Torture 18.03.13


Howard Adelman

In my piece on The Gatekeepers, I deliberately left out one item because I wanted to discuss it separately. Avraham Shalom who served as head of Shin Bet from 1980-1986 mentioned it in the context of insisting that when it comes to terrorists, there is no morality with respect to their treatment. Candidly, he tells the story of some of the torture techniques used. One was shaking. In one case, he said, the victim was a slight person and when he was shaken he suffered from the equivalent of Shaken Baby Syndrome, the condition a young infant suffers when violently shaken. His brain was badly damaged and the suspect died after being tortured.

When we were going into the film, we crossed paths with Dr. Charles (Husky) Tator and his wife, Carol, who had just seen the film. Husky and I had been in medical school together. He is now a world renowned neurosurgeon. In recent years, he has received wide publicity because of the results of his research on the permanent damage done as a result of concussions in sports like football and hockey. His research, and the publicity about his research, can be credited with the ThinkFirst $1.5 million initiative, the partnership between The Canadian Centre for Ethics and Sport, the Coaching Association of Canada and Hockey Canada to reduce brain injuries in team sports in Canada. When I saw that scene I wished that Husky had gone to the 5:30 p.m. movie instead of the earlier showing so I could have had the benefit of his reflections on that scene.

My own reflections were about the ethics, or the lack of ethics, that Avraham Shalom expressed in discussing torture. He gave the usual reference in justifying torture to the ticking bomb theory – that intelligence people could not be bothered with moral scruples when a bomb may have been planted targeting civilians and time was of the essence. In The Landau Commission of Inquiry (Commission of Inquiry into the Methods of Investigation of the General Security Service Regarding Hostile Terrorist Activity) set up by the Israeli government in 1987 following the death of the two captured hijackers referred to in yesterday’s blog that formed a key part of the film, The Gatekeepers, Supreme Court Justice Moshe Landau confirmed what Avraham Shalom had said in the movie, that Shin Bet or Shabak (formally the General Security Service or GSS) used physical force to interrogate prisoners. Further, the interrogators then covered that up by perjuring themselves when giving testimony in the trials of the Palestinians.

One of the most important outcomes of that Commission was a set of guidelines that governed interrogations in the future. The proposed guidelines were quickly approved by the Israeli cabinet in 1987 that allowed physical pressure on prisoners, but restricted that pressure to moderate means. These recommendations, specified in Appendix 1, were initially secret but were eventually leaked and published in 1991 by Human Rights Watch, "Prison Conditions in Israel and the Occupied Territories – A Middle East Watch Report."

The general principles, however, were available at the time. As the heads of Shin Bet following Avraham Shalom indicated, the use of violence against prisoners was considered acceptable when interrogating prisoners. The question was of degree. The Commission accepted the ticking time bomb theory under the principle of "the lesser evil" and said that actual torture could "be justified in order to uncover a bomb about to explode in a building full of people . . . whether the charge is certain to be detonated in five minutes or in five days." The violence allowed included threats and physical violence, such as slapping, but the Commission insisted that, "The means of pressure should principally take the form of non-violent psychological pressure through a vigorous and extensive interrogation, with the use of stratagems, including acts of deception. However, when these do not attain their purpose, the exertion of a moderate measure of physical pressure cannot be avoided." (my italics)

At the very least, the danger was that such techniques could slide into abhorrent practices, a danger that the Commission fully recognized. Each interrogator could take "matters into his own hands through the unbridled, arbitrary use of coercion against a suspect" thereby undermining the reputation of the state as a law abiding polity and protector of the rights of the citizen. To prevent this, "disproportionate exertion of pressure on the suspect" was deemed inadmissible. Five guidelines were specified. "The pressure must never reach the level of physical torture or maltreatment of the suspect or grievous harm to his honour which deprives him of his human dignity." (my italics) Second, the measures used must be proportionate to the immanence of the anticipated danger given the information available to the interrogator. Third, permitted physical and psychological pressures must be defined and limited in advance by binding directives. Fourth, implementation by interrogators must be subjected to strict supervision and monitoring. Fifth, in the case of even the slightest deviance from these guidelines, the interrogator’s superiors had to react swiftly and effectively, imposing punishment and even using criminal procedures against the interrogator if the interrogator was found to have exceeded the guidelines.

Ironically, the Landau Commission Report and the rapid adoption of its recommendations occurred just prior to the beginning of the first intifada triggered on 8 December 1987 when four Palestinian refugees in Jabalaya were hit and killed by an Israeli trucker, and rumours spread that the deaths were not accidental but a revenge killing for a businessman stabbed and murdered in Gaza two days previously. After all, in addition to the perceived abandonment by Egypt and Jordan, and propelled by large numbers of unemployed youth as well as restrictions on the use of land for building, the intifada was as much a revolt against mass detentions, torture, extrajudicial killings, house demolitions and deportations as against the occupation in general.

The Commission and adoption of the guidelines took place twenty-five years ago. By all accounts, and in my case studies on torture in Israel, the guidelines were effective in limiting the use of excessive force in dealing with prisoners and prisoner interrogation. Nevertheless, force was still permitted to extract confessions. Interrogation methods using moderate violent methods in the nineties following the Landau Commission Report continued. It would have been hard to conclude that these methods respected the dignity and honour of the prisoners. The methods were very moderate compared to many used under Avraham Shalom, but, in addition to shaking, poor food and the use of threats and curses, still included: "depriving the interrogee of sleep for a number of days by binding him or her in painful positions; playing loud music; covering their head with a filthy sack; exposing the interrogee to extreme heat and cold; tying them to a low chair, tilting forward; tightly cuffing the interrogee’s hands; having the interrogee stand, hands tied and drawn upwards; having the interrogee lie on his back on a high stool with his body arched backwards; forcing the interrogee to crouch on his toes with his hands tied behind him."

These results were published by Betselem, the Israeli Human Rights organization, in response to the decision of the Israeli Supreme Court that deemed that causing discomfort and putting pressure on the detainee were only lawful as side-effects of an interrogation; the techniques could not be used to "break" the detainee. The Supreme Court determined that the Shin Bet lacked any legal authority to use physical means of interrogation that cause the detainee to suffer and that are not "reasonable and fair". In 1997, the United Nations Committee Against Torture had already determined that the modified methods following the Landau Report still constituted torture in breach of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment to which Israel was a signatory. Israel had ratified the convention in 1991. After the Supreme Court ruling, torture overwhelmingly ceased in the treatment of Palestinian prisoners and detainees. (Cf. The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel)

After the end of the first intifada, the number of Palestinian prisoners and administrative detainees held in Israeli jails declined dramatically until the outbreak of the second intifada when they rose to very high levels. As of the end of 2011, there were only 4,722 security prisoners left, 552 sentenced to life terms.

One would not have known this was the case from watching The Gatekeepers.

As an aside, and in reference to an earlier blog on Obama’s use of drones and targeted killings, The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel took the Israeli government before the Supreme Court on this issue. On 14 December 2006, the Supreme Court of Israel determined that a continuous situation of armed conflict existed between Israel and various Palestinian terrorist organizations. In considering whether the terrorists and their organizations were to be defined as combatants or civilians, the court concluded that it was necessary to obtain well-founded and verifiable information about civilians allegedly taking part in hostilities before attacking them. Civilians taking a direct part in hostilities may not be physically attacked if less harmful means (arrest, interrogation and trial) could be employed against them. Even if employing targeted killings is legal, the customary principle of proportionality must apply. Further, after any action, an independent investigation should be undertaken to ascertain whether proportionality and targeting norms had been respected. The lawfulness of such killings was to be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Compare and contrast this situation with the American use of "torture" and targeted assassinations after the Israeli Supreme Court had outlawed the use of torture to extract "confessions" from prisoners. On 13 November 2001, President George W. Bush signed an order entitled: "Detention, Treatment and Trial of Certain Non-Citizens in the War Against Terrorism". (Cf. Jill Lepore, "The Dark Ages: Terrorism, counterterrorism, and the law of torment" in The New Yorker18 March 2013) The order authorized the detention of suspected terrorists abroad, but they were not to be tried, if they were tried at all, under conventional military law in contrast to previous practice when they were tried domestically under civilian law. John Yoo, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the United States, drafted the broad rules for America’s "enhanced interrogation techniques. These legal opinions were known as "The Torture Memos" or the "Bybee Memo" because, though drafted by Yoo, they were signed by Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee, head of the Office of Legal Counsel of the United States Department of Justice. Though neither called detainees nor prisoners, these so-called "unlawful combatants" were tortured. Only the infliction of "severe pain" that contributed to loss of significant body function, very serious injury or death was said to constitute torture. A 14 March 2003 memo, just before the USA invaded Iraq on 19 March, concluded "that federal laws against torture, assault and maiming would not apply to the overseas interrogation of terror suspects."

These methods went well beyond those that were authorized by Avraham Shalom in the 1980s and subsequently banned in Israel after 1997, and included waterboarding and the use of dogs. By the next year, two "prisoners" had already died while being tortured at Bagram Air Base. Further, the evidence to bring the suspects to trial even before a military commission were simply paraphrases of what the suspects had admitted under torture. No decent court of law would have permitted them to be used as evidence. Further, the very conservative Supreme Court of the United States in June 2006 also ruled that the President lacked any legal authority to set up these military commissions to act as quasi-legal courts.

Two days after Obama took office, torture was banned.

[Tags: torture, Israel, law, detainees, prisoners,
terrorists, suspects, rule of law]

The Gatekeepers

I hope you have seen the Gatekeepers. It is a terrific film. My take on it is both attached and below. On this one I would love feedback.


The Gatekeepers 17.03.13


Howard Adelman

Yesterday evening, my wife, I and a friend went to see the Israeli documentary, The Gatekeepers. It had been nominated for an academy award for best documentary and had won the National Society of Film Critic’s award for best nonfiction film and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for best Documentary Film. I had eagerly been awaiting its release since I missed it when the movie played at the Toronto Film Festival. It has been in the theatres for over two weeks, but illness has meant no movie going this March until yesterday evening. All three of us were mesmerized by this gripping and disturbing film, but we had very different responses to this documentary that intertwines historical footage of events since the Six Day War with extracts from interviews with the six heads of Shin Bet who served between 1980 and 2011. Shin Bet is colloquially known in Israel as Shabak, the domestic intelligence agency of Israel.

Our friend was both proud that Israel was such a strong democracy that the six heads Shin Bet would feel free to talk about their experiences and reflections. What other country had produced such a film? On the other hand, she found it impossible to imagine Palestinians ever being able to permit anyone, let alone anyone in authority, to even survive if they had been as forthcoming as those intelligence service leaders. On the other hand, in discussions of two Israeli movies of the five films that had been nominated at the Academy Awards for best documentary, 5 Broken Cameras (directed by directed by Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi) as well as The Gatekeepers (directed by Dror Moreh), Limor Livnat, the Minister of Culture and Sports in the outgoing Netanyahu cabinet, advised Israeli film makers that though she and others in authority opposed censorship, perhaps they would be well advised to practice self-censorship. “I, who am opposed to censorship, call on all of you to [conduct] self-censorship. After all, Israel is a democracy to be proud of but a democracy goes into self-defense mode when ranged against five broken cameras are thousands of families that have been destroyed by Palestinian terror. You do nothing about that."

