Thursday, March 19, 2009

Politics – March 2009

One of Menachem Begin’s first decisions in office was to admit some 200 refugees from Vietnam to Israel. In his first week in office, Barack Obama ordered to close the much-reviled detention center at Guantanamo Bay. I wish to see an Israeli prime minister whose first decision would be to compensate the families of Ikrit and Biram for the gross injustice they have suffered for so many years. May I see the day.

Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Bibi Netanyahu composed his short-lived government. One more month with the growing Iranian threat. Prime Minister Salam Fayyad resigned to enable the reentry of Hamas into government. More Kassams in the south of Israel. Public and private efforts to bring Gilad Shalit home. I hope his release is imminent.

In Hebrew there is a saying: “Veshavu banim legvulam”, meaning returning the boys to their border, their home. It is about time to return Gilad. Almost 1000 days in captivity are more than enough. He should not reach the 1000th day. We all want to see Gilad at his home, celebrating the Pesach Seder with his family. Veshavu banim legvulam.

Responsibility - Israel Elections - Israel-US Relationships - Human Rights Watch Report - Post-War Developments - War on Terror - U.S. Aid to the Palestinians - CIA Destroyed 92 Interrogation Tapes - Harvard's Web Seminar on "Closing Guantánamo: Legal and Policy Debates” - The London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism - Lecture: Elections in Israel 2009 - Stem Cell Research - ME Study Group - Purim - New Books - Movie of the Month - Light Side


There is a noticeable trend among some governments (Turkey) as well as media and other organizations to minimize Hamas's responsibility for the last round of violence and to maximize Israel’s responsibility. With regard to Hamas, the argument accentuates that it is the democratically elected government of Palestine. The rockets are termed “flying pipes”, observing the number of casualties killed as a result and ignoring the terror and fear they inflict. The “minimizers” also say that “only” 13 Israelis were killed during the Cast Led Operation. They depict the Palestinians as helpless, weak, occupied, refugees, oppressed, seek freedom, underdog, powerless.

The effort to minimize the Palestinian role in the last round of hostilities is accompanied with massive critique of Israel. Its response is said to be disproportional. The IDF is the fourth strongest army in the world fighting against people armed with guns and “flying pipes”. It is not a fair struggle. 1300 Palestinians were killed, two thirds are said to be peaceful civilians. Among them are many children and women. More than 5,000 Palestinians were injured. Gaza is destroyed. Israel inflicted on the Strip unjustified collateral damage. Israel’s conduct amounts to state terrorism and to war crimes.

We should expect responsibility from people who speak of responsibility. I say time and again that there are no angels in this conflict. Both sides have made their fair share of mistakes. I always believe in Aristotle’s Golden Path and am certain that the conclusion – if there ever be a conclusion – will be one of compromise between the two sides. I will not repeat ideas and statements I reiterated in the past as I wish to avoid boring you, and me, to death. What I expect from governments and commentators is to “pick” the facts honestly and reasonably, and to check the facts before rushing into provocative and irresponsible allegations. I recently met with some leading human rights lawyers. Not one of them conceded that Israel’s conduct amounted to “war crimes”. To my direct question their answer was: We need to investigate all the facts before reaching such a conclusion. Not all facts are known at present. In dispute is the number of civilians killed during the operation. To call Israel “terrorist” one should establish that the aim was to target civilians. I found it difficult to believe that in the operation’s orders such an aim was specified. I want proof before rushing to such allegations.

Some words about responsibility. Aristotle was the first to construct a theory of moral responsibility. In discussing human virtues and their corresponding vices, Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics III.1-5 explores their underpinnings. He states that it is sometimes appropriate to respond to an agent with praise or blame on the basis of her actions and/or dispositional traits of character. Of course, if one is acting out of coercion one cannot be held responsible for one’s deeds. One is responsible when one is informed, aware of what one does (1110B15-25). Only a certain kind of agent qualifies as a moral agent and is thus properly subject to ascriptions of responsibility, namely, one who possess a capacity for decision. For Aristotle, a decision is a particular kind of desire resulting from free deliberation, one that expresses the agent's conception of what is good. Choice is important, to have desirable ends and relevant means to pursue the end (1111b15-1113b22). Aristotle spells out the conditions under which it is appropriate to hold a moral agent blameworthy or praiseworthy for some particular action or trait. He proposes that one is an apt candidate for praise or blame if and only if the action and/or disposition is voluntary. A voluntary action or trait has two distinctive features: the action or trait must have its origin in the agent. That is, it must be up to the agent whether to perform that action or possess the trait — it cannot be compelled externally. And the agent must be aware of what it is she is doing or bringing about (1110a-1111b4).

Thus, by moral responsibility it is meant that autonomous agents have the understanding of the options before them, have access to evidence required for making judgments about the benefits and hazards of each option, and able to weigh the relative value of the consequences of their choice.

