Thursday, December 30, 2004

December 2004

Comments on Bush; on Iran, Syria, "Stray Weeds", Polarization in Israel, Poll on Democratic Values in Israel, Internal Politics, Ami Ayalon, Palestinian Elections, France, Nieman Fellowships at Harvard, Conference in Memory of Mark Biano, Democracy for a Safer World Summit, Israeli Theatre, New Book, Happy New Year

Dear friends and colleagues,

This is my end-of-the-year Newsletter. It highlights some of the main issues that will occupy Israel in 2005, delineating new trends and discussing crucial developments. Please read carefully and circulate among friends and interested parties.

Comments on Bush

Jason Rosenberg, from Washington DC, related to my last posting on Bush's win:


It's great to hear from you. I hope you are doing very well in Israel. Let me say I enjoy so much reading your point of view and hold your views in the highest of regards.

However, your analysis of the election is a little off. This election was not decisive, it was terribly close. As the 2000 election hinged on Florida, the 2004 election was again determined by one state. This time it was Ohio. In 2000, had Al Gore won just two votes per voting precinct, he would have won Ohio and been president. Of course he didn't and of course neither did John Kerry. Over 250,000 Ohioans (Buckeyes) who had jobs in 2000 didn't have work in 2004. But Bush still won the state. Why? One reason, there were up to 4 hour long waits to vote and of course it was cold and rainy after a beautiful weekend and Monday.

The other reason people are scared of war and terror, etc. I can't believe that there were 9 million people in the US who didn't vote for Bush in 2000, looked at his record as president, saw record unemployment, an unjustified war, out of control deficit spending, record number of Americans without health care and voted for him in 2004.

I was in Ohio for election day I started work at 5:30 am and left the state at 9pm. At that time there were still voters waiting in line to vote and I assumed that the election was won for Kerry. The election was close and the Kerry campaign should have looked into voter fraud including the precinct where 6000 votes were cast for Bush, out of a possible 600 or so voters.

Having spent time with John Kerry, I've heard him make very pro Israel comments. I've read comments he said about his time when he flew with Israeli pilots and when he called Israel a friend. Israel had a friend with both candidates. And now that Arafat is dead, Israel, the PA, the US and the world missed out on a true leader to bring a true and lasting peace to the

I wish you the best and I hope you have a great new year!


My brief answer:
Hi Jason,

Well, I think Bush's win was quite decisive, esp. in light of the forecasts prior elections, and also given that he won by a margin of more than 3 million people, and he coloured most states in red.

You need not convince me that Kerry is a friend of Israel. As you well know, I supported him and wanted him to win. I wouldn't if he was not a friend of Israel.

The very best,


In turn, Valerie Alia from Leeds, the UK, commented:
Dear Rafi

I find your 'reading' of the US election both distressing and in contradiction to much of the other information about the true nature of the exit polls vis-a-vis the actual vote (numerical/popular and electoral). You fail to mention the harassment and the array of illegal, semi-legal and otherwise questionable activities used (e.g., in Ohio) by Republicans and/or their supporters to intimidate potential Democratic voters and obliterate existing votes.

I am distressed as well to see your echo of assumptions of some (and only some) Israelis that Bush is the 'better friend' to Israel. I agree that Kerry missed some opportunities and campaigned rather weakly. But I do not share your apparent conviction that (a) Bush actually won and (b) Bush should have won. I am surprised to see no mention of the growing influence and involvement of the radical 'Christian' right.

With all best wishes for a happy Hanukkah and a peaceful 2005,


Dear Valerie,

Thanks for your comment. I don't think there is any point to argue with facts, and the facts are that Bush won quite convincingly, especially bearing in mind the last elections, and the predictions prior this elections. Bush won in the great majority of states, and by a margin of more than 3 million votes. There are many reasons to explain his win, and I did not attempt to provide an exhaustive explanation. I concentrated on the main reason, which is Kerry's mistakes.

I believe people should be congratulated for their achievements. It does not mean that I turned to be a Bush supporter. If you read my previous political Newsletters closely then you know I wanted Kerry to win. I thought Kerry will be good for Israel. However, also on this issue my views are not similar to the wide Israeli public. Polls conducted here showed that the wide majority of Israelis wanted Bush to win, believing that he is a true supporter of Israel, whereas Kerry did not say enough to convince people here that he is an ardent supporter of Israel as Bush was, and is believed to be. I gave the Maariv newspaper headline to show the extent of support Bush enjoys in Israel. This does not mean that I share this view.

With my best wishes,


Dear Rafi,

The problem with our 'discussion' is that I do not think you have stated 'the facts'. As we all know (and as I have written, over the years) 'facts' are variable, malleable, and subject to interpretation and misinterpretation. There has been quite a bit of reporting, in the US and internationally and by reputable journalists and others, questioning the 'win' and linking it to Bush's previous, also questionable 'win'. I am not arguing with 'facts', I am questioning which 'facts' you are using and your understanding of the conditions of the election and voting process. If you follow the daily papers, you surely are aware there are legal discussions and actions, particularly around the events in Ohio.

I agree there was a large (and to many of us, frightening) show of support for Bush. I do not agree that he clearly and unequivocally won the election. I am in quite a large company of people who are asking these questions.

I didn't mean to imply I thought you had gone over to Bush. I also agree that Kerry made mistakes, and never did consider him the best of candidates, though I wanted him to win. I do not consider his mistakes 'the main reason' Bush 'won'. I'm not alone in this.

Forgive the cliche, but I think we will have to agree to disagree.


Dr Valerie Alia
Professor of Ethics and Identity
School of Applied Global Ethics
Leslie Silver International Faculty
Leeds Metropolitan University

Steve Newman, Toronto, Canada, added:

Perhaps the most decisive factor in the election was the Republican's superior ground organization, which built on church groups and other pre-existing civil society organizations initially mobilized to oppose abortion rights, gay rights, women's rights, and other conservative shiboleths. The Republicans also showed that they had a superior game plan when it came to getting out the vote. The Democrats had invested heavily in improving their ability to get out the vote, but their tactics proved less effective. The religious right did not win the election for Bush, but its leadership is now making that claim. It is something to watch, for if taken seriously by the administration it bodes ill for the cause of religious tolerance in the US. Another point: Bush did in fact win the popular vote this time around, but he hardly won the popular mandate he claims. His fifty-one percent of the vote to Kerry's forty-eight percent is no landslide. And the Electoral College vote was fairly close, too. Had Ohio gone for Kerry instead of Bush --and it wouldn't have taken more than 170,000 votes (not much when you consider the size of the American electorate) --Kerry would be the president-elect. Finally, Jewish supporters of Bush may yet rue the day they gave their support to the president. The war in Iraq is a disaster. Bush has stoked the fires of terrorism rather than extinguishing the threat. And the flames may yet engulf more of the region.

As always,



In talks in Paris with Britain, Germany and France, Iran agreed on November 15 to freeze all its nuclear activities. But on November 27, Iran said it wanted to retain 20 centrifuges for research purposes. Iran's foreign minister said that Iran had every right to keep, for research purposes, some centrifuges that could be used to enrich uranium, an indication that a standoff on the country's nuclear program may not be easily resolved. "Iran's demand to keep 20 centrifuges is not against its commitments," said the minister, Kamal Kharrazi, the IRNA news agency reported.

On November 28 Iran backed off a demand to operate uranium enrichment equipment that could be used either for energy purposes or in a nuclear bomb-making project. The retreat came in the form of a letter from Iran to the International Atomic Energy Agency. In the letter, Iran withdrew its demand to operate 20 centrifuges - uranium enrichment machines - for research and development purposes.

"Iran will permit the I.A.E.A. to place these centrifuges under agency surveillance," said Hossein Mousavian, the chief Iranian negotiator, in a telephone interview from Vienna. "Iran will not conduct any testing."

Asked specifically whether the machines would be turned off, as the Europeans have demanded, Mr. Mousavian said, "We say Iran will not conduct any testing," adding that the matter of Iran's desire to continue research will be discussed when Iran and the European countries begin talks in the coming weeks on possible economic, technological and political incentives for Iran under the European agreement.

Note that the 20 centrifuge machines would not be sealed but placed under camera surveillance. Also note that Iran said in their letter that there would be no "testing," rather than no "research and development." One may assume that the sage will continue.


On December 1, 2004 Maariv reported that Syrian President Bashar Assad was willing to come to Jerusalem and address the Knesset in 2003, as a first gesture before resuming peace talks with Jerusalem, senior defense and political sources reveal. However, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon rejected the offer.

“Israel missed a golden opportunity to return to the negotiating table in ideal conditions as first as it was concerned”, the sources said.

Assad’s proposal was brought up during the secret contacts held between Israel and Syria at the beginning of 2003. All those involved believed Assad was serious about peace: The Syrians themselves, who kept on stressing that Assad himself was in the loop, Israeli military officials who identified Damascus’s positive approach, the international bodies involved and even Foreign Minister Sylvan Shalom who was of the opinion that Jerusalem should try and resume the dialogue course. However, the only person who objected Ariel Sharon.

The 2003 talks, which were held in Jordan, were headed by the Director General of the Foreign Ministry at the time, Eitan Bentzur, while the Syrians sent the president’s brother, Maher Assad. Bentzur confirmed the information but refused to elaborate. “The contacts were very serious. I am sorry that there were those in Israel who dismissed them”, he said.

The defense establishment estimated that while contacts were held, Assad was under heavy pressure due to the planned US invasion of Iraq and rumors that American Marines would continue on to Damascus after conquering Iraq.

The official excuses aired by officials and Likud MKs was that Assad wanted to use this as a valve to release the pressure mounting on him due to his support of terror. Further, they argued that he should first withdraw his forces from Lebanon and dismantle the Hizbullah. The unofficial reason, I suspect, is that Sharon is unwilling, possibly also feels unable, to make concessions also in the Golan. To recall, Prime Minister Rabin offered the Syrians a complete withdrawal till Sea of Galilee in exchange for true peace. It is difficult for me to see Sharon committing himself in this same way.

In 1971, Anwar Sadat delivered a message to Prime Minister Golda Meir that he was willing to negotiate peace. Meir ignored the signs and offers. Two years later the Yom Kippur War broke. And we say about the Arabs that "they" learn only in the hard way. Here we had, maybe still have, a genuine offer to negotiate from the highest official in Syria and Sharon is rejecting the offer. Maybe Sharon has very good reasons to decline the offer, but not in the way he did. At least he should do some research, conduct some polls about public wishes to see whether the Israeli public is willing to make concessions in both fronts, Gaza and the Golan, simultaneously.

"Stray Weeds"

The Israeli media has been occupied this month, more than any month I can recall in the past few years, with the evils of occupation. The incident that sparked the debate was the killing of one Palestinian girl, Ayman al-Hams, age 13, who was in her way to school, carrying books and notebooks in her bag. For some reason, on that faithful morning she did not go on the usual route and entered a no passing zone, safeguarded by IDF troops. The soldiers, always on high alert and fearful of potential suicide bombers, fired. The girl collapsed, wounded. Captain R., the commander of the troops, verified that the "enemy" was dead by jumping out of his post, getting close to the wounded girl, and shooting her several times from a close range. Later on it was revealed that the poor girl was shot twenty times.

