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Violent Attacks Against Jews Declined 12% in 2016, But Anti-Semitic Hate Speech Spiked
4/25/2017

U.S. college campuses saw a 45% rise in anti-Semitism of all forms, annual TAU Kantor Center study reports

Anti-Semitic violence around the world dropped 12%, from 410 incidents in 2015 to 361 incidents in 2016. But anti-Semitism on U.S. college campuses increased 45%, and the incidence of anti-Semitic hate speech, particularly online, rose dramatically worldwide, according to the annual report by Tel Aviv University's Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry, published on Sunday, April 23.

"It has been a year of contradictions," said Prof. Dina Porat, Head of the Kantor Center and Chief Historian of Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem. "On the one hand, an overall decline in violent anti-Semitic attacks; on the other, a dramatic rise in online manifestations of anti-Semitism — and Twitter is the worst for anti-Semitic hate speech. This, along with concern over the possible impact of the refugee crisis and extreme right nationalist groups striving for power, are causing growing anxiety among Jewish communities around the world."

The Kantor Center's annual report, a global overview of anti-Semitic incidents, is based on surveys conducted by recognized watchdogs from dozens of countries, including nearly all European Union member states. The full report is available at http://www.kantorcenter.tau.ac.il/sites/default/files/Doch_full_2016_230417.pdf.

The study found a 60% drop in anti-Semitic incidents in France and a similar decrease in Belgium, sites of violent attacks against Jews in the last few years. According to Prof. Porat, the decline can be attributed to government-sponsored protection for Jewish centers and institutions that have "special security needs"; improved intelligence on terrorist cells perpetrating attacks on Jews; no specific military operation involving Israel in the past year; and "the fact that more Jews avoid appearing in public spaces with identifying attributes such as a yarmulke and a Star of David."

Although there has been an overall decrease in violent anti-Semitic attacks around the world, this has been "counterbalanced by a sharp increase in verbal and online attacks and a sharp increase in anti-Semitic incidents in countries historically friendly to Jewish communities," said Prof. Porat.

According to the report, the year 2016 saw a 10% increase in general anti-Semitism in Australia, an 11% increase in the U.K., and "campuses across the U.S. continued to be a hotbed for anti-Semitism, especially when disguised as anti-Zionism."

"There was an alarming rise of 45%in anti-Semitic incidents on [U.S.] university campuses, where Jewish students are facing increasing hate and intolerance," Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, said in a statement about the report. "We are now witnessing that the targeting of Jews is no longer the sole domain of the far right. The far-left are now using the same messages, tactics and agenda," he said.

Tel Aviv University Exchange Program Produces Sustainable, Measurable Tolerance
9/15/2016

Curriculum based on direct contact, mutual respect and empathy exercises is "hate-preventative," say researchers

Racial prejudice is a major issue in this November's presidential election. A new Tel Aviv University study published in the August 2016 issue of the Journal of School Psychology reports on a new system that creates sustainable tolerance while combatting racism and prejudice.

The Extended Class Exchange Program (ECEP) is geared to third- and fourth-grade Israeli Jewish and Israeli Palestinian students. The program's bimonthly meetings and classes are based on direct and structured contact, a curriculum that promotes mutual respect and acceptance of the "other," and skill training focusing on empathy and perspective-taking — that is, understanding other people's thoughts, feelings, desires, motivations and intentions.

The program, led by Dr. Rony Berger of the Stress, Crisis and Trauma Program at TAU's Bob Shapell School of Social Work and Dr. Hisham Abu-Raiya, also of the Shapell School, was launched with the Arab-Jewish Community Center (AJCC) in Jaffa and the Tel Aviv Municipality to respond to growing tensions resulting from the continued escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

An emphasis on compassion and empathy

"We've taught Israeli Jewish and Israeli Palestinian children to be compassionate and empathetic — not only toward their friends in the program, but also toward people outside the classroom," said Dr. Berger. "It's very hard to bring people together technically, logistically and emotionally. People don't want to interact with people they feel uncomfortable around. In this research, we targeted various skills such as perspective-taking, empathy and compassion that can be taught to promote sustainable tolerance."

"Contact alone is not enough," said Dr. Abu-Raiya. "You need a system that includes a variety of different approaches. We demonstrated that giving the children direct contact with each other, providing unbiased knowledge about the children and their communities and building perspective-taking and empathy-nurturing skills have long-term positive effects.

"The effects were all maintained 15 months after the program ended, when the region was engulfed by violence. This highlights the 'hate-preventative' potential of the program to prevent stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination than often lead to hostilities between ethnic groups."

The program featured bimonthly "schooldays" of third- and fourth-grade Israeli Jewish and Israeli Palestinian students led by six facilitators. The program included art activities, classes promoting respect and acceptance of the "other," and empathy and perspective-taking training directed by the students' homeroom teachers and the ECEP facilitators.

"We have no doubt that the ECEP helped reduce prejudice and discrimination and enhanced positive contact between different ethnic groups and could be translated to any region characterized by ethnic tension and violent conflict," said Dr. Berger.

Fighting stereotypes and discrimination

The team conducted two studies. The first, conducted on 262 fourth-grade students from Tel Aviv and Jaffa, found a dramatically higher inclination to interact with students from other ethnic groups, more positive thoughts about "the other," and less emotional prejudice. The second, conducted on 322 third- and four-grade Israeli Jewish and Israeli Palestinian students, included new sessions on empathy and perspective-taking training and assessed the extended impact of the program.

"All of our results showed that the ECEP decreased stereotyping and discriminatory tendencies toward the other and increased positive feelings and readiness for social contact with the other upon termination of the program," said Dr. Berger.

"Empirical support for the ECEP is particularly important in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, given the evidence that negative views and stereotypes held by both Arab and Jews fuel the animosity between these ethnic groups," said Dr. Abu-Raiya.

The researchers will next research the particular ingredients that prevent the development of negative intergroup attitudes in order to build a new preventive program promote pro-social behaviors.

Statement by American Friends of TAU President & CEO on Continued Commitment to Academic Freedom, Women's Rights and Gender Equality in Response to NWSA Vote to Join BDS Movement
12/10/2015

 

In response to the National Women's Studies Association (NWSA)'s vote to join the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, American Friends of Tel Aviv University president and CEO Gail Reiss issued the following statement today:

"Tel Aviv University and its American Friends believe in opening the doors of opportunity to all — and we are committed to academic freedom, women's rights and gender equality. Boycotting Israeli academic institutions not only violates these rights, it stifles the global dialogue and collaboration that Israeli universities actively engage in. We stand up for freedom of thought and are standing up against NWSA's vote, which boycotts a better life for women and all humanity."

On Wednesday, December 2, the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) also criticized the NWSA for its pro-BDS vote.

TAU Says Violent Anti-Semitic Attacks Spiked in 2014
4/17/2015

Annual Kantor Center report finds 2014 was worst year for anti-Jewish violence since 2009

An annual report from Tel Aviv University researchers reveals that anti-Semitic incidents rose dramatically worldwide in 2014, with violent attacks on Jews ranging from armed assaults to vandalism against synagogues, schools, and cemeteries.

The report, released on April 15 by TAU's Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry, recorded 766 incidents, mostly in Western Europe, compared to 554 in 2013 — a surge of nearly 40 percent. The report called 2014 the worst year for anti-Semitic attacks since 2009. The authors of the report characterized such attacks as "perpetrated with or without weapons and by arson, vandalism or direct threats against Jewish persons or institutions such as synagogues, community centers, schools, cemeteries and monuments as well as private property."

"There is a worsening in expressions of anti-Semitism. Jews today worry about their future," the report stated, linking the conflict last summer in Gaza between Hamas and Israel and a "general climate of hatred and violence" accompanying the sudden rise of Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq.

A continuing increase in violent attacks

The researchers stressed, however, that the attacks had been on the rise also before the summer and said the controversy over Israel's operation was used as a pretext to attack Jews. "Synagogues were targeted, not Israeli embassies," said Prof. Dina Porat, Head of the Kantor Center and Chief Historian of Yad Vashem.

The Kantor Center also pointed out the return of "classic" anti-Semitism and the gap between world leaders who are willing to display solidarity with the Jewish nation and the general public, which seems indifferent to the matter.

The reported incidents do not include the killing of four shoppers at a kosher supermarket in Paris following the deadly shooting at French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, since those events occurred this year.

Highest increases in European nations

Nonetheless, the highest number of violent cases recorded in 2014 was in France, which saw 164 incidences, up from 141 in 2013. In recent years, the country has consistently seen the most reported cases of anti-Semitic violence worldwide, the report said. There was also a sharp rise in the number of incidents in the United Kingdom (141 in 2014, compared to 95 in 2013), Australia (30 vs. 11), Germany (76 vs. 36), Austria (9 vs. 4), Italy (23 vs. 12), and Sweden (17 vs. 3).

"The overall feeling among many Jewish people is one of living in an intensifying anti-Jewish environment that has become not only insulting and threatening, but outright dangerous, and that they are facing an explosion of hatred towards them as individuals, their communities, and Israel, as a Jewish state," the authors wrote.

Download the full report here: "Antisemitism Worldwide 2014"

Genetic Study Confirms Unique Insularity of Druze Community
3/4/2015

TAU study finds Druze share a genetic similarity that distinguishes them from other groups in the Middle East

The first genetic study of the Druze community has confirmed long-held beliefs about its history: The group was established around the 11th century, and its members have only ever married within extended families. The research, published recently in the European Journal of Human Genetics — Nature, was conducted by an international team including Prof. Eitan Friedman of Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine.

Since the 11th century, according to the study, other ethnic groups have not had any genetic impact on the community. These findings correlate with the Druze people's beliefs regarding their unique origin, which holds that their community was founded 1,000 years ago as a new religious movement under Egypt’s sixth caliph of the Fatimid Dynasty.

The study was conducted on 120 members of 40 Druze families from Beit Jann in the Upper Galilee and Majdal Shams on the Golan Heights. The mother, father, and son of each family were genetically tested.

For more, read the story in the Jerusalem Post: "International genetic study reveals history of the Druse community".

"Severe Escalation" of Anti-Jewish Atmosphere in 2013
5/5/2014

TAU's Kantor Center releases annual report on state of anti-Semitism

Despite a 20% decline in the number of violent incidents against Jews, last year saw a sharp rise in abusive language and behavior, threats, and harassment of Jewish people on an individual basis around the world, according to the annual report presented on April 27, 2014, by Tel Aviv University's Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry and the Moshe Kantor Database for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism, in cooperation with the European Jewish Congress.

At a press conference accompanying the release of the report, Prof. Dina Porat, head of the Kantor Center, and Dr. Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, highlighted the "severe escalation in anti-Jewish atmosphere," borne out by daily attacks on individuals who reported feeling that their personal safety and communal well-being were jeopardized. "2013 was a difficult year not because of violent events — there was a decline of about 20% from 2012, which was a particularly murderous year because of [the terrorist attack on a Jewish day school in] Toulous," said Prof. Porat. "What made the year difficult was the escalation of harassment, insults, and visual caricatures of Jewish people, penetrating the center from the extreme left and right fringes of society."

77% of harassment and discrimination events go unreported to authorities

Prof. Porat cited the findings of the European Union's Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), which conducted a survey of 6,000 Jews in eight European countries. The survey found that in 77 percent of cases, Jewish victims of harassment or discrimination did not report the fact to authorities, 90% had experienced anti-Semitic abusive language and behavior, and a third considered leaving Europe because of anti-Semitism. 40 percent of those surveyed did not wear identifying Jewish symbols outside the home and a quarter did not attend Jewish events for fear of being attacked.

"This year, there was no one event that could be pointed at to blame for the sentiment in the world," said Dr. Porat. "We cannot pinpoint a reason or a few reasons, no military event in the Israel-Palestinian conflict. We are seeing a return to classic anti-Semitism. This is our conclusion."

Dr. Porat stressed that the report did not rely only on "Jewish perception or feeling," but also offered an analysis of 14,000 emails bearing anti-Semitic content sent over the last year to the Israeli embassy in Berlin.

Treatment of Jews seen as "barometer of societal health"

Dr. Kantor said that a society's treatment of Jews can be seen as a barometer of societal health. "Everything bad starts with anti-Semitism but does not end with it," said Dr. Kantor. "The Jewish people are an indicator, a barometer, of a society's wellbeing. What's bad for the Jews is eventually bad for society. Our idea is to protect Jews by protecting all people, because most of the world's Jews do not live in Israel, but in the Diaspora."

In the report, researchers registered and analyzed 554 violent anti-Semitic acts perpetrated with or without weapons, by arson, vandalism, or direct threats against Jewish individuals or institutions, including synagogues, community centers, schools, cemeteries, monuments, and homes. The highest number of violent cases took place in France. A decline in violent cases was noted in Italy, Poland, the United States, and Australia, with a rise registered in the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and Ukraine. According to the report, the decade 2004-2014 witnessed a rise in violent incidents over the preceding decade.

Dr. Kantor said that the Internet facilitated the flow of neo-Nazi ideology around the world. "The global informational flood through the Internet and other means of delivery make confronting the conventional challenges even more difficult," Dr. Kantor said. Modern neo-Nazism can trigger confrontations between countries and major parts of the population.

"Anti-Semitism in 2013 became very politicized," Dr. Kantor continued. "People are fingerpointing — 'he's an anti-Semite, she's an anti-Semite.' This is a very bad sign, because anti-Semitism is the subject of security, not politics, which is precisely why our research is so important. We provide the numbers, the exact quality of anti-Semitism in the world. We fight against capabilities, not events."

To learn more, read the 2013 Kantor report:
http://aftau.aftau.org/document.doc?id=241

TAU Study Helps Make Sense of New Hamas Textbooks
11/14/2013

Hamas introduces its own textbooks after a study of official literature in Israeli and Palestinian schools

For the first time since taking control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, the Hamas movement is deviating from the approved Palestinian Authority schools curriculum, using new textbooks introduced this fall as part of a broader push to infuse the next generation with its own ideology. The new textbooks, used by 55,000 children in the eighth, ninth, and 10th grades as part of a required "national education" course of study in government schools, do not recognize modern Israel or mention the Oslo Peace Accords the country signed with the Palestine Liberation Organization in the 1990s.