In a recent article (Ethics, Vol. 118, 2008), William J. FitzPatrick further explains that all cases of moral responsibility for bad actions must involve a strong form of akrasia, i.e. acting against one’s better judgment. If an agent does something bad, either she does so in full knowledge that she should not be doing it, which is clear-eyed akrasia, or she is acting from ignorance. In the former case, she will be held responsible. In the latter case, whether she is responsible or not will depend on whether or not her ignorance is culpable. Her ignorance will be culpable only if she is responsible for some earlier failure that gave rise to that ignorance. And she will be responsible for that earlier failure again only if that was a case of clear-eyed akrasia. We do not establish culpability until we arrive at a relevant episode of clear-eyed akrasia. Ignorance, whether circumstantial or normative, is culpable if the agent could reasonably have been expected to take measures that would have corrected or avoided it, given her capabilities and the opportunities provided by the social context, but failed to do so either due to akrasia or due to vices such as overconfidence, arrogance, dismissiveness, laziness, dogmatism, incuriosity, self-indulgence and contempt. Agents of governments and media organizations should not substitute truth inquiry with the above vices. I know this would demand time and resources on their part, and it is most convenient to seek short cuts. The shorter route, however, is often not the most prudent or responsible one.

Israel Elections

Bibi has an excellent chance to establish a government. It might not be the government that he wants. He would have liked to see Kadima in it. Livni, however, now for the second time showed that she is a different sort of politician, one who is not driven by personal zeal for power but rather by agenda, principles. Livni stands by her principles and does not replace them with a seat. This is quite refreshing. We are not used to it. When she gave up the option to become a prime minister some six months ago, she was perceived as a green, inexperienced, not very astute politician. Now, it seems, we understand her better, understand that she is made from a different material, rare, fresh, surprising, appealing. However, not all members of Kadima are as oblivious to power as Livni. We shall see what transpires.

Bibi has several options:
Likud-right government:very cohesive in terms of agenda; detrimental to peace; bound to clash with the international community; short lived coalition.

Likud-right-Kadima: frictions; divisive; more reasonable; better chance to reach three years in office.

Likud-right-Labour: Labour is reduced to the fourth largest party, hence will not make too many waves after it agrees to enter coalition; good Minister of Defence; more reasonable; better chance to reach three years in office.

Likud-right-Kadima-Labour: strong government; divisive; hardly any opposition; recipe for corruption. In democracy we need strong government and, no less importantly, strong opposition to keep an eye on government.

Israel-US Relationships

I was asked: Do you think that the appointment of George Mitchell, who has always opposed the settlements, will help? Should Mitchell threaten withdrawing some US aid to Israel unless Israel ends settlement expansion?

My answer: Generally speaking, I believe that if the USA wishes to play a constructive role in any peace process, it should act as a fair broker; fair meaning fair to both sides. G.W. Bush is generally regarded as Israel's best friend. I am not so sure that the policy that effectively turned a blind eye to Israel's settlement policy worked for Israel's long-term interests. Peace is a precious commodity. To reach peace both sides need to make concessions. Security is also a precious commodity. Those of us who stop hoping for peace and yearn to secure Israel's borders need to understand that security cannot be achieved if you infringe upon the rights of the Palestinians.

I can predict an inevitable clash between the Obama administration and the newly elected government of Israel. I hope that the long-term implications will work for Israel's well-being.

Human Rights Watch Report

Human Rights Watch recently published its report for 2008. I wish to highlight some of the finding regarding Israel and the Occupied Territories.
Israel's blockade of Gaza and restrictions on movement to protect illegal West Bank settlements, along with indiscriminate Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli towns and serious abuses by Fatah and Hamas against each other's supporters, were major components of the human rights crisis in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories in 2008.
- Palestinian civilians accounted for around half of those killed in Israeli military operations in Gaza prior to a June ceasefire between Hamas and Israel. More Palestinians were killed in Gaza by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in the first half of the year than in all of 2007 in both the West Bank and Gaza.
- Israel's blockade of Gaza has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis affecting Gaza's 1.5 million residents. In the West Bank, Israel maintains onerous restrictions on freedom of movement for Palestinians.
- Palestinian armed groups fired rockets and mortars indiscriminately into Israeli towns, particularly Sderot, killing four civilians and wounding others. Fatah and Hamas, the dominant Palestinian parties in the West Bank and Gaza, respectively, were responsible for extensive human rights violations as they sought to impose their authority, and retaliated for each other's violations.
- Palestinian armed groups in Gaza continued to hold as hostage Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, captured in June 2006.

Gaza Strip

Israel's comprehensive blockade of the Gaza Strip has severe humanitarian and economic consequences for the civilian population. Even after the June ceasefire, continued restrictions reduced the availability of basic goods and the provision of essential services. Imports in September represented 30 percent of what Israel allowed into Gaza in December 2005. Exports remained completely barred.
Israel is Gaza's major source of electricity and sole source of fuel, so its restrictions on their supply cripple transportation as well as water-pumping, sewage, and sanitation facilities.
Israel also continues to restrict the movement of Palestinians out of Gaza. The restrictions rely on Egypt's cooperation along its border with Gaza, in particular at the Rafah crossing.
Israel reintroduced a complete blockade in November in retaliation for a wave of Palestinian rocket attacks. The complete closure by Israel cut off food and medical aid, as well as fuel supplies, halted the United Nations' food distribution to 750,000 people, and caused widespread power cuts.
Between January and June 2008, Israeli forces conducting military operations killed 388 Palestinian fighters and civilians in Gaza, about half of whom were civilians; 59 of the dead were children. Israeli forces killed 41 Palestinians in the West Bank between January and the end of October, of whom at least 15 were civilians. The largest Israeli military operation, between February 27 and March 3 in Gaza, killed 107 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians. Human Rights Watch examined one area occupied by Israeli troops during the operation and found strong evidence in four incidents that Israeli forces deliberately fired at and killed five civilians, medical personnel, and incapacitated fighters. In other attacks, Israeli forces did not appear to take all feasible precautions to ensure targets were military and not civilian.
Settlements and the Wall

