A SELECTION OF LETTERS TO NEWSPAPERS and INDIVIDUALS
Latest first

July 12TH 2009

Dr Bar Ki-moon
Secretary General
United Nations
New York, NY

Dear Dr Bar
On December 2nd, 2008, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1846 to address the current situation of piracy in Somalia's territorial waters. The resolution states that for the next 12 months, state and regional organizations will cooperate with the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and therefore can enter Somalia's territorial waters to use "all necessary means" to fight piracy and armed robbery at sea, in accordance with relevant international law. We applaud this decision. But to our dismay two weeks ago a ship bound for Gaza was subjected to an act of piracy on the high seas outside the waters of any country.

Piracy, as defined in Article 101 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), is an illegal act of violence committed for private ends by a crew against a ship, aircraft, or persons/property in an area outside a state's jurisdiction. This definition clearly applied to the taking of a ship, bound to the territory of Gaza, while outside the territorial waters of any country. Several features make this action sinister. The ship was openly and evidently engaged in a humanitarian mission. There has been no suggestion otherwise. All on board were manhandled and taken prisoner. Their personal property (film) was destroyed and they were taken to jail in Israel The jailors appear to be acting on the instructions of a country, Israel, which is a member of the UN and has offically supported the 1982 convention.

We strongly suggest that the security council should enact a resolution similar to resolution 1846, but calling into account the State of Israel which appears to be responsible. You could and should request that the state of Israel allow "state and regional organizations" to act on the high seas and to enter Gaza's territorial waters to use "all necessary means" to fight piracy at sea in accordance with relevant international law..

We also note that voluntary participation of piracy or any act that intentionally facilitates an act of piracy is considered piracy as well. We urge that you and the security council bring action against each and every perosn, whether claiming to be acting for the state of Israel or not, who participated in this act of piracy or participated in holding these people in jail. Their crimes should be brought to international attention such as the International Court of Justice.
Fighting piracy of all forms demands nothing less.

Yours sincerely
Richard Wilson
Andrée Desirée Wilson

cc: every security couuncil member
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July 3rd 2009

President Barack Hussein Obama

The White House

Washington DC

Dear President Obama,

Since our letter to you a month ago, on June 8th, the stakes in your disagreement with Mr Netanyahu have escalated dramatically. According to the US newspapers, Israel has since approved new settlement constriction and in addition approved plans to appropriate land all the way from Jerusalem to the Jordan River.

Mr Netanyahu's declared plan for discussion is not for a "2 state solution", with a viable Palestinian state, but what will be to the Palesinians a single state plus a controlled prison camp. It has been widely opposed during the last 2 weeks in the US media including a lead article by Anthony Judt in the New York Times. If you accept this defiance of your request for a settlement freeze and possibility of eventual withdrawal, the "2 state solution" must be deemed dead and your credibility in much of the world will fall.

In our previous letter we urged you to use the great power you have and can use without going through congress. The power of the purse. We urge you to immediately withhold all funds, civilian or military that the US has been generously providing as a subsidy to Israel. No part of these funds should be sent again unless there is an immediate stoppage of all construction west of the "green line", including Jerusalem, and a definite agreement by all responsible Ministers in the Israeli government to take steps to remove any construction built since the promise a few years ago to cease construction, or to hand these constructions to the Palestinian authority for use as they choose.

Anything less will suggest to the world that you are not in control of the foreign policy of the USA but Israel has a veto thereon. The inevitable result would be that the threat to our security from other nations will markedly increase. The day of Independence, July 4th 2009, could well be the day on which you announce this independence of the United States foreign policy from those special interests that urge blind acceptance of any action by any Israeli government. We believe that if you were to make this declaration it would have vast support throughout the world and enhance our ability to help stablize the entire world .   That would also include those predominantly Jewish American groups such as "Peace Now" and "Tikkun" that have opposed settlements and argued for a secure and honorable Israel.

Yours sincerely
Richard Wilson
Andrée Desirêe Wilson
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June 8th 2009
Dear President Obama,

I was asked by a close friend on behalf of UCI <voices@israelunitycoalition.org> to cosign the following letter, containing 8 important points, in preparation for your speech yesterday. I am happy to sign, but each point needs small but essential expansion. I send each paragraph in parentheses “..”, followed by the appropriate expansion. This will arrive a little late but may be useful.

“In preparation for your speech to the Arab world on Thursday, June 4th, I urgently request that you incorporate the following basic tenants for two peoples, Jews and Palestinian Arabs, to live side by side in a sustainable peace.

There can be no progress toward peace unless we first understand the underlying motivation for the current impasse. Looking for a solution is only lip service if facts on the ground are not conducive to amiable relations.

There can be no peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict unless...

1....President Ahmadinejad no longer calls for the annihilation of neighboring Israel, threatening to "wipe it off the map," and stops acquiring nuclear capacity to do so. The latest reports indicate that Iran will be capable of delivering a nuclear device before the end of 2009.”

Replace by

Subsequent to your speech to the Arab world on Thursday, June 4th, I urgently request that you consider the following basic tenants for two peoples, Jews and Palestinian Arabs, to live side by side in a sustainable peace.

There can be no progress toward peace unless we first understand the underlying motivation for the current impasse. Looking for a solution is only lip service if facts on the ground are not conducive to amiable relations.

There can be no peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict unless...

1. ... all politicians, especially those directly involved, should cease inflammatory remarks Israelis should not call Palestinians “vermin” and President Ahmadinejad of distant Iran should no longer call for the annihilation of Israel, threatening to "wipe it off the map”. They should resign or apologize publicly for them as President Ahmadinejad has done with a better translation of his remarks. Nuclear weapons do not by themselves add to security but can, and do, threaten one’s neighbors. ALL countries in the middle east should renounce nuclear weapons and dismantle all facilities for their making and use. They should sign NPT and follow its’ mandates and supplementary protocols in law and in spirit

2 ...The Palestinian Authority should stop using international money for arms, terrorist training and deadly attacks while neglecting the living conditions and social infrastructure of its people.”

Replace by:

2 ...both the state of Israel and the Palestinian Authority stops using international money for arms, terrorist or other agressive training and deadly attacks against civilians and enforcing daily humiliations. while neglecting the living conditions and social infrastructure of its’ people.

3 ...The United Nations` UNRWA resettles the refugees instead of keeping them impoverished in camps which serve as breeding grounds for terrorism.”

Replace by:

3 ...the United Nations` UNRWA, supported by all UN nations, resettles the refugees, in their country of origin if that is their desire, instead of keeping them impoverished in camps which serve as breeding grounds for terrorism.

4 ...the Palestinians and the Arab League actually change their textbooks which show maps without reference to Israel and are filled with hate mongering that inspires genocide. For as long as young children are trained to hate the other society enough to surrender their lives as human bombs, there can be no peaceful solution!”

Replace by

4 ...the Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab League actually change their textbooks which show maps without reference to Israel and are filled with hate mongering that inspires genocide. These maps and remarks - such as the incorrect call for a “land without a people for a people without a land” should be relegated to history. For as long as young children are trained to hate the other society   enough to humiliate the members of the other society daily or surrender their lives as human bombs, there can be no peaceful solution!

5 ...The Palestinians and the Arab League change their legal documents such as the PLO (Fatah) and Hamas Charters that call for the extermination of Israel.

Replace by:

5 ...the Palestinians and the Arab League change their legal documents such as the PLO (Fatah) and Hamas Charters that call for the extermination of the state of Israel as a Jewish state and the Israelis should promptly legally recognize the universal human rights of Palestinians: either to live with all equal rights in a state of Israel or in a separate state with viable boundaries. In this connection both parties originally rejected boundaries suggested by the international community, (the United Nations), but since March 2002 only one (Israel) now appears to reject these boundaries even as an initial basis for discussion.

