Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Politics – April 2015 – Election Results

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“An occupation that has lasted for almost 50 years must end. Israel cannot maintain military control of another people indefinitely”.

~ Obama’s chief of staff, Denis McDonough

“I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: that there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan.”

~ Benjamin Netanyahu (July 2014)

“I think that anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state today and evacuate lands, is giving attack grounds to the radical Islam against the state of Israel.”

~ Benjamin Netanyahu (March 2015)

Like Old Cato I say time and again: The occupation has to stop, the sooner the better. The occupation is like an ox in our throats, an axe in our hearts.

~ Raphael Cohen-Almagor (time and again, since 1985)

Reflections on March 2015
Netanyahu's effective fear campaign
Former PM Ehud Olmert convicted for corruption
Germanwings Tragedy
The Southampton Conference
My New Article
New Books
Dartmouth Workshop
Always a First
Gems of the Month
My Visit to Israel
Monthly Poems

Light Side

Reflections on March 2015

A quick couple of observations. 
Having had the opportunity to listen to Buji Herzog during this most unpleasant election campaign I see very little daylight between Buji and Bibi when it comes to Iran or the Palestinians. And Kenneth Waltz may be a highly respected scholar but as is so often the case with scholars, I believe he lacks common sense. Hitler had a Messianic vision as does the leadership in Iran. The use of nuclear weapons regardless of the consequences is what should worry us. 
A Healthy Happy and Kosher Pesech to all.
Abraham Silverman, Canada 

About Iran, I think we need to offer them something. If we only put pressure on them, they won’t give in. We can use some demands alongside some offers. Maybe we have even more advanced energy sources, I don’t know if solar power would be efficient enough. I agree that it is not the best option to allow Iran nuclear weapons. If we get rid of our nuclear weapons, maybe they don’t want any and just want energy. Maybe that would work.
Dr Conny Beyer, England


March 17-18, 2015 did not yield the results I wanted. Mr. Netanyahu remains in office.

None of the polls, including last minute exit polls, predicted the Likud victory. A stunning failure for all the pollsters who need to think hard what had happened, how to explain their failure, and how to ascertain that such a failure won’t repeat itself.

Two possible explanations: either the samples the pollsters use are unreliable, or people do not tell the truth.

Even the exit polls failed to predict the final results. When I went to sleep on 18 March, 12:30 at night, Likud had 24. Six hours later, at 06:30, Likud had 30 seats. A resounding victory.

I have asked Professor Sam Lehman-Wilzig how to explain what had happened. He said that the exit polls are easy to explain: "10% of Likud voters simply lied and said they voted for the Zionist Union. All the predictions of the other parties came true, except for the disparity here: 3 more for Likud and 3 less for ZU. There’s only one way to explain this — the Likud voters lied to the exit pollsters (not the first time they did this, by the way)."

Sam further said that "the regular polls did NOT get it wrong. First, the law did not allow any poll publication after Friday — four days before the vote. Second, on that Friday they all said that there are about 15-20% seriously undecided, so that it is impossible to accurately predict the result. Third (and complementing this), Bibi ran a brilliant (fear-mongering) campaign the last few days to bring back traditional Likud voters. The proof: ZU did NOT go down between Friday and Tuesday, nor did Meretz, Lapid or Kachlon. Rather, the extra Likud votes came from Bennet and from Yishai (both dropped precipitously in those last 4 days) — all from the farther Right."

So Netanyahu’s fear campaign proved to be effective (see below). Apparently there are many fearful people in Israel who would rather have the prime minister they know than take risks with a new leader. It is certain that Mr. Netanyahu will form a new government and serve a fourth term.

The Zionist Union came in second with 24 seats. Once again it was abundantly clear that there is a difference between being a leader of a party, even a major party, and being a leader of the country. Herzog did not convince enough voters that he has the necessary qualities to lead Israel.

Herzog certainly lacks what Netanyahu has in abundance: relentless zeal to win. Netanyahu has the “killer instincts” as to how to win elections, and to do whatever it takes to come out winner. Herzog does not have this.

The Zionist Union campaign should be taught as a lesson How Not to Run an Election Campaign. It was unfocused, unclear, diffused and unconvincing. It spoke of a third assistant in kindergartens. I do think that teachers need more help, but this is not a slogan to win elections. People will not vote for a person to the prime minister's office because he will bring a third assistant to kindergarten. All elections that I can recall were won on the security ticket: who will provide Israel with better security? Israelis are preoccupied with security concerns. Sixty-seven years after the establishment of Israel, its borders are still disputed, enemies still wish to destroy it, and the fear of terrorism is valid. Many Israelis still occupy their minds with the question of how long Israel will continue to exist. I never heard such a question in the Netherlands, Denmark or even in Luxemburg.

