Monday, December 27, 2010

Politics – December 2010

A person who is only concerned with himself, will wake up one morning and question his worth. A person who gives his time and effort to others will know his worth when he sees the fruits of his labour.

    ~ Yoni Jesner

    Gilad is still in captivity. Veshavu banim legvulam.

    ~Raphael Cohen-Almagor

The news in early December was dominated by the largest and most horrendous fire in Israel’s history. The fire broke out in Mount Carmel, one of the country's few natural forests on the outskirts of Israel's third-largest city, Haifa. Israel did not have the necessary resources to fight a fire of such scale. Not even one big aircraft that can carry a large amount of water to extinguish the raging fire. The shortfall prompted an unprecedented wave of international assistance. Israel usually sends its rescue teams and medical personnel to disaster areas across the globe. This time it was on the receiving end. Ninety firefighters from Bulgaria were the first to arrive. They were followed by fire extinguishing planes and crews from Azerbaijan, Britain, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Romania, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, the United States and Turkey. Egypt and Jordan sent fire materials while the Netherlands sent experts in firefighting.

These are encouraging signs that Israel sees some success in integrating into the Middle East. Three of its neighbours came to help.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan proved his ability to set aside his differences with the Israeli government and to be among the first who offered help. He and Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke over the telephone for the first time since Netanyahu took office more than a year and a half ago. A second silver lining in this immense tragedy. Turkey’s friendship is of immense importance to Israel.

Forty-four people have died and scores have been injured fighting the blazing fire. Some of them are still in hospital. 17,000 people have been evacuated. The flames have burnt more than 50,000 dunams (about 12,000 acres) of Carmel forestland, damaged 250 homes, and caused over NIS 200 million in damage. Experts say that it will take some forty years for the forest to renew its beauty after this devastating fire.


Reflections on November Newsletter
The Failed Peace Process in the Middle East 1993-2010
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Worldview
Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay Recognized Palestine
Mideast Resists U.S. on Blocking Financing to Terrorists
Legal Actions against Racist Rabbis
Movie on Herzl
Lecture in Italy
My New Article
New Books
Gem of the Month - Pizzo
KLM - Al Italia
Monthly Poems
Something to Warm Your Heart
Light Side

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

Gilad Shalit

Reflections on November Newsletter

I found your notes on the conference you attended in Vienna very interesting. As well, I read your remarks on euthanasia in La Presse. We are very, very far from any legislation assuming that's even in the cards.

Happy Chanukah,

Professor Herb Marx, Montreal, Canada

The Failed Peace Process in the Middle East 1993-2010

I have just completed the first draft of a new article, The Failed Peace Process in the Middle East 1993-2010. Abstract infra.

I’d be happy to send it to interested parties for criticisms and comments. I am sure I could benefits from your insights prior to sending it for publication.

Since 1977, the Israeli society is split over the question of peace versus land. The aim of this paper is to outline some of the developments that took place since the signing of the Oslo accords in September 1993. It is argued that the peace agreement was like a Swiss cheese with one difference: the holes were so big as to question the essence of the cheese. I analyze the major mistakes that were made along the way by Israeli leaders: Rabin, Peres, Barak and Olmert. I also analyze Arafat's conduct, arguing that brinkmanship policy is very dangerous when one or both sides are willing to pay a high price with blood. The fear from escalating the region into a comprehensive war is very much alive and real. It is argued that the way to escape the deadlock is to rely on the Clinton parameters and the Geneva Accord. Both documents lay the foundations for resolving all contentious issues.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Worldview

I was asked whether Prime Minister Netanyahu is committed to peace. Netanyahu is not a pragmatist like Menachem Begin who withdrew from Sinai and Ariel Sharon who withdrew from Gaza; he is not driven by a sense of history, as Begin was, and his realpolitik is based on different principles than Sharon’s. Netanyahu’s philosophy is based on the following components:

• Israel should take care of itself. No other country will go out of its way for Israel. The world is busy. Countries have other priorities. We are the only people who understand our needs, appreciate our difficulties, and will be there for us in time of trouble.
• Therefore, Israel needs to be strong. Very strong. Our enemies will restrain themselves in the face of strong Israel.
• Strength is manifested also by a strong economy which is founded on capitalist interests, bringing wealth to the nation, and retaining it. This means keeping the economic elite happy, and bringing external investments.
• Israel is a very small country, surrounded by hostile neighbours. It should not be smaller than it already is. Therefore, we should retain our territory, build in it, settle it, and we need to help those pioneers, those wonderful people who are willing to conquer new lands, and establish facts in the land. These people truly care for Israel and its destiny.
• The Palestinians have severe problems. They should strive to solve them, possibly with the help of the Arab world, but not at the expense of Israel.
• Some of their problems are the result of Israel’s presence in the occupied territories. This is granted. But these problems are the result of their terrorist behavior. They should first prove to us that they had deserted terror. Once they do, Israel will be happy to relax the pressure. We don’t enjoy pressurizing the Palestinians. We do it out of necessity to retain our strength and secure our people.
• The UN is not to be trusted. It is biased toward the Muslim and Arab world, with dozens of representatives in the Mission, against one tiny Israel.
• The European Union is biased. It is driven by economic interests, by its own concern vis-a-vis the growing Muslim presence in the continent, by geopolitical interests in which Israel features as a problem. Some argue that Europe is anti-Semitic. Europe should prove otherwise.
• Israel should retain its special relationship with the USA. We should be attentive to any American administration’s demands, with reason, communication, and mutual understanding of the respective needs.

