Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Politics – April 2014

This blog is dedicated in memory of Ron Pundak (1955 – 2014), a doer who strove to make this world a better place, a true humanitarian who sought peace and justice and worked tirelessly to bring positive change to Israel and Palestine.

May his soul rest in eternal peace.

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

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

Ending the occupation is an Israeli interest.

~Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Reflections on March Newsletter
Another Exchange with Abe Silverman – Not What You Expected
Ehud Olmert
Trust Building
Israeli-German Relationships
The Challenge of Water
Diversity Calendar
Lecture: The Right to Die with Dignity
My New Article
Ethics of Open Journals
Sheer Animal-Like Stupidity
Seder Pesach
Visiting LA
New Books
Movie -- Best of Men (2012)
Monthly Poems
Light Side

Reflections on March Newsletter

A few people commented on Cameron’s visit to Israel which was welcomed and warmly accepted in Israel and which was a major blow to the Palestinians.

Professor Jo Carby-Hall from Beverley/Hull commented:

Dear Rafi

Many thanks for your March 2014 Politics which I enjoyed reading. I was particularly interested in Cameron's visit to, and speech at, the Knesset.

I did not know that he had Jewish blood. Apart from that, I note that there is a lot of support on all (most) sides for a two state solution, yet the mountainous terrain still to be crossed prevents this from happening.

Warm Greetings


Michal/Michelle Stirling-Anosh wrote from Canada:

Rafi Shalom,

"Peace" means a hundred different things to every person. This is what was wrong with OSLO. People expected a miracle...they got only a process. They got frustrated and disgusted. I say back-off on the notion of comprehensive peace as a starting point.

First of all, the civil conflicts in regional peace partner countries put everything at risk. You cannot say with full authority that Israel has a peace agreement with Egypt and Jordan - when Egypt is fraught with civil conflict, the Muslim Brotherhood may be temporarily down...but not out (in my view)...and that nation itself is staggering under the burden of unemployment, tourists afraid to travel there (a large source of income for the country), and a lumbering bureaucracy that makes it virtually impossible for small business (the lifeblood of democracy) to spring up. Egypt and Israel have a peace treaty on paper - Egyptians may even be willing and keen to fullfill this (not sure that is accurate, but let's assume yes)..however I do not know if Egypt has the extra energy to really administer peaceful activity with Israel at the moment when things are so volatile internally and people are poor, hungry and unemployed.

Hernando de Soto's book "The Miracle of Capitalism.." gives an excellent overview on just how challenging it is in a 3rd world country like Egypt to start a business - some 52 gov't offices to go through and 10 yrs to get a business license... consequently DEAD CAPITAL means this nation cannot take off...next door Israel is a hotbed of R&D and entrepreneurial flair.

Jordan likewise - while the King and Queen appear to be onside and very interesting young leaders with a vision of a better world for all, they are sitting on a powderkeg of Syrian refugees...and Palestinian claimants/refugees. A refugee challenge on this scale would tax any modern, industrialized western country. More worrisome is that the civil violence in Syria could spill over - by accident or intention - to any regional country and that would necessarily also affect Israel.

Syria, of course, is a mess - a human tragedy. A significant risk - in times of war many strategies turn to engulfing others as a way of deflecting blame, or a way to get more financial/military support from an outside, distant power looking to effect change or gain power in the region. There are many potential players in that regard.

And of course the ever unstable Lebanon which tries to maintain and internal balance between its many sectors/factions of religious, political, and tribal groups...very easy for outside forces to trip that whenever they want, as we have seen over and over, by simply assassinating any charismatic leader... Hizbollah with its ties to Iran...and down south in Gaza Hamas with its ties to Iran...

HOWEVER - to my mind the more pragmatic approach is to agree to disagree on the big issues and instead take pro-active steps on the smaller issues. People need jobs - create opportunity. People need housing - develop co-operative methods where they can achieve this. People need food - develop cooperative local food trade options. These kinds of little steps do not need big agreements - but they will build more trust than anything else.

I myself do not see a 2 state solution...but rather a 3 state. http://voices.yahoo.com/gaza-tourist-haven-instead-terrorist-11972961.html

Small SMART goals will get everyone what they want and need more effectively that big goals of 'peace'....but in the end it will lead to peace.

From frosty Canada...

