Monday, April 05, 2010

Politics – March 2010

Don't judge your friend until you reach his place


Gilad Shalit is still in captivity. Veshavu banim legvulam.

Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Reflections on My February 2010

The Goldstone Report

EU and Jerusalem

The Visitor and Israeli Tradition

Israel-US Relationships

AIPAC Conference


More from Gaza

The “Green Prince”



US Health Reform Bill

Human Rights Watch Annual Report

2009 Human Rights Report: Israel and the Occupied Territories

Women’s Rights in the Middle East and North Africa 2010

Economic Freedom and Prosperity

Teaching about the Holocaust in England

New Books

Recent Movies

Customer Rights on YouTube

London Theatre – The Caretaker and Jonathan Pryce

Music Recommendation

Monthly Poem

Light Side

Free Gilad Shalit. The government should invest in his release. It should be on its top priorities. Veshavu banim legvulam.

On March 19, 2010 Haaretz published a lengthy interview with Chezy Shai, who in June 1982 was captured by the Jibril terrorist organization, held in captivity for three years until his return to home in an exchange of prisoners deal. Israel paid a very high price for bringing him home. I read his candid personal account, his thoughts and feelings during his captivity, and afterwards, and tears came to my eyes a few times. Iris, his wife, was pregnant, when Shai was captured. The terrorists knew this and played psychological games with him. For a long time, Israeli authorities did not even know whether he was alive, let alone his whereabouts. Shai was kept for two years in a bathroom, in an apartment in Syria. He returned to normal life, did well, and today he is a manager in one of the largest banks in Israel.

I wish the same for Gilad. It needs courage and resolve. It is the right decision.


Reflections on My February 2010

Some of you wondered why I think this is the most hawkish government in Israel’s history (more than the Shamir government, for instance), and why I am so pessimistic on the chances for peace and war. It is time for further clarification.

Let’s look at the government’s composition. Who are the hawks?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud)

Vice Premier and Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe Yaalon (Likud)

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Israel Beitenu)

Minister Benny Begin (Likud)

Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Yisrael Beitenu)

National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau (Israel Beitenu)

Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver (Israel Beitenu)

Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat (Likud)

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud)

Minister of Information and Diaspora Yuli Edelstein (Likud)

Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz (Jewish Home)

Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov (Israel Beitenu)

This is significant. Very significant. Certainly for stopping any attempts for peace, which must involve compromise. Whether this is significant enough to push for war remains to be seen. Not all of those people are close to the prime minister’s ear. This also depends on the number of responsible people in this government, who have the power to influence Mr. Netanyahu. Who are they?

Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak (Labour)

Vice Premier, Minister for Regional Development and Minister for Development of the Negev and Galilee Silvan Shalom (Likud)

Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Eli Yishai (SHAS)

Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar (Likud)

Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labour)

Minister of Intelligence Services Dan Meridor (Likud)

There are more responsible people in this government, but they don’t count much as their power to influence the prime minister is limited. In any event, they will follow the dictates of their respective parties, Likud, Labour, SHAS.

In the power relations outlined above, there are truly destructive elements that are not reluctant to drive the nation to war in order to show our strength, that Israel should not be pushed aside, “insulted”; that Israel is able to deter its enemies. As politics is first and foremost about interests, power politics and the wrong circumstances may offset moderation.

True, dovish governments waged wars. Arguably the most dovish government in Israel’s history, that of Ehud Olmert, had waged two wars in less than three years. That means that worldviews are not enough. Leadership is a prime consideration, and that is something that Olmert lacked and Netanyahu has.

I said time and again that unlike Sharon and Olmert, Netanyahu is not a pragmatist. I wish and dream that he will prove me wrong. I don’t think Israel will progress to peace under his leadership.

Israel has an interesting Foreign Minister. The more the media know about Mr. Lieberman, the more they want to know. He does not fail to produce juicy material. The media are preoccupied with the following questions:

How come that in a short span of time, Mr. Lieberman transformed himself from a middle class man into a very affluent man?