The route of the "separation barrier" or wall, more than 80 percent of which extends into the West Bank, further restricts the ability of thousands of Palestinian residents to access their land, essential services such as education and healthcare, and water.
As of mid-2008, more than 600 buildings were under construction in illegal West Bank settlements (not including East Jerusalem) and tenders had been issued for more than 2,400 others. In July, government approval of Maskiot marked the first official recognition of a settlement in almost nine years.
The Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem, in October, reported 429 cases of settler violence against Palestinians and their property in 2008, a 75 percent increase over 2007. These included physical assaults with firearms, beatings, and destruction of crops and other property. Israeli authorities seldom apprehend or prosecute perpetrators.

Discriminatory Legislation

In a positive development, since October 2007 Israel approved nearly 32,000 family unification requests in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the first exceptions to a freeze on family unifications put in place in September 2000. Some 90,000 family reunification requests remain pending.
Israeli laws and practices continue to force tens of thousands of Bedouins in the Negev region to live in "unrecognized" shanty towns. The state deliberately excludes Bedouin villages from its national planning process, thus denying them legal status. Israeli authorities demolished dozens of Bedouin dwellings in 2008. An official commission headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Eliezer Goldberg held public hearings to examine the land ownership issues in early 2008, but as of November had not issued any findings or recommendations.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas Attacks on Israeli Civilians

Palestinian armed groups in Gaza indiscriminately fired locally-made rockets into the Israeli border town of Sderot and other civilian areas throughout the first half of 2008. The rocket fire killed four Israeli civilians and wounded others in 2008, prior to the June ceasefire. Palestinian armed groups, excluding Hamas, continued to fire small numbers of rockets after the ceasefire came into effect. According to media reports, Hamas authorities temporarily detained several Islamic Jihad members for planning or carrying out rocket attacks. In early November Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups fired over 80 rockets at targets inside Israel, including civilian populated areas in response to an Israeli military operation that killed six fighters. As in previous rocket attacks, Palestinian authorities in Gaza took no action to prosecute any of the individuals involved.

Intra-Palestinian Fighting and Lawlessness

Hamas forces in Gaza and Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority forces in the West Bank have carried out arbitrary arrests of each other's supporters, tortured prisoners in their custody, and closed down scores of charities, political societies, and other organizations. The PA prosecuted defendants before military courts, circumventing due process safeguards.
These abuses occurred throughout the period since Hamas took control of Gaza in June 2007, peaking in July 2008 after a bombing in a Gaza City beach café killed a four-year-old girl and five members of Hamas's armed wing, the Izzedin al-Qassam Brigades. Qassam Brigades members, who have no law enforcement powers, arbitrarily arrested over 200 people. In the West Bank, PA security forces responded by arbitrarily arresting over 100 people considered sympathetic to Hamas.
Palestinian security forces tortured detainees during interrogation, sometimes leading to their deaths. Hamas authorities claimed in early June that they had punished 35 officers for "violating human rights" but did not provide details.
The struggle between Hamas and Fatah also contributed to Gaza's humanitarian crisis. In August Hamas authorities interrupted regular diesel shipments to the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility, an agency controlled by the PA in Ramallah.

Key International Actors

Israel is the largest recipient of aid from the United States, receiving US$2.38 billion in military aid in 2008. Washington has not made any funds conditional on Israel improving its adherence to international human rights and humanitarian law. The US trained and equipped Palestinian security forces, which took over some security functions in Jenin and Hebron.
The current European Union-Israel Action Plan only briefly and vaguely mentions human rights concerns, in contrast to similar plans between the EU and other countries in the region. As talks commenced in late 2008 about an "upgraded" relationship with Israel, the EU said any new agreement would include a formal subcommittee on human rights.
The Quartet (the EU, US, Russia, and UN) provided limited humanitarian aid to Gaza; the US and EU continued their economic sanctions against the de facto Hamas government there.
Israel was reviewed under the Universal Periodic Review mechanism of the UN Human Rights Council in May 2008.
The full report is available at

War on Terror

Last month I was invited to participate in a conference held at the Israel Democracy Institute. The subject was “War on Terror”. The participants arrived from Israel, the USA, Canada, Germany, Hungary, Switzerland and England (myself). Most of them were legal scholars from different law schools. Most speakers think that the threat of terror will remain with us for years to come. Most thought that we can expect further deterioration of our freedoms as more protective measures will be taken to counter terror. Clearly, there is a need for international cooperation to counter global terrorism.