Livnat’s comments were a response to criticisms by Israeli film producers, directors, screenwriters and documentarians of her initial comments on the two documentaries that too many Israeli movies made in the last few years, "libel Israel throughout the world". My wife had been very tense in the movie and came out feeling very defensive for Israel. While not advocating either censorship or self-censorship, she did experience the documentary as a polemical propaganda film of unbearable clarity that was very critical of Israel. And Dror Moreh says as much himself. He allows Yeshayahu Leibowitz, the Jewish theologian who criticized Israeli triumphalism and the occupation as far back as 1968 and whose criticisms are included in the film, to utter the words to which he subscribes. Even more powerfully, Yuval Diskin, the head of Shin Bet from 2006-2011, concurs that Leibowitz was 100% right.

It is clear throughout the film and in the many interviews Moreh has had since the film’s release, that this is where his sentiments lie. This is a message film. And that message is loud, clear and unequivocal. The occupation is destructive of the political and moral health of the nation. For Moreh, hopefully the movie will help serve to give new impetus to the peace process. In some interviews, he sees his own film in dramatic and prophetic terms. "If this film does not lead to change, there is no hope for Israel.” He clearly belongs to the camp that believes that Israelis are beyond saving themselves and supports an imposed solution. If Obama doesn’t “roll up his sleeves and use his power to make change, we are doomed.” However, as a filmmaker, Moreh’s voice in the movie as the interviewer is rarely heard. When it is, the voice is quiet and deferential even though persistent.

This does not mean that in intending his film to serve as a propaganda piece for change that Moreh did not practice self-censorship. For Moreh told the Huffington Post that Netanyahu participated in rallies in which Rabin was portrayed as a Nazi collaborator. Netanyahu never objected to those portrayals. In the segment of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, there are very brief clips showing Netanyahu associated with such rallies, but the implied critique of Netanyahu as sharing in the guilt of the assassination goes by virtually unnoticed. I would bet not 1 in 1000 viewers will spot the suggestion of Netanyahu’s complicity in the assassination.

On the other hand, it is impossible to ignore the obvious. What makes the film powerful as a propaganda film is that it is totally one-sided. The only agents shown to be initiating action are the Israelis. We see the carnage of the horrific bus bombings by Palestinian terrorists, but we do no see them as humans deliberately planning attacks against civilians. We see their homemade videos before they go on their suicide missions, but these belong in newsreels. In contrast, the Israeli perpetrators of some of the atrocities against the Palestinians are the key protagonists in the film. What is even more important, they are all portrayed in a confessional mode, offering sin and guilt sacrifices on the altar of modern cinema and outlining inadvertent sins of omission – such as their inability to anticipate the first intifada or to notice an obscure right-wing Orthodox Jew, Yigal Amir, who came out of left field to assassinate not only Yitzchak Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister, but to shatter the hopes for a fragile peace process. Shin Bet was just unable, according to Carmi Gillon, to prevent Amir from "changing history". In contrast, Palestinian terrorists, even the worst of them, are objects rather than subjects or agents in the film. We never see them instructing their trainees, inculcating them with a fannatic ideology, portrayed as killing Palestinians on the spot who are alleged to be collaborators, or even how they inadvertently killed their own children when setting off rockets headed for Israel which then misfired, hit a nearby Palestinian home and killed many children. We never see them deciding to hide their tracks and place the blame on Israel.

I agree that the film is a tribute to the thriving democracy in Israel which still manages to foster open debate and pluralism in its portrayal of leading figures of the security establishment candidly criticizing their own actions and those of Israeli governments over the last thirty years with devastating comments precisely because those comments are uttered by hard headed pragmatic and ruthless heads of the domestic intelligence service. I also agree that the movie is a powerful propaganda film, though I do not agree that its message is very urgent and more challenging to conventional wisdom. Instead, insofar as it is a propaganda film, it is an expression of the once dominant, at least in a minority sense, different conventional take of the peace camp, not simply about the dead end in which Israel finds itself, but that the dead end is of its own making and the only way out requires the intervention of America imposing its will.

Unlike various reviewers, I did not see it as offering a history of the relations between Israel and the Palestinians from 1967 to 2011 or even of just their conflict, though certainly key highlights of that period were used in the film. I do not even think it offered a particularly harsh appraisal of the Israeli occupation. The film was certainly not a documentary about how Shin Bet operates and makes decisions, and it does not offer a "jarring insight into Israel’s defence establishment" as one headline of one review read. Although there is a great deal of material in the film that refers to decisions made and actions taken, we do not witness how the information is gathered and analyzed, how different scenarios are outlined and again analyzed and different options for options set out. Instead, I think the movie is primarily an educational film on the ethics of just war. But I warn readers that this appears to be my interpretation and so far I have been unable to find anyone who supports that angle. Because that message is not clear at all, and because the narrative is not chronological, nor are the six leaders clearly identified thoughout so that the viewer, unless very familiar with Israeli politics, would not be able to recognize which leader is which and when they served since there are no reminders after the opening, let me begin by clearly identifying each of the six leaders of the Shin Bet and the key episode and ethical dilemma that they faced:

General Theme: No strategy, Just Tactics

Name Dates Key event(s)

Avraham Shalom 1980-1986 killing of two suspected terrorists captured alive after bombing of No. 300 bus; forget about morality; torture

Yaacov Peri 1988-1994 capture of Jewish terrorists who plotted to blow up Dome of the Rock and al-Asqa Mosque on the Haram-al-Sharif or Temple Mount; Oslo Accords

Carmi Gillon 1994-1996 Missiles against terrorists vs suicide bombings in Tel Aviv; Nov. 4, 1995

Yitzchak Rabin assassination

Ami Ayalon 1996-2000 Definition of Victory: to see you suffer

Avi Dichter 2000-2006 assassination of Yahya Ayyash

Yuval Diskin 2996-2911 failure to blow up Hamas leadership (sterile operation)

One way of approaching these incidents and the leaders is whether they achieved successes or failures. There were clearly specific successes: the decline in terrorism, the prevention of the Jewish terrorists from blowing up the al-Aqsa Mosque, a series of clean hits, the process of involving and recruiting informers and of acquiring human intelligence. Those continue. This morning I read that Shin Bet had foiled a Hevron terrorist cell led by an operative released in the 2011 Shalit prisoner-swap. On the other hand, there were clear failures: the killing of two suspects captured alive in a 1984 bus hijacking that led to the resignation of Shin Bet director Avraham Shalom and threatened to bring down the government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, the inability to anticipate the first intifada, the inability to prevent the Rabin assassination, the failure to destroy the Hamas leadership in Gaza when there was a clear target and solid information. But the film maker does very little to explore the reasons for success or failure. What the director does focus upon is the moral issues at stake in each incident.

The movie is about the relationship of intelligence to politics within a moral frame. The moral frame used in that of just war theory. There is no question that the 1967 Six Day War was just. It is one thing for a country to defend itself against Arab states around it which declare war on Israel. It is another to conquer and hold the territory captured in that war – the Sinai, Gaza, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. The movie does not analyze the case and come down on the assessment that occupation was immoral. It presumes that immorality and directly or indirectly gets every one of those heads of intelligence to explicitly or implicitly concur with that judgement. For the fundamental moral issue is whether a war fought decade after decade to continue the occupation is a just goal. Just wars require just purposes. The conclusion presumed by quotes from Leibowitz is that it was and is not just. Not only because of what it does to the one million Palestinians being ruled by Israel. But because of what it does in corrupting the Israeli soul.

Dror Moreh could have quoted Hebrew University historian, Jacob Talmon, as well. But he mostly conveys the message that the continuation of the occupation was carried out because of an absence of a goal rather than the deliberate policy to occupy the West Bank. As Avraham Shalom put it, there were tactics but no strategy. Only Yitzchak Rabin is excused from this failure in justice. He was the only politician to genuinely pursue peace. Begin did it with the Egyptians but he is largely ignored. Sharon unilaterally withdrew from Gaza but he is given a very ambivalent assessment. Shamir is presented as totally indifferent to the plight of the Palestinians, but Moreh could have treated him much worse by portraying his personal history of terrorist activities. Perhaps, Benjamin Netanyahu comes off worst of all.

In the end, it is not the Palestinians that these ruthless leaders of the intelligence service feel so sorry about as the way the intelligence service was used and abused by politicians who abandoned their own duty to protect the service so dedicated to serving them and the Israeli people whenever a crisis arose. Politicians only want to hear binary options and not various shades of grey. They want to make decisions – Yes or No. When mistakes are made or when the consequences of some decisions get too hot, it is the intelligence service that is left holding the bag.

The film is structured in terms of a series of themes. This theme of the overall justice of the occupation and the way the intelligence service is treated is the main thrust of the opening episode and the one theme referred back to in every other episode. But the movie opens with a much simpler just war moral equation – the responsibility of fighting the war over the occupation in just ways. One of those principles requires that innocent civilians be protected as much as possible from being injured and killed as collateral damage when terrorists are directly targeted. That is a decision largely within the purview of the Shin Bet and with some exceptions, as in the opening scene, the Shin Bet performs commendably. It may be an unjust occupation – quite aside from whether it is illegal or not – but the Shin Bet tries to fight it with just means. Or at least since the reign of Avraham Shalom over Shin Bet! It is clear that he has little regard for the just war protection of terrorist captives.

The film seems to have two different moral narratives along this line. The immorality of means is portrayed as starting in 1980 when Avraham Shalom was in charge from 1980-1986. In 1984, what became known as the Kav 300 affair took place. The details were eventually uncovered by the Landau Commission which henceforth set down strict guidelines for the treatment of prisoners. Twenty-nine years ago on 12 April 1984, four Palestinian terrorists from the Gaza Strip boarded a regular Egged bus (#300) heading south and hijacked the bus. At Ashdod, they let a pregnant Israeli get off the bus. She alerted the Israeli authorities about the hijacking. The army set up road blocks. The bus smashed through two sets of roadblocks until the army shot out its tires when the bus had reached a Palestinian refugee camp in Gaza, Deir el-Balah, ten miles north of the Egyptian border. In the standoff, the hijackers demanded to exchange the occupants of the bus for the release of 500 Palestinian prisoners. The Chief of Staff of the IDF, Moshe Levi, the Minister of Defence, Moshe Arens, and the Director of Shin Bet at the time, Avraham Shalom, had all reached the scene. At 7:00 a.m. the next day, a special unit of the IDF under Yitzchak Mordechai – later to become infamous for other matters – stormed the bus, shot and killed two of the four hijackers through the windows and captured two of the hijackers alive. Only one passenger, Irit Portugese, a 19 year old Israeli soldier, who was a passenger on the bus, was killed, and she died as it turned out by "friendly fire". Otherwise, it appeared to be a triumphant operation.

The movie omits all that detail. It focuses on the pictures of the two captured terrorists who are alive and then the report that they died in the attack. As Avraham Shalom testifies in the film, he was informed that they had been terribly beaten by Israeli soldiers once in captivity and he personally authorized Ehud Yaton, the Shin Bet chief of operations at the scene, to put them of their misery when he saw the condition of the captives. Yatom took the badly wounded captives elsewhere to another site and smashed their heads in with a heavy rock.