People vote for someone because of one of three reasons or combination thereof:  

  1. Because they believe that a person has the qualities of a leader. That person might not actually have these qualities. The perception of leadership is enough to make people vote for that person.

  1. Because they identify with the leader. That person has certain qualities with which they can identify. Maybe s/he looks like them, maybe they feel they can go for a drink, or dinner, with that person and enjoy it; maybe they feel connection with the leader; they feel s/he speaks to them in eye level and they can actually understand what s/he says.

  1. Because of the political platform of the leader and party. Only a small minority vote because of this reason. Most people do not even know what the political platform is. Some parties hide their platforms. Elections are a show. Elections are more about perception than content.

After the elections, people explained the result by pointing to the “ethnic devil” or “ethnic divide” in Israel. I do think that such a divide exists, but it exists on a small burner. Generally speaking, I do not think that Jews from the Middle East are discriminated against today in Israeli society. I also do not think that they are excluded from power positions. With time, more and more power positions will be in their hands.

The Likud is more appealing to the "Middle Easterners" (Edot Ha'Mizrakh). Its nationalistic, exclusionary agenda which accentuates “Jews first” is appealing to them. The security agenda of a strong hand is to their liking. Non-Likud leaders need to try harder to appeal to them, finding a way to their hearts and minds, making a compelling case with which they can identify.

The Zionist Union failed to do this. It remained alienated from them. Its leaders and agenda were unappealing to them.

Put Kahlon in the Labour leadership and see what will happen. Is this a possibility? Stranger things have happened in Israeli politics. Tzipi Livni grew up in a right-wing Revisionist home.

The Joint List of Arab parties won 13 seats, making it the third-largest parliamentary faction. Its four component parties previously had 11.

Yesh Atid, a centrist party that won 19 seats in the 2013 election, its first, earned 11 this time.

Kulanu — Hebrew for “All of Us”, led by Moshe Kahlon, a popular former Likud minister who broke away — in part out of frustration with Mr. Netanyahu — won 10 seats.

The national-religious Jewish Home won eight seats, down from 12.

Shas, led by Aryeh Derei got 7 seats. His main rival Elie Yishai was unable to pass the threshold. Yishai ran together with a group of Kahanists, followers of the Jewish-Fascist Meir Kahane who was assassinated in New York in 1990.

The ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu won six seats, an achievement in itself given the ongoing corruption investigations against some of its leaders.

The civil right party Meretz gained five seats. If it won’t change drastically, and it might not even be present in the next Knesset. Meretz needs a charismatic leader and a new agenda. At present, it is unable to appeal to those who truly need implementation of its agenda.

People who voted Meretz did not vote for its leadership. They voted for the platform. They identify with the liberal-socialist ideology. Many voted Meretz despite its leadership, not because of it. As aforesaid, not many people vote for a political agenda, notwithstanding leadership.

Turnout was near 72 percent, four percentage points higher than in 2013, which analysts attributed to the close contest between the Likud and Zionist Union.
Just 26 months after Israel’s last election, Mr. Netanyahu reconfirmed his leadership and now can safely sail away to further his agenda and ideology. He declared that his Bar-Ilan speech is no longer valid, and that there won’t be a Palestinian state as long as he is in office.

Netanyahu's effective fear campaign

Netanyahu said: “The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls. Left-wing organizations are busing them out. Get out to vote, bring your friends and family, vote Likud in order to close the gap between us and ‘Labor.’”

Netanyahu thought on the day of the election that Labour had an edge over the Likud. The incorrect polls energized him to provoke further fear among voters: Go out and vote because otherwise the Arabs will be in power.

Netanyahu’s fear campaign yielded victory. Netanyahu evoked fears with regard to Iran.  Netanyahu evoked fears with regard to the Palestinians. Netanyahu evoked more specific fears with regard to Hamas, which is like ISIS. Netanyahu evoked fears with regard to the Arab world at large. Netanyahu evoked fears with regard to the Israeli Left, who will split Jerusalem. Netanyahu evoked fears with regard to the transparent House as the American president is no friend of Israel.

Israelis are told to fear everyone. Their savior is Netanyahu.

We shall see.

The Israeli public as a whole has turned to the right. Israel today is far righter than it was when I left the country in 2007. People allow themselves to express ideas that they only whispered ten years ago. These ideas have gained legitimacy in the Israeli discourse. This explains why Netanyahu has said the above statements. There is no shame to differentiate between “us” and “them” although all are said to be Israeli citizens, with equal rights and liberties. The Israeli Jews have to untie the Palestinians at large because the Israeli-Palestinians are not part of “us”. They are part of “them”. They are part of the enemy. Be warned.

