Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Politics – April 2013

Support is sought to facilitate the work of the Middle East Study Group. Information at http://www2.hull.ac.uk/fass/mestudygroup/informationfordonors.aspx

I also welcome promoting the two-state solution. See http://www.hull.ac.uk/rca/campaigns.html

Many Israelis believe that vis á vis the Palestinians what does not work with force will work with more force. Many Palestinians believe that vis á vis the Israelis what does not work with force will work with more force. The bloody result is inescapable.

~Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Reflections on March Newsletter
President Obama’s Visit to Israel
President Obama on the Need for Peace
President Obama on Iran
Israel Resumes Diplomatic Relationships with Turkey
One State Solution?
More Obstacles to Two-State Solution
Three State Solution?
Gaza, Again
Marwan Barghouti
Israel 65 Independence Day
Article on Targeted Killings
My New Article
My Newspaper Article on Academic Boycott
New Books
Visit to Israel
Gem of the Month
Maccabi Tel-Aviv – Champion
Life and Death – Pompeii and Herculaneum
Monthly Poems
Light Side

Reflections on March Newsletter

Professor Jo Carby-Hall wrote from Hull:

Dear Rafi

Thank you for your interesting newsletter. You are a very compassionate and kind person with your description of Pesach when you were a kid and the film on slavery...  I was commissioned by the Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection of the Republic of Poland in 2005 to carry out a three year research programme on  A8 and A2 economic migrants' treatment in the EU Member States and to write a report for the Polish government on what changes are required in EU member states, the  EU and international laws  to combat the exploitation evil.

See J.R. Carby-Hall, The Treatment of Polish and Other A8 Economic Migrants in the European Union Member States, published by the Bureau of the Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection Warsaw (2008).

You have very kindly agreed to write an essay in that Commissioner's (Janusz Kochanoeski) book which I am editing and contributing an essay to. My essay will be an off-shoot of that report.

I laughed when I read your correspondence with the editor of the "insular" journal. I have experienced that "narrowness" regularly in the UK as well as in the USA. You did right to point out to him how narrow the journal's policy is.

Greetings galore

Ever yours


President Obama’s Visit to Israel

On March 20-22, 2013, President Obama arrived in Jerusalem and charmed the nation. He spoke directly to the Israeli people, conveying words of simple truth, logic and wisdom. President Obama is a great orator, with great values. He reassured Israel that the United States stands by Israel, that “you are not alone” (he said this in Hebrew). He explained that the key to Israel’s security, indeed survival, is peace with its neighbours. He commended Israel’s achievements, expressed understanding of our history, identified with our hardships, condemned terrorism, and celebrated the story of Passover. People should be free to live in their own country as an independent sovereign nation. This truism, of course, is true for all nations, including the Palestinians.

President Obama exhibited true unity with the Israeli nation. He spoke as a friend. He spoke as a concerned citizen of the world who wants to do good. He spoke as a wise, responsible leader who wants to speak directly to the Israeli nation in simple words, which he hoped all understand despite the language barrier. He tried to insert Hebrew words here and there to overcome this barrier and to transcend language. President Obama wanted to make it abundantly clear that Israel is facing a choice: to make an effort for peace, or change forever.

In effect, change is required one way or another: If Israel opts for peace, the change will be dramatic because it would exact a significant toll: evacuation of settlements, resettling dozens of thousands of Israelis in other parts of the land in return for a sustained peace with the Palestinian nation. Or Israel will continue the occupation, lose its Jewish identity, and become a bi-national state in which the Palestinians will be the majority. It is just a matter of time. If Israel decides to continue infringing them of their basic rights as human beings, it will face unending cycles of violence and increased isolation from the rest of the world. It is not a double standard: The world has the same expectations from all democracies. If Israel will maintain occupation and coercion, it then would exclude itself from the democratic world and be treated as the democratic world treats authoritarian regimes.

It was bitter-sweet to hear President Obama. Sweet because I identify with every word he said. My loyal readers know that my views are very similar to those of President Obama. Bitter that the Israeli nation needed to hear this from a foreign leader, in a foreign language. Bitter that there is no single leader in Israel today who is able to articulate this message, with similar force, in Hebrew. It is so very sad.

Israel has a Palestinian dream as partners for negotiations: Abu Mazen and Salam Fayyad.  The latter has just resigned but I won’t be surprise if he will return in one way or another. He is certainly considered in the west as a valuable player. I hope PM Netanyahu will seize the historical moment.

President Obama on the Need for Peace

President Obama’s speech in Jerusalem was carefully constructed and articulated. It is one of the most impressive speeches I have heard in recent years. It is a historic speech. In his speech of March 21, 2013, Obama said:

The question, then, is what kind of future Israel will look forward to. And that brings me to the subject of peace.

