Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Politics - June 2008

The young fighter against corruption turns out to be a champion in the field, and he does not know it (so he claims). - Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Another interesting month in Israel. Never a dull moment. This month we learned another lesson in the relationship between governance and finance.

In philosophy, when we discuss egalitarianism and Marxism, one of the questions raised is whether the state should cater to expensive tastes that people may cultivate; for if it is each according to her needs, and we would like to cater to all, what do we do with people who develop a particular craving for Champagne and caviar? From now on, thanks to our dear (as expensive) prime minister, philosophy classes may be enriched. In addition to the much quoted example, we now can speak about luxury vacations, expensive pens and Cuban cigars. Our prime minister may also serve as an example for public policy and ethics classes on public responsibility and corruption.

This month we heard testimonials of Morris Talansky, an affluent American, who grew to like, respect and admire Olmert, the “Likud Prince”. As tokens of appreciation, he wanted to donate to Olmert’s election campaigns. Olmert was happy to receive but asked that the money be delivered, in cash, in sealed envelopes, to his trusted assistants. Later he no longer waited for Talansky to approach him. He initiated specific requests, and the money always transferred hands, in cash, left to his discretion as to how to use it. On occasion, when he stayed in luxurious hotels, he would call Talansky, crying in despair that his credit card reached its limit. The kind Talansky picked up the tab. Recently I visited the Ritz-Carleton in Washington, where Olmert stayed and could not pay the bill. A nice hotel. I can appreciate the difficulty.

And so it went for a mere fifteen years. The exact sum is yet unclear. Anything between $150,000 and $500,000 transferred hands in cash. Olmert believes he had done nothing wrong. He has cravings and needs, which he cannot afford. The State of Israel is too socialist to cater to luxury vacations, expensive pens and Cuban cigars. Talansky can.

Cynical Israelis wonder how come no Uncle Sam (or Morris) gives them envelopes full of American dollars. Why him? Why not them? We have an exceptional prime minister. He reminds me of the story of the golden calf in the Sinai desert.

What did Olmert give Talansky in return? Well, he gave him some of his precious time. He also wrote a very nice card for Talansky’s 70th birthday. Olmert also had tried to aid a Talansky business venture by introducing him to several Israeli and American billionaires, including Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.

On November 17, 2005, Olmert connected Talansky with hotel moguls Itzhak Tshuva and Adelson in the hope that they would buy Talansky’s minibars. Six days later, Olmert received from Talansky a loan of $50,000 that was never repaid.

Talansky, 75, said there were no records of how the money he transferred was spent. "I only know that he loved expensive cigars. I know he loved pens, watches. I found it strange," Talansky told the court, then shrugged.
Olmert had asked Talansky for donations for his 1993 Jerusalem mayoral campaign and throughout his tenure as industry and trade minister. He said the cash-filled envelopes were transferred through Olmert's former bureau chief, Shula Zaken, each one containing between $3,000 and $8,000, and that the transfers were "legitimate." The unpaid loans, Talansky told Jerusalem District Court, included a $25,000-$30,000 loan used for a 2004 family vacation in bella Italia. Olmert never paid him back. Talansky said the last payment he made to Olmert was for some $72,500 for the Likud primary campaign in 2003. He said there had been no contact since Olmert became prime minister, except for a single meeting at a social function.
State Prosecutor Moshe Lador said that Olmert is suspected of money laundering, fraud, breach of trust, tax violations and violations of the Gifts Law. Olmert is also suspected of not reporting his receipts of cash while he was minister of industry and trade, as required by law. Lador was careful not to say that Olmert was suspected of receiving bribes.

Israel at 60 - AIPAC Annual Conference - Incitement - Syria - Human Rights Violations: Israel and PA - Max Kampelman - Dan David Prize - Hate in the USA - John Ivan Demjanjuk - UCL Dismissed a Research Fellow for Holocaust Denial - UK Endorses Hybrid Embryo Research - TURKISH PUBLISHER WINS IPA'S FREEDOM TO PUBLISH PRIZE - New Books - Thank You - Music - Avi Nimni - Hull Football Club - Film recommendation - Gem of the Month: AIPAC Annual Conference

Israel at 60

On June 1, 2008 the Washington National Mall was filled with tents, decorated with Israeli flags, in tribute to Israel sixtieth year of independence. Thousands of people came to listen to music (Mashina), to watch folk dancing, to learn about Israel’s history and achievements, to play games, eat and show their solidarity. In the heart of the American capital, between the Washington Monument and Capitol Hill, this was a moving and festive experience. One of its kind, as I do not know of any other country that celebrated its independence in such fashion.

AIPAC Annual Conference

The most sought after, quoted, visible, in the public eye and attention nowadays in the United States are John McCain, Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton. Within three days I had the opportunity to hear all three of them, this thanks to AIPAC. On June 2-4 AIPAC held its annual conference with an impressive gathering of 7,500 people from all over the US.

