Friday, December 21, 2007

Politics – December 2007

The scratch on the wall is just a scratch. Many scratches, however, may change the shape of the wall. Often many incremental steps rather than a single blow, bring about historical changes.

Raphael Cohen-Almagor

This was another sad month for Israeli education. While the teachers ended their strike on December 13, 2007, university lecturers continue their strike, leaving hundred of thousands of students at home.
The chairman of the Secondary School Teachers Association Ran Erez said: "we have achieved the reform we wanted for secondary school education and all the goals of our struggle," shortly after signing a deal ending a 55-day teachers' strike. Erez listed the achievements of the agreement reached with the Finance Ministry and the Education Ministry as the reduction of the number of students per class, the restoration of school hours previously cut, wage increases and pay for the 55 strike days, as well as "a long line of work conditions that we didn't make public."

In contrast to Erez' optimism, a Jerusalem strike activist and teacher said that the signed agreement was without teeth. "There is no big news here," he said anonymously. "It angers me that this is the outcome after two months of struggle. [The deal includes] two wage offers already received by the teachers, and rejected. We will study the deal's details and see how we can continue to fight for the things that are important to us."
According to the agreement, the teachers will receive an 8.5 percent wage increase in exchange for two weekly hours of private tutoring. In addition, the teachers will receive another 5 percent wage increase, in accordance with a Histadrut labor federation agreement, over the course of three years. In addition, a 4 percent salary increase to prevent the erosion of teachers' wages will be pushed up. It was also agreed that the number of students in every classroom will be reduced. These are significant achievements, but still the teachers receive far less than they deserve.

Annapolis - Ambassador Imad Moustapha - Human Rights in Israel - Academic Strike - UNESCO LAUNCHES WORLD PRESS FREEDOM PRIZE 2008 - Nazi Family Album - The Challenge of Islamists for EU and U.S. Policies: Conflict, Stability and Reform - Call for Papers-Special Issue: Global Warming, Governance, and the Law - New Books - Gem of the Month - Best Photos of 2006
Light Notes


The November Peace Index, conducted by Eppie Yaar and Tamar Herman, shows that despite the wide media coverage of the Annapolis conference and the prime minister’s proclamation that it marked a political turning point of historic importance, the Israeli Jewish public’s level of interest in the conference remained quite low; as in the period before the conference, the majority did not follow it with any regularity. Furthermore, notwithstanding the joint statement and the positive spirit in which the conference ended, the overall public assessment of its outcomes in terms of a basic clarification of the disagreements between Israel and the Palestinians, or advancing the chances of peace between them, tends in the negative direction. Many more in the public remained skeptical, or did not change their opinion about the chances of reaching a lasting peace with the Palestinians, than were encouraged by the event and became optimistic about the chances for peace. These findings reinforce my claim that we deserve better leaders. The question is: Where the hell are they?

A considerable majority of the Jewish public sees the Palestinians’ demand for an independent state as just and thinks Israel can allow itself to agree to the establishment of such a state. The source of the Jewish public’s skepticism and even pessimism is apparently the widespread expectation that a peace agreement based on “two states for two peoples” would not lead, for the Palestinians, to the end of their historic conflict with Israel. The distrust of the Palestinians’ intentions is also evident in the Jewish public’s clear, ongoing preference for a closed border that would not enable free passage from one side to the other even if the two-state solution was implemented. However, the Jewish public does not think this desirable solution is in reach; the prevailing view is that without the agreement of Hamas there is no chance of arriving at a peace agreement, and that the sides will have a hard time overcoming their disagreements on the core issues.

As always, I am thankful to Eppie for the information.

Amitai Etzioni reacted to my Annapolis piece by sending me the following, which I am pleased to publish.

Annapolis: A Speech Not Given
There follows an address that will not be delivered by President Bush at the Middle East peace talks in Annapolis, Maryland. After the proper tribute to the various dignitaries present and a reference to the importance of peace for the region and the world, the speech reads as follows:

"A Palestinian state, long overdue, can be born before the sun sets on this day. It must be a state that will live in peace and security with Israel. To proceed, several essential compromises, which I list immediately, must be reached. None of them will please either side--the sure sign of compromise. However, if each side will continue to seek advantages, the road to peace will never be traveled. I hence call on all sides to bring an end to the bloodshed and suffering and to embrace the following set of peace and state- building measures. The measures must be accepted as one, and there is no room for haggling about their composition. The United States and its allies are committed to do all they can to ensure that the terms of the following suggestions will be honored.

The borders between Israel and the Palestinian state will follow roughly along what is known as the green line. Because of security concerns and developments that cannot be reversed, the final border according to the attached map varies by less then ten percent (in terms of the territories encompassed) from the green line. In some cases, it turns over to the Palestinian state some towns and villages that are west of the green line (mainly comprised of Israeli Palestinians); in some cases it turns over to Israel some towns and villages that are east of the green line (mainly comprised of Jewish settlers); in few cases, it creates bi-national parks on the border. All in all, it requires both sides to make concessions, albeit not totally equally ones. A small tilt to Israel in this part of the measures for peace will be more than offset when we turn to the status of Jerusalem.

The barrier that separates the two states will be repositioned in line with the said map, but from now on it will be fully recognized as legal. It should be noted that once the sides learn to live in peace with each other, the barrier can be very readily removed and replaced by normal border markers used by most nations. Also, even as we speak, it should be noted that the barrier already has 96 gates that can be opened at will to the flow of people and goods.

Jerusalem will be the capital of both the state of Israel and of the Palestinian state. It will also ensure sovereign control of the holy sites to still other faiths. There are several neighborhoods in Jerusalem that Palestinians consider part of that city (such as the Shuafat refugee camp, Sawakhra, Walaje and other villages) but many in Israel --do not. These are parts in which many Palestinians live. These and some other areas, to be discussed, will be the location for the Palestinian capital. Sites that are holy to several religions will be granted a sovereign status, comparable to the Vatican in Rome. Their guardians--for instance Saudi Arabia for the Al Aqsa mosque, and the Greek Orthodox Church for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre--will watch over these places and neither the police nor the armies of the state of Israel nor the Palestinian state will enter these turfs unless clear evidence is presented to the international community that they are being used to harbor terrorists and weapons.

The right of return
All the Palestinians that have left Israel in 1948 have a right to return to their homes and lands or be properly compensated for their loss. No distinction will be made among those who left voluntarily, were chased out, and those who sought to return after the war and occupy their Jewish neighbors' house. However, these rights will be balanced by rights of Jews who left Arab countries, such as Iraq and Egypt, and other Muslim ones such as Iran. No distinctions will be made among those who left voluntarily, were chased out, or just sought to better their economic state. Hence the right to return will be enacted for the net numbers involved.

In closing
There are numerous details that must be worked out. Not least is how to ensure that the new Palestinian state will not allow a terrorist group such as Hezbollah to use its territories to accumulate heavy weapons and fighters bent on the destruction of Israel. However, for now I call on all sides to accept a compromise that will satisfy neither, but will allow the bloodshed and suffering of good people to end, for each to have a state of their own, and for them to learn to live together in peace and prosperity."
Amitai Etzioni is Professor of International Relations at The George Washington University and the author of Security First: For A Muscular, Moral Foreign Policy (Yale, 2007).

Ambassador Imad Moustapha

On December 17, 2007 the Ambassador of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United States, Mr. Imad Moustapha, came to the Wilson Center to speak on U.S., Syria and the old new Middle East: Confrontation or Cooperation?