Among the speakers was Hassan Jabareen, Founder of Adalah and its General Director. Adalah is the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. The Adalah advocates do an important job in protecting the basic rights and freedoms of Israeli Arabs.

Jabareen said that Hamas can take the West Bank in one day. Hamas does not wish to. Its leaders are reluctant to take responsibility. He said that the Palestinian people and Israel do not have hope. Negotiations without hope are difficult to carry. I agree. Such negotiations are most likely to fail.

I asked Jabareen whether Hamas is a terrorist organization. His answer was that Hamas does many things. Some of them are terrorist in nature. Many others are not. Hamas provides social welfare to its people; it governs; it provides social structure; it is a religious organization. Thus, Jabareen is reluctant to call Hamas terrorist. Instead of speaking of terrorist organization, speak of terrorist acts. When Hamas fires rockets into Israel, aiming indiscriminately to kill civilians, it is acting in a terrorist fashion.

Another question I posed for Jabareen was whether we should prosecute people who support the firing of Kassams on Israel, suicide bombing and other forms of terror attacks. In his answer, Jabareen differentiated between ordinary people and public figures. Suppose a resident of Umm El Fahm watches Al Jazeera’s coverage of Cast Led. He sees young Palestinian children maimed, other dead. He is upset and angry. He goes to the nearest coffee shop and says to his mates: So many children were killed in Gaza. I wish a Kassam will kill some Jewish children so Jews would understand what they are doing. Jabareen says this is a protected speech. The Palestinian simply vents his fury. His angry words would not bring about violent action. He has no influence over the firing of Kassams. However, a different matter is if the same words would be pronounced by a Palestinian public leader, secular or religious. Then such words carry weight that makes the exclusion of this speech from the protection of the Free Speech Principle.

Lastly, I asked Jabareen what he thinks about Raad Salah’s speeches and activities, knowing that he represented Salah in the past. Salah is the leader of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement. Two repeated themes in Salah’s preach are the need for violence against the Jews, and establishing the rule of Islam in the region. He said that soon Islam will rule the entire Middle East. In a fiery speech in the February 16, 2007 protest in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi Joz, Salah accused Jews of using children's blood to bake bread: "We have never allowed ourselves to knead [the dough for] the bread that breaks the fast in the holy month of Ramadan with children's blood," he said. "Whoever wants a more thorough explanation, let him ask what used to happen to some children in Europe, whose blood was mixed in with the dough of the [Jewish] holy bread." "Great God, is this a religion?" he asked. "Is this what God would want? God will deal with you yet for what you are doing." Addressing the 1,000-strong crowd and assembled press, Salah accused Israel of attempting to rebuild the Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount while drenched in Arab blood: "Whoever wants to build a house of God should not do so while our blood is still on his clothes, on his doorposts, in his food, in his drink, being passed along from one terrorist general to the next terrorist general," he said. "You are inciting against us, do not let the ranks on your shoulders tempt you," he continued. "These ranks and stars on your shoulders were made from the skulls of our martyrs. They are ranks of shame, not ranks of splendor. These are ranks of disgrace, not ranks of honor." Following the speech and Friday prayers, the crowd began rioting and throwing stones at police.

Jabareen answered that nothing of what Salah said constituted incitement. Offering a consequentialist argument, he asked rhetorically how many of Salah’s followers broke the law and sit in jail. Jabareen’s answer was: None. This for him is a clear indication that Salah does not wish to break Israeli law, nor to sway others to commit criminal acts.

Jabareen called Hamas to accept the Geneva Convention notwithstanding the fact that the Convention applies only to states. This is only a formality. The South African ANC accepted the Geneva Convention in the 1950s, when no one asked them to do so. Jabareen urged Hamas to do the same.

I thank Prof. Yuval Shany and the Israel Democracy Institute for the kind invitation to attend the conference.

U.S. 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—resulting in different models of governance for the two Palestinian territories. Since then, the U.S. has dramatically boosted aid levels to bolster the PA and President Mahmoud Abbas vis-à-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 have already been appropriated for the Palestinians (with another $100 million requested by the Bush Administration). Experts advise that PA stability hinges on, now more than ever, improved security, economic development, Israeli cooperation, and the continuation of high levels of foreign assistance. U.S. contributions were made to assist emergency humanitarian efforts in the Gaza Strip during the 2008-2009 Israel-Hamas conflict, and U.S. policymakers have also spoken of possible U.S. participation in international efforts to help with the post-conflict reconstruction of Gaza—subject to finding an acceptable approach vis-à-vis Hamas.

Full report is available at

CIA Destroyed 92 Interrogation Tapes

According to a letter filed by the US government, the CIA acknowledged it destroyed 92 tapes of interrogations. The admission comes in an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit seeking records of the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody abroad. In December 2007, the ACLU filed a motion to hold the CIA in contempt for its destruction of videotapes recording the harsh interrogation of prisoners in violation of a court order requiring the agency to produce or identify all the requested records. That motion is still pending.

