Have you written to the FCC today?

Just posted this on Dear FCC:

Dear FCC,

I'm Ira Abramov and I live in Ramat Gan, Israel.
Net neutrality, the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) treat all data that travels over their networks equally, is important to me because without it My freedoms of expression, usage and being informed are hurt.
A pay-­to-play Internet worries me because new, innovative services that can’t afford expensive fees for better service will be less likely to succeed.
My entire professional and activist life is based on the ability to learn through the net, communicate with and activate people through it. It's the real land of equal opportunities that can't be matched today by political and pricey educational systems. It's like taxing pedestrians for walking certain streets, reading the signs and walking to stores. It is an unfair and unjust tampering with an important public resource.

Ira Abramov

Feel free to post your own plea!

A Eulogy for Yaron Abramov

English translation follows below. You are welcome to add your thoughts below in the comments.

את ההספד הזה כתבה ברובו אחותי ענת והוספתי לו בעצם מעט מאוד:

נגמר, אבא כבר לא סובל. אנחנו עצובים ושבורים, אבל מרגישים הקלה בשבילו.

יש מכם שהכירו אותו יותר ופחות. הוא היה אדם עם מאגרים עצומים של ידע מרתק, בהמון נושאים, ובפרט כל דבר שקשור לארץ ישראל, דתות, תרבויות, גיאולוגיה וארכיאולוגיה. מדריך תיירים עם מעריצים (ומעריצות) בכל העולם, אוהב לבשל ולאכול אוכל טוב, מתעד נלהב בכל סוגי המצלמות, מעריך גאדג'טים מסור, נהג-נווט אלוף, וכח העל שלו היה מציאת־חניות-בדיוק-ממול, והכל עם המון הומור אינטיליגנטי ומשחקי מילים. חלק מהדברים עברו אלינו בירושה בצורה כזאת או אחרת, וחלק פשוט העשירו את חיינו ויצרו חוויות משותפות נפלאות וזכרונות נעימים. בעיקר הוא היה אבא אוהב, מחבק ומלטף עם ידיים מופלאות שהעלימו כל כאב.

הוא נגע, לרגע, בחייהם של מאות אנשים שהדריך לאורך השנים, ויחד עם זאת היה אדם מאד פרטי. אהב לטייל בכל מקום, תמיד לגלות מקומות וכבישים חדשים, סקרן בלתי נלאה ומורה נלהב. הוא הפך חשדנים לציוניים נלהבים, וקיבלנו לאורך היום מכתבי חיזוק מקוריאה ועד ארה"ב. לא רק בארץ הוא הדריך, היה לו גם רומן לא קצר עם ברלין וכבישי גרמניה, ואפילו לגרמנים הוא הצליח להכיר את הבית של עצמם קצת יותר לעומק.

ובימים שלא עבד בהדרכה, אהב מאד את הבית שלו והשקט שלו, עם התה והאוסף מוסיקה, הספרים והסרטים הישנים… לרגע לא הפסיק ללמוד ולהתעמק, וכשהציעו לנו הבוקר שערוץ דיסקאברי יצלם את ההלוויה לסרט אנתרופולוגי על הלוויות, חשבנו שאין ראוי מזה לאדם שאהב כל כך לטייל ולפגוש אנשים, שימשיך לטייל בעולם בשידורים חוזרים לעוד הרבה שנים, כך או אחרת.

עוד לפני ימי האינטרנט ותוכנות הניווט, וגם אחרי, היו הרבה אנשים שהיו מתקשרים אליו לשאול שאלת ידע או כיוון והוא תמיד היה משאיר אותנו עם תחושת ביטחון שהגענו למקום הנכון.

הוא ייחסר בכל כך הרבה מובנים מעבר לכמה המילים האלו.

יהי זכרו ברוך.

And here I'll attempt to translate it for our international readers. It was mostly written by my sister with small additions by me.

It's over, Father no longer suffers. We are broken and sad, but feel relieved for him.

Some of you knew him better than others. He was a man commanding vast fascinating knowledge in a myriad subjects, especially anything and everything to do with the land of Israel – Theology, culture, geology and archeology. A tour guide with fans all over the globe, who loved to cook and eat well, loved documenting in all types of cameras, gadget appreciator, champion driver/navigator and his super power was finding parking spots right in front of where he needed; all of it with intelligent humour and puns. Some of those we inherited this way or another, and some just enriched our lives and created wonderful joint experiences and pleasant memories. Mainly he was a loving, hugging father with wonder hands that made all pains vanish.

He touched, even for a moment, the lives of thousands he guided along his years, and at the same time he was a very private man himself. He loved taking trips everywhere, always discovering new places and roads, a passionate learner and teacher. He converted sceptics to Zionists, and for the last few days we got letters from as far as Korea and the western USA. He guided people also overseas, he had a long love affair with Europe and its roads, and especially Berlin, where he managed to get even its natives to their own city a little deeper.

And on the days he did not work as a guide, he loved his home, with a peaceful cup of tea and music, the old books and movies. He never stopped studying and seeking deeper knowledge, and this morning, when the Discovery channel offered us to film the funeral for an anthropological docu about funerals, we felt it was the most befitting parting gift for a man who loved travelling and meeting people so much. This way he will continue travelling the world on reruns for many more years.