I asked him three questions: Syrian relationships with North Korea; Syrian relations with terrorist organizations, first and foremost Hamas, and Syrian interference in Lebanon. Here is what he had to say:

There are no nuclear projects in Syria. There are no Syrian-North Korean nuclear relationships. If you (i.e. RCA) refer to the absurd story of the Israeli bombardment of an alleged nuclear plant in Syria, this is just media hype, similar to the fabricated allegations regarding nuclear weapons in Iraq.

As for Khaled Mashaal: Israel kicked him out from Palestine. He then moved to Jordan, and from Jordan he found a home in Syria. He is a Palestinian. We Syrians did not invite him to Syria, but Mashaal needs a home. We cannot just kick him to the sea. He is an equal human being. There are half a million Palestinians residing in Syria. If Israel will open its gates to resettle them in Palestine, by all means. Until then, they all are entitled to live in Syria.

Syria recognizes Lebanon as a sovereign, independent state. Syria withdrew from Lebanon. Ambassador Moustapha hopes this will give a good example for other occupying countries, like Israel and the USA. But then, Ambassador Moustapha maintained, there is no comparison between the Israeli and American occupations to the so-called occupation of Lebanon by Syria. He did not elaborate why there are no grounds for comparison. He continued that if I (your humble servant) refer to the Hariri’s assassination, Syria cooperates fully with the largest murder investigation in history. This is a terrible crime, and Syria is interested to find the people responsible for the assassination. This, you will agree, is most reassuring.

At the same time, it was interesting to read a few days later, on December 19, 2007, President Nicolas Sarkozy saying: "I have reached the end of the road with [Syrian President Bashar] Assad. Words alone won't suffice, I want actions". (“Sarkozy loses patience with Assad”, The Jerusalem Post).

France has grown increasingly impatient with Syria, particularity over its intervention in Lebanese politics and its alleged involvement in political assassinations in the country.

Sarkozy spoke with Assad on several occasions recently in order to bring about a solution to the crisis over the Lebanese presidency, but it appears that his patience is now wearing thin. "I spoke to him three times recently and I spoke with him clearly and honestly," said Sarkozy. "I took the risk and spoke with him when no one else would," Asharq Alawsat quoted the French president as saying.
Sarkozy continued: "I took the initiative and said to him: 'Lebanon has a right to have an autonomous president who will have a national unity government. You must use all the means and abilities at your disposal to influence the attainment of this goal!'"

"But I am telling you," he was quoted by the London-based newspaper as saying. "I have reached the end of the road with Assad. Now words will not suffice, I want actions." Sarkozy added that Assad's last chance would be on Saturday, the latest deadline set for the Lebanese parliament to elect the next president. He said the last time he spoke with Assad was on Sunday.

The French president also pointed an accusing finger at Hezbullah. "The obstacles are tied with Hizbullah that wants the country's opposition to have the ability to thwart any decision that it doesn't agree with."

Answering other questions, Ambassador Moustapha said that the Golan heights territory is part and parcel of Syrian territory. It is recognized “by the whole world” as Syrian territory. He maintained that Syria believes in the formula “land for peace”. Once Israel withdraws from all occupied territories: The West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights, and South Lebanon, the road to normalization between Israel and Arab states will be paved. It was quite clear from his words that resolving the Palestinian issue is a precondition for peace negotiation between Israel and Syria, and that Syria will not settle for less than 100 percent of the occupied Golan.

Ambassador Moustapha explains that Syria is wishing to regain its territory through peace negotiations, not through war. He believes that peace is inevitable. Israel will realize that it cannot depend on sheer military superiority to maintain its brutal occupation. Israel understood this more clearly in the summer of 2006, when it was unable to break the Hezbullah. The only solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is for Israel give land for peace.

Ambassador Moustapha also said that Syria receives invitations to secret peace negotiations with Israel. He clarified Syria has nothing to hide. Peace negotiations should be a public event behind close doors. Syria believes in track-1 diplomacy.

Ambassador Moustapha also advised the audience, and the US at large, that Hamas is the democratically elected party of the Palestinian people. Calling Hamas “terrorist organization” and other negative terms does not help. This is not constructive. He maintained that Syria considers Israel to be a terrorist state. Possibly, to his mind, this is constructive.

Human Rights in Israel

I thank Dan Yakir of the Association for Civil Rights for sending me the following:

Each year, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) publishes a report on the state of human rights. This year’s report, published to coincide with International Human Rights Day on December 10, provides a survey of the human rights situation in 2007 in Israel and the Occupied Territories. Through the report, ACRI wishes to draw attention to the most flagrant human rights violations, note positive trends and developments, and trace significant human rights-related processes that affect Israeli citizens and residents. In preparing the report, we relied on a variety of information sources, including: government publications; NGO reports; newspaper articles; parliamentary documents; and court litigation.

The principal infringements of human rights stem from the policies and actions of government authorities, which either fail to protect rights or violate them directly. The “blanket” of rights that the State is supposed to ensure for all individuals is steadily shrinking, leaving more room for rights violations and exposing more people to human rights infringements, often those who belong to the periphery. In light of this worrying situation and the negative impact it has on the fabric of society, the continued silence of the Israeli public concerning human rights violations is deafening. ACRI's aim in publishing this report – and sharing its contents and their significance with decision-makers, the media, and the general public – is to reduce the disparity between the importance of human rights (to every man and woman, to democracy, and to society) and the place afforded them by the Israeli public.

In recent years, we have witnessed a growing trend toward unequal access to health services and the evolution of two separate health systems that are fundamentally different in terms of quality – one for the wealthy and the other for the poor. Public medicine is on a downward spiral that threatens to erode social solidarity.

Fear, stereotyping, and delegitimization characterize the Jewish majority's relations with the Arab minority in Israel. These attitudes are reflected, in part, by racist legislation and draft legislation, by the "special treatment" that Arab citizens receive at airports, and by attempts to limit the right of Palestinian citizens of Israel to participate equally in political life and express their views, collective identity, collective memory, and shared vision.

We have chosen to devote special attention in this report to two populations that are rarely in the public spotlight: the residents of East Jerusalem, whose dire living conditions are the result of deliberate policies that have perpetuated neglect and discrimination for the past 40 years; and the Bedouin residents of the unrecognized villages in the Negev, who are subject to continued discrimination in planning and land issues, and who faced a particularly harsh policy of house demolitions during the past year.

Phenomena that characterize trafficking in persons – such as "binding" workers to a single employer and demanding that they pay brokerage fees – still prevail. Regulations and procedures for formalizing the legal status of foreign spouses, parents, and children of Israeli citizens remain, for the most part, shrouded in fog. While there have been a number of improvements in regulations concerning acquiring status in Israel, immigration policies toward non-Jews have stiffened. The “temporary” ban on granting legal status in Israel to Palestinian spouses of Israeli citizens and residents has been in effect for more than five years. The considerable rise in the number of refugees arriving in Israel (mainly through Egypt) in the past year was accompanied by the government’s increasing evasion of its moral and legal obligations toward refugees and asylum-seekers.

The continuing violations of human rights in the Occupied Territories are described in ACRI’s reports year after year. The reality of life in the Occupied Territories means that even the most fundamental rights are not guaranteed. This year's report highlights restrictions on freedom of movement, which render it almost impossible for West Bank residents to maintain an ordinary day-to-day life; the situation in Hebron, a microcosm of all the violations brought about by the ongoing occupation, the settlements, and Israeli policies in the Occupied Territories; and the dire situation in Gaza, primarily focusing on the consequences of Israel's decision to close the crossings to and from the area in response to the take-over by Hamas.