The tragic story of the girl touched everyone who has a heart. Following this incident, reports came flooding about atrocities conducted by IDF troops in the occupied territories: confiscation of land; uprooting olive trees by soldiers and settlers; harassing and humiliating people; torturing suspects; killing peaceful civilians; mutilating dead bodies. People who have the unfortunate job of "explaining" the occupation acknowledged every once in a while the evil of occupation, but always emphasizing that the IDF is a moral army and that "stray weeds" always exist, but they are the exception rather than the rule. The flood of information brings one to suspect that there are far too many "stray weeds". Occupation corrupt; power corrupt; absolute power corrupt absolutely (Lord Acton), especially when you give it to frighten young soldiers in too-many road posts that make the lives of civilians miserable.

The occupation should be finished the sooner the better. Every person aspires to be free. People are born free and we wish to live as free human beings. Historian Lord Acton (1834-1902) said: "Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end... liberty is the only object which benefits all alike, and provokes no sincere opposition."

Polarization in Israel

On December 18-20 two very different initiatives were put in motion: Binyamin Regional Council head Pinhas Wallerstein declared that the settlers should oppose with force any attempt to evacuate them. Subsequently settlers began to collect signatures of those supported the rebellion against the "anti-democratic" decision to evacuate Jews from their land and homes. The rabbis' council officially endorsed the statement calling for settlers to fight the disengagement plan, even if it means breaking the law. This follows a ruling by the rabbinical council calling on all soldiers not to "uproot Jews from their homes."

Almost the same day four parents of soldiers: Racheli Merhav, Dubi Avigur, Rachel Hayuth and Nili Oshorov announced that sign parents to oppose sending their children to serve in the occupied territories. They explained that they hear and see on television terrible things that soldiers do to Palestinians and cannot sit in silence any longer. Zahal (IDF) no more represents the people of Israel. Soldiers are acting in inhuman, immoral and illegal ways. These parents called their own children as well as of others to oppose serving the occupation. They further rightly noted that the values of occupation infiltrate into our society and destroy our democracy from within. Young soldiers who feel like kings in the road blocks will continue to behave like masters-treating-human-dust in their daily life, looking down at people. They will not treat each other with respect and dignity.

The distinguishing factor between what is democratically permissible and what is not democratically permissible is the resort to violence. People have the right to disobey. It is a democratic right, the result of vital conscious. Thus settlers have all the right to disobey the IDF soldiers who will come to evacuate them, as was the case with the last settlers of Yamit. They need not cooperate with the army. However, they should not resort to violence; they should not open fire at soldiers as Wallerstein implied.

I congratulate the courage and initiative of the parents to say loud and clear: No More! Enough with the occupation that is eating us and is destroying the fabric of society. This is a significant step in the right direction. Like old Cato I will reiterate time and again: Occupation is bad. Occupation negates human rights. Occupation is undemocratic. Israel should better work for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. Both entities should fight down the zealots. We should not let a minority of fanatics on both sides of the fence to destroy our lives.

On December 22 Yedioth Ahronoth published a poll it conducted among settlers. The main findings: 52% will object to evacuation "with our bodies"; 10% will resist with violence; 42% will blockade themselves in their homes; 47% support illegal activities. On the other hand, 38% said they will evacuate peacefully.

The pool also provides analysis of the answers of the settlers in the Gaza Strip only. Here the figures are more worrying: 23% are willing to evacuate; 44% will object and apply "passive violence"; 11% will object with force. 22% did not decide what to do. It seems that the settlers' campaign against Gaza First is working, and many settlers in the Strip who were willing to take compensation and leave are now reluctant to do so.

Poll on Democratic Values in Israel

A new study conducted by Professor Eppie Yaar and Daniel Bar-Tal of Tel Aviv University examined political and personal stands of 1,750 youth ages 15-18 and 21-24 in both the Jewish and Arab sectors. Here are some of the main, highly disturbing, findings:

In the Jewish sector
67% agreed with the statement that "a few powerful leaders could amend the situation in our country better than all laws and talks".
30% agreed with the statement that it is possible to enforce a significant limitation on democracy when its security is threatened, even mildly.
20% prefer anti-democratic government that conforms to their world-view over a democratic government whose world-view negates theirs.
51% of the Jews in the sample said that Israeli-Arabs should be prohibited from being elected to the Knesset, i.e., only Jews should sit in the house of representative.
24% support violent actions of civil disobedience to oppose the disengagement plan.
71% estimated that there is "high likelihood" for another political assassination.

In the Arab sector
59% agreed with the statement that "a few powerful leaders could amend the situation in our country better than all laws and talks".
Only 9.8% thought that democracy is the most important value to achieve.
44% agreed with the statement that it is possible to enforce a significant limitation on democracy when its security is threatened, even mildly.
30% prefer anti-democratic government that conforms to their world-view over a democratic government whose world-view negates theirs.
15% support violent actions of civil disobedience to oppose the disengagement plan.

These findings put into perspective my urging the Israeli government to institute a new field of studies in primary and high schools: democracy and peace studies. This is as important as mathematics, biblical studies and literature.

Because of all issues discussed above, among others (I did not discuss this time the secular-religious schism that is very much alive and kicking) I established the Center for Democratic Studies at the University of Haifa. It is designed to fill an important lacuna and to promote liberty, tolerance, equality, pluralism and peace. However, my university is in the business of survival after suffering a major cut of 40 (forty!) per cent in its budget during the past 4 years. Without money the Center could not do much. I plead each and every one of you: If you have the ability to help in any meaningful way, please do.

I spoke with many leaders of Israeli society about the Center: President of State Moshe Katzav; President of the Supreme Court Aharon Barak; present and former Justices of the Supreme Court Yaakov Tirkel, Dalia Dorner and Yitzhak Zamir; MKs Shimon Peres, Yossi Sarid, Yossi Beilin and Amram Mitzna, and many leaders of the Israeli academia. All of them support the idea of the center and endorse the ends it aims to achieve. Good will of these people is very nice and their support is much appreciated. Alas, what the Center needs is significant budget.

Internal Politics

Sharon went down quickly from the tree of insisting not to invite Peres to serve in his government. His last month's decision, discussed in my November Newsletter, was not very prudent, to use an understatement.

Peres is heading back to government. Good for him. He lives for this. The only reason why the establishment of the new coalition is delayed is that Peres insists on the title "Deputy Prime Minister". However, existing law permits only one deputy. So now the Knesset amends the law for Mr. Peres so he will be satisfied with the title. He thinks that with such title he could make more impact in his meetings with politicians and diplomats around the world. I should explain it is a mere title as Ehud Ulmert, the present deputy, insisted to continue having all responsibilities emanating from the title, and the Likud will not allow Peres to replace Sharon even for one moment. Meaning that when Sharon is out of the country, Ulmert will continue to carry all responsibilities. It is amazing to see how much effort Peres is investing for an empty title, perhaps his last, just to satisfy his sense of dignity and pride. I should note that the Attorney General refused to take responsibility for amending the law just for Peres.

Recently Ehud Barak made a fool of himself by jumping on stage and taking possession of the microphone by force during a Labour convention. I think this is the result of stress and frustration. Almost all leaders of the party are united to halt his way back to politics. He does not have many supporters among the present leadership. I had lunch with the former leader of Labour, Amram Mitzna, and he still believes in him, not as a first choice but as a default. He does not see anyone else that is electable and could lead Labour to successful elections. On this issue, see Ami Ayalon infra.

As ever I remain adamant to the idea of unification government in times other than times of war. I think this is a bad idea for democracy. Democracy is about adhering and promoting certain rights and values through mechanisms of checks and balances, government and opposition. Referring to American politics, Lord Acton once said (third and last quote for today): “The great novelty of the American Constitution was that it imposed checks on the representatives of the people". Unified governments are a recipe for corruption, as no adequate guards are left to monitor the government. Members of Labour can speak endlessly that they join the government only to help Sharon to push forward the Gaza First Plan. I remain unconvinced. They could supply him the security net Sharon needs also from the opposition. Their rushing into coalition cannot be explained only in terms of pure greed. True, it is hard to refuse an offer to become a minister. Politicians live for this as Peres epitomizes. I am afraid the more substantial reason is that Labour feels it has nothing to sell. Sharon killed the remains of the Israeli center-left with his Plan. Most of the center-to-left in Israel disappeared thanks to Arafat who lost all credibility after Camp David 2000, and the terrorist campaign that followed the failed Camp David talks. The grains that remain do not justify replacing Sharon. After all, he wishes to execute an old Labour plan, and he has the better ability to do it, so why electing something else? Thus Labour feels that it might gain some points by joining the government, maybe they will be affected by the Sharon-Midas touch. This is perfectly understandable in terms of internal politics, when you put the party before the nation. It is completely unjustified in terms of national responsibility and democracy.

The insulting thing is that unlike unification governments that we knew from the 1980s and 1990s, this one is not built on parity and some equilibrium. The major ministries: Security, Foreign Affairs and Finance remain in the hands of Likud, and were not open for bargaining. Even ministries of lesser importance, but still very significant like Education, Justice and Internal Security were beyond negotiation. Labour was "compensated" by having eight ministries (two without portfolios, one new tailored especially for Peres that would duplicate the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and when the coalition will come true you should expect some bitter arguments between Shimon Peres and Silvan Shalom), two deputy ministers, and two chairpersons committees in the Knesset. The only significant ministry that was given to Labour is Ministry of Internal Affairs. The others are Communication, Environment, Infrastructure, and Building. The last two should have been unified a long time ago, possibly also with the Ministry of Industry.

While Sharon apparently would have found it difficult to remove Silvan Shalom (Foreign Affairs), Benjamin Netanyahu (Finance), Shaul Mofaz (Security/Defence) and Limor Livnat (Education) from their seats, given their influence and powerful position inside the Likud (all of them see themselves as contenders to succeed Sharon in the near or more remote future), it is somewhat surprising that Labour did not fight hard to receive the Ministries of Internal Affairs (with the newly nominated Gideon Ezra) and Justice (vacant after the dismissal of Shinui). I say somewhat surprising because one has to bear in mind that police investigations regarding Sharon and his family in fishy financial affairs, just on the border of legality, are still in motion. Sharon preferred these ministries to remain with people from Likud, and Labour apparently understood and did not stage a fight.

I met Beilin a few weeks ago. We had a pleasant discussion. He seems a nice guy. Don't know if anything concrete will develop but we said we'll keep in touch. Meretz-Yachad tries at this point to retain its small power.