Initial reports in Israel reported that all four were killed when the bus was stormed but The New York Times three days later ran a story that told of the two hijackers captured alive with the photographs we see in the movie. One Israeli newspaper got around the censors by reporting The New York Times story. Needless to say, "the shit hit the fan". It is that aspect and only that aspect of the story and the political consequences that the movie covers. It does not deal with the decision to blow up the houses of the families of the hijackers after the incident. It does not deal with the attempts to censor Uri Avnery, the editor of the weekly, HaOlam Hazeh, that first ran a picture of the hijacker in captivity and alive. The focus is on the illegal and totally unethical treatment of the two captured prisoners who were killed in cold blood. The film did not replay the television tapes at the time of Moshe Arens and IDF, Chief of Staff, Raphael Eitan, boasting that terrorists who hijack buses cannot expect "to come out alive". The movie does refer to the arrest of and trial of Brigadier General Yithak Mordechai (and eleven other officers) for kicking the two prisoners to death. They were found not guilty.

The movie does not tell us that in 1986, the Deputy Chief of the Shin Bet, Reiven Hazak, went with two other officials, Rafi Malka and Peleg Raday, to see then Prime Minister and current President, Shimon Peres, to tell him that Shalom had not only ordered the fatal blow but had coordinated the testimony of the witnesses to undermine the prosecution case. The three official whistleblowers were fired from the Shin Bet. The story then went into broad public circulation. Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir launched an investigation. When he refused to halt that investigation, he too was forced to resign. Eventually a public inquiry was ordered and Shalom himself had to resign. It seemed clear, and this is suggested in the movie, that Yitzchak Shamir, the Prime Minister at the time of the incident, had approved Shalom’s decision before it was carried out. The matter was fully aired in a television mini series in 1987 called Kav 300, but Moreh chose to focus on only three items – the killing of the captives, Shalom taking the hit for a political decision and Shalom’s opinion that when dealing with terrorism you can forget about morality. The film does not remark on the fact that subsequent heads of Shin Bet had abandoned the latter position though it is clear from their comments. This belies Shalom’s cynical view of the downward spiral of the Zionist dream and his amoral view towards the treatment of captives.

In Yaacov Peri’s period as director of Shin Bet from 1988-1994, the big political story was the Oslo Accords The big intelligence story was the Jewish terrorist plot to blow up Dome of the Rock and al-Asqa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, the messianic vision of the Jewish terrorists and the expertise of their explosives genius,

Menachem Levi. In Avi Shlaim’s book, The Iron Wall – Israel and the Arab World, he quotes Uzi Narkis, the commander of the Israeli forces that captured the Temple Mount in 1967, as having been urged by Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren to blow up the Mosque of Omar. As I wrote earlier, the army did seize the keys to the al-Masjidul or Moroccan Gate and demolished the Maghariba and al-Sharaf Arab neighbourhoods to make room for the space in front of the Western Wall and the reconstructed and resurrected Jewish Quarter.

There were previous terrorist attacks on the Mosque, one by an Australian Christian Zionist, Michael Dennis Rohan, in 1969 who set a fire that gutted the ancient wood and ivory minbar of Sallahudin. On 2 March 1982 a Jewish Talmudic student attacked the mosque but was subdued by Muslim guards. On 11 April 1982, Allen Harry Goodman, an IDF soldier, went on a shooting rampage on the Temple Mount with his army-issued M-16 and killed a mosque guard and wounded others before being subdued; he received a life sentence. In October 1982, Yoel Laerner, a follower of the extremist, Meir Kahane, tried to blow up the Dome of the Rock but was arrested. On 10 March 1983, 45 Jewish terrorists who were followers of Rabbi Meir Kahane planned a military raid, but they were intercepted before the plot could be executed; they were tried but not convicted. On 1 August, 1984, a Jewish terrorist plot to blow up the Mosque was thwarted by the Al-Aqsa security guards; Yosef Zeruya was sentenced to only three years in prison for the plot. On 8 October 1990 Jewish extremists tried to lay the cornerstone for a Jewish temple in the Haram al Sharif plaza and in the protests by the Palestinians, the border guard killed 22 Palestinians and a judicial inquiry under Israeli Judge, Ezra Kama, later determined that it was the Israeli police who provoked the violence. None of these Jewish terrorist efforts were nearly as extensive or as well coordinated or would have been nearly as devastating as the plot broken up and discussed in the movie. The Shin Bet and many political analysts, in a view echoed by Yaacov Peri, believe that if such a plot had been successful, it would have set off a war between Muslims the world over and Jews. What was most revealing in the film was the charge that the plotters network extended to the highest levels of politics and the revelation that, after serving relatively light sentences, they were freed. But this is mentioned as an aside and not explored.

Carmi Gillon served as head of Shin Bet from 1994-1996 until he resigned over the Shin Bet’s failure to stop the Rabin assassination on 4 November 1995 at a rally in support of the Oslo Accords. What is not revealed in the film is that the assassin, Yigal Amir, had been under Shin Bet surveillance but the agent assigned to him had concluded that Amir did not pose a threat to the Prime Minister. Though it is widely believed that Rabin’s assassination totally undermined the possibility of a peace agreement based on the Accords, the evidence in my mind does not support such a contention. In fact, Rabin`s terms were far less generous than Barak`s or Olmert`s and the latter two were also unable to conclude a peace agreement.

With the last three heads of Shin Bet, we return to Palestinian terrorism and the ethics of conducting a just war against terrorism. Ami Ayalon, who served as director from 1996-2000, had an epiphany when a captured Palestinian terrorist told him that their definition of victory was not a conquest of Palestine but seeing Israelis and Jews suffer. He realized that such a war could never be won. It was one thing to hold onto occupied territories but to do so at the cost of a peace agreement was clearly immoral. What was not put in the film was that Ami Ayalon had rounded up his three predecessors in 2003 to sign a letter to the Prime Minister strongly supporting a peace agreement based on a two state solution.

Avi Dichter who was director of Shin Bet from 2000-2006 oversaw the organization when the first intifada broke out and ordered the assassination of Yahya Ayyash, the Hamas engineer and explosives expert, by means of an explosive cell phone. Though it is mentioned, the intricate weighing of targeted killings versus the political costs and dangers to nearby civilians is mentioned but inadequately discussed. Similarly, the great success in drastically reducing terrorist attacks on Israel and what went into that receives insufficient attention and no analysis. Nor does Avi Dichter`s subsequent career as a member of Kadima and the Knesset and his role as Minister of Internal Security and the reforms he put in place. Yuval Diskin who ran Shin Bet from 2006-2011 discussed the opportunity and failure to blow up the Hamas leadership when it was decided to use a 1/4 ton bomb instead of a full 1 ton bomb knowing that if the leadership were on the first floor they would escape death but if on the second floor they would all be killed. This was done to minimize collateral damage that would have been the inevitable result of using a one tone bomb. The effort to conduct a "sterile operation" in this case meant the sacrifice of a success in favour of a strict application of the just war norm demanding minimal intentional risk to civilian lives.

The film ends where it begins with Ayalon`s reference to a long corridor but one which does not lead to a door behind which a leader sits in his office and makes these momentous decisions. According to Ayalon, there is no door and no one to take responsibility for an occupation that is sapping the moral strength of Jewish Israelis. This metaphorical story echoes a sentiment he uttered earlier in the film: "We don’t realize that we face a frustrating situation in which we win every battle, but we lose the war." My own sense from the film is that the occupation, however bad it has been, especially for the Palestinians, has very much sharpened the moral acuity with which Israeli members of Shin Bet have been making their decisions, a message that is the very opposite to the one overtly conveyed by the film.

The Gatekeepers17.03.13.doc

Parashat Vayikra.Leviticus 1:1- 5:26.Peace, Sin and Guilt.16.03.13

Leviticus 1:1- 5:26 Peace, Sin and Guilt 16.03.13

Parashat Vayikra


Howard Adelman

Why do Jewish children begin their Biblical Jewish studies with Leviticus? On the surface, Leviticus is a total bore for children. Once you try to analyze the text, you have to conclude that the concepts must go way over their head. Further, if the book is a set of instructions for priests (Torat Kohanim), why should a youngster be interested? In any case, rabbinic Judaism prevails and there is no longer a Jewish religion centred on temple rituals, so what relevance could such a book have as an introduction to contemporary Judaism? Why would any child be interested in different categories of sacrifice, initiation rites into the priesthood and the horrific consequences if you make a mistake?

Leviticus is an emotionally disturbing book. A child has not yet acquired the censors and indirection, the inhibitions and redirections. The direct even involuntary attraction towards a powerful emotional response provides the power of the text. It is not that the children are pure in being without sin but pure in the sense of their openness to another, especially empathy for the emotions of the other.

Leviticus is about such openness. "Vayikra" means that God called. Moses is called. We as inheritors of the Mosaic credo will eventually be called. We are not called from heaven. The voice calling us comes from midst of the Tent of Meeting. In the Maori community that I will discuss at the end in reference to the movie, The Whale Rider, the call comes from the spirit of the whale. We all have a calling. Depending on our community, that calling can originate from different sources. Children have to learn to listen for their calling.

1. And He called to Moses, and the Lord spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying,

א.וַיִּקְרָא אֶל משֶׁה וַיְדַבֵּר יְהֹוָה אֵלָיו מֵאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד לֵאמֹר:

And what are we called to do?

2. Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: When a man from [among] you brings a sacrifice to the Lord; from animals, from cattle or from the flock you shall bring your sacrifice.

ב.דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם אָדָם כִּי יַקְרִיב מִכֶּם קָרְבָּן לַיהֹוָה מִן הַבְּהֵמָה מִן הַבָּקָר וּמִן הַצֹּאן תַּקְרִיבוּ אֶת קָרְבַּנְכֶם:

We are called to speak to the children of Israel.That includes real children as well as adults who still behave as children. Why and how do we speak to the children first about sacrifice?

The first lesson we are required to impart is in the form of a horror movie. A man, adam not ish, a representative of all humanity rather than a specific human, comes near so the child can witness. What is sacrificed on the high altar before the temple? Preferably an unblemished bull, but possibly a sheep or goat or even a turtle dove. In every case, killing, dissection and creating a bloody mess are involved. There is a slaughter of the animal, splashing its blood on the altar, skinning the animal, dissecting the animal into sections, piling the parts in a particular order with the head and fat on top of the wood so the fat drips down and sizzles in the fire. When the innards have been cleaned, washed and piled with the other parts of the animal and the hind legs on top, we then watch the face and eyes and mouth of the animal consumed first by the flames as the animal is burnt until there are only ashes left. It is a scene designed to arouse fear in the child.