Who are the people who helped him make his fortune?

What did he give them in return?

As his affluence perfectly coincides with Mr. Lieberman’s political career, the public is entitled to receive answers, and the media should be relentless in making these issues clear. Mr. Lieberman refuses to speak to the media, reiterating that he will say whatever he wants to say in the courts. He speaks of a “media hunt”.

I was also asked about the “Jerusalem for Jews” campaign. I received a lot of information about the escalating situation in East Jerusalem. With the cooperation of the present Mayor, the support of the government, and outside money from affluent "Greater Israel" donors, Jews are settling in Jerusalem. As I support a two-state solution, with East Jerusalem as the Capital of the Palestinian state, and the present actions aim to stifle this solution, I think Israel is damaging its own best interests.

Prime Minister Netanyahu clarified this month that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel. It is not a settlement. For him, there is no difference between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. It is Israel’s right, even duty, to build Jerusalem. In his historical perspective, the Jewish people were building Jerusalem for 3000 years, and they continue this venture today.

The Palestinians look hopelessly as the land for the future Palestinian State is shrinking and their capital is reduced, watching their fellow people forced to leave their homes in East Jerusalem.

For information, see for instance

On March 2, Haaretz reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requested Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat to put off demolishing dozens of homes in the heart of an Arab neighborhood until a deal had been reached with the Palestinian residents. Netanyahu urged Barkat to reconsider the plan to avoid sparking further tensions.

According to the plan, Barkat is seeking to reach an agreement with the residents of 89 illegal buildings slated for demolition in the Palestinian area known as Al Bustan or Gan Hamelech. Barkat promised the prime minister that he would try to reach an agreement with the residents and would put off implementing the plans.

About a year ago Barkat became embroiled in a high-profile conflict with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over his intention to demolish the homes. Barkat is now offering permits to some residents to legalize their buildings. Others will be demolished and replaced with a tourist park. The Palestinians whose houses are demolished will be able to operate tourist-related businesses in the park.

Fakhri Abu Diab, a spokesman for Silwan residents, said the Jerusalem municipality was using the idea of a park as a pretext to drive Palestinian residents away. "This is a political decision. It has nothing to do with just building a biblical park. They want us out of Silwan and Jerusalem for political reasons," he said. "They cannot come now and say we should leave because they want to take our homes and build a park in their place".

Source: Haaretz (March 2, 2010),

The Goldstone Report

I continue to receive dozens of emails, reports, video clips and what not, all condemning the Goldstone Report, none addressing the real, concrete allegations. I repeat what I have said before: General wishy-washy statements that simply dismiss the Report will not do. What is required is a detailed, one-to-one serious response to all allegations. Anything short of a serious enquiry will not do.

EU and Jerusalem

The current holder of the rotating European Union presidency, Sweden, has put together a draft document calling for the division of Jerusalem between Israel and a future Palestinian state and implying that the EU would recognize a unilateral Palestinian declaration of statehood.

Haaretz has obtained a copy of the document (see link below) that has sparked criticism by Israel, which claims that such a move would further harm the chances of renewing the Mideast peace process. As I was asked for clarifications about the situation in East Jerusalem, may I highlight the following:


The Visitor and Israeli Tradition

Photo: NY Times

Vice President Joe Biden has graced Israel with a visit, trying to pull the peace wagon back on the road. In the finest Israel tradition that started, if I am not mistaken, during prime Minister Shamir’s time in office in the early 1980s, Israel's announced during the friendly (or not so) visit that it plans to build 1,600 homes in disputed east Jerusalem. Israel apologized for the poor timing but is sticking to its plan to build the homes, enlarging one of the settlements that have impeded negotiations with Palestinians. Interior Minister Eli Yishai, whose office ordered the new homes, added further insult by saying "I am very sorry for the embarrassment ... Next time we need to take timing into account", meaning that there would in fact be a "next time", probably “next times”. More fundamentally, this shows that Israel does not believe in a viable peace, and shows little consideration to the Palestinian interests as if it came to terms with the “fact” that there will never be peace with the Palestinians and what Israel needs to do is to bolster its hold over disputed territories.