"Textbooks are always and everywhere a very important means of representing a national ethos," Prof. Daniel Bar-Tal of The Jaime and Joan Constantiner School of Education at Tel Aviv University told the New York Times in a story about the change. "When a leader says something, not everyone is listening. But when we talk about textbooks, all the children, all of a particular peer group, will be exposed to a particular material. This is the strongest card." Prof. Bar-Tal helped lead a comprehensive study of Israeli and Palestinian textbooks published in February.

Textbooks have long been a point of contention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in which dueling historical narratives and cultural clashes underpin a territorial fight. And they are central examples of what Israeli leaders call Palestinian "incitement" against Jews, held up as an obstacle to peace talks newly resumed under American pressure.

For more, see the New York Times story at:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/04/world/middleeast/to-shape-young-palestinians-hamas-creates-its-own-textbooks.html

Israel Prefers to Remain on Sidelines in Syrian Conflict, Former Israeli Ambassador to US Says
5/2/2013

Prof. Itamar Rabinovich, former TAU President, appears on Philadelphia radio program

On April 29, Prof. Itamar Rabinovich, former Tel Aviv University president and Israeli Ambassador to the US, appeared on WPHT's The Dick Morris Show to discuss Israel’s perspective on the crisis in Syria.

"Israel doesn't want to muddle in the Syrian conflict," Rabinovich told listeners. He said that last weekend's bombing run to destroy a chemical weapons plant near Damascus, which has remained unacknowledged by Israel, was an attempt to prevent passage of chemical weapons into the hands of terrorists, adding that, "It's very dangerous for weapons of mass destruction to be in the hands of unruly, dictatorial regimes."

In the segment, Rabinovich also discussed US President Barack Obama's "red line" comments, the evolving state of the Arab Spring rebellions, and the US reluctance to enter a third war in the Middle East.

"Legitimized Neo-Nazism" on the Rise Across Europe
4/16/2013

TAU links 30 percent rise in violent anti-Semitic events to popularity of far-right political parties and radical Islam

Last year marked the return of political Nazism to Europe, declared Dr. Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, at a press conference to announce the results of the 2012 Anti-Semitism Worldwide Report published by Tel Aviv University's Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry. Headed by Prof. Dina Porat, the Center releases the report annually on the eve of Israel's Holocaust Memorial Day.

Pointing to the examples of the political organizations Jobbik in Hungary, Golden Dawn in Greece, and Svoboda in Ukraine, Dr. Kantor said that in 2012 far-right parties gained momentum that has been unprecedented since the 1930's. These parties "have crossed red lines that we had hoped never would be crossed again," he said, citing the attempts of Jobbik to screen Hungarian Jewish citizens as a potential security risk.

Also significant was a 30 percent jump in anti-Semitic violence and vandalism last year, after a two-year decline. The annual report recorded 686 attacks in 34 countries, including physical violence and vandalism to synagogues, Jewish cemeteries, and Holocaust memorials, compared to 526 attacks in 2011. Countries topping the list for anti-Semitic incidents include France, the US, the UK, and Canada.

Dr. Roni Stauber, editor-in-chief of the report, called the findings interrelated. In 2012, a rise in neo-Nazi parties was observed "as a result of the economic crisis," he said. "We also observed a correlation between these parties and violence and rhetoric against Jews." For example, in Poland, researchers found that acts of vandalism against Jewish cemeteries and Holocaust memorials became more numerous as anti-Semitic political parties have gained power.

Fighting hate in European parliaments

Researchers found that the economic crisis spreading across Europe is fuelling the rise of extremist parties. In countries undergoing particularly difficult economic crises, such as Greece, Spain, Hungary, and Italy, there is a spreading belief in a "Jewish conspiracy" and the idea that Jews are in control of the economy and therefore responsible for current financial woes, Dr. Stauber said.

One of the leaders of this movement, Jobbik in Hungary, gained 19 percent of the vote in the country's last elections, compared to 12 percent the elections before. It is the most popular party among university students, pointed out Dr. Kantor, warning that "Neo-Nazis are legalized again in Europe."

Calling the fight against hatred and intolerance a "pan-European issue," Dr. Kantor advocated that the European Union and other governing bodies adopt a "zero tolerance" policy against anti-Semitic and racist political groups. "We cannot allow hate to march along our streets, run for public office, or sit in our parliaments. We have to act now," he said. "While our economies may be able to be repaired, our moral centers may not."

Deeply rooted anti-Semitism

With neo-Nazi parties gaining a stronger foothold in government, there has been a surge in anti-Semitic incidents, reports the Kantor Center. While events in the Middle East are often blamed for the attacks, this year's report indicates that domestic political crises are a much more powerful motivation for anti-Semitic sentiment.

Researchers found little correlation between Operation Pillar of Defense in late 2011 and the sharp increase in violence, vandalism, and threats throughout 2012. Instead, the report found that violence and other anti-Semitic acts occurred in waves. In particular, the March 2012 shooting in the French town of Toulouse, where an extremist Muslim gunned down four people in a Jewish school, began a series of "copycat" attacks perpetrated by radical Muslims in France and other countries,. In Hungary, the number of people who espouse anti-Semitic stereotypes rose from 47 to 63 percent in the last year, and 50 percent of the Polish people still blame Jews for the death of Jesus.

Dr. Kantor said that as a Jewish leader in Europe, he feels concerned for the safety of the Jewish community. Interfaith dialogue, the protection of all minorities, and more determined pressure on European authorities to act against violence are of the utmost importance, he added.

Are Political Elections Shaping the Future of Israel?
11/26/2012

CNN and TAU host joint panel on national elections and US-Israel relations

Just days before Barack Obama won a second term in office, Tel Aviv University and CNN explored the implications with an expert panel on the university campus. Noted journalists, politicians and academics came together to discuss how the outcomes of the US election and the Israeli election slated for January could affect relations between the two countries. They factored in the problem of Iran's nuclear program as well.

The expert panel was moderated by veteran CNN journalist Jonathan Mann and included Prof. Yossi Shain, head of TAU's Abba Eban Program of Diplomacy, Dov Weissglass, Bureau Chief to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, former Minister Yossi Beilin, and journalist Dana Weiss of Israel's Channel 2 News.

In pre-election polls, Israelis showed an overwhelming preference for Mitt Romney, reflecting the belief that he would be a better friend to Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not been shy about his own preference, noted Prof. Shain: "The reason behind the acrimony between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu [...] is because the two did not agree," he said. "Netanyahu's claim, at least in the hearts of Israelis and Republicans and many American Jews, is that there was no commitment with passion" in regards to Obama's attempt to prevent Iran from crossing the atomic threshold.

Now, with Obama set to begin his second term in office, Weissglass wondered whether the decision to support Romney was wise. "[Israel's] dependence on the US is now almost total," he said, adding his belief that if full American pressure is exerted on Iran through sanctions, the Islamic Republic's economy would likely collapse.

Former Minister Beilin had a more positive outlook on the future relationship between the two countries, noting that both parties mentioned Israel numerous times throughout the campaign process, a testament to the importance of the Jewish community in Israel. He also expressed the belief that Israel is aware that Obama will try to push the peace process along, while Romney would have done the opposite, and that Obama's re-election will have greater implications for Israel than the Knesset elections in January.


Moshe Dayan Center Hosts Top International Academics for Workshop on the Middle East
8/29/2012

Intensive TAU project offers scholars a sophisticated view of the ever changing Middle East

In July, Tel Aviv University's Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies hosted 18 academics from all over the globe for the Center's eighth annual Workshop on Israel and the Middle East. The intensive 12-day program drew participants from a host of academic disciplines including history, international relations, political science, and law to gain a unique, balanced, and on-the-ground perspective about the history of Middle Eastern conflicts and the region's contemporary challenges from one of the world's top think tanks.

Over the past eight years, the Workshop has welcomed more than 140 participants from around the globe, hailing from prestigious institutions including Princeton University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and Cornell University in the US, as well as France's Sorbonne, the London School of Economics, and the Shanghai International Studies University.

Prof. Uzi Rabi, the head of the Moshe Dayan Center, said that the unique project "serves as an academic platform for scholars from around the world to exchange views and pursue joint academic activities, such as conferences, student exchanges, journal publications, and more."

Education beyond books

The workshop aims to bring academic learning to life, helping scholars to gain novel insights and a first-hand deeper understanding of the conflict.

Drawing on the expertise of both Israeli and Palestinian scholars, the workshop provides the opportunity to visit key sites at which significant events in modern history have taken place, including Jewish and Muslim holy places such as the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock, the security wall, and the Lebanese-Israeli border. The program inspires scholars to advance their own research and create a more sophisticated learning experience for their students at their home universities.

Prof. Michael Reynolds of Princeton University's Department of Near Eastern Studies praised the program's dedication to presenting a variety of viewpoints and multiple narratives. "The workshop did an excellent job of conveying the complexities of Israeli society," he said.

"The combination of the site visits and the intellectual substance of the panels made it a unique opportunity for those of us who teach the subject," said Prof. Nathan Citino, a historian at Colorado State University. "Seeing the contested geography first-hand (and from a helicopter) enables me to read maps with new eyes."

Forging international partnerships

One of the benefits of the workshop is the establishment of a network of scholars around the globe, says Prof. Rabi. Participants forge both personal and professional relationships with the Moshe Dayan Center during their time in Israel. This has given rise to fruitful collaborations, including joint conferences and scholarly works, student exchange programs, and visiting scholars. Several past participants have contributed to Bustan: The Middle East Book Review, TAU's own publication on Middle Eastern affairs.

The program has been the incubator for cooperative agreements between TAU and the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences and the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul, South Korea, and spurred visits of student groups from Sweden's Lund University, North Carolina State University, and South Dakota University, among others. A former participant of the program is currently organizing an exchange program between TAU and Akhawayn University in Morocco.


Anti-Semitic Violence Down 27%, But Harassment is on the Rise
7/17/2012

TAU's Kantor Center warns non-violent abuse is escalating world-wide

Though 2011 saw a significant decline in major acts of violence against the Jewish population world-wide, anti-Semitic harassment and incitement, including verbal threats, insults, and abusive behavior, have escalated, according to this year's Antisemitism Worldwide General Analysis, a publication of Tel Aviv University's Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry. The yearly report is based on the Center's Moshe Kantor Database for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism.

Incidences of major violence, including the use of weapons, vandalism, and direct threats, fell by 27 percent compared to the previous year. Most of the decline was noted in the UK, France, and Canada, where there are large Jewish communities. But Prof. Dina Porat, Head of the Kantor Center, warns that daily harassment, especially against those who can be visibly identified as Jews, is growing. Some of the most notable cases in 2011 and 2012 involved public figures such as former London Mayor Ken Livingstone and Dior fashion designer John Galliano.

"Children, students, and people who are walking in the streets are being insulted and attacked," she says. "Taboos that existed after the Second World War don't exist anymore — we live in a society and culture where more such things are admissible. Insults and threats are expressed in the media and all cultural channels." And it's not just incitement against the Jews, notes Prof. Porat, citing other minority groups such as Roma as victims of discrimination.

The report is available in .pdf form here.

Connecting Judaism and Israel

According to Prof. Porat, the decline in violent acts can be attributed to a wide variety of factors, including an increase in monitoring and security in Jewish communities. World events can also be influential, and in 2011, there was an absence of a major confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians, which typically leads to violence world-wide. Operation Cast Lead in 2009 and the 2010 Marmara flotilla are believed to have sparked action against the Jews in those years. In addition, much of the far-right violence activity in 2011 was directed against immigrant minorities such as Muslims, Roma, East Africans, and others.

But non-violent harassment is becoming more commonplace than ever before. Using the Internet as a tool, websites, blogs, and social networks are increasingly used to distribute anti-Semitic messages around the world. Other possibilities for the increase in harrassment could include radicalization among immigrant Muslim youth and escalating animosity due to the economic crisis, the report says.

The researchers of the Kantor Center find that anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli sentiment are directly linked. Boycott campaigns and depictions of Israel as an "evil entity" are intertwined with levels of anti-Semitic harassment. Israelis and Jews alike are being accused of crimes such as holding global power, controlling the world economy, and conspiring to advance Israel's interests.

"In many anti-Semitic circles, Jews and Israel are one identity. Jews are depicted as supporters of Israel, and so when Israel is negatively regarded, than the Jews are as well. One depends on the other, and the intensity of anti-Israel expression has worryingly increased," says Prof. Porat.

A balanced analysis

The Kantor Center, inaugurated two years ago, is the only academic research center that collects data on anti-Semitic incidents world-wide. Its aim is to provide a balanced and realistic portrait of the challenges facing modern Jewry through information collected from Jewish communities and other organizations around the globe. Examining incidents and determining whether or not they can be classified as "anti-Semitic" in nature is a "matter that demands a lot of caution and proportion," Prof. Porat says.

The Center's areas of expertise include demography of European Jewry, questions of European Jewish identity, and legislation against discrimination on a racial basis. The Center recently launched a massive project, supported by UNESCO, to collect all such legislation and articles from constitutions in Europe, the Americas, Africa, Australia, and Asia.


A Conversation with TAU's North Africa Expert
11/15/2011

At the heart of the Arab world, Egypt has endured a tumultuous ride at the epicenter of the "Arab Spring." Now, on the eve of its first parliamentary election since last year's overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, tensions are running high. A troubled economy, continued rioting, and acts of violence seem to foreshadow an uncertain political future. Noted historian and analyst Dr. Bruce Maddy-Weitzman of Tel Aviv University's Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies looks at what's in store for this emerging democracy and its place in a changing Middle East.

Q: What's the outlook for Egypt's parliamentary elections set to begin later this month?

A: There's currently a lot of anger, suspicion, and frustration towards the Supreme Military Council — the interim authority in the post-Mubarak period — which has taken steps to deepen its control over society instead of aiding the transition to civilian rule. Protesters who led the revolution in Tahrir Square are now saying that they overthrew the head, but they didn't overthrow the ruling elite.