The keynote speaker of the first day was John McCain who showed understanding of the intricate issues and challenges that Israel is facing, and genuine sympathy and concern for the future of Israel, giving his unqualified pledge to support Israel. AIPAC has been focusing its attention for some time now on the Iranian issue. Unsurprisingly, this was the focus of all plenary speeches, McCain’s included. McCain criticized Obama for saying in a debate last year that he would meet leaders of Iran and other U.S. foes without preconditions. McCain argued Obama is naive and inexperienced to think that such a meeting would yield progress. He criticized Obama for seeming to suggest that Iran is trying to develop a nuclear program because the U.S. refuses to engage in presidential-level talks. McCain said the Clinton administration in particular tried to engage Iran for two years, even lifting some sanctions, to no avail. In his speech, McCain called for measures aimed at increasing pressure on Iran, such as severely limiting Iranian imports of gasoline, targeted sanctions such as denying visas and freezing assets and a worldwide campaign to divest from companies doing business with Iran. McCain called for financial sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran, which he said aids in terrorism and weapons proliferation, and he criticized Obama for opposing a measure to impose those sanctions.

Dennis Ross made a similar proposal, suggesting that the sanctions until now did not harm the Iranian economy, thus Iran’s citizens do not really feel the international pressure.
Showing sympathy with the citizens of Sderot, McCain said that no sovereign country should tolerate such attacks on civilians, and that Israel is justified to take military actions in order to stop the Kassams from terrorizing the lives of Israeli civilians.

The following day, June 3, 2008 Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the Honorable Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Republican Leader of the US Senate, gave keynote addresses. Both expressed their steadfast support of Israel. Both voiced alarm regarding Iran’s nuclear initiatives. Both called to increase the economic sanctions on Iran, first and foremost on Iranian banks. Rice reiterated that there is not much point in talking to the Hamas, as there is nothing to speak about, as long as it remains loyal to terrorism, to the destruction of Israel, and does not accept any compromise in Palestine.

Conference participants were told to show respect to all speakers as they represent their respective institutions. Ehud Olmert was the keynote speaker of the evening banquet held on June 3. He was well received.

Olmert would love to have such a crowd every day, anywhere. He emphasized the acute danger of Iranian nuclear power, saying that Israel will not tolerate an Iranian bomb. Olmert maintained that peace with Syria is a clear Israeli interest. He spoke of “historical negotiations” with the Palestinians and highlighted the suffering of the people of Sderot.

On that same day Obama won the Democratic presidential primaries. The following morning Obama and Clinton were scheduled to speak at AIPAC. As you can imagine, the audience was eager to hear the newly elected candidate for the presidency. Obama spoke of a two state solution. He reiterated that there will be no negotiations with Hamas as long as it resorts to terror, does not recognize Israel, and does not respect previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Obama reminded us that he opposed the inclusion of Hamas in the 2006 elections because of Hamas involvement in terrorism. He urged Arab countries to forge relationships with Israel. Obama emphasized time and again, in various phrases and strong words that Israel’s security is “sacrosanct.”

Obama said that as president he will be happy to help Israel in its negotiations with Syria. He then moved to address the focal issue of the conference: Iran, describing its nuclear plans as dangerous and grave to world security. Obama declared that the Bush policies vis-à-vis Iran, and Iraq, had failed. They did not bring calm and peace to the Middle East; quite the opposite. Thus he intends to engage in strong diplomacy with Iran, and redeploy the American troops in Iraq in phases, bringing home the American soldiers. Obama spoke of pressuring Iran to withdraw from its nuclear plans, doing “everything” to put a stop to those plans. He emphasized the word “everything”, and later in his address explained the meaning: When he becomes president, the United States will lead the world in the struggle against nuclear Iran, engage in tough diplomacy with the Iranians, target Iranian banks and assets, hurt the Iranian economy. After exhausting all diplomatic efforts, the military option is on the table.

Obama spoke on furthering the cooperation between the United States and Israel, signing and energy pact with Israel, further scientific cooperation between the two countries, accentuating America's unshakable commitment to Israel.
Whatever you may think of Obama, there is no denying his charisma. This past month I heard him twice. There is no sign of tiredness, although his schedule is insane, flying in a frenzy across the country. He is a brilliant speaker and inspiring leader. And he is sharp as a razor. Two issues, however, are troubling: the discrepancy between his stand on Hamas, and his stand on Iran; and his plans for Iraq.

As for the first, Obama objects to any negotiations with Hamas as long as this “terrorist organization” continues to engage in terror. He depicted the Iranian regime as “terrorist”, still spoke of negotiating the Iranian leaders. Is it because it is a state, whereas Hamas rules only in Gaza? Unclear why Hamas is out, and Iran is in. One would assume that the stand is principled: never engage with terrorism. It's unclear why Iran is an exception.
As for the second, it is unrealistic to leave Iraq at this stage, as the militia forces are stronger, better trained and better equipped than the Iraqi army. Were the US to leave now, even in phases, anarchy will dominate Iraq, which would quickly become a haven for al-Qaeda and Iranian-backed militias. This will not advance American interests, nor will it contribute to Middle East security. Surely, Obama knows that, but his statements on this issue are generally vague, sweeping, and not very thoughtful.


On this blog as well as in other forms I reiterated the importance of “clearing the air” of incitement and hate. It is impossible to build trust, let alone peace, when you educate your children to hate.