In June 2012, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that “there is no scope for discrimination in the State of Israel. We are obligated to equality of opportunity for everyone. The Arab sector is a central engine of growth for Israeli economy which has yet to be fully utilized.” Netanyahu expressed his belief that integrating minorities in the job market would contribute not only to the Arabs but to Israel at large. This is Israel’s national interest and Israel should encourage this integration.

The slow shift to the right also entails going back on his Bar-Ilan speech. There won’t be a Palestinian state as long as Netanyahu is in office.

What does this mean?

It means there won’t be peace. It means growing frustration among the Palestinians who are still living under occupation. It means violence. It means more bloodshed. It means more insecurity. It means more terror.

It also means growing isolation of Israel in the international community. It means “Am Levado Ishkon” (People who reside alone); it means more power to the BDS movement; it means growing stature for Israel as a world pariah.

It also means growing tensions between Israel and the transparent House. Maybe Israel won’t be able to count on the USA to stand on its side in crucial UN decisions, and in international organizations meetings.

It means growing dissatisfaction with Israel in various European organizations.

It means growing tensions with Turkey and Egypt, two countries that Israel needs on its side in regional politics.

Netanyahu succeeded in his goal – he was reelected to the prime minister's office. On the way, he has damaged Israel’s relationships with the USA; he told the Palestinians in very clear words that there is no point negotiating with him, thus they should seek other ways to move forward; he polarized Israeli society even more than it already is; he expressed his belief that the Israeli Palestinians are fifth column who are not to be trusted. Netanyahu has made the elections an end in itself. He achieved the end. Now what?

The horizons are not bright, I am sorry to say. Democracy comes with a price. The last elections were crucial for Israel’s destiny. Israel voted Right. This was wrong.

This photo encapsulates the elections results in Israel:

No turning left to the way of peace

Former PM Ehud Olmert convicted for corruption

On March 30, 2015, the Jerusalem District Court convicted former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in what has become known as the “Talansky affair”. American businessman Talansky was in the habit of passing cash money to Mr Olmert in sealed envelops. Mr Olmert gratefully accepted them and never advised the tax authorities about these “gifts”. Olmert stood trial for this affair in the past but the court did not find enough strong evidence to convict him. After Olmert’s personal assistant refused to take the heat for Olmert and sit in jail for a number of years, Ms. Shula Zaken testified against her former boss and provided the strong evidence. Thus in the retrial, the same court that in the past found Olmert “not guilty”, this time reversed its decision and convicted him.

This verdict is in addition to Olmert’s prior conviction in the Holyland Affair, a far greater affair, with greater sums of corruption money. 

The Court’s three-judge panel of Jacob Zaban, Moshe Sobel and Rivkah Friedman-Feldman ruled that Olmert illegally received and concealed substantial funds in envelopes from New York businessman  Morris Talansky in the late 1990s and the early 2000. Talansky himself died during the court proceedings. The court based its decision on recordings, a journal and testimony by former top Olmert aide-turned-state-witness Shula Zaken against Olmert, none of which was available for his original trial in which he was acquitted in July 2012. Olmert’s lawyers attempted to discredit Zaken, repeatedly arguing that Zaken has lied. Those allegations were rejected by the court. Olmert himself decided not to testify in the retrial. Judge Rivkah Friedman-Feldman - who replaced Musia Arad who had sat on the panel acquitting Olmert, and who retired in 2013 - noted in her opinion that Olmert should have been convicted the first time even without all the new evidence. "Olmert's decision not to testify in the retrial spoke for itself," she stated. 
Olmert’s appeal of his Holyland conviction is still pending before the Supreme Court.

This is a sad day for the Israeli political system, and a good day for the justice system. It is sad that a former prime minister is convicted, yet again, for corruption. Olmert lacked good sense of judgment for many years. The same pattern of taking money from businessmen has repeated itself for many years. It was not a one-off misjudgment. It was a pattern. All that money, and probably more, was wasted in a very expensive and lengthy legal battle. Money can take you so far in the Israeli justice system. It can delay. It can prolong court proceedings. But at the end of the day, justice does prevail.

Source: The Jerusalem Post, March 30, 2015,


On February 26, 2015, James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, submitted his Worldwide Threat Assessment to the  Senate Armed Services Committee. Here is what he had to say about Iran:
The Islamic Republic of Iran is an ongoing threat to US national interests because of its support to the Asad regime in Syria, promulgation of anti-Israeli policies, development of advanced military capabilities, and pursuit of its nuclear program. President Ruhani—a longstanding member of the regime establishment—will not depart from Iran’s national security objectives of protecting the regime and enhancing Iranian influence abroad, even while attempting different approaches to achieve these goals. He requires Supreme Leader Khamenei’s support to continue engagement with the West, moderate foreign policy, and ease social restrictions within Iran.