Plans for a more permanent regime were put together hastily. First, they're going to elect a new parliament, president and shura council (between late November and mid-January), and only then will a new constitution be written. Out of this will come an uneasy set of understandings between the military leadership, civilian politicians, and the Muslim Brotherhood, which is poised to secure impressive gains in the elections. It seems doubtful that genuinely independent and secular political forces will achieve any kind of critical mass.

One thing is apparently clear: Islamist movements have benefitted enormously from the Arab Spring upheavals. They are now going to be challenged to demonstrate their commitment to the democratic game. I'm skeptical about the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's commitment to genuine pluralist politics and their willingness to make the compromises necessary to a democracy. How much are they willing to reconcile Shari'a (Islamic) Law with democratic rights – protection of minorities, equality between the sexes, etc.? We'll have to wait and see.

Q: Is there any solution to the economic problems that largely spurred the revolution?

A: The economic difficulties in Egypt are deeply rooted, and there's no easy fix. Cutting the defense budget in order to create new social programs would cut the budget of the privileged caste, i.e. the military and its civilian allies, so we’re unlikely to see that. The Egyptians must find a way to make the economy more productive. Without political stability, that isn't going to happen. Egypt depends heavily on its Suez Canal revenues and tourism. Tourism, especially, has taken a huge hit this year.

Q: How will current political events in Egypt impact the 10 million-strong Coptic Christian minority?

A: For some time, religious tensions have been close to the surface, and there's even more tension now. In recent months, Egypt has witnessed some serious violence against the Coptic Christian minority. We've seen attacks on churches, we've seen the Copt community assert that the police are doing nothing to protect them, we've seen the recent death of 25 Copts at the hands of the security forces, and we've even seen the Copts becoming more militant and taking security matters into their own hands.

Middle-class Copts are starting to think about emigrating from Egypt, as many other Christian minorities have done in the region (e.g. Iraq), which is a cause for concern. Their loss would be a loss for Egypt.

Q: How has the fragile Israel-Egypt relationship been affected by the revolution?

A: The regime that Israel made peace with in 1979 no longer exists. The peace itself was always a cold peace — and now it's getting colder. Among the Egyptian populace, there's a long history of anger towards Israel. A variety of political forces in Egypt have used this as a cheap kind of political mobilization. But it's in the overriding interest of both sides to maintain peace. There's a common need to avoid war, which has a prohibitive cost. I don't think either side is considering a return to armed hostilities.

Geopolitically, Egypt remains in the conservative Arab Sunni camp, concerned about Iran's projection of power into the region. Also, Egypt is still an ally of the United States, and benefits from that relationship. Getting into a relationship of confrontation with Israel would adversely affect Egypt's relationship with the Western world.

Q: How will the new Egypt interact with Israeli-Palestinian politics?

A: Egypt cares deeply about the Israeli-Palestinian sphere and Hamas. The new Egypt is already more friendly with Hamas, the "daughter" of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. Much depends on the ultimate outcome of the Egyptian political process — the Muslim Brotherhood will be pushing for strong support for Hamas, though other parts of the governing elite may be pushing for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

It's encouraging that Egypt played the role it did in the Gilad Shalit exchange, and then again with the Ilan Grappel exchange. Its role in mediating the Shalit deal was in fact its first foreign policy achievement since the overthrow of Mubarak. Egypt played an important role as a broker and go-between between Israel and the Hamas, with both sides giving Egypt credit for their involvement. This shows that cooler, more rational heads can prevail.

Contemporary Protests Are Embracing an "Open Door" Policy
10/24/2011

Analysis shows different points of view lead to widespread action, says a TAU researcher

As the "Arab Spring" turns to fall and New York's "Occupy Wall Street" protest continues to draw international headlines, a new model of social and political protest has emerged. Based on informal leadership and a multitude of voices, contemporary protests have the potential to become more widespread than ever before.

In her lab, Dr. Tali Hatuka of Tel Aviv University's Department of Geography and the Human Environment analyzes not only the environmental features that impact protests, but the methodology behind the protests themselves. In the last decade, she says, there has been a major shift in the way citizens take to the streets. "Contemporary protests do not look for a unified group. Instead, protestors reflect a variety of outlooks and positions. It's a mass compound of different groups coming together under a general slogan," she explains. "Protests nowadays are based on four principles: difference, decentralization, multiplicity, and informal order."

Her research, which has appeared in the journal Metropolitics and will be the topic of a forthcoming book, attributes the viral-like growth of contemporary protests to the acceptance of different voices under the same ideological umbrella.

All protesters welcome

According to Dr. Hatuka, February 15, 2003, was a crucial, watershed moment. On that day, a worldwide protest was organized against the American invasion of Iraq. The protest spanned more than 800 cities, and participants were encouraged to contribute their own voices and opinions. This was a distinct break from the protests of the 1990's, which were localized and focused on national issues.

Demonstrations in the twentieth century, such as those challenging large and imposing regimes throughout communist Europe, followed a more traditional organization, she says. Protesters were fairly passive, and the message and direction of the protest were shaped by a centralized group of organizers.

Now, the ability of a protest to spread relies on its capacity to bring together a multitude of media, leaders, and points-of-view in a complex way. Though different groups now come together for a common cause, Dr. Hatuka explains, they often maintain their identity through the action. The organizational structure of protests is like a web instead of a strict hierarchy, which contributes to the widespread dissemination of different protests in different places. In Israel, the 2011 summer protests that called for "social justice" included rallies and tent communities that arose in cities all across the nation. These multiple actions and their geographical spread ultimately allowed for a protest much larger in scale.

The word on the street

With a new era of mass protest emerging, politicians must be aware of what is happening on the ground, says Dr. Hatuka. There are no guarantees that political leaders can meet a crowd's demands, but they should certainly be more attentive to the expressed needs. Recent uprisings, such as those in Egypt and Libya, have successfully toppled governments that long turned a deaf ear to their citizens.

This could force governments, which have an inherently pyramid-like structure of power, to become attentive to an increasingly influential web of citizens — a positive change, Dr. Hatuka says. Contemporary protests are a reflection of citizens' desire to fight perceived injustice. Today, thanks to education and new forms of media, they are much more knowledgeable about their rights, power, and ability to make a change — and they are demanding to change public discourse and affect policy decisions, she concludes.


Prof. Uzi Rabi Assesses UN Bid for Palestinian Recognition in National Teleconference
10/11/2011

TAU Mideast policy analyst calls for "creative diplomacy" in the wake of "a carefully calculated risk"

Prof. Uzi Rabi, director of Tel Aviv University's renowned Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, deconstructed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' recent bid for political recognition for a national audience of TAU's American Friends on October 3, 2011. During the teleconference, he called Abbas' UN General Assembly speech last month a "calculated risk," but one that may lead to a new foundation for bi-lateral talks. The Dayan Center is consistently recognized as one of the region's top think-tanks.

Prof. Rabi called the bid part of a delicate balancing act. On one hand the Palestinian Authority is now operating from a stronger position after some success in state-building. At the same time, there is concern among neighboring Middle Eastern leaders that the move for recognition could hamper this continuing success by jeopardizing U.S. aid for the Palestinian population.

"The gap remains deep" between Palestinians and Jewish Israelis, he said, but the problems they face are not insoluble. In fact, Abbas' proposal may provide "a better point of departure for future Israeli-Palestinian talks."

Borders and security still major issues

Prof. Rabi noted that most Israelis will not accept a two-state solution without defensible borders, but could accept one that maintained the Israeli borders established in 1967. If the Palestinians propose borders based upon the 1948 war, he said, a two-state solution would be much less likely, and his proposal would remain unsuccessful.

Whether or not Abbas could deliver a unified Palestinian state is also an open question, Prof. Rabi said. The Palestinian Authority still needs to contend with more radical interests — Hamas and various Islamic elements — and will need to provide verifiable guarantees of security before any statehood proposal could be seriously considered by Israel.

In the wake of Abbas' UN speech, Prof. Rabi underlined two issues that relate directly to Israeli internal interests. First, Israel still needs to maintain strong military security along its borders. But along with this, Israel's politicians need to "maintain diplomatic creativity," even if this creativity leads to a "settlement without peace." That would surely be better than no settlement at all, he said.

Underlying reasons for the PA's UN bid

Prof. Rabi said that the Palestinian Authority's purpose in requesting that the UN recognize a Palestinian state is twofold. The primary aim is to exert international pressure on Israel to freeze settlement construction in the West Bank; legal recognition of a Palestinian state in the West Bank would delegitimize Jewish settlements in that area. Israel objects to this on the grounds that it bypasses bilateral discourse. According to Prof. Rabi, Israel remains unsure of how to handle this issue.

The PA's secondary aim is to tilt the scales in its favor in future bilateral negotiations. Prof. Rabi said that the closer the Palestinians are to gaining international recognition, the less the Israelis will have to bargain with in negotiations on a permanent settlement.

The Quartet has called on both sides to return to the negotiating table. While Israel says it will negotiate without preconditions, the PA will only negotiate if Israel freezes settlement construction. Both the Israelis and Palestinians say they are in favor of renewed negotiations, and each side claims the other is impeding negotiations. At the same time, said Prof. Rabi, neither side has an interest in disrupting their cooperation in security and economic matters in the West Bank.

A Palestinian Spring?

The Palestinian territories have thus far not seen popular unrest on the scale of the so-called Arab Spring uprisings. According to Prof. Rabi, one reason for this is that the PA has been able to direct public unrest toward the occupation — particularly now that PA President Mahmoud Abbas has filed his UN bid. Prof. Rabi said that the PA will appropriate the spirit of the Arab Spring to a limited extent and allow for the organization of small-scale rallies to take place on predetermined dates in Palestinian city centers, away from areas bordering on Israeli checkpoints. This, the PA hopes, will help rally public support for Fatah and the UN bid. Prof. Rabi said that it is in the interest of neither the PA nor Israel for this popular protest to spiral out of control.

If the UN bid fails utterly and the current political stalemate continues for several months, Palestinian public dissatisfaction will come to a head and could lead to a mass uprising. Furthermore, this continuing stalemate would chip away at the legitimacy of Fatah and PA President Abbas. The failure of Fatah's diplomatic approach could drive the Palestinian public to support Hamas instead. Prof. Rabi also noted that in such a case, Mahmoud Abbas might resign from the presidency.

More regional unknowns

In response to questions from participants, Prof. Rabi touched upon the roles that Turkey and Syria might play in the future. The European Union's rejection of Turkey's bid for membership may lead the country to a more conservative position, more closely aligning it with the Arab world. That could create the potential for Turkey to serve as a go-between between Israel and the Palestinians, but "Israel is not ready for that now," he said. Assessing the possible effects should Bashar al-Assad be removed from the presidency of Syria, he cautioned that could destabilize the region, leading not to democracy but to a more radical government less disposed to be a behind-the-scenes influence in peace negotiations.

Finally, Prof. Rabi said another key element will be eliminating "vitriolic speech" from the education system of both parties. International aid must continue to be directed toward moderating militancy in the Palestinian education system, and Israel must be careful about what is taught in its schools, as well. "Intimacy between Palestinians and Israelis is not yet possible," he said, but a revision of curricula and textbooks minimizing incendiary rhetoric can help achieve a safer, more peaceful co-existence.


"Youth, Media and Revolution in the Middle East"
6/10/2011

A lively crowd enjoyed an animated discussion about the Arab Spring, desperate youth, social media and how they affect Israel at an American Friends of Tel Aviv University community forum presented with The Jewish Week in Manhattan on Thursday, June 2, 2011.

The highly engaged audience heard three distinctive expert voices on the changing face of the Middle East — Prof. Uzi Rabi, Director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University; David Makovsky, author, commentator and director of The Washington Institute's Project on The Middle East Peace Process; and Judith Kipper, the director of the Institute of World Affairs' Middle East Programs. The program and the following Q&A were moderated by Gary Rosenblatt, editor and publisher of The Jewish Week.

Hopes and expectations for the Middle East

After welcoming remarks from AFTAU Chairman Jon Gurkoff and Co-Chairman of The Jewish Week Stuart Himmelfarb, Rosenblatt set the stage for the discussion by citing comedian Mel Brooks' song lyric, "Hope for the best, expect the worst" — a lighthearted introduction to a perspective that was more seriously echoed, to a greater or lesser degree, by each of the panelists.

David Makovsky said that the full implications and impact of the Arab Spring will not be known for decades — "We're only in the first inning, and we don't know if this is a double-header," he commented. He warned against Israel becoming "ensnarled" in the internal politics of neighbor states, and said that the Arab youth who led the protests had yet to demonstrate whether they would be able to organize along the lines of existing political parties, noting that Israel should be "hopeful, but watchful."

Prof. Uzi Rabi asserted that economics were at the root of the Arab uprisings, and that the young desired "a more liberal, civil society." He said that the central question would be whether the 2011 Arab revolutions would more resemble those of Central and Eastern Europe of 1989, which led to perestroika and freedom, or those of Iran in 1979, which instituted a clerical dictatorship. A central difference between the past and the present, Rabi said, was that electronic media like Twitter and Facebook have become "lethal weaponry" when challenging rulers, and that the military would need to be more creative in responding to 21st-century innovations in communication.

Judith Kipper noted that the uprisings that constitute the Arab Spring "were not about Israel, the United States, or religion — they were a question of human dignity." She expressed her belief that the majority of Egyptians were non-violent, and that the Muslim Brotherhood did not represent a significant threat to the new democratic process in the Middle East. The best that the U.S. and Europe could do, she said, would be to promote civil society and economic development in the region.

At a private cocktail reception before the program, AFTAU and Jewish Week board members had the opportunity to meet and converse with the panelists in an intimate setting, and as guests left they were heard to comment on David Makovsky's remarks about Tel Aviv University's Dayan Center — "I tell my students to go to Tel Aviv University and the Dayan Center if you want to study the Middle East," he said.

Broad and deep expertise

The panel's views reflect an extensive familiarity with the Middle East.

Internationally recognized expert Judith Kipper is the Director of the Institute of World Affairs' Middle East Programs and a partner in International Strategic Insights, LLC. A frequent speaker and media commentator, for more than two decades she was a consultant on international affairs for ABC News.

