Monday, December 31, 2007

10 Things That Hopefully Will Not Happen In 2008

Five serious ones:
  1. Mike Bloomberg, New York City's billionaire mayor, should not run for president as an independent, not even with Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as his running mate. He wouldn't win, and would only spoil it for the Democrats.
  2. Iran shouldn't be attacked as long as we don't have enough information about the state of their nuclear program, but neither should Iran's word be trusted without meticulous inspections.
  3. Ehud Olmert shouldn't stick around as Israel's prime minister, but neither should early elections be held, which would only result in Benjamin Netanyahu returning to office.
  4. The Israeli Knesset should not continue the current trend of introducing bills mainly according to what events are in the news.
  5. Meretz should not forget to return to its liberal roots and fill in the gap left by Shinui.

Five silly ones:

  1. Britney Spears should not have any more babies.
  2. The media should stop talking so much about Britney, her sister and their babies. The same applies to all other celebrities (yes, Israeli media, that includes Ninette Tayeb).
  3. Hopefully, no Republican candidate will offer to send illegal immigrants to Iraq and Afghanistan, thus solving two problems at once.
  4. After he'll drop out of the race for president, hopefully Joe Biden will not become too verbose again.
  5. On Israel's 60th birthday this spring nobody should call it an old hag.

Top 10 Things That Didn't Happen in 2007

Just like Time's Person of the Year, this list comes with a "for better or for worse" attached to it. You can decide for yourselves which is for better and which is for worse. Here it is, in no particular order:

  • Vice President Cheney did not invoke martial law.
  • Former Vice President Al Gore did not enter the race for the presidency.
  • A final peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, establishing a democratic, moderate, non-hostile State of Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza, was not reached.
  • Former President George H. W. Bush did not apologize to Americans and the whole world for how his son and namesake turned out.
  • "I screwed up the war and pretty much everything else I've done since, therefore I step down", said not Ehud Olmert (nor did George W. Bush).
  • Hugo Chavez did not win his bid to change Venezuela's constitution so he could remain in office all his life.
  • The Israeli Knesset didn't do its job - which is to supervise the government and pass laws that make Israelis' lives better.
  • Joe Biden did not talk too much.
  • Iran was not attacked.
  • Israel has not been nuked, nor has any other country.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Vladimir Vladimirovitch, 2007 Person of the Year

For some reason I thought Time Magazine would announce its choice for Person of the Year only on Friday, so I planned to write a post today about who I'd pick for the title. Vladimir Putin was my choice, but since Time already named him as POY today, you'll have to believe me that I really did think of him before the announcement.

Putin is as close as you can get to a natural choice. He has made more of an impact than just about anyone this year, flexing his international muscle on various issues: Iran, missile defense, Kosovo, etc., as well as fortifying his position in the Kremlin even as he prepares to leave the presidency. His heir presumptive, Dmitry Medvedev, will appoint him as Russia's next prime minister.

Time named four runners up: Al Gore, J.K. Rowling, Hu Jintao and Gen. David Petraeus. Of all of these, Hu Jintao is the only one I'd also pick as a runner up. The Chinese leader is changing his very important country. The others, on the other hand, have not had a great impact this year.

Al Gore was the rightful winner of the Nobel Prize, but most of what he did was in 2006. Thanks to him, most of the presidential candidates have addressed environmental issues, but again - this is the result of what he did last year.

J. K. Rowling wrote a series of books that got young people to read again. Her main impact came when she published the first books, not when she wrote the final novel or outed Dumbledore.

Gen. Petraeus has a tough job, but the war in Iraq is still a quagmire and he hasn't created such a sea change.

There are three others I would have chosen as runners-up, if I were a Time editor: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been a positive and influential leader at the national, European and International levels; Nikolas Sarkozy, the new French president who seems very different from anything we've seen in that country and who was able to stand up to striking workers protesting his plan to roll back some of their wasteful privileges; and Mahmoud Ahmedinijad, who has been able to drive the world crazy. Hugo Chavez would have made it into my list too, had his constitutional amendments been approved by Venezuelan voters.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

200,000 Dead Terrorists

Photo: Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press The first thing that came to my mind when I saw the AP photo above of 200,000 Gazans at a rally to mark Hamas's 20th anniversary was "why the hell didn't we bomb that rally?!?". That's just a gut reaction. Doing such a thing would have terrible consequences. While thousands of dead Hamasniks is never a bad thing in and of itself, it would bring about a new intifada and a bombardment of international condemnations for attacking a civilian rally (though, in reality, it's a terrorist rally).

This little fantasy of mine about 200,000 dead terrorists in Gaza brings me to something less fantastical and closer to reality. It seems we are preparing for a big military operation in Gaza, to be carried out in case anyone in Sderot or the nearby area gets killed by Kassam rockets. The reason for such an operation? You would expect the goal to be stopping the Kassams, or at least drastically reducing their numbers, but that isn't it. The army isn't sure going into Gaza would actually be very effective in stopping the rockets from firing at Israeli towns in the Western Negev. The real goal is to raise Israeli public morale. Minister of Defense Ehud Barak wants citizens to feel that something is being done.

If the Gaza incursion won't be effective, it should not take place. Why risk the lives of our soldiers and of Palestinian civilians if the number of Kassam rockets hitting our people will be the same before, during and after the operation?

The job of the government and the army is not to create a false sense of security. Their duty is to create a reality of security. If the latter is impossible, they should not turn their attention to the former.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Long Lost High School Friends

I lost touch with my high school friends not long after graduating. Recently I ran into one of them and it turns out that most of them have not only kept in touch but get together on a regular basis and go on trips together.

On the one hand, since then I have made new friends that I keep in touch with and who are much better friends than my high school friends ever were. I always felt that the people who were my friends in high school weren't my type of people, but they were the best I could find among my peers.

On the other hand, I do feel I might have missed out by not keeping in touch with these guys. From the stories the friend I met told me, it sounds like they're still great friends and have a lot of fun together. But then again, if they're incompatible with me, maybe I wouldn't have enjoyed my time with them even if I kept hanging out with "the old crowd".

Perhaps I'd just like to have old high school friends like there are in American movies and TV shows - best friends for life. Maybe it usually doesn't happen that way. My father's best friend has been his best friend since high school, but other than that one person, his oldest friends are from college. My mother is no longer in touch with any of her high school friends, except for one who works with her.

Anyway, no reason to be sorry. What is gone is gone. I've been pretty good about keeping in touch with a few of my friends from the army and college. I should remember to keep in touch with them and with the friends I currently study with, so 10 years from now I won't write a blog post about missing out on these other old friends.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

So Iran Ain't Going Nuclear?!?

Bombing Iran is off the table. With the latest National Intelligence Estimate saying there is no evidence that Iran is still pursuing nuclear weapons, I don't see President Bush or anyone else going to war against Iran anytime soon. The world should still keep an eye on it and demand inspections, but it shouldn't go to war.

It seems to me that the West doesn't really know what's going on in Iran. Going after the country without any real evidence isn't only morally wrong, it is also just stupid and ineffective. If we don't know if they have a nuclear program at all, then if they do have one, we can't be sure we know where the hell all the facilities are.

Knowing what we know now (or rather, knowing what we don't know), I think the risks of attacking Iran are greater than the risks of not doing so.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Fox, HuffPo and the Wrong Crazy Person

In my previous post I chastised Fox News's premature identification of the wrong man as the hostage taker in the Clinton campaign office in New Hampshire. I mentioned the Huffington Post as one news source that declared that Leland Eisenberg is the suspect rather than Troy Stanley before Fox News did. As Doug Fisher at the Common Sense Journalism blog points out, the HuffPo was actually just as bad as Fox News.

Read his post here.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Fox News Botches Hostage Coverage

Earlier today Fox News was quick to declare that the person who took hostages at the Clinton campaign office in New Hampshire is Troy Stanley. They detailed his history of mental illness and problems with police. Even after the Huffington Post reported Stanley isn't the suspect, and after police confirmed the suspect's name as Lee Eisenberg, Fox News kept saying something about Troy Stanley and Leeland Eisenberg possibly being the same man. "He may have several aliases", said one anchor.

This is a major journalistic screw-up. I only noticed Fox News reporting the wrong name, but of course other news outlets might have made the same unprofessional mistake. Even during live coverage there is certain information you must confirm before you report it.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

60th Anniversary of Partition

Today is a happy anniversary for us Israelis. The United Nations General Assembly voted on November 29, 1947, to establish two states in mandatory Palestine, one Jewish and one Arab state. This was the vote that brought about the creation of Israel, and the day after the vote a civil war broke out which would become the first part of Israel's War of Independence. Palestinians see it as a tragic anniversary. Even the U.N. sees it as a sad day, marking the plight of Palestinian refugees on this day each year. Israelis and Palestinians can't agree on whether this is a day to celebrate or to mourn, but they don't have to agree. Israelis should recognize that it is a painful day for Palestinians without being sad about it themselves, while Palestinians should recognize it is a happy day for Israelis without being happy themselves or demanding that the other side mourn.

Now, after Annapolis, I am cautiously optimistic that the idea of partition is on its way to fruition (good thing that along the 1967 borders and not the partition plan of 1947, though). I doubt there will be a Palestinian state by the time George W. Bush leaves office, but I do believe there can be significant progress in that direction.

