Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Politics – July 2010

If Israel Goes Down, We All Go Down
~ José María Aznar

Common sense does prevail. Sometimes it hesitates, sometimes it needs encouragement, but finally it comes about.

By trying to isolate Gaza, Israel isolated itself from the world.

Four l o n g years have passed. Gilad is still in captivity. Veshavu banim legvulam.
~Raphael Cohen-Almagor

A positive meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu at the end of which both announced that it is possible to reach a peace agreement within a year. Amen. Meanwhile, the settlements occupy some 45 percent of the West Bank, Mr Lieberman is the Foreign Minister, Mr Netanyahu announced that the freeze on enlargement of settlements is about to expire and building will resume, and Hamas is Hamas.

The appalling situation and the lack of hope drove the people on both sides to elect extreme governments that wish to destroy one another.

The Shalit family finally came to realize that its interests are not necessarily identical to those of the government and started to mount pressure on the government by organizing a cross country march, calling to free Gilad. Thousands of people joined the march.

This has been a month of football: a colourful celebration of national symbols, dresses trumpets and drums, nerves and will power -- of the very best excitement and drama. The two finalists of 2006 were ousted in the group stage.

One African country, Ghana, and two Asian countries, Japan and South Korea, advanced to the second stage. Ghana had a chance to make history and be the first African team to reach the semi-finals but failed in the last minute. Holland, Germany, Uruguay and Spain reached the semi-finals.

Spain won the championship in convincing fashion.

So this Blog contains an elaborate section on the most popular sport in the world as it came to one of its peaks. I am about to leave for Israel for my annual vacation; thus there will not be an August monthly Blog. I will return to my loyal readers in September.

Reflections on the June Blog
My Reflections on the Reflections
Israel Eases Restrictions on Goods into Gaza
Tony Blair
Israel Sets Up Gaza Flotilla Commission
If Israel Goes Down, We All Go Down – by Josי Marםa Aznar
Report of UNESCO’s International Bioethics Committee on Social Responsibility
and Health
Planned Home Birth Is Associated with a Tripling of the Neonatal Mortality Rate
New Books
Visit to Israel
2010 World Cup
Monthly Poem
Light Side

Free Gilad Shalit. The government should invest in his release. It should be one of its top priorities. Veshavu banim legvulam.

Gilad Shalit

Reflections on the June Blog

Professor Sam Lehman-Wilzig wrote from Ramat Gan, Israel:

The people of Gaza voted for terrorists, continue to support their terrorist government - - and you say that these Gazan civilians are not responsible and merely "victims"? Would you say the same about the German people who supported the Nazi regime for a decade and then suffered the Allied bombings? They were merely "victims" and didn't deserve to suffer? Your "argument" makes no sense - or at least is simply not argued.

As for denying Chomsky entry to Israel: How many times have Britain and the U.S. refused entry to "ideological undesirables"? Quite a lot! Where is it written that a noncitizen has ANY right of free speech in a foreign country? Every nation on earth decides who enters and who not. The comparison you make here with Israeli citizens is completely specious.

As for Turkey, ever since the EU has made it clear that it will not accept Turkey, the Turks have moved towards the RADICAL Muslim world. Look at their recent vote in the U.N. AGAINST the Iranian sanctions that even Russia and China agreed to! Loyal friend to Israel? Yup -- until 2009! And by the way, now it is clear that no less than PM Erdogan was involved in organizing the flotilla resistance. That's a loyal friend????

Mr. Tim Friedman wrote from Leeds, England:

Hi Rafi

Thank you for your usual stimulating and informative report.

Whilst there is much that I accept without question - not least the Israelis' criminal ignoring of the need for PR - there are a few matters I respectfully raise which do impact on your comments and challenge some of the things you have included (in no particular order):-

1. Whatever Israel does now is looked at prejudicially and in a pre-judged way. If it acts well, ulterior motives are ascribed or the actions are disputed. If it acts badly, the media is full of criticism.

2. Favourable behaviour is ignored. I was in S'derot a couple of weeks ago and was told that 10,000/14,000 tons of goods are passed officially through Israel into Gaza each month and that Ashdod provides 70% of Gaza's power. Was that in the Guardian or on the BBC?

3. Construction materials are diverted to military use, so naturally Israel's security interests demand it restricts what goes in to Gaza.

4.Why does Israel and not Egypt get pilloried for restricting the goods going to Gaza?

5. Even when the international community actually supports Israel's security interests in principle, eg restricting weaponry to Southern Lebanon after the Lebanon "war", everyone turns a blind eye. I understand it is felt that the Hezbollah preparations to attack Israel from Lebanon are viewed with great anxiety in Israel. World reassurances to Israel re what is allowed into Gaza must be seen in this light.

6. Why should Israel's actions against Gaza be described as "suffocating" it? I would not like to live there and many Gazans are not exactly comfortable - though many richer/elevated residents are doing pretty well - but that is not the same thing as "suffocating" and is the sort of hyperbole which should be challenged.

7. The independent countries like the UK pay lip-service to Israel's right of self-defence. When Israel takes any active steps in self-defence (often against others who ignore the Geneva Conventions and other moral guidelines), however, this is regarded by many as "disproportionate".

8. Hamas is generally understood by most casual observers in the free world as the Government of Gaza which is not very kindly rather than as a proscribed organization which kills many Muslims and given the chance would eliminate the Jewish state and its residents.

Few commentators are putting the case for Israel in part because they are told not to and their contributions in support of Israel are monitored, censored and modified and thus they are cautious in subsequent pieces to ensure they toe the (anti-Israel) media line ( per Col Richard Kemp who visited Leeds recently).

I can suggest a number of reasons why Israel is treated in this way and I am sure you can add to the list - fear of domestic terror, fear of international terror, fear of limitation on oil supplies, wish for a quiet life, shame that democracies are not prepared to take appropriate military action in support of their interests except in the most extreme of extreme circumstances (eg Afghanistan) whilst non-democracies are, the inability to understand those from different cultures etc etc and currently there is also the momentum which has built up which enhances this opposition to Israel despite its entitlement (as I see it) to moral and other support.