Noted author and award-winning analyst David Makovsky appears frequently in the media, including PBS's Newshour, to comment on Arab-Israeli affairs. He is the director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy's Project on the Middle East Peace Process and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Prof. Uzi Rabi is the Director of the Moshe Dayan Center and Chair of the Department of Middle Eastern and African History, Tel Aviv University's internationally acclaimed think tank. His most recent publication is the edited volume International Intervention in Local Conflicts (I. B. Tauris, 2010).

Editor and publisher of New York's The Jewish Week, the largest Jewish newspaper in the United States, Gary Rosenblatt has won numerous awards for his investigative writing and incisive commentary and analyses. He serves as chairman of the Fund for Jewish Investigative Journalism.

TAU Policy Analyst Calls Egypt's Revolution an "Earthquake with Huge Ramifications" for Israel
2/9/2011

Speaking to a private, invitation-only audience of American Friends of Tel Aviv University on February 4, Prof. Asher Susser, Senior Research Fellow at Tel Aviv University's Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, called the recent upheaval in Egypt indicative of a potentially greater Islamist influence in the region, which could negatively affect Israeli negotiations with the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"The events in Egypt are no less than an earthquake with huge ramifications for the United States, Israel, and the world at large," Prof. Susser said during the teleconference. Though he called the uprising "an expression of popular empowerment never before seen in the Middle East," he added that the question of the military's loyalty to Hosni Mubarak will still determine the outcome of the crisis in Egypt.

With clear-eyed pragmatism, Prof. Susser also counselled a policy of Israeli "disengagement" from internal Arab controversies and said that Israel should redouble its efforts to disenagage from the West Bank too with or without a peace agreement with the Palestinians and strengthen Israel's own internal security.

An opportunity for Israel for stronger Western alliances

An internationally renowned historian and foreign policy analyst, Professor Susser is a former director of the Dayan Center, one of the world's most important Middle East think tanks. During the teleconference, he focused on the significance of the Egyptian uprising for the future of Israeli security in the region, noting that the rise of Islamist power will encourage the more radical sectors of the Palestinian population and make negotiations "less friendly." Whatever the outcome, he said, Israel will have to reconstruct its defence policy in response to a more volatile landscape in which secularism is in retreat.

On the positive side, Prof. Susser noted that it should now be clear to the U.S. and to Europe that Israel may be its sole truly reliable strategic ally in the region, a status that Israel may utilize to its advantage.

Israel not an important issue in recent upheavals

Prof. Susser placed the current situation in Egypt in a broader context of the recent history of the Middle East, comparing it to political changes in Turkey, Jordan and other Middle East nations. Importantly, he said, it was "as clear as daylight" that the recent problems of Egypt and other countries in the region are not the result of Israeli-Palestinian or Israel-Arab questions, but arose out of economic and cultural pressures. He cited the sense of hopelessness among young Egyptians in a depressed economy, and said that no matter what the outcome, the future Egyptian government will still have to contend with a continuing social and economic malaise.

Calling the Obama administration's reaction to the Egyptian crisis "troubling," Prof. Susser warned that pressure on the Mubarak regime to dissolve may lead to a less benign conclusion than the U.S. may expect. He suggested that a less interventionist response would have allowed the Egyptian people to resolve the situation on their own, and that the administration should have been less driven by U.S. internal domestic pressures and more by security and strategic considerations in its reaction.

Prof. Susser also commented on the role of the media in the crisis, noting that traditional media outlets like CNN and the BBC had far more influence on events in the region than digital media, the effect of which he called "greatly overestimated." A far more important factor was "the sorry state of the Egyptian economy and society," he concluded.


Is Iran Israel's Problem to Solve?
4/12/2010

Less than a year ago, protestors took to Iran's streets and signalled a possible popular uprising that would bring policy change and even slow the country's rush toward a nuclear weapon.

But now, with the old guards at the helm, and the increasingly strident declarations of its nuclear intentions, the Iranian threat looms ever larger. What will it take to change that? Is there any time left? And who can influence the future of the Iranian people and a more stable Middle East?

Prof. David Menashri, director of Tel Aviv University's Center for Iranian Studies, explored these pressing questions and others in a recent conversation. An Israeli who has lived in Iran, Prof. Menashri is an internationally recognized authority on Iranian history and politics and the recipient of numerous grants and awards. His latest publication is the edited volume Iran: Anatomy of Revolution (Hebrew, 2009).

Q: Why haven't we seen the change of guards many expected after Iran's last presidential election and the civil uprising last summer?

A: Don't be misled: Iran has seen a sea change in its domestic situation. The regime which claimed to be based on religion, ideology and morality is now clearly based on the arms of the Revolutionary Guards; Khamenei as Supreme Leader has since downgraded himself to a mere political player in a regime where factions are butting heads with each other. Clearly, the regime lost its legitimacy in the eyes of many of its youth — the children of the revolution. Although it hasn't produced more dramatic results yet, there is significant and growing resentment among the populace.

What brought protestors to the streets? Not only the fraudulent elections. They were driven by motivators much deeper than that, going back to the unfulfilled expectations of the 1979 Islamic revolution. These were focused in two main areas — bread and civil liberties. The vast majority has come to realise that thirty-one years later, nothing has really changed, either in reducing disparity of wealth or increasing personal freedom.

Another factor that pushed the people to the streets was Obama's "Yes We Can" campaign and the pledge for dialogue. The more educated reformists believed that going to the streets would put pressure on their government to give more freedom. It didn't really happen that way.

Q: If there's so much resentment, why have we seen conservative Islamic celebrationsin the streets recently? Are many Iranians happy with the current regime?

A: It is not new that the government has the power to bring together many people to rally support for it, or to suppress its own people protesting in the streets, but there is no doubt that the vast majority in Iran are not happy with the outcome of the revolution. The revolution wasn't supposed to be about returning to Islam, but about improving social services and expanding freedom — and by any criteria, that hasn't happened. At this point, the Green Movement chanting "Death to Dictator" does not seem to have only President Ahmadinejad in mind. Many of them want a more comprehensive change. As some of them have said, they want to change the horse, not the saddle. The reformists may have shaken the foundations, but working against the powerful tools of the regime, they don't yet have critical mass.

Remember, the conservative element in the government today has significant elements of strength. The regime says it speaks in the name of God and that carries a lot of weight in a country like Iran. Equally important, they have the armed forces at their disposal. With a supposed blessing from Heaven and arms too, the regime has a certain security. They also have the will to use force to maintain their power.

Q: What's holding back change?

A:  While there is clearly a rift between conservatives and reformists, some of the critical factors that shape a mass movement are missing. The reformists are asking "Where is my vote?" and stressing the issues of human and civil rights. But it's hard to recruit millions of people to the cause of democracy — that alone is insufficient to motivate a mass movement.

What will resonate more broadly and supplement this query is adding another pressing question: "Where is my oil money?" And that's a great question. Where is the country's enormous oil revenue? Iran is a rich country full of poor people. One of the shortcomings of the reformist movement in Iran is that they're not focusing on social and economic change.

Q: So what should Israel do in the meantime? Could Iran really bomb Israel?

A: When you have an Iranian president like Ahmadinejad who says Israel should be wiped off the map, and an Israeli prime minister like Netanyahu countering by calling Ahmadinejad "Hitler" and referring to Iran as an existential threat, things can get out of control.

But a nuclear Iran is not only an Israeli problem: it's a problem for the Middle East — and beyond. It's a problem for Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Turkey. Why does every problem here need to have a solution with an Israeli trademark? Why does Israel pretend to have the solution and appear as willing to take the steps to stop Iran? An Israeli attack on Iran would be difficult, with devastating results. Nuclear Iran is the problem of the world, and it is the international community that should solve the problem.

I don't really think a military intervention to stop Iran is the solution. I do believe in dialogue, as President Obama suggested in his campaign, and that the U.S. could come up with the right approach. We need to engage Iran, not because engaging them will solve the problem, but before any other, tough measures are taken, we need to speak directly to the Iranian people. A direct Iran-U.S. dialogue, may signal to Iranian youth as well as the American people that Washington has done all that is possible to solve the issue peacefully. But dialogue should have been direct, with clear agenda and deadline — not like what has been experienced in the last year.

The world needs to step in. Other countries are not doing what needs to be done right now, and that includes America and the E.U. countries. As a first step, moral pressure should be put on Iran. Where are the international groups fighting to solve human rights problems in Iran? Europeans are outspoken but they don't stress Iran's human rights problems, which are infinitely severe.

Q: Then why isn't the EU taking a tougher approach?

A: It seems that the EU countries are putting their own narrow economic interests first — oil and trade with Iran. Only once did the EU countries have a unanimous diplomatic step against Islamic Iran: in 1997, when the German courts found Iranian officials guilty of acts of terror in Berlin. And for their part, the Russians also seem to prefer their business interests with Iran.

That's why a few months ago the Iranian Nobel Prize winner Shirin Ebadi suggested that the EU countries downgrade their diplomatic presentation in Iran. She knows what hurts the leaders of her country.

Sanctions can work. Iran is not as giant a power as they may think, and the U.S. is not a paper tiger. Moral pressure on issues of human rights, targeted economic sanctions and pressure on the Iranian banking system can convince Iran to rethink its nuclear policy. The recent decision by the big powers on sanctions is an important step forward, provided all parties abide to the decision and it will be implemented. This remains to be seen.

Q: If Iran isn't Israel's problem alone, is there anything it can do to bring about change?

A: Israel and the moderate Arab countries, facing a common Iranian threat, can weaken Iran considerably by resolving their differences, such as those concerning the Palestinian question or the Israeli Syrian conflict. A Saudi Arabian embassy in Tel Aviv would send a clear message to Iran. Unfortunately, that seems like a dream at this stage.

In the meantime, Israel is an easy target — easier than the US, the "Great Satan" in Iranian revolutionary jargon. Tehran can blame Israel for its woes and use hostility against Israel to divert public opinion from domestic difficulties to a distant enemy and strive for hegemony in the Persian Gulf and leadership in the Muslim Middle East.

No Parking Space?
2/11/2010

Rounds of indirect talks between Syria and Israel ended without resolution in 2008. To re-open a channel, Tel Aviv University hosted a conference last month to explore the possibility of a Syrian-Israeli Peace Park.

The proposed park would turn one-third of the disputed Golan Heights into a nature reserve to be managed by Syria and enjoyed by both Syrians and Israelis. The remaining two-thirds, now under Israeli sovereignty, would be returned to Syria. Sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Israel, the conference sessions attracted a full house of academics, politicians, NGO leaders and diplomats from countries across a diverse spectrum of opinion and expertise.

Prof. Eyal Zisser, head of Tel Aviv University's influential think tank The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, appeared at the conference. He approves the positive thinking of proponents of the Peace Park, but finds it hard to see the project becoming a reality. An internationally renowned analyst of Syrian-Israeli relations, Prof. Zisser explained why in a recent conversation:

Q: What makes you so skeptical about the prospects for a Peace Park?

A: While it's a positive and creative idea, remember that the two countries have had no diplomatic relations since Israel was established in 1948. The Syrians and Israelis have vastly different mentalities. For the Syrians, national pride is important and complete sovereignty over land is crucial.

In Israel, there are politicians, academics and NGOs who are seeking a way to convince the public to return the Golan Heights to Syria, but that kind of one-sided negotiation is destined to fail in the current political climate.

Q: What would it take to make the concept a reality?

A: The whole idea behind a Peace Park would work after you've established peace, to help normalize relations. It would help develop warm bonds between the two peoples. But that's not the sequence that's being explored — and escalating security concerns between Israel and Syria mean that it could take years before the conditions are ripe for a peaceful resolution.

In Israel, the public well remembers a decade of brutal attacks with Syrians firing at civilians without provocation, a prelude to the Syrian assault in 1967. For us, giving back the land of the Golan Heights comes with a huge security risk that most Israelis would hesitate to take.

Q: So after 10 years of discussion, why is there is a renewed interest in a Peace Park now?

A: Researchers, non-governmental organizations, and those involved in the peace talks — including some Americans — think that a peace park would be a confidence-building measure among the Israeli public, a simple way make peace with Syria by giving back some acreage.

I think that's naive. If there were the possibility of real public diplomacy between Israel and Syria, we wouldn't need this park to cement our relationship.

Syria's position is simple — they want the Golan Heights back. Period. They are not showing any signs they are willing to make real, warm peace for this kind of exchange, or even to pursue real public diplomacy, and for their part, Israelis are not interested in compromising with Syria for an empty photo op.

Another aspect of the proposed park is that two countries have exhibited very different levels of environmental protection and awareness. Syria is a third world country with a growing population that has very low environmental awareness.

Q: So why the U.S. interest in establishing a peace park?

A: The American government funded the recent conference as a friendly gesture — but there is no real U.S. interest. Some years ago, well before there was any diplomatic activity, a geographer who is currently a member of the Mitchell team suggested a peace park as an option.

The conference attendance and recent support from the U.S. government was really just a gesture. And the whole idea has progressed with no involvement at all from the Syrian side.

Q: If not a park, what might move the parties forward?

A: In order for there to be peace with Syria, the Israelis would need to see a radical about-face from the leader of Syria. They'd need a leader like Sadat to make a dramatic, historical move. That's not who Bashar is, and it's not going to happen. The only other conceivable game-changer would be Israel electing a prime minister who is willing to give up the Golan Heights — but without a change in Syria's behavior, that's unlikely.

Q: So is it fair to call the Golan Heights "occupied land"?

A: For all intents and purposes in the eyes of the international community, that's true — but the occupation by Israel is very similar to the way the U.S. occupied Japan. That wasn't a greedy colonial take-over to occupy more territory, nor is that the case for Israel in the Golan.

The "occupation" is situational and pragmatic: there was Syrian aggression towards Israel, and the 1967 War was the result. Israel defended itself, captured the Golan Heights, and remains there today because there is no peace with Syria.

It would be nice if a Peace Park were the mechanism to change that — but I'm quite certain it isn't.