The main flaw in Annapolis was that despite the presence of Arab leaders from countries like Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia and others, no real dialogue started between Israel and these countries. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni complained that the Arabs treated her as if she was a leper. Too bad.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Blog Readability Test

Just saw this test on The Atheist Jew Blog and decided to check it out. Turns out you have to be a genius to understand my blog. If my site is not beyond your comprehension, you should be flattered. I wonder how the readability is determined. It probably only checks the blog's first page and not previous posts, so this rating probably changes over time.

cash advance

Something For Everybody in IAEA Report

The latest report by the IAEA regarding Iran's nuclear ambitions is a bit confusing. On the one hand, the agency now knows less than it ever did about the Iranian nuclear program. On the other hand, Iran is now increasingly cooperating with the IAEA. Each side of the debate over whether to do anything against Iran, economically or militarily, can use this ambiguous report to bolster its arguments. Just pick one part of the report and ignore the other.

Now here's the big question: if Iran is cooperating more than before, how come Mohamed ElBaradei's crack team of experts knows less than in the past? Either the cooperation is still very partial, even if better than before, or the IAEA is just incompetent. Which one is it?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Hard Line On Palestininian Refugees

Israel sees danger in PA negotiations unit stance
By Barak Ravid, Ha'aretz

The negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians are powered by a great many people behind the scenes. However, while the Israeli team is relatively new and just beginning to coalesce, the Palestinians have a well-oiled organization that has been at this task for nearly 10 years: the Negotiations Support Unit (NSU).

The NSU was founded in 1998 following a Palestinian request to the U.K. for assistance in the final-status talks with the Israelis. Britain, Sweden, Norway, Demark and Holland agreed to contribute to the new body, appointing the London-based Adam Smith Institute to head the project. Since 1998, the NSU has received tens of millions of euros from European countries.

THe offices of the NSU are located not far from the Palestinian Authority's government center, the Muqata, in Ramallah. Some 20 legal experts are at work there on the issues of the final-status agreement - Jerusalem, the settlements, water, the refugees, borders and security.

The NSU also deals with other issues involving Israel in the realms of economics, agriculture, transportation, communications and archaeology. A good many of the NSU staff are not Palestinians born and raised in the West Bank or Gaza, but rather in the U.S. or Europe, and others are Israeli Arabs. The head of the NSU is a British citizen.

The Israeli diplomatic and security establishment is said to have a high regard for the NSU staff as experts in international law who wield no small influence on PA policy, both as expressed to the media and in the talks.

However, senior Israeli officials say the NSU is increasingly becoming an obstacle with regard to progress after the Annapolis conference.

Sources in Israel say the NSU has taken an extreme position over the years about the right of return for the Palestinians, saying the Palestine Liberation Organization and the PA do not have a mandate to make concessions on this issue. "We talk about compromise and they speak of justice," a senior official said. [The Hebrew version of this paragraph also calls NSU members "one-staters in a two-state environment" - see here].

"We can see how the papers they write are leading to more extreme positions. Their problem is that they hold the opinions of Palestinians from outside the territories, and they care much more about ideology and justice than finding a solution that will meet the needs of the Palestinian population," he said.

The NSU attitude completely ignores the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip and the weakness of the PA in the West Bank and has raised more than a few eyebrows in Israel. "They talk about establishment of a Palestinian state within six months as if there is no reality on the ground," a diplomatic official said, refering to the NSU document published in Haaretz last Thursday. "Instead of trying to reach a common denominator and agreements, they turn the talks all along the way into a debating society, waving their rights around, and that doesn't lead anywhere."

The NSU has a representative on the negotiating team, but an Israeli official says, "despite all their talent, it's not certain they will be able to make an impact."

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Bill Maher On Universal Healthcare

Some "new rules" by Bill Maher, followed by his views on healthcare (a tip of the hat to The Political Realm, found via BlogRush):

Maher mentions Rudy Giuliani's stance on healthcare. For more on that, take a look at Gert's post on the matter.

The October Peace Index

Here are a few interesting findings from the latest Peace Index conducted by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research:
  • 51% of Israeli Jews don't think the Annapolis summit will advance the chances of a peace settlement. I'm surprised the skepticism of the last 7 years doesn't make the number of pessimists even higher.
  • 65% of Israeli Jews think that most Palestinians haven't accepted the existence of Israel and would destroy it if they could. I believe this, too. The only reason Palestinians are willing to negotiate with us is because they grudgingly see Israel is here to stay. That's fine. Whether they make peace with us for practical or ideological reasons is not very important.
  • 71% support collective punishment against Gaza while 12% oppose it. I'm in the opposition here. Collective punishment is counterproductive.
  • 63% said Israeli society is in better shape than Palestinian society. Like, duh! Of course we're in better shape. Whether you're a hawk or a dove you can see our quality of life is much higher than that of the Palestinians.
You can read the article by the researchers in Ha'aretz (Hebrew version available here), or read the report from the Steinmetz Center's website.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Pakistani Menace

The United States should announce that it will sever its ties with the Pakistani government if Gen. Pervez Musharraf does not rescind his declaration of martial law. A democratic Pakistan is far from being the U.S.'s best interest, but continued martial law could lead to horrible chaos. A civil war could bring a Taliban-like regime to power. Needless to say that this would be bad news for the rest of the world because of a little thing called nukes.

A pure democracy would probably bring to power factions with similar views to the Taliban. A democracy where Jihadist parties are barred from running for office might be the best solution. Of course, barring certain parties is always problematic and can be easily abused, but as the Palestinian elections of 2006, which were won by terrorist organization Hamas showed, letting fundamentalists run can be disastrous.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Remember, Remember the 4th of November

Remember, remember the Fourth of November,
The Handgun Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason,
Why Handgun Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Yigal Amir, t'was his intent,
To kill Prime Minister Rabin.
Three more bullets to go,
To prove old democracy's overthrow;
After the murder he was catch'd
With a dark smile and burning rage.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, at Yitzhak Rabin square,
Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the celebrities sing there.

*Based on the Guy Fawkes poem.

Friday, October 26, 2007 My Latest Favorites

Here are some more of my favorites that aren't currently in the top 10: a question about free market health care, science, and medical marijuana.

So far, the top questions are fairly diverse, except for two questions about corporate rights, which ask basically the same thing.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Colbert, Be Fake All the Way

I don't understand the point of Stephen Colbert's candidacy in the South Carolina presidential primaries. The comedian is actually taking steps to have his name listed on the ballots of both the Republican and Democratic primaries, which will take place on January 19 and 26, respectively.

A fake run for office could be entertaining. Other comedians and satirists have done it in the past. It's the official part that I don't get. Is it going to be any funnier if Colbert will actually get some votes? I don't know how the delegate selection process works exactly, but at least in the Democratic primaries, it isn't a winner-take-all system. What if Colbert actually gets a delegate or two elected to one of the parties' nomination convention? Hypothetically, it could happen.

Also, now Colbert will actually have to adhere to campaign laws, which, considering the fakeness of his run, is kind of ridiculous. The Colbert Report production team has already hired lawyers to make sure they don't violate election law. What if some smart-ass decides to go to court to take his show off the air in SC till the day after the primary because of equal time laws? The officialness will put restraints on him that a truly fake campaign wouldn't have to deal with.

If Colbert wants to run a fake campaign, it should be fake all the way. As it is, he's only pretending to run in SC, without any hope or aspiration to win, so he should really pretend. He should do all his crazy stuff without having to pay thousands of dollars to the political parties to become an official candidate.

Here's an entertaining thought: maybe President Bush will now try to get a United States Attorney to prosecute Colbert for election violations as vengeance for Colbert's White House Correspondents Dinner speech. Nah, that would never happen...

Monday, October 22, 2007

President Bush Tells a Joke

I just saw this quote from a presidential press conference on a New York Times blog:

Q: Mr. President, following up on Vladimir Putin for a moment, he said, recently, that next year, when he has to step down according to the constitution, as the president, he may become prime minister; in effect keeping power and dashing any hopes for a genuine democratic transition there.

BUSH: I’ve been planning that myself.

Sunday, October 21, 2007 My Favorites So Far

In my opinion, these are the two best questions so far:

And this next guy, I'm not even sure what he means...

He's probably referring to TV networks like Fox News, but he could also be talking about something like open Wi-Fi networks for all. Who knows. Anyway, I don't really see what the president has to do with the contents of television broadcasts. Questions I Won't Ask

These are some questions I thought of posting on, but then came to the conclusion they aren't important or original enough:

1. Every president since Jimmy Carter has thanked his predecessor in his inaugural address. Will you thank President Bush during your inauguration? Why does he deserve or not deserve the nation's gratitude?

At first I thought this might be a tricky question for candidates from both parties under the guise of a trivial question. Then I realized that it is just a trivial question. Candidates would either say Bush is a good man even if he made mistakes, or that they'd thank him only out of common courtesy.

2. Would you elevate the EPA to the status of a full cabinet department under a Secretary of Environmental Protection?

I tried to think of an original "green question", but what I came up with is too technical.

3. As an American in Israel I live in what is probably the only country that still likes the United States. Americans living abroad in other countries can feel the rising contempt toward us. How would you change that?

Questions about America's standing in the world have been already asked in the debates.

4. How do you see the Middle East is the year 2020 and how would you make that vision a reality?

This is the closest to a good question I've come up with so far, but it is too broad. Besides, I'd get the same response from every candidate - two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side, and a more stable, democratic Arab world, blah blah. The idea of how to achieve that wouldn't be much more original either.

Anyway, check out my next post where I'll show you what my favorite questions are so far.

