Israeli Wins Nobel for Game Theory


An Israeli who has educated the world on conflict resolution was named last week as the co-winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize in economics.

Hebrew University professor Robert Aumann, 75, and American scientist Thomas Schelling “enhanced our understanding of conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in a statement.

The two will share the $1.3 million prize.

Game theory is the science of strategy, the study of how various rival groups — whether business colleagues or warring parties — can interact to secure an ideal outcome. Aumann specialized in “repeated games,” analyzing conflict over time.

“I am very moved by this honor,” he told reporters outside his office at the Hebrew University’s Center for Rationality. “I think credit should also go to members of the school of thought who have helped to make Israel perhaps the world’s No. 1 superpower when it comes to game theory.”

Aumann, who is religiously observant, was born in Frankfurt but moved to the United States with his family in 1938. He took degrees from the City College of New York and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, immigrating to Israel in 1956.

Aumann is the second Israeli to win the Nobel for economics. Two Israeli biochemists shared the Nobel Prize for chemistry last year, and former Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Menachem Begin have won the Nobel Peace Prize.

“His work is important and a major contribution to the world of economics and to theory,” Hebrew University President Menachem Megidor told Israel Radio about Aumann.

Schelling, 84, is a University of Maryland lecturer recognized for his application of game theory to issues of global security.

In a telephone conversation with the academy, Aumann suggested that his specialty could give insight into Israel’s struggle for survival in the Middle East.

“I do hope that perhaps some game theory can be used and be part of this solution,” he said.

But Aumann, who lost a son during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982, said an end to the conflict with the Palestinians is far off.

“It’s been going on for at least 80 years and as far as I can see it is going to go on for at least another 80 years. I don’t see any end to this one, I’m sorry to say,” he told reporters.

 

Pullout Seen Really as West Bank Issue


The Gaza withdrawal in itself plays only a small part in the current face-off between settlers and the Israeli government. Three other and more basic issues are at stake, and they go to the core of what the Jewish state will become, according to Arie Nadler.

Nadler, a professor of social psychology at Tel Aviv University, is a noted authority on conflict resolution, as well as on the impact of massive social trauma on individuals and groups. He meets frequently with both Palestinian and settler leaders, and will lead a weekend seminar in Irvine Aug. 19-21. he will discuss the Gaza disengagament from the Israeli and Palestinian perspectives and its likely aftermath.

The crux of the present confrontation is not Gaza, but whether Israel will eventually abandon the West Bank and, in essence, return to the pre-1967 borders, Nadler said in a telephone interview from Tel Aviv.

“The settlers are trying to make the Gaza withdrawal so traumatic that no future Israeli government will even consider evacuating [the settlement of] Ariel on the West Bank,” he said.

On a second, deeper level, the confrontation is about “the meaning of democracy in Israeli society,” whether its members are willing to accept majority decisions and play by the same political rules.

The most fundamental and important aspect of the Gaza disengagement goes to the seemingly intractable secular vs. religious divide in Israel.

“We face the question as to the ultimate source of authority in the state,” Nadler said. “Is it democratic rule or Torah?”

From his discussions with settler leaders, Nadler is cautiously optimistic that the evacuation of Gaza will proceed without large-scale violence.

“The political leadership of the religious Zionist settlers has an intuitive sense of the fragility of the ties that bind us as a people,” Nadler observed. “Just as in the Sinai Peninsula withdrawal in 1982, the majority of settlers will approach the red line, but they will not cross it.”

This relatively hopeful scenario could change instantly if Palestinians decide to use the changeover to launch large-scale terrorist attacks, he warned.

Nadler, who describes himself as a political centrist, showed considerable sympathy for the emotional pain of the Gaza settlers.

“In a way, the settlers were the pampered children of both the Likud [right-wing] and Labor [left-wing] parties,” he said. “They were told that they were the true Zionist pioneers. They saw themselves on a higher moral plane, and suddenly they are told to go away.”

To help heal the settlers’ trauma, it is vital for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to assign some deeper meaning, such as the welfare and survival of Israel, to the painful disengagement, Nadler believes.

In the aftermath of the withdrawal, the relocated Gaza settlers will go in two different directions, Nadler thinks.

“A minority will disengage itself from Israeli society and secular democracy,” he said. “The majority, after overcoming a psychological crisis, will perhaps re-examine its assumptions and tactics, and ultimately move closer to the political center.”

Nadler will be the scholar-in-residence at the seminar sponsored by Ameinu, formerly the Labor Zionist Alliance, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Irvine. Also on the program will be political scientist Raphael Sonnenshein, will who speak on “California in Ferment.”

For seminar reservations until Aug. 16 call (323) 655-2842, or e-mail LZinLA@aol.com.