 


U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, Knesset Minister Tzachi Hanegbi Address INSS Conference
1/19/2010

Diplomats, dignitaries and more than 150 American Friends of Tel Aviv University turned out for a private, off-the-record analysis of "Strategic Choices for the U.S. and Israel," this year's Institute for National Security Studies conference held at New York's Harmonie Club on January 12.

An overflow crowd came to hear keynote speakers Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and MK Tzachi Hanegbi, Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, to discuss and debate current challenges facing the Middle East.

During a panel discussion following the keynote addresses, former Ambassadors Itamar Rabinovich, Martin Indyk, Dan Gillerman and Oded Eran turned their attention to a review of the peace process in the light of diplomatic efforts by the Obama administration and the continuing threat of nuclear proliferation in the region.

"We must rise to history's call," U.S. ambassador tells audience

Ambassador Rice offered a series of what she described as "reflections on the type of world the Obama administration seeks," including a new emphasis on the possibilities for reform of the United Nations and a principled and pragmatic U.S. foreign policy. "No one should be left behind to drown in conflict or despair," she said, then offered a broad outline of the Obama administration's commitment to peace and security in the Middle East as the administration sought "a just and lasting peace between Israel, Palestinians and the Arab World." She cautioned that all of the region's stakeholders needed to recognize the role of compromise in establishing a long-term peace, warning that a lack of compromise would lead to unending conflict in the region. "We can and must," she concluded, "rise to history's call."

Minister Tzachi Hanegbi reviewed the experiences of both Israel and the U.S. as prime targets of Islamic terrorism in the years following 2001, describing it as "a history of a society in terror." In his view, however, U.S. and Israeli efforts to stem the tide of fundamentalist terrorism are succeeding, and civic life in both societies and that of the Palestinians have been improving. Applauding Obama's idea of a "just war" in Afghanistan, Hanegbi also noted that the 31-year-success so far of the Egypt/Israel peace treaty provides hope for a lasting peace in the Middle East, but warned of the profound threat that a nuclear Iran would pose to the region as a whole.

An insider's perspective on global events

Ambassador Rabinovich (former Ambassador of Israel to the U.S.), Ambassador Indyk (former Ambassador of the U.S. to Israel), Ambassador Gillerman (former Permanent Representative of Israel to the U.N.) and Ambassador Eran (former Ambassador of Israel to the European Union and to Jordan) brought their collective decades of real-world expertise and diplomacy in the region to a panel discussion that considered the issues raised by the keynote speakers. In the broad, incisive exchanges that drew upon their years of behind-the-scenes experience, they addressed institution-building in the Palestinian community, the issues of borders and refugees, the Obama administration's work on Palestinian issues, and the elements necessary for a settlement that would lead to a lasting peace in the region. A brief question-and-answer session followed.

The event took place at New York's elegant Harmonie Club in midtown Manhattan. Prior to the program, guests had the opportunity to meet and talk with the speakers at a cocktail reception.


TAU's War and Peace Index Featured in Newsweek
1/13/2010

By asking roughly the same two questions every month — "Do you support negotiations with the Palestinians?" And "Do you believe talks will bring about peace between the two sides in the near term?" — the War and Peace Index, conducted at the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research and the Evens Program in Mediation and Conflict Resolution of Tel Aviv University, has been measuring the political pulse of the nation, and the Israeli peoples' hope for peace with Palestinians.

Their findings were spotlighted in the January 11, 2010, issue of Newsweek.

Since the beginning of the Index's publication in June 1994, the sentiments of the Israeli people have waxed and waned as to whether they think there is a chance for peace with their Palestinian neighbors. Never has the poll looked so grim, Newsweek reports. According to results analyzed by TAU's Prof. Ephraim Yaar and Prof. Tamar Hermann, who started the report, the numbers of those who think peace is possible have been unwaveringly low in recent years.

To read how TAU's War and Peace Index measures the political pulse of the nation, see the Newsweek article at http://www.newsweek.com/id/228840.

Visit this link to read the most recent issues of the publication.

 


Can Iran Be Stopped?`
11/19/2009

An overflow crowd of more than 500 turned out for an animated discussion about the Iranian threat presented by American Friends of Tel Aviv University on Wednesday, November 18, 2009.

The highly engaged audience heard three distinctive and strongly argued points of view from the panel — New York Times columnist Roger Cohen, Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens, and director of Tel Aviv University's Center for Iranian Studies Prof. David Menashri. Presented with The Jewish Week, the program and an Q&A were moderated by Gary Rosenblatt, the paper's editor and publisher.

Covering the spectrum

Contending that the current Iranian regime is "pragmatically ruthless" and primarily motivated by its own survival, Cohen made the case for patience, letting events play out internally, and an international dialogue much broader than the issue of nuclear capability. He assessed the risk of a bomb at "less than 10%."

Conversely, Stephens argued that the Iranian theocracy has become a "thugocracy" that may be prepared to wipe Israel off the map. Linking the 2003 halt of both Libya and Iran's nuclear programs to the expression of American power in the region, he called for increased pressure, sanctions, even military force.

Providing a nuanced contextual analysis of Iranian society, Prof. Menashri held that beneath the apparent quiet following a sham election in June, "Iran is boiling." In his view, the regime's current vulnerability stems from the unfulfilled promises of the revolution to provide greater freedom and better welfare.

A social, cultural and educational evening

At a private cocktail reception before the program, AFTAU and Jewish Week board members had the opportunity to meet and converse with the panelists in an intimate setting.

The event was held at the Park East Synagogue on Manhattan's Upper East Side, a New York architectural landmark.  Founded in 1888, the Byzantine-style building features distinctive stained glass windows and dome-like cupolas.

Broad and deep expertise

The panel's views reflect an extensive familiarity with the Middle East.

Cohen spent five weeks in Iran covering the June 2009 election. His intriguing columns for The New York Times are illuminated by his career as an editor and foreign correspondent reporting from more than 15 countries. His most recent book is Soldiers and Slaves: American POWs Trapped by the Nazis' Final Gamble (Alfred A. Knopf, 2005).

Professor David Menashri, an Israeli who has lived in Iran, is an internationally recognized expert in Iranian history and politics and is the Director of the Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University. The recipient of numerous grants and awards, his latest publication is the edited volume Iran: Anatomy of Revolution (Hebrew, 2009).

Thought-provoking foreign affairs columnist Bret Stephens was editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post from 2002-2004, the youngest person ever to hold that position. He is deputy editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal and oversees editorial operations in Europe and Asia, and is also a frequent contributor to Commentary.

Panel moderator Gary Rosenblatt is the editor and publisher of New York's The Jewish Week, the largest Jewish newspaper in the United States. He has won numerous awards and earned national acclaim for his investigative writing and incisive commentary and analyses. He serves as chairman of the Fund for Jewish Investigative Journalism.

Hear an audio recording of the panel discussion

Read an editorial about the event by moderator Gary Rosenblatt in The Jewish Week


A Conversation with TAU's Prof. Eyal Zisser
7/14/2009

After 4 years without one, U.S President Barack Obama has decided to send a U.S. ambassador back to Syria. A State Department announcement calls this a dramatic sign of reconciliation between the two countries.

But according to Prof. Eyal Zisser, the internationally acclaimed analyst of Syrian history and politics who heads TAU's Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, it was "a logical result" of President Obama's election and dialogue-centered approach to the Middle East. "Obama is sending an ambassador to Syria to reward good behavior" — but the U.S. shouldn't expect much in return, Zisser cautions.

Unlike President George Bush who adopted a policy of confrontation, Obama has preferred to talk with forces in the Middle East. Why with Syria and why now?

The American camp that advocates dialogue traditionally posits that Syria can be removed from the "Axis of Evil" — Iran and Hezbollah — by engaging Syria in a conversation, instead of pushing it into a corner. In the Middle East, Iran is considered to be the big devil and Syria, a little devil — a proxy for Iran and Hezbollah. If Obama has already decided to speak with Iran, then there is really no reason not to speak with Syria.

Some media reports are saying that the announcement came as a response to the civilian uprisings in Iran. Do you see a link?

The announcement made in late June that the U.S. would reinstate its ambassador to Syria was just a natural development for what was already happening in Washington a month earlier. The re-appointment of the U.S. Ambassador to Syria might have seemed a surprise both to the American people and to Syrians, but the way Obama did it was well thought out and not a knee jerk reflex.

First George Mitchell, his Middle East envoy, visited Syria more than 6 weeks ago. Then Obama appointed the ambassador at the same time as economic sanctions on Syria were extended. For their part, the Syrians made an effort to please Obama by avoiding any interference in the Lebanese elections, as well as by closing the Syrian border with Iraq to al-Qaeda's volunteers. Strategy and planning were woven into Obama's motive, I believe.

What are America's objectives in engaging with Syria, an obvious ally of Iran and a supporter of global terror organizations?

We've already seen that Bush's heavy hand in the Middle East didn't help diminish the threat of Iran and Hezbollah to global political stability. It might have worked if Bush had been able to carry his policy out to the end. But that's a big "if." Even under heavy pressure Syria still supported militancy in Iran and developed its relations further with the country. Obama is saying why not engage in a fruitful dialogue? He belongs to the school of thought that feels putting tough sanctions on a country is pretty much useless.

On the one hand he awards Syria with an ambassador, on the other hand he puts some sanctions on the country. What sort of message is this?

Obama is saying to Syria: the U.S is not in your pocket just yet, and although you expect us to help you improve relations between our two countries immediately, we want you to behave even better. The timing of the appointment is likely a reward for recent limited Syrian cooperation on matters related to Iraq and Lebanon. In Obama's eyes Syria does deserve some sort of reward for the way they've been acting recently, and that's what I think the ambassadorial announcement is saying.

Can America and Syria become future allies to help break apart terror organizations like the Hezbollah?

While it's always important to maintain a dialogue between nations — rather than a military confrontation — Obama shouldn't be too optimistic about being "friends" with Syria. Some Americans in government might like to compare Egypt to Syria, hoping for swift diplomatic changes in the Middle East. But Syria is not Egypt, and Assad is not Sadat. Sadat was a courageous leader interested in fundamentally changing his country's status quo, while Assad is interested in maintaining his country's status quo.

Syria may be ready to make diplomatic peace with Israel, but it is not truly interested in becoming an American ally. President Obama should remain realistic about this, and I believe he is well aware that gains will be small. It is not likely that Syria will abandon its deep-rooted ties to Iran or Hezbollah — although we can always be optimistic and hope.


American "Yes We Can" Showed Iranian Youth They Could, Too
7/6/2009

It's no coincidence, says Prof. David Menashri, the internationally-known Iranian affairs scholar and analyst who heads Tel Aviv University's Center of Iranian Studies. Every time Americans elect a president with human rights high on his agenda, a wave of change ripples through Iran. It's happened three times in recent history, and now — with an Obama administration — a fourth wave is underway.

"Iran is a country of serial revolutions," says Prof. Menashri, "with citizens repeatedly taking responsibility for changing the government's policy or even the ruling system by mass popular participation. And if we look at modern history, there is a real correlation between Iranian uprisings and American politics.

"They might not realize it, but when Americans go to the polls, their influence stretches far beyond the boundaries of the United States." Look at the effect on Iran since World War II, when the U.S. became deeply involved in Iran, Menashri noted, citing the human-rights-centric governments of Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Jimmy Carter — all of which parallel uprisings in Iran, in 1951-53, 1961-63 and 1977-79.

Growing effect of "Obama-ism"

"The emergence of Obama — out of nowhere — sparked popular unrest in Iran in different ways. For one, it triggered the hope that 'Yes, they can' too," Menashri added, observing that the uprising in recent weeks reflects a belief among Iranian reformists that they will have backing from Washington if they press for greater freedom in their country.

Another catalyst leading to Iran's recent deadly demonstrations may have been Obama's offer of dialogue with Iran. "When the U.S. president offers his hand in friendship, doubts creep in. People start to question Ahmadinejad's stubborn rejectionist policy." This fits a pattern he sees emerging throughout the Middle East — "a growing trend toward Obama-ism." In Israel, some consider Tzipi Livni their Obama, while some Iranians see Obama in Mir-Hosein Mousavi.

Walking a tightrope

If the U.S. election gave heart to Iranians who are struggling for freedom and change, they were by and large disappointed. They expected indirect support or endorsement from Obama for their quest for freedom, but when a response came, some saw it as too little, too late.

"America is in a difficult situation," noted Prof. Menashri. "In 1953, U.S. involvement in Iranian affairs was a disaster in a long run. But in 1978, America was less directly involved, and the Iranian people were able to topple the Shah. If Obama had forcefully supported the young Iranian protesters, it could have been the kiss of death for the reform movement. Still there was an expectation for some sort of support, and earlier than it came."

The result is a double-edged sword. Prof. Menashri believes the recent uprising has negatively affected President Obama's ability to pursue his policies and enter into a meaningful dialogue with Iran's president in the short run, because Ahmadinejad has lost much of his legitimacy and, at least at this stage, seems to be adhering to an even more militant posture.

Post-election Iran continues to nurse a deep and open wound. Iran in late June 2009 is a different Iran from just a few weeks before. Prof. Menashri also noted that it is not clear where the post-election turmoil will lead Iran, but even if things seem quiet on the ground, the nation is boiling beneath the surface.

Clouding more explosive issues

Perhaps what is even more worrying for the outside world, the uprisings have diverted the international media from focusing on Iran's nuclear advances. "Despite the uprisings," Menashri emphasized, "their scientists have not stopped working on the Iranian nuclear program. It's out of the international eye, but Iran's nuclear clock is ticking."

Born in Iran, Prof. David Menashri is recognized as one of the world's leading analysts of Iranian history and politics, and is frequently consulted by governments and the international news media, including the New York Times and the Washington Post.


A New Exodus if Iran Gets the Bomb
6/1/2009

A new public opinion poll of more than 500 Israeli adults found that 23% of the respondents said they would leave Israel if Iran acquires the ability to build a nuclear bomb. The poll was conducted by the Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University and recently reported in the Hebrew daily Haaretz.

Of the same group, 85% said that they believed Iran would eventually develop an atomic bomb, and 57% felt that U.S. dialogue with Iran would ultimately fail. More than 40% believed that Israel should conduct a military strike against Iran before the bomb is developed.