Just because many of us are neurotic about the view of the majority against those who support Israel, even in a liberal democracy like ours, doesn't mean they aren't after us!


Tim Friedman

Dr. Yoav Tenenbaum wrote from Tel Aviv, Israel:

Dear Rafi,

Thank you for sending me the June Newsletter.

I have just finished reading it.

As ever, I enjoyed reading your newsletter, particularly this one which was devoted, in part, to football….

Regarding other issues you dwell upon in your newsletter, I tend to agree with you on some of your comments regarding the Gaza Flotilla Crisis, but I disagree with some of your remarks.

To begin with, and to be quite candid with you, I think that your comment about the Shaitet 13 was a bit over the top. I had the impression that you displayed a rather condescending attitude towards it. Anyhow, based on everything I know, it seems to me that the soldiers who participated in the operation, if anything, were rather controlled and cautious considering the circumstances. The problem, so far as I can ascertain, was with the decision and the intelligence, rather than with the individuals who took part in the operation.

Regarding Noam Chomsky, it is known that the problem arose as a result of a decision by one, single, individual at the border crossing, who, apparently, decided by herself not to let him in. Indeed, Chomsky, I understand, had visited Israel before without any incident.

I beg to differ with your comments about Israel-Turkey relations. I think that Turkey decided some time ago to re-direct its foreign policy towards the more radical elements in the Middle East. This had precious little to do with Israel. I believe Israel became an easy launching pad for Erdogan and his political allies in Turkey to advance his wider agenda. May I remind you that Erdogan behaved in an offensive manner in the presence of Shimon Peres, and that was before Netanyahu became PM.

Turkey is not pro-Palestinian. Turkey is pro-Hamas, also as part of his broader policy in the area. Erdogan has said that his party and the Hamas are like sister parties. Erdogan is not an ally of Iran because of Israel. Israel is not the motive for Erdogan's policies, but rather an excuse.

The part about the IHH is excellent! I learned quite a lot from it. Thank you.

I was interested to read about the Privacy Law Scholars Conference. What a good idea!

I wasn't aware that you were a Spurs aficionado. Although my team in England is Leeds
United, I like Spurs very much.

I hope you and your family are well.

Best wishes.


Ms. Michal Anosh, media commentator, wrote from Ponoka, Alberta, Canada:

Shalom Raffi,

Thanks for your always informative and entertaining blog.

On the issue of starving Gazans - how come you never mention the fact that they ripped down all those greenhouses that were preserved and paid for so they would have food, work and export opportunities?

How can the society there stumble through life like raging teenagers who want the family car, but take no responsibility for wrecking it by driving it into a wall, and then they want bus fare for the weekend?...AND they make the rest of the world cry about their situation when there's definitely a large chunk of responsibility in their hands.

Likewise, the sorry fact that many live on less than a dollar a day is sad - but its often more than their un-aided neighbors in Egypt or other oppressive states in the Middle East and more than the people in Darfur - that's for sure - NONE of whom are getting aid or television coverage - and so many millions more of them are in agony or the throws of a long, painful death..

If we believe that in order to survive and relate as civilized people a certain level of responsibility for one's action is REQUIRED then why do we keep enabling the Hamasled Palestinians to be 'bad'? Why, specifically, do you keep supporting the view that they have a right to be bad, even though they hold Schalit, fire rockets, and work for Iran?

Okay - they have a 'right' to behave anyway they want - but behavior and actions have consequences. I think it is time they grew up.

Regarding your interest in Europe and the descent of Germany into hell, taking us and the rest of the world with it - I recommend "Rites of Spring" by Modris Eksteins (sp). It was published a number of years ago but it is a fascinating exploration of the interwar period in Europe - the stunning overnight industrialization of Germany (how its iron/steel production outdistances England's by something like 5 times in the space of maybe 50 years, when England had been rolling steel for 200) and what factors farm failure and unemployment played in the issue.

I was then lead to read "Marienthal" by Marie Jahoda, which was a study done in 1932 (I believe) about the Austrian village by the same name where all the workers were laid off - a whole town unemployed. It was the first social study of the unemployed and the results blew my mind - how men, particularly, end up like rudderless ships without work. Consequently, the conclusions can be drawn that anything 'to do' that is organized, gives them purpose and some form of being 'a man' again, will be enough to make them say 'yes'.... and Hitler's brown shirts provided that....tragically.

All the best and thank you so much for your ongoing sharing of information, news, views, books, poems, ideas, movies, football stars....life!

Professor Jack Hayward wrote from Hull, England:

Le Monde,10 June 2010, p1 Editorial
Title: Ne Boycottons pas les artistes israיliens -- Don`t boycott Israeli Artists

The Editorial is a clear voice against attempts to boycott Israel, arguing

...This movement is dangerous: the assault on the flotilla is indefensible, but to respond with a boycott is unacceptable. It is counter-productive. It contributes to weakening voices and views in Israel that are among the most intransigent towards their government. If there is a country whose creative writers and artists investigate their state with talent and lucidity, it is without doubt Israel....It will be serious to align ourselves with most Arab countries, which boycott all creative work from their neighbour.... To boycott is to censor. It is the worse response.

I thank Jack for the translation.

My Reflections on the Reflections

First, let us distinguish between the substantive remarks and the non-substantive remarks.

Substantive remarks

In Genesis 18:2 God sends three men/angels to Abraham in the plains of Mamre. After the angels received the hospitality of Abraham and Sarah, God reveals to Abraham that he intends to ruin Sodom and Gomorrah because their sin is very grievous. Abraham then starts pleading with God: Will you destroy the righteous with the guilty? Suppose there are fifty righteous people in the city. Will you really destroy it? Will you not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous in it? Will you put the righteous to death with the guilty, so that righteous and guilty fare alike? Is the judge of the whole world not to act justly? God replied: If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I shall spare the whole place because of them. Abraham relentlessly continued his pleading: Will you destroy the city if there were 45, then 30, then 20, then 10 righteous people.