I know Israel has taken risks for peace. Brave leaders – Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin –reached treaties with two of your neighbors. You made credible proposals to the Palestinians at Annapolis. You withdrew from Gaza and Lebanon, and then faced terror and rockets. Across the region, you have extended a hand of friendship, and too often have been confronted with the ugly reality of anti-Semitism. So I believe that the Israeli people do want peace, and you have every right to be skeptical that it can be achieved.
But today, Israel is at a crossroads. It can be tempting to put aside the frustrations and sacrifices that come with the pursuit of peace – particularly when an Iron Dome repels rockets, barriers keep out suicide bombers, and so many other pressing issues demand your attention. And I know that only Israelis can make the fundamental decisions about your country's future.

I also know that not everyone in this hall will agree with what I have to say about peace. I recognize that there are those who are not simply skeptical about peace, but question its underlying premise, and that's a part of democracy and the discourse between our two countries. But it is important to be open and honest with one another. Politically, given the strong bipartisan support for Israel in America, the easiest thing for me to do would be to put this issue aside, and express unconditional support for whatever Israel decides to do. But I want you to know that I speak to you as a friend who is deeply concerned and committed to your future, and I ask you to consider three points.

First, peace is necessary. Indeed, it is the only path to true security. You can be the generation that permanently secures the Zionist dream, or you can face a growing challenge to its future. Given the demographics west of the Jordan River, the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine. Given the frustration in the international community, Israel must reverse an undertow of isolation. And given the march of technology, the only way to truly protect the Israeli people is through the absence of war – because no wall is high enough, and no Iron Dome is strong enough, to stop every enemy from inflicting harm.

This truth is more pronounced given the changes sweeping the Arab World. I recognize that with the uncertainty in the region – people in the streets, changes in leadership, the rise of non-secular parties in politics –it is tempting to turn inward. But this is precisely the time to respond to the wave of revolution with a resolve for peace. As more governments respond to popular will, the days when Israel could seek peace with a handful of autocratic leaders are over. Peace must be made among peoples, not just governments. No one step can change overnight what lies in the hearts and minds of millions. But progress with the Palestinians is a powerful way to begin, while sidelining extremists who thrive on conflict and division.

Second, peace is just. There is no question that Israel has faced Palestinian factions who turned to terror, and leaders who missed historic opportunities. That is why security must be at the center of any agreement. And there is no question that the only path to peace is through negotiation. That is why, despite the criticism we've received, the United States will oppose unilateral efforts to bypass negotiations through the United Nations.

But the Palestinian people's right to self-determination and justice must also be recognized. Put yourself in their shoes – look at the world through their eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents every single day. It is not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished. It is not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; to restrict a student's ability to move around the West Bank; or to displace Palestinian families from their home. Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.

Only you can determine what kind of democracy you will have. But remember that as you make these decisions, you will define not simply the future of your relationship with the Palestinians – you will define the future of Israel as well. As Ariel Sharon said, "It is impossible to have a Jewish, democratic state and at the same time to control all of Eretz Israel. If we insist on fulfilling the dream in its entirety, we are liable to lose it all." Or, from a different perspective, think of what David Grossman said shortly after losing his son, as he described the necessity of peace – "a peace of no choice" he said, "must be approached with the same determination and creativity as one approaches a war of no choice."

Of course, Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with anyone who is dedicated to its destruction. But while I know you have had differences with the Palestinian Authority, I believe that you do have a true partner in President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad. Over the last few years, they have built institutions and maintained security on the West Bank in ways that few would have imagined a decade ago. So many Palestinians – including young people – have rejected violence as a means of achieving their aspirations.

Which leads to my third point: peace is possible. I know it doesn't seem that way. There will always be a reason to avoid risk, and there's a cost for failure. There will always be extremists who provide an excuse to not act. And there is something exhausting about endless talks about talks; the daily controversies, and grinding status quo.

Negotiations will be necessary, but there is little secret about where they must lead – two states for two peoples. There will be differences about how to get there, and hard choices along the way. Arab States must adapt to a world that has changed. The days when they could condemn Israel to distract their people from a lack of opportunity are over. Now is the time for the Arab World to take steps toward normalized relations with Israel. Meanwhile, Palestinians must recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state, and that Israelis have the right to insist upon their security. Israelis must recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace, and that an independent Palestine must be viable– that real borders will have to be drawn. I've suggested principles on territory and security that I believe can be the basis for talks. But for the moment, put aside the plans and process. I ask you, instead, to think about what can be done to build trust between people…

I know this is possible. Look to the bridges being built in business and civil society by some of you here today. Look at young people who have not yet learned a reason to mistrust, and those who have learned to overcome a legacy of mistrust that they inherited from their parents because of the simple recognition that we hold more hopes in common than the fear that drives us apart. Your voices must be louder than the extremists who would drown them out. Your hopes must light the way forward. Look to a future in which Jews, Muslims and Christians can all live in peace and greater prosperity in this Holy Land. Look to the future that you want for your own children – a future in which a Jewish, democratic state is protected and accepted, for this time and for all time.

