Sunday, December 05, 2010

Politics – November 2010

In the Middle East, optimism is a virtue; realism – a duty.

Gilad is still in captivity. Veshavu banim legvulam.

    ~Raphael Cohen-Almagor

All nations want peace, but they want a peace that suits them.

    ~Admiral Sir John Fisher

Reflections on October Blog
Vienna Conference – The Israeli Palestinian Conflict
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Visit to Lebanon
The Most Terror-Prone Countries
Human Rights Day
The Auschwitz Album
The Yoni Jesner Foundation
Meir Kahane
End-of-Life Decision-Making
Swedish-Eritrean Journalist Awarded 2011 Golden Pen of Freedom
International Conference - Gaza-Sderot: Moving from Crisis to Sustainability
Tel Aviv Hot! City
My New Article
New Books
Gem of the Month - ATP World Tour Finals London
Monthly Poem
Light Side

Prime Minister Netanyahu met with Secretary of State Hilary Clinton to discuss ways to move the peace process forward. Netanyahu pledged one-time-only freeze of 90 days on settlement construction in the West Bank.

For Abu-Mazen, the establishment of a Palestinian state is a matter of acute importance. States have defined boundaries. Watching his prospective state shrinking, the declaration of a Palestinian statehood would halt the Israeli expansion.

Prime Minister Netanyahu does not rush. He never does on such matters of giving something to the Palestinians. Why should he? Israel is creating facts on the ground as I write because the freeze orders do not apply to all building initiatives that are already in motion. Israel lives now in relative security. None of its neighbours wants to mess around with a government whose “left” is Ehud Barak, the prime architect of 2008-2009 Cast Lead Operation. Abu Mazen has little to offer in return. He cannot even bring Gilad Shalit home.

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 October Blog

Thank you, Rafi. 

I have become more and more upset with Israel and Netanyahu.  Of course, we in the U.S. also have trouble with our right-wing leaders such as Sarah Palin, the "Tea Party," and most Republicans. 

The U.S. needs to withdraw some or all of its financial and diplomatic support from Israel unless there is a halt to settlement building and serious peace talks.  It is not in America's interest to continue supporting Israel when settlement building continues.  The obvious resolution is:  Israel withdraws from the West Bank and from East Jerusalem, there is no right of return for Palestinians, Jerusalem becomes a shared capital for both nations, and some West Bank settlements are allowed to remain in return for some Palestinians being allowed to return to Israel.  As another crucial matter, it is past time for Israel to join in discussion of a middle-east nuclear free zone, to include Israel, Iran, etc.  I believe that many middle-eastern nations are now ready to discuss this.  Israel only hurts its own security by holding out on both an agreement with Palestine, and nuclear disarmament. 

Your friend - Art
Art Hobson, Professor Emeritus of Physics, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701, USA


I had read your Newsletter. As usual, it's very interesting and thought-provoking.

I must admit to you that the two parts I enjoyed in particular were your comments on Peter Forsskal and the lecture on Larkin that you attended.

I knew nothing about Forsskal, to be candid. I found your remarks on him and his book fascinating. I wonder how many enlightenment thinkers that wrote in "exotic" languages are hardly known to us. I am glad you found it sufficiently important to enlighten us all about it!

I knew of Larkin, of course, but had no idea about his personality. Your comments are truly interesting. I have found your remarks on the lecturer's candid and forthright style to be of singular interest. I remember the first time I went to the UK to study (Cambridge, for my master's degree). I was at first surprised at the subtle, implicit, low-key rhetoric of British academics and politicians. I was simply not used to it. Of course, in time, I came to like it very much. I still remember Israeli friends of mine, while I was pursuing my D.Phil at Oxford, misinterpreting what their British supervisors would tell them. For instance, they would hardly be worried if their supervisor would point out that something they did was "unwise." It took some time, and a pedagogic process, for them to understand that "unwise" uttered by a British academic was tantamount to "incredibly stupid" in Israeli parlance.

Thank you so much for your Newsletter.

Best wishes.

Dr Yoav Tenenbaum, Tel Aviv University

Vienna Conference – The Israeli Palestinian Conflict

I was invited to participate in a conference on Perspectives beyond War and Crisis organized by The Vienna Institute for International Dialogue and Cooperation. The conference was designed to create a space for a differentiated confrontation with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The conference started with an art exhibition of a Palestinian artist whose exhibition was dedicated to the occupation. He does not believe in states. No need for boundaries. He does not believe in religion either. John Lennon’s song “Imagine” rings true in his mind. At the exhibition I also spoke with several people only to acknowledge that I was the only Zionist around. Refreshing. I then realized that the conference will not necessarily represent all or even the major views prevailing in the Israeli society. As you know, I am highly critical of my government yet love my country with all my heart. I never take it lightly when people tell me they wish Israel, as we know it today, to disappear. Somehow, I take it too personally, as an affront to my sensibilities. I wonder whether other people feel the same about their countries. Would YOU if people tell you they wish your country disappear?

