Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Politics – December 2009

People perceive pleasant things as having more value when they are out of reach than when they are distant or already in our possession, so much so that coming into possession of desired objects typically leaves people less happy within hours of acquiring them than they were beforehand.
Tim Kasser, The High Price of Materialism

Gilad is still in captivity. Veshavu banim legvulam.
Raphael Cohen-Almagor


Blair on Saddam

Prime Minister Netanyahu

New Legal Advisor to the Government

My New Article

Israel and International Human Rights

Comment on Israel and International Human Rights

ACRI’s State of Human Rights Report 2009

Israel Studies in Europe

Resource on Israel

Other Useful Resources

Digital Media in Conflict-Prone Societies


John Demjanjuk

Sustainability: Fulbright Scholars - Shaping Tomorrow's Future Today

New Books

Reflections on Japan

Gem of the Month - Joe McElderry

Monthly Poem

Light Side

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


The writing on the wall is loud and clear but the process needs to be exhausted. The cat and mouse game continues until an unavoidable confrontation. Iran refused to comply with the UN nuclear agency’s demand to cease work on a once-secret nuclear fuel enrichment plant, and escalated the confrontation by declaring it would construct ten more such plants.

The defiant president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said his cabinet would also order a study of what it would take for Iran to further enrich its existing stockpile of nuclear fuel for use in a medical reactor — rather than rely on Russia or another nation, as agreed to in an earlier tentative deal. It is unclear how long it would take Iran to enrich the fuel to the levels needed for the medical reactor, or whether it has the technology to fabricate that fuel into a form that could be put into the reactor.

In Europe, diplomats called the Iranian plan for a giant expansion of enrichment closer to a national aspiration than an imminent threat. Iran’s main enrichment facility, at Natanz, began early this decade and today the country has installed fewer than a tenth of the 50,000 centrifuges it is designed to handle. A second, once-secret plant — revealed two months ago — has been under construction for more than three years, and it is still at least a year from completion.

This is Iran’s way to strike back politically at the West for the Security Council’s three resolutions demanding that it stop all enrichment activity. The atomic agency’s board built on those Security Council resolutions on November 27, 2009, when it demanded that Iran halt work on building its second enrichment plant. It was the first time the agency had told Iran to halt construction of a plant.
Source: NY Times, November 30, 2009,


Blair on Saddam

In the UK, the Iraq war inquiry started it work, investigating the decision-making process leading to the war as well as the war conduct. In September 2002, the UK government published a dossier which contained the now discredited claim that Iraq could use weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) within 45 minutes of Saddam's order.
Former Joint Intelligence Committee chief Sir John Scarlett told the Iraq inquiry that there had been "absolutely no conscious intention to manipulate the language or to obfuscate or to create a misunderstanding as to what this might refer to".

In an interview to the BBC, Tony Blair said it would have been "right to remove" Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein even without evidence that he had weapons of mass destruction. It was the "notion of him as a threat to the region" which had tilted him in favour of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Without WMD claims it would have been necessary to "use and deploy different arguments... "I can't really think we'd be better with him and his two sons still in charge, but it's incredibly difficult and I totally understand... That's why I sympathise with the people who were against [the war] for perfectly good reasons and are against it now, but for me, you know, in the end I had to take the decision."

Blair added that there had been "12 years of United Nations to and fro on this subject" of Iraq's weapons and that Saddam had "used chemical weapons on his own people, so this was obviously the thing that was uppermost in my mind - the threat to the region".
Mr Blair is set to be the key witness to the Iraq inquiry, which is looking at the whole build-up to the war and its conduct and aftermath.
What does Blair think about Iran today?

Source: Fern Britton Meets... Tony Blair is on BBC One on Sunday at 1000 GMT.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/12/12 07:38:33 GMT

Prime Minister Netanyahu

I was asked whether I still think that Prime Minister Netanyahu is not a pragmatist. The question stems, I assume, from his Bar Ilan speech in which he spoke for the first time about a two-state solution, and his order to freeze settlements.

Prime Minister Netanyahu believes Israel should maintain a close relationship with the United States. I think President Obama has clarified that Israel needs to take some concrete steps vis-à-vis the Palestinians if it wishes to retain its special position on the US foreign policy agenda. Mere words will not suffice. Israel needs the US on many fronts: Iran, the UN, Europe, the Arab world, the Palestinian Authority, arms deals, commerce, to name a few. Prime Minister Netanyahu tries to navigate between the American demands and his coalition. Not an easy task. I do not call those navigation attempts “pragmatism” as I think Netanyahu remains committed to the grand ideal of greater Israel, at the expense of Palestine. He should do far more to convince me that he had changed his worldview. What he did until now was too little, too late.
I hope Prime Minister Netanyahu will prove me wrong. Amen Ve’Amen!!

New Legal Advisor to the Government

In the past twenty years or so, the role of the Legal Advisor to the Government (Attorney General with further responsibilities) has become very important. As more and more people have entered politics not because they really wish to contribute to public life but to “do for their home”, know the right people, push the right buttons and promote their standard of living, the Legal Advisor became very busy, investigating senior politicians. Among them were government ministers and some prime ministers, including all recent ones: Netanyahu, Barak, Sharon and Olmert. Not an easy position to be in. And it is not easy for the politicians. They had to hire some of the best attorneys in the country to defend them, pay them the money that was designed for other purposes (new homes, luxury vacations, cultivation of expensive hobbies etc.), and spend long hours studying legal tricks.

Now the present Legal Advisor has just ended his five year term in office. A committee was established to seek a person to replace him. Of course, members of the committee were carefully selected, so there wouldn’t be any surprises. By the end of the process they could not reach an agreement on one candidate. Four people received the same support. The issue came to Prime Minister Netanyahu who had to choose one of the four. He chose: His former attorney who helped him fend off corruption allegations.
This is ingenious. Yehuda Weinstein is the perfect man for the job:

He is experienced;

His experience is especially in the field of protecting politicians against all kind of unfounded allegations;

He knows personally the senior politicians whom he might come to investigate;

Therefore he could not be personally involved in their future investigations;

He knows what is expected of him;

He is part of the milieu, speaks the same language, knows the stakes, and would like to keep his clientele when his five year term in the Legal Advisor Office comes to an end.

Yehuda Weinstein is the perfect man for the job. He will let the politicians excel in whatever they are doing and provide them the much-needed peace of mind. I wish Mr. Weinstein Good Luck in his important job. I suspect he will feature on this Blog from time to time, probably more than he likes, probably more than I like.
Someone said Banana Republic? Please don’t give the banana a bad name.

My New Article

I have just published “Israel and International Human Rights”, in the Encyclopedia of Human Rights, ed. Frederick P. Forsythe (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), Vol. 3, pp. 247-257.


As this Entry is directly related to this blog, I would like to bring to your attention major parts of it.

The Entry in full, with the appropriate references and bibliography, is on my website, http://www.hull.ac.uk/rca

In the Entry, and also here, I thank Menachem Kellner, Sam Lehman-Wilzig, Aaron David Miller, Frances Raday, Dan Yakir, and the Encyclopedia’s reviewers for their instructive comments, and Iris Igra, Orna Rosh, Neta Weisman, Ilana Yaakobovitch and Marco Zambotti for their excellent research assistance. Last but certainly not least, special heart-felt gratitude is due to Sharon Amir for all she has done to bring this essay to print.