“The findings are worrying because they reflect an exaggerated and unnecessary fear,” said Prof. David Menashri, the head of the center. “Iran’s leadership is religiously extremist but calculated, and it understands an unconventional attack on Israel is an act of madness that would destroy Iran. Sadly, the survey shows the Iranian threat works well even without a bomb, and thousands of Israelis [already] live in fear and contemplate leaving the country.”

To read more about the center’s recent poll, see the story in the May 22, 2009, issue of Haaretz: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1087472.html


Senator George Mitchell Discusses Israel's Security Challenges at INSS Conference
1/26/2009

Former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, recently named special envoy to the Middle East by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, lauded the strong relationship between the U.S. and Israel at the second annual international conference of the Institute for National Security Studies, one of the world's leading think tanks and an external institute of Tel Aviv University. Speaking on the TAU campus on December 17-18, 2008, Mitchell called the bond between the leaders of the two nations "essential."

Major speakers at the conference also included Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, as well as former TAU President Ambassador Itamar Rabinovich.

On a hopeful note, Senator Mitchell made an analogy between the ideological conflict that once faced Northern Ireland and the Israeli-Palestinian situation. “There is no such thing as a conflict that can’t be ended,” said Senator Mitchell.

Rays of light in a dark time

Continuing the positive theme, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni focused on the idea of establishing common interests to help Israel achieve peace in the region with the help of foreign powers. “When we identify common interests, the whole world is with us,” she asserted, re-emphasizing Israel’s desire to establish peaceful relationships with its neighbors.

The featured speakers examined the current security situation of the State of Israel within the framework of the rapidly changing global political landscape.

The discussion included a wide range of American and Israeli security experts and political figures who analyzed the changing face of Israel’s national security in the evolving political world, including how U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration will impact the Middle East.

Relationship with U.S. "Israel's most strategic asset"

Prime Minister Olmert also spoke about the type of policy the new American government will apply to the Middle East, and how that will affect the region. He called Israel’s relationship with the United States its “most important strategic asset.”

The emergence of that relationship, and the development of American-Israeli relations, was described by Ambassador Rabinovich. His brief overview of historical Israeli-American relations since the State of Israel was established in 1948 provided a context for the comments made by other speakers.

Experts also addressed strategic alliances, ideological differences, and Iranian nuclearization.


AFTAU Teleconference: Israel Succeeding in a "War of No Choice"
1/14/2009

On January 13, the 18th day of the War in Gaza, American Friends across the country got an electrifying update from the front by internationally renowned Mideast policy analyst Professor Asher Susser.  Participants in the national teleconference were heartened to hear him predict a quick end to the conflict — barring unforeseen developments, perhaps with a ceasefire in a matter of days.

Hear the teleconference

Prof. Susser is the Director for External Affairs of Tel Aviv University's Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, one of the world's leading public policy think tanks.  He characterized Israel's two primary conditions for a ceasefire — that it be permanent, with no end date, and that it allow for effective control of the Egypt-Gaza border — as within reach.

 “The war in Gaza is about more than rockets," he told listeners, "it’s about Israel’s long-term security and sustainability.”  Asserting that Hamas is seeking to end the war as soon as possible despite the militancy of some leaders in Syria, he foresees a weaker Hamas, "cut down to size and less pompous" after hostilities end.

Shifting international ties

Prof. Susser said the war is dealing Iran and its radical proxies in the region "a serious setback” and predicted that a successful ceasefire will encourage moderates throughout the Arab world.  Hamas, he concludes, has effectively "been crushed.”  It will remain a political entity, albeit lacking the same military and political influence it enjoyed before the war.

He assessed the subtly shifting alliances taking place among nations, noting the gap between public demonstrations in foreign capitals and the "cold shoulder" European governments are quietly giving Hamas, relieved to see its grip loosened.  He predicted that Israel's success will now give Egypt greater leverage to act against Hamas, and said that even in the Palestinian community, there are widespread whispers that "Hamas brought this on itself." 

In America, Prof. Susser said, Israel's success against Hamas reaffirms its status as a strong, powerful and effective U.S. ally, erasing any disappointment caused by the war in Lebanon in 2006.

The state of the State of Israel

Noting that the war has created a tremendous expression of national solidarity and unity among Israelis, Prof. Susser told his American listeners that "Israel doesn't want to stay until every last rocket is destroyed.  Rather, we want to destroy Hamas' desire to fire them" by making it too costly to do so.

“The war in Gaza was a war of no choice,” Susser said.  “It was imposed on us” by the terrorist activity originating from Gaza.  The Israeli air and ground action, meticulously planned over a long period of restraint, means Israel "has turned a significant corner in its long struggle" — perhaps even carrying the psychological equivalence of the Six Day War.

During the stimulating question-and-answer session following Prof. Susser's briefing, questions from American Friends ranged from the war's expected effect on upcoming Israeli elections to changes the Obama adminstration might bring to U.S.-Israel relations, to lessons learned from the war in Lebanon, to the rebuilding of Gaza. 

The engrossing teleconference was one of AFTAU's popular series featuring some of Israel’s most significant policy analysts and influencers.

Hear the teleconference


TAU Mid-East Expert Expects Obama Win to Accelerate Diplomatic Dialogue throughout Region
11/10/2008

In a timely teleconference with American Friends across the country, one of Israel’s foremost policy analysts expressed cautious optimism at the outcome of the just-concluded U.S. election.

Prof. Asher Susser, Director for External Affairs and Senior Research Fellow at Tel Aviv University's Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, foresees an active effort to seek dialogue as the new administration's major change in U.S.-Mid-East relations.

The current dramatic decline in oil prices will also help change the climate for discussion among the parties, he predicts, noting that a $1 decrease in the price of a barrel of oil represents a loss of about $1 billion in revenue per annum for Iran.  This weakening financial position should increase Iran's interest in participating in a dialogue with the U.S., and may help achieve some measure of understanding.

Prof. Susser also thinks it likely that an Obama administration will be more active in negotiations with Israel and Syria.  It may also actively urge a partnership between the Palestinian Fatah and Hamas organizations, thereby seeking to moderate Hamas and to foster a climate for dialogue.

AFTAU's national conversation

In a lively and wide-ranging question-and-answer session with American Friends around the country, Prof. Susser addressed the upcoming election in Israel.  At this moment, he suggests, it is likely the country will be led by Benjamin Netanyahu, with a coalition government dominated by the more conservative Likud and the centrist Kadima party, and possibly strong enough not to be dependent on the Orthodox parties' votes.

Indicating the broad-based intellectual and political interests of AFTAU participants, other questions ranged from Iran's nuclear threat to Israel and the danger posed by Lebanon's Hezbollah to the likely candidates for the next American Secretary of State.

Prof. Susser addressed questions with an insider's nuanced "if-then" analysis, much appreciated by his audience.  Additional teleconferences with TelAvivUniversity's Middle Eastern policy analysts are being scheduled to meet demand.


TAU Hospital Treats Iranian Boy for Brain Tumor
10/31/2008

Tel Aviv University doctors are proving that compassion and care don’t recognize international geopolitical conflicts.

A 12-year-old Iranian boy recently arrived for treatment of a brain tumor at the TAU-affiliated Safra Children’s Hospital, one of the top ten children’s hospitals in the world. There, Prof. Zeev Rotstein, a Clincal Senior Lecturer at TAU’s Sackler School of Medicine, began tests and treatment for the child’s illness. The boy’s family had exhausted their medical resources in Iran and Turkey, and turned to TAU and Prof. Rotstein as a last resort.

“We hope that with the love and affection we give these kids, we are paving the way for at least some understanding between people,” Prof. Rotstein said in a recent article in the International Herald Tribune. “We can’t change the politics. We are not politicians. We do this because we feel it is our job.”

Read more about this inspiring story here.


Mort Zuckerman Assesses Middle East Peace Prospects at AFTAU Event Honoring Lester Pollack
9/23/2008

U.S. News and World Report and New York Daily News publisher Mort Zuckerman foresees challenging times ahead for Middle East peace efforts.

Speaking at an intimate dinner on Wednesday night, September 16, in honor of Lester Pollack, founding Chair of the International Board of Overseers of Tel Aviv University’s Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, the publisher expressed his “deep and abiding respect” for Pollack.

Zuckerman's remarks offered an insider’s perspective on U.S.-Israel joint policy matters, describing the current situation as “amazingly turbulent.” He applauded President Bush’s strong support for Israeli security concerns, saying one of the most important aspects of the peace process will be the position of the new U.S. President on the defensibility of Israel’s borders and the rearming of Hamas.

Noting that these are long-standing issues, Zuckerman emphasized the continuing need to find permanent solutions as both Israel and the U.S. approach general elections.  Calling for new thinking and urging new approaches, he said, “There is an appropriate Israeli saying for the situation: ‘Repetition does not diminish the prayer.’”

Dayan Center “home to the best and the brightest”

At the dinner, which was held at New York’s Loews Regency hotel, Tel Aviv University president Zvi Galil honored Pollack with the prestigious TAU President’s Award.  He thanked Pollack for his long-time support of the university and outstanding leadership of the Dayan Center board.  Accepting the award, the distinguished American investment advisor said he was proud to support an institution, the oldest and largest institute of its kind in Israel, that is “home to the best and brightest exemplars of leadership.”

Ambassador Itamar Rabinovich, a featured speaker at the event and Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. from 1993 to 1996, echoed Zuckerman’s concern for future peace prospects in the Middle East. “The key word is anticipation,” he said, “and the key time is spring 2009,” just after leadership in America, Israel and the Palestinian Authority has changed hands.

Rabinovich also praised Pollack as a key figure in helping to cultivate new relationships, through his work with the Dayan Center, among leaders in the U.S., Israel and the Arab world.

Pollack is the founder and chairman of Centre Partners, a private equity investment firm, and a general Partner of Lazard Freres, one of the world's preeminent providers of financial advisory and asset management services internationally.

Tel Aviv University's Dayan Center, established in 1983 by friends of the late Israeli leader Moshe Dayan, seeks to bring scholarly objectivity to the analysis of Middle East and African political spheres, informing the academic community, policymakers, journalists and the general public about the complexities of these regions, advancing peace through understanding.


Video: TAU Middle East Expert on Shalom TV
8/6/2008

From Sunday, August 10 through Saturday, August 16, watch a fascinating analysis of the “NEW Middle East” taped at an AFTAU reception in Manhattan on Shalom TV.  The free video is available “on demand,” so it can be accessed at any time during the run.

Professor Asher Susser, Director of External Affairs at the Moshe Dayan Center of Tel Aviv University, explains how the key players have changed among the Arab States, and Israel’s need adopt a new way of thinking as it faces a new set of challenges.

Watch Shalom TV in your area on these providers:

Comcast throughout the country: Channel 1

Time Warner:

  • New York/New Jersey: Channel 1005, "Entertainment On Demand"
  • Los Angeles CA: Channel 1, "Lifestyle"
  • Dallas TX: Channel 1, "Entertainment"
  • Cleveland OH, Akron OH, Youngstown OH, Erie PA: Channel 1 Free/"Entertainment” and Channel 512 “Entertainment on Demand”
  • Kansas City, KS: Channel 126, “Entertainment on Demand”
  • Wisconsin: Channel 1101, “Entertainment On Demand”
  • Austin TX and Waco TX: Channel 1478, “Entertainment on Demand”

Bright House Networks: Free on Demand/"Entertainment"

Blue Ridge: Channel 1, ”Ethnic"

MetroCast: On Demand, "Cable Favorites"

For more information, visit the Shalom TV Web site:

http://shalomtv.org/


Unprecedented Cross-Border Partnership to Research Earthquake Activity in Middle East
2/5/2008

One of the world’s most vulnerable areas for earthquakes lies in a region important for Palestinians, Jordanians, and Israelis, around the ancient city of Jericho. A serious earthquake could add to the volatile situation in the Middle East.

Hoping to mitigate the risks, Tel Aviv University seismologist Hillel Wust-Bloch from the Department of Geophysics and Planetary Sciences recently masterminded a new earthquake mapping research partnership between Jordanian, Palestinian, and Israeli scientists.

The four-year project will be the first time that Earth scientists from these three regions have worked together directly, Wust-Bloch believes. In the past, partnerships have usually occurred through a third party, such as the United Nations.

Wust-Bloch’s new project, which includes partners from Al-Balqa University in Jordan, and An Najah University in Nablus, has important implications for improving the region’s stability. Scientists from the three universities, with Tel Aviv University leading the effort, will simultaneously deploy six "seismic microscopes" in the Jericho region, in order to map a 100-square-kilometer area.

Stethoscope for the earth

With a German colleague, Wust-Bloch has developed nano-scale seismic monitoring techniques, or “seismic microscopes,” to detect tiny failures inside the earth’s crust. “From a scientific point of view, this project is innovative because we are monitoring the seismic activity of a region which is well-known, but we are doing it at much lower thresholds,” he says.

There is no way to predict where and when exactly an earthquake will occur, or what its magnitude might be. But scientists can listen to the earth for small clues, says Wust-Bloch.

The team will meet several times a year to discuss their findings and assess potential hazards in the region, says Wust-Bloch. He surmises that such an earthquake map will be useful for attracting industry and high-tech projects in the Palestinian and Jordanian regions.

So the chips won’t fall

“Companies like Intel won't invest a single dollar in the Jericho region unless the seismic hazard is properly assessed,” says Wust-Bloch. Wust-Bloch also hopes the research will extend to the educational realm. He foresees that the material collected will be presented, in appropriate cultural contexts, to teach people in the region about seismic hazards and what to do when a major earthquake strikes.

Wust-Bloch’s long-term goal is to explore a predicament common to all in order to stabilize the region. He hopes that earthquake research between Palestinians, Jordanians, and Israelis will break down age-old cultural rifts and open the whole region. He realises that a prosperous future for the Palestinians and Jordanians means a better future for Israelis, too.

Local experts will be trained on how to conduct earthquake research in the Palestinian Authority and in Jordan. This will prevent “brain drain,” since scientists from these regions tend to emigrate to Europe, North America, or the Gulf region for work.

