Thursday, April 30, 2009

Politics – April 2009

Occupation desensitizes soldiers. The longer the occupation, the more they feel like they're in a Hollywood movie, without caring too much for the consequences of "shooting". The occupied, however, will not return to life, not even when the occupation ends, and it will end.

A stable democracy needs a strong government but no less important, also a strong coalition. Without the latter, the road to corruption is wide open.

Raphael Cohen-Almagor

April 29, 2009 – Israel celebrates 61 years of independence. Happy Birthday.

I wish this year will be a year of tranquility, of stable economy; a year of progress during which Israel will receive the same media exposure as Portugal; a year when Israel will receive the same number of tourists who visit Paris; a year in which UNESCO will summarize Israel in one paragraph; a year whose headlines will be about contributions to science and high-tech; a year of integration into the region, where neighbours become friends not only on television, and the main action will be on the screen. During the past year, we had our fair share of action, thank you very much. Now it is time to build and see light, while protecting the environment and excelling in culture and sports.

The 32nd Government is on its way. Bibi Netanyahu put together the most expensive government in the history of Israel. I did not check, but will not be surprised if this is the largest government per capita in the world. Netanyahu believes that size does matter. One more month with the growing Iranian threat. Efforts to bring Gilad Shalit home should continue.

Gilad is now more than 1000 days in captivity. The narrow window of opportunities for exchange between the Israeli soldier and hundreds of bloody terrorists did not materialize. Olmert backed down in the last moment. The government reshuffle certainly does not help Gilad’s cause but I hope the new prime minister will be innovative and relentless in his efforts to bring Gilad home. I highly suggest the Shalit family to seek advice from terrorism and negotiation experts as the family’s interests do not necessarily coincide with the government’s interests. I am sure that most experts would not charge for the service. I certainly would not. It is time for Veshavu banim lig'vulam.

Hamas-Israel War - Netanyahu Government - Law v. Common Sense - Israeli Bedouin villages have severe shortages of medical services - The Lancet – Health in the Occupied Territories - 70% of Palestinian Youth Oppose Violence to Resolve Conflict - Senators Target Firms Doing Business with Iran - A Loud and Promised Land - COMMITTEE to PROTECT JOURNALISTS Launches ARABIC WEBSITE - Europeanization, Welfare and Democracy - 2009 JOHN HUMPHREY AWARD - CJFE Calls for Submissions for 2009 INTERNATIONAL PRESS FREEDOM AWARDS - Entries wanted for KURT SCHORK AWARDS in INTERNATIONAL JOURNALISM - Sad Note - New Article - New Books - Novel - Light Side

Hamas-Israel War

Israel likes to pride itself as having the most moral army in the world. I don’t wish to speak of other armies. We can do better.
Much of what happened in Gaza, some military experts said, was in reaction to the way events unfolded in the second Lebanon war in 2006 when Hezbollah caused many Israeli casualties. In that war, when Israeli soldiers took over a house, they sometimes found themselves shot at from a house next door. The result was that in Gaza, many houses next to those commandeered by troops were destroyed to avoid that risk.
The number of Palestinians killed during the 22 days of Operation Cast Lead is controversial. According to the Hamas-run health ministry in the Gaza Strip, 1,324 Palestinians were killed, most of them civilians; among them were 412 children and 110 women. The figures were published a few days after cessation of the fighting, and there is no breakdown as to how many of those killed were fighters in local armed organizations.
The Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights, which documents Palestinian casualties on a regular basis, announced this month that 1,434 people, of them 960 civilians, were killed in the operation. Furthermore, according to the center, only 235 of those killed were fighters in the organizations, and 288 children and 12 women were among the civilians who died. In addition, 239 policemen were killed - the vast majority in the air-force bombing during the first hours of the fighting.
The IDF published its own data concerning the majority of Palestinians killed, after cross-checking their names with other lists of militants. The IDF figures relate to 1,200 of the 1,338 whom it says were killed. Among them, 580 were activists in Hamas and other organizations (including police), whereas 300 were men, women and children not involved in the fighting. The army estimates that two-thirds of the remaining 320 people were involved in terror activity.


On April 22, 2009, the Deputy Chief of Staff appeared before the media. Maj-Gen Dan Harel admitted that alongside Operation Cast Lead's achievements, there were several mishaps, some of which resulted in the loss of Palestinian civilian lives.

Source: Ynet (April 22, 2009)

Major-General Harel stressed that the numbers of these operational malfunctions was small, adding that "each case has been investigated and we are learning their lessons”. Hamas, he added, must shoulder some of the blame since "it placed civilians in the front lines. None of the investigations conducted so far have turned up so much as one case in which an Israeli soldier deliberately targeted Palestinian civilians, and should any such case be found, we will deal with it to the full extent."

Operation Cast Lead's debriefings will be fully concluded in two months time, when all the military units taking part in the operation finish reviewing their operations in the field. I would not hold my breath. Such investigations should be carried out by independent bodies.

One of the first issues probed by the defense establishment was the use of phosphorus shells. The IDF stressed that the Navy's use of the shells adhered to the restrictions posed by international law, but following the criticism voiced over their use, the military decided to halt such fire on January 7, 2009.

Nonetheless, several incidents in which phosphorus shells were used were recorded after the cease and desist order was given – a fact the IDF attributed to the directive not reaching all troops – but even then, the fire complied with international law restrictions.

As for the use of smoke bombs containing phosphorus, the IDF said such applications were restricted to camouflage use. Smoke bombs, said the report, pose no threat to human beings, they are a necessary part of combat and should they be needed in the future they will be used again.