Israel and International Human Rights

Israel was established as a Jewish democracy. The relationship between state and religion, therefore, is critical when one analyzes the protection of human rights in the country. It is argued that human rights cannot be effectively secured without a clear separation between state and religion is enacted. It is further argued that the safeguard of equal rights and liberties for all citizens notwithstanding nationality, religion, race or colour is a critical issue, in particular when it comes to the rights of the Israeli-Palestinians.
This Entry consists of five sections: (1) The Jewish Democracy and (2) Human Rights legislation which lay the foundations for understanding human rights in Israel. Sections (3) about the Israeli-Palestinians (many Arabs in Israel prefer to be called Palestinians; in referring to this minority I use the terms “Palestinian” and “Arab” interchangeably), and (4) State and Religion probe the two major human rights concerns in Israel. Then section (5) will shed light on important human rights precedents aimed to secure fundamental rights and liberties of all Israeli citizens.

(1) The Jewish Democracy

Israel was established three years after the end of World War II. After the U.N. declaration proposing the partition of Palestine into two states (November 29, 1947), and immediately following the declaration of independence of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948 and the departure of the British the next day, five Arab armies invaded Israel, aiming to destroy the newly established state and put an early end to the Zionist dream. After the Holocaust, this waged war brought about the full realization that Israel must develop the necessary mechanisms to defend itself. It also set the priorities: security is first on the agenda.
Israel is a democracy under constant stress. It is situated within a hostile environment. Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has periodically been at war with some of the Arab states in the region wishing to undermine its sovereignty and existence. Terrorism has been a continuous strenuous concern. Israel has been facing terrorism since its inception. Events during the years 2003-2008, however, have been particularly harsh. Sometimes, as in July 2006, it reaches the scale of a full-fledged war. These destabilizing conditions inevitably lead to undermining of human rights.
Israel is a country of immigrants. It was built as a country of refuge for all Jews around the world who wish to connect their fate and future with Zion, the Promised Land. Jews came from all corners of the world to build their home in Israel. Like other countries of immigration, Israel is striving to achieve a shared raison d'être acceptable to people who have different languages, different cultures, different norms. This is not an easy task.

There are still schisms between different immigrant groups as well as between these groups and people who were born in Israel (Sabra). Generally speaking, three groups of people can be discerned in the Jewish population in Israel: Sephardim (also called Mizrachim or Middle-Easterners) whose origins lie in Asia and Africa; Ashkenazim whose origins lie in Europe and America; and Sabras, native born Israelis. The large Sephardi sector holds justified grievances against the Ashkenazi elite, speaking of systematic discrimination and violation of basic civic rights during the formative years of the state, and arguing that some residue of this discriminatory attitude continued to linger for decades, some say until nowadays.
Israel was built as a Jewish democracy. The State’s Founding Fathers wanted Israel to be democratic, and to be Jewish. However, to reconcile liberal-democratic values with Jewish values is hard, if not impossible, to achieve. While classical liberalism accords liberty primacy as a political value, Judaism is built on belief in God whose dictates administer how we all should live. All Jews are in the same boat, and therefore the maxim of Live and Let Live is unattainable: the non-believer might crack the boat and then we all might sink down deeply into the turbulent water. Against the liberal values of autonomy, personal development, individualism and self-government there is the deep Jewish belief in shared communality, shared destiny. Those who believe that liberal-democratic values and Jewish values are reconcilable argue that the underpinning values of liberalism, respect for others (derived from Immanuel Kant’s teachings) and not harming others (derived from John Stuart Mill’s philosophy) are enshrined also in humanistic Judaism.
In 2007, the Israeli population was approximately 7.2 million. Some twenty per cent of the Jewish people in Israel are religious who may prefer theocracy over democracy; some twenty per cent of the Israeli people are Palestinian-Arabs, who do not endorse the Zionist ethos of the State; and a further twenty per cent of Israelis arrived from the Soviet Union, in many cases unfamiliar with the practice of democracy. Most of the Russian immigrants are secular, if not agnostic. A third of them are said to be Christian. This mixture sets the scene for the understanding of Israel and its complex state of human rights.
The schisms between religious and secular, between Palestinians and Jews, and between Israel and its neighbours (including occupied Palestine) shape, to a large extent, Israeli identity and the preservation of human rights. This Entry is confined to Israel. A different entry addresses the state of human rights in the occupied territories.

(2) Human Rights Legislation

Israel has a strong constitutional tradition of civil and political human rights as constraints on the government's executive powers. The Declaration of Independence of 1948 affirms that Israel will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; that it will be based on the foundations of liberty, justice and peace; that it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all of its citizens irrespective of religion, race or sex, and that it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture. The Declaration has been invoked by the courts to protect basic human rights in the absence of law.

Israel first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, reads the Declaration, 1948
In 1992, the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, legislated two Basic Laws to guarantee the basic rights and liberties of all citizens. Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom (1992) purports to protect human dignity and freedom in order to establish the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. It maintains that a human being's property must not be harmed; that every person is entitled to the protection of his or her life, limb and dignity, and that no person's freedom may be taken or restricted by arrest, imprisonment, or extradition, or in any other manner. In turn, Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation (1992) holds that every citizen or resident of the State is entitled to engage in any occupation, profession or line of work, and that every governmental agency must respect the freedom of occupation of every citizen or resident. The “constitutional revolution” of the enactment of this Basic Law together with Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation (i.e Work) did not introduce any new substantive principles, but extended existing ones in respect of the power of the Supreme Court to exercise judicial review. However, principles of equality and social justice were omitted from the Basic Laws, and attempts to propose legislation that would guarantee economic, social and cultural rights constitutionally have not materialized till now.
The Knesset has furthered protection of human rights in some fields by specific legislation, including a law tightening the restrictions on pre-trial arrest and detention (Criminal Procedure {Powers of Enforcement – Arrest} Law, 5756- 1996), laws extending the prohibited grounds of discrimination in employment (Equal Opportunities in Employment Law {Amendment no. 3}, 5755-1995), and prohibiting discrimination in provision of goods and services (Prohibition of Discrimination in Goods, Services and Entrance to Public Places Law, 5761-2000); an amendment strengthening the provisions of the Equality of Women’s Rights Law, 5711-1951 (every woman is entitled to protection against violence, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation and trafficking in her body), a law on sexual harassment (Prevention of Sexual Harassment Law, 5758 – 1998), a law on single-parent families that grants certain benefits to such parents, who are usually women (Single-Parent Families Law 5752 – 1992), and laws mandating affirmative action to promote fairer representation of women and Palestinian-Arabs in the civil service and government corporations (Section 15A of State Service (Appointments) Law, 5719-1959; section 18A1 of Government Companies Law, 5735-1975). A law of special importance is the Equal Rights for People with Disabilities Law, 5758-1998. This law establishes the universalist principle, that a person with disabilities will be able to exercise his/her rights within the existing institutions of society, and not in segregated frameworks. It prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in the workplace, and establishes the right of people with disabilities to accessible transportation services, modified to address their needs. These include intra-city buses, trains, plains, and ships.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 [UDHR] is the normative foundation of human rights discourse. The preamble to the Declaration explains the need to protect human rights, in reference to the historic fact that “disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind”. The two major international human rights legal instruments that derived from the UDHR are the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, 1966 [ICCPR] and the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966 [ICESCR], both of which were ratified by Israel in 1991. The government has also ratified the other major human rights conventions: International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; International Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment; International Convention for Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. These Covenants have not been incorporated into domestic law, and are not directly enforceable by the courts. However, all authorities are required, as far as possible, to interpret legislation so as to avoid breach of Israel’s international obligations. The authorities are also required to report to the treaty bodies regarding compliance with the State’s human rights obligations. In 1998, the Human Rights Committee noted with regret that the ICCPR has not been incorporated in Israeli law and cannot be directly invoked in the courts. It recommended early action in respect of recent legislative initiatives aimed at enhancing the enjoyment of a number of the rights provided for in the Covenant, including proposals for new draft Basic Laws on due process rights and on freedom of expression and association.

