food, even the plastic hammers that land on your head unexpectedly. I love the jubilation, the sense of achievement, the pride (we have a lot to be proud of), the feeling of togetherness. I love blue and white, the young crowds running down the streets, the BBQ smell all over, the picnics, the nostalgia. I love to hear the Gashash, the Israel Prize ceremony, the lovely weather. In short, with the exception of the nasty chemicals that the youth spray on one another and occasionally at innocent bystanders, an innovation that emerged in the 1990s that we can do without, Independence Day is a truly lovely Israeli holiday.

We had a collective BBQ at the Rockville kibbutz, followed by public signing (Shira Be’zibur) led by a guitarist. We stayed late despite the wind. We also attended the annual Independence Day reception, held by Ambassador Meridor. The main speakers were Barack Obama, Dick Cheney and Joseph I. Lieberman. They all said what was expected from them to say on such a festive party. While Obama and Cheney spoke from pages, Lieberman spoke from the heart. It is good to have him on Capitol Hill.
All speakers emphasized that the US was the first state to recognize the newly born Israel, mere eleven minutes after Ben-Gurion declaration of statehood. I welcome observations whether this is correct as there are others who claim that the USSR was first, nine minutes after Ben-Gurion's historic speech. Not that it matters much, but historical facts should be put in order. Israel would like to keep good and solid relationships with both great nations.

Israel at 60 - New Article - US-Israel Relationships - Prime Minister under Police Interrogation, Yet Again - Hamas’ Interpretation of the Holocaust - Radio Interview - New Prospects in Lebanon - Clifford Christians - IDP Camps in Uganda - Freedom of the Press 2008 Survey Release - EUROPIX Top Talent Awards - Index on Censorship honours free expression champions -
Poetry Reading - Thank You - Peace Index - New Books - Gem of the Month –

Independence Day Celebrations - Light Notes

Israel at 60
Israel's population totaled 7.282 million on the eve of its 60th anniversary, including 156,400 babies who were born over the last year, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported Tuesday, according to Haaretz (May 6, 2008). That is more than nine times the 806,000 people who lived here when the state was established in 1948. Since last Independence Day, the population has grown by 1.8 percent, including both births and some 18,000 new immigrants.
Just over three quarters of all Israelis ­- 5.5 million people ­- are Jews, while 20 percent (1.5 million) are Arabs. Of the Jews, 69 percent were born here, compared to only 35 percent in 1948.
Though Tel Aviv and the surrounding region still contain 53 percent of Israel's population, that is down sharply from 71 percent in 1948. The north and south, home to only 19 percent of Israelis in 1948, now account for 31 percent of the country's residents.
Over the years, Israel's population has become steadily more educated: The proportion of those with no schooling has fallen from 16 percent in 1948 to 3 percent last year, while the proportion with 13 or more years of schooling has risen from 9 percent to 42 percent. In 1948, 208 people received degrees from the country's two universities; two years ago, 53,000 people received degrees from 62 local colleges and universities.
Home ownership has also soared: Some 71 percent of Israelis currently own their own homes, compared to 54 percent at the end of the 1950s. And in another sign of increased prosperity, food currently accounts for only about 16 percent of the average household's expenditures, down from 40 percent in the 1950s.

New Article

Just published my new article: “Israel at 60 – Challenges on the Road to Tranquility”, Viewpoints, Special Edition Israel: Growing Pains at 60 (May 2008), pp. 74-76.
Here is what I said:

We cannot expect Israel to be normal, as the country is constantly under threat and stress. But we can expect Israeli leaders to have some knowledge and expertise in dealing with the main challenges that lie ahead. These challenges include resolving the conflict with the Palestinians; integrating Israeli-Arabs into society; and changing the relationship between the state and religion.

In order to address these challenges effectively, Israeli leaders will have to summon the courage and apply their skills to the pursuit of several objectives: 1) dividing the land and ending the occupation, thereby facilitating a two-state solution; 2) accommodating the interests of the Israeli- Arabs — striving to safeguard equal rights and liberties for all citizens notwithstanding nationality, religion, race, or color, while insisting that citizens fulfill their duties as such; and 3) ensuring the separation between state and religion.

Resolving the Israeli -Palestinian Conflict
Between the Jordan River and the sea there are now about 7.2 million Israelis (among them 1.3 million Israeli-Arabs) and 4 million Palestinians. The annual growth rate of the Palestinians is among the highest in the world. Israel faces the danger of becoming another Bosnia, or another white South Africa, or a combination thereof. Therefore there is an existential need to realize a two (hopefully not three) state solution. In the Camp David talks of 2000, Israel proposed giving up 92% of the West Bank and 100% of the Gaza Strip. Yasir ‘Arafat insisted on the Right of Return, which meant suicide for Israel. In the following Taba talks, Israel was willing to acknowledge family unification on humanitarian grounds, arguing that it cannot accept a full-scale right of return for all Palestinian refugees. By insisting on this, ‘Arafat insinuated that he wished the demise of Israel as a Jewish-Zionist state.

