Thursday, December 25, 2014

Politics – December 2014 – Merry Christmas – Happy New Year!

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

Whenever man tries to become God, it is a tragedy.

~Raphael Cohen-Almagor

One of the best concerts I have ever seen was that of Joe Cocker in Tel Aviv. Great singer. Great soul. His voice always touched me. May his soul rest in music. Forever.

John Robert "JoeCocker OBE (20 May 1944 – 22 December 2014) 

Roderick A. Macdonald (1948-2014)

Israeli Elections
The Religious Parties
Elections Slogans

Israeli Economy

Israel official: Settlement funding up before vote

Poll Shows Strong Palestinian Support for Attacks

Lord Trimble Talk

The Global Peace Operations Initiative

My New Newspaper Article - BBC World without Terror
New Books
British Citizenship
Extraordinary Story
Monthly Poems

Gem of the Month – Llandudno

Light Side

Merry Christmas

Roderick A. Macdonald (1948-2014)

I was saddened to receive news about the passing of Rod Macdonald, a wonderful man and scholar. I knew he was suffering from cancer for quite some time.

The first time I met Rod Macdonald was in Tel Aviv, at a conference organized by Irwin Cotler. At that time, Rod was the first President of the Law Commission of Canada. He was astute, knowledgeable and pleasant. A short time afterwards, I went to Canada to pursue research in media ethics and medical ethics. I went to see him at his office as I wanted to hear his views on the legal situation relating to freedom of expression and end-of-life issues in Canada. At the end of that meeting we decided to remain in touch. Rod expressed interest in my research and wanted to see the fruits of my thinking.

From 1998 Rod read and commented on many of my writings on Canada. He was a source of invaluable knowledge, with sharp insights and instructive comments. Rod was a person who read the big picture and, at the same time, had an eye for the small details; still, without losing sight of the truly important issues.

Rod was a scholar in the true sense of the word: curious, open-minded, with vast interests and horizons, with ability to communicate ideas clearly and lucidly. At the same time, he was a good listener. He was interested to learn from others and to broaden his understanding. As a true scholar, he wanted to share his knowledge, and was keen to help others.

Rod was a friend of Israel. He was keenly interested in Israeli society, politics and law. Israel featured in all our conversations. From time to time, he sent me reflections on my blog to which he subscribed for many years. He always asked poignant questions on recent developments, being aware of what was going on in Israeli politics and its relations with the Arab world. He knew many Israeli judges and scholars, read their scholarship and discerned similarities between the Israeli and the Canadian systems. He voiced his admiration for the thinking and writings of Aharon Barak.

For many years, Rod had supported my career. He did this with an open heart, and mind, with warmth and a friendly smile. He always welcomed me when I came to Ottawa and Montreal for my visits, sharing ideas, introducing me to people, speaking warmly about his family. Rod was a true mensch.

I wish to share with you Dean Daniel Jutras’ obituary:

Bidding farewell to Roderick A. Macdonald (1948-2014)