6 ...The Palestinians and the Arab League change their media to embrace a peaceful perspective and cease hateful distortions depicting their neighbor as "the enemy."”

replace by:

6....the Israelis, the Palestinians and the Arab League change their media to embrace a peaceful perspective and cease hateful distortions depicting their neighbor as "the enemy" or as a “lesser people” in any way.

7 ...The Palestinians and the Arab League recall all maps, flags and uniform patches displaying a State of Palestine erasing the State of Israel.”

Replace by:

7 ...the Palestinians and the Arab League should recall and relegate to history all maps, flags and uniform patches displaying a State of Palestine not including the state of Israel within boundaries recognized by the international community as stated in various UN resolutions especially 242. The Israelis should recall and relegate to history all maps showing a state of Israel extending eastwards beyond such boundaries as the “:green line” in any area.

8 ...The Palestinians and the Arab League officially recognize Israel as a sovereign Jewish democratic State   in both English and in Arabic.”

Replace by:

8. ...the Palestinians and the Arab League should recognize Israel as a sovereign democratic State, with all equal rights for all its peoples of whatever religious, ethnic, or cultural background, which can be a Jewish state if, and so long as, the citizens within its borders so desire. Likewise the Israelis should recognize Palestine as a sovereign democratic State with all equal rights for all its peoples of whatever religious, ethnic, or cultural background and have all the rights that nations accord to each other including the “right of return” which should apply to all persons biorn within the boundaries. . These must be clearly stated in writing in Hebrew, Arabic and English.

There can be no peace when the Palestinians and the Arab League demonize their partner in peace.

These most basic changes must actually be implemented before we hear more platitudes blaming Israel. The Arab League must work with the Palestinians to remove these true obstacles.”

Replace by:

There can be no peace when the Israelis and Palestinians (supported by the Arab League) demonize their proposed partner in peace.

It would be helpful if these most basic changes are implemented before we hear more platitudes blaming any party to the conflict. Normally one would expect Israel as the stronger party can take the first step. Also the Arab League can usefully work with the Palestinians to remove these true obstacles.

Mr. President, I submit that these 8 points are the "real obstacles to peace”. You have considerable power to bring both parties to serious discussions. The Power of the Purse. Please use it.

Yours sincerely

Richard Wilson

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The Editor, Wall Street Journal (not published yet)
200 Liberty Street
New York
NY  10281
January 6th 2009
Dear Sirs, Your recent articles by Bret Stephens, Natan Sharansky, and Max Boot discussing Israel’s dilemma in dealing with the residents of Gaza miss out on discussion of the two state solution. While the Arab countries objected to the British 1936 White Paper, the proposals by UN’s Count Bernadotte in 1947, the UN cease fire resolutions in 1948 and 1968, each more generous to the Jewish community than the previous, this changed in 2002. A two state solution was proposed by Prince, now King, Abdullah in 2002, agreed by an unprecedented unanimous vote of Arab countries and accepted by Iran. If accepted all the governments would agree to a “normalization of relations” and an implicit agreement to control their own peoples. It was and has been basically ignored by the Israeli government. Of course there are problems. Israel would be right to question whether after some 80 years of opposition the Arab countries could be trusted. Perhaps Israel and the Arab countries could ask for UN or NATO policing to ensure that in at least the initial stages extremists whether Palestinian, Israeli or merely outside troublemakers, are kept under control. But to ignore this historical possibility seems to many of us a lack of statesmanship on the part of Israel and a lack of responsible journalism on the part of the Wall Street Journal.
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March 8th 2008
The Honorable Barney Frank
Rayburn House Office Building
Washington DC 20515-2104
FAX 202 225 0182
Tel: 202 225 5931

Dear Barney,

    I am very disturbed about House resolution 951. As stated very clearly by Representative Ron Paul, it will have no substantive purpose but it will encourage those who wish to perpetuate the effective imprisonment of 1.5 million people and to deny the democratic vote of these people at the same time as our rhetoric says that we are bringing democracy to the world. . As our representative, I am very interested in the reasons that you voted for it.

    As written by Yossi Sarid,
"The curse of Gaza is as powerful as death: if the entire occupation is a tragedy, the occupation of Gaza is its essence: 360 square kilometers, some 1.5 million people, 1 million refugees, and the responsibility is all ours. From the beginning there were those who warned us of the curse, and not only Sapir; even Moshe Dayan used words of caution. It did no good. The euphoria is contagious, the war rolls on, and a wise people is a foolish one. In the Zionist enterprise's march of folly, Gaza stands out as a major milestone, a signpost of weeping. The foundation stone of our tears."

Yours sincerely
Richard Wilson
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To Israeli Prime Minister and other Ministers
pm_eng@pmo.gov.il,:pniot@mod.gov.il,feedback@mfa.gov.il,YaelK@justice.gov.il,info@israelemb.org

` Dear Sir

It has come to our attention that a week ago, about midnight on April 18, around midnight, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) attacked the home of a peace activist Refai Fayyed in the village of Zbabdeh near Jenin on the West Bank of the Jordan River, occupied by Israel since 1968.   The IDF took away Refai's brother Mohammad Abdulla Asaad Fayyad,                      ID Card number is: 852514207, who is 17 years old and a high school student.  Three other students at Alzababdeh Secondary School where taken as well.  I have no informtion about the fate of any of these students.

I remind you that in international law Israel is an occupying power, and subject to all the restrictions of the 4th Geneva Convention, a convention that the Government of Israel freely signed.   I call on you to ensure that the Israeli Defense Forces follow each and every detail of this convention.   This should include, but not be limited to:
a speedy and prompt charge
information to the families on their whereabouts
access to a lawyer
right to medical attention.

We understand that much property in the house of Refai Fayyed was damaged .   Armies often do that in anger.  We call upon you to make immediate compensation for this.

Andree Desiree Wilson,   Photographer
Richard Wilson, Mallinckrodt Research Professor of Physics, Harvard University

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Richard and Andrée Desirée Wilson
15 Bracebridge Road

Newton Centre,
02459-1728
tel: (617) 332-4823 (home)
 tel: (617) 495-3387 (office)
fax: (617) 495-0416
email: wilson@physics.harvard.edu
http://phys4.harvard.edu/~wilson/
July 21st  2006

To:  Dr Condalessa Rice
State Department
Washington DC
USA

Dear Dr Rice

    It is reported that you want to attend to the root causes of the middle east conflict and it is reported that the President does also.  We applaud this approach most heartily.   But conflict has  much deeper roots than the report describes and the question arises “How deep do we have to go?” 

    Some have suggested going back 2000 years and discuss a historical claim of Jews to the land.   Others want to start recently.  It is reported that you want to go back to the UN resolution which called upon Lebanon to disarm Hezbollah.   In our view this is NOT addressing the root cause.  If you go to UN resolutions you should go back to other UN resolutions that have not been followed.  In particular UN security council resolution 242.  That was not followed by either Israel or the Arab states.  

    But this changed in 2002.  In an almost unprecedented resolution the Arab league accepted 242 if Israel did so also.   That would end the present Arab rejection of Israel.  We believe Iran would quickly follow.     It would seem reasonable for Israel to make a positive reply to such a positive document.   Yet the response both from Israel and the United States was a deafening silence.   While we deplore it, we can understand why the frustration that a peace overture was not only rejected but ignored, led many to support Hezbollah and other groups.