The occupation should be minimized if not terminated, and the sooner the better. Every person aspires to be free. As the historian Lord Acton (1834-1902) stated so eloquently: “Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end ... liberty is the only object which benefits all alike, and provokes no sincere opposition.” Generally, I favor bridges rather than fences. However, when during the March of 2002 Passover terrorists attacked Hotel Park in Netanya, where people convened to hold their traditional meal, Israel’s understandable response was to erect the fence in order to defend its population.

The effects of the partial construction of the fence have been stunning and conclusive. Whereas there had been an average number of 26 terrorist attacks per year, the number of attacks has dropped to three per year. Meanwhile, the death toll has fallen by over 70% (from 103 to 28), and the number of injured has dropped by more than 80% (from an annual average of 628 to 83). Terrorist penetration into Israel from the northern West Bank, where the initial portion of the fence was completed, has dropped from 600 per year to zero — as Israel was able to foil every suicide bombing originating from the northern West Bank and specifically from the cities of Nablus and Jenin, areas that had previously been infamous for exporting suicide bombers.

At the same time, it is important to recognize that the route of the fence is discriminatory. Large parts of the fence pass outside the Green Line. 16.6% of the West Bank land is expected to serve as a buffer between Israel and the fence. These are the most fertile lands of the Bank. Upon the fence’s completion, 160,000 Palestinians are likely to be locked in buffer zones. Forty-seven gates are supposed to enable the movement of farmers to their lands. However, these gates are opened at the discretion of Israeli guards; Palestinian freedom of movement is extremely limited.

The fence should have been built along the 1967 Green Line, with some accommodations necessary to include large cluster settlements in the Jerusalem area and Ariel, with compensation for the Palestinians in other areas. The idea of using the fence to create geographic-political facts through the de facto creation of a “greater” Israel and a “lesser” Palestine is unwise and unjust. The fence should be moved, and it will be. The questions revolve only around time, money, and blood involved. In the Bible, there is one word for both money and blood: “Damim.” Israeli politics eloquently and forcefully explains why.

Integrating the Israeli -Arabs into Society
After the Holocaust, the goal was to found a safe haven for Jews from all over the world so as to avoid the possibility of another horrific experience of that nature. Indeed, the United Nations acknowledged the need to establish a Jewish state. Yet, by its nature a Jewish state discriminates against Israeli Arabs. To assure an equal status for the Arab minority, which constitutes some 19% of the Israeli population, the Declaration of Independence holds that Israel will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; that it will be based on the foundations of liberty, justice, and peace; that it will uphold complete equality of social and political rights to all of its citizens irrespective of religion, race, or sex; and that it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience; language, education, and culture.

There is a lot to do in order to realize these ends. Israel needs to strive for equality in housing, in municipal budgets, in allocation of resources; fight against racism, bigotry, and discrimination; introduce changes to accommodate the interests of Israeli-Arabs so that they would “feel at home” in their own country. Delegates of the Arab minority should be represented, in accordance with their size in society, in the Knesset and in the government. Studies of all religions that exist in Israel should be made available.

Separating the State and Religion
Democracy is supposed to allow each and every individual the opportunity to follow their conception of what is good without coercion. Israel today gives precedence to Judaism over liberalism. I submit that on issues such as this one, the reverse should be the case. Israel, being the only Jewish state in the world, should strive to retain its Jewish character. The symbols should remain Jewish, with some accommodations, in order to make the state a home for its Palestinian citizens as well. Shabbat should remain the official day of rest. Palestinian villages and towns may make Friday their day of rest. Hopefully, one day, Friday and Shabbat will become the two official days of rest. However, the preservation of the Jewish character of the state should not entail coercion of the predominant secular circles of Israel. We need to differentiate between the symbolic and the modus operandi aspects. Regarding the latter, there must be a separation between state and religion. People are born free and wish to continue their lives as free citizens in their homeland. Coercion is alien to our natural sentiments and desires to lead our lives freely. Hence, while Shabbat should be observed, malls and shopping places outside the cities should be available for the many people who work during the week and do their shopping during weekends. Public transportation should be made available for all people. Kosher shops and restaurants should be available, as should non-Kosher shops and restaurants for the secular, agnostic population. Most importantly, the significant events in one’s life — birth, wedding, divorce, and death — should be handled in accordance with the people’s own choices. If they so desire, people may involve the rabbinate and other religious institutions in their private lives. If people wish to have secular ceremonies, then they should have the ability to conduct them and not be forced to undergo practices that mean very little, if anything, to them. The state should have as little say as possible in intimate, family affairs.

