Saturday, January 24, 2009

Politics – January 2009


Today the real test of power is not capacity to make war but capacity to prevent it.

- Anne O’Hare McCormick

The main thing that violence does successfully is to breed more violence.

- Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Hamas-Israel War: War diary

December 28, 2008: Hell erupted. In November 2008 I wrote: Time is running out. Those who care for the Palestinians and Israel should do something fast to halt the escalation in Gaza. Israel needs to defend its citizens in the towns outside the Gaza Strip. Are you listening Bush, or maybe Obama? Tony Blair? Putin? Anybody? Someone might even say the UN? Involve yourself now before it is too late.

I think the only one who tried, to no avail, was Tony Blair who seems to understand the situation better than any other western leader. I am especially disappointed with the UN. I had hopes with the new Secretary General Ki-Moon but like his predecessors he does not preempt. He reacts when it is too late.

World leaders speak. This is not enough. Action is required, beyond words. I wonder whether they really care.

On December 27 Israel had enough. After years of constant rockets on its civilian towns, patience was exhausted. Since 2004, 92% of Sderot residents (a town of 20,000 inhabitants) have experienced a Qassam rocket falling on their or an adjacent street. 17 Israelis have been killed by Qassam rockets and hundreds have been injured and maimed. In the past week over 190 rockets, missiles and mortar rounds were fired from Gaza by Iranian backed Hamas and other terrorists. More than 563 were fired since Hamas escalated rocket firing on November 4, 2008. The writing was on the wall loud and clear. Israel attacked from the air Hamas and the other Palestinian terrorist organizations in an operation dubbed “Cast Lead.” More than 270 people are reported dead. Hundreds are injured.

The Palestinian people showed their resilience in the past. They are able to take significant sacrifices before acceding to compromises.

December 28, 2008: The Israeli government approved the emergency call-up of 6,800 army reservists in preparation for a possible ground operation. Israeli troops, tanks, armored personnel carriers and armored bulldozers massed at the Gaza border. Israel continued the air raids, while Hamas continued with firing rockets. Ashdod, situated about 30 km from Gaza, is said to enter into the danger zone. Southern Israel, with some 250,000 inhabitants, is under a state of emergency.

December 29, 2008: Israeli air strikes continued to batter the Gaza strip for a third day with Hamas government buildings coming under fire for the first time. The number of casualties is on the rise. Hamas continues with what it knows best: At least 110 rockets had been fired into Israel from Gaza since yesterday, with two people killed, one in the town of Netivot, another in the city of Ashkelon.
December 30, 2008: attacks continued, on both sides. What was clear from the beginning becomes even clearer: air strikes alone would not stop the rockets. This lesson we already learned in 2006. To be stopped, either we count on the good will of the Hamas (yes, I know), or there is a need to introduce ground forces. This, inevitably, means casualties. Hamas has the advantage of knowing the area better, above and underground. Militarily, however, it does not stand a chance against the Israeli army.

The government is hesitant. There are no easy solutions. But a decision will have to be made very soon. Why aren't world leaders in Gaza and Israel to bring some common sense? Condemnation comes cheap. What about some effort to retrieve tranquility and common sense? Violence does not achieve much. It just breeds more violence.

The IDF learned to use the Internet for its purposes. Its International Press Branch has opened a YouTube Channel. They upload IDF footage as it comes out. See
Message from:
Aliza Landes
North American Desk
International Press Branch
IDF Spokesperson's Unit
206 Jaffa Street, Jerusalem, Israel
Tel: +972 (2) 548-5800

Al Jazeera announced that “only” 4 Israelis were killed. What a shame. Will they will be happier if there were 400 people killed on each side?

Al Jazeera’s caption is “War on Gaza”. This, of course, is not correct. It is not war on Gaza but war against the Hamas in Gaza. I was happy to hear former Israeli Ambassador to Washington, Zalman Shoval, making this point. Israel claims, time and again, that it tries to refrain from hitting civilians. The result showed that its success in doing this is dubious. But unlike the Hamas, Israel does not intentionally target civilians.

I am hooked on Al Jazeera. It is the only TV station in England that provides wide coverage of the war. It is the only station that really cares about the situation. The coverage tends to be one-sided. There are no pretensions to be objective. Truth is elastic. On both sides. While Israel claims that a small number of the casualties are civilians, Al Jazeera argues that a substantial number, and sometimes the majority, are civilians. The screen is filled with little bodies of children. My heart cries.

December 31, 2008: Israel and Hamas continued to attack one another. Hamas fired over 100 rockets and mortars, many of which were long range Grad rockets. Grads with a range of about 40 Kilometers landed in Beer Sheva, capital of the Negev, and around Ashdod. More and more cities enter the danger zone.
Israel continued its operations. While Hamas is happy to harm civilians wherever they are, the more the better, the IDF tries to target only those directly involved in terror. This, of course, is not easy, especially in the densest piece of land in the world, especially when the Hamas is hiding within the civilian population. The Air Force hit storage and launch-sites for Grad missiles and Qassam rockets, weaponry manufacturing and storage facilities, smuggling tunnels, a Hamas outpost and training camp in the Gaza City area.