On May 28, 2008 Haaretz reported that within the framework of the current negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) on a final-status agreement, the sides are examining the possibility of reviewing the textbooks used in the schools, with a view to removing from them content that incites to violence or to a lack of tolerance on national or religious grounds.The talks between Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni and her counterpart, Ahmed Qureia (Abu Alla), deal mainly with the core issues of the conflict Jerusalem, the refugees, the borders and the security arrangements. Nevertheless, a number of joint teams have been set up to deal with civilian subjects such as economics and law. One of the committees established deals with "the culture of peace," its work focusing mainly on issues of incitement. The committee is headed by the deputy to the legal adviser of the foreign ministry, Daniel Taub, and the former minister and senior Fatah official, Sufian Abu Zaida. Taub and Abu Zaida reported that they had reached understandings about the need to deal with incitement in the school books, and pointed out that they are examining various mechanisms whose duty it will be to carry this out.
One proposal under discussion is that experts from each side will examine the school books of the other side independently, and will prepare a list of comments and requests for changing content. Another proposal is to set up a joint team of experts that will define together what the criteria are for examining the text books, and will carry out a parallel examination with a mixed team.
The two also reported that they have started discussing the motives for incitement in the media, with emphasis on the electronic media. The aim is to focus on content that incites to violence, content that harms the right to self determination of the other side or content that encourages a lack of recognition of the other side's right to exist.


I was asked what I think about the peace talks with Syria. Let’s see what we have:

- An Israeli prime minister who is constantly under investigation for taking bribes. Clouds of suspicion around him are so thick that they become fog.
- Continuous mess in Lebanon. A major player who has a vested interest in the mess, and diverting attention from it is Syria.
- The Bush administration conceives Syria, quite rightly, as part of the axis of terror, and therefore attempts to isolate Syria.
- An Israeli public that, generally speaking, is content with the status quo in the north of the country and would not trust the Syrians to the extent of evacuating the Golan.
- War in the south, where rockets hit deeper targets inside Israel, and Israel carries out targeted killings in Gaza.

All this is very abnormal. It suggests that two players, Olmert and Assad, have a vested interested in pursuing a façade of peace talks. Time will tell whether something concrete will arise from it. All of you who are skeptics reading the promising news about “peace” with our northern neighbor have valid and good reasons.

Yossi Klein Halevi, in a recent article published by the Los Angeles Times (May 28, 2008) explained why by an overwhelming majority, Israelis oppose ceding the Golan to Syria, even in exchange for a promise of peace from Damascus. One reason is that few here believe that the regime of Bashar Assad will honor an agreement. No Arab state has consistently shown greater hostility to Israel than Syria. The Palestinian terrorist movement Hamas is headquartered in Damascus; Syria is Iran's leading Arab ally. Without a Syrian attempt to convince the Israeli public of its benign intentions, domestic opposition will stymie any attempt by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to cede the Golan to Assad. And the prospects for a convincing Syrian overture are almost nonexistent.
Israelis are hardly in a rush to part with one of the most beloved areas of their country. For Israelis, the Golan Heights, with its empty hills and vineyards, is more Provence than Gaza. Unlike the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza, the Golan poses no moral or demographic dilemmas. Here there is no occupation of another people; barely 20,000 Druze, and an equal number of Jews, share the nearly 700-square-mile area.
Under Syrian control before the 1967 war, the Golan was Israel's most volatile border. Many here still recall the years when Syrian soldiers on the Golan routinely shot at Israeli civilians in the Galilee below. After 1967, though, the Golan became Israel's most placid border. Israelis sense that, for the sake of quiet if not formal peace, it is far better to have their soldiers overlooking Syria than for Syrian soldiers to be once again looking down on the Galilee.
Israeli advocates of a Golan withdrawal argue that Syria may be enticed to sever its ties with Iran as part of a peace agreement. Neutralizing a potential Syrian front in a future Middle East war -- with Iran, say -- would be a major gain for Israel, which is why much of the Israeli strategic community supports negotiations. Syria, though, continues to affirm the primacy of its alliance with Iran. And, during a recent visit to Tehran, Syrian Defense Minister Hassan Turkmany reinforced that message by signing a security agreement with Iran.

Human Rights Violations: Israel and PA

On May 28, 2008 Amnesty International's released its annual report "The State of the World's Human Rights".
The report documented human rights abuses in 150 countries and territories around the world during 2007. Israel and the Palestinian Authority received their share of criticism. The PA section of the 380-page report highlighted the interfactional violence between Fatah and Hamas forces, accusing both factions of "grave human rights violations including arbitrary detention and torture."
However, it said the deteriorating economic conditions for Palestinians were exacerbated by Israel's "further tightening of their blockade on the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT)." Frequent IDF attacks on Palestinian civil infrastructure is cited as another cause of the deterioration.
Israel continued to expand illegal Israeli settlements and stepped up construction of a 700-km fence/wall, 80 per cent of which runs inside the occupied West Bank, including in and around East Jerusalem. Large areas of Palestinian land were seized and utilized for this purpose. The fence/wall and more than 500 Israeli army checkpoints and blockades throughout the West Bank increasingly confined Palestinians to restricted areas and denied them freedom of movement between towns and villages within the Occupied Territories. Many Palestinians were cut off from their farmland, their main source of livelihood, or could not freely access their workplaces, education, health facilities and other services.

Israeli settlers in the West Bank repeatedly attacked Palestinians and their property, as well as international peace activists and human rights defenders who sought to document their attacks on Palestinians. Some of the attacks occurred during the olive harvest season, in October and November, when Palestinian farmers attempted to go to their fields close to Israeli settlements and which Israeli settlers sought to prevent them accessing.