Israelis yearn for tranquility — for normalcy. In the short term, at least, this will surely be difficult. Nonetheless, the surest path to ensuring that the country survives and thrives as a democracy is for Israeli leaders to maintain a zero tolerance posture toward all forms of terror while seeking to build trust and good will with Israel’s neighbors, and between Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews. It will further require them to ensure that liberalism prevails over Judaism.

US-Israel Relationships

Israel and the USA have warm relationships since 1973. We need to recall that things were very different. Richard Holbrooke published an article in the Washington Post on May 7, 2008, telling the story of the relationship in 1948, when there was an epic struggle in Washington over how to respond to Israel's declaration of independence on May 14, 1948. I cite almost the entire article in full. This story should be remembered by all who care about Israel, especially by those who go to the polls in a few months to decide who will be in the Oval office for the next four years. Those who care about Israel should elect a president whose commitment to and friendship with Israel is undisputed.

1948 witnessed “the most serious disagreement President Harry Truman ever had with his revered secretary of state, George C. Marshall -- and with most of the foreign policy establishment. Twenty years ago, when I was helping Clark Clifford write his memoirs, I reviewed the historical record and interviewed all the living participants in that drama. The battle lines drawn then resonate still.
The British planned to leave Palestine at midnight on May 14. At that moment, the Jewish Agency, led by David Ben-Gurion, would proclaim the new (and still unnamed) Jewish state. The neighboring Arab states warned that fighting, which had already begun, would erupt into full-scale war at that moment.

The Jewish Agency proposed partitioning Palestine into two parts -- one Jewish, one Arab. But the State and Defense departments backed the British plan to turn Palestine over to the United Nations. In March, Truman privately promised Chaim Weizmann, the future president of Israel, that he would support partition -- only to learn the next day that the American ambassador to the United Nations had voted for U.N. trusteeship. Enraged, Truman wrote a private note on his calendar: "The State Dept. pulled the rug from under me today. The first I know about it is what I read in the newspapers! Isn't that hell? I'm now in the position of a liar and double-crosser. I've never felt so low in my life. . . ."

Truman blamed "third and fourth level" State Department officials -- especially the director of U.N. affairs, Dean Rusk, and the agency's counselor, Charles Bohlen. But opposition really came from an even more formidable group: the "wise men" who were simultaneously creating the great Truman foreign policy of the late 1940s -- among them Marshall, James V. Forrestal, George F. Kennan, Robert Lovett, John J. McCloy, Paul Nitze and Dean Acheson. To overrule State would mean Truman taking on Marshall, whom he regarded as "the greatest living American," a daunting task for a very unpopular president.

Beneath the surface lay unspoken but real anti-Semitism on the part of some (but not all) policymakers. The position of those opposing recognition was simple -- oil, numbers and history. "There are thirty million Arabs on one side and about 600,000 Jews on the other," Defense Secretary Forrestal told Clifford. "Why don't you face up to the realities?"

On May 12, Truman held a meeting in the Oval Office to decide the issue. Marshall and his universally respected deputy, Robert Lovett, made the case for delaying recognition -- and "delay" really meant "deny." Truman asked his young aide, Clark Clifford, to present the case for immediate recognition. When Clifford finished, Marshall, uncharacteristically, exploded. "I don't even know why Clifford is here. He is a domestic adviser, and this is a foreign policy matter. The only reason Clifford is here is that he is pressing a political consideration."

Marshall then uttered what Clifford would later call "the most remarkable threat I ever heard anyone make directly to a President." In an unusual top-secret memorandum Marshall wrote for the historical files after the meeting, the great general recorded his own words: "I said bluntly that if the President were to follow Mr. Clifford's advice and if in the elections I were to vote, I would vote against the President."

After this stunning moment, the meeting adjourned in disarray. In the next two days, Clifford looked for ways to get Marshall to accept recognition. Lovett, although still opposed to recognition, finally talked a reluctant Marshall into remaining silent if Truman acted. With only a few hours left until midnight in Tel Aviv, Clifford told the Jewish Agency to request immediate recognition of the new state, which still lacked a name. Truman announced recognition at 6:11 p.m. on May 14 -- 11 minutes after Ben-Gurion's declaration of independence in Tel Aviv. So rapidly was this done that in the official announcement, the typed words "Jewish State" are crossed out, replaced in Clifford's handwriting with "State of Israel." Thus the United States became the first nation to recognize Israel, as Truman and Clifford wanted. The secret of the Oval Office confrontation held for years, and a crisis in both domestic politics and foreign policy was narrowly averted.

