Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Politics - August 2008

Drugs in sports – the true race, one may argue, is between the fast-absorbing drugs without leaving a trace, and the next blood test. - Raphael Cohen-Almagor

My life is full with new beginnings and fresh challenges. This month I have been traveling with my family: from Washington to Beverley, from Beverley to Israel, and then back to Beverley. Life is hectic and full, busy as one can be.

This is the month of the Olympics, and I devoted every spare moment watching the remarkable achievements of the best sportspersons in the world. It’s the best show on the planet. For two weeks every four years, the eyes of the world are concentrated on sports, as if nothing else exists. Wouldn’t it be nice to have such celebrative occasions more frequently, at the expense of war, terror and other violent events?

This is, hopefully, the last month of Prime Minister Olmert in office.

Jerusalem of Blood and Tears - Nicholas Burns on Iran - Bodies: The Exhibition - Concerned Citizens against Climate Change Appeal - Rockville Community - New Books - Gems of the Month (1) (2) and (3) - Israeli Theatre - Film of the Month: No End in Sight - Very Light Side: Jewish Classifieds

Jerusalem of Blood and Tears

Terrorism has fashions, and it is contagious. A short time after the first tractor attack, Jerusalem knew another one of this vicious kind. Close to 2:00 p.m. on July 22, an East Jerusalem resident took a construction vehicle from a site near the Yemin Moshe quarter in Jerusalem and began racing along the street, ramming into cars. A civilian who saw what he was doing shot the terrorist, but he continued, hitting cars and a bus at the corner of Keren Hayesod and King David streets. After he had driven about 250 meters (275 yards) a border policeman shot and killed him. Twenty-eight people were injured, one of them seriously.

The terrorist was Ghassan Abu Tir, 22, from Umm Tuba in southeast Jerusalem. No Palestinian terrorist organization claimed responsibility. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri praised the attack, saying it was “the natural result of the occupation's crimes” and of Israel 's refusal to stop its activities against the Palestinians, especially in the West Bank (Palestine-info website, July 22). Palestinian Authority chairman Abu Mazen , who at the time of the attack was holding a conversation with Israeli president Shimon Peres, condemned it, saying that he condemned every attack against civilians. He said that the attack tarnished the good name of the Palestinians and damaged the efforts for peace. He also wished the injured a speedy recovery (Wafa News Agency, July 22).

In addition, on July 12, 2008 a terrorist went to the Lions Gate, near the Muslim cemetery, and opened fire. Two policemen were wounded, one critically who died of his wounds of his wounds 12 days later (July 23). The terrorist escaped.

A conspicuous feature of the attacks is that they were apparently carried out on the personal initiative of East Jerusalem residents, two of whom had criminal records and all of whom had nationalist motives to attack Jews. The “established” terrorist organizations were not behind the attacks and the announcements of the group calling itself the “Brigades of the Liberators of the Galilee ” are baseless.

According to data from Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics (June 1, 2008), there are 290,000 Palestinians living in greater Jerusalem who hold ordinary Israeli identity cards (“blue cards”). Palestinian holders of such cards can move freely throughout Jerusalem and all Israel and can even leave the country without difficulty. They also entitle their holders to the national insurance and medical benefits given by the State of Israel to its citizens.

During 2008 there has been a significant rise in the number of East Jerusalem residents involved in terrorist activities. One indication is the number of East Jerusalem residents arrested for involvement in terrorism: during the first half of 2008 (as of June 30) 71 Palestinians residing in East Jerusalem were arrested for terrorist involvement, as opposed to 37 in all of 2007.

The involvement of East Jerusalem residents in terrorist attacks is especially conspicuous in view of the relatively small number of such attacks from Judea and Samaria and the quiet in the western Negev as a result of the lull arrangement. One of the main reasons for their involvement is the easy accessibility they have to the western part of the city, and in Israel in general, enabling them to carry attack with relative ease (exploited during the height of the confrontation to escort terrorist squads to their targets). However, the terrorist organizations operating in Judea and Samaria have to cope with various difficulties, including the Israeli security forces' effective counterterrorism activities, the security fence (even though it has not been completed) and to a lesser degree, the activities of the PA's security forces, especially against Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Source: Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Israel.