Ami Ayalon

After many hesitations and much studying, Ami Ayalon decided to join establishment, main-stream politics and became a member of the Labour Party. General Ayalon was the commander of the navy. Upon his retirement he was nominated head of the SHABAC and after reported successful service he decided to work for peace. He was one of the leading figures behind the Geneva initiative, which was reported here quite critically as I believed in that time it could not lead anywhere because both Arafat and Sharon did not endorse it. However, Ayalon has many talents and he has the potential to emerge as the leader the Labour Party was seeking for quite a while now. Ayalon is aiming very high, and already declared his destination: to become the leader of his party and then prime minister. This is why he joined politics, understanding that there is no way to bypass main-stream politics. You need to work within the system. Ayalon was courted after also by Likud, and he had the chance to compete for leadership there as well. But Labour better suits his ideology and beliefs, hence decided to put his cards on a declining party, believing that he is able to salvage it and make it a viable competitor for national leadership. Time will tell whether he will succeed. Ayalon is quite naïve politically, but he is eager and able to learn, and unlike Barak will not attempt to import military norms into the political arena. He understands that politics is all about compromises, listening, finding common ground and securing enough allies to resolve solutions. We can see some light at the end of the tunnel: Labour now has a figure that is of prime-ministerial material. I wish him lots of luck and success.

Palestinian Elections

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas seems assured of victory in the January 9 presidential election after the withdrawal of chief rival Marwan Barghouti. Barghouti succumbed to pressure from the dominant Fatah faction of the PLO which threatened to expel its former West Bank leader, currently serving five life prison terms for his role in terrorist attacks.
His candidacy had threatened to split the PLO vote, with opinion polls showing Barghouti and Abbas running neck and neck. The prospect of an electoral victory for the founder of the Al Aqsa Brigades, who still refuses to renounce violence, also worried US and European officials. "Such a development would not only mean a setback to peace efforts," said a State Department official, "but an egg on the face of our policy to democratize the Middle East.

The European Union will deploy over 260 election observers for the poll, including a delegation of 30 European Parliament members. The mission is headed by Euro-parliamentarian and former prime minister of France, Michel Rocard. The EU has allocated €14 million euros (about US $18.6m) since 2003 to prepare the elections, and €2.5 million euros ($3.33m) has been designated for the election observation.

The withdrawal of Barghouti is not an unmitigated blessing for the PLO leadership or for prospects for peace. A seriously contested race--had he won it-- would have given Mahmoud Abbas the legitimacy and political capital he needs to constrain violence and to sell a peace agreement with Israel, said Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research. Other commentators are skeptical of both the pacifying and democratizing potential of the elections. Although the election will still be contested by candidates of less stature than Barghouti, they do not offer the same potential for generating democratic ferment, and Abbas seems assured of at least 80 percent of the vote.


The French ambassador to Israel made an undiplomatic statement, saying that Israelis are suffering from anti-French mental disorder, that Israelis hate the French people, and cab drivers in Israel throw French people out of their cars when they hear they speak French. This controversial statement evoked quite a discussion in Israel, where people stated what they love about the French, and what they dislike. The undercurrent of all this debate is the hostile political attitude to Israel, as manifested by Chirac, and the anti-Semitic sentiments that are noticeable in France.

What was striking is what many people said about Paris. Of course, Paris symbolizes France to the extent that London symbolizes England, Ottawa symbolizes Canada, Jerusalem symbolizes Israel, etc. Citizens of all countries know that their respective capitals do not really reflect the national character and culture of their countries. Having said that, many Israelis -- including myself -- of all walks of life express exact same feelings regarding Paris: We all appreciate its beauty, culture, food, style, fashion; we all were offended, if not hurt, by the Parisians when we visited this lovely city, one of most beautiful cities in the world. Once upon a time I thought this attitude is because I am an Israeli. Until a few French people told me not to take this too personally: it is not that Parisians do not like Israelis; they simply don't like everybody, without exception, so I should not feel privileged. They don't even like French people who live outside of Paris. There is a certain sense of pride in them: "We live in this human treasure, and you should keep out of our treasure".

Nieman Fellowships at Harvard

The Nieman Foundation for Journalism is accepting applications for the 2005-2006 Nieman Fellowships, which allow accomplished mid-career journalists to spend an academic year of study at Harvard University.

Established in 1938, the programme awards 12 fellowships each year to working journalists outside the United States who have at least five years of full-time, professional experience in the news media. The fellowships are open to reporters, editors, photographers, producers, editorial writers and cartoonists, and Internet specialists.

While at Harvard, fellows can design their own course of study in any of the university's schools or departments. They will also be able to network and share experiences with other fellows through Nieman seminars and other events.

For more information and to apply, visit:

Conference in Memory of Mark Biano

On December 11 I participated in a conference at my university in memory of my former student, Mark Biano, who was murdered by a suicide bomber last year, age 29. He was having Shabbat meal with his wife at the Maxim restaurant in Haifa when that murderer entered the restaurant and blew herself to pieces. He was killed instantly, with his newly married wife. The department of communication decided to honour his memory by holding an annual conference in which graduate students present papers based on their MA and doctoral dissertations. Four professors served as chairpersons and discussants of the sessions. The keynote lecture was given by Joseph Turow of University of Pennsylvania.

For the first time I met Mark's mother. We spoke over the phone a few times but never met before. She and her husband who could not find the energies to attend the conference are grieving and looking for further ways to remember Mark publicly. It was an emotional event for me.

Democracy for a Safer World Summit

On March 8-11, 2005, Club de Madrid and the Varsavsky Foundation, in Barcelona, Spain will host an International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security. The conference, sponsored by the Club de Madrid and the Varsavsky Foundation, is supported by the Government of Spain, the Regional Government of Madrid and the City of Madrid. More than 50 former and current Heads of State and Government, decision and policy makers, world experts, and citizens will participate in this forum.

Further information at

Israeli Theatre

I saw "Eye Witness" in Hakameri theatre. It tells the story of Franz Yegershtatdter, the Austrian young man who refused to serve in the Warmacht, was locked up in a Nazi jail and eventually executed for his refusal to wear Nazi uniforms. I saw the production in English, a task that was not easy for some of the Israeli actors. The script and plot are interesting and telling. Yegershtatdter tells the story of all those who saw, who smelled, who knew, and played the three monkey. Yegershtatdter did not want to be one of the three monkeys, and obviously did not want to take part in the Nazi atrocities. Yehoshua Sobol, who wrote the play, says that only 1300 people acted like Yegershtatdter and refused the Nazi draft.

New Book

You may like to consider a book that came to my attention: Contemporary Debates in Applied Ethics, Edited by: Andrew Cohen and Christopher Hea Wellman

Happy New Year

May I wish all of you a joyful New Year and an excellent start of 2005. May it be a year of peace and tranquility, of positive achievements and sweet surprises.

With my very best wishes, as ever,


My last communications are available on http://almagor.blogspot.comEarlier posts at my home page:
Books archived at

Thursday, November 25, 2004

On Bush, Yassir Arafat: 1929-2004, Gaza, New European Initiative, Two Peoples One State, Iran, Two World Views, Peres' Disappointment, Protest against call for European boycott of academic and cultural ties with Israel, Building Business Bridges MBA Program, Faculty For Israeli-Palestinian Peace

Dear friends and colleagues,

Some of you still use my JHU e-mail address. This e-mail ceased to be active. Please use either or


Congratulations to George W. Bush for a great win. Against all odds, he had a smooth and sweet triumph. He has all reasons to be pleased.

Many people had to swallow their heats. Against predictions, some of which were wishful thinking, Bush had a decisive win. All those who said that a large turnout will work for Kerry were wrong. People came to vote in huge numbers, and they voted Bush. Only a minority of states voted for Kerry. Kerry paid the price for his unsophisticated politics. For a long time he refrained to say something, trying to appeal to the wide common denominator, not to aggravate anybody. When he realized that this policy actually worked against him, because he did not offer an alternative and remained ambiguous, only then he became vocal in promoting certain policies. He concentrated his attention on Iraq, but then the question begs why he initially voted for the war.

I must say that I have many question marks regarding the polls that were published before the elections. Some of them were so way out wrong, beyond acceptable margin of error, that it seems that the people conducting them were not completely honest. They tried to influence the results by publishing untrue numbers. Statistics has become a matter of ideology. Prostitution substituted professionalism.

The Israeli newspapers welcomed the result. Maariv headlines on 4 November 2004 was: "The Friend Remains." Israel yearns that Bush will continue to be its friend. It is said that the government had a sigh of relief when the results became known. Kerry seemed to be less friendly to Israel.

I wish Bush all the success in the world to tackle some of the most difficult issues. I wish him success in improving the healthcare system, the most inefficient healthcare system in the western world. I wish him success in improving public education. I hope Bush will see fit to improve the country's infrastructure: the state of the roads; public transportation; cleaning and improving the well-being of many poor neighbourhoods. It is time that the United States put these priorities high on its agenda. This super country has the resources to tackle these issues successfully. It just needs the will and the foresight.

Internationally, the future of Iraq is still a mystery. But I am more concerned with the US policy towards Iran. Here we need caution and prudence. The US is advised to consult European countries, such as France, Germany and Russia in conducting its affairs vis-à-vis Iran. The US is advised to coordinate its steps with the UN. If not, Iraq will be a kindergarten compared to Iran. Even Clint Eastwood needed some help from friends, sometimes. Hasty steps against Iran may lead the United States to a risky position: risky to itself and risky to the world at large. Iran is the big cloud that hovers above all of us. We need sunshine to fight against it. Only international cooperation will assure that the sunshine will not turn into an inferno.

Yassir Arafat: 1929-2004

On November 11, 2004, the last saga of Arafat's life came to an end. Arafat led a life of a terrorist until his last days. He never wanted peace. He worked on the genuine yearning of Israeli officials to achieve peace in their life time to gain substantial political achievements. Oslo was a bluff. The man remained an obstacle to peace and now he is no longer with us to ruin, to destroy, to maim and to kill. I hope his successors will choose to pursue other channels and work for the true benefit of the Palestinian people. The Palestinian people deserve a far more competent Rais to lead them to independent statehood, ending of the occupation, and creating a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel. A lot is to be done: security, a unified army, eradication of all factions to achieve a cohesive unity, an independent economy, fighting down the corruption, decreasing poverty, tunneling human resources to productivity, to creating rather than destroying. I wish the new Palestinian government a lot of success.

Arafat's death entails the reborn of Bush's Road Map. Now there is a new partner. Whether he's viable we don't know. Time will tell, and we won't need to wait for long. The Road Map, which was dead and buried, is back to life. It was ridiculous to insist on it during the past few years. Frankly, I was surprised to hear the extent people I met last year at the State Department insisted on it. Now Bush needs to insist to make it part of this place.

Two days ago Abu Mazen made a pledge to the man in the grave, and to all listeners that he is committed to the right of return, to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. It is going to be a long and winding road.