This set of principles allows very little scope for concessions and for pragmatism. The Palestinians will not be satisfied with what is offered. At best, the region I at a standstill as far as peace is concerned. At worst, things will escalate into yet another bloody confrontation. Iran, with its offshoots (Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank), will make things messier and volatile.

Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay Recognize Palestine

The discussions now whether Abu Mazen should declare a Palestinian state remind me of the discussions held by the Jewish leadership in Palestine during 1947-1948. There was no international support. There were many fears and trepidations. It needed David Ben-Gurion’s courage and foresight to say, Now is the time, and to declare the Israeli state.

Recently Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay recognized an independent Palestinian state. Israel resents this. It would like such recognition to be part of bilateral negotiations between Israel and the PA, and would like to get something in return for such a move. On December 12, 2010, Israel’s prime ally, the United States, announced its opposition as well.

The USA need not agree with Israel on this issue. The writing on the wall is loud and clear: There will be a Palestinian state. It is preferable to be perceived as a benevolent supporter than as a stiff-necked opposer. Israeli leaders remember until today which countries supported the 1947 UN Partition decision, and which countries opposed. Somehow, nations have long memories on such delicate matters.

Soon, the Arab League will recognize Palestine. With twenty seven countries behind the initiative, the ball will be rolling and no one will be able to stop it.


Jordan's King Abdullah II said he was seeking "practical steps" to improve his frosty relations with Iran, a contrast to his regime's frequent criticism of Iran. Abdullah made this statement in a closed-door meeting with Esfandiar Rahim Mashai, director of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's office. Abdullah accepted Ahmadinejad's invitation to visit Tehran soon, but no date was set.

King Abdullah has been one of Iran's harshest critics in recent years, warning that its growing influence in the region could undermine him and other pro-American moderates. Now Abdullah is saying it is "imperative to undertake practical steps for improving Jordanian-Iranian relations in the service of both countries, their brotherly people and joint Islamic causes and to consolidate security and stability in the region."

In 2004, Abdullah warned of Iran's growing influence in Iraq and the rest of the region. In U.S. cables released by WikiLeaks, U.S. Ambassador to Jordan Stephen Beecroft quoted Jordanian officials saying Iran is an "octopus" whose tentacles "reach out insidiously to manipulate, foment, and undermine the best laid plans of the West and regional moderates." Iran's "tentacles" include Qatar, Syria, the militant Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian territories, an Iraqi government linked to Iran and Shiite communities across the Middle East.


Mideast Resists U.S. on Blocking Financing to Terrorists

Nine years after the United States vowed to shut down the money pipeline that finances terrorism, senior Obama administration officials say they believe that many millions of dollars are flowing largely unimpeded to extremist groups worldwide, and they have grown frustrated by frequent resistance from allies in the Middle East, according to secret diplomatic dispatches.

The government cables, obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to several news organizations, catalog a long list of methods that American officials suspect terrorist financiers are using.

The cables also describe how the leaders of Iraq are struggling to restrain the ambitions of the countries that share its porous borders, eye its rich resources and vie for influence.

Dozens of other cables reveal the deep distrust by some traditional European allies of an American government program to monitor international banking transactions for terrorist activity.


Legal Actions against Racist Rabbis

On December 9, 2010, Israel’s Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein announced that his office would check if the behavior of 47 municipal rabbis who issued a petition against renting properties to non-Jews was a "criminal" act by state employees. Weinstein's comments came in a letter to Meretz MK Ilan Gilon who had rightly called on the rabbis to be ousted from their positions. The rabbis signed a statement which quotes the halachic stance against renting or selling a house or plot of land to a “gentile” in Israel. The letter notes the danger of intermarriage, the potential damage to the religious beliefs of Jewish neighbors who might be influenced by non-Jews, and the damage to the value of real estate in the area. Weinstein's response says the contents of the rabbinic statement are “problematic in a number of ways and are not emblematic of proper public behavior.” He has instructed his office to check the “criminal and disciplinary aspects raised by the rabbis' statements."

Yad Vashem joined the ADL and other leading Jewish institutions in denouncing the rabbinic letter, calling it “a severe blow to the fundamental values of our lives as Jews and humans in a democratic state.”

Israel cannot sit idly by while senior officials incite to racism and undermine its democratic values. Such officials need to decide: either they are public servants who adhere to the laws and values of the state that employs them, or they incite to hate and violence. If they chose the latter, they should resign immediately. And if they do not see the necessity in doing so, then the state should discharge them from all public responsibilities. Israel as a Jewish state has an obligation to secure the well being of its vulnerable minority.

Movie on Herzl

One of the most important figures in the history of Zionism, if not the most important figure, is Theodor (Binyamin Ze’ev) Herzl, the man with the vision and energy to establish a home for the Jewish people. These days, when Zionism became a derogatory word in many parts of the world, and people smear it as colonialist and racist, we need to go to the roots and understand the origins of the Zionist movement and how it came about.

Surprisingly, I am not aware of any dramatic film that was made about Herzl’s life and mission.

All ideas as how to make this happen are welcomed.

It would be nice if a Hollywood producer, Arnon Milchan for instance, will commit himself. Robert De Niro will be great for the leading role. The script is wonderful. With the right cast and direction, it will be a grand, successful movie.

Lecture in Italy
I was invited to deliver a lecture at Catanzaro Law School on “Euthanasia in the Netherlands and Belgium – Critical Appraisal”.

