Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Politics – January 2014

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

I also welcome promoting the two-state solution. See

John Kerry’s drive and commitment to bring peace are admirable. It is better to create bridges to peace than to insert sticks in the wheels of peace. Kerry should also visit Cairo and Riyadh. Both Egypt and Saudi Arabia are key players that can influence not only the situation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority but also the negotiations with Iran.

~Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Ariel Sharon (1928-2014)
Recognizing Israel as a Jewish State
What Iran wants by Hassan Rouhani
Nuclear Bombs
Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security – A Profile
Israeli Ministers Endorse Legislation to Annex Part of West Bank
Against Boycotting Israeli Academics
Dan Meridor’s Visit to Hull
2013: Record year for incoming tourism to Israel
A Precedent for the Arab World: Official Events Marking The Holocaust
Visitor to the University of Hull - Dr Rusi Jaspal
Revolutionary Cancer Trials Begin in the University of Hull
Christmas Conversations
Book Review - Silvio Waisbord, Reinventing professionalism
New Books
Monthly Poems
Gem of the Month – Nottingham
Light Side

Ariel Sharon (1928-2014)

In January 2006 Prime Minister Sharon suffered a stroke and entered into a situation of Post-Coma Unawareness. After eight years he succumbed to death.

Sharon was a leader and a doer. In the 1950s he established the legendary (famous for some; infamous for others) 101 Unit that executed an eye-for-eye policy against the Fedayeen. Sharon hand-picked the commando warriors and devised its very informal and brutal style of doing things. The Unit’s daring operations beyond enemy lines captured the headlines, for better and worse. In 1973, during the Yom Kippur War, he pressed to cross the Suez Canal. The same year, he was the architect behind the Gahal-Liberal merger that gave birth to the Likud. In 1982, Sharon was the controversial architect of the Lebanon War. For the majority of his political life, Sharon was the architect of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories and the most cherished godfather of the settlers; this until he decided to disengage from the Gaza Strip.

I will remember Sharon for two main things:

1. I was a soldier in the 1982 Lebanon War, a war that left quite an impression on me. Thus it was one of the two wars I researched carefully (the other was the 1967 Six Day War, my first war). All Israeli wars scarred and shaped my personality and made me the peacenik that I am but these two were the most influential.

2. My only contact with Sharon was in 2000, when I began my campaign for Gaza First. My loyal readers may remember my three-year campaign, and my hopes that Sharon will execute the plan and evacuate Gaza. I always said and believed that Sharon was a pragmatist who was able to reason, and who was able to change his mind in the face of facts. Thus I was among those who wrote to Sharon and explained why it was a good idea to evacuate Gaza. In 2003, Sharon announced his disengagement plan, and in 2005 Israel withdrew from Gaza. In hindsight, the disengagement should have been done with full collaboration of Abu Mazen.

Above all, Sharon will be remembered as a bold leader who fought for his ideas. If he wanted something, he usually got it. Obstacles were moved away or removed. The word “No” from his superiors never impressed him. Sharon, with his innovative mind and immense sense of chutzpah, always devised ways to bypass obstacles, do away with them or devise ways to see his ideas through despite those who stood on his way.

This song is in Sharon’s memory:

Recognizing Israel as a Jewish State

In recent years, PM Netanyahu has insisted that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. It is a publicity card, not of any real substance.

Abe Silverman from Canada recently wrote to me:
I envy your idealism and your sense of fair play. However trying to draw an equivalence between a people who are trying to live in peace in their ancestral homeland and neighbors who believe that we have no right to the land will not bring peace. Netanyahu is right. Peace is not possible until the Arabs accept that Israel is the home of the Jewish people. And until that happens all of the peace agreements in the world will not change the hearts and minds of the Arabs.

To which I replied:

Dear Abe

You put far too much emphasis on this issue of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. I repeat: The Palestinian high officials I met ALL SAID WITHOUT EXCEPTION that this is a non-issue. PM Netanyahu pulled this card to halt, stall, and disrupt the negotiations on the substantive issues. It is no more than a red herring, destructive rather than constructive.

Yasser Arafat and many other Palestinian leaders explicitly recognized Israel as a Jewish state. See for instance

Please read “Why Palestinians are puzzled by the 'Jewish state' demand” by Ziad J. Asali, who says that Netanyahu's demand for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state bizarrely inserts Palestinians into the 'Who is a Jew' debate. Mr Asali, President of the American Task Force on Palestine, argues that the full legal and political implications of Israel's status as a 'Jewish state' can be clearly defined in an agreement that ends the conflict and resolves all claims. “For Palestinians to agree to any such language, it must be clearly defined. It is only fair to define, clearly and forthrightly, what the term 'Jewish state' means before asking the Palestinians to accept it.”