Gershon Baskin passed me an article written by Daoud Kuttab. He is a Palestinian journalist from Jerusalem who was jailed by Yassir Arafat. Now he is the director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al Quds University in Ramallah. To join his mailing list, please write to His Web site is

A blessing and a curse
By Daoud Kuttab
Nov. 11, 2004
I had mixed feelings as I looked over the Muqata building in Ramallah. While everyone was there to see the place where Yasser Arafat made his last stand in his long struggle for his people's independence, I remembered this compound as the location where I was imprisoned for seven days in 1997. At the time Arafat ordered my incarceration because the television station I was in charge of, Al Quds Educational Television, dared to broadcast sessions of the Palestinian Legislative Council dealing with corruption. But I didn't feel bitterness as I looked at the compound. I felt that in his own way Arafat was true to himself and his principles. He did everything he could to fulfill the hopes of millions of Palestinians. In the process he no doubt broke many rules and betrayed the trust of many people. The world wanted him to shed his military uniform, throw away his gun, and follow Israeli orders to pacify his own people while they were still under occupation. He refused; he insisted that the revolution was not over until the occupation ended. In life and in death Arafat would not allow anyone to put him in any predictable classification. He was so dedicated to the Palestinian cause, so obsessed with it, that he was both a blessing and a curse for Palestine. He was a blessing in that his dedication to the cause brought him the love of his own people and their willingness to forgive any mistakes he committed. He was able to unify Palestinians behind one national cause that became a worldwide cry for freedom and independence. This obsessive dedication, however, sometimes stood in the way of good judgment. Arafat's mistakes cost Palestinians dearly. His failure to stand up to the popular and emotional Palestinian support for Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait was a glaring example: As a result nearly 400,000 Palestinians were evicted from Kuwait, and Palestinians lost much Arab and international support. In the Oslo years, Arafat failed to delegate the power the accords granted to the Palestinians. His insistence on control rendered the Palestinian Authority inefficient and corrupt. He also failed to understand the possibilities that Clinton's last year in office offered: He threw away a potentially honorable agreement reached in Taba without being able to offer an alternative strategy to end the occupation and to establish a Palestinian state. Perhaps Arafat's death was also a blessing.

Having withstood tremendous physical and psychological pressures for almost three years, Arafat's last stand at the Muqata will become an integral part of his political legacy. Leaders that follow him will have difficulty in yielding any more concessions than he did. During his career Yasser Arafat took on many titles. And to understand what the Palestinian cause will look like without Arafat, we must consider the various titles that he last held. Arafat was chairman of the PLO Executive Committee, president of the Palestinian National Authority, commander in chief of the Palestinian forces, and head of the Fatah movement. The PLO embodies Palestinian national aspirations for independence and statehood. It is the highest political body for all Palestinians, both those living in Palestine and the refugees and other Palestinians in the diaspora. Arafat's successor will need to juggle between negotiations with Israel, which will require concession on refugees' "right of return" to Palestine, and the aspirations of more than 3 million Palestinians who wish to come back to the homes from which they were expelled in the wars of 1948 and 1967. And he must do this while dealing with the daily needs of Palestinians living under occupation. As the commander of the Palestinian forces Arafat was able to keep the various Palestinian military, security and intelligence units under his own control. The successor will not only have to deal with these forces, which have been torn apart by the Israelis, but he will also have to deal with local paramilitary units. These units, most of which are not controlled by the PNA's central leadership, are more loyal to grassroots figures than to uniformed PNA officers. Local Fatah leaders like Marwan Barghouti have tremendous power over the nationalist armed units that are loosely organized under the name Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Barghouti advocated internal Fatah elections and was trying to implement them when the Israelis arrested him and charged him with conspiring with terror bombers. As a street leader who had been elected the head of the Bir Zeit University student council, he gained legitimacy by being chosen by his peers. When the Oslo process began, he refused to accept any official position within the Palestinian Authority, choosing instead to remain close to the local Fatah cadres.

Whoever fills Arafat's shoes will need to make sure that these brigades are satisfied that their status, demands and leaders are respected. Indeed, the power struggle that will ensue in the post-Arafat era will ultimately center on Al Fatah, the backbone of the PLO. A worldwide assembly chooses Fatah's 100-member revolutionary council, which in turn elects a 20-member central committee, where most of the power struggle will take place. Many young street leaders will insist on an emergency meeting of the revolutionary council, or even that a sixth general assembly be convened (it would be the first since 1988). Events in recent months have shown that the Al Aqsa Brigades forced even Arafat to take their demands into consideration. Marwan Barghouti has the credibility that the official Palestinian leaders, Mahmoud Abbas and Ahmad Qurei, lack. As a result, many Palestinians are searching hard for a way to achieve his release from Israeli prison. Some hope that the Egyptians will trade Israeli spy Azzam Azzam for Barghouti; others predict that he will be released as part of a trade with the Lebanese militant group/political party Hezbollah, which has the bodies of a number of Israeli soldiers. But Barghouti and others of his generation will most probably have to wait. A transition period will no doubt take place in which people like Abbas and Qurei will be a bridge to the next wave of Palestinian leaders. Of course, the succession problem in Palestine, as in many other Arab countries, is greatly complicated by the absence of an accepted, regular structure by which authority is passed on. In the absence of such a structure, leaders are reluctant to handpick a deputy, let alone allow one to gain experience and competence.

Elections, whether at the presidential, parliamentary or municipal level, could do a lot in helping to nurture and develop a representative leadership. The absence of these democratic mechanisms is even worse inside the various liberation movements. Internal elections are not happening in the Islamic and left-wing groups generally, and in the nationalist movement that Arafat headed there have not been internal elections since the late 1980s. While much of the power struggle will take place within the nationalist camp, one must not overlook the Islamist camp led by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Although the Islamists are unlikely to interfere in the post-Arafat power struggle, they will not sit idly by if the new leadership moves in what they consider the wrong direction. Of course, the new leadership will have to reach some agreement with the Islamists regarding the rules of the game, both domestically and vis-à-vis Israel. If no such agreement is reached and the new leadership cracks down hard on the Islamists, a violent civil war could erupt. Most important, to consolidate his leadership the next Palestinian leader must make some hard decisions and show some tangible results quickly. The experience of the first Palestinian prime minister, Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), who resigned largely because of his inability to deliver any improvements to his people -- whether strengthening personal and collective security, restoring the rule of law, or bringing an end to chaos in Palestinian areas -- remains fresh in the public's memory. Which is why an Israeli freeze on settlement activities, the release of Palestinian political prisoners, and the removal of the hundreds of checkpoints between Palestinian cities would revive a feeling of hope, without which no Palestinian leader can negotiate what the world wants: a peace settlement. The problem is that no Palestinian leader, no matter who he is, can deliver these changes without help from other players. The Israeli occupiers, the neighboring Arab countries, and the international community, led by the United States, face a challenge. They all must help out if they expect the new leadership of Palestinians to be able to withstand the pressures they will be under to raise the bar higher than Yasser Arafat did during a lifetime dedicated to the cause of Palestinian freedom.


Gaza has been the burial place of many people: citizens, soldiers and politicians of all sides. I hope it won't be Sharon's.

New European Initiative

The European Union will shortly unveil a plan to ensure the viability of a Palestinian state, based on the 1967 borders. Frustrated with what they see as US diplomatic inertia resulting from domestic political imperatives, EU politicians are pushing to accelerate the EU's engagement in the region. A detailed plan is expected shortly from external affairs commissioner Javier Solana for advancing the Road Map drawn up by the Quartet of the EU, US, UN and Russia. Solana's paper is expected to focus on security, economic development and reform, and to emphasize the need for free and fair elections.

A recent article by Michael Tarazi, the PLO's legal adviser, which explicitly rejects a two-states solution, suggests that the EU initiative is running against the grain of current Palestinian strategy. Tarazi argues that "the quest for equal statehood should now be superseded by a struggle for equal citizenship" within a single Palestinian and Israeli state.

The Middle East expert Barry Rubin suggests that the Road Map and similar initiatives have rested on a fundamental misconception. "The key to understanding the history of the last half-century's Arab-Israeli conflict is that the PLO was never a true nationalist movement," he argues. "For the PLO destroying Israel is more important than building an independent Palestinian state or relieving the Palestinian people's suffering." The demand for a "right of return" of Palestinian refugees confirms this. "If the goal was to build a strong, stable Palestinian state living in peace alongside Israel, everything would be done to discourage refugees from going to Israel," Rubin suggests. "For why should a Palestinian state make a gift of these people, their money and talents to someone else?"

Tarazi's article, infra, suggests that any chance for progress in the peace process, based on mutual understanding and agreement, is an illusion as long as Arafat conducts the affair. While road maps, declarations, delegations, and other efforts may contribute to peace in the long-term, in the immediate context they are useless exercises in wishful thinking.

Two Peoples, One State
by Michael Tarazi*
New York Times, 4th October 2004
Israel's untenable policy in the Middle East was more obvious than usual last week, as the Israeli Army made repeated incursions into Gaza, killing dozens of Palestinians in the deadliest attacks in more than two years, even as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon reiterated his plans to withdraw from the territory. Israel's overall strategy toward the Palestinians is ultimately self-defeating: it wants Palestinian land but not the Palestinians who live on that land.
As Christians and Muslims, the millions of Palestinians under occupation are not welcome in the Jewish state. Many Palestinians are now convinced that Israeli support for a Palestinian state is motivated not by a hope for reconciliation, but by a desire to segregate non-Jews while taking as much of their land and resources as possible. They are increasingly questioning the most commonly accepted solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict - "two states living side by side in peace and security," in the words of President Bush - and are being forced to consider a one-state solution.

To Palestinians, the strategy behind Israel's two-state solution is clear. More than 400,000 Israelis live illegally in more than 150 colonies, many of which are atop Palestinian water sources. Mr. Sharon is prepared to evacuate settlers from Gaza - but only in exchange for expanding settlements in the West Bank. And Israel is building a barrier wall not on its land but rather inside occupied Palestinian territory. The wall's route maximizes the amount of Palestinian farmland and water on one side and the number of Palestinians on the other.
Yet while Israelis try to allay a demographic threat, they are creating a democratic threat. After years of negotiations, coupled with incessant building of settlements and now the construction of the wall, Palestinians finally understand that Israel is offering "independence" on a reservation stripped of water and arable soil, economically dependent on Israel and even lacking the right to self-defense.

As a result, many Palestinians are contemplating whether the quest for equal statehood should now be superseded by a struggle for equal citizenship. In other words, a one-state solution in which citizens of all faiths and ethnicities live together as equals. Recent polls indicate that a quarter of Palestinians favor the secular one-state solution - a surprisingly high number given that it is not officially advocated by any senior Palestinian leader.

Support for one state is hardly a radical idea; it is simply the recognition of the uncomfortable reality that Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories already function as a single state. They share the same aquifers, the same highway network, the same electricity grid and the same international borders. There are no road signs reading "Welcome to Occupied Territory" when one drives into East Jerusalem. Some government maps of Israel do not delineate Israel's 1967 pre-occupation border. Settlers in the occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem) are interspersed among Palestinian towns and now constitute nearly a fifth of the population. In the words of one Palestinian farmer, you can't unscramble an egg.

But in this de facto state, 3.5 million Palestinian Christians and Muslims are denied the same political and civil rights as Jews. These Palestinians must drive on separate roads, in cars bearing distinctive license plates, and only to and from designated Palestinian areas. It is illegal for a Palestinian to drive a car with an Israeli license plate. These Palestinians, as non-Jews, neither qualify for Israeli citizenship nor have the right to vote in Israeli elections.
In South Africa, such an allocation of rights and privileges based on ethnic or religious affiliation was called apartheid. In Israel, it is called the Middle East's only democracy.

