Thursday, October 30, 2008

Politics – October 2008

Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth - Albert Einstein

There is something intoxicating about power. You can smell it, but be careful not to sniff it - Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Tzipi Livni - Ehud Olmert - More on Olmert - New IAF system will pinpoint Iranian missile targets in Israel - Sarah Palin - The Next Wave of Information Technology Will Dramatically Improve Quality of Life - Request - New Article
Annual Ben Halpern Award for Best Dissertation in Israel Studies - SHAPIRO BEST BOOK PRIZE - New Books - University of Hull Summer School - Joke of the Month

Tzipi Livni

My last Newsletter has generated many comments. One reader said: Am I mistaken or are you a little bit more kindly towards Tzipi Livni than you used to be?

To which I answer:
On the background of two failing prime ministers, Tzipi deserves a fair chance. I was also kind to Olmert when he started, and he made a complete mess.

What do I know of Livni?
She is tough.
She is unpleasant.
She is extremely cautious, a blessing after Olmert.
She is pragmatic.
She is very committed.
She does not listen.
She respects people who are important to her, and disrespects the others.
She is prudent.
She is not wise.

So you see, mixed feelings. But I prefer her over Bibi. I am not sure whether I prefer her over Barak.

Livni failed her major leadership test, unable to cobble together a coalition. Shas, it is argued, made too heavy demands. Livni was forced to advise President Shimon Peres that she was unable to form a government, and therefore there is a need to call for early elections in early 2009. What a disappointment for Livni and Kadima.

Ehud Olmert

The same reader also noted: I think you have finally achieved the goal of "removal of the three" that we discussed after the Lebanon war and before you left Haifa. Unfortunately it took longer than you hoped and in Olmert's case it is kind of a pity that the reason he fell was not the bungling of the war.

My response:
I disagree with you that Olmert did not fall because of the war. The “envelopes” were a pretext, a welcome addition for many people who ceased to trust him and decided he should go down. Many people had high hopes of him, including me. But his war conduct proved he was ill-suited for this important job. The war brought his downfall.

There is something intoxicating about power. You can smell it, but be careful not to sniff it. When you sniff, you lose your judgment ability. Some people in power positions cope well with the knowledge and idea that they now can send other people to die. They know of this ability, but don’t use it. They respect this ability. Others, like Olmert, are intrigued by it. He sniffed, lost his sense of judgment, ceased to care. So what if due to his irresponsible decision-making disability hundreds of people died, on both sides of Israel’s borders, thousands were maimed, and hundreds of thousand became refugees? At least he sensed what it is like to be in such intoxicating position. When he ceased to care about his own people, people ceased to care about him.

More on Olmert

Some people of the Israeli left, especially in the media, were willing to overlook Olmert's corruption, forget his war conduct and deficient decision-making processes because "Olmert is a man of peace". Well, you know I did not. I cannot trust a leader who behaves like Olmert. He is no example for anyone, and his major flaws of character are likely to impede his best intentions.
On Eve of Rosh Hashana (New Year), September 29, 2008, Nahum Barnea and Shimon Shiffer of Yedioth Ahronoth published an interview with Olmert which is very telling, in many respects very true. The interview explains why Olmert became the darling of the left. For the first time, here is a prime minister who speaks like Meretz. At this point, however, his power is less than Meretz's.