Having said all that, John Kerry is investing much effort to push the peace wagon forward. Israel had released Palestinian prisoners and claims that the PA gives nothing in return. It is time for the Palestinians also to give. If this recognition is not really meaningful, it is time for the PA to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and remove one obstacle from the road to peace.

I do not wish to think about the ramifications of Kerry’s failure on the region. Enough blood has been shed.

With my very best wishes,


What Iran wants by Hassan Rouhani
Iranian president Rouhani published an article on Iran’s agenda and I wish to bring to your attention some of his most important messages.

President Rouhani opened by stating that when he campaigned to become President of Iran, he promised to balance realism and the pursuit of the Islamic Republic’s ideals—and won Iranian voters’ support by a large margin. “I am committed to moderation and common sense, which is now guiding all of my government’s policies. That commitment led directly to the interim international agreement reached in November in Geneva on Iran’s nuclear programme. It will continue to guide our decision-making in 2014”.

The Iranian government is discarding extreme approaches. “We seek effective and constructive diplomatic relations and a focus on mutual confidence-building with our neighbours and other regional and international actors, thereby enabling us to orient our foreign policy toward economic development at home. To this end, we will work to eliminate tensions in our foreign relations and strengthen our ties with traditional and new partners alike. This obviously requires domestic consensus-building and transparent goal-setting—processes that are now underway”.

President Rouhani emphasised the need for economic development and the democratic processes in Iran. He spoke of the need to rebuild and improve Iranian bilateral and multilateral relations with European and North American countries. President Rouhani voiced grave concerns regarding the situation in Syria, stating: “I am profoundly disturbed over the humanitarian tragedy in Syria and the enormous suffering that the Syrian people have endured for nearly three years. Representing a people who have experienced the horror of chemical weapons, my government strongly condemned their use in the Syrian conflict. I am also concerned that parts of Syrian territory have become breeding grounds for extremist ideologies and rallying points for terrorists, which is reminiscent of the situation on our eastern border in the 1990s. This is an issue of concern to many other countries as well, and finding a durable political solution in Syria requires cooperation and joint efforts”.

               President Rouhani devoted a large part of his article to the nuclear debate, stating that Iran’s peaceful nuclear energy programme has been subject to enormous hype in recent decades. He maintained that since the early 1990s, one prediction after another regarding how close Iran was to acquiring a nuclear bomb has proved baseless. Throughout this period, alarmists tried to paint Iran as a threat to the Middle East and the world.


President Rouhani wrote: “We all know who the chief agitator is, and what purposes are to be served by hyping this issue. We know also that this claim fluctuates in proportion to the amount of international pressure to stop settlement construction and end the occupation of Palestinian lands. These false alarms continue, despite US national intelligence estimates according to which Iran has not decided to build a nuclear weapon. In fact, we are committed not to work toward developing and producing a nuclear bomb. As enunciated in the fatwa issued by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, we strongly believe that the development, production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons are contrary to Islamic norms. We never even contemplated the option of acquiring nuclear weapons, because we believe that such weapons could undermine our national security interests; as a result, they have no place in Iran’s security doctrine. Even the perception that Iran may develop nuclear weapons is detrimental to our security and overall national interest”.

“I committed myself to doing everything in my power to fast-track a resolution to the standoff over our nuclear-energy programme. To fulfill this commitment and benefit from the window of opportunity that the recent election opened, my government is prepared to leave no stone unturned in seeking a mutually acceptable permanent solution. Following up on November’s interim agreement, we are ready to continue to work with the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany) and others with a view to ensuring our nuclear programme’s full transparency. The peaceful nuclear capability that we have achieved will be used within an internationally recognized framework of safeguards, and it will be accessible to multilateral monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency, as has been the case in the past several years. In this way, the international community can ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of our nuclear programme. We will never forgo our right to benefit from nuclear energy; but we are ready to work toward removing any ambiguity and answer any reasonable question about our program. The continuation of pressure, arm-twisting, intimidation, and measures aimed at cutting off Iranians’ access to a whole range of necessities—from technology to medicines and foodstuffs—can only poison the atmosphere and undermine the conditions needed to make progress”.

President Rouhani concluded that “Iran is fully prepared to engage seriously with the international community and to negotiate with our interlocutors in good faith. We hope that our counterparts, too, are ready to take advantage of this window of opportunity”.

Source: Hassan Rouhani, “What Iran wants”, LiveMint (December 30, 2013),

Nuclear Bombs

Dr Bert Keizer wrote from Amsterdam:

Dear Rafi,

I am always surprised by the wide range of topics you are willing to consider in your monthly letter.