There were encouraging developments this year regarding the rights of workers and job-seekers. It appears that efforts to raise public awareness about the exploitation of contracted workers, together with the public pressure that followed, finally prompted the government to take responsibility – as both the country's largest employer of contracted workers and as the authority charged with enforcing employment laws. We hope that the momentum of the important developments during the past year will continue so that contracted workers will be able to work with dignity. Harsh public criticism was also effective in bringing about a reassessment of the welfare-to-work plan (also known as the "Wisconsin Plan") and introducing fundamental changes to its implementation.

In the field of criminal justice, it is important to note on the one hand the enactment of new legislation that prohibits imposing prison sentences on unrepresented defendants. On the other hand, the right of a person to be present at hearings concerning his or her case is being eroded.

Technological developments have advanced freedom of expression and information, but also raise dilemmas and conflicts between these rights and other rights and interests. The primary danger stems from the harmful use of databases and the Internet to invade the privacy of workers (by their employers) and citizens (by government authorities), which present new threats to the right to privacy that even the fertile imagination of George Orwell could not have envisioned.

All of these topics, and more, are addressed in the following report. To find out more, please visit ACRI’s Web site (

Academic Strike

University lecturers continue their strike, leaving hundred of thousands of students at home. The semester, which did not open, might be cancelled. The Minister of Finance is unmoved. Lecturers are struggling as their salaries are not paid in full. Many take loans in order to support their families. This month has been one of the lowest points in Israel’s high education.

SHABAC Launches its Internet site


Organisations working in the field of journalism and freedom of expression are invited to submit nominations for the 2008 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.

The US$25,000 award honours a journalist or organisation that has made a notable contribution to the defence and promotion of press freedom anywhere in the world, especially if this involved risk.
Named after the Colombian journalist who was killed 20 years ago for criticising the country's drug lords, the award is presented each year on World Press Freedom Day, 3 May.
Organisations can nominate a maximum of three candidates. Self-nominations are not accepted.
The deadline for submissions is 30 January 2008.

Download a nomination form here:

For more information, visit:

The Challenge of Islamists for EU and U.S. Policies: Conflict, Stability and Reform
The US Institute of Peace Report is now available at

CALL FOR PAPERS - Special Issue: Global Warming, Governance, and the Law

Fiona Haines, Nancy Reichman, and Colin Scott, as editors of Law & Policy, are bringing together a series of papers on the legal and policy issues around global warming. We are interested in papers in all areas of law and policy related to climate change from any relevant academic discipline including:
Global warming and redress through the civil law
Measures for redress for vulnerable island nations: Is there a role for naming, shaming and blaming?
Reducing emissions: the role of non-governmental actors and the private sector
The politics of the name: global warming vs. climate change
Comparative analyses of policy measures both within the industrialized world, but also within the industrializing regions of Central and South America and Asia
Moral persuasion and the global warming debate: Is there traction beyond economic interest?
Playing the politics of uncertainty: Do policy arena and place make a difference?
Global environmental governance/leadership and global warming: Is the call for global governance the likely way forward?
Dealing in reality: policies and challenges in responding to climate change and its affect on local populations
The list above is not exhaustive and we welcome papers and ideas from other areas of relevance. Our goal is to disseminate scholarship of the highest academic standard that can shed light on the multiple legal and policy challenges and opportunities posed by both the human impact on climate change and the growing need to respond to changes in climate being felt across the globe. Our aim is to showcase work that sheds critical insight on policy approaches that can bring together disparate actors at a range of levels (international, national, and local) while also providing the possibility for significant and swift improvements at the local level. We welcome scholarship from both specialists and non-specialists in the area of climate change.

INTERESTED IN SENDING US A PAPER?Email us:Nancy Reichman Fiona Haines Colin Scott
Law & Policy journal information:

New Books

The Oxford Handbooks of Political Science (Oxford University Press, 2007),

consists of ten volumes on political behaviour, political theory, public policy, political institutions, international relations, political economy, political analysis, political methodology, law and politics and comparative politics. Congratulations to Bob Goodin, General Editor of this important resource.

European Immigration: A Sourcebook / Anna Triandafyllidou and Ruby Gropas (Ashgate, 2007). ISBN: 0 7546 4894 X Publication Date: 12/2007Number of Pages: c. 400 p.

This innovative volume provides a comprehensive overview of the immigration situation in all 25 EU countries. Each chapter is written by a national expert and follows a common structure, allowing direct comparisons to be made between countries. Chapters provide a clear focus in terms of the methods used, data collected, literature reviewed and research questions addressed, and draw on hard-to-obtain material, including sources not previously published in English. Each chapter concludes with a critical assessment of the present migration situation of the country in question and its future prospects. Substantive introductory and concluding chapters offer a general overview of immigration in Europe, which complements and contextualizes the analytical and comparative insights of the individual countries.
The first reference volume to provide comprehensive coverage of the EU, European Immigration will be an essential addition to library collections and to individual scholars and policy makers in the field.

Contents: Introduction, Anna Triandafyllidou, Ruby Gropas and Dita Vogel;

Austria, Albert Kraler and Karin Sohler;

Belgium, Hassan Bousetta, Sonia Gsir and Dirk Jacobs;

Cyprus, Nicos Trimikliniotis and Corina Demetriou; Czech Republic, Jan Cernik;

Denmark, Marco Goli and Shahamak Rezaei; Estonia, Mikko Lagerspetz;

Finland, Silvain Sagne, Sanna Saskela and Niklas Wilhelmsson; France, Ulrike Schuerkens;

Germany, Norbert Cyrus and Dita Vogel; Greece, Ruby Gropas and Anna Triandafyllidou;

Hungary, András Kováts and Endre Sik; Ireland, Abel Ugba;

Italy, Ankica Kosic and Anna Triandafyllidou;

Latvia, Inese Šupule; Lithuania, Rita Zukauskiene; Luxembourg, Serge Kollwelter;

Malta, Katia Amore; The Netherlands, Jessika ter Wal; Poland, Krystyna Iglicka;

Portugal, Ana Teixeira and Rosana Albuquerque; Slovakia, Boris Divinský;

Slovenia, Svetlozar A. Andreev; Spain, Carmen González Enríquez; Sweden, Miguel Benito; United Kingdom, Franck Düvell;

Concluding remarks, Ruby Gropas and Anna Triandafyllidou;


The Globalization of Bioethics. Commentary on the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights,

edited by Prof Fabrizio Turoldo, has just been published in Italian.


Bioethics is experiencing a profound process of transformation. It is a discipline which in some way can be associated with the 1970s of the previous century and has as its objective the consideration of the ethical implications of the use of new biomedical technologies, whether it be in the field of research or that of clinical medicine. For this reason the discipline originally developed in the more technologically advanced countries, which felt the ever more urgent need to deal with such problems. Poorer and less technologically advanced countries did not feel the same urgent necessity to affront the ethical questions arising from the use of sophisticated instruments in intensive-care units, or those arising from in vitro fertilization techniques. Today, in contrast with the past, we are witnessing the participation of less technologically developed countries in the field of bioethics. These countries force the experts to address new questions, such as the allocation of health resources on a global scale, the issue of justice in the health sector, and the regulation of experiments conducted in third countries. Such globalization of bioethics is without doubt facilitated by international organizations such as UNESCO, which has set up two bioethics committees made up of representatives from numerous countries of various continents. Furthermore UNESCO has approved various documents on the subject of bioethics, the most important of which is, due to its numerous possible applications, the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights, unanimously approved 19 October 2005 by the 33rd Session of the UNESCO General Conference. It is therefore with this document as a starting point that a series of authoritative voices in international bioethics, representing various countries and continents, reflect on the phenomenon of the globalization of bioethics.