Nicholas Burns on Iran

One of my last meetings at the Woodrow Wilson Center was with Nicholas Burns, who until recently was undersecretary of state for foreign affairs. Inter alia we spoke about the challenges ahead the free world: Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, North Korea, Syria, Hamas, Hezbollah and first and foremost Iran. Burns spoke of the need for tougher sanctions against Iran to foil its nuclear aspirations. Soon after our private conversation Burns addressed a special policy forum at The Washington Institute. The following is a rapporteur's summary of his remarks.

The Middle East is becoming the world's most important region, and is increasingly the focus of U.S. foreign policy. Current issues include fighting the war in Iraq, resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and preventing Hezbollah and Syria from undermining democracy in Lebanon. In addition, the United States is concerned with the oil trade and its improving relations with moderate Arab states such as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Over time, however, Iran has become the regional focus.
Iran is the most difficult and complex challenge in the Middle East today. It is a primary supporter of regional terrorist groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad, and it also funds the Shiite militant groups fighting U.S. forces in Iraq. Evidence also suggests that it has connections to the Taliban. U.S. policy should be geared toward preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear capability, preferably through negotiations and by working with the UN Security Council.
The United States ought to pursue three initiatives to deal with Iran: tougher sanctions, more diplomacy, and developing a bilateral relationship. Although the United States and Europe have been maintaining strict sanctions on Iran, the trade void is being filled by other nations, particularly Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates. In order for sanctions to be successful, these nations need to participate fully, especially since financial sanctions are necessary for diplomacy to work.
Now is the time for diplomacy, not war. Based on the evaluations of Mohamed ElBaradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency, we have reason to believe there is still time for diplomacy. Diplomacy requires the parties to be tough-minded and creative. U.S. representation at the recent Geneva meeting was a positive step, and Condoleezza Rice should be lauded for breaking with twenty-eight years of American conventional wisdom when she advised negotiating with Iran. That diplomatic opening is still there, and it would be folly to give it up now. All options must be kept on the table in order to force Tehran to respond to international objections. At this point, however, war with Iran is neither inevitable nor desirable.
A significant difficulty with Iran is that the relationship between Washington and Tehran, unlike Pyongyang and Havana, has been completely nonexistent. The United States has not had any permanent media correspondents, businessmen, or diplomats in the country since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. As a result, the two countries know nothing about each other. Another difficulty is the history of grievances between the two, such as the Mossadeq coup and the Iranian hostage crisis. In order to develop relations, however, both need to stop focusing on this legacy of bitterness and look forward to the future.
The situation may change when Iran holds presidential elections in 2009, because the country is not a political monolith. Although Ayatollah Ali Khamenei exercises a great deal of control, there are still relative differences between him, Ahmadinezhad, Ali Larijani (speaker of the Iranian parliament), and other influential Iranians, such as former presidents Ali Akbar Rafsanjani and Muhammad Khatami.
Iranians have been equivocating, even though reasonable proposals have been on the table for two years. The United States backed Russia's proposal that Iran be provided with nuclear power plants and fuel, thereby invalidating the claim that the world wants to deny Iran atomic energy. The Iranians need to answer the questions being asked about its nuclear program by the international community. At the present, the ball is in Iran's court.
This rapporteur's summary was prepared by Lauren Cohen of The Washington Institute.

Mr. Burns is about to start a new phase in his life after a long and impressive service at the State Department, reaching the highest echelon a non-political appointee could reach in the US foreign office. Burns’ new career at the Harvard Kennedy School promises to be stimulating and possibly as exciting. I wish him the best of luck and success.

Bodies – The Exhibition

Since 2005, Bodies – The Exhibition is housed in NY. The exhibition is said to educate the lay person of the mysteries of the human body, showing hundreds of bodies, some dissected in minute details.