According to the report, more than 330 Palestinians - half of them civilians and including young children - were killed in Israeli attacks, mostly in the Gaza Strip, in the first four months of 2008.

Kassam rockets were described as "homemade" in the report. It said the rocket attacks had killed two Israeli civilians and wounded several others. It also mentioned that indiscriminate attacks on Israeli civilians, in which 13 Israelis were killed, had resulted in the "lowest annual fatality figure since the outbreak of the intifada in 2000."

The latest Amnesty report also blamed Israel for the deaths of 40 Gaza residents, who it said died as a result of Israel refusing to allow medical supplies into Gaza or to let patients in urgent need of medical attention leave.

Following last year's Annapolis peace summit, Israel has not lifted movement restrictions in the territories, the report continued. "Despite US-led efforts to achieve a resolution of the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict following talks at Annapolis in 2007, the Israeli authorities continued to build the 700-km. wall/fence, to expand illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, to demolish Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley and elsewhere, and more than 500 military roadblocks continued to restrict or impede the movement of Palestinians between towns and villages throughout the West Bank," it claimed.

The Jerusalem Post reported on May 28 that in response to the condemnation of checkpoints, the army said it had been conducting regular security assessments on crossings and checkpoints, and that an extensive plan to ease restrictions had been implemented by the IDF and the Civil Administration.

Both Israel and the PA were accused of unlawful detentions and unfair trials. "Thousands of Palestinians, including scores of children, were detained by Israeli forces in the OPT. Among those detained were dozens of former ministers in the Hamas-led PA government and Hamas parliamentarians and mayors who were seemingly held to exert pressure on Hamas to release [kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl.] Gilad Schalit," the report said.

After Hamas seized Gaza, the report added, some 1,500 people were detained. Most were released after 48 hours but were required to sign pledges promising to not participate in protests or other forms of opposition. Both Israel and the Palestinians were also accused of using torture. Many of those detained by Palestinian authorities alleged they had been tortured by being beaten, tied in painful positions and threatened. Some were told they would be shot in the legs.

Max Kampelman

On May 22, 2008 the National Endowment for Democracy awarded Max Kampelman the Democracy Service Medal in a special ceremony at the State Department.

Max Kampelman described himself as a Jew, family man, pacifist, lawyer, public servant, and bipartisan diplomat who served several presidents, Democrat and Republican. He was a Cold War-era arms control negotiator who has supported the work of several neoconservative-led advocacy groups that have been instrumental in pushing militarist U.S. policies as part of the “war on terror.” Such groups include the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Highly regarded for his past work in trying to forge arms control agreements (despite his support for several hard line anticommunist groups in the 1970s and 1980s), he participated in a study that promoted the idea of new U.S. nuclear weapons. At present he devotes his time to convince leaders of the world to pursue global nuclear disarmament. He said: It can be done, and it can be done safely.

Kampelman’s career spanned the Cold War, during which time he shifted between his private law practice at the firm Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson (now Fried Frank), and various government jobs, including serving as a legislative aide for several years to Sen. Hubert Humphrey (D-MN) and in various diplomatic posts under presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Kampelman is best known for his work as Reagan’s chief arms control negotiator, serving from 1985 to 1989 as head of U.S. negotiating teams that worked with the Soviet Union on nuclear and space weapons issues. He also served as ambassador to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe from 1980 to 1983 and as counselor to the State Department from 1987 to 1989.

Kampelman also supported the work of some advocacy groups that emerged in the 1970s to push for hardline, anti-Soviet policies and that served as building blocks for the then-burgeoning neoconservative political faction. Among these were Social Democrats USA, a group that splintered from the Socialist Party USA in 1972 ; the Coalition for a Democratic Majority (CDM), which was created in the early 1970s by disgruntled Democrats who were angered by the emergence of antiwar elements in the party, and the Committee on the Present Danger (CPD), a group that helped push for an end to détente with the Soviet Union and many of whose members joined the Reagan administration.

When the Cold War ended, Kampelman’s advocacy work continued. He collaborated with PNAC, the influential neoconservative letterhead group, and signed its 2002 letter to President George W. Bush criticizing Chinese rule in Hong Kong. In 2001, he collaborated with the hardline National Institute for Public Policy (NIPP) in producing an influential policy document aimed at promoting aggressive new nuclear weapons policies, including the creation of less powerful, “usable” bombs. According to a 2002 World Policy Institute report, “In general, the NIPP report calls future security threats to the U.S. unknown and unpredictable. Therefore, the report concludes that the U.S. must maintain its nuclear arsenal, and the ability to design, build and test new nuclear weapons. The report asserts that conventional weapons are inadequate replacements for nuclear weapons because they do not have the same ‘destructive power.’ As a solution the report recommends the development of ‘low-yield, precision-guided nuclear weapons.’ In other words, a nuclear weapon the U.S. can actually use.”

Kampelman also supports the work of a number of other organizations known for their militarist “war on terror” agendas and support of policies in line with Israel’s Likud Party, which is largely supportive of the settler movement and has opposed peace efforts aimed at creating a Palestinian state. He is a “Distinguished Advisor” to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a member of the Board of Advisors of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, and a member of a new version of the Committee on the Present Danger created after the 9/11 attacks to promote a hardline agenda for the “war on terror.” Kampelman is also chairman emeritus of the Board of Trustees of Freedom House, a U.S.-government-funded group that has been criticized for being an instrument of propaganda.