 

Arab Groups Assail Bush Appointment


Jewish and Arab leaders say President Bush’s appointment of Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes to a federal think tank — despite the objections of Arab groups and some congressional Democrats — offers a window into White House thinking on Middle East issues.

Bush’s Aug. 22 appointment of Pipes, director of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum, to the board of directors of the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) comes after Arab American and Muslim groups waged a strong battle against his Senate confirmation. They called Pipes an "Islamaphobe" who made bigoted comments against Arabs and Muslims.

The USIP was founded by Congress in 1984 to create programs and fellowships that foster peace and nonviolent conflict resolution. The organization frequently sponsors lectures in Washington on international conflicts. Its board is appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

Jewish groups were gearing up to back Pipes in the Senate, saying they rely on his insight and scholarship on militant Islam. In the end, however, no heavy lifting was required. Instead, Bush placed Pipes on the board through a recess appointment, allowing him to serve without confirmation until the end of the congressional term in January 2005.

Jewish leaders say the move shows the White House’s commitment to combating the threat radical Islam poses to the United States and its allies. Pipes had warned of the danger of militant Islam long before Sept. 11 and criticized many scholars in his field who he said had become apologists for Islamic militancy.

Arab leaders, however, say the appointment shows that some White House officials hold the same "right-wing" views on Middle East issues as Pipes. Specifically, they point to Elliott Abrams, a senior official on Middle East affairs at the National Security Council, who they say has a track record of public comments that put his positions in line with those of Pipes.

Pipes was nominated for the post in April, but his confirmation was postponed last month by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee after several lawmakers, including Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), voiced opposition to it.

"It certainly reached a level of attention and publicity that surprised me," Pipes said. Major newspaper editorials came out for and against the nominee. Pipes said he was told the White House decided to use a recess appointment, because of its eagerness to fill the institute’s board, not because of concerns over his ultimate confirmation.

Pipes said Kennedy and others misunderstood the writing and work he has done for more than 25 years, at times taking his comments out of context and at other times distorting them.

Arab groups claimed Pipes had said that Muslims do not follow proper hygiene, but Pipes said he was simply describing the way Europeans look at Muslims. Also, he said many of the comments he has made about radical Islam often are mistaken as accusations against the Muslim religion in general.

"I’m making a fairly complex and novel argument about the differences between religious Islam and radical Islam," he said. "It’s an important argument that needs to be made."

Pipes said he will expand on his rationale for the objections to his nomination in a column for the New York Post.

Hussein Ibish, communications director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said Pipes is prevaricating when he says that he is trying to distinguish between Islam per se and terrorist actions linked to militant Islam.

"He defaults to putting everyone in an Islamist militant category," Ibish said. "You have to basically agree with his pro-Likud stance to not be considered a militant Muslim."

Several Jewish groups quickly praised Pipes’ nomination, including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. The Anti-Defamation League said Pipes had an "important approach and perspective to the challenges facing the U.S. in the post-9/11 world."

The nomination of Pipes, a frequent lecturer to Jewish audiences, was being watched in the American Jewish community. Jewish officials said they would have backed Pipes vocally if a fight over his nomination had erupted on the Senate floor.

Instead, the community decided to stay silent in order not to derail a process that was moving in Pipes’ favor. Meanwhile, many Arab leaders voiced their opposition.

When word of Pipes’ impending recess appointment became public, nearly a dozen Muslim and interfaith groups spoke out against him and led a phone campaign to the White House against the appointment.

Ibish said Arab and Muslim groups consider the fact that Pipes’ nomination required a "backdoor" appointment a victory for their cause. "It’s an important political statement that the White House had to do it this way," he said.

Pipes said his writings have been more closely scrutinized in the past five months and that he has learned to be more cautious.

"I’ve learned to be careful to make sure things I say cannot be taken out of context," he said. "It is the lesson of increased attention that I hope I have profited from."

Rep. Darrell Issa: Ally of Israel


In the interest of balance, The Journal made several unsuccessful attemptsto procure an Op-Ed piece on behalf of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) from aJewish supporter. In lieu of an Op-Ed, the congressman’s office provided thefollowing statement concerning his record on Israel and terrorism. Ajournalistic investigation into the congressman’s record will appear shortlyin our news pages.

Darrell Issa is a California congressman of Lebanese heritage. Throughout his career in the private sector, civic affairs and public life,Issa has stood for an absolute commitment to tolerance of all faiths, as well as all Americans.

More than a reliable vote for a strong American policy in the Middle East, Issa has gone further. He has met repeatedly with leaders in the region to encourage cooperation in the war on terrorism and to advance the “road map” to peace. Issa’s record is clear, and the facts of his leadership speak volumes.

