Friday, February 26, 2010

Politics – February 2010

My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.

Carl Schurz

Gilad is still in captivity. Veshavu banim legvulam.

Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Comments on January Newsletter

A Puzzling Story



Tony Blair


Bigotry in the USA

Israelis in Hull

In Pursuit of Democracy and Security in the Greater Middle East


1948 Photos

My Visit to NY

My New Article

New Books

Climate Change – Special Issue

Recent Movie

Monthly Poem

Light Side

It seems that Gilad Shalit is off the agenda. Hamas is not willing to compromise. Israel’s cabinet is reluctant to free so many murderers in exchange. It is an issue of public responsibility. Many of those terrorists are likely to return to the blood cycle. At the same time, efforts should continue to Free Gilad Shalit. The government should leave no stone unturned, no glimpse of hope researched, no mediation effort unexplored. Gilad should remain one of its top priorities. Veshavu banim legvulam.


Comments on January Newsletter

Some of you liked Freddie Aguilar’s song Anak (Child). You may like to listen to it in its original lyrics, in Tagalog. I should say that Anak in Hebrew means Great. Children are Great indeed.

Those of you who are interested in the story behind this gem may like to read

Some of you don’t appreciate my praise of President Obama. I am afraid we will agree to disagree on this issue. I wish President Obama, the American people and the world at large eight successful years in office.

                                          Photo: Foreign Policy

I was asked whether Israel is closer to peace than to war. The chances, I think, are 80/20 on the side of war. This is the most hawkish government in Israel’s history and the more it remains in office, the closer the Middle East is to escalation and war.

Minister of Foreign Affairs does exactly as expected. An elephant in a china shop is delicate compared with him. There is a long tradition of Israeli prime ministers appointing the wrong people to ministerial positions. Among them, the nomination of Mr. Lieberman to the most senior diplomatic position is striking (out) in its infinite “wisdom”.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu can sit comfortably in his office, watching how the opposition dismantles itself. Shaul Mofaz is considering his future in “Kadima”, looking for other parties that may be willing to secure his political career. Unclear whether other parties will offer him what he wants. Unclear how many people in the “Kadima” Party are likely to leave with him, if at all.

And the Labour Party continues to disintegrate. It will take a small miracle for this party to return to its heyday as first among equals.

A Puzzling Story

On January 20, 2010 a senior Hamas official, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, was assassinated in Dubai. The usual suspect, as ever, is the Mossad. If we believe the media and Israel’s enemies, it is always only the Mossad that is capable of carrying out such operations. The unusual aspect of this episode is that the Dubai intelligence had published photos and names of eleven suspects (later they claimed that the assassination team had 18 members) and four of them are Israel-based UK citizens who, as far as we know, have nothing to do with the Mossad. Just imagine: You wake up in the morning and find out that you are an assassin. How come they are all from Britain and live in Israel? Surely the British authorities and Israeli intelligence have some ideas.

Photos: Haaretz

Jokingly I was thinking: Now what will come first, the British blaming Israel for this fraud or vice versa. Two hours later, on February 17, 2010 I received an answer: Prime Minister Brown ordered to open an investigation. The British Foreign Office summoned the Israeli ambassador to an urgent meeting for clarifications. But a day later the British press claimed that the Mossad informed its British counterpart that it will use British documents in staging anti-terror operations. The British see eye to eye with Israel on fighting global terrorism. This is true also for the Irish, the German, and the French whose passports were also used in the assassination.

A few days passed, and then on February 22, 2010 the British authorities announced that eight British passports were forged. Foreign Office Minister Chris Bryant insisted the government had no prior knowledge of the killing or use of the passports. Bryant emphasised that "no part of the British government, either minister or official, had any foreknowledge of Mr al-Mabhouh's killing or the use of British passports in it". This might be true. The Mossad might have only informed the British of its intentions to use British passports without specifying a purpose beyond combating terror. But Foreign Secretary David Miliband urged Israel to co-operate with a UK investigation. Investigating what? Puzzling.

All the European Union foreign ministers, who were in Brussels for a pre-arranged meeting, "strongly condemned" the use of forged EU passports. In a joint statement, they said: "The killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai raises issues which are profoundly disturbing. We strongly condemn the use of fraudulent EU member states' passports and credit cards acquired through the theft of EU citizens' identities."

