Ethics of the Sons

Globalization has given rise to new concepts of human rights and new codes of behavior for leaders. Ha'aretz explores the developing ethical norms

A new group of people was recently added to the list of those who get anxious at the idea of flying in a plane. It includes army and police officers, intelligence and government officials, diplomats and leaders. These people are not overly concerned about the hours spent suspended between heaven and earth; they are more focused on what might happen when the plane lands. New conceptions, norms and codes of behavior are making them persona non grata in several countries. In some places, these codes have spurred the passage of laws that permit their arrest as soon as they set foot in the arrivals terminal, at which point they could be put on trial for crimes against humanity.

Over the past year, the new codes have already become a source of concern to public figures in Israel as well as the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Justice and the judicial branch. One example may be found in a BBC documentary broadcast in June, which depicted Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a war criminal, by virtue of his involvement in the Sabra and Chatila massacre in Lebanon 1982. Other examples are the attempt to put Sharon on trial in Belgium for alleged genocide, and the call to try Carmi Gillon, Israel's ambassador to Denmark, for his involvement in the torture of suspects when he served as director of the Shin Bet security service.

Even if the two men are not put on trial (two weeks ago, Denmark threw out the complaint against Gillon), many Westerners will still continue to think of them as undesirables. What is it that led to this attitude, and the development of codes of behavior and ethics, which were not embraced, or at least not implemented, until recently?

The historic starting point from which individuals began to be tried for "crimes against humanity" was the Nuremberg trials, held in 1945-46. The international tribunal sentenced dozens of Nazis. But the Cold War broke out immediately afterward, and the world was divided into two hostile ideological camps. Human rights became a cudgel wielded by the superpowers, and everything became political. The West emphasized individual freedoms, democracy and freedom of expression, concepts that were ridiculed by the Eastern Bloc: "What are these human rights worth if people can't earn a livelihood with dignity, and do not benefit from adequate and equal health and education?"

Social unity is the bedrock from which human rights may be advanced, says Dr. Moshe Hirsch, an expert on international law at Hebrew University. In 1991, with the end of the Cold War and the dismantling of the balance of terror and the old ideologies, a rare collaboration emerged between East and West. One of the first fruits of that effort was the implementation of a UN Security Council decision - which had remained paralyzed during the long era of U.S.-Soviet hostility - to set up in 1993 an international tribunal at The Hague, which would decide on crimes against humanity that took place in the former Yugoslavia. At first, only soldiers and junior officers were put on trial. With the deployment of NATO troops, however, higher-ranking officers were captured. But on June 29, 2001, dictator Slobodan Milosevic, the former president of Yugoslavia, was extradited.

The decision by newly elected Yugoslavian president Vojislav Kostunica to extradite his predecessor to the International Court at The Hague speaks volumes about the code of behavior and morality that now holds currency. "True, economic interests played a role there," says Hirsch. "The international message was, `If you want aid - extradite.' But Kostunica also understood that part of the price that Yugoslavia would have to pay to be considered an enlightened country by the global community was to rid itself of Milosevic."

No excuses

In October 1998, Augusto Pinochet, the former Chilean dictator, was placed unde r house arrest after coming to London for medical treatment. A Spanish court asked Britain to extradite him so it could put him on trial for genocide, terror and torture. "In the opinion of Chilean society, the case was already closed," says Hirsch. "He was given a quasi immunity or clemency. And then the world came and said, `So what if they forgave him in his homeland? These are universal rights, the quashing of which cannot be excused.'"

In other words, the assertion that "It's an internal matter. Don't get involved," no longer applies?

"The jurisdiction of affairs given over to the exclusive authority of the state has been dramatically curtailed in recent decades. Israel, for example, has realized that allegations of its violations of human rights are not given onto its sole authority. For instance, discrimination claims by Israeli Arabs are also brought up in international forums, not to mention what is happening in the territories, outside the borders of the State of Israel."