Olmert spoke of the urgency to reach an agreement with the Palestinian and Syria: "the decision we have to make is a decision that we have been refusing for 40 years to look at open-eyed."
“We have to reach an agreement with the Palestinians, the meaning of which is that in practice we will withdraw from almost all the territories, if not all the territories. We will leave a percentage of these territories in our hands, but will have to give the Palestinians a similar percentage, because without that there will be no peace."
Including in Jerusalem?
“Including in Jerusalem,” said Olmert, “with special arrangements that I can envision on the topic of the Temple Mount and the sacred and historical sites. Whoever talks seriously about wanting security in Jerusalem and not wanting tractors and bulldozers to crush the legs of his best friends, as happened to a close friend of mine (Jerusalem attorney Shuki Kramer), who lost a leg because he was run over by a terrorist on a bulldozer, has to give up parts of Jerusalem.
“Whoever wants to hold on to all of the city’s territory will have to bring 270,000 Arabs inside the fences of sovereign Israel. It won’t work. A decision has to be made. This decision is difficult, terrible, a decision that contradicts our natural instincts, our innermost desires, our collective memories, the prayers of the Jewish people for 2,000 years.
“I am the first who wanted to enforce Israeli sovereignty on the entire city. I admit it. I am not trying to justify retroactively what I did for 35 years. For a large portion of these years, I was unwilling to look at reality in all its depth."
“We know full well that my governmental term is short, but the governmental term of others is also short. We don’t know, for example, what will happen in the Palestinian Authority after January 9, 2009. It may be that by some manipulation, which I hope will be successful, Abu Mazen will remain in power. But we believe that there is a very great danger that there will be a bloody clash, which will thwart any possibility of continuing negotiations and perhaps will force us to be involved in the confrontation, with bloodshed, with everything that could happen as a result.
“The timetable I am talking about is not my personal affair: I resigned, and I hope that Tzipi will succeed in forming a government as quickly as possible. The question is what will happen in the meantime in our immediate surroundings, with the partners that we can now talk to—and I am not talking only about the Palestinians.
“Arik Sharon spoke about painful prices, and refused to detail them. I say, there is no choice but to elaborate. In the end, we will have to withdraw from the lion’s share of the territories, and for the territories we leave in our hands, we will have to give compensation in the form of territories within the State of Israel at a ratio that is more or less 1:1.
“What I am saying to you now has not been said by any Israeli leader before me. The time has come to say these things. The time has come to put them on the table.
“I read the words spoken by our retired generals, and I say, how is it possible that they have not learned anything and have not forgotten anything. Someone once said to me, a very senior official in the Israeli administration, they are still living in the War of Independence or the Sinai campaign. With them, it is all about tanks and land and controlling territories and controlled territories and this hilltop and that hilltop. All these things are worthless.
“The real threat that we face today in the north, the south and the east is missiles and rockets. We will have to give a response to them, but we will not reach a response by bargaining over 200 meters.
“The goal is to try to reach for the first time the delineation of an exact border line between us and the Palestinians, where the whole world—the United States, the UN, Europe—will say, these are the borders of the State of Israel, we recognize them, we anchor them in formal resolutions of international institutions. These are Israel’s borders, and these are the recognized borders of the Palestinian state.
“I am not saying this to say that we erred in leaving Gaza. It is good that we left Gaza. I reject the self-flagellation of all the politicians who say that we should have stayed there, just as I reject the view posed by those who say, we should make a renewed assault on Gaza and take control of it. The prices we will pay for this matter are not worth any benefit that we will derive.
“Is the fact that an arrangement has not already been reached between us and the Palestinians a result of Israel’s insistence? No. Let there be no doubts on this score. Unfortunately, the Palestinians do not have the necessary courage, the power, the inner determination, the will and the enthusiasm. If we do not reach an arrangement, I will by no means be willing for the blame to be cast on Israel. It will be cast, first and foremost, on the other side."
… “I want to learn from my own mistakes. I did not see it then, I am not trying to justify myself. Exactly 30 years ago, when Menahem Begin came back from Camp David, I spoke against and I voted against. I admit it, I am not hiding it, I am not obfuscating on the matter.
“What was the greatness of Menahem Begin, which is not spoken about? Menahem Begin sent Dayan to meet with Tuhami in Morocco, and before the negotiations started, before he even met with Sadat, before he knew whether Sadat would smile one way or the other, whether he would say one thing to him or the other, Dayan told Tuhami on Begin’s behalf, we are willing to withdraw from all of Sinai. He started from the end. He first of all told him, I am willing to withdraw from all of Sinai. Now let’s negotiate.
Source: Geneva Initiative,