No Constitution for Israel

Last week Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced to the Knesset that a proposed constitution will be brought to a vote this year. Different teams, both official and unofficial, have been working separately on different proposals to replace Israel's Basic Laws with a constitution, and it isn't clear which proposal Olmert has in mind. One of the proposals is being prepared by the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, whose chairman, MK Menachem Ben-Sasson, told Ha'aretz that a constitution would probably hurt minority rights. The thing is that in order to gain the support of the religious parties, the religious status-quo must be maintained, or rather restored to what it was in the past. That means getting rid of some of our more liberal laws and Supreme Court rulings.

Politicians think a constitution would be a magical cure to the problems of unstable governments and frequent elections (every two or three years instead of four). Proponents say the rules of the political game must be clear and hard to change, unlike the current Basic Law that can be easily changed (some with 61 out of 120 votes, others with a simple plurality). That is true, but that can be addressed by changing specific Basic Laws, especially the ones about the political system, but a constitution which would hurt Israelis' rights is worse than no constitution at all.

And in a semi-related story, a group of ultra-orthodox men attacked a male soldier and a religious woman for sitting next to each other on a bus and then attacked police officers who were called to the scene. These guys would probably like Ben-Sasson's constitution, wouldn't they?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

A Depressing Peace Index

Most Palestinians wouldn't think that what I am willing to give up in exchange for peace with them is enough, and most Israelis aren't willing to give the Palestinians as much as I am. I was reminded of that sobering reality when I read the latest results of the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research's latest Peace Index, a monthly survey of Israeli opinion regarding the peace process.

While most Israelis generally favor peace talks and don't think either side can continue on like this much longer, there is a huge gap between Israelis and Palestinians regarding the two most important issues, the ones that will make or break a future peace treaty.

54% of Israelis (59% of Jews) are opposed to giving the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem to the Palestinians to be their capital. I'd do this in a heartbeat. Even ultra-right winger Avigdor Lieberman has no problem with this. Maybe some respondents took this to mean giving up all of East Jerusalem, including the Western Wall, which might explain the resistance.

On the question of refugees 76% of all Israelis (87% among Jews) aren't willing to allow even one refugee into Israel. 7% are willing to let up to 100,000 refugees return, and 11% are willing to let them all return. Most of the support for a full right of return comes from Israeli Arabs, since only 3% of Jews support it. Here I'm in agreement with the vast majority of Israelis.

Here's a question I'd like the next surveys to include: would you agree to accept responsibility for the Naqbah and the refugee problem, at least partial responsibility, and to compensate the refugees in exchange for peace? I'd agree to that if the Palestinians gave up on the right of return, but I don't know if most Israelis would.

You can read the report here in pdf or Word (doc) format.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Presidential Elections:

Take a look at, an interesting new attempt at getting politicians running for president to actually listen to voters and answer their questions. Here's the video that explains the concept:

So far there are only 33 questions but hopefully the site will gain enough popularity so the candidates will pay attention to it.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Goodbye, Kevin Leitch

I was surprised to find out that Left Brain/Right Brain, Kevin Leitch's blog about autism, is shutting down. Kevin explains the reason:

The reason LB/RB is shutting is because I cannot continue to allow my beautiful eldest girl to be exposed to the hatred and bullying she is recieving from John Best. John has seen fit to compare my beautiful child to a trained monkey because he didn't like the fact she was progressing. He has made numerous jokes at her expense on that theme. He has assumed her identity online. He has encouraged others to do the same.

At first glance, this may seem like an overreaction, but I can understand Kevin's decision. I don't know much about John Best, and Kevin has become quite acquainted with him over the years. If he feels his daughter is in danger I can't criticize him for shutting down. It is too bad that Best's extremely aggressive tactics have been successful. This amounts to cyberbullying, as one blogger put it.

LB/RB was an interesting blog. Though I found it repetitive at times, with the same arguments between the two sides repeating themselves, the blog's posts usually looked at different arguments from new angles, as well as other information that was new to me. I hope Kevin will change his mind one day.

It is unfortunate that a debate between people whose main concern is the well being of their children often turns ugly. Whether you think thimerosal in vaccines causes autism or you think it is genetic and support Neurodiversity, your arguments should be based on facts, not personal attacks.

By the way, this is my 300th post. Too bad it wasn't devoted to something more positive.

The Turkish-Armenian Dilemma

The non-binding Armenian genocide resolution set to come before the United States House of Representatives has the odd quality of being totally right and totally wrong simultaneously. It is right because the Armenian genocide should be recognized as such. Not many outside of Turkey dispute this. Why is it wrong? Because it comes at a very bad time.

Democrats are shooting themselves in the foot, as would the United States as a whole. Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the resolution's author, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi are making Democrats vulnerable to accusations of not caring for US troops in Iraq. Pissing off Turkey right now is a bad move, even though it is immoral not to recognize one of the first genocides of the 20th century.

Now there is indication the House resolution may be dead because of the backlash. This is good, for now. This should come up again when the United States is out of Iraq and Afghanistan and doesn't depend on Turkey for logistic support, and when a Turkish invasion of Iraqi Kurdistan wouldn't be such a threat to Iraqi stability. Maybe if most countries of the world agreed to recognize the genocide, Turkey would not be able to punish anyone for such a move.

Both the United States and Turkey come out bad from this affair. Turkey brazenly decided to impose sanctions on Armenia, punishing it for lobbying in favor of the resolution. Punishing the descendants of the genocide is shameless. Turkey should definitely be rebuked for that.

Turkey also should be rebuked for how it dragged Israel into this. Their foreign minister was here last week and he demanded that Israel prevent Congress from adopting the resolution and said that it would not only harm relations with the United States, it would also harm relations with Israel. They didn't say the same thing about relations with another American ally, the UK. Why? I guess because the Brits don't control America, but the Turkish government thinks that Israel, through the vast Jewish conspiracy, could get Congress to vote any way the Elders of Zion want. Fuck them. The foreign minister also threatened that the Jewish community in Turkey would suffer from a backlash if the genocide were recognized. If Israel had any guts we'd say, "you know what, if that's how you're trying to fight this - with anti-Semitic threats, we might as well adopt our own resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide".

The President Who Cried Wolf

In hindsight, going to war in Iraq was a grave mistake. Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. There's nothing new or groundbreaking about that statement.

Now the world is abuzz with talk of Iran developing nuclear weapons. A lot of people feel like this is deja vu all over again, and in a way they are right. President Bush and most of the presidential candidates seem to be on a war footing with Iran, but people don't believe the WMD argument anymore. Bush used it up in 2003 and it turned out to be false. Why believe in the Iranian nuclear threat this time around?

I believe Iran is developing nuclear weapons. I admit I believed the same thing about Iraq four years ago, but this time around I'm more convinced. For one thing, Ahmedinijad has made several statements about Iran's nuclear program, though he claims it is for peaceful purposes. Why does this oil rich country need nuclear power? Have the ayatollahs suddenly become environmentalists? Second of all, a lot more countries are warning of Iranian nukes than there were countries that supported an invasion of Iraq. Changes of leadership are not the only cause of this major difference. Both France and Germany have said they are truly concerned.

President Vladimir Putin is trying to play against the United States and Europe in this matter. He's shortsighted here. Though he acknowledged Iranian nukes would be a threat to Russia, he doesn't think they are being manufactured. He thinks it is in Russia's best interest to side with Iran on this issue, but that is extremely dangerous for his country, exactly because Iranian nukes are also threats to Russian national security.

Having said all this, I still oppose a war against Iran at this point. A war is the second worst option on the table, only being better than letting Iran get nukes. A war would be disastrous for everybody. Even with a large international coalition, such a war would be devastating to many countries and wouldn't assure the destruction of Iran's nuclear program. The United States military is stretched thin and Israel would be bombarded by missiles from the east and north, courtesy of Iran and their Lebanese subsidiary, Hezbollah.

The best option is harsh sanctions until Iran allows sufficient inspections. This is the only option that would avoid disaster, but countries like Russia and Venezuela are making the success of such a move doubtful.

A Racist Nobel Laureate

James Watson, who was one of the scientists to win the 1962 Nobel Prize for Medicine for the discovery of DNA, may be a talented scientist but he's also an idiot. He said in a recent interview that the West's foreign policy toward Africa was wrong, since it's based on the assumption that black people are intellectually equal to white people. He says tests have shown that this isn't the case. He also said that anyone who has spoken to a black person could see that blacks aren't as intelligent as white folks.

As a world renowned geneticist, not-so-dear Watson is a very dangerous racist. His bogus scientific proof can sound convincing to many. Never mind that in the past there were advanced and successful African civilizations, including black African civilizations, which were destroyed by European colonialism. In fact, in ancient times, black people were treated equally in the Greek and Roman cultures. This concept of black inferiority came only later, when Africa became the main source for slaves. But racists don't know this and won't acknowledge it.

There's a chance British authorities will indict him for hate speech. I hope they do, even if he goes back to the United States, where he'll be safe from prosecution. It won't bother him much, but at least it will inconvenience him.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Surprising Hezbollah Swap

Israelis were surprised yesterday by the sudden swap of one Israeli dead body in exchange for two dead Hezbollah fighters and one 50-year old Lebanese prisoner. Not only did we not know there was a deal in the works, we never even heard of the dead Israeli before, even though he had been missing since January 2005. Gavriel Davit apparently drowned in Israeli waters near Haifa and his body was swept away by the currents of the Mediterranean into Lebanon. The deal also included information about the whereabouts of Israeli Air Force officer Ron Arad, who was captured in Lebanon in 1986. Apparently the info was neither new nor useful.