Many of the Palestinians who were supposed to come, the prime reason for me to travel to Vienna, did not arrive. It is often the case. They cancel in the last moment without assuring adequate replacement. As the end, often Jews are speaking to Jews, but we cover a lot of ground. Many of us hate us more than the Palestinians, so there is no shortage of hot air and hair splitting.

The following day, the conference opened with a pre-recorded speech of Mustafa Barghouti. I see him quite often in conferences and have to say that he is very consistent. You heard him once, you heard him enough. There is very little variety in what he has to offer. This time, however, I could not argue with him in person as he remained in Ramallah. Barghouti’s world is divided into black and white. Israel is the source of all evil. The Palestinians are the victim.

Barghouti thinks the present peace process will fail because of Israel's impunity and disregard for international law, respect for human rights and for Palestinian rights. Israel does not wish to have peace. It has a most hawkish government. Divisions within the Palestinian society do not help and the fact that the USA has monopolized the mediation undermines the process. The USA is a biased broker. There is a need for an even-handed mediator.

While most of his critique referred to Israel, Barghouti also called for the democratization of Palestinian society. He and Fatah have major disagreements. Despite his best efforts, Barghouti remains in the periphery of the Palestinian establishment and is unable to become a viable contender for Palestinian leadership. Therefore, it is important for him to be able to remain a player. What I appreciate in Barghouti’s views is his continued and consistent abhorrence of violence. Two years ago, at the Wilson Center, he explained that violence is very much against Palestinian interests. Barghouti seems to have a consequential view, not a principled stance regarding violence. His dissent from violence stems from the realization that violence is counter-productive and performs a disservice to Palestinian interests.

Barghouti spoke of two possible solutions to escape occupation and apartheid: The first is a two state solution that should start now by immediately declaring a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank with Jerusalem as its capital; the alternative is a one democratic state in Israel/Palestine.

While emphasizing non-violent means to reach the declared ends, not a word was uttered by Barghouti about terrorism and the need to eradicate it. He blamed Israel for the collapse of the Oslo Accords but failed to explain why Oslo failed. Barghouti said that Israel is the third largest exporter of arms in the world (after USA and Russia) but did not explain why Israel has cultivated this need to invest so much in armament. Barghouti spoke of the radicalization of Israel society without explaining what drove Israel to embrace the right wing radicals and put them in government.

I have said time and again, there are no angels in this conflict. Portraying it in black and white is not constructive. Blaming as such is not a constructive way to start a conversation. Putting all the blame on one side amounts to looking at reality with one open eye while shutting the other. Both Israelis and Palestinians need to make drastic changes starting with acknowledging their mistakes.

The issue of a one state solution was one of the major themes of the conference. Those who advocate such a solution should bear in mind that no Zionist party espouses this view and no single Jewish MK endorses it. It is as viable as those who wish that all Palestinians and/or all Jews disappear from the land. It is no more than a hyperbole, an utopia.

I spoke in the opening session following Barghouti. With me on the panel were a Jewish, post-Zionist woman who teaches in Dublin and calls to boycott Israel (as you can imagine, I became an immediate fan), and an anti-Zionist Lebanese who teaches in London. I said that of all the possible solutions presently on the table, a two state solution is the most viable, and that good starting points are the Clinton Parameters and the Geneva Accord. Both documents lay the foundations for resolving all contentious issues:

Borders – Israel will withdraw to the Green Line, evacuating settlements and resettling the settlers in other parts of the country. Major settlement blocs may be annexed to Israel upon reaching an agreement with the PA of territory exchange that will be equal in size. At the Taba talks, the Palestinians presented a map in which Israel would annex 3.1 percent of the West Bank and transfer to the PA other territory of the same size. Beilin said that they were willing to concede Israeli annexation of three settlement blocs of at least 4 percent of the West Bank.

Territorial contiguity – a major elevated highway will connect the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to allow safe and free passage. The road will be solely Palestinian. No Israeli checkpoints will be there.

Security – The Palestinian sovereignty should be respected as much as possible. Checkpoints will be dismantled. Only the most necessary will remain, subject to review and necessity. The Palestinian state will be non-militarized. This issue was agreed upon in 1995. Also agreed: Joint Israeli-Palestinian patrols along the Jordan River, and the establishment of a permanent international observer force to ensure the implementation of the agreed security arrangements.

Jerusalem – What is Palestinian will come under the territory of the new capital Al Kuds. What is Jewish will remain under Israeli sovereignty.