I also take you to be a very astute analyst of political and moral conundrums.

On these grounds I would like to bother you with a question that nobody seems to consider.

Why is it that the possession of nuclear weapons is deemed to be the proper thing for the US - Russia - China - France - Britain - Israel - India and Pakistan?

On what grounds do we, do they, does whom, consider the possession of nuclear weapons wrong - misplaced - dangerous etc. in the case of Iran - Iraq - Egypt - United Emirates - Yemen - Sweden - Liechtenstein etc. etc.?

Do we consider the present day owners of these weapons to be in any sense more responsible - ethically finer tuned - more civilized than all the other nations? 

And is it from this (to me ludicrous) position of moral superiority that they derive the right to impose a ban on Iran etc.?

Or is the ban just a way to stop the proliferation as a danger in itself, thinking along the lines of: the more bombs in store, the higher the chance that one gets thrown one day? 

Or is it more like the heavy smoker who tries to prevent others taking up the practice?  

In any contest where you would be armed with a gun and your opponent with a tennis racket, what could the tennis racket man do but try to get a gun as well?

Looking forward to your answer I send you a warm greeting from Amsterdam,

Bert Keizer



               Dear Bert


               You are raising many important issues. Let me answer them briefly.


               It is a well-recorded historical fact that democracies do not fight one another. Thus dangerous weapons in the hands of democracies is one thing, while such weapons might be extremely dangerous in the hands of authoritarian and dictatorial regimes. The rationale is: If they maltreat their own people, they will have no qualms hurting other people.


               This, of course, does not mean that we should trust democracies to never use nuclear weapons. If they are attacked by authoritarian regimes, they might resort to the bomb. The only time the bomb was used in history was by the USA against Japan.


               The nuclear club is very distinctive and it does not include democracies only. Because of the mixed bag, the world will be safer if there won’t be any nuclear weapons in the world, and if these weapons will not proliferate. You may recall that in February 2013 I published a short obituary of Dr. Max Kampelman, who devoted the last years of his life calling to destroy all arsenals of nuclear weapons.  An utopian dream, yet the world needs people with dreams and vision who wish to promote good, justice, human dignity and human rights. Max was such a person. He was an inspiration to many, including myself.

Israel’s official stance until now is that it won’t be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the region. Israel never openly admitted that it possesses such weapons. I think this policy of vagueness (“amimut”) policy was good for many years but now it needs to be changed. Israel needs to acknowledge its capacity. Israel until now has enjoyed a special status: everyone knows that it is in the nuclear club while it never admitted it publicly and openly. It reminds me of Marx (the funny one, Groucho): “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member”. I do not think Israel could hold the stick from both ends for much longer: demanding that Iran won’t have nuclear capability while maintaining its own, winking to the world that Dimona is a textile plant. It cannot demand UN inspections of the Iranian plants while prohibiting access to Dimona.


               It will take courageous American, Russian and Chinese leaders who reach an understanding that the world will be safer without the bomb. Only such unity in pushing forward an all-inclusive pact of non-nuclear-weapons-world, only such concerted attempt might force other countries to destroy their own arsenals.


               We can expect that once Iran will acquire such a capability, Saudi Arabia will have its own bomb. Egypt and Turkey will be next in line. It will be a far more dangerous world.

               All good wishes for Happy New Year!



Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security – A Profile

You might be interested in a Report Prepared by the Federal Research Division, Library of Congress, under an Interagency Agreement with the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office’s Irregular Warfare Support Program (December 2012)

I thank Dr Athina Karatzogianni for bringing this to my attention.

Israeli Ministers Endorse Legislation to Annex Part of West Bank

Far-right members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party and members of his cabinet endorsed proposed legislation to annex an area of the occupied West Bank likely to be the eastern border of a future Palestinian state.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni who heads Israel's negotiations with the Palestinian Authority immediately challenged the motion, saying she would use her powers to block the legislation from being voted on in Parliament.

Peace talks have shown few signs of progress since US Secretary of State John Kerry oversaw their renewal in July after a three-year deadlock.

The Jordan Valley region of the West Bank which Israel captured in a 1967 war and Palestinians seek as part of their future state, has been a focus of recent disagreement. Palestinians reject Israel's demand to maintain a security presence there.

Kerry said that the need to resolve the dispute over the Jordan Valley was "a critical threading of a needle that has to happen in order to achieve an agreement". He said he was coordinating with Jordan as well.

The Israeli proposal to incorporate the Jordan Valley within its borders, endorsed by the cabinet's legislative committee, was the first Israeli step in years to annex any territory captured in 1967.

The last time Israel annexed any land captured in the 1967 war was in 1981 when it applied its law to the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau that lies to the north.

Against Boycotting Israeli Academics

There are two kinds of criticisms: constructive and destructive. The former aims to build; the latter aims to break.

It is far more difficult to build than to destroy: one bomb can put an end to a year of discussion. Thus, radicals often are those who dictate the course of events.

When it comes to peace in the Middle East, at present there are increasing attempts to undermine the peace efforts by delegitimizing the constructive peace efforts. This has been done by calling to ban all Israeli people and its institutions, notwithstanding their position, ideas and agenda; on the Palestinian side, it is done by threatening those who are willing to speak to Israelis.

Recently the American Studies Association has decided to join the anti-Israel camp by issuing its first ever call for an academic boycott. I oppose any decision to boycott Israeli academics. I think this decision is unjust, unfair, and counter-productive. Let me explain.

The decision is unjust because any sweeping decision, by its very nature, cannot do justice. It is one thing to offer a rationale to boycott a certain institution or individual for good reasons. It is quite another thing to simply boycott everyone. I oppose general boycotts in principle.

The decision is unfair because it is based on a small, committed and vocal group of members who made boycotting of Israel their life’s mission. They exploit the silence, indifference and inactivity of the majority of association members to pass their unjust resolution which does not represent the views of many, possibly most members.

The decision is counter-productive because it undermines the objectives that the committed group of members wishes to reach. Boycotting Israeli academics weakens the peace camp in Israel, strengthens the right-wing position that prefers land over peace and the promotion of human rights, and hardens the hard-liners.

Israeli academia tends to be liberal. Many of its members belong to the peace camp. Many academics are human rights activists. Many oppose the settlements. Many are for a two-state solution, a just settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the splitting of Jerusalem, return to the 1967 Green Line, and finding a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem.

I have intimate knowledge with Israeli academia. I have been a professor in two universities in Israel and have good contacts with all Israeli universities. I established the Center for Democratic Studies at the University of Haifa and served as its director. Since 1985, I have been promoting human rights in Israel and for the Palestinians inside and outside of Israel. I received the cooperation and support of many academics in all Israeli institutions. We have been trying to influence government decisions for many years, with some success, most notably during 1990-1993, when Israeli academics including myself pushed for negotiations with the PLO and putting in motion the peace wagon. Boycotting academia will work against the peaceful, constructive and liberal elements in Israeli society and will play into the hands of politicians who are trying to downplay the importance of Israeli academia.

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 against Palestinians. This claim is as true as the claim that American academics are implicit collaborators in the American government decisions to wage war in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and many other parts of the world.

Those who wish to boycott Israel blame academics for not being able to influence governmental decisions for the better. Yes, Israeli academics do not have the power they wish to have. But boycotting decision will make them even more powerless. Israeli academics tend to be involved in leftist, peace-seeking politics more than academics in Britain, Canada and the USA, countries I know well. The Israeli government pays attention to its academics to a similar degree that the British government pays attention to its own academics.

Those who wish to boycott Israel undercut academic freedom and betray values we all hold dear: Freedom of expression, tolerance, equality, justice and peace. Sweeping boycott decisions are truly horrible.

Finally, I personally object to sweeping boycotting decisions. But if you insist on boycotting countries, I fail to understand why single out Israel time and again. Unfortunately, we live in a world where there is no shortage of injustices and severe human rights violations. How come that of all countries in the world it is only Israel that preoccupies the minds of some vocal members who have little understanding of the situation in Israel? The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Index of Democracy 2012 puts Israel in 37th place out of 167. This index takes into account, among other things, civil liberties. Granted that Israel has room for improvement, but 130 countries are ranked below Israel. Why don’t you focus your attention on any of those countries for a change? Please see the Index at

This decision is appalling. Those who promote an Israeli boycott know very little about the relationship between academia and government, and have a dubious understanding of the essence of academic freedom.

I believe in a free exchange of ideas, in being constructive, in creating bridges rather than putting more obstacles to peace. Banning ideas and people only increases rifts and hostility. The only way to peace is through engagement and conversation. We should fight those who wish to dictate the agenda by bans, exclusion and animosity.

This article was published in Sharnoff’s Global Views (January 3, 2014),

At the time of writing this blog, a petition of Israeli academics is organized to protest against the government’s attitude to asylum seekers. There are some 54,000 asylum seekers in Israel, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan and the Israeli government is persecuting and harassing them, devising ways to throw them out of the country. Hundreds of academics have signed the petition until now. Those who endorse boycotting Israeli academics wish to silence some of the leading human rights activists in Israel.