Despite his support of hard line policies, Kampelman has become a proponent of not just nuclear disarmament, but of total global nuclear elimination. In an April 2006 New York Times op-ed, Kampelman wrote that despite having witnessed “two successful titanic struggles by civilized society against totalitarian movements, those against Nazi fascism and Soviet communism,” he has “never been more worried about the future for my children and grandchildren. … The number of countries possessing nuclear arms is increasing, and terrorists are poised to master nuclear technology with the objective of using those deadly arms against us.” To confront this challenge, he argued that President George W. Bush must take the lead promoting disarmament. He wrote, “To this end, President Bush should consult with our allies, appear before the United Nations General Assembly and call for a resolution embracing the objective of eliminating all weapons of mass destruction. He should make clear that we are prepared to eliminate our nuclear weapons if the Security Council develops an effective regime to guarantee total conformity with a universal commitment to eliminate all nuclear arms and reaffirm the existing conventions covering chemical and biological weapons.” Shortly after penning this op-ed, Kampelman helped lead a Hoover Institution forum on nuclear disarmament. Other participants included an elite group of former policy makers: Henry Kissinger, William Perry, Sam Nunn, and George Shultz. At the October 2007 conference, Kampelman repeated many of the same points he mentioned his New York Times op-ed. According to a Hoover Institution press release, “The theme of former U.S. ambassador Max Kampelman’s remarks was the importance of moving from ought to is. He compared the goals of the Reykjavik II conference to those of the U. S. Constitution. Kampelman said that the principles of the Constitution may have seemed idealistic when they were introduced, but the founders had a vision that what ought to be would eventually become reality. Kampelman believes that pursuing zero tolerance of nuclear weapons is a goal the U.S. government should energetically pursue to prepare for the future. ‘What ought calls for is to get rid of nuclear weapons,’ he declared.”

President Bill Clinton awarded Kampelman the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1999, and President Ronald Reagan awarded him the Presidential Citizens Medal in 1989. And now he received the Democracy Service Medal.

Among the speakers in the ceremony, all were full of praise of Kampelman’s service to the US, were: Under Secretary, Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky (who received the Democracy Service Medal in 2002), Chairperson of NED Vin Weber, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, Librarian of Congress James Billington (formerly Director of the Wilson Center), Senator Joseph Lieberman and NED President Carl Gershman. George W. Bush sent a letter of congratulation. I thank Carl for inviting me to attend this ceremony.

Kampelman's books include Entering New Worlds: The Memoirs of a Private Man in Public Life (1991), and The Communist Party vs. The C.I.O: A Study in Power Politics (1957).

Dan David Prize

The Dan David Prize is the most distinguished private prize in Israel. Its laureates receive one million dollar in prize money. It is divided into three: past, present and future. Sometimes there is more than one winner in each category who then split the prize money between them.

This year, in the “Past” category, the 2008 Dan David Prize honors Amos Oz in the field of Creative Rendering of the Past: Literature, Theater, Film for portraying historical events while emphasizing the individual, and for exploring the tragic conflict between two nations from a very human point of view. Amos Oz, one of the most widely read Israeli writers in the world, has published numerous novels, novellas, short stories, essays, and occasionally even poetry. His writing spans five decades, and has earned him many outstanding Israeli and international prizes.
Several of his works deal with the pre-state period in Israel, when Palestine was governed by the British mandate. They represent the atmosphere and mood of that uncertain era as a backdrop for his psychological insights and his thoughtful in-depth characterizations, for which he is most well known. This is most evident in "The Hill of Evil Counsel" (1976) and "Panther in the Basement" (1995), and is somewhat the case in "My Michael" (1968). In his 1971 novella "Unto Death", Oz uses medieval Europe and Jerusalem as a background for a fictional crusader narrative, again, based on a psychological drama, fraught with struggles for revelation and redemption.
His noteworthy achievement in rendering the past in an artistic fashion is represented in his part fiction / part autobiographical 2002 novel, "A Tale of Love and Darkness". In this massive volume, Oz narrates the saga of his own family, reaching deeply into mythological, magical, historical, and real past, as remembered or handed down the family line by word of mouth or material remnants - and bringing it to its closure with his own maturation and becoming an artist. The brilliance of the novel is in the composition of this grand narrative, in which the personal represents - and becomes - the collective, and in which historical documentation may serve as notes to family affairs. Thus a sense of genealogy is created, with its domestic ruptures and psychological eruptions, in parallel to the unfolding of national history (from ).