This type of sacrifice is called a burnt offering. We can capture its meaning by going back to the first sacrifice, Cain and Abel providing a burnt offering to the Lord. Cain was a farmer. He offered the best of his labour, grain, as a sacrifice. But God chose to recognize Abel’s animal sacrifice. In a jealous rage, because the sacrifice of the best products of his labours for God were not recognized, Cain killed Abel. God preferred to recognize the nomadic way of life of the shepherd even as humanity was adopting to a sedentary agricultural way of life. The irony is that God’s recognition was not for that which was to be valued as historically the superior way of life, but as the way of life that had to be sacrificed to give way to agricultural societies.

The animal sacrifice is now given not for its recognition as having a higher status, but for atonement, for acknowledging the sacrifice and loss of a way of life that once was and is no more. There must be a sacrifice to atone for a way of life that no longer exists, that has gone up in smoke, and now persists and exists only in symbolic and token forms. God requires that we recognize and atone for the ways of life that have been sacrificed in the civilizing of humanity. Through the rituals of sacrifice, the community symbolically preserves its past. The rituals provide the songline for community survival.

How does the child experience this? A child would certainly not grasp the symbolic significance. I am convinced that this is where fear and trembling are appropriate and properly describe reactions that could be expected on first seeing such a truly awesome sight, the burnt, or more accurately, ascendant offering upon the high altar. What ascends to heaven entirely in a cloud of smoke is no more on earth and in history.

In Ezra 3.3, even in the face of enemies, especially when surrounded by enemies, the burnt offering must be made to teach a community that it is fighting for its way of life. If death from the enemy is to be feared, the greater fear is the existential one, that the way of life of your community and society will be wiped from the face of the earth and from history. "Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the LORD, both the morning and evening sacrifices." Children of Israel are instilled very early in life with existential fear.

Animal and grain sacrifices are no longer made competitively side-by-side, but in succession. Ch. 2 begins with the depiction of the meal sacrifices, a fire rather than a burnt offering, an acknowledgement that bread must be made and food cooked by applying heat. Except for Shavuot, leavened bread is not sacrificed on the altar. It goes on the table. Only unleavened bread, the bread of affliction, is sacrificed. As chapter, verse 11 states, "No meal offering that you sacrifice to the Lord shall be made [out of
anything] leavened. For you shall not cause to [go up in] smoke any leavening or any honey, [as] a fire offering to the Lord." We keep the tastiest and best now for our own consumption.

Chapter 2

1. And if a person brings a meal offering to the Lord, his offering shall be of fine flour. He shall pour oil over it and place frankincense upon it.

א.וְנֶפֶשׁ כִּי תַקְרִיב קָרְבַּן מִנְחָה לַיהֹוָה סֹלֶת יִהְיֶה קָרְבָּנוֹ וְיָצַק עָלֶיהָ שֶׁמֶן וְנָתַן עָלֶיהָ לְבֹנָה:

2. And he shall bring it to Aaron’s descendants, the kohanim, and from there, he [the kohen] shall scoop out his fistful of its fine flour and its oil, in addition to all its frankincense. Then, the kohen shall cause its reminder to [go up in] smoke on the altar; [it is] a fire offering [with] a pleasing fragrance to the Lord.

ב.וֶהֱבִיאָהּ אֶל בְּנֵי אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֲנִים וְקָמַץ מִשָּׁם מְלֹא קֻמְצוֹ מִסָּלְתָּהּ וּמִשַּׁמְנָהּ עַל כָּל לְבֹנָתָהּ וְהִקְטִיר הַכֹּהֵן אֶת אַזְכָּרָתָהּ הַמִּזְבֵּחָה אִשֵּׁה רֵיחַ נִיחֹחַ לַיהֹוָה:

For all fire offerings, we add salt. For of the three parts of earth – wilderness, settled areas and the sea – the settled areas increasingly displace the wilderness. But what of the sea? The sea too, even though it was never a way of life, once covered all of earth and had to recede. The sea must be used in service to settled society. Thus, with all offerings, salt must be added. Salt becomes the symbol of the Covenant. In order to have settled life, the sea had to recede. Civilization proceeds by pushing back the subterranean life, the life of the sea, and expanding human settlements of the land and bringing as much as possible into the light of day. Salt, the best preservative known in the ancient world, allows food to be preserved and put away in storage. The salt of the Covenant allows that which is preserved and stored away to be raised up. That is why Israel was given to King David and the children of Israel to be preserved and raised up. (Chronicles 13:5).

"And every sacrifice of your meal offerings salt with salt and do not banish salt, the Covenant of your G-d from on your meal offerings. Place salt on every one of your offerings…" (Leviticus 2:13)

"All the sacred gifts that the Israelites set aside for the Lord I give to you, to your sons, and to the daughters that are with you, as a due for all time. It shall be an everlasting covenant of salt before the Lord for you and for your offspring as well. (Numbers 18:19)

Once the dialectic of the Cain and Abel sacrifices are re-enacted, three other sacrifices are depicted – the peace offering, the guilt offering and the sin offering. Chapter 3 begins with the peace offering. In analyzing the peace offering, we must ask in what sense are we both drawn closer to death and enriching our experience of life? What is being substituted for and lost through the sacrifice? In what sense is the offering an offering of oneself? In one sense, in a peace offering, we give up very little.

3 And he shall offer of the sacrifice of the peace offering an offering made by fire unto the LORD; the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards,

4 And the two kidneys, and the fat that is on them, which is by the flanks, and the caul above the liver, with the kidneys, it shall he take away.

Not much of a sacrifice! You simply put on the altar what you would not eat anyway – fat and blood. The rest is divided between the priest and the sacrificer. We are not talking about giving to express gratitude for a benefit gained. Nor for a benefit expected! The zevach sh’lamim or "sacrifice of well-being" was a voluntary animal offering, sometimes to fulfill a vow. (Leviticus 3:1-17) What is given up and surrendered is excess. The fat is burned on the altar. It must not only substitute for but be inclusive of what is excessive. By giving of ourselves in acts of charity and benevolence we gain a sense of who we are as humble beings. For we identify then with all who are humble. In that way we come to peace with ourselves and with every other member of humanity. If fear accompanies a burnt offering, happiness and contentment accompany a peace offering.

Historically, in Judaism, Judah ha-Levi exemplified the giving and the product of a peace offering. The sages taught that none drew so near to God as Judah. By giving up the work that defines you for a day of rest, by substituting prayer and study and worship for blood, sweat and tears, we gain a new love, Shabat. "On Friday doth my cup o’erflow, What blissful rest the night shall know, When, in thine arms, my toil and woe Are all forgot, Sabbath my love!" The highest reward for the peace sacrifice is Shabat itself. "Bring fruits and wine and sing a gladsome lay, Cry, ‘Come in peace, O restful Seventh day!’"

In chapter 4 of Leviticus, we are introduced to the sin offering. Note the emphasis on "unintentionality". The sin is inadvertent. But the offering is not; it is an obligatory one.

1. And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,

א.וַיְדַבֵּר יְהֹוָה אֶל משֶׁה לֵּאמֹר:

2. Speak to the children of Israel, saying: If a person sins unintentionally [by committing one] of all the commandments of the Lord, which may not be committed, and he commits [part] of one of them

ב.דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵאמֹר נֶפֶשׁ כִּי תֶחֱטָא בִשְׁגָגָה מִכֹּל מִצְוֹת יְהֹוָה אֲשֶׁר לֹא תֵעָשֶׂינָה וְעָשָׂה מֵאַחַת מֵהֵנָּה:

3. If the anointed kohen sins, bringing guilt to the people, then he shall bring for his sin which he has committed, an unblemished young bull as a sin offering to the Lord.

ג.אִם הַכֹּהֵן הַמָּשִׁיחַ יֶחֱטָא לְאַשְׁמַת הָעָם וְהִקְרִיב עַל חַטָּאתוֹ אֲשֶׁר חָטָא פַּר בֶּן בָּקָר תָּמִים לַיהֹוָה לְחַטָּאת:

What happens if the children of Israel unintentionally sin? The text immediately jumps to the koanim sinning and bringing guilt to the people. Only later do we return to the sins of the community committed out of ignorance. Are the people punished for unintentional sins? Can the koanim commit unintentional sins? The text is clear. The koanim and the community as a whole bear a greater responsibility for sins of ignorance than any individual; a young male bull must be sacrificed.

14. When the sin which they had committed becomes known, the congregation shall bring a young bull as a sin offering. They shall bring it before the Tent of Meeting.

יד.וְנוֹדְעָה הַחַטָּאת אֲשֶׁר חָטְאוּ עָלֶיהָ וְהִקְרִיבוּ הַקָּהָל פַּר בֶּן בָּקָר לְחַטָּאת וְהֵבִיאוּ אֹתוֹ לִפְנֵי אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד:

The animal parts are not consumed nor even burnt on the altar but taken outside the camp to be consumed by fire. Depending on your status in the community, there are different expectations and different levels of sin offerings.

Finally, we have the guilt offering. It differs from the sin offering in that, although the actions may appear inadvertent, whether it is the neglect of the Catholic Church or the Canadian government to have protected children sexually and otherwise abused in the aboriginal school system or the interpersonal digs and actions that upset our partners as indirect ways of expressing our anger, they are actions that hurt another, actions that we can be conscious of and correct. Our secular society relies on therapeutics instead of ritual outlets to deal with guilt and anger. Our society lacks rituals to deal with inadvertent sins and sadness when it blankets the whole community.

Last night I once again watched the beautiful and very moving movie, The Whale Rider, the 2002 film directed by Niki Caro about a young Maori girl of eleven years old in a Maori patriarchal community on the east coast of New Zealand. It is the strongest feminist film I have ever seen. The Whangara Maori date their history back through many generations to a single ancestor, Paikea, who travelled to New Zealand by canoe but before his arrival, the canoe capsized and he was saved by riding to shore on the back of a whale. The chiefs have always been the first-born sons of Paikea’s direct descendants. The eldest son of Koro, the leader of the community, left New Zealand to pursue an art career in Germany. He left behind his daughter, Pai, who has to break through the melancholy that hangs like a heavy cloud over the community to eventually prove, against all Koro’s inherited beliefs, that she, Pai, is the one destined to inherit the leadership of the community and bring it back to the joys, celebrations and love of a way of life that need not be lost by modernity. Pai heard her call.

Only after the community has overcome the sin of ignorance to break through the collective melancholia, only once they as individuals and a community have broken through the various degrees of guilt over self-indulgence, bad habits (smoking and lack of exercise), to not caring sufficiently for one another and the next generation, only once they have broken through once again to re-connect with their animal spirits, the whales, who in the breakdown of spirit have beached themselves on shore, only when they once again re-engage in a form of peace offering, can the community truly enjoy and celebrate the equivalent of a shared communal meal and the fire offering to the divine.


Obama’s Visit to Israel and the Peace Process14.03.13

Obama’s Visit to Israel and the Peace Process 14.03.13


Howard Adelman

In Jonathan Spyer’s lunch discussion on Monday, he took one of the two dominant positions towards the peace process that I discussed previously. He essentially dismissed efforts at reviving the peace process at the present time as a dead end useless exercise, stressing that the Palestinian side is deeply divided between a rejectionist Islamist Hamas and a Fatah-led Palestinian Authoirity that is too frightened to make any move that will further undermine its precarious perch in the West Bank. That fear was exemplified when Mahmoud Abbas appeared on Israel’s Channel 2 and reiterated his support for the two-state solution with Palestine having the 1967 borders (presumably with adjustments for land swaps) and with East Jerusalem as its capital. When asked about Safed from which his family fled in 1948, he said, "I want to see Safed, It’s my right to see it, but not to live there." Of course, that remark met a fury of reproaches because it seemed to signal a Palestinian retreat from the "right of return". Noticeably, Abbas backed away from that implication and insisted that it was just a statement about his personal situation.