The aim of this presentation is to provide a critical review of euthanasia policy and practice in Holland and Belgium. It discusses the Dutch and Belgian laws as well as major developments and recent controversies in the laws’ implementation. The lecture highlights some concerns: Euthanasia is not limited to people who are terminally ill; ending of life without request is more common than euthanasia; terminal sedation is practiced without patients’ request; the level of reporting is disappointing, and there is not comprehensive monitoring of lethal drugs provided by pharmacists for euthanasia. Further safeguards against abuse should be studied and implemented in both countries. The presentation concludes with seventeen guidelines for careful physician-assistedsuicide (PAS).

There was a nice group of law scholars and lawyers as well as an Israeli law student. It was nice to suddenly hear Hebrew. I thank Professor Massimo la Torre for the kind invitation and hospitality. I also thank his Ph.D students for taking care of me during my visit.

My New Article

I am happy to announce my very first article in Greek:

“Ο μισαλλόδοξος λόγος στον Καναδά” (“Hate Speech in Canada”), Isopoliteia, Vol. XIIXIII (2008- 2009), pp. 51-100.

Greek timing is apparently different from conventional timing. I received the journal issue just now.

I’d be happy to send the article to my Greek friends and colleagues.


The Institute of International Education is pleased to announce the call for nominations for the 7th 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.

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 February 15, 2011, and the winners will be announced in the spring. A copy of the nomination form can be downloaded at

Details at

New Books

W. Lee Rawls, In Praise of Deadlock (Washington DC.: Woodrow Wilson Center, 2009).

With budget reconciliations, filibusters, and supermajorities making headlines, In Praise of Deadlock explains the legislative process and its checkpoints, while maintaining a noncomformist respect for the hurdles and hang-ups inherent in the American system.
As a practitioner who served for 14 years as chief of staff to Senators Bill Frist and Pete Domenici, W. Lee Rawls offers a candid perspective on partisan struggle, which he sees as essential to advancing new policy and generating consensus. Such grappling, Rawls concludes, results in a nuanced, durable machine, producing better laws that have benefited from minority input.

I thank Lee Rawls for a copy of the book.

Gem of the Month - Pizzo

Pizzo is a small village overlooking the sea. Contra common intuition, Pizzo is not known for its special pizza but for its most wonderful ice cream. The taste of ice cream still lingers in my mind.

KLM - Al Italia

What a fine partnership these two companies have. In my recent trip they managed to lose my luggage both ways. My advice to you when you require their services: Take everything you need with you and do not take any suitcase. You won't see it anyway and you spare yourself queuing for hours in the long lost luggage lines. In Schiphol alone there are 5000 suitcases waiting to be shipped to their lawful owners.

The combination of KLM and Al Italia works perfectly for the courier companies. I hope my suitcase will arrive before Christmas. And I am glad to be home. I could easily be stranded at Schiphol with hundreds of passengers I saw, sitting and waiting for alternate flights that will bring them closer to home. What a mess. Christmess.

Monthly Poems

Thou comest, Autumn, heralded by the rain,
With banners, by great gales incessant fanned,
Brighter than brightest silks of Samarcand,
And stately oxen harnessed to thy wain!
Thou standest, like imperial Charlemagne,
Upon thy bridge of gold; thy royal hand
Outstretched with benedictions o'er the land,
Blessing the farms through all thy vast domain!
Thy shield is the red harvest moon, suspended
So long beneath the heaven's o'er-hanging eaves;
Thy steps are by the farmer's prayers attended;
Like flames upon an altar shine the sheaves;
And, following thee, in thy ovation splendid,
Thine almoner, the wind, scatters the golden leaves!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

More poems from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Autumn, The
Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them --
The summer flowers depart --
Sit still -- as all transform'd to stone,
Except your musing heart.

How there you sat in summer-time,
May yet be in your mind;
And how you heard the green woods sing
Beneath the freshening wind.
Though the same wind now blows around,
You would its blast recall;
For every breath that stirs the trees,
Doth cause a leaf to fall.

Oh! like that wind, is all the mirth
That flesh and dust impart:
We cannot bear its visitings,
When change is on the heart.
Gay words and jests may make us smile,
When Sorrow is asleep;
But other things must make us smile,
When Sorrow bids us weep!

The dearest hands that clasp our hands, --
Their presence may be o'er;
The dearest voice that meets our ear,
That tone may come no more!
Youth fades; and then, the joys of youth,
Which once refresh'd our mind,
Shall come -- as, on those sighing woods,
The chilling autumn wind.

Hear not the wind -- view not the woods;
Look out o'er vale and hill-
In spring, the sky encircled them --
The sky is round them still.
Come autumn's scathe -- come winter's cold --
Come change -- and human fate!
Whatever prospect Heaven doth bound,
Can ne'er be desolate.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

More poems from Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Something to Warm Your Heart

Idan Raichel is one of the most interesting musicians in Israel. His project entertains various performers, with plurality of voices yet with a distinct Israeli style. Here is one example:

Light Side

A shrewd business man comes to his young son and tells him: “My dear son, I want you to marry someone I’ll introduce to you”.
“Thank you, dad. I rather pick my future bride myself”.
“And what if I tell you that this is the daughter of Bill Gates?”
“Oh dad, well this is entirely different matter”.