Foreword (Antonio Papisca) Introduction (Fabrizio Turoldo)

Section One - General Background:
- The UNESCO Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights. Towards global bioethics. (Henk ten Have)
- Global Bioethics at UNESCO. A defense of the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights. (Roberto Andorno)
- The UNESCO Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights. The political-diplomatic way forward. (Gonzalo Miranda)
- Brief history of the genesis of the Declaration: values and principles strengthened, new perspectives and shortcomings. (Adriano Bompiani)
- The Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights and International law. (Paolo De Stefani)

Section Two - The principles and values of the Declaration:
- The issue of vulnerability. Reflections on the UNESCO Declaration. (Dietrich von Engelhardt)
- The principle of autonomy in the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights. (Maurizio Mori)
- Human dignity as a supreme principle in bioethics. (Jude Ibegbu)

Section Three - Problems of bioethics in developing countries:
- The impact of the UNESCO Declaration on Asian and global bioethics. (Alizera Bagheri)
- The problem of allocating health resources. The African case. (Giovanni Putoto)
- Bio-social aspects of modern high-technology medicine. A comparison between Africa and the industrialized West. (Nereo Zamperetti)

Fabrizio Turoldo (editor), The Globalization of Bioethics. Commentary on the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights, Fondazione Lanza - Gregoriana Libreria Editrice, Padova 2007, pp. 300, ISBN 88-7706-213-4, Euro 22,00.

The book is currently available in the Italian language only.
For more information please contact Prof Fabrizio Turoldo:

Gem of the Month

This was the annual talent show at the Woodrow Wilson.

It started with lunch. All people at the Center sat at tables and enjoyed the fine cuisine. We had duck, in case you need to know. Lee Hamilton and Mike van Dussen addressed the public. We then moved to the packed auditorium. The Master of Ceremonies, associate director of the Asia Division, opened with a sharp comic monologue before inviting to the stage the in-house talents. The director of the Congress Division sang and played the Ukelele. One Fellow from Pakistan played the Sitar. We also had a wonderful singer, a violinist, a guitarist, two who played the flute, and a group of young singers “The Lee Hamiltones”, who sang “Mrs. Robinson” with new lyrics, addressing the Center’s concerns.

The event ended with a dessert reception. Scary. So many inviting calories on inviting tables.

This was a wonderful 4-hour event. I encourage all places of work to adopt this idea.

I was invited to read my poetry. I thank Maria-Steall Gatzoulis for reading the English translation. Infra is one of the poems, from my newly published Voyages (Jerusalem: Carmel, 2007, Hebrew):

The Academician

13 August 2000
St. Petersburg

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Photos of 2006

Are on file with me. I am not sending them as some subscribers are not interested. Those wishing to see them are welcome to contact me and I’ll be happy to send them along.

Light Notes

The following are actual excerpts from classified sections of American newspapers:

Illiterate? Write today for free help.

Auto Repair Service. Free pick-up and delivery. Try us once, you'll never go anywhere again.

Our experienced Mom will care for your child. Fenced yard, meals, and smacks included.

Dog for sale: eats anything and is fond of children.

Man wanted to work in dynamite factory. Must be willing to travel.

Stock up and save. Limit: one.

Semi-Annual after-Christmas Sale.

3-year old teacher needed for pre-school. Experience preferred.

Girl wanted to assist magician in cutting-off-head illusion.

Dinner Special -- Turkey $2.35; Chicken or Beef $2.25; Children $2.00.

For sale: antique desk suitable for lady with thick legs and large drawers.

Now is your chance to have your ears pierced and get an extra pair to take home, too.

We do not tear your clothing with machinery. We do it carefully by hand.

Toaster: A gift that every member of the family appreciates. Automatically burns toast.

With my very best wishes for this happy, festive season. Wishing you a wonderful year filled with beautiful memories, loving sentiments, new beginnings, exciting opportunities, and inspiring events.

Healthy, Successful and Productive 2008!!!

Yours as ever,


My last communications are available on
Earlier posts at my home page: <>

People wishing to subscribe to this Monthly Newsletter are welcome to e-mail me at

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Politics – November 2007

"We need one authority, one law and one democratic and national decision that applies to us all." Abu Mazen, April 29, 2003

Both the Palestinians and the Israelis need to restore hope in themselves and trust in one another in order to ride the peace wagon.

Raphael Cohen-Almagor

This was a sad month for Israeli education. The teachers continue their strike, leaving hundred of thousands of young students at home for more than a month. University lecturers continue their strike, leaving hundred of thousands of older students at home for more than a month. Teachers and lecturers ask for justified raise in their salaries. They cannot continue working in such a shameful condition, unable to support their families with the ridiculous pay slips they bring home. The Ministry of Finance, guarding the public purse, is unmoved. So is the prime minister. He sees the scenes, hears the voices, yet expresses "complete confidence" in his unfortunate appointment to Minister of Finance, Ronny Bar-On, whose greatest virtue is his loyalty to Olmert, to bring an end to both strikes. This is called "leadership" in Israel today.

Previous strikes showed that it was the prime minister who joined the negotiations, said enough is enough as millions of people are suffering as a result of kids not going to school, academic institutions empty, and pressed hard for white smoke to emerge. This prime minister has poor knowledge of history, and a poor concept of social responsibility. This, however, is hardly news.

The truth is that Olmert is extremely busy: Between the time dedicated to Annapolis, and the time dedicated to his lawyers to put him off the hook as the corruption investigations against him proceed according to plan (at this point, it looks as if Olmert will stand trial at least on one count of receiving "favours" from a prominent businessman), he apparently has no time to see that Israeli students receive the education they deserve.

And this is the guy who goes to Annapolis to bring us peace. People are allowed to dream.

The Palestinians and Their Politics
Expansion of Settlements
Carnegie’s Arab Reform BulletinCorruption in Israel – And the Winner Is
German Moral Duty and the Iranian Threat
Academic Strike in Israel
Up in Smoke: Asia and the Pacific
Good News from China
Chinese Journalist Wins Golden Pen of Freedom
New Articles
New Books
Thank You
Novel Recommendation
Gem of the Month - Bruce Springsteen
Monthly Joke


Here are my first reflections on the summit:

I believe that every meeting is important. If you wish to build relationships, you need to meet and invest. How significant this meeting was, time will tell. But Israelis and Palestinians should meet as much as possible in order to know one another, understand one another, and resolve differences.
The fact that forty nine countries and international organizations arrived is testimony to the influence of the US in the world. Continuity is important. These countries should be present in the peace building process not only in Annapolis.
All three speeches: Abu Mazen, Olmert and Bush were positive. I don’t doubt Abu Mazen’s sincerity. I hope that he is able to deliver.

The most striking element in the summit was the absence of the Hamas. Radicals tend to dictate the move of things, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is no different. We should not forget that the Hamas enjoys wide Palestinian support, and that it is committed as ever to violence and the destruction of Israel. Israel must insist on security. The Palestinians must insist on ending the occupation. Are these musts reconcilable?

The writing on the wall is clear. When the dust will finally cover the rivers of blood, and the ground will remain stable under Palestinian and Israeli feet, I would be surprised if the following will NOT take place:
The end of occupation
Two (or more) state solution
Palestinian waters and other energy resources in Palestinian hands
Division of Jerusalem along the formula: What is Jewish will remain in Jewish hands, what is Palestinian will constitute the Palestinian capital
Potential return of Palestinian refugees to Palestine, and compensation to those who fled from present Israel and wish to remain outside Palestine.

The tough remaining issues -- exact delineation of borders; evacuation of settlements; The Temple Mount; end of terrorism; Israeli and Palestinian security -- will dictate when the dust will settle down. They are solvable with good will, trust, and good faith of both parties. They are impossible when good will, trust, and good faith are lacking.

