Sunday, June 06, 2010

 Politics – May 2010

Probably, no nation is rich enough to pay for both war and civilization. We must make our choice; we cannot have both.                       

                                Abraham Flexner

Gilad is still in captivity. Veshavu banim legvulam.

                                       Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Obituary: Professor Jack Pole


Nuclear Proliferation

James Jones on USA-Israel Relationships

British Elections

Michael Ignatieff’s on Israel


Conference in Toronto

Blog in the News

Stop the Faeroe Islands’ Slaughter of the Calderon Dolphins

Photos of the Month

My Republished Article

My Visit to Washington DC

New Books

In the Swimming Pool

Concert of the Month

Sport Event

Movie Recommendation

Monthly Poem

Light Side

Gilad's Shalit's father made a video clip

This is a heartbreaking video of a father to the world.

This is a call for an act of humanity.

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

Veshavu banim legvulam.


Obituary: Professor Jack Pole

                                                Photo: The Times           

During my doctoral studies at St. Catherine’s College (1988-1991) I was granted dining privileges on the High Table and became a member of the Senior Common Room. I have met many interesting people during those lovely evenings, among them the historian of the United States Jack Pole.

Sitting next to Jack was always fascinating. A true intellectual with vast interests, many of them close to mine, Jack could speak with understanding and knowledge about history, politics, arts, sports (cricket, his passionate love), academic life, Cambridge, Oxford, Princeton and other places he knew. I never met anybody who knew modern American history to the extent that Jack did. Jack and I developed a close friendship. He became a welcomed guest at my home, and I at his. I always enjoyed his wisdom, healthy curiosity, ability to talk and, no less importantly, to listen, his dry humour and cynicism, his sharp eye for current events accompanied and enriched by a deep understanding of history.

Jack showed keen interest in my career and offered to help, although he was not in my field. I appreciated his generosity and good intentions. Upon returning to Israel, I organized for him a lecture tour in my country. He was very happy to come, visited several universities, delivered lectures, and met new people. Jack’s middle name was Richon (first in Hebrew, as Jack emphasized) and we had many conversations about politics in the UK, Israel and the USA. His view of politics and society was guided by a sense of justice, compassion, integrity, balance and responsibility. Jack was an enlightened historian with constructive and healthy real-politic assessment of events.

Well after his retirement in 1989, Jack continued to do research and publish. At the same time, he cultivated his passion for painting and did a few exhibitions. He always loved to paint. Retirement gave him the time to pursue and achieve this dream. He was very proud of this second “career”, making his passion for the arts an integral part of his days.

Jack was always curious to meet new, interesting people. Like me, he was happy to introduce to one another his mutual friends. Through him I met Professor Joyce Appleby at UCLA who was very welcoming to me during my year in LA. When I edited a book in honour of Isaiah Berlin, Jack gladly contributed an excellent chapter “Freedom of Speech: Right or Privilege?” I thought it was one of the best chapters of the collection, Challenges to Democracy: Essays in Honour and Memory of Isaiah Berlin (London: Ashgate Publishing Ltd., 2000).

Up until his death we used to meet whenever I visited Oxford. His last few years were trying, as Jack was fighting Parkinson. During this period, his close companion was Janet Wilson. Despite the disease, Jack continued to work. It was very important for him to continue working although typing became a great challenge. An annotated edition of The Federalist Papers (2005) tracked down and explained the plethora of classical, literary and historical allusions which early American federalists made in their writings. His Contract and Consent: Representation and the Jury in Anglo-American Legal History, published shortly before his death, explored the English roots of American law and politics.

As befitted a man of his eminence, Jack held a long list of academic distinctions. He was a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the British Academy; a member of the Academie Européenne d'Histoire and the Institute for Early American History and Culture; and an Honorary Member of the American Historical Association and the Historical Society of Ghana. In 2000, he was also made Honorary Vice-President of the Association of British American Nineteenth-Century Historians.

Farewell Jack. You live in my heart forever.

Professor Jack Pole, a friend, a mensch, historian of the US, Fellow of St. Catherine’s College, was born on March 14, 1922. He died on January 30, 2010, aged 87.



Remains defiant. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad acknowledged at the end of his two-day visit to the United Nations in early May that new international sanctions could soon be imposed on Iran, but stressed this wouldn't deter his government from pushing forward with its nuclear program. He also said that new U.N. sanctions against Iran would formally close the window on any potential diplomatic rapprochement between Washington and Tehran during President Barack Obama's tenure, and perhaps much longer.

U.S.-Iranian relations have been severed since 1980 following the overthrow of American-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and the hostage-taking of 50 American diplomats in Tehran.

The U.S. charges Iran with seeking to develop atomic weapons—an accusation Ahmadinejad again denied —and is lobbying permanent Security Council members Russia and China to back stiff penalties against Iran's financial, transportation and energy sectors in the coming weeks. Russian and Chinese officials have indicated in recent days that they would likely agree to some sanctions resolution against Iran, though probably not the severest measures Washington is seeking.

The Iranian president stressed that if diplomacy fails, his government is confident it could endure any new financial pressures the international community imposes. "While we do not welcome sanctions, we do not fear them either," Mr. Ahmadinejad said. "Sanctions cannot stop the Iranian nation."

The Iranian leader said Tehran would strongly support its regional allies if any military conflict involving Israel broke out in the Middle East.

U.S. and Israeli officials have voiced growing concern in recent months that Iran and Syria are significantly increasing their arms shipments to militant groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories. Israeli officials have subsequently warned that they could be forced to take pre-emptive action to guard against long-range missiles entering Lebanon. "We will completely defend them and support them," Ahmadinejad said of Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah. "If it [Israel] starts a new war, it will be the last war."

Source: The Wall Street Journal (May 5, 2010),

Nuclear Proliferation

Saudi Arabia, wary of Iran’s attempts to become nuclear, has taken a step towards acquiring such capacity itself. Tel Aviv Institute of National Security Studies recently issued a report stating that Saudi Arabia is upgrading its strategic missile reserves and is inaugurating a new command and control facility associated with the kingdom’s missile force. Riyadh’s view that the Iranian threat is serious and immediate was recently expressed by Foreign Minister al-Faisal: “Sanctions are a long-term solution…But we are looking at an Iranian nuclear program within a shorter term because we are closer to the locus of the threat. We are interested in immediate rather than in gradual solutions.” This view may lead Saudi Arabia to accelerate its timetable, and along with or instead of developing independent nuclear infrastructures, it is not inconceivable that it would prefer buying turnkey components, enter into a military treaty with Pakistan, and in certain scenarios, even deploy Pakistani nuclear forces on Saudi soil because of the urgency and its lack of appropriate infrastructures.

The Report asserts that although in light of America’s superior capabilities it seems that Saudi Arabia, at least for now, has no alternative but to rely on the United States, it would be contrary to Saudi practice to put all its eggs in one basket. It is reasonable to think that for its survival, the royal family would seek to keep all options open. If in Riyadh’s view its essential security interests are threatened and a clear and present danger to the kingdom’s stability emerges, it may prefer to engage in a series of steps, even if contradictory, to ensure its security.


In any event, nuclear proliferation negates the best interests of the free world and increases the region’s volatility and instability. Following Saudi Arabia, other countries might follow suit, including Egypt and Turkey (not an exhaustive list).

James Jones on USA-Israel Relationships

National Security Advisor James Jones addressed The Washington Institute's 25th Anniversary Gala on April 21, 2010, delivering a progress report on the Obama administration's national security priorities in the Middle East. This speech is a must for all those who think that the Obama administration is hostile to Israel. Jones stated that, although the U.S. offer of engagement with Iran still stands, Iran's defiant pursuit of nuclear weapons represents "a significant regional and global threat," and that the United States is "determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons." General Jones also suggested that ending the Arab-Israeli conflict would weaken Iran's influence over other Middle Eastern actors, and restated President Obama's commitment to the U.S.-Israel alliance, calling it a "national commitment" and declaring that there is "no space" between the two allies on the issue of Israel's security.

I’d like to quote from Gen. Jones’ important speech on the relationships between Israel and the USA:

Since there has been a lot of distortion and misrepresentation of our policy recently, let me take this opportunity to address our relationship with our ally Israel. Like any two nations, we will have of disagreements, but we will always resolve them as allies. And we will never forget that since the first minutes of Israeli independence, the United States has had a special relationship with Israel. And that will not change.

Why? Because this is not a commitment of Democrats or Republicans; it is a national commitment based on shared values, deep and interwoven connections, and mutual interests.

As President Obama declared in Cairo, "America's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable." They are the bonds of history -- two nations that earned our independence through the sacrifice of patriots. They are the bonds of two people, bound together by shared values of freedom and individual opportunity. They are the bonds of two democracies, where power resides in the people. They are the bonds of pioneers in science, technology and so many fields where we cooperate every day. They are the bonds of friendship, including the ties of so many families and friends.

This week marked the 62nd anniversary of Israeli independence -- a nation and a people who have survived in the face of overwhelming odds. But even now, six decades since its founding, Israel continues to reside in a hostile neighborhood with adversaries who cling to the false hope that denying Israel's legitimacy will ultimately make it disappear. But those adversaries are wrong.

As the President said in Cairo, for the entire world to hear, the State of Israel "will not go away." As he said at the United Nations, nations "do the Palestinians no favors when they choose vitriolic attacks against Israel over constructive willingness to recognize Israel's legitimacy and its right to exist in peace and security."

So America's commitment to Israel will endure. And everyone must know that there is no space -- no space -- between the United States and Israel when it comes to Israel's security. Our commitment to Israel's security is unshakable. It is as strong as ever. This President and this Administration understands very well the environment -- regionally and internationally -- in which Israel and the United States must operate. We understand very well that for peace and stability in the Middle East, Israel must be secure.

The United States will never waiver in defense of Israel's security. That is why we provide billions of dollars annually in security assistance to Israel, why we have reinvigorated our consultations to ensure Israel's Qualitative Military Edge, and why we undertake joint military exercises, such as the Juniper Cobra ballistic missile defense exercise that involved more than 1,000 United States servicemen and women. We view these efforts as essential elements of our regional security approach, because many of the same forces that threaten Israel also threaten the United States.

I can also say from long experience that our security relationship with Israel is important for America. Our military benefits from Israeli innovations in technology, from shared intelligence, from exercises that help our readiness and joint training that enhances our capabilities and from lessons learned in Israel's own battles against terrorism and asymmetric threats.

Over the years, and like so many Americans -- like so many of you here tonight -- I've spent a great deal of time with my Israeli partners, including my friends in the IDF. These partnerships are deep and abiding. They are personal relationships and friendships based on mutual trust and respect. Every day, across the whole range of our bilateral relationship, we are working together for our shared security and prosperity. And our partnership will only be strengthened in the months and years to come.

In our pursuit of a two-state solution, we recognize that peace must be made by the parties and cannot be imposed from the outside. At the same time, we understand that the status quo is not sustainable. It is not sustainable for Israel's identity as a secure, Jewish, and democratic state, because the demographic clock keeps ticking and will not be reversed. The status quo is not sustainable for Palestinians who have legitimate aspirations for sovereignty and statehood. And the status quo is not sustainable for the region because there is a struggle between those who reject Israel's existence and those who are prepared to coexist with Israel -- and the status quo strengthens the rejectionists and weakens those who would live in peace.

Obviously, we are disappointed that the parties have not begun direct negotiations. The United States stands ready to do whatever is necessary to help the parties bridge their differences and develop the confidence needed to make painful compromises on behalf of peace. As we do so, we will also strongly support the Palestinian Authority's efforts to develop its institutions from the ground up and call on other states, particularly in the region, to do their part to support the Palestinian Authority as well.

We also continue to call on all sides to avoid provocative actions, including Israeli actions in East Jerusalem and Palestinian incitement that fuel suspicion rather than trust.

So it is time to begin those negotiations and to put an end to excuses. It is time for all leaders in the region -- Israeli, Palestinian, and Arab -- to support efforts for peace.


British Elections

April 29, 2010

There were three TV debates between the three candidates. In all three, the least impressive was Gordon Brown. The more you hear him and see his facial impressions as he reacts to others, the less you appreciate his words and conduct. Brown does not radiate leadership.

Most impressive of the three was Conservative David Cameron. He masters all issues, and is well versed with all issues he needed to address. He criticizes when needed, in good measure and taste; he knows to react and answer tough questions. He has a clear agenda which he is able to present clearly and effectively.


Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg masters the issues well, is as eloquent as Cameron, knows to stand his ground and from the first debate presented himself as equal to Cameron and Brown, not a third wheel in a dual debate. This is why he was able quickly to become a major factor in the elections, and a prime minister contender. Many in the British public discovered him for the first time, and many of them liked what they heard and saw. Compared with Brown, Clegg is a refreshing revelation. His tactics throughout the debate were simple: Speak clearly, in simple language; be concise; hammer the same argument time and again; do not engage in long debates with Cameron and Brown even when they wish to undermine you or to aggravate you. Clegg did not fall into any trap on the way. Kept firm and assured of himself and his agenda, with bold ideas and bringing wind of change.

All three candidates described immigration as a “problem”. In no subtle manner, a connection was made between immigrants, taking jobs of British, and crime. Staggering. The UK is an immigrant country. You would not find such a discussion in Canada. Of all the many problems that the UK has, it seems that the public ranks immigration as second to the economy, and no party leader has something positive to say about the immigrants who contribute so much to British economy and society. Take out the immigrants from the health system, and health would collapse, and this is just one example. A prime example, but certainly not the sole example.

May 7, 2010

Like millions of people around the globe I followed the elections last night. Nothing surprising. Now this is politics behind closed door, politics of numbers, coalition, tempting, negotiating, promising, small talks, long talks. I worked for Shimon Peres and know this world quite well. Time for trickery and deceit.

Cameron will be the next prime minister. Clegg will find the compromise to join him. But I am unsure whether this will be enough to bolster a coalition for long. The result might still be a short-lived government. The Brits do not have much experience with coalition governments.

Maybe the coalition will mitigate Cameron's plans to cut the high education budget. Many people in the academic circles fear of losing their jobs. Some universities might find it difficult to sustain their operation.

May 8, 2010

Conservatives won 306 seats (+97); Labour 258 seats (-91), Liberal Democrats 57 seats (-5), and other parties 28 seats (-1). The winner needs 326 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons.

The Lib-Dems are pushing to change the electoral system. With 23% of the vote they won just 57 seats. This is a mirror-image of the problem Israel has. I keep saying that we all should learn from the German electoral system that benefits from both the proportional and district systems, mitigating the inherent faults of both. With proportional voting, the result is far too many parties and unstable coalitions; with constituencies the result is unfavourable to parties that come second. A mixed system of 60% elected by a national list and 40% elected in constituencies is the answer.

The media are saying that Britain has little experience in stitching together cross-party agreements. I remained unimpressed. Whenever there is will there is power. Both parties have vested interest to comprise a coalition and this will be the result.

May 10, 2010

Prime Minister Brown announced his intentions to resign as Labour Party leader by September; that is, if he is not eaten prior. Brown is still hopeful to strike a deal with Clegg. From everything that Clegg has projected up until now, Clegg will not do this. He emphasized time and again that politicians should honour public wishes.

May 11, 2010

Less than 24 hours have passed, and Brown is willing to pay with his head to pave the way for Lab-Lib coalition. That’s honourbale and admirable. Never seen this happening in Israeli politics, where politicians are glued to their chairs.

May 12, 2010

Brown feels that Clegg maneuvers him only to get more from Cameron. He demands a committed answer, which Clegg does not wish to give. At 19:18, Brown announces he is resigning as PM with immediate effect. At 20:07 Cameron arrives with his wife at Buckingham Palace, and at 20:34 he leaves the Palace as Prime Minister.

In less than six days, a new coalition was installed. Again, something that we Israelis certainly appreciate as things are very different in the Middle East. In Israel, negotiations last for weeks, and sometimes they fail after intense negotiations, not allowing the designated coalition leader to form a coalition.

At the age of 44 (born October 9, 1966), David Cameron is the youngest prime minister in England in 198 years.

The new deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg is of Cameron’s age, 43. He has only been an MP for five years. Previously Clegg was a European Commission official and a Euro MP. With him, four other Lib-Dem entered government: David Laws as Chief Treasury Secretary; the popular Vince Cable as Business Secretary; Chris Huhne as Energy and Climate Change Secretary, and Danny Alexander as Scottish Secretary. There are four women in the Cabinet’s 23 posts, including Theresa May, the Home Secretary. The new Education Secretary is Michael Gove. A journalist by profession, Gove has used his position as a writer for The Times and a broadcaster on the BBC to fight for greater personal freedom, a tougher line on crime, a more dynamic economy, a cleaner environment, stronger defence and a better deal for hard-pressed families. His most recent book, Celsius 7/7, was released in 2006.

Cameron announced that his government is guided by three key principles: Freedom, fairness and responsibility. The first thing he did is to cut his salary by 5%. This is yet another lesson for the Israeli parliamentarians who only raise their salaries from time to time. They set a very different example to their people.

Michael Ignatieff on Israel

In 1999, I took part in a 21st Century Trust workshop on Media, Power and Responsibility: The role of the fourth estate in the 21st century, with Michael Ignatieff as the Senior Scholar. I heard about Ignatieff in the past, mostly from Isaiah Berlin who granted Ignatieff access to himself and to his scholarship in order for him to write Isaiah’s biography (see Isaiah was appreciative and so was I upon spending some time with Ignatieff. At that time, I had little idea that one day Michael would become the leader of Canada’s Liberal Party and a serious contender to become Canada’s prime minister.

On April 24, 2010, Ignatieff granted an interview to The Winnipeg Jewish Review and below are his responses to questions relating to Israel.

SPIVAK: In January 2010, Canada announced it would be focusing its efforts on funding the Palestinian justice system, including building courthouses in Ramallah and elsewhere in the West Bank? What do you think of that direction in Canadian policy?

IGNATIEFF: When I was last in Jerusalem I talked to some Canadian officials who were involved in Palestinian policing and heaven knows the Palestinian justice system needs all the help it can get and its police and security systems need all the help they can get so these are long standing commitments of Canada and we would again support them provided that there are no ties to militant extremism, provided these are building capacity for legitimate Palestinian institutions.

SPIVAK: What do you think of the stated intention of the President of the Palestinian Authority Salam Fayyad to declare a Palestinian state unilaterally by the summer of 2011?

IGNATIEFF: The conditions for recognition for a Palestinian state are very complicated... I’m not going to be drawn into anticipating what Salam Fayyad may or may not do, or what the Palestinians may or may not do.

I’ve always been clear that I believe in a two state solution. I don’t believe Israel can be secure unless its got a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, that can operate as a state, that has a monopoly of the means of force, that lives in peace with Israel and engages in economic partnership with Israel.

So, that’s where I think this has to end and I think that’s where this has to go, but there has to be an orderly process by which Palestinian statehood is achieved and that involves good faith negotiations with the State of Israel next door.


Ignatieff made the following statement which appeared in the National Post in regard to Israel Apartheid Week:

“On university campuses across the country this week, Israeli Apartheid Week will once again attempt to demonize and undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish state. It is part of a global campaign of calls for divestment, boycotts and proclamations, and it should be condemned unequivocally and absolutely.

Apartheid is defined, in international law, as a crime against humanity. Israeli Apartheid Week is a deliberate attempt to portray the Jewish state as criminal.

The activities planned for the week will single out Jewish and Israeli students. They will be made to feel ostracized and even physically threatened in the very place where freedom should be paramount -- on a university campus.

Let us be clear: criticism of Israeli government policy is legitimate. Wholesale condemnation of the State of Israel and the Jewish people is not legitimate. Not now, not ever.

The very premise of Israeli Apartheid Week runs counter to our shared values of mutual respect and tolerance, regardless of nationality, race or creed. It is an attempt to heighten the tensions in our communities around the tragic conflict in the Middle East.

On behalf of the Liberal party of Canada and the Parliamentary caucus, I urge all Canadians to join with us in condemning Israeli Apartheid Week, and to reject, in principle, all forms of anti-Semitism, racism and intolerance, both within this country and around the world.”



I am worried about the events in Greece. The country is increasingly unstable, and I am worried for my friends there and also for the ramifications that such instability might have on Europe, first on the economy, then politics at large. Greece needs election reform as it is unable to yield a stable government for many years. The public is frustrated, estranged and increasingly violent. The EU should collect itself and start to work. The EU needs to involve itself more, as soon as possible.

Conference in Toronto

I just returned from a most interesting conference in Toronto. Many speakers were united in the view that Israel, like all states, is bound by international law and human rights. It is one of community of nations and should not ignore international law and norms. Many agree that “just peace” to be differentiated from just any peace is a strategic end for Israel. It is a political and moral end. Israel should posit itself in the middle not in extreme margins.

The most thoughtful Keynote Lecture was delivered by Michael Walzer, one of the leading intellectuals of this generation. His lecture, as always, blended knowledge, historical insights and sharp analysis. Walzer provided food for thought, appropriate for the illustrious banquet the followed.

Ruth Gavison argued that Israel should respond to the Goldstone report by addressing the war crime allegations and establish a standing body investigating the behaviour of

the IDF. She asserted that there should not be double standards regarding Israel. Here the crucial issue is asymmetric war. What do you do when the enemy hides among civilians? How should a commander on the ground react when he and his soldiers are attacked from a school and he wants to secure his soldiers lives and stop the fire? There should be common international standards and the Goldstone Committee missed a golden opportunity to address this complicated issue.

I was puzzled to listen to a philosophical lecture about the occupation that started with the proviso that the lecturer is not addressing the morality of occupation. I was intrigued what kind of justification can be given to do this and the answer was even more troubling. If you think that occupation is wrong that's fine and if you think its fine this is also fine. Well no, it is not. Occupation is abominable. Destructive. Inhuman.

Heard a fascinating talk about Iran. The speaker, Dr Brent Talbot, a former army officer who now teaches in the US Air Force Academy, voiced an opinion that Israel is capable of striking Iran, and that it will if the sanctions won’t work. In his view, the world has 12-18 months to stop the Iranian nuclear plan. Israel is capable to attack the main targets in Natanz, Qum, Isfahan and Arak. In his view, the USA under the Obama administration is unlikely to launch such an attack.

I thank Dr. Ralph Halbert and the Israel Studies Association for their kind invitation. I also thank Ravit and Danny David, Peter Cory, Ralph Halbert, Steve Newman and Wayne Sumner for their kind hospitality.

Blog in the News

While in Toronto I granted an interview to a local TV station. I was asked to speak on three issues: The topic of my conference paper, the failed ME peace process; my present research, In Internet’s Way: Social Responsibility on the Free Highway, and my human rights activities, including the campaigns conducted over this Blog during the past ten years. The more exposure of the Blog the merrier.

Stop the Faeroe Islands’ Slaughter of the Calderon Dolphins

I was appalled and disgusted to receive information about the slaughter of the Calderon dolphins in Europe. Every year, in Denmark, specifically the Faroe Islands, these dolphins are slaughtered brutally as part of a pointless and stupid right-of-passage to manhood. You are a man. You can kill. Whauuuu. The poor dolphins are stabbed a number of times, and watched as they bleed to death, probably in excruciating pain while the whole town watches.

Photos of the Month

Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull Volcano

This volcano is harassing the lives of millions of travellers including yours truly who slept on the airplane for the first time in his life after being stranded in the airport for many long, anxious hours. How is it to live near an erupting giant?

I thank Bill Dackman for the link.

My Republished Article

In 2008, I published an article on end-of-life issues in Health Law & Policy, Vol. 2, Issue 1. This article was selected to be included in a collection of essays on end-of-life that was just published in India. See “The Right to Die with Dignity: An Argument in Ethics and Law”, in Rajitha Tadikonda (ed.), Physician Assisted Euthanasia (Hyderabad, India: Amicus Books, 2008-2009), pp. 213-228.


I begin by clarifying the meaning of dignity, of respect and concern, and of life. Next I discuss two conflicting notions: sanctity of life, and quality of life. Then I examine the legal situation regarding end-of-life in some democracies: Australia, England, the United States, Canada, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium. I highlight some concerns regarding end-of-life treatment in the two countries that legalized euthanasia: The Netherlands and Belgium. The most worrying data in all the Dutch euthanasia reports from 1990 until the present is that 0.4 percent of deaths were the result of the use of lethal drugs not at the explicit request of the patient. Finally, I devise guidelines for practicing physician-assisted suicide (PAS) based on the experience of the surveyed countries. I argue that individuals should have the power to decide end-of-life issues. Recognizing the concrete fear of abuse, that some people might be put to death without expressing a clear wish to die, I oppose euthanasia. I prefer that the control over life and death matters remain with the patient.

As ever, I’d be happy to circulate my new article to interested parties.

While the title is a bit odd (euthanasia, by definition, is physician-assisted), this collection includes some good pieces, inter alia Arthur Birmingham LaFrance, “Physician Assisted Death: From Rhetoric to Reality in Oregon”; George P. Smith, II, “Intractable Pain, Palliative Management and the Principle of Medical Futility”, and Madelyn Hsiao-Rei Hicks, “Physician-Assisted Suicide: A Review of the Literature Concerning Practical and Clinical Implications for UK Doctors”.

My Visit to Washington DC


Early next month I plan to return to the glorious and beloved Washington. I’d be happy to see friends.

New Books

Charles R. Beitz, The Idea of Human Rights (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009)

The international doctrine of human rights is one of the most ambitious parts of the settlement of World War II. Since then, the language of human rights has become the common language of social criticism in global political life. This book is a theoretical examination of the central idea of that language, the idea of a human right. In contrast to more conventional philosophical studies, the author takes a practical approach, looking at the history and political practice of human rights for guidance in understanding the central idea. The author presents a model of human rights as matters of international concern whose violation by governments can justify international protective and restorative action ranging from intervention to assistance. He proposes a schema for justifying human rights and applies it to several controversial cases--rights against poverty, rights to democracy, and the human rights of women. Throughout, the book attends to some main reasons why people are sceptical about human rights, including the fear that human rights will be used by strong powers to advance their national interests. The book concludes by observing that contemporary human rights practice is vulnerable to several pathologies and argues the need for international collaboration to avoid them.

In the Swimming Pool

As you are preparing yourselves for the summer, airing (or better, buying) your swimsuit and get in shape, here is something about and for the pool.

Most pools consist of two parts: One for players, another for swimmers. The players’ part is for children and children at heart. These are relaxed humans who see the pool as source of fun. The swimmers’ part is for humans who perceive the pool as mixed blessing of varying degrees, fun and work.

In the swimmers’ part, there are different characters:

First, the no-nonsense group. This is the most boring group in the pool. It consists of people who come to swim, period. They have an assignment to fulfil, and they do not relax until reaching the end they set for themselves. They do not talk. They do not mingle. They swim.

This group is quiet and usually courteous.

In this group we can discern different types of swimmers:

The boxers – They take deep breath, head into the water and then with clinched feasts punch the water as hard as they can until they remain breathless. Then they raise their heads above water, another deep breath, head under water (someone told them that this is the correct way to swim), and another punching round. They move slowly, and finish this exercise utterly exhausted.

The defeated cockroaches – They lie on their back, belly they adorned for a good part of their lives above water, sometimes sun glasses completes the show, they start progressing backwards with small movement of hands and sometimes legs, completing one or two rounds in one hour.

The wide breast stylists – They advance with very wide breast strokes that do not dread human flesh. Quite the opposite. Encounters are welcomed. Usually this group consists of men, usually older men, whose wide style reaches beyond one assigned lane. Sometimes such encounters yield shouts and screams, usually between elderly men and elderly women, or in other words, between wide breast swimmers and swimmers with wide breasts.

Then we have the don’t-give-a-damn swimmers, also divided into sub-groups:

Statues – Usually of elderly women who dress up for the occasion with their best outfit which was THE hottest fashion in nineteen hundred and seventy five. Their doctor told them to exercise, and that “swimming is very good for you,” and as conscientious patients they follow doctor’s advice. In the pool they meet like-minded women and began exchange vital information for their well-being, discussing their personal affairs (health), family affairs, neighbourhood affairs, community affairs, national affairs, and international affairs. Covering all these highly interesting and sometimes controversial issues takes a good hour, at least, the time they pledged their doctors to spend in the pool. As long as they stay put, they are like unmovable sectors on your hard disk. Swimmers know they are there and circumvent the statue. They become trickier when they talk and walk. Then unpleasant encounters can develop between the movable and the assumed unmovable objects.

Misguided torpedoes – This group consists of swimmers who insist on swimming on their back. They usually cannot keep a straight line, and of course have no idea what lies in front of them. They are not easily deterred unless they hit a very sturdy man. Only such painful encounter, bone to bone, bone to muscle, may cause them to change their mind and swim like considerate humans.

The Phelps – This group consists of swimmers who are determined to break Phelps’ world record. Nothing would stand on their way, especially not other swimmers. They are racing against unforgiving clock. Of course, they never break Phelps’ record but they never stop trying. This is the most dangerous group in the pool. You better clear the way, or else...