What are the exact origins of these human bodies? How did they die? Did those people give voluntary consent to be exhibited in any shape or form after death?

Some answers are available at

But this is not the whole picture.

After some research, I found the following:

Department of Law120 BroadwayNew York, NY 10271212-416-8060 For Immediate Release:New York City Press Office / 212-416-8060 Albany Press Office /
Department of LawThe State CapitolAlbany, NY 12224518-473-5525 May 29, 2008

Premier Exhibitions Cannot Disprove Allegations that Bodies on Display Came from Chinese Prisoners~Settlement Makes All Visitors to the New York City Bodies Exhibition Eligible for Ticket Refunds

NEW YORK, NY (May 29, 2008) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that he has reached a settlement with Premier Exhibitions (“Premier”) (NYSE: PRXI), the developer of the “Bodies” exhibitions, that brings an end to Premier’s practice of using bodies of undocumented origins in their exhibitions. As a result of the settlement, Premier must now obtain documentation demonstrating the cause of death and origins of the cadavers and body parts it displays as well as proof that the decedent consented to the use of his or her remains in such a manner. In addition, all prior visitors to the New York City Bodies exhibit are eligible for a refund of the price of their ticket.

Premier operates the popular “Bodies” exhibitions which display human bodies and body parts. Bodies exhibitions are open at locations around the world, including New York City’s South Street Seaport. Currently, all of the bodies on display were citizens or residents of China. Advocacy groups and media reports have alleged that some of the bodies on exhibit were Chinese prisoners who were executed. Although Premier previously maintained that the allegations were without basis, an investigation by Attorney General Cuomo showed that the company was unable to demonstrate the cause of death or the origin of the decedents.

“The grim reality is that Premier Exhibitions has profited from displaying the remains of individuals who may have been tortured and executed in China,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Despite repeated denials, we now know that Premier itself cannot demonstrate the circumstances that led to the death of the individuals. Nor is Premier able to establish that these people consented to their remains being used in this manner. Respect for the dead and respect for the public requires that Premier do more than simply assure us that there is no reason for concern. This settlement is a start.”

Under the Attorney General’s settlement:
Going forward, before displaying a body as part of any New York exhibit, Premier must obtain written documentation demonstrating the source of each body and body part, the cause of death, and the decedent’s consent to the use of his or her body.
Premier will provide full ticket refunds to all customers who can establish that they attended the New York exhibition and who represent that they would not have done so if they had known of the questionable origins of the bodies and parts on display. Premier will place $50,000 in escrow for this purpose.
Premier will retain an independent monitor, at its own expense and for a term of 2 years, who will ensure that the terms of the settlement are followed. The monitor will also oversee the refund process.
In the event that Premier continues to display human remains in New York that were obtained before the Attorney General’s settlement, Premier will clearly disclose on its website, in the entrances of any New York exhibitions, and in its advertising that it is not able to confirm that the bodies and parts being displayed were not, or did not belong to, Chinese prisoners who may have been victims of torture and execution.

Kirk Donahoe, Assistant Director of the Laogai Research Foundation, said, “We applaud Attorney General Cuomo’s resolution of this matter. This investigation has shed light on how certain U.S. exhibitions profited from the execution of Chinese prisoners. Because of this settlement, it is now less likely that Premier and its competitors will obtain specimens from China for display not just in New York, but anywhere in the United States. We call upon other law enforcement authorities to take similar action in other states and to help to bring these abuses to an end.” The Laogai Research Foundation is a non-profit organization that gathers information on China’s extensive system of forced labor camps and documents systemic human rights violations in China.

The bodies and parts currently on display in New York are licensed to Premier by the Dalian Hoffen Bio Technique Company Limited (“DHBTC”). DHBTC acquired the bodies indirectly from the Chinese Bureau of Police, which deemed them unclaimed at death. The bodies were put through a process called “plastination,” in which a cadaver is stripped of its skin, dissected to show a part of the internal anatomy and infused with plastic that is then hardened. Premier has already acknowledged that the bodies on display in the New York exhibit were unclaimed at death and that there was no documentation of the decedents’ consent to the display of their remains in this manner.