New IAF system will pinpoint Iranian missile targets in Israel

The past few years have showed that Israel may have the strongest army in the Middle East but it is very vulnerable to missile and rocket attacks. Slowly but surely, our enemies exploit this vulnerability and expand the territories which they are able to target, terrorizing the lives of innocent citizens. On October 16, 2008 Haaretz reported that the Israel Air Force is developing a computerized system to predict where a missile will land with considerable accuracy, very shortly after it is launched. That would enable the Home Front Command to order people into shelters only in a relatively small area, rather than in broad regions of the country.
Currently the country is divided into 10 large districts for the purpose of missile alerts, and at every missile launch, everyone in the relevant district is ordered into shelters. But when the new system is completed, in an estimated 18 months, the country will instead be divided into about 100 districts.
The idea behind the system is that if fewer people have to run for shelter every time a missile falls, the country will be better able to endure prolonged missile barrages, as most people will be able to continue with life as usual. In light of the army's assessment that any future war will include sustained missile attacks, bolstering Israelis' ability to live with such attacks was considered essential.
However, the system is designed mainly for use against medium- and long-range missiles, such as the Syrian Scud or the Iranian Shihab.
Until recently, Israel relied on a system that was developed during the 1991 Gulf War, which could predict a missile's landing site only in very general terms. A slightly more sophisticated system was improvised and put into use during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, but later, the IAF decided to develop a whole new system that would enable relatively precise predictions.
According to army sources, the new system will collect data from numerous sources, including both radar and electro-optic sensors. Inter alia, it will make use of the sophisticated American radar currently being installed in the Negev, which is slated to become operational next month. The data will then be analyzed to determine the missile's path and where it is likely to land, both in order to try to intercept it, and to warn those who will be in danger if the interception fails.
Meanwhile, the Home Front Command has also been working to upgrade its siren system, which warns of incoming missiles. It now says that almost 100 percent of the country is within audio range.

Sarah Palin

The more I hear Ms. Palin, the less I want to hear. The thought that this hockey mom will become part of my life for at least four years is agonizing. McCain proved to be an irresponsible politician, putting the interests of winning ahead of the best interest of the nation. But this regrettable choice backfires. With all due respect to the notable qualifications of Ms. Palin – governor, mayor, mom, member of PTA, dog, Washington hater etc. – these are not enough to make her a suitable candidate for the nation's no. 2. Just imagine that a CEO of a large business company will suggest making her no. 2 in her company. The Board of Directors would certainly voice serious reservations and might question the discretion and good-judgment of the CEO. That CEO might pay with her position.

May Ms. Palin resume her peaceful life in Alaska, and become a distant memory, soon.

The Next Wave of Information Technology Will Dramatically Improve Quality of Life

In 2007, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) released the groundbreaking report Digital Prosperity: Understanding the Economic Benefits of the Information Technology Revolution that documented how IT, since the mid-1990s, has been the principal driver of increased economic growth not only in the United States but also in many other nations. Now ITIF is pleased to announce the release of a companion report, Digital Quality of Life: Understanding the Personal and Social Benefits of the Information Technology Revolution, which shows how IT is the key enabler of many, if not most, of today’s key innovations and improvements in our lives and society. For example, in the United States cities such as Philadelphia are using "smart" recycling bins embedded with RFID tags to track and reward residents for recycling and to greatly increase participation rates; in Kenya, the government launched an e-learning program to rapidly train over 22,000 nurses in the basic medical skills necessary to treat diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis; and in Korea, transportation managers have deployed a network of wireless sensors to ensure the safety of bridges throughout the country. The report details how IT is at the heart of driving change and improvement in the following thirteen areas:

· Education and Training
· Health Care
· Personal Safety
· Accessibility for People with Disabilities
· Recreation and Entertainment
· Access to Information
· Environment
· Energy
· Transportation
· Public Safety
· Government
· Communities
· Developing Nations

The report demonstrates how we are moving into a new and exciting stage of IT transformation where IT is “making the world alive with information” that will open up vast new opportunities for progress. To help policymakers understand how to best drive this progress for our nation’s future, the report lays out ten key policy principles.

The report was released on October 2, 2008 at an event in Washington, DC at the Library of Congress featuring remarks from Craig Mundie, Chief Research and Strategy Officer at Microsoft. Dr. Robert Atkinson, President of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) provided a briefing on the report and the policy recommendations.