Will the world actually do something to stop the ground operation that will undoubtedly result with many more casualties? Israel cannot allow more rockets on civilians. Does the Hamas care, really care, about its own civilians?

January 3, 3009: The continuous barrages of rockets left Israel little choice. Today, Saturday, the ground campaign started. We do not know how and when it will finish. The results largely depend on two crucial factors: the number of casualties on both sides, and the international community.

January 5, 2009, a.m.: European foreign ministers, headed by Karel Schwarzenberg of the Czech Republic arrived, finally. Welcome. Nicolas Sarkozy, who aspires to lead Europe whether they want him or not, arrived as well and put his immense energies to work, meeting Olmert, Abu Mazen and Mubarak. I am happy to see the French bulldozer around. He may make things happen.

January 5, 2009, p.m.: Indeed, soon enough we hear about a French-Egyptian plan for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, opening the crossings to Gaza and setting up a supervision mechanism that would prevent arms smuggling. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said that Egyptian President Mubarak had invited PM Olmert to come to Cairo to discuss the security arrangements on the Gaza-Egypt border. Kouchner added that France is willing to participate in the international mechanism for supervising the implementation of the ceasefire and preventing smuggling or ammunition.

January 8, 2009, a.m.: Two rockets were fired on Israel from Lebanon. The situation becomes more volatile and dangerous. Israel does not wish to open a second front. The memories of the 2006 war are fresh and vivid. We will not be able to win there. Hezbollah denied firing the rockets. It might be the case that they were fired by Jihadist elements that operate in south Lebanon. I should also note and commend the Lebanese army that had found during the past weeks several rocket launchers aimed at Israel and ready to be fired. The army dismantled them and is continuously searching for further rocket launchers.

It is just a matter of time until rockets will cover the entire area of Israel. Israel is a tiny country and countries like Iran will be delighted to supply the vehicles of destruction. Peace with Lebanon, and Syria, is urgent.
In Gaza, Israel claimed that it killed some 170 terrorists since the start of “Cast Lead”. It also captured some 140 Palestinians suspected of terrorism. Until now, the operation did not stop the rockets. Steady barrages of dozens of rockets are fired each and every day, relentlessly. However, Hamas suffered heavy losses and seems keen to agree on a ceasefire. Or is it wishful thinking? Diplomatic negotiations in Cairo and the UN gather momentum. As we see the light at the end of the tunnel the Lebanese rockets flew in.
The seventh soldier was killed since the start of the operation. More than 700 Palestinians, many of them civilians, are reported to be dead. Hamas claims that 40 percent of the dead were women and children.

January 8, 2009, p.m.: The wheels of diplomacy work, slowly. After 14 days of fighting, the UN Security Council called for an immediate cease-fire in the Gaza Strip. The resolution, submitted by Britain, passed with 14 votes. Only the United States abstained from voting. The UN Secretary General still did not see a reason to rush to the area.

The resolution "stresses the urgency of and calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza." It also called for arrangements in Gaza to prevent arms smuggling to Palestinian “militants” (i.e., terrorists) and reopen border crossings, and for "unimpeded provision" and distribution of aid in Gaza.

Israel should not ignore the world. Nor should Hamas.

January 9, 2009: Despite the UN resolution, the fighting continues. Rockets fall everywhere: Ashdod, Beer Sheva, Ashkelon. More than 30 rockets till noon. The government and IDF are in dilemma. To stop those rockets, Israel needs to deepen the military operation. This would mean more casualties on both sides, and a slap in the face of the world. It seems that Egypt will be the key player in achieving a solution, hopefully soon.
Israel should have the satellite technology to locate the rocket launchers, to control the sky with its air force and to bomb each and every launcher. The problem is how to react when the rockets are launched from schools, universities, mosques, hospitals, private houses. Collateral damage can rarely be justified.

Israel should develop an anti-rocket defence to protect its citizens. We are puzzled why this has not been done till now. Israel is developing such a system only now and it is scheduled to be operational in 2012. It should have been operational by now.

Hamas raises doubt as to the fate of the kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. The war is not good news for him.

January 10, 2009: Nice Shabbat. At least 21 Palestinian rockets hit Israel, wounding 14 people. Still, it appears that the number of rockets fired from Gaza has been somewhat lower than at the start of Operation Cast Lead.
The IDF is maintaining its posts at the northern regions of the Gaza Strip and at the outskirts of Gaza City. Forces have not moved yet into the densely populated neighbourhoods and await the outcome of diplomatic talks taking place in Egypt. Israel is reluctant to expand the operation deeper into Hamas strongholds in Gaza City, Rafah and Khan Yunis.
· Since 2001, total number of identified rocket and mortar shell hits: 8,743
· Since Israel's unilateral disengagement from Gaza in August 2005:6,051
· Since 4 November 2008: 949
· Since the ceasefire ended on 19 December 2008: 884
· Since Operation Cast Lead began on 27 December 2008: 729

January 11, 2009: reserve soldiers are introduced into the ground operation. The forces, which had undergone training since the operation began, made it possible for the IDF to broaden its activities and increase the pressure on Hamas. IDF searches uncovered various weapons.