A teacher, first and foremost, Roderick A. Macdonald will be remembered as one of the most important scholars and thinkers in McGill University’s history. He was a mentor and inspiration to generations of students and law professors, and a transformative force at the Faculty of Law, the University, in Canadian society, and in the broader world.
Professor Macdonald came to McGill University in 1979. His term as Dean of the Faculty of Law, from 1984-1989, was a leap forward for McGill. His bold vision of legal education, his extraordinary energy as a scholar, his ability to redefine and re-imagine the boundaries of law, his deep commitment to justice, his unfailing integrity, and his unique dedication to his students and colleagues – all of these continue to this day to define the mission and aspirations of McGill’s Faculty of Law.
Born in Ontario in 1948, Rod Macdonald spent his formative years leading summer camps in Northern Ontario, and developing a taste for folk music and protest songs that never abandoned him. Rod Macdonald completed his legal education in Ontario, and took his first position as a legal academic at Windsor University’s Law Faculty, one of a group of scholars committed to access of justice and law reform initiatives. He came to Montreal a few years later, joining a Faculty that was already defined by mixity and métissage, in civil law and common law, in French and in English.
McGill’s path as a bijural, bilingual, cosmopolitan institution was in the works, and Macdonald gave it a rich and principled grounding in a pluralistic conception of law. Professor Macdonald’s steadfast commitment to bilingualism, legal pluralism, interdisciplinarity and dialogue formed the intellectual spine of, and was integral to, the genesis of McGill’s pioneering program. The program’s linguistic, trans-national, and dialogic nature is rooted directly in the values that Professor Macdonald espoused and encouraged at the Faculty. Roderick Macdonald’s inventiveness as a teacher, his use of music, visual arts, and theatrical performance in the classroom, gave his students the confidence to explore their own representations of law and their moral, ethical, political and social role as jurists. For Professor Macdonald, every moment was a teaching and learning moment; every professor was a learner as well as a teacher; every student was worthy of deep respect and consideration. He always knew how to appeal to each person’s better self.
As one of the most influential legal scholars of his generation, Professor Macdonald authored three books and was the editor of six edited collections. He published over one hundred major journal articles, as well as dozens of chapters in edited collections, Law Reform Commission reports, and commissioned research studies and reports, both nationally and internationally. His work on the civil law tradition, on legal theory and legal history, on administrative and constitutional law, on secured transactions, on the theory and practice of legal education, on legal pluralism and diversity, and on access to justice, literally redefined each of these fields. His capacity to bring unique and original insight to the broadest range of issues in public law and private law will remain unparalleled.
Professor Macdonald was also convinced of his duty to serve the community at large, and remained throughout his life an engaged academic and public actor. Soon after his term as Dean of the Faculty of Law, Roderick Macdonald chaired the Task Force on Access to Justice of the Quebec Ministry of Justice, producing a Report that formed the basis of revisions to the legal aid plan, the small claims court, class actions and civil procedure generally. Over the years, Professor Macdonald prepared studies and reports for several Royal Commissions, including the Royal Commission on Canada’s Economic Prospects and the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. He was frequently consulted by Law Reform Commissions in Canada and abroad. He prepared the major background study on alternatives to civil litigation for the Ontario Civil Justice Review. He worked as a leading consultant to the Federal Department of Justice in connection with the Project to Harmonize Federal Legislation with the Civil Code of Québec and produced three major studies for that project. He was the author of influential reports to the Canadian Department of Justice on Constitutional Implications of the Civil Code of Quebec (1996), to the Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs (2002), and to the Law Society of Upper Canada on Access to Justice (2003). More recently, Professor Macdonald produced a report for the Quebec Justice Minister on measures to prevent Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs), and provided support to the Bouchard-Taylor Commission. At the time of his death, Professor Macdonald was serving as one of the three commissioners on the Charbonneau Commission.
One of his most prominent contributions came from his tenure as the founding President of the Law Commission of Canada (1997-2000). During this period, Professor Macdonald essentially re-imagined what such an institution could do and how. Far from becoming a ‘service organization’ for lawyers and politicians, Macdonald’s Law Commission seized instead an opportunity to support and stimulate debate on the broadest questions of the role of law in society, on the one hand, and to engage the whole community from primary schools to civil society in such a project, on the other. This creative vision can be seen in the discussion papers and reports the Commission authored under his supervision, including Recognizing and Supporting Close Personal Relationships Between Adults and Restoring Dignity: Responding to Child Abuse in Canadian Institutions. The same unfailing sense of creative and compassionate imagination can be seen to animate every one of the Law Commission’s innovative projects during the term of his Presidency. In three years Macdonald turned a new institution – now disbanded by the federal government – into a celebrated new model for such institutions around the world.
Roderick Macdonald was universally regarded as one of Canada’s most distinguished intellectuals. In November 2008, Professor Macdonald was elected the 111th president of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) at its annual general meeting in Ottawa. He was and remains the only law professor ever to have been elected president of the RSC and served from November 2009 to November 2011. In November 2012, Governor General David Johnston announced that the new reading room in Walter House, the Royal Society of Canada's headquarters in Ottawa, would be named the Macdonald Room in Professor Macdonald's honour in recognition of his years of service.
Over the course of his career, Roderick Macdonald received many prestigious awards underlining his extraordinary contributions. He was appointed a Fellow of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation in 2004. In 2007, he received the Killam Prize for the Social Sciences awarded by the Canada Council, as well as the Sir William Dawson Medal for the Social Sciences of the Royal Society of Canada. In 2010, Professor Macdonald was honoured by the Canadian Bar Association with the Ramon Hnatyshyn Medal. His contributions were underlined again by the Canadian Bar Association (Quebec division) in 2012, which gave him the Médaille Paul-André Crépeau. Professor Macdonald received an honorary doctorate from Université de Montréal in 2010, and from Osgoode Hall Law School in 2011, as well as the Ordre du mérite from the Section de droit civil of the Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa, in 2007. In 2012, Roderick Macdonald was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, and a year later, he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
At McGill, Professor Macdonald was the recipient of the 2012 John W. Durnford Teaching Excellence Award. To this day, he is the only McGill professor to have received both of the University’s highest awards: the Lifetime Achievement Award for Leadership in Learning, in 2011 and the McGill University Medal for Exceptional Academic Achievement, which he received only three weeks ago at the 2014 Law Convocation.
With deep sadness and gratitude, the Faculty of Law at McGill University bids farewell to one of its most generous, brilliant and dedicated members – a wonderful, original, caring and passionate human being and scholar, a model for us all. We express our deep condolences to Roderick Macdonald’s immediate family: his wife Shelley Freeman and his two children Madeleine and Aidan. We also express our condolences to the many students, professors, public actors, judges, lawyers, academics, friends, and citizens whose lives and souls have been touched by this great man.
– Daniel Jutras, Dean and Wainwright Professor of Civil Law. June 13, 2014