As I am about to send this Newsletter (February 25), the Dubai intelligence advised that the assassination team was comprised of 26 (!) people. A bit excessive, I think. Endangering 26 people in order to kill one person. I hope some tourists in Dubai during the day of the assassination were NOT involved in it… Or maybe Dubai confuses between tourist and terrorist… The newly discovered assassins held, inter alia, Australian forged documentation. Is there discrimination against Canada and the USA? One thing is (almost) certain: New Zealand won’t be represented.

One thing is certain: Someone was not too careful and will pay with his/her position. The fact that we know this much speaks for itself. Usually, the Mossad does not leave so many trails behind.

My loyal readers may recall that I dealt with the issue of targeted assassinations and its legitimacy in the past. Indeed, my observations had sparked a lively debate, some of which was published. See Raphael Cohen-Almagor, "Targeting assassination," Washington Post (Sunday, April 25, 2004), Outlook, p. B4.

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At first I was very impressed with the Dubai intelligence and technology. I wonder whether many countries have such capacities. But now I am not so sure. They know how to gather information. Do they also know to carefully analyse it? The discussion will, no doubt, continue, as will speculations and investigations (more of journalists, I suspect, than of countries).


President Barack Obama nominated career diplomat Robert Ford as the first U.S. ambassador to Syria in five years, seeking to engage a U.S. foe and energize his thwarted Middle East peace push. Ford will be the first US ambassador to Damascus since Washington recalled its envoy after Lebanon's former prime minister Rafiq Hariri was killed in February 2005. The nomination awaits Senate’s confirmation.

This is excellent news. Diplomacy is always preferable to lack of relationship. In any peace scenario, Syria plays a crucial role as it has the power to warm the Northern border of Israel, and not only from its own borders. With the present Israeli government, every diplomatic avenue should be explored and exhausted, not only in attempting to promote peace.


In Trafalgar Square, in front of the National Art Gallery in London, there is a demonstration of Iranians and human rights activists calling to liberate political prisoners and liberate Iranian women.

On February 5, 2010, David Cvach, Mehdi Khalaji, and Ali Alfoneh addressed a special Policy Forum luncheon at The Washington Institute to discuss developments in Iran that may indicate either lost ground for reform-minded activists or cracks in the very foundation of the Islamic Republic. Mr. Cvach is political counselor for the Middle East at the French embassy in Washington, D.C. Mr. Khalaji is a senior fellow at the Institute. Mr. Alfoneh is a visiting research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. The following is a rapporteur's summary of their remarks. I thank Patrick Clawson for bringing this to my attention.

David Cvach

The means for assessing political fissures in Iran are by nature very limited and have become even more so since the June 12, 2009, election. Independent studies and data on the Iranian public, such as opinion polling, are sparse and not useful, and the Iranian press follows very strict red lines in discussing politics. Western diplomats in Iran are also restrained from understanding the political environment due to the oppressively formal nature of relations with Iranian officials, who rarely discuss sensitive issues with their Western counterparts. The latter are thus forced to gather information anecdotally, in private meetings with business leaders, cultural elites, and journalists -- hardly a sufficient sample of Iranian society.

Given these limitations, it is difficult, if not impossible, to accurately assess the growing divisions between the Iranian people and the regime. Even to Western diplomats on the ground in Iran, only the biggest social developments, such as the demonstrations carried out by Green Movement supporters since June, can be clearly observed through the Iranian fog. And these are usually just as visible from Washington as they are from Iran.

One can, however, accurately evaluate the internal crisis afflicting the Iranian regime. Indeed, a deep rift has emerged within it since June 12, foreshadowed by the continuous rightward shift in Iranian politics over the past four years. The U.S. policy of engagement that began in 2009 played a major role in cracking the glue that was superficially holding together the regime's various factions -- today, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei no longer wields the power to balance these factions against one another.

For the West's policy of engagement to ultimately succeed, there must be viable leaders on the Iranian side who are willing to not only work for a nuclear deal, but also take risks in its pursuit. This is not the case today, as exemplified by the regime's calculated dithering over the recent uranium exchange deal to provide fuel rods for the Tehran Research Reactor. The last time the regime offered significant cooperation with the West was in 2002 regarding the removal of the Taliban -- an Iranian enemy -- from Afghanistan, and even then cooperation was difficult. The United States and its allies should keep the door open to engagement, but they must also increase pressure on the regime to persuade it of the benefits that engagement brings, compared to the penalties of international isolation.