Clifford insisted to me and others in countless discussions over the next 40 years that politics was not at the root of his position -- moral conviction was. Noting sharp divisions within the American Jewish community -- the substantial anti-Zionist faction among leading Jews included the publishers of both The Post and the New York Times -- Clifford had told Truman in his famous 1947 blueprint for Truman's presidential campaign that "a continued commitment to liberal political and economic policies" was the key to Jewish support.

But to this day, many think that Marshall and Lovett were right on the merits and that domestic politics was the real reason for Truman's decision. Israel, they argue, has been nothing but trouble for the United States.”

During my time in Washington I am often puzzled how short people's memory is, thinking that the US was always Israel’s best friend. They are absolutely certain that the friendship between Israel and the US will last forever. I hope they are all right. After all, they know their country, the US, far better than I do.

PM under Police Interrogation, Yet Again

On May 1, 2008 the Israeli media announced that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will be questioned yet again about dubious financial affairs that raise heavy suspicions for corruption.

The New York Post brought more to light on May 6, reporting that millionaire financier Morris Talansky - a CEO of the Global Resources Group, a self-described financial-investment firm and a philanthropist and political contributor to everyone from Rudy Giuliani to Bill Clinton - allegedly passed money to Olmert while the politician was mayor of Jerusalem in the '90s. In a highly unusual move, Israeli authorities have barred the country's media from publishing Talansky's name - revealed now in The Post - saying it could hamper their investigation. Israeli media has referred only to the involvement of an "American businessman." It was unclear what the alleged payments to Olmert were for, but sources said they involved hefty amounts of cash.

Ynet (May 1, 2008) reminded readers that Olmert is facing three different investigations related to the time he served as the minister of trade, labour, and commerce. One investigation, over political appointments at the Israel Small and Medium Enterprises Authority, was launched after the state comptroller cited suspicions that criminal activity was involved in the appointments. The report slammed Olmert as well as the ministry's director general at the time, Raanan Dinur. Another investigation against the prime minister is related to the sale of controlling interest in Bank Leumi. In this affair, Olmert is suspected of violating the law in order to assist two of his friends, who were competing in the tender for acquiring the bank. Olmert is also facing an investigation over suspicions that he was given a large discount when he purchased one of his apartments in exchange for using his clout to speed up the housing venture.

On May 6, 2008 Haaretz published a report on Olmert’s financial dealings. See (Hebrew)

Hamas’ Interpretation of the Holocaust

Around the same time the absolute delusional optimist Jimmy Carter was meeting with Hamas, the following video aired on Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV. According to the Hamas interpretation, David Ben-Gurion was the architect of the Holocaust, which was exaggerated and used as Zionist propaganda. I have heard many a twisted and far-fetched story, but this one sets a standard of its own. You need to see this to believe it, and to appreciate the impossible situation Israel is facing when dealing with the Palestinians. Hope becomes a rare and scarce commodity when you hear and see such impossible fabrications.

Comment on Radio Interview

Dr. Yoav Tenenbaum, who I know since my primary school days (this is more than twenty years ago…) commented on my radio interview about the occupation and Israeli society. I wrote:

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.

Yoav wrote:

Dear Rafi,
I am not sure I would agree with your comments about Israelis being in denial of what has been going on in the territories of the West Bank and Gaza; certainly not since the so called first intifada erupted.

I think the concept of occupation ought to be assessed in a more nuanced manner. Many Israelis believe that Oslo, Camp David II and the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, as well as the oft-repeated terror attacks and statements issued by Palestinian leaders, have demonstrated that the Palestinians have no interest in ending the occupation as such.

The so called second intifada has demonstrated that terror attacks are not necessarily the result of occupation but rather its cause. Even Saeb Erakat has repeatedly said that Israel has "re-occupied" the West Bank. That means that there was a period in which Israel was not occupying the West Bank. The reality was, of course, complex. Israel re-occupied the West Bank cities following the terror attacks that culminated in the Passover Massacre of mostly elderly Jews in Netanya.

Israelis are not in denial. They are simply afraid.
In contrast to examples of colonial occupation, the enemy, in this case, is seen as having unlimited goals, that can hardly be reconciled.

The French knew that withdrawing from Algeria would end the conflict with the FLN. The British knew that withdrawing from Kenya would end the conflict with the Mau Mau. Israelis are hardly sure that withdrawing from the West Bank would end the conflict with the Palestinians.