The Bodies exhibit is currently at New York City’s South Street Seaport. That exhibition contains 20 full body cadavers and over 200 human parts, organs, fetuses, and embryos in various stages of development. Premier cooperated with the Office of the Attorney General throughout this inquiry.

This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Karen Geduldig, under the supervision of Special Deputy Chief of Staff Mitra Hormozi.

Concerned Citizens against Climate Change Appeal

I was asked to post the following important message:
Concerned Citizens against Climate Change was formed at the beginning of 2008 by faculty members in Environmental Studies, European Studies and History at the University of Amsterdam in The Netherlands. We are circulating an urgent appeal for the rapid and effective conclusion of international negotiations to halt the accelerating degradation of the global climate: "Global warming threatens the future of the earth. Act now, before it is too late." The appeal is attached and can also be read on our website,
There are many reasons for urgent action on warming. While the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change painted a bleak picture of the future unless greenhouse gas emissions were quickly curbed, in fact the data used by the IPCC were a year old and the situation has turned out to be considerably worse than the climate scientists predicted. On the basis of the IPCC report, both the UN, at the ineffective UN Bali Conference of December 2007 and the EU, in its recently announced program for reducing C02 emissions, have aimed at limiting greenhouse gasses to 450ppm and temperature increases to 2.C, but both UN and EU assumed - also using IPCC data - that emissions reductions only needed to begin in 2015.
The November 2007 report of the International Energy Agency, however, stipulated not 2015 but 2012 as the deadline for a peaking of emissions if we are to avoid exceeding 450ppm and 2 degrees. Moreover, in April of this year James Hansen, one of the main sources of the 450ppm, two degrees centigrade warming limitation, published the results of new research showing that the last time the 450ppm, 2.C limit was reached, the ice from both poles melted and sea levels rose dangerously. He now urges a goal of stabilization at 350ppm GHG, about 10% lower than current levels. And at the beginning of August, a scientific study of the New Economics Foundation warned that 100 months of greenhouse gas emissions at the current rate will bring the planetary buildup of these gases to a dangerous tipping point, beyond which runaway warming may be unstoppable (The Guardian, August 1, 2008).
The appeal has four goals:
· to alert the public at large to the seriousness of the situation and of the necessity to reconsider, in the light of it, conventional wisdom about "growth"; · to underline the need for broad governmental intervention in the form of carbon taxes, subsidies and extensive infrastructrual programs in transport and renewable energy technology, in addition to the existing emissions trading schemes, which have been more beneficial to the corporations involved than to the environment;
· to bring mass pressure on the governments to act quickly and drastically to prevent a catastrophe;
· and to indicate the readiness of large numbers of citizens all over the planet to sacrifice some immediate comforts for the sake of the human future.
We have started in the Netherlands, where we have received the support of the directors of most of this country's environmental organizations. For the past four months, we have also been canvassing for signatures in other countries. There are now 790 signatories from 33 countries, including seven members of the European Parliament, a leading member of the Dutch Parliament and two former Dutch ministers of Environment. We were recently privileged to receive the signatures of Jan Terlouw, the author and former Dutch cabinet minister, and of the American novelist E.L. Doctorow. Our International Advisory Board includes Hedy d'Ancona, Jan Pronk, Walden Bello, Richard Sennett, Claus Offe, Otilio Boron, Fiona Dove, Susan George, Terry Eagleton, Bill McKibben, Joan Martinez-Alier, Natalie Zemon Davis, Michelle Perrot and Gabriel Kolko.
We need to persuade the policy makers of the major world powers to take rapid and effective action to prevent a climate catastrophe. Please sign our appeal at If you have friends or colleagues who also might want to sign, please send this on to them.
Sincerely,Arthur Mitzman, (emeritus Professor of History, University of Amsterdam)for Concerned Citizens against Climate Change

Rockville Community

In Rockville, there is a thriving community, mostly Israeli, an oasis of people living together with a sense of shared responsibility and common interest. Our last days in Rockville were dense and hectic. We will never forget the help and assistance given to us by our good friends: Julia, Ginat and David, Mariana, Ori, Utte and Matijas.