(3) Israeli-Palestinians

The 2004 Index of Arab-Jewish relations in Israel shows that 45.1% of the Arab minority in Israel identify themselves as Arab Israelis; the same percentage identify themselves as Palestinian Israelis, and 9% identify themselves simply as Palestinians.

These findings may explain why twenty percent of Israel's population consisted of Palestinian-Arabs do not share the raison d'être of Israel as a Jewish and Zionist state. They often claim, quite rightly, that they are being discriminated against, and do not enjoy the same rights as Jews. Formally all Israeli citizens are equal before the law, regardless of national affiliation, religious beliefs, and political stands. An important distinction has to be made, nonetheless, between formal citizenship and full citizenship. Israeli Jews can be said to enjoy full citizenship: they enjoy equal respect as individuals, and they are entitled to equal treatment by law and in its administration. The situation is different with regard to the Israeli-Palestinians, the Bedouin and the Druze. Although they are formally considered to enjoy liberties equally with the Jewish community, in practice they do not share and enjoy the same rights and burdens. According to the 2004 Index of Arab-Jewish relations in Israel, most of the Israeli-Palestinians (57.6%) think that the state treats them as second-class or hostile citizens who do not deserve equality. Jewish feelings of rejection toward the Arabs confirm and reinforce the Arab sense of estrangement. 73.5% of the Jews feel afar from the Arabs; a third of the Jews are unwilling to have an Arab friend.

Formally, Arabic is one of the two official languages of the State, together with Hebrew. However, in non-Arab public areas, the signposts are written mostly in Hebrew, and sometimes in Hebrew and English. Only rarely you will find signposts written also in Arabic. According to phenomenology, language and lack of it create reality: the state – one might argue – conveys contradictory messages when it makes a language official, but then makes this same language hardly visible. In this regard, Article 1 of Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, adopted by UN General Assembly resolution 47/135 of December 18, 1992, holds: "States shall protect the existence and the national or ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic identity of minorities within their respective territories and shall encourage conditions for the promotion of that identity".

Israeli-Palestinians do not enjoy special provisions and discounts given to those who serve in the army. Recently, the District Court in Haifa ruled that University of Haifa's dormitory application process, which gives preference to Israel Defense Forces (IDF) veterans, is discriminatory against Arab students (Hanin Naamna and Others v. University of Haifa). Palestinian-Arabs are exempted from army service as they do not wish to find themselves fighting against Arab brethren, and the State of Israel respects their wish to avoid this situation. Still, Palestinian-Arabs can volunteer to serve and, indeed, a small minority of them serve in the IDF.

Palestinian-Arabs will find it more difficult than Jews to receive licences for extending their flats, or for building new ones. The Budget Law, which governs state funds, does not specify what proportion should be earmarked for minorities; the decision lies with officials’ discretion. Due to their lack of representation in government offices, Palestinian-Arabs receive substantially less funding for local government budgets, and have fewer resources allocated for welfare budgets, school facilities or other education programmes. Budgets of Palestinian-Arab municipalities stand in no comparison to those of Jewish municipalities. Twenty five towns with the highest unemployment rate in the country, ranging from 13.9 percent to 24.8 percent, are Palestinian-Arab. Arabs earn, on average, thirty percent less than Jewish workers. That is, being a Palestinian-Arab in many cases “guarantees” that a worker's salary would be lower than that of a Jew who is doing the same work. The poverty rate for Israeli-Arab children was 2.5 times higher than for Jewish children, and their infant mortality rate was double that of Jewish infants. The education system in Arab towns and villages is lagging behind the education system in Jewish towns and villages. Three times more money was invested in education of Jewish children as in Arab children. 49.4 percent of Arab students passed their matriculation exams in 2006 compared with 64.4 percent for Jewish students. While Jewish-Israeli students ranked 11th in the world in literacy, Arab-Israeli students ranked 40th. Arabs who graduate find it difficult to get a job in government offices. In the civil service, only 5% of employees are Israeli-Palestinians. The Oslo peace process, which started in September 1993, has reinforced the status of the Palestinians in Israel as a “double periphery”: being placed at one and the same time at the margins of Israeli society and at the margins of Palestinian National Movement.

The Orr Inquiry Report about the circumstances leading to the killing of 13 Palestinian-Arab citizens by the Israeli security forces in October 2000, issued in September 2003, sheds light on this continued discrimination in all spheres of life. The committee emphasized the alienation felt by the Palestinian-Arab citizens in Israel, as a result of discrimination and injustice since the establishment of the State, and recommended to take appropriate measures in order to strengthen Arab equality by the taking the following means:

· Accomplishment of distributive justice in the allotment of national lands.

· Allocations of resources and a vigorous action in order to close the gaps between the Jewish and the Arab sectors, by setting clear and practical objectives and fixing definite schedules.

· Addition of national events and symbols with which all citizens could identify.

· Profound change in the police attitude towards the Arab sector.

Land discrimination is one of the most troubling concerns of the Palestinian-Arab sector. The most acute expression of the consistent and systematic discriminatory policy can be seen in the State's attitude towards the Arab population in the Negev. Israel had established seven small towns in the Negev that turned into unemployment stricken slums, governed by outside appointees. In the 1960's, thousands of Bedouin had submitted claims to acknowledge their ownership over 1.5 million dunams. The State decided not to probe these claims; instead, Israel paid insignificant compensations to those who agreed to waive their claims and move to small towns. Half of the Arab Negev residents accepted that settlement and were thus transferred to those small towns. The other half continue to live in small villages – some have existed long before the establishment of Israel while others were set up after a string of forced transfers of people from their original residency. The State refuses to recognize these villages and thereby prevents their residents the right to basic services and essential infrastructure. About half of the 160,000 Bedouin community are not connected to water and electricity and lack educational, health, and welfare services.

On July 31, 2003, the Knesset affirmed the Nationality and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order), known as the Citizenship and Family Unification Law for a period of one year, with the right to extend it indefinitely for a maximum of one year at a time. The law denies Israeli citizenship or residency status to the spouses of Israeli citizens who are residents of the West Bank or Gaza. It virtually froze the family reunification procedure for Israeli and Palestinian couples and prohibited new mixed couples from applying for the right of the Palestinian to live with his or her Israeli spouse inside Israel. Later, the law was modified to allow Palestinian men younger than 35 and women under 25 to begin the application process and also eased up on other restrictions. However, the law prevents children of mixed marriages older than 14 who were not born in Israel and do not have citizenship from living with their Israeli parent inside Israel.