Mehdi Khalaji

Two key barometers of the growing divide between the Iranian government and people are the attitudes of the clerical class and the level of regime violence against the protest movement. First, the clerical establishment is very complicated and does not fit the neat "pro-government clerics versus anti-government clerics" division often assumed by foreign observers. Such a distinction cannot actually exist in Iran because Ayatollah Khamenei controls the entire establishment. Every imam in the country is appointed by the government. Those clerics who have recently been critical of the regime (e.g., Ayatollahs Ali Hossein Montazeri and Yousef Sanei) therefore have no significant influence in the establishment, and their offices have been shut down.

Instead, it is the mainstream pro-government clerics whose attitudes deserve the most scrutiny. These clerics are of two kinds. The vast majority are politically docile, distancing themselves from such issues while accepting the advantages of regime patronage. A much smaller minority are politically active and support Khamenei vociferously. In 2005, when President Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad first came to power, this smaller faction was very supportive of him and his hardline positions. Today, however, this characteristically loud group has fallen mostly silent when it comes to the president. As Ahmadinezhad's popularity plummeted following the June 2009 election, these clerics recognized that it had become too risky to support him publicly and thus did not even send him notes of congratulations upon his victory. If observers begin to suspect that this faction's support for the regime is eroding further, then Khamenei's grip on power may become increasingly fragile.

A spike in regime violence also indicates growing fissures. The government has begun to arrest more and more people; currently, an estimated 4,000 political prisoners are being held. The government's strategy of intimidation has revolved around arresting prominent public figures while torturing and executing relative unknowns. If the regime continues to raise the level of violence against the protesters, the implied message will be clear -- Tehran is worried about its ability to control the political crisis. A violent crackdown would hurt the regime's legitimacy and popularity with the Iranian people and may actually backfire. That is, if the Iranian people see that nobody is safe from the crackdown -- not even Mir Hossein Mousavi's advisors, or the family of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, or the son of the founder of the Islamic Republic's judiciary system -- then they will feel they have nothing to lose and will be even less afraid to protest.

Ali Alfoneh

It is nearly impossible to predict whether a political revolution is going to take place in Iran. A social revolution, however, has been underway there for at least the past 100 years. From the land reforms of the White Revolution begun in 1963, to the literacy campaigns of both the shah and the Islamic Republic, to the onset of rapid urbanization over the past fourteen years and the advent of the mass media and internet, Iranian society has been changing dramatically. Yet while society has changed, the regime's structure has not. Rather, the Islamic Republic has become more radicalized, degenerating into a military dictatorship.

In 1979, the shah's regime failed to adapt to the ongoing changes in Iranian society, and political revolution was the result. Today, there are some indicators that Supreme Leader Khamenei's regime is making the same mistake, and the result could be another political revolution.

The first and most profound of these indicators is the defection of regime elites -- the children and other close family members of regime officials who could inherit power if they simply stayed quiet but have instead chosen to join the protesters. These young elites -- such as Ruhollah Hosseini, son of an advisor to long-time Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) chief Mohsen Rezaii, but nevertheless killed while demonstrating -- have become disillusioned with the regime's slogans and the mythology of the Islamic Revolution. As a new generation of Iranians who did not vote in the 1979 referendum, they are searching for a new direction.

Another indicator of the growing divide between the regime and the people is the behavior of Khamenei, who has acted much like the shah lately. Both leaders are characterized by indecision, eagerness to intervene in all sectors of society, and unwillingness to accept responsibility for their actions. Khamenei is more insulated from some of his mistakes, however, given that his rule is institutionalized within other centers of power, such as the Basij Resistance Force and its millions of members eager to preserve the regime's survival. Likewise, the elites of the IRGC, the ideological branch of Iran's military, have strong economic incentives to intervene and save the regime. Hojatoleslam Saidi, the Supreme Leader's representative to the IRGC, recently said that if the Guards had to kill 75,000 Iranians to uphold the regime, it would be worth it. Khamenei has also been shrewd not to take action against regime officials as a means of compromise with the opposition, such as prosecuting those who tortured protesters in the way the shah arrested many of his own cabinet members.