This is quite an odd deal. It's supposed to be a trust-building step on the way to a bigger prisoner exchange which would include the return of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, the two Israeli soldiers whose capture by Hezbollah on July 12, 2006, triggered the Second Lebanon War. But Hezbollah is still insisting that a precondition to any information about their condition is the release of hundreds of prisoners. Unfortunately, this probably means that Regev and Goldwasser are already dead, so there isn't any real reason to keep talking to Hezbollah. Prisoners should not be released in exchange for information or dead bodies - only in exchange for live captives.

The release of one prisoner yesterday is not that bad compared with the release in 2004 of four hundred terrorists in exchange for three dead soldiers and one Israeli drug dealer, but it isn't that great either. The Israeli government says that since he's in his 50's and apparently lost his sanity in prison, he's not a threat to Israel. Alright, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

Unless I'm wrong about the two soldiers being dead, I don't see how yesterday's exchange is a positive move in any direction. It isn't as if we're in peace talks with Hezbollah. Peace is not on their minds.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Annapolis 1786 and 2007

Here's an interesting bit of American history. The Annapolis Convention of 1786, which was convened after the Articles of Confederation proved inadequate for the United States, was a failure. Eight states snubbed it. The five states that showed up did achieve one thing - they called for another convention in Philadelphia, which would eventually produce the constitution and create "a more perfect Union".

Why the history lesson? Because it seems like the Israeli-Arab peace conference scheduled to take place in Annapolis next month is doomed to be snubbed by most Arab states, and quite possibly by the two main parties - Israel and the Palestinians. Every day the newspaper headlines show warnings from different countries warning about things that may doom the Annapolis conference to failure. Israel is complaining about rockets from Gaza and the Egyptians allowing arms and terrorists into Gaza. The Palestinians are complaining about roadblocks within the West Bank. The Egyptians and Jordanians, as well as other Arab countries have issued warnings of their own that if this or that will not be fixed they will not attend. Even the host, the United States, is thinking of postponing the conference.

At this point, it seems Annapolis will fail in achieving a settlement. The most I'm hoping for is a repeat of the 1786 Convention in the form of an agreement to hold another conference, which would be more successful. This can be achieved. The two sides can get as close as possible to an agreement but realize they don't have the political capital at home to get it approved, so they'll announce they've made progress but need another conference, possibly in a few months from now, when the outcomes of the criminal investigations against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will be clearer, and thus the political scene more stable.

The most irritating thing about this ongoing conflict is that there is a consensus between Israelis and Palestinians regarding most of the issues, but two main problems stand - refugees and Jerusalem. Both sides have to be very creative in finding solutions here, because currently the two sides' positions are the exact opposite of one another.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Bill Clinton's Gore-ish Nightmare

Step 1 of Bill Clinton's nightmare is coming true. He had a dream of winning a Nobel Prize for Peace for his efforts to bring peace to the Middle East. Now his former Vice-President, Al Gore, has gotten the nod while Clinton himself is empty handed. The next steps in the nightmare are as follows:
  • Gore's Nobel convinces him he should run for president.
  • Gore defeats Hillary in the primaries.
  • Since Hillary is not elected president, Bill is not appointed Special Envoy to the Middle East, which would have been his best chance to earn his own Nobel.

So, Gore, December in Norway, January in Iowa? That would be interesting...

But enough about presidential politics. Do Al Gore and the United Nations' Panel on Climate Change deserve the prize? The Nobel committee certainly gave in to a trend. It's very fashionable to talk about global warming these days. That doesn't mean that it was wrong. It was right to address this issue this year.

Are Al Gore and the UN panel the climate change advocates most worthy of a prize? Yes, they are. Al Gore is not only the most prominent advocate, he's also been addressing the topic for decades. He didn't hop on a trendy bandwagon - he created it. The worthiness of the UN panel is less clear cut. On the one hand it didn't say anything that other scientists haven't been saying for years. On the other hand, it is the most high-level official panel to say these things, and that is their importance and that is why, in the final analysis, the panel is worthy of the Nobel.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Bad Movies, Free of Charge

Israeli satellite TV company Yes has opened up its pay-per-view service, DVDBox, to all customers for free. This comes as compensation for serious disruptions in service in some parts of the country. Fortunately for me, I have not experienced these disruptions at all but I still get free access to DVDBox. All in all, I can't complain, though those who actually couldn't watch television for whole days certainly can.

I expected to find the best movies playing on DVDBox. After all, these are movies that should be worth paying extra for, the cream of the crop, right? Wrong. There are some good movies, like "The Illusionist", "Children of Men", and "Alpha Dog", as well as a few children's movies that might be good. Other than that, I found most of the movies to be worse than those on the usual movie channels. First, there was the hour and a half I wasted on "The Contract", a stupid movie making absolutely no use of the talents of its two wonderful actors, Morgan Freeman and John Cusack. I later learned it was a direct-to-video flick. There were other stupid movies which I didn't even watch - "Step Up", Paris Hilton's "Pledge This", "Stick it" and "End Game".

Anyway, broadcasts are still being disrupted in other areas of Israel. Foreign spy ships have been mentioned as possible culprits, though oddly enough, they're Dutch ships. The folks at Yes have promised that further compensation will be given to customers, and again, I hope to benefit from the woes of others, getting compensated for something that didn't happen to me. I'm thinking free access to all channels for 3 months would ease my non-suffering just fine.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Nobel Week

With the announcement of the winners of the Nobel Prize in Medicine tomorrow, the 2007 Nobel Week will be upon us. Aside from the annual question of whether any Israelis will win any prizes (David Grossman and Amos Oz are always mentioned as top contenders for a Literature Nobel), which applies to all categories, I'm most interested in which political controversies will be conjured up by the various Nobel committees.

I don't expect controversies in the first three prizes to be announced, unless they involve embryonic stem cell research or cloning. The picks for medicine, chemistry and physics might cause debates among scholars as to whether or not the winners were the most worthy scientifically, but the winners there are usually selected truly because of scientific merit. The last three prizes, literature (to be announced Thursday), Peace (Friday) and Economics (next Monday) are the interesting ones. The peace prize is purely political. No matter who is chosen, controversy will quickly follow. Bloggers will start analyzing what message the Norwegian committee is sending President Bush. It could be someone big and famous (a world leader, Bono, Bill Gates etc.) or it could be someone relatively unknown, like when Shirin Ebadi and Wangari Maathai were awarded the prize in 2003 and 2004, respectively.

Literature and economics are less political. Economic research has more direct political impact than the exact sciences, though usually this prize is awarded according to merit. I'm sure the committee didn't give Robert Aumann the prize in 2005 for his extremist right-wing views. It will be interesting to see if the winner of the literature prize will be a critic of President Bush like 2005's Harold Pinter, or a persecuted writer like last year's winner, Orhan Pamuk.

Anyway, brace yourselves for some international discontent this week.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Wisdom of Ahmedinijad

Mahmoud Ahmedinijad's lecture and Q&A at Columbia University turned out to be a farce. Lee Bollinger, the president of Columbia, opened with an attack on his guest, calling him a petty and cruel dictator. Interesting. I thought being a petty and cruel dictator should bar a person from speaking at a university. When it came his turn to speak, the Iranian president said nothing new, except for the revelation that homosexuality doesn't exist in his country. Other than that, he pretty much repeated old mantras.

In the end, the event didn't do any harm, but it didn't do any good either. If anything, it harmed Ahmedinijad and Columbia University. It still should not have taken place. As could be expected, it did not turn into an intellectual dialogue. Bollinger and the audience insulted Ahmedinijad without really challenging him with specific questions. Ahmedinijad gave general replies, but didn't really answer anything.

A Christiane Amanpour interview with Ahmedinijad is scheduled to air Wednesday night on CNN. I hope she'll ask him the pointed questions that should be asked, like what specific aspects of the Holocaust have not been researched - a question he probably won't have a good answer for.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Light Unto the Nations?

Avraham (Avrum) Burg, the former chairman of the Knesset and the Jewish Agency, has a new idea. The Jews need to be a bridge between the Christians and Muslims of Europe. As the former "other" of Christian Europe, we can work to bridge the gaps between Christians and Europe's new "other", the Muslim population.

Huh? Who the hell wants us to be a bridge? Muslims generally aren't crazy about us Jews, many Christians aren't either. Besides, we can't claim neutrality. Despite all that Christianity has done to the Jewish people since the 4th century, most Jews would probably side with Christians in disputes between them and the Muslims. That's doubly true about Israeli Jews, who would rather see themselves as a European country rather than a Middle Eastern one.

Burg has become quite a theorist, as in theories that have nothing to do with reality. The problems of integrating Europe's Muslims is none of our business as the Jewish people. It's only the business of European Jews - not as Jews, but as Europeans. We need to take care of our own problems before we start meddling in others, and before lecturing Europe about how it treats its Muslims we should take a good look at how we treat our own.


I just added a new widget, Blogrush, to my blog. As their website describes it, "BlogRush is a "Cooperative Syndication Network" that rewards its users for their contributions to the network -- from the impressions they provide of the BlogRush Widget to the referral of other users through 10 'generations' of activity and the impressions of the widget that they provide. BlogRush was designed to be incredibly viral and to provide its users with tremendous distribution leverage to receive exposure for their blog content (onto related content blogs) that they could never achieve on their own; at least without a massive advertising budget."