There will be many voices that say this change is not possible. But remember this: Israel is the most powerful country in this region. Israel has the unshakeable support of the most powerful country in the world. Israel has the wisdom to see the world as it is, but also the courage to see the world as it should be. Ben Gurion once said, "In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles." Sometimes, the greatest miracle is recognizing that the world can change. After all, that is a lesson that the world learned from the Jewish people.

That brings me to the final area I will focus on: prosperity, and Israel's broader role in the world. I know that all the talk about security and peace can seem distant from other concerns that you have in your daily lives. And every day, even amidst the threats you face, Israelis are defining themselves by the opportunities you create…

As the President of a country that you can count on as your greatest friend, I am confident that you can help us find the promise in the days that lie ahead. And as a man who has been inspired in my own life by that timeless calling within the Jewish experience – tikkun olam – I am hopeful that we can draw upon what's best in ourselves to meet the challenges that will come; to win the battles for peace in the wake of so much war; and to do the work of repairing this world. May God bless you, and may God bless Israel and the United States of America. Toda raba.

President Obama on Iran

In his speech of March 21, 2013, Obama said:

All of us have an interest in resolving this issue peacefully. Strong and principled diplomacy is the best way to ensure that the Iranian government forsakes nuclear weapons. Moreover, peace is far more preferable to war, and the inevitable costs – and unintended consequences – that would come with it. Because of the cooperation between our governments, we know that there remains time to pursue a diplomatic resolution. That is what America will do – with clear eyes – working with a world that is united, and with the sense of urgency that is required.

But Iran must know this time is not unlimited. And I have made the position of the United States of America clear: Iran must not get a nuclear weapon. This is not a danger that can be contained. As President, I have said to the world that all options are on the table for achieving our objectives. America will do what we must to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.

Israel Resumes Diplomatic Relationships with Turkey

On the day of President Obama’s departure, it was announced that PM Netanyahu called Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to express apology for the events on the Gaza flotilla that resulted in the killing of Turkish citizens. Erdogan accepted the apology and initial relationships resumed although Erdogan does not rush to restore full diplomatic affairs.

I hope that after three years of ego games and crisis, the two leaders understood that the damage done by the crisis was far greater than the benefits they could reap from a renewal of relations.

Netanyahu told Erdogan that he appreciated the comments made by the former to the Danish newspaper Politiken in which he took back the statements he previously made calling Zionism a form of racism. Erdogan explained that he was criticizing Israeli policies in Gaza and that his statements were misconstrued. Erdogan told Netanyahu that he cherishes the longstanding relationship between Israel and Turkey and between the Turkish people and the Jewish people, stressing that he would like to improve relations.

Former Defense Minister Ehud Barak, even in his last days in the job, pressured Netanyahu to end the crisis with Turkey. The Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and Mossad head Tamir Pardo, who were in on the secret of contacts with Ankara, also supported the apology to Turkey.

Make no mistake: The Obama administration was heavily involved in reestablishment of relations between the two countries. The Turkish prime minister promised President Obama to stop his harsh public criticism of Israel. Erdogan was said to be surprised (God knows why) by the strong American response to the speech in which he said that Zionism is a crime against humanity. The USA would probably have had a similar response if someone were to argue that Atatürkism is a crime against humanity.

I am delighted that common sense prevailed. Israel needs Turkey far more than Turkey needs Israel. Good and stable relationships between the two countries are essential for peace and stability in the Middle East. Turkey and Israel see eye to eye on Iran and Syria. They have mutual interests in seeing that Iran won’t become a nuclear power, and in seeing a change of regime in Syria that would result in stopping the steady flux of refugees and in restoring order in the troubled nation. Both Israel and Turkey are concerned at the same time that the power reshuffle in Syria would not yield terrorism and give rise to radical Jihadists. The challenge is significant and disconcerting.

One State Solution?

As Israel encircles East Jerusalem, the designated capital of Palestine, with more settlements and bolstering existing ones, more and more people in Israel and abroad are calling for a one state solution, i.e., one Israel-Palestine for both nations. This will be the end of Zionism.

Those well-meaning individuals who promote a one-state solution tend to be left-wing intellectuals, people who believe in peace, freedom, tolerance and justice. Many of them have no religious beliefs. Their beliefs, I repeat, are peace, freedom, tolerance and justice. The way to achieve these ends is through people’s efforts, not God. The result of a one-state solution, however, will be unGodly. I am not sure whether they themselves will be happy to live in their imaginary state. Yet they preach it for others.

For those who advocate a one-state solution, this is the future you propose:

Hamas appears obsessed with the issue of what women must and cannot wear in various circumstances. Men are no longer allowed to cut women’s hair. Women are not permitted to run the marathon, no matter how they were dressed. Recently they decided that all schools, by law, must be gender-segregated over the age of nine, and no men may teach girls under any circumstances.