Annapolis is yet another step in the right direction. We should not take anything for granted. Remember that until 1993 Israel did not recognize the PLO. Remember that many Israeli leaders dreaded meeting and shaking hands with the arch-terrorist Arafat. Remember that we have a prime minister and president that are willing to meet on a regular basis, once in fortnight, in a combined and what seems to be a sincere effort to bring peace to their peoples during their lifetime. These are important developments that should not be underestimated. The road, however, is long and thorny.

The Palestinians and Their Politics

On October 29, 2007, the Woodrow Wilson Center hosted a session on “The Palestinians and Their Politics”. It featured Mustafa Barghouti, Founder and Director of the Health, Development, Information and Policy Institute (HDIP), and former Palestinian Information Minister; Yezid Sayigh, Professor, King's College London; Khalil Shikaki, Director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, and Senior Research Fellow, Crown Center for Middle East Studies, Brandeis University. Robert Malley, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program, International Crisis Group introduced the speakers, and Aaron David Miller, Public Policy Scholar, Woodrow Wilson Center, moderated the discussion. It was a most depressing event. None of the three was hopeful about the peace prospects. None is trustful of Israel. How can you build any form of positive relationship, not to mention peace, without these two ingredients?

All of the speakers painted a bleak portrait of the current Palestinian situation, caused by a weakened political system and failed Palestinian and Israeli policies. While Khalil Shikaki reported a decline in support for Hamas, this could be reversed if Israel continues to adopt policies harmful to the Gazan civilian population. Like many people in the Israeli public, including myself, the speakers were quite pessimistic about the prospects of the Annapolis meeting (Sayigh said he frankly did not think about the meeting), and recognized that a failure would be detrimental to Fatah.

Yezid Sayigh asserted that the Palestinian political system is broken and cannot be put back together again. Sayigh attributes this state of disrepair to three main factors. First, Fatah-Hamas politics are dysfunctional. Hamas has unraveled everything that Fatah had achieved and thus contributed to the worsening of the Palestinian strategic position, while remaining unable to offer substantive solutions. Second, Palestine has the conditions of a failed state. Institutions are ineffective and violence is constant. Third, the international community has been attempting to maintain the status quo by injecting massive aid to the Palestinians devoted solely to humanitarian relief. As a result, the people are chronically dependent and the economy has become increasingly fragmented and dysfunctional. This is a degenerative condition rather a reconstituting one.

The result is also that the peace process is broken and it would be very difficult to reach any agreement between Israel and the Palestinians in the near future. Abu Mazen lacks the capacity to deliver, Hamas has other objectives in mind, i.e. the destruction of Israel, and Israel does everything to interfere, in negative ways, in Palestinian affairs. The occupation continues to plant destruction and hatred everywhere.

In the late 1990s I debated Sayigh upon the invitation of the Oxford Quaker Society. Then the articulate Sayigh was highly critical of Israel. Now he is critical of Fatah and Hamas almost to the same extent that he is critical of Israel.

Khalil Shikaki, a pollster I learned to respect, focused on Palestinian public opinion. He said that we now have two governments, one in Gaza, another in Ramallah, but no state. The economy in Gaza is destroyed both by Israel and Fatah, aiming to destabilize Hamas. Hamas is able to assert order in Gaza. Shikaki emphasized "order, not law". The public at large blames Hamas for the misery of Palestinians in Gaza. However, whenever Israel interferes negatively in the life of Gazans, Hamas' popularity rises. For instance, rationing of gas and electricity by Israel in Gaza plays to the hands of Hamas and helps Hamas gain the high moral ground.

Public opinion on the peace process, according to Shikaki, is shaped by a cost-benefit calculation. In theory, almost 80% of Palestinians prefer a comprehensive settlement; however, when they consider the cost of such a settlement, support drops to 55-45%. Conversely, an interim settlement in theory only has the support of about half the Palestinian population but when cost is factored in, support jumps to about two-thirds. The third option, that of a forced Israeli withdrawal through a resort to violence is the most popular, mustering the support of two-thirds to three-quarters of the Palestinians. In this context, one may recall Marwan Baghouti’s statement, made on March 4, 2000: “Whoever thinks it is possible to resolve issues such as the refugees, Jerusalem, the settlements and the borders through negotiations is under a delusion”. The public is willing to pay the price in blood for the withdrawal of Israel from the occupied territories as long as it believes that this option is working successfully. As for public opinion regarding Hamas and Fatah, a major change transpired in June, 2007, with the Hamas takeover of Gaza. At least 10% of the public has moved from the sidelines to support Fatah. Marwan Barghuti remains a very popular figure in Palestine.

Shikaki also found that the public is pessimistic about the prospect for peace with the Israel, does not believe that they will attain statehood within the next 5 years and does not believe that the split between Hamas and Fatah is temporary. If the upcoming Annapolis meeting is not successful, Shikaki believes that Abu Mazen will have no alternative but to go to Hamas and accept its conditions, or else strengthen his hold on the West Bank and further entrench the divide between the West Bank and Gaza.

Mustafa Barghouti was the most critical voice of Israel. Between Abu Mazen and Hamas, Barghouti sounds like the other Barghouti just before he was captured and put behind bars in a secured Israeli jail. Mustafa Barghouti offers an alternative to the two rival powers, i.e., himself. The biography circulated to the audience mentioned that he came second to Abu Mazen in the last presidential elections… Now, people who may opt to adhere to his views are likely to prefer the original, Hamas, rather than vote for him. The Hamas’ ability to carry out the anti-Israeli agenda far exceeds Barghouti’s ability. They surely prefer Marwan Barghouti.

Mustafa Barghouti spoke of the creation of two autocracies, one in Ramallah, the other in Gaza. He believes that the demise of the peace process resulted from the failure of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority to promote an agenda of reform and build state institutions, and from the Israeli approach of pursuing interim agreements, which he believes fostered distrust. Barghouti claims that Israel continues the expansion of settlements without interference, and that since the start of the Oslo process in 1993 Israel increased the settlements by size and population by 100%. I wonder whether these figures are correct.

According to Barghouti, a combination of nepotism and bad policy undermined the Fatah government. The Palestinians responded to these failures with democratic change. The international community failed to recognize the historical opportunity presented by the national unity government, which was democratic, represented 96% of the Palestinian electorate, and was committed to a two state solution, the suspension of violence and international law. Supporting this government could have led to governmental reform, the strengthening of moderate elements within Hamas, and a real chance for peace. Currently, Fatah has been marginalized while extremist trends within Hamas have been strengthened.

The Annapolis meeting can only succeed in Barghouti’s view if the Israelis meet 4 conditions: there is a complete freeze on settlements; they stop construction of the wall; they no longer consider Gaza a hostile state and they negotiate final status issues with a clear timetable for implementation. As long as there is a unified Palestinian camp with democracy in place, Israel may face tougher negotiations but it will get a lasting agreement.

Palestine and Israel deserve different sort of politicians, those who believe in peace and who are willing to pay a genuine price for peace, leaders who can bring a more positive message and envisage a realistic solution for the two people. The old Marwan Barghouti who spoke to Israelis about a two-state solution could be an option. But last I heard him he sounded like Mustafa, even worse.

Both Palestinians and Israelis have a bleak view of the future. The deadlock seems stronger than ever. Interestingly, alongside the proposal of a two-state solution, another alternative emerges: A three-state solution. Half of the Palestinian public, according to Shikaki, believes that the split between Gaza and the West Bank is here to stay.

The three speakers portrayed the struggle between Palestine and Israel as the struggle between David and Goliath. The Palestinians are poor, weak, fragmented, relying on outside powers. Israel is an omnipotent, imperialist, brutal occupier. None of the three speakers mentioned the words "terror", "Kassams", "suicide bombers". These are insignificant compared with Israel's might. I presume the three speakers have little idea about how this "minor" issue of terrorism is perceived by the Israeli public, how unsettling and destructive it is in Israeli eyes, how important this issue is as a precondition to the building of trust, of security, of peace, of normal life.