Haram al-Sharif – Palestine will be granted extraterritorial sovereignty over the site under Waqf administration. Jews will enjoy right of access.

Water – Israel and Palestine should seek a fair solution that would not infringe the rights of any of the sides and will assure that the Palestinian people will have the required water supply for sustenance and growth.

Terrorism and violence – Both sides will work together to curb terrorism and violence. I emphasize that there is zero sum game between terror and peace. Therefore, both sides will see that their citizens on both sides of the border reside in peace and tranquility. Zealots and terrorists, Palestinian and Jews, will receive grave penalties for any violation of peace and tranquility. The Palestinians, apparently, fail to understand the gravity of terrorism and are willing to accept it as part of life. Nabil Shaath said: “The option is not either armed struggle or negotiations. We can fight and negotiate at the same time, just as the Algerians and the Vietnamese had done”. Democracies, however, see things differently. On this issue there should be no compromise.

Incitement – Both sides will overhaul their education curricula, excluding incitement, racism, bigotry and hate against one another. The curricula should reflect a language of peace, tolerance and liberty.

Prisoner exchange
– As an act of good will, part of the trust-building process, Israel will release a number of agreed upon prisoners. In return, Gilad Shalit and other Israeli prisoners (if any) will return home. With time, as trust will grow between the two sides, all security prisoners will return home.

Right of return – the 1948 Palestinian refugees will be able to settle in Palestine. Israel will recognize the Nakba and compensate the refugees for the suffering inflicted on them. No refugees will be allowed to return to Israel. This dream should be abandoned.

The next panel was quite exceptional in that it consisted of four women and one man. Not often I see that in conferences. This is a welcome change to be repeated and encouraged. Of the five participants I would like to highlight two: Ursula Plassnik who strikes me as a most sensible and even-handed person, and Hesham Youssef.

Ursula Plassnik was the Austrian Foreign Minister (2004-2008) and presently she is a member of the Austrian Parliament. She spoke of relations of trust between Austria and both Israel and Palestine. The Palestinians need to do further homework, Plassnik argued. The split between Fatah and Hamas damages the Palestinian interests. In her mind, the only solution is negotiated solution between governments backed by their respective people. There is a need to know and understand one another, increase mutual networks, share knowledge about aspirations, losses, and dangers.

According to Plassnik, the living conditions in the West Bank have improved in recent years. In Gaza, however, they have not. She emphasized that women are always the first to suffer when radicals are taking public space. Unlike quite a few conference participants, Plassnik was very clear in her opposition to the European “Boycott Israel“ campaign. She asked rhetorically: If we boycott Israel, would it reduce fear, eradicate roadblocks, increase sense of security, build peace, erect trust, improve the lives of Palestinians or stabilize the region? Sanctions do not change the world, Plassnik said. Public opinion in Israel needs to change. Do not expect miracle solutions at the expense of hard work.

Hesham Youssef, Chief of Cabinet of the Secretary General of the League of Arab States, warned against yet another cycle of violence and destruction. The Israeli government believes that the Palestinians will accommodate and make the necessary concessions. This will not happen. Youssef has a clear agenda promoting the Arab Initiative, reminding us that the Arab League unanimously adopted a unified peace plan. The Arab initiative was endorsed by both Europe and the USA. Israel did not respond to it effectively. It was and remains an obstacle to the initiative’s implementation. Israel is acting as it is above the law. Clearly Israel is not ready to pay the price for peace. The Arab peace initiative remains the strategy but the League intends to approach the USA and the UN to change the existing status quo.

I asked Youssef what does the Arab League intend to do. His answer was that the League will approach the USA to support the declaration of a Palestinian state.
I asked: Would the US agree?
No, was the answer.
What would you do then?
Go to the UN Security Council.
Will it agree?
What would you do then?
Go to the UN assembly.
Will you be successful there?
So what then?
Nothing. We will have a declaratory resolution. It is a start. But the region might erupt any second into violence. Gaza, the West Bank, Syria, Lebanon. The root problem is the Palestinian. As long as it is sustained the situation will continue to be unstable and volatile.
Israel can gain so much by resolving the Palestinian problem. It can then be accepted into the region on equal terms, erecting relationships with twenty four Arab countries, having warm peace rather than a cold one with its neighbours.

Unfortunately, says Youssef, Israel fails to realize how much it can gain by resolving the Palestinian problem. Its leaders believe Israel gains more by continuing and enlarging the occupation. But the Arab world is united in its resolve that this should not happen. Israel is content and comfortable with the occupation. The Arab League is determined to make Israel pay for the occupation, making it a costly venture, a liability.

Youssef emphasized that occupation powers do have obligations. Everyone is paying the price of the Israeli occupation: Palestine, the USA, the Arab world, Europe, but not Israel. Israel has to take on its responsibility. Youssef wants to see Europe more active in the process.

