Sunday, June 12, 2011

Politics – June 2011 In Memory of Wilfrid Knapp (1924-2011)

Fearful people always find reasons to confirm their worst fears.

Gilad is still in captivity. Veshavu banim legvulam.

~Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Obituary: Wilfrid Knapp (1924-2011)
Reflections on May Newsletter
Meir Dagan
Iranian Defense Minister Ejected from Bolivia
Jerusalem: A Tale of Three Cities
Conference: The Losinj Days of Bioethics
Bill Gates
Microsoft Academic Search 
A Cash Injection to the Medical Industry
French Initiative
New World Order
Boiling Middle East

UK Universities Criticised for 'Complacency' over Extremism

New Books
English Football
Monthly Poem
Gem of the Month – Mali Losijn
Light Side

It was reported recently that there are advanced talks to free Gilad Shalit and to bring him home. I hope the news is correct and that Hamas now feels it has exhausted all that it could from the kidnapping of Gilad. And I hope that the Israeli government will be bold and caring enough to make the necessary deal, pay the necessary price, and show that it is responsible to all its soldiers who it sent to fight its wars.

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

Gilad Shalit

Obituary: Wilfrid Knapp (1924-2011)

Wilfrid was one of the reasons that brought me to St. Catherine’s College, Oxford. Already in Israel I heard about his kindness, his warm heart, his qualities as a human being and as a tutor. All the praise was correct and none was able to capture the persona of this great human being.

Wilfrid Knapp is simply the kindest person I have ever met in my life. I have been fortunate to meet many kind people in different countries; thus to single out one person is not easy. From the moment we first met in Oxford back in 1987, I became enchanted with this great person, with his warm smile, with his wisdom and outgoing personality.

A month after we arrived at Oxford, Wilfrid invited my wife Zehavit and myself to the High Table. Two young Israelis arrived at this distinguished table, not knowing which knife and which spoon we should use first, which glass is for wine and which is for another purpose. We were awed and Wilfrid just smiled and hosted us as a perfect gentleman, leading us through the process and making us feel at home at the Senior Common Room (SCR), a place he later saw to make it my home during the duration of my studies.

Wilfrid became my moral tutor. Some students never meet their moral tutor or meet him/her only once during their course of studies. Wilfrid and I met at least once a month during my four years at Oxford, usually in his office. He wanted to know everything, not only about my studies but also about my life. He wanted to make sure that Zehavit and I enjoy our Oxford experience; he was there every step of the way, ascertaining that we integrate into the college life, into university life, and into city life. Wilfrid became my second father. I asked my father’s permission to make Wilfrid my father in England.

One afternoon, after yet another frustrating visit to the Bodleian library, I met with Wilfrid who asked immediately what happened. I answered with a question: “Suppose you have a finite amount of money and you need to decide whether to invest it either in computerizing the library (the Bodleian relied on paper catalogues at the time) or cultivating the college lawns, what would you decide?”. Wilfrid did not hesitate even for a second and answered immediately with his wonderful smile: “The lawns, of course”. Years later I realized he was right, as always.

During another meeting, I dared to voice some unappreciative words about the game of cricket. Wilfrid embarked on an hour long lecture about the many virtues of cricket. The original purpose of our meeting was all forgotten. I learned my lesson. Never again did I voice any critical words of cricket in the presence of a British person.

During good times, Wilfrid was there. He was delighted to be there, offering drinks and his ocean-wide smile. During times of crisis, Wilfrid was there, and he was there because he wanted to be there. I never asked. I did not have to. He questioned, therefore knew, and immediately rushed to help. He was our guardian angel.

In the course of time, Zehavit and I got to know his lovely wife Pat. An incredible couple they were. Pat was Wilfrid’s perfect match. Gentle, kind-hearted, elegant, warm, charming; both were angels disguised as human beings. We felt most fortunate to know Pat and Wilfrid. I dedicated Israeli Democracy at the Crosswords in memory of Pat. And I dedicated Israeli Institutions at the Crossroads for Wilfrid.

Wilfrid loved St. Catz, Oxford University and Oxford in this order. He was a loyal patriot of the college, which he helped to found, and dedicated his entire life to see the success of the college. St. Catz became one of the largest colleges in Oxford, also thanks to Wilfrid’s tireless efforts. Wilfrid gave his heart, mind and soul for the college and made people like me eternal admirers of the college's achievements.

Wilfrid introduced me to Isaiah Berlin (“It is time the two of you meet”, he said one afternoon out of the blue as we were drinking port in his room; a few weeks later Isaiah and I met) and to Geoffrey Marshall (“He is the right person for you”, said Wilfrid. Indeed, Geoffrey was). Isaiah and Geoffrey were two great men who became an integral part of my life forever. Wilfrid was thrilled to see our friendship growing. Wilfrid also warned me of other dons whom, he thought, I should avoid and know less. I learned to rely on his judgment without asking too many questions.

St. Catherine’s had one Overseas Graduate Scholarship. I received it one year after another during the duration of my studies. As part of the OGS’s privileges I became a member of the SCR. I am certain Wilfrid played a vital role in the OGS decision-making process but he never said a word. When Zehavit underwent an operation and could not climb the stairs to our flat in the St. Catz accommodation, Wilfrid arranged for her accommodation in college until she recuperated. I never asked for all this. Wilfrid simply arranged everything.

I remember one time Zehavit and I ordered a taxi to take us to the bus station and from there intended to take a bus to Heathrow in order to travel to Israel. The taxi broke down. Wilfrid decided to take us to the airport. We protested that he should not; “Take us only to the bus station”, we pleaded. Wilfrid insisted and took us to Heathrow.

In 1997 I returned to Oxford on a British Council Scholarship, and was awarded a Visiting Fellowship at St. Catz. It was wonderful to return to my college, six years after my graduation, being yet again part of the SCR community. I was privileged to have Wilfrid around for the entire summer of 1997, resuming our discussion about politics, Israel, the Middle East, music, theatre, Oxford, Israeli and British academia, our families, our lives. Wilfrid and I could talk for hours. There was no shortage of topics.

Wilfrid and Pat cared deeply about Israel and about the Middle East in general. As Founder of the St. Catz energy seminar, Wilfrid had many contacts in the Arab world. He called me “peacenik”. I called him “peacenik”. We both yearned for world peace and cared deeply about human rights in all parts of the world.

During my travels, Wilfrid always wanted me to meet his friends and colleagues. He encouraged me to take the job at Hull. Since arriving in England in 2008 we used to talk on the phone every few weeks. That year, 2008, we met at a St. Catz reunion of American alumni of the college in New York. Wilfrid looked tired. We are not getting younger, he said with his eternal smile.

During the past two years I noticed that Wilfrid travelled quite often to Euston; he said it was for college business. After his “retirement”, Wilfrid remained active doing fund raising for the college.

In the past few months we met twice, in the college SCR and sometime later at his home.  I recall entering the large SCR room. There was only one person sitting there but I did not recognize him. Upon realizing that that person was the only one around, I looked at him closely and realized: It was Wilfrid. He looked a shadow of the old Wilfrid. Only then he broke the news that he was suffering from cancer, and that his visits to Euston were made also for health reasons. It broke my heart.

Wilfrid and Pat met my parents. When my mom died last February, Wilfrid was one of the first people to know. He enquired about the details, what had happened. Wise Wilfrid knew always to say the right words. But I did not wish to elaborate about death.

I last saw him at his home. Wilfrid was confined to the ground floor of his home during the last year. I stayed for an hour and left with a heavy heart, not knowing whether I will see him again. We spoke on the phone shortly before he died. Wilfrid did not wish to die but accepted death as there was nothing he could do to escape his lot. He always tried to live his life to the fullest, reading history and biographical books until the last days, and enjoying the company of his loving family.

Wilfrid was a mensch, a true, wonderful human being who made this world a better place for everybody. He was a shining tower, a loving island of kindness and warmth. His memory will live with me forever. If there is heaven, Pat and Wilfrid are occupying its upper terraces. The world, however, is a poorer, impoverished place without them.

Reflections on May Newsletter

Professor Robert O’Neill wrote from Rylstone, Australia:

Dear Rafi,

Thank you for another excellent monthly overview. I like you perspectives. It is interesting listening to the talk of local people here in the Rylstone area about the events of the past week. Bibi did not score highly, and the problem for Israel of avoiding further isolation is a very real one.

The security problems of the 21st century are going to be very different in nature to those of the last half of the 20th century, and Bibi is moored in the past. We have to wait for a new type of government to be elected in Israel before we can feel that things are on the road to improvement.

All the best.


Professor Scott Optican wrote from Auckland, New Zealand:
An especially informative newsletter this time Rafi. Thx a lot. I share your skepticism about Bibi and don’t believe he really understands what is in Israel's long term interest. Very unfortunate.

It is a particularly unfortunate quality in the leader of any nation to be a short term thinker about the future of that nation. I think history bears that out. Obama seems to understand that better than Bibi – not only with respect to Israel, but with respect to the long term interests of the US. 

Hope you are well.

Another reader asked why I focus my criticism on the Israeli government and say relatively little about Hamas’ successful attempts to sabotage any peace deal.

Let me clarify once and for all: In my blogs I focus more about Israel because I am an Israeli, because I care far more about what my government does than what others are doing; thus my level of disappointment of Netanyahu at present is much higher compared to, for instance, my disappointment of Hamas. I have no expectations from Hamas. I have many expectations from my government.

I also think that democracies should be appraised differently than non-democratic regimes. We need different tools of assessments for different regimes.

Now let me state clearly and unequivocally: Hamas is a terrorist organization. It is authoritarian in nature. It leads the Palestinians into the abyss. Its regime is repulsive, its conduct vile and inhumane.

I focus more on Israel not because I think reality is shaped only by one side. I do know it takes two to tango. While I do not have any expectations from Hamas, I do have expectations from Israel and Abbas. And I think Abbas is more open to negotiate peace at present than Netanyahu.

I do not think Netanyahu is sincere. He knows that the government he comprised will not allow him to give up substantive territories. He knows that this is the sine qua non for successful negotiations. He therefore knows that there won’t be peace as long as he is in power with this government.

To have a viable peace, both sides to the agreement need to be happy. If not, then there won’t be peace, and the children will suffer. I trust you do understand that that the settlements constitute a great obstacle to peace, and if Israel ever wishes to reach a fair agreement, it needs to dismantle settlements, to change the route of the Fence, and help build a sustainable Palestinian economy. I also think that Israel needs to compromise on Jerusalem.

Meir Dagan

Former head of Mossad, Meir Dagan, captured the headlines by making some surprising statements. He openly criticized his government for a lack of flexibility, judgment and foresight, calling it “reckless and irresponsible” in the handling of Israel’s security and diplomatic policies. Dagan said that Israel’s ignoring of the 2002 Saudi peace initiative was a gross mistake (I concur but the timing of the initiative was awful, coinciding with the terror attack on Hotel Park in Netanya). Dagan said Israel must confront the real issue: The establishment of an independent Palestinian State. It is better that Israel will do the right steps rather than having them forced upon it by the international community, something Dagan considers a greater threat.
Regarding Iran, Dagan maintained that if Israel attacks its nuclear plants, it will find itself at the centre of a regional war that would endanger the state's existence.
These statements are all prudent, so why did I say they are surprising? Well, when Dagan was nominated by Prime Minister Sharon in 2002 Dagan was considered a right-winger who ate Arabs for breakfast, lunch and dinner, a trigger-happy, loyal soldier who would make the Mossad a militant, pre-emptive organization. See, e.g., Sharon said that he wanted a Mossad with “a knife between its teeth.” Dagan made the Mossad what Sharon wanted and his eight-year term is considered to be a very successful period for the secret organization whose name was connected with successful operations. How come that this aggressive, hard-liner suddenly has decided to make such middle-of-the-road or even “leftist” statements?
I can offer two plausible explanations. The first is that Dagan had “softened” on the job or, better phrased, adopted a realistic attitude regarding Israel and its better options to survive in the dangerous, highly volatile Middle East. In order to survive, Israel must strike a deal with the Palestinians, and the deal must be fair and decent, otherwise it won’t be accepted and if it were to be accepted, it won’t survive in the long run.
The second explanation is that Dagan knows Netanyahu and Barak well; so well that he grew not to trust them. Netanyahu is prone to make mistakes because he has severe lapses in ability to comprehend complex situations. Barak cannot be trusted because of his over-confidence, his immense belief in himself, and lack of ability to listen to others, especially when others voice opinions that are contradictory to his.
The difference between a wise person and a smart person is that the smart may be able to devise original ways to escape traps he enters. The wise person, on the other hand, avoids the traps from the start. Netanyahu, at best, is smart.

Iranian Defense Minister Ejected from Bolivia

The Bolivian government gave Iran a diplomatic slap in the face on May 31, 2011, declaring that visiting Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi is not welcome in the Latin American country and must leave immediately. Vahidi, a long time member of the infamous Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, is wanted by INTERPOL and Argentina for his suspected role in the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community centre in Buenos Aries which killed 85 people. Vahidi was on a visit to Bolivia at the invitation of the country's defense minister, who was apparently unaware of Vahidi's status as an international criminal. Bolivian diplomats have issued an apology to Argentina for what it called a "grave incident."
I thank Public Diplomacy Network for the information.

Jerusalem: A Tale of Three Cities

Uri Dromi sent me his piece about Jerusalem and granted me permission to quote from it:

Jerusalem has always invoked deep emotions, slogans and wishful thinking. When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at AIPAC’s conference in Washington two weeks ago, repeated the mantra that “Jerusalem will always be united’’, he received a standing ovation. I doubt whether those in the audience really knew what they were applauding for, and if in their short visits to Jerusalem they saw more than just the lobby of the King David Hotel.

Those of us who live here know that Jerusalem is actually divided into three cities: The Jewish nonreligious one; the Jewish religious one; and the Arab one.
Each of these is a big city in itself, with populations of some 250,000, the size of Haifa, the third biggest city in Israel. Theoretically, these three cities could have lived next to each other in harmony, under a joint metropolitan framework. The reality is different.

• Arab Jerusalem, on the east side, suffers from four decades of neglect of its infrastructure and services, and its population is poor.
• The inhabitants of the Jewish-religious (ultra-orthodox) city are poor as well. The number of people who actually go to work in these two cities of Jerusalem is relatively low — because of a lack of jobs available for the Arabs, or unwillingness of the Jewish ultra-orthodox to work, because of religious reasons.
• We are left, then, with the third city of Jerusalem, the Jewish nonreligious one, where the middle class (me included) is paying taxes and basically carrying the city on its shoulders. Since the populations of the Arab city and the Jewish religious city are growing, while the population of the non-religious Jewish city is stagnating, if not shrinking, the conclusion is clear: In the future, a relatively smaller middle class will have to take care of bigger and poorer Arab and ultra-orthodox Jewish populations of Jerusalem.

Arab Jerusalem carries major political significance. Netanyahu in his speech said that the Palestinians will have to base their capital somewhere else. I wish they would choose Helsinki, but I doubt they would. So let’s leave Arab Jerusalem aside for a moment, and focus on the two Jewish cities — the non-religious one and the religious (ultra-orthodox) one.

According to the Statistical Yearbook of Jerusalem for 2009-10, the average age in a nonreligious neighborhood is 40, while in a religious neighborhood it is 20 (in the ultra-orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim, the average age is 15!). In Jewish elementary schools in the city, the number of ultra-orthodox pupils is twice as big as the others. Again, it gives a clear idea of what the future holds for Jerusalem: more poor people leaning on a smaller middle class to support them.

The future, by the way, is already at our doorstep. Here is a small example from the area of leisure: Ultra-orthodox neighborhoods, which are densely populated, don’t have many public parks. Therefore, their residents tend to take their kids to play at the parks of nonreligious neighborhoods, like Beit HaKerem, where I live. There is nothing wrong with it, except that some ultra-orthodox parents don’t like the fact that our kids — or young mothers — are dressed in a liberal way, and they reprimand them for this. Our neighborhood paper already encouraged the local residents to stand up and answer that challenge “in a proper way.”

A culture war is the last thing the nonreligious middle class in Jerusalem needs. In another neighborhood, physical confrontations have occurred between nonreligious residents, who want to keep the liberal character of the neighborhood, and ultra-orthodox newcomers, who want to introduce their own way of life into the public sphere. Many non-religious, middle class residents have kids and friends who have already left Jerusalem and moved elsewhere. This feeling of siege will encourage them to leave as well.

Here is my summing up for Jerusalem. I apologize if it spoils the party for those who just celebrated Jerusalem Day: Arab Jerusalem should be handed over to the Palestinians, and the sooner the better; ultra-orthodox residents should be encouraged to join the workforce and their neighborhoods should get better services; and besides caring for the poor, the middle class in Jerusalem should be regarded as no less than a national strategic asset. If it falls, Jerusalem will fall as well.

Uri Dromi can be reached at

Conference: The Losinj Days of Bioethics

I was invited to this conference in Croatia. I attended the first conference in 2001 and decided to return after ten years to the beautiful island of Mali Losinj.

I met some interesting people. A philosopher from Hungary protested against 'health fascism' in the media, especially in the USA that educates people how to lead their lives. People should be allowed to smoke wherever they like, he said. They should not be pushed into small rooms for smokers only. People should eat and drink all they like and then they should receive free treatment from government to heal them. If you prohibit smoking in public places, next you will ban driving cars because they might cause accidents, he reasoned forcefully (or so he thought). That same philosopher objected to describing some societies as totalitarian, arguing that we are brainwashed by American propaganda. The people of North Korea are happy people, probably happier than Americans who have more choice but the choice only depresses them. Less freedom can be good. What if Switzerland were surrounded by hostile countries that object to the Swiss way of living?, he reasoned. Its neighbouring countries try to isolate Switzerland and coerce it to adopt their values. By analogy this is what is happening to North Korea nowadays. The philosopher described himself as fatalist, saying that he is un-free to make decisions. Everything has been dictated for him by his nation, culture, society, globalization, the American empire, etc.

I am sure the philosopher’s students have some food for thought. I presume the above is merely a small sample of his worldview which, I hope, cultivates tolerance (more, far more than the North Korean renowned tolerance in Hungary and some other parts of the un-American, prudent world).

I met a Croatian cardiologist who fears that there is a global conspiracy to deny her freedom of speech. According to her sources, there is a small group of people who control the Internet. They decide which information we receive, what data is allowed, and they manipulate our thoughts to serve their global interests. This group works with the American government and possibly other governments to advance certain values and business interests, and to reject others. The educated cardiologist fear that our thoughts will be stifled as there is less and less free speech on the Internet. The great villain is Bill Gates who uses his obscene wealth, which was generated by divisive ways, to exploit Africa. His philanthropy is just a facade to promote his business interests. Search Gates, vaccination, Africa – so she advised me -- and you understand everything. Gates is dangerous to the free thinking people of the world.

I met an American pastor from Tennessee who strongly believes that the Obama administration is determined --  God forbid -- to make the US a socialist country. Ohy Vay, we say in Yiddish. Obama brings dangerous ideology to the nation. Like the Croatian cardiologist, he believes the American government controls the Internet. He also believes his government is watching over his shoulder: “Big brother is everywhere!”. Scary stuff. All information is inspected and monitored to advance the sinister interests of the present administration. The thoughtful pastor thinks Obama was born in Kenya, that the birth certificate was forged, and that the Hawaiian administration co-operates with Washington to cover up the real details. The pastor strongly believes that America is facing an economic disaster of the magnitude of the 1929 crash, and that people should invest in precious metals like silver and gold to preserve their assets. The dollar is worth nothing. The pastor thinks that the Muslims will take over Europe and then the USA. They will impose Shariah laws all over the globe. Islam is a dangerous religion from which nothing good can stem. In one generation or two the free world as we know today will come to an end. But if you closely reflect on what he said before there is no free world anyway.

Three people from three different countries and different ages. They share fears. They doubt. They believe in conspiracies. They think the world will become a worse place to fear. They share strong anti-Americanism. Even the American pastor shares this sentiment as he is anti what the USA does now. He loves his America, which is very different from American under President Obama.
I searched “Gates, vaccination, Africa” and found I welcome your thoughts and observations.

There is no shortage of conspiracy theories. Search, for instance, “September 11, Jews” or “jfk murder fbi” and you will get your fair share.

I thank Hrvoje Juric for the kind invitation.

Bill Gates

My view of Bill Gates is very different from the Cardiologist’s view. Bill Gates belongs to the lucrative group of people whom the more I listen to, the more I wish to hear. A few days before my discussion with the Croatian physician Gates was the guest of BBC Hard Talk. He discussed in the main his philanthropic world-view, explaining that the Gates Foundation sets to improve the basic conditions of humanity. Every mother wishes to give birth to a healthy child and to see him/her growing healthy. The Gates Foundation wishes to help mothers with this task. When asked whether he does not wish to see that every child should have an Internet access, Gates answered: Go to a child's funeral and ask the mother whether she would have liked her child having an Internet connection or something else.

Microsoft Academic Search 

Microsoft Academic Search is a new academic search engine (beta) for exploring scientific publications, authors, conferences, journals, organizations and keywords. It is useful to scholars, students, librarians, and other users. The search results are sorted based on two factors: relevance to the query and global importance. 

A Cash Injection to the Medical Industry

The world's leading asset management firm in the health sciences, OrbiMed, is launching a $200 million fund to invest in research and development in the Israeli life sciences industry. The new fund will be one of the largest venture capital funds in Israel. The new fund is the result of collaboration between the firm and the Government of Israel. The latter will contribute approximately $40 million to the fund.  Investments are to be directed to medical devices, biotech, and diagnostics.  
Medica, a veteran Israeli venture capital fund, is in the process of recruiting new capital for the same purpose. It is also expected to be matched in partial by governmental funds.

I thank Shmuel Ben-Tovim for the information.

French Initiative

In early June 2011, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe offered to host talks to discuss ideas for a Palestinian state raised last month by resident Barack Obama, aiming to avert a showdown at the United Nations in September. The French proposal calls for Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to meet this month or by early July with an eye to reviving talks which broke off last year in a dispute on Jewish settlement building on lands Palestinians seek for a state. "We are convinced that if nothing happens here between now and September the situation will be very difficult for everyone at the time of the United Nations General Assembly," explained Juppe. "We have to avoid such a situation and the only way to avoid it is to do what we are proposing, that's to say return to the (negotiating) table". The Palestinians plan to unilaterally seek UN recognition of statehood in September – a step Israel strongly opposes fearing it could end up isolated internationally. Under the plan discussed with Juppe, "neither side would carry out unilateral actions". This formula works for the Palestinians. It does not for Israel as Israel does not perceive itself on equal terms with the Palestinian Authority. 

The French initiative was prudently accepted by Mahmoud Abbas. The Palestinians should accept any initiative to break the deadlock. The Israeli government made it clear time and again that it only stalls for time as it enlarges settlements only to declare later that it would be impossible to evacuate them.

In a coordinated statement, the USA and Israel rejected the initiative. The US has no interest to forego its leading role in the process. The new world order can wait. Israel, for its part, with all the differences between the Netanyahu government and the Obama administration, still prefers the Americans over the French.

New World Order

Last month I wrote about new world order. This new order will manifest itself in all spheres of life, including sports. On June 4, 2011 the Chinese anthem was played in the Paris Roland Garros as Li Na became the first person from China to win a singles Grand Slam. I think in years to come we are likely to hear the Chinese anthem quite often in many sports events.

Boiling Middle East

The uprisings sweeping the Arab world appeared to have won their third victory over authoritarian rule by overthrowing President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen after 33 years in power. On June 3, 2011, Saleh left for Saudi Arabia to be treated for injuries received in an explosion in his presidential palace and is unlikely to return.

Thousands of people danced and sang in the streets of the capital Sanaa as news spread that Yemen had joined Tunisia and Egypt in ousting a widely detested leader who had controlled the state for decades. Women in black joined swelling numbers of jubilant demonstrators. Soldiers joined in the dancing and singing and were hoisted on to the shoulders of the crowds. President Saleh, in power since 1978, has not formally ceded power, but it is unlikely that the forces he commanded will hold together without his presence or that Saudi Arabia will let him return. There are unconfirmed reports that senior government ministers and top officials close to him were trying to board flights out of the country from Sanaa airport.

In Libya, it seems that the days of Colonel Qaddafi are numbered as the NATO airstrikes continue and the so-called rebels advance with their offensive.

In Syria, human rights campaigners argue that security forces shot dead at least 70 protesters in Hama on June 3, 2011. At least 1,100 people have been killed by security forces since the demonstrations began, rights groups say. In due course, Bashar al-Assad and his close circle may stand trial for their crimes against the Syrian people.

The uproar is turning into an armed insurrection, with previously peaceful demonstrators taking up arms and individual soldiers are revolting against Alawi forces. With pressure mounting on the regime, bloody Assad tries to shift attention and locus to Israel by orchestrating protests along the border, reminding the world that the Golan is an occupied territory that belongs to Syria. Is the enemy of your enemy necessary your friend? I think not this time. The Syrian popular uprising is spreading to more cities in Syria and has also reached the capital Damascus.

In Bahrain, Ayat al-Gormezi, a 20-year-old poet and student at the Faculty of Teachers, was arrested on March 30, 2011 for reciting a poem critical of the government during the pro-democracy protests in Pearl Square, the main gathering place for demonstrators. Bahrain is the first country affected by the Arab Spring where women have been singled out as targets for repression. Human rights groups say that hundreds have been arrested. Many women complain of being severely beaten while in custody. One woman journalist was beaten so badly that she could not walk. Bahrain leaders wish to resume “normal life” but the earth is still boiling under their feet.

Photo: The Independent

In Israel, Palestinians and Syrians protested in Jerusalem and at the Golan Heights. Israel crushed the protestors but if the unrest will continue, Israel will be forced against the wall as world public opinion will turn more and more against it. The Palestinians may finally understand that peaceful ways might be more effective than violence to bring about change in their condition.

UK Universities Criticised for 'Complacency' over Extremism

The UK Home Secretary has criticised universities for their "complacency" in tackling radicalisation and Islamic extremism on campus. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Theresa May said: "I think for too long there's been complacency around universities. I don't think they have been sufficiently willing to recognise what can be happening on their campuses and the radicalisation that can take place. I think there is more that universities can do."

The Government has identified 40 English universities where there could be a "particular risk" or radicalisation or recruitment on campus. More than 30% of people convicted for al Qaida-associated terrorist offences in the UK are known to have attended university or a higher education institution. May asserted: "They need to be prepared to stand up and say that organisations that are extreme or support extremism or have extremist speakers should not be part of their grouping."

There are 25 boroughs most at risk from Islamist extremism, including areas of London, Birmingham, Leeds, Bradford and Manchester. Among those arrested for terrorism offences who have been linked to British universities is Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called "underpants bomber". He was detained on Christmas Day 2009 accused of trying to blow up a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. He graduated a year and a half earlier from University College London, where he was also president of the student Islamic Society.

New Books

Erich Goode and Nachman Ben-Yehuda, Moral Panics (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009).

Moral Panics is a sociological term coined by Stanley Cohen. It refers to the reaction of   a group of people based on a false or exaggerated perception that a cultural phenomenon, behavior or group (mostly minority group or subculture) is dangerously deviant and poses a threat to society. In other words, moral panics do not refer to situations in which nothing gives rise to fear; instead, moral panics characterizes situations that have been exaggerated and became to be perceived as a threat to societal values, moral and/or interests. The challenge evokes calls to strengthen the social control apparatus of the society by tougher rules, intense condemnation, more legislation and more law enforcement. An important factor in moral panics is the deviancy amplification spiral – an increasing cycle of media reports on undesirable events or behaviors which induce moral panics in society and can lead to legislation designed to further penalize those established as the threatening deviants who are the source of the panic. In other words, when the reaction to a person, a group or a certain phenomenon is out of all proportions to the actual threat, when the perceived threat is magnified beyond realistic appraisal, then we may speak of moral panics.