The moral of the story is clear: You should not inflict indiscriminate punishment upon people. There is good even among the worst possible evil. You cannot punish one for the evils of another. More so, the power of the good is so significant that ten good people among a large city may save the entire city from destruction.

As a Jew, as an Israeli, as a citizen of the world, as a human being, I cannot accept that all Gazans are alike; all deserve punishment because of the evils that Hamas inflicts upon Israel: the terror, the rockets, the hatred, the incitement, Gilad Shalit. Not all Gazans are terrorists. We must distinguish between terrorists and civilians and refrain from punishing all for the evils of some.

I say time and again: Israel is facing a bitter enemy that does not recognize its very right to exist. Therefore, it should forestall any attempt to smuggle weaponry into Gaza. However, the policy should be clear, transparent and prudent. No one of right mind would object to stopping the shipment of rockets into Gaza. But this necessity has nothing to do with stopping the delivery of coriander and chocolate into Gaza.

Given the devastation that Israel had inflicted on Gaza in Cast Lead, it should permit construction materials into Gaza. People should have the ability to rebuild their ruined houses. I am utterly unconvinced that there is a security need to stop these materials from entering Gaza. Yes, the material may assist Hamas in the construction of tunnels and other means to bolster its security and terrorism. But Israel has the capacity to ruin whatever Hamas is building. This cannot serve as an excuse from depriving thousands of people of the ability to rebuild their homes.

I always try to be lucid in the way that I explain my reasoning, using the best words to describe phenomenon. Believe you me that I often delete and amend sentences when I am unhappy with certain phraseology. I call Hamas “terrorist” with no qualms, although many other people and countries find other terms to relate to Hamas. We need to call terrorism by its name. At the same time, we also need to recognize that what Israel is doing to Gaza is suffocation. Look at the map. Gaza is closed all around. Egypt and Israel control its borders. To a large extent, Israel decides whether Gaza will have food, water, electricity, gas, houses, basic needs and utilities. At will, it provides them. At will, it deprives them. No person in the world would like to live like that. Israelis surely would hate every moment of living under such isolating conditions, not realizing that by its imprudent policies we bring this gloomy future upon ourselves. There is a growing distance between Israel and many people in the world who think: This is not right.

Source: BBC

From the general to the Gaza flotilla particular: I have no criticisms of the commando fighters who landed on the ships. They tried to follow their orders to the best of their abilities. My criticism is directed at the people who sent them to carry out such an impossible mission. My criticism is directed at the commanders who did not prepare their homework, who did not know what is likely to happen, who endangered the commandos’ lives and put them in situation where they were forced to kill nine people in order to carry out their mission and escape death.

Same applies to denying Chomsky entry. It might be the case that one officer at the border control took the initiative to turn him away. I don’t know. But if this situation is possible, that one person can inflict such damage on her own volition, then something is wrong in Israel’s policy. This should not be allowed. There should be clear instructions, which are not opened to wild interpretations, as to when entry should be refused.

You won't believe how many emails I received from different people, mostly academics, from different corners of the world, about the Chomsky affair. And I assume we did not see the end of this.

It is clear to me why Israel objected to international investigating committee regarding Cast Lead. We had a lot to lose. It is unclear to me why we object to such investigation concerning the flotilla. Put things in perspective. And if we believe that we did the right thing, prove it to the world. We can expect more flotillas to arrive, more such problems. We need international support and understanding. But Israel is so afraid of international scrutiny and pressure that it is always adamant in its refusal. The adamant refusal does not exactly relieve the scrutiny and pressure but nevertheless.

Regarding Turkey: Turkey has its own agenda, which is at present pan-Islamic. At the same time, Israel should not play into the hands of the hostile elements inside Turkey thereby weakening the secular, liberal, western elements in Turkey. Any depiction of Turkey as one unified body is misleading. There have been many avenues for cooperation between Israel and Turkey: security, tourism, industry, commerce. The west at large, and Israel in particular, should try to retain and strengthen these elements, act prudently, with foresight and clear sense of purpose. I am sorry to say that I see very little sense in the way that Israeli leaders have been communicating with Turkish officials during the recent months. Erdogan is crucially important, but he is not the only Turkish official. Turkey is not a dictatorship. Israel should not alienate itself from the Turkish elements that wish to cooperate, i.e., security, tourism, industry, commerce. More on Turkey infra.

Unsubstantive remarks

The fact that there are even poorer countries than Gaza does not help the Gazans nor should make any difference in our concern (or lack of) for the well being of the Gazans.

My “significant other”, a model to be followed, is not the behavior of the backward, undemocratic, authoritarian, totalitarian societies in the world. Remarks like “they started”, “they destroyed”, “they behave worse” are not convincing to me. My significant others are not Iran, North Korea or Hamas. I’d like to keep Israel democratic, a socialliberal democracy to be exact.

All arguments like why Israel and not someone else are unconvincing. One wrong does
not justify another. There is no absolute justice in the world. There are double
standards. Israel is not Russia or the United States. Most countries in the world do not
do what the US has been doing for many years for different reasons, some noble, some
less so. What the USA can afford to do, we cannot.

Israel is not Egypt either, for better and for worse.

And sometimes double standards work for Israel. For instance, USA and some other countries turn a blind eye to Israel’s nuclear policy/ability. What is tolerated for Israel is not tolerated for many other countries. Let’s not go this path.

Israel Eases Restrictions on Goods into Gaza

On June 17, 2010, Israel announced easing of restrictions on goods entering the Gaza Strip but left in place a sea blockade of the Palestinian enclave, raising the prospect of further clashes with aid flotillas.

After two weeks of behind-the-scenes pressure from European and U.S. diplomats, Israel's security cabinet agreed to let more civilian goods enter the strip, but the scope of what would be permitted remained vague.

In the first instance, there would be a 30 percent increase in the volume of goods passing into Gaza.

Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said "we welcome the principles" announced by the Israeli government. "They're a step in the right direction," adding that the administration would continue to work with Israel "to improve a humanitarian situation in Gaza that the president has said is unsustainable."

The partial nature of the policy change prompted criticism from some Palestinians, human rights groups and academic observers, who said it did not go far enough. Although Israel is trying to "make it appear that it has eased" the blockade, "in reality, the siege of the Gaza Strip, illegally imposed on Palestinians, continues unabated," said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. Amnesty International said the decision was not enough to end the "collective punishment" of Gazans.

Augustus Richard Norton, a Boston University international relations professor, described the decision as an "arrogant in-your-face to the U.S. and other concerned members of the international community." "If Israel was serious about improving the living conditions of Gazans, it would stop preventing the exports of agricultural goods and allow the strip's simple manufacturing sector to resume making and selling everyday essentials," Norton said.

Many factories closed in the past three years because of the ban, which was designed to put pressure on the Palestinian economy as part of an effort to foster popular dissatisfaction with the Hamas leadership.

Israel said that crucial building items would still be permitted only for projects that are monitored by a third party.

The Israeli announcement came after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Israel's raid on the aid flotilla had increased the chances of war in the region.

He told the BBC's Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen that although Syria was working to prevent a war, there was no chance of a peace deal with the current Israeli administration, which he called a "pyromaniac government".

Sources: Janine Zacharia, “Israel eases restrictions on goods bound for Gaza Strip”, Washington Post (June 18, 2010): A18; “Israel cabinet votes to ease Gaza Strip blockade”, BBC.co.uk (June 17, 2010), http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/10338199.stm

Tony Blair
I wish to command Mr Blair for the positive role that he played in enlightening the Israeli government that the blockade, in its present form, does not serve the Israeli interests.

The BBC reported that changes to the terms of the blockade had been proposed by Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair. Speaking after the deal was announced, Mr Blair said Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, could become part of a peace process by releasing captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and renouncing violence. But he insisted that his main concern was about quality of life in the territory.

"My concern is if you improve the lives of people in Gaza... I think you have got a far better of chance of creating peace," he told the BBC.

In its statement, Israel pledged to expand operations at land crossings into Gaza, increasing the capacity for inspecting and transferring goods into the territory.

Items classified as "dual-use" (suitable for civilian or military use) would be reassessed and goods destined for projects such as UN-backed housebuilding would be assured of entry, an Israeli government statement said.

There was also a promise to "streamline" the entry and exit of people for humanitarian and medical reasons. Gazans have limited access to medical facilities and seriously ill Palestinians often require urgent medical attention inside Israel.

Common sense does prevail. Sometimes it hesitates, sometimes it needs encouragement, but finally it comes about.

Blair, a statesman with healthy common sense, said the following:
“Where I divide from some others in the international community is that I think that Israel has got a genuine security concern that it is entitled to meet,” said the former British prime minister. “For me, the fact that Israel says, ‘Look, we’re not going to allow things into the [Gaza] seaport, but you can bring them to Ashdod, and we can check them, and then they can come on to Gaza,’ I think that is a reasonable position. What you can’t justify is saying that basic foodstuffs and household items can’t go into Gaza.”

Sources: “Israel sets out changes to Gaza blockade curbs”, BBC News (June 20, 2010), http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/10361711.stm; “No need for aid flotillas, says Blair”, The Jerusalem Post (June 22, 2010), http://www.jpost.com/International/Article.aspx?id=179110

Israel Sets Up Gaza Flotilla Commission

On June 15, 2010 Israel’s cabinet unanimously approved a commission of inquiry into the interception of a Gaza-bound flotilla that left nine passengers dead. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that its establishment “will make it clear to the entire world that the state of Israel acts according to the law, transparency and with full responsibility”. Amen Ve’Amen.

The prime minister voiced his expectations: “I am convinced that the commission’s uncovering of the facts will prove that the goals and actions of the state of Israel and the IDF were appropriate defensive actions in accordance with the highest international standards”.

Retired Israeli Supreme Court Justice Jacob (Yaakov) Turkel will head the commission. The other Israeli members of the committee are international law professor Shabtai Rosen, winner of the Israel Prize for jurisprudence and the Hague Prize for International Law, and former Technion President, Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Horev.

What I have written about the Winograd Committee is also true here. See R. Cohen Almagor and Sharon Haleva-Amir, The Israel-Hezbollah War and the Winograd Committee”, Journal of Parliamentary and Political Law, Vol. II:1 (2008), pp. 113-130.

Two foreign observers with experience in the fields of military law and human rights were also named to the commission: Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lord William David Trimble from Northern Ireland, and international jurist Ken Watkin, former Judge Advocate General of the Canadian Armed Forces. Both are known for their sympathies to Israel. In May 2010, Trimble launched, with Spain's former prime minister Jose Maria Aznar (see below) the "Friends of Israel Initiative," a non-Jewish international project supporting Israel's right to exist.

The committee has a mandate to examine whether the Gaza blockade and the flotilla's interception conformed with international law and also investigate the actions taken by the convoy's organizers and participants. Israel says its embargo is necessary to limit arms smuggling to Hamas.

Turkey, which has cut back ties to Israel since the raid last month, has said Israel's investigation will be biased and reiterated demands for a U.N.-controlled probe. Turkey seems to think, quite astonishingly for the Israeli government, that a Turkish representative should be on the committee. After all, the main event took place on a Turkish ship, involving the death of nine Turkish citizens.

Justice needs to be heard, seen and felt on all levels. This composition of the committee does not help Israel’s credibility. On June 16 I spoke with Justice Turkel and asked him about the inclusion of Lord Trimble in the commission. His answer was that the decision has already been made.