The following day the father comes to Bill Gates: “Bill, I have a groom for your daughter!”
Bill: “No, thank you. My daughter is too young to get marry”.
“What if I tell you that this is a young man who serves as Deputy President of the World Bank?”
Bill: “Oh, this is an entirely different matter”.

The following day the father comes to the President of the World Bank:
“I have for you an excellent candidate for a deputy”.
“No thanks. I have enough deputies”.
“But what if I tell you that this is Bill Gates’ son-in-law?”

Peace and love, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. May it be a year of tranquility and joy, of sweet surprises, of new accomplishments and fulfilled desires, and of little adventures, with many moments to cherish for years to come.

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
Follow me on Twitter at @almagor35

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Politics – November 2010

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

Gilad is still in captivity. Veshavu banim legvulam.

    ~Raphael Cohen-Almagor

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

    ~Admiral Sir John Fisher

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

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

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

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

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

Gilad Shalit

Reflections on October Blog

Thank you, Rafi. 

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Thank you so much for your Newsletter.

Best wishes.

Dr Yoav Tenenbaum, Tel Aviv University

Vienna Conference – The Israeli Palestinian Conflict

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Visit to Lebanon

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


The Most Terror-Prone Countries

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

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

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

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

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

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


Human Rights Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Auschwitz Album

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

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

The Yoni Jesner Foundation

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

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

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

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

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

Further details:

Meir Kahane

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

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

End-of-Life Decision-Making

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

Swedish-Eritrean Journalist Awarded 2011 Golden Pen of Freedom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The topics to be covered in this conference include:

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

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

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

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

Tel Aviv  Hot! City

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

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

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


My New Article

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

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

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

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

New Books

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

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

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

Gem of the Month - ATP World Tour Finals London

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

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

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

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

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

Monthly Poem

The Academician

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Light Side

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

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

Yours as ever,


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
Twitter @almagor35

Monday, November 08, 2010

Politics – October 2010

Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.

 ~ Baruch Spinoza

Gilad is still in captivity. Veshavu banim legvulam.

At present it seems Ed Miliband better fits the Green party.

 ~Raphael Cohen-Almagor

We received hints that the IDF is searching for Gilad Shalit in Gaza. At present, it is all about good intelligence, finding the lead for Gilad’s whereabouts. At the same time, there are changes in the negotiation team. Hope this will yield good results and that Gilad will celebrate the coming Pesach at home, with his dedicated family.

In a recent poll conducted by Haaretz, Prime Minister Netanyahu received the support of 40% of the public; 47% are dissatisfied with his leadership. Minister of Defence Barak received the support of 27%; the vast majority, 62%, are dissatisfied with his performance; Minister of Foreign Affairs received the support of 34%; 54% are dissatisfied with his performance. The moderate right find Lieberman’s conduct more and more difficult.

Netanyahu is still the most popular leader in Israel. No one else is perceived to be fitter for the role. The three most important issues that embody the agenda setting for the Israeli electorate are the economy, security, and ability to reach some sort of a deal with the Palestinians.

Reflections on August-September Blog
Avigdor Lieberman
Loyalty Oath
Israel Public Opinion
Liu Xiaobo Won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize
Free Speech Cases Top American Supreme Court Docket
Ahmad Zeid-Abadi Receives WAN-IFRA Golden Pen of Freedom
Drug Deals in Cemetery – Advice Sought
The Most Candid Lecture I have Ever Heard in England
New Books
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.

Reflections on August-September Blog

From Amos Guiora, Professor of Law, University of Utah, LT COL (ret) IDF-JAG:

From 1994-1997 I served as the IDF Legal Advisor to the Gaza Strip; in that capacity I had the opportunity to work closely with Yoav Galant when he was Commander of the Gaza Strip.

I served as Galant’s Legal Advisor. In that capacity I worked intensively with Galant on a wide range of legal and policy issues relevant to operational counterterrorism, implementation of the Interim Agreement (Oslo Peace Process) in the Gaza Strip and preparing answers to petitions filed to the Israel Supreme Court (sitting as the High Court of Justice) with respect to IDF decisions in the Gaza Strip.

Galant always impressed with the following; all essential to an IDF Chief of Staff, particularly given the extraordinarily complicated dilemmas and threats facing Israel at this most complex juncture (on so many levels)

1) Willingness to listen to alternative view points;
2) Willingness to change his mind if convinced;
3) Outstanding leadership skills;
4) Ability to present in English (he worked in Alaska years ago, perhaps that helps);
5) Sure sense of self/self-confidence devoid of ‘gamesmanship’ and undue facade
6) Respect for legal parameters without cutting corners or ‘selling’ positions without intending to honor those positions.

Avigdor Lieberman

The day I sent you may latest blog, September 28, 2010, Foreign Minister Lieberman spoke at the UN with his usual sincerity, saying that there is no chance for a permanent settlement for a generation and it is necessary to "exchange" populated areas and adjust the state to its correct size. A final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians has to be based on a program of exchange of territory and populations.

In other words, as long as Lieberman in the government you can forget about any peace agreement. This is not viable.

In other words, Lieberman is declaring before the community of nations that Prime Minister Netanyahu deludes you. The “peace process” is a charade, meaningless theatre, and you President Obama, you are a fool who is wasting your time. And you, Abu Mazen, you will see the settlements growing and eating your land. Enjoy. Ahh, so good that Israel has a candid foreign minister who tells you exactly what he thinks and wants.
This is the Israeli way: Be blunt and honest about everything.