In May 2006, an expanded panel of 11 High Court justices voted six to five to reject eight petitions calling for the nullification of this law. The minority justices accepted the state's argument that the law was passed for a worthy cause, in that Palestinians who were given Israeli identity cards and allowed to travel freely throughout the country could pose a security threat. But they also rightly argued that the injury to the human rights and the dignity of the person was greater than the benefit achieved by the law in its current form, and that the law affects only Israeli-Palestinians and thus negates equality. The law should, therefore, be nullified. The law unjustifiably prevents, in a categorical manner, Israeli Palestinians from fulfilling their desire to live family life with their loved ones in Israel. Security considerations should not license grave injury to the lives of thousands of Israelis. President Aharon Barak articulated in this context that Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights was interpreted by the European Court on Human Rights to include the right of family members to live together (Berrehab v. The Netherlands; Moustaquim v. France; Ciliz v. The Netherlands; Carpenter v. Secretary of State). However, the European Court also ruled that states cannot be imposed upon a general obligation to respect immigrants’ choice of the country of their matrimonial residence and to authorize family reunion in its territory.

(4) State and Religion

The main concern in this sphere is not freedom of religion but freedom from religion. The most controversial issue, in fact, is the lack of separation between state and religion. As a consequence of this, people in Israel are obliged to assume customs that not necessarily coincide with their conceptions of the good.
There are four officially recognized religions in Israel: Judaism, Islam, Christianity, and Druze. Each citizen may follow the religion into which s/he is born. This arrangement is the heritage of the Millet system, introduced under the Ottoman rule and maintained under the British mandate and by Israel after 1948. Matters of personal status are determined in accordance with religious laws by the religious courts of different communities. In Israeli Judaism, the orthodoxy rules supreme and dictates the norms and customs of the state although only twenty percent of the Jewish population is orthodox and ultra-orthodox. Most of the Jewish people in Israel define themselves as secular or as Massortiim, that is, as people who assume some religious norms and Halachic (Jewish Law) dictums. The Reform and Conservative Movements that are very strong and prevalent outside Israel suffer discrimination in Israel.

There are many variations within each movement but essentially, Orthodox Jews believe in Torah handed down at Sinai by God to Moses and from there uninterruptedly through the ages. The Rabbis interpret the Law, slowly adapting it to new exigencies, but only after deep discussion and vote. Orthodox Jews conceive of Judaism as a total religion, affecting every aspect of their lives. Conservative Judaism and Reform Judaism are relatively modern phenomena, from the 19th century onwards as an adaptation to the modern world and secular/scientific enlightenment. Conservative Judaism believes the Torah was written by Moses (not given by God) and handed down through the generations. Conservative Jews view the Halakhic process through more liberal eyes, focusing on many Rabbinic decisions in the past that did allow for change and reform. They believe that Rabbis have the authority to make major changes in the Halakha as long as it is done through Rabbinic thought, principles and discussion. Reform Judaism does not believe in the divinity of Jewish Law but views Jewish practice in more national-cultural terms, and thus is willing to change with the Jewish folkways. Reform Jews are very open to change in the spirit of the day, thus accept female rabbis and allow interfaith marriage.

In Israel there is no division between state and religion. The concept of a Jewish state has been imbued with religious values, and gender equality rights clash with religious norms. Women in Jewish (and also Moslem and some Christian denominations) are subject to discrimination in property and inheritance laws. At present, some religious practices are offensive to the sensibilities of women, and involve coercion, which conflicts with the liberal elements of democracy that vouchsafes the rights of individuals. One of these is the right to follow one’s conscience and to practice one's beliefs as one sees fit, as long as this practice does not entail harm to others.

There is no civil marriage in Israel and persons must be married according to the law of their religious communities. Divorce is also regulated by such law and generally speaking constitutes the jurisdiction of the religious courts. The Rabbinic Courts Jurisdiction Law (Marriage and Divorce) of 1953, which was passed after considerable controversy, provides that for Jews, who are either citizens or residents of Israel, matters of marriage and divorce are exclusively under the jurisdiction of the Rabbinic Courts, and that marriage and divorce should adhere to Halacha. Even before the passage of this law, the Rabbinic Courts had received a monopoly over matters of personal status under Article 5 of the Women’s Equal Rights Law of 1951, which stated that the intent of the law was not to change the laws concerning permissions and prohibitions regarding marriage and divorce.

The Rabbinic Courts are guided by patriarchal norms. Women are conceived as playing a passive role in marriage and divorce as they cannot initiate divorce proceedings without their husbands’ consent. It is the husband who delivers the divorce paper to the wife. The wife cannot divorce the husband, although she can go to the Jewish Court and have them pressure the husband to do so if her demand is legitimate (e.g. wife beater, no breadwinner, he is adulterous). The level of such pressure depends on the Court's composition. Today in Israel the Rabbinic Courts are mostly manned by Ultra-Orthodox rabbis who have a very patriarchal attitude. There are thousands of instances in which the husband refuses to grant the wife a divorce, and then the women (called aguna, chained woman) cannot remarry or have legitimate children. Although the Rabbinic Courts have the ability to place sanctions on those men, they rarely do this. As a result, women are forced to agree to economic concessions in order to get a divorce.

The gender inequality is staggering as child support determined by the Rabbinic Courts is 30% lower than child support determined by the civil family courts, in the incidents when the woman in concern rushed to open the alimony file in the civil court. Furthermore, men who refuse divorce can start a new family without fearing that the children born as a result of the new bond will be considered bastards. The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in its 2003 concluding observations expressed concern regarding the fact that the Jewish religious courts' interpretation of personal status law with respect to divorce is discriminatory as regards women, especially the regulation that allows the husband to remarry even when the wife is opposed to the divorce, whilst the same rules do not apply to the wife. The Committee recommended that the State party take steps to modify the Jewish religious courts' interpretation of the law concerning divorce to ensure equality between men and women, as provided for in Article 3 of the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: "The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to ensure the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all economic, social and cultural rights set forth in the present Covenant".

Requiring all who wish to marry to do so by religious law is a serious incursion on the fundamental right to marry. Furthermore, there is a large population of people in Israel who cannot marry at all under Israeli law, either because the future spouses belong to different religious communities or to non-recognized religious communities, or because they are not allowed to marry under the law of their community. These incursions on the right to marry are compounded by the fact that both Jewish and Muslim law discriminate between men and women, in the laws of marriage and divorce themselves, as well as in the laws of evidence. Women are not permitted to serve as judges or even witnesses. It should further be noted that approximately 300,000 citizens who immigrated either as Jews or as family members of Jews are not considered Jewish by the Orthodox Rabbinate. They cannot be married, divorced, or buried in Jewish cemeteries within the country.
The system of marriage and divorce is not the only sphere in which religion has an effect on individual rights. Sabbath observance laws, which may potentially impose unacceptable limitations on such rights, have in practice been relaxed in recent years. Their existence and level of enforcement now vary from town to town. Thus, in many towns cinemas and other places of entertainment are open on the Sabbath and some shopping centers operate too. However, in most towns, and in interurban routes, public transport does not operate on the Sabbath, a restriction that obviously has an inordinate impact on the poorer sections of the population who do not have their own cars, and curtails exercise of their right to freedom of movement.