I sat next to Youssef at dinner and conversed with him the whole evening. Youssef is an interesting, knowledgeable and astute diplomat who has been working with Amr Moussa for more than twenty five years. Clearly appreciative of Moussa and critical of the Israeli government, Youssef is a true champion of peace between Israel and its neighbours. He believes Israel can and should integrate into the Middle East. I asked him whether he thinks Iran will attack Israel. His answer was clear and laconic: No.
I asked Youssef whether Israel will attack Iran.
His answer was clear: No. Both Iran and Israel do not have strong enough reasons to attack. While Iran is committed to the Palestinian issue, its commitment does not stretch to launch an attack on Israel. Its strategy involves third parties, Hezbollah and Hamas. As for Israel, it has a lot to lose if it were to attack Iran. First, the USA will not authorize such an attack. Too much oil is at stake. Second, Israel might halt the Iranian nuclear initiative but it is unable to stop it altogether. Third, it will expose itself to severe attacks masterminded by Iran. And the attacks will not be confined to Israel. Thus, argues Youssef, the way to undermine Iran is to strengthen the moderates. As long as the occupation continues, instability will be maintained. Does the Israel government strengthen Abu Mazen or Hamas?, asked Youssef rhetorically.

I asked Youssef about Gilad Shalit and his answer was very pessimistic: Shalit will not be released soon. Hamas does not have enough incentives to release him. Shalit is a precious card. He will be released only for the right price but Netanyahu is unwilling to pay more than what Olmert was willing to offer for internal political interests. Netanyahu’s offer is unacceptable to Hamas and until a higher price is paid Shalit will remain in Hamas hands. Youssef added that Israel may release one thousand prisoners for Shalit. Hamas knows that at its will, Israel can enter into Gaza and imprison a thousand other Palestinians. Sounds easy.

Youssef admitted that more talk than action was done by the Arab League to help Abu Mazen. The League will now resort to more action as the writing on the wall is clear. Without concrete and immediate action, non-violence will become violence. The situation is boiling and close to eruption. Violence is imminent in Gaza, Lebanon and Syria. The pressure cooker will explode soon.

The final panel featured two Israeli Zionists and the only Palestinian who arrived at the conference. Former Knesset Speaker, Avrum Burg, opened by saying that he found the conference very balanced: Fifty percent are pro-Palestinian while the others are anti-Israeli.

Burg maintained that he does not wish to take part in the “blaming game”. Instead, what we need to do is to respect the wounds of the other. While there is no equality between the horse and the jockey, bear in mind that Israel does not feel big. Compared to the Arab world, Israel is just a drop in the bucket. In the Middle East, Israel is a dot on the map. Furthermore, we need to be cognizant of our respective pain and suffering. Jews carry the baggage of the Holocaust. Palestinians carry more than one hundred years of colonialism. Both the Holocaust and Israeli colonialism are products of Europe. Israelis and Palestinians have to overcome these European inheritances.

Former Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, Meron Benvenisti, argued there will not be a Palestinian state. Gaza is separated. The last thing Abu Mazen wants is free passage to Gaza. By evacuating Gaza, Israel created a subordinate unequal Palestinian entity. Israel cantonized the Palestinian people. Thus a peace agreement now will only reflect the imbalanced power relations between Israel and Palestine. It will not work.

Dr. Samir Abdullah, Director General of Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute (MAS) spoke of a nineteen year-old peace process starting in Madrid in 1991. The peace process ended with dramatic failure because of Israel. Israel always maintained total control. It always dictated to the Palestinians what to do. Abdullah explained that Palestinians are not able to recognize Israel as a Jewish State as the present government demands because such a recognition denies Palestinian claims over the land, undermines the stance of Palestinian citizens of Israel, and disavows Palestinian right of return. Abdullah said that the only solution is of two states. There is no other viable solution. Abdullah concluded by telling us of his meeting with Frederik Willem de Klerk, when he asked de Klerk why he took his most courageous initiative to bring democracy to South Africa. De Klerk responded that he believed any other initiative that would not result with settlement of the black-white divide would have been costly to South Africa. Abdullah argued that the same is true for Israel and Palestine.

Abdullah said contra Benvenisti that West Bank Palestinians are unhappy with the isolation of Gaza and would like to see both parts of Palestine united. I asked him about the Hamas challenge but Abdullah avoided the question. The only Palestinian who arrived at the conference remained preoccupied with his anti-Israeli rhetoric without engaging seriously with the contentious issues. At the end of the conference, Abdullah approached me privately and acknowledged that he failed to address my question. He then said that the way to undermine Hamas is by erecting peace. Hamas, he said, will disappear as soon as a peace agreement will be implemented. Hamas is strong only because of the continued occupation.

