Friday, September 26, 2014

Politics – September 2014 – Shana Tova

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

Machiavelli would have written another chapter of The Prince in honour of Qatar and the role it plays in world politics today. So devious, so treacherous, so fucked up.

~Raphael Cohen-Almagor

“If you've got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.”

~Theodore Roosevelt

This has been a busy month. First I attended the American Political Science Association (APSA) conference in Washington DC, where I presented a paper on consequentialism and its critique. The paper analyzes JS Mill's limitations on freedom of expression, and then criticizes Thomas Scanlon's interests categorization, and Ed Baker's sweeping Autonomy Argument in protecting freedom of expression.

This is the first of two new papers on the problem that hate speech poses for liberal democracies, comparing and contrasting the very liberal American stance to the European stance.

While in Washington, I conducted a few interviews for my new book on the failed peace process in the Middle East. I prefer to keep the fascinating insights to myself at present, not to spoil the book.

I had good meetings with the editors and publishers of my forthcoming book on social responsibility on the Internet, scheduled for April 2015. I hope my book will make a difference and influence public debate on how to counter anti-social, dangerous speech on the Internet. I will provide updates about this book along the way, promoting its ideas. I have been working on this book since 2006 and very much look forward to the birth of this research after nine looonggg years...

After Washington I flew to Iceland and then to Antwerp to participate in a peace conference. I was invited to contribute to a panel on quality of life, offering my critique of euthanasia in Belgium. Interesting, don't you think? Inviting an Israeli to a peace conference in Belgium to criticize its euthanasia policy. I would have preferred to speak about the two-state solution in this conference.

Finally, I travelled to the State of London to speak about the status of women in Jewish Law (Halacha) at the EAIS (European Assoc. of Israel Studies) Annual Conference. It is always good to meet friends and colleagues who care about Israel and its destiny.

  • Reflections on August Newsletter
  • Nagging Question
  • IMF calls for Gaza blockade to be eased
  • Talking to Hamas?
  • Scoop
  • Terrorists? There is no such thing
  • BDS and Delegitimization of Israel
  • The Israeli Democratic Party
  • On Apology
  • On Refugee Right of Return
  • US Aerospace Company Lockheed Martin Has Formed A Technology-focused Israeli Subsidiary
  • Senate Unanimously Passed Bipartisan Legislation Establishing Israel as a "major strategic partner" of the United States
  • 9 Things Successful People Won't Do
  • Invitation
  • Antwerp Peace Conference
  • Thank you
  • Edward Snowden
  • Iran
  • My New Article
  • New Books
  • Monthly Poem

         Gems of the Month

          Light Side

Reflections on August Newsletter

Professor Arie Reich, Bar-Ilan University, Israel, wrote:

Dear Rafi,
I don't have the time to write a long letter, but just wanted to point out that the number of Palestinian civil casualties you quote is clearly wrong and rely on official Hamas publications. It has already been established by independent observers, such as the BBC.

You should add it.
You may also want to take a look at this source: which also cites the New York Times. They too arrive at the same conclusion that Hamas is lying about these things, as they have been doing in every conflict. They figure by the time the truth comes out, the lie has traveled around the world several times, and the belated truth becomes irrelevant. We have also seen photos of dead children from the civil war in Syria posing in the Western media as casualties from Gaza, as well as Gazans playing dead for the camera and then standing up and walk away. What I can’t understand is why respectable news media insist on quoting Hamas reports on par with Israeli official reports, when they should know by now who sticks to the truth and who doesn’t.

If Israel shoots indiscriminately on civilians, how is it possible that only 235 are women, which means that over 700 of the remaining adult "civilians" are men? The Hamas directs its fighters to dress like civilians (perfidy!) and when they get killed in fighting count them as civilians.

On August 28, 2014, Haaretz published a first page article on this issue. The Meir Amit Center estimates that 46% of those killed were terrorist activists. 54% were civilians.

Hamas does not publish figures about its losses.

One of the human rights organizations in Gaza reported that 952 people were killed inside their bombed homes, including 307 children and 202 women. 76.8% of the 2,090 killed were civilians. The difference between 54% and 76.8% is, of course, significant.

According to Israeli human rights organization B’Tzelem, the IDF bombing killed 547 people, including 125 women under the age of 60, and 250 children. 72 houses were bombed without the usual prior warning, probably because residents included Hamas activists.

See Amira Hess, “War on Data”, Haaretz (August 28, 2014).

Professor Walter Reich of GW University, Washington DC, sent me a link to his article:

Nagging Question

On August 23, 2013, following the killing of a 4-year-old boy by Hamas rocket, Israel started evacuation of residents who have been living under hellish conditions of Hamas rocket terror.

What would Israel do when the rocket terror will cover the entire Israeli territory, from Gaza to the Golan?

IMF calls for Gaza blockade to be eased

'Sustainable recovery' will depend on robust international support and coordination, as well as an easing of Israeli blockade, said the IMF. Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip should be eased alongside increasing support from the international community for a sustainable recovery in the region, the IMF has said in a report. The IMF Report said that Israel’s last offensive harmed the Gaza’s economy to a great extent and its future was dependent on a permanent cease-fire agreement between the two sides. It stated: “If the current ceasefire holds, a small but immediate economic recovery is likely, based on a quick revival of retail trade, the service sector, and small scale industry surrounding reconstruction activities. A sustainable recovery will depend on robust international support and coordination, as well as an easing of the blockade.” 

