Sunday, May 31, 2015

Politics – May 2015

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The Jewish state will defend itself by itself against any threat.

~Netanyahu relating to the Iranian threat

Prime Minister Netanyahu is right: Arab countries should be involved in finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A stable democracy needs a strong government but no less importantly also a strong opposition. Without the latter, the road to corruption is wide open.

The democratic pendulum hopefully will swing Labour’s way in the next elections. It is not healthy to have the same party in power for long.

Wise people do not enter situations which others might fall into and then devise all kind of tricks to escape. 

Religion has an important role in fighting hatred. Christian, Muslim and Jewish sages unite to denounce bigotry and extremism. United.

~Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Reflections on April 2015 Newsletter
Israeli Government
Netanyahu's Mistake
UK Elections
Congratulations – Jonathan Arkush
The Vatican Recognized Palestine
Touched My Heart
My Visit to Poland
My New Article/Letter
My Newspaper Article
Book Review
New Books
Gem of the Month - Krakow
English Football
Monthly Poems
Light Side

Reflections on April 2015 Newsletter
My reflections on the 2015 Israel elections were also published in The INTERNATIONAL POLICY DIGEST,

Professor Art Hobson, Arkansas, sent two pieces he published Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on 21 Apr 2015. Below are excerpts from his “Why Islam needs a reformation”:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali writes in her book Heretic: Why Islam needs a reformation now (Harper, 2015) that the vast majority of the world's Muslims are moderate and peaceful, and only three percent are radical fundamentalists. The problem is that this three percent amounts to 48 million individuals, which seems to be more than enough to perpetrate mayhem throughout much of the world. Ali lays out five "theses" (in analogy to the 95 theses that Martin Luther nailed to the church door in 1517, launching the Protestant Reformation) that she believes are essential to any real reform: Ensure that Muhammad and the Qur'an are open to interpretation and criticism. Give priority to this life, not the afterlife. Shackle sharia law and end its supremacy over secular law. End the practice of "commanding right and forbidding wrong" that gives all Muslims free license to enforce Islamic codes and disciplines. And abandon jihad (holy war). For the non-Muslim world, the fifth thesis, to abandon jihad, looms largest. Ali argues that, although the lure of jihad is sometimes blamed on harsh economic conditions, dysfunctional families, confused identity, alienation, failure to integrate into society, mental illness, and American foreign policy, the real imperative for jihad is embedded in Islam itself.

Israeli Government

On May 4, 2015, Avigdor Lieberman announced that his party won’t be included in Netanyahu’s new government. He explained that his “principles” prevented him to enter the coalition. One may suggest an alternative explanation: Lieberman was unable to get from Netanyahu what he wanted in terms of ministries and access to power positions and money. Netanyahu thought that he had other, better options in service of his agenda and purposes.

Netanyahu was left with only one option if he did not wish to court after Herzog (which he did not): Jewish Home. Netanyahu and the leader of Jewish Home, Naftali Bennett, have complicated relationships. Bennett served as Netanyahu’s assistant/adviser until, like many other personal advisors, he quit, parted ways and made a name for himself in the right/religious circles. The two men know each other well, their respective strengths and weaknesses. Love does not exist between the two. They need one another to pursue their sometimes shared, sometimes different interests.


In the coalition agreement, Netanyahu pledged Bennett that the budget of Ariel University will increase significantly and that transportation in Judea and Samaria will be shielded against terrorist attacks.

Netanyahu is fully aware that this slimmest of parliamentary majorities, made up of 61 MKs of the right-leaning and religious parties, is not sustainable in the long run. Usually coalitions in Israel do not last the allotted time of four years. A coalition of 61 out of 120 MKs is prone to blackmail and pressures, and will have great difficulties to function. Netanyahu must lure other parties into his coalition if he wishes to last more than a year in his favourite office. There are ten parties in the twentieth Knesset. Five of them are represented in Netanyahu’s coalition: Likud (30); Kulanu (10); Jewish home (8); Shas (7); Yahadut Hatorah (6). The two latter are ultra-Orthodox. Jewish home is Orthodox. You understand the direction. The secular majority in Israeli society will have to digest many frogs served cold on Netanyahu’s table.

The last government enacted a law that restricted the number of ministers to 18. The first thing that this government did was to change the law, enabling Netanyahu to have more
ministers in his coalition. Almost each and every member of this tiny coalition has responsibilities and a title.

Israel has a new government, and what a GREAT government it is! Do not look at its size. True, it is based on 61 members of Knesset, but look at the quality!

Netanyahu, the best politician Israel has had in the past ten and more years, is holding the reins. You can be sure that Israel is in safe hands. Netanyahu will fight against any threat, real or imagined, near or far. His obsession with Iran shows just how capable he is in focusing on what really matters. All the rest is minute in scope.

Bogi Yaalon continues in defence. Gaza be warned. Don't try Bogi again because this time his hand might be harsher and longer.

Naftaly Bennett is the new Minister of Education. Children of Israel will learn about the holy Jewish trinity of the Bible of Israel, the Land of Israel, and the People of Israel. Surely, this is what matters. No other people, land or topic is equally important. And because of this clear priority, all others are subordinate. The Palestinians included. Jewish pride is combined with Jewish might. 

Naftali Bennett will see that the children of Israel will receive nationalistic, patriotic, Jewish, anti-Arab education.