Dan Meridor’s Visit to Hull

Last month I brought to the Hull campus His Excellency Manuel Hassassian who delivered a very effective presentation for the Palestinian people. The visit went well. There were no disturbances or concerns. I reported the main themes of Ambassador Hassassian’s lecture on my Israeli Politics Blog ( Ambassador Hassassian’s speech is available at To balance his views, and to represent Israel’s point of view, I invited former Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor.

DPM Meridor arrived at the train station. I welcomed him and the embassy people. The university driver and car took us directly to the Vice Chancellor’s Office, where Dan was greeted and welcomed by the VC. The VC led us to lunch with some dignitaries -- university leaders and my personal guests, including the President of the European Israeli Studies Association, and the Senior Vice President of The Board of Deputies of British Jews. After lunch, Dan had a discussion with a small group of friends and then he delivered a thoughtful presentation on the Arab Spring and its effects on Israel and the Middle East. Dan spoke of the need for a two-state solution, as this is the only viable solution. He explained the wrongs of the occupation, and the need to evacuate some settlements in order to avoid a situation of either an apartheid state, or a bi-national state that would effectively end the Zionist dream. DPM Meridor spoke, without a single piece of paper, for more than one hour, and then patiently answered all questions from the audience. The hall was packed. As a matter of fact, we needed to restrict entry as the demand was greater than space. More than 100 people RSVP for the event, and the majority of them came. Dan received excellent comments from quite a few people who attended the lecture.

After the Q&A, the Lord Mayor took us in her stretch limousine to the Guildhall, where she organized a festive dinner in DPM Meridor’s honour, with the city dignitaries and officials, leaders of the two small Jewish communities – the Orthodox and the Reform – and my university leaders, including the Vice Chancellor. Toasts were raised in honour of the Queen, and President Shimon Peres. The Lord Mayor delivered a speech in Meridor’s honour, and Dan thanked her warmly. All in all, it was a great event.

It was an important event for the university, for the city, and especially for the Jewish communities. Usually, Israeli dignitaries visit only London, sometimes Manchester, but they refrain from going to other places. Such a high-profile visit is so vitally important for the Jews of Hull as it makes them feel they are part of the discourse, that Israelis relate to them and care about them, coming to see them in person.

Dan was, as usual, pleasant, friendly and gracious, generous with his time and sharp as ever. He probably has little idea just how much good he did for the people in Hull. DPM Meridor’s visit has demonstrated that we should fight those who wish to dictate the agenda with bans, exclusion, and animosity. We should not allow bigots and extremists to deny freedom of expression and the free flow of ideas. Constructive talks about the need for peace bring the peace nearer, not outright bans on all Israelis notwithstanding their contributions to the discussion.

I thank Dan Meridor for coming to Hull, and for the wonderful speech he delivered. I thanked personally all the people who were involved in the organization of this important visit, from the VC and the Lord Mayor to the administrators who ensured that the day would run faultlessly. Without the help of the following people, this event would not have materialized: 

ü    Vice Chancellor Professor Calie Pistorius
ü    Lord Mayor Cllr Nadine Fudge 
ü    Pro Vice Chancellor Professor Glenn Burgess
ü    Cllr Colin Inglis
ü    Ms. Jeannette Strachan
ü    Professor Caroline Kennedy
ü    Professor Christopher Wilson
ü    Ms. Marianne Lewsley-Stier
ü    Mr Glenn Hodgson
ü    Ms. Rony Yedidya-Clein
ü    Ms. Rebecca Schapira
ü    Ms. Sue Allen
ü    Dr Allan Craig 
ü    Ms. Kerry Carter

DPM Meridor’s lecture is available on our MESG website, at

2013: Record year for incoming tourism to Israel

Tourism Ministry figures point to new record in tourist entries in past year with more than 3.5 million visitors.

Habima, Tel Aviv

As always, most tourists arrived from the United States – about 623,000 Americans, who make up 18% of Israel's incoming tourism. Russia came in second with 603,000 tourists followed by France with some 315,000 tourists.

Germany came in fourth with 254,000 visitors, followed by the United Kingdom with 217,000 visitors, Italy with 173,000 visitors, Ukraine with 134,000 visitors and Poland with 89,000 visitors.

Some 71,000 tourists arrived from Canada, 57,000 came from Holland and 53,000 from Spain.

Before your visit to Israel, you can download your own personal tour guide of Israel, digital guidebook and friendly travel companion. See

I thank Tal Brody for bringing this information to my attention.

A Precedent for the Arab World: Official Events Marking The Holocaust

In December 2013, some unusual events relating to the Holocaust took place in the Arab world: a first official conference on the Jewish Holocaust was held in Tunisia, dealing with Holocaust of the Jews in that country (see below); the first visit by an Arab diplomat to a Holocaust memorial site took place when Bahraini ambassador to France Nasser Al-Balushi visited a memorial in Drancy, near Paris. Earlier on July 27, 2012, Ziad Al-Bandak, the Christian affairs advisor to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, visited Auschwitz and lit a memorial candle for Holocaust victims.

On December 14, 2013, Tunisia held the Arab world's first official Holocaust conference. The two-day conference, attended by historians, clerics, authors, and journalists, dealt with the Tunisian Jewish Holocaust, and its purpose was to commemorate the 5,000 Tunisian Jews who were sent to labor camps or European death camps during the Nazi rule of the country. During the conference, speakers praised Tunisian Muslims who helped Jews during the Holocaust, including Khaled 'Abd Al-Wahhab, who hid 20 Jews in his factory.

The event was held under the auspices of the Tunisian Association to Support Minorities, as well as the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, which works to bring religions, specifically Muslims and Jews, closer together. The president of the Association to Support Minorities, Yasmina Thabet, said that "the conference aims to preserve the issue of the Holocaust in public consciousness... and ensure that a depraved act such as the Nazi Holocaust will never happen again in any form..."

Source: MEMRI,

Visitor to the University of Hull - Dr Rusi Jaspal

On January 8, 2014, Dr Rusi Jaspal delivered his paper "Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism in Iran". It was good to see Rusi again and listen to his thoughtful paper.

Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism constitute two important ideological building blocks of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Yet, there is no existing research into the psychosocial motives underlying the manifestation of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism at the institutional level in Iran or in the Iranian general population. Here it is argued that there is much heuristic and predictive value in applying tenets of Identity Process Theory (IPT), a socio-psychological model of identity threat and action, to the primarily socio-historical literature on anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in Iran.
In the first half of the paper, the author provides a summary of anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and ‘new anti-Semitism’ and IPT. It is argued that (i) anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism may restore feelings of belonging in the Muslim world and beyond; (ii) there are important inter-relations between ingroup and outgroup self-efficacy; (iii) there is a psychological motivation to maintain Shiite ideology and Khomeini’s legacy; (iv) Jews and Israel are constructed and perceived in terms of a threat to group continuity. In the second half of the paper, quantitative survey data, qualitative interview data and qualitative visual and media data are presented in support of these assertions. It is suggested that insights into the motivational principles underlying anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism may inform further empirical research into social representations of Jews and Israel in Iran and potential interventions for mitigating anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.  More broadly, this paper highlights the potential contribution of social psychology to existing work on anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in political science and the humanities.

Dr Rusi Jaspal (M.A., Cambridge; M.Sc., Surrey; Ph.D., London) is Lecturer in Psychology at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK. Dr. Jaspal has published widely on identity, intergroup relations and the media, with a particular focus on anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in Iran and the Muslim world. His work in this area has appeared in journals such as Israel Affairs, The Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs and The British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies. Rusi Jaspal is co-editor (with Prof Dame Glynis Breakwell) of Identity Process Theory: Identity, Social Action and Social Change (Cambridge University Press, 2013) and the author of Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism: Representation, Cognition and Everyday Talk (Ashgate, 2013).

Revolutionary Cancer Trials Begin in the University of Hull

A ground-breaking approach to the treatment of some breast cancers is now being tested at the University of Hull’s Centre for Magnetic Resonance (MR) Investigation.
It is hoped that the new therapy, which uses a high intensity focused ultrasound beam to target cancerous tissues, will eventually provide a non-invasive alternative to the surgical removal of some small tumours of the breast. The technology will also be tested as an alternative to radiotherapy for relieving pain in patients who have tumours that have spread to their bones (metastases).

Christmas Conversations
Two conversations
"How was your Christmas?"
"We'll, I did a bit of travelling."
"Oh really! Somewhere interesting?"
"I went to see my parents; five hours each way. it's Christmas you know."

"How was your Christmas?"
"Good. I travelled to see my mom and dad. It is always great to see them. I so much cherish my time with them."

If only I had the ability to travel to see my parents.

Book Review - Silvio Waisbord, Reinventing professionalism
Cambridge: Polity, 2013, pp 266
ISBN 978-0-7456-5192-7
Ethical Space, Vol. 10, No. 2/3 (2013), pp. 80-81.

The saying, ‘Do not judge a book by its cover’, was never truer. While the cover is dull, the book is interesting, engaging and penetrating. It is full of interesting observations and is very well-written.

Waisbord attempts to explain the controversy around journalism as a profession, why it has never been recognised as a profession in a similar fashion that we understand medicine, for instance. He examines the field of journalism in its historical context, explaining the obstacles for making it a profession and why it is in the interest of journalists to make journalism a defined profession.

Many, if not most journalists perceive themselves as ‘hacks’, involved in a trade or craft. As Michael Jordan was born with a basketball in his hand and Lionel Messi with a football at his feet, so they believe they were born with a pen (or keyboard) in their hands. They are blessed with a gift of God to write and uncover ‘the truth’. This gift, this talent, is enshrined in them. They do not need to study it. Thus, they wish to have some elements of professionalism: first and foremost work autonomy, but they do not welcome other trademarks such as accreditation, examinations, monitoring bodies, responsible ethics, and the possibility of sanctions.

Professionalism, Waisbord explains (p. 11), refers to the ability of a field of practice to settle boundaries and avoid intrusion from external interests. It is about the specialisation of labour and control of occupational practice (p. 15). Compared to occupations, professions have a social contract with the state (p. 84). At the same time, professionals – unlike journalists – distance themselves from politics and politicians. Waisbord has no doubts that journalism is and should be a profession (p. 74). It should have a code of ethics and a public interest mission. Waisbord observes, however, some of the subjective and objective intervening factors that make journalism the quasi-profession it is.

Building on Max Weber’s notions, Waisbord explains that the press is nestled in patrimonalistic politics. While professionalism requires abiding rules, patrimonalism is characterised by arbitrary actions which have no rules nor guiding principles. If there are any rules and principles, these are ambiguously defined and are enforced or ignored according to personal discretion (p. 163). Patrimonalism encourages journalists to prioritise political causes over professional identities and offers journalists options outside journalism to achieve economic and social benefits. Thus, journalists define occupational identities politically rather than professionally (p. 169).

Waisbord argues that professional journalism remains an ambiguous and contested notion (p. 15). He notes that professionalism has been stronger among US journalists than anywhere else in the world, and that British journalists have historically held more mixed views on the subject (p. 77). Indeed, many journalists are content to have loosely or ambiguously-defined ground-rules that are enforced or ignored according to their own personal discretion. The loose ends provide them with an open playground that perfectly fits their work ‘ethics’. The ambiguity creates fuzzy boundaries and allows ‘creative’ and sometimes adventurous conduct.

However, as agents of a powerful resource in society, journalists must conduct their affairs carefully and not overstep their boundaries. Power must have boundaries; otherwise the temptation for abuse might be too compelling. The boundaries are set by professional codes and standards. As it is unthinkable to allow other agents of power in society to act without proper professional standards, so it is unthinkable to allow journalists to act with complete freedom irrespective of any harmful consequences. Quoting John Hughes (2002), Waisbord observes that journalism like other professions has its imperfect practitioners and “there are many things we could do better” (p. 74). Waisbord maintains that if journalism does not regain its professional mission it runs the risk of being lost. Indeed, journalists like other professionals should keep and promote certain professional standards without which the credo of journalism is lost. Looking at other professions, an engineer who builds an unsafe bridge would face harsh sanctions for endangering public safety and human life. A physician who amputates the wrong leg would be required to account for her wrongful conduct. A lawyer who fails to follow legal directives might pay with her job. A banker who attempts to embezzle clients’ money may face prison. A pilot who jeopardises passengers’ lives by drinking alcohol deserves to be fired. A psychologist who betrays a patient’s confidentiality for personal gains risks losing her licence. A plumber who does a reckless job which results in a flooded house will be required to compensate for any damages. Similarly, a journalist who recklessly destroys a person’s life and reputation or unjustifiably undermines state security should be held responsible for her wrong conduct and face significant sanctions both as retribution and deterrence for others. Journalism, I believe, should not be stripped of any professional standards. Freedoms of expression and of the press are vital for democratic life but unlimited freedom might lead to anarchy and lawlessness.

Waisbord maintains that professions are independent moral voices which provide a logic characterised by evidence and truth that neither markets nor bureaucracies want to acknowledge (p. 125). Journalism, however, lacks both state-sanctioned credentials and esoteric knowledge to separate them from the lay public (pp. 85, 144). He correctly notes that objectivity has been the ‘God-term’ of professional journalism in the United States and the subject of extensive analysis and debate (pp. 76, 123). Objectivity is associated with different notions: (1) accuracy; (2) truthfulness; (3) fairness and balance, and (4) moral neutrality. Elsewhere I asserted (Cohen-Almagor 2008) that in many cases journalists are not objective in their reporting either because they consciously prefer not to be or because they are being manipulated by their sources. Furthermore, the values of not harming others and respecting others should play a prominent part in the considerations of journalists. These are basic ethical standards that require normative reporting. Consequently, morally neutral coverage of hate speech and racism is a bad idea. Subjectivity is preferable to objectivity when the media cover illiberal and anti-democratic phenomena.

Waisbord concludes by explaining why journalism should be a fully recognised profession. If it is not able to control professional boundaries, journalism is vulnerable to powerful external interests and it cannot be the kind of public-minded institution that makes significant contributions to democratic life (p. 226). Journalists will not be able to maintain and promote their autonomy and withstand political and economic pressures as long as they are perceived as mere hacks.

The book has an extensive bibliography and a concise index. It is full of incisive insights and sharp observations. To date, it offers the most learned analysis of the ‘journalism as a profession’ issue. It is simply a must for media ethicists. I certainly intend to use it in my own classes.

Cohen-Almagor, R. (2008). "The Limits of Objective Reporting", Journal of Language and Politics, Vol. 7, No. 1: 138-157.

Hughes, John (2002). “Restoring my faith in American journalism”, Christian Science Monitor (March 20): 1-2.

I thank Polity for a copy of this book.

New Books

Jenny Edkins and Maja Zehfuss (eds.), Global Politics (London: Routledge, 2014).

The idea behind this large volume is an interesting one. The editors posed some general and more specific questions and then asked colleagues to answer them laconically and lucidly. The result is certainly fresh and novel. This is not the common way to teach an introductory course on global politics. This is the major plus. However, because this big volume of 681 pages poses a certain set of questions, teachers of global politics need to adopt this book and teach the course in accordance with its chapters and questions. Either you adopt this book because you are persuaded the data and the way the questions are presented and answered are compelling, or you refrain from adopting the book. There is hardly a middle ground.

The treatment of issues is not deep. The discussions give students just a flavor of the complexities involved. Sometimes, the treatment of the questions may provoke students to delve into the issues further. Sometimes, the treatment of issues is not compelling enough.

Among the questions:
Thinking about torture
Can we save the planet?
Who do we think we are?
How does religion affect politics?
Why do we obey?
What difference does the Internet make?
Does the nation-state work?
Is democracy a good idea?
How does colonialism work?
Why are some people better off than others?
How can we end poverty?
What counts as violence?
Who has rights?

I did not find logical coherence in this book. Unclear why these topics were chosen, and what is the logic of the chapter order. Readers move in a somewhat chaotic way from one topic to another. The book is so rich that it is possible to construct an agenda and a course plan of the wide selection of 28 chapters. There is certainly a lot to choose from. The result of adopting this book will be anything but conventional.
I thank Routledge for a copy of this book.

Monthly Poems

A Calendar of Sonnets: January

O Winter! frozen pulse and heart of fire,
What loss is theirs who from thy kingdom turn
Dismayed, and think thy snow a sculptured urn
Of death! Far sooner in midsummer tire
The streams than under ice. June could not hire
Her roses to forego the strength they learn
In sleeping on thy breast. No fires can burn
The bridges thou dost lay where men desire
In vain to build.
O Heart, when Love's sun goes
To northward, and the sounds of singing cease,
Keep warm by inner fires, and rest in peace.
Sleep on content, as sleeps the patient rose.
Walk boldly on the white untrodden snows,
The winter is the winter's own release.

Helen Hunt Jackson

Like a fly

For Roei

I saw a guy
Who wanted to fly
I asked him “Why?”
He was kind of shy
Until he said “Oh my!”,
“I might fall down and cry, iiei
If I attempt to fly”.

He thanked me with a sigh
Then smiled
And disappeared like a fly
Bye bye.

Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Gem of the Month – Nottingham

Each and every year, during Christmas time, my family and I visit one English city. This time it was Nottingham.

Nottingham has a lot to offer. The city is built on hundreds of caves and it is possible to visit some of them. You can visit the Galleries of Justice, Nottingham's old courthouse and gaol, the lovely market and castle, art galleries, nice parks including Wollaton Hall and Parks, and shop-until-you-drop in the elaborate shopping centres. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from, two universities, and a fair amount of culture.

Nottingham is certainly worthy of a visit.

Light Side
Gotta Love the Irish – Part 5

Water to wine

An Irish priest is driving down to New York and gets stopped for speeding.
The state trooper smells alcohol on the priest's breath and then sees an empty wine bottle on the floor of the car.

He says, "Sir, have you been drinking?"

"Just water," says the priest.

The trooper says, "Then why do I smell wine?"

The priest looks at the bottle and says, "Good Lord! He's done it again!"

Peace and love.

Yours as ever,


My last communications are available on
Earlier posts at my home page:

People wishing to subscribe to this Monthly Newsletter are welcome to e-mail me at

Follow me on Twitter at @almagor35