In the “Present” section, the 2008 Dan David Prize honors Al Gore in the field of Social Responsibility with Particular Emphasis on the Environment for his multiple contributions in raising the conscience of the world to the challenge posed to the continuing sustainable function of the global environment and life support system. Al Gore is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide awareness of the detrimental effects that man's energy consumption has had on the environment, and the imperative for individuals and governments to take drastic action to avert climatic disaster.
Gore has been a tireless advocate for the environment throughout his career; as United States Senator, as Vice President of the United States and more recently as a private citizen. He has eloquently sounded the alarm on the importance of the threat to the global ecosystem posed by the world's current and increasing reliance on carbon dioxide emitting fossil fuels as its primary energy source. His book, "Earth in the Balance", first published in 1992, translated since into many languages, remains a classic, not only a call to action but also an important educational resource. The Oscar winning movie he produced more recently and in which he starred, "An Inconvenient Truth", has carried the message to an even larger audience.
His interest in climate change dates back to his time as an undergraduate at Harvard University when he took a course from the late Roger Revelle. Revelle first introduced him to the now famous Keeling curve, the steadily rising record of atmospheric CO2. This experience sparked a lifelong interest in environmental science.
Although Gore had little formal education in science, he has devoted his life to learning and understanding the complex science that underlies the function of the global life support system, and specifically the climate system. He is dedicated to communicating the nature of this science to the general public (from

Gore said 10 percent of the prize would go to young researchers and the rest to the Alliance for Climate Protection. For further information about the Dan David Prize and its winners, see

Hate in the USA

The end of 2007 brought to a close another year marked by staggering levels of racist hate in America. Even as several major hate groups struggled to survive, other new groups appeared, and the radical right as a whole appeared to grow. The latest annual count by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) found that the number of hate groups operating in America rose to 888 last year, up 5% from 844 groups in 2006. That capped an increase of 48% since 2000 — a hike from 602 groups attributable to the exploitation by hate groups of the continuing debate about immigration. And it comes on top of some 300 other anti-immigration groups, about half listed by SPLC as “nativist extremist,” formed in the last three years.

At the same time, FBI statistics suggested that there was a 35% rise in hate crimes against Latinos between 2003 and 2006. Experts believe that such crimes are typically carried out by people who think they are attacking immigrants.

John Ivan Demjanjuk

During the mid-1980s, when I served as the Chairperson of The Second Generation to Holocaust Remembrance Organization, I invested some efforts in bringing Ivan Demjanjuk to justice in Israel. I met with the relevant people in the Israeli and American Ministry of Justice who were convinced that Ivan Demjanjuk was the notorious "Ivan the Terrible" from the Treblinka death camp. Ivan took special joy and pleasure in murdering Jews, far beyond the call of duty.

My organization served as a lobby group pushing to bring Demjanjuk to justice. When he was finally extradited from the US to Israel and stood trial, some doubt emerged that this man was not Ivan the Terrible, but Ivan the less terrible. It was argued that he probably served as a guard in Nazi death camps, but he was not the man we sought. This was a major blow in the efforts to bring further Nazi criminals to justice. I certainly did not wish to involve myself in further efforts, and it is safe to say that the State of Israel will not go out of its way at this point to put on trial other known or suspected Nazi criminals.

On Monday, May 19, 2008 John Demjanjuk lost a US Supreme Court appeal that sought to overturn an order by the nation's chief immigration judge that he be deported to his native Ukraine. Without comment, the high court refused to hear an appeal by the 88-year old retired Ohio auto worker that argued the immigration judge lacked the authority to order his deportation. The rejection of the appeal marked the latest development in a legal battle between Demjanjuk and the US Justice Department that began in 1977. Demjanjuk was stripped of his US Citizenship again in 2002, when a federal judge ruled he had been a guard at three other Nazi death camps in Poland and Germany. Demjanjuk immigrated to the United States in 1952 and became a naturalized citizen in 1958 (from YNET,2506,L-3545325,00.html ).

UCL Dismissed a Research Fellow for Holocaust Denial

On April 22, 2008 University College London published the following statement about Dr Nicholas Kollerstrom:

UCL has been made aware of views expressed by Dr Nicholas Kollerstrom, an Honorary Research Fellow in UCL Science & Technology Studies.
The position of Honorary Research Fellow is a privilege bestowed by departments within UCL on researchers with whom it wishes to have an association. It is not an employed position.
The views expressed by Dr Kollerstrom are diametrically opposed to the aims, objectives and ethos of UCL, such that we wish to have absolutely no association with them or with their originator.
We therefore have no choice but to terminate Dr Kollerstrom’s Honorary Research Fellowship with immediate effect. Source:

UK Endorses Hybrid Embryo Research

On May 19, 2008 British lawmakers voted to allow the use of animal-human embryos for research after a national debate that pitted religious leaders who called it unethical against the prime minister and scientists who said it would help cure disease. The Washington Post reported on May 20 that last month, scientists at Newcastle created part-human, part-animal embryos for the first time in Britain. An attempt to ban the process, during consideration in the House of Commons of the first major revisions to embryo research laws in a generation, failed overwhelmingly on a vote of 336 to 176.

The overall bill, argued Prime Minister Brown, would enable lifesaving research that could help people with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other diseases. He said, "I believe that we owe it to ourselves and future generations to introduce these measures."

The bill would allow scientists to continue injecting human DNA into cows' eggs that have had virtually all their genetic material removed, as well as other hybrid embryo processes for stem cell research. Scientists say the embryos would not be allowed to develop for more than 14 days.

The same day, lawmakers also voted to support the government's plans to allow "savior siblings." This authorizes the screening of embryos for genetic characteristics in cases in which a parent is seeking a child in order to help a diseased older child in need of tissue donation.

The idea of blending human and animal DNA to make "chimeric" embryos for research has long been contentious in the United States, where such experiments are legal if conducted without public funding.