Israel-US Relationships

Some governmental agencies, together with right-wing NGOs, do their best to explain that President Obama is an anti-Semite in disguise. The Israeli public, however, does not buy this. A recent poll conducted by Haaretz found that most Israelis don't believe politicians who call Obama anti-Semitic or hostile to Israel, or who say he is "striving to topple Netanyahu." The poll came after Vice President Biden’s visit and the announcement of building 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem. Nearly half the respondents (48 percent) said Israel must keep building in the capital, even at the expense of a rift with the United States, while 41 percent said Israel must accept the American demand (and Palestinian ultimatum) to stop building in Jerusalem until the end of the negotiations (which haven't begun yet). The public has not turned its back on Netanyahu, but it hasn't applauded his performance either (see

A few days after Biden’s visit, and President of Brazil Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva came for a visit. Lula refused the customary diplomatic visit to Mount Herzl and the gravesite of Zionist leader Theodore Herzl while he consented to visit the grave of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat during his visit to Ramallah. While in Knesset, Prime Minister Netanyahu chose to say, in his infinite wisdom, that his government will continue to build in Jerusalem, as did “all governments” before his. Principally, Israel will continue its building plans in East and West Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people.

It is test time for Labour. What is Labour doing within such a hawkish government? Pleasantries, sure. Comfortable seats, definitely. Mitigating factor, possibly. That’s it. Labour does not set the tone in this government. Its agenda is ignored. There are no peace plans or prospects. No essence but securing Mr. Netanyahu in the prime minister's office.

AIPAC Conference

On March 22, 2010, Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke before a very supportive AIPAC audience in Washington DC. It was a refreshing change after his strenuous meeting with President Obama. He stressed the special bond and mutuality of values between the great American nation and the only Jewish state, both bastions of liberty, united against Islamic extremism that seeks to undermine the West, democracy, freedom. He called upon Abbas to resume peace negotiations without preconditions, saying that all but one thing is open for negotiations: Security. Israel is unwavering in its insistence to secure its borders. Prime Minister Netanyahu emphasized the contribution of his government to peace, the removal of hundreds of checkpoints in the west bank, facilitating better movement of goods and people.

If this is the price Israel is willing to pay for peace then there will not be peace. Peace, I said time and again, is a precious commodity. In order to be achieved, both sides are required to make painful concessions. Merely being a benevolent occupier of sorts in your own eyes won’t suffice.

And for the short run, expect more rows with the Obama administration.

On the Bibi/Obama flap, see Prof. Art Hobson at .

All Art’s columns are at


On March 19, 2010, the European Quartet called upon Israel and the Palestinian Authority to reach a two-state solution within two years. Equally, they can call to bring evidence that extraterritorial life exists within two years. Equally, the call does not take into account circumstances, abilities, wishes, realities, context.

More from Gaza

Until further notice, whenever I say “more from Gaza” I mean more bad news from Gaza. This place seems unable to generate good news. After some relief period, the Gazans returned to their terroristic die-hard habits. In mid-March they launched several rockets on Israel. One person was killed. Israel was quick to retaliate from the air. This is about “politics of figures”. If the rockets continue, and people will be killed, trust Mr. Lieberman that the IDF will be back in Gaza.

The “Green Prince”

A new book, Son of Hamas (Saltriver Publications, 2010), has attracted media attention in Israel and abroad. The book was written by Mosab Hassan Yousef, son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a senior Hamas figure in the West Bank, who is currently serving a six-year prison sentence in an Israeli prison. Mosab, 32, gave a long interview to the Haaretz newspaper (February 26, 2010) in which he told how he was recruited by the SHABAC and began to work with Israeli intelligence to stall terrorist operations. The “Green Prince” did this for more than a decade and is said to have saved the lives of dozens of innocent civilians. Mosab converted to Christianity and moved to California, where he resides now.