Another person who approached me by the end of the conference was the Palestinian artist. He intimated a few sentences and concluded by saying, Good Luck. I am told that you are quite religious… Yep, this explains my radical Zionist views…

No Hamas representative attentive the conference. I asked one of the organizers whether Hamas people were invited and the answer was negative. None would have come, was the explanation. No representative of the Israeli present mainstream establishment was invited. One of the organizers asked me what I thought of the conference and my answer was that more pluralism of ideas is needed. There is no shortage of people who represent the Israeli mainstream. The clear voice stemming from this conference, shared by all its participants, accentuates that the keys to moving forward are twofold: A radical change in the Israel perspective on settlements which are detrimental to peace, and the vitality of ending the occupation. The Palestinian people should be able to live freely, with no coercion or occupation.

I thank VIDC, especially Ms. Magda Seewald and Dr. Helmut Krieger, for the kind invitation to participate in the conference. Vienna is now preparing for Christmas and one can feel the festivity in the streets.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Visit to Lebanon

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent visit to Lebanon was watched closely by both Israel and Syria. Both countries are not happy with the tightened connections between Iran and Lebanon and the growing influence of Iran on their neighbor. While Israel watches anxiously Hezbollah’s armament and growing power in Lebanese politics, Syria cannot be happy to watch Iran’s growing influence in what Syria perceives as “its territory”. Syria is a close ally of Iran. Both are castigated by the world community for their support of terrorism. They share military and economic interests. Syria would not like to aggravate Iran, but at the same time its leaders thought that Iran would honour “traditional zones of influence” in the region. Syria cannot compete with Iran’s wealth and ability to influence politics in Lebanon. I presume that the competition between the two countries and their involvement in Lebanese politics will continue to occupy Israel’s attention.  

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodhman Clinton warned Hezbollah against resorting to violence, saying the militant group cannot stop a U.N. court investigating the assassination of a former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. It followed a threat by Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah who said his group will "cut the hand" of anyone who tries to arrest its members for the 2005 assassination of Hariri.

Until now, Damascus and Hezbollah have denied having any role in the killing.


Two Belgian firms are under investigation over allegations of illegally exporting nuclear material to Iran that can be used to make weapons. The companies sold zirconium powder and depleted uranium to the Islamic republic, so-called dual-use materials that can be used for military or civilian ends.

The Belgian Energy Ministry filed a complaint in 2008 against the two companies, which officials refused to identify. One of the firms failed to ask the energy ministry's permission to export zirconium powder, a mineral used in the reactors of nuclear power plants but which can also be used in bomb-making. The second company did not inform about its plan to export depleted uranium, which can be used to make armour-piercing artillery fire.

Belgian companies do not need authorisation to export depleted uranium, but they must inform the authorities about their plans.

Belgian Green parties want the ministries of energy, justice and foreign affairs to testify before parliament over the two firms' exports to Iran.


The Most Terror-Prone Countries

Somalia is the country most at risk of terrorist attacks, according to Maplecroft’s Terrorism Risk Index. Pakistan is second. Iraq is number three, Afghanistan fourth, the Palestinian Authority is number five, while Israel has moved up three places to 14. Greece, meanwhile, rose the most, from 57 to 24, which makes it the most at-risk European country. Yemen became an “extreme risk” country for the first time, ranking at 16. No western powers fell into the extreme or high risk categories; the United States came in top among them with a “moderate risk” at 33. France is ranked 44 while the United Kingdom 46. Canada, 67, and Germany, 70, are rated as ‘low risk’.

The Terrorism Risk Index (TRI) is developed by global risks advisory firm, Maplecroft, to enable organisations to identify and monitor terrorism risks to human security and international assets. The index uses data from June 2009 to June 2010 to assess the frequency of terrorist incidents and the intensity of attacks, which includes the number of victims per attack and the chances of mass casualties occurring. It also includes a historical component assessing the number of attacks between 2007 and 2009 and looks at whether a country is at risk from a long-standing militant group operating there.

Hamas continues to pose a serious security risk to Israel, primarily from Gaza, but it is not the only group to do so. Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades have also been involved in suicide attacks against Israel.

The Lebanon-based Hezbollah has reportedly stockpiled weapons provided by Iran and Syria to use against Israel. The security risk posed by Hezbollah was highlighted during the 34-day war of 2006, when it launched approximately 4,000 rockets - some deep into Israel. "Even though Hezbollah and Israel are understandably loath to engage in serious conflict at present, the prospect of another conflagration cannot be discounted given their mutual enmity," said Anthony Skinner, Principal Analyst at Maplecroft.