The following can be attributed to Amrit Singh, staff attorney with the ACLU:

"This letter provides further evidence for holding the CIA in contempt of court. The large number of videotapes destroyed confirms that the agency engaged in a systemic attempt to hide evidence of its illegal interrogations and to evade the court's order. Our contempt motion has been pending in court for over a year now - it is time to hold the CIA accountable for its flagrant disregard for the rule of law."

The tapes, which show CIA operatives subjecting suspects to extremely harsh interrogation methods, should have been identified and processed for the ACLU in response to its FOIA request demanding information on the treatment and interrogation of detainees in U.S. custody. The tapes were also withheld from the 9/11 Commission, appointed by former President Bush and Congress, which had formally requested that the CIA hand over transcripts and recordings documenting the interrogation of CIA prisoners.

A copy of the government's letter is available at:

The ACLU's contempt motion and related legal documents are available online

(March 2, 2009)

Harvard's Web Seminar on "Closing Guantánamo: Legal and Policy Debates”

On March 23, 2009, a live Web seminar sponsored by the Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research at Harvard University will be held on “Closing Guantánamo: Legal and Policy Debates”. The seminar will begin at 7:30 a.m. MST. It focuses on the likely effects of the closure of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facilities, including the appropriate legal framework to apply to current detainees and the key lessons to be learned.
For more information on the event, click here: (you will need to sign in)
To link to discussion threads on the Humanitarian Law and Policy Forum social networking site, click here: (you will need to sign in)

The London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism By The Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (ICCA) on February 26, 2009.

I wish to bring to your attention the London Declaration. While in Israel I had a long discussion with Irwin Cotler, former Canadian Minister of Justice. Irwin was full of praise for the British parliamentarians who organized the conference. He has high hopes that the committed countries will take active steps to combat racism. Hate crimes are of constant concern, especially in Europe. Hate speech is a growing concern, especially on the Internet.