Tony Blair

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is going to play a bigger role in efforts to get Israel and the Palestinians back to peace talks by intensifying his partnership with special U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell.

This is welcome news. Blair is a statesman who deserves much appreciation. He certainly understands the Middle East, the stakes and the challenges. He has the wisdom and the courage to push things forward for the better. I presume he will have some difficulties in convincing the Palestinians that he is a fair broker. On the Israeli front, his major challenge is the settlements in the occupied territories, including in east Jerusalem.

In East Jerusalem, there is an organized effort to transfer Arab property into Jewish hands. If Arab families built not in accordance with Municipality regulations, they may face harsh penalties, including the destruction of their property of their removal from it. The law is implemented to its last comma in this “Jerusalem for Jews” campaign.


From the Netherlands came the following query from Dr. Bert Keizer (geriatrician):

dear raphi,

in the Journal of The Royal Dutch Medical Society (Medisch Contact) of Feb. 11, 2010 there was a report from abroad.

a young trainee-doctor from holland writes about an event near jerusalem.

a 6 months old child suffers from acute kidney failure.

there are no dialysis facilities in palestine.

it is arranged for the child to be taken to israel for treatment.

at the border the ambulance is held up.

hassles with documents.

the mother is 16.

the soldier at the checkpoint commands the attending palestinian doctor to say that the mother is a whore.

doc refuses.

discussion, loss of time.

mother comes out of the ambulance, asking what's up.

soldier repeats his command.

doctor mumbles the required qualification that she is a whore.

during these exchanges the child dies.

two things worry me.

1. the incident itself, obviously. I needn't expand.

2. the astounding fact that this is reported in a respectable medical magazine.

which points to an underlying assumption: that's the way things are out there.

raphi, is this feasible?

do israelis realize that this kind of reporting about their country is considered accurate?

what do you make of this?

I hope to hear from you. would you consider a reply?

yours, Bert

Dear Bert

Thank you for your query.

Obviously, I am unable to comment on specific events. In general, what is described may be true. There is lot of bad blood between the two sides, and the IDF soldiers at the checkpoints are not saints. They are doing an ungrateful job, need to encounter repeated confrontations, assaults, offenses, and at the same time take measures against suicide bombers. Sometimes we are talking about young men, 18 year-old, who stand at the checkpoint for long hours – 8, 10, 12 hours a day, shine or rain. Sometimes the sense of power gets to their heads and they behave irresponsibly, in a fashion that you describe. I do not condone this. I cannot condone this. This is terrible.

So, the description is feasible, and I am afraid that dozens of such and similar incidents have been reported in the past. Occupation is a terrible thing. This is why I speak against it for the past twenty five years, non-stop, to no avail. The Palestinians do not help their cause with their constant terror attacks and violence. Instead of nearing the end of occupation, they perpetuate it with their hostility. Israel responds with checkpoints and other measures that deprive liberty and basic rights. I do not see the end of this.

Thanks for your concern,

With my best wishes


Bigotry in the USA

2009. Not 1909. Not 1809. Only just year, Bernard Monroe, 73, a retiree known as "Mr. Ben," was enjoying a gathering of family and friends on a mild winter day when two white police officers pulled up in front of the modest wood-frame house he had called home for the past 25 years. For no good reason, the officers chased his adult son into the house. They had no warrant, and nobody there was wanted for any crime. When Mr. Monroe walked up the front porch steps during the commotion to check on his elderly wife, an officer who was still inside the house opened fire through the screen door, hitting him multiple times in the chest, back and arms.

Earlier, on the day Monroe was killed, the police officer who fired the deadly shots had also searched and questioned other African Americans who were doing nothing more than sitting in their yard, minding their own business.

The white police chief in the town told a newspaper: "If I see three or four young black men walking down the street, I have to stop them and check their names. I want them to be afraid every time they see the police that they might get arrested."

There is a first African-American in the White House, and these things still happen. This type of police intimidation was well known to African Americans in the town.

Now, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed an important lawsuit against the town of Homer, Louisiana, where those events are taking place. The suit seeks justice for Bernard Monroe's widow and his five children. But there's also a larger issue at stake — the pattern of racial profiling and police harassment of African Americans that led directly to Monroe's death.