Ignoring for the moment the problem of the Holy Basin in Jerusalem, does not the above story alone seem to indicate that Jonathan Spyer is correct in his pessimism about the utility of any discussions about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process? On the other hand, Ben Birnbaum wrote a piece in the current New Republic entitled "The End of the Two-State Solution" (11 March 2013) suggesting once again that time is running out and that it is imperative that the log jam on Israeli-Palestine peace needs to be broken during Obama’s second term of office. As Birnbaum correctly argued, the two sides in the last quarter of a century have come a long way towards a deal. The PLO which once rejected Israel’s right to exist has come to full acceptance of Israel. Most traditional right wing Israelis by and large have given up the plans to annex the West Bank and have accepted the need for a two state solution. However, Likud hardliners and the far right Naftali Bennet’s Jewish Home Party, which won 10% of the seats in the Knesset, hold an "unswerving conviction that the Palestinian Arabs of Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem might as well relinquish their hopes for a sovereign state." (David Remick, "The Party Faithful: The settlers move to annex the West Bank – and Israeli politics," The New Yorker, 21 January 2013)

If you look at the rejectionists, there is certainly no chance for a deal. But as Birnbaum points out, a large majority of Israelis and a majority of Palestinians both support a two-state solution. In fact, two-thirds of Israelis (and a majority of Likudniks) support the creation of a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem. While on the political front there has been a drift to the right, on the peace front the drift has been distinctively to the left. Further, there are precedents for progress even if one accepts that no formal deal is possible at this time. Sharon showed progress with the withdrawal from Gaza, though many jump on that as proof that unilateral initiatives are counter-productive. However, Sharon envisioned further moves on the West Bank which would also avoid the mistakes re security with respect to the withdrawal from Gaza. Hence, the stress on security which Obama has repeatedly echoed!

For Birnbaum, a narrow window of opportunity is now available when the desire for peace in Israel can be mobilized to support a far-reaching deal with the Palestinians while Abbas is still in office. As Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, told Birnbaum, the current situation is not only unsustainable, but unlikely ever to be replicated: “This is your dream leadership of Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad. This is a dream team! Do you think Palestinians will agree to another leadership like this in the next six hundred years?” However, the sticky point is still the settlement of Ariel which is thrust right into the northern centre of and bisecting the West Bank; it has 20,000 settlers and a university with an additional 13,000 students.

Then there are the Jerusalem neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem as well, specifically Hamaotos. On October 11, Plan no. 14295 for Hamatos was deposited for public review for the construction of 2,610 housing units east of Beit Safafa that will complete the isolation between Bethlehem and East Jerusalem, and cut Beit Safafa and Shurafat off from East Jerusalem. Given that younger Israelis are more hard line than their elders, both because of a demographic and ideological shift, a future in which Israel will be more accommodating cannot be envisioned. On the other side, at the present time, never mind the future, Hamas has an effective veto on any deal. As Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a 2009 address to J Street, “No peace will be possible nor sustainable as long as the Palestinians remain a house divided.” So if this is the last chance, the indicators are that it is a chance with virtually little likelihood of success. Spyer seems to be vindicated in his pessimism.

On the other hand, the other alternatives are even worse and harder to imagine – unilaterally creating a Palestinian state on the other side of the fence/barrier but without the security protection built into an agreement. Annexing the Israeli populated West Bank and turning the balance into autonomous bantustans would incur world-wide wrath against Israel. Other solutions – a unified state with or without Palestinian voting rights – are even more impossible to contemplate. Alternatively, Israel will come face-to-face with militant Islam for not just decades but for generations. And the Israeli nation facing militant Islam will be a largely religious and determined Jewish dominated Israel.

So it is no wonder that Rashid Khalidi asks rhetorically, "Is Any Hope Left for Mideast Peace?" The peace process made possible the expansion of the settlers from 200,000 to over 400,000 since Madrid in 1991. Obama, for Khalidi, has only one real choice if he wants to be effective – oppose the settlements and the occupation with deeds and not just words. Otherwise, back off!

Tzipi Livni is scheduled to be the new Justice Minister and will be charged with negotiations with the Palestinians. Livni regards the Obama visit as a new opportunity "to create a dialogue on a matter of principles". But Palestinians are tired of road maps, framework agreements and principles which simply allow Israel to create more facts on the ground and more barriers to a solution.

As I write, the Annual Herziliya Conference is winding up. Tzipi Livni addressed the conference but did not say anything unexpected. Rob Danin, Mike Herzog, Shlomo Avineri, Yoaz Hendel, Nati Sharoni and Danny Dayan appeared on a panel to discuss, what else, the viability of a two-state solution. And the by now very familiar themes were struck on direct talks and American re-engagement, on incremental and possibly unilateral steps and on a final agreement. Shlomo Avineri may have echoed Spyer`s pessimism about the prospects of a final status deal, but he was very positive about the advantage of pragmatic and incremental initiatives. Everyone agreed that the window was still open and no one would predict when it would close. The implication, however, was that date was not that far off.

As Ami Ayalon wrote in an op-ed in the LA Times on 8 March, the situation demands clear and unambiguous answers not more creative ambiguity. But Ayalon too offers only clear principles and generalities:

· Two states for the two peoples with mutual recognition;

· borders based on the 1967 lines with equitable swaps to enable the settlement blocks to remain under Israeli sovereignty;

· a demilitarized Palestine with international guarantees of its security;

· Palestinian refugees returning only to the Palestinian state or resettling in third countries with compensation; declaration of end of conflict by all sides;

· Jerusalem should remain an open city, capital of two states, with Palestinian sovereignty over Arab neighbourhoods, Israeli sovereignty over Jewish neighbourhoods and a special shared regime for the administration and guardianship of the holy sites.

The last is both a security and diplomatic nightmare, but if the other problems are taken care of, living with a nightmarish peace may be the better option to living in blissful denial until the next intifada. Israelis have a real choice – a real peace agreement or facing an abyss. To push that choice, "Obama should adopt a new approach: constructive and coordinated unilateralism." Ayalon does not ask Obama to impose a solution but to act as an Anansi and present American demands in their own interests that will lure the two sides into entering into an agreement with each other.

Obama, as we all know, is coming to Israel to discuss three issues: Iran, Syria and an agreement with the Palestinians. We know what he will say about Iran – he is determined that Iran not acquire nuclear weapons but is also insistent on giving Iran more room to back down diplomatically. As Vice-President Joe Biden told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee last week, "The president of the United States cannot and does not bluff." On Syria, American special forces are already secretly active in training the Syrian rebels. Syria will be a matter of coordinating Israeli and American policy to make sure the Iranian-Syrian axis is totally severed. Most commentators are guessing about what he will do about the prospects of Israeli-Palestinian peace.

What will he actually be doing and will that provide any clues? Herb Kleinon suggested yesterday that the itinerary does supply some clues since every site visited will have been weighed for its symbolic value. Obama has repeatedly stressed that Israel’s security must be guaranteed. His first stop at the airport itself will be visiting an Iron Dome anti-missile battery – a product of a joint Israeli-US venture and signifying the ironclad partnership of the US and Israel.

After being formally received by President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, Obama will then settle into his five and a half hour talk with Netanyahu next Wednesday evening. Next Thursday, Obama will visit the Israeli Museum, in particular the Museum’s Shrine of the Book housing the Dead Sea Scrolls and the in depth literary evidence of the Jews’ ancient connection to the Land of Israel, thereby also avoiding any controversial visit to the Wailing Wall while sending the same message. He will also visit a special exhibit of Israeli technology and innovation thereby highlighting Israel as the start-up nation. Israel will get the best advertising for its efforts at self-branding totally as a freebie. Then Obama will visit Abbas in Ramallah for an equal five and a half hours. Obama will then address students in the Jerusalem International Center; it is possible that in this direct talk to the youth of the nation he will drop some clues as to what he said to both Netanyahu and Abbas. That will be followed by a state dinner at which Obama will have a chance to fill Netanyahu in on his talk with Abbas. Finally, on Friday, Obama will lay wreaths at the graves of Theodor Herzl and Yitzhak Rabin, the latter as a bow both to the peace process and a critique of militant extremism. Then a return to Palestine, but this time Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity to now assert the deep Christian connection with the Holy Land but in an area slated to be part of the Palestinian state.

Will Obama condition U.S. military and diplomatic support and guarantees of Israeli security in return for Israeli commitments to freeze ongoing expansion of settlements particularly in areas where an independent contiguous Palestinian state will be compromised? Will Obama make continuing financial support for the Palestinian Authority conditional upon the PA returning to negotiations without Hamas? Will those conditions also require in return very specific compromises from both leaders? Will continuing the life-support system for peace be made conditional on the two parties agreeing to a timetable to arrive at a solution?

In sum, the conditions are not propitious for a two state solution but they are unlikely to become more propitious. Obama has downplayed any efforts to provide a higher profile for the process, but dampening expectations under the circumstances is par for the course. I am betting that Obama has opted for a high risk but very carefully choreographed small step implemental process rather than allow the two=state solution to expire on his watch.

[Tags  Obama, Palestine-Israel peace, visit, Jerusalem, settlements,


The Geo-Politics of the Middle East

The Geo-Politics of the Middle East


Howard Adelman

Last night we went to see two plays by Hannah Moscovitch – Little One and Other People’s Children – at the Tarragon Theatre. One was about pathological family geo-politics and the other about neurotic family geo-politics. They are magnificently written and were wonderfully acted and directed. Showing them back to back suggested that madness and neurosis are not that far apart after all. In some sense, that can be said about the Middle East.

Dr. Jonathan Spyer is an Arabist and senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Centre (GLORIA) at IDC Herzliya in Israel. He is also a columnist for the Jerusalem Post. British-born, Spyer has a PhD in Middle East politics from the London School of Economics. He also served as a press officer in the Prime Minister’s Office in Israel. His expertise covers Iran, radical Islam and the Arab Spring. However, his greatest in-depth knowledge is on Syria and Lebanon and he recently snuck into Syria in order to interview the Syrian rebel fighters. He is the author of The Transforming Fire: The Rise of the Israel-Islamist Conflict published in 2010. Barry Rubin called it "probably the best book in Israel to be published in thirty years" because, in part, it focuses on the rise of revolutionary Islamism and the struggle against it as the most important issue in the Middle East.

We had lunch yesterday afternoon with about a dozen others. After a brief introductory remark, he was pummelled with questions. This account represents my distillation and organization of his comments that, because of the nature of the dialogue, veered quite widely. I have added some of my own illustrations taken from my files because I did not take notes. I will cover the one area where I disagreed with him – the role of America in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process – tomorrow.