We, Representatives of our respective Parliaments from across the world, convening in London for the founding Conference and Summit of the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism, draw the democratic world's attention to the resurgence of antisemitism as a potent force in politics, international affairs and society.
We note the dramatic increase in recorded antisemitic hate crimes and attacks targeting Jewish persons and property, and Jewish religious, educational and communal institutions.
We are alarmed at the resurrection of the old language of prejudice and its modern manifestations - in rhetoric and political action - against Jews, Jewish belief and practice and the State of Israel.
We are alarmed by Government-backed antisemitism in general, and state-backed genocidal antisemitism, in particular.
We, as Parliamentarians, affirm our commitment to a comprehensive programme of action to meet this challenge.
We call upon national governments, parliaments, international institutions, political and civic leaders, NGOs, and civil society to affirm democratic and human values, build societies based on respect and citizenship and combat any manifestations of antisemitism and discrimination.
We today in London resolve that;
Challenging Antisemitism
1. Parliamentarians shall expose, challenge, and isolate political actors who engage in hate against Jews and target the State of Israel as a Jewish collectivity;
2. Parliamentarians should speak out against antisemitism and discrimination directed against any minority, and guard against equivocation, hesitation and justification in the face of expressions of hatred;
3. Governments must challenge any foreign leader, politician or public figure who denies, denigrates or trivialises the Holocaust and must encourage civil society to be vigilant to this phenomenon and to openly condemn it;
4. Parliamentarians should campaign for their Government to uphold international commitments on combating antisemitism - including the OSCE Berlin Declaration and its eight main principles;
5. The UN should reaffirm its call for every member state to commit itself to the principles laid out in the Holocaust Remembrance initiative including specific and targeted policies to eradicate Holocaust denial and trivialisation;
6. Governments and the UN should resolve that never again will the institutions of the international community and the dialogue of nation states be abused to try to establish any legitimacy for antisemitism, including the singling out of Israel for discriminatory treatment in the international arena, and we will never witness - or be party to - another gathering like Durban in 2001;
7. The OSCE should encourage its member states to fulfil their commitments under the 2004 Berlin Declaration and to fully utilise programmes to combat antisemitism including the Law Enforcement programme LEOP;
8. The European Union, inter-state institutions and multilateral fora and religious communities must make a concerted effort to combat antisemitism and lead their member states to adopt proven and best practice methods of countering antisemitism;
9. Leaders of all religious faiths should be called upon to use all the means possible to combat antisemitism and all types of discriminatory hostilities among believers and society at large;
10. The EU Council of Ministers should convene a session on combating antisemitism relying on the outcomes of the London Conference on Combating Antisemitism and using the London Declaration as a basis.
11. Governments should take appropriate and necessary action to prevent the broadcast of explicitly antisemitic programmes on satellite television channels, and to apply pressure on the host broadcast nation to take action to prevent the transmission of explicitly antisemitic programmes;
12. Governments should fully reaffirm and actively uphold the Genocide Convention,
recognising that where there is incitement to genocide signatories automatically have an obligation to act. This may include sanctions against countries involved in or threatening to commit genocide or referral of the matter to the UN Security Council or initiate an interstate complaint at the International Court of Justice;
13. Parliamentarians should legislate effective Hate Crime legislation recognising "hate aggravated crimes" and, where consistent with local legal standards, "incitement to hatred" offences and empower law enforcement agencies to convict;
14. Governments that are signatories to the Hate Speech Protocol of the Council of Europe 'Convention on Cybercrime' (and the 'Additional Protocol to the Convention on cybercrime, concerning the criminalisation of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems') should enact domestic enabling legislation;
Identifying the threat
15. Parliamentarians should return to their legislature, Parliament or Assembly and establish inquiry scrutiny panels that are tasked with determining the existing nature and state of antisemitism in their countries and developing recommendations for government and civil society action;
16. Parliamentarians should engage with their governments in order to measure the effectiveness of existing policies and mechanisms in place and to recommend proven and best practice methods of countering antisemitism;
17. Governments should ensure they have publicly accessible incident reporting systems, and that statistics collected on antisemitism should be the subject of regular review and action by government and state prosecutors and that an adequate legislative framework is in place to tackle hate crime.
18. Governments must expand the use of the EUMC 'working definition' of antisemitism to inform policy of national and international organisations and as a basis for training material for use by Criminal Justice Agencies;
19. Police services should record allegations of hate crimes and incidents - including
antisemitism - as routine part of reporting crimes;
20. The OSCE should work with member states to seek consistent data collection systems for antisemitism and hate crime.
Education, awareness and training
21. Governments should train Police, prosecutors and judges comprehensively. The training is essential if perpetrators of antisemitic hate crime are to be successfully apprehended, prosecuted, convicted and sentenced. The OSCE's Law enforcement Programme LEOP is a model initiative consisting of an international cadre of expert police officers training police in several countries;
22. Governments should develop teaching materials on the subjects of the Holocaust, racism, antisemitism and discrimination which are incorporated into the national school curriculum. All teaching materials ought to be based on values of comprehensiveness, inclusiveness, acceptance and respect and should be designed to assist students to recognise and counter antisemitism and all forms of hate speech;
23. The OSCE should encourage their member states to fulfill their commitments under the 2004 Berlin Declaration and to fully utilise programmes to combat antisemitism including the Law Enforcement programme LEOP;
24. Governments should include a comprehensive training programme across the Criminal Justice System using programmes such as the LEOP programme;
25. Education Authorities should ensure that freedom of speech is upheld within the law and to protect students and staff from illegal antisemitic discourse and a hostile environment in whatever form it takes including calls for boycotts;
Community Support
26. The Criminal Justice System should publicly notify local communities when antisemitic hate crimes are prosecuted by the courts to build community confidence in reporting and pursuing convictions through the Criminal Justice system;
27. Parliamentarians should engage with civil society institutions and leading NGOs to create partnerships that bring about change locally, domestically and globally, and support efforts that encourage Holocaust education, inter-religious dialogue and cultural exchange;
Media and the Internet
28. Governments should acknowledge the challenge and opportunity of the growing new forms of communication;
29. Media Regulatory Bodies should utilise the EUMC 'Working Definition of antisemitism' to inform media standards;
30. Governments should take appropriate and necessary action to prevent the broadcast of antisemitic programmes on satellite television channels, and to apply pressure on the host broadcast nation to take action to prevent the transmission of antisemitic programmes;
31. The OSCE should seek ways to coordinate the response of member states to combat the use of the internet to promote incitement to hatred;
32. Law enforcement authorities should use domestic "hate crime", "incitement to hatred" and other legislation as well as other means to mitigate and, where permissible, to prosecute "Hate on the Internet" where racist and antisemitic content is hosted, published and written;
33. An international task force of Internet specialists comprised of parliamentarians and experts should be established to create common metrics to measure antisemitism and other manifestations of hate online and to develop policy recommendations and practical instruments for Governments and international frameworks to tackle these problems.
Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism
34. Participants will endeavour to maintain contact with fellow delegates through working group framework; communicating successes or requesting further support where required;
35. Delegates should reconvene for the next ICCA Conference in Canada in 2010, become an active member of the Inter-parliamentary Coalition and promote and prioritise the London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism.
Lancaster House, 17 February 2009

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said, on signing the London Declaration:
"I am pleased that the British Foreign Office hosted the founding Summit of the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism. The event brought together 125 MPs from 40 different counties and led to this important Declaration that I’m honoured to sign today. So many of the principles it enshrines are already things we are doing here in Britain and while I’m proud of the bold action Britain has taken to combat anti-Semitism such as improved reporting, prosecutions for antisemitic internet hate and the funding of Holocaust Education in schools, there is no room for complacency. Within a month the DCLG are organising for an away day event at Beth Shalom, the Holocaust Centre, to look in detail at how the Government can implement the London Declaration. I encourage other Heads of Government to become signatories to this historic agreement - together our renewed efforts can rid the world of this ancient virus."