Morris Dees, Founder of Southern Poverty Law Center, writes: “I'm outraged that this type of racial profiling is still occurring almost half a century after Jim Crow segregation was struck down in the South. The people of Homer deserve a police department that protects, rather than harasses them.”

I thank Mr. Dees for bringing this to my attention.

Israelis in Hull

This month, the second Israeli came for a visit. Menny Mautner gave the Inaugural Lecture in a new Law and Politics Annual Lecture Series. Menny is Israel’s foremost scholar in law and culture. He spoke on “From Honour to Dignity” and did a brilliant job.

The lecture is based on a recent article in which Menny argued that over the last twenty years, liberal thinkers have invested a great deal of effort in adapting liberal political theory to the multicultural condition. The central question that has occupied these thinkers is how a liberal state ought to treat cultural practices of non-liberal groups living within it. One major group of thinkers insists that it is incumbent on the liberal state to make sure that autonomy, together with some other central liberal values, are made part of the lives of all the citizens living in the state. Another major group holds that it is the function of the liberal state to serve as framework for the peaceful co-existence of people who have diverse conceptions of the good life. These thinkers therefore call for "restraint" on the part of the state in its relations with non-liberal groups. This Article wishes to go beyond these two approaches. It is motivated by the conviction that the only standards that a liberal state can invoke in its relations with non-liberal groups are universal standards, i.e., standards that can be viewed, to the utmost extent possible, as transcending any particular culture, and that can be applied not only to non-liberal cultures, but to the culture of the mainstream liberal society itself. The Article puts forth a series of considerations that must be taken into account when intervention on the part of a liberal state in cultural practices of non-liberal groups is considered. It also sets forth two proposals as to the standards that need to guide the liberal state in cases in which it considers intervention in cultural practices of groups living in it: the doctrine of human rights (and the concept of human dignity that stands at its core) and the concept of humanness.

You can read it on

It was great to have Menny around for a few days. I am looking forward to more visits.

In Pursuit of Democracy and Security in the Greater Middle East

A USIP Study Group Report

Daniel Brumberg, principal author. U.S. Institute of Peace, January 21, 2010

This report offers a set of general and country-specific findings and recommendations to assist the Obama administration in its efforts to tackle escalating security challenges while sustaining diplomatic, institutional and economic support for democracy and human rights in the Greater Middle East.

The working group recognizes that addressing threats from terrorist groups affiliated with al-Qaeda, as well as stemming conflicts arising from the persistence of regional conflicts in the Middle East and South Asia, must be a top priority. But, as the case studies of Yemen, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon amply demonstrate, long-term political stability, economic development and security also requires a continued and even enhanced U.S. commitment, in both words and deeds, to fostering democratic transformation, human rights and effective governance. The architecture of security and peacemaking must be accompanied by a revived focus on democratic reforms.

Absent such an effort, this study group believes that the already wide political, social and ideological gap between states and societies will further expand, thus making regimes, and even entire states vulnerable to internal and external shocks. It is the task and challenge of genuine reformers in both the regimes and oppositions of the Arab World and South Asia to chart an exit from the cul-de-sac of arbitrary rule and state-managed political reform by defining a common vision of substantive “democratic transformation.”

We believe that the administration can and should assist in this effort. “Articulated in a respectful, matter-of-fact language that abjures preaching or triumphalism,” (Recommendation 4) support for democracy by our highest officials will not only buttress U.S. security interests: it will also advance President Obama’s vision of a new relationship between the U.S. and Muslim majority states, a vision whose parameters he boldly set out during his June 4, 2009 Cairo speech. (73 pages)


The Institute of International Education (IIE) is pleased to announce: We Are Now Accepting Nominations for this Prize.


Details at

The Institute of International Education is pleased to announce the call for nominations for the 6th annual Victor J. Goldberg IIE Prize for Peace in the Middle East. The prize recognizes outstanding work being conducted jointly by two individuals, one Arab and one Israeli, working together to advance the cause of peace in the Middle East. The two individuals whose work is judged to be most successful in bringing people together and breaking down the barriers of hatred will share a $10,000 prize.

We would greatly appreciate your assistance in publicizing this Prize to anyone you know who may be eligible, or who may be interested in nominating others.