In April 2005, the National Academies -- chartered by Congress to advise the nation on matters of science -- released a report affirming that scientists should be allowed to create such entities if the experiments are approved by special review boards. The advisers came down against the creation of human-monkey or human-ape embryos, as well as experiments in which a human-like brain might develop in a non-human animal.

Legislation introduced in the Senate and House would ban the creation of animal-human hybrid embryos even with private monies -- a move that has raised concerns from scientists and patient support groups in part because it would criminalize an entire branch of biomedical research.

Source: Mary Jordan, “Hybrid Embryo Research Endorsed”, Washington Post (May 20, 2008), p. A7.


A Turkish publisher who refused to abandon his campaign for freedom of thought - despite being given a three-year jail sentence - is this year's winner of the International Publishers' Association (IPA) Freedom to Publish Prize.

Since starting his publishing house Belge with his wife Ayse Nur in 1977, Ragip Zarakolu has been constantly at the receiving end of the wrath of the Turkish authorities. The charges they brought against him and Nur resulted in jail time for the couple, confiscation and destruction of books, and the imposition of heavy fines, endangering the survival of Belge. But Zarakolu refused to give up his campaign for free expression, saying he fought "for an attitude of respect for different thoughts and cultures to become widespread in Turkey."
The Freedom to Publish Prize honours a person or an organisation that has made an important contribution to the defence and promotion of freedom to publish anywhere in the world. This year, the prize, worth 5,000 Swiss Francs (US$4,800), will be presented to Zarakolu at the International Seminar on Neo-Censorship in Amsterdam, the Netherlands in September.

From The "IFEX Communiqué". For more details, see

New Books

IFLA/FAIFE World Report Series 2007 - now available online
Volume 7 of the IFLA/FAIFE World Report Series - Access to libraries and information: Towards a fairer world - provides a world perspective on several issues regarding freedom of expression and freedom of access to information.
The IFLA/FAIFE World Report Series is unique. It is the only source that provides an overview of how libraries around the world are tackling barriers to freedom of access to information and freedom of expression. Its systematic data collection process expands upon previous reports and enables comparison over time. The 2007 edition contains 116 country reports, based on questionnaires and additional research carried out by the Department of Information Science at the University of Pretoria, which provide current details on library statistics; Internet access in libraries and the digital divide; filtering and blocking of online information; user privacy and anti-terror legislation; violations of intellectual freedom; access to HIV/AIDS information; women and freedom of access to information; library codes of ethics, the IFLA Internet Manifesto and the Glasgow Declaration.

The 2007 World Report shows that the digital divide is still a serious reality that needs to be tackled by library communities worldwide in the years to come. Significant inequalities in Internet access exist across the international library community which are often exacerbated by the increasing use of filtering software to protect children and safeguard public morality and religious values. The 2007 World Report shows that in many of IFLA’s member countries, intellectual freedom is still very much under pressure, leaving library users unable to fully express their rights to freedom of access to information.

In addition to the global survey, the report contains the following articles:
Archie L. Dick, From censorship to freedom of access to information and freedom of expression in South Africa
Irina Trushina, Corruption and transparency in Russia: the anticorruption role of libraries
Barbara M. Jones, The USA patriot act: an example of the impact of national security legislation on libraries
Kamel Labidi, Censorship in Arab countries
Jane Duncan, On libraries and intellectual self-defense
Ethel Kriger, The interrelated roles of archival and right of access to information legislation to promote democratic government in South Africa
The IFLA/FAIFE World Report 2007 is an extensive 480-page document that updates previous World Reports from 2001, 2003 and 2005. Taken together with summary reports in 2002, 2004 and 2006, it is the seventh volume in the IFLA/FAIFE World Report Series.

Volume 7 of the IFLA/FAIFE World Report Series, Access to libraries and information: Towards a fairer world, is now available in PDF format for free on the IFLA website at:
ISBN: 978-0-620-41005-2

Handbook of Communication in the Public Sphere
Ed. by Wodak, Ruth / Koller, Veronika

ISBN 978-3-11-018832-5 Reihe: Handbooks of Applied Linguistics [HAL] / Communication Competence. Language and Communication Problems. Practical Solutions 4
This volume addresses the acute dilemma of the public sphere, which is by definition open to everyone but in practice often excludes particular groups of people in particular societies at particular points in time. Thus, the theoretical and conceptual issues of participation and democratisation are at the core of this volume. The guiding questions for this collection of articles are therefore: Who has access to the public sphere? How is this access enabled or disabled? Under what conditions is it granted or withheld, and by whom?

Due to the salient changes of the notions of time and space, communication and language(s) nowadays cover many more domains and use different channels: Communication has become ubiquitous, fast and global. These changes have enormous impact on both institutional, public and every day lives.

We regard the public sphere as the nodal point for the discourses of business, politics and media, and this basic assumption is also s reflected in the structure of the volume. Each of these three macro-topics comprises chapters by international renowned scholars from a variety of disciplines and research traditions who each combine up-to-date overviews of the relevant literature with their own cutting-edge research into aspects of different public spheres such as corporate promotional communication, political rhetoric or genre features of electronic mass media.

The broad scope of the volume is also reflected in a comprehensive discussion of communication technologies ranging from conventional spoken and written genres such as company brochures, political speeches and TV shows to emerging ones like customer chat forums, political blogs and text messaging.

Due to the books' wide scope, its interdisciplinary approach and its clear structure, it addresses researchers, scholars and post-graduate students in communication and media studies, linguistics, political science, sociology or marketing.