Moral panics are sociological phenomena and social constructs. The combined effect of the media coverage of a phenomenon, public opinion and the reaction of the authorities can have the spiral-like effect of creating a moral panics. In order for a moral panics to evolve, there must be a belief that there is a threat to something revered as sacred by or fundamental to the society.

This new and updated edition explains the concept, addresses its critic and discusses some empirical, timely examples related to social construction of reality and the diffusion of fear.

I thank Wiley-Blackwell for a copy of this book.

English Football

One of my great passions is sports. I don’t get to see basketball in England but I am fortunate to watch the best football in the world. Israeli football, by comparison, is like turtles to deer. As yet another fabulous season came to an end, this Newsletter contains an extensive summary of the season, with practical suggestions to my beloved Spurs.

This was another exciting season of English football, the best in the world. Manchester United was not brilliant. It was consistently very good, hard to beat. This was enough to win the title.

Here are the players that impressed me the most in a 1-4-3-3 formation.

Goal Keeper:

Edwin van Der Sar (Manchester United and The Netherlands)

Photo: Manchester United

Van der Sar is like a good wine. He was always among the best keepers in the world. This year, at the age of 41, van der Sar proved invaluable for United: Professional, reliable, consistent, alert and agile. Goal keeper is the last bastion. Every little mistake can be translated to a goal. He cannot make any mistakes, and van der Sar made very few this year. A wonderful goal keeper.


Patrice Evra (Manchester United, France). Best in his role in England.

Evra was on my team also last year. Consistently very good.

Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United, Serbia)          

Photo: Manchester United

He is one of the toughest defenders in the world, a striker’s nightmare. He is tall, strong, determined, quick and experienced. He is good on the floor, and superb in the air. I have some reservations about his game, sometimes. His desire to win sometimes surpasses sportsmanship. This year, however, maybe because he fulfills the role of the captain, Vidic is more responsible in his attitude also to opposing players.

John Terry (Chelsea, England)

Photo: Chelsea

What I wrote about Vidic is also true here.

Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea, Serbia)

Photo: Chelsea

Strong, reliable, confident, good in defence and in attack.

Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur and Wales)

Last year, Bale was the Improved Player of the Year on my list. This year he showed his potential, which is enormous. Bale was signed from Southampton as a 17-year-old in May, 2007. Presently he is 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 he knows how to score. His main problem is injuries. This seems to be his weakest point. Bale tends to get injured too often. When he plays in his best form, he is a true joy to watch and appreciate. Superb. Simply superb.

Samir Nasri (Arsenal, France).


Nasri was on my reserve team last year. Now he is a recognized gem. A genius with the ball. Each touch is a joy for the eyes. Few people can master the ball as well as he does.

Jack Wilshire (Arsenal, England)

Photo: Arsenal

Wilshire is also one of my two great potentials of the year. He is only 19, but when you see him play you would not believe that. He plays with confidence and responsibility. He knows how to pass the ball, how to tackle, and how to score. He reminds me of Steve McMahon. England has a superb player for many years to come.


Rafael van der Vaart (Tottenham Hotspur, The Netherlands)

Van der Vaart is one of the two stars Spurs has (Bale is the second). He is short tempered, sometimes a trouble maker, often he causes chaos in the opponent defence. He is very focused, a true winner, with relentless drive to score goals and to beat the opponent. He does not shy away from responsibility, the man to approach for penalties and free kicks. He has been a true asset for Spurs, scoring 13 league goals this year, but this statistic does not capture the full influence that van der Vaart has on the Spurs game. An excellent player.

Dimitar Berbatov (Manchester United, Bulgaria)

Photo: Manchester United

Berbatov is an excellent striker, with a good eye for goal. He is so dangerous because for many parts of the game you would not fell him on the pitch. He is not a great dribbler, he is not very fast, but he knows how to score goals, some of them classic. Berbatov scored 21 goals for United this year, despite the fact that he did not play quite a few games.

Spurs would love to have him back.

Carlos Tevez (Manchester City, Argentina)

Tevez is a winner. He likes to win, and is unwilling to accept any other result. He asks the most from himself, and for himself. He wants to play each and every game, for the whole 90 minutes. He wants to be the star of every football game and his commitment and talent are such that he often becomes the center of attention. He scored 21 league goals for City this year. Rumors link him next year with Inter Milan.

My team includes four players from Manchester United, two from Chelsea, two from Spurs, two from Arsenal, and one from Manchester City.

England, the Netherlands, France and Serbia have two representatives each in my team. Wales, Bulgaria and Argentina have one representative each.

Only one player, Evra, retained his place from last year’s team. Five players – Vidic, Tevez, Bale, Berbatov and Nasri upgraded from last year’s reserve to my first team this year.

Two players of my last year eleven did not play much or at all this year. Shay Given (Manchester City and Ireland) lost his place to Joe Hart. Maybe he can move to Spurs?

Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal and Belgium) was injured throughout the year. I hope to see him back in action next year.

My reserves this year:

Goal Keepers:
Jose Manuel (Pepe) Reina (Liverpool, Spain)

For the second consecutive year, Reina is only in my reserve team. He is a quality player, a reliable goal keeper, a true asset for Liverpool. He does not have the Manchester United defence in front.

Petr Cech (Chelsea, Czech Republic)


Phil Jagielka (Everton, England), Kolo Toure (Manchester City, Ivory Coast), Julian Lescott (Manchester City, England)

All three were in my last year’s reserve team.

Leighton Baines (Everton, England); Gary Cahill (Bolton, England)

Chris Samba (Blackburn Rovers, Congo)

Samba was in my last-year starting lineup. Still a towering reliable presence wherever he is. Strong, confident, and experienced. He deserves a better team. Spurs.

Midfield players:

Nani (Manchester United, Portugal); Florent Malouda (Chelsea, France)
Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool, The Netherlands).


For the second consecutive year, Kuyt is only in my reserve team. He is a quality player, always works his socks out, a relentless sort of a player who gives 100 percent of himself.


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. Possibly his last year at Chelsea. He could be very useful for Spurs.

Drogba was in my first team last year.


Jack Wilshire (see above)

Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez (Manchester United, Mexico)

Photo: Manchester United

Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez completed his move to Old Trafford in July 2010, becoming United’s first Mexican player. And what a fantastic player he is. He caught my eye in the last Mondeal, being quick, alert, two-footed and strong in the air. His sense of timing is wonderful. A very clever player who constitutes a constant danger for the defence. Defenders should not try the offside trick too often with him. When they do, he scores.

There is little doubt in my mind that this young striker will make a great impact on the Premier League, and on Europe at large. Chicharito is manifestly talented, with promising prospects.


My team, Tottenham Hotspur, had another mediocre year. Mediocrity is my nightmare. Spurs finished yet another season without trophies. To compete against the very best on equal footing, Spurs need a new goal keeper, two towering figures at the heart of defence, a world-quality striker, and a new manager with a “killer instinct”, one who believes that the only good result is winning, that a draw is unacceptable average, and the word “lose” is simply not in his vocabulary.

I would love to see Shay Given and Fernando Muslera in goal;

Fernando Muslera (Uruguay, Lazio)

Chris Samba and Gary Cahill at the heart of defence;

Didier Drogba, Falcao (Porto) and Fernando Llorente Torres (Athletic Bilbao, Spain) in the attack.

Fernando Llorente Torres (Spain)

Spurs has plenty of players who either do not play because they are constantly injured or not good enough, or should not play. Bid them farewell, let them go, and save a lot of money to get the truly gifted, world-class players, who can push Spurs forward to compete for each and every title until the very last moment.

Monthly Poem

Summer Sun
Great is the sun, and wide he goes
Through empty heaven with repose;
And in the blue and glowing days
More thick than rain he showers his rays.

Though closer still the blinds we pull
To keep the shady parlour cool,
Yet he will find a chink or two
To slip his golden fingers through.

The dusty attic spider-clad
He, through the keyhole, maketh glad;
And through the broken edge of tiles
Into the laddered hay-loft smiles.

Meantime his golden face around
He bares to all the garden ground,
And sheds a warm and glittering look
Among the ivy's inmost nook.

Above the hills, along the blue,
Round the bright air with footing true,
To please the child, to paint the rose,
The gardener of the World, he goes.

Robert Louis Stevenson
More poems from Robert Louis Stevenson

Gem of the Month – Mali Losijn

It was my second visit to this small, picturesque island. It is not very touristic, it is easy to walk, and the water is beautiful. The populated areas remind me of Netanya (Israeli resort town) during the mid 1970s. Mali Losijn looks genuine, unpretentious and unspoiled.

Light Side

* Someone stole all my credit cards but I won't be reporting it. The thief spends
less than my wife  did.
  * We always hold hands. If I let go, she shops.
* She was at the beauty shop for two hours. That was only for the estimate. She got a mudpack and looked great for two days. Then the mud fell off.

Russian News Anchor Can’t Keep Straight Face for BC Pot Story

Hearing someone laugh might make you laugh. Let’s see if you are able to keep straight face watching this lady:

I thank Bill Dackman for this.

Belated Happy Shavuot, Peace and love.

Yours as ever,


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