Pinochet won the first legal proceedings, claiming that he committed these acts as the head of state, and that he therefore deserved immunity. But then, international pressure began to build. The argument put forth by the public was that the global rules of the game have changed, and that a man like Pinochet can no longer go unpunished. "In the second session," says Hirsch, "the court simply constructed a fiction, or if you will, offered a new interpretation, by arguing that no one has the right, by virtue of his official position as head of state, to murder thousands of people." In the end, Pinochet was released on the basis of his poor health. He was not deported to Spain, and he returned to Chile, where hearings are now being held to determine if he is fit to stand trial.

The next stage was in 1999. That year, the Belgian parliament amended a special law passed in 1993, which permits the prosecution of persons who have violated international law or the Geneva convention, even if said crimes were committed in another country. The parliament also extended the law to include genocide. It is on this charge that Brussels is now trying to place Sharon on trial.

What interest does the Belgian parliament have in prosecuting war criminals? In this case, it seems, such interests do not come into play. Rather, it stems from an ideological and moral position. Cold War-era tensions are gone, as are the need or desire to protect criminals.

Along with the fall of the Iron Curtain, the boundaries between sovereign countries are also being obscured. In the past, the state was a citadel that protected its citizens and government actions from all external trouble and harm. But today, because of cheap flights, the media, the Internet and migration, the world has become smaller. This familiar process is called globalization, and it has many negative sides to it.

However, on this score, of altered codes vis-a-vis crimes against humanity, it also works for the good, argues Hirsch. "The world has become closer and more exposed. Everything pushes its way into the family living room. The massacre or murder of babies isn't something that happens out of sight, but which is reported on and displayed every evening on TV. Things have become more tangible, and then all of a sudden no one wants to have anything to do with it."

The same reports are also submitted by new groups that have come into being, concurrent with the weakening of the state over the past decade. These are the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that operate worldwide, with high media profiles, to achieve their aims and present their beliefs. They include Amnesty International, Human Rights March, physicians and lawyers for human rights, and many others. Denmark, for example, has a large center for handling complaints by victims of torture. Denmark is also the first country to have enacted a law forbidding torture, so it is no wonder that Carmi Gillon was given such a cool reception there.

And what is the downside of globalization?

"Since the country is weakened," says Hirsch, "it has a lot less opportunity to control what happens on its territory, and non-state bodies that are adept at using media and transportation systems exploit it to the hilt. The strongest examples of this are traffickers in drugs, women and children, and terrorist organizations. The group that carried out the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon last week made very good use of the new tools of globalization; we see how even the might of a superpower like the United States is weakened in the face of these non-state bodies - even by a few individuals who get on a plane with knives in their carry-ons."

How will this act affect the new ethics?

"The key word here is conscience. In terms of its scope, this is an unprecedented event, which has struck at the collective conscience - again, by way of the television, which brought the horrific footage and the dimensions of the disaster into the living rooms of every citizen of the world, broadcast live, without delay, repetitively. The images are burned into the memories of viewers, and will affect the atmosphere in which those who carried out the attack are perceived. If one of its planners manages to get out of the United States, even to a state like Iran or Libya, you can assume that the international pressure will force them to extradite him."

Does the media play a role in delineating the new codes?

"The media is driven by ideology, empowers it, and serves it, as well. Sometimes it has its own interests. The BBC, for instance, could have filmed a program investigating whether the British pilots who bombed Yugoslavia violated human rights, with the title, `Is Tony Blair a War Criminal?' It chose to deal with Sharon. One can only guess why."

In general, adds Hirsch, the new ideology is mixed up with fads and self-interest. War crimes really are immoral and revolting, but who wants to be counted among the lepers of the modern world? Pariah status is no longer attractive. Countries that violate the new codes will lose income from tourism, and a ban on or advisory against foreign travel is a very heavy penalty nowadays."

However, all of this still seems lights years away from us, On both the tangible level - where human rights violations take place daily - and the fundamental level, most Israelis label the new codes, forged by Europeans, and the attempt to judge two past leaders of Israel's defense establishment, as the acts of a gaggle of hypocritical bleeding hearts who have no idea what it means to live here. So Hirsch's reply when asked if the new codes embraced by the West will ever seep in here, is a little surprising: "I think it is already gradually seeping into the personal morality. It causes a lot of people to redefine their consciences. And even at the national level, acting in contravention of the codes will push us further out of the club of enlightened countries. It is a price that I doubt that many Israelis would be willing to pay." Especially if it means they end up evolving a unique form of fear of flying.