Spyer began with the theme that was central to his book – the shift in the politics of the Middle East from an Arab-Israeli conflict to an Islamist-Israeli conflict. It has resulted in the demise of all the secular military regimes beginning with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq to the mis-named Arab Spring revolts and replacements of military dictators – President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen, Col. Muammar Qadhafi in Libya. The last remaining holdout from his father’s military regime is Bashar Assad in Syria; he has been facing a civil war for two years and now only controls 40% of the country.

Thus far, of the completed revolutions, all of the secular nationalist regimes have been replaced by Sunni Muslim revolutionary governments. As Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, the chairman of the Transitional National Council in Libya, announced when the Council assumed the reins of power, “We are an Islamic country. We take the Islamic religion as the core of our new government. The constitution will be based on our Islamic religion.”

Thus, Israel faces a new Sunni Islamic Arab axis to its west that dislikes Israel far more than the military secular nationalist regimes that were replaced and with which Israel had learned to live. However, each of them is too weak economically and militarily and too caught up with trying to stabilize their own internal affairs to cause any direct threat in the immediate future to Israel.

There is a second grouping that survived the Arab Spring made up of the surviving Arab monarchies. They include the members of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (CCASG) that is made up of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as well as Jordan and Morocco which have been invited to become members. Only Bahrain seemed to teeter on the edge of a successful revolt for at least two possible reasons. King Hamad is a Sunni and the majority of Bahrain’s population is Shi’ite. Secondly, Bahain had run out of oil and most of its citizens lived in poverty. The revolt started on 14 February 2011. It was effectively quashed thirteen months later when, on 14 March 2012, in response to a formal request from King Hamad, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) deployed the Peninsula Shield Force to Bahrain. Saudi Arabia contributed 1,000 troops, including an armoured battalion. The United Arab Emirates supplied 500 police officers.

Of these, only Oman stands out for its independent foreign policy, its pragmatism and domestic efforts at real reform, most notable in rejecting the subservience of women who are invited to play a serious role in Oman’s social and political evolution and informed by an enlightened Ibadhi interpretation of Islam. (Ibadhis differ from both the Sunni and Shiite branches of Islam in both key attitudes and some core Islamic theological beliefs.) Oman, with a population of three million located on the southeastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula, is known for having the world’s largest sand desert – the 250,000-square-mile region that is known as the Empty Quarter.

Spyer referred to Oman’s foreign policy in passing but did not go into detail because it is generally well known among those who follow the Middle East and its historical development was well documented in Joseph A. Kechichian (1995) Oman and the World: The Emergence of an Independent Foreign Policy. Oman is the only state in the region that does not have a foreign policy driven by ideology and that tries to protect its security and prosperity through peaceful negotiations. Though an absolute monarchy like the others, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Sa`id Al Bu Sa`id (Qaboos) has largely overcome both internal civil strife and alien forces like Iran since he overthrew his father in a palace coup in 1970. On the one hand, Oman supports regional security and stability in the Gulf based on dialogue, mutual interests and what it calls self-reliant defence. At the same time, Oman cooperates with allies through mutual trust and a balance of power and interests between the Gulf states and regional powers.

Oman supported President Sadat’s peace initiative with Israel in 1977 and Sadat’s role in the U.S.-sponsored Camp David peace talks in 1978. Oman did not break diplomatic relations with Cairo for recognizing Israel and did not attend the 1978 Baghdad Rejectionist summit condemning Egypt. In 1994, Qaboos invited official Israeli government representatives to a conference on water desalinization and subsequently welcomed Prime Minister Rabin to Oman, an unprecedented public visit by an Israeli leader to an Arab Gulf state. From 1996-2000, Oman and Israel exchanged trade offices. Though now closed, there is an Omani Embassy in Israel and formal diplomatic representation for Israel in Muscat and the resumption of relations always seem pending but get set back by events. For example, when Israel bombed the truck supply carrying arms from Syria to Hezbollah in February, Omani Parliament Speaker Sheikh Khalid bin Hilal condemned the Israeli attack on 6 February 2013 and called it shameful and in line with the Tel Aviv regime’s aggressive policies against Muslim and Arab countries, but did not, as Iran’s Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani did, describe Israel as the Zionist enemy of the Islamic world responsible, along with the U.S., for destabilizing Syria.

The third and most intractable and venemous axis is the Shi’ite religious axis that now includes Iran, Iraq, Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon and a quasi-loyal Sunni Hamas outpost in Gaza. Ironically, Iran’s most solid ally has become Shi’ite dominated Iraq, especially because of the powerful influence of Muqtada al-Sadr, Iran’s cat’s paw, on the Shia coalition in Baghdad. Instead of a strong ally and a model for Arab democracy, at great cost to America, the US helped establish an enemy regime. However, the downfall of Saddam Hussein did set the precedent for the tumbling down of Arab secular military nationalist regimes. It also re-established Iraq as a major oil producer. After a cost of almost a trillion dollars ($800 billion for the war and $50 billion for reconstruction) and 4,486 American soldiers killed between 2003 and 2012, the result has been Iran’s strongest ally diplomatically opposing American efforts to rein in Iran’s nuclear program and permitting extensive smuggling to undermine the economic sanctions regime. When American troops were withdrawn in 2011, America had to turn over to Iraq the one dozen multi-billion dollar air bases originally intended for a long term presence.

Both Iraq and Iran are supporters of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria and Iraq permits Iran to use its air space to ship arms to Assad. Though the Shiite Iran-Iraq-Syria axis challenges the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (CCASG) for dominance in the region, Spyer pointed out that Iran has been the biggest loser from the Syrian war and the demise of the Syrian regime, especially if the Assad regime fails to keep control of Damascus and the western ports. After all, Iran funded the new multi-million dollar base on the Syrian coast in Latakia to allow it to ship weapons to Syria directly. The Syrian port city of Tartus hosts the Russian naval supply and maintenance base for its Baltic fleet which Russia has been renovating and dredging to accommodate its largest naval vessels. In 2011, Syria’s arms contracts with Russia were worth $4billion. Russia has steadfastly prevented UN Security Council condemnations of Syria or imposing any sanctions or intervention of any kind. Nevertheless, Assad has lost control of half his country and the Islamist Sunni militias now sit in control on the other side of the Golan Heights.

In Spyer’s book, he described the second 2006 Lebanon War in which he participated directly (and was blown out of his tank in the process) as the first major engagement of the Shiite Islamist war against Israel in which Hezbollah established itself as a credible military force in confronting the much more powerful Israeli forces. (I was mot able to ask him, but I heard that Spyer is preparing a new book on the efficacy and morale of the Shi’ite Islamist forces.) If it were not enough that Israel now faces a more belligerent Sunni Islamist axis to its west, a virulent but noticeably weakening Iran-Iraq-Syrian Shiite axis to its east and a not exactly friendly Arab monarchical alliance in the Gulf, Israel now faces a fourth hostile outpost in the Middle East with the militant Islamic regime in Turkey where it once had an ally but which under its Islamic government has used its demonization of Israel to pursue a rival centre of leadership for the Islamic-Arab world, a futile effort in Spyer’s eyes, but nevertheless one that poses a continuing challenge to Israel. That shift has been accompanied by the creation of what Spyer in his book called the “mythical Israel” that has become a dominant image in both Sunni and Shiite Islamist circles where Israel is portrayed as “a place of uninterrupted darkness and horror, in which every human interaction is ugly, crude, racist, brutal." Each of the various axes uses Israel in different ways as a demonic wedge to advance its own hegemonic interests in the region. One positive outcome of this shift has been reconciliation with Greece, traditionally a source for the strongest support for the Palestinians.

None of this is helped by the US withdrawal from its former predominance in the Middle East and Europe’s growing political critique of Israel as Europe concentrates on its economic interests in the Middle East and allows the caricature of the demonic Israel to grow domestically, especially in Britain. That Israel is thriving economically and technologically, that the IDF is once again a disciplined and commendable military force that in addition to its commendable virtues of the flexibility, willingness to improvise and independence of thought of its soldiers and officers has also recovered its ability to plan carefully and in detail, has helped restore Spyer’s confidence in Israel’s future in spite of these challenges. The fact that Israel is on the verge of energy self-sufficiency with the development of its two huge gas deposits discovered on its Mediterranean coast, makes Israel stronger than ever in dealing with these radically changed external circumstances. Further, whatever the differences over increased economic income spreads domestically and over Jerusalem and the issue of Palestinian borders, the reality is that in terms of domestic politics, Israel had fewer political differences than in the last sixty years. Just as the whole region has evolved to make religious ideology more central, this has also happened in Israel and even with the reconciliation of secularists with the religious stream. Though Spyer did not mention this, the new coalition without the religious parties is, ironically, likely to consolidate this reconciliation as the ultra-orthodox are forced to join in, accept and share the major political, economic and military responsibilities of the rest of the Israelis.

In addition to Shiite and Sunni religious ideologies replacing earlier regional pan-Arabic and secular nationalist military ideologies as the leading ideologies in the region, at the end of Spyer’s talk he articulated another long term trend, the religious cleansing of Christians from the Middle East. The former two million Christians in Iraq have almost all gone. Those who became refugees in Syria are now in flight again and he mentioned meeting many in Turkey seeking a haven in the west. These have been supplemented by Syria’s own Christian population in fear of what awaits them if the Assad regime falls. For whatever the Assad regime did negatively, Christians were largely protected by the Alawites. Further, the five million Coptic Christians in Egypt are now under threat. The elite have already developed tracks for safe havens elsewhere and many more are making plans to leave. This transformation possibly represents the greatest demographic change in the Middle East in two millennia.

Tomorrow: Revisiting the Two State Solution

[Tags  Spyer, Middle East, Sunni. Shi'ite, Gulf States, Israel, Iran,
Syria, Christ

The Geo-Politics.ME.13.03.13.doc

Iran’s nuclear program



Howard Adelman

I am going to have lunch today with an Israeli expert on Iran. From my collected files on the subject, I prepared the following notes in preparation. I suspect that he will focus more on the geo-politics of the region and Iran’s alliances with the Assad regime. Hezbollah and Hamas, but I have focused on Iran’s nuclear program — the technological developments that will put Iran in a position to produce weapons grade enriched uranium and the diplomatic, economic sanctions and sabotage efforts to prevent this from happening. The UN economic sanctions are applicable to “a person engaged in activities that directly or indirectly facilitate, support, provide funding for, contribute to, or could contribute to, Iran’s proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities, or to Iran’s activities related to the development of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons of mass destruction or delivery systems for such weapons, including when the person is an entity, a senior official of the entity.”

As many will recall, in September of last year, at the height of the presidential election campaign, Barack Obama rebuffed Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to get the United States to announce a red line that if Iran crossed, the USA would resort to the use of military means to destroy Iran’s nuclear program. Last week, on 7 March, Obama reiterated that he is working the diplomatic channel to resolve the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program, but other options remain on the table. Obama promised to issue a clear and direct challenge to Iran during his forthcoming Middle East trip. Clearly, the Iran file is critical to foreign affairs generally, to Israel’s security and as a bargaining chip between the USA and Israel to gain traction on the Israel-Palestine file.