Barghouti mentioned that more than 30% of the Palestinian budget is devoted to "security". He did not say security against whom. He did say that Israel should not expect the Palestinian government to establish security, not realizing that as long this is the case Israel has no interest to recognize Palestine as a state. Sovereign states are expected to establish security, to keep law and order, safe borders and life free from terror. Palestinian leaders cannot wash their hands and say: "We have nothing to do with terrorism, and we are unable to control it. Anyway, you Israel are so mighty, and surely terror does not undermine your might. You can withstand it." If you cannot control your own people, don't expect to be granted responsibilities you do not deserve.

Expansion of Settlements

Trust is a mutual thing. It is difficult to build trust when the discrepancy between speech and actions is striking. Ehud Olmert cannot and should not speak the language of peace and at the same time, on the ground, undermine peace efforts.
In a report covering the period from May to October 2007, Peace Now said construction is underway in 88 settlements, ranging from single buildings to the development of hundreds of housing units.

Citing government statistics published in June, the group said the number of settlers in the West Bank has reached 267,500, an annual growth of 5.8 percent, versus 1.8 percent growth within Israel during the same period: "This means that the growth of settlements is much more than the 'natural growth' and includes massive migration of settlers to the West Bank," the report said.

In the past Israel has insisted it will limit settlements to "natural growth" but the report says a new 600-unit ultra-Orthodox Jewish housing community was being added to Givat Zeev settlement, northwest of Jerusalem.

The group also found new construction in 34 of 105 "outpost" settlements, charging that settlers have started constructing trailer home "caravans" on site to avoid bans on transporting them without permits.

The report also refers to the construction of the controversial E-1 road, which Israel says is intended to facilitate Palestinian movement but which Palestinians charge is part of a larger project to split the West Bank in half.


Carnegie’s Arab Reform Bulletin

November 2007, Vol. 5, Issue 9
Michele Dunne, Editor
Salma Waheedi, Assistant Editor

To read the full online version of the Arab Reform Bulletin or to download the PDF, go to: and Analysis
Interview with Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and leader of the Independent Palestine blocAn independent parliamentarian and civil society leader gives his views on the current situation and the narrow opportunity for negotiations.
Gaza: Life under Hamas Rule Taghreed El-KhodaryBeyond the headlines, how has daily life changed since Hamas took over?
West Bank: Governance since the Split Charles LevinsonThe government appointed by President Abbas faces heavy challenges--and also is damaging Palestinian democracy.
Palestine: A Look at the Economic Future Mohammed SamhouriEconomic problems are rooted in--and perpetuated by--a disastrous political situation.Palestinian Authority Reform: Role of the International Community Keir PrinceCan the international community admit its mistakes and adopt a new approach?
Read OnA review of major recent publications on Palestine, as well as new publications on Egypt, Iraq, Syria, human rights, economic reform, the impact of outside powers, and more.
Subscriber Information To receive the Arab Reform Bulletin via e-mail every month, to unsubscribe, or to subscribe to the Arabic edition visit: the Arabic edition of this issue of the Arab Reform Bulletin at

Corruption in Israel – And the Winner Is

The Sderot Conference for Social and Economic Policy presented on November 7, 2007 its annual corruption survey. It was published the same day by Ynet. Some government we have, and the prime minister, as expected, was leading by example.

At the top of the corruption list was Ehud Olmert: Fifty-six percent said they believed he was corrupt. Second was former Finance Minister Abraham Hirschson, with 56% of the votes. Hirschson was forced to resign and awaits his trial. Rounding up the top three were Vice Premier Haim Ramon and Minister for Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman, with 33% of the votes each. All justifiably earned their dubious reputation.

Leading the most-honest ministers' list was the Teflon Lady, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni - 46% voted her the most honest politician. Education Minister Yuli Tamir came in second with 40%, and former Chief of Staff and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz came in third, with 34% voting him the most honest politician.

Among the Knesset members, MK Tzachi Hanegbi (Kadima) was chosen by 40% of those polled as most corrupt, 38% chose Opposition leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud), and 32% chose MK Esterina Tartman (Yisrael Beiteinu) as most corrupt (to recall, she fabricated her university degrees).

Some 44% of those polled chose MK Shelly Yechimovich (Labor-Meimad) as the most honest MK, with Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik coming in second (41%) and MK Ran Cohen (Meretz-Yahad) coming in third (34%).

German Moral Duty and the Iranian Threat

On November 6, 2007 German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she felt a moral duty to protect Israel and would stand firm in the face of Iran's nuclear ambitions and its threats to wipe the Jewish state off the map.

The chancellor, who received the Leo Baeck Prize in Berlin, said Germany only fully accepted its role in the Holocaust after reunification because the communist East German regime rejected moral responsibility for the crimes of the Nazis.

"It took more than 40 years for Germany as a whole to accept the responsibility it carries to ensure the safety of Israel," Merkel said.

"Only by accepting Germany's past can we lay the foundation for the future. Only in as far as we acknowledge our responsibility for the moral catastrophe of Germany's history, can we build a humane future."

She said the country pay could not merely pay lip service to these principles but will be judged on how firmly it reacts to breaches inside its borders but also beyond them.

"How firmly do we react when the Iranian president wants to destroy Israel and to belittle the Holocaust?"

"I believe that in the face of the threat Iran's nuclear programme poses to Israel, our responsibility must be more than empty words. These words must be backed up by deeds. My government will follow its words with action."

She reiterated her support for tougher UN sanctions against Iran if it fails to comply with the demands of the international community to halt sensitive nuclear work.

"We and our partners are working towards a diplomatic solution. Part of this process is a readiness on the part of Germany to agree to wider, stricter sanctions if Iran does not comply."

Academic Strike in Israel

University lecturers in Israel decided to fight for their justified rights and not to succumb to pressure or agree to the ridiculous proposals made by the heads of the Finance Ministry. Salaries went down in real terms substantially, and there is no reason that one of the most productive sectors in Israel earn so poorly. The problem in Israel is that once you modify the salary agreement with one sector, other sectors want their share as well and ask immediately for a rise. Therefore the Ministry of Finance is very reluctant to change the status quo. This time, however, the lecturers played it as tough as the finance clerks.

Up in Smoke: Asia and the Pacific

Global warming is set to reverse decades of social and economic progress across Asia, home to more than four billion people or 60 per cent of the world’s population, according to a new multi-agency report published on November 19, 2007.