I watched BBC programme “Hard Talk”. The guest was a Hamas spokesperson in Beirut. For the first time, I heard someone on British television who did not hesitate to ask the Hamas representative hard and difficult questions. The Hamasnik tried to evade the questions. Every time he was asked about Hamas, he answered about Israel. The host, Stephen Sackur, had enough and cut him a few times, insisting on an answer. See It is long, but very educating. Listening to the Hamas zealot, it is clear we have a very long way to go. Lots of blood is yet to be shed with such an attitude.
Hamas opts for more fighting. We are dealing with uncaring terrorists, the most zealous elements of civilization. Human life is transient. The destruction of Israel is a fixed aim.
One issue that Sackur did not raise with the Hamasnik: You keep mentioning “the occupation” as a mantra. This is the key to all evil, and the legitimacy to all evil. But Israel evacuated the Gaza Strip, pulled out the IDF, dismantled all settlements, and elected a prime minister whose ticket was ending the occupation and a two state solution. Why didn’t you recognize Israel and open direct negotiations instead of firing rockets at Israel?

I have the Hamas Covenant at my disposal, in English and in Hebrew. I’d be more than happy to email it to interested parties.

January 12, 2009: The headlines in Israel: Dispute between Olmert, on the one hand, Livni and Barak on the other. While the first wishes to intensify the battle and push the forces deeper into Gaza, the latter opt for ceasefire.

It is time to negotiate a settlement. It is time to stop the bloodshed. More than 800 Palestinians are dead. Hundreds of them are women and children. I have seen enough.
There is a noticeable decline in the number of rockets fired on Israel. The number of missile, rocket and mortar attacks have fallen by 50% in the past few days, compared with the number of attacks carried out by Hamas terrorists during the first days of the operation. The IDF attributes this to the ongoing pressure placed on rocket launching cells and the retreat of Hamas forces from sites previously used to launch rockets at Israel.

January 14, 2009: The rockets fired from Lebanon on January 8 were not just a one time incident. At least three Katyusha rockets fired from Lebanon hit northern Israel this morning, reigniting fears of a second front opening during Israel's offensive against Hamas in Gaza. They were fired from an area close to the south Lebanon town of Hasbaya.
In Gaza, the IDF is going deeper into the cities. Five soldiers were wounded. Olmert ignores Barak and Livni’s calls for cease-fire. Now it begins to sound like the stupid 2006 war. This guy does not know when to stop. What does he wish to achieve? Further 400 Palestinians killed?

Until now, there were striking differences between the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War and the 2008-9 Hamas-Israel War. Differences in the decision-making process leading to the operation; in the execution of the operation; in the behavior of the cabinet before and during the war. The touch of careful and thoughtful leadership, inspired by the best soldier in Israel’s history, Ehud Barak, is deeply felt. Barak is a very good Defence Minister. Pity he wants to be prime minister.

But now, Olmert seems to go his own way, ignoring Barak and Livni, the voices of reason, certainly compared to his failing decision-making capacity.

According to PLO sources, during the period of January 2008-January 12, 2009, 1446 Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops, including 360 children, 120 women, 5 journalists, 2 disabled persons, 12 paramedics and 2 prisoners. About 6,000 Palestinian citizens were wounded, including 45 International Solidarity Activists, 1800 children and 500 women. 400 Palestinian houses were demolished; half of the houses were demolished during the Israeli incursions against Gaza Strip. During 2008, 5500 Palestinian citizens had been detained, including 200 Palestinian Gazans. The total number of the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails is about 9,000, including 265 children (under 18 years old), 75 women, and 691 administrative prisoners, who are being detained without any trial.

There are no angles in this story. As said, the only assured thing that violence produces is more violence.

On January 14, The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon finally arrived in the area. Unbelievable. Not only that he did not seriously attempt to solve the crisis before the eruption, more than two weeks have passed until he decided to come. He is most welcome nevertheless. All efforts, from anyone, are welcomed and of much need. Ki-Moon arrived in Egypt as part of a one-week flying tour to the Middle East. He came to support contacts for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. He expressed hope that the Egyptian initiative for a ceasefire would shortly be implemented, and called on the international community to take steps against smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip. Ban Ki-Moon is scheduled to visit Israel, Jordan and Syria. He said he would not hold direct talks with Hamas.

January 15, 2009: The Israeli media report “convincing success” of the fighting in Gaza. Hamas is reluctant to face the IDF platoons. These are well trained soldiers. The elite forces of Israel are in the front line, equipped with the best weapons available. Apparently, most prohibitions were lifted. Whenever there is fire, the IDF fires back, notwithstanding whether there are civilians in the house. Often, the entire house collapses. The results are bloody, and convincing.

I wonder whether Israel thinks of the aftermath. I mean, whether we like it or not, Hamas does hold the reigns in Gaza. Do we really want its complete devastation? Is anarchy preferable to this terrorist rule? Hamas might not be the worst alternative. See, for instance, what is happening in Somalia.

