Hebrew University of Jerusalem
New cables leaked of Britain’s US Ambassador Kim Darroch’s criticism of Trump administration.
Donald Trump / Reuters
Britain’s Ambassador to the US, Kim Darroch, said US President Donald Trump abandoned the Iran nuclear deal in an “act of diplomatic vandalism” because it was agreed by his predecessor Barack Obama, the latest leaked cables show, according to The Press Association.
The latest memo, disclosed by Mail on Sunday, was said to have been written by Darroch in May of 2018 following a visit to Washington by then-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in a last ditch attempt to persuade the Trump administration not to abandon the Iran deal.
Under the terms of the agreement – still supported by Britain, France and Germany – international sanctions on Iran were eased in return for Tehran accepting curbs on its nuclear program.
Kim told Johnson, according to the cables, “The outcome illustrated the paradox of this White House: you got exceptional access, seeing everyone short of the president; but on the substance, the administration is set upon an act of diplomatic vandalism, seemingly for ideological and personality reasons – it was Obama’s deal.”
“Moreover, they can’t articulate any ‘day-after’ strategy; and contacts with State Department this morning suggest no sort of plan for reaching out to partners and allies, whether in Europe or the region.”
The first batch of cables in which the British ambassador criticizes Trump were published last week, leading Trump to declare that the White House would no longer deal with Darroch.
Darroch resigned on Wednesday, reportedly after seeing that Johnson, who is now the frontrunner to replace Theresa May as British Prime Minister, had refused to support him during the previous night’s leadership debate.
On Friday, the Metropolitan Police said that it was launching a criminal investigation into the leak to the Mail of Darroch’s dispatches.
In response to the latest leak, a Foreign Office spokesman said, according to The Press Association, “A police inquiry into the totally unacceptable leak of this sensitive material has begun. The perpetrator should face the consequences of their actions.”
“It’s not news that the US and UK differ in how to ensure Iran is never able to acquire a nuclear weapon; but this does underline that we do not shy away from talking about our differences and working together,” added the spokesman.
Obama administration official says White House effectively backed anti-Israel resolution, pushed it off until after 2016 election.
Obama / Reuters
The Obama White House may have exerted more influence over a controversial anti-Israel United Nations resolution than previously believed, according to a new report by The New York Times.
In December 2016, following the 2016 presidential election, the Obama administration ordered the US mission to the UN to abstain from a Security Council vote on resolution 2334, which condemned Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria, and eastern Jerusalem as ‘flagrant violations’ of international law with “no legal validity”.
The surprise decision not to veto the measure – abandoning the traditional US policy of barring blatantly anti-Israel measures at the Security Council – was initially seen as a parting blow to the Netanyahu government in Israel, but not part of an orchestrated effort by the Obama administration to target Israel.
US officials emphasized that the measure had been drafted by Egypt, with no indications the US had been involved in either the preparation or timing of the resolution.
But a new report by the NYT Thursday suggests that the Obama administration had in fact resolved to enable the resolution to be passed earlier in 2016, but used its influence to push off the UNSC vote until after the 2016 election.
“There is a reason the U.N. vote did not come up before the election in November,” a former US official told NYT.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, stressed that the Obama White House was supportive of the resolution, but felt compelled to push off its passage until after the November election.
“Was it because you were going to lose voters to Donald Trump? No. It was because you were going to have skittish donors. That, and the fact that we didn’t want Clinton to face pressure to condemn the resolution or be damaged by having to defend it.”
Obama’s deputy national security advisor, Ben Rhodes, went even further, arguing that the Obama administration, and much of the Democratic party’s base, is far less sympathetic towards Israel than the party as a whole, with the “donor class” keeping party officials on an at least ostensibly pro-Israel line.
The Washington view of Israel-Palestine is still shaped by the donor class,” Rhodes told the NYT. “The donor class is profoundly to the right of where the activists are, and frankly, where the majority of the Jewish community is.”