The Israeli government generally protects the human rights of its citizens but discrimination against Israeli Arab citizens, Palestinians and other religious groups persists. Discrimination is also a problem in the labour market and reports of poor working conditions and forced labour among migrant workers represent a risk of potential complicity in the actions of local business partners throughout the local supply chain. Companies that operate in Israel also face the potential risk of complicity in the actions of members of the security forces that guard business assets. International human rights NGOs continue to accuse members of Israel's security forces of serious human rights violations. However, the Israeli military argues that its rules of engagement are within law, strictly regulated and rigorously enforced.

The Report concludes that there is little to suggest that the security and human rights situation will improve in Israel. Previous negotiations between the Israeli government and Palestinian authorities for a peace settlement have failed and the upcoming talks between President Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are already fraught with tensions.


Human Rights Day

December 10 is Human Rights Day. The promotion and protection of human rights has been a major preoccupation for the United Nations since 1945, when the Organization's founding nations resolved that the horrors of The Second World War should never be allowed to recur.

Respect for human rights and human dignity "is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world", the General Assembly declared three years later in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1950, all States and interested organizations were invited by the General Assembly to observe 10 December as Human Rights Day (resolution 423(V)).

The Day marks the anniversary of the Assembly's adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Over the years, a whole network of human rights instruments and mechanisms has been developed to ensure the primacy of human rights and to confront human rights violations wherever they occur.

The theme for Human Rights Day 10 December 2010 is human rights defenders who act to end discrimination.

Human rights defenders acting against discrimination, often at great personal risk to both themselves and their families, are being recognized and acclaimed on this day.

Human rights defenders speak out against abuse and violations including discrimination, exclusion, oppression and violence.  They advocate justice and seek to protect the victims of human rights violations.  They demand accountability for perpetrators and transparency in government action.  In so doing, they are often putting at risk their own safety, and that of their families.

Some human rights defenders are famous, but most are not. They are active in every part of the world, working alone and in groups, in local communities, in national politics and internationally.

Human Rights Day 2010 will highlight and promote the achievements of human rights defenders and it will again emphasize the primary role Governments must play in enabling and protecting their role. The Day is also intended to inspire a new generation of defenders to speak up and take action to end discrimination in all of its forms whenever and wherever it is manifested.

The Auschwitz Album

This is the only album from the notorious death-camp, providing a unique testimony of the last moments of one transport of “human cargo” that arrived at the selection ramp.

Auschwitz Album in Hebrew and English.
עברית  Hebrew:
English  אנגלית:

The Yoni Jesner Foundation

The Yoni Jesner Foundation has been set up in memory of Yoni Jesner, 19, of Glasgow, Scotland, who was killed in a suicide bombing on a bus in Tel Aviv, Israel, on 19th September 2002.

Yoni was a remarkable young man. He cared passionately about his community and worked tirelessly to make a real difference. He never missed an opportunity to help others or bring a smile to someone’s face. He was an inspirational youth leader and a true role model for many youngsters. He was a religious studies tutor and led assemblies at the school he attended. Yoni was also the youngest volunteer at the Glasgow Jewish burial society. Yoni’s drive, determination and infectious enthusiasm allowed him to achieve more in his 19 years than many people do in a lifetime.

It is these aspects of Yoni's life that the Yoni Jesner Foundation wishes to reflect in its projects. The Foundation aims to:

    * provide scholarships for students studying in the UK and Israel
    * promote dialogue on contemporary issues facing the Jewish people today
    * create educational programmes for schools and the wider Jewish community

For Yoni’s writings, impressive for his young age, see

Further details:

Meir Kahane

Twenty years ago, the fascist rabbi was murdered in New York. I was asked to contribute a short article to Walla, a wide-spread news outlet in Israel. The article, titled “Fascism in Jewish Guise”, in Hebrew, is at

I argue that Kahanism is well and alive, thank you very much. It changed faces but the ideas have sowed, germinated and became well-established in some circles of the Jewish society. One of Kahane’s followers, Michael Ben-Ari, is serving his constituency in the Knesset, in the National Union Party.

End-of-Life Decision-Making

Recently I granted an interview to La Presse, a Quebec newspaper. I understand that presently there is some debate whether to legislate euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide in Canada. I recommended to follow the Oregon model and warned against the Dutch/Belgian model. Those of you who read French may find interest:

Swedish-Eritrean Journalist Awarded 2011 Golden Pen of Freedom

Dawit Isaak, a founder of Eritrea¹s first independent newspaper who has been imprisoned for the past nine years without charge or trial, has been awarded the 2011 Golden Pen of Freedom, the annual press freedom prize of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).

Mr Isaak, who has dual Eritrean-Swedish citizenship, was imprisoned following a September 2001 suppression of the independent media in Eritrea, one of the worst countries in the world for press freedom. The country has no private newspapers, radio or television stations.