But, as Hussein Ibish notes, Hamas's religious authoritarianism was never restricted purely to male hysteria. They've also cracked down on every art form imaginable (one singer noted, "Gaza is the place where art goes to die") since they are mostly a surefire shortcut to eternal damnation. And they've banned men from various commonplace but loathsome and corrupting practices.
Hamas officials—clearly not having anything better to do since their people are so well off, well cared for and happy—decided also to take decisive action on one of the most pressing crises the people of Gaza have faced in recent times: despicable male ruffians with long or gelled hair and the wrong kind of pants.
Hamas police rounded up several groups of young infidels sporting clear evidence of degeneracy: longish, gelled or spiky hair. These dissolute miscreants were hauled off to police stations where they were crudely shaved, told to go to a local barber to finish the job, and kicked out. If they complained, they received a no doubt well-deserved beating. Similar treatment was meted out to young malefactors depraved enough to wear the wrong trousers (too narrow, low-hanging).
I envisage good cooperation between Hamas and the Jewish ultra-Orthodox circles in implementing these policies in the prospective Israel-Palestine.

Source: Hussein Ibish, Hamas: The Palestinian Fashion Police, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/04/09/hamas-the-palestinian-fashion-police.html

More Obstacles to Two-State Solution

Have you heard of the E1 Plan? Behind this simplistic, meaningless and obscure name lies a comprehensive building operation with full meaning and grave consequences for any future peace process, so much so that it might put “peace” (a phrase that the Israeli government still uses) squarely in the fantasy world.

The plan is to build thousands of housing units and hotel rooms near the Ma’ale Adumim settlement. One settlement plan of critical importance is Giv’at HaMatos. Giv’at HaMatos would connect the dots of several other planned or expanding settlements along southern Jerusalem - including Giv’at Yael in the southwest; and Har Homa and East Talpiyot in the southeast. Its build-up would cut off Arab neighbourhoods in southern Jerusalem, like Beit Safafa and Sharafat, rendering them “Palestinian enclaves”.
The planned large housing at the southern perimeter of Jerusalem would further disrupt the contiguity of land between East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank required for a future Palestinian state, seriously impeding a two-state solution. It would also mark the first new settlement construction in Jerusalem since 1997.

Last year, Israel also issued tenders for the construction of 606 new housing units north of East Jerusalem, in Ramot, just north of the Green Line marking the border between Israel and the West Bank, and approved another 1,500 units in the neighbouring Ramot Shlomo.
In 2012 the Israeli government approved the construction of 6,676 settler housing units in the West Bank, compared with 1,607 in 2011 and several hundred in 2010, according to Peace Now. In June last year, the Israeli government announced it would build 851 new units in the West Bank, including more than 230 in the controversial settlements of Ariel and Efrat which are situated deep in the West Bank. Like Giv’at HaMatos, these two settlements make any contiguous Palestinian territory very difficult.

Israel is building Jewish settlements and at the same time is destroying Palestinian houses. Both activities do not bring peace nearer. According to the Displacement Working Group, a grouping of aid agencies helping displaced families, Israel destroyed 139 Palestinian structures, including 59 homes, in January - almost triple 2012’s monthly average. The demolitions occurred in East Jerusalem and the West Bank - with a majority taking place in Area C controlled by Israel - and left 251 Palestinians, including over 150 children, displaced.

The UN estimates there are now 520,000 Israeli settlers in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, with 43 percent of the land there allocated to local and regional settlement councils. Israel has transferred roughly 8 percent of its citizens into these areas since the 1970s, altering the demographic composition of the territory and furthering the Palestinian people from their right to self-determination.

Source: Briefing: Beyond the E-1 Israeli settlement, http://www.irinnews.org/Report/97676/Briefing-Beyond-the-E-1-Israeli-settlement

Three State Solution?

I was asked for my opinion on three-state solution. This solution is often aired by those who oppose the two-state solution, mocking the idea by saying that Fatah and Hamas are rivalries; they hardly speak and have no shared vision for a Palestinian state. Thus, if at all, we should speak of three-state solution, not of the “simplistic” formula of a State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel.

The Palestinians themselves reject the three-state solution, believing that a way can be found to resolve the differences between Fatah and Hamas. Moreover, I do not think that, if seriously considered, a three-state solution serves Israel’s interests. Israel has a vested interest to see that Palestinian radicalism is contended with by the Palestinian authority and its sovereign powers, not by Israel. Division within Palestine is bad for Palestine, and also for Israel.

Gaza, Again

In early April, Israel was struck yet again by sporadic rocket fire from Gaza struck. On April 2, 2013, Israel responded with an aerial bombing raid against Hamas targets. This flare-up is the most serious one since the end of the "Operation Pillar of Fire" in November 2012. Israel considers Hamas responsible for any rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. The new defence minister, Moshe Ya'alon, has a very low threshold of tolerance when it comes to such terror incidents. Whoever plays with fire will be burnt very quickly.

Marwan Barghouti

A poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey was published in early April showing that Marwan Barghouti, a Fatah-linked terrorist currently serving five life sentences for coordinating attacks and suicide bombings against Israeli civilians, is still the most popular leader in the Palestinian society. Barghouti would receive 38 percent of the votes if Palestinians elections were held today, versus 31 percent for Haniyeh (Hamas) and 26 percent for Abbas (PA). A majority of respondents considered Abbas’s Fatah faction and Haniyeh’s Hamas faction corrupt, with 64 percent describing Hamas that way and an eye-popping 78 percent of respondents saying that Fatah is corrupt. The PA in general and Abbas in particular have recently come under sustained criticism for laws and tactics that circumvent the rule of law and threaten civil liberties in the West Bank. A recent crackdown on journalists has seen a West Bank court upholding a prison sentence for a journalist convicted of “defaming Abbas,” and the Palestinian Ministry of Information imposing new registration restrictions on journalists working in their areas. Abbas himself is serving in the ninth year of his four-year presidential term.

Source: The Israel Project

Israel 65 Independence Day

I was very happy to participate in Israel 65th year of independence party at the magnificent London Guildhall. Thousands of people came to show their support. The atmosphere was excellent, the food was delicious, the ambassador’s speech was superb, singing the Tiqva was moving. I was thrilled to spend a joyful evening with people who share love and concern for Israel. All in all a delightful and most rewarding evening.

Article on Targeted Killings

Amos Guiora published a new article on targeted killing. Amos knows a thing or two about this subject as he served in the occupied territories as an IDF lawyer.

Abstract:      Targeted killing sits at the intersection of law, morality, strategy, and policy. For the very reasons that lawful and effective targeted killing enables the state to engage in its core function of self-defense and defense of its nationals, I am a proponent of targeted killing. However, my support for targeted killing is conditioned upon it being subject to rigorous standards, criteria, and guidelines. At present, new conceptions of threat and new technological capabilities are drastically affecting the implementation of targeted killing and the application of core legal and moral principles. High-level decision makers have begun to seemingly place a disproportionate level of importance on tactical and strategic gain over respect for a narrow definition of criteria-based legal and moral framework. Nonetheless, an effective targeted killing provides the state with significant advantages in the context of counterterrorism. Rather than relying on the executive branch making decisions in a “closed world” devoid of oversight and review, the intelligence information justifying the proposed action must be submitted to a court that would ascertain the information’s admissibility. The process of preparing and submitting available intelligence information to a court would significantly contribute to minimizing operational error that otherwise would occur.

My New Article

“The Six Day War – Interviews with General Aharon Yariv and Ambassador Shimon Shamir, Lessons and Insights”, Social Issues in Israel (Sugioth Chevratiut Be’Israel), Vol. XV (2013), pp. 171-194 (Hebrew).

The article records interviews with Professor Shimon Shamir and Major General (res.) Aharon Yariv in which the two explained the reasons for the outbreak of the Six Day War. Their analysis shows that the war erupted even though neither Israel nor Egypt (at least initially) wanted war. Energized by his own rhetoric, Nasser made a series of fateful decisions that brought about war. Israeli leaders were perceived as being weak, and Nasser chose brinkmanship diplomacy that brought his downfall. Negative roles in the escalation process were played by the UN General Secretary U-Thant and the USSR. It is argued that the Six Day War was a just war from Israel's point of view as the closure of the Straits of Tiran constituted a clear casus belli. The discussion highlights the points of agreement and disagreement between Professor Shamir and Major General Yariv.

I am happy to email the article to interested parties.
The article is also available on my Website: http://www.hull.ac.uk/rca

My Newspaper Article on Academic Boycott

An Irish union’s boycott fallacy
April 19, 2013
Dr Ilan Saban is a lecturer at the University of Haifa who devotes much of his time defending and promoting the rights of Palestinians. But if he were to post one of his articles on the subject to a journal in Ireland, his envelope might not be opened, simply because it had come from Israel. This is the result of the Teachers Union of Ireland's recent unjust, unfair, and counterproductive decision to boycott all academic collaboration with Israel.
The decision is unjust because any sweeping decision, by its nature, cannot do justice. It is one thing to offer a rationale to boycott a certain institution or individual. It is quite another thing simply to boycott everyone.
It is unfair because it is based on a small, committed and vocal group of members who have made boycotting Israel their mission. They exploit the silence, indifference and inactivity of the majority of TUI members to pass their unjust resolution. And it is counterproductive because it weakens the peace camp in Israel and strengthens the right-wing position that prefers land over peace and promoting human rights. It hardens the hardliners.
Israeli academia tends to be liberal. Many academics are human-rights activists. Many oppose the settlements. Many are for a two-state solution, the splitting of Jerusalem, a return to 1967 borders, and wish to see a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem.
I have intimate knowledge of Israeli academia, having served as a professor at two Israeli universities and established the Centre for Democratic Studies at the University of Haifa. Since 1985, I have been promoting human rights in Israel and for the Palestinians inside and outside of Israel. I received the support of academics in all Israeli institutions.
We have been trying to influence government decisions for years, with some success, notably between 1990 and 1993, when Israeli academics, including myself, pushed for negotiations with the PLO. Boycotting academia will work against the peaceful, constructive and liberal elements in Israeli society and play into the current government's hands.
Those who wish to boycott Israel say that Israeli academia is sponsored by the government. This is true. Thus, they deduce, academics are implicit collaborators of discriminatory policies. This claim is as true as the claim that British academics are implicit collaborators in British governments' decisions to wage war in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
Those who boycott Israel blame academics for not being able to influence government decisions for the better. Yes, Israeli academics do not have the power they would like. But the TUI decision will render them weaker. Israeli academics tend to be involved in peace-seeking politics more than academics are in Britain, Canada and the US, but the Israeli government pays attention to its academics to a similar degree that the British government does.
The boycotters undercut academic freedom and betray values we all hold dear: freedom of expression, tolerance, equality and justice. Personally, I object to this decision. But if the TUI insists on boycotting countries, I fail to understand why it singles out Israel. Unfortunately, we live in a world where there is no shortage of injustices and severe human-rights violations. How is it that, of all countries, it is only Israel that preoccupies the minds of these vocal teachers?
The Economist Intelligence Unit's Index of Democracy ranks Israel 37th out of 167 countries. The index takes into account civil liberties, among other things. Granted, Israel has room for improvement, but 130 countries are ranked below it. Why does not the TUI focus its attention on any of these for a change?

New Books

Asher Susser, Israel, Jordan and Palestine (Waltham, Mass.: Brandeis University Press, 2012)

The study seeks to examine the positions of the three key players on the various options for solution. It makes it clear that up until now, in the Palestinian worldview anything less than an independent state in the 1967 boundaries, with Arab Jerusalem as its capital and a substantial return of refugees to Israel fell short of the bare minimum that the Palestinians could accept. Susser explains that all of the West Bank and Gaza is the meager 22 percent rump of historical Palestine. The Palestinians sought the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 242 and 338, and General Assembly Resolution 194 on the refugees and would not agree to anything less. “To expect them to do so was pure illusion” (p. 47).

The book surveys important milestones: Camp David, Taba, the Clinton parameters, the Ayalon-Nusseibeh Declaration, the Geneva Accord, the Arab Peace Initiative, the Abbas-Olmert talks, the Fayyad plan, showing that the gaps between the two sides are still far too wide. More needs to be done to find a way on the most delicate issues of Jerusalem and refugees. I think the other concerns can be addressed and resolved but these two issues demand far more creativity and willingness to compromise, on both sides.

Susser also analyses various peace solutions: one state, two state, and some sort of federation or confederation with Jordan. He explains why the first and the third are not viable, leaving us with only one option to pursue: two state solution. But if Israel continues to enlarge existing settlements and build new ones, then we might face a deadlock that would hamper this possibility, leading both sides to more cycles of violence.

The book is thorough, lucid and thoughtful, considering the issues with much knowledge, sensitivity and skill. It highlights major concerns, and observes the path to reconciliation. I hope leaders of both Israel and Palestine will read you. They can benefit greatly from this study, as I did.

I thank Shai Feldman for a copy of this book.

Dhiraj Murthy, Twitter (Cambridge: Polity, 2013)

193 pages on 140 characters. The book has seven chapters. The first explains what Twitter is, and the second put the Twitter phenomenon within the present social-technological context. We learn that more than 200 million tweets are sent each and every day (p. 2), although unclear how many of them are actually read; the use of the hashtag # is clarified (p. 3); what is microblogging (p. 10). It is argued that Twitter has extended the notion of the global village (pp. 19-22). Chapter 3 theorizes Twitter, rather thinly, while the rest of the book observes the connection between the succinct social network and journalism, and the use of the platform for reporting disasters, for reporting health problems, and for political activism.

Social media are regarded as a significant factor in the Arab Spring. In Libya, however, 5.5% of the population uses the Internet, and in Yemen only 1.8% (p. 98). In Egypt, more people use the Internet, including Twitter. The number of Twitter users rose from January to the end of March 2011 from about 12,000 to 131,000. This is certainly significant (p. 107).

Murthy argues that Twitter changes the relationships between health institutions and the public. It lends itself to a “medical support group format”, where people exchange information about medical problems, treatment, medication and professionals (p. 120). Twitter is also used by medical researchers and physicians to interact and enhance drug discovery (p. 121). It can be used to correct medical misinformation (p. 126).

In the Conclusion, Murthy notes the self-centered character of Twitter, as people wish to promote themselves. The more followers they have, the prouder they become. The increased following gives them a sense of satisfaction, pride, self-worth, esteem. Many believe that if you do not exist on Twitter, then you do not exist. People share ideas, thoughts, reflections, banal information, facts, jokes and essentially anything that might increase following. There are manuals as to how to promote your business on Twitter, believing that the greater the exposure, the more profitable your business becomes. The top five hashtags in 2010 were #rememberwhen, #slapyourself, #confessiontime, #thingsimiss and #ohjustlikeme.

I wanted to read this book because I was intrigued to know what are the justifications for writing a whole book on 140 characters. Murthy convinces that there is a scope for a book, possibly also for other books as he did not relate at all to the controversies around Twitter, to court cases relating to problematic tweets, and to questions relating to censorship, self-censorship, monitoring, self-monitoring, and the boundaries of freedom of expression generally.

I thank Polity Press for a copy of this book.

Book Received with gratitude:
Sylvia Barack Fishman, Double or Nothing? (Waltham: Brandeis University Press, 2004).

Visit to Israel

In the second half of May next month I am scheduled to visit my beloved country. I will be happy to see as many of you as it possible. I will spend most of my time in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Gem of the Month
Theatre – The Winslow Boy

I love many of the arts. I cannot live without culture. Of all the arts, my greatest passion is theatre, a passion I shared with my mother. I simply adore good theatre, and specially British theatre. There is nothing like it.

The Winslow Boy represents English theatre in its very best. Great play, based on a true story; great acting; wonderful sense of timing; a captivating drama.

George Archer-Shee was a 13-year-old cadet at the Isle of Wight's Osbourne Naval College. He was accused of stealing a five shilling postal note from the locker of a fellow cadet in 1908. The college claimed that George stole a postal order and cashed it, and consequently he was expelled from the College. The father, Martin Archer-Shee, a Liverpool bank manager believed his son, and tried unsuccessfully to get satisfaction, first from the Commander of the College, and then from the Admiralty. Archer-Shee couldn't file suit directly against the College, as it and the Admiralty were part of the King's domain and therefore immune from such actions. The King could do no wrong.

Many people in England at the time felt that George, as a Catholic, was a victim of bias. It was widely reported that several cadets were suspected of the crime, while only Archer-Shee was expelled and charged.

Archer-Shee asked Edward Carson, who achieved recognition earlier in his life as the man who prosecuted Oscar Wilde, to serve as the family's barrister. In order to argue the case, Carson made use of a Petition of Right — which if accepted by the Home Office and the Attorney General, could be given to the King. The King could then, if he desired, grant the Petition and the case could go to court. In May of 1909, King Edward VII received the Petition and signed it "Let Right be Done," allowing the prosecutor to proceed. The admiralty challenged the petition and won, but that ruling was subsequently overturned on appeal by Carson.

On July 26th, 1910 the trial began, with Sir Rufus Isaacs chosen to represent the Admiralty. Four days into the trial, Isaacs announced that on behalf of the Admiralty and the crown, he accepted George's claim of innocence. It was reported that at the trial, members of the jury climbed over barriers just to congratulate the Archer-Shee family.

Later, the case became the subject of heated political debate. Many felt that the first Lord of the Admiralty, Reginald McKenna, tainted the image of British justice, by not paying damages to the Archer-Shee family. George's brother, who had just been elected a Conservative and Unionist Member of Parliament, brought the issue to his colleagues' attention. Finally, the family was paid £3,000 in addition to the costs of the trial.

While the financial matters were squared away, no formal letter of apology or a withdrawal of charges was ever sent to George Archer-Shee. George Archer-Shee served in the military in World War I and was killed in action in 1914 in Ypres.

In 1946, the skillful playwright Terence Mervyn Rattigan took this story and made it into play. Rattigan made numerous alterations as he created his play, simplifying the legal niceties and advancing the date from 1908 to 1912-1914, when the Admiralty had WW1 on its hands along with young Ronnie Winslow who stole, or did not, a five shilling postal note. George's 36-year-old Tory MP brother, Martin Archer-Shee, became the playful Oxford undergrad Dickie Winslow and he changed the very conservative sister Catherine into a feminist Suffragette. Rattigan also removed the religious aspect to the family's struggle to keep his focus on their relentless quest for justice.

Three characters are in the heart of this wonderful play: the father, Arthur Winslow, acted by Henry Goodman is strongly motivated by a sense of justice. Wrong was done to his son, and he was determined to set it right. His daughter, Catherine Winslow, played by Naomi Frederick, who was blessed with the same principled quest for justice, and who was willing to pay a significant personal price to secure justice. And the family barrister, Sir Robert Morton, played by Peter Sullivan who encapsulates the traits of a shrewd, experienced and determined lawyer, driven by a large ego, healthy chutzpah, and an admirable desire to see that right is done while willing to pay a high personal price to force the Admiralty to admit error. Almost every character in this play paid a high price for this relentless search for justice. But was it only justice they were seeking?