Ben Yishai Danieli
Several Israeli companies are taking advantage of the country’s ideal environmental conditions for algae farming.
Algae research in a laboratory. Image via Shutterstock.com
For thousands of years, consuming algae has been part of the native diets of Africa, Central America, South America and Southeast Asia. But today, algae are much more than a wrap for sushi – they are also used to produce a wide range of products such as food additives, natural pigments, chemical-free fabric dyes, biodegradable plastics and biofuels.
Israel has exponentially expanded the country’s knowledge and presence in the algae industry by spearheading research,including developing algal-based technologies. Global forecasts are expecting accelerated economic growth in the sector due to a variety of new products and use for different industries.
According to Research and Markets, the value of the global algae products market was $3.4 billion in 2017 and is expected to reach $5.6 billion to $6.09 billion by 2025. This forecast growth is due to increasing consumer awareness of the health benefits of algae products and new trends in the production of renewable energy from algae.
Algatech, a large Israeli company for algae production, which is selling micro-algae to various industries around the globe, was recently sold for $100 million.
Market expected to double
There is significant value in growing algae since they do not require much land. Algae are very diverse and can be grown in freshwater, brackish water and saltwater environments. Unlike plants that have elements of waste such as stalks, stems and branches, algae use all of their plant material for the final product, leaving no agricultural waste.
Many new algae-based products are on the market:nutritional supplements, gels for cosmetics, pigments for microscopy, and food, as well as dietary supplements such as astaxanthin and beta-carotene (sold for thousands of dollars per kilogram) and Omega 3-6 fatty acids.
More than 10 Israeli companies specialize in algae farming,employing about 200 workers. The three most prominent are a direct result of the commercialization of knowledge developed at Ben-Gurion University and the Weizmann Institute of Science.
In the fashion industry, the second most polluting industry in the world, it is common to use various materials that cause health and environmental problems to produce clothing.
“Fast fashion” has impacted the environment, workers and the economy. In addition, every year, about 27 million tons of cotton are grown worldwide, accounting for 2.5% of the cultivated land and 13% insecticide use around the world.
Algae, on the other hand, do not require agricultural land or pesticides and would decrease the industry’s waste production substantially. In recent years, new developments for the fashion industry have included algae-derived materials.
The German designer studio two square meter is using a combination of cotton and algae. On an even more significant note, the EU is supporting the SEACOLORS project, which promotes the use of natural dyes using algae’s natural pigmentation technologies.
Production costs for these fibers and pigments are still high when compared to conventional alternatives. However, technological advances and increase in demand are meant to reduce the gap over the next few years.
Green energy from the sea
The need to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energies has become increasingly important. According to a market study published last year, one of the most successful upcoming innovations is the growth of algae to produce biofuels, a clean substitute for fossil fuels.
This study predicts an increase in the demand for algae biomass, an essential ingredient to produce biofuel, due to increased awareness of greenhouse gas emissions. Opportunities in the algae market are expected to grow worldwide.
A recent study by Leor Korzen, a PhD student at Tel Aviv University, in collaboration with other institutes, examined algae-produced bioethanol. Korzen grew algae near a commercial bream farm on the Israeli Mediterranean shore. Results show that the combination of the two led to increased algal growth and cleaner, less contaminated waters – a win-win situation for the marine environment and the energy sector.
Algae instead of plastic
Plastic waste is one of the most significant environmental issues worldwide, accumulating in landfills and oceans, and harming marine life. Plastics break down into very small pieces called microplastics, which are often swallowed by marine animals and thus enter the food chain. Experts estimate that by 2050, the amount of plastic in the oceans will be greater than the amount of fish.
Algae are considered a useful raw material to make“bio-plastics” –biodegradable plastic substitutes — that are elastic, cheap, durable and eco-friendly. Agar is now used in the pharmaceutical and food industries as a substitute for vegetarian gelatin. Recently, various designers began to use agar for making plastic alternatives.
