Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies

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Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies (AISS) was launched in 2006 at the Shalem Center, an influential Israeli policy institute based in Jerusalem. Natan Sharansky a former Soviet dissident and Israeli minister was its first Chairman and Distinguished Fellow. The institute's activities seem to have ceased soon after he left in summer 2009 (to join the Jewish Agency).


The Adelson Institute was dedicated to examining "some of the most profound questions facing the Jewish state" which in its own words include:

  • how to advance freedom and democracy in the Middle East;
  • a re-examination of international law in the light of new forms of warfare and terrorism;
  • the establishment of a credible deterrent against guerilla and terror organizations and the states that sponsor them;
  • planning for the likely impact of political and social change on the future map of the Middle East;
  • the meaning of "stability" in a time of changing strategic realities;
  • the appropriate response to weapons of mass destruction;
  • the question of how Israel's Arab citizens can most effectively integrate into a Jewish state;
  • and the strengthening of Israel's relations with the United States.[1]

Cyber Dissidents

One of the institute's projects in 2008 saw it establish a campaigning website which now operates as an independent organisation. It claims to be dedicated to 'supporting human liberty by promoting the voices of online dissidents'. It focuses on Arab countries and says 'bloggers and internet dissidents in autocratic Middle Eastern countries are already at great risk. We believe that the West has a moral duty to stand up for these brave dissidents who are our greatest allies.'

According to its website, Kristen Silverberg, former US ambassador to the European Union, has called CyberDissidents 'the leading organization in the world principally devoted to online democratic dissidents.' It states that it champions freedom of expression, and campaigns against internet censorship and blogger intimidation, one of its strategies for this is to encourage Western policy-makers 'to link freedom of speech and press with foreign aid'.[2] It also has an ongoing project to recruit 'student ambassadors' from United States universities to support its work.[3]

Key 'experts' listed include director David Keyes, who was formely Coordinator of Democracy Programs at the Adelson Institute. He and Nir Boms - previously of the neoconservative Washington think tank Foundation for the Defense of Democracies - are described as 'co-founders' of Cyber Dissidents. Natan Sharansky is listed as an 'advisor (on leave)'.[4] The historian Bernard Lewis is a former adviser.[5] In 2008 Keyes organised a demonstration in Israel at the Egyptian embassy to protest the imprisonment of an online dissident. Though not officially organised by the Adleson Institue, its chairman Sharansky released a statement in support of the protest.[6]

Irish journalist Maidhc Ó Cathail has written that the Israeli origins and right-of-centre American connections of the group make them 'strange bedfellows' for the prominent Middle Eastern pro-democracy activists like Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim listed as CyberDissidents' advisers. He also notes though that Ibrahim attended the Prague Democracy and Security International Conference where he met George W. Bush[7] and another adviser, Samer Abu Libdeh, is former visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.[8] Another adviser, Jim Prince, was formerly a member of the Middle East Studies department at the Council on Foreign Relations.[9]


Democracy and Security Conference

The institute was one of the organisers of the Democracy & Security International Conference in Prague, Czech Republic, in June 2007[10] an event was dubbed the 'Neoconservative International' by one commentator. George W Bush addressed the conference, attended by Martin Kramer and Natan Sharansky of the Shalem Center and Ronald Lauder, Shalem donor and board member, amongst others.

Eighth Herzliya Conference

The institute co-organised the Eighth Herzliya Conference in January 2008 on the theme of 'The Balance of Israel's National Security.' The conference opened in Jerusalem reportedly at the request of Natan Sharansky[11] As well as Sharansky, figures from the Adelson Institute or Shalem Center to speak at the conference included Michael Oren, Eliat Mazar, Martin Kramer and Moshe Ya'alon, the latter presenting "a policy paper outlining the institute's alternative to a two-state solution".[12]



In May 2005 the Las Vegas-based Adelson Family Foundation announced that the Shalem Center was to receive a $4.5 million grant to enable the creation of the Adelson Institute.[14][15]





  1. AISS Profile
  2. Who We Are, Cyber Dissidents, accessed 2 July 2012
  3. Our Student Movement, Cyber Dissidents, accessed 2 July 2012
  4. Our Experts, Cyber Dissidents, accessed 2 July 2012
  5. Cybersdissidents Presented to Policy-Makers, Press and Activists, Cyber Dissidents. accessed 2 July 2012
  6. Noa Levanon, Let my blogger go!, 6 November 2008, YNet, accessed 2 July 2012
  7. Egyptian Human Rights Activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim Defies Threats, Arrests to Challenge U.S.-Backed Mubarak Government 10 October 2007, DemocracyNow!, accessed 2 July 2012
  8. Arab Dissidents Strange Bedfellows, 3 May 2007, Intifada Voice of Palestine, accessed 2 July 2012
  9. Our Experts, Cyber Dissidents, accessed 2 July 2012
  10. About the Organisers, Democracy and Security, accessed June 15 2012
  11. Shalem's Adelson Institute to Partner With Annual Herzliya Conference, Shalem Center, accessed June 16 2012
  12. Shalem's Adelson Institute to Partner With Annual Herzliya Conference, Shalem Center, accessed June 16 2012
  13. Natan Sharansky profile, RightWeb, accessed 2 July 2012
  14. Foundation Centre Adelson Family Foundation Awards $4.5 Million to Shalem Center in Jerusalem Posted on May 3, 2007, accessed 21 August 2009
  15. Shalem Center $4.5 Million Gift Establishes Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center May 2007 | Iyar 5767