“Young Jordanian and Palestinian scientists simply cannot find adequate work in the region,” concludes Wust-Bloch. “Currently, once they are overseas and get their degree, there are too few opportunities for them to come back to.”

It is a shame, believes Wust-Bloch, not to take advantage of an existing pool of bright young scientists familiar with both foreign and local worldviews, who could fulfil the scientific needs of the region as well as helping to bridge cultural differences.


Middle East Expert Addresses AFTAU Members in December 4 Teleconference
12/5/2007

The new U.S. assessment of Iran’s nuclear program is “a positive development that if accurate reduces the risk of cataclysmic conflict in the Middle East,” a prominent Middle East expert and Tel Aviv University professor told AFTAU members on Wednesday, December 4, in an exclusive, by-invitation-only 40-minute briefing, but he also suggested caution.

“As we learned a few years ago when it came to intelligence about Iraq, we can never be sure” about the accuracy of these intelligence reports, said Prof. Asher Susser, director for external affairs of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University. “And there is no room for error when it comes to the nuclear issue.

“But if correct, this will rule out for the foreseeable future a military strike against Iran by the U.S. and Israel,” he concluded.

This was a unique opportunity for AFTAU friends from all over the world to hear this uniquely informed opinion of current events by one of the most renowned experts on Mideast politics. Invited AFTAU members also participated in a question-and-answer session following Prof. Susser’s briefing. Callers from Florida, Canada and California were present in the special teleconference, which was arranged by the American Friends of Tel Aviv University in association with the Dayan Center. Susser was introduced by Lester Pollack, chairman of the Dayan Center's international board of overseers.

The news out of Washington about the recent intelligence assessment, reported on the front page of December 4’s New York Times and suggesting that reports of Iran’s nuclear weapons program were exaggerated, dominated the briefing. Prof. Susser saw Iran’s emergence as a regional power in the Middle East as a development which continues to change the landscape “in very dramatic ways.”

“The recent talks in Annapolis were also connected with Iran in no small measure,” Prof. Susser remarked. The attendance of several Arab states at the Annapolis conference was “a way of showing Arab support, to align themselves with Israel to protect themselves from Iranian influence.” Susser also noted that the participation of Syria following Israel’s recent military strike against the country “was potentially very important, and Syria’s participation takes a step which creates a measure of tension between Syria and Iran.”

The Annapolis talks “did not produce a great deal,” Susser said, but he did note that a process of negotiation has at least been established which may lead to further progress in the future. Hindrances to that progress, he suggested, were the weaknesses of both the governments in Israel and the Palestinian territories. “The current government in Israel is strong enough to begin the process, but not to complete it,” Susser said, noting that future elections may produce stronger governments in both Israel and the territories.

The American Friends of Tel Aviv University is proud to offer exclusive briefings like this to its members, providing expert and exclusive perspectives on current events that affect today’s global concerns.


Playing Roles for Peace
10/12/2007

Young men and women in Tel Aviv University's Conflict Resolution Program for High School Students are engaging in a 15-week program led by TAU lecturers, former United Nations teachers and well-known peacekeepers. As they participate in role-playing games that are centered in both fictitious and real geographical locations, they're being readied for the very real-world challenges that confront the Middle East of the future. The program is a unique offering from TAU's Steinmetz Center for Peace Research.

Read more in the article from the September 19, 2007, Jerusalem Post below:

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull&cid=1189411437305


TAU Defends Democracy by Educating America's Future Leaders
7/25/2007

For two weeks this August, 40 American undergraduate students will get a rare opportunity to access the expertise of two world-class think tanks while participating in the two-week seminar Defending Democracy, Defeating Terrorism at the Tel Aviv University (TAU) campus in Israel.

TAU has two think tanks dedicated to studying security issues that world politicians, policy makers and security experts often turn to when seeking solutions on how to curb terror. These two think tanks, The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies (the Dayan Center) and The Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), will host a series of seminars and lectures for the American students.

Among the fellows will be John Tully Gordon, a 19-year-old sophomore majoring in political science at New York's Fordham University. Last year, Gordon was awarded the Boy Scouts’ highest honor — the Eagle Scout designation — and in the future he plans to be a politician. Gordon will join Holly Hernandez, a junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who majors in history and economics, among others. A dean’s list student, Hernandez is an active student on campus and focused on anti-terrorism issues in her studies.

Co-sponsored by the Washington-based Foundation for the Defence of Democracies (FDD), TAU professors will provide lectures that “give the most full and updated picture on terrorism,” says Prof. Eyal Zisser, head of TAU’s Department of Middle Eastern and African History and the incoming head of the Dayan Center.

Adds Zisser, “Americans know that TAU’s two important think-tanks — the DayanCenter and the INSS — are the leading research centers in the world for strategic and Middle Eastern studies. They also know that government officials and military personnel from around the world come to ask our advice.”

The seminar will go beyond the academic world and enter the terrain of "hands-on" anti-terrorism tactics used on a day-to-day basis in Israel. Students will visit military bases, police stations and border zones in order to recognize terrorist threats and to learn how to combat them.

The seminar is provided through a collaborative effort between the Dayan Center, the INSS,  TAU’s School for Overseas Students and the FDD.

Founded in 2001 after the 9/11 terrorism attack, the FDD’s mission has been to shape America’s strategies and policies on war, terrorism and the Middle East. The organization trains Americans to be pro-democracy activists in schools, cities and government. “We look for students who are very bright, articulate, and who are interested in being activists on terrorism issues the moment they return to their campuses,” says David Silverstein from the FDD, who selected the American participants and who will join them in Israel.

Students will travel to Israel during their summer break in August for the intensive classroom or “field” component of the seminar. Studies then continue over the course of a year after they return home to America.

“We don’t have a simple answer on how to stop terrorism,” adds Silverstein. “But we do have a pretty good idea how we should fight it: through a blend of strategic military, political and economic measures. That’s what Tel Aviv University can help us accomplish.”


Tel Aviv University Law Students Visit Windy City for a Summer of Legal Learning
7/19/2007

More than three dozen attorneys working towards Master in Law degrees at the Tel Aviv University (TAU) Buchmann Faculty of Law traveled to Chicago, Il.’s Northwestern University (NU) School of Law in July for a month-long summer semester in public and international law. The program runs from July 9 through August 2, 2007.

The training is part of the newly-established joint TAU-NU Executive LL.M. Program, at the end of which students will be awarded the degrees. And while the 37 Israeli lawyers are already leaders in their respective fields, they are hoping to learn a great deal from the American legal system and judges such as Richard Posner. They expect their American counterparts will learn about the idiosyncrasies of Israeli law as well.

Teachers will be drawn from top professors at NU, and students will also be included in debates and visits to Chicago courts. The one-year program, to be completed later this winter in Tel Aviv, was designed to broaden the academic horizons and professional skills of distinguished, mid-career Israeli lawyers.

Explains Ron Harris, a professor of law and the vice-dean of the Buchmann Faculty of Law at TAU, “Israeli lawyers face public law issues with an intensity that no other country in the world experiences. Our students, as promising mid-career lawyers, are at the heart of these issues. This new program recruits and teaches Israel’s future legal leaders — some of whom are in a position to influence well beyond the legal community — and gives them the best from both worlds.”

Among those attending NU this summer will be lawyers from the Israel Defense Forces (I.D.F.), the Israel Supreme Court and Israel’s Ministry of Justice, as well as lawyers in non-governmental organizations. The highly diverse group represents all of Israel’s geographic and social strata.

Attorney Gabriella Lasky runs a private practice that defends non-governmental organizations in the areas of freedom of speech, immigration rights and the environment. Explaining her new focus on international and administrative law, she says, “There is a new horizon of human rights we can tackle through international law. It is important to bring human rights to the international arena in order to stabilize this issue in all countries.”

Working on the other side of the spectrum is Sivan Shlomo, a legal advisor to the I.D.F.’s international law department. During her time in Chicago, Shlomo will study in an intensive four-week, eight-credit semester, which will include courses on constitutional law, administrative law, environmental law and the international law of human rights.

Shlomo believes that lawyers need to expand their geopolitical worldviews. “I want to show Americans how the Israeli law system in the army is working — to show them how much influence we lawyers have on the system and that we are doing things in a legally sound manner.”

Rania Haddad Sruji, a criminal lawyer and prosecutor at Israel’s District/State Attorney's Office in Haifa, is often called on to interview witnesses from Israel’s Arab-speaking sector. Her background as an Israeli Arab offers yet another dimension to how well Israel’s legal sector represents its public. Sruji says, “It is obvious that we are now working in a global environment, and as a prosecutor it is important to take into consideration the law of other countries.” In that respect, she hopes that a second degree will help her fulfil her desire “to make this country a better place for everybody.”

The TAU/NU Executive LL.M. Program is the only degree of its kind that awards a joint Masters Degree in Law from both an Israeli and foreign institution. The Legacy Foundation funds fellowships for the low wage-earning public sector candidates. This program is the fourth installment of an active five-year-old relationship between the law schools of TAU and NU. Other ongoing activities include an annual student and faculty exchange as well as the hosting of joint conferences.


Tel Aviv University and Al-Quds University Partner on Conflict Resolution Graduate Program
7/18/2007

Tel Aviv University and East Jerusalem’s Al-Quds University have announced a new graduate-level conflict resolution program at Al-Quds University and a student and faculty exchange between both universities. Establishment of the new program is being coordinated by Prof. Ephraim Ya’ar, director of the Evens Program in Conflict Resolution and Mediation at TAU, and Prof. Sari Nusseibeh, president of Al-Quds University in Jerusalem. Nusseibeh has nominated the dean of graduate studies at Al-Quds to oversee the project.

First proposed in talks between the two universities six months ago, the collaboration is expected to give students from both universities the skills to address conflict beyond the Arab-Israeli divide.  It will be based on the established Evens Program launched at TAU four years ago.

As part of the proposed plan between the universities, a program in conflict resolution and mediation will be established at Al-Quds. This new initiative will be different than any other program existing in Israel. Students will learn from each other — from both sides of the divide — and inter-ethnic issues such as Israeli-Arab affairs will be addressed, but will not be the only focus.

“The idea of cooperation between Tel Aviv University and Al-Quds University is the integral part — to have a mutual exchange of students, faculty and academic ideas,” says Ya’ar, founder of TAU’s highly-acclaimed Peace Index, an influential public opinion poll in Israel.

The Evens Program offers graduate level studies taught by a diverse range of specialists such as political scientists, legal experts and social workers. The multidisciplinary program recognizes the notion that conflict is more than just about disputing nations: it is both a local and international issue.

The Evens Program at TAU is funded by a donation from the Olivestone philanthropic organization, founded by Corrine Evens of France. Concerned with encouraging dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, Mrs. Evens met with Ya’ar earlier in 2007 and expressed an interest in developing a similar project for Palestinian students. Ya’ar took advantage of a good working relationship with Nusseibeh, and the idea of working with Al-Quds University was born.


Tel Aviv University Monthly Peace Index
6/22/2007

Most people raise their hands in favor of peace and security. But the seemingly unsolvable political realities in Israel and the region are complicated, posing a difficult dilemma.

How should Israel respond to the ongoing rockets attacks on Sderot? Should Israel make a distinction between the Hamas and Fatah in its dealing with the Palestinians following the Hamas occupation of the Gaza Strip? What are the implications of Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza?

These are the types of questions asked by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research and the Evens Program in Conflict Resolution and Mediation at Tel Aviv University. For the last 13 years, they have published a public opinion poll -- the Peace Index -- that is read by policy makers from the U.S. to the Far East. It is considered to provide the best and most unbiased information representing Israeli public opinion.

Published on a monthly basis in Hebrew and English in the influential daily Haaretz newspaper, the poll is designed to answer some of the most complex and pressing political concerns of the time. It represents both the Jewish and Arab citizens in Israel and often includes data from opinion polls conducted in Palestine.

For example, in the most recent index published in May, 2007, it reports that 37% of Jewish Israelis believe that Palestinians cannot be stopped from launching Qassam rockets into Israel. About half of the Israeli public support the notion that Israel should hold direct negotiations with Hamas under the Palestine Authority; while a large minority of Israelis, some 42%, are in favor of reoccupying Gaza.

“I know that the Peace Index is used as a research tool by the American Embassy here in Israel, as well as others such as the British and Egyptian foreign embassies,” says Prof. Ephraim Ya’ar of Tel Aviv University, who both founded and heads the project together with Prof. Tamar Herman. He adds, “Washington also understands its implications for creating policy and peace in the Middle East.”

The Peace Index is highly regarded in local politics as well. As an example, when Itzhak Rabin considered negotiating with Syria, he consulted the Index to decide if there should be a referendum or not.

“The Peace Index could be one of the most important and most referenced of its kind in the world,” notes Prof. Ya’ar, who was pleasantly surprised when the Egyptian President’s senior advisor Osama El-Baz told him a few years ago that he reads the Index in the Egyptian newspaper, Al-Ahram.

The Index must have some effect on shaping public policy, but that effect is difficult to ascertain. Foreign embassies in Israel do consult with Prof. Ya’ar on a regular basis. He says, “They hold briefings to understand what’s not being said between the lines. I try to fill in the gaps for them.”

The Peace Index was first conceived in 1994 when Prof. Ya’ar noticed that the Oslo Accord, at the time, was creating both content and discontent in the Israeli society. It was a sentiment that culminated in the assassination of Itzhak Rabin a couple of years later.

Says Prof. Ya’ar, who went on to win the first Clinton-Rabin Award (through the Fulbright Program), “I wanted to monitor the ups and downs of the peace process and try and understand what are the factors behind it. If we can index the cost of living, then why not peace?”

The monthly Peace Index survey has become an invaluable tool over the years for international journalists and politicians to assess public opinion in Israel. It is even believed to be a reliable predictor of Israeli election results.

The Peace Index Project is conducted at the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research and the Evens Program in Mediation and Conflict Resolution of Tel Aviv University, headed by both Prof. Ephraim Ya’ar and Prof. Tamar Hermann.