My dear Rod: Rest in peace. You were a source of inspiration, a role model. You will live in my memory forever.

Israeli Elections

Elections were in the air for quite some time. The ideological differences within the coalition became impossible to bridge. In a way, it is nice and reassuring that politicians are fighting for principles. Livni has shown in the past that she is quite willing to fight for principles, and to pay a personal price. She did it again. This time, she found an ally in Yair Lapid. Both found Netanyahu’s nationalistic policies too difficult to bear. Livni and Lapid are fighting for Israeli democracy.

Whether the elections will bring about change for the better is questionable. In the Israeli proportional election system, one should examine not only the power of each party, but the size of the blocking bloc. Aspiring leaders need to ascertain that they have at least 61 MKs in their coalition, preferably 65. Do I see any potential candidate who, at present, can weigh a fight against Netanyahu and secure 61 MKs? The answer was for a long time NO. Nut now, I am not sure. Explanation infra.

One of the big question marks concerns Moshe Kachlon. I have mentioned him a few times in the past as “The Promise”. His political platform is purposely vague. Kachlon is running on the social-economic ticket. His agenda is clearly inward looking. He says very little about foreign policy and international relations. This tells me that he is moderate. He is also a man of principles. He is willing to pay a personal price for principles. He cannot be bought easily. He does not like Netanyahu but, if forced, will sit with him in the same coalition provided they will be able to find common denominators. He wants to become prime minister, but not necessarily now. He has a plan.

It is too early to envisage at present how many seats his new party will receive. Kachlon’s Party “Kulanu” (“All of Us”) is able to take many votes from the Likud.

Kachlon positions himself in the middle. He aspires to occupy “the perfect middle” and has a good chance to do this. Thus he is likely to appeal to people from the right of the political map, as well as to people from the left.

To people who are disillusioned with all existing parties, Kachlon is a solution as his agenda is largely unknown. There are plenty of such people. I wonder whether Kachlon himself knows his own agenda…

I will follow Kachlon’s movements closely. He is my hope for a better Israel. He is my hope because I believe he will be a better leader for Israel than Netanyahu. I may be wrong. But I want to give him a chance. I have seen Netanyahu for far too long. I believe Netanyahu leads Israel to the abyss. I wish to halt the sliding of Israel down the slippery slope into the abyss.


Isaac Herzog, leader of the Labour Party, signed an agreement with Tzipi Livni, leader of Hatnuah. They will run together. Livni will rotate with Herzog in the leadership position.

This agreement should have been signed five weeks prior the election to have a greater impact. I do not understand why they rushed into doing this now.


Meretz should expand to encompass green agenda and activities, occupying this niche.

If an independent Green Party will run, MERETZ will be wise to consider unity with them in accordance with their expected power.

The Religious Parties

The religious parties inspect who will offer them more. Bargaining at its worst.

Bibi has an interest to close a deal with the religious parties. They will be stupid to rush into a deal now.

The former leader of Shas, Eli Yishai, was pushed out of the party by his long-time nemesis Arie Deri. In response, Yishai decided to establish his own party.

Yishai’s rabbinic authority, Rabbi Meir Mazuz, said that he objected to having women on the new Party’s slate for Knesset. The tentative name for Yishai’s new splinter party is “Yahad” (“Together”). This is NOT a joke (-:

These developments -- the Livni-Labour unification, the establishment of Kachlon’s “Kulanu” Party, and the split in Shas – all play against Netanyahu.

Elections Slogans

Are you happy with the present situation? Vote Bibi and you’ll get more of the same.
(or worse)

Vote Labour/Livni for a new political agenda for Israel.

Vote Lieberman if you wish Israel to have its new Putin.

Vote Meretz for human and civil rights.