Iran possesses a substantial inventory of theater ballistic missiles capable of reaching as far as some areas of southeastern Europe. Tehran is developing increasingly sophisticated missiles and improving the range and accuracy of its other missile systems. Iran is also acquiring advanced naval and aerospace capabilities, including naval mines, small but capable submarines, coastal defense cruise missile batteries, attack craft, anti-ship missiles, and armed unmanned aerial vehicles.

In Iraq and Syria, Iran seeks to preserve friendly governments, protect Shia interests, defeat Sunni extremists, and marginalize US influence. The rise of ISIL has prompted Iran to devote more resources to blunting Sunni extremist advances that threaten Iran’s regional allies and interests. Iran’s security services have provided robust military support to Baghdad and Damascus, including arms, advisers, funding, and direct combat support. Both conflicts have allowed Iran to gain valuable on-the-ground experience in counterinsurgency operations. Iranian assistance has been instrumental in expanding the capabilities of Shia militants in Iraq. The ISIL threat has also reduced Iraqi resistance to integrating those militants, with Iranian help, into the Iraqi Security Forces, but Iran has uneven control over these groups.

Despite Iran’s intentions to dampen sectarianism, build responsive partners, and deescalate tensions with Saudi Arabia, Iranian leaders—particularly within the security services—are pursuing policies with negative secondary consequences for regional stability and potentially for Iran. Iran’s actions to protect and empower Shia communities are fueling growing fears and sectarian responses.

Source: James R. Clapper, Statement for the Record, Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community, submitted to the  Senate Armed Services Committee (February 26, 2015).

American efforts to reach a deal with Iran on its nuclear capabilities should be viewed in this context. (Almost) everything is relative in life. Compared to ISIS, Iran is a moderate country. It has governmental institutions and it acts like a responsible sovereign power, part of the international community. With its assets in Syria and Lebanon, and growing influence in Iraq, Iran has an important role to play in the new Middle East. The USA wants Iran on its side against rogue, unabashed terrorism.

What are the positives of the Iranian deal?

  • Iran has agreed to reduce by approximately two-thirds its installed centrifuges. Iran will go from having about 19,000 installed today to 6,104 installed under the deal, with only 5,060 of these enriching uranium for 10 years. All 6,104 centrifuges will be IR-1s, Iran’s first-generation centrifuge.

  • Iran has agreed to not enrich uranium over 3.67 percent for at least 15 years.
  • Iran has agreed to reduce its current stockpile of about 10,000 kg of low-enriched uranium (LEU) to 300 kg of 3.67 percent LEU for 15 years.
  • All excess centrifuges and enrichment infrastructure will be placed in IAEA monitored storage and will be used only as replacements for operating centrifuges and equipment.

  • Iran has agreed to not build any new facilities for the purpose of enriching uranium for 15 years.

  • Iran’s breakout timeline – the time that it would take for Iran to acquire enough fissile material for one weapon – is currently assessed to be 2 to 3 months. That timeline will be extended to at least one year, for a duration of at least ten years, under this framework.

  • Iran has agreed to not enrich uranium at its Fordow facility for at least 15 years.
  •  Iran has agreed to convert its Fordow facility so that it is used for peaceful purposes only – into a nuclear, physics, technology, research center.
  • Iran has agreed to not conduct research and development associated with uranium enrichment at Fordow for 15 years.

  • Iran will not have any fissile material at Fordow for 15 years.
  • Almost two-thirds of Fordow’s centrifuges and infrastructure will be removed. The remaining centrifuges will not enrich uranium. All centrifuges and related infrastructure will be placed under IAEA monitoring.

  • Iran has agreed to only enrich uranium using its first generation (IR-1 models) centrifuges at Natanz for ten years, removing its more advanced centrifuges.
  • Iran will remove the 1,000 IR-2M centrifuges currently installed at Natanz and place them in IAEA monitored storage for ten years.

  • Iran will not use its IR-2, IR-4, IR-5, IR-6, or IR-8 models to produce enriched uranium for at least ten years. Iran will engage in limited research and development with its advanced centrifuges, according to a schedule and parameters which have been agreed to by the P5+1.

  • For ten years, enrichment and enrichment research and development will be limited to ensure a breakout timeline of at least 1 year. Beyond 10 years, Iran will abide by its enrichment and enrichment R&D plan submitted to the IAEA, and pursuant to the JCPOA, under the Additional Protocol resulting in certain limitations on enrichment capacity.

Inspections and Transparency
  • The IAEA will have regular access to all of Iran’s nuclear facilities, including to Iran’s enrichment facility at Natanz and its former enrichment facility at Fordow, and including the use of the most up-to-date, modern monitoring technologies.
  • Inspectors will have access to the supply chain that supports Iran’s nuclear program. The new transparency and inspections mechanisms will closely monitor materials and/or components to prevent diversion to a secret program.
  • Inspectors will have access to uranium mines and continuous surveillance at uranium mills, where Iran produces yellowcake, for 25 years.