The most severe operational failure investigated took place during Cast Lead's sixth day, in the east Gaza City neighborhood of Zeitoun: IDF forces were gearing to attack an arms warehouse adjacent to a civilian home. As a result of faulty intelligence, the Air Force was given the wrong coordinates and shelled the house, instead of the warehouse, killing 21 members of the same family.

The military said that the regrettable incident, grave as it may be, was the result of a professional mistake, which could occur during intensive fighting in urban terrain.

Other incidents probed concern claims of fire on United Nations and other internationally-owned facilities. One of the cases investigated is the targeting on an UNRWA school, Fakhura, in the northern Gaza neighborhood of Jabalya. The Palestinians initially claimed 40 people were killed in the ill-fated strike, but the IDF found that forces in the field were firing at a Hamas cell engaged in launching rockets. The military deduced that between 12 and 17 people were killed, five of whom were confirmed Hamas terrorists – and that the school was never hit.

Another investigation focused on two alleged strikes on a Red Cross warehouse in the Tel Hawwa neighborhood in Gaza City. The IDF found that in both cases, the Israeli forces were returning enemy fire. The facility was never directly targeted, although flash fire did ensue the fighting.

According to military data, only a handful of UN facilities were damaged during the Gaza offensive, and only one case indicated that a soldier violated fire protocol and hit a UN vehicle – for which he faced disciplinary proceedings.

Another military investigation was launched into incidents involving fire on medical facilities, vehicles and personnel in the Gaza Strip. The IDF was able to ascertain the fact that Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh set up his headquarters inside Gaza's Shifa Hospital, which was also used as an operational headquarters by other Hamas leaders. The military found that Hamas operatives also took over the hospital's basement ward, closing it off to civilians.

Another inquest probed the January 4, 2009 event which left senior Hamas operative Nazar Rayan dead. The IAF was ordered to strike four weapon warehouses hidden inside residential homes. The military placed calls to all four venues, in an attempt to warn any civilians away and the IAF conducted an advance-fire maneuver near the premises prior to striking. Nevertheless, 16 civilians were killed in the strike. The IDF maintains it did not know the Rayan family members remained on the premises.

The IDF also looked into a December 29, 2008 strike on a truck transporting rockets. The truck was targeted after the military's data indicated that the cargo was made up of rockets, but it later turned out to be carrying oxygen tanks. The military concluded that the truck's proximity to a Hamas hub led to the strike. Four of the eight people killed in the incident were confirmed to be Hamas operatives.

All this makes the requirement of an independent inquiry committee more urgent and necessary.

Major-General Harel pointed out that according to defense establishment intelligence, 709 out of the 1,167 Palestinian fatalities in Operation Cast Lead were Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist and 295 were civilians. The affiliation of the remaining 162 fatalities, he said, has so far been impossible to ascertain. Note the discrepancy between these figures, and the figures quoted above. This discrepancy is not very reassuring and suggests that more efforts should be made to confirm the right figures.

Source: Ynet,,2506,L-3705081,00.html

See also the exchange between Prof David Luban (Georgetown University Law Center) and Prof. Amos Guiora (University of Utah Law Center) regarding Operation Cast Lead.

In this exchange, published in the American Bar Association’s National Security Law Report, Prof. Luban argues that the Gaza campaign violated both the jus ad bellum and jus in bello proportionality principles and that the Hamas civil administration were not lawful targets under Israel's own interpretation of the law of armed conflict. Prof Guiora argues that terrorism changes the landscape of armed conflict and requires a reconfiguration of international law. Under this reconfiguration, an entire terrorist organization may properly be targeted. Prof Luban’s article is entitled “Was the Gaza Campaign Legal”; Prof Guiora's is entitled “Proportionality ‘Re-Configured”.

The link to the debate is at

I thank Amos Guiora for the information.

Netanyahu Government

March 25, 2009: Likud has 27 MKs. Netanyahu had to secure at least 61 MKs to comprise a coalition, preferably 65-67. First he signed an agreement with his natural ally, Israel Beitenu (15). Avigdor Lieberman will be Israel Foreign Minister. Then he signed with the religious SHAS party (11). Elie Yishay will be Minister of the Interior, a role that he fulfilled in the past. Then Bibi courted Barak. I say Barak, not Labour. Barak agreed after Bibi promised a very tempting deal. Seven Labour MKs objected (of 13). Barak did not blink. There is more than one road into the coalition. Barak likes to remain in the Minister of Defence Office. He brought the decision to the party convention. 680 delegates voted to back Barak and join the coalition, while 507 voted against. Labour will have many jobs to allocate, but it lost its dignity. Maybe Labour will be able to preempt some of Bibi’s initiatives that would be detrimental to Israel’s best interests.

During the process, Netanyahu also signed an agreement with Jewish Home (National Religious Party) (3), and a last-moment agreement with the ultra-religious Yahadut Hatorah, United Torah Judaism (5). Thus he secured 74 MKs (assuming that the entire Labour MK delegation supports the government). He also enjoys the backing and support of the National Union (4). Netanyahu has a very strong coalition. At least on paper.

Some preliminary observations:

Livni will be the Opposition Leader, not a small feat as solid democracy requires strong government, but no less importantly strong opposition. If Kadima will conduct its affairs prudently, the traditional rivalry between Likud and Labour will pass from the world. The two focal points will be Likud and Kadima.
To make this coalition possible, Netanyahu had to go the extra mile in catering the needs and ambitions of the said parties. Yet again we will have a very large government. The running of the government would require huge expenditure. In a time of international economic crisis, reason dictates slimming down. Not in Israeli politics. Here partisan interests rule supreme. Each party will get its fair share of the deal. The taxpayer will pay. As always.