Occupation does not seem to be the principal problem, but rather the belief among many, if not most Palestinians, that Israel should not exist a Jewish state. Thus, the constant, indeed sincere, demand by the Palestinians that Israel accept "the right of return," which is a euphemism for eliminating Israel by peaceful means. That is, at least, how most Israelis, in my view, see the situation. It's not denial, but rather a cautious attitude borne out of experience.

Best wishes.
Mo'adim le Simha.

New Prospects in Lebanon

On May 7, 2008 Ahmad El Assaad, Founder and Chairman, the Lebanese Option Gathering (LOG), talked at the Woodrow Wilson Center. He spoke briefly, less than 15 minutes (this is a first here at the Wilson Center, at least among all the meetings I attended, that a person is granted 30-40 minutes and opts for brevity), and then answered questions for 40 minutes. Again, he was very laconical and economical. I presume in his part of the world one speaks briefly in the hope that he will live longer.

Assaad, chairman of the LOG and leader of the Lebanese Kafa’at Party, a new Shiite party that cooperates with the 14 March movement, argued that the only road in Lebanon is through a strong coalition of independent Shia who can articulate an alternative to Hezbollah, offering a non-violent vision (refreshing view in this part of the world). Assaad explained how this new path to freedom and democracy will be achieved and the role the United States and other countries need to play to achieve stability in Lebanon and the region.

Assaad argued that Lebanese democratization must be achieved by a strong and independent coalition of Shiites who can articulate viable alternatives to Hezbollah’s divisive policies and violent tactics. He explained that Hezbollah enjoys the massive popular support in Lebanon because of its vast resources. He estimated that Iran transfers each and every month 60-70 million dollars to the Hezbollah to enable sustaining its infrastructure and operations.

Assaad likened the situation in the greater Middle East to a “cold-war” between moderate Arabs, who favor pluralism and welcome different interpretations of the Quran, and “so-called Islamic movements” like Hezbollah and the present regime in Iran who distort the message of Islam for political purposes. Assaad pointed out that the foundation of Shiite Islam was the concept of “Ijtihad,” and the necessity of entertaining and respecting different concepts of Islam at the same time. Hezbollah and Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini distort this vision of “Ijthad” by monopolizing the interpretation of Islam, and branding all potential dissenters as traitors. While Iran and the Hezbollah wish to bring us back to the Middle Ages, his new party offers a new Islamic modern vision suitable for the 21st Century. Assaad said that the Shiite did not have any problems with the West until Khomeini came to power in Iran in 1979. Assaad said he represents “the true Shiite”.

If Hezbollah can be weakened, democracy will spread; if not, then democracy will stagnate and retract. Assaad views the LOG as a crucial political outlet for the Shi’as who are dissatisfied with Hezbollah. While Hezbollah gains popularity by funneling Iranian patronage into social networks of schools and healthcare systems, it does not have the funds to provide benefits to all of the Shi’a population. Assaad said, Hezbollah has monopolized the political discourse, squandered economic opportunities, instigated war with Israel, and ultimately put the interests of Iran over the interests of Lebanon itself. Thus, Assaad predicts that Hezbollah’s power can be significantly weakened by the emergence of an alternative Shiite party. After all, many people are angry at the Hezbollah after the 2006 that was very destructive for the Lebanese economy.

The main goal of the LOG, presently led by a small group of committed people who sponsor the activities themselves, was to achieve a proportional system of representation within the Shi’a bloc in the Lebanese government. While leaving most of the provisions of Lebanon’s “confessional” system of representation in tact, Assaad’s proposed multiple Shiite parties. Under this system, LOG could obtain as much as 30% of the Shiite vote, thereby breaking Hezbollah’s monopoly on Shiite politics. Assaad argues that this vision can only be realized with strong support from the international community. He explained that LOG needs financial support to build social networks which can compete with Hezbollah, and support from the US and EU in order to pressure Hezbollah to refrain from violent activities and weaken its hold on power. Such action, although difficult, will not only put Lebanon back on the track towards democracy, but have a ripple effect on Iran and other fundamentalist regimes in the region, he said. He concluded that by breaking Hezbollah’s hold on Lebanon, they can demonstrate the strength of democracy, expose the dishonesty of fundamentalism, and ultimately begin the long journey to victory.

I asked him about the stand of his party vis-a-vis Israel. His answer was that they want peace with Israel. Lebanon needs to move fast forward into the 21st Century and for this peace with Israel should be secured.

Assaad was also asked about the fate of the 300,000-400,000 Palestinians in Lebanon. He answered that no one wishes to grant them Lebanese citizenship. The Palestinians present a problem that needs to be solved by a unified effort of all Arab nations. Lebanon is unable to address this problem on its own.