One particular sentence strikes one’s mind: A newspaper calls the House of Commons debate about the Winslow case “a shocking waste of the government’s time — but a good thing because it could only happen in England”.

The Winslow Boy ***** in Rafi’s scale. This is the best show I have seen in a long time.

Maccabi Tel-Aviv – Champion

My beloved team, Maccabi Tel-Aviv, won the Israeli championship in football. This was its 19 championship and it came after ten most frustrating years. Maccabi has a winning mentality. Second place is never good. Maccabi is about being the best and lead by example. It is the Barcelona (or Man. Utd.) of Israel. I wish Spurs would have this mentality.

I am delighted!!

Life and Death – Pompeii and Herculaneum

I recommend the Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition at the British Museum. Lots to see and reflect upon. The life in AD 79 was not dramatically different from our life today. More similarities than differences

Painted on a wall in one triclinium in Pompeii: don't dirty the couch covers, keep your eyes off other. People's partners and take your quarrels home with you

Monthly Poems

April Love

We have walked in Love's land a little way,
We have learnt his lesson a little while,
And shall we not part at the end of day,
With a sigh, a smile?

A little while in the shine of the sun,
We were twined together, joined lips forgot
How the shadows fall when day is done,
And when Love is not.

We have made no vows - there will none be broke,
Our love was free as the wind on the hill,
There was no word said we need wish unspoke,
We have wrought no ill.

So shall we not part at the end of day,
Who have loved and lingered a little while,
Join lips for the last time, go our way,
With a sigh, a smile.

Ernest Christopher Dowson

"It was an April morning: fresh and clear"

It was an April morning: fresh and clear
The Rivulet, delighting in its strength,
Ran with a young man's speed; and yet the voice
Of waters which the winter had supplied
Was softened down into a vernal tone.
The spirit of enjoyment and desire,
And hopes and wishes, from all living things
Went circling, like a multitude of sounds.
The budding groves seemed eager to urge on
The steps of June; as if their various hues
Were only hindrances that stood between
Them and their object: but, meanwhile, prevailed
Such an entire contentment in the air
That every naked ash, and tardy tree
Yet leafless, showed as if the countenance
With which it looked on this delightful day
Were native to the summer.--Up the brook
I roamed in the confusion of my heart,
Alive to all things and forgetting all.
At length I to a sudden turning came
In this continuous glen, where down a rock
The Stream, so ardent in its course before,
Sent forth such sallies of glad sound, that all
Which I till then had heard, appeared the voice
Of common pleasure: beast and bird, the lamb,
The shepherd's dog, the linnet and the thrush
Vied with this waterfall, and made a song,
Which, while I listened, seemed like the wild growth
Or like some natural produce of the air,
That could not cease to be. Green leaves were here;
But 'twas the foliage of the rocks--the birch,
The yew, the holly, and the bright green thorn,
With hanging islands of resplendent furze:
And, on a summit, distant a short space,
By any who should look beyond the dell,
A single mountain-cottage might be seen.
I gazed and gazed, and to myself I said,
"Our thoughts at least are ours; and this wild nook,
My EMMA, I will dedicate to thee."
----Soon did the spot become my other home,
My dwelling, and my out-of-doors abode.
And, of the Shepherds who have seen me there,
To whom I sometimes in our idle talk
Have told this fancy, two or three, perhaps,
Years after we are gone and in our graves,
When they have cause to speak of this wild place,
May call it by the name of EMMA'S DELL.

William Wordsworth

Light Side

The guide to wife translations

The wife says: We need
The wife means: I want

The wife says: We need to talk
The wife means: I need to complain

The wife says: You're ... so manly
The wife means: You need a shave and sweat a lot

The wife says: This kitchen is so inconvenient
The wife means: I want a new house.

The wife says: I want new curtains.
The wife means: Also carpeting, furniture, and wallpaper!

The wife says: Hang the picture there
The wife means: No, I mean hang it there!

The wife says: I heard a noise
The wife means: I noticed you were almost asleep.

The wife says: How much do you love me?
The wife means: I did something today you're not going to like.

The wife says: I'll be ready in a minute.
The wife means: Kick off your shoes and take an hour nap.

The wife says: You have to learn to communicate.
The wife means: Just agree with me.

The wife says: Yes
The wife means: No

The wife says: No
The wife means: No

The wife says: Maybe
The wife means: No

The wife says: Was that the baby?
The wife means: Get out of bed and walk him

In answer to the question "What's wrong?"

The wife says: Nothing.
The wife means: Everything.

The wife says: Nothing, really.
The wife means: It's just that you're an idiot.

The wife says: I don't want to talk about it.
The wife means: I'm still building up steam.

Peace and love.

Yours as ever,


My last communications are available on http://almagor.blogspot.com/
Earlier posts at my home page:

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