Haaretz correspondent Gideon Levy found his natural place on Al Jazeera. He is doing a terrific job. For our enemies.

January 16, 2009: I see light at the end of the grim tunnel. The Egyptians are pushing hard for ceasefire. It seems that both sides grow to accept it. I hope Hamas had enough, though the firing of rockets continues. This seems to be the only thing those terrorists are capable of doing at the moment. Do they really care about their own people? Do the people in Gaza understand that this regime, which they elected, brings about their demise? Very soon, the hospitals will not be capable of dealing with the flood of injured people. Media reports speak of 1100 dead Palestinians, and of more than 5000 injured. This is massive.

Some photos are available at

January 17, 2009, a.m.: Al Jazeera’s “balanced approach” – customarily three people are invited to comment. One represents the Israeli side. Two represent the Palestinian side. Even if the Israeli representative is doing a good job facing the three critics (the interviewer does not attempt to be objective), he (these are mostly men) still receives only one third of the time.

Two or three people are invited to comment. The person who represents the Israeli point of view is never in the studio. The person who represents the Palestinian view is in the studio, enjoying better communication, eye contact with the interviewer and ultimately receives greater share of the time.

Running caption: More the 1100 dead in Gaza. After a while: 13 Israelis were killed since the start of hostilities.

Here is what you’ll never hear by the Al Jazeera reporters and you will hardly hear in any of the British stations which are mirror image of the American stations:

Hamas remains steadfast in not recognizing Israel’s right to exist. Its resolute commitment to Israel’s destruction remains unshaken.

Asking a Hamas representative: You hold the government in Gaza. What are your national priorities? Health? Education? Industry? Agriculture? Solving the refugee problem? Improving the economy? Bettering the infrastructure? Creating a viable economy? Tourism? Terrorism?

Israel evacuated the Gaza Strip in 2005, pulled out its military forces, and proposed to explore economic avenues with Gaza. This was a test-case for the Palestinians, an opportunity for nation-building on the way to the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state. The idea was Gaza First, then the West Bank, that together will establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Instead of investing in nation-building, Hamas has invested in terrorism. As the border between Israel and Gaza proved to be very difficult to cross by suicide-bombers, Hamas changed its tactics and moved to rocket-terrorism.

Israel was very reluctant to open war. Israel did not wish to return to Gaza. When Israel left in 2005, the intention was never to return. For three years, Israel’s retaliation was reserved and measured, targeting terrorists. This policy has proved to be insufficient to provide security for the citizens of Israel, as the barrages of rockets intensified, making living in southern Israel unbearable.

With each and every rocket launched by the Hamas, the aim is to kill innocent civilians. Israel’s aim was and remains to kill terrorists, and avoid killing civilians.

Israel will never use civilians as human shields for protection. The army is in the front to defend civilians. Hamas, a terrorist organization, confuses the two. Its conduct is to hide behind civilians, to use schools, hospitals, mosques for its terrorist activities, and to rely on Israel’s reluctance to inflict collateral damage. This reluctance had come to an end on December 27, 2008. The clear writing was on the wall. I warned that war is about to erupt weeks before the operation.

War is terrible. War is bloody. With the best intentions (and I am not going to say that every soldier has the best of intentions) there is bound to be loss of innocent life. Israel killed more than 1100 people. I am not going to defend this. I am not condoning this. It is terrible. But I am not in the front, with the heavy responsibility of saying or not saying “fire” when your men are targeted from a school. What do you do then?

Mistakes are bound to happen. We are human. Only human. Some soldiers were killed and wounded as a result of “friendly fire”. Dozens of Palestinian civilians were killed as a result of such mistakes.

Israel is now willing to agree unilaterally to a ceasefire. That means that Gaza will lick its wounds and, if no change in Hamas’ worldview will take place and at present there is no reason to believe that Hamas will change something, soon Gaza will return to its bloody, terrorist business. Until now, Israel was unable to push Gaza to reconciliation. If this world really cares, and wishes to avoid the scenes of January 2009, it is incumbent on it to take concrete steps and involve itself in security-building initiatives in the area.