Peter and Richard Leitner, in association with Crossbow Books, are pleased to announce the publication of the first book in their five volume series entitled:
Unheeded Warnings: The Lost Reports of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare Volume 1: Islamic Terrorism and the West

This book series contains some 18 years of warning and analysis published within the U.S. Congress by an organization known as the Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare. During its remarkably long life, the Task Force issued hundreds of reports comprising thousands of pages of warnings and analyses of the growing specter of the Islamist movement, its increasingly violent nature, and its selection of the Western world as its ultimate target. The depth and breadth of the Task Force's analytical efforts were unparalleled, as were its productive capacity and broad product distribution efforts. The Task Force's astonishing knowledge of the gathering storm that finally broke over New York City and Washington on that fateful September morning is represented in these pages.

Dario, Milo, Freedom of Speech and Defamation (Oxford: OUP, 2008).

Thank You

I thank Peter Leitner for inviting me to the Maxwell inaugural conference; Marvin Feuer and Rafi Danziger for their kind invitation to participate in the AIPAC conference, and Daniel Solove for inviting me to participate in the GW-Berkeley Privacy Conference.


Watch this Hava Nagila. It warms the heart.

Avi Nimni

On May 17, 2008 the greatest player in the history of Maccabi Tel Aviv officially retired from football.

Avi Nimni was born on April 26, 1972. He grew up in the Maccabi youth club. At 17 he played his first game in the national league and a year later he became a regular starter for Maccabi. He played for Maccabi most of his career, and became the most identified player with the club.

Although he was a midfielder, Nimni is Maccabi's all-time top goal scorer, having scored 174 goals. He has scored 194 goals overall in the league, and upon his retirement he is ranked number three all time top goal scorer in Israeli football after Alon Mizrahi with 207 goals and Oded Machnes with 196 goals. Both strikers, Mizrachi and Machnes, played at some point of their careers for Maccabi. This is all impressive considering Nimni was a midfielder.

Nimni had a magnificent understanding of the game, a clinical touch, body maneuvers that could trick anybody, nerves of steel, determination, commitment, leadership and charisma in tons. He was first and foremost a leader and a sportsman. As a fan of Maccabi I used to read the sports columns before the games in order to check whether Nimni is not injured and is scheduled to play. Like most Maccabi fans, I always knew I could count on him. For years, Maccabi was an inferior team without him. Nimni became an icon, the most beloved players among Maccabi’s fans. Nimni personifies Maccabi on and off field. He tried to answer every request from the fans, appearing in their private celebrations and functions, showing sympathy in their sorrows, paying respect when this was requested as he knows how important it is for the fans to see him with them. This caring human touch made him the most influential person in Maccabi, possibly the most influential player in the history of Israeli football.
Nimni was the captain of Maccabi for many years. He had 80 appearances in the national team, many times as the captain, and scored 17 goals for Israel.

Here is a summary of his sports achievements which is only the tip of the iceberg as his achievements go far beyond this list.
1991/1992 - League Champion
1992/1993 - Toto Cup Winner and Championship Runner Up
1993/1994 - Israeli Cup
1994/1995 - League Champion
1995/1996 - League and Israeli Cup Double
1998/1999 - Toto Cup Winner and Championship Runner Up
2000/2001 - Israeli Cup and Top Goal scorer (25)
2001/2002 - Israeli Cup
2002/2003 - League Champion
To see some of Nimni’s brilliant goals, go to

Hull Football Club

On Saturday, May 24, 2008 the small club from Hull made history. Hull City won promotion to the Premier League for the first time in its history of 104 years. Hull beat Bristol City 1-0 in the Championship playoff final at Wembley Stadium.

The hero of the day was the 39 year-old Hull-born Dean Windass who struck a truly magnificent volley from the edge of the penalty area late in the first half to give Phil Brown’s side a narrow yet sufficient win and a promotion to the Premier League which will be worth millions of dollars to the Tigers in desperate need for a boost and which will give Hull football fans, old and new, opportunity to watch quality football at home. This is certainly a welcome addition to the city of Hull, known in sports mostly because of its rugby team.

Film of the Month

The Color of Freedom (2007) - Based on the controversial memoirs of James Gregory, the white South African who guarded Nelson Mandela during more than 20 years of imprisonment under apartheid, this remarkable drama stars the wonderful Joseph Fiennes and the charismatic Dennis Haysbert who mimics Mandela’s pronunciation. As Mandela seeks freedom for himself and his people, Gregory (Fiennes) gradually begins to renounce his militant racism, thanks to his unlikely but powerful relationship with the political prisoner.


Gem of the Month – AIPAC Annual Conference

Thousand of people. Leaders of their respective communities. Public activists. Thoughtful. Caring. All with one shared drive: helping Israel, bolstering its security, acting on its behalf. The air was filled with love for the country and its people. What a heart-warming feeling. What a wonderful occasion of solidarity, of support for the small State of Israel. AIPAC is a great organization. It is good to know we have such an impressive lobby on our side. I am full of appreciation and respect for those who organized this great gathering, for the leaders who came to speak, and to listen. This conference was a celebration of love, of power, demonstrating the unbreakable ties between the United States and Israel.

With my very best wishes,

Yours as ever,

My last communications are available on
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