Dr. Alexander Golberg and Prof. Michael Gozin from Tel Aviv University have created biopolymers (natural macro molecules, which are the building blocks of plastics) with the help of living organisms in seawater. In this process, single-celled microorganisms produce biodegradable polymers after ingesting multi cellular seaweed.
“The process of production for biodegradable plastics requires essential resources such as agricultural land and fresh water. A country like Israel, where the consumption of plastics is high, will not allocate large areas and expensive water to produce bio polymers,” says Golberg.
“Our process will enable countries that suffer from a shortage of fresh water like Israel, and even China and India, to move to biodegradable plastic,” he adds.
Although algae companies in Israel are not yet engaged in all these promising directions, the industry is growing.
“The approach of producing a number of products from the same raw material for different applications is called bio-refinery,” explains Dr. Adi Levy, scientific director of the Israel Society of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, and the author of The review document of the algae industry in Israel for the Ministry of Agriculture.
“The approach strives to use various components of the algae (such as pigments materials antioxidants oxidation, proteins, fatty acids, carbohydrates and more) to exploit the benefits and resources invested in raising it.”
Two years ago, the first algae growers’ convention was held in Israel. Last year, 16 companies and entrepreneurs in Israel announced a formal association to regulate the industry’s activity.
Algatech, founded in 1998 in Kibbutz Ketura in southern Israel, is one of the few businesses in the world that has managed industrial-scale production of microalgae. Algatech exports its products to companies in more than 35 countries in the nutrition, cosmetics, and food and beverage industries.
The company grows algae in greenhouse-like glass tubes, a process operated entirely on renewable energy, mimicking nature by using solar energy and recycled wastewater, with the only waste being oxygen.
“The desert’s harsh and stable climate, its high, year-round light intensity, and clean, unpolluted air are critical to successful and sustainable algae production,” an Algatech official said.
Last month, Solabia Group, a French producer of natural ingredients in the cosmetic, pharmaceutical and microbiology industries,acquired Algatech in a deal estimated at $100 million.
Contributed by Zavit: Israel’s Science and Environment Agency.
Steven H. Resnicoff
DePaul University. Photo: southie3, via Wiki Commons.
I am a professor at the DePaul University College of Law, and recently attended a public meeting of the university’s Faculty Council. I feel compelled to comment on the procedurally improper and profoundly unfair way in which it publicly pilloried professor Jason Hill, a senior faculty member. Why? Because he had the temerity to publish unpopular opinions — pro-Israel opinions, at that — in an op-ed piece in The Federalist.
The proposed resolution contained ugly, explosive charges. In part, it stated:
Whereas the recent article by Professor Jason Hill, entitled “The Moral Case for Israel Annexing the West Bank — and Beyond” 1) misrepresents the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 2) distorts the facts about the current state of Israeli-Palestinian relations, 3) promotes racism toward Arabs generally and Palestinians in particular, and 4) advocates for war crimes and ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian populations of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Such extreme accusations could not only significantly imperil academic freedom and irreparably tarnish Hill’s reputation, but it could also lead to Hill feeling threatened. He has already reportedly received anonymous death threats.
Among other things, the proposed resolution condemned “in the strongest possible terms both the tone and content” of Hill’s article, affirmed that the article “represents an abuse” of Hill’s academic freedom, and urged him “to seriously reconsider his positions on these issues, to take cognizance of the perspectives of other scholars on these issues … and to refrain from abusing his freedom as a scholar in writing on controversial issues in the future.”
Let me just make three points. First, the Faculty Council violated its own bylaws by failing to provide proper notice regarding the resolution. Section 1.2 of the Faculty Council bylaws require that the Faculty Council’s secretary send all public documents and resolutions to the full faculty “at least five calendar days before each meeting.”
Instead, the Council sent an email to faculty on April 30, the day before its May 1 meeting, announcing three additions to that meeting’s agenda. One of the additions was a resolution against Hill and his scholarship. The Council could have complied with the bylaws by putting the resolution on the agenda for its June 2019 meeting.