Clifford Christians

I was invited to participate in a conference honouring the retirement of Cliff Christians, a leading figure in the field of media ethics. The conference was organized by two of Cliff’s students, Robert Fortner and Mark Fackler, who assembled a group of scholars from all over the world, all benefited and enriched by Cliff’s scholarship. These were five days of meetings, of love, of respect and of appreciation to this humble leader, an exceptional experience that I will cherish and remember for many years to come. It was the first time for me to participate in such a gathering, in honour of a person and in his presence. Cliff’s family and friends were their too, adding to the festivities. There were many moving special moments, and there was much to learn from leading experts. I wish many people from all walks of life will follow this example, set by Bob and Mark, to celebrate the life and achievements of fellow scholars.

IDP Camps in Uganda

In the conference, Bob Fortner discussed the tragedy of the displaced refugees in Uganda. For the past twenty years, millions of people reside in those tragic camps without any prospects to leave the camps and settle in decent housing. The war in northern Uganda is hardly discussed in the west, and is Africa's longest running war. For decades the Acholi people of northern Uganda have not known peace but have seen the security, economy and moral integrity of their homelands erode year after year. At the end of 2003, Jan Egeland, the United Nations undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, told the BBC: "I cannot find any other part of the world that is having an emergency on the scale of Uganda that is getting so little international attention."

The war began largely as one of a series of uprisings against President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni's National Resistance Movement (NRM) and followed in a long series of attempts to seize power by force in Uganda. Since the late 1980's the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), professing a spiritual war against the Ugandan government, seem to have lost any real political aspirations and has preyed upon civilians.

The LRA's principal means of recruiting its forces has been the abduction of children; about 90% of the recruits are children. The LRA is composed of about 3,000 abducted children controlled by a core group of 150-200 officers led by Joseph Kony, about whom little is known with certainty, although he apparently guides the LRA with a kind of apocalyptic mysticism grounded in the Bible. Under Kony's command, LRA forces have been responsible for tens of thousands of rapes, assaults and killings of unarmed civilians. An estimated 25,000 to 30,000 children have been abducted over the years and forced to witness and commit atrocities during the conflict. Fortner spoke with residents of the camps who regard Kony as the manifestation of evil spirit in human.

More than 1.7 million northerners have been displaced by the war and live in harsh and often desperate conditions in camps for the internally displaced (IDP). Many of those living in camps were forcibly moved into these camps by the Ugandan army (Ugandan People's Defense Force, UPDF), on the grounds that the displacement was militarily necessary to combat the LRA and to help distinguish civilians from fighters. In certain districts, up to 95% of the population is internally displaced.

Camp conditions have led to acute malnutrition in children and the near-total destruction of social networks, culture and norms. More than 300,000 children under the age of five suffer from malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea and preventable diseases. 1,000 people are dying every week because of this war. Many women and girls are forced to trade sex for basic necessities, obviously contributing to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. In addition, the camps are far from secure, in spite of the odd UPDF soldier on guard and the presence of local militias organized for protection.

Freedom of the Press 2008 Survey Release

The Freedom House has published its 2008 survey of the legal, political, and economic environments in which journalists operate in 195 countries and territories.

This year’s report found that global press freedom underwent a clear decline in 2007 (a continuation of a six-year negative trend), with journalists struggling to work in increasingly hostile environments in almost every region in the world.

Out of 195 countries and territories, 72 (37 percent) were rated Free, 59 (30 percent) Partly Free, and 64 (33 percent) were Not Free, a decline from 2006. However, the study found that declines in individual countries and territories were often larger than in years past.

Key regional findings include:
· Central and Eastern Europe/ Former Soviet Union: This region showed the largest region-wide setback, with Russia, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan, and several Central European countries, among others, showing declines. Only 18 percent of the region’s citizens live in environments with Free media.
· Middle East and North Africa: More unrestricted access to new media such as satellite television and the internet boosted press freedom regionally. Egyptian journalists showed an increased willingness to cross press freedom 'red lines,' moving the country into the Partly Free category.
· Asia-Pacific: Restrictions on media coverage were imposed in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, and Vietnam’s government cracked down on dissident writers.
· Americas: Guyana's status shifted from Free to Partly Free, while Mexico's score deteriorated by a further three points because of increased violence against journalists and impunity surrounding attacks on media.
· Sub-Saharan Africa: The region accounted for three of the year's five status changes: Benin declined from Free to Partly Free, while the Central African Republic and Niger moved into the Not Free category. Political conflict and misuse of libel laws were key factors behind a number of country declines.
· Western Europe: The region continued to have the highest level of press freedom worldwide, despite declines in Portugal, Malta and Turkey, the only country in the region ranked Partly Free.
Individual country reports, charts, graphs, historical data, and overview essays are all available online. For full report, see

I thank Diego Abente of the International Forum for Democratic Studies in the National Endowment for Democracy for bringing the report to my attention.