The report – the fourth in a series, compiled by more than 35 development and environmental groups including Oxfam and Greenpeace – says there is growing consensus about the huge challenges facing Asia. However it notes “reason to hope” that there is now enough knowledge about the causes of climate change, how the world must tackle it, and how people in Asia must continue to adapt to it. Immediate action is vital.Just days before the Asia "Up in Smoke" report were released, one of the most vulnerable countries in the region was hit by a severe cyclone. “Bangladesh features prominently in the report as a country where millions of poor people, eking out a living on farmlands and coastal areas, are already bearing the brunt of man-made climate change. While cyclones of this magnitude reveal the extreme vulnerability of poor communities, the ongoing erratic weather conditions experienced the world over mean a daily struggle for the millions of poor people who rely on the land and sea for their survival. Oxfam wants to see governments taking both mitigation and adaptation efforts seriously now and in the future,” says Oxfam International’s Bert Maerten.The Asia "Up in Smoke" report is being released as the IPCC (Intergovernmental report on Climate Change) concluded its Fourth Assessment Synthesis report in Valencia, Spain. The IPCC highlighted “unequivocal” climate change already occurring and warned that man-made global warming could lead to abrupt or irreversible impacts: “We must not gamble with the future of the planet. The stakes are too high and levelled particularly against the interests of the poor and the vulnerable,” said Athena Ballesteros of Greenpeace International. “We know more than enough to act. Decisions taken in Bali must match the scale of ambition required by the IPCC’s findings.“As world leaders prepare for important UN talks in Bali next month to determine an international response to climate change, the Asia Up in Smoke report shows:
Scientific consensus that all of Asia will warm during this century with less predictable rainfall and monsoons – around which farming systems are designed – and more extreme tropical cyclones;
More than half the population of Asia live near the coast and are directly vulnerable to a rise in sea-level;
Asia is home to 87 per cent of the world’s known 400 million small farms which are all especially vulnerable to climate change because the rely on regular and reliable rainfall;
An increase of just 1°C in night-time temperatures during the growing season will reduce Asian rice yields by 10 per cent, while wheat production could fall by 32 per cent by 2050;
The sudden expansion of biofuel crops in Asia is worsening deforestation and could exacerbate global warming and threaten local people’s livelihoods;
People from small island states like Vanuatu, Kiribati and Tuvalu in the Pacific have already fallen victim to sea-level rises and entire nations are at risk;
In Bangladesh – where 70 per cent of people rely on farming – temperature and rainfall changes have already affected crop production;
In India there has been recent floods affecting 28m people and also widespread droughts in some Indian states. If no action is taken, 30 per cent of India food production could be lost;
In northern China massive droughts have resulted in severe agricultural losses. If no action is taken, by the end of this century China could suffer 37 per cent loss in its staple crops of wheat, rice and corn.

The report gives detailed analysis on the implications of climate change for poor people living in Bangladesh, central Asia, China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, East Timor, the Lower Mekong and Malaysia, Nepal and Pakistan and the Pacific Islands. It also shows that positive measures are being taken by local governments and people to reduce emissions and cope with climate change now.It looks at how climate change is affecting people’s health, access to energy, migration and urban poor, women, vulnerable crops, water and drought, seas and coasts, disasters, biodiversity and the environment."Up in Smoke" recommends that the international community commit to meaningful and mandatory emissions cuts to ensure that global temperature increases stay below 2°C. It says rich countries must honour their commitments to renewable energy and that the potential for its use across Asia is vast; India alone has the potential to provide 60 per cent of its electricity with renewable sources by 2050. Rich countries must stop using restrictive intellectual property rules and allow the transfer of green technologies to developing countries.The international community must also urgently assess the full global costs facing poor countries having to adapt to climate change and give new funds.The report notes that rich-country subsidies to their domestic fossil fuel industry stood at $73 billion per year in the late 1990s. It also says that crisis responses must be better planned, organized and funded and that vulnerable communities must be helped to cope and prepare for climate-related disasters.The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) heads of state, with the participation of other Asian countries such as China and South Korea, will be convening in Singapore from November 19 to 21. Climate change and energy security occupy the regional group’s agenda. "The very meeting that will determine the fate of the planet is taking place in ASEAN's backyard. If ASEAN intends to be relevant to the region’s needs, it must support a Bali Mandate for the extension and expansion of the Kyoto Protocol towards a second commitment period with deeper emissions cuts,” Ballesteros said. Greenpeace is calling on the ASEAN to establish clear, binding renewables and energy efficiency targets for Southeast Asia.
Note:While no single extreme weather event, such as a cyclone that took place in Bangladesh last week can be directly attributed to climate change, the IPCC is projecting an increase in the frequency of such severe weather events.
Contact for more information:Nicky Wimble, Communications Manager, Oxfam International: +66 81 8147756Athena Ballesteros, Campaigner, Greenpeace International: +63 91 78131562Red Constantino, Campaigner, Greenpeace International: +63 91 75241123


Good News from China

Good news is coming from China. As the Olympics are approaching, in a bid to gain wider international acceptance China is moving towards changing its transplantation practices. This is Jane Parry’s report from Hong Kong.

China has begun to tackle one of its more controversial healthcare practices: using organs harvested from executed prisoners for transplantation.

For Zhonghua Klaus Chen, vice chairman of the Chinese Organ Transplantation Society, a recent statement by the Chinese Medical Association against the use of executed prisoners’ organs is a welcome boost to efforts to bring Chinese transplantation practices into line with international standards.

Having trained in Germany and the United Kingdom, including a stint with Cambridge University under the transplantation surgeon Roy Calne, Professor Chen became convinced that prisoners were not in a position to give free consent for organ donation after their deaths.

“As part of the organ procurement team in Cambridge I was very proud of what I was doing,” he said, “yet, in China, surgeons using prisoners’ organs can’t discuss their work with international colleagues. Execution is the dark side of human nature, and transplantation is the glorious side of health care. They can’t be easily bundled together, and that should be stopped.”

He was delighted when the practice was deemed unacceptable by the Chinese Medical Association in October, during the World Medical Association’s annual general assembly in Copenhagen. The Chinese association came out against the use of organs harvested from executed prisoners for transplantation, stating that the organs should be used only for immediate family members. The Chinese association’s chair and one vice chair are appointed by the Ministry of Health; thus the statement signals a tacit recognition by the Chinese government that what has been common practice in China is not acceptable to the worldwide medical community.

Although it is a big step in the right direction, Professor Chen believes that clearly defined rules are also needed to encourage organ donation from living relatives and harvesting of organs from patients who are brain stem dead.
China has already announced a series of new regulations to tighten control over transplantation—but it also needs to balance this by increasing organ donation from more acceptable sources.

In early 2006 new qualification criteria for transplantation centres reduced the number of qualifying hospitals by three quarters, to 164. In July 2007 new regulations came into force, banning organ trafficking and “transplant tourism.” These regulations reiterated the requirement for consent for donation, promoted the equitable distribution of organs, and limited the scope of donation from living donors to close relatives: “This really was a great step forward,” said Professor Chen.

In a bid to clamp down on the lucrative business of transplant tourism, the government subsequently announced restrictions on non-Chinese people receiving transplants. Foreigners can receive transplants in China only with the Ministry of Health’s permission, ensuring that priority is given to Chinese nationals and permanent residents of Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, while leaving the door ajar for important foreign patients.

Meanwhile, the effort to build up an ethical supply of organs falls to a handful of doctors like Professor Chen, who are working to promote donation from living relatives and from brain stem dead donors.

Since he returned to China in 2000 Professor Chen has not carried out any transplantations using organs from executed prisoners, concentrating instead on living donors. “This year we are expecting around 2000 living related organ transplantations in China, a dramatic increase over previous years,” he said. The next step was to encourage the adoption of international practices by harvesting organs from donors who are brain stem dead, but in doing so he and his colleagues step into what is currently a legal vacuum.

“There is no legally accepted definition of brain death in China,” Professor Chen explained. Chinese medical textbooks define death as when the heart and lungs stop functioning. His efforts to promote the internationally recognised definition of brain stem death earned him intense criticism from lawyers and the domestic media, who accused him of promoting the concept of brain stem death for his own interests.

To resolve the conflict of interest, Professor Chen resigned from his post as director of the Institute of Organ Transplantation of Tongji University, Wuhan, in August 2006 and set up the Chinese Organ Procurement Organisation soon after, the only project of its kind in China.

Since then Professor Chen and his team of five colleagues have created a network of 40 hospitals that take part in an organ sharing project. To date they have harvested organs from 63 donors who were certified brain stem dead according to internationally accepted standards, yielding 282 organs for 270 recipients.
“What we are doing is a tangible way to promote ethical organ harvesting to colleagues and make it more formally recognised step by step. Sooner or later prisoners’ organs will be gone, and for the continuation of transplantation surgeons’ careers they will have to find better source”.