The full report is available online:

To learn more about the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, please contact us:

Washington, DC 20005
Phone: 202- 449-1351


One of my kind readers wrote: You are helping so many people, so many causes; is there anything that I/we can help you?

Well, there is.
I am intrigued by boundaries: Boundaries of liberty and tolerance (the title of my first academic book); boundaries of multiculturalism; boundaries of life and death; boundaries to free expression.

At present I am conducting research on the bounds of free expression on the Internet:
How do terrorists use the Net?
How do child pornographers use the Net;
Racism and hate mongering on the Internet;
Crime-facilitating speech on the Net (how to produce bombs; how to become successful assassins; how to rape and prepare the rape drug without being caught).
I also study governments’ responses to those problematic forms of expression on the Internet.

You obviously read. My request is simple: If you come across and read an article, news, opinion piece, anything pertinent on those troubling issues, please bring this information to my attention.
Thank you.

New Article

“The Six Day War – Interviews with Minister Ezer Weitzman and Abba Eban MK, Lessons and Insights””, Social Concerns in Israel, Vol. VI (summer 2008), pp. 172-213 (Hebrew).

This article is based on interviews with Ezer Weitzman and Abba Eban. Both explained the reasons for the eruption of the Six Day War. The analysis shows that it was a war that no one wanted. The energized Nasser, carried away by his own oratory, made a series of tragic decisions that resulted in war. Israel projected weakness that called for exploitation. Nasser thought he could master brinkmanship policy, but he failed and drove the region into flames. Negative parts were played by Secretary General of the UN, U-Tant, and the Soviet Union, although also they did not want war. It is argued that the Six Day War was a just war, as the closure of the Straits of Tiran constituted casus belli. United States, Britain and France, each for its own reasons, did not wish to intervene in the crisis. Israel was left to its own device, its leaders realized that it was incumbent upon them to resolve the crisis and to restore effective deterrence.

I truly enjoyed writing this article. It brought me back in time to my student days at Tel Aviv University, when I conducted the interviews with Weitzman and Eban. I especially enjoyed my two meetings with Weitzman, who "conquered" me with his explosive charisma. Later, I was saddened to hear about his financial tangle which brought the end of his tenure as President of Israel.

As ever, I’d be more than happy to email the article to interested parties. This piece is in Hebrew.

Annual Ben Halpern Award for Best Dissertation in Israel Studies

The Association for Israel Studies annually awards the Ben Halpern Award for the best doctoral dissertation submitted during that calendar year in the study of the yishuv, Zionism, and the state of Israel. This award honors the memory of Ben Halpern, a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Association for Israel Studies. His book, The Idea of the Jewish State, was a seminal contribution to the study of Zionism. For many years an inspiring teacher at Brandeis University, Halpern left a powerful and distinctive intellectual legacy including a commitment to study Israeli society according to rigorous scholarly and scientific norms.

Dissertations must be nominated by two recommenders familiar with the candidate's work. The recommenders are expected to explain the work's contribution to the study of the yishuv, Zionism, or the state of Israel. A copy of the dissertation and the letters of recommendation should be sent to each member of the Halpern Dissertation Award committee. The deadline for submissions is Dec. 31, 2008.

The committee:
Dr. Arieh Saposnik (Chair)
Arizona State University

Dr. Arye Naor
Ben Gurion University of the Negev

Dr. Oded Haklai
Queen's University

Dr. Liora Sion
Northwestern University
Sociology Department
1808 Chicago Avenue
Evanston, IL. 60208
Tel. 847-491-5536

Annual Shapiro Award for Best Book in Israel Studies 2008

The Association for Israel Studies annually awards the Shapiro prize for the best book in Israel Studies published during the calendar year. This award honors the memory of Yonathan Shapiro (1929-1997), one of Israel’s most distinguished and influential sociologists, by recognizing outstanding scholarship in the history, politics, society and culture of Israel and pre-1948 Jewish Palestine. The Shapiro Award Committee will consider books in either English or Hebrew, in the social sciences and the humanities, published in 2008. Only research monographs (but not collection of articles), will be considered. The prize committee will not consider books translated from Hebrew into English and vice versa, if the original book was published prior to the year of the competition. However, it will consider books first published in other languages and then published in English or Hebrew in the year of the competition.