For more information about the Peace Index and to receive the monthly mailer, please visit:

http://www.tau.ac.il/peace


100s of Israelis Hillel Students Help Rehabilitate Northern Communities Damaged by War
2/1/2007

Hillel: The Foundation for Campus Jewish Life will launch Ki HaAdam Eitz HaSadeh on February 5, 2007, a project to bring 250 Israeli students from colleges and universities throughout Israel to several northern communities damaged by last summer's war. The project, sponsored by The Samuel Bronfman Foundation, will be led by Adam Bronfman, the foundation's managing director.

Adam Bronfman said, "We are excited about helping Israeli students develop their own model for engaging in community service as part of their Jewish identity. We'll begin in Kiryat Shemona, Haifa, and Ma'alot, which are still struggling with the aftermath of the summer war."

Prior to leaving for Northern Israel, on February 4th Mr. Bronfman will meet with Hillel Tel Aviv student activists and take part in dedicating Tel Aviv Hillel's new home at the Diaspora Museum. On February 5th he will take part in affixing a mezuzah and chanukat habayit of Hillel at Beit Hecht on the Carmel in Haifa.

The aim of the Ki HaAdam project is to nurture students' individual Jewish identity as well as their dedication to ongoing community service projects that strengthen the communities in which they live.

Ki HaAdam represents the first time that students from campuses across Israel will join together in a single coordinated project to perform Tzedek (community service) for fellow Israelis in the north. Hillel students from Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University, Ben-Gurion University, Technion and several other schools will travel to northern Israel on their February academic break. Focusing on economically disadvantaged communities, they will work with local school children and adults to plant trees, clean up parks, and paint shelters, community centers and schools.

Rabbi Yossie Goldman, director of Hillel Israel, said, "We are seeing a renaissance of Jewish student life in Israel as demonstrated by the tremendous response to the Ki HaAdam project. Israeli students are increasingly eager to explore their Jewish identity alongside other Hillel students in projects that have meaning and value for the broader community as well as for themselves."

"It's appropriate," Goldman continued, "that we are launching the project in conjunction with Tu B'eshvat, the holiday of trees. The Hebrew name of the project -- Ki HaAdam Eitz HaSadeh -- translates in English as 'every person a tree,' with the idea that young people, like trees, need to be nurtured and developed to reach their full potential."

As follow-up to the project's northern launch in February, The Samuel Bronfman Foundation and Hillel will provide grants for an additional 15 student-initiated Tzedek projects in students' local communities. "The idea," said Dana Raucher, TSBF's executive director, "is for students to take their experience up north and apply it in their home communities as a means of strengthening their Jewish identity, not only as individuals but as part of a larger community in which they can have a meaningful presence."

About Hillel in Israel

Hillel, the largest Jewish campus organization in the world, set up its first center in Israel in 1951. Today, Hillel Israel operates on five campuses: the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, Haifa University/Technion, the Interdisciplinary Center and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Hillel Israel serves Israeli, new immigrant and overseas students by offering a multitude of informal educational, cultural, social, and religious programs. Hillel encourages students to take ownership of their Jewish identity and expression: from participating in community service projects to creating art and theater productions; from informal Jewish learning opportunities to cultural and social gatherings. Hillel is committed to a pluralistic Jewish vision that embraces all movements and streams of Judaism.

About The Samuel Bronfman Foundation

The Samuel Bronfman Foundation (TSBF) focuses on projects dedicated to fostering a Jewish renaissance. TSBF is an active supporter of the Hillel: The Foundation for Campus Jewish Life, The Bronfman Youth Fellowships in Israel, The Curriculum Initiative, and MyJewishLearning.com. More information about TSBF can be found at http://www.thesbf.org/

Media Contact:
Jonathan Cohen
The Weiser Group
(212) 468-3372
jcohen@weisergroup.com


A Conflict Fought on Three Levels
7/21/2006
"Toronto Star" Op-Ed.  July 18, 2006
 
The war currently being fought between Israel and Hezbollah should be understood as a war fought on three levels: local, regional and international.
 
On the local level, the war with Hezbollah, like the war being fought in and along the Gaza Strip with Hamas, is yet another round in the local conflict between Israel and the neighbouring local organizations which oppose the notion of an Arab-Israeli peace.
 
Both Hezbollah and Hamas are radical organizations seeking to turn their countries into Islamic states and opposed to the very notion of coexistence with a non-Muslim entity.
 
The similarity does not end here: Both organizations are in Iran's and Syria's sphere of influence. Both conflicts are taking place along the boundaries where Israel completed a unilateral withdrawal in an effort to bring an end to the conflict.
In both cases, the fundamentalist Islamist organization is seeking to take over the whole political system. Hamas had just won the Palestinian elections, formed a government and is sharing power with Mahmoud Abbas and the relics of the older Palestinian establishment. In Lebanon, Hezbollah is at one and the same time a militia and a political party represented in parliament and holding two cabinet seats.
 
On the regional level, the recent outbursts in Lebanon and Gaza reflect Iran's growing power and influence. In fact, Iran's quest for regional hegemony has been the single most important development in Middle Eastern politics during the past few years.
 
Iran is well deployed for this role. It is a large country with a large population led by a sophisticated elite. It is the heir to the empires that had occupied its territory in the past and its elite, religious and secular alike, is moved by imperial ambitions. The soaring oil prices of the last few years have provided Iran with huge financial resources and reserves.
 
Since the Islamic revolution of 1979, Iran had built an extensive network of agents and operatives in the Middle East and beyond. As a Shiite entity, it enjoys influence among Shiite constituencies in several Middle East countries: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain. Finally, it is engaged in building a nuclear device and the missiles to deliver nuclear weapons and so far has proven impervious to all international efforts to stop this race.
 
Iran's Arab neighbours and other Arab states are terrified by Iran's quest for hegemony and are seeking ways to oppose and stop it.
 
It is characteristic of Middle Eastern politics that this is not stated loudly and explicitly. But in the subtle rhetoric of the Middle East, and in private conversations, Arab rulers and policy-makers share their concern with numerous interlocutors. Jordan's King Abdullah was the exception to this rule when he spoke openly about the Shiite arc that is taking shape.
 
Iran's most important partner in the region is Syria. When Hafez Assad was alive, the word partnership was apt. Since his death in 2000 and the assumption of power by his son, Bashar, Syria has been weakened and is now the junior partner in this relationship.
 
One area of common interest for both countries has been Lebanon. Syria, which practically occupied Lebanon between 1996 and 2005, has offered Iran access to the large Shiite community in Lebanon and has shared its influence with its senior partner.
 
Another manifestation of Syrian-Iranian partnership is the collaboration with regard to such Palestinian organizations as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. These organizations maintain offices in Damascus and it is there that their relationship with Iran is conducted.
 
By acquiring direct influence over these Palestinian organizations and Hezbollah, Iran has also acquired the ability to start a crisis at any given moment. The moment chosen by Iran had to do with the G8 meeting in St. Petersburg.
 
Tehran is fully aware of the Bush administration's effort to win Russian support in any effective campaign to curb Iran's nuclear program. By starting the fighting along the Lebanese-Israeli border, which has escalated into mutual attacks on the infrastructure and civilian populations in both countries, Iran has demonstrated to the international community its ability to disrupt life in the Middle East and beyond, if pushed to the wall.
 
How can this crisis be brought to an end? In the 1990s, the two crises which led to Israel's invasion into Lebanon ("Operation Accountability" in 1993, and "Operation Grapes of Wrath" in 1996) were brought to an end by U.S. intervention and by way of Syria's influence over Hezbollah.
 
This pattern is not relevant for the present. The Bush administration has been terribly weakened by the morass in Iraq and its diplomatic energy is limited. Syria has also been weakened and the White House is certainly not keen to bring it back into Lebanon again, after having celebrated the Syrian army's departure from the country following the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri.
 
There is a strong current of opinion in Lebanon that is angry at Hezbollah's activities and anxious to complete the process of rebuilding the Lebanese state and extending its sovereignty throughout its territory.
 
Likewise, the bulk of the Arab states have no sympathy for Hezbollah and are angry at Iran's meddling in Arab affairs, be it in Gaza or in Lebanon. The position taken by Arab foreign ministers in Cairo reflected this majority Arab view.
 
Against this background, it is easy to understand the apologetic tone taken by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah during a taped speech broadcast on Sunday. Gone was the arrogant tone of his earlier press conferences. He was clearly addressing Lebanese and Arab public opinion critical of the price exacted in the service of a foreign power.
 
Looking ahead, the U.S. will have to take the lead in putting together an Arab coalition and a coalition of domestic Lebanese forces, in order to put together the formula that could provide a political solution to the current military crisis.
 
Itamar Rabinovich is a historian and author of several books on the Middle East. Currently president of Tel Aviv University, he was Israel's chief negotiator with Syria from 1993 to '96.
 
The original op-ed article can be viewed at:  http://www.thestar.com/

Israel Wants West to Deal More Urgently With Iran
1/31/2006

The Israelis are engaged in a careful effort to press the United States and the Europeans to deal more urgently with Iran. Israel has no intention for now of trying to deal with Iran alone or through military means, officials say.

But Israeli officials are worried that politicians in the United States and Europe are focusing on estimates of when Iran might actually have a bomb - rather than concentrating on the "point of no return," perhaps within the next year, when they argue Iran may gain enough technical knowledge to make the fissile material needed for a weapon. After that point, in the Israeli view, it is simply a matter of time until Iran is nuclear-armed.

Maj. Gen. Aharon Zeev-Farkash, who retired Jan. 5 as Israel's director of military intelligence, said Israel believed that the moment was no more than a year away, although estimates differ among governments, based on different views of how advanced Iranian technology has become. Once Iran starts enriching uranium, the general said, it will need just six months to a year to achieve the ability to produce fissile materials.

In a report released Thursday, David Albright and Corey Hinderstein of the Institute for Science and International Security described a number of technical problems Iran had to solve before it could begin testing its enrichment technology.

"Absent major problems," they wrote, "Iran will need roughly six months to one year to demonstrate successful operation" of its pilot operation. "Iran could have its first nuclear weapon in 2009," they went on to say, though they noted that that estimate "reflects a worst case assessment, and thus is highly uncertain."

General Farkash had a similar estimate, saying that within another two and a half to three years, Iran will have enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb, if it is able to construct and run 2,000 to 4,000 centrifuges, the machines that enrich uranium.

"We have a crucial six months to a year to do something," he said, adding that "unfortunately when I say this to our friends and allies, they like to focus on the third step," the production of the bomb, "rather than the first step."

"The first step is the most crucial, when Iran will achieve independent research and development capacity to enrich uranium - we all agree," the general said. "Then it's not an intelligence problem, but a political decision."

Iran's announcement has sent governments scurrying to come up with estimates about how much time they have left until Iran can produce its first nuclear weapon. The Israelis say they think that Iran can produce its first bomb within four to five years. European officials estimate a weapon will take five years, and American officials have offered estimates of 6 to 10 years.

Gary Milhollin, director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control in Washington, is skeptical about the American estimate.

"People feel the Iranians can do that now," he said. "But whether they've done it or not is less clear." He said his own sources thought that the Iranians could solve the various technical problems.

<"How long will it take? No one really knows," Mr. Milhollin said. "But I think that if the Iranians decide to go all out, they could make a bomb's worth of material a year with 2,000 centrifuges running."

He viewed Israel's estimates as a sophisticated form of lobbying, but said he thought that the Israeli estimates were not out of line. "I'd be surprised if the Iranians don't make it in five years with one, two or three bombs," he said.

The problem for intelligence agencies, General Farkash said, is that "while we have hard evidence about a lot of things" supporting Iran's intention to make nuclear weapons, "we don't have the smoking gun" proving that Iran is violating its pledge to enrich for civilian use only.

He said: "So I told my people, we have to bring for the States and everyone the smoking gun. And then they have to face it and decide what to do."

Intelligence assumptions are not enough these days, the general said. "We as intelligence chiefs need to bring a smoking gun if we want to influence policy makers, especially after Iraq," he said, alluding to the fact that assertions that Saddam Hussein possessed an active program to make nuclear and other prohibited weapons, used to justify the invasion of Iraq, proved to be wrong.

Meir Dagan, the chief of Israel's espionage service, Mossad, recently testified before the Israeli Parliament's foreign affairs and defense committee in similar terms. He said that Iran would attain technological independence in producing fissile material in "a matter of months" and that subsequent development of a nuclear bomb would be only a matter of time and the number of centrifuges Iran could operate.

He emphasized Israel's view that "there exists a strategic Iranian decision to reach nuclear independence and the capability to produce bombs," no matter what the Iranians say, and that Iran will produce a number of them.

General Farkash, Mr. Dagan and Israeli policy makers all agree that a military option against Iran's nuclear facilities cannot be ruled out. Lt. Gen Dan Halutz, the Israeli chief of staff, said recently that the West had the ability to destroy the main elements of Iran's nuclear program.

But Israel believes that diplomatic efforts at preventing or at least delaying Iran's ability to produce nuclear weapons should continue with more intensity - at the United Nations Security Council, through economic sanctions, because of Iran's heavy reliance on imported parts, but also through an oil embargo or other means to affect the Iranian government and population.

"Economic sanctions take too long, but we can blockade oil and use Western strategic reserves," said Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. "Let the Iranians and the government feel some heat. Right now they don't feel any heat. Oil is just money, so let the Americans put their money where their mouth is."

The diplomatic process has already delayed Iran's program by some two years, the Israelis believe.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, speaking on Jan. 3, in his last interview before his stroke, made the same case as General Farkash and Mr. Dagan. "In any event, time is not working in favor of anyone who wants to prevent Iran from becoming nuclear," he said. Israel, Mr. Sharon said, "is not the spearhead, but we are working together when it comes to intelligence and evaluation with the United States, together with European countries."

Israel is also being careful not to react too strongly to the violently anti-Semitic comments of the Iranian president, Mr. Ahmadinejad.

David Menashri, the director of the Center of Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University, said: "The less Israelis speak about Iran the better. Ahmadinejad is trying to turn the Iranian nuclear issue into the problem of Israel, and by responding to his statements we just play into his hands."

The original version of this article may be found at: www.nytimes.com

Tel Aviv University is Israel's leading center of higher learning and the largest Jewish university in the world.  It will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2006.


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