Most Israelis recoil at the thought of giving Palestinians equal rights, understandably fearing that a possible Palestinian majority will treat Jews the way Jews have treated Palestinians. They fear the destruction of the never-defined "Jewish state." The one-state solution, however, neither destroys the Jewish character of the Holy Land nor negates the Jewish historical and religious attachment (although it would destroy the superior status of Jews in that state). Rather, it affirms that the Holy Land has an equal Christian and Muslim character.

For those who believe in equality, this is a good thing. In theory, Zionism is the movement of Jewish national liberation. In practice, it has been a movement of Jewish supremacy. It is this domination of one ethnic or religious group over another that must be defeated before we can meaningfully speak of a new era of peace; neither Jews nor Muslims nor Christians have a unique claim on this sacred land.

The struggle for Palestinian equality will not be easy. Power is never voluntarily shared by those who wield it. Palestinians will have to capture the world's imagination, organize the international community and refuse to be seduced into negotiating for their rights.

But the struggle against South African apartheid proves the battle can be won. The only question is how long it will take, and how much all sides will have to suffer, before Israeli Jews can view Palestinian Christians and Muslims not as demographic threats but as fellow citizens.
*Michael Tarazi is a legal adviser to the Palestine Liberation Organization.


The International Atomic Energy Agency's confidential report, made available to The Associated Press on November 15, said all nuclear material Iran had declared to the agency in the past year has been accounted for, "and therefore we can say that such material is not diverted to prohibited (weapons) activities." But the report also said its author, IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei, was "not yet in the position to conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear materials" that could have been used for a weapons program.

Iran said it was suspending uranium enrichment and related activities briefly, voluntarily and in hopes of building confidence in the world that its nuclear ambitions are peaceful. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters the deal was "the best decision under the current circumstances." Iran faces the possibility of being slapped with UN Security Council sanctions for a program the United States and others says is aimed at building nuclear weapons.

Iran's top nuclear negotiator Hossein Mousavian said the suspension will last until the completion of negotiations with Europe over Iran's nuclear program. "We accept suspension as a voluntary measure on the basis of agreement with the European Union," Mousavian said, emphasizing that his country viewed the decision as a "confidence building" move and not a "legal obligation on Iran's part… Europe will support Iran's joining the international group of states possessing the ability to manufacture nuclear fuel" once the suspension ends. The decision is expected to anger extremists within the hard-line camp who have called on the government to ignore international demands and even expand, not limit, nuclear activities.

The key dispute that prolonged negotiations between Iran and the Europeans was over the conversion of uranium into gas, which when spun in centrifuges can be enriched to lower levels for producing electricity or processed into high-level, weapons grade uranium, and the length of any suspension.

Washington believes Iran is secretly developing nuclear weapons under cover of a peaceful nuclear program. Iran denies this and has offered to provide guarantees that its program is strictly confined to producing electricity.

Two World Views

A youth educational talk at Yachad, the liberal civil rights party:
"A man is born free and would like to remain free. Stop the occupation".

A youth educational talk at National Unity, the extreme right-wing party:
"What is this nonsense of a man is born free? A man is not born free. A man is born with placenta that provides the newborn with its lifeline. We provide the Palestinians their lifeline. And how do they show gratitude? By terror".

Peres' Disappointment

Shimon Peres had all the right to expect an invitation to join the government after providing Sharon the security net and support he needed to pass the resolution affirming his disengagement plan. However, Sharon explained that he cannot join Labour into the coalition because of the delicate situation within the Likud Party. The days of Sharon's government are numbered, unless he will teach us yet another lesson in politics and pull a trick that will bring another party to reinforce his collapsing coalition. It is difficult to see how exactly Sharon can do that. I repeat my prediction that you can start counting the days to early elections.

Protest against call for European boycott of academic and cultural ties with Israel

European scholars and scientists who unequivocally condemn the call for a moratorium on research and cultural links with Israel are welcome to join the petition at

Please sign.

Building Business Bridges MBA Program

I was asked to post the following:

The Center for Jewish Arab Economic Development, in cooperation with The University of Haifa and the Palestinian Media & Development Institute
is launching a 6th cycle of the Building Business Bridges MBA program, a unique program that includes:

Academic Studies (MBA program) at the University of Haifa’s Graduate School of Business
An enrichment program that includes studies of: Middle East economics, management in a multicultural setting, mediation and more.
Study tours: in the region and abroad

The program accepts 30 students: 20 Israeli (Jewish and Arabs) and 10 Palestinians.
The Center for Jewish Arab Economic Development is now accepting candidates for the new cycle beginning in May 2005. We are asking your assistance in promoting this program by sending this letter to persons who you know who might be interested in participating in the program.

The prerequisites to be accepted are:
Demonstrated initiative and business ability
Three years experience in business or management
Accredited Bachelor’s degree with a minimum of 80
A minimum of a 500 score on the GMAT
Excellent Command of the English Language (studies are in English)

Other relevant information:
Studies Begin in May 2005
Program length is 18 months
The studies are on Thursday and Friday at the University of Haifa (including sleeping at a hotel in Haifa on Thursday night)

For more information please contact Ronit Sassoon at telephone 09-957-1379 ext.105 or email
Thank you for assisting us in promoting this program.
Ronit Sassoon

Ms. Ronit Sassoon
Director of the Municipal Unit and
Building Business Bridges, Applications Coordinator
Center for Jewish Arab Economic Development
16 Galgalei Haplada, POB 12017, Herzlyia Pituach 46733
Tel: 09-954-1379 ext 105
Fax: 09-954-0136

Faculty For Israeli-Palestinian Peace

I wish to bring to your attention the mission and objectives of Faculty For Israeli-Palestinian Peace.

FFIPP, the Faculty For Israeli-Palestinian Peace, is a network of faculty endeavoring to achieve just peace and end the occupation in Israel/Palestine and the region.

FFIPP is organized by the Executive Committee with the invaluable advice of the Advisory Board. Our Campus Contacts help coordinate activities at their local universities. A large number of faculty supports the network and makes their support known on the list of Endorsers.
About FFIPP International
What Do We Stand For?
Peaceful coexistence between Israel and Palestine is the resolution to their conflict supported by virtually all interested parties. Future cooperation between the two states and the enormous resulting regional benefits expected, make the pursuit of such a goal imperative.
We have no doubt that it is possible to reach such a brighter future[1], and we strongly believe that actions and policies moving in that direction are not only crucially needed, but that they can and must be pursued NOW[2].
We strongly believe that no peace and no justice can be achieved without Israeli withdrawal from all occupied territories[3], and that anybody truly and honestly favoring peaceful coexistence must support such withdrawal.
Furthermore, we are certain that any delay in beginning this process will result in increasing suffering and loss of human life. We, therefore, urge all faculty, and others, who care about the two peoples and the Middle East to support such efforts.

The bias of a large part of the U.S. media[4] reinforces the call for faculty to take part in educating the public about the unfolding situation.
The sharp escalation of violence since late March 2002, makes all the above even more urgent, and it appears that without international, including faculty, involvement, stabilization is unlikely.

Our Goal
Our goal is to achieve just peace and end the occupation in Israel/Palestine and the region.

Our Objectives
The objectives of FFIPP are these:

To build an effective faculty network that will influence U.S. policy in the region, and, indirectly, Israel’s policy, towards making those policies more conducive to reaching a just peace;
To influence policy and opinion makers and others to implement policies to stop the violence;
To cooperate with those who work for a just peace and assist Palestinian and Israeli faculty.

Our Activities
We believe that the sector we represent can have impact in Washington; experience strongly suggests that the potential for impact exists.
In addition to building and strengthening the network, planned activities will include,
Organizing symposia throughout US universities in which experts discuss perspectives to the situation in the Middle East
Sponsoring Israeli and Palestinian faculty to speak on US campuses, educating/updating the academic community on the situation
Arranging faculty delegations to Israel and Palestine
Sponsoring delegations for faculty and students to members of the United States Congress
Sponsoring campus campaigns to promote human rights and just peace in Israel and Palestine
Creating media awareness
Sponsoring ad campaigns in the media (e.g., in the New York Times)
Writing Op-Ed articles
Efforts to help Palestinian universities with some immediate needs that they might have

Further information at

With my very best wishes, as ever,


My last communications are available on http://almagor.blogspot.comEarlier posts at my home page:
Books archived at

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

On Sharon's Gaza Plan, Comment on Sharon's Government, Sharon Rejects Settlers' Plea for Referendum, the Terror Attack on Hilton Taba, Terror Campaign on Israel in Numbers, American Involvement in Iraq, Bush v. Kerry, Ethical Presuppositions and Implications of Warfare in the Twenty-First Century, Dim Prospects for Palestinian Reform, The Role of WMD in Iranian Security Calculations, Discussion on Iran, Oxford Workshop, Comment on Guidelines for Media Coverage of Terrorism, Brit Tzedek v'Shalom Appeal, Useful Website, The Report That Nails Saddam, The Gollnisch Affair in France, Democracy Fellowships, Christopher Reeve, Two Israelis Won Noble Prize, London Theatre, Film Warning, New Books

Dear friends and colleagues,

Sharon's Gaza Plan

On 26 October Prime Minister Ariel Sharon won a resounding Knesset victory for his historic disengagement plan. As you can imagine, it was a moment of personal satisfaction. I yearned to see it coming for years, worked hard to promote awareness of Gaza First since 2000, thinking it was the best alternative to break the deadlock. Back on 29 May 2003, when I wrote to Sharon and explained why it is the most viable plan I received no response from my prime minister. I did receive responses from political leaders of the Labour Party and Meretz. If my tireless efforts to make the Plan visible on the Israeli and international public agenda were only a scratch in history then I am satisfied. I believe many leaps in history are the result of many scratches combined together. In this forum I voiced my wish time and again that Sharon will surprise me and justify his reputation as a pragmatic leader. Kudos to him for his vision and bravery. I am most appreciative of his courage, to face his old friends, to renounce his old deeds, to admit his mistakes, to lead Israel to a new, brighter future. I raise my hat and say: Kol Hakavod.

Some interesting facts about this important vote in the Knesset: Traditional Knesset's party lines shattered as Labor, Meretz-Yachad and two Arab MKs joined about half of the Likud faction and all of Shinui to deliver Sharon a victory vote of 67 for, 45 against, and seven abstentions. Seventeen Likud MKS voiced against Sharon. Twenty three Likud members voted for, including the incapable chess players Bibi Netanyahu, Limor Livnat, Danny Naveh and Israel Katz. These four ministers who wished to stab Sharon in the back crawled to the Knesset in the last moment to join Sharon. Sharon celebrated his victory in a stoic mood, enjoying himself as the Labour MKs, with Yossi Sarid, mocked the four Brutus-like gang. Interestingly, Michael Nudelman of the extreme right wing party National Union vote for Sharon's plan. All religious parties represented in the Knesset voted against the plan. The rabbis, who know best what is good for Israel, showed yet again that they care more about land than about life. What a sad Jewish tale.

Shimon Peres can expect an invitation for talks to join the coalition. However, Sharon can expect further challenges from Bibi Netanyahu, Silvan Shalom and Limor Livnat who like to present themselves as better defenders of Eretz Israel, to Sharon's right. We all can expect many twists and turns in this saga: Sharon will fight hard to retain his position in government and party. He should not be too optimistic. The SHABAC should work hard to protect his security. The settlers will stage further fights. The Likud "rebels" will give all of us hard time. As ever, it will be interesting. I hope not TOO interesting.