Vote Bennett – the sure way to fight another war
(Jewish war, fought with Jewish pride)

Vote Lapid “Yesh Atid” (“There Is a Future”) to relive the past, or
Vote Lapid “Yesh Atid” – the past is your future.

Vote Kachlon, the new “Yesh Atid”.

Vote “Yahad” – Men in the Knesset and women in the Kitchen are all Together!

Vote any of the religious parties. Who cares about democracy?


The following includes excerpts of a translation of an article written by Manfred and Sonja Lahnstein, Germany (December 6, 2014) and published in the Hamburger Abendblatt.

Manfred and Sonja Lahnstein are friends of Israel. They care about the destiny of Israel and have been working tirelessly to promote German-Israeli relationships. Manfred was Chairperson of the Board of Haifa University. I have had detailed conversations with him and appreciate his qualities and his friendship to Israel.

The Netanyahu government aims to submit draft legislation that will define the State of Israel as “the national state of the Jewish people”. This text echoes similar proposals, which have been submitted by ultra-conservative members of the Knesset.

If this proposal were adopted by the Knesset, it would give the Jewish character of Israel precedence over its democratic principles. President of Israel Reuven Rivlin is very critical: "The concept of this law, which gives Jewishness precedence over democracy, neglects the basic importance of the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration ties those two elements together, instead of separating them”.

The 1948 Declaration of Independence speaks of a “Jewish State” but one which grants “the full equality of social and political rights for all its inhabitants, independent of religion, race or gender”. That is a lot more than mere individual rights, which would not be worth much without a firm social and political underpinning. Since the foundation of the State of Israel its “raison d’être” is thus built on the ideals of democracy and equal rights for all its citizens. Ever since then, the Supreme Court in all its decisions has confirmed and enlarged this “raison d’être”. And traditional symbols such as flag, anthem or public holidays are as self-evident as they are recognized internationally.

These foundations are bound to be altered if the authors of the projected law will have their way. This is the sad fact – beyond all the hair-splitting and sophistry coming from the right-wing political spectrum right now.

It is not tactical maneuvering either. No, behind all this we detect a determined attitude of mind, which has to be opposed. This attitude simply is a fundamentalist one. It is fundamentalist because its claim of a “National State of the Jews” is not based on international law (beginning with the 1947 UN – decision) but on Jewish history and the Torah. Such an attitude is bound to end in a structure, which Avi Primor, former Israeli Ambassador to Germany, has called “Bantustan”. And – it is fundamentalist because it is prepared to give religious rules precedence over the principles of a democratic coexistence, marked by mutual respect. Tsipi Livni has already warned against the danger of a “theocracy”. What does it mean if we can read “Jewish Law will serve as one of the sources of inspiration for the Knesset?” How about the freedom of conscience for those Knesset members who are not bound by Halacha or who are Christians, Muslim or Druze? And who will define “Jewish Law” in the political arena?  

We all know that it is complicated and difficult to maintain the balance between Israel’s Jewish and its democratic character. However, even for a large number of Israeli Arabs these efforts have not been in vain. It is unacceptable to give up on this effort and to open the door – even for a split moment only – to Jewish supremacy. That is why we look at the projected law as a watershed. Should it become reality it would do enormous damage to the ideal of true Zionism, to Israel and to the Jews all over the world. We wholeheartedly agree with Shimon Peres who has said “This law will do damage to our country both internally and externally; it will undermine the democratic principles of the State of Israel”.

Israeli Economy

A few years ago I attended a lecture by the Chairperson of Bank Hapoalim Board. He introduced us to charts, graphs and lots of impressive data about the strength and wonderful condition of the Israeli economy. It was obvious to me that he and I were living in different countries. I mean, we both lived in Israel but his exciting charts and graphs had little relevance to me. Economy is like the famous elephant: some look at its tail; some look at its ear; some at its nose. The Chairperson of Bank Hapoalim Board highlighted the elephant’s nose. I lived the elephant’s tail. Two people, living very different realities. And I was never poor.

The recent National Insurance Institute Report, published on December 16, 2014, revealed that 1.6 million people — among them 756,900 children — are living below the poverty line. The commission chairman stressed that there was a need "to increase dramatically the number of apartments under public housing and the extent of the rental assistance provided to the needy, to raise pensions and to utilize rights like the negative income tax."

In order to be considered impoverished, a single person must earn less than NIS 2,989, a couple less than NIS 4,783, and a family of five less than NIS 9,000.
When I grew up in Tel Aviv during the 1970s, I was aware of one homeless person who used to spend his days in Dizengoff Street. His presence was so exceptional that Yedioth Ahronoth published a feature story about him in its weekend edition, explaining how a relatively young man had come to this: living on the street. After the story was published, good people took the homeless person from the street and provided him with a roof over his head.