Mosab said explicitly that the so-called 2000 “Intifada” (which I call terror attack on Israel) was planned. Answering the question, “What do you mean by "planned"? Did Arafat ask them to do it?”, Mosab said: "I can't tell you for certain that he gave an order. But he did give them his blessing. Listen, man, what do you think? Barghouti, Hussein al-Sheikh, all those who organized the demonstrations - they met with Arafat every day. So what did they talk about? But that is not the worst thing I discovered at the time about Arafat. I was the one who revealed that the first squad of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade was actually a group from Arafat's Presidential Guard, Force 17, which got money from Barghouti, who got it from Arafat."

Mosab did not like Arafat and he does not have a high regard for Marwan Barghouti, either. "He is a terrorist with the blood of many Israelis on his hands... Even though the Shin Bet hated him, they did not want to liquidate him and turn him into a martyr. I knew Marwan through my father. I accompanied him to meetings with Marwan at the start of the intifada, but also later, when the representatives of the organizations met. For Hamas, I became a sort of mediator between them and the other organizations, particularly after my father went underground, and the other organizations asked me many times for explosives and weapons. Everyone thought I had 'merchandise' to offer and believed in me, in part because I was the sheikh's son… So it was that Ahmed (the Frenchman) Barghouti, Marwan's faithful assistant, told me he needed a large quantity of explosives for seven suicide bombers arriving from Jenin. I told him I would try to organize something, but already that night he sent one of them to perpetrate the attack at the Seafood Market [restaurant] in Tel Aviv. The next day, we arrested the other six."

It is most distressing to read his bleak view of the future. Mosab does not think that there will ever be peace, or that a two-state solution is viable. He explains: “I am not pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian. I worked for my God, who is the father of all human beings wherever they are. I do not want to go back to that work. I chose to leave, because after 10 years of fighting terrorism, I understood that it is not the problem. Of course, it is important to fight terrorism, but if I think about the long term, the only way is not to do battle against suicide bombers but against their motivation: namely, their God.

"Many people think the terrorists' motivation is the Israeli occupation, the corruption, but all that is just the backdrop. It is not the root of the problem. The occupation is like the rain that falls on the soil in which the seed has been planted, but it is not the seed itself. The root of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does not lie in security or politics: It is a war between two gods, two religions. Between the God of the Torah and the God of the Koran. The Koran teaches that this is Waqf land - a sacred endowment which must not be given up. The Torah taught the Jews that this is their land and must not be given up.

"It follows that there will be no peace in the Middle East. Israel's problem is not with Hamas or with any other organization, nor with the interpretation Hamas reads into the Koran. It is with the god of the Koran. After all, even a moderate Muslim who reads the Koran must read that the Jews are the sons of apes and that the infidels must be killed. The Palestinians must stop blaming Israel, or the West, for all their problems. If they want true freedom, they must free themselves from their God."

What about a Palestinian state?

"That is not a solution. Today we do not have a leadership worthy of ruling, not Hamas and not Fatah. The Palestinians move between the corrupt leadership of Fatah, and the Hamas leadership, which sends them all to die. Besides, Hamas cannot make peace with the Israelis. That is against what their God tells them. It is impossible to make peace with infidels, only a cease-fire, and no one knows that better than I.

Mosab’s views on prisoner exchange won’t be pleasing to the Shalit family:

"The Hamas leadership is responsible for the killing of Palestinians, not Israelis. Palestinians! They do not hesitate to massacre people in a mosque or to throw people from the 15th or 17th floor of a building, as they did during the coup in Gaza. The Israelis would never do such things. I tell you with certainty that the Israelis care about the Palestinians far more than the Hamas or Fatah leadership does. Israel withdrew from Gaza, and instead of the place being built up and cultivated, look what happened there. We need to take a break from these leaders. And I call on the government of Israel: Never accede to Hamas demands, not even about Gilad Shalit. They will not hurt him - he is too important to them. Even if it goes on for 10 years, Israel must not give in and release all those people from prison."