Michal/Michelle Stirling-Anosh

Another Exchange with Abe Silverman – Not What You Expected

Abe Silverman wrote from Canada:

April 10/14

Dear Raphi

You are right. I do feel passionately for the well being of the State of Israel and worry about it's future and have done so since 1948 when as a child of 6 years old and a Holocaust survivor living in DP camp in Vienna I understood that we Jews finally had a home. And over the years I have also learnt that for the first time in 2000 years we have a place to run to when things will again get dangerous for us in the Diaspora. (And they will) That option was not available to us in 1933.

As for a solution that would create 2 States one for the Jews and one for the Arabs as envisioned in the Partition Plan of 1947, well I just don't see that as a possibility for the foreseeable future.

The problem as I see it is that the Arabs are not yet prepared to accept us living on land that they see as Muslim land. That is why they refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish State. To do so would be to give up the dream of returning to their homes in Jaffa and Haifa and Lydda. To do so would mean that 3 generations of Arabs would have to stop hating and Arab leadership would have to stop encouraging that incitement to hate. It is difficult enough and somewhat tenuous to have peace agreement with 2 Arab States whose people hate us without having one more that is on our door step. And we can not be sure how secure these peace agreement are because we can not be sure how secure those who are responsible to uphold those agreements are.

As we learnt from the unilateral decision to pull out of Gaza, the lesser of the two evils is to have some control over those who wish to see us disappear. A Palestinian State would lesson our ability to protect ourselves.

I realize that Israeli leadership has made some serious mistakes and will continue making mistakes and most of those mistakes we can survive but we can not survive a mistake that jeopardizes Israel's security.

Having said all that, and I am sure that all these arguments are all to familiar to you let me try this on for size.

Israel becomes a Federal Constitutional Democracy. Judea and Samaria are annexed and declared as the Province of Palestine. The Capitol of the Province of Palestine will be in East Jerusalem. Federal law will be imposed. Elections will be held to elect a Provincial Government and the Political Party that wins will appoint their Premier. And like Canada protects Quebec's language and culture so to will Israel Protect the Province of Palestine. All those who wish to become citizens of Israel will have a path to citizenship. The Federal government will promote and finance development initiatives that will create opportunities for the residents of the Province and bring up the standard of living that will be equal to the standard of the rest of Israel as was done in East Germany after the wall came down. Millions will be spent on infrastructure. School curriculum's and religious institutions will have to adhere to Federal Law . Incitement and human rights abuses will not be tolerated. A Federal police force will be created to insure the protection of all under that Federal law.

I understand the difficulties Israelis would have trying to write a Constitution but eventually it will have to happen. Israelis will demand it. And I would add that a path to Independence for the Province Of Palestine should be part of the equation.

I may now be accused of being as big a dreamer as you are, but I think my dream has a greater chance to succeed then your dream. And if both of our dreams are not possible then we all have to pray that Israel remains strong. And we all have a responsibility to defend Israel in the world of public opinion and ensure that the message of Israeli accomplishments and it's contribution to the well being of the planet is clearly understood. And we need to demand that world leaders put principals ahead of politics just as our Canadian Prime Minister has done.

Chag Pesech Sameach to you and yours


Dear Abe

Thanks for this.

To clarify: Will all citizens of the newly-established federal state be allowed to vote? Will they have full citizenship rights?

If yes, then what you are proposing is a one-state solution. It is a well-known proposed solution, usually espoused and promoted by anti-Zionists, post-Zionists and Palestinians. I did not expect you to be in this group, for one reason or another… The majority of Israelis, more than 90 percent, object to this solution.

"Be strong" is a partial solution. Of course Israel must be strong but this won't suffice. First, the prospects of endless rounds of violence and bloodshed are not appealing. Quite the opposite. Second, you know the story of the class bully who enjoys tormenting others, until a new and even stronger bully takes over. Israel will not be able to sustain the occupation forever. The toll will become unbearable.

Chag sameach to you and yours


April 11/14

Dear Raphi

I am trying to be pragmatic. I don't see a 2 State solution happening without Israel making concessions that would leave it even more vulnerable to attacks and bloodshed. A peace treaty with the Palestinians at this time will not bring peace. It will only make it harder for Israel to defend itself as is the case in Gaza. I wish I could believe that it isn't so.