    It is clear that either of two men could rein in Hezbollah if they wished.  President Assad of Syria and the President of Iran.   We urge you to visit each of them and discuss how that can be done.   Israel can clearly disarm Hezbollah and destroy its weapons, and kill its leadership but the idea would remain and the organization would survive.  The present Israeli actions are the best recruiting drive Hezbollah can imagine. We suspect that nothing less than addressing the root cause by US acceptance of the Arab league’s proposal will work.  

    We attach a copy of the Arab League’s statement in case you have not seen it. 
Yours sincerely

Andrée Desirée Wilson
 Richard Wilson

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The Honorable Barney Frank                                                                         15 Bracebridge Road
Rayburn House Office Building                                                                             Newton Centre
Washington DC 20515-2104                                                                                        MA, 02459
FAX 202 225 0182                                                                                         Tel 617 3324823 (h)
Tel: 202 225 5931                                                                     WILSON5@fas.HARVARD.EDU
                                                                                                                                 June 20th 2006

Dear Barney,

Re: Proposed Resolution condemning the persecution of Palestinian Christians by the Palestinian Authority.

           Although we are encouraged by the  interest of the House in the plight of the world's oldest Christian community, we ask you to oppose this proposed resolution in its present form.  We know several Christian residents of the area; Bethlehem and Beit Jala.   It is important to preserve the heritage of the ancient city. The aim should be to ensure that the Christian communities survive  in the birthplace of Christianity, as part of a diverse, multi-faith society that will be an essential pillar of an open and democratic Middle East.

              We are, however, concerned by your proposed resolution purporting to act on behalf of Bethlehem (and Beit Jala) Christians   It seriously misrepresents the situation facing Christians in the Holy Land. We understand that the resolution was drafted without consulting Christians living in the region or local Christian organizations.    This oversight grossly misleads the Congress as to the real threat that faces Christians in the Holy land.

               Between the years 2000 and 2004, 357 Christian families (10% of the Christian population) emigrated from Bethlehem alone. Indeed, this massive emigration threatens the existence of the indigenous Christian community, which has been safeguarding sacred Christian traditions since the time of Jesus.  Our Palestinian Christian friends assure us that this flight is primarily a result of the fear generated by repeated Israeli military incursions, and has been exacerbated by the economic devastation of Bethlehem due to the Israeli closure imposed on the city.    The proposed resolution is seen by them as an attempt to divert attention from the real threat posed by the Israel occupation.

             Perhaps the Israeli barrier is most emblematic of the shared fate of both Muslim and Christian Palestinians. The “separation wall” winding in and around Bethlehem and Beit Jala  consists mainly of 25-foot high slabs of concrete, sniper towers, and remote-controlled infantry positions.  It is ironic that this wall, built with tacit US approval and indirect US financing, was built so soon after the Berlin wall was dismantled to the delight of all Americans.   The wall is built on privately-owned Palestinian land, resulting in the loss of most of Bethlehem's fertile and economically prosperous agriculture lands and many  major landmarks. It has also severed the cities from Jerusalem, a city with which Bethlehem and Beit  Jala have historically enjoyed interdependent kinship, trade, and social relations. Equally, if not more important, the barrier fragments this single, indivisible Christian diocese, threatening the Christian communities of both cities.

    We urge you to vote against this resolution; the proposers should engage directly with Palestinian Christians especially those from Bethlehem and Beit Jala.   The proposers could form a fact-finding mission this August recess to Bethlehem, to learn first hand about the challenges that  Palestinian Christians  face.   We would be happy to furnish several addresses.  They should also  meet with church leaders in the United States, in the belief that all Christians share a stake in the survival of Christian communities in the Holy Land.

             We look forward to hearing from you and welcome any questions, requests or suggestions.

    We would be happy to discuss this with you at any time.

        Yours sincerely,
Andrée Desirée Wilson
Richard Wilson
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RESPONSE TO FOLLOWING LETTER
Prime Minister's Bureau

July 3, 2006

Mr. Richard Wilson
Department of Physics
Harvard University
17 Oxford Street Cambridge, MA 02138
USA

Dear Mr. Wilson,
On behalf of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, we thank you for your recent letter.
We have taken note of your views and comments, and appreciate your interest. It is heartwarming that we have friends who are focused on finding
solutions to the complex situation in the Middle East.
With best wishes,
Sincerely,
 
Rachael Risby-Raz
Diaspora Affairs Adviser to the Prime Minister

02-5664838
3 Kaplan St., Hakariya, Jerusalem, 91919, Israel Tel: 972-2-6705555, FAX:972-2-5664848
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The Honorable Ehud Olmert                                                                                                           Department of Physics  
Prime Minister                                                                                                                               Harvard University
State of Israel:                                                                                                                                617 332 4823
                                                                                                                                                       FAX:  617-95-0416
                                                                                                                                                         E Mail: WILson5@fas.harvard.edu
                                                                                                                                                          (address for identification only)
Dear Mr Prime Minister,

I write to congratulate you on your election as Prime Minister although when it is preceded by the death of another it is always sad.

I write, as I have written to previous Prime Ministers, to remind you of the most important decision which may well determine the way the world remembers Jewry and in particular, remembers you.  What to do about the non-Israelis who live in the area between the sea and the Jordan River. It seems to me that you have 4 basic options. Either of the first two are honorable.  Of course there may be more options, but in the last 38 years no one has brought another to my attention.
       A) If you want the state of Israel to govern the whole land between the sea and the river, then you could simply annex that land and give the vote equally to all persons on that land whatever his race, creed or color.
       B) An alternate to A would be to allow a separate state on a part of the land.   That would have to be a viable state in which the people therein would have control of the borders, their air space and their sea access. It would have to be possible for a citizen of a Palestinian state to walk from one end to another, and to go to a contiguous country such as Egypt or Jordan,  without meeting a single Israeli soldier or bureaucrat. As we all know this was the situation between 1948 and 1968, where Israel and Palestine were separated by the Green Line.   Use of the "separation wall" to define such a state is VERY unlikely to accepted by others.   The green line was a reasonably short defensible order.  MUCH shorter than the "separation wall" which prevents any viable state being formed.  This solution has the advantage that according to the resolution of the Arab League in March 2002, it could be followed very quickly (at last!) by formal recognition of the state of Israel by all countries so far unwilling to do so.
C) You could decide on a less honorable form of (A).   You could take most of the non-Israelis and drive them across the border into Egypt or Jordan.
D) You could continue the status quo with a steady erosion of liberties for Palestinians, a steady decline in the broad international support for the Israeli people, and worse still a steady decline in the feeling of self worth of the Israeli people themselves.   All Israeli Prime Ministers in the last 27 years have chosen a variant of this fourth possibility.   Yet it is clearly the worst of the possibilities.
One of the leading advocates for Israel in Harvard University, Professor Alan Dershowitz, stated in a recent debate with Professor Noam Choamsky his view that a return to something close to the green line is inevitable.  I urge you to consider very carefully the issues and to do so with long range vision.   It would be wrong to sacrifice a long range view with wide international acceptance for the shorter range, seemeingly expedient,  view.
    