(5) Important Precedents

On women’s rights, the Supreme Court interfered to strike down practices that banned women’s representation in religious-municipal councils (Poraz v. Mayor of Tel Aviv; Shakdiel v. Minister for Religious Affairs). In a 1994 landmark decision, the Court ruled that women’s right for an equal share in property applies to any litigation, which meant that religious tribunals had to accept the equality principle that guides secular tribunals (Bavli v. Great Rabbinical Court). The Court further ruled that the air force may not exclude women as candidates for a pilot’s course (Alice Miller v. Minister of Defence), and that provisions in a collective agreement that discriminate against women in pension rights are null and void (Niv v. National Labour Court). It must be noted, however, that the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women expressed concern about laws governing personal status which are based on religion and about the 2003 law which bars family unification for Israelis who marry Palestinians from the Occupied Territories. It called on the Israeli government to intensify efforts to combat trafficking in women and girls; to take measures to improve the status of Israeli Arab women, especially in the fields of education and health, and to eliminate discrimination against Bedouin women; and to enforce adherence to the minimum age of marriage.

On issues relating to state and religion, in 1993 the Supreme Court allowed the opening of theatres on Shabbat. It overruled a municipality decision to close theatres in its authority zone on days of rest (Israel Theatres and Others v. Netanya Municipality and Others). The Court ordered the government to make arrangements for a suitable prayer area for the Women of the Wall at an adjacent site to the Western Wall (of the second Temple; a central national, cultural, and religious site for Jews). These women wish to pray in this holy site as a group, wearing prayer shawls and reading aloud from the Torah, a manner of prayer customary reserved for men only, and a subject of considerable controversy among Orthodox Jewish sages (Anat Hoffman and Others v. Director General of Prime Minister’s Office and Others; Director General of Prime Minister’s Office v. Anat Hoffman). The Court also allowed the closure of a central road in Jerusalem for traffic on Shabbat, in respect of Orthodox residents in nearby neighbourhoods whose feelings might be hurt as a result of allowing traffic on their holy day of the week (Horev v. Minister of Transportation).
For years, the state of Israel recognized that only conversions to Orthodox Judaism made a non-Jewish person into a Jew. Accordingly, only a person who had converted to Judaism via the Orthodox movement would be automatically granted the right to immigrate to Israel under their Law of Return, and be registered in the state's population registry as a Jew. On February 20, 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that the Ministry of Interior should register as Jews 24 plaintiffs in the Population Registry. They had converted to Judaism within the Reform and Conservative movements, some in Israel, others abroad. This ruling ended a 7-year struggle for those who do not wish to commit themselves and their families to the Orthodox way of life, as demanded by the Orthodox conversion religious courts (Naamat and Others v. Minister of the Interior and Others). The Court also ruled in a 7 to 4 decision that non-Jews, who studied Judaism for conversion purposes in Orthodox, Conservative or Reform institutions, then were converted abroad, and returned to Israel, will be recognized as Jews by the Law of Return and receive the benefits entitled by this law (Toshbeim, Makarina and Others v. Minister of the Interiror and Others).

The Supreme Court further held that the authorities may not discriminate in funding of non-orthodox religious movements (Conservative Movement v. Minister for Religious Affairs), and it overruled decisions of the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv Municipalities that refused approving the candidacy of Reform representatives for service on the local religious councils (Anat Hoffman v. The Jerusalem Municipality and Others).
On minority rights, the Supreme Court ruled that municipalities in which Palestinian-Arabs reside need to include Arabic on their public sign-postings. The appellants argued that most sign-postings were written in Hebrew and in English, ignoring that Arabic is one of the two official languages of the State, and the Arab minority residing in the relevant cities. The Court, in a 2-1 decision, accepted the appeal (Adalah Legal Center v. Tel Aviv Municipality and Others). The Supreme Court further ruled that the state may not discriminate against Arabs applying for housing rights on state land (in the Katzir community village) by leasing the land to the Jewish Agency (Kaadan v. Israel Lands Administration); that Palestinian-Arabs should be given more adequate representation in the Israel Land Council, which makes the land ownership policy in Israel (Association for Civil Rights in Israel v. Israeli Government), and that the principle of equalitarian proportionality must be respected in allocation of resources to Arab cemeteries (Adalah Legal Center v. Ministry of Religion). This latter decision opened the way to egalitarian discourse on budgetary allocations.
On July 20, 2000, the High Court of Justice ruled that the Ministry of Education should provide Israeli-Palestinians with a proportionate budget to its size (Supreme Follow-up Committee on Arab Education in Israel v. Ministry of Education). In December 2001, the Supreme Court ruled that the budget for reconstruction of Palestinian villages and towns in the Suburb Rehabilitation Plan need to comply with the Palestinian-Arab sector’s needs and should be proportionate to the sector’s size in Israel (Council of Heads of Arab Local Authorities and Others v. Minister of Construction).

Another minority consists of homosexuals and lesbians. In an important precedent, the High Court of Justice ruled that the term "partner" in the collective agreement signed between El Al and its workers concerns also couples of the same sex. Thus partners who live together with El Al personnel are entitled to the same benefits, nothwithstanding their sexual orientation (El Al v. Daniloff). In 2004, a District Court decided that a man, who lived with his male partner as a couple, may inherit his property after the latter's death (In the Matter of the Inheritancy of S.R., and In the Matter of A.M. v. Legal Advisor to the Government in the Office of the General Custodian).


Israel is saturated with schisms. Those schisms challenge the foundations of liberal democracy (liberty, equality, tolerance, justice) and the ability to maintain human rights.
After the Holocaust, the goal was to found a safe haven for Jews all over the world so as to avoid the possibility of another horrific experience of that nature. Indeed, the United Nations acknowledged the need for establishing a Jewish state. This creation, however, based on a Jewish conception of the good, discriminates against the Israeli Arabs. Israel acknowledges the problems involved in the introduction of this perfectionist element in its framework of ruling. To assure an equal status for the Palestinian-Arab minority, the words of the Declaration of Independence must be translated into deeds, striving to achieve real equality between Arabs and Jews, and to secure civic and human rights for all.

Israel, being the only Jewish state in the world, strives to preserve its Jewish character. But the preservation of the Jewish character of the state does not necessarily entail the coercion of the predominant secular circles of Israel. People are born free and wish to continue their lives as free citizens in their homeland. Coercion is foreign to human natural sentiments and desires to lead one’s life as free as possible from alien restraints and impediments. Thus a differentiation is needed in Israel between the symbolic aspects and the modus operandi aspects. On the one hand, the history of Israel requires that the symbols remain Jewish with some accommodations in order to make the state a home for its Palestinian citizens as well. Shabbat is to remain the official day of rest. Palestinian villages and towns may make Friday their day of rest. One may hope that one day, when security considerations would become less dominant and pressing, and the Israeli economy could afford two days of rest, as is the case in many parts of the world, then Friday and Shabbat will become the two official days of rest.

As far as the modus operandi aspects are concerned, on the other hand, separation between state and religion would arguably be beneficial. Most scholars agree that effective protection of human rights in Israel will be difficult to achieve without separation of state and religion. Hence, without questioning the symbolic role of the Shabbat as the day of rest, malls and shopping places outside the cities can be made available for the many people who work during the week and do their shopping during weekends. Public transportation, moreover, can be made available for all people who cannot afford having a car and for those who do not drive.