US State Department official William Burns has insisted the United States feels a "sense of urgency" towards Iran's nuclear programme, as he headed to Russia for a two-day visit: "We feel a sense of urgency, it's time to demonstrate that there are consequences" to Tehran's behaviour, said the under secretary for political affairs Wednesday who is accompanying US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The US and Russia "steadily expand the common ground between us on Iran, and we work effectively together," said a senior US official. Washington is working towards sanctions which "minimize the impact on the Iranian people and maximize the chances of the Iranian leadership to make the right choices," said the official.

Trying to push through new international sanctions against Tehran was a complex process, said the official, but added that "we do share an interest with the Russians." Russia, the United States, France, Britain, China and Germany have been putting pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme, amid fears that Tehran is trying to build a nuclear weapon. Of the six, China continues to resist imposing fresh sanctions while Moscow slowly appears to be coming over to the other countries' tougher stance on the issue.


I met an Iranian who fled to the UK, saying that he left everything behind and chose to start a new life from fresh as he did not wish to continue living under dictatorship. He assured me that the end of the Ayatollahs is drawing near; in a few years time, 2 to 3, democracy will be installed.

I have been hearing such projections for the past twenty years.


Israel calls to increase the sanctions against Iran. Enemies of Israel call to sanction Israel until it stops the occupation: Don’t buy Israeli products, especially not from the occupied territories, ban Israeli academia, Israeli business etc. The sanction tool is in mode. Both Iran and Israel object to the sanctions and resent them. Both claim that sanctions won’t work, are ineffective, not the right way to go about things. Strange unity of ideas. Can be quite confusing for people who know little about the issues at stake, i.e., for most people on this planet.

US Health Reform Bill

On March 21, 2010 the American Congress by a vote of 219 to 212 passed the health bill. For hours, members of Congress explained their stance prior to voting. Republicans depicted the proposed bill as anti-American; Communist; Dictatorial. They blackened, or rather reddened the bill, saying it is partisan, non-patriotic, coercive, exploitative and expensive. They compared the health reform to that of communist Russia, although it comes close to the US neighbour, Canada, many other European countries, and Israel.

Nancy Pelosi, clearly tired, stuttered from time to time, yet very effective in addressing all concerns. Pelosi noted that the bill has incorporated dozens of Republican amendments; that it will provide health insurance to more than thirty million presently uninsured Americans and will save money as it will substitute very expensive emergency medicine with preventive and standard medical care. She rightly stressed that health is a right, not a privilege. The bill, she said, represents the American ideals of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. It is red, white and blue, barring insurance companies from excluding patients due to their pre-existing conditions.

President Obama worked diligently on this health reform and succeeded where others failed. It is great development for Americans who now enter a new phase in their lives.

Speaking to an ebullient audience of Democratic legislators and White House aides at the bill-signing ceremony on March 23, 2010, Mr. Obama claimed that health reform would “mark a new season in America.” He added, “We have now just enshrined, as soon as I sign this bill, the core principle that everybody should have some basic security when it comes to their health care.”

The bill is the most sweeping piece of federal legislation since Medicare was passed in 1965. It aims to smooth out one of the roughest edges in American society — the inability of many people to afford medical care after they lose a job or get sick. And it would do so in large measure by taxing the rich. A big chunk of the money to pay for the bill comes from lifting payroll taxes on households making more than $250,000. On average, the annual tax bill for households making more than $1 million a year will rise by $46,000 in 2013. Another major piece of financing would cut Medicare subsidies for private insurers, ultimately affecting their executives and shareholders.

The benefits, meanwhile, flow mostly to households making less than four times the poverty level — $88,200 for a family of four people. Those without insurance in this group will become eligible to receive subsidies or to join Medicaid. (Many of the poor are already covered by Medicaid.) Insurance costs are also likely to drop for higher-income workers at small companies. Finally, the bill will also reduce a different kind of inequality. In the broadest sense, insurance is meant to spread the costs of an individual’s misfortune — illness, death, fire, flood — across society. Since the late 1970s, though, the share of Americans with health insurance has shrunk. As a result, the gap between the economic well-being of the sick and the healthy has been growing, at virtually every level of the income distribution.