I agree that a single State is unpalatable to most Israeli's, but if asked the question "would you sacrifice security for a peace treaty" the answer would be overwhelmingly "no". Yes a path to citizenship and a path to Independence must be part of the equation. And I don't believe that the 1.5 million Israeli Arabs and the 2 million West Bank Arabs will overtake the Jewish majority of some 6 million in the foreseeable future. The only other option which I don't believe the Arabs would consider is for the West Bank Arabs to become citizens of Jordan and the rule of Gaza turned over to Egypt.

Ehud Olmert

Prime Minister Olmert lost office due to corruption allegations. Olmert was involved in no less of seven different corruption affairs. Three affairs concluded without trial. Olmert was exonerated in two other affairs and the State has appealed to the Supreme Court whose decisions are still pending. Olmert was convicted of breach of trust in the sixth affair, and on March 31, 2014, Olmert was convicted in the last and major affair called “Holyland”. This affair is the most complex, relating inter alia to building permits in Jerusalem. No less than 13 people are involved in this corruption. 9 million shekels passed hands.

Judge David Rosen of Tel Aviv District Court declared that Mr. Olmert had “told lies in court” and said that his version of events “has been rejected by me in every way.” In a long judgement, Judge Rosen decried “a corrupt political system that has decayed over the years” and said “hundreds of thousands of shekels were transferred to elected officials.”

When the Holyland case was first made public in 2010, a judge called it “one of the worst corruption affairs in Israeli history.” 10 of 13 former government officials and businesspeople charged in the case were convicted on various charges and Olmert was found guilty of two of the four counts against him.

Judge Rosen said that half a million shekels — about $143,000 today — was funnelled in a series of postdated checks from Shmuel Dechner, a financier hired to obtain city zoning to benefit Holyland, through Mr. Olmert’s brother, Yossi. Olmert was also convicted for receiving 60,000 Shekels from the State's star witness.

Built on a ridge with interlocking apartment buildings and one outsized tower that dominates the view for miles, Holyland is called by some Jerusalem residents “the monster.” Its developer, Hillel Charney, was among those convicted, along with Shula Zaken, Mr. Olmert’s chief of staff, whose last-minute deal with prosecutors to testify against her former boss was ignored by the judge.

This court judgment shows that there is only so much that money can buy. Olmert used every trick that is legally allowed, with the help of very capable lawyers who did their best for their celebrity client. But the evidence against Olmert was unequivocal and overwhelming.

Mr Olmert certainly has come a long way from a young MK during the 1980s who fought organized crime in Israel, together with another young MK Yossi Sarid, to being one of the most corrupt politicians in the history of modern Israel. Olmert discovered the good life and could not control is unhealthy appetite, wanting more and more money and power. This court judgment puts a stop to him, at least for the foreseeable future.


Trust Building

What is needed at this stage is a series of small trust-building steps that manifest the Israeli and Palestinian commitment to peace; that will show each other that peace is a strategic choice, not a mere tactic; that violence is an absolute no-no, and that the zeal for peace is unwavering.

Imagine an Israeli prime minister who steps forward and declares that for the next four weeks Israel will not initiate a single act of violence against any Palestinian.

Imagine a Palestinian prime minister who steps forward and declares that for the next four weeks he will make sure that no single act of violence will be inflicted against any Israeli.

Zero tolerance to violence.

Only in an atmosphere that it is free of violence is it possible to build peace. Each act of violence throws us back. If the Palestinians think that acts of terrorism will deter Israel from building settlements then they are wrong. Violence does a disservice to Palestinian interests.

The Palestinians, who wish sovereignty, must display their ability to control their territory. Otherwise, why should Israel trust them?

A prime minister cannot say “these are rogue flanks that do not accept authority”. If this is the case then a Palestinian state will remain a dream.

Israeli-German Relationships

Israel and Germany, under the leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel, have a special relationship. Last month, President Shimon Peres conferred the Presidential Medal of Distinction, Israel’s highest civilian award, on Ms. Merkel “for her unwavering commitment to Israel’s security and the fight against anti-Semitism and racism”.

Germany has close economic ties with Israel: Israel ranks 43rd among Germany’s most important export markets. In 2012 exports totaled 3.7 billion euros, which was 7 per cent up on the 2011 figure.

Germany and Israel intend to step up cooperation in a number of fields, including science and research, triangular development cooperation, the environment, renewable energy, and youth exchanges.

Every year over 30 million euros from Germany’s public purse is channelled into science and research, along with funding from foundations. German research organisations are stepping up their cooperation with Israeli universities. One example is the establishment of Max Planck Centres at the Weizmann Institute and the Hebrew University.

Germany is supporting the efforts of the US Secretary of State to bring peace to the Middle East. "We need a stable two-state solution as swiftly as possible, that will ensure a Jewish state of Israel and statehood for the Palestinians," said Angela Merkel. "That is why I am working just as hard to ensure that the Palestinians have a state with a future, and that is why, in the overall scheme of things, the aim is to achieve a two-state solution."

I thank Dr. Alan Roth for this information.

The Challenge of Water

There are recurrent scenes in the UK and other parts of the world where large parts of land are covered with water. Floods constitute one of the major challenges of the 21st Century. We need to learn with the experiences of each other in coping with water. The global community should have a special task force to map the globe, discern trends, and help in tackling this growing problem. The sooner the better.

Diversity Calendar

A few years ago, to my dismay a very important lecture was organized on Yom Kippur. I could not attend. I knew there was nothing malicious in the organizers’ minds. They were simply unaware of the significance of that particular day to people like me.

I decided to push for a change and increase awareness on campus to religious holidays and festivals. At the University of Hull, we have students from some 80 different nations. Pluralism, diversity and multiculturalism should be acknowledged.

Early this month, the university announced the introduction of a new Diversity Calendar. The online diversity calendar is an important resource as it provides helpful daily information on different cultural / religious festivals and holidays. This enhances our awareness and understanding of cultural / religious differences and traditions, and assists inclusiveness when organizing departmental events.

I am very pleased.

Lecture: The Right to Die with Dignity


My New Article

“Towards Responsible Journalism: Code of practice, journalist oath and conscience clause”, Ethical Space, Vol. 11, No. 1/2 (2014), pp. 37-43.

This paper draws on the codes of ethics of a wide range of countries to propose an ideal one for a newly constituted press regulatory body in the United Kingdom. It also suggests the adoption of a Journalist Oath and including a conscience clause in press journalists’ contract which would protect them from being coerced into doing clearly unethical work.

This is the second paper of a recent trilogy on media regulation in Britain. As always, I’d be happy to send the paper to interested parties.

Ethics of Open Journals

During the past ten years or so, thousands of new, open journals have been opened, and more open as I write these lines. Old and new companies found a new way to make money and with this they corrupt the academic profession. As I am not the typical academic who devotes all his life to the study of one topic, and my interests cross disciplines, I receive on a weekly basis numerous appeals to write articles for these new journals. These appeals are flattering in tone, and mischievous in intention.

First, they invite you to submit an article. I usually ignore these appeals and delete them straight away. But every once in a while, when a journal is directly on my topic, I may consider writing something.

The review process is swift, and then I receive the proofs of my article with a pay slip of hundreds of dollars to pay for open access.

This is a dishonest and corrupt business model which I find absolutely unacceptable. The potential conflict of interest is glaring. We should not pay to publish. The only consideration should be merit, not ability to pay for publications. If journals start demanding payment, the strongest and the fittest, those who are able to pay, will be able to publish. The rest will publish probably on the Internet.

The idea of open access is a noble one: enabling people from disadvantaged countries to access journals that otherwise will be blocked for them as they are unable to gain access to journals and good libraries. But the business model should leave the decision in the hands of the author. The review process should precede the issue of open access. After the review process is complete and the article is accepted for publication, only then the publisher may ask whether the author wishes to pay for open access. If yes, no problem. If the author does not have the ability to pay, as is the case for the vast majority of social scientists, then the article should be published in the normal procedure.

Recently, I had a case with a certain journal. I withdrew my article from publication and wrote the editor the following letter:

I withdrew the article because I found your business model unacceptable.

First, you approached me to ask whether I would be willing to contribute an article to your journal.

I asked whether I would need to pay and you said no.

Now you send me the proofs with a payment slip.

I have never paid to publish articles and have no intention to do so.

I do not like to be misled.

Please your explanation/apology.

Prof. R. Cohen-Almagor

Sheer Animal-Like Stupidity

I read yet another gem of a compassionate judge who told a rape victim: If you cannot change the situation you might as well relax and enjoy it.

I’d like to say to the honorable judge and his/her likes (some of the judges who utter this kind of utter nonsense are women): think of strong men who violently attack you, coerce you to the ground and then take turn in brutal penetration of your anus. If you cannot change the situation you might as well relax and enjoy it.

Seder Pesach

We had a lovely Seder with some friends and colleagues from the university. For three of them (two English, one Italian), this was the very first Seder in their lives. One, an American non-Jew is a respected historian and theologian who knows my history far better than me, told fascinating stories which we were happy to learn. Zehavit excelled herself even by her own standards. It was a feast. One guest, a distinguish law professor who was born in Palestine to a British police officer and who grew up in Egypt, said he will never forget this evening for the rest of his life, and that he was privileged to be in a Jewish Seder. The only Jewish guest, a psychology professor, rekindled old memories as it was his first Seder after twenty years of not being to one. There were beautiful sparks in his eyes as we told stories of his childhood Seders in Chassidic Montreal.

Visiting LA

On 7-12 May I am invited to deliver lectures at USC. I’d be happy to see colleagues and friends.

New Books

Joseph Turow, Media Today (5th ed.) (NY and London: Routledge, 2014).

This is a very useful easy-to-read textbook for undergraduate courses on mass media. It is beautifully presented, with all the attractive colours and bells to capture student attention; it is clear and lucid; it is well-organized in a very simply format: Part 1 on the nature and business of the media; Part 2 the various media industries.

The book is savvy about the influences of media organizations; up-to-date on political issues relating to the media; comprehensive in its analysis of the media industry and is very student friendly. It is full of stories, examples, photos, time-lines, simple tables, and boxes containing case studies.

To give first or second year undergraduate students preliminary data and initial ideas about the modern media industries, the way they work, their powers and their convergence, this is an excellent and most convenient resource. The students are likely to appreciate this well-invested resource.

I thank Routledge for a copy of this book.

Movie -- Best of Men (2012)

Towards the end of WWII Dr Ludwig Guttmann, a brisk refugee from Nazi Germany, arrives at Stoke Mandeville hospital and is appalled to find the partially paralysed spinal patients heavily sedated and left to rot with bed sores. He immediately begins a new regime, disposing of old equipment and sedatives, bringing him into conflict with stern Sister Edwards and pompous consultant Mr Cowan, as well as the patients. However the sister backs him when she realises he is treating her charges as people, not patients, talking to them and involving them in musical entertainments and sporting activity. Soon Whitehall sent him all their spinal patients and, with visits to the pub and wheelchair sports taught by an army sergeant, he becomes the men's hero. With the war over Ludwig organizes national wheelchair sports competitions which will in turn lead to the establishment of the Para-Olympic games. An end title informs that in 1966, now a British citizen, Dr Guttmann was deservedly knighted for his part in bringing hope to the hopeless.

This is a fine, interesting movie that tells a chapter in the history of medicine, and sport, and how they can combine in a healthy way for the benefit of humanity. It also tells the story of a doer, a man of knowledge and vision, who fought for his beliefs, and influenced the world for the better. Dr Guttmann sets a model to follow in medicine, and in life in general. Yet again, this personal triumph shows that dreamers can change the world. Never lose hope.

Monthly Poems

Watch Sally Barker sings Dear Darling. She touches my heart. She might touch yours.



These solitary hills have always been dear to me.
Seated here, this sweet hedge, which blocks the distant horizon opening inner silences and interminable distances.
I plunge in thought to where my heart, frightened, pulls back.
Like the wind which I hear tossing the trembling plants which surround me, a voice from the inner depths of spirit shakes the certitudes of thought.
Eternity breaks through time, past and present intermingle in her image.
In the inner shadows I lose myself,
drowning in the sea-depths of timeless love.

Giacomo Leopardi

The Infinite

It was always dear to me, this solitary hill,
and this hedgerow here, that closes out my view,
from so much of the ultimate horizon.
But sitting here, and watching here, in thought,
I create interminable spaces,
greater than human silences, and deepest
quiet, where the heart barely fails to terrify.
When I hear the wind, blowing among these leaves,
I go on to compare that infinite silence
with this voice, and I remember the eternal
and the dead seasons, and the living present,
and its sound, so that in this immensity
my thoughts are drowned, and shipwreck seems sweet
to me in this sea.

Giacomo Leopardi

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..."

Peace and love.

Yours as ever,


My last communications are available on http://almagor.blogspot.com/
Earlier posts at my home page: http://hcc.haifa.ac.il/~rca/

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