Under Lieberman's scheme, part of Israel's Arab population would be moved to a newly created Palestinians state, in return for evacuation of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

I am sure that the 19% of Israeli-Palestinians will be delighted to hear of this proposal.
They will embrace Lieberman and rush to write letters of support.

On October 10, 2010, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos had meetings in Jerusalem. The most memorable meeting was with their counterpart Lieberman who told them in his well-known, diplomatic way: "Before you teach us how to resolve conflicts here, I expect at the very least that you solve all the problems in Europe. Maybe then I will be open to accepting your suggestions". Lieberman also shared with them some history lessons: "In 1938 the European community decided to appease Hitler instead of supporting the loyal ally Czechoslovakia, and sacrificed it without gaining anything. We have no intention of becoming 2010's Czechoslovakia and will insist on Israel’s vital interests".

Mr. Diplomacy Lieberman also told his counterparts that the West has failed in resolving conflicts and that he does not understand why Israel was being singled out: "It seems as though the international community is trying to make up for its failure to resolve conflicts in Somalia, Afghanistan, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Sudan and other places by trying to bring about an Israeli-Palestinian agreement within a year".

According to reports, Kouchner and Moratinos heard from Netanyahu that he aspires to reach a peace agreement within a year, and the same day, two hours later, Lieberman told them that whoever thinks this way is naive.

The day Lieberman received the foreign ministry I said that he is a misfit, that Israel could not have chosen a worse representative. Lieberman confirms my worst expectations. Elephant in a china store is an understatement.

I repeat: The only way to advance with the peace process is to oust him and his party from government and welcome Kadima. I was asked whether this will guarantee that the peace wagon will move forward. True, this will not be the end of the story, as the peace camp has many opponents within the Likud, including senior ministers in Cabinet: Yaalon, Begin, Shalom (an opportunist who is now for the settlers as Bibi ignores him) plus Yishai from Shas. The majority of Bibi’s cabinet is hawkish. Is it possible to go forward? Time will tell. First we should see that Lieberman relieves the government of his presence.

Loyalty Oath

On October 10, 2010, the Israeli government approved a controversial bill that would require all non-Jews taking Israeli citizenship to swear loyalty to Israel as a "Jewish and democratic state". The law, which has angered Israel's Arab minority, still has to be passed by the Knesset. A similar measure was rejected by the cabinet in May 2009.

When Likud leader Netanyahu held negotiations with Yisrael Beitenu to compose a government, this was one of Lieberman's main demands. Netanyahu pledged that the law will pass, and now he abides by his word.

The Law’s wording: "I swear that I will be a loyal citizen to the state of Israel, as a Jewish and democratic state, and will uphold its laws."

At first, the new law was said to mainly affect Palestinians married to Israelis, foreign workers, and other special cases where people seek to be naturalised as citizens.
However, a few days later Netanyahu announced that the law will be applicable to Jews as well so that it won’t be perceived as discriminatory against Arabs. But while Jews would have little or no difficulty to make the pledge, non-Jews face substantial difficulties.

All five ministers from the left-leaning Labour party voted against the law proposal, as did three members of Netanyahu's own Likud: Benny Begin, Dan Meridor and Michael Eitan.

Israel Public Opinion

A recent poll published by Yedioth Ahronoth (October 15, 2010) showed that 63% think that Israeli Arabs should be entitled to vote. 37% wish to infringe this basic right from Arab citizens. Among religious Jews, only 42% believe Arabs should have this right.

26% wish to have a strong leader who makes decisions alone. They prefer this over democratic decision-making. Among immigrants, 53% prefer the strong leader option. The Putin syndrome is alive and well in Israel. Among religious people, 24% prefer this option.

60% of the poll thinks that Avigdor Lieberman contributes to extreme nationalism, bordering on Fascism. Elie Yishay, the Shas leader, is the second who receives such attribution with 40%. Prime Minister Netanyahu is third, with 30% who think that he contributes to extreme nationalism.

Source: Mina Zemach, "36% of Jews: Infringe Israeli-Arabs of the Right to Vote", Yedioth Ahronoth (October 15, 2010), Political Supp., p. 9.

Liu Xiaobo Won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize

Liu Xiaobo, an impassioned literary critic, political essayist and democracy advocate repeatedly jailed by the Chinese government for his writings, won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his pursuit of nonviolent political reform in China.

Mr. Liu, 54, perhaps China’s best known dissident, is currently serving an 11-year term on charges of “inciting the subversion of state power.” He is the first Chinese citizen to win the Peace Prize.

In awarding the prize to Mr. Liu, the Norwegian Nobel Committee delivered an unmistakable rebuke to Beijing’s authoritarian leaders at a time of growing intolerance for domestic dissent and spreading unease internationally over the muscular diplomacy that has accompanied China’s economic rise.

The Norwegian Nobel committee praised Liu Xiaobo for his "long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China. The ... committee has long believed that there is a close connection between human rights and peace."

Although there was no immediate response to news out of Oslo, where the prize was announced, the Chinese government in recent weeks has not been shy in describing Mr. Liu as unworthy of such an accolade. “This person was sentenced to jail because he violated Chinese law,” a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said last week.

The prize is enormous boost for China’s beleaguered reform movement and an affirmation of the two decades Mr. Liu has spent advocating peaceful political change in the face of unremitting hostility from the ruling Chinese Community Party. Blacklisted from academia and barred from publishing in China, Mr. Liu has been harassed and detained repeatedly since 1989, when he stepped into the drama playing out on Tiananmen Square by staging a hunger strike and then negotiating the peaceful retreat of student demonstrators as thousands of soldiers stood by with rifles at the ready.