Now, homeless is a problem, a growing problem. Unfortunately, you can see homeless people in many places. Many people are unable to sustain the capitalist rat-race and find themselves in the streets.

Another report echoed these finding, adding notably that 80% of the families in Israel earn less than what they spend. Sorry condition indeed.

I should note that the Finance Minister Yair Lapid hailed the findings, saying he was “proud” of Welfare Minister Meir Cohen. Yep, you assumed correctly: Cohen is a member of Lapid’s party. Lapid hailed the findings because the number of impoverished households dipped from 19.4% of the population in 2012 to 18.6% in 2013. As I said, the elephant is big. You can read it any way you wish. Lapid does not worry about overdrafts.

Israel official: Settlement funding up before vote

Israel's outgoing government is pumping millions of dollars into Jewish settlements in the West Bank for public buildings and roads ahead of national elections, an official said Tuesday, in what opponents view as a political ploy aimed at gaining favor with hard-line voters.
The official said the spending spree had been held up by former Finance Minister Yair Lapid of the centrist Yesh Atid party, who was fired early this month in a move that helped trigger the early election. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Lapid, who has criticized some settlement spending as a waste of money, asked Israel's attorney general to stop the transfer of funds, saying the move was politically motivated. Lapid said the money should go toward Israel's struggling middle class rather than for infrastructure in isolated West Bank areas that would likely be dismantled if Israel withdraws from the territory in a future peace deal.
Yesh Atid lawmaker Dov Lipman, a member of parliament's Finance Committee, said the committee's chairman, a member of the pro-settlement Jewish Home party, rushed through tens of millions of dollars in settlement projects at a stormy meeting this month after Lapid was fired. "We couldn't stop it. There was no way to stop it," he told the Times of Israel website.
He said the budget items had been placed on the agenda by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has held the finance portfolio since sacking Lapid. Netanyahu's office did not return a call seeking comment.

Poll Shows Strong Palestinian Support for Attacks

An overwhelming majority of Palestinians support a recent spate of attacks on Israelis amid heightened tensions over the most sensitive holy site in Jerusalem.

The poll also found that more than half of Palestinians support a new uprising against Israel, and that the Hamas militant group would win presidential elections if they were held today.

Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki said the results reflected Palestinian anger over Israeli statements about the Jerusalem holy site, which is revered by Jews and Muslims, as well as a loss of hope following the collapse of U.S.-brokered peace talks and Israel's recent war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

"There is an environment in which violence is becoming a dominant issue," said Shikaki. "This seems to be one of the most important driving forces."

There has been a spate of attacks in Jerusalem over the past month and a half, at a time of rising tensions over the contested holy site, revered by Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and by Jews as the Temple Mount.

Prominent members of Israel's government have become more vocal in recent months about demands that Jews be allowed to pray at the Muslim-run site, which is home to the Al Aqsa Mosque and iconic Dome of the Rock. Many Palestinians fear this is a pretext for a gradual Jewish takeover — a claim Israel denies.

The poll found 86 percent of respondents believe the shrine is in grave danger from Israel. It said 80 percent supported individual attacks by Palestinians who have stabbed Israelis or rammed cars into crowded train stations.

Source: AP (December 9, 2014),;_ylt=AwrBJR99SohUDTMASrnQtDMD?elq=d5026ba3cf3e43b78f44db8dc77a34c4&elqCampaignId=3709

Lord Trimble Talk

With Lord Trimble and Lord Norton

On 27 November 2014, Lord Trimble delivered the First Annual Inaugural Lecture of the Middle East Study Group. Lord Trimble was instrumental in bring peace to Northern Ireland and Britain. He received the Noble Peace Prize for his successful efforts. I thought that he is the most suitable person for this prestigious lecture,
hoping that the second protracted conflict that was was/is seemed unsolvable will find its solution as the first one did thanks to Lord Trimble’s tireless efforts.

Lord Trimble explained that if people are seeking victory, there won’t be compromise. If people are intent to destroy each other, there won’t be agreement. What is needed is a genuine willingness of both sides to see peace as their strategy.

There are practical issues to resolve, and there is the emotional issue to address. Lord Trimble spoke of the role of emotions in negotiations. Sometimes emotions are the biggest hurdle to successful negotiations.

Lord Trimble explained the difference between rejecting a proposal, and not replying to a proposal. The latter is not necessarily the former.

Lord Trimble spoke of the role of the mediator. Mediation is not only about persuasion. It is also about exerting pressure to resolve delicate issues.