Submission can be made by either the author or the publisher. Please have a copy of the book sent to each committee member by January 15, 2009. The committee will consider books by paid up AIS members only.

The Committee
Dr. Ilan Troen, Brandeis University (Chair)
Schusterman Center for Israel Studies
MS 060
Brandeis University
Waltham, MA 02454

Dr. Glenda Abramson, University of Oxford
Professor of Hebrew and Jewish Studies
University of Oxford
Oriental Institute
Pusey Lane
Oxford OX1 2LE

Dr. Assaf Likhovski, Tel Aviv University
Faculty of Law
Tel Aviv University
Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv 69978

New Books

Coinciding with Jörg Haider's death,

The Politics of Exclusion: Debating Migration in Austria
By Michal Krzyzanowski, Ruth Wodak
Published by Transaction Publishers, 2008
ISBN 1412808367, 9781412808361
342 pages

The Developing World and State Education:
Neoliberal Depredation and Egalitarian Alternatives

Edited by Dave Hill and Ellen Rosskam
Neoliberalism has had a major impact on schooling and education in the developing World, with social repercussions that have affected the salaries of teachers, the number and type of potential students, the availability of education, the cost of education, and more. This edited collection argues that the privatization of public services and the capitalization and commodification of education have resulted in the establishment of competitive markets that are marked by selection, exclusion and inequality.

The contributors - academics and organization/social movement activists - examine aspects of neoliberal arguments focusing on low- and middle-income countries (including Chile, Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela, China, Pakistan, India, Turkey, Burkina Faso, Mozambique and South Africa), and suggest where they fall short. Their arguments center around the assumption that education is not a commodity to be bought and sold, as education and the capitalist market hold opposing goals, motivations, methods, and standards of excellence.

November 2008
224 pgs, 6 illustrations, 13 tables, 8 photos
HB: 978-0-415-95776-2

Making Rights Real: The Human Rights Act in its First Decade
Ian Leigh and Roger Masterman

Ten years after the passing of the Human Rights Act 1998, it is timely to evaluate the Act's effectiveness. The focus of Making Rights Real is on the extent to which the Act has delivered on the promise to 'bring rights home'. To that end the book considers how the judiciary, parliament and the executive have performed in the new roles that the Human Rights Act requires them to play and the courts' application of the Act in different legal spheres. This account cuts through the rhetoric and controversy surrounding the Act, generated by its champions and detractors alike, to reach a measured assessment. The true impact in public law, civil law, criminal law and on anti-terrorism legislation are each considered. Finally, the book discusses whether we are now nearer to a new constitutional settlement and to the promised new 'rights culture'.

Ian Leigh and Roger Masterman are, respectively, Professor of Law and Lecturer in Law at Durham University. Both are members of the Durham Human Rights Centre.

Aug 08 310pp Hbk 9781841133539 £40 / €60
Discount rate to e-mail list subscribers: £36 / €54

Global Terrorism 2nd Edition
J.M. Lutz and B.J. Lutz
July 2008: 246x189: 360pp
Pb: 978-0-415-77247-1: £21.99

Global Terrorism, 2nd edition continues to provide students with the most comprehensive introduction to terrorism as a global phenomenon. It introduces students to history, politics, ideologies and strategies of both contemporary and older terrorist groups beyond the Middle East and Islamic groups. In addition to examples involving religious factions from all the worlds’ religions there are examples of ethnic, ideological, state terrorism and cases with complex characteristics.

Written in a clear and accessible style, each chapter explains a different aspect of terrorism and illustrates this with a wide variety of detailed case studies from across the world. Although the focus is on the contemporary, the book also includes discussion of older terrorist groups such as ETA.

Author Biography
James M. Lutz is Professor of Political Science at Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne. He has long been interested in various types of political violence.
Brenda J. Lutz is a PhD candidate at the Department of Politics, University of Dundee, Scotland, focusing on violence in the animal rights movement and factory farming.

Internet Governance: The new frontier of global institutions
By John Mathiason
Price: $28.95

· ISBN: 978-0-415-77403-1
· Binding: Paperback (also available in Hardback)
· Published by: Routledge
· Publication Date: 30th July 2008
· Pages: 200

About the Book
The expansion of the Internet has been called the most revolutionary development in the history of human communications. It is ubiquitous and is changing politics, economics and social relations. Its borderless nature affects the roles of individuals, the magic of the marketplace and the problems of government regulation. As its development has increased apace, contradictions have arisen between existing regulatory regimes, private interests, government concerns, international norms and national interests. Unlike most areas where there are global institutions, and the role of governments is predominant, the Internet is a field where the private sector and civil society each have a role as important – or sometimes more important – than governments.

Based on international regime theory, this book analyses how the multi-stakeholder institutions have grown along with the Internet itself. Starting with an examination of how communications were regulated under the Westphalian system, John Mathiason shows how governance of the Internet started as a technical issue but became increasingly political as the management of critical resources began to conflict with other international regimes.

Table of Contents
Introduction 1. What is the Internet and what is governance? 2. Before the Internet: communications and its regulation through history 3. The non-state actors: engineers, entrepreneurs and netizens 4. Solving the domain name problem: Internet governance is born 5. Regulatory imperatives for Internet governance: downloading music, free speech, You-tube, porn, and crime and terrorism 6. The ICANN experiment 7. Multi-stakeholderism emerges from the World Summit on the Information Society 8. The IGF experiment begins 9. What does the frontier look like?

About the Author(s)
John Mathiason is Professor International Relations at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs of Syracuse University. A former official of the United Nations Secretariat, he is the author of Invisible Governance: International Secretariats in Global Politics and many articles on global governance.

University of Hull Summer School

In summer 2009, we will be running a 5-week credit-bearing International Summer School which is designed specifically for students who wish to deepen their understanding of the art, literature, history and politics of the UK. This exciting University of Hull UK Summer School includes courses on:
Dracula and the Cult of the Vampire
Wuthering Heights and the Brontes
Shakespeare and Renaissance Drama
Romance of the North: from Vikings to the Lakeland Poets
A Week in Politics: the British Political System
The University of Hull is ideally placed to explore the UK, and the Summer School includes trips to York, Whitby, Haworth, Stratford upon Avon, the English Lake District, London and the Houses of Parliament, and the stately homes of the English Aristocracy.
So if you want to see for yourself what life is like in the UK and learn about its culture and history, then look no further than the University of Hull UK Summer School.
For further details,

Joke of the Month

Four Jewish brothers left home for college, and they became successful doctors and lawyers, and prospered. Some years later, they chatted after having dinner together. They discussed the gifts that they were able to give to their elderly mother who lived far away in another city.

The first said, 'I had a big house built for Mama.'

The second said, 'I had a hundred thousand dollar theater built in the house.'The third said, 'I had my Mercedes dealer deliver her an SL600 with a chauffeur.'The fourth said, 'Listen to this. You know how Mama loved reading the Torah and you know she can't anymore because she can't see very well. I met this Rabbi who told me about a parrot that can recite the entire Torah. It took twenty rabbis 12 years to teach him. I had to pledge to contribute $100,000 a year for twenty years to the temple, but it was worth it. Mama just has to name the chapter and verse and the parrot will recite it.

The other brothers were impressed.
After the holidays Mom sent out her Thank You notes. She wrote:

Milton Bubelle, The house you built is so huge. I live in only one room, but I have to clean the whole house. Thanks anyway.

Marvin Main Shene Kinde, I am too old to travel. I stay home, I have my groceries delivered, so I never use the Mercedes...and the driver you hired is a Nazi. The thought was good. Thanks.

Menachim Tataleh, You give me an expensive theater with Dolby sound, it could hold 50 people, but all my friends are dead, I've lost my hearing and I'm nearly blind. I'll never use it. Thank you for the gesture just the same.

Dearest Melvin, You were the only son to have the good sense to give a little thought to your gift. The chicken was delicious. Thank you!

And thank you, Bertha Skladman, for sharing this.

With my very best wishes for a beautiful colourful season,

Yours as ever,

My last communications are available on
Earlier posts at my home page: <>

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