Monday, June 17, 2013

Politics – June 2013

Support is sought to facilitate the work of the Middle East Study Group. Information at

I also welcome promoting the two-state solution. See

The story of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not about angels and villains. It is a story about many innocent victims on both sides of the Fence.

~Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Earlier this month I visited my home country. It was great to be in the sun. While in England rain and gloomy weather is taken for granted and anything else is an interruption of the usual. In Israel, sun is taken for granted and anything else is almost inconceivable.

The weather is wonderful. Politics, however, sucks. Israel is rightist both in terms of its constant move to the right, and in its unshaken belief that this is the right way. The majority of Israelis think that we need to be strong and endure. Our history is one of struggle and fortitude. The names of our enemies have changed, but reality is more or less the same. As we have survived thousands of threats for many thousands years, being the oldest civilization, so our faith is to continue our struggle for survival. We will prevail. We will defeat our enemies. We are better, stronger, wiser. We will pay a price but our enemies will pay a greater price. After all, this is our history. We always paid a price yet prevailed over our enemies.

As said infra, I was invited to participate in two conferences in Jerusalem. It was very good to return to my home country and to see friends and colleagues.

I am most grateful to Mr. Ralph Halbert for facilitating my trip to Israel. I am deeply appreciative for his continued support.

I am also thankful to the Association of Canadian Studies and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs for their kind hospitality.

I thank Mira and Yizhar Nozick, Gila and Rubi Yagoda, Ofer Harel, Yitzhak Navon, Dareen and Jacob Daniel, Betty Bassan and David Heyd for their kind hospitality.

Reflections on May Newsletter
Yitzhak Rabin - 1993
More Bad News for the Peace Process
Yehuda Weinstein
European Terrorism
Israeli Association of Canadian Studies Conference
4th International Conference - Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism
The Failed Peace Process
Required: Research Assistant
New Books
Book Review
Yitzhak Navon
Kol Zchut
Movie of the Month - The Gatekeepers
Taste of Tel Aviv in Jerusalem
Cafe Dubnov
Lake Kinneret
A Difficult Question
Visit to Amsterdam
2013 Golden Pen of Freedom Awarded to Than Htut Aung of Myanmar
English Football
Gem of the Month – Ein Akev
Monthly Poems
Light Side

Reflections on May Newsletter

Dr David Makofsky wrote:

U.S. residents, and especially liberal Jews, are very weary of all the reasons why Israel and the Palestinians cannot find peace.  Since I have been to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip a number of times in the last 15 years it is not too difficult for me to see why no Palestinian in Gaza is very happy about Israel and the continued occupation.  I went to Gaza first in 1998, and it was called "the concentration camp" by virtually every foreigner who was there (Christian workers, human rights tourists) and it has never been called anything but a concentration camp ever since. 

I lived in Jayyous in 2003 (right above Kibbutz Mabarot, where I lived in 1960-61) and what was happening in the Qalqilya area with the wall was, to put it simply, a crime against humanity.  Lands were stolen to build the wall just as had happened in the Nakba, and it is difficult to see why the wall could not have been built within the green line. The Palestinians always pay the cost of Israeli "security". To go to Palestine is to go to Jerusalem, and so I saw old movement comrades that made aliya.

All the US wants to do is to disengage from the process. American Jews also want to disengage.  Only an extremely uninformed jew would not know that Netanyahu favored any Republican over Obama, and 70% of the Us Jews voted for Obama.  If the Orthodox and Russian immigrants are deducted from the total, over 90% of  the rest of US Jews favored Obama over all the  To go to OPJewish establish pleadings to the contrary. 90% is a huge number; even my relatives, who are much more sympathetic to Israel than I am, voted for Obama.  None of our children, none of our grandchildren are planning to go to Israel.  

Many Jews don't believe that the current Israeli government is composed of people of good will, and I do not either, but it is hardly worth the argument. Few Americans are making aliya, and my old friends from Habonim who are Israel are not too happy with their choice, but they cannot leave for reasons of family and finances. I feel sorry for them, and it is really not too pleasant to see them.  Finally I stopped going and lost touch again.

You should be aware that American conservatives are getting tired of Israel as well.  Jonathan Pollard is in prison because of the animosity of conservatives, not liberals. Rumsfeld's response to the Pollard campaign should really be read with some care.   How could a client state, Israel, dare to spy on mighty America.  Don't step on superman's cape, don't pee into the wind.

American liberals do not want peace, they want Israel to get another ally. Few are sympathetic the Islamic movement, but few are willing to oppose it either.  Abbas is not the head of the Palestinian Authority, he is the appointment of the US and ISrael - and the Israelis can't even get along with him.

I read the Forward, the Tablet, and Mondowiess nearly every day.

This response is already too long

Yitzhak Rabin - 1993

In 1993, Yitzhak Rabin discussed the Oslo process with a trusted colleague. He expressed cautious optimism regarding the breakthrough and said: the issue is not 1967. It is 1948. Resolving the conflict necessitates addressing the refugee issue. This is the key for success. Rabin 1993.


After the 1948 War, the Israeli government had an interesting idea: population exchange. In Argentina there were many Jews, quite a few affluent, some were interested to make Aliya. The idea was to bring them to Israel and, in exchange, Israel would export some of its Palestinians and settle them in desolated areas in Argentina. The idea, however, materialized only partially. Some Jews did immigrate to Israel. But Argentina was not keen to absorb Palestinians and the Palestinians, for their part, were not too keen to settle in Argentina. This idea had died. But many people still have interesting ideas to settle Palestinians, and Jews, in different corners of the world.

More Bad News for the Peace Process

More bad news for the peace process: building spree in Maale Edumim encroaching into Palestinian territory.

Yehuda Weinstein

My loyal readers know that I objected the nomination of Mr Weinstein to the high post of Legal Advisor the Government. I thought Mr Weinstein would continue to be a Yes Man, someone who is there to satisfy the wishes of his master. Mr Weinstein has confirmed my worst suspicions. He is a rubber stamp of the prime minister and his loyal court. After a period of time, the waves stemming from this powerful office are calm and quiet, enabling a convenient ambiance for the government to continue doing what it wants to do with little interruption.

At the same time, when Mr Weinstein makes just and bold decisions, this should be acknowledged. Every little step is important. Recently he gave his blessing to mete out justice in the legal proceeding against Mayor of Ramat Gan, Zvi Bar. Mr Bar’s reign is saturated with scandals. For many years he was able to get away although valid allegations were submitted to show how corrupt the municipality had become due to Bar’s self-serving conduct. I now hope to see Bar’s long reign coming to an end. He should be separated from any power position. Enough is enough.

European Terrorism

Terrorism is yet again in the news. The majority of present terrorism is conducted by Muslim Jihadists who wish to change the world and establish international Caliphate under Shariah law. While most terrorists are Muslim, the majority of Muslims are law-abiding citizens who abhor terror to the same extent that you and I abhor terror. Yet immediately after each and every incident, waves of Islamophobic views storm the media. The danger is the succumbing of Europe to Radical Islam.

To put things into some perspective: in England less than 5 percent of the population is Muslim. The vast majority of them are law-abiding citizens. Throughout Europe this is the percentage of Muslims in many countries. In Italy the percentage is lower, under 3 percent. In France it is over 7 percent. The overall percentage of the European Muslim population is 6 percent. European countries have stringent immigration policies to ensure that Christianity will continue to prevail for many years to come. Terrorism should be fought mercilessly but it should not serve as a pretext to racism. It is easy for the media to evoke moral panic. It is far more difficult to cover events responsibly and carefully. Painting reality in black and white sells. Fortunately, we know that the colors of reality are far more multifaceted and complex.

Professor Sam Lehman-Wilzig noted that the problem is that these days close to 100% of all terrorists in Europe are Moslem. If the percentage was 7 or 10% you would not find Islamophobia.

Israeli Association of Canadian Studies Conference

It was good to take part in this gathering. These conferences are always interesting and enriching. This conference suits me well as it is interdisciplinary, with many focal points and meeting grounds. Canada and Israel face similar concerns: multiculturalism, governance, American influence, outlining the boundaries of freedom of expression,
constitutional matters. It is good to be among Israelis and Canadians who come to learn from one another, exchange ideas and often time collaborate on research. An excellent conference.

I thank Ralph Halbert for his continued support and for facilitating this important gathering. Canadian studies is part of Israeli academia largely thanks to him and his wife Roz. Many Israelis were and are able to visit Canada for their studies because of Ralph and Roz's generosity and vision.

Although Roz and Ralph were unable to join us this time in Jerusalem, they were a constant presence in the deliberations throughout the conference.

4th International Conference - Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism

I was also invited to take part in the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism, convened by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

There is a little doubt in my mind that it is in the interest of the Jewish lobby to cooperate with others who fight hate and bigotry: Moslems who fight Islamophobia, gay people who fight gay bashing, other minorities who fight discrimination.

Mufti Dr Abduljalil Sajid of Brighton Islamic Mission, the UK, said that the state of Israel should be protected. Those who oppose its existence are anti-Semitic. Muslims and Jews should fight together any form of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. We need to expose ignorance which opposes both religions. With dialogue we will promote love and understanding. Let there be respect for the other, love in our lives. 

At the same time, criticism of specific Israeli policies should not been seen as anti- Semitism. One who criticizes the occupation, or the settlements, is not necessarily anti-Semitic.

Two courses of action:
Education in primary and high schools
Increase awareness via the media.

As for the Internet, we need to work with the gatekeepers. ISPs need to balance freedom of expression and social responsibility. They need to abide by their own code of conduct. This requires them to be proactive in order to prevent abuse.

More than anything, what is needed is a coordinated effort, speaking in one voice, negotiating under one umbrella organization with the major ISPs, evoking their awareness to the challenges and problems, and requesting the same substantive changes. When multiple actors are involved, each with its own agenda, each comes with its own proposals, the ISPs become non-responsive as sometimes the proposals are conflicting. It is easier, and cheaper, for them simply to do nothing, saying that they could not feasibly satisfy all demands. One voice, one mission, a unified effort, will make a powerful plea that major ISPs could no longer ignore.

Frankly, this was my hope from this global forum. I was hoping that there will be “someone” who will make order, and put things together. This hope should materialize one way or another.

At the end of the day, social responsibility is good for the community and also for business. The gatekeepers should take responsibility for what they are hosting and promoting. Without access, the face of modern terrorism and modern crime will be forced to change, yet again. Hopefully it will change to something less dangerous.

I recommend the work of online hate prevention institute,

The Failed Peace Process

Between conferences I conducted research about the failed peace process in the Middle East and the present prospects for peace. After reading much of the literature, I embarked on a series of interviews with people who were and are directly involved. I always learn from interviews things that are not mentioned in the literature. During my visit I interviewed Gidi Grinstein, Dan Meridor, Yisrael Hasson, Gilad Sher and Elyakim Rubinstein.

With Gidi Grinstein I also had a fascinating conversation about religion. Left with a taste for more.

I am grateful to them for their time. Their views are invaluable. I intend to incorporate the interviews into the book I am writing about the peace process.

Required: Research Assistant 

I am looking for a research assistant who will transcribe the interviews into text in WORD. The required qualities are patience, perfectionism, pedantic attention to detail, appreciation of history, and native knowledge of Hebrew.

I am looking for funding for this research project. All help is appreciated.

New Books

Colin Shindler, Israel and the European Left (London: Continuum, 2012)

When I joined academic life during the 1990s and started to travel the world, I could not avoid noticing the differences between European intellectuals and intellectuals in the rest of the world about my beloved country. The world is interested in Israel. Some are even fascinated by Israel. In Europe, the fascination is often clouded with hostility.

The people are more or less of the same background. Academicians tend to be middle-class, white, male, comfortable; wish for themselves as well as for others to live a peaceful and tranquil life. We tend to be critical about the world, sometimes of ourselves (to varying degrees), and we know better. The few humble ones admit that they (we) do not know enough.

In Europe, the critique of Israel surpasses the critique in other corners of the world. Europeans know Israel. Like most academics, they mean well. I never doubted the intentions of the intellectuals I encountered; some have become personal friends. Others are so hostile to Israel that I found it problematic to maintain relationships. But I never thought they were anti-Semitic. The explanation for the hostility, I thought, is far more complex.

Yes, there are hints of anti-Semitism in Europe, which European intellectuals encounter, sense and recognize. The well-meaning leftist intellectuals whom I encounter are cognizant of this burden, and shield themselves, to the best of their abilities, against anti-Semitism. Blaming them for being anti-Semitic would not explain their hostility. I was, and am, fascinated why they care so much. I mean, there are some 200 countries in the world; there is no shortage of suffering and human rights violations, why so many intellectuals deem to care so much about Israel, and think they know enough to become so judgmental, so critical?

Colin Shindler in this book tries to explain this phenomenon. He looks at the struggle between Marxism-Leninism and Zionism from the October Revolution until today. The first two chapters are about Jews in Russia. He argues that the story of Zionists under Soviet rule was one of persecution and liquidation (p. 34). Then Shindler considers Zionism and communism in Palestine, looking at various leftist movements within Zionism and analyzing the consolidation of the European left in Europe before and after World War II. The Holocaust, of course, made a vast impression. Israel was embraced. Yet Shindler notes that during the 1950s socialist anti-Semitism was almost as old as modern socialism and was not limited to any particular country (p. 73).

Chapter 11 is curious as it focuses on three individuals and their major contributions: Abram Leon’s not-very-well-known book The Jewish Question; Ernst Mandel’s little book The Meaning of the Second World War, and Tony Cliff’s writings. The writings might worth the attention they receive but replacing the wide brush used in previous chapters that describes ideologies, movements and events with a focus on three individuals in the middle of the book is not a welcome diversion. Unclear why Shindler picked them of all the many intellectuals in Europe, beyond his obvious personal interest in them.

Chapter 12 discusses the blunder of the Suez campaign and how it influenced the British Labour Party. Shindler writes that “there was still a sense that the Jews should not over-reach themselves” (p. 202).

And then came the Six Day War and the astounding victory of Israel. The aftermath of the war gave rise to an increasing rift between Israel and the European left. The increasingly “shrill attitude” towards Israel during the following years coincided with the growing of the Muslim communities in Western Europe in the 1970s, and it also coincided with the early activities of Palestinian Islamists such as Sheikh Ahmad Yassin (p. 206). Shindler closes chapter 12 with these words. Unclear whether he thinks that the growth of the Muslim communities in Europe and the activities of Palestinian Islamists are similarly significant. He fails to explain why he assigned such an importance to Sheikh Yassin.

Shindler considers the changing face of the British left and some developments in France and Germany and he ends considering the recent boycotts of Israel by academic circles. In conclusion, when coming to ask whether the antagonism against Israel is in opposition to the policies of successive Israeli governments or is it due to a resurgence of anti-Semitism, Shindler suggests that the answer is far more complex and nuanced. Shindler argues that the new generation of the European Left was more influenced by the decolonization movement than by wartime experiences, which led it to favor the Palestinian cause in the post 1967 period. Thus the Israeli drive to settle the West Bank after the Six Day war enhanced an already existing attitude, but did not cause it.

There is no doubt in my mind that the major causes for the growing friction between Israel and the European left are the occupation, and the settlement building in the occupied territories. Occupation is alien to the basic beliefs we hold dear, those of not harming others, and respect for others. No one would like to live her life under occupation. When I am asked why people of the learned circles resent, and even hate us so much, my answer is one: occupation. Take out the occupation out of the equation, and the attitude of many would change dramatically. Against those who blame the Israel Foreign Office of its explanation deficiencies (Hasbara in Hebrew, propaganda in general) I say that they have a very problematic commodity to sell. Yes, of course there is always room for improvement, dependent on a more significant budget for operations, but all the money in the world would not influence well-meaning intellectuals to reconcile and come to terms with occupation.

This book is a must for anyone who has struggled with these questions, and also for those interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in general.

I thank Colin Shindler for a copy of this book.

Kevin Bradley Wright, Lisa Sparks and H. Dan O’Hair, Health Communication in the 21st Century (Malden, MA: Wiley, 2013).

This textbook includes new case studies, examples, and updated glossary that keep the work relevant and student-friendly. It provides effective strategies for healthcare organizations and individuals in communicating with patients.

Table of Contents:
Overview of communication and health --
Provider/patient communication --
Caregiving and communication --
Social support and health --
Culture and diversity issues in healthcare --
Communication and healthcare organizations --
New technologies and health communication --
Mass communication and health --
Risk and crisis communication --
Health campaigns and community health initiatives --
Interdisciplinary healthcare teams --
Political issues and health communication --
Epilogue : looking toward the future of health communication research.

I thank Wiley for a copy of this book.

Book Review

James Stanyer, Intimate Politics (Cambridge: Polity, 2013).

Published in Ethical Space, Vol. 10, No. 1 (2013), pp. 52-53.

Intimate politics
James Stanyer, 2013
Cambridge: Polity pp 225
ISBN 978-0-7456-4477-6

This is a study of politicians’ personal lives in the media spotlight. It examines ‘intimisation’ in a comparative context, looking at seven democracies: Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and the US. Stanyer explains (p. 14) that ‘intimization’ can be seen as a revelatory process which involves the publicising of information and imaginary reflections on a politician’s personal life. It is a publicity process that takes place over time and involves flows of personal and imaginary information into the mediated public sphere. But it’s unclear from this explanation whether the concept of ‘intimization’ can be related to other, non-political, public figures.

Free speech and free media are essential underpinnings of democracy. With the advance of technology, the liberalisation of sexual norms and the fierce competition between tabloids, the media are eager to find information about the private lives of interesting people. Intimate information can have dramatic effect on sales on newspapers. Paparazzi journalism has become commonplace. One juicy photograph is valued far more than a thousand words. The boundaries of the public have broadened at the expense of the private.

The first chapter is about media coverage of leaders’ personal lives; the second concerns politicians’ sex lives; the third is about the uncovering of politicians’ infidelity, while the fourth chapter relates to flows, access and control in the global news. The study shows that during the 1970-1979 period, publicised infidelity was hardly an issue. There were seven cases in all seven countries (four in the US; two in the UK; one in Australia, and none in the rest). Nothing dramatic had changed during 1980-1989. Then there were eight cases (four in the US; three in the UK; one in Australia, and none in the rest). Things changed rapidly during the 1990-1999 period. Then there were 14 cases in the US; 20 in the UK; five in Australia; two in France; one in Germany and none in the rest). This trend continued during 2000-2009 period: with 30 in the US; 14 in the UK; five in Australia; three in both Germany and Italy, and two in Spain.

Throughout the years, the US, the UK and Australia find more interest in infidelity stories than the other countries. Stanyer argues (p. 61) that any explanation of these findings cannot be reduced to a single factor but rather is the result of an interplay between micro and macro factors relating to the political figures as well as the media and political environment of each country. Later (p. 79), however, Stanyer suggests a refined range of conditions that influence coverage of politicians’ infidelity. These are weak legal privacy protections for public figures; a weak journalist/media consensus on privacy; an established tabloid media sector; highly partisan and adversarial media, and the presence of politicians with a socially conservative agenda, such as the Christian right.[1]

In this context, Keeble (1998) argued that at the heart of the ethical malaise of the London-based mainstream newspapers lie the following crucial factors:
• the monopolistic ownership structures;
• the accompanying hyper-competitiveness between newspapers and
with other expanding media such as television and the Internet;
• the decline in journalistic morale with the destruction of the trade unions and the introduction of individual contracts, serious staffing; cutbacks and growing casualisation;
• the narrowing of the consensus over news values;
• journalists’ growing dependence on the PR industry;
• the tightening of links between Fleet Street journalists and the secret services.

Stanyer does not elaborate on the role of the internet which has made a significant impression. He does note, however (pp 149-150) that the ease of spreading rumours, uploading information and photographs and acting anonymously without accountability all drive sensationalism and help create and spread stories. Some of them are picked by the conventional media and become large stories. It is easy for gossip to spread unfounded speculations. There is a growing record of rumours about personal lives of the political figures in different democracies over which the politicians themselves have limited control. Facts and falsehoods are mixed together and it is not easy to discern one from another.

This succinct and well-written book (170 pages of text plus an appendix, notes, references and index) provides interesting empirical data gathered across seven countries from the 1970s onwards. This is a considerable undertaking. Stanyer leaves it for readers to evaluate the ethical dimensions in the work of the media, whether their coverage was legitimate or not. Granted that the media are far more interested in politicians than they are interested in the lives of private citizens. But what should be the ethical boundaries to media intrusion? Is there a difference between media intrusion in the personal life of a politician who has made political gains by presenting himself as a loving family man, a devoted husband and father than media intrusion in the life of a politician who always insisted that private life should remain private and have no bearing on his political conduct? Should there be differences between media coverage of children of politicians who intentionally expose their families to the limelight and those who prefer to keep family affairs private? Should the confines of the bedroom remain intact when politicians’ personal conduct has no bearing on their public responsibilities? Is there a difference between covering the private lives of present political leaders and former political leaders? Should sexual preferences be exposed against the will of politicians? Are there boundaries to paparazzi journalism? On these concerns, readers will be better off looking elsewhere (e.g. Jacquette 2007; Knowlton and Bill Reader 2009; Plaisance 2009; Smith 2008).

The strength of this attention-grabbing book lies in compiling a great deal of data on non-consensual revelations in a comparative historical context, examining trends in the exposure of politicians’ infidelity between 1970 and 2009. Stanyer tries to find explanation to different trends, highlighting the cultural, religious, political and media differences between the seven countries. These factors are significant in the demarcation of media intrusion.

The book has a thorough and informative Index, and an extensive reference list; these are valuable resources for a book that is rich with facts and condensed with information.

Franklin, Bob (1997) Newszak and news media, London, Edward Arnold
Jacquette, Dale (2007) Journalistic ethics: Moral responsibility in the media, Upper Saddle River, N.J., Prentice-Hall/Pearson
Keeble, Richard (1998) 'The politics of sleaze reporting: A critical overview of the ethical debate in the British press of the 1990s’, Recherches en communication No 9, pp 71-81,
Knowlton, Steven R. and Bill Reader (2009) Moral reasoning for journalists, Westport, CT, Praeger Publishing
Plaisance, Patrick Lee (2009) Media ethics: Key principles for responsible practice, Thousand Oaks, California, Sage Publications
Smith, Ron F. (2008) Ethics in journalism, Ames, Blackwell Publishing

I thank Polity Press for a copy of this book.

Yitzhak Navon

Former State President Yitzhak Navon has just completed his autobiography. I look forward to its publication. Should make an interesting read.

Kol Zchut

Kol Zchut (All Rights) is an information database on rights citizens of Israel have. Many people in Israel are not fully aware of the rights they have. This database is open for all to consult and discover.

All Rights is intended for use by the public at large, as well as by the municipalities, organizations and centers that assist the general public with access to rights and realizing them.

I thank Itzhak Zamir for bringing it to my attention.

Movie of the Month - The Gatekeepers

This is an interesting, full of contradictions, documentary. Dror Moreh’s main achievement is the cast - six quality interviewees, former heads of the Shabak who consented to speak in front of the camera about their own experiences in fighting terrorism. The grateful Moreh did not really confront them on difficult issues. The only time that he stressed an issue was with Avrum Shalom concerning the 300 Bus Affair, known also as the Shabak affair. But it was far too little, and Moreh failed to point out, or to recognize, the inherent contradictions in Shalom’s so-called answers. The contradictions were not only in the Shalom interview. They characterise many of the interviews. 

The interviewees attempted to present themselves as quality, moral people who had to face impossible tasks - fighting terror while maintaining morality. Shalom commented that there is no place for morality when one fights terror. He said this in the context of the Bus 300 Affair, after admitting that he ordered the murder of the two captured terrorists, when they no longer posed a threat to security. He explained that he did not wish them to appear in court because this would have benefited terrorism. Asked whether the execution was the right decision, he acknowledged that it was not.

Later, however, Shalom said that indiscriminate collateral damage as a result of targeted assassination was immoral.

Torture, also known in Israel as “moderate physical pressure”, was another concern. Legal Advisor to the Government Miki Ben-Yair is presented as the “bad guy” who opposed and triggered Prime Minister Rabin’s anger who told Ben-Yair, why don't you tell me for a change what I can do and not only what I cannot do?

Carmi Gillon did his best to relieve himself from responsibility to Rabin’s assassination. He asked Rabin to wear security vest but Rabin refused. On the day of the assassination Gillon was abroad, upon Rabin’s mission. As if it is really that important where you were during the time of the assassination; as if he could have stopped the assassination if he were in Israel. The failure in not stopping the assassination was deep and prolonged - failure of intelligence, failure of security, failure in doing all it takes to protect the prime minister, even if the prime minister is a tough and stubborn customer.

Prime Minister Shamir, together with Peres and Rabin, did their best to protect Shalom when the Shabak Affair erupted. Yet they are portrayed by Shalom as low politicians, who lacked integrity and allowed the affair to linger on for years and who could not save Shalom, despite their best efforts. Shalom will be remembered for his illegal conduct during the Bus 300 Affair, affair that shook the Shabak, clarifying to the agents that they are above the law only sometimes, not all the time.

Another disturbing affair was the Jewish Underground. Members of the Jewish Underground, fanatic murderers, were released from prison after relatively short time. The Shabak directors complained that the murderers were pardoned by the Israeli establishment. All the effort that the Shabak did in capturing them went down the drain. Yet no complaint was heard regarding President Herzog’s decision to pardon the Shabak people involved in the Bus 300 Affair even before trial! Standards can be double, triple and contradictory. Moreh is either unaware or courteous. 

Avi Dichter and Yaakov Peri present themselves as technocrats who always defer to what the governmental dictates.

Yuval Diskin, Ami Ayalon, Carmi Gillon and Avrum Shalom present themselves as people who understand that the occupation is terrible: it is horrible for the Palestinians and also for Israel. It corrupts Israeli society. They said that all prime ministers did not address the occupation and did not try to end it. They present themselves as civil servants who obeyed orders. They did not dictate policy. The decision-making was left for the prime minister. When orders were given, they obeyed them notwithstanding what those orders were. Decisions often needed to be made quickly, sometimes within minutes. There is no deep thinking. There cannot be deep thinking in a rush. There is no strategy. There is only tactics. The tactics is clear: we will do what it takes to promote security. And let the chips fall where they may.

Taste of Tel Aviv in Jerusalem

The opening of the light train sparks a sense of Tel Aviv into Jerusalem. Yaffo Street is buzzing with life, coffee shops and restaurants with spill-over to the adjacent streets. The area of the old train station reminds me of the similar area in Tel Aviv. Both Yaffo and the old train station are quite charming. Jerusalem is now a more interesting, cheerful city. It integrates old holiness (remains a central motif in this special city) with young, bustling life. The city remains full of contradictions, of mysticism, of culture and tradition.  I like this new flavor. The intriguing combination is certainly appealing to my Tel Avivian sole.

Cafe Dubnov

Cafe Dubnov in Tel Aviv became the meeting place for MKs. There are more legislators there than in the Knesset... (-: This is the place to hold meetings, to see and be seen. Interesting to observe MKs from the same parties who ignore one another, and MKs from different parties speaking to one another, and even hugging each other as they were lost friends. Especially in politics, colleagues are not necessarily friends. With members of other parties there is less competition thus less bad blood.

Lake Kinneret

Tveria - Tiberius

Entering Lake Kinneret walking on the sharp stones made me realise why Jesus walked on water. Pure necessity. I tried to imitate him.

Someone in his infinite wisdom authorized polluting Lake Kinneret with sewage. The smell is noticeable. I hope someone with superior wisdom interferes a.s.a.p to stop this shambles.

I was happy to return to Tiberius, the city of great rabbinical figures and of my forefathers -- my grandfather Yoseph Chaim Cohen and my father Yizhar Maymon Cohen.

A Difficult Question

Here is a difficult question, which promenade is more beautiful, Rio or Tel Aviv? A close call.

Visit to Amsterdam

On 14-20 July I am invited to a conference in Amsterdam. I will be happy to see as many of you as possible. Specifically, I am eager to learn about developments in end-of-life care in the Netherlands.

Amsterdam is one of the few cities in the world that rarely goes to sleep. It is lively and constantly buzzing with action and culture. My kind of a city.

2013 Golden Pen of Freedom Awarded to Than Htut Aung of Myanmar
Than Htut Aung, Chairman and CEO of Eleven Media Group in Myanmar, known for its audacious defiance of official censorship and dedication to democratic freedoms, has been awarded the 2013 Golden Pen of Freedom, the annual press freedom prize of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).

"I have my own strong set of principles for how to conduct business in the media, and despite everything I’ve never changed these,” Dr Aung said.  “I always resisted the harassment and defended my journalism, my ethics, my standards. No matter what the military regime tried to do, I never let them touch these principles."

Dr. Than Htut Aung and his editorial staff have campaigned tirelessly for transparency and government accountability in Myanmar since the media group was founded 11 years ago. Eleven came to be portrayed as the symbol of protest during a period in which the group’s offices were raided by military intelligence, and death sentences and prison terms were levied against its editors. Than Htut Aung was himself briefly arrested in 2011.

In presenting the award, World Editors Forum President Erik Bjerager said: “Myanmar is building for the long-term, and the media has a vital role during the transition and beyond to lay firm ground for future generations. One man who knows this more than most is our laureate, Dr. Than Htut Aung.”

“Under his leadership, Eleven Media Group has prospered, despite the years of adversity. Building his business from the ground up, he faced heavy government pressure and the ever-present censor’s pen. Nonetheless, he consistently defied restrictions on freedom of expression. Dr. Htut Aung stood up to the junta, and today, Eleven Media continues to broaden the boundaries of Myanmar’s newfound liberties.”

As a student of medicine, Than Htut Aung won a place at a university in the UK in 1988, but the military junta refused to issue him a passport. Choosing instead to go into business, an opportunity arose to publish the First Eleven sports journal.

The weekly title came into being with a staff of just three and an initial print run of 5,000 copies. First Eleven captured readers' imaginations in an increasingly repressive and autocratic environment, with Than Htut Aung and his writers cleverly crafting political messages into their football articles. "Man in the middle - the referee is 'not fair'… Football is played not just among the 22 but all the audience” (an analogy to parliamentary politics), showed how the publication was willing to use extraordinary ingenuity to slip through the censors’ net and inform the public.

While welcoming the “amazing” steps towards democracy witnessed in Myanmar over recent years, Than Htut Aung has warned the process is now under threat. "If Myanmar goes backwards, it will be due to corruption," he has said, reflecting a sense of uncertainty regarding the road to full democracy.

Despite the challenges, Than Htut Aung‘s dedication to the long and difficult process that lies ahead is unwavering. “Media is our country and the public is our real partner,” he has said. “This media company is not owned by me, but the people of Myanmar … as they have been struggling, and they continue to fight for democracy and freedom.

Dr. Than Htut Aung‘s acceptance speech can be read at

Erik Bjerager’s speech can be read in full at

More on the Golden Pen of Freedom can be found at

English Football

Another fascinating season of exciting football has passed in England, the best and most exciting league in the world. Here are the players that impressed me the most in a 1-4-3-3 formation.

Goal Keeper:

Petr Cech (Chelsea, Czech Republic)

Another great season for this tall, experienced and talented goal keeper. Cech has been among the best keepers in the world. He is wonderful goalie, true inspiration: professional, reliable, consistent, alert and agile. Goalkeeper is the last bastion. Every little mistake can be translated into a goal. He cannot make any mistakes, and Cech has saved Chelsea so many times this year, bringing them winning trophies. A wonderful goalkeeper.

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


Glen Johnson (Liverpool and England)

Johnson is quick, agile, athletic, and difficult to pass. He likes to attack and capable of scoring important goals. He serves the English national team for several years and is able to retain his place for excellent reasons.

Vincent Kompany (Man. City and Belgium)

Kompany is the inspiring leader of the opposite Manchester team. He is the younger version of Ferdinand, an asset for both Man. City and Belgium. He is tall, strong, determined, quick and experienced. He is good on the floor, and superb in the air. The bastion of the City defence, and the heart of the team.

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

Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea, Serbia)

Photo: Chelsea

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

Leighton Baines (Everton and England)

A delightful player who continues to improve from one year to another. His look reminds the 1970s players in the English league but his style of play is as modern as can be. He is excellent in defence, and an asset in the offence. He is also capable of scoring goals. I would have loved to see him wearing a Spurs shirt.


Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur and Wales)

Bale is one of those rare players who is able to change the game with one move. People may pay money just to watch him play. Sometimes, when I watch him, I feel as if the entire stadium is holding its breath thinking: What will he do next? In a number of respects, he reminds me of Messi, although Bale is not there, yet.

Bale was voted Player of the Year by his colleagues. Indeed, he was the best footballer, period. His energy is relentless, his ability to master the ball superb, and he knows how to score. Bale is quick, and his movement is like poetry in motion. Bale is one of the best players in the world, an asset for Spurs. Superb. Simply superb.

Bale scored 19 goals in the Premier League, more than any other midfield player. He is ranked third on the top scorers list.

I’d be pleasantly surprised if Bale stays at White Hart Lane for another season.
Bale was on my team also last year. Consistently very good.

Michael Carrick (Man. Utd. and England)

I was very disappointed when Spurs were unable to keep Carrick in the team. Like many players before him, he could not refuse the Manchester United offer. Spurs lost a persistent player who has improved from one year to another, and this past year was his best in the Premier League. Carrick is a great asset to every team, including England. He is industrious, reads the pitch, has excellent ability to pass the ball, is not afraid to tackle, and is constantly on the move, going up and down the pitch relentlessly.  A true gem of a player.

Juan Mata (Chelsea and Spain)

An excellent player who does everything, offensively and defensively. Possibly Chelsea's best value for money. Mata will continue to excel for Spain and Chelsea.


Wayne Rooney (Manchester United, England)


Rooney leads by example. He continues to produce – goals and passes for goals. He is very consistent and reliable.

Rooney scored less this year compared to previous years: 12 goals. But his presence is always dangerous for the opponent and thus he enabled many of the van Persey’s goals. The latter should be grateful playing with such a striker alongside him. Rooney takes a lot of pressure from all around him.

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

Robin van Persey (Manchester United and the Netherlands)

How many times we saw van Persey celebrating like this after scoring. The best striker in the league. He can score out of nothing. So dangerous, so quick, so strong with both legs and in the air. A classic striker.

Van Persey scored more goals than any other player this year: 25.

Van Persey was on my team also last year. Consistently very good.

Michu (Swansea and Spain)

In his very first year at the Premier League, Michu has left his mark. Unlike many other players who struggled at first to find their place in this demanding league, Michu started to score very quickly and did not stop since then. Swansea’s best player. I am not sure whether he will remain in Swansea next year. It would be nice to see him with Spurs.

Michu scored 17 goals in the Premier League and is ranked fourth on the Premier League’s top scorers list.

My team includes three players from Manchester United, three from Chelsea, one from Tottenham, Manchester City, Everton, Liverpool and Swansea. 

England has four representatives in my team. Spain has two players. The Czech Republic, Wales, the Netherlands, Serbia and Belgium have one representative each.

My reserves this year:

Goal Keeper:

Joe Hart (Man. City, England)


Patrice Evra (Manchester United and France)

Pablo Zabaleta (Man. City and Argentina)

Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham and Belgium)

A true asset for Spurs. I am confident that he will improve further in his second year in the Premier League. The best player Spurs brought last year.

Rio Ferdinand (Man. Utd. And England)


Jack Wilshire (Arsenal and England)

Yaya Touré
(Manchester City, Ivory Coast)


Theo Walcott (Arsenal and England)


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 an equal footing, Spurs needs two towering figures at the heart of defence and two world-quality strikers. I hope Gareth Bale stays.

Spurs have 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.

With the money for Adebayor, Dawson, Galass, Lennon and Livermore who are simply not good enough to play at the highest possible level, Spurs could buy three or four quality players who would make the world of difference.

Gem of the Month – Ein Akev

In the south of Israel, in the Aravah, there is a small waterfall, Ein Akev. I have never been there before and was very happy to be acquainted with this beautiful gem.

I thank Ofer Harel for a beautiful and memorable trip.

Monthly Poems

A Summer Afternoon

A languid atmosphere, a lazy breeze,
With labored respiration, moves the wheat
From distant reaches, till the golden seas
Break in crisp whispers at my feet.

My book, neglected of an idle mind,
Hides for a moment from the eyes of men;
Or lightly opened by a critic wind,
Affrightedly reviews itself again.

Off through the haze that dances in the shine
The warm sun showers in the open glade,
The forest lies, a silhouette design
Dimmed through and through with shade.

A dreamy day; and tranquilly I lie
At anchor from all storms of mental strain;
With absent vision, gazing at the sky,
"Like one that hears it rain."

The Katydid, so boisterous last night,
Clinging, inverted, in uneasy poise,
Beneath a wheat-blade, has forgotten quite
If "Katy DID or DIDN'T" make a noise.

The twitter, sometimes, of a wayward bird
That checks the song abruptly at the sound,
And mildly, chiding echoes that have stirred,
Sink into silence, all the more profound.

And drowsily I hear the plaintive strain
Of some poor dove . . . Why, I can scarcely keep
My heavy eyelids--there it is again--
"Coo-coo!"--I mustn't--"Coo-coo!"--fall asleep!

James Whitcomb Riley

"It Is Not a Word"

It is not a word spoken,
Few words are said;
Nor even a look of the eyes
Nor a bend of the head,

But only a hush of the heart
That has too much to keep,
Only memories waking
That sleep so light a sleep.

Sarah Teasdale

Light Side

Daniel, a teenage boy seemed placid as the doctor approached his hospital bed to give him an evaluation. His mother was seated nearby, watching every move.

The doctor walked over and introduced himself to the boy. Daniel looked right through the doctor and started screaming, "I can't see! I can't see!" The doctor had never witnessed such a dramatic example of hysterical blindness in his entire career!

He turned to the mother and asked, "My goodness, how long has this been going on?"
The mother replied calmly: "Ever since you stepped between him and the television set."

Peace and love. Have a GREAT summer!!

Yours as ever,


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[1] A study of parliamentary reporting in the British nationals between 1990 and 1995 found that “scandal and personal misconduct” was the third most frequently reported topic, way ahead of major issues such as health (eighth), education (tenth), social services (35th) and race (38th). See Franklin (1997, p. 32).