Lord Trimble emphasised that there is a need for the right people to resolve issues. It takes a certain character, boldness and ability to pursue a momentous initiative such as peace.

It is doubtful whether Israel and Palestine have the right people. Lord Trimble suggests to pursue unilateral steps rather to hope for another White House ceremony. He finds the latter difficult to envisage at present.

Lord Trimble thinks that the Arab world must be involved in the peace negotiations. The issue is simply too big for the Palestinians to resolve alone.

The lecture was full of anecdotes and little stories. Lord Trimble said that during one of his visits to South Africa, his hosts told him that they put him exactly at the same table where the Israelis sat when they conducted their test. Trimble said he did not ask what test.

In this context, he extolled Mandela for dismantling South Africa's nuclear project. Indeed, South Africa is the only country to have built nuclear weapons and then voluntarily dismantled them. In the 1980s, South Africa constructed six gun-type nuclear weapons. There was a strong cooperation between Israel and South Africa on nuclear issues at that time. Less than a decade after assembling its first nuclear weapon, South Africa abandoned its nuclear weapons program, joined the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) as a non-nuclear weapon state, and allowed international inspections of its former nuclear weapons program. South Africa's remaining dual-use nuclear capabilities have made it both a possible exporter of nuclear technology and know-how, and a target for state and non-state actors seeking nuclear materials. (see

Lord Trimble’s prepared text is available at

The Global Peace Operations Initiative

The Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) is a U.S. Government-funded security assistance program working to meet the growing global demand for specially trained personnel to conduct international peace operations by building the capabilities of U.S. partner countries to train and sustain peacekeepers; increasing the number of capable military troops and police units available for deployment; and facilitating the preparation, logistical support, and deployment of peacekeepers. GPOI promotes international peace and security, helping to save lives while reducing the burden on U.S. military forces, and furthering post-conflict recovery around the world.

Launched in 2005, GPOI currently partners with 69 countries and regional organizations. Through these partnerships, GPOI implementers have:

  • Facilitated the training of 272,747 foreign military personnel to serve on international peacekeeping missions through both direct training activities (209,120 peacekeepers) and enabling training by GPOI partner countries (63,627 peacekeepers);
  • Supported 52 national and regional peace operations training centers and three regional headquarters for the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), as well as financial, technical, and staffing support to the Center of Excellence for Stability Police Units (COESPU), an Italian-led center to facilitate the training of stability/formed police unit trainers.
  • Facilitated the deployment of 197,934 personnel from 38 countries to 29 operations around the world. Currently, there are over 117,000 military, police, and civilian personnel from 122 countries serving in 17 UN peacekeeping operations deployed on four continents.

GPOI is managed by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, which works in close coordination with Department of State regional bureaus, as well as the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Regional Combatant Commands, and other DoD organizations, to develop regional program plans and implement train and equip activities with partner nations worldwide.

GPOI was launched in 2005 as the U.S. contribution to the G8 Action Plan for Expanding Global Capability for Peace Support Operations, adopted at the 2004 G8 Sea Island Summit.

The primary objective of GPOI in FY 2005-2009 was to train and equip at least 75,000 peacekeepers by 2010. GPOI implementers met and surpassed this target, training nearly 87,000 peacekeepers by September 30, 2009. More than 77,000 of this total were African troops trained through the Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program. In GPOI’s current activities, program emphasis has shifted from the direct training of peacekeepers by U.S. personnel to building sustainable, self-sufficient, national training capabilities by partner countries, with the target of facilitating training for an additional 242,500 troops.


An estimated 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma, a chronic disease marked by recurrent attacks of breathlessness and wheezing as the lining of the lungs’ bronchial tubes swells and narrows the airways. A new study suggests that a vitamin D deficiency – a common problem — increases the likelihood of flare-ups in people whose condition cannot be sufficiently controlled with medication. Rather than adding more pharmaceuticals, such people may want to have their vitamin D levels checked and add supplementation if necessary. A team led by Dr. Ronit Confino-Cohen of the Allergy and Clinical Immunology Unit at Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba came to this conclusion after analyzing the medical records of nearly four million members of Clalit Health Services, Israel’s largest healthcare provider. They zeroed in on records of 307,900 patients age 22 to 50 whose vitamin D levels were documented between 2008 and 2012. Of those, some 21,000 also were diagnosed with asthma. Looking at the 21,000 records, they discovered that those with a vitamin D deficiency were 25 percent more likely than other asthmatics to have had at least one flare-up in the recent past, according to results recently published in the journal Allergy by Confino-Cohen and her colleague Arnon Goldberg, with Becca Feldman and Ilan Brufman of the Clalit Research Institute. Confino-Cohen, who is on the faculty of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler medical school, says that most of the existing data regarding vitamin D and asthma came from pediatric studies and was inconsistent. “Our present study is unique because the study population of young adults is very large and ‘uncontaminated’ by other diseases,” she explains. The researchers found that vitamin D-deficient asthmatics were at a higher risk of an asthma attack if their condition was uncontrolled – defined as being prescribed at least five rescue inhalers, one prescription of oral corticosteroids or visiting the doctor for asthma at least four times in a single year.