The congressman has an unequivocal voting record in favor of Israel. He has supported both the 2002 House Conference Report and final House version of America’s aid to Israel (H.R. 2056); supported House Resolution 392, expressing solidarity with Israel in its fight against terrorism; supported House Concurrent Resolution 280, urging presidential action against Palestinian terrorism; and signed the “Hyde-Lantos” letter (April, 2001) to President George W. Bush, urging a reassessment of America’s relationship with Palestinians

Demonstrating strong leadership in the Middle East, the congressman has strongly endorsed the Bush administration’s policy to liberate Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power; personally lobbied Egypt to return its ambassador to Tel Aviv; personally pressed Syrian and Lebanese governments to act against Hezbollah; and has traveled to Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Syria and the West Bank — always in consultation with U.S. officials

“Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles) confirmed that … his [Issa’s] votes on Middle East issues have been supportive of Israel. Other Democrats interviewed for this article agreed,” wrote The Forward. Rep. Ben Gilman (R-N.Y.) called Issa an outstanding congressman who has fought tirelessly to find a solution to the Middle East conflict,” and Daniel Ayalon, Israeli ambassador to the United States, sent the congressman a letter stating, “We would like to thank you for your assistance with the humanitarian efforts concerning the four kidnapped Israelis held by Hezbollah.”

Love and Loyalty


We would always say that we were the ambassadors of love and happiness, causing people to smile as they passed by us, the chemistry almost touchable.

At that point, the fact that he was a Jew and I was an Italian Catholic didn’t seem to make much difference. We were in love and that was all that mattered.

As we traveled through our relationship and through the past two and a half years, we overcame many of the obstacles that couples face. We also embraced the issues that arose due to our interfaith relationship, knowing that it was an important and vital component, not something to put off or take lightly.

Our discussions about religion began early on and became a running dialogue. We started off slowly, trying to discuss this delicate topic without hurting any feelings, but soon realized that if the relationship were to proceed, the hard questions needed to be asked. How do you want your children to be raised? Can you accept symbols such as a Christmas tree or a menorah that reflect the other’s religion? Do you feel that you can be true to yourself and your faith if you have a partner who is of a different religion?

Having asked these questions, we knew that the answers were nowhere except within. We read, we discussed, we attended seminars about being interfaith, and we learned about each other. Through this and because of this, our love and relationship continued to grow.

David voiced to me during one of our many discussions that he felt very strongly about having his children bar or bat mitzvahed. Knowing that his father was a Holocaust survivor who has since passed away, I understood and empathized with his strong feelings about this, and I began to think. Raising Jewish children was not something I ever had to consider before, and when I met David, I initially assumed that we would do "both."

I then began to think more about David’s desires in regard to what I viewed as my greatest hopes for my future children: that they be kind, moral and believe in something larger than themselves. If these were the things that I regarded as most important, and if my spouse had such strong feelings, then getting there through Judaism rather than Christianity would be OK. Not always easy or natural for me, but OK.

You would think that any tension and unhappiness that arose regarding our interfaith relationship and its future would come from my family, since I had decided to raise my future children Jewish. However, it proved to be the opposite. My mother, although not happy with the decision, was supportive, realizing that these were my decisions to make, understanding that she would still play a significant role in her grandchildren’s lives. David’s mother, however, despite the sacrifice that I had decided to make for him, believed that it wasn’t enough and that he should still marry a Jewish woman. Her unhappiness with our growth as a couple soon became obvious and vocal. She expressed to him her belief that there must be a common base in order for a relationship to survive — and that base needs to be religion.

Slowly, the constant pressure, comments from and discussions with his immediate family began to chip away during two years of soul-searching, discussions and resolutions until David became torn and conflicted between our love and his loyalty to his family and religion. I understand that his family only wants the best for him. However, I also believe that there doesn’t need to be a choice between love and loyalty; that the two can co-exist if both people are willing to compromise in some way.

We, as a couple and as individuals, had reached a place where we both felt that we were being true to ourselves as well as to our religions. However, David’s growing inner conflict was something he could no longer resolve or even understand, and it hindered our growth. Knowing that this was something he needed to resolve within himself in order for our relationship to survive, we decided that it would be best for him to work it out alone. We decided to split up, putting our relationship and love to the ultimate test.

Being without him fills me with a tremendous sadness, as does the uncertainty of whether or not our roads will join together once again. I don’t know if the resolution of his inner conflict will reunite us or keep us apart. However, I understand that this is a journey I cannot take with him, and I can only pray that he finds the strength that I know he has within himself to find his own truth. I look at this as a time for answers, knowing that God has a plan.

If our love is as true and as strong as we believe, we will find our way through this and will be stronger for it — once again bringing smiles to other people’s faces as well as to our own.


Lia Del Sesto is a freelance graphic designer and professional vocalist from Providence, R.I. Reprinted courtesy of InterfaithFamily.com, a member of the Jewz.com Media Network.