Comment on Sharon's Government

Professor Sam Lehman-Wilzig commented on my critique of the Sharon government by saying:

Hi Rafi:
A quick comment on your latest newsletter. You can't think of one major accomplishment of this Sharon Government. I can! Bibi Netanyahu's economic reforms -- with Sharon's strong support -- are a MAJOR accomplishment that will be felt (and appreciated) for years to come: privatizing Bezeq (phone co.), privatizing the 3 ports, changing the Municipal rules of the budgetary game, separating the pension funds from the banks, removing slough-offs from the welfare roles, etc. One can argue that the government has not done enough to help the truly poor and needy, but the MACRO-economic policy is a HUGE accomplishment, given Israeli history's unsuccessful attempts at real economic reform.
Kol tuv,

Sharon Rejects Settlers' Plea for Referendum

Meanwhile, Sharon finally announced his willingness to meet with the settlers. Better later than never. Common sense does prevail. Sometimes it takes time. The meeting took place on 17 October. The heads of settlers described the meeting as "charged and difficult," noting they were up against "a solid wall and a prime minister who could drag the nation into an internal war, a civil war." It was "a dialogue of the deaf," said settler leader Pinhas Wallerstein. The settler leaders said the prime minister was continuing to behave like "a destructive dictator." Spokesman Yehoshua Mor Yosef said that the movement would continue to apply pressure on politicians to bring the disengagement plan to the public, adding that "Sharon is disengaging from the nation."

Sharon explained his objection to a referendum by saying that it would lead to demands for more referendums on a variety of issues such as the status of Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, matters of kashrut, Shabbat, marriage laws and more. I should say that I am not against the referendum. I think it is important to appeal to the people on crucial matters that divide the nation, that concern everyone, and that affect our future. Sharon's objection is derived from viewing it as a red herring, as an invention of the opposition to delay the execution of his disengagement plan. He should carefully reconsider the issue, especially in light of reiterated threats of violence and civil war. A leader should not ignore clear red lights that blink forcefully.

Some two weeks ago, Rabbi Avraham Shapira, a leading religious Zionist rabbi, urged soldiers to refuse to evacuate settlements; 60 other prominent religious Zionist rabbis joined his call. Shapira was the Israel Chief Rabbi and is a very important figure in the religious national circles. They listen to him carefully and respect his judgment. The National Religious Party, Mafdal, is squarely against the disengagement plan and its sitting in the government is only a matter of time. In their hearts, they are against.

The incitement campaign against Sharon and his government continues. In comparative terms, looking back to the 1990s vis-à-vis Rabin, it is still mild. But it does not relax. It is gathering momentum and it continues as long as Sharon is conceived as "a destructive dictator."

To my surprise, the newspapers in Israel announced that Sharon intends to destroy the settlements upon evacuating Gaza. This is a gross mistake. I still recall the photos of the destruction of Yamit. I thought that there will be a way to compensate Israel for the property we leave behind. Certainly the Palestinians should be interested in it. Certainly the USA and Europe have vested interest that the property will not be destroyed. I hope a compensation formula will be devised. In any event, I would not like to see the blowing up of the settlements when we leave Gaza.

The Terror Attack on Hilton Taba

On 7 October 2004, Blasts hit three Sinai resorts populated by Israelis. Thirty two people were killed, including thirteen Israelis. The most devastating attack occurred around 10 P.M. when a blast ripped through the Hilton Hotel in the resort town of Taba, close to the border with Israel. Hilton Taba is a very popular hotel for Israelis as its prices are far cheaper than similar five-star hotels in the nearby city of Eilat. About two hours after the Taba blast, three other explosions occurred in the area of the nearby resort towns of Ras Satan, a camping area full of Israeli tourists, and Nueiba. In previous weeks, security officials issued a serious travel warning to Israelis planning to vacation in the Sinai peninsula. Intelligence warned that there are concrete details about possible attacks on Israeli targets in Sinai. But the warning of a possible terror attack fell largely on deaf ears, with up to 15,000 Israelis crossing the border at Eilat over Sukkot and heading for the resorts that pepper the Sinai coastline.

The previously unknown Jama'a Al-Islamiya Al-Alamiya (World Islamist Group) claimed responsibility for the terror attack on Hilton Taba. Palestinian Authority security adviser Jibril Rajoub, told Al-Jazeera television that no Palestinian factions were responsible for the explosions. The pattern of the terror attack resembles Al-Qaeda's methods.

The Terror Campaign on Israel in Numbers

On 28 September 2004 the SHABAC published a summary of four years of terror. In Israel there are less than 7 million people. Translate the numbers, proportion-wise, to your own society and receive a glimpse of the magnitude of the horror Israel has been suffering since 2000.

Since September 2004 1,017 Israelis were killed (703 civilians and 314 soldiers and policemen);

5,598 Israelis were injured (4,566 civilians; 1,032 soldiers and policemen);

The bloodiest year was 2002: 452 Israelis killed and 2,309 injured.

There were 138 incidents of suicide bombings (in 2002 alone there were 60 such incidents);

Among them there were 8 women suicide murderers; all educated, single, in their twenties;

45 potential female ticking bombs were arrested;

292 teens were involved in terror attacks, including suicide bombings;

There were 13,370 incidents of shooting;

460 Qassam rockets were launched.

The IDF was successful to uncover 98 tunnels between the Rafah refugee camp and Egypt. The tunnels are used to smuggle weapons and explosives.

959 Palestinians involved in terror operations were killed (according to Palestinian resources, 3,268 people were killed. This number includes people involved in terrorism and bystanders. 23,930 Palestinians were injured);

6000 Palestinians were arrested;

In the first 34 months of terror there were 73 successful (from the Palestinian perspective) terror attacks. Since the building of the fence till now there were 5 such incidents.

In 2004 there were 14 suicide bombings.

190 km of the fence are completed. The suicide murderers who were able to infiltrate Israel came from places where the fence is not built yet.

The soft spot in the security system is East Jerusalem, this for geo-strategic reasons and also because residents of East Jerusalem are citizens of Israel and carry Israeli IDs. Since September 2000, 150 East Jerusalem Palestinians were arrested. They were involved in more than 20 terror attacks.

The Hezbollah is investing lots of resources in building a terror infrastructure inside Israel. More than 100 organizations in which Israeli-Palestinians were involved were uncovered by the Israeli security police.

Since my return to Israel I heard many people speaking, most of them in harsh terms: Israel needs to invest more in retaliation. Israel had turned right and never looked back. More killing is not the solution. The only solution is ending the occupation, evacuating most of the settlements and the IDF, and establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The sooner the better.

American Involvement in Iraq

Post September 11, United States had understood that the oceans cannot serve as protection against world terrorism. The administration was forced to change the concept, the thinking. It has taken time, with noticeable rigidity. Those applying for visas, or just flying in and from the USA felt this. It is huge bureaucratic machinery with the usual notorious inflexibility. While the Israeli culture is largely based on improvisations, the very concept itself is alien to the American thinking. Americans are accustomed to work in rubrics and when something falls outside the known rubric, the solution is usually to say "No". Sorry. This is not allowed. Those of us who understand this mentality will sure appreciate the strategic change that the US was forced to take. September 11 compelled the US to look differently at the world.

Iraq is the first stone, not the last. The planning of the military campaign was careful. The idea was to capture Baghdad as quickly as possible while trying to stop Saddam from launching missiles that might involve unwanted parties, like Israel, in the campaign as well as preventing Saddam from setting fire in the oil wells. This idea was put into practice with notable success. The USA army penetrated swiftly deep into Iraqi territory without a stop. However, little thinking was paid regarding the aftermath: How to build and maintain the post-Saddam Iraq? Moreover, the result of this rapid progress to Baghdad was that the Iraqi army dispersed with its ammunition and with the support of hostile elements is now conducting brutal guerrilla warfare against the American army. The US and its allies are now facing harsh reality in Iraq.

The American army, unlike the Israeli, is a professional army. There is no strong link between the military and the people as is the case in Israel. In Israel it is the people's army, a nation in uniform. In the US only people who wish to serve take part in the fighting. There is no forced conscription. Thus the soldiers understand that this is their role and they feel committed to the task assigned to them by the American government. The USA is now committed to democratize Iraq and to bring the voice of liberty and justice to the Middle East. Lots of money is now tunneled to carry out this mission.

One of the consequences of the US involvement in the region is its understanding of the reality in which Israel operates. In Israel the US has found today as before a strategic ally that is fully committed to fighting terror. Now the US appreciates more Israel's security needs and interests. I would say that September 11 constitutes a watershed in this respect. I do not think that ever before Israel enjoyed such latitude and understanding from any American regime as it enjoys now from the Bush administration. Israel and the US are united in their determination to fight down terrorism, understanding that there is a zero sum game between democracy and terror: any win for the one is a loss for the other.

Bush v. Kerry

I wish to draw your attention to the Washington Post article which compares the stances of the two candidates on various issues. For your consideration.

Comparing the Candidates

Attached please find one reflection on the elections in Florida.

Ethical Presuppositions and Implications of Warfare in the Twenty-First Century

In the new issue of Ethical Perspectives, philosophers, political scientists, lawyers and U.S. military scholars debate the ethics of warfare for the twenty-first century. They assess the use of just-war arguments, address different aspects of the war on terror and the doctrine of pre-emptive intervention and discuss issues related to the ius in bello such as biological enhancements of soldiers and the combatant/non-combatant distinction.