January 17, 2009, p.m.: Shabbat evening. The government convenes in Jerusalem. After 21 days, Israel declares an end to fighting: The National Security Cabinet votes to end the military operation in the Gaza Strip. Olmert says Hamas was hit hard, and that the operation's objectives were “fully met”. I wonder what he has in mind. Does he think that defiant Hamas will stop firing rockets? To be on the safe side, IDF troops are to remain in the Strip for the time being. This, of course, contradicts the former statement. That is to say: I am happy that Israel declares a ceasefire. It should have done so immediately after the UN resolution, enjoying the world’s respect for trying. But we missed that opportunity, wanted to crush more, to kill more, to bring Hamas to its knees. To date we are unsuccessful in doing this. For Hamas, 1200 people dead is a worthy sacrifice on the long road to victory. I fear the bloodshed will continue.
Seven ministers supported the decision, two others objected, and one abstained. Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On presented his reservations over the ongoing rocket fire and IDF captive Gilad Shalit's release. Both Bar-On and Shas leader Eli Yishai voted against the decision, while Rafi Eitan of the Pensioners' Party abstained.
In his statement, Olmert referred to Gilad Shalit, saying: "The Israeli government is working in many ways to bring Gilad Shalit home and, during the days of the operation, we did many things that brought us closer to this goal, upon which I will not elaborate."
Full text of Olmert’s speech in Hebrew is at
One of the issues that pushed the government to agree on a ceasefire was a Memorandum of Understanding between Israel and the United States Regarding Prevention of the Supply of Arms and Related Materiel to Terrorist Groups. This is one of the last documents signed by Secretary of State Rice, another reflection of the strong ties between the two countries, and the commitment the US has for Israel.
Israel and the United States (the “Parties”),
Recalling the steadfast commitment of the United States to Israel's security, including secure, defensible borders, and to preserve and strengthen Israel's capability to deter and defend itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats;
Reaffirming that such commitment is reflected in the security, military and intelligence cooperation between the United States and Israel, the Strategic Dialogue between them, and the level and kind of assistance provided by the United States to Israel;
Taking note of the efforts of Egyptian President Mubarak, particularly the recognition that securing Gaza 's border is indispensable to realizing a durable and sustainable end to fighting in Gaza ;
Unequivocally condemning all acts, methods, and practices of terrorism as unjustifiable, wherever and by whomever committed and whatever the motivation, in particular, the recent rocket and mortar attacks and other hostile activity perpetrated against Israel from Gaza by terrorist organizations;
Recognizing that suppression of acts of international terrorism, including denying the provision of arms and related materiel to terrorist organizations, is an essential element for the maintenance of international peace and security;
Recognizing that the acquisition and use of arms and related materiel by terrorists against Israel were the direct causes of recent hostilities;
Recognizing the threat to Israel of hostile and terrorist activity from Gaza, including weapons smuggling and the build-up of terrorist capabilities, weapons and infrastructure; and understanding that Israel, like all nations, enjoys the inherent right of self defense, including the right to defend itself against terrorism through appropriate action ;
Desiring to improve bilateral, regional and multilateral efforts to prevent the provision of arms and related materiel to terrorist organizations, particularly those currently operating in the Gaza Strip, such as Hamas;
Recognizing that achieving and maintaining a durable and sustainable cessation of hostilities is dependent upon prevention of smuggling and re-supply of weapons into Gaza for Hamas, a terrorist organization, and other terrorist groups, and affirming that Gaza should not be used as a base from which Israel may be attacked;
Recognizing also that combating weapons and explosives supply to Gaza is a multi-dimensional, results-oriented effort with a regional focus and international components working in parallel, and that this is a priority of the United States' and Israel's efforts, independently and with each other, to ensure a durable and sustainable end to hostilities;
Recognizing further the crucial need for the unimpeded, safe and secure provision of humanitarian assistance to the residents of Gaza ;
Intending to work with international partners to ensure the enforcement of relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions on counterterrorism in relation to terrorist activity in Gaza ;
Have reached the following understandings:
1. The Parties will work cooperatively with neighbors and in parallel with others in the international community to prevent the supply of arms and related materiel to terrorist organizations that threaten either party, with a particular focus on the supply of arms, related materiel and explosives into Gaza to Hamas and other terrorist organizations.
2. The United States will work with regional and NATO partners to address the problem of the supply of arms and related materiel and weapons transfers and shipments to Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza, including through the Mediterranean, Gulf of Aden, Red Sea and eastern Africa, through improvements in existing arrangements or the launching of new initiatives to increase the effectiveness of those arrangements as they relate to the prevention of weapons smuggling to Gaza. Among the tools that will be pursued are:
• Enhanced U.S. security and intelligence cooperation with regional governments on actions to prevent weapons and explosives flows to Gaza that originate in or transit their territories; including through the involvement of relevant components of the U.S. Government, such as U.S. Central Command, U.S. European Command, U.S. Africa Command, and U.S. Special Operations Command.
• Enhanced intelligence fusion with key international and coalition naval forces and other appropriate entities to address weapons supply to Gaza ;
• Enhancement of the existing international sanctions and enforcement mechanisms against provision of material support to Hamas and other terrorist organizations, including through an international response to those states, such as Iran, who are determined to be sources of weapons and explosives supply to Gaza.
3. The United States and Israel will assist each other in these efforts through enhanced sharing of information and intelligence that would assist in identifying the origin and routing of weapons being supplied to terrorist organizations in Gaza .
4. The United States will accelerate its efforts to provide logistical and technical assistance and to train and equip regional security forces in counter-smuggling tactics, working towards augmenting its existing assistance programs.
5. The United States will consult and work with its regional partners on expanding international assistance programs to affected communities in order to provide an alternative income/employment to those formerly involved in smuggling.
6. The Parties will establish mechanisms as appropriate for military and intelligence cooperation to share intelligence information and to monitor implementation of the steps undertaken in the context of this Memorandum of Understanding and to recommend additional measures to advance the goals of this Memorandum of Understanding. In so far as military cooperation is concerned, the relevant mechanism will be the United States-Israel Joint Counterterrorism Group, the annual Military to Military discussion, and the Joint Political Military Group.
7. This Memorandum of Understanding of ongoing political commitments between the Parties will be subject to the laws and regulations of the respective parties, as applicable, including those governing the availability of funds and the sharing of information and intelligence.
This Memorandum of Understanding was signed on 16 January, 2009 at Washington, in duplicate, in the English language.