His most recent arrest in December of 2008 came a day before a reformist manifesto he helped craft began circulating on the Internet. The petition, entitled Charter ‘08, demanded that China’s rulers embrace human rights, judicial independence and the kind of political reform that would ultimately end the Communist Party’s monopoly on power.

Sources: Andrew Jacobs et al., “Chinese Dissident Awarded Nobel Peace Prize”, NY Times (October 8, 2010), ;
Tania Branigan, “Nobel peace prize goes to Liu Xiaobo”, The Guardian (October 8, 2010),

Free Speech Cases Top American Supreme Court Docket

First Amendment cases top the Supreme Court's docket as it begins a new term with a new justice and three women on the bench for the first time.

The court will look at provocative anti-gay protests at military funerals and a California law banning the sale of violent video games to children. These cases worry free speech advocates, who fear the court could limit First Amendment freedoms.

Another case involves a different aspect of the First Amendment, the government's relationship to religion. The justices will decide whether Arizona's income tax credit scholarship program, in essence, directs state money to religious schools in violation of the constitutional separation of church and state.

Under Chief Justice John Roberts, marking his fifth anniversary on the court, and with the replacement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor by Justice Samuel Alito, the court has been more sympathetic to arguments that blur the line between government and religion, as long as one religion is not favoured over another.

The newly appointed Justice Elena Kagan will not sit on 24 of the 51 cases the court has so far agreed to hear. The former Obama's solicitor general solicitor is required to abstain from hearing those cases.

Kagan's absences create the potential for the eight remaining justices to split 4-4 in some cases. That outcome leaves in place the decision reached by the most recent court to have the case, but leaves unsettled the issue the high court was set to resolve.

A second Arizona law, imposing penalties on businesses that hire illegal immigrants, also is before the court this term. At issue is whether the state law intrudes into an area, immigration, that really is the federal government's responsibility.

Several cases that pit consumers against business also revolve around when federal law trumps state action. In one case, parents of a child who suffered severe, lasting damage from a vaccine want to use state law to sue a drugmaker, even though Congress has established a special court to hear disputes over vaccines.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., backed by many business groups, wants the court to toss out an enormous class-action sex discrimination suit over allegations that it pays women less than men and promotes women less frequently. The case could involve millions of women who once worked at the world's largest private employer.

Source: AP,

Ahmad Zeid-Abadi Receives WAN-IFRA Golden Pen of Freedom

An Iranian journalist who was imprisoned following Iran's disputed presidential election last year has been awarded the 2010 Golden Pen of Freedom, the annual press freedom prize of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WANIFRA).

Ahmad Zeid-Abadi, who is serving a six-year prison sentence, was honoured during a ceremony at the opening of the World Editors Forum for "his courageous actions in the face of persecution and for his outstanding contribution to the defence and promotion of press freedom."

Mr Zeid-Abadi was among at least 110 journalists arrested following the disputed reelection of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2009. At least 23 remain behind bars, about a fifth of all journalists imprisoned world-wide.

"Though we honour Mr Zeid-Abadi here today, it is also important to remember the other jailed journalists, the ones who don't win awards but nevertheless suffer under despotic regimes," said Xavier Vidal-Folch, President of the World Editors Forum, who presented the award. "We should never forget them and we in the international newspaper community should do our utmost to win their release."

The award was accepted on behalf of Mr Zeid-Abadi by Akbar Ganji, the 2006 Golden Pen laureate who had also been imprisoned by the Iranian regime.

"Iran today is under the occupation of a band of deceitful liars," Mr Ganji said, at times breaking into tears during the ceremony. "The occupying regime of the Shi¹i clerics has targeted the moral foundation of the society and is determined to portray moral vices as virtues. Usually foreign occupiers occupy a country territorially. But these occupiers have targeted the dignity and integrity of a nation. In what these people in position of power do there is not a trace of commitment to ethics, propriety, or truthfulness."

Mr Ganji's full speech can be found at .

Mr Vidal-Folch's can be read at .

Ahmad Zeid-Abadi, an academic and political commentator as well as a journalist, is known for an open letter he wrote from prison in 2000 protesting the judiciary's treatment of imprisoned journalists. The letter was widely distributed despite attempts by the authorities to suppress its publication.

Mr Zeid-Abadi, the former chief editor of the Azad newspaper and a contributor to the Tehran-based daily Hamshahari and the BBC Persian service, was among dozens of journalists who were systematically rounded up and detained following the disputed presidential election in June 2009. He was tried in August 2009, along with more than 40 other journalists and 100 prominent supporters of the country's pro-reform movement, on charges of plotting to overthrow the clerical theocracy with a "soft revolution." He was sentenced to six years in prison, five years in internal exile and a lifetime writing ban.

"Ahmad Zeid-Abadi languishes in an Iranian prison, held under appalling conditions, merely for the crime of doing a job that most of us in this room do without fear of intimidation, attack, imprisonment or even death," Mr Vidal-Folch said to the more than 500 chief editors and journalists gathered for the annual World Editors Forum.

Mr Zeid-Abadi has been in and out of prison since 2000. In an interview following his imprisonment nearly a decade ago, Mr Zeid-Abadi described conditions in Evin prison this way: "The desperation they create in prison is so bad you think it's the end of the world. The criminals use rape, especially with newcomers. And when you're taken everywhere blindfolded and hear horrible, scary screams, and you are put in a tiny cell, you have the feeling that you will never see normal life again.