More info at

Journal of the European Ethics Network

Volume 11, Issue 2-3


Ethical Presuppositions and Implications of Warfare in the Twenty-First Century
Johan Verstraeten

From Just War to Ethics of Conflict Resolution: A Critique of Just-War
Thinking in the Light of the War in Iraq
Johan Verstraeten

Regrounding the Just War's 'Presumption Against Violence' in Light of George Weigel
John Hymers

The Terrorist Threat. A Post-Modern Kind of Threat
Herman De Dijn

The Preventive and Preemptive Use of Force. To be Legitimised or to be De-Legitimised?
Tom Sauer

The Impact of the Fight Against Terrorism on the ius ad bellum
Frederik Naert

Can War Be a Moral Action? Towards a Normative Theory of Humanitarian Intervention Reinold Schmücker

Combatant, Non-Combatant, Criminal. The Importance of Distinctions
Michael Brough

Mediums and Messages. An Argument against Biotechnical Enhancements of Soldiers in the Armies of Liberal Democracies
Jeffrey Wilson

Multatuli Lecture 2003: Imprisoned by Categories. Fuelling Cultural Conflicts with Emotions and Stereotypes
David Grosmann

Dim Prospects for Palestinian Reform
Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat's Fatah will emerge as the leading political bloc after forthcoming municipal elections in the areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but Islamist candidates will gain ground, according to a recent poll by Bir Zeit university. Some 34 percent of the 1200 voters sampled in the survey intend to vote for Fatah and 32 percent for Hamas or Islamic Jihad, according to the survey funded by the International Republican Institute (
Apathy is minimal in highly politicized Palestinian society, so the results suggest a high degree of alienation, if not hostility towards the available options, on the part of about a third of the electorate. Some 39 percent of respondents do not support any of the political factions, suggesting that many will hold their noses as they cast their ballots.
Palestinian President Yassir Arafat announced last month that he intends to hold presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections soon. But no schedule for presidential or parliamentary elections has been announced. The local elections will give Palestinians the first chance to vote since the 1996 general election, which was boycotted by Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
While the elections are limited to municipal levels, some 73 percent of poll respondents support holding presidential elections, and 82 percent want fresh legislative elections. Less than half - only 46 percent -- would support Arafat in a presidential election. Arafat has come under pressure from internal and external sources to yield more power.
Asked why Arafat has been unwilling to grant more authority to current Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei, former PA PM Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) told the Jordanian daily Al-Rai newspaper "He [Arafat] probably believes that if they were to take these powers away from him, then they would get rid of him." Abbas has also conceded that "the Intifada in its entirety was a mistake and it should not have continued." Jordanian Prime Minister Faisal al-Fayez recently suggested that the overbearing PLO leader Arafat should devolve greater responsibility to Prime Minister Qurei in an effort to enhance the strategic position of the Palestinians in the run-up to the US presidential election.
But would-be reformers who recently challenged the Fatah hierarchy do not fare well in the Bir Zeit poll. The second most popular Palestinian figure after Arafat, with 12 percent support, is former West Bank Fatah leader Marwan Barguthi, founder of the self-styled Al-Aqsa Brigades, who is currently serving five life sentences in Israel for terrorist activity. There is little support for Fatah-linked reformists such as Gaza-based strongman Muhammed Dahlan (1.6 percent), Sa'eb Erekat (1.2 percent) and Ahmad Qurei (1 percent) or for relatively liberal and democratic Palestinian politicians like Haydar Abdul Shafi (6 percent), Mustafa Bargouthi (1.7 percent) or Hanan Ashrawi (1.4 percent). These are sad news for the Palestinian people as well as for Israel.
Meanwhile, we all hold our breath to see whether Arafat will be able to overcome his illness and rise, yet again, like a wounded cat, from the depth of fever to run the show.

The Role of WMD in Iranian Security Calculations

I wish to share with you an article by Amin Tarzi, an analyst at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). Previously, Tarzi worked as a senior researcher on Iran at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at Monterey Institute for International Studies in California. This issue is of major consideration for the future of the Middle East and the world at large. Miscalculation on the American side, the Iranian side or both might draw the ME into yet another cycle of blood. I hope Iran will have more common sense than Saddam and will cooperate with the UN monitors.

Tarzi's article is attached in WORD.

Discussion on Iran

During my visit to Oxford I was invited to dinner at the home of an International Relations professor who invited a visitor from Japan, lecturer in the same field. W began to talk about Iran and I said that Israel will not tolerate Iranian nuclear capacity. I said that Israel reserves itself the right to attack Iranian installations as an act of self-defence, and that both Defence Minister Mofas and Chief of Staff Yaalon said that Israel monitors closely the situation in Iran and will not hesitate to attack in case of need. The combination of unconventional weapons, missiles and radical regime that supports terror constitutes a lethal threat that the free world cannot afford to understate. The Japanese professor looked surprised. I presume she had never heard such a blunt statement before. She wanted to hear some qualifications or reservations on my part. I said that after the 1981 attack on the Iraqi Tamuz installation I criticized the Begin government for this decision, intervening into the sovereignty of another country in such a brutal way. In 1991, during the Gulf War, I changed my mind. Just imagine that Saddam would have had nuclear capacity. Trusting his sense of judgment upon witnessing his misguided calculations vis-à-vis the American campaign against his country would not be prudent. By implication, judging the good sense of judgment of any dictatorship is a tricky and dangerous thing. Israel cannot afford tolerating an Iranian atomic bomb.

I wish to thank Alan Budd, Anthony Smith, Idit and Mike Goodisman, Alan Roth, Prinky and Adam Roberts, Jerry Cohen and Avi Shlaim for their kind hospitality. You made my trip to England memorable.

Oxford Workshop

On my panel there was an American journalist who, like quite a few of her colleagues, does not like the idea of guidelines or code of ethics. "We are to tell the story as we see fit in the given circumstances". She also claimed that the First Amendment negates the idea of adopting a Code of Ethics, as free speech rules supreme and should have no constraints. A very convenient excuse to have journalism stripped of any responsibility. I cannot think of any other profession that tries to relieve itself of any sense of responsibility with notable success as journalism does.

Comment on Guidelines for Media Coverage of Terrorism

Commenting on my Guidelines for media coverage of terrorism, and specifically on the use of the T-Word, Professor Menachem Kellner had sent me the following article:

Daniel Pipes in NY Sun on "They're Terrorists Not Activists"
September 7, 2004
"I know it when I see it" was the famous response by a U.S. Supreme Court justice to the vexed problem of defining pornography. Terrorism may be no less difficult to define, but the wanton killing of schoolchildren, of mourners at a funeral, or workers at their desks in skyscrapers surely fits the know-it-when-I-see-it definition. The press, however, generally shies away from the word terrorist, preferring euphemisms. Take the assault that led to the deaths of some 400 people, many of them children, in Beslan, Russia, on September 3. Journalists have delved deep into their thesauruses, finding at least twenty euphemisms for terrorists: Assailants - National Public Radio. Attackers – the Economist. Bombers – the Guardian. Captors – the Associated
>Press. Commandos – Agence France-Presse refers to the terrorists both as "membres du commando" and "commando." Criminals - the Times (London). Extremists – United Press International. Fighters – the Washington Post. Group – the Australian. Guerrillas: in a New York Post editorial. Gunmen – Reuters. Hostage-takers – the Los Angeles Times. Insurgents – in a New York Times headline.
>Kidnappers – the Observer (London). Militants – the Chicago
>Tribune. Perpetrators – the New York Times. Radicals – the
>BBC. Rebels – in a Sydney Morning Herald headline. Separatists
>– the Christian Science Monitor. And my favorite: Activists – the
>Pakistan Times. The origins of this unwillingness to name terrorists
>seems to lie in the Arab-Israeli conflict, prompted by an odd
>combination of sympathy in the press for the Palestinian Arabs and
>intimidation by them. The sympathy is well known; the intimidation
>less so. Reuters' Nidal al-Mughrabi made the latter explicit in advice
>for fellow reporters in Gaza to avoid trouble on the Web site
>, where one tip reads: "Never use the word terrorist or terrorism in describing Palestinian gunmen and militants; people consider them heroes of the conflict." The reluctance to call terrorists by their rightful name can reach absurd lengths of inaccuracy and apologetics. For example, National Public Radio's Morning Edition announced on April 1, 2004, that "Israeli troops have arrested 12 men they say were wanted militants." But CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, pointed out the inaccuracy here and NPR issued an on-air correction on April 26: "Israeli military officials were quoted as saying they had arrested 12 men who were ‘wanted militants.' But the actual phrase used by the Israeli military was ‘wanted terrorists.'" (At least NPR corrected itself. When the Los Angeles Times made the same error, writing that "Israel staged a series of raids in the West Bank that the army described as hunts for wanted Palestinian militants," its editors refused CAMERA's request for a correction on the grounds that its change in terminology did not occur in a direct quotation.) Metro, a Dutch paper, ran a picture on May 3, 2004, of two gloved hands belonging to a person taking fingerprints off a dead terrorist. The caption read: "An Israeli police officer takes fingerprints of a dead Palestinian. He is one of the victims (slachtoffers) who fell in the Gaza strip yesterday." One of the victims! Euphemistic usage then spread from the Arab-Israeli conflict to other theaters. As terrorism picked up in Saudi Arabia such press outlets as The Times (London) and the Associated Press began routinely using militants in reference to Saudi terrorists. Reuters uses it with reference to Kashmir and Algeria. Thus "militants" become the press's default term for terrorists. These self-imposed language limitations sometimes cause journalists to tie themselves into knots. In reporting the murder of one of its own cameraman, the BBC, which normally avoids the word terrorist, found itself using that term. In another instance, the search engine on the BBC website includes the word terrorist but the page linked to has had that word expurgated. Politically-correct news organizations undermine their credibility with such subterfuges. How can one trust what one reads, hears, or sees when the self-evident fact of terrorism is being semi-denied? Worse, the multiple euphemisms for terrorist obstruct a clear understanding of the violent threats confronting the civilized world. It is bad enough that only one of five articles discussing the Beslan atrocity mentions its Islamist origins; worse is the miasma of words that insulates the public from the evil of terrorism.

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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom Appeal
Brit Tzedek v'Shalom [] is organizing an appeal and ask American Jewry to join. Their call says: Regardless of personal political aspirations, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not remain on the back burner for long. We have been recently reminded of this by the surge of violence in the Gaza Strip. We must seize this opportunity to mobilize our community behind a message that is at once pro-Israel and pro-peace, so that the new presidential administration must take notice. Together, we must build an American Jewish voice for peace. Please sign the Open Letter at

Useful Website
I would like to call your attention to a new information page on the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and the Situation in the Gaza Strip, (

The page provides concise legal analysis concerning demolition of houses, urban warfare and the Government of Israel's Disengagement Plan in the Gaza Strip.

Other recent additions to the "IHL and the Occupied Palestinian Territory" portal include a topic page on General Movement Restrictions and Humanitarian Access. This section contains selected resources on the IHL implications of checkpoints, closures and curfews in the occupied territories. The resources include a selected listing of reports on the topic, as well as a catalog of relevant UN documents, including General Assembly and Security Council Resolutions. Also featured are links to statements made by Palestinian and Israeli authorities concerning the IHL implications of the general movement restrictions. Additionally, this page offers links to relevant Israeli Supreme Court decisions.