Blogrush uses the category you provide and combines it with a scan of your blog's content to place links to your posts on related blogs, and to link to related blogs from yours. Too bad only one category can be chosen for the whole blog and not per post. I picked "politics", even though I also write about other things. Hopefully, the content scanner will be effective, so when I write about autism the link will be placed on another blog about autism, rather than on a website about politics.

I should mention that I first came across Blogrush on Gert's blog.

Friday, September 14, 2007

They Don't Make Transformers Like They Used To

Two of my favorite toys as a kid were transformers. One was a fire truck and the other was a race car. They were very easy to tranform - no more than five steps that took less than a minute to complete.

Remembering the hours of joy my transformers provided, I decided to buy my nephew Transformers for his birthday. I bought him a set with two robots - Optimus Prime, who turns into a fire truck, and Megatron, who turns into a tank. Only when my nephew opened the box did we learn that it comes with a full page of instructions for each robot, with a gazillion steps. He lost interest immediately because it was too hard. I spent a couple of hours figuring out how to transform them. When I finally succeeded, I realized that now I have no idea how to turn it back into a robot. After a long struggle to make it a robot again, I saw that it would take me hours to do this a second time and that I had absolutely no chance of teaching my nephew how to do this. You need a goddamn engineering degree to figure it all out!

Another problem with the toys is that in car mode, the pieces don't fit neatly. Also, the different parts come off very easily. They don't break and you can easily put them back on, but I'm sure the pieces will go missing very quickly. In the Transformers from the 1980's, the only removable parts were the weapons and the head (which became a passenger while in car-mode).

I should look for my old transformers. I don't know if they're still around, and they definitely are headless and weaponless, but they're heck of a lot of fun. My nephew will like them and have no problem transforming them, and that would compensate him (and me) for the bad experience for the crappy new transformers.

Toymakers, remember: toys should be user-friendly and simple, not hideously complicated!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Happy New Year 5768

Rosh Ha'Shana, the Jewish new year, has come upon us. What awaits us during the 68th year of the 58th century? Hopefully, no wars with Syria or Lebanon. Maybe this year we'll start a real dialogue with the Palestinians, the Arab League and Syria. So far, that hasn't happened. Olmert has just gone through the motions regarding the Palestinians but hasn't done anything of significance.

It will be the year of the presidential primaries in the United States. The November elections themselves will already be in 5769. So who will it be? Hillary vs. Rudy, I hope.

Politics and war and peace aside, what do I hope this year will bring me personally? I hope it will be a good year. I hope to finish up my studies and find an interesting thing to do afterwards - either start working somewhere or continue on with my studies, who knows where or on what continent. I hope that if I start working, I'll find something that won't be a damn desk job but rather something that really interests me. I hope a lot of writing will be involved, and of the interesting kind.

Until next year (or rather, the next post) Shana Tova!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

CNN and Slate Quoted Me

I just googled "Emmanuel Schiff" and discovered that I'm famous. Okay, not famous, but this blog was mentioned once on national television in the United States and quite possibly worldwide, as well as being quoted a few months later in one of the Internet's most widely read e-zines.

My search brought up a transcript of live coverage of Pope John Paul II's death on CNN. This April 4, 2005 broadcast included a segment about reactions to the pope's death on the blogosphere. Here's the part where the reporters talk about me (and maybe even show my blog on-screen):

TATTON: And, of course, not everyone is full of praise for the pope or the Catholic Church here. Emmanuel Schiff, this is a poli-sci, a political science student, in Israel. He's saying that the pope was way too conservative on many issues, but also progressive on many other things, such as relations with Jews. Emmanuel goes on to look at who the next pope might be. He's got his list of the top five on his site here.

This is something very popular amongst bloggers today. They are looking at what happens next.

They are referring to this post from the same day. Now that I got into it to remind myself of the post, I noticed there's a glaring typo there - " He way too conservative on many issues" (I wonder if the "way" is supposed to be "was" or I forgot the word "was" and meant to say he was way too conservative). What a shame, the only time millions saw my blog - it had a typo.

Next I found an article in Slate about blogger reaction to Mohammed ElBaradei's Nobel prize. The writer refers to me as a conservative blogger based on that one post. Shame on him! Quoting my entire post from October 7, 2005, he writes:

Other conservatives respond with equal parts incredulity and cynicism. "I was under the impression that prizes, especially the most prestigious ones, are supposed to reward success and remarkable achievements," writes political science student Emmanuel Schiff. "I was wrong. As it turns out, inaction and repeated failures may not prevent a person and/or organization from winning."
It's quite amusing to discover I was quoted on CNN and in Slate long ago without my knowledge. Now I wonder if I've been mentioned anywhere else in the mainstream media, mentions that have no trace in regular Internet searches.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Potential Attorneys General

Now that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has finally resigned, it is time to pick his replacement. I know all the chatter is about Michael Chertoff, but I'd rather focus on other potential nominees whose nomination would make things interesting. Some of these are very unlikely, but I'm just having fun with this.

  • Sandra Day O'Connor: What would bring more trust back to the Justice Department than a former associate justice of the Supreme Court? She's considered a moderate, so her nomination would go through fairly easily. On the other hand she's 77 and retired from the court to be with her ailing husband, so there isn't much of a chance of her nomination happening.
  • Joe Lieberman: If Bush nominates Lieberman the Republicans would win back the Senate. The "Independent Democrat" of Connecticut would be replaced by someone appointed by Republican Gov. Jodi Rell, making the Senate split 50-50, with Dick Cheney casting the deciding vote in favor of the GOP.
  • Arlen Specter: The moderate Republican senator from Pennsylvania, a former chair of the Judiciary Committee, disagrees with President Bush on many issues, including legal matters. He'd be an interesting addition to the administration. His appointment would also add one Democrat to the Senate, appointed by Gov. Ed Rendell.
  • James Baker: He's a veteran of the US cabinet, having served in various positions under Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, and a lawyer who helped the Bush team win in the Supreme Court in 2000, and thus in the election. He has a mixture of professional experience (though never as a prosecutor) and partisanship that would make for very interesting confirmation hearings. He's 77, and thus a bit unlikely to become the next AG.
  • Patrick Fitzgerald: There is no chance in hell that Bush would nominate the special prosecutor in the Plame CIA leak case who indicted Scooter Libby, but still, I can fantasize, can't I?

Stupid Miss Teen USA Video

The video below is so funny and so sad simultaneously. This seems to be pure stupidity and not just momentary pressure. Sure, it fits the stereotype of the stupid beauty pageant contestant, and there are many contestants who don't fit the stereotype (and might even be geniuses), but it is still funny. Also, it can be used as an educational video - how not to answer questions.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

God's War Machine

Christiane Amanpour's special documentary mini-series, "God's Warriors", which aired on CNN this week, was an interesting series. Each episode focused on the fanatics of a different religion - Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Here's my take on the series, episode by episode.

God's Jewish Warriors
To Israelis who have watched Chaim Yavin's documentary series "The Land of the Settlers", most of the information in this episode was not new. Yavin's series exposed the settler's violent and expansionist tactics.

Amanpour seemed to be giving a history lesson on the Middle Eastern conflict which at first I thought was too much. But now that I think of it, Israel is the only place where this form of militaristic Jewish fanaticism exists. Unlike Christian and Muslim fundamentalists who would like to create theocracies world-wide, Jewish fundies only want to establish one here in the Holy Land, so I guess it is natural for a show about the modern day's God's Jewish Warriors to focus on Israel.

I found the most interesting part of the episode to be the fundraisers in the United States. I know about the Evangelical support Israel gets, but I never realized how much money from American Jews and Christians is going into the settlements. It is scary.

The main problem with this episode was that Amanpour implied that Zionism equals support for settlements. It is also too bad she didn't show more of the opposition to the settlers, like she showed protesters against Christian fundies in the US.

God's Muslim Warriors
This was the least informative episode. Though the interviews were interesting, most of it has already been said before, including in Amanpour's previous special report about Muslim extremists in the UK. The most interesting part was when I finally understood who the hell the hidden Imam is and what he means to Shiites.

I was surprised Amanpour didn't report about the state of affairs in Saudi Arabia. The reports from Iran were interesting, but hearing about the even more repressive Saudi Arabia would be interesting. Maybe as a woman the Saudis would not allow Amanpour to come in and report.

God's Christian Warriors
Amanpour did the right thing when she avoided "Jesus Camp"-style mega churches as much as possible, since that aspect of the rise of Evangelicals has been told many times. The interview with Jerry Falwell and the tour of his Liberty University were interesting, but they pale in comparison with the most interesting segments. These were the reports about varying degrees of resistance to the mainstream fundies.

First of all, there was the Rev. Greg Boyd, who opposes using Jesus to bolster conservative politicians and political goals. Then there was Richard Cizik, a man who agrees with the Evangelicals on basically everything except for environmental issues, which is enough for other fundies to call for his resignation.

One of the most interesting segments was when the leader of Battlecry, Ron Luce, faces a protest against him in San Francisco. Luce claims he was surprised by the anger. Is he just pretending? I don't think he is. He really doesn't understand what's wrong with his fundamentalist values.

One part I didn't like about this episode was the return to an issue already covered in the first episode - the Evangelical support of Israel. But as long as Amanpour was already interviewing Pastor John Hagee, she should have asked him whether he would continue to support Israel if it made a peace deal with the Palestinians which created a Palestinian state. He probably would not, since that would delay the Second Coming in his warped mind. Instead she said that in Hagee's mind, Israel could do no wrong.