Hamas declared it will continue to fight as long as Israeli soldiers remain in the Strip. If the Israeli military continues its existence in the Gaza Strip, that is a wide door for the resistance against the occupation forces.
January 18, 2009, a.m.: At least seven Grad rockets were fired into southern Israel late Saturday, shortly after Israel’s cease-fire declaration. Six rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip at the southern Israeli town of Sderot this morning.
January 18, 2009, noon: The Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported that 95 bodies have been found amid the rubble of the battle-torn northern Gaza Strip. The toll of human loss is over 1300 dead. More than 5400 people were injured. The operation yielded an untold number of new refugees, to add to the refugee capital of the world. So much human suffering because of uncompromising political radicalism.
Hamas spokesmen announced their own one week ceasefire, giving Israel a week to withdraw from the Strip.

January 18, 2009, p.m.: Six key European leaders came to the region and pledged to work to prevent Hamas from rearming. The commitments were offered both at a summit convened in Sharm al-Sheikh and at a meeting in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Olmert. Olmert said that he also received on Saturday a letter from EU leaders pledging cooperation in halting the arms smuggling into Gaza.
The six leaders were British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, who currently holds the European Union's rotating presidency. They offered to provide troops and technological assistance to prevent Hamas from smuggling weapons and terrorists into the Gaza Strip, in cooperation with Egypt and the United States.
January 19, 2009, a.m.: The European leaders expressed support for the cease-fire in Gaza and for an end to Palestinian rocket fire on southern Israel. After the meeting, Olmert said that Israel would soon withdraw its troops from Gaza. At a press conference preceding a dinner in honor of the visiting European leaders, Sarkozy vowed that the European Union would never harm the security of Israel. Sarkozy also said that France would be willing to provide monitors to prevent arms smuggling into Gaza and supply technology to help locate smuggling tunnels.
French President Sarkozy urged Israelis and Palestinians to restart peace talks as soon as possible after the Israel Defense Forces withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, and called for a summit with the Palestinian Authority to discuss the peace process. Sarkozy said that IDF soldier Gilad Shalit must be released, adding that he was certain Israel would be willing to free Palestinian prisoners in exchange.
German Chancellor Merkel said that Israel has the right to live in peace and not under threats. Merkel added that arms smuggling into Gaza, whether by sea or by land, must be prevented and that Germany was willing to help address that matter if necessary.
British Prime Minister Brown said that the European Union will do everything to support the cease-fire, as a step toward achieving a comprehensive peace. He called on Hamas to stop firing rockets on Israel and also expressed willingness to help in the effort to stop weapons smuggling into Gaza. And he urged Israel to open the border crossings into the coastal strip and to allow humanitarian aid in as soon as possible.

Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi, one of Israel warmest supporters, said that he was proud of the fact that it was he who put Hamas on the European Union's list of terrorist organizations. Berlusconi also promised that that he would work toward inducting Israel as a full member of the European Union. The Italian leader also expressed willingness to provide military personnel to battle arms smuggling into Gaza. "When I heard about the rocket fire at Israel, I felt that it was a danger to Italy, and to the entire West," he said.
Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero, who had never visited Israel before Sunday, joined his colleagues in voicing his support for Israel, despite the harsh criticism he had expressed toward Israel during the three-week operation in Gaza. "I am moved that the cease-fire was announced when I came to Israel," he said, adding that he hoped for a renewal of the peace process. No rockets were fired on Israel. Ohhhh. So nice.

January, 21: 2009: The IDF left Gaza. Hope it will never return.

The War Index - U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians - Obama’s Inauguration
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The War Index

Prof. Ephraim Yaar and Prof. Tamar Hermann conducted a survey about a week and a half after the launching of Operation Cast Lead. Unsurprisingly, the survey shows that the operation, with its various aspects, enjoys overwhelming support from the Israeli Jewish public: 94% of the public support or strongly support the operation, 92% think it benefits Israel’s security, and a clear majority, albeit smaller—62%—believe the operation is also helping Israel from a political standpoint. Ninety-two percent justify the air force’s attacks in Gaza despite the damage they cause to infrastructure and the suffering of the civilian population in the Strip. The decision to introduce ground forces into Gaza also enjoys broad support: 70% say it was a necessary move. This mood is reflected in the Israeli media. With the exception of some dissenting views who are appalled by the damage inflicted on the Palestinians, the overwhelming majority supports the war.