Source: The Jewish Tribune (June 15, 2010), http://www.jewishtribune.ca/TribuneV2/index.php/201006153153/Israel-sets-up-


Thomas Friedman is a sensible and sensitive reporter. On June 15, 2010 he published “Letter from Istanbul” on the pages of the NY Times in which he said the following:

The Erdogan government tries to fill some lacunas. The first vacuum comes courtesy of the European Union. After a decade of telling the Turks that if they wanted E.U. membership they had to reform their laws, economy, minority rights and civilianmilitary relations — which the Erdogan government systematically did — the E.U. leadership has now said to Turkey: “Oh, you mean nobody told you? We’re a Christian club. No Muslims allowed.” The E.U.’s rejection of Turkey, a hugely bad move, has been a key factor prompting Turkey to move closer to Iran and the Arab world.

But as Turkey started looking more South, it found another vacuum — no leadership in the Arab-Muslim world. Egypt is adrift. Saudi Arabia is asleep. Syria is too small. And Iraq is too fragile. Erdogan discovered that by taking a very hard line against Israel’s partial blockade of Hamas-led Gaza — and quietly supporting the Turkish-led flotilla to break that blockade, during which eight Turks were killed by Israel — Turkey could vastly increase its influence on the Arab street and in the Arab markets.

Indeed, Erdogan today is the most popular leader in the Arab world. Unfortunately, it is not because he is promoting a synthesis of democracy, modernity and Islam, but because he is loudly bashing Israel over its occupation and praising Hamas instead of the more responsible Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, which is actually building the foundations of a Palestinian state.

As one Turkish foreign policy analyst said to me: “We are not mediating between East and West anymore. We’ve become spokesmen for the most regressive elements in the East.”

Finally, there is a vacuum inside Turkey. The secular opposition parties have been in disarray most of the decade, the army has been cowed by wiretaps and the press has been increasingly intimidated into self-censorship because of government pressures. In September, the Erdogan government levied a tax fine of $2.5 billion on the largest, most influential — and most critical — media conglomerate, Dogan Holdings, to bring it to heel. At the same time, Erdogan lately has spoken with increasing vitriol about Israel in his public speeches — describing Israelis as killers — to build up his domestic support. He regularly labels his critics as “Israel’s contractors” and “Tel Aviv’s lawyers.”

Sad. Erdogan is smart, charismatic and can be very pragmatic. He’s no dictator. I’d love to see him be the most popular leader on the Arab street, but not by being more radical than the Arab radicals and by catering to Hamas, but by being more of a democracy advocate than the undemocratic Arab leaders and mediating in a balanced way between all Palestinians and Israel. That is not where Erdogan is at, though, and it’s troubling. Maybe President Obama should invite him for a weekend at Camp David to clear the air before U.S.-Turkey relations get where they’re going — over a cliff.

My only critic of Friedman that he, too, depicts Turkey here as a homogenous society under the firm leadership of one person. I think that are more facets in Turkish society than what is described here.



On June 23, 2010 the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Salehi, announced that Iran has succeeded in enriching 17 kilograms of uranium to a level of 20 percent. That amount is sufficient to provide all the fuel needed by Iran's medical research reactor, which requires fuel enriched to that level.

Salehi also announced that Iran is capable of enriching five kilograms of uranium a month to the 20 percent level. However, he said, it will not do so, as it already has enough for the medical reactor.

Photo: Haaretz by AP

Western intelligence agencies fear the need for fuel for its research reactor is just an excuse, and that Iran's real goal is to master the techniques needed to enrich uranium to the 90 percent level needed for a bomb. Getting to the 20 percent level is considered a much higher technological hurdle than getting from 20 to 90 percent.

The same day, the United Arab Emirates announced that it intends to strictly enforce United Nations sanctions against Iran - a potentially significant move, since the UAE is one of Iran's biggest trading partners and serves as a key conduit for nuclear and missile components that are supposed to be barred to Tehran under UN Security Council sanctions.

The UAE, and particularly the emirate of Dubai, is a major base for straw companies that smuggle banned components to Iran. Many of these companies are controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards or its senior officers.

The emirates have decided to crack down on companies and businessmen in their territory that help Iran evade the UN sanctions. Among other steps, the UAE plans to shut down 40 local and international companies that supply Iran with dual-use items, which can be used for either civilian or military purposes. Any company found to have ties with the Revolutionary Guards or any other organization or individual specified in the four UN sanctions resolutions, will be shut down immediately.

The decision apparently stems from heavy American pressure on the emirates. If carried out, it greatly increases the likelihood that the new round of sanctions approved by the Security Council this month will be more effective than previous ones at impeding Iran's nuclear and missile programs.

On July 1, 2010 US President Barack Obama has signed into law new sanctions against Iran intended to impede the development of its nuclear programme. The measures, which penalise foreign companies that trade with Iran, were overwhelmingly approved by US Congress last week. The bill targets those firms that supply Iran's Revolutionary Guards or contribute to the country's energy industry, including foreign companies that provide finance, insurance, or shipping services. Mr Obama noted that Iran had rejected the offer of dialogue and engagement he had made on taking office last year: "To date, Iran has chosen the path of defiance," he said. "That is why we have steadily built a broader and deeper coalition of nations to pressure the Iranian government."

Sources: Yossi Melman, “UAE vows to strictly enforce UN nuclear sanctions on Iran”, Haaretz (June 24, 2010), http://www.haaretz.com/misc/article-print-page/uae-vowsto-
1.297941?trailingPath=2.169,2.225,2.226; “Barack Obama signs new sanctions against Iran into law”, BBC.co.uk (July 1, 2010), http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/us_and_canada/10484468.stm

If Israel Goes Down, We All Go Down

By José María Aznar

José María Aznar was prime minister of Spain between 1996 and 2004. As said, he is a friend of Israel. On June 18, 2010 he published this piece in the Times of London, and I bring it in full.

For far too long now it has been unfashionable in Europe to speak up for Israel. In the wake of the recent incident on board a ship full of anti-Israeli activists in the Mediterranean, it is hard to think of a more unpopular cause to champion.

In an ideal world, the assault by Israeli commandos on the Mavi Marmara would not have ended up with nine dead and a score wounded. In an ideal world, the soldiers would have been peacefully welcomed on to the ship. In an ideal world, no state, let alone a recent ally of Israel such as Turkey, would have sponsored and organized a flotilla whose sole purpose was to create an impossible situation for Israel: making it choose between giving up its security policy and the naval blockade, or risking the wrath of the world.