The state is responsible for catering for the needs of as many citizens as possible. It is important, therefore, that Kosher shops and restaurants be available and with them non-Kosher shops and restaurants for the secular, agnostic population. Most importantly, it is critical that citizens be granted the right to decide when it comes to the significant events in everyone's life, namely birth, wedding, divorce and death. People may involve rabbinate and other religious institutions in their private lives, if they so desire. However, human rights advocates argue that those who wish to have secular ceremonies should enjoy the ability to conduct them and not to be forced to undergo practices which mean very little to them, if anything. Presently, many couples travel to Cyprus and other countries to get married. This is not a solution for people who cannot afford the financial burden associated with traveling abroad. Furthermore and principally, this is not a solution for secular Israelis who rightly conceive the Orthodox domination as a severe encroachment of their civic freedoms.

Furthermore, separation between state and religion entails that the state has as little possible say in family, intimate affairs. The role of the government is that of being an umpire both in the sense of applying just considerations when reviewing different conceptions and in trying to reconcile conflicting interests, trends, and claims. This delicate task demands integrity as well as impartiality. It is the duty of democratic governments not to exploit their role for their own advantage and, when making decisions, to bear in mind the relevant considerations and demands which concern society as a whole, not only one or some fractions of it.
Education is a key factor in establishing human rights norms and in erecting bridges between different people of different walks of life. In its most sensible recommendations, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights encouraged the State party to continue to provide human rights education in schools at all levels and to raise awareness about human rights, in particular economic, social and cultural rights, among state officials and the judiciary. It further encouraged Israel to develop the system of mixed schools for Jewish and Arab pupils, in order to promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among the citizens of the country.

Final note on security, which has considerable effect on Israeli life and on the state of the civic and political rights of Jews and Palestinians: Security is not an end in itself, but a means. The final aim is to secure a democratic system, an administration of the people, for the people, by the people, that guarantees individual freedoms and fundamental human rights. Unless Israel ends the occupation, its democratic foundations will not be secure. The state of occupation harms primarily the Palestinians but it also damages the civic foundations of democracy. Decision makers thought that it is possible to maintain the duality of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: being an occupier outside the Green Line, and a citizen inside the Green Line. However, norms of the occupation infiltrate inside Israel and damage the democratic foundations of the State. Prime Minister Sharon's Disengagement Plan, also known as the Gaza First Plan, was a possible route to follow as – indeed – the first step in a calculated process designed to evacuate the territories and shifting responsibility to the Palestinian Authority. A two-state solution, bringing peace and tranquility to Israel and Palestine, remains today the most viable option for both nations to follow and the best way to effectively protect human rights.

Comment on Israel and International Human Rights

Prof. Sam Lehman-Wilzig commented on my article, saying:

Hi Rafi:
A comment or two on your Human Rights article.
Overall, it is a judicious and relatively fair FACTUAL survey of the situation. But I have two related quibbles.

1) Your sentence "Unfortunately, Israel today gives precedence to Judaism over liberalism" is not factually correct. You do note in the article the few areas where this is true, but you hardly mention the vast amount of areas where democracy overwhelms Jewish strictures in Israel. Some examples of areas of life that have strict restrictions in Judaism but not in Israeli life: 1- Homosexuality is completely accepted in Israel in legal terms (you do mention this but don't note that this contradicts your above quote); 2- Sabbath travel (anyone can drive anywhere); 3- Unkosher food (pork/shellfish in stores and restaurants -- accessible to anyone); 4- Cohabitation outside of marriage; etc etc; 5- The rights and equality of women in almost all areas of life (except for Family matters). In short, if Judaism truly "ran" Israel, the country would look COMPLETELY different!

2) The above quote -- and indeed, your entire philosophical thrust -- does not note that Israel CONSCIOUSLY does not accept the assumption that liberal democracy uber alles. The Declaration of Independence clearly states that Israel is to be a JEWISH and DEMOCRATIC state. The problem with liberals such as yourself is that you are not willing to accept the legitimacy of the origins of the NATION-state, i.e. modern states emanate from the cultural traditions of a specific ethnos, and the Jewish State is today's epitome of that approach. What did happen (after the Enlightenment) is that many of these states began to deny the "national" (ethnic/cultural) element and by the late 20th century the deracinated "state" became the "be-all-and-end-all" with "liberalism" as the dominant ethos. I am not arguing that such a development was "bad". In many ways it was good. But it cannot negate the fact that there is another -- much more prior -- way of defining the raison d'etre of the state: NATION-State. This is what Israel stands for: trying to square the circle between the national (cultural/religious) and the democratic. Thus, your approach is misleading in that it views Israel's "performance" thru the prism of YOUR definition of what a "state" should be and how it should act -- a definition that Israel does not accept! (Aharon Barak notwithstanding.) Judaism is not merely a matter of "symbolism" as you argue in typical "liberal democratic" fashion; it is a matter of private and public behavior and thought. I think that in the future you must make this point much clearer - especially in light of how much Jews have suffered over the centuries for their religion/culture AND in light of the fact that Israel does not reside in Western Europe but in the Middle East. The latter point is not "technical" but rather deeply historical.
The bottom line: people reading your article will definitely receive a lot of important information about the issues you raise. But they will not understand the historical context, nor Israel's efforts to balance the democratic and the Jewish.

All the best,


ACRI’s State of Human Rights Report 2009

JERUSALEM – December 3, 2009 – In its annual survey of the protection of human rights in Israel and the Occupied Territories, ACRI reveals an alarming trend: the conditioning of rights.
The realization of the entire spectrum of rights is now, more than ever, dependent on what we say or believe, what ethnic group we belong to, how much money we have, and more. We have the freedom to express ourselves and demonstrate – only if we don’t say anything displeasing; we have the right to equal treatment and opportunities – only if we are “loyal” to the State; we have the right to health care – only if we have enough money to afford treatments and medications; and we have the right to adequate housing – only if our ideologies and lifestyles are acceptable.

According to ACRI, the conditioning of rights is contrary to the principle of the universality of human rights. “Every individual has basic rights as a human being and these rights are inalienable,” said ACRI President and renowned author Sammi Michael. “Just as rights cannot be conditioned, neither can democracy. As such, the conditioning of rights undermines the very foundations of Israeli democracy.”
Below are highlights of the 2009 State of Human Rights Report:

Freedom of Expression – If they like what you say: In 2009, there has been a disturbing increase in infringements on freedom of expression, specifically when individuals and organizations criticized the government.

• In the context of the legal and non-violent campaign against “Operation Cast Lead”, demonstrations were diffused, protesters arrested for no valid reason, and some requests to hold demonstrations not granted – because of the messages conveyed.

• Several legislative bills attempted to limit freedom of expression in an unprecedented manner: the “Nakba Law” would have rendered marking Israel’s Independence Day punishable with imprisonment and the “Loyalty Law” would have ordered the cancellation of the citizenship of those who do not pledge loyalty to the State.

Delegitimization of Human Rights Defenders and Activists: Decision-makers and senior officials within the Israeli government have worked to silence activists and members of social change organizations, whose messages do not correspond to their own. This included aggressive media campaigns, demonization, the diffusion of false information, and attempts to sabotage their funding. Earlier this year, for example, the IDF Spokesperson savagely attacked “Breaking the Silence,” a group which collects testimonies from soldiers who served in the Occupied Territories. In another instance among many, Interior Ministry Eli Yishai called organizations defending migrant workers’ rights a “threat to the Zionist enterprise.”