It will be very interesting to see how flexible Labour will be, with the hawkish Likud, Lieberman, Jewish Home, and the backing and support of National Union. Hopefully, Labour will serve as a mitigating force, balancing the nationalistic-capitalistic inclinations of its partners. More likely is that Labour will eat frogs, one after the other, until its stomach cannot digest anymore.

Barak will act as the opposition to Bibi within Bibi’s government, no doubt trying to present himself as the voice of reason and moderation. Both Bs understand they need to work together to sustain the coalition. In some respects, they are very similar. Therefore, clashes are inevitable. No doubt they will try to work together, for partisan and national interests. Barak believes that it is good for the nation that he is Defence Minister, and that Labour is in government. But it would be increasingly difficult, given the wide differences between the world outlook of both parties, and the destructive bulldozer force of Lieberman. I am afraid we are heading, yet again, to very interesting times. Too interesting to my liking.

April 1, 2009: Israel has a new government. The Knesset affirmed the 32 member Government. 69 Knesset members enter a yea vote, 45 opposed, five abstained, all from Labour. One MK, Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) had more important business to attend to.

One by one, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) called the new cabinet members to the podium, where they recited: "I hereby pledge my loyalty to the State of Israel and its laws, to faithfully carry out the position of my office and to uphold the decision of the Knesset."

Due to the generous deals with Israel Beitenu and Labour, Netanyahu had to be innovative in granting his own Likud Party members government portfolios. Another table needs to be introduced into the House to cater to this large, over-sized government. The present table does not have enough seats.

Israel's new fat government is comprised of the following ministers:

· Vice Premier and Minister for Strategic Affairs - Moshe Yaalon (Likud) – Yaalon the hawk was promised to be Vice Premier and a senior cabinet role. Because of Labour’s entry into government, he cannot serve as Minister of Defence as he had hoped. Expect clashes with Ehud Barak. This office is artificial and redundant. Yaalon will feel at home with Lieberman. Their world view is quite similar when it comes to Arabs.

· Vice Premier, Minister for Regional Development and Minister for Development of the Negev and Galilee - Silvan Shalom (Likud) – Netanyahu did not wish to have fierce opposition within his own party from day one, hence went the extra mile to satisfy and establish peace with his main rival Shalom. He offered one portfolio. Added another. Finally, gave him also the role of Vice Premier. Shalom, who loves titles, is content. For the time being.

· Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak (Labour). History will judge whether he was correct in entering the coalition. Barak is a very good Defense Minister.

· Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Israel Beitenu) – Soon the world will learn to know Mr. Lieberman. Charming like a hippo in a china store. Determined. Focused. A doer. Bulldozer. Intimidating. We shall see his name often in the international press. I am sure the media will cover him closely, waiting for every pips he’ll make. And he will. Be sure. Until he is indicted on corruption charges – in the coming months.

· Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Eli Yishai (SHAS) is back to power, money, resources. Exactly what the party wants and needs to cater the needs of its underprivileged constituency, secular and religious.

· Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) - I am delighted for Yuval, my friend from the University of Haifa. His loyalty to Bibi has paid him well. Yuval would have preferred to serve as Defence Minister. Time will tell whether this was a good appointment, as economics is not Yuval’s strong field. No doubt that Netanyahu will keep a close eye on the ministry, and Yuval will run the day-to-day affairs. In today’s economy, I hope this will be enough.

· Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar (Likud) – I wish him luck. This is a very important ministry, with many problems. Sa’ar is a very able man. I have high hopes from him.

· Justice Minister Prof. Yaakov Ne'eman - Labour’s precondition for entering the coalition was to see Daniel Friedman out of office. Enough is enough. Netanyahu agreed. Lieberman did not. Ne’eman was the compromise between the two, accepted by Barak. Ne’eman thus returns to the ministry he was forced to resign from in the Sharon government. He is not a fan of the Supreme Court, and no doubt his first loyalty is to Netanyahu. But he is not a lone wolf like Friedman. The bad wind is gone. Ne’eman is a very astute, experienced and gifted man. He will strive to work in tandem with the government and the President of the Supreme Court, Dorit Beinish.

· Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon (Labour) – the right person in the right place.

· Communication Minister Moshe Kahlon (Likud) – very popular politician. I never quite understood why. Seems like a nice guy, but this ministry requires someone who understands the very complex issues.
· Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat (Likud) – Well, I certainly did not miss her. Sorry to see her back in power. This ministry is redundant. It used to be part of the Education Office, a ministry Livnat knows well, as she did her best to ruin it. Luckily, she does not have much to ruin in culture and sport. As a populist, she would not harm sports. There are too many fans to consider. Culture, I suspect, is going to suffer. Livnat is not a very cultured lady, and not very popular in cultural circles for obvious reasons. I wish her to meet for tea with Queen Elizabeth. Ahhh, I can imagine this summit which both ladies surely would not enjoy, with the possible exception of acknowledging with some satisfaction the other’s suffering.

· Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) – Erdan is a very bright politician. If he remains in politics, for him the sky's the limit. The environment needs a person like him, to put issues on the agenda, to evoke awareness, to establish a new ecological agenda for Israeli politics. I wish him good luck.

· Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias (SHAS) – Another very powerful ministry, with lots of resources, in the hands of SHAS. SHAS loves this government and will do its best to sustain it. Atias is a very competent politician, the future leader of SHAS. He will do his best to see that precious resources will go to his constituency.

· Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver (Israel Beitenu) – Landver is a very pragmatic politician, not to say elastic. She is a good student of Machiavelli, whether she knows it or not. As a former immigrant from Russia, she knows the world of immigration. I wish that her hands will be full of work.

· Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labour) – very experienced politician, loyal to Barak. This might be his last outing as a minister.

· Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Yisrael Beitenu) – He is certainly well-suited for the job. However, his party’s leader Lieberman is under serious police investigations. Lieberman insisted on having this portfolio for very good reasons. Aharonovitch asked NOT to be informed about investigations related to political figures. Whether you believe this is possible is another issue.

· National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau (Israel Beitenu) – Hard-line Landau found a new home after he left the Likud, and Lieberman rewarded him with a very important ministry. I am sorry to see Mr. Landau in this government.

· Transportation Minister Israel Katz (Likud) – sorry to see him in this government.

· Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz (Jewish Home) – Prof. Hershkowitz is the party’s new leader. This is a small ministry with very important subjects to address. I wish Hershkowitz good luck and success in navigating this ministry to address the various challenges.

· Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog (Labour) – nice man in a small and important office.

· Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov (Israel Beitenu) – Well, we could certainly do better with tourism. Israel is a very beautiful country situated in a very hostile surroundings. Good luck.

· Minister of Government Services to the Public Michael Eitan (Likud) – I am very happy to see Micky in government. He is a politician I appreciate a great deal. At the same time, this ministry is redundant. Micky deserves a senior ministry.

· Minister of Intelligence Services Dan Meridor (Likud) – Dan returned to the Likud to serve as a minister. He has no interest to serve as a mere MK. Meridor is wise and competent. Whatever I said about Micky Eitan is true for Dan. This is a redundant ministry. From the establishment of Israel, the prime minister was in charge of the intelligence services. This is not going to change. Netanyahu will have a direct and final say on all matters. Meridor, like Steinitz, will run the day-to-ay matters.

· Minister of Minority Affairs Avishay Braverman (Labour) – Braverman is finally a minister, not Finance Minister as he had hoped but still a minister. This is, I am sorry to say, another redundant ministry, born only to satisfy Labour’s demands.

· Minister of Information and Diaspora Yuli Edelstein (Likud) – redundant ministry.

· Minister of Religious Affairs Yakov Margi (Shas) – the ministry that was abolished returns. I am sorry. This ministry will not adequately cater to the needs of the Christian, Muslim and Druze communities in Israel. It will not even care for Reform and Conservative Judaism. It will serve only Jewish Orthodoxy, and even more so Sephardi-Orthodoxy.

· Minister Benny Begin (Likud) – Begin, like Meridor, did not return to politics to serve as MK. He wanted to be a minister. He deserves better than a minister without portfolio. Useless.

· Minister Meshulam Nahari (Shas) – Useless.

· Minister Yossi Peled (Likud) – General Peled deserves better than being a minister without portfolio. Ditto.

In addition, there are seven deputy ministers in this government.

Time will tell whether size does matter, and whether by this composition Netanyahu will be able to sustain his coalition for long. Recent governments did not last more than three years. In his first speech as prime minister, Netanyahu voiced his commitment to a secure peace for Israel. The challenges are formidable: The nuclear threat from Iran; Gaza; the West Bank; Lebanon; Syria; terror; the economy; internal schisms. From the bottom of my heart, I wish Mr. Netanyahu Good Luck.

Law v. Common Sense

I spoke in the past about the conflict between law and common sense. Here is another chapter that hardly benefits Israeli politics, tolerance and mutual coexistence.
On Tuesday, March 24, 2009 the far-right activist Baruch Marsel finally was able to execute his intention to march in the Arab town of Umm al-Fahm. 30 people were wounded during clashes between police and protestors.
The far-rightists began the march at 10:00 A.M. and ended it about 45 minutes later. The clashes, however, continued for some two hours after the march had been concluded.
Deputy police commissioner Shahar Ayalon and fourteen other policemen were wounded by stone-throwing demonstrators; twelve Umm al-Fahm residents were hurt in scuffles with police, according to Magen David Adom emergency services.
Leftist lawmaker Ilan Ghilon (Meretz) was also wounded in the incident when police fired tear gas grenades in a bid to disperse the crowd.
The clash erupted after police arrested three Israeli Arabs who had scuffled with officers. The detainees had gathered for a counter-demonstration held by Umm al-Fahm residents.
Police declared the rally to be illegal and ordered the Israeli Arab protestors, some of whom were waving Palestinian flags, to leave.
More than 2,500 police officers deployed in and around Umm al-Fahm, Israel's largest Arab city ahead of the rally, for which the far-rightists had received High Court approval. See
The marchers were refused permission to enter the city itself, however, and were only allowed to march on roads outside residential areas, but within the city's municipal boundaries. Marsel saw this as a victory and proclaimed that next time they will enter the city center.

The march is a provocation. It won’t yield any positive results. If Marsel and his likes are determined to continue their show-off provocations, the only way to stop this is by Israeli-Arabs asking permit marches in Kfar Tapuach and Bat Ayin, the strongholds of Kach activists. It will not promote peace and human understanding, but it may stop those right-wing provocations. The message that Marsel brings with him is never one of peace and mutual understanding. He has dedicated his life to promote Arab immigration from Israel, and to Eretz Yisrael Hashlema, the entire Eretz Israel in the hands of the People of the Torah, at the expense of gentiles.