Years before the internet and navigation software, and many years after, many would call him up to ask for directions or knowledge, and he always left us with the confident feeling we arrived at the right destination.

He will be missed in so many ways beyond these few short words.

Blessed be his memory

We buried dad at sunset, at a pastoral corner of the cemetery. Parts of the funeral will probably play on Discovery in about a year. I'll try to let everyone know.


RIP Yaron Abramov

I'm writing this post in English because It is meant to be a permanent page for people from all over world to leave their public thoughts and messages (since on Facebook things get washed away in the stream). You can also write us personal thoughts at yaron@abramov.org, both Anat and Ira will get your messages.

ירון אברמוב, 1947-2013

Dear Friends and family,

With a grave feeling of loss and a broken heart, mixed with the relief that his suffering ended,
we write to inform you that our beloved father Yaron has passed away last night.
The funeral will take place today, Monday, June 24th 2013, at 7pm
in Har Hamenuhot, Giva'at Sha'ul, Jerusalem.
From tomorrow we will be in the house we grew up with our father, in Derekh Hatatzpit 1, Ein Karem, Jerusalem.

If you need to contact us, use Yaron's number +972-544-304060, and one of us will answer

Ira and Anat Abramov.

חברים יקרים,בלב שבור וגעגועים, מהולים בהקלה על כך שהסבל שלו נגמר,
אנחנו כותבים להודיע לכם שאבא שלנו ירון נפטר אתמול בערב.
ההלוויה תתקיים היום, יום שני, 24 ביוני 2013, בשעה 19:00
בהר המנוחות בגבעת שאול, ירושלים.
ממחר נשב שבעה בבית שבו גדלנו עם אבא, בדרך התצפית 1, עין כרם, ירושלים.

אם יש צורך ביצירת קשר, אפשר להתקשר למספר של ירון 0544-304060, ואחד מאיתנו יענה.

עירא וענת אברמוב

Harlem Shake, Javascript Edition (Original v1!)

In case you are not completely fed up with it yet, my friend Or Cohen made a Harlem Shake for your Twitter feed. It's an early version, might get upgraded, might get ported to facebook. If you port it, let us know and I'll add it here…

  • drag the bookmarklet from this page to your browser's bookmarks.
  • skip over to twitter.com (your main feed, not the "connect" tab)
  • hit the bookmarklet and enjoy :-)

Refugees and Jewish Legacy

My Spidey Sense (actually a Google alert) notified me that a photo I took was used and credited with my name. It's an article talking about African migrants collectively declared criminals by Eli Yishai.

I just had to reply. Sadly the reply was over twice the length limit allowed. Instead of posting it split three ways, I'll just post it here.

Thanks for the photo credit, but I wish the report was a bit more complete.

1. Some of the Africans are Sudanese and some are not, it's true. some are was refugees and others are climate refugees.

2. Israel refuses to review their cases, and so none of them is declared a refugee and treated according to international refugee treaties, instead they are vilified and attacked. see the Molotov bottles thrown into houses where they live reported in the last few weeks, right after our local holocaust memorial day.

3. up until this last bust, the police and human rights organizations where actually in agreement – the refugee population is actually a very decent bunch and does not break any laws…

4. …other than crossing the border illegally of course, but do you know what's waiting for them in Sinai? Rapes and murders by Bedouins are abundant. The stories collected by our local social workers are truly horrible.

In sum, the migrants' problem is a global one. whether they are escaping the climate changes or turf wars for mineral mining, I blame the developed world for abusing the locals, and Israel should ask for help from the UN or at least the EU. either way, the Passover Haggadah tells us that in every generation Jews must see themselves as if they were the refugee, running from Egypt and looking for sanctuary. Eli Yishai should be ashamed for this racist, unethical and un-Jewish decision to declare them all criminals and make all Israelis accomplices to the injustice, rather than use help from the world to take care of this problem the humane way.

The diplomatic incident around RMS' visit to Israel

A week ago a story broke – RMS would not be talking at Israeli universities while in Israel, since the sponsors of his visit in the West Bank (soon to be a democratic Palestine inshallah) are adamant about this boycott. The odd thing is that the University of Haifa is the Alma Mater of many Arabs, some told me that maybe most of the students currently enrolled are non-Jews. It's also a pretty petty demand that he is allowed to speak in Israel but not in a university building. It made absolutely no sense to me.

Some people offered to share the costs of take on the sponsorship altogether, but as this idea didn't come from RMS, there were many on HaMakor's mailing list who preferred to interpret his original reply as a hint of support of the BDS movement, who asks people not only to boycott Israel financially, but also academically.

I have written RMS to get his unfiltered remarks on the uproar:

"What I said in my message is the story. There is nothing else except some details. Palestinians invited me and offered to buy my tickets. When they saw I had offered to give talks at Israeli universities, they said they would not support it."

When you refer to your Palestinian hosts who dictated this ban on talks in Israel, is this an independent group, or part of the PA?