All in all, it was an interesting series, though far from perfect. Christiane Amanpour said in an interview for Israel's Channel 2 that she feels connected to all three religions she investigated, since she has a Christian mother, Muslim father and Jewish husband. I'd like to see a fourth installment, one about the extremists of other religions. Sure, they don't affect our lives as much as the monotheistic fundamentalists, but it is still interesting.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Is Oskar Schell Autistic?

After reading Jonathan Safran Foer's "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" I went to Wikipedia's entry for the book. The 9-year-old narrator Oskar is described there as "possibly autistic (at the very least he shows some signs of Asperger's Syndrome)". What the? While I read the novel I never thought he might be autistic. He's so not autistic!

So I Googled the novel's title and Oskar along with the word "autistic" and found many book reviews and references where he received an autism or Asperger's Syndrome diagnosis from several commentators. Again, what the? Oskar is often compared to Mark Haddon's autistic protagonist in "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time", a book I haven't read. But for the purpose of "diagnosing" Oskar that doesn't matter. I may not be familiar with the famous fictional autistic boy, but I do know a real autistic kid from, well, incredibly close (and when he was a little baby he was also extremely loud).

First of all, not every child who is extremely intelligent and takes an interest in sciences is an autistic savant. We neurotypicals have our fair share of geniuses. Secondly, Oskar doesn't show any anxiety about meeting new people, going to places he has never seen before and entering into new situations. In fact, he is very friendly to strangers (maybe even too much).

Some people cite Oskar's rules as evidence of his autism. He doesn't use public transportation, elevators and bridges. Considering the fact that his father was killed in a terrorist attack that is a perfectly normal reaction. Besides, Oskar is willing to break the rules when he must. There is one eccentricity - Oskar's insistence on wearing only white clothes - that I cannot explain, but it in itself is not enough to make a case for an autism spectrum disorder.

People also say Oskar has difficulty expressing his feelings. After the trauma he has gone through, wouldn't most normal children, or even adults, have trouble expressing themselves?

I haven't seen anyone write about Oskar's grandfather being autistic - but if anyone in this novel has the condition, it is Grandpa. He doesn't speak. He expresses himself in writing. If he's autistic and autism is genetic, maybe it makes more sense that Oskar is indeed autistic. But even this old "empty Schell" of a man is not autistic. He loses the ability to speak when he is in his 20's or early 30's, and though it is suggested it is a psychological problem and not a physical one, I have a hard time believing an autistic adult would regress at that age. The guy experienced the horrors of the Dresden bombings during World War II. That's enough of a trauma to render anyone speechless (though he lost his speech gradually).

Anyway, do you agree? Have I missed any points? Do you think Jonathan Safran Foer meant for Oskar to be autistic? Your comments are welcome.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

I just finished reading "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" by Jonathan Safran Foer. I found it to be extremely good and refreshing. Since it tells the story of a boy who lost his father on 9/11 I didn't expect it to be such a funny book. Oskar Schell, the narrator, reminded me of Holden Caulfield from "The Catcher in the Rye", and I'm quite sure Safran Foer intentionally imitated J. D. Salinger. The only part I didn't like about the book was the ending of the grandparents' storyline, which seemed kind of pointless. I won't elaborate so as not to spoil the ending for those who haven't read it yet.

Just a few days ago I wrote that I was afraid I might have lost the ability to concentrate on a novel. "Extremely Loud" has shown me that the problem isn't with me - it's the books. I finished "Extremely Loud" in 3 days because I found it fascinating. I guess the books that took me months to read are just not my cup of tea. The next novel I intend to read is Safran Foer's literary debut, "Everything Is Illuminated".

My next post: "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" and Autism

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Will Kucinich Lose His House Seat?

According to the New York Observer, Rep. Dennis Kucinich is facing a serious primary challenge for his own House seat in Ohio's 10th district. His challenger is Rosemary Palmer, the mother of a Marine killed in Iraq who opposes the war but says Kucinich isn't doing anything realistic to bring it to an end. Read more about Palmer here.

I hope she wins. Kucinich really does get on my nerves. I don't like extremes and he is definitely in the left-liberal extreme, and he isn't very effective either. A search through the Congressional database (THOMAS) shows that in the current Congress none of his legislation has become law. Of the bills he co-sponsored in the 110th Congress, only six have become law - 4 of them bills naming post office buildings, and the other two had 200 and 300 other co-sponsors. Hardly a personal achievement.

Kucinich is great at introducing lagislation, but awful at getting it passed. In fact, the last time a bill he authored became law was in 1998, when his bill to "make available to the Ukrainian Museum and Archives the USIA television program 'Window on America'" became Public Law No. 105-373 . Important stuff!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sci-Fi Religions Vs. Fantasy Religions

After watching an interview with an Israeli scientologist, where the interviewer mocked the idea of aliens coming to Earth 75 million years ago, I came to the conclusion there isn't really much difference between the mainstream religions and UFO religions. Of course the idea of aliens creating humanity is ridiculous, but are the mainstream creation myths any more believable?

The main difference between the more accepted religions and religions like Scientology is the literary genre of their origin stories. The myths of the bible, ancient European mythologies and Eastern religions all use the magic of fantasy fiction. Pillars of fire, virgin births, monsters and rain dances can easily be placed in the same section of the library as Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. UFO religions, on the other hand, use Science Fiction to explain how we got to where we are. What's wrong with that?

This doesn't mean that every sect and cult should be accepted as a legitimate religion. I only referred here to one aspect of the matter. There are so many other aspects, such as how the religion treats its believers and whether or not it puts them in harm's way (e.g. making them commit suicide or preventing them from taking vital medication). I don't know enough about Scientology to judge whether it should be accepted as legitimate.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Alberto Gonzales, Time to Join Carl Rove

Deputy White House Chief of Staff Carl Rove announced his resignation today. The question is whether he really will stop being a central figure in the drafting of policy. He's been secretive as it is, and now if he continues in an unofficial position he'll be even more secretive. It is said that he has been less influential since the Republican losses in 2006 and now he isn't working for any presidential candidate, so hopefully it is indeed the end of the Rove era.

Now, on to the next Loyal Bushie who should leave the administration - Alberto Gonzales. The Attorney General won't resign and Bush won't fire him. Congress should impeach him. The sooner the better. The guy has lied to Congress, pushed illegal wiretapping and fired qualified US attorneys for political reasons. Those are only the impeachable offenses we know about. There are probably more.

Oh, and a note to President Bush: when Gonzales finally leaves office, don't nominate Harriet Miers as his replacement.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Wasting My Time

I've always been a slacker, a master of the fine art of procrastination. I've done quite a bit of not much during my lifetime - and by that I'm trying to poetically say I have wasted hundreds of hours just doing nothing important, not that not much has become of me. Despite all my ineffectively used days I'm quite a successful guy, with impressive achievements under my belt. But I digress.

I am procrastinating as we speak (or, rather, as I write this post). I have one last paper to write, which shouldn't take me that long, and after that I have to get to work on my thesis. To work on my thesis I have to go to far away archives for whole days, something to which I'm not looking forward. My thesis is very interesting, but I don't enjoy the idea of spending my days in squalid archives (and no, I'm not misusing the word squalid - archive-keeping is one thing Israel isn't very good at). So I don't have much incentive to get the little paper done to make room for the thesis.

So now I'm not working on anything and I keep thinking that I should. I don't read any books because I think to myself that I don't have the time, but then I go off and waste my time on the Internet or watching TV. I could have at least read a book goddammit. And the last book I tried to read I couldn't finish. It's supposed to be a Sci-Fi classic, The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester, but I just can't get myself to sit down and read the whole thing. I don't know if it just isn't the book for me or if I've lost the ability to concentrate on good literature. I haven't tried a different novel, either.

I need a vacation, a real official vacation somewhere else. But in the past I've had vacations while I still needed to do things, and that kept me feeling uneasy when I should have been having fun. So it's a paradox. I need a vacation to clear my head and be able to return and work with vigor, but I also need to get the work done so I can have a worry-free vacation.

Oh, never mind. I'll get off my ass and start working eventually.

Arafat Died of AIDS

Yasser Arafat's doctor, Ashraf al-Kurdi, has revealed the fact that Arafat had AIDS. He claims the Israelis injected it into his blood in order to cover up the fact that the Palestinian chairman was poisoned. Now that's a load of crap, isn't it?

There's something very suspicious about the circumstances of Dr. al-Kurdi's revelation. Danny Rubinstein of Haaretz reported the following:

"Jordanian news site Amman quoted al-Kurdi - a former Jordanian health ministry official - as saying that the virus had been injected into Arafat's bloodstream close to his death, and that the real cause of the chairman's death was poison.

Hours earlier, al-Kurdi was interviewed on television news station Al-Jazeera. However, the network cut short the live interview with al-Kurdi as soon as he mentioned that the former chairman had contracted HIV."

Sounds to me like he let it slip that Arafat had AIDS, which pissed off someone who called al-Jazeera and made them stop the interview and forced al-Kurdi to go to another media outlet to "explain himself" and return to the old poisoning theory.

The fact that Suha and the people who surrounded Arafat kept al-Kurdi away when Arafat got really sick means he had something he'd be ashamed of (not that AIDS is a shameful disease, but in traditional societies like the Palestinian culture it is certainly considered a disgrace - and a sign of homosexuality).