Arab Minority– Rights, if you are loyal: Though Arab citizens of Israel have suffered entrenched discrimination since the establishment of the State, they have faced particularly vicious attacks on their political and civil rights in the past year. Many of the trends mentioned above have affected Israel’s minority most acutely such as the proposed “Nakba Law” and “Loyalty Law.” Moreover, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced that whoever did not serve in the military or complete national service would not be accepted to the Foreign Ministry’s training course; Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar announced plans to offer financial incentives for schools with high military induction rates. These conditions blatantly infringe on the rights of Arab citizens to equality because they generally do not serve in the army but the conditions also discriminate against Haredim (ultra-Orthodox Jews), people with disabilities, and others. The proposals also reinforce the notion – held among many - that Arab citizens constitute a fifth column.

Increased Racism among Different Groups: A survey in the daily Haaretz reported a high level of intolerance of, and among, virtually all sub-groups in Israeli society. These include: Arabs, Israelis of Russian and Ethiopian origin, Haredim (ultra-Orthodox Jews) and settlers. The horrifying attack on the “Barnoar” gay and lesbian youth club in Tel Aviv elicited widespread condemnation by public officials, but Web forums and talkbacks revealed deep-rooted hatred and disgust for the homosexual community among the general public.

The Right to Adequate Housing – If you are “one of us”: ACRI has documented many instances of illegal discrimination in various housing projects against Arabs, religious groups, members of lower socio-economic classes, and others, through acceptance committees, acquisition groups, and other mechanisms.
The Right to Health Care – If you can pay: With the increasing privatization of health care and the increase in the cost of co-payments, members of weaker socio-economic classes are surrendering health care and treatments because they cannot afford them. As a result, doctors and pharmacists are forced to find loopholes to ensure their patients receive proper treatment and medication and even pay for these out of their own pockets.

Occupied Territories – Rights, if you are Israeli: During “Operation Cast Lead”, Israel was responsible for the widespread killing of civilians and continues to view the entire population of Gaza, including minors, as an enemy population, worthy of collective punishment. Despite the repeated pleas of human rights organizations in Israel and abroad and concrete suspicions of breaches of law, Israel has yet to conduct an independent inquiry into its actions.
In the West Bank, Israelis and Palestinians continue to live in two separate and unequal realities: Palestinians are forbidden from travelling on certain main thoroughfares for the purported benefit of Israelis; Israelis and Palestinians are subject to two separate justice systems, where the military law to which Palestinians are subject is much harsher and neglects their due process rights; Palestinians in the West Bank suffer from a grave shortage of water, again for the benefit of Israelis; and Palestinians continue to be victims of attacks by Israelis in the West Bank, with the Police and military not sufficiently protecting Palestinians as required by law and not punishing the perpetrators adequately.

The Deterioration of Democracy: In 2009, lawmakers repeatedly attempted to pass harmful laws in a secretive and hasty manner, purposely trying to circumvent public debate. This was true in the cases of the biometric database bill, the land reform bill, and several radical changes to the State’s social and economic policies. Moreover, ACRI has documented a worrying trend in which the State increasingly ignores Supreme Court rulings, continuing to implement illegal policies, which violate a range of rights, and challenging the basic tenets of Israel’s democratic institutions.

For more information on specific topics or to schedule an interview, contact Melanie Takefman ++972-528606023 or melanie@acri.org.il Visit ACRI online at http://www.acri.org.il/

Please find the Hebrew version of the report at http://www.acri.org.il/pdf/tempreport09.pdf. The complete English version of the report is available at www.acri.org.il/eng.

I thank Dan Yakir for the information.

Israel Studies in Europe

There is a new initiative to organize an Israel Studies Association in Europe. I was invited to the first meeting that convened in London. Some thirty people who are interested in Israel Studies were present, mostly from England. There was also one lecturer from France and another from Italy.
This is a very valuable initiative that I hope will gather momentum and materialize. The topic is of utmost importance, especially in England. I am pleased to learn that some sixty people are potentially interested. Together we can make a difference.

Resource on Israel

All historical events from 1948 onwards, in Hebrew:

Other Useful Resources

The papers of Sir Mark Sykes, 1879-1919: the Sykes-Picot Agreement & the Middle East

BBC Listener Research Department, 1937-c.1950

Part I of the "Audience Research Reports of the BBC" collection, covering the period 1937-c.1950, presents the early research of the BBC’s pioneering Listener Research Department (LRD) into wireless listening in Britain nationwide and at a regional level. From the controversial founding of the Department in 1936, this first part takes in the turbulent years of the Second World War through to the early post-war period leading up to launch of Britain's first national television channel. This part reproduces the entire available collection of weekly Audience Summaries, together with the weekly then daily Listening Barometers. Also included are the Audience Reaction Reports on specific programmes and Special Reports on particular themes or issues for the period, as well as some key policy documents produced by the LRD during these years, tracing the early development of what has come to be known as market research within the BBC.

During the Second World War, listener research took on a new urgency as the BBC became an indispensable part of life on the Home Front. The LRD’s wartime audience research, reproduced here for the first time, provides crucial insights into the listening habits and cultural preferences of the British people at this time, as well as detailed listener responses to some of the key radio programmes and personalities of the era, from ITMA and The Brains Trust to Winston Churchill and William Joyce, the voice of Nazi propaganda better known as Lord Haw-Haw. Through its special reports on topics ranging from news readers’ accents and evening listening habits to listeners’ views about Russia, this first part provides a unique and revealing window onto the behaviour, attitudes and preoccupations of the British people at a key moment in their history.


I thank Dr Roderic Vassie for bringing these resources to my attention.

Digital Media in Conflict-Prone Societies

The Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) has released its October 2009 report on “Digital Media in Conflict-Prone Societies.” The report examines how the relationship between media and societies in conflict has changed over the past decade as various forms of digital media have superseded traditional media. The report argues that conflicts are increasingly being shaped by information gathered by both official media and “citizen reporters.” Finally, the report examines whether digital media will quell violence or lead to intensified conflicts.

Source: http://cima.ned.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/Sigal-Digital-Media-in-Conflit-Prone-Societies.pdf


The Institute of International Education (IIE) is Pleased to Announce We Are Now Accepting Nominations For the Prize.


The Institute of International Education is pleased to announce the call for nominations for the 6th annual Victor J. Goldberg IIE Prize for Peace in the Middle East. The prize recognizes outstanding work being conducted jointly by two individuals, one Arab and one Israeli, working together to advance the cause of peace in the Middle East. The two individuals whose work is judged to be most successful in bringing people together and breaking down the barriers of hatred will share a $10,000 prize.
We would greatly appreciate your assistance in publicizing this Prize to anyone you know who may be eligible, or who may be interested in nominating others.


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

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

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

John Demjanjuk

In Munich, John Demjanjuk accused of helping to murder more than 27,000 Jews at a Nazi death camp, has gone on trial. Demjanjuk denies being a camp guard at Sobibor, in Nazi-occupied Poland. The trial is expected to last until May and, if found guilty, Mr Demjanjuk could be sentenced to 15 years in jail. There are no living witnesses in this case, but over 30 people listed as joint plaintiffs are expected to testify about what happened at Sobibor, described by investigators as hell on earth.
This is the second time John Demjanjuk is appearing in court. Two decades ago, he was sentenced to death in Israel, convicted of being Ivan the Terrible, a notoriously sadistic guard at the Treblinka death camp. But that ruling was overturned after new evidence showed that another Ukrainian “Ivan the terrible” was probably responsible.