John Mann MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism and founder of the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition on Combating Antisemitism said:
"It is excellent to see the British Government taking the London Declaration so seriously. Prime Minister Gordon Brown is the first world leader to sign the declaration. Having the Foreign Secretary, Home Secretary and Communities Secretary join the Prime Minister, demonstrates the comprehensive government support that I know will lead to cross departmental action. Following this, I know meetings are taking place to implement the recommendations in the declaration. "The UK to date has taken a leading role in the fight against antisemitism - today proves the UK sees no room for complacency and will continue to find new and innovative solutions to tackle the world's oldest hatred."
Conference Participants
The conference was hosted by the Steering Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition on Combating Antisemitism:
Prof. Irwin Cotler MP, former Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Canada
Isaac Herzog MK, Minister for the Diaspora and the Fight Against Antisemitism, Israel
John Mann MP, Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism, UK
Dr. Fiamma Nirenstein, Vice-President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Chamber of Deputies, Italy
Congressman Chris Smith, House of Representatives, USA
Prof. Gert Weisskirchen, Member of the Bundestag, Germany
Other participants include:
Senator Sergio Abreu, Former Foreign Minister, Uruguay
André Azoulay, Counsellor to His Majesty the King Mohammed VI, Morocco
Peter Caruana QC, Chief Minister, Gibraltar
Prof. Iulian Fota, National Security Advisor to the President, Romania
Dr Hedy Fry MP, former Minister of Multiculturalism, Canada
Mike Gapes MP, Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee
Congressman Alcee Hastings, US House of Representatives
Sadiq Khan MP, Minister for Community Cohesion, UK
Jason Kenney MP, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Canada
Rt. Hon. Denis MacShane MP, former Minster for Europe, UK
Lord Malloch-Brown, Minister for the UN, UK
Rt. Hon Jim Murphy MP, Secretary of State for Scotland, UK
Dr. Alberto Nisman, State Prosecutor, Argentina
Dr. Solomon Passy, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and Former Foreign Minister, Bulgaria
Petra Pau MP, Vice-President of the Bundestag, Germany
Dr. Barbara Prammer, President of the Austrian National Council
Natan Sharansky, former Deputy Prime Minister, Israel
Dr Pavel Svoboda MP, Minister and Chairman of the Legislative Council of the Government, Czech Republic
Rt Hon Phil Woolas MP, Minister for Immigration, UK

Lecture – Elections in Israel 2009

My lecture, delivered on March 4, 2009, is available online at

Stem Cell Research

Last year in the Rockville kibbutz I heard time and again complaints from the neighbouring scientists about the Bush policy on stem cells that gravely impeded their ability to carry out meaningful research to better humanity. Substantial parts of the American citizenry vote for Obama to bring a change in this much-needed sphere. Obama did not disappoint on this issue.

On March 9, 2009 President Obama freed biomedical researchers using federal money (a vast majority) to work on more than the small number of human embryonic stem cell lines that were established before Aug. 9, 2001. In practical terms, federally financed researchers will now find it easier to do a particular category of stem cell experiments that, though still important, has been somewhat eclipsed by new advances. Still, more resources and avenues should be made available.

Until now, to study unapproved stem cell lines, researchers had to set up separate, privately financed labs and follow laborious accounting procedures to make sure not a cent of federal grant money was used on that research. No longer. The lifting of such requirements is a major boost for research not only in the USA but in the entire world, as the USA takes a leading role in biomedical research.

Members of Congress and advocates for fighting diseases have long spoken of human embryonic stem cell research as if it were a sure avenue to quick cures for intractable afflictions. Scientists have not publicly objected to such high-flown hopes, which have helped fuel new sources of grant money like the $3 billion initiative in California for stem cell research. In private, however, many researchers have projected much more modest goals for embryonic stem cells. Their chief interest is to derive embryonic stem cell lines from patients with specific diseases, and by tracking the cells in the test tube to develop basic knowledge about how the disease develops.

Restrictions on embryonic stem cell research originated with Congress, which, each year since in 1996, has forbidden the use of federal financing for any experiment in which a human embryo is destroyed. President Clinton contemplated but never implemented a policy that would have allowed N.I.H.-financed researchers to study human embryonic stem cells derived by others. Research was able to begin only in August 2001, when President Bush, seeking a different way around the Congressional restriction, said researchers could use any lines established before that date.

Critics said the distinction between the Clinton and Bush policies lacked moral significance, given that each was intended to get around the Congressional ban, based on a religious and moral argument. The proposed Clinton policy amounted to: “Stealing is wrong, but it’s O.K. to use stolen property if someone else stole it.” The Bush policy was: “Stealing is wrong, but it’s O.K. to use stolen property if it was stolen before Aug. 9, 2001.”

Mr. Obama has put the proposed Clinton policy into effect, but Congressional restrictions remain. Researchers are still forbidden to use federal financing to derive new human embryonic stem cell lines. They will, however, be allowed to do research on new stem cell lines grown in a privately financed lab.

Stem cell research is the best known of several avenues of investigation into what is known as regenerative medicine. To regenerate the aging body with its own subtle repair systems, of which stem cells are one component, would be far more effective than the brute methods of drugs and surgery used today.

However, scientists are still merely at the threshold of understanding how the body’s 200 different types of cell interact with one another. It seems likely to be years before biologists know all the settings that must be adjusted in a human cell’s chromosomes to make it become a well-behaved cone cell in the retina or a dopamine-making neuron of the type destroyed in Parkinson’s. Despite the new interest in reprogrammed stem cells, human embryonic stem cells are still worth studying, both to track the earliest moments in disease and to help assess the behavior of the reprogrammed cells.