I hope you find the notes helpful. Excuse the absence of quotes; these are notes and not meant for publication. A map prepared by BBC (…rid-middle-east-17115643) may also be helpful for orientation but I was unable to reproduce it in this version of the blog.

1. Technological Developments

Though the issue is discussed under Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Iran does not yet have such a program. However, Iran has a uranium enrichment program that seems designed to produce enough enriched uranium to produce nuclear weapons. A full program would involve making the bomb as well as the delivery system for such a bomb. Iran has demonstrably had a rocket program development that could be used for such purposes. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has also identified that Iran is developing a nuclear payload for a missile relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device. However, most of what is labelled as a nuclear arms program is more accurately discussed as a weapons-grade uranium enrichment program.

On the latter program, the information comes largely from IAEA. Even the information on the Parchin military facility comes largely from IAEA though IAEA has not been permitted to inspect that facility just outside Tehran. According to Associated Press reports last week, two diplomats told AP that satellite images show trucks and earth-moving vehicles indicating that crews were trying to clean up traces from possibly testing a small neutron trigger, a so-called neutron initiator, used to set off a nuclear explosion.

In 2000, according to IAEA, Iran constructed at Parchin a large explosives containment vessel to conduct hydrodynamic experiments which are strong indicators of possible nuclear weapon development, but its location was only identified in March 2011. Since the Agency’s first request for access to this location in January 2012, satellite imagery showed that extensive activities and resultant changes have taken place – reinstatement of wall panels and exhaust piping, alterations to the roofs of the chamber building, dismantlement and reconstruction of the annex, construction of one small building at the same place where a building of similar size had previously been demolished, spreading, levelling and compacting of another layer of material over a large area – but Iran never granted the Agency access to the site in spite of repeated requests. If the Agency does gain access in the near future, its ability to conduct effective verification will have been seriously undermined.

It should be noted that, under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, there is a loophole; Iran is not obliged to allow IAEA inspectors to inspect its military areas. Ali Asghar Soltani, Iran’s envoy to the IAEA, has insisted that his country does not rule out inspections of such sites, but insists on imposing conditions, including ‘receiving a clean bill of health’ and not permitting follow-up visits. In addition to IAEA reports, information has also come from intelligence leaked deliberately by Israel and the USA as well as satellite imagery.

David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security on 7 March 2013 made the following claims:

· Though the U.N Security Council resolutions sanction goods that Iran could use in its gas centrifuge program, Iran has made strenuous efforts through Jahan Tech Rooyan Pars Company (sanctioned by the Government of Canada[1]) to purchase 100,000 ceramic ring magnets for the IR-1 gas centrifuge (and not for loudspeakers or other double use purposes).

IR-1 Enquiry Match
Inner diameter Exact to all four digits given
Thickness Exact to all four digits given
Outer diameter mn.op mn.qr Exact to two digits, differ slightly in digits op and qr

· The dimensions of the magnets being sought make clear that their use would be for upgrading the centrifuges.

· 5,000 centrifuges were installed last year for a total of 15,800 centrifuges, 2,000 at the deeply buried Fordo enrichment site

· Early in 2012, 6,000 empty IR-1 centrifuge outer casings were installed at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant

· As of early 2013, over 3,000 IR-1 centrifuge rotor assemblies were installed in the above outer casings, 2,255 in the last three months

What can one conclude? Only a tautology – Iran has rapidly expanded the number of installed IR-1 centrifuges. However, Iran is not prohibited by international agreement from building nuclear plants for peaceful energy production, so upgrading and expanding its centrifuges are not in themselves problems.

On 21 February 2013, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its latest report on the implementation of NPT safeguards in Iran and the status of Iran’s compliance with Security Council resolutions. In addition to documenting that almost all of the cascades at Fordo near the holy city of Qom are now vacuum tested and likely ready for enrichment, there has been a substantial increase in the number of installed IR-1 centrifuges at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) at a faster rate than expected. New IR-2m advanced centrifuges are now being installed at Natanz.

Nevertheless the number of cascades producing near 20 percent low enriched uranium (LEU) needed for weapons grade uranium has remained constant and Iran has not yet reached the threshold where it can have produced enough 20 percent low enriched uranium hexafluoride for one nuclear weapon, if further enriched to weapon-grade. 250 kilograms of near 20 percent low enriched uranium hexafluoride is needed for one nuclear weapon. Iran now has about 167 kilograms. The IAEA also determined that Iran continues to convert near 20 percent LEU hexafluoride to oxide form. Iran itself said that between 2 December 2012, when it resumed conversion activities, and 11 February 2013, 28.3 kg of UF6 were enriched up to 20% U-235 and 12 kg of uranium were produced in the form of U3 bringing the total amount of UF6 enriched up to 20% U-235 which had been fed into the conversion process to 111 kg and the total amount of uranium in the form of U3 which had been produced to 50 kg. The difference between the figures supplied by Iran and those of independent experts is minor and suggests that Iran is already two-thirds of the way to having enough enriched uranium for an atomic weapon.

Iran has continued construction of the IR-40 Arak reactor that is already far more than a medical isotope production reactor and could be used to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons in violation of UNSC resolutions. It is expected to commence operations in the first quarter of 2014. Iran has not provided the IAEA with an updated DIQ for the IR-40 Reactor since 2006. The lack of up-to-date information had an adverse impact on the Agency’s ability to effectively verify the design of the facility and to implement an effective safeguards approach.

2. Sabotage Counter-measures

In late 2007, the malware Stuxnet was used at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) in late 2007 to attack a cascade of 164 IR-1 centrifuges at a time that Iran was setting up and operating its first module of about 2,952 IR-1 centrifuges. The malware takes over the monitoring without the knowledge of the operator and closed the valves of six of 18 cascades in one module, or about 110 centrifuges. (See ISIS, "Basic Attack Strategy of Stuxnet 0.5", 28 February 2013). The most likely valves closed were the three fast acting valves on the three thin pipes for feed, product, and waste (or tails) that pass through the top cap of an IR-1 centrifuge.

The three fast-acting electronically-controlled valves are part of an emergency response system of the cascade aimed at protecting the remaining centrifuges in the cascade from the effects of a crashing centrifuge. If a centrifuge crashes, or there is an imminent risk of one crashing, the computer monitoring system closes the valves of the affected centrifuge rapidly, effectively isolating it. The kinetic energy of a rotating centrifuge is huge. Because this energy is converted mainly into heat, a crashing centrifuge produces a large pulse of hot uranium hexafluoride gas and other gases that must be contained. Otherwise, this pulse travels down the cascade, taking out additional centrifuges in its path. Thus, the emergency system is designed to act within milliseconds in the event of an anticipated crash and isolate the centrifuge from the cascade.

The Natanz cascade emergency response system appears to rely principally on a vibration sensor, an accelerometer, on each centrifuge. Many pressure transducers are also in each cascade to measure pressure, but the most important sensor to detect crashing appears to be the accelerometer. This sensor sends a shut-off signal to the computer monitoring system if the vibration level exceeds a certain, dangerous value. An increase in the feed rate by four to five times would likely cause an increase in the wall pressure to near or above the condensation point of uranium hexafluoride. Any condensation could cause the centrifuge to crash. The initial attack was subsequently replaced by a strategy directed at the frequency converters, causing the rotors to speed up to the point of rotor material failure — suggesting a plan to destroy more centrifuges than this initial attack strategy.

What was the result? Starting in late 2008 and continuing into early 2009, the average enrichment output decreased sharply, before rising again. This could imply many centrifuges crashing but not being reflected in the total number of enriching centrifuges stated by the IAEA in its reports. The damage from the second attack strategy was more systematic, destroying most of the centrifuges in each cascade. Iranians would remove many centrifuges at one time; the IAEA would record this removal. In the end, the crashed centrifuges did not affect the average enrichment output although it likely slowed down the rate of acceleration of the program.

The rumours of a successful sabotage or an accidental series of explosions at the Fordo Fuel Enrichment Plant near the Iranian city of Qom in January were proven to be highly unlikely based on an analysis of satellite imagery. (See David Albright, Robert Avagyan and Andrea Stricker, Day after Alleged Sabotage at Fordo: Hardly the Expected Emergency Response, ISIS, 30 January 2013)

3. Diplomacy

After several days after the resumption of diplomatic talks this month between Iran and the U.N. Security Council’s permanent five members, the United States, Britain, France, China, and Russia, plus Germany (Pf+1), diplomats emerged and, unusually, expressed cautious optimism. In the effort to stop Iran from enriching uranium to 20 percent, technical experts will meet in Istanbul later this week on 18 March and the diplomatic discussions will resume in Almaty, Kazakhstan on 5-6 April to discuss putting in place confidence-building measures, specifically the P5 +1 offer to reduce some sanctions on Iran in exchange for Iran scaling back its nuclear program and shutting down Iran’s underground Fordo enrichment plant. Iran’s foreign minister expressed confidence that an agreement could be reached and Jalili, Iran’s chief negotiator, claimed the Almaty meeting could be a "turning point".

4. Sanctions

As diplomatic talks continue, the U.S. is upping the ante as U.S. lawmakers plan to table a bill tomorrow on 13 March to expand sanctions that already bar habitual commercial relations, choke off Tehran’s principal source of currency from the export of oil, and deny insurance, thwarting Iran’s ability to transport goods. The sanctions are crippling Iran’s economy, but are they undermining support for the regime?

Even though the US has been leading this program, it is a UN program to implement Security Council resolutions on the Islamic Republic of Iran (Iran) based on the Agreement between Iran and the Agency for the Application of Safeguards in Connection with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (INFCIRC/214), which entered into force on 15 May 1974. Between 2003 and 2013, the Security Council passed 12 resolutions directed at Iran. For example, resolution 1929 (2010) affirmed that Iran shall, without further delay, take the steps required by the Board in GOV/2006/14 and GOV/2009/82 to cooperate fully with the IAEA on all outstanding issues, particularly those which give rise to concerns about the possible military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear programme and that Iran shall, without delay, comply fully and without qualification with its Safeguards. Iran is required to implement its binding obligations to establish international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.

The Secretariat repeatedly reported that it has not been possible to reach agreement with Iran on the structured approach or to begin substantive work on the outstanding issues, including those related to possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme. Certain of the activities being undertaken by Iran at some of the facilities are contrary to the relevant resolutions of the Board of Governors of IAEA and the Security Council. Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities. Iran has stated that the purpose of enriching UF6 up to 5% U-235 is the production of fuel for its nuclear facilities and that the purpose of enriching UF6 up to 20% U-235 is the manufacture of fuel for research reactors.


Yesterday it was reported that German and Turkish security forces broke up a network trying to obtain uranium refinement parts for Iran’s upgraded Arak reactor which satellite imagery showed has been operational for at least two weeks. Iran has not provided the necessary cooperation. IAEA is unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and, therefore, to allow anyone to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is for peaceful activities. The Director General was unable to report any progress on the clarification of outstanding issues, including those relating to possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program. The Washington Post on 6 March 2013 quoted a senior U.S. envoy accusing Iran of "deception, defiance and delay". As The Wall Street Journal stated yesterday, we are nearing the crucial turning point on the nuclear talks with Iran. Unless the talks yield substantial results soon, the military option will be the only one left on the table. Last week French President Francois Hollande at a meeting with President Shimon Peres of Israel said a nuclear-armed Iran was a threat not only to Israel, but to the whole world. However, at five minutes to midnight, he was still calling just for increased diplomatic efforts by the international community to resolve the standoff with Tehran over its unchecked uranium enrichment.