In our dealings with Israel, we must blow away the red mists of anger that too often cloud our judgment. A reasonable and balanced approach should encapsulate the following realities: first, the state of Israel was created by a decision of the UN. Its legitimacy, therefore, should not be in question. Israel is a nation with deeply rooted democratic institutions. It is a dynamic and open society that has repeatedly excelled in culture, science and technology.

Second, owing to its roots, history, and values, Israel is a fully fledged Western nation. Indeed, it is a normal Western nation, but one confronted by abnormal circumstances.

Uniquely in the West, it is the only democracy whose very existence has been questioned since its inception. In the first instance, it was attacked by its neighbors using the conventional weapons of war. Then it faced terrorism culminating in wave after wave of suicide attacks. Now, at the behest of radical Islamists and their sympathizers, it faces a campaign of delegitimisation through international law and diplomacy.

Sixty-two years after its creation, Israel is still fighting for its very survival. Punished with missiles raining from north and south, threatened with destruction by an Iran aiming to acquire nuclear weapons and pressed upon by friend and foe, Israel, it seems, is never to have a moment's peace.

For years, the focus of Western attention has understandably been on the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. But if Israel is in danger today and the whole region is slipping towards a worryingly problematic future, it is not due to the lack of understanding between the parties on how to solve this conflict. The parameters of any prospective peace agreement are clear, however difficult it may seem for the two sides to make the final push for a settlement.

The real threats to regional stability, however, are to be found in the rise of a radical Islamism which sees Israel's destruction as the fulfillment of its religious destiny and, simultaneously in the case of Iran, as an expression of its ambitions for regional hegemony. Both phenomena are threats that affect not only Israel, but also the wider West and the world at large.

The core of the problem lies in the ambiguous and often erroneous manner in which too many Western countries are now reacting to this situation. It is easy to blame Israel for all the evils in the Middle East. Some even act and talk as if a new understanding with the Muslim world could be achieved if only we were prepared to sacrifice the Jewish state on the altar. This would be folly.

Israel is our first line of defense in a turbulent region that is constantly at risk of descending into chaos; a region vital to our energy security owing to our overdependence on Middle Eastern oil; a region that forms the front line in the fight against extremism. If Israel goes down, we all go down. To defend Israel's right to exist in peace, within secure borders, requires a degree of moral and strategic clarity that too often seems to have disappeared in Europe. The United States shows worrying signs of heading in the same direction.

The West is going through a period of confusion over the shape of the world's future. To a great extent, this confusion is caused by a kind of masochistic self-doubt over our own identity; by the rule of political correctness; by a multiculturalism that forces us to our knees before others; and by a secularism which, irony of ironies, blinds us even when we are confronted by jihadis promoting the most fanatical incarnation of their faith. To abandon Israel to its fate, at this moment of all moments, would merely serve to illustrate how far we have sunk and how inexorable our decline now appears.

This cannot be allowed to happen. Motivated by the need to rebuild our own Western values, expressing deep concern about the wave of aggression against Israel, and mindful that Israel's strength is our strength and Israel's weakness is our weakness, I have decided to promote a new Friends of Israel initiative with the help of some prominent people, including David Trimble, Andrew Roberts, John Bolton, Alejandro Toledo (the former President of Peru), Marcello Pera (philosopher and former President of the Italian Senate), Fiamma Nirenstein (the Italian author and politician), the financier Robert Agostinelli and the Catholic intellectual George Weigel.
It is not our intention to defend any specific policy or any particular Israeli government. The sponsors of this initiative are certain to disagree at times with decisions taken by Jerusalem. We are democrats, and we believe in diversity.

What binds us, however, is our unyielding support for Israel's right to exist and to defend itself. For Western countries to side with those who question Israel's legitimacy, for them to play games in international bodies with Israel's vital security issues, for them to appease those who oppose Western values rather than robustly to stand up in defense of those values, is not only a grave moral mistake, but a strategic error of the first magnitude.

Israel is a fundamental part of the West. The West is what it is thanks to its Judeo- Christian roots. If the Jewish element of those roots is upturned and Israel is lost, then we are lost too. Whether we like it or not, our fate is inextricably intertwined.

Report of UNESCO’s International Bioethics Committee on Social Responsibility and Health

The Report of IBC on Social Responsibility and Health (2009) has been published as the second issue of the series devoted to the IBC’s reflection and deliberations on specific principles of the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights (2005).

In dealing with Article 14 of the Declaration, which introduces the principle of social responsibility and health in the field of bioethics, IBC does not pretend to have drawn up an exhaustive or prescriptive document. The report is built upon the large amount of work and debates on public health policy issues already carried out in other international bodies, in particular the World Health Organization (WHO); it attempts to find a proper balance between the empirical data, the theoretical discourse and the practical implications arising when applying the principle of social responsibility and health.

After a descriptive part on the social determinants of health and constraints on health access, and a specific section devoted to the elaboration of the ethical and legal dimensions of the principle of social responsibility and health, the Report presents a sample of possible concrete strategies and courses of action in order to translate the principle of social responsibility and health into specific policy applications, with a view to promote the highest attainable standard of health for all.

This publication is currently available in English and will soon be available in French; copies can be obtained from the Division of Ethics of Science and Technology, Bioethics Section (ibc@unesco.org) and on-line (www.unesco.org/ibc).

English: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0018/001878/187899E.pdf

Planned Home Birth Is Associated with a Tripling of the Neonatal Mortality Rate

Speaking of responsibility, Holland has one of the highest home birth rates in the world. A third of its women deliver at home. A new study published by The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (July 2, 2010) sought to systematically review the medical literature on the maternal and newborn safety of planned home vs planned hospital birth. Planned home births were associated with fewer maternal interventions including epidural analgesia, electronic fetal heart rate monitoring, episiotomy, and operative delivery. These women were less likely to experience lacerations, hemorrhage, and infections. Neonatal outcomes of planned home births revealed less frequent prematurity, low birthweight, and assisted newborn ventilation. Although planned home and hospital births exhibited similar perinatal mortality rates, planned home births were associated with significantly elevated neonatal mortality rates. The study concluded that less medical intervention during planned home birth is associated with a tripling of the neonatal mortality rate.