So Arafat died of AIDS. He was not murdered by Israel. Give the conspiracy theories a rest.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Jesus Campers for Israel

Yesterday I watched the excellent documentary "Jesus Camp", about an evangelical camp for little fundamentalist Christian kids, who are being taught to spread the word of JC (that's Jesus Christ, as he is called in one very catchy Christian pop song during the film). It's a terrifying movie, but I truly hope that there are a lot less children indoctrinated like that than it seems.

One thing that I noticed was that in the home of Torey, one of the 3 children who were the focus of the film, they waved three flags - the flag of the United States, a flag with a cross on it, and the flag of Israel. Oh, boy. These are our friends, huh? The good old Christian fundamentalists that think of Israel as nothing more than their Agent of Armageddon.

Then today I got a link to an interesting YouTube video from a Christians United for Israel conference, where Max Blumenthal, a Jewish reporter (in other words, a hell bound reporter) asks about the role of the End Times and eschatology in the evangelical support of Israel, and eventually gets kicked out.

Take a look:

Monday, July 23, 2007

A Present From the IDF

I got a letter from the army today informing me of my permanent discharge from reserve duty. Since my release from my mandatory 3-year service a few years ago I've never been called to reserve duty, but there was always a chance the army would summon me one day. But now, as part of cuts in human resources, the IDF has decided I'm not needed.

Thank you, IDF! Not being needed has never felt better!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Long Live President Peres

Don't die on us, President Shimon Peres. Yes, you're 84 years old, and you'll be 91 by the time your term ends, but hang in there. We don't need idiots like Ruby Rivlin as our head of state, which will surely happen if you push up daisies any time soon. You yourself aren't that great. You should have retired long ago. But at least you're a Nobel laureate and the world sees you as a great statesman.

You'll probably make the presidency interesting again, and this time not for possibly illegal behavior. You're the most active and political person in Israel, but you're in an office that is ceremonial and apolitical. You'll give the governments that serve during your presidency a lot of hell.

Let the fireworks begin!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Unhappy Anniversary

It's the one year anniversary of the Second Lebanon War. Hizbullah still has Israel's soldiers and we still have Ehud Olmert as our Prime Minister, despite the Winograd commission's findings of incompetence. Just great, huh?

So, will we have any war with Syria this year? Two back to back wars are not a good idea (just look at Afghanistan and Iraq). The Middle East needs to wait a while till its next frivolous war.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

You're Fired!

I've been let go from my current university-related source of income. Bummer. I have to find a new job next year or find a scholarship. It's all for the best, though. I don't like what I've been doing and now I might find something that will interest me.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Williams Syndrome

The New York Times Magazine has an article this weekend about a rare condition called Williams Syndrome. It has one thing in common with autism - people with Williams don't understand facial expressions, body language, phrases and context. Everything else is pretty much the opposite of autism. People with Williams are overly friendly and talk a lot.

I have a neighbor who probably has this condition. I always thought she was just retarded, but she fits this description exactly. She talks to me whenever she sees me, and when I'm in a hurry she doesn't notice I don't want to talk. She's like that with everybody, even complete strangers she has never met before.

Now neurologists are using Williams Syndrome to study the role genes play in human behavior and personality. Unlike autism, the exact cause of Williams is known. When DNA separates in two to become sperm or egg cells, instead of having all the 30,000 genes of a regular reproductive cell, about 25 genes go missing, causing the embryo created by that cell to have Williams. Fascinating stuff.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

SelectSmart Claims I Like Kucinich

According to's Presidential Selector, my top 3 ideal candidates in the 2008 race for president of the United States are Al Gore, Denis Kucinich and Hillary Clinton. It's true that I like Gore and Clinton, but Kucinich?!? Both Clinton and Kucinich got the same score - each one of them is compatible with my preferences 68% of the time. Aren't the two on different ends of the Democratic spectrum?

Turns out that I don't really agree with my two favorite Republicans - McCain and Giuliani (36% each). I must say I'm disappointed that none of the candidates, Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike, have reached 70%. Maybe I should run myself (so what if I don't meet residency and age requirements).

Here are my full results:

1. Theoretical Ideal Candidate (100 %)
2. Al Gore (69 %)
3. Dennis Kucinich (68 %)
4. Hillary Clinton (68 %)
5. Joseph Biden (67 %)
6. Michael Bloomberg (66 %)
7. Christopher Dodd (64 %)
8. Barack Obama (63 %)
9. John Edwards (63 %)
10. Bill Richardson (62 %)
11. Wesley Clark (61 %)
12. Ron Paul (53 %)
13. Alan Augustson (53 %)
14. Mike Gravel (49 %)
15. Kent McManigal (40 %)
16. John McCain (36 %)
17. Tommy Thompson (36 %)
18. Rudolph Giuliani (36 %)
19. Mitt Romney (36 %)
20. Elaine Brown (33 %)
21. Tom Tancredo (31 %)
22. Chuck Hagel (30 %)
23. Mike Huckabee (27 %)
24. Newt Gingrich (25 %)
25. Jim Gilmore (24 %)
26. Fred Thompson (23 %)
27. Duncan Hunter (20 %)
28. Sam Brownback (19 %)

Friday, June 29, 2007

Neurodiversity in Israel

The weekend's Haaretz magazine has an article [read in Hebrew or English] about adult autistics who say autism should not be cured. It should be recognized as a "neurological minority". The term neurodiversity was not used in the article (though the term neurotypical was). I don't know if there is a Hebrew term for neurodiversity. If there isn't, I'd suggest מגוון נוירולוגי or גיוון נוירולוגי. I believe this is the first time this aspect of autism is addressed in a major Israeli newspaper.

Some of the adults in the article understood they were autistic after their children received an autistic spectrum diagnosis. They are high functioning autistics and think that autistic behavior should not be stopped, but rather there should be intervention to allow autistic people to function well in society. Communication is the means, not the ends, they say.

They are absolutely right when it comes to autistic people. In the effort to make children normal a lot of times the children get abused, sometimes physically (like aggressive chelation therapy) or mentally (like my sister's obsession with breaking some of my nephew's harmless repetitive habits).

That doesn't mean there shouldn't be research into the causes of autism.

And just a note: Blogger's spellchecker doesn't recognize the term neurodiversity, and suggests the word "narratives" instead. It's a bit ironic, since neurodiversity is indeed a different narrative regarding the autistic spectrum.

Katsav's Shameful Plea Bargain

Moshe Katsav will not go to jail. Under a plea bargain crafted by his lawyers with Attorney General Menny Mazuz, he will admit he committed minor sexual offences and will receive a suspended sentence of one year. He will also be required to pay the accusers compensation.

This is quite a questionable plea bargain. It seems prosecutors have built a solid rape case, and could have achieved a conviction. Mazuz's reasoning for his decision is unacceptable.

"This agreement minimizes the harm to the institution of the presidency," said the attorney general. "It was important to spare Israel from seeing a president on trial." Well, actually, the harm to the presidency has already been done. Seeing a president on trial would be very good for Israel and would give us the feeling that equality before the law exists here. It is true that a president charged with rape is an embarrassment for Israel, but the embarrassment stems from the very possibility that our president could do such a thing. It is even greater an embarrassment if our president gets away with rape, despite the evidence against him, only because he is the president.

Mazuz also said that this is a big step. Katsav's status will change from president to sexual offender. Technically, that's true. But if the evidence against him is so strong, the change should be even more dramatic - from president to prisoner.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Another Weird Search Term

According to, someone found this blog by searching for "Tzipi Livni nude pictures". I seriously hope this person was not looking for pictures of Israel's foreign minister naked, but rather wanted to know what her stance is regarding the whole Maxim sexy Israeli soldiers photo spread controversy. As a feminist woman who is in charge of the government body (New York Consulate and Foreign Ministry) that came up with the idea to use the female body (not nude, but scantily clad), it is interesting to know what she thinks.

Then again, maybe the person who searched for that is just a guy with a fetish for powerful women, or women in business suits.

After Four Years

I forgot to mark the 4-year anniversary of my blog earlier this month. Four long years. On previous anniversaries I did some kind of look back, but I won't do that this time. Instead, I'll try to guess what my posts will look like 4 years from now, in June 2011.

I'll probably still be complaining about the stalemate between Israelis and Palestinians, but at least I will praise the involvement of US President Hillary Clinton and her special envoy to the Middle East, First Gentleman Bill Clinton. President Peres will also be giving the Israeli government a hard time, being a very politically active president. I doubt there will be a Palestinian state by then, but we might have a peace treaty with Syria and we'll be in the process of leaving the Golan Heights.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Getting Laid In the Holy Land

Israeli politicians are all hot and bothered about the apparent collaboration of Israel's foreign ministry (or the Israeli consulate in New York, to be specific) with an issue of Maxim Magazine dedicated to female Israeli soldiers. I don't know if the girls in the pictures are still actually in the army, but it doesn't really matter. It's disgusting that we're promoting tourism by saying we've got sexy women in Bikinis and tight uniforms, either as eye candy or as asses to be tapped. The tag line might as well be "Israel: Come Get Laid". Hey, Mr. Horny Guy, forget about sex tourism in Thailand - do it here!

Maxim seems like an odd magazine to me. Wikipedia describes it as a "lad magazine", meaning it has sexy pictures and stories about sex, but no nude pictures. So, basically, it's a publication for horny guys who don't even have the balls to buy Playboy or Penthouse? Pathetic...

Vaccines and Sudanese Refugees

When my niece was born, my sister decided not to vaccinate her against certain diseases, fearing that vaccines had something to do with my nephew's autism. "Everybody else is vaccinated anyway, so there's nobody who can get her sick", was her main argument then, when she tried to convince me (and probably herself) that the risks of vaccination are greater than the risks of non-vaccination.