To make things worse, the April 30 email simply described the resolution as “A Faculty Council Resolution on Academic Freedom and Responsibility.” The notice mentioned neither Hill, nor the demeaning language included in the resolution. To view what the resolution was all about, one had to use their DePaul University credentials to access the online site at which the resolution was posted.
To make things still worse, Hill told me that he was not personally informed — even on April 30 — that a resolution referring to him or his scholarship was to be on the May 1 agenda. He explained that he only learned about the resolution on the morning of May 1 itself, when he read an article referring to the resolution on the Internet.
Second, the Faculty Council also violated its bylaws by allowing Professor Scott Paeth to preside over debate on the resolution. Section 1.4.1 of the bylaws states: “Robert’s Rules of Order shall guide the conduct of Faculty Council meetings unless otherwise specified in these Bylaws, which in such case shall take precedence.”
Section 43 of Robert’s Rules of Order (11th ed.) explains that an organization’s presiding officer should not ordinarily speak to the merits of a matter under consideration. If in a particular case it is necessary for the person to do so, he or she must relinquish the chair and “should not return to it until the pending main question has been disposed of, since he has shown himself to be a partisan as far as that matter is concerned.”
At the May 1 meeting, Paeth announced that, with the help of a few others, he had written the resolution about Hill. Paeth acted as the movant of the resolution, unilaterally deciding whether or not to accept proposed amendments as “friendly amendments.” Nevertheless, Paeth did not relinquish the chair. Instead, he presided, calling on people (and not calling on others — such as me and another faculty member well-known for his conservative views), interspersing his own comments when he saw fit without having to wait in a queue to do so, and ultimately declaring that there was no more time for further discussion before a vote was taken. Whatever Paeth’s intentions may have been, he was responsible for following Robert’s Rules of Order, and his failure to do so rendered the Faculty Council’s action fundamentally unfair.
Third, although the resolution was amended before being approved, it still stated, among other things, that Hill’s article “misrepresents the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 2) distorts the facts about the current state of Israeli-Palestinian relations, 3) promotes racism toward Arabs generally and Palestinians in particular.” Nevertheless, the resolution failed to identify which statements in the article purportedly did these things. In fact, the Council’s debate regarding the resolution essentially ignored such specifics. Why? Paeth, who presided, repeatedly stated that there was not enough time for much debate, and not enough time to consider the evidence for the nasty, defamatory accusations contained in the resolution.
Yet it was Paeth and other proponents of the resolution who chose to add the resolution to the agenda at the last minute, and to allot its consideration a ridiculously short period of time. Paeth’s protestations about the lack of time for a deliberate evaluation of the resolution reminds one of the way in which the Yiddish word “chutzpah” (similar to “hubris”) is anecdotally explained: “Chutzpah” is manifested in the action of the boy who, after murdering his father and mother, pleads for mercy from the court because he is an orphan.
One might seriously question the authority of the Faculty Council to sua sponte evaluate the quality of a particular faculty member’s scholarship. Moreover, one might — as I do — question the competency of the Faculty Council to evaluate such scholarship, especially without the benefit of expert testimony by persons who are properly credentialed in the relevant discipline(s). After all, the Faculty Council is composed in such a way that, in effect, dramatically limits the number of members with expertise in any particular area.
One thing cannot be reasonably questioned. If the Faculty Council was to address the proposed resolution – a resolution that risked severe injury to the principle of academic freedom and that impugned the integrity of a faculty colleague — it should have engaged in a careful, scrupulous and reasoned examination of the issues in accordance with all the procedural rules designed to ensure fairness. The DePaul Faculty Council failed to do so in this case.
Steven H. Resnicoff is a professor at the DePaul University College of Law, and Director of the College of Law’s Center for Jewish Law & Judaic Studies (JLJS).