Source: Joseph R. Wax et. al., “Maternal and newborn outcomes in planned home birth vs planned hospital births: a metaanalysis”, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (July 2, 2010) http://www.ajog.org/article/S0002-9378(10)00671- X/abstract; see also http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/10465473.stm

New Books

Paul R. Viotti, American Foreign Policy (Cambridge: Polity, 2010).

As the world's only superpower, America's foreign policy inevitably has a major impact ׀ be it positive or negative - on contemporary international affairs. Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, George W. Bush's decision to move away from multilateral decisionmaking toward a more aggressive, pre-emptive style of foreign policy attracted widespread debate, and criticism, throughout the world. Reversing direction, the Barack Obama presidency is placing greater emphasis on constructive or peaceful engagement within multilateral frameworks, relying on special envoys to deal with some of the thorniest problems. In this book, Paul Viotti explores American foreign policy from the founding of the republic in the late 18th Century to the present day. Part 1 examines the broad policy options available to the US government: namely, peaceful engagement, containment through deterrence or coercive diplomacy, and armed intervention. Part 2 looks at the American experience in foreign policy. By exploring early precedents and elite practices, the moralism of American exceptionalism as well as the roots of an expansionist American foreign policy, the discussion draws out the continuities running from the 18th century to the present. Part 3 concludes with an analysis of the politics of interest on the Potomac with analysis of the interplay of contending policy elites, factions and parties influencing foreign policy making today. Assessing alternatives, the author concludes that even though containment and armed intervention will remain part of the way the United States conducts its foreign policy, diplomatic engagement options are the most promising course of action for the coming decades.


I thank Polity Press for sending me a copy of this book.

Visit to Israel

I am scheduled to arrive in Israel in early August and would love to see friends and colleagues. Please advise of your availability so we could coordinate to meet.

2010 World Cup

The group stage of any World Cup tends to be slow and cautious. This was the case also in South Africa. The best game I had seen in the group stage was Germany v. Australia. Germany decisively won 4:0, and it could have easily ended 7:0. Man of the Match was Philip Lahm, the best right back in the world for several years.

Another great game was Brazil v. Ivory Coast. Two very good teams but Brazil is still much better. It ended 3:1 for Brazil. Maicon and Elano impressed me the most among the Brazilians.



The major upset in the first stage was Switzerland v. Spain 1:0. Spain suffered from lack of creativity in offense, unable to penetrate the excellent Swiss defence. I was particularly impressed with Stephane Grichting who was always in place to avert the Spanish attack.


Torres came late into the game and was as sharp as a marble. Months of injury made a significant impact on his scoring ability. Despite his poor ability, Spain was able to progress to the quarter finals where they met Paraguay.

Good game in the quarter finals was Brazil v. Holland. A miserable game for the Brazilian defence saw Brazil ousted 2:1. Elano did not play. Maicon, Lucio and Kaka are excellent world-class players; but they were not enough.



For Holland, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder are excellent, superb players. With one spark of their immense talent they have the ability to decide games.

Arjen Robben (The Netherlands)

Uruguay and Ghana provided great drama. The game ended 1:1, went into extra time and in the 120 minute a Ghanian attack was stopped on the goal line with Suarez’s hand.
Suarez was sent off. Ghana had a penalty. Gyan missed. Uruguay that enjoys the excellent goal keeping services of Fernando Muslera went through. What a finale for a game in which both teams gave all that they have. Diego Forlan is an excellent scorer who never stops running and takes upon himself defensive roles.

The best game in the quarter finals was Germany v. Argentina. Yet another German show ousted Argentina. 4:0 was the score. Third time that Germany scored four goals against opponents. Man of the match was Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany)

Lukas Podolski and Thomas Muller join Miroslav Klose for a most lethal attack.

Lukas Podolski

In the Argentinean team, most impressive throughout the tournament were Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuaín. Until they faced Germany.

I thought Messi was too young to lead his team to the final. If he’ll be healthy, Messi will be just ripe in the next Mondeal. Then he will have to face Brazil.

The tragic figure of this tournament is Asamoah Gyan. He could have put the first ever African team in the semi finals. But his last-minute penalty miss led to a penalty shoot-out where the superior Uruguayan keeper Muslera stopped two penalties and led his team to the semis.

Asamoah Gyan (Ghana)

Fernando Muslera (Uruguay)

I was very impressed with the referee in this game, Olegario Benquerença. It was not an easy game yet the Portuguese referee was on spot all the time, close to events, sharp eye, making decisive and correct decisions. We have seen so many refereeing mistakes in this Mondeal. It is a treat to watch Mr Benquerenחa in action. More info at http://worldreferee.com/site/copy.php?linkID=514&linkType=referee&contextType=b io

The first semi-final ended 3:2 to the Netherlands over Uruguay that missed Suarez. Giovanni Van Bronckhorst scored a terrific goal in the 18th minute. This was THE goal of the tournament. Wesley Sneijder and Robben added two more while Forlan and Pereira scored for Uruguay.

The key factor in the second semi-final between Germany and Spain was containing the German attack. Spain enjoyed the fact that Thomas Muller did not play due to yellow cards. With him out, the German attack suffered a huge drawback. One decisive goal by Puyol was enough.

In the first time in the world cup history the Netherlands met the European Cup holder Spain. Both teams never won the cup, and Spain never reached this stage. In a way, the final typified this Mondeal. It was a tactical, physical game, where after an exhausting struggle talent prevailed over tactics. Holland came to destroy the Spanish passing game, basing themselves on strong defence and Sneijder and Robben’s sparks of genius.
Eight Dutch players received nine yellow cards. Indeed, it was after John Heittinga received his second yellow and was ejected from the pitch that Spain was able to exploit the hole in defence. Iniesta scored the world champion goal on the 116 minute in extra time.