  • Inspectors will have continuous surveillance of Iran’s centrifuge rotors and bellows production and storage facilities for 20 years. Iran’s centrifuge manufacturing base will be frozen and under continuous surveillance.

  • All centrifuges and enrichment infrastructure removed from Fordow and Natanz will be placed under continuous monitoring by the IAEA.
  • A dedicated procurement channel for Iran’s nuclear program will be established to monitor and approve, on a case by case basis, the supply, sale, or transfer to Iran of certain nuclear-related and dual use materials and technology – an additional transparency measure.

  • Iran has agreed to implement the Additional Protocol of the IAEA, providing the IAEA much greater access and information regarding Iran’s nuclear program, including both declared and undeclared facilities.

  • Iran will be required to grant access to the IAEA to investigate suspicious sites or allegations of a covert enrichment facility, conversion facility, centrifuge production facility, or yellowcake production facility anywhere in the country.
  • Iran has agreed to implement Modified Code 3.1 requiring early notification of construction of new facilities.

  • Iran will implement an agreed set of measures to address the IAEA’s concerns regarding the Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of its program.

Reactors and Reprocessing
  • Iran has agreed to redesign and rebuild a heavy water research reactor in Arak, based on a design that is agreed to by the P5+1, which will not produce weapons grade plutonium, and which will support peaceful nuclear research and radioisotope production.

  • The original core of the reactor, which would have enabled the production of significant quantities of weapons-grade plutonium, will be destroyed or removed from the country.

  • Iran will ship all of its spent fuel from the reactor out of the country for the reactor’s lifetime.

  • Iran has committed indefinitely to not conduct reprocessing or reprocessing research and development on spent nuclear fuel.

  • Iran will not accumulate heavy water in excess of the needs of the modified Arak reactor, and will sell any remaining heavy water on the international market for 15 years.

  • Iran will not build any additional heavy water reactors for 15 years.

What are the negatives?
No nuclear facilities are to be destroyed;

Iran will not end all research and development on advanced centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium;

Iran will not reduce the number of operating centrifuges at its Natanz plant beyond what was agreed to in the framework;

Iran will not close its underground enrichment facility at Fordo;

Iran will not allow inspections “anywhere, anytime” by international monitors. Iran’s foreign minister and chief nuclear negotiator Mohammad Javad Zarif told a closed parliamentary hearing that Iran would not allow cameras into any of its nuclear sites. Iran will continue to develop its nuclear capabilities;

Iran will not ship its stockpile of enriched uranium out of the country and disclose past nuclear-related activities that might involve military uses.

Is the Iran deal good for Israel? No. It is not.

Is the Iran deal good for the USA ? Yes. It is.

Does the Iran deal provide security assurances to Israel? No. Deterrence will provide such assurances.

It is about time for Israel to change its nuclear policy, state openly its capabilities and be transparent.

Transparency in Israel’s nuclear power will be the deterrent vis-a-vis Iran.

Germanwings Tragedy

Is it time to consider pilot-free flights, with computer assistance backed up with further computers and free of human pilots?

Are such flights safer than flights with human pilots? Is it only the psychological barrier that we need to overcome, coming to terms with the idea of flights with only computers at the cockpit?

The Southampton Conference

Some time ago I received an invitation to a conference about Israel and Palestine. I read the rationale for the conference and did not like what I read. It is one thing to criticize Israel. As you are fully aware, I criticize the government policies every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. It is quite another thing to question Israel’s right to exist. I will never give a hand to people who wish to undermine Israel.

I failed to answer that invitation.

Some months later, the president of the International Association of Israel studies received a similar invitation and consulted with me. My advice was to stay away from that conference. I told him he should not confer any shred of legitimacy on this conference. The president accepted my advice.

A few months later the conference program was published. I am not familiar with all the names but those I know all belong to the anti/post-Zionist camp. I was not surprised. A petition was organized to cancel the conference. I refuse to take part and to disseminate the call.

The leaders of the University of Southampton did not like that kind of publicity. They decided to cancel the conference due to security, health and safety reasons.

The problem with banning and censorship is that they work in both directions. People are using, and will be using more forcefully, arguments against holding pro-Zionist events because they are biased. I would rather have free speech for both than free speech for none, or censorship of all.

The problem is not that particular conference. The problem is the occupation and the deteriorating position of Israel in the community of nations.

My New Article

Just published: “Medical Ethics and Academic Freedom – My Dutch Experience”, in Alan Jotkowitz and Shifra Shvarts (eds.), Autonomy, Altruism and Authority in Medical Ethics - Essays in Honor of Professor Shimon Glick (NY: Nova, 2015), pp. 11-29.

I open with personal words. I have known Shimon Glick since 1995, when I established The Medical Ethics Think-tank at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. One of the first people I asked to join was Shimon. We never met before but I was aware of his scholarship and leadership at Ben-Gurion University. I knew that he served as the Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, and that he has published in the most distinguished forums in the world, including New England Journal of Medicine, Science, Nature, the Annals of the NY Academy of Sciences and Journal of Medical Ethics. Shimon accepted my invitation and was an active member of the Think-tank during its three years of operation. He was a wonderful colleague to work with: professional, sharp, friendly and unassuming, despite his many achievements; a team member every coach loves to have on his team. Shimon’s article is included in one of the two volumes resulting from the Think-tank work.
In 2000, another member of the Van Leer Medical Ethics Think-tank, Avraham Steinberg, established a public committee to draft the Dying Patient Law. He nominated yet another member of our Think-tank, Asa Kasher, to head the Philosophy/Values subcommittee, and invited Shimon and me to serve on the subcommittee. Yet again I was delighted to work closely with Shimon for a further two years, seeing the completion of the law proposal. Shimon and I kept in touch ever since then. It has been both a pleasure and privilege to have Shimon in my life, and I hope we may find ways to collaborate also in the future.
For many years I have been working on end-of-life issues. Indeed, this was also my concern at Van Leer. At that time I supported euthanasia.  Shimon used to say to me: with time, you will change your mind. After an extensive field-trip to the Netherlands I did indeed, change my mind. I no longer support euthanasia but I do support physician-assisted suicide (PAS). I was the only member of the Dying Patient Committee who actively supported the introduction of physician-assisted suicide legislation.
In this essay I would like to speak publicly, for the first time, about my Dutch research experience. It is an essay in medical ethics and academic freedom. I had a fascinating and trying experience in the Netherlands from which I have learned many lessons. Academia, very much like politics, never ceases to amaze and surprise me; so much so that when I find myself yet again baffled, I ask myself why: why I remain open to surprise. I guess I simply cannot become the optimal cynic who successfully developed the necessary immune system. The Dutch experience, however, remained exceptional for me. I hope it will remain exceptional. Here is my story; I believe it has some important lessons for everyone.

As ever, I’d be happy to send my article to interested parties.

New Book

Alan Jotkowitz and Shifra Shvarts (eds.), Autonomy, Altruism and Authority in Medical Ethics - Essays in Honor of Professor Shimon Glick (NY: Nova, 2015).

Book Description: 

In this volume, written in honor of the eightieth birthday of Professor Shimon Glick, world renowned experts in the field of medical ethics struggle with the question of how to weigh the respective values of autonomy, altruism and authority in dealing with real life bioethical dilemmas. Professor A. Mark Clarfield addresses the issue of non-maleficence as it applies to the elderly, frail patient using the examples of screening for prostate cancer and Alzheimer's disease. Professor Cohen-Almagor chronicles his difficulties in researching and publishing his work on euthanasia in the Netherlands and the lessons he learned from these experiences. Professor Raanan Gillon respectfully argues against the contention that there is a moral difference between withdrawing and withholding therapy. Professor Michael Gross skillfully reviews the arguments for and against force feeding political hunger strikers ultimately concluding that, "force feeding should be rare and only come when attempts at reasonable accommodation fail." Professor Jonathan Halevy addresses the frequently overlooked ethical dilemmas facing a hospital director which have become more frequent in this era of resource driven medicine. He focuses on questions of risk management, triage, physician impairment, allocation of scarce resources and patient autonomy. Professors Kopelman and Appelbaum discuss the important issue of the impact of social media on the contemporary practice of medicine and the potential ethical challenges that this often brings. Issues such as confidentially and appropriate boundaries and their impact on the doctor-patient relationship are addressed in the context of social media. In telling the story of the death of his father and mother in law, Professor John Lantos demonstrates the complexity of each individual case and the difficulty of relying simply on ethical principles to resolve moral dilemmas in the hospital. In responding to Professor Lantos, Professor Alan Jotkowitz points out those Jewish ethical deciders who also realize the difficulties of a principle based approach and therefore use an insightful reading of Talmudic narratives to develop an authentic Jewish ethic. Professor Shifra Shvarts, Dr. Ofra Golan and Dr. Giora Kaplan trace the fascinating roots of the concepts of justice and equality in the Israeli healthcare system. They tell the intriguing story of how these concepts have evolved through the use of case histories from Jerusalem hospitals in the nineteenth century and the development of the early Sick Funds at the beginning of the twentieth century in Israel. Professor Avraham Steinberg addresses the question of how Jewish law defines basic concepts such as motherhood, fatherhood and a human being in light of modern science. Professor Alfred Tauber convincingly argues that opposition to physician strikes is rooted in the concept of what it means to be a physician. In Tauber's words "to enjoy the doctor status required not only an enormous fund of knowledge and professional commitment, one also accepted a deep personal responsibility for the care of the patient". Professor Paul Root Wolpe points out that the conceptual category of autonomy has become the dominant principle of Western bioethics, a development which he has labelled "the triumph of autonomy". The above notwithstanding, it is becoming increasingly apparent that placing autonomy at the top of one's hierarchy of values alone cannot solve all modern bioethical dilemmas. (Imprint: Nova)