Fur better, fur worse

The high point was sometime back in the `90s, when a single stage was graced by the nude Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington and other supermodels of the time, sporting only the flimsiest strips of cloth that read "we'd rather go naked than wear fur." Photographers covering the event must have concurred. From that day on, the code was obvious: fur was taboo, in large part due to the massive damage the industry does to wild animals and the cruel conditions in which foxes, minks and chinchillas are raised and killed.

Fur coats remain essential items only in the wardrobes of wives of despotic rulers of lands that never see temperatures below 40 degrees; Eskimos, which have an irregular supply of Vogue and Elle; and maybe a few Polish aunts from the Mann Auditorium who were sure Kate Moss was a certain dessert at Apropos.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that in 1972, there were 980 manufacturers of fur clothing, and by 1992, only 210. The number continues to dwindle because the older-generation designers are retiring, and there is no one replacing them. There are at present 400 mink farms in America - less than half the number a decade ago.

In Israel, reports Daniel Ehrlich of Anonymous, the association for protection of animal rights, four or five shops specializing in the manufacture and sales of furs have closed in recent years, due to low demand. "We do not live in a country where you can wear furs all that often during the year. Nevertheless, we still hold a demonstration every winter in front of the shops still in business on Ben-Yehuda Street in Tel Aviv, and distribute informative material on the subject," says Erlich.

There was a time when hating fur was tres chic, and rightly so. But suddenly, in the past few months, photographs have been cropping up with items made of fur by designers who for more than a decade never dared to be linked to the industry. Similarly, magazines that until a year or two ago would have risked a consumer boycott had they expressed any sympathy for the fur trade, are now printing the photographs with equanimity, if not exuberance: New York Magazine reported that one of the 15 most sought-after items this coming autumn is a mink handbag designed by Jay Mandel (a mere $3,500 at Bergdorf Goodman). Meanwhile, Talk Magazine announced this month that one of the eight items on the longest retail waiting list in America is a Christian Dior fur hat that goes for $810.

Fashion designers and the newspapers that report on them are showing signs of being fed up with moral fashion. The new code once again permits the wearing of carcasses of sables, foxes and seals. That is, at least, until Linda Evangelista feels like getting out of bed again without anything on.

Intifada newspeak

One interpretation of the word "code" is secret writing. It can also be a word that is meant to symbolize another word. The just-ended year was especially productive for revivalists of coded Hebrew. They invented new words and expressions, the sort that can make anything sound plausible to the Israeli ear, and depict reality as the unity government, the IDF and the spirit of consensus see it. The new code words have been gleaned from newspaper, radio, television, IDF Spokesman's Office statements, on the one hand, and from members of Indemedia, the independent media group, on the other. They are presented together with a brief explanation where required, synonyms (notation of their origin, in parentheses) and Hebrew transliteration of the original [in brackets, where required] .

l "Israeli civilians" (defense establishment) or "settlers" (media)

l "Al-Aqsa Intifada" (media) or "war" (political establishment) or "armed conflict" (defense establishment)

l "Restraint" [ipuk] (political establishment)

l "Forbearance" [havlaga] (political establishment)

l "Strategic decision of the other side to adopt violence" (defense establishment)

l "Escalation" [haslama] (all)

l "Armed deterrence" [harta'a hama] (all)

l "Liquidations" [hisulim] and "liquidation policy" (media) or "focused preventive action" [peulat sikul mimukedet] (security establishment) or "commando action"

l "Exposing" [hisuf] and "exposing action," meaning: uprooting of Palestinian orchards (defense establishment)

l "Specious Palestinian allegation" or "Palestinian propaganda" (defense establishment)

l "Israeli public-relations failure" [keshel hasbarati shel Yisrael] (media)

l "Breathing encirclement" [keter noshem] and "Smothering encirclement" [keter honek], meaning: imposing curfews, blocking access routes and preventing Palestinian movement (defense establishment)

l "Prevention of entry to Israel" (defense establishment) or "closure" [seger] (media)