EUROPIX Top Talent Awards

I am writing to you to thank you for your activities as EUROPIX Top Talent Awards associated partner.
Motivated by last year's success for the Awards and the Top Talent Festival which took place in the Austrian city of Graz for the first time last November, we relaunched the Awards in 2008 as the EUROPRIX Multimedia Awards.
Your efforts to communicate the EUROPIX Multimedia Awards to as many young producers and designers, and especially those who are leaving their professional transition and development.
Please inform your national networks and press of the opportunities nominees and winners of EUROPRIX can gain, post information on your websites and help to spread the word.
Young multimedia creators can travel the road to success by registering their projects until June 30, 2008 for the EUROPIX Multimeia Awards - and you might be glad to hear that we have already received some really interesting projects.
Please note: the deadline for entries is June 30, 2008!
If you need any further information, please contact the project manager Rainer Steindler (
EUROPRIX Multimedia Awards
www.europrix.orgICNM - International Center for New Media Moosstrasse 43a, 5020 Salzburg, AustriaTel: +43 662 630408-31
Fax: +43 662 630408-22
Thank you for your effort and dedication to European multimedia!
Prof. Peter A. Bruck


Journalist Arat Dink and imprisoned Burmese monk U Gambira are among the winners of Index on Censorship's 2008 Freedom of Expression Awards, which pay tribute to people around the world who have made outstanding contributions to free expression.

Dink was awarded Index's Guardian Journalism Award, which recognises determined and brave journalism that often represents a different point of view in the media.

As the editor of the Armenian paper "Agos", Dink has suffered immensely for the "crime" of speaking out in Turkey about the Armenian genocide. His father Hrant, who was editor of the paper before him, was gunned down for giving an interview about the genocide. Arat himself was given a one-year suspended sentence for daring to reprint his late father's words.

Index on Censorship commented, "The bravery of Arat Dink, and the rest of the staff of 'Agos' in the face of draconian laws restricting their freedom of expression, provides inspiration for journalists throughout the world. In honouring Arat, we also commemorate the work of his late father."

U Gambira is the pseudonym of a leader of the All-Burma Monks Alliance, which spearheaded the nationwide protests in September last year, won the Bindmans Law and Campaigning Award. He was allegedly charged with treason following the protests and is currently being held in Insein prison in Rangoon.

WikiLeaks, a resource for anonymous whistleblowers and investigative journalists, won the Economist New Media Award for facing down an attempt by an investment bank to close it down.

Francisco Goldman took home the TR Fyvel Book Award for "The Art of Political Murder: Who killed Bishop Gerardi?", an account of the search for the killers of Guatemalan bishop Juan Gerardi.

And the Index Film Award went to "Ahlaam" ("Dreams"), a story of three broken souls in Baghdad, Iraq in the aftermath of Saddam Hussein.

For more details, visit:

Source: IFEX Communiqué" published weekly by the International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX).

Poetry Reading

The Woodrow Wilson Center organized a panel of poetry reading, inviting Ambassador Bill Miller and yours truly to present their very own poetry. It was a special event in this academic, policy-making setting. I thank Mike Van Dusen, Kent Hughes and Maria-Stella Gatzoulis for organizing the event. Here is one of my poems:

Single / Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Immersed in troubling thought
Heavily climbing onto the crowded bus.
“Single?” asked the skinny driver
His voice finds way in between the squeezed sardines.

What single? How does he know I am single?
What? Who?
Why does he ask for my condition?
Why? He squealed.

Gave him an angry look
Then bluntly
“None of your business, mister
I have a wife and kids, you old fagot
If you care to know”.

The driver responds with a light smile
“Hard day, haa?
Do my lord wish one way to Hatishbi Street
Or return before night falls?”

Thank You

I thank Guy Billauer for the opportunity to present my political views about Israel. Sharing a panel with Shlomo Ben-Ami I discovered that while Shlomo and I share many views in common, he still speaks in terms of pursuit of peace, while I think that at the moment this is merely wishful thinking; we should confine ourselves to promoting security, and while I believe there is little sense to speak with the Hamas, Shlomo believes that this avenue should be explored. Unclear what about we should discuss with the Hamas, as this movement is very much committed to the destruction of Israel.

I presume the discussion will revolve about postponing their aims for some time, until a better moment arises for the plan to materialize.