I have asked an expert’s opinion about the above. Michael E. Hyland is Professor of Health Psychology at Plymouth University. Here is what he thinks:

Dear Raphael

The research is sound and confirms others showing that vitamin D is associated with asthma risk.  Earlier this year, a large study of vitamin D supplementation was published in the American journal of Medicine (can’t remember the authors off hand).  This study showed no benefit of vitamin D supplementation in people with asthma who were low in vitamin D.  There results re vitamin D supplementation are mixed – with some showing benefit of one kind or another.  It is generally accepted that more than 50% of the UK population is vitamin D deficient, and the daily intake recommended varies widely – the government being the lowest, the endocrine society being in the middle and the vitamin D society at the top.  It can’t hurt to take vit D supplements in the winter.  It is possible to send off for a test of blood levels –

For testing of Vitamin D levels: Service based on a finger-prick sample:  Sandwell & West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust.  Ring:  0121 507 4278 (dedicated line for vitamin D).  ( Cost is £25, results e-mailed to you within a week.

Hope all is well

Best wishes


My New Newspaper Article - BBC World without Terror

15 December 2014. 10:00 pm. BBC2 Newsnight. The presenter in London calls his colleague in Sydney to describe the event in Lindt Café, downtown Sydney. The BBC reporter opens by saying that “a gentleman” entered the café and took some hostages. Later he referred to “the gentleman” as “a gunman”.

This is no mistake. This is the BBC policy. If you only listen to the BBC, you may think that we are living in a world that is free from terror. The word “terror” is hardly ever in use. This is part of the BBC aspiration to broadcast in a neutral fashion.

The term ‘terrorist’ is perceived by the BBC to be too loaded. Thus its reporters resort to more neutral terms, even when the brutality involved in the violent crime against innocent civilians is obscene. BBC News seeks to act in the public interest and to resist pressure from political parties, lobby groups or commercial interests. However, these laudable aspirations lead to sweeping moral neutrality, and to inability to denounce terrorism even when facing the most hideous acts.

The BBC directors seem to believe that it is impossible to define terrorism and therefore terrorism does not exist. They do not wish to alienate any segment of their viewers by characterizing certain events as “terrorist”. Instead of adhering to one principled definition of terrorism and then employ it across the board, the BBC prefers to sit on the fence, so as to say that it is impossible to differentiate between terrorists and ‘freedom fighters’, that terrorist for one might be a ‘freedom fighter’ for the other. The BBC employs no moral judgment, thus paying homage to moral relativism.

Most if not all definitions of terrorism speak of threat or employment of indiscriminate violence for political, religious, or ideological purposes by individuals or groups who are willing to justify all means to achieve their goals. One who conducts such act of terror is a terrorist, exactly as one who rapes is a rapist. Several arguments may be advanced against moral neutrality when covering explicit immoral conduct, such as terrorism. The first is the argument from democracy. It holds that reporters are also citizens. They live within the democratic realm and owe democracy their allegiance. Free speech and free journalism exist because democracy makes them possible. They flourish in a liberal environment and they would become extinct in a coerced, anti-democratic society. Hence, reporters are obliged to sustain the environment that enables their liberties. Many do uphold and promote the basic values of democracy: not to harm others, and to respect others.

The second argument is the argument from paternalism. It is wrong to assume that all people are able to differentiate between good and evil, and that all beings are rational. The media need to be responsible to those who are not fully rational, who are not able to discern between values and mischief. Here I refer first and foremost to children and young people. Violence and black-and-white slogans work better on the youth than on mature people. The media should be aware of this and avoid conferring on terrorism any form of legitimacy.

The third argument is from social responsibility. It is to do more with the shape and character of society that we wish to have. The BBC Charter speaks of sustaining citizenship and civil society. Accordingly, BBC reporters do not need to feel obliged to be neutral as between justice and injustice, between compassion and cruelty. Being a constitutional creation of Parliament, the BBC could not be impartial towards crude violence against innocent civilians.

The fourth and last argument is from jurisprudence and law. Terrorism is obviously illegal. It is detrimental to society for psychological and social reasons. It subverts and repudiates the rule of law. The media do not have to be objective towards phenomena that clearly contradict their basic values.

BBC News aspires to be the world’s most trusted news organisation: accurate, impartial and independent. The BBC aims to be truthful and fair. Doesn't the BBC realize it is utterly unprofessional, and ethically problematic not to call a spade a spade? Its present policy is not accurate, truthful or fair. It confers legitimacy on a heinous act.

It is about time for the BBC to reconsider its "world without terrorism" policy. Unfortunately, terrorism does exist. We are reminded of its brutal manifestations time and again. The BBC should acknowledge this and not play into the hands of terrorism.

Raphael Cohen-Almagor, “BBC World without Terror”, The Jerusalem Post (17 December 2014),

New Books

Jolyon Howorth, Security and Defence Policy in the European Union (Houndmills: Palgrave, 2014)

This book examines recent developments to the European Union's Common Security and Defence Policy and assesses its systems, processes and limitations.

This book is very rich, very detailed, very technical, about EU security policy. It is for advanced students and scholars who are familiar with the history of EU defence and its strategic culture.

I thank Palgrave for a copy of this book.

British Citizenship

After a long and tiring process, my family and I were granted British citizenship. I thank Ms. Jill and Professor David Drewry, Professor John Friend, Professor Lester Grabbe, Professor Baron Bhikhu Parekh and Professor Sir Adam Roberts for their help and support throughout the process.

The official ceremony was held in Beverley. Here we are with a dignitary from East Riding, holding our citizenship certificates. Gilad is hiding the photo of Queen Elizabeth who could not attend the ceremony for some obscure reason. Thus her photo was put on the table while we announced our allegiance to her.

The ceremony was utterly secular with no religious signs whatsoever. We vowed commitment to the values of liberty, tolerance, and respect for the dignity of every person notwithstanding her religion, colour, ethnic origins or race, with due appreciation of democracy and the rule of law.

The former Vice Chancellor of my university, Professor David Drewry, and former Lord Mayor of Hull, Mr. Colin Inglis, came to celebrate with us. I feel fortunate to have these two leaders on our side, lending their friendship and support.

Extraordinary Story

Catching Kayla, running with MS, running for life,

Monthly Poems

15.12.2014: "The Ambriel Revolution" is pleased to announce this week's featured poet is Raphael Almagor.

Hope and Anchor
13 April 2014

Hope and Anchor
So it is called
Stands tall on the bank of the river
Lighthouse to those seeking companion
Beer and women
Before returning to the cold and forgetful waves.

Hope and Anchor
Those lasting moments
Those lusting hours
Of carefree joy where
Past does not matter
Future does but is it a matter

Booze a dubious anchor
Of false hopes
For lonely souls
Who come from the sea
To the sea they return
They see through the glass to burn.

Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Gem of the Month – Llandudno


Each Christmas, my family and I visit a different place in the UK. This year we went to Llandudno in north Wales.




Wales has enchanting scenery and impossible names. Llandudno is a small, picturesque resort sea town with a lovely promenade and one major street. We visited the Snowdonia National Park, a quaint village called Betws-y-Coed and other small places called Porthmadog and Blaenau Ffestiniog. Relaxing, unassuming, friendly and beautiful Wales.

Light Side

Election and Erection are spelled almost exactly the same. They both mean the same thing too. A dick rising to power.

I was just sitting around, doing nothing, when I was arrested for impersonating the President of the United States.

Isaac Herzog thinks he will be the next prime minister.
(I wish it wasn’t a joke. Prove me wrong, please).

Little Johnny was learning about government at school. His teacher told him to ask his parents what the government is. Little Johnny went to his dad and asked what the government was. His dad explained that there is the president, congress, work force, people and the future. He explained that dad is president, mom is the congress, the maid is the work force, he is the people and his little brother Jonathan is the future. Johnny still didn't get it so his dad asked him to go to sleep and maybe by tomorrow he'll know what the government is. In the middle of the night little Johnny woke up because he heard his little brother crying. He found out that Jonathan had pooed in his pants so he went to ask for help. His mom was asleep so he went downstairs to find his dad. His dad was having sex with the maid. "Now I know what the government is: the congress is asleep, the president is screwing the work force, no one cares about the people and the future is full of crap.”

You rebel, I like you.

I do.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year


I wish all my friends and colleagues in different corners of the globe Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Peace and love.

May this year, 2015, be blessed with all that you wish and aspire to achieve!

Yours as ever,


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