Israeli Bedouin villages have severe shortages of medical services

Tens of thousands of children from Israel’s southern Bedouin population living in "unrecognised" villages lack the service of a single pediatrician, says a new report from the groups Physicians for Human Rights—Israel and Women Promote Health, says that just 12 community health clinics serve 34 villages with a combined population of 83,000, 60% of whom are children.

The report says that 80% of children hospitalised at Soroka University Medical Centre in Beersheba are from the villages, although they make up just a quarter of children in the area, indicating that there is poor or little healthcare provision in this community.
The 12 clinics have no obstetricians, gynecologists, pediatricians, or pharmacies, says the report, and in most of them the staff do not speak Arabic. Also, the number of hours the clinics are open is much less in the villages than in the region’s townships or the Jewish suburbs of Beersheba (1.9 physician hours per 100 patients in Bedouin villages and 5.2 in Jewish settlements).

Because of crowding and delays, only 55% of Bedouin women visit the villages’ medical clinics with their children; others rarely or never attend, because of inaccessibility. Some have to take their children on foot for two hours to reach a clinic.

The infant mortality rate in the Bedouin population in the Negev region is among the highest in Israel. In 2005 the rate was 4.7 deaths for every 1000 live births among the Jewish population in the region and 15.5 per 1000 among the Arab population.

The report calls for Israel to officially recognise the villages and provide them with basic infrastructure, including water and electricity supplies, to allow them to refrigerate drugs, among other things. Primary care services in the Bedouin villages should be equivalent to those provided in other settlements and should be culturally sensitive to residents’ needs, it says.

The report adds: "The state must initiate and implement planning programs aimed at reducing the morbidity and mortality rates among the residents of the unrecognised villages in general and their children in particular, in a culturally adapted manner." Source: BMJ 2009;338:b1209

The Lancet – Health in the Occupied Territories

The Lancet commissions Series to highlight clinically important topics and areas of health and medicine often overlooked by mainstream research programmes and other medical publications. Many of the Series have thespecific aim of raising the profile of these neglected areas as an advocacy tool to inform health policy and improve human development.
The Lancet, Volume 373, Issue 9666, Pages 837 - 849, 7 March 2009 is concerned with Health status and health services in the occupied Palestinian territory. This is the first in a Series of five papers on health in the occupied Palestinian territory.

The authors describe the demographic characteristics, health status, and health services of the Palestinian population living in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory, and the way they have been modified by 60 years of continuing war conditions and 40 years of Israeli military occupation. Although health, literacy, and education currently have a higher standard in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory than they have in several Arab countries, 52% of families (40% in the West Bank and 74% in the Gaza Strip) were living below the poverty line of US$3·15 per person per day in 2007. To describe health status, the authors use not only conventional indicators, such as infant mortality and stunting in children, but also subjective measures, which are based on people's experiences and perceptions of their health status and life quality. The authors review the disjointed and inadequate public-health and health-service response to health problems. Finally, the authors consider the implications of our findings for the protection and promotion of health of the Palestinian population, and the relevance of our indicators and analytical framework for the assessment of health in other populations living in continuous war conditions.

The authors’ account of Palestinian health under Israeli military occupation—the longest occupation in modern history—also calls for the protection of the basic human rights of Palestinians, in compliance with the Geneva Conventions, including the right to justice and to health. This demand for rights and justice is at the centre of plans to improve Palestinian health. However, it cannot be met by medical and humanitarian interventions alone, because such interventions leave the causes of ill health in the occupied Palestinian territory untouched. The authors concur with the judgment of the World Bank that economic growth cannot be achieved and donor assistance will not produce durable results without serious improvements in security, dismantling Israeli restrictions on the movement of people and goods, and achieving progress on Palestinian reform and institution building.

70% of Palestinian Youth Oppose Violence to Resolve Conflict

More than 80 percent of young Palestinians are depressed and 47 percent identify themselves as Muslim rather than Palestinian, according to a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) recent report. UNDP is the UN's global development network, advocating for change and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. The report, based on interviews with 1,200 Palestinians over the age of 17 from the West Bank and Gaza found that 39 percent were "extremely" depressed and 42 percent were depressed by their conditions. Depression was more marked in the Gaza Strip where 55 percent said they were "extremely" depressed.
When asked to define their identity, 47 percent identified themselves as Muslims, 28 percent as Palestinians, 14 percent as humans and 10 percent as Arabs.
The survey also revealed that the majority of Palestinian youth (69 percent) believe that the use of violence as a means to resolve the conflict is not very helpful, while only 8 percent believe it is an important tool.
Youth are exceptionally vulnerable to conflict, and unemployment rates for youth range from 35 percent in the West Bank to 51 percent in Gaza. UNDP commissioned the survey to understand the needs and expectations of youth organisations, levels of intervention, gaps to be filled, and set youth policies and strategies relevant to the needs of the Palestinian society and adopted by both the public and private sectors.