For the past few years a small yet steady stream of African refugees, mostly from Sudan (Darfur and South Sudan), has been crossing the border into Israel. Their numbers have recently risen and their plight has gotten more press coverage. While in the past they were arrested and deported, government policy now allows them to stay in Israel, but they do not have any legal status here. Most of them don't even receive refugee status, and the government doesn't lift a finger to help them. They've been pretty much stranded. Some Kibbutzim have taken some of them in, others have been given jobs in Eilat, but even those are only temporary solutions.

I thought of pitching in somehow to help them, maybe by volunteering at a Kibbutz where they are staying or something of the sort. But then I realized that there may be health implications. Even if I am vaccinated against most diseases they may have, I can still become a carrier and pose a health risk to my niece. Then I thought of the fact that not only can I become a risk factor, a lot of people who either come into contact with the refugees or with others who have been in contact with them, may pose a health threat to my niece and any other child who was not vaccinated.

I should talk to my sister about this. It isn't too late to give my niece the vaccines she hasn't taken yet. Now, with the current situation, my sister may be convinced that the risks of not being vaccinated outweigh the perceived menace of mercury.

And an apology to the refugees if this post makes them sound like little more than carriers of dangerous diseases. I still plan to help them.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Autism Wars

One of the most troubling aspects of the debate about the causes and treatment of autism is the hatred both sides feel for each other. The "Autism Blogosphere" has more posts devoted to vilification of the other side than serious, fact-based arguments. Too bad nobody seems to realize that both sides, anti-Mercury advocates and supporters of neurodiversity, are trying to look out for their children.

But let's not be too naive, either. Part of the conflict here is political and financial. Both sides want to get more money and resources for the type of research they support. Also, each side believes that if too much money is spent on the other side's research and not on their own, their children will be hurt.

Also, supporters of Neurodiversity, including autistic people, don't appreciate autistics being described as monsters by The Mercurys. The strong opposition to the use of chelation, a dubious and possibly dangerous method, is also understandable.

What made me write all this? The New York Times has an article about the Wright family, founders of the multi-million dollar charity Autism Speaks, where Katie Wright, mother of Christian, an autistic child, and her parents Bob and Suzanne, are fighting because she thinks they aren't paying enough attention to (and signing enough checks for) mercury research. This isn't quite a Mercury vs. Neurodiversity case, but it shows that there are even rifts between views that aren't exact opposites of each other.

Read "Autism Debate Strains a Family and Its Charity".

Friday, June 15, 2007

This Week in Failed Prime Ministers (FPMs)

It was a good week for our current FPM, Ehud Olmert. The election of former FPM Ehud Barak as chairman of the Labor Party and the election of PFPM (Partially Failed PM) Shimon Peres as the next president of Israel, allow him to stay in office for a while longer. Former FPM Benjamin Netanyahu was humiliated when the Likud's presidential nominee, Ruby Rivlin got only 37 votes in the Knesset.

I used to have a fantasy about Israel's next general elections. I hoped we may get a chance to pick between two great candidates for prime minister: Avishai Braverman of Labor, and Tzipi Livni of Kadima. Now that seems far fetched. Even if Livni will be Kadima's next nominee, the real fight will be between two very bad options. So, which FPM is the lesser of evils - Bibi or Barak? Barak, but not by much.

Meanwhile in Gaza, the results of former FPM Ariel Sharon's policy of unilateral withdrawal are now proving that the disengagement was a disaster. Most Israelis believe Sharon was one of our greatest leaders, but he was not. His insistence on pulling out of Gaza without talking to the other side was a mistake for which we will pay for a very long time.

But I'll end on an optimistic note. The day Shimon Peres was elected president also saw the conclusion of a 3-day conference of Israeli and Palestinian peace NGOs in Tuscany, Italy, organized by the Peres Center for Peace. Representatives of over 100 organizations participated and discussed ways to promote peace even while our governments aren't negotiating with each other. One of the conference's achievements was the creation of a network of NGOs who will now cooperate with each other. Hey, there may still be some hope yet.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Labor Primaries: Round 2

Ami Ayalon may lose tomorrow's Labor Party primaries. Until recently, it seemed as if he'd beat Ehud Barak handily in the second round of voting, but then he made a horrible mistake. He got himself into an alliance with outgoing chairman Amir Peretz, and probably promised him a senior cabinet post. Peretz can bring Ayalon many new votes, but will probably cost him twice as many.

Peretz gives me the creeps. This inept man, who never talks but only yells as if he's at a goddamn protest rally, is about to end his tenure as Minister of Defense, and should never be given another ministerial job in his life. He is a vulgar, uneducated, unintelligent man, who has done the country almost nothing but harm in his posts as defense chief and labor union leader. Following the Winograd Report, he and Olmert should have been exiled to the political wilderness.

Despite all this, I will still vote for Ami Ayalon. I will do it with even greater reservations than I did two weeks ago, but I have not been convinced Ehud Barak wouldn't be worse. When deciding between one failed leader as the candidate's sidekick and another failed leader as the candidate himself, I'd rather vote for the ticket where at least the certified failure won't be leading the party. Besides, Ayalon promises that Prof. Avishay Braverman, former Ben-Gurion University president, will still be his number two and Labor's chief financial minister. I'm a big fan of Braverman. Had Ayalon not reiterated his running-mate status, I would probably switch sides.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

40 Years and Counting

Today is the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War's final day. It was Israel's greatest victory, but its aftermath was also Israel's greatest mistake. Israel should have unilaterally pulled out of all the territories it had captured within a year, when it still had a chance. It would have been even better to give the lands back in exchange for peace, but the Arab League's "three nos" of Khartoum (no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no negotiations with Israel) made that option impossible in the short run.

Israel needs to get out of the territories, but unlike 40 years ago, it cannot pull out unilaterally. That was the wrong approach in Gaza and Southern Lebanon. Negotiations won't magically fix things, either. After all, these are our enemies who would rather see us gone. Nevertheless, negotiations are better than nothing. We must start talking to Syria, President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and the Arab League. So far, Olmert has only talked about the possibility of talking to them but isn't showing signs he actually intends to seriously negotiate.

40 is a typological number in Judaism, a recurring number with special cultural significance (like 7 and 12). According to the old testament, the Israelites wandered through the Sinai desert for 40 years. Many rulers ruled for 40 years, and at the end of many events in the Book of Judges, there was peace for four decades. Noah spent 40 days in his ark, and the 12 Israelite spies were in Canaan for 40 days.

Forty years of occupation - what an unholy number (not that I believe in holiness). Let's hope it doesn't take another 40 years to get rid of it. I'd be happy if we could end it peacefully in 40 days or 40 weeks, but I don't see that happening. Maybe within 40 months.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Stop the Academic Boycott of Israel

Here's a message I got from one of my most leftist bleeding-heart peacenik friends. I mention his political leanings just to demonstate how counterproductive and simple-minded this boycott is:

On the 30th May 2007, a resolution to boycott all Israeli academic institutions was passed by Britain's University and College Union (UCU).

If you agree with the following please sign the petition at:


- It is counter to the universal principle of academic freedom

- It is a form of prejudice & discrimination; it unfairly singles out Israel

- It is counter-productive to peace & reconciliation

- It stifles scientific advancement, which depends on international interaction

An academic boycott is counter to the universal principle of Academic Freedom. Academic life is about building bridges, not destroying them; opening minds, not
closing them; hearing both sides of an argument, not one alone. Boycotts are a betrayal of these values. This principle has been formally recognized by UNESCO, he International Council for Science, the Middle East Studies Association, the journals Nature and Science, the American Association of University Professors, and other learned societies around the world. Only in an atmosphere of academic freedom, unfettered by partisan political manipulations, can scientific advances of benefit to all mankind be made.

Not only does a boycott of Israeli academia violate the principle of academic freedom, it would do so in a discriminatory matter. Any institution representing academics, including trade unions, must adhere to universal, objective criteria for
determining its policy towards academic boycotts. This has not been the case. Only Israel has been singled out for such treatment. Whatever the rights and wrongs of Israeli government actions, Israel is very far from being the worst abuser of Human Rights in the world, yet no other country has been targeted for boycotts.

Prof. Sari Nusseibeh, President of Al-Quds University, bravely opposes the boycott and issued the following statement:

"An international academic boycott of Israel, on pro-Palestinian grounds, is self-defeating: It would only succeed in weakening that strategically important bridge through which the state of war between Israelis and Palestinians could be ended and Palestinian rights could therefore be restored. Instead of burning that bridge, the
international academy should do everything within its power to strengthen it."

And indeed, there are a number of joint projects between researchers at Al-Quds University and Israeli universities, a choice that is far more likely to contribute to peace than would the blacklisting of researchers of one nationality.

The passed boycott is a dangerous precedent, opening the door to the spread of political boycotts to other organizations and other countries, and to other political issues as well. Clearly, a trend of this kind would destroy the system of peer review which assesses academic research on merit, not nationality or political opinion.

With very few exceptions, those leading the boycott call are not the leaders of British academia, but, rather, political extremists seeking to use the boycott as part of their broader campaign to delegitimise the State of Israel. These boycott proponents seek to hijack the union and use it as a weapon for propagating their marginal political


- Sign the petition:

- Contact Sally Hunt General Secretary of the UCU at and ask for a National referendum

- If you are studying at a British University, contact your local branch of the UCU. Details can be found on: