Politics – June 2010
The real triumph of civilization is the extent to which coercion is banished from human relations.
Wise people avoid entering situations that all others stumble into and then struggle to exit.
The image and presentation of reality are sometimes more important than reality itself.
Gilad is still in captivity. Veshavu banim legvulam.
This month was dominated by the Gaza flotilla. Dozens of people asked for a preview… This Blog provides a detailed account of this incident that is characteristic of Israel’s conduct nowadays. Unfortunately, it does not add to Israel's name and reputation in the world.
Every summer during the past few years, people (and the media) speculate that there will be war during the summer. Amazing. People all over the world prepare for their vacation. In Israel, the hot topic, appropriate for the weather, is war. As if there is nothing better to do. Now, why is that? Is this a reflection of our leadership? Something else? I am willing to hear suggestions.
One thing is sure. There won’t be war during the Mondial World Cup. May we have major sports tournaments each and every year, and make them long and engaging.
Reflections on May Blog
Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH)
The Social-Economic Situation in Gaza
Praise for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel
The Enemy of My Former Friend Is Becoming My Friend
Britain’s Largest Academic Union Cuts Ties with Israel’s Histadrut
AICE Visiting Israel Professors
Wishes for the World Cup
Bye Bye Hull City
Free Gilad Shalit. The government should invest in his release. It should be one of its top priorities. Veshavu banim legvulam.
Reflections on May Blog
I opened my last Blog with the statement:
Probably, no nation is rich enough to pay for both war and civilization. We must make our choice; we cannot have both.
Ami Isseroff commented:
Permit an observation. Sometimes an aphorism catches on because it "sounds right." When it is examined, it turns out to be untrue. And whenever we see a phenomenon that is opposed to common sense, there is something to explore.
No civilization ever existed for long without war, and no war took place without civilization. The Greeks, the Romans, the British, the French, the Germans, the Americans and the Chinese, the Persians, Babylonians and Assyrians, and of course, the Arabs all prove the thesis. Flexner was wrong.
Here is a book: Is War Civilization?
There are also earlier antecedents that I had in mind when I wrote the below. Ibn Khaldun, in his great "introduction" (Muqaddimah) described the theme of the desert vs the cities. It must be true for all civilizations. It has to mean that every civilization will constantly be challenged and will need to defend itself - until it is inevitably overrun.
There is also a counter-finding that savages warred too. Well yes they did, but they were bardakists most likely and couldn't get a really organized war going like the Romans or the Germans.
Bert Keizer wrote:
Thanks for your latest.
On the point of coalition politics: in Holland negotiations usually go on for months!
We all despise it, but parties want to enter into government with almost a blueprint for every issue that may crop up.
Thereby ignoring the liveliness of politics which Harold MacMillan beautifully expressed when asked what he was worried about in politics: 'Events, dear boy, events!'
Israel is fighting a bitter war against a bitter enemy that does not recognise its right to exist. It is therefore justified to inspect the entry of merchandise into Gaza.
Two main reasons: Break the Israel blockade on Gaza, and PR for the Palestinians, and against Israel.
Two Important Milestones:
• In January 2006, Hamas won the Palestinian Authority's (PA) general legislative elections, defeating Fatah, the party of the PA's president, Mahmoud Abbas, and setting the stage for struggle and strife against Israel, and Fatah. Hamas does not recognize Israel. The State of Israel does not appear on its maps. It educates the children of Gaza to hatred, violence, and terror against the non-existing entity that captures Palestinian land. The democratically-elected government operates a terrorist wing, carried out many suicide bombings against Israeli soldiers and civilians. It also launched hundreds of rockets on Israeli towns whose misfortune is their proximity to the Gaza Strip. In Arabic, the word "hamas" means zeal. But it's also an Arabic acronym for "Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya," or Islamic Resistance Movement. Hamas is born to resist.
• On Sunday morning (June 25, 2006) in the course of an infiltration and attack by terrorists in the area of Kibbutz Kerem Shalom, an IDF officer and a soldier were killed, a soldier was abducted, and four others were wounded. The abducted soldier is Gilad Shalit. I have been campaigning for his release during the past months.
Israel’s misguided policy was, still is, to suffocate Gaza. The belief, which defies history and is contrary to all that we know about the Palestinian people, holds that if we inflict more and more economic pressure on Gaza, the Gazans would become disillusioned with Hamas and opt for an alternative leadership. The further hope was that the pressure would facilitate the release of Gilad Shalit. Both hopes, at least until now, were not fulfilled. If at all, popular support for Hamas in Gaza (and the West Bank) has been on the rise, and Shalit is still in captivity, with little progress in bringing him home.
Israel facilitates the daily passage of around 100 trucks a day of aid to Gaza through its land passage, arbitrarily restricting the types of goods it allows in. The most-sought after items in Gaza, such as cement, steel and other materials needed to rebuild the war-devastated Strip, are not permitted. “Luxury” goods, i.e., those beyond basic necessity such as soda, coriander, chocolate, juice, jam, spices, shaving cream, potato chips, cookies and candy were deemed gratuitous for the Gazans. Notebooks, blank paper, writing utensils and fishing rods are also excluded (potential rationale, I assume: “They are illiterate anyway!” “They should not kill our fish!”). Were Israel prudent in its blocking policy, targeting only things that could hamper its security, then there would have been no need for PR flotillas. Israel, by its own hands, brings about substantial damage on itself, and plays into the hands of its enemies. Israeli leaders do not differentiate between Hamas terrorists and Hamas voters. According to their infinite wisdom, they are all to blame for bringing Hamas to power and therefore they all should suffer the consequences of their poor behaviour.
From the General to the Particular:
The organization of this flotilla took many months. Six ships, 8,000 tons of aid, and 679 people from some 40 countries were involved. If Israel was determined that ships won't enter Gaza uninspected then it should have mounted a relentless and continuous campaign, on a week-by-week basis, convening repeated press briefings, explaining to the world what is at stake, why Israel cannot afford free movement to Gaza while offering different alternatives for resolving the expected conflict by peaceful means.
One possibility is to inspect the ships in their originating harbours and accompanying them to Israel. Another is to reach consent that the ships will be inspected at sea prior to offloading in Gaza, this provided is feasible to inspect the crates at sea. A third possibility, one that Israel did propose, is to inspect content in Israel. If all alternatives were to be declined, Israel should have explained that no inspection was not an option, and that the responsibility for conflict lay squarely with the flotilla organisers. A robust PR campaign should have accompanied the flotilla organization and movement. But Israel never believed in an effective PR campaign. If you don’t believe me, check the budgets that Israel embassies have for PR.
Time and again, Israel finds itself with the need to explain after the event, deemed responsible, instead of explaining before the event, placing responsibility on provocateurs.
Furthermore, Israel should have conducted its own independent intelligence check on the flotilla and its organizers. Israel should have known that the organizers were not peace loving people who seek to avoid confrontation and conflict. Israel should have known that the Turkish Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), “Humanitarian Relief Fund” movement is a militant organization, with close links to violent movements, and that its members on the ships will resist an Israeli attempt to take over the ships (for further information about IHH, see below). Thus, it was a gross mistake on Israel’s part to deploy soldiers by helicopters on the ships’ decks. The soldiers were from the elite platoon Shayetet 13. Their conduct manifested the usual over-confidence so characteristic of elite platoons. All should know that you do not mess around with Shayetet 13. Someone forgot to tell this to the Turks on board.
The platoon’s officers apparently estimated that passengers will show slight resistance, and possibly minor violence. They were utterly wrong. The navy commandoes who slid down to the vessel one by one were easy targets for the awaiting passengers who attacked them, as soon as they came into their reach, with clubs, bats and polls. Quickly the situation had escalated as the commandoes were under threat to their lives. They opened fire. Nine passengers were killed. This situation should have been avoided from the start. A wise person avoids situations that others enter and then need to devise manoeuvres to find a solution.
Israel had prolonged the crisis by bringing the flotilla activists to its shores for interrogation. Every minute in Israel played into the Palestinian PR. In the world’s eye, Israel behaves time and again as the neighbourhood bully who is not shy to use its force against suspected enemies. It uses force because it can. A sophisticated brute uses force only when he must. A simple brute uses force when he can. Israel’s present leadership part company from the sophisticated.
Only two weeks earlier, on May 16, Israel refused the entry of Professor Noam Chomsky who was invited to speak at Bir Zeit University. Is he a terrorist and security threat too? What would you gain by refusing his entry? Is it because Chomsky is a vocal opponent of the Israeli occupation? There are many who oppose the occupation inside Israel, people who hold Israeli citizenship. Will they be excluded as well?
Earlier this year, in January 2010, Turkish Ambassador to Israel, Ahmet Oguz Celikkol, was summoned by Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, to receive a reprimand for an anti-Israeli television show aired in Turkey. The Turkish diplomat was made to sit on a low sofa so Ayalon could look down on him, while the Turkish flag was deliberately not put on display. As soon as the meeting was over (maybe even before), the humiliating photo, with the appropriate interpretation for the event, was all over the Israeli newspapers. The neighbourhood brute showed its power to its then friend, a small and insignificant country of only 74 million Muslim people. God, we think we are so damn clever.
The Big Picture:
Leaders need to be capable to map targets and priorities, see the big picture and be willing to make concessions, adjustments, and compromises to reach the desired, most important ends. Iran is surely a priority. If Israel were to attack Iran then it needs to mobilise the world’s understanding. Its airplanes are likely to pass through Turkish territory. It can be assumed that Iranian retaliation would include Jewish targets on foreign land. Why should you alienate yourself from the world community by brute, unconstructive behaviour that yields very little positive outcome for yourself? Israel seems to be on an automatic driver into diplomatic disaster. Our relations with the USA are tenuous. Our relationships with Europe are delicate and vulnerable. Our relationships with Jordan and Turkey are the worst in years. Our relationships with Egypt are somewhat better only because we have a common enemy, radical Islam. And with our two other neighbours, Syria and Lebanon, the relationships are conflictual with the ever-existing possibility of sliding into yet another bloody war. Thank god. Our relationships with Micronesia are still good. At least that...
Lastly, one piece of advice to Mr. Netanyahu. It is not prudent to declare that “There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.” Even if this is correct, from where you stand this is not what people expect you to say, not in Gaza, not in Europe, not even in Israel.
On the situation in Gaza, see below.
Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH)
The Humanitarian Relief Fund ("Insani Yardim Vakfi" in Turkish, or IHH) was established in 1992 and officially registered in Istanbul in 1995. A French intelligence report concluded that in the mid-1990s, IHH president Bulent Yildrim was directly involved in recruiting veteran soldiers in anticipation of the coming holy war [jihad]. “In particular, some men were sent into war zones in Muslim countries in order to acquire combat experience." The French report noted that IHH provided financial support "as well as caches of firearms, knives, and pre-fabricated explosives" in an effort to obtain "political support from these countries." IHH phone records in Istanbul reportedly included repeated telephone calls in 1996 to an al-Qaeda guesthouse in Italy and to North African terrorists active in Europe.
In addition, a 1996 CIA report on terrorist abuse of charities, declassified after the September 11 attacks, documented IHH as a charity with ties to "Iran and Algerian groups." According to the report, the director of the IHH office in Sarajevo "has been linked to Iranian operatives." The report described "the terrorist-related activities and linkages" of fifteen selected "Islamic NGOs". According to French court documents, IHH was the subject of a Turkish criminal investigation in late 1997 when sources revealed that leaders of the group were purchasing automatic weapons from other regional Islamist militant groups. Based on an analysis of seized IHH documents, Turkish authorities concluded that "detained members of IHH were going to fight in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Chechnya."
IHH is a member of the "Union of Good" (Itelaf al-Khair, also known as the "Charity Coalition"). According to Palestinian intelligence, this organization "is considered one of the biggest Hamas supporters." Israel outlawed the Union of Good in February 2002, and the United States named it a specially designated global terrorist entity in November 2008. According to the U.S. Treasury Department, the Union of Good was created by the Hamas leadership "in order to facilitate the transfer of funds to Hamas." Intelligence underpinning the U.S. designation noted that the group "facilitates the transfer of tens of millions of dollars a year to Hamas-managed associations." It also acts as a broker for Hamas by facilitating financial transfers between a web of charitable organizations and “Hamas-controlled organizations in the West Bank and Gaza”.
The IHH also has a history of fighting the Turkish government, and several of its leaders and members have been arrested for illegal arms procurement and purchasing bombmaking material from Turkish terror groups. That criminal investigation, however, was axed by the Erdogan government. Most damning for the IHH, perhaps, was testimony to a U.S. court in 2003 by the French Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere that the IHH played a "central role" in the attempted al-Qaeda millennium bomb plot targeting Los Angeles International Airport. Bruguiere added that the IHH was a so-called "cover-up" NGO that had served to recruit activists and forge documents as well as traffic weapons for the terrorists involved in the terror attempt.
Sources: Matthew Levitt, David Makovsky and Jeffrey White, “Fallout from the Gaza Flotilla Tragedy”, Policy Watch, No. 1662, The Washington Institute (June 1, 2010); Magnus Norell, “Fallout from the Gaza Interdiction”, Infosphere AB (May 31, 2010).
The Social-Economic Situation in Gaza
Some 7,000 rockets were fired on Israel from the Gaza Strip for several years, mostly after Israel completely pulled out of Gaza. In December 2008-January 2009 Israel said enough is enough and launched Cast Lead.
According to Medecins Sans Frontieres Report of January 5, 2010, the Gaza health care system's ability to function properly has been weakened considerably after Cast Lead Operation. Most medical equipment is unreliable and the Israeli embargo makes it impossible to obtain certain spare parts. Similarly, medical units also face drug shortages.
More than 5,000 people were wounded during the January 2009 war. Many are disabled and the only rehabilitation centre in the Gaza Strip also finds it difficult to import raw materials and the components required to manufacture artificial limbs. Patients who cannot be treated in the Gaza Strip should be cared for elsewhere, but requests for authorization to travel are so complicated to obtain - on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides - that some cannot leave Gaza in time to arrive for their appointment.
The psychological impact of Operation Cast Lead is difficult to assess. Children are particularly affected (school absenteeism and failure, aggression and bedwetting). Domestic violence has become a major social problem. The World Health Organization estimates that between 20,000 and 50,000 people will have long-term illness following the war.
Livelihoods were systematically destroyed, particularly in January 2009. Many small companies, both factories and shops, and private homes were razed or seriously damaged. The United Nations estimates the total cost of this destruction at $139 million.
140,000 Gazans were unemployed, bringing the unemployment level to 50 percent, compared to 32 percent in 2007. These figures are among the highest in the world. The blockade has caused the loss of 120,000 jobs in the private sector. On average, every worker must support six or seven family members. Seventy percent of families live on less than $1/day. 75-80 percent of the Gaza population - more than 1.1 million people - relies on food aid.
The restrictions related to heightened security, the last military offensive and the increasingly drastic limitations on fishing and farming areas affect food supplies and produce major price fluctuations. In January 2007, more than 600 trucks entered Gaza every day, compared to fewer than 100 in January 2010, 70 percent of which carry food stuffs.
Restrictions on importing construction materials worsen the already-precarious living conditions for the 20,000 displaced persons. One year after the war, most of them were still living in makeshift shelters or the ruins of their house.
During Operation Cast Lead, crucial electricity and water infrastructure and the sanitation system, were targeted and partially destroyed. There is just one power plant left in Gaza. Sixty percent of energy needs are met by buying electricity from Israel and Egypt. Power outages - which last from four to eight hours - occur every day and 10 percent of the population has no electricity at all.
The water system is also extremely fragile and 90 percent of the water provided to Gaza residents fails to meet the World Health Organization (WHO) safe drinking water standards. Every day, approximately 80 million litres of wastewater go untreated and are discharged into the Mediterranean, posing risks to health and the environment - particularly fishery products. Water-related illnesses, such as acute diarrhea, are increasing. No major reconstruction or repair of this public infrastructure has been performed to date.
Source: Gaza: One year after the war, http://www.msf.org/msfinternational/invoke.cfm?objectid=FDFD7D00-15C5-F00A-256DC41B7607854B&component=toolkit.article&method=full_html
Praise for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel
I wish to praise The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (Israel’s ACLU) for its stand on the flotilla incident. On June 1, 2010 ACRI issued a press release admonishing the flotilla takeover and outcome, and calling for investigation:
“The Association for Civil Rights in Israel is appalled by today's military takeover of the Flotilla on its way to Gaza, and calls for an independent investigation of the event. It is unfathomable that a Flotilla whose purpose was to protest the siege imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip, ended with nine dead and many more injured”.
Hagai El-Ad, Director of ACRI: "The same guiding principles of military force that put one and a half million people under siege in Gaza for four years is what led to this military action which turned into a bloodbath. These circumstances make necessary an immediate investigation by an external body into the events and their deterioration. This is all substantiated by the electronic force-field and limited media coverage imposed on today's events."
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel repeats its call to the government of Israel to end the illegal and immoral siege which gravely damages civil society in Gaza.
The Enemy of My Former Friend Is Becoming My Friend
Israel relentlessly pushes Turkey into the hands of Iran. The two are buddying up as if there was no yesterday. Suddenly they discover they have a lot to talk about, mutual interests, and new horizons.
On June 9, 2010 the United States pushed through a new round of United Nations sanctions against Iran. Two of the 15 nations now on the council Security Council decision voted against the measure. Who are the two? Brazil and Turkey.
Iran is happy to rush to the scene and contribute to the escalation. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quick to blast the Israeli raid on the flotilla ships, saying it was a sign that Israel lost its self-control. He promised that “Thousands of freedom flotillas” across the world will sail out to the Gaza Strip.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei considers instructing the Revolutionary Guards to provide military escort to the ships en route to the Gaza Strip. Ali Shirazi, Khamenei’s representative in the Revolutionary Guards, said that the Iranian navy is prepared to escort the Gaza peace flotilla with all its forces and capabilities. He said that if the Supreme Leader gives the instruction, the Revolutionary Guards will do everything in their power to secure the ships, and that it was Iran’s duty to protect the innocent people in the Gaza Strip.
Wonderful. We are heading to even more interesting times.
Britain’s Largest Academic Union Cuts Ties with Israel’s Histadrut
Enemies of Israel were quick to act, when the anti-Israel sentiments are still boiling. The largest British academic trade union voted at its annual conference on June 3, 2010 to sever all ties with the Histadrut, Israel’s largest trade union, and to support the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. The University and College Union (UCU), which has about 120,000 members, are advocating that other trade unions to do the same. Pro-Palestinian activist and Brighton University lecturer Tom Hickey initiated the motion, accusing the Histadrut of having supported “the Israeli assault on civilians in Gaza” in January 2009. The motion condemned the international community for failing to confront Israel and it also called for practical support of Palestinian academic trade unionists.
British trade unions have a lot in common with the Histadrut. I am very sorry for this harsh decision, and I fail to see how such sanctions can possibly serve the best interests of Palestinians. Hickey and his likes wish to make Israel the world pariah. They are driven by vitriolic hate, not by peace or any Judea-Christian values. They are set to destroy, not to build; to uproot, not to build. The true meaning of peace is remote from their intentions, and compassion is foreign to their actions. Israel, not Palestine, is their obsession.
For the third year running, I attended the GW-Berkeley Privacy Law Scholars Conference, this time in Washington. I love the format by which all participants read the papers prior arrival, and thus are able to engage in informed debate with the authors of the papers who need not present the papers but instead address questions and comments. Each year, it seems that more and more people are becoming aware of cyber wrongs and cyber harms, not only concerning violation of privacy.
It was wonderful to return to DC, my favourite city. I thank Yardena and Ori Lev, Frances and Tim Sellers, Mike van Dusen, Joe Gildenhorn, Rafi Danziger and Lee Rawls for their kind hospitality. It is always good to see you.
AICE Visiting Israel Professors
The non-profit American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE) is now accepting applications from Israeli faculty interested in being considered as Visiting Israel Professors in the United States for the 2011-12 academic year. Thanks to the generous support of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, AICE will select at least 20 major American universities to receive grants to appoint Schusterman Visiting Israel Professors. We anticipate funding from other foundations to support several additional visiting professors. Each university will receive $50,000 toward the salary and benefits of the Visiting Israel Professor and up to $10,000 to reimburse the scholar’s travel expenses.
This year, AICE is especially looking this year for professors in the humanities, law and business.
Further details at http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/isdf/announce11.html
You can now follow me on Twitter. My account almagor35
Looking forward to hearing from you.
The Staff of The Washington Post, The Inside Story of America’s New Health-Care Law and What It Means for Us All (NY, 2010).
After a year-long political war, President Obama and the Democratic leaders of Congress achieved in March 2010 a victory that has eluded lawmakers for seventy-five years: an overhaul of America's health care system. But despite the incessant and often rancorous debate that preceded the bill's passage, most Americans still don't understand what is in the final legislative package or what reform will—or won't—mean for them.
In Landmark, reporters and editors from the national staff of the Washington Post provide a comprehensible summary of the legislation the president signed into law, and examine the impacts it will have on Americans in various categories, on health care providers and insurers, and on the health care system as a whole. They also provide a fascinating behind-the-scenes narrative of how the legislation came together, and of the political obstacles, events, negotiations, and compromises that helped determine its shape. Landmark is an invaluable resource for anyone who wants to understand the historic changes now under way.
I thank Frances Sellers for a copy of this book.
Menachem Kellner, Torah in the Observatory: Gersonides, Maimonides, Song of Songs (Brighton, MA: Academic Studies Press, 2010).
Rabbi Levi ben Gershom (Ralbag, Gersonides; 1288-1344), one of medieval Judaism's most original thinkers, wrote about such diverse subjects as astronomy, mathematics, Bible commentary, philosophical theology, "technical" philosophy, logic, Halakhah, and even satire. In his view, however, all these subjects were united as part of the Torah. Influenced profoundly by Maimonides, Gersonides nevertheless exercised greater rigor than Maimonides in interpreting the Torah in light of contemporary science, was more conservative in his understanding of the nature of the Torah's commandments, and more optimistic about the possibility of wide-spread philosophical enlightenment.
Gersonides was a witness to several crucial historical events, such as the expulsion of French Jewry of 1306 and the "Babylonian Captivity" of the Papacy. Collaborating with prelates in his studies of astronomy and mathematics, he had an entrée into the Papal court at Avignon. Revered among Jews as the author of a classic commentary on the latter books of the Bible, Kellner portrays Gersonides as a true Renaissance Man, whose view of Torah is vastly wider and more open than that held by many of those who treasure his memory.
Author: Born and educated in the United States, Menachem Kellner (Ph.D., Washington University in St. Louis, 1973) has lived in Israel for the last 30 years. Author, editor, or translator of 16 books and over 100 scholarly articles, Kellner’s most recent books include Science in the Bet Midrash (Academic Studies Press, 2009) and Maimonides’ Confrontation with Mysticism (2006).
"Professor Kellner is one of the more productive and creative scholars in medieval Jewish thought. Over the years he has published many important essays on various aspects of medieval Jewish philosophy, especially on Gersonides and Maimonides. These studies are fundamental readings for any student of medieval Jewish philosophy. This anthology of his writings is a most valuable contribution to our understanding of these two thinkers."
--Seymour Feldman, Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus, Rutgers University
Flame and Citron (2009)
Flame and Citron is based on true events that took place in Denmark during WWII. The most intriguing period in history for me is 1930-1950. I devoted some twenty years of my life to study it, and to comprehend it. I wanted to understand how a nation can become so evil. How come one of the most civilized nations mobilized all its state powers to destroy and to annihilate a people? Why people, normal people, educated people, gladly participated in monstrous activities? It took me some time to find answers to these questions. Anyway, WWII films are high on my priority list, and Flame and Citron is concerned with Denmark, one of two countries that were under Nazi occupation and refused to participate in the annihilation campaign. The other country was Bulgaria, which explains my existence. My mom is from Bulgaria.
Flame and Citron were members of the Danish resistance. The film raises serious moral questions as they were in the execution business. The received hit lists and without much queries executed the people on the list. Is it ever justified to assume the role of the persecution, the judge and the firing squad? Should we trouble ourselves with such questions when dealing with the most evil regime ever to exist in history? Flame and Citron thought that it is a luxury to be engaged with such questions. There is a job to do. Someone has to do it. They decided to be that someone.
Another exciting season of football has ended. My team, Tottenham Hotspur, did well although it is still lacking “killer instinct” and belief that it is capable to go all the way to win the championship. The most exciting team was Arsenal, with many talents who are joy to watch. As always, it is most difficult to pick a team, especially the midfield, as the great concentration of talents is in this department. Notice that many of the great players are not English.
Watching Hull City at the KC stadium was frustrating. The team did not gel until the last moments of the season, with obvious deficiencies in defence and attack, its best player Geovanni watching most of the season from the bench.
Here are the players that impressed me the most in a 1-4-3-3 formation.
Shay Given (Manchester City and Ireland)
He was always among the best keepers in the world. This year, for a change, he is playing in a very good team.
Patrice Evra (Manchester United, France). Best in his role in England.
Chris Samba (Blackburn Rovers, Congo)
A towering presence wherever he is. Strong, reliable, confident, he deserves a better team. A real threat in the air for any defence.
Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal and Belgium)
One of the most intelligent defenders in the world. Reliable and have an unusual skills in handling the ball. He is capable of scoring goals from any distance.
Vedran Ćorluka (Tottenham and Croatia)
The best in his role this year in England.
I chose those who play total football, meaning able to play all over the pitch, attack well, and defend well.
Antonio Valencia (Man. Utd., Ecuador). Last year I wrote that he should move to a better team, where he could better fulfill his potential. Manchester Utd purchased him and Valencia proved a great asset.
Steven Gerard (Liverpool, England). Always joy to watch. Provides skills and leadership.
Abou Diaby (Arsenal and France)
Diaby does everything, anywhere. Arsène Wenger allows him freedom to play whenever he feels like, trusting his impeccable understanding of the game. One of the most impressive players in this difficult league.
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United, England). Player of the year.
Jermain Defoe (Tottenham and England)
Sharp, always a threat, with great ability to translate meagre chances into goals. Quick and versatile, an asset for his teams.
Didier Drogba (Chelsea and Ivory Coast)
Strong, powerful, athletic. It takes very strong defenders to contain him as his physical strength alone is enough to overcome defence.
In addition, I should note:
Goal Keepers: Jose Manuel (Pepe) Reina (Liverpool, Spain); Brad Friedel (Aston Villa, USA)
Defenders: Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United, Serbia), Phil Jagielka (Everton, England), Kolo Toure (Manchester City, Ivory Coast), Julian Lescott (Manchester City, England)
Excellent midfield players:
Mikel Arteta (Everton, Spain). Superb player. His understanding of football is flawless. Master of the game.
Frank Lampard (Chelsea, England). So quiet and so effective. Excellent finish.
Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool, the Netherlands). Always works his socks out. Relentless.
Samir Nasri (Arsenal, France). A genius with the ball. Each touch is a joy for the eyes. Few people can master the ball as well as he does.
Andrey Arshavin (Arsenal, Russia). So talented. Brilliant.
James Milner (Aston Villa, England). Hard worker. Gives one hundred percent.
Ces Fabregas (Arsenal, Spain). Another product of Barcelona. Frustrates his opponents time and again.
Strikers: Dimitar Berbatov (Manchester United, Bulgaria), Carlos Tevez (Manchester City, Argentina), Theo Walcott (Arsenal, England)
I also note players who made their impression on the league for one extraordinary skill they possess:
Graham Alexander (Burnley and Scotland), for his perfect ability to score penalties. What an important quality that is to have on a team.
Rory Delap (Stock) for his extraordinary, powerful hand throws.
Their bullet precision has been translated to many goals. Because of Delap, Stock is the only team whose opponents prefer to give away corners instead of side line balls.
Darron Gibson (Manchester United and Republic of Ireland)
He has the talent, the zeal, and the tenacity to succeed in the very high level of the game.
Improved Player of the Year:
Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur and Wales)
Bale was signed from Southampton as a 17-year-old in May, 2007. He did not play much until December 2009 and when he played his luck did not show. Bale, for many games, never finished a game with Spurs on the winning side. Slowly things began to change in early 2010. Spurs won with him playing, and in March came the great break. Bale became the best left winger in England, playing either as a defender or as an attacker, sometimes both. His energy is relentless, his ability to master the ball superb, and unlike many defenders he knows how to score. His contract with Spurs was supposed to expire in 2012 but Spurs were quick to sign him recently to a new four-year contract until 2014. If Bale will continue the form he has shown during the past weeks, he will be snapped by one of the great clubs of the continent. There is no player in his age that has Bale’s qualities in England at present. He is a true joy to watch and appreciate. Superb. Simply superb.
Eduardo (Arsenal, Croatia): Since his return from his horrible injury, Eduardo is not dominating as he used to be. To be fair, Wenger does not give him many chances to play. His teams, and football fans, need to see him back to his form.
Wishes for the World Cup
Good Luck to England in the South Africa World Cup. It is going to be an exciting month. In the semi-finals, I expect to see Brazil, Germany and Spain. Other contenders are Argentine, Italy and England. All teams, but Spain, won the World Cup before. I am very conservative in my expectations.
It will be very nice if England will win the world cup. It has been a while (1966). England has the right manager for the job, with the right drive and winning mentality. The question is whether Fabio Capello will be able to instill in his players what he has in abundance.
I hope that one, possibly two African teams will reach the quarter finals.
I wish one Asian team will reach the quarter finals.
I wish Vincent Enyeama to sign a contract with Spurs. Spurs needs an excellent goalkeeper and Enyeama would love to play in Europe, as he is well regarded.
I wish Gennaro Gattuso good health, and that he will not harm the good health of his opponents.
Finally, I wish for a peaceful, event-free World Cup. May all the excitement be only on the pitch. This is not a small feat to ask for.
Bye Bye Hull City
For the past two years I enjoyed quality premier league football at the KC Stadium in Hull. I watched the best teams in England, including my beloved Spurs, and some of the most impressive footballers in the world. This treat, I am sorry to say, is now over as Hull had been relegated. This was hardly surprising. A team with weak defence, weak offence, that puts its best player (Giovanni) on the bench, cannot compete in the highest level of the game. Hull needs to rebuild itself in the lower league.
I had an enjoyable time watching the best football in the world also thanks to my companion, George Talbot. I thank George for many enjoyable and memorable hours together.
Difficult to be a Bridge
By Raphael Cohen-Almagor
It is difficult to be a bridge
Never establishing oneself.
Leads from here to there
Means, not an end
And already overlooking from the other side
Move on, continue.
And it remains alone
Seeking some affection
Way out of the cumbersome solitude
If at least
It was given
A neighbouring friendly bridge
To cry over its shoulder.
A joke I heard from Martin Kramer:
A man named Ali walks in the desert. For many miles all he sees only sand. No one on sight. Then after many hours Ali sees a little hut. He increases his pace and full of hope he enters the hut.
“May I have water and whatever you have to eat?”
“No, sorry”, was the answer.
“Nothing? What do you sell here?” asked Ali.
“Ties? Are you crazy? Why does one need a tie in such heat? Don't you have water?”
“Majnun”, said Ali.
“If you want water and food, there is a restaurant one mile up the road”.
“Ok”, said Ali and resumes walking.
“Do you want a tie?”
“May your house destroyed”, said Ali in utter disbelief.
An hour later Ali returns to the hut. “I met your brother”.
“He’ll serve me food and water only if I wear a tie”.
Peace and lovely summer.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Chair in Politics
The University of Hull
Hull, HU6 7RX
T: +0044 (0)1482 465024
F: +0044 (0)1482 466208