Thank you all. We are privileged to know you.

New Books

The Tension Between Group Rights and Human Rights: A Multidisciplinary Approach
Edited by Koen De Feyter and George Pavlakos, Hart, 2008

The discussion of group rights, while always a part of the human rights discourse, has been gaining importance in the past decade. This discussion, which remains fundamental to a full realisation by the international community of its international human rights goals, requires careful analysis and empirical research. The present volume offers a great deal of material for both. It makes a strong case in favour of a multidisciplinary approach to human rights and explores the origins and social, anthropological and legal/political dimensions of human rights and internationally recognised group rights. It explores legal issues such as the reservations to international treaties and methodological questions, including the question of deliberative processes which allow seemingly absolute requirements of human rights to be reconciled with culturally sensitive norms prevailing within various groups. The discussion continues by looking at specific contexts, including the situations of women, school communities, ethnic and linguistic minorities, migrant communities and impoverished groups. The final part of the volume examines the 'state of play' of human rights and group rights in international law, in international relations and in the context of internationally sponsored development policies. Here the authors offer a meticulous and critical presentation of the legal regulation of human rights and group rights and point to numerous weaknesses which continue to exist and which call for additional work by legal thinkers and practitioners.

Koen De Feyter is professor of international law at the law faculty of the University of Antwerp. He is the author of World development law (Antwerp, Intersentia, 2001) and Human rights. Social justice in the age of the market (London, Zed Books, 2005). He previously held positions at the European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation (Venice), at the Human Rights Centre of the University of Maastricht and at the Institute for Development Policy and Management (Antwerp).

George Pavlakos is Research Chair in Globalisation and Legal Theory at the University of Antwerp. He has published widely in the areas of legal theory and philosophy; his other books include Jurisprudence or Legal Science? (edited with Sean Coyle) (Hart Publishing, 2006), a monograph in German entitled Rechtsontologie und praktische Vernunft (Nomos Verlag, 2007), an edited book entitled Law, Rights and Discourse: The Legal Philosophy of Robert Alexy (Hart Publishing, 2007), and his own most recent monograph Our Knowledge of the Law (Hart Publishing, 2007).
July 08 318pp Hbk 9781841138299 £45 / €67.50

Judicial Power and National Politics: Courts and Gender in the Religious-Secular Conflict in Israel , by Patricia Woods
(SUNY Press, 2008; 243 pages, Hardcover. ISBN: 978-0-7914-7399-3, $75) Uses the case of Israel to examine the circumstances that lead national courts to engage heated political issues.

Patricia J. Woods examines a controversial issue in the politics of many countries around the world: the increasing role that courts and justices have played in deeply charged political battles. Through an extensive case study of the religious-secular conflict in Israel, she argues that the most important determining factor explaining when, why, and how national courts enter into the world of divisive politics is found in the intellectual or judicial communities with whom justices live, work, and think about the law on a daily basis. The interaction among members of this community, Woods maintains, is an organic, sociological process of intellectual exchange that over time culminates in new legal norms that may, through court cases, become binding legal principles. Given the right conditions—electoral democracy, basic judicial independence, and some institutional constraints—courts may use these new legal norms as the basis for a jurisprudence that justifies hearing controversial cases and allows for creative answers to major issues of national political contention.

Gem of the Month (1)

Usain Bolt from Jamaica, winner of the 100 and 200 meter runs. I have never seen such a thing. This bullet won the 100 race after 60 meters by a significant margin, slowed down as he began the celebration while in the race, yet he managed to break the world record. He can do better. Amazing runner.