                        Yours sincerely

Richard Wilson

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Ms Condalessa Rice
Department of State

   Dear Dr Rice,
It appears that Israel really will begin withdrawing troops from the Gaza strip starting this summer (2005).   But in spite of what the Israeli public statements say, it is important to realize that at present Israel is NOT planning to withdraw from ALL the Gaza strip.  They intend to hold onto a strip of land on the Egyptian border, and to control sea access and air access.     It is essential that Palestinians be able to have free access to all their neighbors without interference from Israel.   This was, of course the case before 1967.   They must be able to export and import goods to and from the rest of the world without passing an Isareli customs officer and to be able to send migrant workers directly to other countries than Israel.  These are rights of an independent state and essential for financial viability.    
        Recently, the Palestinian Authority in requesting such access has, in an important expression of their understanding of Israeli security concerns, suggested an international control of the borders so that the independence will not be abused by bringing in terrorists or their offensive weapons.   It is vital for world peace and understanding that this be accomplished.   It is important that the US support this request for access with all the diplomatic force it can muster.   If it fails, and Israel controls the borders, all that will be accomplished is changing the situation from several prison camps with check points between them to one large one.    The rest of the world will not be deceived and the US will share the blame.   Palestinians will lose hope in the peace process once more and the cycle of violence is likely to begin again.  


Yours sincerely

Andree Desiree Wilson
Richard Wilson
15 Bracebridge Road
Newton Centre
MA 02459-1728       

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HARVARD UNIVERSITY
October 19th 2003

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
State of Israel

Dear Mr Prime Minister,

It is very important for the future of Israel, and therefore for the
future of the world, that young men and women be properly educated. This has been a central feature of Jewish thought for centuries and has been a cause of admiration for Jews by others worldwide.  

This importance extends not only to Jewish men and women but men and women of all peoples with whom the Jewish people interact - and in particular Palestinians. It is therefore a matter of great sorrow and disappointment when the Israeli defence forces curtail the activities of any Palestinian educational institution. This happened just last week when IDF closed the Ramallah to Birzeit road (from Otober 9th to 15th) -  not just to vehicles, which is bad enough, but also to pedestrians. Thisprevented faculty reaching Bir Zeit University to teach their classes and effectively shut it down. No plausible security reason was given for this action. This is a road deep in the west bank far from any Jewish settlement. It seems to us to be merely a desire to harass. The effect of such closures, whichinevitably become known world wide, is to throw doubt on the historical committment to learning. It stops young men and women from becoming properly educated and forces them to stay at home where in frustration they might well learn to become terrorists - a task which is, alas, far easier  than learning an honest trade. The vitable result is less securityfor Israel. 

We wish that this was an isolated incident. Unfortunately it is not.The bad situation at Bethlehem University has been well advertized in the last 2 years. We know of cases at Bir Zeit dating back to 1983. Indeed, Professor Freeman Dyson, when receiving the Wolfe prize in the Knesset 20 years ago, commented unfavorably upon the forced closing of Bir Zeit University at that time.   We had hoped that the government of Israel would have learned not to close Universities. We hope that you will ensure that your government and each and every one of its agents, including each and every member of IDF learn to cease this counterproductive acticity.

In view of the importance we attach to this subject we are sending a copy to your Minister of Justice, your foreign Minsiter, and both to President Bush and secretary of State Powell
Yours sincerely
Herman Suit
Andreas Soriano Professor of Radiation Medicine

Harvard Medical School

Richard Wilson
Mallinckrodt Research Professor of Physics

Harvard University

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10th December 2002
Dear Sirs,

    Two possible reasons exist for going to war with Iraq. The cruel ruler, Saddam Hussein gassed and misused his own people, and invaded neighboring countries - Iran and Kuwait 20 and 10 years ago . He lost and now no neighboring country sees a need for war against Iraq.

    Nuclear bombs can destroy the world and maybe biological weapons can also. America let the nuclear genie out of the bottle in August 1945. 182 countries of the world have agreed NOT to make nuclear weapons and agreed to inspection of their nuclear facilities by the UN agency IAEA in exchange for access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Iraq's clandestine violation of this treaty in the late 1980s should not be ignored by the world.

    But if the only nation to have killed people with nuclear weapons acts independently of the UN, international control would be set back 57 years.

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NOT published by the NY Times.  Eventually published in the Yellow Times
15th November 2002
Nicholas Kristof (NYT today) says that if Israel had not bombed the OSIRAK reactor in 1981 "Iraq would have gained nuclear weapons in the 1980s." He offers no evidence for this statement and there is much evidence against it. The reactor was deliberately unsuited to making plutonium and therefore unsuited for making bombs. This was obvious to me when I visited Iraq on December 29th 1982 and visually inspected the reactor (which had been only partially damaged) and its surrounding equipment It was light water moderated unlike DIMONA or OSIRIS, which are heavy water moderated and are suited to making plutonium. Later Yves Girard, one of the French designers of all three reactors gave me many more details and confirmed his reasons for the different design.

Unfortunately the fuel for the reactor, as is the fuel for the reactor the Russians supplied to Iraq in the 1960s, was uranium highly enriched in the fissile isotope U235. This can be a proliferation hazard and is now being replaced in research reactors by fuel of low enrichment. But it was arranged that no more than one fuel load would be in Iraq at any one time. It is secure if inside the reactor and can be in a secure inspected location. Indeed IAEA inspectors in November 1990 reported that the fuel (which had just arrived in 1980) was still untouched. The day after the bombing of OSIRAK, the Israeli Prime Minister Mr Begin described what he claimed was the OSIRAK reactor and claimed that there was a laboratory below the reactor for making plutonium. This description was completely incorrect. No such room ever existed. But Mr Begin's description matches the DIMONA reactor, details of which were released unofficially to the Sunday Times in August/September 1986 by Mordecai Vununu, as well as personally to me by Yves Girard.

    After my visit I know of no foreign scientists and technical people (other than IAEA inspectors) who visited the Iraqi nuclear research center. The French had made an arrangement for technicians to stay in Iraq for 5 to 10 years after start up. These could have kept their eyes open, and been unofficial inspectors. They could have visited, as I did but official IAEA inspectors did not, every building in the complex. It is highly probable that the bombing made Iraqis furious and eager to strike back. Documents that I saw in 1991 suggest the fast track for bomb development began in July 1981, after the bombing. These facts suggest to me that unless world leaders have much more reliable technical information than possessed by Mr Begin or Mr Kristof. a preemptive strike may well have the opposite effect to that intended.

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            26th September 2002
Professor  Lawrence Summers
Massachusetts Hall
Harvard University

Dear Professor  Summers,

        When I was introduced to you, as President, at Adams House a year ago I said that I was a troublemaker and having a good time now that I cannot be fired.   At Harvard I have had great privileges.  In return I feel it my duty to speak out when I think wrongs are being committed.  I am disturbed by the recent remarks of yours at Sunday prayers.    As I read them I think that you fail to make distinctions that are crucial to the discussion.  

        I should perhaps explain my credentials to discuss the topic you raised. I first became aware of racism when I was 8.  My father explained to us, his children, what Kristallnacht (in which 3000 Jews had just been killed) was all about.  Since then I went to St Paul's School with Jewish German refugees.  One became my best friend. My country went to war on September 3rd 1939 with one objective being to stop the racism expressed in Mein Kampf.    Later I visited USSR, Armenia, China and many countries of the Middle East - Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.  I have written about, and protested intolerance as a member of Amnesty International's urgent action group,  whenever they or I have seen it - which, alas, is often.  
                               
I have learned to distinguish opposition to Israeli policies in several ways:
Anti a policy of the Israeli government
Anti a particular Israeli government
Anti-Israeli
Anti-Jewish
Anti-Semitic
Anti different.

    The Harvard divestment petition strongly urged that Israel abide by the 4th Geneva Convention which Israel freely signed (although I must admit that Israel disagrees with all other countries of the world in maintaining that it does not apply to the situation in the west bank).  We also strongly urged that Israel accept the UN resolution 242 in regard to its boundaries:  a resolution that our country, the US signed, and which has formally (although I must admit not always in practice) remained a part of US policy ever since.   The Harvard divestment resolution was inevitably "one-sided" because to the best of our belief Harvard has few, or even no, investments in Palestine.   If we are wrong in this, please inform me and I would be pleased to circulate a petition for divestment from Palestine.