The health reform bill will reverse that trend. By 2019, 95 percent of people are projected to be covered, up from 85 percent today (and about 90 percent in the late 1970s). Even affluent families ineligible for subsidies will benefit if they lose their insurance, by being able to buy a plan that can no longer charge more for pre-existing conditions. In effect, healthy families will be picking up most of the bill — and their insurance will be somewhat more expensive than it otherwise would have been.

See David Leonhardt, “In Health Bill, Obama Attacks health Inequality@, New York Times (March 23, 2010),

See also

Human Rights Watch Annual Report

The 20th annual World Report summarizes human rights conditions in more than 90 countries and territories worldwide. It reflects extensive investigative work undertaken in 2009 by Human Rights Watch staff, usually in close partnership with human rights activists in the country in question.

Every government is at times tempted to violate human rights, but the global human rights movement has made sure that abuse carries a price. Still, some governments cannot resist trying to minimize that price by attacking human rights defenders, organizations, and institutions. The aim is to silence the messenger, to deflect pressure, to lessen the cost of committing human rights violations.

These efforts have yet to succeed, but the campaign is dangerous. Human Rights Watch calls on governmental supporters of human rights to help defend the defenders by identifying and countering these reactionary efforts. A strong defense of human rights depends on the vitality of the human rights movement now under assault.

To download the full report, go to

2009 Human Rights Report: Israel and the Occupied Territories

The US Department of State published its 2009 84-pages detailed Report on Human Rights. The Report says that the government generally respected the human rights of its citizens, although there were problems in some areas. There were several high-profile cases involving corruption by political leaders. Institutional, legal, and societal discrimination against Arab citizens, Palestinian Arabs, non-Orthodox Jews, and other religious groups continued, as did societal discrimination against persons with disabilities. Women suffered societal discrimination and domestic violence. The government maintained unequal educational systems for Arab and Jewish students. While trafficking in persons for the purpose of prostitution greatly decreased in recent years, trafficking for the purpose of labor remained a problem, as did abuse of foreign workers.

Palestinian rocket and terrorist attacks killed four and injured 34 civilians in Israel during the year; such attacks killed three at the start of hostilities on December 27 and 29, 2008. There were 125 rockets and 70 mortar shells fired into Israel from Gaza since the end of Operation Cast Lead on January 21, and 850 rockets and mortar shells during the hostilities, compared with 1,750 rockets and 1,528 mortar shells in 2008.

You can read the Report at

Women’s Rights in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) 2010

In order to provide a detailed look at the conditions faced by women in the Middle East and understand the complex environment surrounding efforts to improve their status, Freedom House conducted a comprehensive study of women’s rights in the region. The first edition of this project was published in 2005. The present edition offers an updated examination of the issue, with a special focus on changes that have occurred over the last five years. Although the study indicates that a substantial deficit in women’s rights persists in every country in the MENA region, the findings also include notable progress, particularly in terms of economic opportunities, educational attainment, and political participation.


Economic Freedom and Prosperity

For over a decade, The Wall Street Journal and The Heritage Foundation have tracked the march of economic freedom around the world with the influential Index of Economic Freedom.

What is economic freedom?

Economic freedom is the fundamental right of every human to control his or her own labor and property. In an economically free society, individuals are free to work, produce, consume, and invest in any way they please, with that freedom both protected by the state and unconstrained by the state. In economically free societies, governments allow labor, capital and goods to move freely, and refrain from coercion or constraint of liberty beyond the extent necessary to protect and maintain liberty itself.

How do you measure economic freedom?

We measure ten components of economic freedom, assigning a grade in each using a scale from 0 to 100, where 100 represents the maximum freedom. The ten component scores are then averaged to give an overall economic freedom score for each country.