For further information, please contact:
In Jerusalem: Dania Darwish, Communications Officer, Tel. +972-2-6268229 - e-mail:, Conal Urquhart, External Relations Advisor, Tel. +972-2-6268200 - e-mail: conal.urquhart@undp.orgIn New York: Sausan Ghosheh, Communications officer, e-mail: or, Tel. +1 212-906-5382
I thank the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) for this information.
Source: Independent Media Review Analysis, 1 April 2009,

Senators Target Firms Doing Business with Iran

Sens. Evan Bayh and Tom Coburn called for increased sanctions against foreign companies that trade with Iran, saying such action is crucial to stunt Iran's push for nuclear weapons. Mr. Bayh, Indiana Democrat, said that the U.S. government must "really crack down on companies doing business with Iran, to increase the cost of that business, to drive up the price of violating these sanctions on the part of the Iranians." Bayh and Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, are co-sponsoring legislation to impose sanctions on companies that do business with Iran.

While the United States already has imposed sanctions that target Iranian financial institutions, the country's biggest vulnerability is its reliance on imported oil. Therefore, foreign energy companies that sell gasoline and other refined petroleum products to Iran - and even insurance companies that insure oil tankers destined for the Islamic Republic - should be penalized.

Source: The Washington Post (April 13, 2009)

Mr. Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, agreed, saying, "Talk isn't going to do it - there has to be consequences, and there are ways to make it very painful for Iran. "They produce only about 30 percent of their consumable gasoline, and yet some of our allies continue to supply them with refined distillates," he said. Mr. Coburn maintained that the United States should strengthen sanctions against North Korea, which this month conducted a ballistic missile test over the Sea of Japan. "Doing what we've done in North Korea has not be highly successful since we've seen three launches in the last three years of long-range missiles," he said. "So there has to be significant sanctions on North Korea, and that can be stiffened as well."

Mr. Bayh said while he is skeptical that sanctions targeting Iran would work in the long run, "we've got to try it and we've got to mean business." He added that White House pressure on countries that do business with Iran - such as Russia, China and some European nations - would be crucial for sanctions to be successful. "We've got to make [foreign companies] choose. Do you want to be on good terms with the United States? Do you want to do business in America, or do you want to continue to enable this kind of irresponsible behavior on the part of Iran?"

Source: The Washington Post, April 13, 2009, at

A Loud and Promised Land

On April 16, 2009 David Brooks published a piece in the NY Times which captures some elements of Israel that makes it special, and explains why it gained the appreciation and admiration of millions. Israel is not an easy country. Far from it. Yet it is interesting, captivating, thrilling, enriched by the vitality and warmth of its people, and by its immense beauty. Here is the link:

I thank Bill Dackman for pointing the article to me.


The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) launched the Arabicversion of its website, featuring translated content from CPJ's Middle Eastand North Africa programme. Arabic-speaking journalists and mediaprofessionals can now access CPJ's alerts, statements and special reportsabout their region, including the full MENA chapter from CPJ's 2009 annualpublication "Attacks on the Press".
"The release of an Arabic site on is a testament to our dedicationto coverage of the Middle East region," said CPJ.
The website includes a recent appeal to the King of Bahrain expressingconcern at the blocking of critical websites and blogs run by human rightsactivists, including IFEX members the Bahrain Center for Human Rights andthe Arabic Network for Human Rights Information.

Europeanization, Welfare and Democracy

I was invited to this conference in Copenhagen, which was interdisciplinary in nature, with participants from diverse fields: politics, philosophy, law, sociology, media and film studies. One participant had rightly observed that it was as if we participated in three different conferences at the same time. I presented a paper on “Multiculturalism in Liberal Democracies: The Bounds of Intervention in Practices of Minority Cultures”. Here is the abstract:

One of the most pressing issues facing liberal democracies today is the politicization of ethno-cultural diversity. Minority cultures are demanding greater public recognition of their distinctive identities, and greater freedom and opportunity to retain and develop their distinctive cultural practices. In response to these demands, new and creative mechanisms are being adopted in many countries for accommodating difference. This paper discusses some of the issues raised by these demands, focusing in particular on the difficulties that arise when the minority seeking accommodation is illiberal.
It is increasingly accepted that common citizenship rights are not sufficient to accommodate all forms of ethno-cultural diversity. In some cases, certain "collective" or "group-differentiated" rights are also required. And indeed there is a clear trend within liberal democracies towards the greater recognition of such group-differentiated rights. Among the pertinent questions are: How are these group rights related to individual rights? What should we do if group rights come into conflict with individual rights? Can a liberal democracy allow minority groups to restrict the individual rights of their members, or should it insist that all groups uphold liberal principles? Can a liberal democracy allow minority groups to restrict individual rights of members of other groups? To address these questions, controversial cultural norms will be considered, as well as the relationships between state and religion in Israel. Helpful distinctions will be made between self- and other-regarding conduct, and between inter-group and intra-group relationship. Furthermore, I probe the relations between various Western liberal democracies and minority cultures, most notably analyzing the headscarf controversy in Europe.

I thank Ib Bondebjerg for his kind invitation and for organizing a very stimulating gathering of people from Scandinavia as well as from Australia, Belgium, Greece, Hong Kong, Spain, Turkey, the UK and the USA. Diversity is enriching and stimulating.


The Canadian organisation Rights & Democracy is currently accepting nominations for the John Humphrey Freedom Award, which is presented every year to an organisation or person who has made an outstanding contribution to the promotion of human rights and democratic development. The deadline for nominations is 30 April 2009.
The award, named in honour of the Canadian human rights professor who prepared the first draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, consists of a grant of CAD$30,000 (US$24,900) and a speaking tour of Canadian cities to help increase awareness of the recipient's human rights work.

For eligibility criteria, see the Rights & Democracy website:


Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is seeking nominations forits annual International Press Freedom Awards, which recognise journalistswho put their lives at risk to ensure citizens stay informed. In 2008, CJFEhonoured journalists from Sudan and Zimbabwe.