Mr Isaak, who turned 46 on Wednesday (27 October), has not been formally charged with any crime, and his whereabouts remain an open question.

"Dawit Isaak, who was forced to flee his native land for Sweden but returned because of his dedication to an independent press and democratic principles, should be celebrated for his actions. Eritrea's rulers, among the most repressive in the world, have chosen to imprison him instead," the Board of WAN-IFRA said in making the award.

"Mr Isaak has faced enormous hardships, yet his commitment to press freedom and human rights has never diminished. It takes courage for a journalist to work and not compromise under such circumstances, and Mr Isaak serves as an inspiration to press people everywhere," the Board said.

WAN-IFRA called on Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki to immediately free Mr Isaak.

The Golden Pen of Freedom is an annual award made by WAN-IFRA to recognize the outstanding action, in writing and deed, of an individual, a group or an institution in the cause of press freedom. More on the Golden Pen can be found at

International Conference - Gaza-Sderot: Moving from Crisis to Sustainability
February 14 - 17, 2011

The Gaza-Sderot region has known violence, war, and tensions for the past 10 years.
This region has known Israeli military incursions and a blockade on the Gaza Strip, rocket attacks from Gaza on civilian populations in Sderot and the ever-expanding surrounding Gaza region, economic and humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, underemployment and unemployment, damage to physical and psychological health, insecurity for all peoples of the region.

Following "Cast Lead" Operation/War and the Gaza Flotilla, the crisis in the region has drawn international attention; however, no serious work has been done to look deeper into the reality of the region and to offer sustainable solutions. In order to address these issues, and to promote sustainable and healthy alternatives to the ongoing political-social-economic crisis characteristic of our region, we will hold an international conference that will bring together scholars, experts, and residents from The Gaza Strip, Israel, the West Bank and from the international community, to meet, discuss, and plan first steps toward achievement of this sustainable human future.

The topics to be covered in this conference include:

 The role of civil society (NGOs and grassroots initiatives) in the creation of a sustainable future
 Community resilience and empowerment – including leadership development
 Environment and ecology
 Psychological and physical health
 Political obstacles to creating a sustainable future and ways to address them
 Economic development – including employment & elimination of poverty
 Human and civil rights
 Conflict transformation and post-conflict stabilization
 Education – formal and informal, from childhood to adult education
 Homeland security issues
This conference will be the first coordinated step toward building a sustainable and healthier future for citizens of the region. The envisioned outcomes of the conference include:
 The establishment of working groups that will address specific issues connected to creating a sustainable future and the creation of a network of professionals who will continue to help co-create this future
 Publication(s) that combine research findings, and expert knowledge from the field with concrete recommendations, for organizations and people living and working in the region, and for governmental leaders and decision makers.

The conference is a combined initiative of Other Voice Association and Sapir College in partnership with several NGOs in Israel as well as individual Palestinian experts.

For more information on the conference, please feel free to contact:

Mr. Eric Yellin – Other Voice email: +972-54-468-001
Dr. Julia Chaitin – Sapir College email: +972-54-797-6090

Tel Aviv  Hot! City

Lonely Planet named Tel Aviv as number three in its list of hottest cities in the world. It describes Tel Aviv as the total flipside of Jerusalem, a modern Sin City on the sea rather than an ancient Holy City on a hill. Hedonism is the one religion that unites its inhabitants. There are more bars than synagogues, God is a DJ and everyone’s body is a temple. Yet, scratch underneath the surface and Tel Aviv, or TLV, reveals itself as a truly diverse 21st-century Mediterranean hub. By far the most international city in Israel, Tel Aviv is also home to a large gay community, a kind of San Francisco in the Middle East. Thanks to its university and museums, it is also the greenhouse for Israel’s growing art, film and music scenes.

And, of course, Tel Aviv is so much more. Its promenade is one of the most beautiful in the world. Its beaches are heavenly, its culture impressive. In this relatively small city, there are four established theatre groups, including Israel’s national theatre. The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra performs on a regular basis as Tel Aviv is its home. There are some fine museums and many art galleries; many lucrative cinemas, with the most advanced audio-visual equipment in the world. The architecture of the city is most interesting, with many styles of buildings. Tel Aviv has beautiful avenues and streets, and many cultural centers, parks and places for relaxation. Sculptures are scattered on its streets. Keep your eyes open to discover hidden gems. And Jaffa is so romantic you could cry.

Tel Aviv has dozens of fine restaurants, and hundreds of coffee shops serving the best coffee in the world. It has several football clubs, including two of the leading clubs in Israel: Maccabi and Hapoel Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is also the home of one of the best basketball teams in Europe, Maccabi Tel Aviv, a team that probably won more trophies than any other basketball team in the world. The weather in Tel Aviv is fantastic throughout the year. The city is alive 24 hours a day. It is the city that never stops, one that does not go to sleep. How can you sleep with so much activity and so many attractions?