        The petition was clearly against the present policy of the Israeli government which is to ignore 242 - ostensibly until the Palestinians stop fighting, a condition not suggested by the UN.  Indeed the petition is against a policy of most past Israeli governments some of which merely paid lip service to the resolution.   The continued building of settlements can lead any Palestinian to make a statement similar to that of Thomas Jefferson in 1774 -  a statement that started his political career: "Single acts of tyranny maybe ascribed  to the accidental opinion of the day; but a series of oppressions, begun in a distinguished period and pursued unilaterally thro' every change of ministers, too plainly prove a deliberate, systematical plan of reducing us to slavery".   

        You seem to implicitly label the petition as anti-semitic and not merely as being against an Israeli policy.   I do not believe that the signers are anti-semitic nor do the Israeli professors who support us.    All we ask is that Palestinians be given their human rights.   That someone should call us anti-semitic is, unfortunately a fact of life.  Extremists always call moderates by labels they do not deserve.  But I am puzzled that someone of your experience of the world so imply.    I am disturbed that you should do so in a situation where others will inevitably assume that you used the prestige of your office.   Are we missing something?

        I admit that this petition, by supporting 242,  urges only one possible long term policy for Israel - to give the Palestinians a real state of their own, in which they can move freely without encountering an Israeli bureaucrat or soldier, and an ability to move freely to a third country if
that third country agrees.  It happens to coincide with what much of the world suggest.  I have, over the years heard another honorable policy.  If Israelis really feel they must govern all the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan river, they should give citizenship to each and every person resident therein.   I have suggested these two honorable alternatives to each and every Israeli Prime Minister since 1980 and noted that the "status quo" is NOT an honorable aim.  I have asked them to point me to any other possible honorable long term aim so that I may adjust my thinking.  I have had no reply from any of them.    Then one tends to draw conclusions similar to those drawn by Thomas Jefferson.

        I ask you this same question.  By your opposition to the petition you seem to  reject the suggestion by the UN security council - which incidentally got approval by the Arab League in an unprecedented unanimous vote this last March.    Rejection is not enough.  As the commencement speaker said this summer - you cannot tell what you are against until you know what you are for.  We have a proposal which we strongly urge.    I ask you to tell us, in your personal capacity of course, what are you for?   Where do you envisage Israel and Palestine to be in 20 years?   Can you suggest an honorable  way of getting there?  Indeed your very answer will help those of us searching for honorable solutions.

        I think that you are wrong in another respect.   I believe that being "anti-different" has been strongly on the rise in the last year,  anti-arab sentiment has also been very much on the rise, and by this token anti-semitism in general has risen.  But anti-Jewish feeling has risen far less.  It was not Jewish medical students that were stopped in Florida recently.  One the one hand - there is not as much explicitly anti-Jewish feeling - that would be good news.  On the other hand, that anti-different is rising is bad news.

        Moreover there is a far more important problem that this "local" one obscures.  Thomas Jefferson said that "all men are born equal".  Of course the US constitution modifies this and restricts equality to those born in the USA and those (like myself) who are naturalized.   I yearn for the Jeffersonian ideal.  A Chinese, an Indian, a European and an American should be as alike as a resident of Washington DC and of Newton, Massachusetts.   They should be able to travel freely from one place to another, and the only differences should be to whom they pay taxes and from whom they get their social services.   The washing up of Liberians on Sicilian shores, the smuggling of immigrants under channel tunnel trains,  the increased attention to wetbacks and the refusal of Australians to accept Afghans (even though they wanted them 100 years ago) all attest to the long way we have to go.  I think that this is where academics should pay attention.
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6th August 2002
Dear Sir,

Re: "Easing Palestine's Humanitarian Crisis" by Peter Hanson (July 30 and Avi Becker's letter (Aug 6th):

Both ignore the fact that the long term aim of humanity must be to rehabilitate each and every refugee and thereby to render each and every camp unnecessary. The Government of Israel has had in its hands the solution to the problem of refugees in Palestine for over 50 years.

Simply follow the repeated UN security council resolutions, and either allow the return of the refugees to their homes or give them sufficient compensation that they can set up new lives - hopefully far from the conflict. Then Mr Becker's problems would vanish

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11th June 2002
Dear Dr Amusia,
                               
    Thank you for sending me your accusation against the 125 signatories of the appeal by the European Scientists led by Professor Rose.   I told Professor Rose that I doubted that we in the USA and my Harvard colleagues in particular  would provide much support for the particular boycott he proposes,  and I was right.  I accept that boycotts are sometimes useful and effective. I was a signatory of “Scientists and Engineers for Orlov and Sharansky”, who agreed to boycott Russian scientists until Orlov and Sharansky were released - and we later added release from exile of Sakharov to that condition.   My Russian friends believe the boycott was important in persuading the Soviet authorities to release the three men (eventually).    I cannot therefore condemn a boycott out of hand.    I and many others are deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation in the Holy Land and believe that many Israeli people and in particular their leaders, have lost track of fundamental principles of human rights. Accordingly I have examined your accusation, as you requested, and respond to it as if I was a European and a signatory, although I personally agree with my colleagues that a boycott is not appropriate in this situation at this time.   I only know a draft of Professor Rose’s statement and so my  comments must be from memory.

    I will attempt to make a reasoned response to what I regard as an emotional letter.  If I were to consider it a reasoned letter I would be deeply insulted.   Do you really believe that the signatories are offering help and protection to Arafat?  To Palestinians yes.  To Arafat only secondarily.    To the cause of justice certainly. 

    The extent to which Arafat controls the terrorists is highly doubtful, so that calling the terrorists “his army” is extreme and unhelpful.  Nor can the terrorists be said to be practitioners of “World terrorism”.  Fortunately they only practice  local terrorism.    But if the causes are not checked it the terrorism may increase and become a world problem.
   
    I cannot talk for the 125 signatories.   However I am personally deeply disturbed by the 400 Israelis and 2000 Palestinians killed since this intafada began: 91 Palestinians (18 under 21) and maybe 30 Israelis in the last 40 days alone.   Not a single one of these deaths is justified. 

    How do you know that none of the signatories  sent to Israel a word of condolences?  I sent condolences to individual Israelis.   If any one of the signatories of the accusation suffered a personal loss I am indeed sorry.   Losses from bombings are harder to bear than losses from car accidents.  I know.  I lived through bombings in world war II.    I also, as a member of Amnesty International’s rapid action team sent faxes of objection to the fax machines  that Amnesty believe led to Mr Yasin, Mr Al-Sharmi as well as Mr Arafat.   I suspect 3000 people did likewise and I know that their fax machines were clogged for a couple of days.  

    Again, I do not call anyone who kills in this way a freedom fighter.  Not members of the IRA, not soldiers in IDF, not members of Islamic Jihad.  The words are your choice, not mine.  I did not consider Menachem Begin a freedom fighter when he killed people in Deir Yessin.  In 1940, as a 13 year old anticipating a Nazi invasion,  I was trained in unarmed combat including how to kill an unwary sentry.  Was I being trained to be a freedom fighter?  If those are the words you like, maybe I was. Nor do I consider the killings by IDF as legitimate in any way.   Obeying improper orders has long being considered criminal.