Source: 10 November 2007 Volume 335

Chinese Journalist Wins Golden Pen of Freedom

Li Changqing, a Chinese journalist who was imprisoned for alerting the public to an outbreak of dengue fever before the authorities, has been awarded the 2008 Golden Pen of Freedom, the annual press freedom prize of the World Association of Newspapers.

It is the second consecutive year that a Chinese journalist has received the award, an unprecedented decision. The 2007 laureate was Shi Tao, the Chinese journalist who was imprisoned after the American search engine company Yahoo provided information to the Chinese authorities that led to his arrest.

The award will be presented at the World Newspaper Congress and World
Editors Forum, the global summit meetings of the world's press, to be held in Göteborg, Sweden, from 1 to 4 June next ( ).

The award comes a day after WAN launched a campaign to win the release of all jailed Chinese journalists, and to hold the Chinese authorities to the promises of reforms they made when they were awarded next summer's Olympics. More information can be found at

WAN, the global association of the newspaper industry, has awarded the
Golden Pen annually since 1961. Past winners include Argentina's Jacobo
Timerman (1980), South Africa's Anthony Heard (1986), China's Dai Qing
(1992), Vietnam's Doan Viet Hoat (1998), Zimbabwe's Geoffrey Nyarota (2002), and Iran's Akbar Ganji (2006).

Source: Larry Kilman, Director of Communications, WAN, 7 rue Geoffroy St. Hilaire, 75005 Paris, France.
Tel: +33 1 47 42 85 00.
Fax: +33 1 47 42 49 48.
Mobile: +33 6 10 28 97 36.

See also

New Articles

Not a lot is published on Islam and medical ethics. In this age, we need to pay closer attention to Islamic thought and way of mind. I wish to share with you the following:

ISLAM AND CHRISTIAN-MUSLIM RELATIONS, July 2007 (Vol.18, No.3) Seyed Mohammad Ghari S. Fatemi, "Autonomy, Euthanasia and the Right to Die With Dignity: A Comparison of Kantian Ethics and Shi'ite Teachings" [345-353]

Stephen G. Carter, "Christopher Dawson and Ayatollah Khatami and 'The Dialogue of Civilizations': A Christian-Muslim Conversation' [403-420]

Martin D. Stringer, "Listening to the Language, Listening to the Words and Listening to the Spaces between Words: Rhetoric and Pragmatics in the Performance of Christian-Muslim Relations" [421-430]

New Books

Dariusch Atighetchi, Islamic Bioethics: Problems and Perspectives (Springer, 2007).

This book presents a critical analysis of the debate at the religious, legal and political level sparked off by the introduction of new biomedical technologies (cloning, genetics, organ transplants, IVF, etc.) in Muslim countries. It compares the positions of "classic" Muslim law and contemporary religious authorities; laws in Muslim countries; the attitudes and concrete behaviour of populations, families and individuals, as well as the regulations of medical associations, bioethics committees etc..

The result is a mosaic of positions which are often different (including from the point of view of ethics) but all in pursuit of legitimisation according to the Koran and the Shari’a.

The work has an interdisciplinary approach, drawing on law, sociology, anthropology, politics and the history of science. For this reason it will be of interest to scholars and operators in a wide variety of disciplines and fields.

Farhat Moazam, Bioethics and Organ Transplantation in a Muslim Society: A Study in Culture, Ethnography and Religion (Indiana University Press, 2006).,M1

An ethnographic study of live, related kidney donation in Pakistan, based on Farhat Moazam's participant-observer research conducted at a public hospital. It describes the renal transplant cases and the cultural, ethical, and family conflicts that accompany them, and an object lesson in comparative bioethics.

David J. Whittaker (ed.), The Terrorism Reader (London: Routledge, 2007).

The Terrorism Reader draws together material from a variety of experts, clearly explaining their opinions on terrorism, to allow understanding, conjecture and debate. David J. Whittaker explores all aspects of terrorism from its definition, psychological and sociological effects, legal and ethical issues to counter-terrorism. This Reader illustrates the growth and variety of terrorism in an original way with a series of case-studies from four continents including: the Taliban and the al-Qaida terror network, and George W. Bush's war against terrorism; ETA and Spain; the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia; the Liberation Tigers in Sri Lanka; the IRA and UFF in Northern Ireland; the Shining Path in Peru. This new edition also includes a case study on events in London in July 2005, fully updated chapters on the conflict in the Lebanon in 2006, and two new chapters on terrorism and ethics, and terrorism and the law.

Thank You

I thank Jonathan Moreno for inviting me to speak at Penn. This was my first visit to this fine urban university in lovely Philadelphia. The university is prospering and thriving and plays a leading role in American academia.

Novel Recommendation

A Thousand Splendid Suns
By Khaled Hosseini

Some months ago I warmly recommended Hosseini’s first novel, The Kite Runner. I now read his second splendid book and recommend it warmly. This is not an easy book. It troubles your mind, and is quite depressing. However, Hosseini is blessed with a sensitive pen, so vivid that you can picture the scenes and enter into this far away land. Due to him, my fascination with Afghanistan grew ten folds. In the past two months, I attended a few talks in Washington about this country. I am glad to hear that the situation has changed for the better, although far more work is needed to make this poor and war riddled country a sustainable democracy.

A Thousand Splendid Suns is a book concerned citizens of the world should read. Hosseini deserves praise for yet another masterpiece.

Gem of the Month

Bruce Springsteen has the reputation of a superb performer. The Boss and the E Street Band are known as superb musicians, who invest in each and every performance. Their show is intense, with hardly any breaks. Whenever there was a second of silence, the audience booed as if it is not allowed to have a zip of water sometime.
As the Washington Post reported on November 13, the guiding principle of a Springsteen show is to deliver salvation and hope through song. Forging bonds is critical, as well -- no audience is more important to Springsteen than the one he's currently trying to win over -- and so he set out to do just that with the audience here immediately.
Springsteen remains one of the most potent live performers in popular music -- largely because he's among the most committed practitioners of the form, draining all of his creative energy every time he's onstage. (And there is much to drain, as his well runs exceptionally deep, even at the age of 58.) He also maintains an unwavering faith in the power of rock-and-roll; in turn, his own power is undeniable. Add the E Street Band to the calculus, and the result is exhilarating and explosive, whether they're performing Springsteen's trenchant political poetry, his brittle working-class anthems or his rich, youthful narratives.
Springsteen is the ultimate model of America’s rock-n-roll. In many respects, his music typifies a certain brand of Americanism: patriotic, hard, with distinct emphasis on liberty, social justice, human rights, and the pursuit of love and happiness.

My critique of the show is twofold: it was “only” 2-hour 15-minute long, too short for the taste of most people, who expect a 3 hour show. We had to exit the stadium still hungry. And the Verizon Stadium has many qualities, being a 10 year-old state-of-the-art stadium. However, acoustics is not one of them. It is a sports stadium. The sound was not clean, and the bass overshadowed the words.

Monthly Joke

With all the corruption investigations in Israel, the following is most relevant.
And yes, It's All Relative

Two Jewish women were speaking about their sons, each of whom was incarcerated in the state prison.
The first says: "Oy, my son has it so hard. He is locked away in maximum security, he never even speaks to anyone or sees the light of day. He has no exercise and he lives a horrible life."
The second says: "Well, my son is in minimum security. He exercises every day, he spends time in the prison library, takes some classes, and writes home each week.
"Oy," says the first woman, "You must get such naches from your son."

With my very best wishes,
Yours as ever,

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