Obama 24: Obama in Black and White 10.03.13

This is the culmination of my Obama series. It is an easy, shorter and hopefully enjoyable read. You can read it to your kids. I`d love your feedback. Howard

Obama 24: Obama in Black and White 10.03.13


Howard Adelman

Morgan Freeman famously said that, “America’s first black president hasn’t arisen yet. Obama’s not America’s first black president — he’s America’s first mixed-race president.” People "just conveniently forget that Barack had a mama, and she was white – very white, American, Kansas, middle of America. There was no argument about who he is or what he is." (Quoted by Kristen A. Lee, New York Daily News, 11 July 2012) Somatically, Freeman is perfectly correct. However, in terms of character, Obama may not be black at all or he may be black and white in a very different sense than Freeman meant it.

Recall that it was widely held that Bill Clinton was America’s first black president. Not somatically, of course. Nor even in the way that Toni Morrison meant it when she famously wrote her 1998 (October) New Yorker essay, "Clinton as the first black president". For, as she later clarified, "I was deploring the way in which President Clinton was being treated, vis-à-vis the sex scandal that was surrounding him. I said he was being treated like a black on the street, already guilty, already a perp." (Quoted in Justin Dews, "Toni Morrison On Calling Bill Clinton The First Black President And Endorsing Obama," (05/16/08)

Clinton was America’s first black president in far more than the way he was treated. "White skin notwithstanding, this is our first black President. Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime. After all, Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas. And when virtually all the African-American Clinton appointees began, one by one, to disappear, when the President’s body, his privacy, his unpoliced sexuality became the focus of the persecution, when he was metaphorically seized and bodysearched, who could gainsay these black men who knew whereof they spoke? The message was clear ‘No matter how smart you are, how hard you work, how much coin you earn for us, we will put you in your place or put you out of the place you have somehow, albeit with our permission, achieved. You will be fired from your job, sent away in disgrace, and–who knows?–maybe sentenced and jailed to boot. In short, unless you do as we say (i.e., assimilate at once), your expletives belong to us.’" (Toni Morrison)

This view of Clinton as America’s first black president was initially regarded as clever but condescending and almost insulting, certainly of those who treated Clinton so shabbily. However, the truth of the assertion came to be recognized at a much deeper level. First, Blacks responded to Bill Clinton as if he were Black, Second, Clinton’s treatment of and relationship to Blacks was unprecedented in American history that went well beyond his being born as a member of a poor family in Arkansas (see Suzy Hansen, "Why blacks love Bill Clinton," Salon, 20 February 2012):

· Quoting Toni Morrison, "Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas"

· Though FDR and LBJ passed the most important legislation that benefitted African Americans, Clinton appointed far more Blacks to senior policy positions than any previous president – this went well beyond appointments such as Ron Brown as Secretary of Commerce to include his most intimate staff: his budget director, his director of public outreach, his deputy chief of staff, his liaison between the White House and Congress

· Clinton, unlike Obama, grew up hanging out with black kids when he grew up in Hope, Arkansas

· Clinton identified with black music and black culture

· Most important, he connected personally and up close with African Americans and even as President would drive across town to a Black restaurant to eat soul food, chitlins and hang out with Blacks with whom he felt totally at home

· Alexis Herman who headed the Women’s Bureau in the Labor Department tells the story of her visiting Little Rock with Ernie Green who was an assistant secretary of labor when Bill Clinton was Governor on the occasion of Clinton`s honouring the Little Rock Nine who led the integration of Little Rock High School; afterwards Clinton invited them both to hang out in the Governor’s mansion, ordered ribs from a black take-out, picked up some six packs and they all talked well into the night about music, growing up, family and friends (cf. DeWayne Wickham (ed.) Bill Clinton and Black America)

· In Passage to India, E. M. Forster wrote "only connect" and Bill Clinton connected on a personal and intimate level with African Americans

· With the exception of Black academics, social and political activists, the vast majority of Black Americans supported his efforts at welfare reform and attempts to cut out fraud

· The most important issue to Blacks is probably education, and Bill Clinton as Governor of Arkansas oversaw the total reform of the educational system in that state so that it went from one of the worst to the very best system

· Blacks even recognized his sexual peccadilloes as Black and radically other than the high level white collar crimes of corrupt defence contractors, of bilking banks of billions in quasi-fraudulent mortgage lending and even in overseas wars that kill hundreds of thousands but make fortunes for those in what Eisenhower dubbed the military-industrial complex

· When he left the presidency, the Clintons settled in Harlem

Let me expand on the second last point. Whitewater just showed African Americans that Blacks, including the Clintons, could not compete with Whites in their realm of high-level trickery. Clinton`s deceit was Black. Toni Morrison noted that the root of the word, adulterare, means "to defile," and, at its core, in the white dominant culture it is indentified with treachery, something cloaked in deception and secrecy, that is more than a sin. When Bill Clinton was trapped by his evasions and misrepresentations over his sexual peccadilloes, he was not viewed by African Americans as a traitor guilty of an act equivalent to treason. Rather, he was viewed as a rascally trickster beloved in Black folklore going back to the Bantus in Africa. Clinton was the mischievous Br`er Rabbit, relatively small and vulnerable with only his cunning intelligence to escape a life and death situation when trapped by the enormous white power of the establishment.

If Bill Clinton is the Black American equivalent to Bre`r rabbit in high level American politics, Barack Hussein Obama is a trickster of a very different kind — Anansi, the trickster spider of West Africa even though his father was a Kenyan where tales of tricky hares are more prevalent. The American fringe right regard Obama as a deceiver of the first order in stories about his birth, in his pretence at being a Christian. The American right regard him as dissembler who pretends he is sympathetic to Israel and Zionism but is committed to dismantling Israel as a Jewish state. Obama says he supports free enterprise but the political right regard him as the leading socialist in America. In this respect, they impose their own sense of dissembling, a white sense of hypocrisy and misrepresentation. But Obama tells it as it is. He says what he means and means what he says.

That does not mean he is not a trickster. Like Clinton, he is a Black trickster, but he is no Bre`r Rabbit. He cannot cry out to Bre`r Fox after he escaped one more time: I was born and bred in the Briar Patch. Born and bred! For Obama was born in Hawaii. If Obama is indeed a trickster, why is he not identified with Maui, the Hawaian trickster fathered by a stranger? Because, although Obama`s father was a stranger, there is no version of the Obama story that presents him as a heavenly stranger. Obama`s mother never denied he had a father. In contrast, when Maui asked who was his father, Hina denied that he had a father and insisted that the loincloth (malo) of Kalana was his father. Nor is Obama a Promethean figure who steals fire from the gods (or the hens in this case) and can slow the sun`s rotation down. Obama is neither the downtrodden escapist trickster of Bre`r Rabbit nor the powerful godlike magician like Maui. Obama is an Anansi, or Aunt Nancy as colloquially known in the south.

Anansi is synonymous with skill and wisdom in speech. "No one goes to the house of the spider Ananse to teach him wisdom." Bre`r Rabbit is clever. Anansi the spider is wise. Rhetorically, he is brilliant. Like all trickster figures in literature, Anansi emerges from the fringes, from the sidelines, and uses his intelligence to defend the oppressed and gain the upper-hand over those with military and economic power. Though trapped within an existing power structure, Anansi beats the establishment at their own game though he does not usually transform the game itself. Unlike Bre`r Rabbit who has his own unique bag of tricks, Anansi uses the rules of the system against itself just as a clever judo expert uses the strength of the other to defeat his opponent. Anansi goes further for he inspires long term strategies of resistance that enable those who are deprived to transform their situation and to assert their identity within the system that has entrapped them.

Anansi works by trapping others of much superior strength. Four sample tales will give you the idea. These are drawn from the story of how Anansi was able to get Nyame (God) to release his store of tales to the world. Nyame demanded a tribute in return for the stories – a python, leopard, hornets and a dwarf. Anansi captured Onini, the Python, by allowing the Python to overhear him in an argument being sceptical about the python`s reputed great length. Onini wriggled forth and said he could prove his length and would allow Anansi to measure him. Since Onini had trouble lying straight, he agreed to let Anansi tie him up at either end to take his measure at his most extended. Once tied up, Anansi was able to deliver Onini to Nyame.

Anansi trapped Osebo, the leopard, by digging a hole, covering it up and luring the leopard over it so the leopard fell in. Anansi offered to help Osebo get out of the hole. He said he would wrap Osebo in his webs and pull him out. Anansi did wrap him in his web and pull him out but only to deliver Osebo all wrapped up to Nyame. Anansi trapped the Mmoboro Hornets by pretending it was raining into their nest and inviting the hornets to take shelter in an empty calabash which, when they did, Anansi closed up to deliver the calabash to Nyame. Anansi caught the dwarf in the same way that Bre`r Fox caught Bre`r Rabbit by making the equivalent of a tar baby, but this time it was a doll covered with sticky gum and set under the Tree Of Life with a bowl of yams in front. Mmoatia, the dwarf, came to eat the yams and then thanked the doll for the meal. The doll just sat there and din` say nothin`. The dwarf became incensed at the doll`s rudeness for not acknowledging the thanks. Still the doll sat there and din` say nothin`. Finally, incensed at such rudeness, the dwarf struck the doll and his arm got stuck. `Let go o`me or I`ll hit you with my other hand.` Of course the doll sat there and don` say nothin`. The dwarf struck with the other hand and that hand became stuck. Then he lashed out with each foot in turn and then finally butted with his head until he was entirely stuck and Anansi delivered the entrapped dwarf to Nyame. Nyame kept his side of the bargain and released his store of tales to the world.

In the story of "Opondo’s Children" released by Nyame, the wife of Opondo kept giving birth to monitor lizards instead of regular human babies. The parents, repulsed by their hideous children, destroyed each in turn just after childbirth. Finally, desperate to have a child of their own, they decided not to destroy the child that looked like a monitor lizard and raise the child as if he were a normal human baby even though he was rejected by the children of all their friends and neighbours. When the child was an adolescent, a neighbour followed the child to his secret river where the neighbour watched the child swim. The neighbour immediately went to tell the parents who then accompanied the neighbour to hide among the reeds beside the river and watch their child go the river to swim the next day. To their surprise, they watched their child take off his monitor skin and plunge into the river as a normal human being. They destroyed his skin and the child had to return looking like everyone else but, as compensation, he was accepted and loved by the entire community.

Obama was raised as a white child and allowed to grow up wearing his darker skin. In Harvard, but especially in Chicago, he learned that it could be of great advantage to him to acquire and wear another coat of an African woven out of the fine silk spider threads of Anansi. Thus, Obama became the oreo cookie of American politics wearing a black skin to cover his white ass while he used the rhetorical skills and practiced the wisdom of Anansi, his newly acquired black coat of words and wisdom.

Obama24.Obama in Black and White.10.03.13.doc