    I do not read the Guardian regularly and so did not read the article to which you refer questioning Israel’s right to exist.  I am, however concerned about the excessive discussion of this phrase.  I have never heard the phrase applied to UK or France and would not so apply it myelf. I, born in the UK always felt that one should constantly earn the right to be a citizen.   Since the state consists of citizens this presumably applies to the state also.  As Voltaire said: “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance”.  That includes helping others.    I would ask of Israelis no more and no less.  Moreover the boundaries of France have often been in question (1870 for example) and over the centuries in their policy of “Balance of Power”, England repeatedly objected to France’s domination of other countries- such as in Spain in 1807.  

    You refer to the activity of Professor Rose as destructive.   Destructive, I hope of myths and arrogance that your accusation  seems to follow and display.  I hope that you will recognize this and change.   It is not the signatories but the IDF that is sacrificing human lives in the name of an idea; not abstract but all too real: an idea that domination of another group of people, who object to that domination, is morally acceptable.  

    People in Israel do have a choice.  They have many choices.  Firstly they have to decide whether or not to follow the moral views espoused by the rest of the world or to decide for themselves what is moral - whether or not anyone else agrees.   Or at least to consider carefully the opinions expressed by others.  Israel freely signed the 4th Geneva convention but disagrees with all other countries in the world (including the USA) in saying that it does not apply to the situation in the West Bank   Israelis should ponder this disagreement.  The rest of the world believes that the settlements are illegal under this convention.  Yet more  are being created and existing ones expanded.  This, I believe, is a major cause of problems and leads to despair among the Palestinians.  Despair leads to violence.   The deaths of the sixteen people killed in a Jerusalem market were caused by a man who had desperation.   In my view the settlements are the major cause of this desperation and the consequent deaths.  If you support the settlements, or do nothing to oppose them and urge their dismantlement I believe that YOU are also a  cause.  

    I can think of two possible moral choices for Israeli people.  No others have been suggested to me.  The first would be to give Israeli citizenship to everyone living within the land that they choose to control - which I assume is the land between the Jordan river and rift valley and the Mediterranean.   This has been repeatedly suggested and just as frequently declined.  The second would be to allow the Palestinian people (a people who did not exist as a separate people but who have been relatively united by Israeli actions) real state of their own.   That means a contiguous land where a Palestinian could travel freely from one end to another, or to a neighboring state, without meeting a bureaucrat or soldier of any other state.  (Except those of the one to which he or she is traveling).  This was effectively the case before 1967 even though Gaza and the West Bank were administered by Egypt and Jordan respectively.  It also means control of its natural resources such as water. No suggestion by Israel since comes close.

    The proposal of Crown Prince Abdullah in February, supported by all arab countries in an almost unprecedented unanimous vote.  It seems to me to demand a response.  The rest of the world sees the IDF rampage of April, and the insulting proposals for the future of Mr Sharon  as the response of Israel.  I had hoped for better.  Maybe you will think of a better response.  Let it be soon.

    You say that your postscript could be discussed if the petition had not gone too far.  It seems to me that the petition existed  precisely because Israel had gone too far.  Yet it can be and must be discussed.    I cannot and do not accept that what Israel is doing is fighting world terrorism.  Even a quick look at the Oxford English dictionary shows that terrorism can be practiced by states as well as by individuals.  Israel, unfortunately is creating conditions in which terrorists thrive.   As an Israeli general once said: “if there is hope and you kill a terrorist, there is one terrorist less.  If there is no hope and you kill a terrorist you have 10 terrorists more”.  Why are not the Israeli people offering some hope to the Palestinians?  All they have is despair.   That is dangerous. 

     Israel’s actions in April were fighting terror by terror.  Morally and pragmatically that is not a good idea.  Fortunately the actions of the terrorists, both those in IDF and those in Hamas, are not yet world actions.  They seem to have little or nothing to do with the terrorist actions of September 11th. 

    As I see it from outside, there are extremists on both sides.  There are also ordinary Israelis who want security and ordinary Palestinians who want an end to oppression: each so that they may live ordinary lives.    I, and most of the world see the settlements, which we regard as illegal,  as the main obstacle.     Professor Rose and the 125 signatories are not alone in asking for their dismantlement.   Why do you want to keep them?  The ONLY reason that I can think of for their continues expansion and even existence is to humiliate the Palestinians and as a step toward driving them away. Do you have another purpose in mind?  If so please state it clearly so that we all may understand, and hopefully address the problem.    Do you  believe that the settlements add to your security?  I believe they subtract from your security in many ways.  They make the border with Palestinians ever longer.  They frustrate the Palestinians.     Is that what you want with all its dire consequences?

    You say that it is easy to prove that the settlements are nothing to do with terrorism. That  has not been demonstrated to the satisfaction of the world.   Indeed, the opposite is the case.   The easy demonstration would be to evacuate them and see what happens. My conviction, which I believe is shared by most of the world,  is that the terrorist actions have everything to do with the desperation increasingly displayed by every Palestinian that I know.   The return to something close to the 1967 borders will not completely stop terrorists any more than the 1922 agreement to segregate Ireland completely stopped the IRA.    However it is the moral position independent of my belief that it is pragmatically sensible.

    I and others want Israel to stop its belligerence before it is too late.  I would like to see Israel reestablish its moral position and be a leading force for good in the region. Then one might reverse the conservative trend in the Arabian Gulf region.   I quote (in the English translation)  Isiah 32:17 .  “And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.”
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29th April 2002
Dear Sirs

Austin Bunn, writing in Sunday's Magazine, need not have gone as far as a lawyer "at the conservative Hudson Institute" to find that few scientists believe that ingested chromium 6 has caused an identifiable cancer, and that few scientists believe that ingested chromium 6 causes any ailment at the concentrations present in the water at Hinkley. This was clearly explained by Gina Kolata in her "reflections" column in the New York Times on April 11th 2000.
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Editor Boston Globe
September 10th 2001
(preempted by the tragedy of the next day)

Dear Sir
Readers of the Globe deserve to be told of the egregious scientific errors and distortions in the anti-nuclear polemic by Dr. Helen Caldicott  (September 3).


Dr Caldicott wrote: ``A nuclear power plant must operate for 18 years before producing one net calorie of energy.''  According to the Wind Energy Association (hardly a pro-nuclear group!) the total construction cost of a nuclear or coal-fired power plant is paid for by the energy generated by less than one month's
operation of the plant.

``Enormous quantities of fossil fuel are used to mine, mill and enrich the uranium needed to fuel a nuclear power plant.''  True enough, but far more energy is extracted from the uranium.  The term energy payback denotes the ratio of the energy output of a plant to the energy input from all sources.  According to Ontario Hydro (a major provider of hydroelectric power) this ratio is about 200 for hydro-electric power stations and about 10 for currently operating fossil-fuel plants.  For present light-water nuclear reactors the payback ratio is about 10 and could rise to 20, although it could rise to 50 with other fuel cycles.

``Nuclear power adds to global warming.'' Yes it does. But a fossil fuel plant produces at least twenty times more carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour as a nuclear power plant.

``Plutonium is so carcinogenic that hypothetically half a kilo could cause cancer in everyone on Earth.'' Plutonium is certainly toxic.  According to a report by the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, a half kilo of plutonium, if it is inhaled, could cause as many as six million (not Caldicott's six billion!) fatal cancers. All of it would have to be inhaled by people and none "wasted" which is an absurd scenario.  Morover, plutonium is a metal which is not readily inhaled and is not particularly toxic when ingested. The only recorded deaths resulted from heavy exposures of workers at Russian bomb-assembly plants. Their chances of developing lung cancer from plutonium inhalation were about the same as those of cigarette smokers.  Workers at Los Alamos are better protected and have a little over half of New Mexico's lung cancer rate. Arguments similar to
Dr. Caldicott's could be made about many other materials. For example,  Americans used to spray 20,000 tons of arsenic per year on our crops. This is about 100 grams per citizen---enough to kill us all several times over. Yet there is no record of a single death.
 