The ten components of economic freedom are:

Business Freedom Trade Freedom Fiscal Freedom Government Spending Monetary Freedom

Investment Freedom Financial Freedom Property rights Freedom from Corruption Labor Freedom

You would think that the capitalist empire would lead the world. That is not the case. Four Asia–Pacific economies lead the world in economic freedom. Hong Kong maintains its position as the world’s freest economy, a distinction it has enjoyed for 16 consecutive years. Singapore remains close, ranked as the world’s second freest economy. Australia and New Zealand, ranked 3rd and 4th this year, have solidified their position at the top of the rankings. On this Index, Israel is ranked 44; Canada 7; United States 8; United Kingdom 11; Jordan 52; Lebanon 89; Egypt 94; Syria 145 and, closing the list, North Korea 179.


Teaching about the Holocaust in England

There is an ongoing rumour on the Internet that England schools do not teach the Holocaust. This is false. For a comprehensive report see Teaching About the Holocaust in English Secondary School (University of London, 2009). This is an empirical study of national trends, perspectives and practices, available at;+Teaching+about+the+Holocaust&pid=15

I thank Trevor Pears for bringing this to my attention.

New Books

I wish to thank all those of you who send me their new books. There are quite a few piling up on my desk. I read/browse in the order of receipt.

Terence Ball and Richard Dagger (eds.), Political Ideologies and the Democratic Ideal (New York: Pearson, 2009).

The extensively revised new edition of this bestselling text continues to provide an accessible overview of the major political ideologies, their origins, and their development. In addition to examining the major “isms” — liberalism, conservatism, socialism, and fascism — the book offers readers the history, structure, supporting arguments, and internal complexities of these and recently emerging ideologies. Interestingly, the book also includes radical Islam.

The text utilizes a fourfold framework — a definition of “ideology” in terms of the four functions ideologies perform — within which to compare, contrast, and analyze the various ideologies. In addition, the book also shows how each ideology interprets “democracy” (which the authors characterize as an ideal rather than an ideology) and “freedom.” In examining the latter notion, the authors analyze each ideology’s view of freedom in terms of agent, obstacle, and goal.

I particularly recommend chaps. 3, 5, 7,and 11.

Michael Kerr, Richard Janda and Chip Pitts, Corporate Social Responsibility – A Legal Analysis (Markham, Ontario: LexisNexis, 2009).

The book analyses the main principles of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), arguing that CSR dictates integrated, sustainable decision-making which takes into consideration the positive and negative potential consequences of decisions; obligation on the part of corporations not only to consider different stakeholders and interests but also to incorporate them into the decision-making processes; transparency that is vital for ensuring accountability; consistent respect for societal and environmental ground rules, with minimal and optimal standards for conduct; the taking of precautionary steps prior the implementation stage of agreed decisions; liability for decisions and enactment of rectificatory measures to redress harm inflicted as a result of conduct and, lastly, community investment to benefit the public good.

See also David Weissbrodt’s review of this book in Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 32 (2010): 207-215.

Ina Merdjanova and Patrice Brodeur, Religion as a Conversation Starter (Continuum, 2010)

Religion as a Conversation Starter is the first comprehensive analysis of the present state of interreligious dialogue for peace building in Southeast Europe. It is based on empirically grounded and policy-oriented research, carried out throughout the Balkans. The study maps recent interreligious relations in this part of the world, throwing light on both the achievements and challenges of interreligious dialogue for peace building in particular, and offering a set of up-to-date policy recommendations, whilst contributing to a greater understanding of the local particularities and how they relate to broader trends transnationally. Interreligious dialogue has been a central tool in the continuous international efforts to promote peaceful living together in multicultural and multireligious societies. This fascinating monograph explores the place of interreligious dialogue as a primary method in conflict resolution and peace building, and will be of interest to scholars of religious and peace studies, as well as those who advocate and carry out organized interventions in religion-related spheres.