"I didn't ask. They asked me to come and give some talks about free software at universities in the West Bank, and I was glad to accept. I also looked forward to the opportunity to see friends and relatives in Israel and to give talks there. So I set up several tasks, not realising that universities as venues would create a conflict.

The Palestinians did not convince me it is wrong to give a speech about freedom issues in a hall of an Israeli university, but I see no reason to go to the wire to do talks in Israel in universities. I have one planned talk in Israel which is not at a university, and we could set up more."

Israelis produce many (if not the most) patches for right-to-left support in FS projects, and have been known to happily collaborate with developers in Iran and Arab countries. Could you and would you use this to build a narrative for the aid of para-political collaborations?

"I would love to do that. I tried to encourage such cooperation in my previous visit too, but I don't think it got very far."

Could you help the readers understand what led to this decision? Is is that your Palestinian hosts "were there first" or are the subjects of your talks there more important for your agendas? In a other words, what caused the sudden attack of pragmatism in the man who quipped that ideology is the best tool to achieve change?

"That contrast is only apparent. The free software movement is a campaign for freedom and community. That's a goal based on principle.

I wouldn't normally call that "ideology", since that word carries negative spin, and tends to imply a broad stand that applies to all aspects of life rather than a specific stand on a specific issue.

I've always been pragmatic about achieving this goal. See http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/pragmatic.html, which I wrote at least 20 years ago. Part of being pragmatic about achieving a goal of social change is talking about the goal so we don't forget it.

I personally had hoped that your talks in Israel would have some political edge to them. I have heard too many times people calling your views Anti-Israeli where I correct them each time that you are, like most of us on the Israeli left, fighting against the oppression and denial of liberty.The Palestinians are oppressed both by the Hammas and by Israel, and the PA is far from being clean of corruption.

"That is true, but of these oppressions the occupation is clearly the worst. The PA is corrupt, but it held an honest election which handed power to a different party, and that's the first milestone of a democracy. I would hate to live in a country ruled by Hamas, but the Republican Party is pushing hard to rival it and the Democratic Party follows behind on the same route. If we let Palestinian democracy develop, I think it would adopt democratic and liberal ideals from the Egyptians."

I must admit though, that my defence of your choices has been severely discredited once this item was published:

I don't advocate a blanket boycott of Israeli universities. (If I did, I would not have offered in the first place to give speeches in them.) But I am not going to campaign against it either.

I myself haven't picked sides on the economic boycott actions of BDS, I can see why it's actually legitimate and maybe even effective, but an academic boycott goes against my beliefs, and frankly I was quite disappointed you took such an ambiguous stand on the matter.

"I am surprised it had that effect, since I said I do not advocate the boycott. But what can you do?"

Well, be unambiguous. Take a clear stand against academic boycotts and refusal to communicate between thinking people. This boycott on the University of Haifa is especially odd since a lot of the students there, possibly even the majority, are Arabs.

"That is not what my views are. As I've said, I do not advocate the boycott but I am not going to campaign against it either. I decided to follow the policy of the organisers of the trip.

I hope to give a talk at another venue in Haifa and speak to the same people."

I can not really see a perfect way out of this at the moment. If your first response would have been to go against the boycott and ask the Israelis to try and fund the trip instead (and still visit the west bank), it would have been the perfect course of action – win-win for all but the perpetrators of the boycott. But now I'm not sure if it is not too late. Since the idea for asking for unconditional funding did not come from you on that first letter to Mr. Aronovich, people interpreted it for the worse and decided you have chosen to take a side in favour of the boycott, which was in turn seen as breaking away from your principles, etc.

"Quite the contrary. I am doing my best to act on my various principles in a complex situation. I think that they may have taken some of my real principles and reinterpreted them in a way that doesn't come from me."

After this email exchange, RMS' latest letter to Eddie had reached the paper, the original Email read thus:

I don't advocate a blanket boycott of Israeli universities, but I am not going to campaign against it either. I see where they are coming from: Israel's occupation policies are horrible. Non-violent protests are crushed with persistent brutality. (See http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Article.aspx?id=221897.)

Palestinians who are against violence are looking desperately for some method of non-violent resistance. I can't blame them for it even if I don't agree entirely with the details. Thus, I decided to follow their policies in the trip they organised.

I wish I had discussed the issue in advance and avoided having to cancel a plan I had agreed to.

I will give at least one talk in Israel, at a non-university venue, and I am hoping more can be arranged.

To me, it is clear that RMS has indeed attempted to make the best of a very problematic situation. He decided to circumvent the boycott without supporting it nor strongly opposing it, because coming here and talking about what's important to him is more important than taking sides on the academic boycott issue. I must confess I am not entirely happy with that myself, and I have advocated the community not to cancel the bookings, but use them instead to invite Palestinians and talk about keeping academic communications free from boycotts and gags, or there really will be no civilised way of keeping open channels of hope for peace and collaboration. I hope this does happen after all. The idea of Freedom of expression and information, including that of knowledge exchange in the shape of free content and software, are in my eyes all facets of the same set of tools and goals.

If people are still disappointed with RMS I can't say I don't understand them. Just remember that the ideas are more important than this persona or the other. The man is not the issue, keep the ideals alive though, if you agree with them.