``Plutonium... can induce bone cancer or leukemia [or] cause liver cancer [and] genetic mutations.''  No such medical problems have ever been
attributed to plutonium, despite diligent searches. A continuing study of the children of Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors has yielded no evidence for radiation-induced genetic damage.

 ``Nuclear power... threatens to contribute to nuclear proliferation.''  The world's military establishments have manufactured about 1,500 tons of
plutonium, of which about 100 tons is highly purified and immediately suitable for bomb making. (Only a few kilos is enough to make a bomb,) Much of the plutonium is no longer required by the military and its existence has been declared ``a clear and present danger'' in a 1994 report of the National Academy of Sciences. This material could be used as fuel in nuclear reactors, thus rendering it unuseable for bombs. This would have been done had it not been for the objections of Dr. Caldicott and others. Far from contributing to the problem of nuclear proliferation, nuclear power could be part of the solution.

 Sheldon L. Glashow  and Richard Wilson
Sheldon L. Glashow: Nobel Laureate and Arthur G.B. Metcalf Professor of Mathematics and the Sciences at Boston University.  Tel: 617 353 9099
Richard Wilson: Mallinckroft Research Professor of Physics at Harvard University.  Tel 617 495 3387  wilson@huhepl.harvard.edu 
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31 August 2001
The Editor,
The Boston Globe

Dear Sir,
    I do not have the information to comment reliably on most of the article by your columnist Molly Ivins in your August 27th issue but the comments about my colleague and friend John Graham are way off the mark

    I understand that John Graham pointed out to an EPA subcommittee that in an experiment where small amounts of dioxin were fed to laboratory rats upon which EPA relies for regulation, the cancer rate among these rats declined.  At a higher dose the rate of liver tumors increased, but the rate of mammary gland and pituitary  tumors continued to decline.  While no one I know (including John Graham) suggests that dioxin be used as a cancer preventive agent, he is correct in insisting that the application of these data (which have never been controverted) to humans be carefully considered.   The issue of pesticides is indeed a problem but not the problem Ms. Ives implies.  Many times I have had a student in my classes who was concerned about pesticides on food at present levels.   After careful examination of the data they always come to the conclusion that the risks are trivial.  The problem is why so many people believe  otherwise?  

    The “curious idea” of discussing how much society should pay to reduce small risks, particularly when they are uncertain and can only be estimated from a theoretical extrapolation, is not unique to John Graham.  The application to saving lives when the specific lives that may be saved are unknown and unknowable is widespread.  Thus, Professor Jean Meyer, former President of Tufts University, wrote in 1976: “The consideration of [the] risk-benefit ratio is basic to any intelligent discussion of any problem involving technology and society, and is all to often ignored in the utterances of consumer advocates and industry spokesmen”. Nobel Laureate Joshua Lederberg, Nobel Laureate in Medicine recognized the real problem also:“Anyone who tries to deal with health in economic terms, which is a necessary part of a system-analytic point of view, is exposing himself to the risk of misunderstanding and even of bodily harm from outraged citizens” Even the EPA used a number of $6.1 million per life in the arsenic regulations promulgated at the end of the Clinton administration.  

    The issue should be not whether one studies these difficult issues in a system-analytical point of view, but whether they are applied to regulations with understanding and compassion.  John Graham has demonstrated his understanding at Harvard.   In Washington he will demonstrate his compassion.
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September 4th  2001
The Honorable Anthony Blair
Dear Mr Prime Minister,

    I write as an Englishman who emigrated to the USA but still has a British Passport.
    I write as a Fabian Society member
    I write as a labor party supporter over several years
    I write as a labor party canvasser in 1945 and a  later election
    But more important I write as a man whose country gave away Palestine, a land which was not theirs, against the will of the majority of the residents, in 1947.
   
    The people who live in that land, the territory of which we were custodians for 25 years on behalf of the League of Nations, has a large indigenous population and an approximately equal number of immigrants.   The immigrants control 78% of the land (as informally accepted by the UN) and have been systematically dispossessing and oppressing the population of the other 22% largely with US taxpayers’ funds.

    Even though the mandate is over, Englishmen have a residual duty to help these people.  I therefore ask you to do all that you can to persuade the US President (Mr George W. Bush) to stop any and all funding to the state of Israel until the Government of Israel comes to their senses.   I attach a letter that I and my American born wife recently sent to him.  Please support it with all of your might and influence - which is considerable.
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August 14th  2001
NBC Dateline
Dear Sirs

    I just watched the NBC program "Catastrophe " about the TMI accident.

    I am disturbed at the failure of NBC to do a proper job of accurate reporting.  Inaccuracies at the time of the event are bad enough but 20 years after the event some degree of accuracy is easily attainable.  It is easy to be right in retrospect.  But NBC was unsuccessful..

    I have no real quarrel with what was said about the confusion among the engineers at the reactor and at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission during the days following the TMI accident.  I was not there, but the confusion sounds very plausible.  Nor do I quarrel with the idea that many people were scared and felt that they were lied to.  Nor do I complain about the inadequacies of the public relations personnel at GMU.  Who ever thinks public relations personnel are adequate?  All of these seem well described.   But there are details with which I quarrel..  It was possible to get through to the control room.  I did so not once but three times during the next three days.   I expected to have a busy line or be cut off but I got straight though and got precise (although limited) information each time.

    The panic was amplified by the ignorance of the press.  The media displayed throughout their complete ignorance of nuclear energy and radiation protection.   Not one newspaper even got its units (rems, mrems per hour etc.) straight.     Not one newspaper quoted verbatim the Nuclear Regulatory Commission reports which stated the known facts accurately - from which a reasonable assessment could be made.  Fortunately, I heard about the accident from a former student at NRC at 11 am who read to me the NRC press release stating clearly the information as they knew it.   The press release stated clearly the fact, which both of us found hard to understand, that at 5.15 and 5.45 a.m. the operators turned off the two main coolant pumps  because they were cavitating (pumping air and making a noise).  This was the irreversible and defining action (unreported by NBC) that turned an incident into an accident.  I talked to my former student again and read the next NRC press release at 10.45 pm just before appearing on the 11 pm news on WCRB Channel 5 in Boston. 

    In the NBC program you seemed to rely upon an engineer Mike Gray who looked well on TV.  But he made some inflammatory statements.   He said that the uncovering of the core lead to a chain reaction.  There was NO nuclear chain reaction.   The nuclear chain reaction shut down at 4 am on Wednesday never to be restarted.  It was never a danger.  Of course other chain reactions than nuclear can take place.  Mr Gray might have meant a chain of events where the core was uncovered and melted.  But if he was using  the phrase in this way it was  most inappropriate and inflammatory to do so in this context without careful explanation since most people automatically think  “nuclear” when they hear “chain reaction”.

    I quarrel very strongly with the continuous implication that TMI  was closer to catastrophe than most people thought.  I have been saying, and still believe, that we were much further from catastrophe than most people thought at the time.   Of course, part of the core was uncovered by water and got very hot and disassociated any water in a chemical reaction with the zirconium to produce explosive hydrogen.   This was clearly responsible for the shaking of the control room at 2 pm Wednesday  - probably a rapid hydrogen burn.   But reactor designers knew something that the operators and some Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff did not immediately know or remember.  The amount of hydrogen being produced was inadequate to produce a big explosion.   Indeed I remember sitting with chemistry Professor George Kistiakowski (formerly Science advisor to President Eisenhower), live on camera,  in the NPR TV studio in Cambridge MA on the Friday night. We were asked what we thought about the supposed hydrogen bubble and what we would do if we were in Harrisburg.  I said I would stay at home and watch the news on television and George said he would find a good armchair and read a good book.   Neither of us  would have evacuated.  That there was no danger at that time is clear to every expert in retrospect - but the NBC audience was left to believe that the danger had been real.