Customer Rights on YouTube

In spring 2008, Dave Carroll and company headed from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Omaha, by way of Chicago. Just after landing at O’Hare airport, says Carroll, one of his bandmates and another passenger looked out their windows and saw United Airline baggage handlers heaving around guitars with wanton disregard.

Carroll says he complained immediately to three flight attendants, but was met with indifference. Sometime after arrival in Nebraska, Carroll says, he discovered that, sure enough, the base of his $3500, 710 Taylor acoustic guitar ,had been smashed.

Carroll complained for many months. United refused to compensate him. Instead of taking them to courts, Carroll prepared a video and put it on YouTube, alerting United of his plan. Their answer was: “Good luck with that one, pal".

The video clip received until now more than 8 million hits and was reported on CNN. Then United contacted Carroll, proposing compensation if he removes the clip. His answer was: “Good luck with that one, pal".

The Taylor Guitar Co. sent Carroll two brand new guitars, in gratitude for increased sales thanks to his video clip.

And I thank Bill Dackman for the story.

You can see the video clip on the LA Times site,

London Theatre – The Caretaker and Jonathan Pryce

A kind-hearted man takes a homeless older man to his basement apartment. The apartment is modest; however, the man shares everything with his guest. The indigent is appreciative, up to a point. His bumpy life made him rough, judgmental, prejudiced, racist, and unkind.


The basement apartment is owned by the brother. A different character altogether, he enjoys playing and agitating the unexpected guest. Through the story of the two brothers and the tramp, The Caretaker deals with complex family relationships, the distance between reality and fantasy, manipulation, and the struggle for power. It also touches on mental illness and the plight of the homeless. Pinter’s elements of comedy and tragedy, and his masterful use of dialogue create an interesting and enjoyable play. Most of all I enjoyed the play of the three actors: Sam Spruell (Mick), Peter McDonald (Aston), and Jonathan Pryce as the tramp (Davies). The trio makes this play real and tangible. Price is simply superb. Words are humbled by his performance.

Recent Movies


I was a soldier during the 1982 Lebanon War. I do not miss any film that is done about this ugly, unjustified war. My very first university essay was about the war, and I continue to study and reflect on it. This anti-war film is shot entirely from the tank perspective. You see the lives of four people, who share a cubic sphere and the agony of war. They are sent to accompany an elite platoon into Lebanon, facing dilemmas they are forced to resolve, quickly. Any hesitation might be very dear. In the first encounter with Lebanese people, the gunman hesitates to shoot as he is unsure whether the people in front of him are enemy. This hesitation cost the life of a young soldier. Next time, the gunman does not hesitate. He kills an innocent farmer.

You see four guys, who wish to return home safely, closed in a tank that might become their death trap, fighting a war about which they know very little, obeying commands whose logic escapes them; four young men involved in miserable fighting, who move on without knowing the big picture, trying to survive against unclear enemies. They thought they were sent to fight the Lebanese and suddenly they encounter Syrians. How come? Why? What are the Christian falangas doing? Only Ariel Sharon had the answers. Even Prime Menachem Begin did not know the answers, for a while.

Music Recommendation

The music of Ladies in Lavender (2004) is beautiful, with Joshua Bell playing the violin. Violin has been my favorite instrument since a young age, when my father used to play it at home from time to time. There is no other that touches my heart and opens it wide to the extent that violin does.

You can see and hear at

The film is nice with two great British actresses, Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. It is a film for thinking people, in the old great British tradition of subtlety.

Monthly Poem


O Love! thou makest all things even

In earth or heaven;

Finding thy way through prison-bars

Up to the stars;

Or, true to the Almighty plan,

That out of dust created man,

Thou lookest in a grave,--to see

Thine immortality!

Sarah Flower Adams

More poems from Sarah Flower Adams

Light Side

Child: Mom, what is orgasm?

Mom: I have no idea. Ask your father.

Peace and love, Happy Passover and Easter.

Yours as ever,


My last communications are available on

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Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Chair in Politics

The University of Hull

Cottingham Road

Hull, HU6 7RX

United Kingdom

T: +0044 (0)1482 465024

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