Table of Contents: 
Preface pp.xv-xvii 

Chapter 1. Unintended Maleficence in the Frail Elderly Patient. Are We Sometimes Complicit? 
(A. Mark Clarfield, Sidonie Hecht Professor of Geriatrics, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel)pp.1-10 

Chapter 2. Medical Ethics and Academic Freedom – My Dutch Experience 
(Raphael Cohen-Almagor, The Middle East Study Group, University of Hull, UK)pp.11-30 

Chapter 3. An Argument about Withdrawing Life-Prolonging Treatment 
(Raanan Gillon, Imperial College London, UK)pp.31-46 

Chapter 4. Sanctity of Life and the Right to Life: Force Feeding Hunger Strikers 
(Michael L. Gross, The University of Haifa, Israel)pp.47-58 

Chapter 5. Moral Duties and Ethical Dilemmas of a Hospital Director 
(Jonathan Halevy, Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel)pp.59-66 

Chapter 6. Social Media and Medicine: Ethical and Practical Challenges 
(Andrew Kopelman, Paul S. Appelbaum and Elizabeth K. Dollard, New York University School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital, and Columbia University and New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, NY)pp.67-86 

Chapter 7. A DNR for Dad 
(John Lantos, Professor of Pediatrics at University of Missouri – Kansas City and Director of the Children’s Mercy Hospital Bioethics Center, MO, US)pp.87-106 

Chapter 8. Stories: A Response to John Lantos 
(Alan Jotkowitz, the Jakobovits Center for Jewish Medical Ethics, and the Medical School for International Health, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel)pp.107-122 

Chapter 9. “Separate and Equal”: The Historical Roots of Principles of Equality and Mutual Assistance in the Israeli Health System. 
(Shifra Shvarts, Ofra Golan and Giora Kaplan, Moshe Prywes Center of Medical Education, Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel and others)pp.123-146 

Chapter 10. Definitions of Basic Concepts, in Light of Modern Scientific Advances 
(Avraham Steinberg, Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel; Head of Editorial Board, Talmudic Encyclopedia, Jerusalem, Israel)pp.147-170 

Chapter 11. Concerning Physician Identity and the Ethics of Care 
(Alfred I. Tauber and Zoltan Kohn, Center for Philosophy and History of Science, TX, US)pp.171-182 

Chapter 12. Triumph or Tyranny? A Reflection on Shimon Glick and the Concept of Autonomy in Bioethics 
(Paul Root Wolpe, Asa Griggs Candler and Raymond Schinazi, The Center for Ethics at Emory University, GA, US)pp.183-192 

Index pp.193-205 

Dartmouth Workshop

I was invited to present my forthcoming book Confronting the Internet's Dark Side: Moral and Social Responsibility on the Free Highway (Washington DC.: Woodrow Wilson Center Press and Cambridge University Press, 2015) at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. It was a high caliber workshop with twelve participants from the USA, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. The theme was hate speech on the Internet. My paper concerned social responsibility of ISPs, arguably the most intricate subject of my book. My viewpoint endorses proactivity on part of ISPs, a stance that is not popular among American free speech scholars and Internet experts. Thus the chapter evoked a lively debate. This is exactly what I want to do. I want people to address the concerns and ideas, to think outside of the box, and to probe the challenges that free speech on the internet presents before us.

I am most grateful to Kath Gelber and Susan Brison for their kind invitation.

Always a First
Flying to Lebanon Airport in New Hampshire was an adventure. For the first time in my life, the steward asked me for my weight. Puzzled I answered with a question: are you asking for my own weight, or for the weight of my suitcase? The steward reiterated that she ask for my weight as it is a small plane.

Usually when I board a flight, I present my boarding card and passport. Here, I presented both, and walked to the plane, a nine seater. The bellhop sat on the airplane wing with a piece of paper, and read the first names of the passengers. Another first. No one ever called me by my first name when I boarded a flight.

At Lebanon Airport, I waited for a taxi for some time. When the two pilots and the other passengers left the airport I looked around me and realised that I was the only passenger in the entire airport. Another first. Never been in such a situation before. Quite appropriately, at one point the automatic door opens, and a dog entered the terminal. I had company.

And within ten minutes I visited two states, Norwich and Lebanon. Never done that!