The astronauts, or the free-spirited – All swim clockwise but then there will always be one who swims in the opposite direction, absolutely oblivious to the burning red clockwise signs. As they are astronauts also outside the pool, they associate the nasty encounters with other swimmers to the natural hazards of life. As free-spirited astronauts, only the voice of reason of a resolute life-guard may resolve the anarchical blunder and restore peace and order.

Concert of the Month

Tommy Emmanuel

This was a real treat. I have never seen a guitar player who is capable to extract so many tunes and sounds. Amazing. See

Sport Event

My Italian beloved team Inter Milan is the Champion of Europe after beating Bayern Munich 2:0 at the magnificent Santiago Bernebeu. The night belonged to two people: Diego Milito, the Argentinian striker who scored both goals, and the Portuguese manager José Mourinho who now posits himself as the most suitable man to lead Real Madrid next season.

Bayern held the ball 66% of the game, but was not effective. Inter midfield and defence crushed most attempts without difficulty, and when needed the excellent goal keeper, Julio Cesar, was spot on, able to stop the ball from going into his net. Brilliant in defence, and lethal in the attack, Inter produced more chances than Bayern and deservedly won the most attractive title in Europe. After beating the 2009 Champion Barcelona in the semi-final, Inter was the prime candidate for the title.


Man of the Match was Milito. Second best was Argentine midfielder Esteban Cambiasso. Beats me how Diego Maradona -- who leads his country into the World Cup -- left Cambaisso out of the squad. Maradona should reconsider.

Inter won this year all three titles: Italian Champion, Italian Cup, and now the most important prize in Europe. A perfect season.

Movie Recommendation

Dear Frankie (2004)

Frankie is a nine year-old boy. He is sensitive and gentle. His favourite animal is sea-horse, one of the most gentle and harmless animals on earth. Much like Frankie, it is quiet and sweet. Much like Frankie, it needs protection.

Frankie’s mom failed to protect him once, with horrendous consequences. Frankie’s dad inflicted irreparable damage on him, and since that blow Frankie is deaf. Since then, Frankie’s mom is very protective, and she is on the run from Frankie’s dad. Mom also corresponds with Frankie, assuming dad’s identity as a sailor who sails the sea. She benefits from this as well. It is the only opportunity she has to hear Frankie.

But one day, the ship “dad” describes in his letters, on which he works, anchors at Frankie’s town. Mom needs to find someone who will play the dad for Frankie. Mom’s good friend Marie comes to rescue and produces a stranger to play Frankie’s dad.

This is a perceptive drama, directed by Shona Auerbach with utmost sensitivity to details, with superb acting of four: Jack McElhone as beautiful Frankie; Emily Mortimer as the protective mom; Gerald Butler as the stranger who assumed the “dad” role, and Sharon Small as Marie. All key figures are positively good people who try to do good and make most of life and the situations life presented before them.

This heart-warming film is a pearl.

Monthly Poem

She Walks in Beauty

She walks in beauty like the night

of cloudless climes and starry skies;

And all that's best of dark and bright

meets in her aspect and her eyes:

Thus mellow'd to that tender light

which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,

had half impair'd the nameless grace

which waves in every raven tress,

or softly lightens o'er her face –

where thoughts serenely sweet express

how pure, how dear their dwelling - place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,

so soft, so calm, yet eloquent,

the smiles that win, the tints that glow,

but tells in days of goodness spent,

a mind at peace with all below,

a heart whose love is innocent.

George Gordon Byron

Light Side

A man suffered a serious heart attack and had an open heart bypass surgery.

He awakened from the surgery to find himself in the care of nuns at a Catholic Hospital. As he was recovering, a nun asked him questions regarding how he was going to pay for his treatment. She asked if he had health insurance. He replied, in a raspy voice, "No health insurance."

The nun asked if he had money in the bank. He replied, "No money in the bank."

The nun asked, "Do you have a relative who could help you?" He said, "I only have a spinster sister, who is a nun."

The nun became agitated and announced loudly, "Nuns are not spinsters! Nuns are married to God."

The patient replied, "Send the bill to my brother-in-law."

Peace and love.

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

F: +0044 (0)1482 466208