On the question of whether to continue the operation, the public—unlike the disagreements among the political leadership—displays unanimity: 90% of the interviewees think Israel should continue until it achieves all its objectives.

That support goes hand in hand with the large majority’s assessments that (70%) the operation has high or moderately high chances of achieving all its objectives and that (75%) the government has a clear plan of action for continuing the operation in Gaza. Presumably this broad support for sustaining the fighting is considerably bolstered by the public’s current positive assessments of the IDF’s fighting capability (93%) and of the southern communities’ resilience (87%). In a similar spirit, on the question of whether Israel should or should not cease the military activity in Gaza if Hamas is prepared to stop firing on the southern communities in return for opening the crossings, 80% responded negatively. In other words, the majority does not think Israel should stop the operation even if Hamas agrees to an offer of that kind. Moreover, a similar majority says Israel should not sign a ceasefire agreement with Hamas if it does not include the freeing of Gilad Shalit. The Israeli public yearns for a comprehensive solution to the Hamas problem. I am afraid this is not going to happen soon.

In light of the public’s broad support for Operation Cast Lead and the positive assessments of how it is being run, not surprisingly the leadership associated with the operation wins high levels of confidence, though these differ for different individuals. At the top of the ladder of public confidence is Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenasi with an 85% rating, apparently because the IDF is “above” the party-political arena. Ashkenasi deserves this high appreciation. He is followed by President Shimon Peres, who became the international spokesperson for the war, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, both at 62%. They are followed by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Likud opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu—both at 53%. At the bottom of the ladder is the prime minister, Ehud Olmert, who enjoys only a 44% confidence rating. Livni is much more vocal compared to the back-stage role she played in the 2006 war up until its final days.

These findings give Olmert a strong green light to continue.

As for the Israeli Arab citizens, their attitude is mirror image of the Jewish public’s positions on almost all the questions. 85% of the Arabs oppose the operation, 93% think Israel should end it based on an agreement that includes a cessation of Hamas’s shelling in return for opening the crossings into the Strip, and 80% say Israel should sign a ceasefire agreement even if it does not entail the freeing of Gilad Shalit.

U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians

U.S. aid to the Palestinians has fluctuated considerably over the past three years, largely due to Hamas’s changing role within the Palestinian Authority (PA). After Hamas led the PA government for over a year, its forcible takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 led to the creation of a non-Hamas government in the West Bank. Since then, the U.S. has dramatically boosted aid levels to bolster the PA and President Mahmoud Abbas vis-√†-vis Hamas. In FY2008, Congress appropriated a total of $414.5 million in bilateral assistance to the Palestinians, the largest single year appropriation ever for the Palestinians. Because of congressional concerns that, among other things, U.S. funds might be diverted to Palestinian terrorist groups, much of this assistance is subject to legislative restrictions. For FY2009, an additional $200 million has already been appropriated for the Palestinians (with another $100 million requested by the Bush Administration). Experts advise that PA stability hinges, now more than ever, on improved security, economic development, Israeli cooperation, and the continuation of high levels of foreign assistance.

Full report at
Source: Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. November 2, 2008.

Obama’s Inauguration

On January 20, 2009 Barack Hussein Obama was sworn into office. I cannot recall such high expectations from a new president. It is a combination of factors: Obama’s charisma and intelligence; his being the first African-American in the White House; the low point in American history; the yearning for change in the USA and worldwide. Belief and trust in Obama’s ability to lead his country, and the world, to a better place.

On a bitterly cold day, hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the Washington Mall just to witness history, to tell their children and grandchildren “I have been there”. For hours they waited to hear Obama. His speech was thoughtful. It was not uplifting. People expected another Lincoln’s Gettysburg. This did not happen. Obama chose, as he did before in many of his addresses (including the one at the Wilson Center last year, when he laid out his foreign policy), to speak concretely about his aims, detailing his agenda. There was nothing new. Those of who heard him in the past were not surprised. Obama has a clear view of priorities, and a vision as to how to achieve them.

The same day, BBC2 aired a one-hour program on Obama, from childhood to present, interviewing people who know the person, who worked with him, who helped him along the way. Not one word of criticism. A program full of praises, reflection of the high hopes so many people have from this 47 year-old man, who yesterday assumed the most important role on planet: Leader of the free world. I wish him luck and success from the bottom of my heart.

It was Rev. Lowery who provided uplifting inspiration in his inauguration benediction. He started rather hesitantly, but as he continued the speech gathered momentum. Rev. Lowery received loud applauses and a standing ovation from the people on the podium.

Here are his words of hope:

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou, who has brought us thus far along the way, thou, who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee.

Shadowed beneath thy hand, may we forever stand true to thee, oh God, and true to our native land.

We truly give thanks for the glorious experience we've shared this day.

We pray now, oh Lord, for your blessing upon thy servant Barack Obama, the 44th president of these United States, his family and his administration.

He has come to this high office at a low moment in the national, and indeed the global, fiscal climate. But because we know you got the whole world in your hands, we pray for not only our nation, but for the community of nations.

Our faith does not shrink though pressed by the flood of mortal ills.