In presenting the award, WAN-IFRA and the World Editors Forum again called for the release of all jailed journalists in Iran.

The Golden Pen of Freedom is the annual award made by WAN-IFRA to recognize the outstanding actions, in writing and deed, of an individual, a group or an institution in the case of press freedom.

Past winners of the Golden Pen, awarded annually since 1961, include Argentina's Jacobo Timerman (1980), South Africa's Anthony Heard (1986), Vietnam's Doan Viet Hoat (1998), Zimbabwe's Geoffrey Nyarota (2002), and China's Shi Tao (2007) and Li Changqing (2008). The 2009 laureate is Najam Sethi of Pakistan. A full list of laureates can be found at



The first-ever English translation of the 1759 Swedish language pamphlet, Tankar om Borgerliga Friheten, translated as Thoughts on Civil Liberty, has recently been published. Tankar was written by the Finnish-Swede Peter Forsskal. He is well-known as one of Linnaeus´ "disciples" and for his botanical discoveries whilst part of an expedition to Egypt, the Red Sea and Yemen. He died there in 1763 aged 32.

Until now, though, his contribution to political thought and the literature of the Enlightenment has lain hidden, inaccessible to all but a very few Swedish scholars.

Uppsala University did not permit Forsskal to defend the pamphlet’s text as a thesis because he wanted it published in Swedish as well as Latin. So, he went around the University and approached a publisher in Stockholm, Lars Salvius. The version printed by Salvius was the censored one, owing to Forsskal’s plea for freedom to publish - even if the content offended the religious authorities’ sensibilities.

So, Linneaus was ordered to retrieve and destroy all the (500) copies that Forsskal brought with him to Uppsala. It seems as if Linneaus did comply with the order, but without too much diligence, and only 79 copies were found.

This publication reprints and uses the uncensored version, located in the Swedish National Archives. The work was published by Atlantis Bok (Stockholm) during October 2009, and launched at an event in the Old Parliament in Stockholm on November 18th 2009.

The book is complemented by a (beta) website,

A German language translation of Tankar is available there, as well as a specially commissioned French translation. Russian and Spanish translations will follow soon. Discussions about a Swedish-Arabic translation are ongoing.

Forsskal’s pamphlet is an almost unknown, but a significant contribution to Enlightenment literature, in particular from an area of Europe that is not so much neglected as impenetrable because so much of the literature remains un-translated. Although there is no entry for Forsskal in the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment, its Editor-in-Chief has written (privately) that “Forsskal's work should occupy a major place in the history of liberty.”

To purchase the book, click on

On 23rd November 2010, the second annual Forsskal Symposium will be held at Uppsala Law School in the room dedicated to him there.

Please contact David Goldberg, the project co-ordinator, for any information, comments and the etc. <>

Drug Deals in Cemetery – Advice Sought

Dr Judy Stone from the USA asked me to post this, seeking your advice. Please forward comments to me and I will post them on my next Newsletter.

I wanted to let you know about something creepy that happened Sunday...and am hoping you might give me some direction.

I wandered out to Mt. Lebanon cemetery (Adelphi Rd) this afternoon to visit my folks and ran into a disturbing situation--I believe it was probably a drug deal--in an adjacent section. After a call to the PG police and the Mt Lebanon people, and then talking with Heather's roommate briefly, it seems that on the weekends or after hours, this is not a good place to visit alone like I did. I was told there is a fair amount of gang activity around there as well. Although nothing happened, the incident was disturbing on a variety of levels.

I was totally taken off guard by this encounter and didn't want others to find themselves in a similar situation...

I just spoke to the cemetery manager, whose major suggestion was not visiting alone (like that is real easy to do...and shouldn't be necessary). I suggested that they consider some sort of surveillance system and alert families about safety issues. I also suggested they should perhaps rotate their staff's hours so they have a presence during the hours people are likely to visit their loved ones.
I would hate to have someone killed there just from naivete. I am also sickened at the thought of gangs desecrating graves, but particularly as there are Holocaust survivors buried there.

Any suggestions about making them more responsible for safeguarding both the graves and the visitors would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

The Most Candid Lecture I have Ever Heard in England

On October 5, 2010 I heard the most candid lecture I have ever heard in England. For a moment, it reminded me of Israel... The lecturer, Sir Andrew Motion, a distinguished poet on his own right, spoke of his friendship with Philip Larkin, who is considered as one of the greatest post-WWII poets of England. Larkin was also the Hull librarian for many years, one of the most important figures Hull has ever produced. The lecture started calmly, when Motion spoke of himself and what Larkin meant for him as a young boy. Motion decided to apply for a job in Hull in order to meet Larkin. He got the job, came to Hull, met Larkin. A beautiful friendship developed between them. So far so good.

Motion gave hints of what is ahead when he described Larkin, his home, his life. But that was nothing compared to the real things that came about. Larkin made Motion his literary executor, in charge of all that he left behind. And Larkin had left quite a bit, including very personal letters and diaries. Motion wrote a very revealing biography of Larkin (Larkin: A Writer's Life, I have not read it. Until this lecture, I knew very little about Larkin. I only read some of his poetry. I teach in a building that carries his name. His name flies about in the university quite often. But I knew very little about Larkin’s personal life.

Now I know. I would not have liked to meet him.