Peace Index

The April 2008 “War and Peace Index” (formerly Peace Index) conducted by Eppie Yaar and Tamar Hermann shows that in the Israeli Jewish public as a whole, opinions are more or less evenly divided between those who see a possibility in the next five years that Israel will sign a peace agreement with at least one additional Arab state and those who see no such possibility (interestingly, the younger age groups are more pessimistic on this issue than the older ones, and also show less support for negotiating with the Palestinian Authority). But as for achieving a settlement with Syria and the Palestinians, the two most relevant regional actors, assessments of the chances are much lower: 66% of the entire Jewish public does not believe in the chances of an agreement with Syria and 70% think the same regarding the Palestinians. At present the Jewish public’s willingness to “pay” for a peace agreement is particularly low. Only 19% support an Israeli withdrawal from all of the Golan Heights for a full peace treaty with Syria while the overwhelming majority—75%— oppose it (6% did not know). As for the Palestinians, a majority—57%—favor holding negotiations with the PA but 34% are against (among these there is, as noted above, a higher representation of the younger age groups, and also of those with less education and of those defining themselves as religious or haredi). An even larger majority of 70% support the formula of “two states for two peoples” (25% oppose this solution; again, among the opponents there is a larger representation of the younger age group and of second-generation Israeli natives, and also of those defining themselves as religious or haredi).

What, in the view of the Jewish public, is the gravest security danger facing Israel
today? Thirty-eight percent put the Iranian nuclear threat in first place (fear of the Iranian threat is higher in the older age group, among the less religious groups—the traditional and the secular, and among men). For twenty percent the gravest danger is that the Israel Defense Forces will not be sufficiently prepared for war if one breaks out in the future (here the apprehension is in fact higher among the younger age groups, who are perhaps more affected by the events of the Second Lebanon War and do not carry memories of the victories in past wars). Seventeen percent are most worried that the Israeli Arabs will launch a violent rebellion against the state and only 12% see the gravest threat as an intensification of the Palestinians’ struggle against Israel (the rest—13%—did not know).

And how do the Israeli Arabs view the situation? It turns out that on many questions their position does not differ from that of the Israeli Jews. For example, in the Arab public, too, a majority—61%—expect Israel to find itself in a war in the next five years; but unlike the Jewish public, here a majority—62%—also think Israel will sign a peace agreement with at least one additional Arab state. As in the Jewish public, the rate of those who do not believe the contacts with the Palestinians will lead to a peace agreement—52%—is higher than the rate of those who see a chance they will bear the hoped-for fruit (45%). As for the ranking of the threats, the order is identical to what we found among the Jewish interviewees: for the Arab public the greatest fear is of the Iranian efforts to attain nuclear weapons, with an intensification of the Palestinian struggle against Israel coming last. The Arab public also sees the balance of Israel’s achievements similarly to the Jewish public, citing successes mainly in the military domain. The assessment of success in the economic sphere is lower, seemingly because the Arab public enjoys less of the fruits of the recent years’ economic growth. However, the harshest judgment is on promoting peace, with 62% of the Arab interviewees saying Israel has failed in this regard; 60% also give it a failing grade on imparting equality and a sense of belonging to its Arab citizens. Like the Jewish public, the Arab public’s view of the present national security situation tends to be pessimistic with the majority seeing it as worse than ten years ago. However, unlike the Jewish public’s optimism on the future national security situation, the Arab public expects it to be worse in the coming decade than it is today.

New Books

Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2008.

Contemporary Human Rights Ideas
Series: Global Institutions
Bertrand G. Ramcharan, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, Switzerland
This book provides an accessible introduction to the key human rights concepts, the current debates about human rights, strategies and institutions for taking forward the global implementation of human rights, and the core messages that need to be imparted to students and the public at large.
Hb: 978-0-415-77456-7: £65.00
Pb: 978-0-415-77457-4: £14.99

Abingdon : Routledge-Cavendish, 2007.


Yacoov Roi and Boris Morozov (Editors), The Soviet Union and the June 1967 Six-Day War (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 2008).

Gem of the Month – Independence Day Celebrations

I was happy to see the first page of the Washington Post showing Independence Day celebrations in Jerusalem. People all over the world are noting the occasion with jubilation and support that warm the hearts and fill all Israelis with pride.

May Israel celebrate its independence for many centuries to come.

Light Notes

· The doctor gave a man six months to live. The man couldn't pay his bill, so the doctor gave him another six months.

· The Doctor called Mrs. Cohen saying, "Mrs. Cohen, your check came back." Mrs. Cohen answered, "So did my arthritis!"

· Patient: "I have a ringing in my ears." Doctor: "Don't answer!"

· A drunk was in front of a judge. The judge says, "You've been brought here for drinking." The drunk says "Okay, let's get started."

With my very best wishes,
Yours as ever,


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