My New Article

“Responsibility of and Trust in ISPs”, Knowledge, Technology and Policy, Volume 23, Issue 3 (2010), pp. 381-396.

This discussion is about the neglected concepts of trust and social responsibility on the Internet. I will discuss and explain the concepts and their implications to people and society. I then address the issue of moral and social responsibilities of ISPs and web-hosting companies. I argue that ISPs and web-hosting companies should aspire to take responsibility for content and that they should respect and abide by their own terms of conduct.

Keywords: Trust - Responsibility - ISPs - Web-hosting-companies - Rowdiness - - Child pornography

The journal published two commentaries on this article: Dorothy E. Denning, "Comments on Responsibility of and Trust in ISPs" and Michael R. Nelson, "A Response to Responsibility of and Trust in ISPs by Raphael Cohen-Almagor".

New Books

Andrew Hoskins and Ben O’Loughlin, War and Media (Cambridge: Polity, 2010).

The relationship between war and media is complex and problematic. It is almost impossible to be impartial to this bloody phenomenon. Today the relationship is characterized by the emergence of diffused war. The book combines theory with specific case studies that are taken from recent wars. This book offers an invaluable review of the key literature, tracing new developments and directions. It is a welcome addition to the studies of war and media and can serve as a basic textbook for many modules in the fields of media, cultural studies, politics, sociology and security studies.

I thank Polity Press for a copy of this important book.

Gem of the Month - ATP World Tour Finals London

A wonderful afternoon of tennis at the O2 stadium in London. In the first match, the Bryan twins, ranked first in the world, defeated in two straight sets L. Dlouhy (CZE) and L. Paes (IND) 6:3 6:4.

Bob and Mike Bryan are the best doubles players in the world for good reason. They are confident, quick, and very agile. Two breaks, one in each set, were enough to decide this relatively short match.

In the second match Robin Soderling met one of the best players in the history of the game, Roger Federer. The first set finished 7:6 to Federer in a close tie break after Soderling mistakenly left a ball to land in his court to win the set.

The two players have played each other many times, fifteen to be exact. Soderling won once. For Soderling, the no 4 seed in the world, Federer is a high barrier to pass. The Swede needed to produce something special to succeed where he failed many times before; but he did not. Federer won the second set without much difficulty 6:3.

Federer advanced to the final where he met Nadal. The classic final was decided by two sets to one, when Federer, no. 2 in the world, beat the world no. 1 and ended the year with hopes to retain the world title in 2011. Rafa Nadal will not give up easily.

Monthly Poem

The Academician

Grey hat hides distinctive forehead
And black wig
That he bought for 7,000 Swedish Crones
After extensive searches
Days and nights
Between hundreds of blonde.

On his curious eyes
Wide horn glasses
On wide flattened nose
Holding a blue-cover book
“Spanish Jewry and Its Yearning for the Awakening of Dry Bones in the New Epoch”.

Product of ten years of profound thinking
Read, tore himself, probed libraries
Exactly two years, two months and three days ago
With the most distinguished “Obscure” Press
Situated near the world of water.

Enjoys explaining all beer drinkers
His contribution to uninformed science
On this most complicated subject
Researched by seven scientists, with their loyal assistants
In England, North America, Israel, Portugal and New Guinea.

Grey trousers, wrinkled and dirty
Above brown shoes with black heels
During the conference some borscht spilled on him
This was the hottest event of the four-day conference
On “Religion and Spirituality in an Era of Formative Consumption”
Near the oldest sauna on earth.

Scheduled to return to Knoxville with distinctive impressions
To share with his two anxious colleagues
And others who could not care less.
Maybe he will finally complete his monumental piece
“Spanish Jewry and Their Longing to Prophecy: The End”
And gain the long-expected tenure
After ten years of walking in the brown, arid desert.

Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Light Side

A tourist is visiting the Western Wall in Jerusalem. She observes the prayers with great interest and noticed an elderly man who had finished his prayer and is about to leave. She approaches him and asks:
“May I talk to you for a minute?”
“Sure”, says the elderly.
“How often do you come here?”
“Every day for the past 35 years”.
Tourist: “What are you praying for?”
“I pray that Jews and Arabs will live in peace; that there will be no more wars, and that our children will grow in safety, tranquility and prosperity”.
Tourist: “Excellent. This is great. And how do you feel after praying for this for so many years?”
“As if I am talking to a wall”.

Peace and love. Happy Chanukah, Merry Christmas, stay warm and cuddle,

Yours as ever,


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