Sunday, July 28, 2013

Politics – July 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

Reflections on June Newsletter
MESG - Great News
Academic Freedom
Shlomo Ben-Ami
Another Gem from Prime Minister Netanyahu
Two-State Solution
Israel State of the Nation Address
33rd Conference of Law and Mental Health, Amsterdam
Sex Offenders
Another Question
Child and Animal Pornography
Yet Another Question
Human Trafficking
For the Attention of President Obama
Terror and Drugs
May God bless Starbucks
Pete Stanley Steffens Collection, Brandeis University
My New Article - “Freedom of Expression v. Social Responsibility: Holocaust Denial in Canada”
New Books
Movie – Five Broken Cameras
One Facebook Status
Barbara Streisand Singing Avinu Malkenu
Mazal Tov to Gal Mekel
Great News for Tel Aviv
Excellent Flight Book
Gem of the Month – Grand Canyon
Monthly Poems
Light Side

Reflections on June Newsletter

Dear Rafi

I am sitting at my desk reading Dr. David Makofsky's drivel and shaking with anger. Where did this man receive his PhD. At the Noam Chomsky school of left wing nuts. Does he have any idea what would happen if Israel lifted it's navel blockade of Gaza. Gaza would have more arms including some nasty chemicals then they would have room to store. And how would our dear Dr. suggest that Israel end the occupation. Maybe disengagement like Israel did in Gaza. And look how well that turned out. Does the good Dr. doubt for a minute that every Jew in Israel will be massacred if the Arabs ever God forbid gain the military advantage. Did Jews in Europe who where by enlarge left wing because that is the Jewish way ever believe that Hitler was evil and would do as he said he would do. When will people remove the burden of their political believes and deal with the world we live in a realistic way. Idealism is not the tool you use when you are dealing with evil.

Abe Silverman

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 5 or 7 or even 10% you would not find Islamophobia.

MESG - Great News

The Middle East Study Group has received two grants: £9,000 for MA scholarships; and £20,000 to organize an international conference in 2015. It is easier to do things when you have the money…

Further assistance is sought for the following activities:

§     Inviting 4-5 guest lecturers per year from the United Kingdom:
£ 1,000 per annum.

§     Inviting one lecturer from abroad:
£ 1,500 per annum.

§     Enabling MESG members to attend pertinent conferences in the UK and abroad:
£ 10,000 per annum.

§     One Ph.D scholarship  for graduate students in the field of Middle Eastern Studies:
£ 50,000 for 3 years’ Ph.D course of study.

§     Part-time administrator who will also maintain our website:
£ 15,000 per annum.

Further information is available on our website,

Academic Freedom

At UCLA I attended the 29th Annual Conference of the Association for Israel Studies. In the conference there was a panel on academic freedom. American participants opined that the university should provide the conditions for unmitigated atmosphere, where the most offensive, most vile opinions should be heard. There should be free flow of opinions, and let the good opinions conquer and prevail over the bad ones.

Suppose that in a free speech seminar a student opines that Obama is a traitor, a disgrace to the American people, abomination who should face the fate of a traitor. The tolerant American professor provides a forum to this view and a discussion starts whether Mr Obama is a traitor and should be killed. A few weeks later, Mr Obama is assassinated. Will the tolerant professor permit similar opinions to be heard regarding Obama's successor?

This example is not so farfetched from reality. In 1995 I taught a free speech seminar at Bar Ilan University. In the class, many different opinions were heard. I allowed them to be expressed. During the time of the seminar, Mr Rabin was assassinated by a Bar Ilan student.

For Americans, the debate on sanctioning Israel is purely theoretical. They are not part of a realm where their articles might be declined and returned because of the name of the country that is written on the envelope, grants refused because of their national identity, invitations not issued because of their surname, membership in associations revoked because of Israeli identity.

Shlomo Ben-Ami

While in LA, I interviewed Ben-Ami for my book on the failed peace process. This was my sixth interview with one of the negotiators. The interview was interesting and insightful. I was surprised to hear Ben-Ami saying that he was not sure whether Arafat read the Oslo Accords. According to Ben-Ami, Arafat did not read documents, and left this to his associates and advisors. If this is true, this is yet another factor when one comes to appraise Arafat’s leadership.

Another Gem from Prime Minister Netanyahu

Prime Minister Netanyahu explained the difference between Palestinian terror against Israelis, and Israeli terror against Palestinians.

Palestinian terror against Israelis is terror;

Israeli terror against Palestinians is not terror. It is "illegitimate association".

Now think: just how it is to condone terror, of any side? How wise is this when you call upon your partner for peace to negotiate? Does this attitude bolster trust?

George Orwell is clapping from his grave.

Two-State Solution

I was happy to read Yuval Steinitz’s statements:  “Prime Minister Netanyahu has made it very clear that he, his cabinet, and the entire government are totally committed to a two-states-for-two-peoples solution. Even if there exist some different opinions within the coalition or the government, every member of the government is formally committed to the prime minister’s approach”. The Minister of International Relations, Intelligence, and Strategic Affairs maintained that “We are ready to see the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, and to make painful concessions once it is clear that we will get real, enduring peace in return. While we do not have preconditions for negotiations, there are two ‘post-conditions’ for an authentic resolution of the conflict: genuine peace for Israel and genuine security for Israel.

Source:  Yuval Steinitz, “Strategic Shifts in the Middle East”, Jerusalem Brief,
Vol. 13, No. 18 (1 July 2013).

Israel State of the Nation Address

So many spin doctors are around that it is hard to know what my prime minister is really thinking. An Israeli prime minister should adopt the American model of State of the Union Annual Speech and explain to Israeli citizens what are the challenges and promises for the coming year, what is his/her agenda, what s/he aims to achieve, and where Israel stands on crucial issues such as security, peace, the economy, social justice, housing, friends and foes.


The campus remains as I remembered it, beautiful and welcoming. The Law School, however, has changed quite significantly since my year there.

I was happy to see the local Hillel thriving, with students interested and eager to learn about Israel.

I thank Norm Abrams, Peter Lowenberg, Herb Morris, Fran Olsen, Ann and Dan Simon for their kind hospitality.

33rd Conference of Law and Mental Health, Amsterdam

I presented my research on euthanasia in Belgium, discussing some of the major developments that have taken place since the enactment of the Belgian Euthanasia Act. Concerns were raised about: 1) euthanizing patients without explicit request. Ending patients’ lives without request is a lingering problem; 2) euthanizing demented patients and people who are tired of life; and 3) terminal sedation, a procedure that does not require the patient’s consent. Finally, some suggestions designed to improve the situation were offered. Most importantly, given that ending patients’ lives without request is more common than euthanasia, and the significant number of terminal sedation cases, it was suggested to urge the Belgian medical profession to consider physician-assisted suicide (PAS), a practice that is not common in Belgium, instead of euthanasia.

I heard fascinating discussions on a wide range of topics, including the Holocaust, sex offenders, bullying, mental health institutions, human trafficking, terrorism and physician-assisted suicide.

I thank David Weisstub for his kind invitation, and to Bert Keizer for his kind hospitality.

Mental Health Institutions

Mental health institutions should have as little characteristics of a prison as possible. People who have mental problems are less likely to better their condition in coercive surroundings. The physical geography of the place makes a great difference. While I appreciate security considerations, and the safety of people should be promoted, the buildings of such institutions should not look like a prison. Patients' rooms should look like rooms, not cells.

There is a difference between securing the outer perimeter and the internal perimeter. Patients who might cause harm to others should be monitored closely. They should not be able to leave the institution without permit, and should be behind closed doors during the night. Patients who might run away require the establishment of a secure outer parameter. At the same time, patients who have suicidal inclinations should not be locked in their rooms.


50 percent of physicians joined the Nazi party. For some reason, they were more enthusiastic than other professions to collaborate with Nazis. Other professions did not have such high representation in the Nazi party.

I wonder about the possible reasons for that enthusiasm.

Sex Offenders

According to Jill Levenson of Lynn University, only 2 percent of American sex offenders are women. 87 percent of victims are female. Only 14 percent of sex offenders are categorized as predators, i.e., especially dangerous people.

Another Question

Knowing that there is a vicious circle where children who were victims of sexual abuse became sex offenders when they grow up, I wonder why there is no research on whether children of sex offenders were abused. There are data bases of sex offenders in the UK and the USA. It is about time to conduct research on their children.

Child and Animal Pornography

The Dutch perceive themselves as the most liberal and tolerant nation in the world. While they are facing serious competition from the Danish, there is no doubt about the very liberal nature of the Netherlands.

I went to the Red Light District to conduct my regular research on the availability of child and animal pornography. I learnt that child pornography is impossible to find, i.e., that it is very difficult to find offline, in obscure places known to the ardent child pornographers. As for animal pornography, this genre is difficult to find, i.e., that it is no longer readily available to the travelling customer, but it is not impossible to find away from the Red Light District, which is closely inspected and monitored. Elsewhere in Amsterdam, those interested in this genre will be able to find it as there are still remainders from the heavy stock that was for sale up until two years ago, when the law banning animal porn was passed.

What was revealing was the attitude of the sex shopkeepers. Two years ago, when I asked questions about these two genres, I had the impression that one or two of them had to restrain themselves from rising to hit me. Now the shopkeepers were friendly and smiling, as if a burden was relieved from their shoulders. They have nothing to hide. They no longer keep child and animal porn in their shops, and therefore they are not suspicious of my intentions. They do not care.

Yet Another Question

People wish to know about convicted children sex offenders in their neighborhood. Should we also be allowed to know about convicted murderers, burglars, rapists, and other criminals?

Human Trafficking

Trafficking in persons, the umbrella term for activities involved when someone obtains or holds another person in compelled service, is increasingly recognized as a global crime requiring a concerted response of governments and civil society. The International Labour Organization estimates that twenty-one million people are
victims of forced labour. Of these, 22% are victims of forced sexual exploitation and 78% are victims of forced labour.

According to Jane Nady Sigmon of the US Dept. of State 27 million people are victims of human trafficking in the world. The majority are women. The majority of suspects are men. Human trafficking has been found in almost every industry. 

Remarkably, according to Xin Ren of California State University at Sacramento, 2.5 million people are in forced labour. Two experts come up with very different estimates. This is hard to explain. Possibly more research needs to be done. Possibly one of the experts is not an expert. Possibly there is great discrepancy between hard data and estimates.

According to Sigmon, only 5000 traffickers were convicted worldwide last year. This shows that a lot more needs to be done to combat modern slavery.

Two pertinent questions. The first relates to terminology: why human trafficking and not slavery? Many of the women and children did not give their consent and are not paid for their services. They are being exploited day in and day out. This is the modern form of slavery.

Second, how do you explain 5000 convictions of 27 million cases? True, this is a relatively new crime in many countries, and there are countries that do not have laws on modern slavery and human trafficking. But far more needs to be done.

I reiterate my movie recommendation, “I am Slave” which you can see in full on YouTube,
See Hearing before a subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, July 11, 2013   
The Honorable Luis CdeBaca, Ambassador-at-Large, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, U.S. Department of State

For the Attention of President Obama

The United States has signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, but is one of three UN members not to have ratified it.

The other non-ratifying members are Somalia and South Sudan.


Terror and Drugs

I heard a fascinating paper by Silvia Leo of University of Rome–Sapienza about the nexus between crime and terrorism. She discussed several narco-terrorism links and terrorist financing sources, ranging from Colombia to Afghanistan, from Morocco to the Bekka Valley, from Europe to Southeast Asia and to other parts of the world. According to Leo, during the last ten years, drug trafficking, transnational gangs, and other criminal organizations have grown in size and strength and, according to Drug Enforcement Administration sources, Al Qaeda groups in West Africa were charging protection fees from cocaine drug-trafficking groups affiliated with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Terrorist group operatives are also linked to Mexican drug cartels, providing the terrorists with easy access to the United States and receive support, training, weapons and cash from Latin America.

Leo highlighted Ayman Joumaa’s role in coordinating the transportation, distribution, and sale of multi-ton bulk shipments of cocaine from South America. The proceeds have been laundered through various methods, including bulk cash smuggling operations and use of several Lebanese exchange houses that utilize accounts at the Beirut-based Lebanese Canadian Bank (LCB). LCB is linked to the Hezbollah illegal activities.


The city is as lively as ever. It has many of the characteristics of Tel Aviv, which suits me just fine. The weather was glorious, clear skies, warm and sunny. Beautiful. What was distressing was the number of smokers on the streets, including soft drugs. I am  asthmatic, and sometimes I found breathing a challenge, thus needed to escape into a closed place to have slightly better air.

It was nice to hear Hebrew wherever I went. Hebrew was less prevalent than English, Italian and Spanish but more prevalent than German, French and Japanese.

Anne Frank

The lines of people wishing to visit Anne Frank House are as long as ever. The most popular language in the Anne Frank House is Hebrew yet the Hebrew version of the diary does not appear at the end of exhibit. Strange indeed. Should be corrected.

May God bless Starbucks

May God bless Starbucks. I do not take for granted having good coffee at Schiphol. Glad this concern has now been resolved.

Pete Stanley Steffens Collection, Brandeis University

Professor Valerie Alia has asked me to post this and I do it with pleasure:

My beloved husband, Pete Steffens, died in August 2012. He left behind an unfinished manuscript and research materials on the history of the modern Hebrew press. As he wished, I have donated these to the Brandeis University Libraries in Waltham, Massachusetts.

It is my hope that someone will make use of this resource and complete the book.

The Pete Stanley Steffens collection is housed in the Robert D. Farber University Archives and special Collections department. It includes three draft chapters, notes and transcriptions of original interviews with leading publishers and journalists. So long as Pete and Brandeis are credited, you are free to use this.

Pete was the only child of the great Muckraker, Lincoln Steffens, and the writer, translator and activist, Ella Winter and the stepson of the Hollywood screenwriter, Donald Ogden Stewart. He was born in San Remo, Italy November 21, 1924. He attended Harvard and Balliol College, Oxford, and worked as a journalist and academic in the US and UK. He spoke nine languages. He was literary editor for New Outlook in Israel and was active in the Free Speech movement at UC Berkeley, and worked tirelessly to support and encourage Native American journalists in the Northwestern US.

It is my hope that someone will take up and complete this project. For more information, please send me an email:
Valerie Alia.

My New Article

“Freedom of Expression v. Social Responsibility: Holocaust Denial in Canada”
Journal of Mass Media Ethics, Vol. 28, Iss. 1 (2013), pp. 42-56.

On the occasion of Ernst Zündel’s release from jail, this article revisits media coverage of Holocaust denial, arguing that the media should introduce standards of responsibility into coverage of such hatred. Section (II) defines Holocaust denial and hate speech. Section (III) outlines the concept of moral and social responsibility. (IV) explains who is Ernst Zündel and his claim to fame. (V) analyses the ways by which Zündel had exploited the media; (VI) concentrates atttention on one episode in which the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation staged a media event, bringing to its studio Zündel and a Holocaust survivor. (VII) discusses whether we should ban Holocaust denial tracts; how should the media cover manipulators like Zündel, and is it justified to objectively balance between a Holocaust survivor and a Holocaust denier?

Key words: Zündel, responsibility, hate speech, Holocaust denial, Auschwitz, Citron, CBC

New Books

Abdel Bari Atwan, After Bin Laden (London: Saqi, 2012).

Atwan is one of the more knowledgeable people on al-Qaeda; thus, whenever he publishes a new book I do my best to read it. This book supplements his The Secret History of al-Qaeda (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), focusing on the recent developments that took place after bin-Laden’s death. With branches in strategic hotspots from Yemen and Somalia to North Africa and an increasing influence among home grown jihadis in the West, al-Qaeda has survived attempts to destroy it. The Arab Spring has opened new battlegrounds for jihadists, particularly in Libya, Somalia, Syria and Egypt. Atwan also explores the Taliban/al- Qaeda nexus in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the attempts to gain adherents in the Maghreb. As the extremist zeal for a global caliphate shows no sign of abating, Atwan profiles the next generation of foot soldiers and leaders and explores the new methods they embrace in the pursuit of jihad in a digital age. Atwan argues that the Internet is the single most important factor in transforming largely local jihadi concerns and activities into the global network that characterizes al-Qaeda today.  The increased popularity of Facebook, MySpace, Orkut, Friendster, YouTube and other social networking sites attract interested jihadists who play a critical role in identifying potential radicals and alerts about suspected others. There are hundreds of pages dedicated to Osama Bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam and other heroes of the mujahideen.

I thank Saqi Books for a copy of this book.

Michael Freeden and Andrew Vincent (eds.), Comparative Political Thought (Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2013).

 This edited volume examines some of the following issues:
  • Is political theory 'Western-centric'?
  • What can we learn from non-Western traditions of political thought?
  • How do we compare different strands of national and regional political thought?
  • Political thought in China, India, the Middle East and Latin America
  • Islamic political thought
  • Political thought in the wake of post-colonialism
Unlike similar edited volumes that focus on the liberal tradition, this volume is far more global in its attention, with contributions that include “On the historicity of ‘the political’: Rajaniti and politics in modern Indian thought” by Sudipta Kaviraj;  “Latin American approaches to ‘the political’” by Laurence Whitehead; “Communism, Confucianism, and charisma: The political in modern China” by Rana Mitter; “Acting and acting out: Conceptions of political participation in the Middle East” by Charles Tripp; “Forms of participation in Muslim political heritage” by Abdulaziz Sachedina.

I thank Routledge for a copy of this book.

Movie – Five Broken Cameras

For all those who believe that the Israeli occupation is “occupation”, that the Israeli occupation is the most humane occupation since Genghis Khan, that it is benevolent, nice, pleasant, humane or any other Orwellian adjective they choose to soften the word occupation, I highly recommend watching this film.

The occupation puts people in impossible situations: it takes young men and orders them to impose military order on a civilian population; when the civilian population protests, it issues orders to shoot at them.

The occupation equips young commanders with orders to protect Jewish settlers when they attack Palestinians whose land is taken from them by arbitrary decisions; to prohibit protests against injustice; to deny people their basic human rights; to invade the privacy of the home; to take young children from their beds in the middle of the night because they throw stones at soldiers; to kill innocent people; to transform  children into sworn enemies because they grow up watching injustice that cannot be explained.


Five Broken Cameras tells the story of one Palestinian village, the village of Bil'in, whose population consists of farmers who have been cultivating their land for generations and who are coerced to face the growing ugly face of the occupation as settlements are built on land that was forcefully taken from them and a separation barrier is being built to separate them from it. The villagers try to resist this gross injustice. For more than five years, Emad films the struggle, which is led by two of his best friends, as it affects his family and his own life. Daily arrests and night raids scare his family; his friends, brothers and him as well are either shot or arrested.

Documentaries, like any other film, have cameramen, editors and directors. They have an agenda. They are there to tell a story. But even if a small fraction of what Five Broken Cameras shows is true, then it should compel any open-minded person to scream: this evil should be stopped. It should be stopped now!

I have been screaming this for more than thirty years. I yearn and pray for a leadership who will listen.

One Facebook Status

On July 4, 2013 I published the following status:
Happy 3rd of July Egypt! Wishing you liberty, security, peace and prosperity, a regime in which you can flourish.

Within hours I lost 50 virtual friends.

I wish this for every country in the world. Fifty of my former virtual friends believe I should not wish this for Egypt.

Barbara Streisand Singing Avinu Malkenu

On June 18, 2013, the fifth in the Presidential Conference, “Facing Tomorrow”, was opened in Jerusalem celebrating President Shimon Peres’s 90th birthday. In attendance were past and present world leaders, international scholars, social activists, poets, scientists, artists, clergy, entrepreneurs, economists, industrialists and philanthropists.

The highlight of the evening was Barbara Streisand, singing Avinu Malkenu. It was most moving:


Mazal Tov to Gal Mekel


Mazal Tov to Gal Mekel, the second Israeli in the NBA. Mekel, a young talent who grew up in Maccabi Tel Aviv, signed with the Dallas Mavericks. I wish him good luck and much success in this difficult league.

Great News for Tel Aviv
In addition to going swimming, relaxing in the sunshine, residents and visitors of Tel Aviv-Yafo can now enjoy free books and WiFi on the beach.
The recently launched beach library offers over 500 books in 5 languages: English, Arabic, Russian, French and Hebrew.
While the library is open till the end of the summer, visitors can also enjoy free WiFi for browsing online. The Municipality has invested over 1.6 million U.S. dollars into providing free WiFi at 80 locations all over the city, including the beach.

Tel Aviv-Yafo Mayor Ron Huldai says such a service is very helpful nowadays when people are used to obtaining information from the Internet: “Technology is a great deal of our life. We believe that once you provide free WiFi, you improve the creativity and possibility of everyone to work everywhere.”
Tel Aviv enjoys over 300 sunny days a year and has 14 kilometers of beach. Going to the beach is one of the favourite pastimes for residents and visitors of the city.

Excellent Flight Book

I recommend Linwood Barclay, Trust Your Eyes, a highly engaging thriller, with many twists and turns that keep you on your toes, intrigued and curious. Great flight book, if you are into this genre.

Gem of the Month – Grand Canyon

The United States likes to be grand. Last month I went to the Israeli desert, and this month to the American. There is little resemblance between the two. Size does make a difference, not necessarily in quality, but the notion of grandeur becomes more palpable with size.

The Grand Canyon is, in one word, spectacular. The colors. The shapes. The scenery. The rocks and the water, all make an unforgettable view. One photo is worth a thousand words. Here are two.

Monthly Poems


Come we to the summer, to the summer we will come,
For the woods are full of bluebells and the hedges full of bloom,
And the crow is on the oak a-building of her nest,
And love is burning diamonds in my true lover's breast;
She sits beneath the whitethorn a-plaiting of her hair,
And I will to my true lover with a fond request repair;
I will look upon her face, I will in her beauty rest,
And lay my aching weariness upon her lovely breast.

The clock-a-clay is creeping on the open bloom of May,
The merry bee is trampling the pinky threads all day,
And the chaffinch it is brooding on its grey mossy nest
In the whitethorn bush where I will lean upon my lover's breast;
I'll lean upon her breast and I'll whisper in her ear
That I cannot get a wink o'sleep for thinking of my dear;
I hunger at my meat and I daily fade away
Like the hedge rose that is broken in the heat of the day.

John Clare
Light Side


Together We Stand
Teacher: "Anyone who thinks he's stupid may stand up!"
*Nobody stands up*
Teacher: "I
m sure there are some stupid students over here!!"
*Little Johnny stands up*
Teacher: "Ohh, Johnny you think you're stupid?"
Little Johnny: "No...
I just feel bad that you're standing alone..."

Wife was mad at me

Two deaf men were in a coffee shop discussing their wives.
One sighs to the other, boy was my wife mad at me last night!
She went on and on and wouldn't stop!
The other Buddy says: when my wife goes off on me I just don't listen.
How do you do that? Says the other.
It's easy! I turn off the light!

Peace and love. Have a Great summer.

Yours as ever,


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