Spain deservedly won the championship. It has the best goal keeper in the world, Casillas, the best midfielder in the world Xavi, and one of the best strikers in the world Villa, with a very good supporting team. Seven Barcelona players are in the starting lineup: Pique, Puyol, Busquets, Iniesta, Xavi, Villa and Pedro. They have been playing together, know one another, and have vast experience in international football, winning all the major trophies in the world on both club and nation levels.

Germany finished third, beating Uruguay 3:2 with goals from the most exciting Thomas Muller (who is only 21 yet plays like a 30 year-old), the wonderful defender Marcell Jansen (25), and the midfielder Sami Khedira (23). Diego Forlan, who had a magnificent tournament, and Edinson Cavani scored for Uruguay.

Germany played the most entertaining games in this tournament. In four years time, Germany will have an experienced and most talented team that will sure compete against the host Brazil, and Messi’s Argentina for the world title. Here is my 2010 team in a 1-4:3:3 formation:


Iker Casillas (Spain)


Philip Lahm (Germany)

Carles Puyol (Spain)

Per Mertesacker (Germany)

Joan Capdevila (Spain)


Xavi Hernandez (Spain)

Wesley Sneijder (The Netherlands)

Thomas Mueller (Germany)


David Villa (Spain)

Miroslav Klose (Germany)

Diego Forlan (Uruguay)

Fernando Muslera (Uruguay)
Maicon (Brazil)
Maximiliano Pereira (Uruguay)
Kaka (Brazil)
Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany)
Andres Iniesta (Spain)
Arjen Robben (The Netherlands)
Luis Suarez (Uruguay)

Compare this team to my 2006 team:


Gianluigi Buffon (Italy)

Philip Lahm (Germany)
Fabio Cannavaro (Italy)
Lúcio (Brazil)
Gianluca Zambrotta (Italy)


Andrea Pirlo (Italy)
Claude Makelele (France)
Juan Romבn Riquelme (Argentina)
Zinedine Zidane (France)


Miroslav Klose (Germany)
Thierry Henry (France)


Jens Lehmann (Germany)
Ricardo (Portugal)
Miguel (Portugal)
Francesco Totti (Italy)
Ivan Gennaro Gattuso (Italy)
Franck Ribery (France)
Lukas Podolski (Germany)

The only two players who kept their place in the best eleven are Philip Lahm and Miroslav Klose, both from Germany.

One last word about England: The English team in recent years (that is, since 1966…) lacked killer instinct. Fabio Capello was brought to instill this instinct in them, and it did this until reaching South Africa. England dominated the group leading to the World Cup, but in SA the players did not show even one good game. No energy. No zeal. No desire to play the game as they know so well. Some players did not show up until the last whistle in the game v. Germany, where Germany ousted England 4:1, a decisive victory that highlighted the English weaknesses, first and foremost poor defence.
England defence does not have the quality players it has in midfield and attack.


The Secret in Their Eyes

"The Secret in Their Eyes" (El secreto de sus ojos) encapsulates the reasons why I love cinema. It has all that I cherish: A good story, wonderful actors, captivating music, excellent editing, solid photography.

Essentially, the film is about two love stories. Ricardo Darin as a retired prosecutor who sets out to write a book after he is haunted by a 25-year-old rape and murder case. He is haunted by this case because he never encountered a person who loves a woman to the extent that the widowed husband loved his murdered, beautiful life. This is one circle of love. The second is his own, unfulfilled love to his boss, an attractive, smart woman. She was his superior. He is a proud man. It was too complicated for him to pursue with the utmost conviction that is required to consummate such love. It takes time, twenty five years, experience, and knowledge of what is needed to do the right thing, get a second chance, and fulfill the desire of two people who never uttered what they both felt, and suspected of the other.

The murder was gruesome. The identity of the murderer is revealed. We do not know what happened to him as his body was never found. The plot provides ample hints so when his whereabouts revealed we are not really surprised. It is simply another manifestation of the power of love, and the sense of revenge.

This film won last year’s Oscar for the best foreign film, for good reasons. Director Juan Jose Campanella did a brilliant job in bringing Eduardo Sacheri's novel La pregunta de sus ojos (The Question in Their Eyes) to the screen. Actors Ricardo Darin, Soledad Villamil and Javier Gordino are magnificent. Composers Emilio Kauderer and Federico Jusid offer a subdued and tragic soundtrack, filled with delicate piano, sorrowful violin playing, and strings that unfold the plot in Adagio for Strings style. Performed by the Bulgarian Symphony, the score has been awarded as best in Argentina, Spain, and other countries.

See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcHmXXYqirE

Monthly Poem


The earth that made the rose,
She also is thy mother, and not I.
The flame wherewith thy maiden spirit glows
Was lighted at no hearth that I sit by.
I am as far below as heaven above thee.
Were I thine angel, more I could not love thee.
Bid me defend thee!
Thy danger over-human strength shall lend me,
A hand of iron and a heart of steel,
To strike, to wound, to slay, and not to feel.
But if you chide me,
I am a weak, defenceless child beside thee.

Mary Elizabeth Coleridge

More poems from Mary Elizabeth Coleridge

Light Side

The cultural hub of many parts of Britain is the pub. One cannot speak of life here without speaking of the pub which for many is as important as family. For some, it is family. Understandably, the English have many pub jokes. Here is yet another one.

Three men discussing their sex lives in a pub.

The first says: When my wife does sex, she shouts and screams so loud, wakening up the kids.

The second says: When my wife does sex, she shouts and screams so loud, wakening all our neighbours.

The third says: When my wife does sex, she shouts and screams so loud I can hear her here in the pub.

Peace and love, joyful vacance,

Yours as ever,


My last communications are available on http://almagor.blogspot.com/
Earlier posts at my home page: http://hcc.haifa.ac.il/~rca/

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