The Report That Nails Saddam
I wish to share with you the following article by DAVID BROOKS, published in the NY Times, October 9, 2004.
Saddam Hussein saw his life as an unfolding epic narrative, with retreats and advances, but always the same ending. He would go down in history as the glorious Arab leader, as the Saladin of his day. One thousand years from now, schoolchildren would look back and marvel at the life of The Struggler, the great leader whose life was one of incessant strife, but who restored the greatness of the Arab nation.
They would look back and see the man who lived by his saying: "We will never lower our heads as long as we live, even if we have to destroy everybody." Charles Duelfer opened his report on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction with those words. For a humiliated people, Saddam would restore pride by any means.
Saddam knew the tools he would need to reshape history and establish his glory: weapons of mass destruction. These weapons had what Duelfer and his team called a "totemic" importance to him. With these weapons, Saddam had defeated the evil Persians. With these weapons he had crushed his internal opponents. With these weapons he would deter what he called the "Zionist octopus" in both Israel and America.
But in the 1990's, the world was arrayed against him to deprive him of these weapons. So Saddam, the clever one, The Struggler, undertook a tactical retreat. He would destroy the weapons while preserving his capacities to make them later. He would foil the inspectors and divide the international community. He would induce it to end the sanctions it had imposed to pen him in. Then, when the sanctions were lifted, he would reconstitute his weapons and emerge greater and mightier than before.
The world lacked what Saddam had: the long perspective. Saddam understood that what others see as a defeat or a setback can really be a glorious victory if it is seen in the context of the longer epic.
Saddam worked patiently to undermine the sanctions. He stored the corpses of babies in great piles, and then unveiled them all at once in great processions to illustrate the great humanitarian horrors of the sanctions.
Saddam personally made up a list of officials at the U.N., in France, in Russia and elsewhere who would be bribed. He sent out his oil ministers to curry favor with China, France, Turkey and Russia. He established illicit trading relations with Ukraine, Syria, North Korea and other nations to rebuild his arsenal.
It was all working. He acquired about $11 billion through illicit trading. He used the oil-for-food billions to build palaces. His oil minister was treated as a "rock star," as the report put it, at international events, so thick was the lust to trade with Iraq.
France, Russia, China and other nations lobbied to lift sanctions. Saddam was, as the Duelfer report noted, "palpably close" to ending sanctions.
With sanctions weakening and money flowing, he rebuilt his strength. He contacted W.M.D. scientists in Russia, Belarus, Bulgaria and elsewhere to enhance his technical knowledge base. He increased the funds for his nuclear scientists. He increased his military-industrial-complex's budget 40-fold between 1996 and 2002. He increased the number of technical research projects to 3,200 from 40. As Duelfer reports, "Prohibited goods and weapons were being shipped into Iraq with virtually no problem."
And that is where Duelfer's story ends. Duelfer makes clear on the very first page of his report that it is a story. It is a mistake and a distortion, he writes, to pick out a single frame of the movie and isolate it from the rest of the tale.
But that is exactly what has happened. I have never in my life seen a government report so distorted by partisan passions. The fact that Saddam had no W.M.D. in 2001 has been amply reported, but it's been isolated from the more important and complicated fact of Saddam's nature and intent.
But we know where things were headed. Sanctions would have been lifted. Saddam, rich, triumphant and unbalanced, would have reconstituted his W.M.D. Perhaps he would have joined a nuclear arms race with Iran. Perhaps he would have left it all to his pathological heir Qusay.
We can argue about what would have been the best way to depose Saddam, but this report makes it crystal clear that this insatiable tyrant needed to be deposed. He was the menace, and, as the world dithered, he was winning his struggle. He was on the verge of greatness. We would all now be living in his nightmare.

The Gollnisch Affair in France

Professor Christian Pihet had sent his reflections on the most recent case of Holocaust denial in France:

Dear Rafi,

I am well aware that presently in your country there is an important parliamentary debate about the Gaza strip and that the Gollnisch case is small talk compared to it. But I think that however it can highlight some of the worst aspects of the relationship between media and democracy.

In fact the Gollnisch case is a deliberate maneuver from some factions of the "National Front" to wipe out some of their opponents within the party. As you probably know, Le Pen is aging - now 76 - and the question of who will be the next leader in this party ( between 10 and 15 % of the vote) is not resolved. He favors his daughter, Marine, a young and bright attorney, which tries to get a modernist look and also tries to build bridges with the ruling Right-wing coalition.

But this apparent heir is deeply contested by the Gollnisch faction. Gollnisch , a somber intellectual, professor of Japanese studies at Lyon University has been for a long time the number 2. He is favored by die-hard extremists, very traditional Catholics and the Lyonese branch of the party - the second of importance in the country -

But he was not known as an antisemitic man...

He created deliberately the scandal. With the help of the media who are always looking for something new and spectacular. The TV amplified considerably the whole stuff.

But on a political point of view it looks as if behaving like an antisemitic is the key to get the party leadership in the future. In fact, he passed an exam in antisemitism.... and got it through. Marine Le Pen condemned at first these shocking assertions but after a while was obliged by his father to approve them... In fact the party activists, rank and file, are deeply antisemitic and only an approved antisemitic man can lead this party. This is my personal opinion about the whole thing. The Holocaust and its denial were used as a test to qualify for the party leadership...

To me the question is - why this denial work in this part of the French society?
I must tell you that 85 % of the French condemned the Gollnisch declaration -And more French are anti-Arab than antisemitic. But some components of our society are still mared by antisemitism. Historical tradition? Influence of Catholicism? Small farmers, shopkeepers, elderly people but also some intellectuals...

Anyway it works in the extreme fringe of the political right. And of course how to do to wipe these feelings from our national conscience?

I think it is a long way to go. In my opinion it could be wiped with two possible evolutions
- a deep consideration in Catholic circles about the historical impact of antijudaism (not antisemitism) and a reappraisal of the Jewish heritage in Catholicism, not only by learned clerics but by the mass of Catholics.
- a peace settlement in the Near East which will figure Israel as an ordinary state.

You know, the impact of the Middle East conflict is widely felt here in a country which is home to a significant Jewish community in the world ( roundly 700,000 ) and to an important Arabic population.


Democracy Fellowships
The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) invites applications to its Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program. Established in 2001 to enable activists, scholars, and journalists from around the world to deepen their understanding of democracy and enhance their ability to promote democratic change, the fellowship program is based at NED’s International Forum for Democratic Studies, in Washington, D.C.
Program: The program offers two tracks: a practitioner track (typically three to five months) to improve strategies and techniques for building democracy abroad and to exchange ideas and experiences with counterparts in the United States; and a scholarly track (typically five to ten months) to conduct original research for publication. Projects may focus on the political, social, economic, legal, and cultural aspects of democratic development and include a range of methodologies and approaches.
Eligibility: The Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program is intended primarily to support practitioners and scholars from new and aspiring democracies. Distinguished scholars from the United States and other established democracies are also eligible to apply. Practitioners are expected to have substantial experience working to promote democracy. Scholars are expected to have a doctorate, or academic equivalent, at the time of application. The program is not designed to support students working toward a degree. A working knowledge of English is an important prerequisite for participation in the program.
Support: The fellowship year begins October 1 and runs through July 31, with major entry dates in October and March. All fellows receive a monthly stipend, health insurance, travel assistance, and research support through the Forum’s Democracy Resource Center and Internship Program.
Application: For further details and instructions on how to apply, please download the “Information and Application Forms” booklet available online at or visit and follow the link to Fellowship Programs. Please note that all application materials must be type-written and in English.
Deadline: Applications for fellowships in 2005–2006 must be received no later than November 1, 2004. Notification of the competition outcome is in April 2005.
For questions, please contact:

Program Assistant, Fellowship Programs
National Endowment for Democracy
1101 15th Street, N.W., Suite 800
Washington, DC 20005
Tel.: (202) 293-0300
Fax: (202) 293-0258

Christopher Reeve

Christopher Reeve, age 52, a symbol of courage and determination, the cinematic Superman who became a real-life inspiration through his painstaking efforts to overcome total paralysis, while speaking out for stem-cell research and uncovering scientific potentials, died on 10 October.
Reeve acquired many fans throughout his life. In the first phase as The Superman; in the second phase as a victim of a riding accident that took place in 1995, accident that had left him paralyzed from the neck down. After briefly pondering suicide, Reeve had become a powerful proponent of causes ranging from insurance reform for catastrophic injuries to unleashing the possibilities many scientists believe lie in using embryonic stem cells for research. I became his fan in the second stage of his life.
Reeve was the major public proponent for stem-cell research, understanding the potential for people like him and in other tragic circumstances who lead their lives, day in, day out, in a constant struggle. Those of you who are still debating whom to elect, Bush or Kerry, should ponder also this issue in mind. Stem-cell research is the future of medicine. While Kerry is an advocate of expanding this research, of mobilizing more funds to accomplish science's potential, Bush has restricted funding for stem-cell research. Without adequate funding, his field will remain obscure and undeveloped.

Two Israelis Won Nobel Prize
Two Israeli professors at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa have won the Nobel prize in chemistry for 2004, along with a colleague from the University of California at Irvine.
Professors Avraham Hershko, 66, and Aharon Ciechanover, 56, won the prize with their American colleague, Irwin Rose, 78, for their work in the 1980s that discovered one of the cell's most important cyclical processes, regulated protein degradation, a central method in which cells destroy unwanted proteins.
In a statement they made in Haifa the two said that they believed their discoveries will assist in developing drugs for treating cancer. The three scientists uncovered a process that governs such key processes as cell division, DNA repair, maintaining quality control of newly produced proteins and functioning of the body's immune defenses.
The two scientists expressed their pride in being the first two Israelis to win Nobel prizes for science, and their satisfaction that their colleague at UC Irvine was also honored. The president of the Technion, Professor Yitzhak Apeloig, called their achievement a "diploma of pride and great satisfaction for Israeli science in general and the Technion in particular.

In a press conference, the two scientists cautioned against the state of Israel's education system. Since Sharon took power, the education system suffered from major cuts. The major victim were the universities whose budges were cut in the previous four years by some eighteen (18!) percent. The Education Minister, Limor Livnat, seems at times eager to destroy the achievements of higher education.
"Israel will always have limited resources so we have to focus on the important, innovative and ground breaking things," said Hershko, adding that "we couldn't do such things while the education system is collapsing." Ciechanover was sterner in his criticism: "Israel's academia is in a bad state. The Technion suffers badly from financial difficulties," adding that he envied the American universities' budgets. The winning of a Noble prize by Israelis was a rare event he said. "We don't have oil, uranium or diamonds. Israel depends on its academia. All we have - the Israel Defense Forces, Rafael [the Armament Development Authority] and the high-tech industry - depends on what we have in our heads," Ciechanover said. "Cutting off this head is an act of suicide". I hope Limor Livnat is listening. Although she detests the Israeli elite and made a point to fight against it, sometimes the elite has good things to offer.

Israel is not blessed with many Nobel laureates. Previously, S.Y. Agnon won the Nobel Prize in literature; Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres won the Peace Nobel Prize. A former Israeli, Daniel Kahneman, won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2002. Kahneman left Israel in 1978 and is presently Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology, Princeton University. He has been teaching at Princeton since 1993.

London Theatre
I recommend "Democracy" about politics in West Germany, 1969. Willy Brandt begins his brief but remarkable career as the first left-of-centre Chancellor for nearly forty years. Always present in his inner chamber but rarely noticed is Günter Guillaume, Brandt's devoted personal assistant - and no less devoted in his other role, spying on Brandt for the Stasi.
Another good play is "Journey's End" about the horror of war, this one is about WWI.
Both are recommended despite the lack of women on stage. In "Democracy" you hear about them constantly, ten pages of women; in the WWI trenches it's about men fragility and bravery.

Film Warning

Stay away from a film called, quite appropriately, "Trauma", unless you wish to sleep or to suffer. Question begs: How much did Collin Firth receive for participating in such inconceivable crap?

New Books

I recommend the following and urge you to order the books to your respective libraries:

Barry Rubin, Tragedy of the Middle East (Cambridge University Press, 2004).

Gregory Tardi, Law of Democratic Governing (Toronto: Carswell, 2004).

Stefan Braun, Democracy Off Balance: Freedom Of Expression And Hate Propaganda Law In Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004).

Neil L. Whitehead, Dark Shamans: Kanaima and the Poetics of Violent Death (Duke University Press, 2002).

With my very best wishes, as ever,


My last communications are available on http://almagor.blogspot.comEarlier posts at my home page: