Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Politics - April 2010

The only fence against the world is a thorough knowledge of it.

             John Locke, Some Thoughts Concerning Education

Gilad is still in captivity. Veshavu banim legvulam.

Raphael Cohen-Almagor

This month was dominated, yet again, by corruption allegations; yet again concerning Ehud Olmert who announced: I never took any bribes in my life. That means, you may blame me for many wrongdoings but bribes I did not take.

In Poland/Russia, mourning as Poland lost in one blow many of its governing elite. Nation states should learn from this tragedy to refrain from flying so many important people together.

In England, Prime Minister Brown announced that general elections will be held on May 6, 2010. Interesting times ahead. Hopefully a democratic celebration and much interest for politics fans like me. It is an election for David Cameron to win. He starts the campaign with a comfortable ten point lead. If he conducts his party’s affairs prudently, Cameron is the likely winner. Brown has no charisma whatsoever. Only frightening the electorate by reflecting on the hardships they are to endure were Tories come to power, will not suffice. I never believed in only negative campaigns. Brown needs to make substantive policy pledges. No. 1 item on the agenda: Economy. The economic crisis is staggering and England needs innovative minds. I think Brown has one, and he has good people around him.

Yet again, we are humbled by the powers of nature, being reminded just how fragile we are (Sting).

Reflections on March Newsletter


Israel’s Investigation of Cast Lead – An Update

Hate on the Internet

Media Wars and Manipulations


Arab Reform Initiative Annual Report

My New Article

Blocking Gene Boosts Radiotherapy

Visit to Toronto

New Books

NY Theatre

New Movie

Monthly Poem

Light Side

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


Reflections on March Newsletter

Don't judge your friend until you reach his place


Prof. Jo Carby-Hall from England added:

… and you still cannot judge your friend even though you have reached his place!!!


I do not think you realize the irony of what you have done here. After spending several pages ranting against Bibi and his government's policies, how they are not interested in peace etc, you then immediately bring an account of Hamas's continued firing on Israel, and right after that the Green Prince who FROM THE INSIDE OF THE PALESTINIAN CAMP is saying in no uncertain terms THAT THERE IS NO ONE ON THE PALESTINIAN SIDE TO SUE FOR PEACE. So with who precisely is Bibi and Israel supposed to make a peace agreement? With Hamas who doesn't accept the legitimacy of Israel PERIOD, and controls a third of the Palestinian people and land? With Abbas etc who will be murdered by Hamas and others (Barghouti) the minute they make any serious compromises with Israel? Frankly, I don't even understand Obama -- and I am a STRONG supporter of him. How do we get from here to there, when the Palestinians themselves are in civil war? I think that you owe it to your readers to deal with these complex questions -- and not just bring several contradictory sections, and let the readers figure things out for themselves (which they can't because right now this circle cannot be squared).

Moadim le'Simkha,

Prof. Sam Lehman-Wilzig, Israel

Hi Sam

Many thanks.

You are right, of course, as always. I am ranting about Bibi. I am ranting about Hamas. Both hopeless. Having said that, I am still allowed to have expectations. I expect my government to be constructive, not destructive. I think what Bibi is doing is harmful to the long-term interests of Israel. It is short-sighted, irresponsible and anything but trust-building efforts to see peace in our lifetime.

Not negotiating with Hamas is one thing. Not negotiating with Abbas is different. Bibi is a bulldozer that does not stop. Someone has to stop him. That guy resides in the White House.

Best wishes


Prof. Bob O’Neill wrote from Australia:

Dear Rafi,

Many thanks for another interesting overview and set of comments. I share your pessimism regarding prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and the longer the relationship drifts along in hostility, the greater are the chances that WMD terrorism will emerge against Israel and the US in the Middle East. It is all very sad! Still you are doing well in keeping critical thoughts before your readers.

I have been following the Afghanistan situation fairly closely, aided by some of my former doctoral students who are there. Some good things are happening, I believe, and it may yet come to a good ending. I am more pessimistic as to what Iraq will look like in five years time.

All the best to you and your family!


Michal Anosh wrote from Canada:

Shalom Rafi, Hag Sameach,

The economic realities of the region just seem to be such a huge missing element in all discussions of the region's 'peace' process.

And the other element is 'what constitutes peace?" This is a problem as well. "Peace" to Americans and Canadians means the kind of relationship we have across our long friendly border - but it might be preferable to aim for "Friendly Trade and Labour; Reduced Conflict and Outlawing of Suicide Bombing and other forms of Violent Terrorist Activity".

Peace is an amorphous word that implies really big wonderful things, but practically it does not fit the definition of SMART/ER goals...Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound, (Evaluate, Re-evaluate).

"Peace" is completely unspecific and should be the first thing abandoned in this process. This is why nothing can go forward - who can agree upon what it means but it sounds lovely to foreign donors who have no comprehension of the situation on the ground.

My Dime A specific goal might be to choose a single refugee camp or neighbourhood, or village - probably in the West Bank - and see if a different economic situation can be developed with micro-financing.

Then through developing a constructive and effective role-model, and seeing how it can really work (vis a vis the large tribal family issues that I understand to be extremely powerful in the Palestinian world) adapt the model to other communities.

We know that BILLIONS of aid dollars have disappeared into the pockets of the powerful there and the Palestinian people on the street have not been helped. There has to be a way to reverse that.

Can we start with a dime savings account for children? Overseas schools could contribute dimes saved by children here. We could use the World Credit Union system to set up neighbourhood credit unions.

Let's see if that could work - and ask children what their dime will go toward? Being a doctor? Bricklayer's tools? Opening a restaurant? An airline? We could work with Queen Rania on this and her 'one goal' organization as a lead model.

Choose Life I tried when I lived in Israel to contact the Good Samaritans (?) I think it was of England, a group that works avidly to help prevent suicides (in Western culture) and hoped they might consider a similar kind of help-line or publication to stop suicide bombings. (They were appalled at the thought!)

I was deeply affected by reading an article which I think was in Atlantic Monthly in 2004 or so, about an interview with the Svengali who was turning folks into suicide bombers - his greatest triumph which came at the end of the interview was that he had turned a recent suicide bomber from a life's mission of being a doctor. I felt sick and feel sick now thinking of the tragic waste of a human life that he so proudly paraded. Couldn't a 'choose life' campaign be effective?

When the IDF is busy dropping leaflets warning of impending bombings (and I salute them for their humanity in this, despite the regrettable circumstances) couldn't they also be dropping a 'choose life' brochure - perhaps with biographies of prominent Palestinians (like Rania, though perhaps not her specifically so as not to create

regional disharmony at the political level) ...couldn't we be saying "I am Raheem and I live in Australia but I come from Gaza. I run a factory which employs 10 people and I have chosen life. I want to build a strong and beautiful future for my people and I need you to choose life too."

Half the Sky Have you read Nicholas Kristof's book? I am reading it now. We need to reach the women. I tried to help a small group of Israeli and Palestinian women years ago when I was in Israel and helped them put together this website http://wisdomnotweapons.com/

But when we tried to get it translated into Palestinian Arabic, the male Arab lawyer from the Galilee who I consulted with (he and his wife do translation too) told me "We can't really translate this because these concepts do not exist in our language."

If you know of anyone who could help us do an effective translation we would be grateful.

I do understand the problem - before 1924 in Canada the thought of a woman voting was unheard of. Women who were not married by the age of 30 in early Canada were often committed to an insane asylum. Likewise in a traditional world, the thought that women have a voice for peace is unable to be communicated because the concept does not exist.

It's like when Carl Jung visited the Taos Pueblo Indians, Jung spoke for the first time with a non-white, a Hopi elder named Antonio Mirabal (also known as Ochwiay Biano and Mountain Lake), who said that whites were always uneasy and restless: "We do not understand them. We think that they are mad" (Jung, 1973, p. 248). Jung asked him why he thought the whites were mad, and the reply was "'They say that they think with their heads . . . . We think here,' he said, indicating his heart" (p. 248). http://www.cgjungpage.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=881&Itemid=1

Aside from the other difficulties of economy and radical Islam/radical PLO terrorism, there may well be a huge comprehension barrier as noted above.

Learned Helplessness/Lack of Vision Just like generational welfare clients, the Palestinian people cannot be 'dumped' into entrepreneurial survival without a bit of help.

It is hard to know how much of the destruction of the carefully preserved/financed greenhouses in Gaza was simple mass rage/vengeance of the crowd, incitement of terrorist leaders who WANTED the enterprise to fail and to keep the people poor and economically enslaved, OR fear of success.

Gaza could be growing and exporting billions of dollars worth of fresh veggies and flowers to the EU in a twinkling - instead of firing rockets into Israel. As the ladies of Minerva note, Gaza could be a tourist haven in a twinkling that could finance the freedom of its entire people....if people only had a vision of a different world.

Hamas will not stay in power if the people have a vision that is stronger than the threats of Hamas. It is not hard to give them that in this day and age.

I even go so far as to say that part of the lack of 'success' of the PA/PLO etc in achieving the (disgusting) "goal of wiping out Israel" is the total lack of vision for 'then what' - and maybe that should be made clear.

Go ahead. Wipe us out. Then what? You will not be able to claim UN aid anymore; you will not be able to blame Hamas or Fatah for your problem - or Israel. You may pillage the land - then will you destroy Tel Aviv as you destroyed those greenhouses in Gaza and...then what? Do you think the world will applaud you as they do now? Poor oppressed Palestinians - will they cry for you or will they laugh as you look for a new scapegoat? Will it be the EU who will cut off funds? Will it be New York and Washington which will go on its merry capitalistic way, now the 'conflict' is 'solved'? What is the big picture here? No vision. No visions for you NOW...get one. And how about making it one where your children survive and thrive and you worship the sun on the beach instead of crying over another martyr who did nothing for you but deepen your own misery?

You see my point. There are no measurable or achievable goals in the "peace" process which to date has been really about land squabbles and political positioning. No wonder it doesn't work.

So we need to go with something specific as I have noted above and then we can see some outcome and decide what works and what doesn't. Till then it is all talk and a waste of time and you and your list must not continue picking sides. PICK SOLUTIONS and get to work.

Sorry to be so vehement but honestly....let's get practical about this.

Hag Sameach -



Time is running out. Iran remains adamant in its plans, defying world pressure. If leaders of the world will not move to action quickly, little room for manoeuvre will be left for Israel. I suspect that its leaders will give the army a green light. The IDF has been preparing for the attack for many long months. By now, I assume that the intelligence is complete, what is feasible is known, and the plans are concrete and operative. What is speculated is the aftermath. The consequences will be difficult for Israel and world Jewry.

To avoid this scenario, Mr Obama, Mr Medvedev, Mr Jintao, Mr Sarkozy and Mr Brown should do the following:

Convene a summit at the end of which they publish a consent statement that would explicitly call Iran to stop its destructive nuclear implementation; saying that the State of Israel is here to remain, and that the only sovereign home for the Jewish people is to remain secure and intact. In the event that Iran endangers Israel’s safety in any shape or form, they would retaliate harshly, to the extent that Iran’s economy, history and legacy would suffer for generations, with manifold casualties. The destruction of Iran would be devastating.

Is such a statement doable? If it is, Iran won’t be able to ignore it, as it ignored all other threats until now.

Israel’s Investigation of Cast Lead – an Update

In January 2010, Israel published an update of its investigations of the alleged violations of the Law of Armed Conflict during Operation Cast Lead. Here is a summary of the main findings:

A. Command Investigations

Claims regarding incidents in which a large number of civilians not directly participating in the hostilities were harmed

The investigation into these allegations included 7 separate incidents. As to 4 of the incidents, the Military Advocate General completed his investigation and review, finding no grounds to open a criminal inquiry. The investigations with regard to three incidents are still underway. In 2 instances the special command investigation is still ongoing. The third incident involved the alleged strike on the Al Maquadme Mosque, which the Chief of General Staff had remanded for a new special command investigation.

Claims regarding incidents where U.N. and international facilities were fired upon and damaged during the Gaza Operation

The investigation into these allegations included 13 separate incidents. The Military Advocate General found no basis to order criminal investigations of the thirteen incidents under review. With regard to two of these incidents, the Military Advocate General affirmed the decisions to pursue disciplinary proceedings against IDF personnel.

Incidents involving shooting at medical facilities, buildings, vehicles and crews

The investigation into these allegations included 10 separate incidents. The Military Advocate General found no basis to order criminal investigations of the 10 incidents under review.

Destruction of private property and infrastructure by ground forces

This investigation dealt with the general allegations that the IDF intentionally destroyed private property and civilian infrastructure during the Gaza operation. The investigation did not deal with specific incidents alleged in complaints or reports. The Military Advocate General emphasised the importance of clear regulations and orders, as well as clear combat doctrine, regarding the demolition of structures and infrastructure. The IDF has already adopted such regulations and combat doctrine.

The use of weaponry containing phosphorous

This investigation dealt with the use of weapons containing phosphorous by IDF forces during the Gaza Operation. The investigation focused on the different types and number of weapons containing phosphorous used during the Operation, the purposes for which they were used, the applicable professional instructions and rules of engagement and the extent of compliance with those instructions and rules. The Military Advocate General reviewed the entire record of the special command investigation. With respect to exploding munitions containing white phosphorous, the Military Advocate General concluded that the use of this weapon in the operation was consistent with Israel’s obligations under international law.

With respect to smoke projectiles, the Military Advocate General found that international law does not prohibit use of smoke projectiles containing phosphorous. Specifically, such projectiles are not “incendiary weapons,” within the meaning of the Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Incendiary Weapons, because they are not primarily designed to set fire or to burn. The Military Advocate General found no grounds to take disciplinary or other measures for the IDF’s use of weapons containing phosphorous, which involved no violation of the Law of Armed Conflict.

The Military Advocate General acknowledged that the investigations had found operational lapses and errors in the exercise of discretion. However, given the complexities of decision making under pressure, particularly when the adversary has entrenched itself within the civilian population, such mistakes do not in themselves establish a violation of the Law of Armed Conflict.

In addition to the special command investigations discussed above, the Military Advocate General referred complaints regarding approximately 90 incidents for command investigations. To date, the IDF has completed 45 of the investigations. The Military Advocate General has referred 7 incidents for criminal investigations. The Military Advocate General has found that other incidents investigated raised no reasonable suspicion of a violation of the Law of Armed Conflict. Investigations into the remaining 45 incidents continue.

B. Criminal Investigations

To date, the Military Advocate General has already referred 36 separate incidents for criminal investigation. Of the 36 incidents referred thus far for criminal investigation, 19 incidents involved alleged shootings towards civilians. The Military Advocate General referred most of these incidents (12) directly for criminal investigation (without requesting a command investigation or awaiting the results of one), while some of them (7) were referred after the Military Advocate General reviewed the findings and records gathered during command investigations and concluded that there was a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity by IDF forces. One investigation has led to an indictment and conviction of an IDF soldier.

The remaining 17 incidents involved allegations of using civilians as human shields, mistreatment of detainees and civilians, and pillage and theft. In these instances, the Military Advocate General determined that the allegations, if true, concerned events that were clearly beyond any legitimate operational activity, and therefore directly referred all of the cases to criminal investigation.

C. Incidents Discussed in Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Report

34 incidents were addressed at length in the Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Report. 11 incidents are the subject of on-going criminal investigations. Two of these investigations were concluded, with no suspicion for criminal behaviour.

It is in Israel’s best interests to have an independent, unbiased expert committee investigating each of the human rights allegations.

I have the Report on file, for those who wish to read it in full. I thank Dr. Rafi Danziger for sending it to me.

Hate on the Internet

I was invited to a conference at Fordham Law School about Hate on the Internet. I knew most of the participants, either personally or through their writings, before coming to the conference and thus knew that it will be a high-calibre gathering of experts. Indeed it was. I thanks and congratulate Prof. Joel R. Reidenberg and Jamela Debelak for organizing a terrific and most interesting conference.

In a joint statement ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) and the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) strongly condemn manifestations of racism and xenophobia, with a particular focus on the Internet:

“We must remain vigilant in the face of racist behaviour and incidents, including hate crimes and malicious expressions of hate and racist sentiments on the Internet.

“Our organisations are alarmed by patterns and manifestations of racism such as the ever-increasing use of the Internet by racist groups for recruitment, radicalisation, command and control, as well as for the intimidation and harassment of opponents. The Internet has become an important communications channel that links people in ‘cyberspace’, who then meet and take action in the physical world.

“Social networking sites are now prime locations for the spread of racist and xenophobic views, especially among young people. We must challenge such views, while being careful not to undermine freedom of expression. “The danger emanating from hate spread through the Internet has long been recognized by the international community and our organizations dedicate serious attention to this issue. Prominent examples include ECRI’s General Policy Recommendation N° 6 on Combating the Dissemination of Racist, Xenophobic and Anti-Semitic Material via the Internet and the upcoming 22 March ODIHR expert meeting on challenges of combating crimes motivated by hate on the Internet.

“At the same time, we strongly believe in the Internet’s huge potential to overcome bias and prejudices based on characteristics including race, colour, language, nationality or national origin or religion. This potential should be fully utilized.

“We, the signatories of this statement, believe that:

• Governments should investigate and prosecute criminal threats of violence based on racial, ethnic, religious or other bias and fully use existing domestic and international legal instruments and co-operation channels in this regard;

• Governments should provide training to law enforcement officers and prosecutors on addressing hate crimes motivated by racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic or other related bias on the Internet;

• Governments should reflect on whether national legislation provides an adequate basis to respond to crimes motivated by racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic or other related bias on the Internet;

• Governments should establish or expand educational programmes for children and young people about expressions motivated by racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic or other related bias they may encounter on the Internet and include media literacy training in school curricula;

• Effective measures addressing hate on the Internet that do not endanger freedom of speech and expression should be identified and disseminated;

• Civil society should explore ways of utilizing the popularity of social networking sites to combat racism;

• Civil society’s efforts to monitor the Internet for manifestations of hate, and efforts to share and publicise the findings should be encouraged and supported;

• The Internet industry should take an active role in addressing the issue of hate on the Internet and develop and implement effective complaints response mechanisms while respecting freedom of expression.”

Media Wars and Manipulations

The week commencing March 21, 2010 was dominated in the USA by debates on the Health Reform Bill. For many millions of Americans, the main source of information is television, more than the Internet and radio, far more than the print media. Millions of Americans watch CNN; many more millions acquire their information from Fox.

Both CNN and Fox dedicated large segments of their news to the Health Reform Bill, and both provided very partial interpretations of the Bill. While CNN supports the Bill, perceiving it as a positive change for the better, Fox accelerated its critical tone of the Obama administration, arguing it is socialist (a demeaning term in American parlance), communist (four letter word), anti-patriotic, anti-American, divisive, corrupt, coercive, expensive, undermining the basic values of the American tradition of liberty and individualism. The same bill and the interpretations are world apart.

Now, if you listen to both CNN and Fox, then you may acquire a balanced view of the debate. But if you rely on one as the main source of information, as many Americans do, there is little wonder about the harsh consequences that may result, in the form of hate speech, incitement, and calls for murder. Responsible media are media that care about the consequences of their coverage. Fox does not even pretend to be objective, fair-handed and balanced in its coverage. Its coverage is a lesson as to how to conduct irresponsible reporting, unethical coverage, and debasing interpretation of news. The need for media ethics in American television is urgent more than ever.


Sarah Palin is on centre stage, with concrete hopes to run for the presidency. This lady evokes in me anything but appreciation. The more I hear, the less I want to hear. And the more I see John McCain listening to her, the more puzzled I am. I mean, I used to appreciate this guy. We all make mistakes and McCain is entitled to make his. By now, I trust, he must have realized that opening the door for Palin was a huge mistake. If he did not, then I was mistaken in my appreciation of him. His behaviour reminds me of a class queen who agitates her front girl to do stunts for her while she is behind, approving with joy. The stunts are all deriding, unleashing the bulldog in human against others, showing disrespect for people, with little or no dignity and absolutely no shame. Simply appalling.

Arab Reform Initiative Annual Report

The Arab Reform Initiative has published the second edition of its annual report, The State of Reform in the Arab World – The Arab Democracy Index, charting the Arab world’s transition to democracy. The study, which covers ten Arab countries, measures forty indicators to gauge four major values and principles relevant to the democratization process: strong and accountable public institutions, respect for rights and freedoms, the rule of law, and equality and social justice. The selected indicators measure daily political, economic and social issues, and reflect the entire democratic decision-making process. Data gathered for the Arab Democracy Index cover three different dimensions: the legal aspect, public opinion, and practices of regimes. Measurement is therefore based on monitoring performance and behaviour rather than just examining intentions and structures, since intentions may be good but performance poor.

The report finds that the region has the institutional means to transition to democratic governments but has not yet universally applied them into practice. Indeed, a large gap exists between the means and the practices of democratic transition. It states that genuine change requires transformation in three areas: (1) laws and an electoral process that integrates all sectors of society and eliminates discrimination; (2) the development of tax systems based on progressive taxation and a just distribution of

Wealth; (3) the development of an education system with firm moral and social foundations and based on the principles of pluralism and secularism.

Accordingly, the report states an urgent need in the Arab world to guarantee greater political and civil freedom, not only through more legislation but also by enhancing monitoring functions and the role of human rights organizations. Additionally, the study notes a pressing need to make the issues of social justice and social and economic rights the core of the reform process. This would need to happen while also reforming education by allocating bigger budgets, combating illiteracy, reducing the school drop-out rate, and improving the conditions of education, especially for females.

Annual Report: The State of Reform in the Arab World 2009-2010 (also in Arabic)

My New Article

Book Review of Leslie Stein, “The Making of Modern Israel 1948-1967”, Democracy and Security, Vol. 6, Issue 1 (2010), pp. 88–96.

Leslie Stein’s book provides a detailed, comprehensive analysis of Israel’s history from 1948 to 1967. Stein writes clearly, with a sharp eye for significant details. He makes invaluable contribution to our understanding of the events that shaped Israel in the first two decades of its establishment.

Stein is appreciative of the Zionist venture. In 1904, the Jewish population in Palestine was 55,000 people (p. 3). Between 1930 and 1939, more than 270,000 Jews from central and Eastern Europe sought refuge in Palestine, bringing the Yishuv’s numbers to 475,000, slightly more than 30 percent of the entire population (p. 11). Alarmed by the Jewish influx to Palestine, in May 1939 the British introduced a ceiling of 75,000 additional Jews were allowed into Palestine over a five-year period (p. 12). After the end of WWII, Britain remained adamant in the face of European Jews wishing to immigrate to Palestine and set restrictive quotas at no more than 1,500 people per month. In despair, the Yishuv took up arms to oust the British. The struggle was effective. The mandate in Palestine became too costly for the British.

On May 14, 1948, on the eve of the date set by Britain for the termination of its mandate in Palestine, the State of Israel was declared. At that time, the Jewish population was 650,000 strong, and soon enough it had to face its first major challenge, first among many more to come. The one-day-old state had to encounter the invasion of Arab armies of Syria, Transjordan, Iraq and Egypt plus a small contingent from Saudi Arabia. The War of Independence was an extraordinary triumph against all odds. Stein provides careful reasoning and insightful analysis of the war efforts that yielded a bolstered and hardened young state. In many respects, that war signalled Israel’s future. Born into a hostile and resentful region, life in Israel is life of strife, of constant violent challenges. Abnormality became the norm; tranquillity a distant dream; peace a far-reaching aspiration; security a constant need.

The refugee problem

Stein dedicates a chapter (2) to the Palestinian refugee problem. Official Israeli sources argue that the number of Arab refuges was 630,000. The Arabs claim that the number was over a million. Stein argues that the true figure is closer to the Israeli estimate – 726,000 refugees, derived by deducting the number of Arabs that remained in Israel, 133,000, from the 859,000 that were present prior the war (p. 69). Stein argues that no documentation or testimony shows that either David Ben-Gurion or IDF heads issued any general injunction to expel or harm Arab civilians (p. 72). He points out that by May 14, 1948, when Israel was established and about to be invaded by regular Arab armies, some 300,000 refugees had already fled (p. 74). The largest IDF expulsion of Arab civilians occurred at Lydda and Ramlah, involving some 30,000 people (p. 77). Stein also notes that after the war ended and in violation of the Israeli-Egyptian armistice agreement, about 3,000 Palestinians remaining in Faluja and Iraq-el-Manshie were pressured to leave Israel (p. 78).


After the 1948 War, Israel was preoccupied with accommodating the masses of immigration that came to the newly-established state. Within four years, Israel doubled its population (p. 83). Stein tells the story of the Jews from Yemen, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Iran, Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria (the only European country whose Jewish community uprooted itself almost in its entirety to settle in Israel), and Poland. Life in Israel was not easy for them. The Israeli leadership did not wish to respect their traditions and culture as the idea was that all newcomers needed to fit into a melting pot to establish a new Jew, the Sabra, in the “Land of Our forefathers”. As far as Ben-Gurion was concerned, immigration involved a one-way process of absorption, integration, and elevation of newcomers (p. 105). Stein does not elaborate on the cultural paternalism and discrimination against those traditions that seemed inferior and backward. The Middle East cultures were rejected during the formative years and efforts were made to curtail their legitimacy because they were not perceived at that time as consistent with the spirit of the new Israeli-Jew, the Sabra. The acculturation process left no room for preserving the tradition and culture prior to the ascension to Israel.


Although Israel had acquired widespread formal recognition in the world, its neighbors were not willing to recognize the Zionist state. Some neighbors stick to this policy until today. In addition, some of the world powers wished to downsize its territory, thinking that this could bring some quiet into the region. In April 1955, Israel learnt from a British Member of Parliament, Herbert Morrison, which Britain and the USA had reached an agreement that in the event of a peace treaty between Israel and the Arabs Israel was to cede parts of the Negev. In exchange Israel was to receive the Gaza Strip along with all its Palestinians. Only in November 1955, US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles provided Israel with full details of this plan, coded Project Alpha (p. 147). The plan never materialized as Israel and the Arab states did not wish to embrace it. Israel conquered Gaza a decade later, in the Six Day War, established Jewish presence in the Strip, one of the most populated areas in the world. Israel left the Strip only in 2005, hopefully never to return. At that time, in the 365 square kilometers there were more than 1.2 million Palestinians, and some 7,500 Jewish settlers in sixteen settlements.


More than anything else, the book portrays the history of young Israel as history of suffering. From its inception in May 1948, Israel had to face hostile neighbours that refused to come to terms with its very existence.

Over the period 1951-1956, Israel lost hundreds of its citizens as a result of terrorist acts perpetrated by Arab intruders, Fedayeen. They reached targets deep inside Israel’s territory, reaching to within 18 kilometres of Tel Aviv (p. 169). The frequent terror attacks led to harsh measures of retaliation. Stein tells the story of the Wadi Arava affair of May 1950, when more than one hundred Arabs were driven to Wadi Arava where temperatures soar to unbearable high degrees, and ordered to cross the border to Jordan. Wandering aimlessly for between two and four days, about thirty of them died of dehydration and exhaustion (p. 153). Stein also tells the story of Unit 101, a special retaliatory unit under the command of Ariel Sharon, responsible inter alia for the Qibya affair, where 69 Arabs died, including women, children and the elderly, and 41 civilian houses were destroyed (p. 158). Ben-Gurion announced on radio that the raid was the unauthorized work of vigilante Jewish farmers. He feared that Unit 101 might well evolve into a coterie of professional killers.

The frequent skirmishes along the Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian borders, together with the formation of the Baghdad Pact which led to the 1955 Czech-Egyptian arms deal that gave Egypt a tremendous military boost drew Chief of Staff Moshe Dayan to the conclusion that Israel’s sole option was to launch a pre-emptive war (p. 175). Ben-Gurion was afraid that unless Israel could at least partially match the new Egyptian arsenal, a full-scale war was inevitable. Situated in a violent and hostile region, Israel sought powerful friends. It submitted a modest request to the US for 48 jets and 60 tanks. The American administration rejected the request so as not to appear pro-Israel

(p. 177). Indeed, only in 1962 President John F. Kennedy authorized the sale of defensive weapons, anti-aircraft hawk missiles, to Israel. And only in 1964 President Johnson authorized for the first time the sale of offensive weapons to Israel, including Sky Hawk jets and Patton tanks (p. 249).

When the UK also refused to redress the Middle East arms imbalance, Israel turned to France. The architect of negotiations was Shimon Peres. Luckily for Israel, the newly elected Prime Minister Guy Mollet, and his foreign minister Christian Pineau, turned a listening and sympathetic ear. In March 1956, Israel received the first batch of French jets and tanks, followed by a steady flow of additional supplies that enabled Israel to offset its potential vulnerability (p. 179).

The Suez Campaign

People who argue that the 1956 War was unjustified need to address the facts as presented by Stein. Israel’s struggle for survival is also a story of seeking legitimacy and help from powerful countries. Stein portrays with a fine pen Israel’s complex relationship with France, and especially Britain, leading to the 1956 War. He rightly notes that the French arms sales to Israel were largely derived from a perception that Israel could well serve France as an ally in confronting Nasser. When Nasser, on July 26, 1956, nationalized the Suez Canal Company, owned and managed by Britain and France, both governments “reacted hysterically” (p. 180). Both governments agreed to pursue a joint military campaign dubbed “Musketeer” and, at first, the British demanded that Israel was neither to be party to their venture nor to be informed of imminent hostilities. Stein describes the events that led to their change of mind and to the signing of the Sevres Accords in which the three countries colluded to wage an attack on Egypt. Still, when the Suez War ultimately got under way, there was never any direct contact between the IDF and the British army. Most British high-ranking officers had no idea that their country was colluding with Israel (p. 187). Astonishingly, Stein also notes that at the same period, 1954-1956, the British High Command prepared Operation Cordage, a contingency plan for war against Israel according to which the Israel air force will be destroyed, a naval blockade on Israel will be introduced, British forces will attack Israeli ground forces, and the major cities of Israel will be bombed, including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa (p. 188).

Israel’s main objectives in the Sinai Campaign included the impairment of the Egyptian ability to confront it, and the opening of the Tiran Straits to ships of all flags. By the end of the Campaign, Israel held the entire Sinai Peninsula bar a 15-kilometer strip straddling the Canal and assumed control over the Straits of Tiran. Interestingly, neither Jordan nor Syria entered the conflict. This decision played a critical part in their subsequent crucial decision, a decade later, to enter the 1967 War. Then both countries’ leaders felt that they could not, yet again, remain on the sidelines watching.

Under intense international pressure, Britain was the first (November 1956) to abandon the Suez Campaign. The next month, France followed suit. Israel reluctantly began to pull back its forces and by March 1957 it withdrew in full from all Egyptian territories (p. 211). The Campaign, however, brought Nasser to the realization that the IDF was a formidable force and that Egypt lacked the power to subdue Israel. Israel thus entered a decade of relative tranquillity and security up until 1967.

The Six Day War

Stein masterfully analyses the events that led to Israel’s pre-emptive strike on June 5, 1967. The main catalyst of the war was the Soviet Union although Stein argues that a message from Prime Minister Aleksei Kosygin stopped Nasser from attacking Israel on May 27, 1967. As Egypt was about to execute Operation Dawn which was said to involve sweeping air strikes that would obliterate Israel’s grounded aircraft and enable Egypt to conquer the southern Negev, Nasser received a message from Kosygin informing him that President Johnson said that should Egypt attack Israel, the US would not feel bound to exercise restraint. With Nasser believing that Israel had full knowledge of his intentions and that the US might come to its help, Operation Dawn was cancelled (p. 277).

It was Israel that did exactly what Egypt planned to do. On the first day of the war, 286 of Egypt’s 420 warplanes were destroyed. The skies were in Israel’s absolute control, a fact that paved the way for resounding victory. Interestingly, Stein notes that after the IDF captured the Temple Mount, Shlomo Goren, the army chief rabbi pressed Uzi Narkiss, the Central Regional Commander, to “put a hundred kilograms of explosives in the Mosque of Omar”. Narkiss dismissed the appeal (p. 304).

We are living with the consequences of the Six Day War. Things, however, could have been different. On June 19, 1967, the cabinet resolved to convey to both Egypt and Syria that in the framework of a peace agreement, Israel was prepared to withdraw to recognized international frontier (p. 319). Ben-Gurion said: “If I have to choose between a small Israel, without territories, but with peace, and a greater Israel without peace, I prefer a small Israel” (p. 320).

Troubling affairs

Young Israel had known some troubling events that tore the country apart. Rightly, Stein highlights their main details and provides some interesting findings. The first was the Kastner trial which really was the Gruenwald trial. Gruenwald published an article in which he accused Israel Kastner, one of the Mapai Party’s leaders, of saving his own family and political associates at the cost of sacrificing Hungarian Jewry. In his capacity as the Jewish Committee for Rescue and Assistance, Kastner established and maintained ongoing contacts with the Gestapo when Hungary was under Nazi occupation and, so Gruenwald claimed, Kastner became a Nazi collaborator. The attorney general decided to press criminal libel suit against Gruenwald and after a long trial, on June 22, 1955, the Jerusalem District Court found that all the defendant’s allegations but one (that Kastner stole Jewish property) were warranted. Judge Benjamin Halevy asserted that Kastner “had sold his soul to the devil” (p. 121). The government appealed to the Supreme Court that, in a 4-to-1 ruling, overturned the decision. The Supreme Court ordered that Kastner be absolved of accusations of having been a Nazi collaborator and of having betrayed both the Hungarian Jewish community and the Israeli paratroopers who came to save them (among them Hana Senesh). Kastner, however, did not live to witness his vindication as he was assassinated a few months earlier. This affair was the catalyst for the downfall of the Sharett government and for his replacement by Ben-Gurion.

The second affair that tore young Israel apart involved Minister of Defence Pinhas Lavon who transformed from a dove to adventurous and dangerous hawk. Stein writes that behind Prime Minister Sharett’s back, Lavon contrived a series of outlandish military actions of which “fortunately few saw the light of day” (p. 116). One such activity concerned a Jewish cell in Egypt that was ordered in 1954 to create havoc by planting bombs in public places, like cinema theatres and libraries. The question was: Who gave the order for such terrorist activity?

The two prime suspects were Lavon and the director of military intelligence, Binyamin Givli. Both did not admit their involvement. The affair lasted nine years and played a part in the stepping down of Ben-Gurion from Israel’s politics.

Stein argues that many key figures in Israel detested Lavon. Ben-Gurion likened him to a wolf in sheep’s clothing and mounted a personal vendetta against him (p. 225). Chief of Staff Makleff and Dayan distasted Lavon. Sharett thought that Lavon “incessantly advocated acts of lunacy, inculcating the army command with the diabolical notion of igniting the Middle East, fomenting dissention, bloody assassinations, attacks on objectives and assets of the Powers, acts of desperation and suicide” (p. 219). Berl Katznelson described Lavon as a “brilliant mind within an ugly soul” (p. 219).

Lavon was forced to resign in February 1955. He was replaced by Ben-Gurion who returned from his self-imposed exile in Sde Boker under Sharett’s leadership, which he resented and worked to undermine. Ben-Gurion succeeded to return to the prime minister office in 1955 but in 1963 resigned in protest against the government’s committee finding that Lavon did not issue the critical operational order to Givli.

The third troubling affair took place on October 29, 1956 in the Arab village of Kfar Kassem. As the Sinai Campaign was about to begin, it was decided to introduce new curfew regulations for the Israeli Arabs. Many Kfar Kassem inhabitants were away from their village when the curfew changes were announced. When they returned from the fields, they were met by Israeli soldiers who received an order to shoot all who break the curfew. From the fire 49 Arabs, including women and children, were killed (p. 215). A committee of inquiry was established that ordered to court marshal seven of the soldiers. The Kfar Kassem massacre is still an open wound. Only in

1997, 41 years after the event, a government minister visited the village to convey the government’s apology.

From Stein’s analysis we discern an interesting phenomenon. Three young men were charged with Kastner’s murder on the basis of confessions from two of them. The three were sentenced for life but less than seven years later they were granted presidential pardon and in 1963 they were released from prison. In the second affair, after he was forced to step down from the ministry of defence, Lavon assumed the role of the Histadrut General Secretary, one of the most powerful positions in Israel’s economy, while Givli was transferred to another senior army posting. In the Kfar Kassem affair, one officer was sentenced to 17 years in prison, two other officers to 15 years, and five others to seven years imprisonment. Yet merely three years later, they were all released. When the dust settles, and the atmosphere relaxes, justice finds its expression in strange ways.


Stein takes us on a fascinating tour, highlighting major and lesser events in the history of young Israel. In this rich discussion, readers learn about the discrimination against Israeli Arabs (p. 239), how and why Israel developed its nuclear capacity (p. 247), the Eichman trial (p. 231), the economy (p. 229), the kibbutz (p. 136), the Wadi Salib riots (p. 237), the Eli Cohen extraordinary espionage success in Syria (p. 251), the Samu vengeance operation (p. 259), and Israel’s foreign affairs with African as well as other countries (p. 260). Readers gain insights into decision-making processes that were often affected by internal rivalries and personal antipathies as well as by external powers. For instance, when the third Chief of Staff, Mordechai Makleff, stepped down from office he wanted Yitzhak Rabin to succeed him, but because of Rabin’s prominent involvement in the Palmah which Ben-Gurion regarded as having been under the sway of leftists, Moshe Dayan was nominated. Ben-Gurion had some misgivings as to Dayan’s integrity and personality but the young Director General of the Defence Ministry, Shimon Peres, was able to reassure him (p. 115). Golda Meir resented the self-assertiveness of Shimon Peres whom she regarded as being “excessively ambitious and cynical” (p. 216). She also chided Ben-Gurion for precipitating Isser Harel’s resignation from the directorship of the Shin Bet and the Mossad. Meir had close personal ties with Harel (p. 226).

Stein maintains that on the eve of the Six Day War, Prime Minister Eshkol was reluctant to give Dayan the ministry of defence. He wanted Yigal Alon to become defence minister and Dayan would be made deputy prime minister. Dayan had no interest in this job and preferred to replace Yeshayahu Gavish as the commander of the Southern Front, a proposition that Chief of Staff Rabin refused to accept (p. 283). On the side lines, as Israel was preparing to war, Ben-Gurion poured scorn on Eshkol (p. 284), as he did before on Sharett. In Ben-Gurion’s eyes, no one was capable or good enough to enter his large shoes.

In the international arena, in the mid-1960s President de Gaulle did not regard Israel as a strategic ally. Rather, as he wished to mend fences with the Arab world he perceived the French close military ties as an unnecessary liability (p. 248). Feeling the French cold wind, Israel sought closer alliance with the more receptive American administration. This alliance was strengthened during the Nixon administration that came to Israel’s help when the country most needed it during the harsh and violent weeks of October 1973. Later on, the Carter administration facilitated the signing of Israel’s peace accords with its number 1 enemy until then, Egypt. Since then, both Republican and Democratic administrations have put Israel very high on the American geo-strategic list of world interests, bolstering and elevating the American-Israeli alliance up to the point it now is, strong and hopefully unshakeable.

Blocking Gene Boosts Radiotherapy

A gene which hinders the ability of radiotherapy to kill cancer cells has been detected by UK researchers. The team found that if they blocked the POLQ gene - which has a role in repairing damaged DNA - radiotherapy was more effective. It is hoped that the discovery, which came about after a trawl through 200 candidate genes, could lead to new drugs to boost radiotherapy.

The findings are published in the Journal Cancer Research.

Many thousands of cancer patients will have some form of radiotherapy as part of their treatment, and it is estimated to contribute to 40% of cases where cancer is eliminated.

The researchers from the University of Oxford said tumours can differ widely in the way they respond to radiotherapy - but the reasons for these differences are largely unknown.

In order to find a potential target for increasing the chances that radiotherapy would work, they looked specifically at genes involved in repairing DNA damage. After pinpointing the POLQ gene, they found that blocking it in several different types of cancer cell in the laboratory, including laryngeal and pancreatic tumours, rendered the cells more vulnerable to the effects of radiation.

The researchers said the fact that the POLQ seemed to more abundant in cancer cells than normal cells made it a good target for boosting the effects of radiotherapy. Study leader Dr Geoff Higgins, a Cancer Research UK scientist at the Gray Institute for Radiation Oncology and Biology, said: "We've sieved through a vast pool of promising genetic information and identified a gene that could potentially be targeted by drugs to improve the effectiveness of radiotherapy. Blocking the activity of this gene resulted in a greater number of tumour cells dying after radiotherapy and provides new avenues for research."

Professor Gillies McKenna, director of the institute, added: "The next stage is to translate this discovery into a treatment that will benefit patients."

Story from BBC NEWS:


Published: 2010/04/02 23:00:34 GMT

Visit to Toronto

In early May I am invited to a conference in Toronto. I’d be happy to meet with friends and colleagues.

New Books

John Hoffman and Paul Graham, Introduction to Political Theory (Harlow: Pearson, 2009).

Introduction to Political Theory is a text for the 21st century. It shows students why an understanding of theory is crucial to an understanding of issues and events in a rapidly shifting global political landscape. Bringing together classic and contemporary political concepts and ideologies into one book, this text introduces the major approaches to political issues that have shaped the modern world, and the ideas that form the currency of political debate.

This excellent resource relates political ideas to political realities through effective use of examples and cases studies making theory lively, contentious and relevant. This thoroughly revised and updated second edition contains new chapters on global justice and political violence, as well as an expanded treatment of globalisation and the state. A wide range of pedagogical features helps to clarify, extend and apply students' understanding of the fundamental ideologies and concepts. This is comprised of: * Case studies demonstrate how political ideas, concepts and issues manifest in the real world * Focus' boxes encourage students to appreciate alternative viewpoints * A range of thought provoking photographs challenge students to examine concepts from a different angle * Suggestions for further reading and web links are also provided to help students to further their understanding Introduction to Political Theory is accompanied by an innovative website with multiple choice questions, biographies of key figures in political theory, further case studies and an innovative how to read' feature which helps students get to grips with difficult primary texts.


Valerie Alia, THE NEW MEDIA NATION: Indigenous Peoples and Global Communication (Berghahn Books, 2010).

Around the planet, Indigenous people are using old and new technologies to amplify their voices and broadcast information to a global audience. This is the first portrait of a powerful international movement that looks both inward and outward, helping to preserve ancient languages and cultures while communicating across cultural, political, and geographical boundaries.

Based on more than twenty years of research, observation, and work experience in Indigenous journalism, film, music, and visual art, this volume includes specialized studies of Inuit in the circumpolar north, and First Nations peoples in the Yukon and southern Canada and the United States.

NY Theatre

Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge

Arthur Miller is my favourite playwright. For me, his plays are not to be missed. Some of them (All My Sons, Death of a Salesman) I saw several times. A View from the Bridge contains all the familiar Miller qualities: strong drama, clever dialogues, enchanting scenes, powerful emotions. It has all that a good play should have, and the extra benefits are the actors, first and foremost Liv Schreiber who holds everything together, playing the role of Eddie who is in love with his wife’s sister, knows this is not right, and cannot help himself pursuing a destructive path once lovely Catherine, played by the most captivating Scarlett Johansson, falls in love with a newly arrived immigrant from Italy.

This is the best play I have seen this year. Go. No, run.

New Movie

Fugitive Pieces (2009)

People devise different ways to deal with their past. Memories can hunt you, torment you, disturb your sleep, and halt your breathing. Memories can be so powerful that they might transform your past into present.

Jacob was a boy in Poland when the Nazis stormed his house, killed his parents and took his older sister Bella with them. He ran to the woods, where he was found by Athos, a Greek archaeologist who saved his life. He took Jacob with him to his home at the beautiful island of Hydra. Later they moved to Canada where both addressed their past by writing.

This is a powerful drama about human kindness at a time when humanity was at its all-time low. It's a story about suffering and endurance. The acting is superb: Robbie Kay as young Jakob is just remarkable. He surely has a promising future. Stephen Dillane as the older Jakob is sensitive, kind, humane, fragile and agonized. Rade Serbedzija as Athos gives a powerful performance, so good that you should see the movie just because of him.

The role of the women is secondary in this film, but all leave a mark. In the limited time they have on the screen, all are full of character, all shine with beauty: Rosamund Pike as Alex; Ayelet Zurer as Michaela, Rachelle Lefevre as Naomi, and Nina Dobrev as Bella.

Monthly Poem

"It was an April morning: fresh and clear"

It was an April morning: fresh and clear

The Rivulet, delighting in its strength,

Ran with a young man's speed; and yet the voice

Of waters which the winter had supplied

Was softened down into a vernal tone.

The spirit of enjoyment and desire,

And hopes and wishes, from all living things

Went circling, like a multitude of sounds.

The budding groves seemed eager to urge on

The steps of June; as if their various hues

Were only hindrances that stood between

Them and their object: but, meanwhile, prevailed

Such an entire contentment in the air

That every naked ash, and tardy tree

Yet leafless, showed as if the countenance

With which it looked on this delightful day

Were native to the summer.--Up the brook

I roamed in the confusion of my heart,

Alive to all things and forgetting all.

At length I to a sudden turning came

In this continuous glen, where down a rock

The Stream, so ardent in its course before,

Sent forth such sallies of glad sound, that all

Which I till then had heard, appeared the voice

Of common pleasure: beast and bird, the lamb,

The shepherd's dog, the linnet and the thrush

Vied with this waterfall, and made a song,

Which, while I listened, seemed like the wild growth

Or like some natural produce of the air,

That could not cease to be. Green leaves were here;

But 'twas the foliage of the rocks--the birch,

The yew, the holly, and the bright green thorn,

With hanging islands of resplendent furze:

And, on a summit, distant a short space,

By any who should look beyond the dell,

A single mountain-cottage might be seen.

I gazed and gazed, and to myself I said,

"Our thoughts at least are ours; and this wild nook,

My EMMA, I will dedicate to thee."

----Soon did the spot become my other home,

My dwelling and my out-of-doors abode.

And, of the Shepherds who have seen me there,

To whom I sometimes in our idle talk

Have told this fancy, two or three, perhaps,

Years after we are gone and in our graves,

When they have cause to speak of this wild place,

May call it by the name of EMMA'S DELL.

William Wordsworth

More poems from William Wordsworth

Light Side

Two men sitting at their local pub, ranting about their family lives while drinking their favourite beers. One wonders:

“If a man is alone in the forest, surrounded only by wood and no woman can hear him, is he mistaken then as well?”

Spring is in the air. Peace and love.

Yours as ever,


My last communications are available on http://almagor.blogspot.com/

earlier posts at my home page: http://hcc.haifa.ac.il/~rca/

People wishing to subscribe to this Monthly Newsletter are welcome to e-mail me at r.cohen-almagor@hull.ac.uk

Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Chair in Politics

The University of Hull

Cottingham Road

Hull, HU6 7RX

United Kingdom

T: +0044 (0)1482 465024

F: +0044 (0)1482 466208