l "Arrest" [ma'atzar] (defense establishment) or "hijacking" [hatifa] (media)

l"Seam zone" [merhav hatefer], meaning: area along the Green Line (all)

l "Delayed at roadblock" [ikuv bemahsom] (defense establishment)

l "Shooting attack" [pigua yeri] (media)

l "The murderous terrorist shooting attack," "The contemptible lethal terrorist attack," and "The criminal terrorist car bomb" may be exchanged for word combinations like "The lethal terrorist attack" and "The terrorist car bomb" (media)

l "Security measures" [tze'adim bit'honi'im] (defense establishment) or "reprisal action" [peulat gmul], "deterrence action" [peulat harta'a] and "punishment action" [peulat anisha]" (media and political establishment)

l "The IDF expresses sorrow for the death of the child" (defense establishment)

l "Letting off steam" [shihrur kitur] meaning: lynch attempts by Jews on Palestinians after a terrorist attack (media)

l "Work accident" [teunat avoda] (defense establishment)

Exit code

Internet, Nasdaq and option/ QA, VP and NT/ Mirabilis, Chromatis and Checkpoint/ Investment, round and milestone/ long hair, sandals and food coupons/ espresso machine, Java, and lots of C++/ Mamram, Air Force and eight-two hundred/ start-up, exit, dot-com, dot-no-com/ dot-full/ dot-end

It isn't a stanza from a song ... then again, maybe it is. A song of lamentation composed of some of the code names that for two years supported the huge high-tech bubble hovering above us all, an especially dazzling comet that fired hearts and imaginations. Many of the inhabitants of this particular planet are regular visitors to the academics' unemployment office.

"It's unbelievable," says one friend. "You meet everyone there - guys who were with you in school, the army, university, and you haven't seen in a long time. It's pretty nice."

Someone else who was there and who has charmingly described its inner workings is Gidi Raff. For a year or so he was responsible for content at a start-up, and wrote a weekly column in Ma'ariv about his escapades. The columns were recently collected in a book, "Diary of a Start-Upper On The Way To Mecca" (Keter). Raff is now studying film in San Francisco. From there, he engages in a telephone conversation about the particular codes that propelled the New (and former) Economy.

What is the code on which the Israeli start-up people operated?

"`Exit'. People there really believed that in another month their company was going to bring in $400 million. As a result, the whole business lacked any and all proportion, but it was very funny."

And also full of self-confidence and self-importance.

"Within the companies, at least at the beginning, there was not much cynicism. The bosses believed in their product very much. They believed in `success' as a concept, as a keyword. And they had to lead the whole company. Their message was that all the employees had to believe in the product as much as they did. And the employees believed in it, because they worked awfully hard - if we can agree that sitting in front of a screen 12 or more hours a day is hard work - and hoped that their efforts were not in vain, because they were young people making huge amounts of money, and what motivated everyone, after all, was the options."

The book describes the entrepreneurs as being completely and utterly devoted to the company. Isn't there something of a fairy tale in that statement?

"I knew one entrepreneur who, whenever I asked how he was, would start telling me about how the company was doing. The entrepreneurs were especially devoted to the idea. I think it also had to do with the pressure. You have to bear in mind that people had invested millions of dollars in them."

In the book, you describe a situation in which the hero - you - and the other employees spent a long time at the company without knowing what their job was there.

"In my opinion, that was one of the codes that characterized start-ups. Lots of people there didn't know exactly what the company did. You have a cute product that knows how to do great things. But you're not clear about what it's worth, or the laws of the marketplace, the limitations, whether the business is going to succeed or fail. Will we make money? Lose money? In the old economy, you knew: you have a product, if it sold - you made money; if it didn't sell - you didn't make money. Here, everything was murky."

But the bosses assured you the product would make it big - trust them.

"Until things started to fall apart, there was no problem, you ate up all their bullshit, you ate and enjoyed yourself. But as soon as you see people around you looking for work and not finding any, and the options are worthless, and the bosses are telling you that `the situation's great, you're fired,' that's when the crisis begins. And then comes the crash, and instead of having a good time saying `I'm in high-tech,' the people around you were having a good time when you said it."