Gem of the Month 1

Derek Penslar delivered a fascinating talk about Theodor Herzl. This was part of the MESG seminar series at the University of Hull. Derek was able to capture the enigmatic character of Herzl and to provoke interest in this fascinating leader of the Jewish people in the new era. Herzl was a man of many contradictions. In many respects, he encapsulates the Zionist movement. Derek’s eloquent talk was accessible to the audience, many of them heard about Herzl for the first time in their life.

I have yet to hear a boring talk about Herzl, a person who deserves a Hollywood movie about his life. It will be an assured blockbuster. Derek did an excellent job in portraying his life and achievements.

After the lecture, I took Derek and a few colleagues to Marrakech, a fine Moroccan restaurant in Hull. It was a lovely dinner indeed.
Herzl was a fascinating figure. His personal story and journey should be told to the public. The script is great. With the right cast and direction, it will be a grand, significant and successful movie.

I wish Arnon Milchan will produce “Herzl” and will do to Zionism what “Schindler List” did to the Holocaust: Bring it home to millions of people all over the world who are familiar with the term “Zionism” but actually have very little idea, if at all, what does Zionism mean.

Herzl proved that daring can change the course of history, and that dreams may come true.

Gem of the Month 2

Classical music this year is very good in Hull. The English Chamber Orchestra (ECO) under the directorship of Howard Shelley played four great pieces of music: Grieg’s Holberg Suite; Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 (Mozart was 29 year-old when he composed this great piece of music); Handel’s Water Music No. 1, and Schubert’s Symphony No. 5 (Schubert was 19 year-old when he composed this brilliant piece of music). What a splendid selection of music. Mozart and Schubert are my favourite composers. One piece of music as thrilling as the other. It has been a while since I last heard the ECO, and it is a great experience. The ECO is the most recorded chamber orchestra in the world, with 860 recordings of over 1,500 works by more than 400 composers. I enjoyed listening to them, and I enjoyed observing them during intervals. There is a very good atmosphere between them. They relate to one another, joke with each other, and seem to enjoy each other’s company. Not always do you see that in orchestras. This comradeship helps to bring beautiful harmony and very sharp results.

I presume Shelley plays an important role in making this happen. This very experienced conductor did three things: he directed the orchestra; he communicated with his audience in a direct way – twice during the concert he gave poignant short speeches about the composers and the music they were about to play, with good humour and intelligent reflections, and he also played the piano (Mozart 21). Not many people are able to conduct and to play at the same time. Shelley can.

It was a wonderful, inspiring evening. A true gem.

There was a third contender for the Gem of the Month. Together with my sun Roei we saw Hull v. Chelsea. It was an excellent game of fine football. However, there were two spoilers. First, Hull lost. This was rather harsh as Hull did not deserve to lose this game. Second, immediately to my left sat one of the most foul-mouthed people I have ever had the displeasure to sit with. His vocabulary consists of twenty words, seventeen of them are quite dirty curses. The guy did not stop shouting for a moment the entire game. Arguably the worst company I have ever had in a football match, and I had plenty.

My Visit to Israel

Next month I plan to be in Israel for a conference in Jerusalem, where I will be speaking about hate speech on the Internet. I’d be happy to see friends and colleagues.

Monthly Poems

A Calendar of Sonnets: April

No days such honored days as these! While yet
Fair Aphrodite reigned, men seeking wide
For some fair thing which should forever bide
On earth, her beauteous memory to set
In fitting frame that no age could forget,
Her name in lovely April's name did hide,
And leave it there, eternally allied
To all the fairest flowers Spring did beget.
And when fair Aphrodite passed from earth,
Her shrines forgotten and her feasts of mirth,
A holier symbol still in seal and sign,
Sweet April took, of kingdom most divine,
When Christ ascended, in the time of birth
Of spring anemones, in Palestine.

Helen Hunt Jackson

April Love

We have walked in Love's land a little way,
We have learnt his lesson a little while,
And shall we not part at the end of day,
With a sigh, a smile?

A little while in the shine of the sun,
We were twined together, joined lips forgot
How the shadows fall when day is done,
And when Love is not.

We have made no vows - there will none be broke,
Our love was free as the wind on the hill,
There was no word said we need wish unspoke,
We have wrought no ill.

So shall we not part at the end of day,
Who have loved and lingered a little while,
Join lips for the last time, go our way,
With a sigh, a smile.

Ernest Christopher Dowson

Light Side

Never Argue With Children

A little girl was talking to her teacher about whales. The teacher said it was physically impossible for a whale to swallow a human because even though it was a very large mammal its throat was very small. The girl stated that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. Irritated, the teacher reiterated that a whale could not swallow a human; it was physically impossible. The little girl said, "When I get to heaven I will ask Jonah." The teacher asked, "What if Jonah went to hell?" The little girl replied, "Then you ask him."

Peace and love.

Yours as ever,


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