The economy would deteriorate in the case of a breakdown of the cease-fire, it warned, stressing a sustainable recovery could be achieved only through a synergy of financial support from international institutes and an easing of Israel's blockade. Gaza's economy has contracted 20 percent so far this year while unemployment has risen to 45 percent, the IMF said. Claiming the cost of rebuilding Gaza goes well beyond the Palestinian Authority’s resources and international support would be critical for the recovery, the report stated, the administration of the city needed to maintain fiscal discipline and, together with its International partners, urgently develop a robust fiscal mechanism to harness effectively donor aid to Gaza.

Talking to Hamas?

In London I met former Head of the Mossad, Efraim Halevy. Mr Halevy thinks that Israel needs to speak with Hamas, identify the more moderate elements within Hamas and strive to strike a peace deal with Hamas.

Halevy voiced skepticism whether there is such thing as Palestinian people, saying that the world has invested billions in the Palestinian Authority but the PA failed to establish nation building institutions. The world should stop sponsoring the PA and let it stand on its own legs, develop and establish an independent identity. 

Halevy also said that Israel receives annual support of two billion dollars from the USA and that Israel has the ability to independently develop its economy without American support. This support should be stopped.

With respect, I beg to differ. To those who think that Israel should negotiate with Hamas I say that it is as useful as negotiating with ISIS. Both are brutal, terrorist organizations who yearn for peace to the same extent that I yearn to swim with sharks.

There is little sense to talk for the mere sense of talking. Both parties should have some common ground for discussion. Without such common ground, talking is meaningless.

Hamas has shown time and again its resolute yearning to kill as many Israelis as possible, expressing time and again its desire to wipe Israel off the map and establish a Palestinian state on the ruins of Israel. Those who are willing to accept Hudna may gain some short term quiet but, at the same time, should be aware that Hamas will use this precious time to bolster its destructive ends by acquiring further means for the destruction of Israel.

Hamas needs to be cornered, made isolated and overcome with the help of its enemies. Hamas has many enemies and very few friends. With collective efforts and thinking, isolating Hamas can be achieved.

I was surprised that Halevy chose to raise the question whether the Palestinians are people. I fail to understand why this question is important at this juncture. It might be an interesting question for ethnographers but not for practical purposes of negotiations. Israel cannot decide whether Palestinians are “a people”, a nation. It is a matter for the Palestinians. Halevy’s line of argumentation reminded me of different voices, in different times, that argued that the Jews are not a people.

I also think that we should not sit idly by, watching the downfall of the PA. It is our vested interest to help the Palestinians develop a viable economy. The Palestinians should fight against corruption and make sure that the money reaches those who need it. But we should not make them independent by stopping all aid. This would be a gross mistake.


A Palestinian participant in Camp David said in answer to my question whether Yessir Arafat wanted peace: I do not know.

Terrorists? There is no such thing

The BBC, loyal to its policy that terrorism does not exist on this planet, continues to refer to ISIS as "a militant group" and to ISIS terrorists as "militant people". When the militants are involved in unpleasant activities such as beheading, the BBC refers to them as "killers".

In the past I had lovely debates on this neutral approach with BBC senior officials, including David Jordan. I voiced my concerns that this “sitting-on-the-fence” serves terrorists and legitimizes their actions. The BBC remains unmoved. For the time being.

BDS and Delegitimization of Israel

Since the war on Gaza, the BDS movement has garnered huge momentum. In less than two months that movement has achieved more success than in the previous five years. The writing on the wall is loud and clear. Israel cannot behave as an island on itself. Its decision-making processes should include taking into account the consequences of its actions and the implications on the international and diplomatic arenas, and on world Jewry.

The past few weeks have been the most difficult weeks in my life as an Israeli abroad. The English excel in the art of the implicit. In England, one has to read constantly between the lines. What is hinted between the lines is no less important than the lines themselves. Regarding Israel, more and more people are now explicitly condemning its actions.

In Washington and in Antwerp I met senior Israeli diplomats and shared with them my thoughts about the present atmosphere and what can be done to improve the situation. The diplomatic battle is not easy. Tough questions are being asked, and there are no easy answers.

In Antwerp I met with leaders of the Jewish community, among them with Baron Professor Julien Klener, President of the Central Jewish Consistory of Belgium who told me about the hostile media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the repeated condemnations of Israel. He mentioned one particular interview in which a TV show hostess attacked the Israeli ambassador. Later during my visit I met the hostess. It was not an easy conversation but it was very candid. I argued that Hamas is a vile terrorist organization that in its conduct and destructive ends is not much different than the IS. Both justify all means to reach their respective destructive ends. Both celebrate the murder of innocent civilians. Both adopted violent ideologies against the West. Both use Islam to spread terror. Both are foreign to the values and principles we hold dear: liberty, tolerance, pluralism, diversity, individuality, respect for others, not harming others, democracy, peace, compromise. Both are incredibly tough cookies to deal with, leaving no room for maneuver or for establishing a common ground for conversation, aiming to reach some sort of compromise. The TV personality listened but I do not think she was convinced that the equation that I drew between the IS and Hamas had convinced her. She fails to understand the terror that Hamas has imposed on Israel, counting bodies instead. In the count of bodies and the politics of numbers, Israel has failed miserably.

Later I met the Israeli ambassador to Belgium and heard his side of the story. He and other Israeli diplomats are fighting uphill. Violence is not a solution. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict needs to be untangled with real effort to address all the complicated questions, attempting to reach a viable compromise that will do justice to both sides.

The Israeli Democratic Party

In my dreams, a new party will be established. Its principles will be:

Israel is the Home of the Jewish People.

Adhering fully to Israel’s Declaration of Independence: promoting the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; basing its life on the precepts of liberty, justice and peace taught by the Hebrew Prophets; upholding the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed or sex; guaranteeing full freedom of conscience, worship, education and culture; safeguarding the sanctity and inviolability of the shrines and Holy Places of all religions; dedicating itself to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

Our motto is: Live and Let Live.

Peace is the key to Israel’s security.

The two-state solution is the only solution: Israel and Palestine, living next to each other, in peace and mutual cooperation.

Separation between State and religion in practical, everyday life.

Israel should aspire to integrate into its region diplomatically and economically.

The colours of this party will be the colours of democracy: blue, red and white.

Now we need some rich people to provide the funding and make this happen.

On Apology

I was reading Sari Nusseibeh, Once Upon a Country (London: Halban, 2007). This is an engaging autobiography, written in a lively prose and provides much food for thought. I would like to share with you two stories. Both have to do with the value and importance of apology in the Palestinian culture. Nusseibeh likes to call himself Sari. This is how I will refer to him.

Sari was involved in a road accident. An older woman suddenly jumped in front of Sari’s car. He hit her. Sari went out of his car and was relieved to see the woman stand on her feet. Sari asked her how badly she was hurt, and whether she needed to be taken to the hospital. The woman replied “I am fine”. She hurried to catch a bus. Sari gave her his card before she disappeared. He did not hear from her and soon forgot the incident.

Until three months later.

Then Sari’s father called him and inquired what had happened. Sari had no idea what his father was talking about. His father clarified that the issue was that old woman. Sari explained, his father listened and finally said “This time you’ve really blown it” (p. 165).

Sari’s father explained to his speechless son that he failed to do the main thing: “By not apologizing you impugned the honor of their family and ours” (p. 165).

Sari then explained the meaning and significance of sulha: In Palestinian tradition, the individual is not really an individual. If you steal something, or only accused of doing so, you and your entire tribe become culpable. They are responsible for you. The wrongful family or tribe has the right of revenge against any member of your tribe or family. What prevents revenge and bloodshed is a form of conflict resolution. The two sides set up a sulha. Within a three-day period, intermediaries will go to the family of the injured party to set up a meeting. If someone gets run over and killed, the driver, guilty or not, must go with his family to the victim’s family to apologize and to offer compensation. The victim’s father may ask for astronomic compensation ($50 million). Once the driver’s family accepts the terms, the victim’s family starts dropping the price. “For the sake of Allah, I’m prepared to give up on ten million”. “For the sake of Mohammed, another ten”, and so on until a reasonable price or no price is agreed. Sulha is less about money than about honor.

Sari took a big convoy of one hundred family members to the old woman’s village. The entire village showed up for the ceremony.

Sari gave his apology and offered compensation. The woman’s family accepted the show of respect and waved off the compensation. “We had done our duty, and they showed us respect by refusing to take anything” (p. 167).

On Refugee Right of Return

The second story is very much related.

I am in complete agreement with Sari who writes that it does not matter whether Israel premeditated to cause the Palestinian refugee problem. The tragedy did occur, even as an indirect consequence of Israel’s actions. Israel has to come and offer an apology. Only this way, the Palestinians feel that their dignity has been recognized, and be able to forgive. But by denying responsibility, Israel will guarantee eternal antagonism, a never-ending search for revenge (p. 167). Later Sari tells the story of his estrangement from Abu Mazen. It had to do with the right of return.

There was a PA leadership meeting revolving, inter alia, around the refugee right of return. Abu Mazen objected to Sari giving up on this right. This issue should be left for the final status negotiations. He explained “You just don’t declare your fallback position free of charge” (p. 465). For Abu Mazen, giving up on the right of return was a question of tactics.

Sari thought that the Palestinian refugees in the camps had the right to know what “our position was, and that our national interest required that they accept less than full historical justice. The Israeli people also needed to know that we were not planning to swamp their country with refugees” (p. 466). Sari did not think that the PA should insist on this issue as it undermines trust between the two sides. After all, Israel will never agree to the right of return, so why pretend?
Sari asked: What is it you want, a state or the right of return?
Abu Mazen then resorted to his seniority: “You must stop making those declarations. That’s an order”.
Sari: “I don’t take orders from you”. I take them from Arafat, he said.
Arafat then said: “Sari, we have to have sympathy for the feelings of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and Chile”. That was all he said.

Abu Mazen became estranged from Sari.

US Aerospace Company Lockheed Martin Has Formed A Technology-focused Israeli Subsidiary

US aerospace company Lockheed Martin has formed a technology-focused Israeli subsidiary, Lockheed Martin Israel, that will focus on cybersecurity, enterprise information technology, data centers, mobile, analytics and cloud

Earlier this year (Jan. 27, 2014), Lockheed Martin and EMC Corporation signed an agreement to jointly invest in advanced technology projects. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blessed the new plan at an official launch ceremony at the CyberTech 2014 International Exhibition and Conference in Tel Aviv.

Haden Land, vice president of research and technology for Lockheed Martin, said: “Lockheed Martin has been operating in Israel for the past 20 years... In April, we planted our flag by opening a tech center in Beersheba, and now we’re showing our commitment by incorporating Lockheed Martin Israel.” The defense contractor hopes to win deals with the IDF.