The deadline for nominations is April 30. Organisations or individualswishing to nominate a deserving journalist can download the form here:


The Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism celebrate freelance andlocal journalists who show great courage and commitment to reporting oncontroversial issues in a developing country or nation in transition. Thedeadline for applications is 22 June 2009.

Two prizes of US$5,000 are up for grabs, one to a freelance journalistcovering international news, and the other to a local journalist who showscourage in reporting on controversial issues. The stories can focus onconflict, human rights concerns, cross border issues, or any other issue ofcontroversy in a particular country or region.
The prizes, funded by the Kurt Schork Memorial Fund and Reuters, honourKurt Schork, a U.S. freelance journalist who was killed in a militaryambush while on assignment for Reuters in Sierra Leone in May 2000.
For full details of the awards and how to enter, see the Institute for War& Peace Reporting's website:

Sad Note

It is saddening to think of the leading scholars who passed away since I left Oxford in 1991. First was H.L.A. Hart (1907-1992) identified with legal positivism more than any other person in the past one-hundred years. Hart was an intellectual Oxonian in spirit, attending conferences and lectures until his very last days. He knew how to listen and not only to speak, a true virtue to be appreciated in people of his stature.

Then I suffered a great personal loss. Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997) was a philosopher and the leading historian of ideas of the 20th Century, one of the brilliant leading liberal thinkers of his time. He was a real mensch, kind, warm and wise. He excelled as an essayist and lecturer, a captivating orator who delivered richly allusive and coherently structured analysis, whether for a lecture series at distinguished universities or as a broadcaster on BBC radio, usually without a script. I miss our meetings and his sharp analysis of politics.

In 2002, the world lost two brilliant philosophers, both from Harvard, both rejuvenated and revitalized political philosophy. Both, in different ways, were extraordinary personalities and intellectuals. John Rawls (1921-2002) and Robert Nozick (1938-2002) published A Theory of Justice and Anarchy, State and Utopia in the early 1970s. Rawls’ theory of justice came out in 1971, and Nozick’s libertarian response in 1974. I invited both of them to deliver the Isaiah Berlin Annual Lecture at the University of Haifa. Both of them declined due to poor health.

Rawls’ contribution to political philosophy cannot be underestimated. There was a period of time when you could not do any dissertation in the field without some reference to his work. I think his work will continue to live for many generations to come, together with the works of Kant, Mill and Marx.

Nozick was a multifaceted philosopher, writing in very different styles on diverse topics. While Anarchy, State, and Utopia is engaging and relatively easy to read, Philosophical Explanations offer a trying journey into epistemological philosophy, probing the meaning of life, the nature of value, free will, personal identity, and the theory of knowledge. Later in life, Nozick retreated from some of the views he expressed in Anarchy, State, and Utopia, saying that he was no longer as hardcore a libertarian as he once was.

Then, in the following year, the world had lost two more brilliant men: Geoffrey Marshall and Bernard Williams. Geoffrey Marshall (1929-2003) was my mentor, supervisor, guide, and kind supporter. I owe him (and Wilfrid Knapp) my doctorate. Geoffrey had the best legal mind of all political scientists I know. He was wise, quiet, kind, unobtrusive, supportive and effective. Colleagues and students liked and respected him for his dedication, vast knowledge, humility, dry yet sharp wit, and self-deprecating humour. I miss him greatly.

Bernard Williams (1929-2003) was the most important British moral philosopher of his time. He was a true intellectual, sharp as a razor, honest, witty, logical, erudite and humane. I cherished the classes he delivered with Ronnie Dworkin, which I attended religiously, not always in full understanding of the subtle exchange on issues remote from my immediate concerns, yet with full appreciation of the two great minds who debated the notions of equality, fair distribution and moral justice.

In 2004, we lost two more great minds: Susan Moller Okin and Joel Feinberg. Susan Okin (1946-2004) was the world leading feminist political philosopher. Her work focused on the exclusion of women from most Western political thought, past and present. She argued that gender issues belong at the core of political philosophy. Her book Women in Western Political Thought (1979) is considered a cornerstone of research on women in politics.

Joel Feinberg (1926-2004) is known for his work in the fields of individual rights and the authority of the state. The four thought-provoking volumes which he published in four years: Harm to Oth­ers, Offense to Others, Harm to Self and Harmless Wrongdoing influenced my thinking a great deal. They were published as I was writing my dissertation on the Boundaries of Liberty and Tolerance and provided inspiration and challenges. Feinberg was invited to Oxford and I was privileged to meet with him and discuss his work. Offense to Others is arguably the most comprehensive work ever written on this tricky subject – offense.

During the past two months two other influential figures passed away: Brian Barry (1936-2009) and Neil McCormick (1941-2009). Barry was one of the greatest moral and political philosophers of our time. He studied under the direction of Hart and, like Rawls, supported equal civil and political rights and an egalitarian income distribution.

Neil McCormick was a renowned legal philosopher and Scottish politician. Among his many roles he was President of the International Association for Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy. Geoffrey Marshall referred to him frequently in our conversations. Neil was respected and appreciated in many circles. His inspiration, leadership and rigor thinking will be sorely missed.
All of them influenced my thinking, shaped my education and enriched my life. Their scholarship will live for many years to come.

New Article

“John Stuart Mill”, in Clifford G. Christians and John C. Merrill (eds.) Ethical Communication: Five Moral Stances in Human Dialogue (Columbia, MO.: University of Missouri Press, 2009), pp. 25-32.