ME Study Group

I have established a Middle East Study Group at the University of Hull. Ten people have signed up so far, lecturers and professors from different departments, all in the humanities and social sciences. In the first meeting, I spoke about the elections in Israel and the prospects for coalition. In the second meeting, we hosted Professor Jan Czaga of Poland, who spoke about the involvement of Poland in the Middle East. We plan to meet once a month, discussing in each meeting a paper of one of the participants, or hosting experts who can offer insights into specific matters. Next meeting will be about the relationship between media and terror.

I thank Prof. Jo Carby Hall for arranging the meeting with Prof. Czaga.


Purim is one of my favourite festivals. The Jewish calendar is filled with not-so-pleasant dates: memorial dates, fast, recalling Jewish suffering and destruction. Purim is one of the few dates that are joyful, filled with happiness and carefree atmosphere. As I child, I always dressed up, and spent Purim with friends doing all kinds of mischief. During the 1990s, Purim celebrations were mixed with fear, as bad people, inside out, did their best to ruin the festivities. This Purim was celebrated in Israel with joy and modesty, signs of the economic slowdown.

In Beverley, we dressed up and invited the other Israeli family that lives here to celebrate together. It was a nice, pleasant evening. The following evening we attended the Reform service. It was the shortest reading of the Megila ever. Less than 30 minutes. There were maybe 10 people present, including three kids, all mine. All Jewish communities but two (London and Manchester) are shrinking in England. The young generation moves during or after university studies to the two major communities, to seek significant others, and jobs.

New Books

Humanism in Business
Edited by Heiko Spitzeck
Universität St Gallen, Switzerland
Michael Pirson
Harvard University, Massachusetts
Wolfgang Amann
Universität St Gallen, Switzerland
Shiban Khan
Universität St Gallen, Switzerland
Ernst von Kimakowitz
Universität St Gallen, Switzerland

(ISBN-13: 9780521898935)
· Also available in Paperback
· Published February 2009 by Cambridge UP.
What is the purpose of our economic system? What would a more life-serving economy look like? There are many books about business and society, yet very few of them question the primacy of GDP growth, profit maximization and individual utility maximization. Even developments with a humanistic touch like stakeholder participation, corporate social responsibility or corporate philanthropy serve the same goal: to foster long-term growth and profitability. Humanism in Business questions these assumptions and investigates the possibility of creating a human-centered, value-oriented society based on humanistic principles. An international team of academics and practitioners present philosophical, spiritual, economic, psychological and organizational arguments that show how humanism can be used to understand, and possibly transform, business at three different levels: the systems level, the organizational level and the individual level. This groundbreaking book will be of interest to academics, practitioners and policymakers concerned with business ethics and the relationship between business and society.
• The first book to address the issue of humanism and business • Written by an international team of academics and practitioners, including two Nobel prize winners (Amartya Sen, Muhammad Yunus) • Lays out a common research agenda for future work on humanism and business.

The UNESCO Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights: Background, Principles and Application

In October 2005, UNESCO Member States adopted by acclamation the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights. For the first time in the history of bioethics, some 190 countries committed themselves and the international community to respect and apply fundamental ethical principles related to medicine, the life sciences and associated technologies.

This book gives descriptions and commentaries on each article of the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights in order to contribute to the debate on the subject and provides a new impetus to the dissemination of the Declaration, and is part of the Organization’s continuous effort to contribute to the understanding of its principles worldwide.

Most of the authors were actively involved in the elaboration and drafting process of the Declaration as members of the International Bioethics Committee (IBC), government experts, delegates or participants in hearings and meetings. Their responses shed light on the historical background of the text and its evolution throughout the drafting process. They also provide a reflection on its relevance to previous declarations and bioethical literature, and its potential interpretation and application in challenging and complex bioethical debates.

The French version will be available during the summer period.

To buy the book:

Movie of the Month: My Life (1993)

This is a true gem. Michael Keaton shows his qualities as an excellent dramatic actor. He plays Bob Jones who has a successful career, a beautiful and loving wife (Nicole Kidman), a newborn baby on the way, and incurable cancer to compete with the pregnancy. Bob starts making a video diary of his life for his unborn child.
Bob's idea is for the video to show his child what his father's life was like, and who he was. Through this video, Bob is able to reach beyond his years and share with his child some life lessons and family history that he would normally miss out on because of his death. What follows is an unexpected journey into his own heart, searching for the true meaning of life.
This is an excellent drama probing the essentials of life: family, love, commitment, health, happiness, life and death. It never becomes schmaltz or a cliché. It is deep, penetrating, sensitive. A movie that moves.

Light Side

Two blond men stand on the rooftop of a New York skyscraper. Head asks Dick:
How long would it take me to reach the ground?
Dick: About two weeks, I reckon.
Head: Whauhooo!!! Will I be dead then?
Dick: Sure thing. Two weeks without food?!!

May I wish you all Happy Passover/Easter with your loved ones. Spring is in the air. Enjoy the sun, the flowers, the smells, the colours. Have fun and joy.

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