To be eligible for the Prize, at least one of the nominated individuals must have visited the United States as an alumna/us of any program administered by the Institute of International Education (IIE), or any exchange program funded by any of IIE’s sponsors and administered by another organization. Alumni of the following IIE-administered programs, among others, are encouraged to apply: Fulbright Programs, Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowships, International Visitor Leadership Program (formerly International Visitor Program, or IVP), State Department Middle East Partnership Initiative, Ford Foundation International Fellowship Program, Ford Foundation Global Travel and Learning Fund, and training programs funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Fulbright alumni and alumni of the Israel Arab Scholarship Program whose grants were administered by AMIDEAST are also eligible. Similarly, individuals who came to the United States under funding from the Ford Foundation or as part of the International Visitor Leadership Program are eligible even if they were participating in a program coordinated by another organization.

Nominations may be submitted by the individuals themselves or by a third party. Nominations will be due on March 2, 2010, and the winners will be announced in the spring. A copy of the nomination form can be downloaded at

1948 Photos

These links contain memorable photos from the year of establishment:

I thank Anat Skladman for pointing them to me.

My Visit to NY

On March 21-27, 2010 I plan to be in New York. I’d be happy to meet friends and colleagues.

My New Article

Steve Newman of York University wrote a reply to my “Holocaust Denial Is A Form of Hate Speech”, Amsterdam Law Forum, Vol. 2, No 1 (2009), pp. 33-42. The Editors of Amsterdam Law Forum invited me to write a rejoinder, answering Newman’s critique. The result is:

“Countering Hate on the Internet – A Rejoinder”, Amsterdam Law Forum, Vol. 2, No. 2 (2010), pp. 125-132.


I reiterate that Internet providers and web-hosting companies should abide by their own rules of conduct. If their terms of service disallow hateful messages on their servers then they should not host or provide forums for Holocaust denial. I further tell the story of Sabina Citron showing that Holocaust denial can cause people severe offence, upsetting them to the extent of loss in their self-esteem. Further, I argue that hate speech can and did translate to hate crime. Some hate mongers are not satisfied merely by the sound of their pounding words and wish to see blood. Finally, I propose ways for countering hate on the Net.

You can read it on

New Books

Amos Guiora, Freedom from Religion (NY: Oxford University Press, 2009).

Although many books on terrorism and religious extremism have been published in the years since 9/11, none of them written by Western authors call for the curtailment of religious freedom and freedom of expression for the sake of greater security. Rather, those terror-related debates have addressed what other civil liberties should be honored. Issues like torture, domestic surveillance, and unlawful detentions have dominated the literature in this area, but few, if any, major scholars have questioned the vast allowances made by Western nations for the freedoms of religion and speech.

Freedom from Religion challenges the almost sacrosanct inviolability of these two civil liberties. By drawing the connection between politically-correct tolerance of extremist speech and the rise of terrorist activity, this book sets the context for its unique proposal that governments should introduce new limits on religious practice within their borders. To demonstrate the wisdom of this course, the author presents the disparate policies and security circumstances of five countries: the U.S., the UK, the Netherlands, Turkey, and Israel. The book benefits not just from the author's own counter-terrorism experience in Israel and the U.S. but also from an international advisory group of leading scholars from all five of the countries under review.


Jennifer Prah Ruger, Health and Social Justice, Foreword by Amartya Sen (Oxford University Press, 2010).

Societies make decisions and take actions that profoundly impact the distribution of health. Why and how should collective choices be made, and policies implemented, to address health inequalities under conditions of resource scarcity? How should societies conceptualize and measure health disparities, and determine whether they've been adequately addressed? Who is responsible for various aspects of this important social problem? In Health and Social Justice, Jennifer Prah Ruger elucidates principles to guide these decisions, the evidence that should inform them, and the policies necessary to build equitable and efficient health systems world-wide. This book weaves together original insights and disparate constructs to produce a foundational new theory, the health capability paradigm.