Senate Unanimously Passed Bipartisan Legislation Establishing Israel as a "major strategic partner" of the United States

On September 18, 2014, the Senate unanimously passed bipartisan legislation establishing Israel as a "major strategic partner" of the United States, establishing a basis for expanded cooperation across areas as diverse as security, energy, and trade. The bill had been authored by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) and had gained 81 co-sponsors before it went to the floor. The House had already passed parallel legislation in March, and the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC called on Congress "to move quickly to reconcile the two versions of the legislation and send it to the President for his signature." Broad aspects of the bill will see Israel's trade status upgraded and new mechanisms created to facilitate technological cooperation in corporate and academic contexts. The Times of Israel focused on aspects of the legislation that will - per the outlet's description - increase "the frequency and detail of US government reporting on Israel's qualitative military edge" and "expand the authority for forward-deployed US weapons stockpiles in Israel." The value of those stockpiles, which the Israelis have tapped into during their recent wars with Hamas, will now be increased by $200 million to a total of $1.8 billion. The Times of Israel also picked out provisions of the bill requiring the president to "study the feasibility of expanding US-Israel cooperation on cyber security."

9 Things Successful People Won't Do
I would like to share with you this article which provides much food for thought:

TalentSmart has tested more than a million people and found that the upper echelons of top performance are filled with people who are high in emotional intelligence (90% of top performers, to be exact). So, I went back to the data to uncover the kinds of things that emotionally intelligent people are careful to avoid in order to keep themselves calm, content, and in control. They consciously avoid these behaviors because they are tempting and easy to fall into if one isn’t careful.
While the list that follows isn’t exhaustive, it presents nine key things that you can avoid in order to increase your emotional intelligence and performance.
They Won’t Let Anyone Limit Their Joy
When your sense of pleasure and satisfaction are derived from comparing yourself to others, you are no longer the master of your own happiness. When emotionally intelligent people feel good about something that they’ve done, they won’t let anyone’s opinions or accomplishments take that away from them.
While it’s impossible to turn off your reactions to what others think of you, you don’t have to compare yourself to others, and you can always take people’s opinions with a grain of salt. That way, no matter what other people are thinking or doing, your self-worth comes from within. Regardless of what people think of you at any particular moment, one thing is certain—you’re never as good or bad as they say you are.
They Won’t Forget
Emotionally intelligent people are quick to forgive, but that doesn’t mean that they forget. Forgiveness requires letting go of what’s happened so that you can move on. It doesn’t mean you’ll give a wrongdoer another chance. Emotionally intelligent people are unwilling to be bogged down unnecessarily by others’ mistakes, so they let them go quickly and are assertive in protecting themselves from future harm.
They Won’t Die in the Fight
Emotionally intelligent people know how important it is to live to fight another day. In conflict, unchecked emotion makes you dig your heels in and fight the kind of battle that can leave you severely damaged. When you read and respond to your emotions, you’re able to choose your battles wisely and only stand your ground when the time is right.
They Won’t Prioritize Perfection
Emotionally intelligent people won’t set perfection as their target because they know it doesn’t exist. Human beings, by our very nature, are fallible. When perfection is your goal, you’re always left with a nagging sense of failure, and you end up spending your time lamenting what you failed to accomplish and what you should have done differently instead of enjoying what you were able to achieve.
They Won’t Live in the Past
Failure can erode your self-confidence and make it hard to believe you’ll achieve a better outcome in the future. Most of the time, failure results from taking risks and trying to achieve something that isn’t easy. Emotionally intelligent people know that success lies in their ability to rise in the face of failure, and they can’t do this when they’re living in the past. Anything worth achieving is going to require you to take some risks, and you can’t allow failure to stop you from believing in your ability to succeed. When you live in the past, that is exactly what happens, and your past becomes your present, preventing you from moving forward.
They Won’t Dwell on Problems
Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. When you fixate on the problems that you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress, which hinders performance. When you focus on actions to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and improves performance. Emotionally intelligent people won’t dwell on problems because they know they’re most effective when they focus on solutions.
They Won’t Hang Around Negative People
Complainers are bad news because they wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions. They want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves. People often feel pressure to listen to complainers because they don’t want to be seen as callous or rude, but there’s a fine line between lending a sympathetic ear and getting sucked into their negative emotional spiral. You can avoid getting drawn in only by setting limits and distancing yourself when necessary. Think of it this way: if a person were smoking, would you sit there all afternoon inhaling the second-hand smoke? You’d distance yourself, and you should do the same with complainers. A great way to set limits is to ask complainers how they intend to fix a problem. The complainer will then either quiet down or redirect the conversation in a productive direction.
They Won’t Hold Grudges
The negative emotions that come with holding onto a grudge are actually a stress response. Just thinking about the event involved sends your body into fight-or-flight mode. When a threat is imminent, this reaction is essential to your survival, but when a threat is ancient history, holding onto that stress wreaks havoc on your body and can have devastating health consequences over time. In fact, researchers at Emory University have shown that holding onto stress contributes to high blood pressure and heart disease. Holding onto a grudge means you’re holding onto stress, and emotionally intelligent people know to avoid this at all costs. Learning to let go of a grudge will not only make you feel better now but can also improve your health.
They Won’t Say Yes Unless They Really Want To
Research conducted at the University of California in San Francisco shows that the more difficulty that you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression. Saying no is indeed a major challenge for most people. “No” is a powerful word that you should not be afraid to wield. When it’s time to say no, emotionally intelligent people avoid phrases like “I don’t think I can” or “I’m not certain.” Saying no to a new commitment honors your existing commitments and gives you the opportunity to successfully fulfill them.

Travis Bradberry, Ph.D.
Dr. Travis Bradberry is the award-winning co-author of the #1 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the cofounder of TalentSmart, the world's leading provider of emotional intelligence testsemotional intelligence training, and emotional intelligence certification, serving more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies. His bestselling books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries. Dr. Bradberry has written for, or been covered by, Newsweek, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Harvard Business Review.


I invite you to my next talk at the London Barbican “Battle of Ideas”.

All welcome.

Antwerp Peace Conference

The conference was organized by the Community of Saint Egidio, a Christian organization that is dedicated to help the poor and to promote peace in different parts of the world. It emphasizes and promotes brotherhood of all human beings. 

I learned from a Muslim representative of the Philippines that the government there is about to grant autonomy to Munderau, a region of the country where 90 percent of the population are Muslims. The Community of St Egidio was instrumental in the negotiations between the Muslim community and the Philippine government.

Tolerance, reconciliation, compromise, peace were reiterated themes in the conference. But what do you do when your counterpart does not believe in these values? What do you do when your counterpart believes in violence, terrorism, war as means to achieve goals of dominance and the destruction of other?

I was deeply touched by the words of Vian Dakheel of the Yazidi community who said she wanted to speak to us as a human being, not as a politician. Her clear words move many to tears. She spoke of kidnapped people whose families call her for help to release them. She spoke of children who lost their families, of women who were raped and sold, whose houses were destroyed. 5000 women were taken from their community. They are sold according to their age, beauty, their virginity. Dakheel said: Our honour has been lost. Children were taken from their mothers. Hungry children eat grass to survive. People are left with no water. Dakheel asked people to speak up, to tell the world about the tragedy, to try to move decision makers to action to save the Yazidi community. The Yazidi want to go home and have protection from their neighbours. There is a genocide going on, that needs to be stopped. Humanity can lend a hand and help in this fight.

I asked the panelists what do they want as there were contradictory opinions about foreign intervention in Iraq. I asked rhetorically: If it was possible to turn back the wheel, would you rather have Saddam Hussein still in power? This question is important because many Iraqis resent the American occupation and intervention. What role do you wish to see the US play?

Dakheel said: The Yazidi ask for a pact to fight against the IS (known also as ISIS). The Yazidi need urgent humanitarian aid to help the refugees. Dakheel pleaded for help: We need a budget. We need money, medicine, food, water. We need international air protection to protect the Yazidi and Christians. We do not regret the ousting of Saddam, who was a dictator. There is a need for American intervention.

Vian Dakheel spoke twice in the conference. She received the loudest applause from the wide audience. Her clear words came from the heart and penetrated many hearts.

While Dakheel was calling for urgent American intervention, others opposed such action. Abdullateef Mohamed is the president of the ulema association, association of Muslim intellectuals in Iraq and in the world at large. He said half of Iraq is of cemeteries. Another half is a prison. The question is not the future of Iraq, but the future of the Middle East. Ten years after USA intervention, there is no democracy and no liberty in Iraq. Mohamed said: We want a civic state built on equality. The founders of IS are not citizens of Iraq. They came from outside. There are clear connections between terrorist organizations worldwide. Terrorism is a monster that eats up everything and finally will eat itself. This evil needs to be addressed by the international community at large. Mohamed maintained: Islam equals wisdom, it is about love. Islam said that if a person kills one person it is as if he killed the entire world, and if he saved one person, it is as if he saved the entire world. The end of the Muslim state is to give all citizens, including minorities, the same rights. 

Mohammed suggested a reconciliation conference with no exclusions, amending the constitution to represent all denominations and religions.  He said that things need to be done internally: the Sunni community needs to be in charge of its own future. Neighbouring countries should contribute. But we need Iraq to take control.

Mohammed advised the USA to stop interfering militarily or at least lower its intervention to a minimum (Dakheel was furious). Do not send troops. This is not a matter for USA or UN to resolve. Iraq needs a state, a successful not a failed state. Iraq should be a civilian state based on citizenship, on fairness, not on force or unbalanced citizenship. The IS is not the only problem. There are many military groups. There should be one central power in Baghdad. 

Kamal Muslim, Minister of Endowments and Religious Affair of Kurdistan, Iraq said that in Kurdistan there are many religions that live in peace. There are no religious wars between different communities. Kurdistan needs help of the international community to protect against ISIS attacks. There is serious refugee problem that needs to be resolved.

Answering my question, Muslim said Saddam was a dictator. No words to describe the crimes he committed. ISIS has nothing to do with Islam or religion. We need more external assistance. We need to deal with the finance of ISIS and protection is necessary.

Joseph Yacoub of the Catholic University of Lyon said that Iraq is a land of long history and tradition. Reconciliation and unity are the keys for the future of Iraq. He spoke of the need a strong political power, strong center, and regional decentralization. 

Addressing my question, Yacoub said that the American intervention did not take into account the mentality of the Iraqis and its diverse regions. It was destructive. There should be a central power in Baghdad, with monopoly on weapons, democracy, decentralized regimes with autonomy to the communities, maintaining a delicate balance between center and regions.

The panelists drew different equations of balance between security and survival on the one hand, and maintaining sovereignty on the other. What is clear that sovereignty is very important to them. Minorities under real risk of survival wish to see military intervention of any shape or form to save them. Those in power do not wish to see violations of sovereignty. They oppose troops on the ground. They welcome aid of all sorts, economic, financial, military, medical, but not foreigners on their soil.

Interestingly, the panel did not include any representative of the Iraqi government.

Mohammad Sammak argued that people in Gaza were killed because they were Palestinians. This is incorrect. People in Gaza were killed because its leaders, Hamas, opted for terrorism as means to achieve its desired end, the destruction of Israel. Israel, like all nations, has the right to self-defense.

I asked Sammak whether it is possible to engage with the IS. I believe that the key to discussions with religious people and movements and people is to speak to them via religious leaders. Sammak said that it is impossible to speak to the IS. IS has no imams. IS tries to hijack Islam and utilize it. Such terror is not a Muslim phenomenon. Today there are 1.6 billion Moslems in the world and the IS does not represent them. The real victim is Islam itself as a religion. The image of Islam has been so distorted by IS. It is in the interest of all humanity to work together to finish this unnatural terrorism in the name of religion. IS consists of criminals who betray the values of Islam. 

Nedim Gursel said that there is a link between Islam and terror. Turkey has not called IS terrorists until only a few weeks ago. We know that Qatar finances IS. 

The peace conference also included panels on the value and quality of life. I was happy to meet Abraham Steinberg who discussed the value of life. He presented the orthodox Jewish thought that permits withholding treatment from patients but not withdrawing treatment.

I was also happy to meet Willem Lemmens who spoke of the concept of dignity. Since the Enlightenment the idea of human dignity has been more and more disassociated from its religious context and meaning. In contemporary culture human dignity is considered to reside in the capacity of human beings for self-determination and autonomy. According to this view the idea of an inalienable, sacred status of human existence – already to be acknowledged in a vulnerable foetus up to (the body of) a deceased person – becomes more and more enigmatic. Dignity is less and less seen as a sort of sacred aura, more and more as a capacity that can wax and wane. In a way, this conception of human dignity emerged in response to a growing sensitivity for the conditions that in the messiness of everyday life often obfuscate the flourishing of human dignity.

The closing ceremony was attended by the queen of Belgium in a festive atmosphere at the city main square. 

Thank you

I enjoyed the Antwerp peace conference. It was good to be among so many people who wish to do good and improve the well-being of the less-fortunate people on this planet. I am grateful to Jan De Volder, Gabriele Ricci and Wim Lemmens for their kind hospitality.

Edward Snowden

At APSA, I attended a Plenary: NSA: Surveillance and Its Consequences Roundtable. 

Over the past year, Edward Snowden's revelations about operational details of NSA surveillance of American citizens and foreign nationals have reverberated around the world. In this roundtable, voices in national security, the mass media, and the law engaged key issues from a range of perspectives, including tradeoffs among privacy, security, and secrecy: Director of the National Counterterrorism Center and former NSA chief legal officer Matthew Olsen, Executive Editor of The Washington Post Martin Baron, Director of Georgetown Law Center on National Security and the Law and author of The Cost of Counterterrorism Laura Donohue, and Director of the Triangle Institute for Security Studies and former Special Advisor for Strategic Planning and Institutional Reform at the National Security Council Peter Feaver.

Martin Baron said that Edward Snowden provided information to the Washington Post and the Guardian, valuable information that the public has the right to know, information that have policy implications.

Baron reiterated that the public has the right to know what the government is doing, why it is doing what it does, to what extent the government interferes with private matters, what are the results of this intervention, what are the costs and what are the benefits in terms of successful counter terrorism.

The Post did not say Snowden is a hero.

Baron argued that the level of surveillance yields constitutional problems. The level of surveillance undermines civilian rights and liberties.

Baron made the point that Snowden could have turned the information to wiki leaks but he did not do this. He wanted responsible editors to exercise judgment and decide which information to publish. The Post had extensive discussions with the American government which information to publish and which information to withhold. Indeed, some sensitive information was withheld. The Post did not abide by all government wishes but it did not publish everything.


At the EAIS I asked Professor Clive Jones: Do you think Iran will attack Israel?
Jones responded that Iran is a rational actor; it does not wish to aggrevate the situation vis-à-vis Israel, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and others. The nuclear project started under the shah. It is not an Islamist project but an Iranian project. 
The worry is that Iran will develop nuclear capacity not so much to use it but to create a protective umbrella for its terrorist proxies, enabling them to engage in international terrorist activities against Israel.

My New Article

“Reconciling Liberalism and Judaism? Human Rights in Israel”, in Jo Carby-Hall (ed.), Essays on Human Rights: A Celebration of the Life of Dr Janusz Kochanowski (Warsaw: Jus et Lex Foundation, 2014), pp. 136-163.

Israel was established three years after the end of World War II. Immediately following the departure of the British High Commissioner, Sir Alan Cunningham, on 14 May 1948,  David Ben-Gurion declared the State of Israel.[1] The next day five Arab armies invaded Israel, aiming to destroy the newly established state and put an end to the Zionist dream in its early inception. Given the Holocaust, this war brought about the full realisation that Israel should develop the necessary mechanisms to defend itself. It also set the priorities: security is first on the agenda.

Israel is a small country. Its size is roughly 21,200 square kilometers, more or less the size of the State of Massachusetts (21,456 sq km) which is ranked 45th among the 50 states of the United States. The above-mentioned size does not include the West Bank (5,607 sq km),[2] which is not officially part of Israel. Israeli law does not apply in the West Bank, where the majority of the population consists of Palestinians, about 2.5 million, and 500,000 Jewish settlers.

Israel is a young democracy under constant stress. It is situated within a hostile environment. Israel has four Arab neighbour states: Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. With two of them, Egypt and Jordan, Israel has signed peace treaties. A state of war has existed between Israel, on the one side, and Syria and Lebanon, on the other. Israel is different from its neighbours in many crucial respects: religion, culture, language, and regime. For many years, its neighbours refused to accept it, perceiving Israel as a bone in their throats. As the Arab states are collectively many times stronger and larger than Israel in means, size and in population, every threat is taken most seriously. Israel’s history is thus the history of survival.

Since its establishment Israel has experienced seven wars (the 1948 Independence War; the 1956 Suez War; the 1967 Six Day War; the 1969-1970 War of Attrition; the 1973 Yom Kippur War; the 1982 Lebanon War, and the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War, known also as The Second Lebanon War), a Palestinian uprising (Intifada) that lasted six years (1987-1993), and constant terror attacks launched by various Palestinian factions. Terrorism is not a new phenomenon. Israel has been facing terrorism since its inception. In such a strenuous and abnormal reality, respect for human and civic rights is held secondary to security considerations.

Israel is a country of immigrants. It was built as a refugee country for all Jews who wish to connect their fate and future with Zion. Jews came from all corners of the world to build their home in Israel. Like other countries of immigration, Israel is striving to achieve a shared raison d'être acceptable to people who have different languages, different cultures, different norms. This is not an easy task.

The Law of Return, passed on 5 July 1950, gives the Zionist doctrine its most forceful legal expression. It gives automatic citizenship to all Jews who leave their previous homes and make aliya (immigrate) to Israel. Effectively, the Law of Return is a nationality law, granting only Jewish immigrants automatic nationality status in the state of Israel.[3] There are still schisms between different immigrant groups as well as between these groups and people who were born in Israel (Sabra). Generally speaking, three ethnic groups of people are identified in the Jewish population in Israel: Sephardim whose origins lie in Asia and Africa; Ashkenazim whose origins lie in Europe and America; and Sabras, native born Israelis. The large Sephardi sector holds justified grievances against the Ashkenazi elite, speaking of systematic discrimination and violation of basic civic rights during the formative years of the state, and arguing that some residue of this discriminatory attitude continued to linger for decades, some say until nowadays.[4] While, generally speaking, the integration of some 900,000 immigrants who arrived since the 1980s from the Soviet Union following the collpase of Communism under Mikhail Gorbachev has been a success story, the integration of the 120,000 Ethiopean Jews has proven more difficult.[5]

Israel was built as a Jewish democracy. The State’s Founding Fathers wanted Israel to be first and foremost a democracy. The Jewish population in Israel ascribes almost similar importance to the Jewish character of the State and to its democratic foundations. In the 2013 Israel Democracy Index, 28.2 percent of respondants said it is preferable in all cases to adhere to the precepts of Jewish religious law, Halacha, in the event of conflict between democracy and halacha.[6]  People were further asked which part of Israel’s definition as a Jewish democratic state is “more important to you personally?” 32.3 percent answered that the Jewish part is more important; 29.2 percent said that the democratic character is more important, while 37 percent thought that both are equally important.[7]  However, to reconcile liberal-democratic values with Jewish values is hard, if not impossible, to achieve. While liberalism is built on the motto of Live and Let Live, Judaism is built on belief in God whose dictates administer how we all should live. All Jews are in the same boat, and therefore the maxim of Live and Let Live is unattainable: The non-believer might rock the boat, capsizing us into the deep and turbulent waters. Against the liberal values of autonomy, personal development, individualism and self-government there is the deep Jewish belief in shared communality, in shared destiny.

In September 2013, the Israeli population was 8,081,000.[8] Some twenty per cent of the Jewish people in Israel are religious people, many of whom may prefer theocracy over democracy; some twenty per cent of the Israeli people are Palestinian-Arabs, who do not endorse the Zionist ethos of the State; and a further twenty per cent of Israelis had arrived from the Soviet Union, a country whose democratic underpinnings are questionable and contested by deep-seated autocratic regulations and procedures. Most of the Russian immigrants are secular, if not agnostic. A third of them are not Jewish.[9] This mixture sets the scene for the understanding of Israel and its complex state of human rights. The schisms between religious and secular, between Palestinians and Jews, and between Israel and its neighbours (including occupied Palestine) shape, to a large extent, Israeli identity and the preservation of human rights. 

This essay argues that mixing religion in politics is problematic. It becomes destructive when the religion is unyielding and coercive. Whenever religious powers are on the rise, the foundations of liberal democracy are shaken and its protective mechanisms are regressing. Indeed, in Israel egalitarianism is still in the making. Orthodox Judaism and liberal democracy are in conflict. The rise of one comes at the expense of the other in a situation where religion does not encompass the concept of freedom from religion.

This essay further argues that Palestinians and Israelis are entitled to the same rights and liberties. Accommodations and corrective mechanisms should be devised and implemented in every sphere where Palestinians are not accorded equal status. Israel should strive to safeguard equal rights and liberties for all citizens notwithstanding nationality, religion, race or colour.

Finally, this essay views the occupation with great concern. The occupation with its elaborate coercive mechanisms denies basic human rights from the Palestinians who reside in the West Bank. Israel should aspire to end the occupation, the sooner the better. It should strive to sign a peace treaty with the Palestinians on the basis of a two state solution, Israel and Palestine, living in tranquility and peace one alongside the other.

As always, I’d be happy to email the article to interested parties.

New Books

Nigel Bowles and Robert K. McMahon, Government and Politics of the United States (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2014), 3rd ed.

This is a very useful and informed book about US politics. It opens with a description of the American belief system and the underpinning values of the American society and with an analysis of the American Constitution, so crucial for understanding the American legal and political systems. The Constitution paved the way for the USA to become the great democracy it now is, with the value of Liberty at the heart. Then the authors analyse the political parties, the election system, the presidency, the Supreme Court, and the role that interest groups play on the Capitol and beyond. The last chapters of this well-written volume provide introductory insights into American bureaucracy, the federal system, and to internal and external policy-making that have guided administrations in developing the economic, foreign and defence policies.

At the end of the book there are some useful resources: Appendices that include the American Constitution and its Amendments, the Constitution’s allocation of Federal and State powers, further readings for those who wish to expand on the above topics, detailed Bibliography and Index.

This is a very worthwhile book for undergraduate students who wish to understand American government and its political system.

I thank Palgrave for a copy of this most useful book.

Employer and Worker Collection Action: A Comparative Study of Germany, South Africa, and the United States. Cambridge University Press, 2014
Book launch
Monday, October 27th, 2014, at 18h00
Festsaal, Diplomatische Akademie / Vienna School of International Studies
Favoritenstraße 15a, 1040 Vienna

ISBN-13: 9781107071759; Cambridge University Press; 360 pages

This book compares sources of worker and employer power in Germany, South Africa, and the United States, in order to identify the sources of comparative U.S. decline in union power and more fundamentally, to contribute to a theoretical understanding of labor movement power.

"What unions can do in theory, versus what they can achieve in practice, varies too widely to be accounted for by institutional variables alone. Andrew Lawrence's theoretically sophisticated and empirically rich study of unions and employers' organizations in the United States, Germany, and South Africa shows us how labor power is a relational rather than a structural property that allows the translation of resources from one domain to another. Ability and agency, rather than capacity or density, are the keys to understanding the diverse patterns of workers' collective action."
Mark Blyth, Brown University

"Employer and Worker Collective Action is a trailblazing analysis of how interrelationships among capital, labor, and the state have shaped the distinctive trajectories of the political economies of Germany, South Africa, and the United States. Further, Lawrence's claims regarding the forces, relationships, and politics of the capitalist mode(s) of production have relevance far beyond the three cases; they promise to influence future research agendas in sociology, political science, and political economy." 
Mark Kesselman, Columbia University

Andrew: Hearty congrats and Mazal Tov!!

Monthly Poem

Summer of Discontent
27 August 2014
Washington DC

This was the summer of discontent
This was the summer of tears and pain
This was the summer of raging violence
This was the cold summer of futile death.

In this horrible summer hatred celebrated
Brute summer of all losers and no winners
Where people left without hope and breath
When horizons were shuttered and burnt.

This was a long summer of heavy hearts
Flowers are crimson and red
Skies were yellow and low
This was a summer to remember for all the wrong reasons

Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Gem of the Month 1

My favourite city in the world is Washington DC. The moment I walk and pass the gates of the city, I feel at home. My heart rejoices. My mood becomes calm and relaxed. I loved Washington from the first moment I walked its streets, back in 1985. It was so good to return to this lovely, cultured, beautiful and powerful city, with so many cultural gems, charming spots and, most importantly, sharp and gentle people.

Labor Day concert at the Kennedy Center was wonderful. Popular music, festive atmosphere in one of the best halls in the world. 

Here is a photo from where I started my DC journey, near where I used to live back in 1985.

I am grateful to Marina and Bill Dackman, Hussein Ibish, Mike van Dusen, Joe Gildenhorn, Walter Reich, Marvin Kalb, Susan Benesch and Jorge Srabstein for their kind hospitality.

Gem of the Month 2

My travel agent suggested a cheaper flight to DC via Reykjavik. I followed his advice and spend some time in Iceland before my return home. I was impressed with the natural scenery of Iceland. It is a volcanic land, and the Icelanders learned to live in the shadow of active volcanos. My trip was almost postponed/cancelled as one had erupted just prior to my departure. A risk worth considering before booking flights to this beautiful landscape. Here are two photos:

Light Side

Efraim Kishon (Kishont Ferenc) was one of the most astute and funny observers of Israel society. He was Israel’s foremost humorist -- witty, sharp and most amusing. Here are some reflections about Israel:

Israel is the only country in the world where "small talk" consists of loud, angry debate over politics and religion. 

Israel is the only country in the world where bank robbers kiss the mezuzah as they leave with their loot. 

Israel is one of the few countries in the world that truly likes and admires the United States. 

Israel is the only country in the world where people call an attache case a "James Bond" and the "@" sign is called a "strudel". 

Israel is the only country in the world where the coffee is already so good that Starbucks went bankrupt trying to break into the local market. 

Israel is the only country in the world where people read English, write Hebrew, and joke in Yiddish

Peace and love. Happy New Year. Shana Tova U’Metuka to all, in good health filled with pleasant surprises.

Yours as ever,


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[1]      Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel,  

[2]           5,900 sq km with East Jerusalem. See American Heritage Dictionary: West Bank,
[3]           The Citizenship Law (1952) grants nationality status to non-Jews as well. (Hebrew).
[4]           Raphael Cohen-Almagor, “Cultural Pluralism and the Israeli Nation-Building Ideology”, International J. of Middle East Studies, Vol. 27 (1995): 461-484.

[5]      Shalle McDonald, “The saga of Ethiopian Jewish integration”, The Jerusalem Post (30 August 2010),

[6]           Tamar Hermann et al., The Israeli Democracy Index 2013 (Jerusalem: Israel Democracy Institute, 2013): 150.
[7]           Tamar Hermann et al., The Israeli Democracy Index 2013, p. 139.

[8]      Latest Population Statistics for Israel, Jewish Virtual Library (September 2013),

[9]           Tamar Horowitz, “The Absorption of Immigrants from the Former Soviet Union,” in R. Cohen-Almagor (ed.), Israeli Democracy at the Crossroads.