John Stuart Mill's concept of ethics was closely related to his firm belief in freedom. He was strictly a believer in each person bringing the greatest degree of happiness or good to the greatest number. This would be an individual act and in no way a forced action. One is free to act without coercion as long as no harm is brought to another person. Consequences must be considered carefully before acting and the act chosen must be the best of possible choices designed to bring about the most good. Mill is definitely a prime example of teleological ethics—an ethics of considering consequences, one which is notably different from Kant's concept of following a priori maxims or principles, regardless of consequences.
As ever, I’d be happy to circulate my new article to interested parties.

New Books

Clifford G. Christians and John C. Merrill (eds.) Ethical Communication: Five Moral Stances in Human Dialogue (Columbia, MO.: University of Missouri Press, 2009).
ISBN 9780826218391

The book is designed for use in upper class and graduate courses in journalism, mass communication, media studies, and communication. It is based on a series of discussions about persons who characterize the various ethical stances in the field of communication ethics. But it goes beyond mere biographical data, emphasizing the theorist’s special concern with communication and including critical and interpretive input by the various contributors. The list of those chosen is gender inclusive, ethnically diverse, and international.

Editors’ Rationale

This generation of students, raised on Wikipedia as a reference tool and in a culture that values celebrity, are fascinated with the way individuals live their lives. Ethical Communication deliberately uses biography as an entree to the larger world of philosophical ideals. This life-centered approach means that while students are getting an introduction to major thinkers and their ideas, they are also being introduced to those thinkers embedded in the historical moment. We as editors believe this is a unique approach among the current texts on media ethics and one that connects with this generation of learners. There is intellectual merit in our approach as well, for the subject of ethics is about “the life well lived”, and our method of understanding ethical theory emphasizes this practical aspect of ethics. Since theorists are chosen from the broadest possible range of history and geography, Ethical Communication breaks down the prejudice against theory that is Western, ancient, and male dominated.

The writers of the essays are all leading teachers in journalism and communication programs and are especially interested in the persons they profile. In order to cover the wide range of thinkers across history and geography, these contributing experts were needed to assist the editors. However, to ensure uniform quality throughout the book, the editors—veteran authors themselves—will work over each entry thoroughly and without compromise. Each profile follows an identical pattern and all of them are original entries for this book, laid out in advance by the editors. This volume is not an anthology of uneven contributions written for various audiences, but essays from authors who know the editors’ work and each others’, and share a common vision of the project as a whole.

I am delighted to have an article in a book edited by two giants of media ethics, who contributed so many ideas to this growing field and in many respects have set the foundations.

Orit Ichilov, The Retreat from Public Education: Global and Israeli Perspectives

The purpose of this book is to provide a comprehensive analysis of the universal elements that characterize markets in education without focusing on any particular country. This includes the examination of the social conditions that facilitate the invasion of all public spaces by the free market, analysis of the various education policies and practices that embody privatization of education, and most importantly, exploring the educational and social consequences of markets in education. Secondly, the book examines the process of the building of the public education system in Israel, and analyzes the retreat from it in recent years. The Israeli public (or state) education system emerged shortly after the establishment of the state in 1948. This case study provides a unique opportunity to closely examine the significance of public schooling in the process of nation-building, and in the building of a democracy. This represents a pioneering attempt to study the rise and fall of state education in Israel.... more on

Novel - David Grossman, Until the End of the Land
(in Hebrew: A Woman Run Away from News)

Grossman has a way with words. There are not many people who master Hebrew as he does. His ability to express ideas, thoughts, sentiments, characters, the inner human streams that run in our hearts and minds is admirable. Grossman takes you by the hand, slowly makes you immerse in the story, your soul intertwined with the pictures he paints, you become part of all that is happening to the heroes, all the twists and turns, the emotions, the turmoil, the storms, the fears, the hopes, the love.
I have never seen such a characterization of a relationship between parents and children. It is deep. It is penetrating. It is true. It sweeps you off your feet.

The Hebrew title is truer to the story. It is about a mother, whose younger child is recruited to serve in yet another military operation in a foreign land, designed to promote the security of a nation in arms. She cannot stand the tension. The idea of three officers knocking on her door, announcing the death of her soldier boy, torments her. She decides to trick them. She leaves her home. If there is no recipient to the news, then there will be no news. Together with a close friend, father of her soldier son, she tours the north of Israel. The father never saw his son. He knows nothing about him. While touring beautiful Israel, Ora tells Avram the story of Ofer’s life. The story is down to the fine details of memories since Ofer was a baby, until his becoming a young man. The stories move you, startle you; it is impossible to remain aloof, uninvolved. Grossman is an artist with a fine brush, a genius of the pen.

Grossman lost his son Uri in the most unfortunate Israel-Hezbollah War of 2006. A Woman Run Away from News can be seen as his farewell from Uri. Grossman had completed most of the book before he received the news about the death of his son. It is shivering.

A Woman Run Away from News is a masterpiece of the kind that wins a Nobel Prize. Surely, the translation cannot be 100 percent to the original. But I hope that not too many idioms and ideas are left out.

Light Side

A couple stand in the bank in line, waiting to be served. In front of them stands a very attractive lady in a mini skirt. The man can hardly take his eyes of her, letting his imagination run wild.

After he and his wife are served and leave the bank, the wife asks: Tell me, is she worth it?
Him: Worth what?
Her: The scolding that you are about to receive.

May I wish you Happy Independence Day, and Happy Spring with your loved ones.

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