Gem of the Month (2)

Michael Phelps, the tireless winner from Baltimore. This human engine is one of the greatest winners ever to walk this planet. Each swim promises to be exciting although quite expected. The excitement stems from the style, the stamina, the record-breaking. I wonder whether Phelps’ record will stand as long as the Spitz’s record did. Eight gold medals. To put things in some perspectives, Israel in its entire history won only one gold medal. This games Schachar Zuberi brought home one bronze and the country rejoiced the wonderful achievement.

Gem of the Month (3)

The Tel Aviv promenade is one of the most beautiful promenades in the world. It was built in the vision of former mayor, Shlomo Lahat, who aspired to create a long stretch, from the Tel Aviv harbour to Jaffa. This summer, like recent ones, the promenade is filled with French people who come to spend their vacance in Tel Aviv, reminding the natives of Nice. Watching sunset on the beach, while enjoying a cold drink, or watermelon, surrounded with French chic, is quite an experience, a winning combination. This alone is a sufficient reason to come to Israel.

Israeli Theatre

Fiddler of the Roof is a wonderful musical that tells the story of Tuvia’s daughters, each falling for a man without a shiduch, while Tuvia tries to reconcile between his love for his daughters, and the value of tradition, surely something that is cherished in Britain. This production features Nathan Datner, who gives a wonderful show as the good-hearted father. Not to be missed.

The first daughter wanted to marry a poor tailor instead of the rich butcher. The second daughter wanted to marry a poor Marxist, a man of ideas and jobless. The third daughter wanted to marry a gentile, a wish that devastated Tuvia. , I guess that if the show were to be rewritten recently, the fourth daughter would have wanted to marry her girl friend.

Film of the Month - No End in Sight (2007)

This in-depth, Oscar-nominated documentary from filmmaker (and former Brookings Institution fellow) Charles Ferguson examines the decisions that led to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and the handling of the subsequent occupation by President George W. Bush and his administration. Featuring exclusive interviews with central players and detailed analysis, the film pulls no punches as it chronicles the twists and turns America took on the path to war. It describes some of the major mistakes that the Bush administration did before and during the war in Iraq, both in the planning and the execution of the operations. This is a penetrating j’accuse of the key players who had no idea where they were going, to where they were going, and what was involved in occupying a large and hostile Arab state.

Very Light Side - Jewish Classifieds

Divorced Jewish man, seeks partner to attend shul with, light shabbos candles, celebrate holidays, build a Sukkah together, attend brisses, bar mitzvahs. Religion not important. POB 658.

Sincere rabbinical student, 27. Enjoys Yom Kippur, Tisha B'av, Taanis Esther, Tzom Gedaliah, Asarah B'Teves, Shiva Asar, B'Tammuz. Seeks companion for living life in the "fast" lane. POB 90.

Yeshiva bochur, Torah scholar, long beard, payos. Seeks same in woman. POB 43.
Worried about in-law meddling? I'm an orphan! Write. POB 74.
Nice Jewish guy, 38. No skeletons. No baggage. No personality. POB 76.
Female graduate student, studying kaballah, Zohar, exorcism of dybbuks, seeks mensch. No weirdoes, please. POB 56.

Staunch Jewish feminist, wears tzitzis, seeking male who will accept my independence, although you probably will not. Oh, just forget it. POB 435.
Jewish businessman, 49, manufactures Sabbath candles, Chanukah Candles, Havdallah candles, Yahrzeit candles. Seeks non-smoker. POB 787.

Israeli professor, 41, with 18 years of teaching in my behind. Looking for American-born woman who speaks English very good. POB 555.

Single Jewish woman, 29, into disco, mountain climbing, skiing, track & field. Has slight limp. POB 76.

I am a sensitive Jewish prince whom you can open your heart to. Share your innermost thoughts & deepest secrets. Confide in me. I'll understand your insecurities. No fatties, please. POB 86.

Jewish male, 34, very successful, smart, independent, self-made. Looking for girl whose father will hire me. POB 53.

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

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