For we know that, Lord, you are able and you're willing to work through faithful leadership to restore stability, mend our brokenness, heal our wounds, and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor, of the least of these, and from favoritism toward the rich, the elite of these.

We thank you for the empowering of thy servant, our 44th president, to inspire our nation to believe that yes we can work together to achieve a more perfect union.

And while we have sown the seeds of greed — the wind of greed and corruption, and even as we reap the whirlwind of social and economic disruption, we seek forgiveness and we come in a spirit of unity and solidarity to commit our support to our president by our willingness to make sacrifices, to respect your creation, to turn to each other and not on each other.

And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.

And as we leave this mountain top, help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family. Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosques, or wherever we seek your will.

Bless President Barack, First Lady Michelle. Look over our little angelic Sasha and Malia.

We go now to walk together as children, pledging that we won't get weary in the difficult days ahead. We know you will not leave us alone.

With your hands of power and your heart of love, help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nations shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid, when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around ... when yellow will be mellow ... when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy
say Amen.


Not infrequently I hear people here refer to England as “a small island”, “a little country”. Well, everything is relative, I suppose. If their terms of reference is Russia, or the United States, England is, indeed, small. Yet, coming from Israel I always look at people who express themselves in such a way with some puzzlement, looking whether they are joking. Israel is the size of greater London. It takes some 20 minutes of driving to pass the land from east to west. What shall I say?

My Inaugural Lecture

I reiterate my invitation: You are all invited to my lecture. Would love to see you.

On behalf of the University
The Vice-Chancellor has pleasure in inviting


to attend the

Inaugural Lecture


An internet’s way: terrorism, hate, child pornography and crime-facilitating speech on the free highway

to be given by

Professor Raphael Cohen-Almagor

in the Middleton Hall at the University on

Monday 2 February 2009
Commencing at 6.00 pm

The Lecture will be followed by
a wine reception in the
artcafé, Middleton Hall (to be advised)

(Department of Politics and International Studies
Cottingham Road
Hull HU6 7RX)
Tel: (01482 - 466085)
Email: (

New Article

“Reply to Rejoinder: Teaching in Class versus Free Expression”, American Journal of Education, Vol. 115 (November 2008), pp. 179-183.

Keywords: hate speech, Holocaust denial, humanistic education, free expression


Early in 2008 I published Hate in the Classroom: Free Expression, Holocaust Denial, and Liberal Education. A rejoinder was published, and this is my reply to the rejoinder. It is about education and the role of the teacher in the classroom. I argue that teachers should keep their hateful views to themselves and not pronounce them publicly if they wish to serve as educators. Students should not be subjected to teachers who are unable to appreciate difference and pluralism, who interpret liberty as a tool for hate, who abhor violence, and who exemplify the opposite of humanistic education. One cannot be a hate monger and an educator. When one opts to be the former, one should stay out of the classroom.

As ever, I’d be more than happy to send the article to interested parties, especially to those who requested "Hate in the Classroom: Free Expression, Holocaust Denial, and Liberal Education", American Journal of Education, Vol. 114, No. 2 (February 2008), pp. 215-241.

New Book

Richard Lance Keeble (ed.), Communication Ethics Now (Leicester: Troubador, 2008),

Monthly Poem - Elizabeth Alexander
Praise Song for the Day: A Poem for Barack Obama's Presidential Inauguration
Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others' eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.
Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.
A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky. A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."
We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.
We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, "I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's something better down the road."
We need to find a place where we are safe; we walk into that which we cannot yet see.
Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.
Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign, the figuring it out at kitchen tables.
Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self." Others by "First do no harm," or "Take no more than you need."
What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.
In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.

Movie of the Month: Gathering Storm (2002)

This movie tells the story of Winston Churchill during the 1930s. Churchill at this time was in decline. His party peers lost their appreciation of him, perceiving him as an old, selfish opportunist. His future, all thought, including Winston, was behind him. And then Nazi Germany started to arm itself and to build a strong army, in violation of the Versailles Treaty. Churchill was one of the first to see this with alarm. Steadily he built the reputation of a leader who could stand against the threat, a person who looks at reality in the eyes and say: Stop the illusions. War is ugly. War is terrible. But sometimes it is unavoidable if you wish to save yourself.
The movie also provides a close look at the relationships between Winston and his wife Clementine Churchill during a troubled time in their lives. The cast is superb, led by incredible actors who remind us how good British cinema can be: Albert Finney, Vanessa Redgrave, Derek Jacobi, Linus Roache and Tom Wilkinson. People who have a sense and appreciation of history should put this film on their list.

Statement of the Month

Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater.
If you give her sperm, she'll give you a baby.
If you give her a house, she'll give you a home.
If you give her groceries, she'll give you a meal.
If you give her a smile, she'll give you her heart.
She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her.

So, if you give her any crap, be ready to receive a ton of shit.

I thank Sharon Haleva-Amir for this.

Yours as ever,


My last communications are available on Earlier posts at my home page: People wishing to subscribe to this Monthly Newsletter are welcome to e-mail me at