    Moreover,  if there had been a complete meltdown of the core, the molten uranium might have stayed in the reactor vessel.  If no action had been taken it might have melted through the reactor vessel to the floor and further melted through the floor of the containment building (the China syndrome). Calculations suggest that would have taken between 4 hours and three days -  more time to get water sprays to cool the material.   Even then the radioactivity release would have been far less than at Chernobyl 8 years later.   Some water was always present.  Indeed excess water from the reactor building was pumped to the auxiliary building by mid day Wednesday.  Iodine, whether radioactive or not, quickly interacts with water and then will not evaporate.  There could not, for example, have been a release comparable to the near 100% iodine release that occurred at Chernobyl - with its consequent 1,900 non-fatal and 11 fatal childhood thyroid cancers - the only cancers so far reliably attributed to radiation from Chernobyl.

    As correctly stated by NBC, one of the two main coolant pumps was restarted about 5.30 pm.  Soon thereafter the core  must have been cooled and no more hydrogen was generated since there was not enough heat (although the thermocouples on the core had burned out by 6 a.m and there was no direct measurement of temperature). The danger was over although the panic was not.   The scare on Friday was completely unwarranted by any technical facts.   But NBC failed to state this.  Nor was this knowledge hidden.  For example a special committee (of which I had the honor to be Chairman) said this in a report to the Governor of Massachussets a few  months later.

    False claims that opening the containment vessel even after a year’s wait would release enough radioactivity to endanger nearby people delayed the opening.  Nobel Laureate Professor Hans Bethe and I made a simple calculation, which we sent to Governor Thornburgh and published in Pennsylvania newspapers, that the most exposed person would have no more radiation exposure than the increased cosmic ray level by rising 10 feet.  When the reactor vessel was finally opened after 3 years, the measurements showed that we had been too  pessimistic!   But everyone discussing such an accident should be aware of these retrospective understandings.   If a policeman came around, then or now,  and told me to evacuate because a nuclear power plant was in trouble without any actual release I would tell him to get lost!

    My complaint with NBC is that they did not give these retrospective understandings and give a false impression of the realities of nuclear power safety.  "Minutes to Meltdown" seems dramatic but every airline flight is minutes from crashing into a major city with greater casualties!   All responsible people know more about nuclear reactors than they did 20 years ago.  The weaknesses in the Babcock and Wilcox reactor design  that made the TMI reactor especially vulnerable to the type of failure have been fixed.  Operator training is better.  Control room design has been improved.   With cell phones communications are better.   A disaster in the western world such as TMI is now extraordinarily unlikely.  This indeed makes electricity from nuclear power environmentally superior to most other electricity generating sources.

    NBC also missed an opportunity to explain the human cause of the tragedy in simple and poignant terms.  The operators were aware that water was dripping from the stuck relief valve.  They thought that the reactor vessel was full of water, with no air space for expansion or contraction.  Their training in the nuclear navy taught them not to let that happen, so they switched off the emergency water supply.  But in front of them was a strip chart recorder showing the temperature (solid line in the copy attached) and pressure of the water in the core (dashed line).  They show unequivocally that by 4.45 a.m the water was boiling.  The error was in failing to remember what most of us have seen in the kitchen. A pan of water on the stove can boil dry even as drops of water drip from the edges of the lid.

    While the safety improvements in nuclear power in the last 20 years are demonstrable, we must also remember that TMI killed nobody and the releases from a nuclear reactor in normal operation have never killed anyone (except perhaps a few world wide by speculative calculation).   That cannot be said of the other main sources of electricity - hydropower, where dams have failed,  or fossil fuel burning,  whose emissions are notorious.      By incorrectly implying that nuclear power is unusually dangerous, NBC is indirectly encouraging a preference for fossil fuel burning with its impacts such as global warming and disruption of the environment in Alaska.

    I suggest that NBC make some sort of correction for their erroneous implications.  One way of course would be to write a program about a real disaster - one which was not scary at the time but with your skills the real scariness can be made apparent.  I suggest  the London air pollution “incident” of December 1952.   A bad  London fog that killed 4,500 people within 3 weeks.  This is well recorded; there are many people (including my wife and myself) who could be interviewed.  It led to the banning of the burning of soft coal in British cities within less than a year.  None of the catastrophes in your series are one tenth as bad.

    Air pollution incidents of this magnitude still occur in third world cities such as Calcutta and Dhaka but no one cares about the deaths there.  If that does not scare you, you are not thinking.
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Editor NY Times,
May 26th  2001

    “Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of the day; but a series of oppressions, begun in a distinguished period and pursued unilaterally thro’ every change of ministers, too plainly prove a deliberate, systematical plan of reducing us to slavery”.  These words were not written by Yasir Arafat or one of his minions but were written by Thomas Jefferson in 1774. They propelled him to the Congress in Philadelphia as a representative from Virginia.   Does  not the Israeli settlement activity, illegal under the 4th Geneva convention on human rights, pursued unilaterally thro’ every change of government, plainly prove a deliberate, systematical plan of reducing Palestinians to slavery?
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May
  6th  2001
Professor Eli Weisel
Dear Professor Weisel,

    I read your OP-ED piece in the Times with great interest.   Of course you are right: only the guilty are guilty and collective guilt is anathema.  I do not think that Hitler’s accusations against Jews were even correct against more than a handful of individuals, (and even then were equally applicable to many more Gentiles) but his condemnation of all Jews was abhorrent.   Of course you cannot forget  the holocaust.  I would extend that: mankind must not forget the holocaust.   I am not Jewish: but the Holocaust, and many other lesser cases of man’s inhumanity to man should constantly remind us that any man can be a victim and any man can be an oppressor.  I am thankful that I was born in England not in Germany and therefore my behavior was not tested in the 1930s.  I like to think that I would have behaved well, as a handful of well known courageous German Gentiles did.  But I have constant doubts.  Statistics is against it.   In England 25% of the boys in my school were Jewish, including my best friend the distinguished mathematician Klaus Roth from Breslau, so I learnt a little - only a little - of what it feels to be a persecuted minority.     
    The distinction between individual and collective guilt, and between individual and collective punishment is hard to maintain and few individuals, and a smaller fraction of governments maintain it.   I was brought up as a Unitarian Christian and learned at an early age the horrors brought on by the improper ascribing to all Jews the killing of a good man, Jesus of Nazareth (even assuming the historical version  taught by the Christians is correct).   That this is wrong and arouses resentment is obvious to me and it is a source of wonder that it has not been obvious to everyone in the last 2000 years.

    But I venture to ask one question of you.  Is not the Israeli government (and most Israeli Governments in the last 20 years) falling into the same trap you decry?  To be sure the terrorist activities of many Palestinians deserves condemnation.  But the sealing off of Palestinian towns, and the closing of Palestinian Universities is collective punishment which is justifiable only if there is no alternative;   and inevitably arouses resentment which will last thousands of years.   I have among my many friends a few who are Palestinians.   None have ever raised a gun or thrown a stone.   Why should they be treated like the others?   If you agree with me, I hope you will say so and encourage people to say so publicly, as my Email friends in Gush-Shalom say daily.