During the 1980s I was involved in that case in my capacity as Chairperson of the Second Generation to the Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Organization in Israel. I met with the people responsible for his investigation in the USA and Israel as well as with the then Minister of Justice, Moshe Nissim, who promised to help in bringing Demjanjuk to trial. I got myself involved only when I was assured this was a “clear case” of a mass murderer. Well, it was not so clear as people thought. But the evidence I saw convinced me that he is a war criminal. I believed it then and I believe it now. The Israeli prosecution confused two different people, carrying the same name, doing a very similar job in Treblinka and Sobibor. This time there is no confusion about John Demjanjuk.

Sustainability: Fulbright Scholars - Shaping Tomorrow's Future Today

I was asked to post the following. There are quite a few Fulbright scholars on my list.

San Francisco, California - March 11-14

The FAST Sustainability Conference will address topics such as urban planning, sustainable businesses, natural resource management, food & agriculture, consumer products and environmental education & communication.
This is the Fulbright Academy's Fifth Annual Conference, with 250 participants and 50+ Fulbright scholars presenting their ideas, work and visions for the future. Sponsors for the conference include Monsanto, Campbell Soup, Thunderbird School of Global Management and Loyola Marymount University.
The Fulbright participants and other guests are from more than twenty countries, from many disciplines and in many stages of their professional careers. They are young entrepreneurs, medical professionals, business executives, architects and engineers, leaders in education, graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, and alumni working in other sectors. FAST seeks to build strong ties among the participants, so the conference is limited to about 250 participants - or about 5% of the 5,000+ recipients of the Academy's monthly bulletins.
The program includes an opening gala celebration on Thursday night, a film festival, an executive training on entrepreneurism, a workshop on global health, and deep discussions on Sustainability. We also have science tours , which are an integral part of the program and all for structured and unstructured interaction with fellow participants. Confirmed tours relate to national parks & environmental education, marine mammal conservation and biotechnology/agricultural research.

About 120 spots are still available for the conference, so please register today.

The costs:

Registration: $150 to $450, depending on your employment status and home country
Accommodation: $127/night at the Hilton Hotel (contact FAST for information on room sharing)
Travel: Airfare is low right now - $260 from the East Coast of the USA to San Francisco


Online Registration

Opening page for the conference website

Institutional affiliations of expected participants

New Books

Robert W. Firestone and Joyce Catlett, The Ethics of Interpersonal Relationships (Karnac Books, 29 May 2009)

· ISBN-10: 1855756056

· ISBN-13: 978-1855756052

'This wonderful book rescues ethics from the dusty shelf of rules and abstractions. With sound scholarship, fresh thinking, and a friendly voice, Firestone and Catlett help us confront the most urgent questions of human existence and our relationships with each other. An invaluable resource to learn from, argue with, and think through who we are and want to be. --Kenneth S. Pope, PhD, ABPP, author (with Melba Vasquez) of Ethics in Psychotherapy and Counseling: A Practical Guide
Firestone and Catlett provide a well-developed psychological explanation of unethical behavior. The enduring damage from early emotional deprivation and its patterned scars of personal defensiveness render any of us less able to treat others as we would want to be treated. Although not intended as an ethics text, the authors poignantly illustrate the moral philosophy of care ethics and the moral consequences of humans situated in uncaring worlds. Spouses, partners, parents, healthcare professionals, corporate executives, and political leaders may all benefit from a fresh reminder that more care in our personal interactions is the same model of ethics needed for global survival. --Ronee Smith Griffith, PhD, Director, Relational Ethics Institute
In examining the ethics of interpersonal relationships Firestone and Catlett take a psychologist's aim at power, friendship, and transience and place them in a historical and pragmatic perspective. They posit the universal fear of mortality as an engine that ultimately generates interpersonal rifts as well as global abuses of power. By way of illustration, they describe their compassionate view of personal engagement in the 'friendship circle', a 30-year, ongoing social experiment that neutralizes fear and aversive childhood conditioning. This is thought-provoking reading! --Thomas F. Nagy, PhD, Independent practitioner in Palo Alto, California; author, Ethics in Plain English

The Cambridge World History of Medical Ethics

Edited by Robert B. Baker and Laurence B. McCullough

New York, NY, Cambridge University Press, 2009
876 pp, $250

ISBN-13: 978-0-5218-8879-0

Reflections on Japan

I received quite a few comments about my reflections on Japan. I am glad you enjoyed my impressions. One friend remarked I should write my autobiography. Another suggested embarking on a new career: writing short stories.
Well, I dread to write an autobiography for several reasons. Whatever you think of me, I am too humble to write an autobiography now. Maybe upon retirement but then I wonder who will read it? Few people read my academic writings but then I have the misguided notion that somehow I am still contributing to science. But what kind of a contribution will it be if I were to write an autobiography, beyond satisfying the curiosity of some people?

As for short stories: It is one of those things I know I can do, but don’t have the energy to do. Same is true for writing a novel. I have scribbled a few ideas throughout the years but don’t have the zeal to sit down and write. Maybe I am too busy. Maybe it is not to me. I know I can climb some mountains, yet I don’t do it. Same thing, I think.

I do write poetry when inspired. It is a lovely experience.
I put a Japan album on my Facebook account, if you wish to see more photos.
One day, I hope to be approached by a publisher, suggesting compiling parts of this nine-year blog into a book. It was done with other blogs.

Gem of the Month - Joe McElderry

He is 18 year-old. He is nice and down-to-earth. He is blessed with great natural voice, and he just won one of the most important TV music competitions in the world, the X Factor, which grants him, for starter, a 1 million recording contract. The remarkable thing about him is that his singing is effortless. If he calculates his moves prudently, and retains his genuine humble and warm personality, Joe McElderry is here to stay for many years to come. The future is his. We will relish and enjoy.

Monthly Poem

What is hope/ Vineet Bansal
What hope means
Hope is bright shining light which keeps darkness at the bay
Hope is gentle cold breeze on a hot summer day
Hope is to remain positive when going gets tough
hope is seeking more when others think u had enough
What hope means
Hope is dreaming of tomorrow
Hope is simmering under sorrow
Hope is sparkles when tears in our eyes
Hope is a beautiful thing & beautiful things never dies
What hope means
Hope is as light as a feather
Hope keeps all of us together
Hope is ubiquitous and free of cost
hope is the last thing ever lost.....

Light Side

This is an old joke that is much liked in England as it concerns two folk heroes. It is mentioned as one of the best British jokes ever. I think I posted it in the past, but here it is again. In case you did not read it, read and save.
Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson go on a camping trip. After a good dinner and a bottle of wine, they retire for the night, and go to sleep.
Some hours later, Holmes wakes up and nudges his faithful friend. “Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see.”
“I see millions and millions of stars, Holmes” replies Watson.
“And what do you deduce from that?”
Watson ponders for a minute. “Well, astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets.
Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo.
Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three.
Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow.
Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful, and that we are a small and insignificant part of the universe.
But what does it tell you, Holmes?”
Holmes is silent for a moment.
“Watson, you idiot!” he says. “Someone has stolen our tent!”

May I wish you all Merry Christmas, Light, Peace and Love,

Yours as ever,


My last communications are available on http://almagor.blogspot.com/
Earlier posts at my home page: http://hcc.haifa.ac.il/~rca/
People wishing to subscribe to this Monthly Newsletter are welcome to e-mail me at r.cohen-almagor@hull.ac.uk