What a guy!! An egomaniac, misogynist, racist, exploiter, insensitive, drunk person. Larkin detested children, and coldly played women friends off against one another in order to preserve his solitude. Larkin liked to drink, Thatcher and pornography. And he adored himself.

What a lecture. What candour. I never heard such a thing here. In England, it is all about subtlety, reading in between the lines; what is not said is often more important than what is said; a language of understatements. And suddenly this!!

I came to Sir Andrew at the end of his talk and told him this was the most candid lecture I have ever heard in England. He asked: Where are you from? Israel, I said. Well, he answered smiling, you know something about candidness. Right, I said.

I asked him: Did you love him? Motion said in the lecture that he loves Larkin’s poetry. They were very close friends. Motion answered: I thought it was clear about my affection to Larkin.

I asked: Did you discover anything you did not know after Larkin’s death? Was there anything that came to you as a surprise? He said: Yes, many things. I knew some things, but all became clear upon reading his material.


New Books

Richard Bellamy and Antonio Palumbo (eds.), Public Ethics (London: Ashgate, 2010).

Richard Bellamy and Antonio Palumbo (eds.), Political Accountability (London: Ashgate, 2010).

These are two compilations of already published articles on two important subject areas. In two volumes the reader finds some of the most important literature on public ethics and political accountability. These are rich and diverse, with articles of the highest quality that were published in some of the most distinguished forums in the world.

Political realists are accustomed to argue that ethical considerations had no place in
 public affairs. This is always a debatable view - not least because realism habitually employed a crude utilitarian morality rather than being totally amoral - ethical considerations have played an ever more prominent role in the thinking and actions of policy makers and politicians. Increasingly citizens expect policies not only to be efficient and effective according to some purely economic or prudential calculation, but also to be equitable and just in certain respects as well. Both the private and the public morality of politicians and public officials have come under ever greater scrutiny, with their actions being examined for their moral consistency and probity. They are expected to be procedurally correct, refraining from bias and partiality, and to respect particular moral side constraints, notably human rights considerations. The essays collected together in this volume explore how far these are reasonable expectations. Starting with the classic debates on dirty hands, they discuss the degree to which it is possible to either clean up politicians or politics.

Political accountability forms a cornerstone of modern democracy: it directs the political system towards the public interest and allows the exercise of the principles of autonomy and self-determination that lie at the core of democratic politics. Sadly, actual existing democracies, with their large, centralized bureaucracies, have evolved in ways that progressively undermine the ability of citizens to keep their representatives accountable and political regimes responsive. Far from reversing this trend, the neoliberal reforms introduced since the 1980s have increased that accountability gap. Globalization and the alleged passage from 'government' to 'governance' have, if anything, aggravated the problem further. The notion of accountability that survives these changes is a problematic form of auditing carried out by a constellation of Quangos, autonomous agencies and NGOs whose own accountability is problematic. This volume collects the main contributions to current debates on political accountability. It explores the challenges traditional conventions of accountability face today at the domestic, trans- and international levels and indicates the distinctive solutions those challenges require.

For further information, see

I am most grateful to Ashgate for copies of these two excellent volumes.


Shooting dogs 2004

This film is about the Rwanda genocide in 1994. Specifically it is about deep-seated fear turned into murderous hatred, and about the failings of UN peace monitoring forces. The film tells the true story of one single school run by a Catholic priest which the UN turned into their compound. When violence broke out, some 2500 Tutsis found refuge in the compound. Outside were waiting large numbers of incited mobs with machetes ready to kill. Outside genocide was carried out. The UN and the world at large knew about this and did not care. Yet again, the world turned a blind eye to horrific events and allowed them to happen. Then one day the UN captain received an order to evacuate his small force from the compound and retreat to the airport knowing full well what will happen the moment they leave. Instead of sending troops to stop the genocide, the UN deserted the people who came for their help.

This film is one of the few films made about the terrible genocide in central Africa. Yet again we witnessed the power of words, of the well-designed incitement against the Tutsis, portraying them as cockroaches that need to be destroyed; stripping them of human identity and legitimising their merciless massacre by happily knifing Hutus. Some lessons of the Nazi regime were learned in Africa. Yet again we witnessed what can happen to normal law-abiding citizens when they are brain-washed and authorised by their government to kill their perceived enemy. How happy they are leaving their normal daily life to participate in the blood-bath. This film will shake you, move you, startle you because you know reality exceeds imagination; what you see actually had happened and no one cared.

Monthly Poem


Thou comest, Autumn, heralded by the rain,
With banners, by great gales incessant fanned,
Brighter than brightest silks of Samarcand,
And stately oxen harnessed to thy wain!
Thou standest, like imperial Charlemagne,
Upon thy bridge of gold; thy royal hand
Outstretched with benedictions o'er the land,
Blessing the farms through all thy vast domain!
Thy shield is the red harvest moon, suspended
So long beneath the heaven's o'er-hanging eaves;
Thy steps are by the farmer's prayers attended;
Like flames upon an altar shine the sheaves;
And, following thee, in thy ovation splendid,
Thine almoner, the wind, scatters the golden leaves!
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Light Side

To keep all happy, two versions of the same joke (?).
For sale: Encyclopedia Britannica. 25 volumes in excellent condition. $1500 or best offer.
I got married last week. My wife knows it all.

For sale: Encyclopedia Britannica. 25 volumes in excellent condition. $1500 or best offer.
I got married last week. My husband knows it all.

Peace and love. Have a warm and cosy winter.

Yours as ever,


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