Ruger's theory takes the ongoing debates about the theoretical underpinnings of national health disparities and systems in striking new directions. It shows the limitations of existing approaches (utilitarian, libertarian, Rawlsian, communitarian), and effectively balances a consequentialist focus on health outcomes and costs with a proceduralist respect for individuals' health agency. Through what Ruger calls shared health governance, it emphasizes responsibility and choice. It allows broader assessment of injustices, including attributes and conditions affecting individuals' "human flourishing," as well as societal structures within which resource distribution occurs. Addressing complex issues at the intersection of philosophy, economics, and politics in health, this fresh perspective bridges the divide between the collective and the individual, between personal freedom and social welfare, equality and efficiency, and science and economics.


Climate Change – Special Issue

From December 7-18, 2009, delegates from 194 nations met in attempt to reach an agreement that would slow climate change and increase environmental responsibility. Ultimately, what resulted was the Copenhagen Accord. This relatively brief, non-binding document (drafted by only a handful of delegates) recognizes "the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below 2 degrees Celsius", and aims to raise $100 billion per year from “a wide variety of sources” to help developing nations cut carbon emissions. But with no indication as to how greenhouse gases will be minimized, or how $100 billion will be raised and distributed, it is difficult to see the Copenhagen Accord as much more than a list of nice ideas.

The question of whether climate change data is a function of statistically undeniable facts or simply conjecture and propaganda is an explosive one, and regardless of which side of the discussion one stands, it is important to undertake a genuine examination of both arguments. The recent issue of Amsterdam Law Forum provides such an opportunity to hear the various sides of the climate change story. The Editors hope that these articles will foster a continued discussion in your universities, law firms and households.


Recent Movie

Skin (2008)

It is South Africa under Apartheid. An Afrikaner couple has a dark skin daughter. They insist she is white. She thinks she is white. Everything is fine until she is sent to a school, a white school. Then the problems begin, shaking their little world which the father worked hard to protect with pride.

This is a true story about prejudice, about a young girl who is torn between the world as she knows it and the real world; between an identity her parents wish her to assume, and identity that is dictated not by who she is -- her personality, knowledge, education, upbringing, wit, mentality -- but by the sole crude criterion: The colour of her skin. In the world of South Africa’s apartheid, this was enough to dictate one’s destiny.

This is a tragic story about belonging, the mistakes people make when they think of “the big picture” at the expense of the immediate details, the “here and now”. The price of pride and prejudice can be very high indeed. At the end of the film we learn that Sandra Laing’s two brothers refuse to be in touch with her until today because she brought up two coloured children. Some people are so closed up in their own small and prejudiced world that they are unable to change.

The acting of Sophie Okonedo as Sandra and Alice Kreig as her mother who is unwilling to forgive herself for giving up on her daughter is excellent. Sam Neill is superb as always in the role of Sandra’s father who refuses to comprehend that all argumentation cannot stand in the face of one simple fact: The colour of skin. And when Sandra chooses to live in the only place where she could possibly be accepted, he burns all her belongings and deletes her from his family.

Monthly Poem

Hazy Shade Of Winter

Simon And Garfunkel

Time, time, time, see what's become of me

While I looked around

For my possibilities

I was so hard to please

But look around, leaves are brown

And the sky is a hazy shade of winter

Hear the salvation army band

Down by the riverside, it's bound to be a better ride

Than what you've got planned

Carry your cup in your hand

And look around, leaves are brown now

And the sky is a hazy shade of winter

Hang on to your hopes, my friend

That's an easy thing to say, but if your hope should pass away

It's simply pretend

That you can build them again

Look around, the grass is high

The fields are ripe, it's the springtime of my life

Ahhh, seasons change with the scenery

Weaving time in a tapestry

Won't you stop and remember me

At any convenient time

Funny how my memory slips while looking over manuscripts

Of unpublished rhyme

Drinking my vodka and lime

I look around, leaves are brown now

And the sky is a hazy shade of winter

Light Side

A man and a friend are playing golf one day at their local golf course. One of the guys is about to chip onto the green when he sees a long funeral procession on the road next to the course. He stops in mid-swing, takes off his golf cap, closes his eyes, and bows down in prayer.

His friend says: “Wow, that is the most thoughtful and touching thing I have ever seen. You truly are a kind man.”

The man then replies: “Yeah, well we were married 35 years.”

Peace and love.

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

Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Chair in Politics

The University of Hull

Cottingham Road

Hull, HU6 7RX

United Kingdom

T: +0044 (0)1482 465024

F: +0044 (0)1482 466208