The new minister of justice is Ayelet Shaked of Bennett's party. Now we all will understand the meaning of Jewish justice. Jewish rights. Jewish values. Justices of the Supreme Court now will need to be cautious in upholding human rights. Shaked will see that the Supreme Court will be as quiet and ineffective as possible, and that human rights will feature low in the justices' priorities. Shaked embodies powerful, Jewish, feminine grace.

Yariv Levin is also minister of sorts. He embodies Likud intellectualism. If you wonder what does this mean, follow him. You will be intrigued.

Uri Ariel of Bennett’s party is the Minister of Agriculture. Ariel is interested in cultivating and building the whole Land of Israel. Uri Ariel will work tirelessly to expand the settlements in the occupied territories. Ariel is an effective doer. He will do his best to ensure that the idea of a two-state solution will evaporate into thin air, leaving the Palestinians with the smallest possible territory. Just give him time to build. What a joy for the settlement project! Such fun!

Miri Regev is the minister of culture and sport. Can't be more appropriate person for the job. Indeed, when one thinks of culture, the name Regev is the first to come to mind. Such a cultural, refined woman, with vast knowledge and understanding of culture, a Renaissance woman indeed. We may assume that there will be slight more emphasis on Jewish culture and that egalitarian values won't be supported by the ministry but, hey, Regev will educate Israeli artists as to what really matters.

Zeev Elkin can do many things, and he does, including the Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, this despite Netanyahu’s pledge to the Mayor of Jerusalem that such thing won’t be created. But hey, Netanyahu never pledged to keep his promises, and one needs to be a complete fool to ask, or expect him to do this. One must be completely naïve to think that Netanyahu will keep promises. At this point, we know better. But here I want to speak for the City of Tel Aviv, known in Israel as the State of Tel Aviv. It surely needs a minister too. And Haifa. And Netanya too. After all, it might become Netanyahu one day if not too careful.

Silver Lining
Moshe Kachlon in his new role as minister of finance will make a difference to improve the cost of living for the poor and middle classes.

Netanyahu's Mistake

Gilad Erdan, who was elected by Likud Party members as the most popular leader after Netanyahu, was initially left out. Erdan and Netanyahu did not reach an understanding about an appropriate role for Likud's no. 2. Netanyahu forced Erdan to accept his offer and gave him something as compensation but the damage has been done. Erdan won't forget the insult. He will be waiting in the corner. And he will exploit situations when Netanyahu will make further mistakes. Possibly this is the beginning of Bibi's downfall. 

Wise people do not enter situations which others might fall into and then devise all kind of tricks to escape. 


Now that Mr Elkin is in charge of Jerusalem, he can utilize his immense energies to address some of the problems of the Holy City: Poverty, housing, education and the tremendous divisions between Arabs and Jews,

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel recently published a report about this divided and troubled city.

The Palestinians comprise 37% of the population.

75% of them live below poverty line.

33% of Palestinian students do not complete high school.

64% of Palestinian homes are connected to the water network. This is also because 39% of the Palestinian houses were built without appropriate authorization. Such authorizations are not easy to receive if one is a Palestinian.

A recipe for tension, frustration and violence.

In the summer of 2014, in clashes between Palestinian youth and the police at least five children lost an eye as they were shot by rubber bullets. The youngest was 6 year-old.


Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was convicted for corruption and received eight months in jail.

UK Elections

Pollsters in the UK are as good as the pollsters in Israel. Thus many people were utterly disappointed upon hearing the exit poll results. These were far more accurate than the exit polls in Israel.
The CEO of YouGov, which published daily polls in the weeks before Thursday’s vote, apologized and said the entire polling industry must now hold a joint inquiry into how they had called the result so drastically wrong. Stephan Shakespeare said it was too soon to say for sure why they had underestimated the Conservatives’ decisive share of the vote but he has offered a first detailed explanation. “The first thing we have to do is say we got it wrong. There’s no point in saying it wasn’t that bad,” he said.
Obama campaign veteran David Axelrod expressed his frustration with the polling. "In all my years as journalist & strategist, I've never seen as stark a failure of polling as in UK. Huge project ahead to unravel that," he wrote on Twitter.
Polling analysts and political pundits warned throughout the campaign that there could be a late swing to the Tories because of the public’s underlying feelings about the leadership of Cameron over Edward Miliband and a strong preference for the Conservatives on the economy. These factors may well have come into play, and certainly that was the Tory election strategy.

2015 elections brought a resounding win for Cameron. Newspapers headlines on the day of elections that the UK is about to experience an election blunder as a result of a close tie between Labour and Tories were overly optimistic for Labour. Cameron won big time and showed that the British public does not believe in Labour and/or its leadership.

Miliband in this respect is very much like Herzog. Leader of a big party is not necessarily a national leader.

On May 8, 2015, a day after the bitter defeat, I received the following message:

Dear Raphael,

This is not the email I wanted to be writing to you today. I am profoundly sorry for the defeat we suffered, and more grateful than I can express for the support that you have shown me, and our party, throughout this campaign.

I take full responsibility for the result of the election, and that’s why it’s absolutely right that I step down as Labour’s leader today.

It has been the utmost privilege to serve this party as your leader, and to spend the last four-and-a-half years fighting for the millions of British families who need and deserve the fairness, compassion and opportunity that only a Labour government can provide.

Yet while defeats are hard, we are a party that will never stop fighting for the working people of this country. Britain needs a strong Labour Party and it is the responsibility of each of us to continue the fight. The stakes are too high to wait for others to lead.

It isn’t simply leaders who achieve change, it is people that make change happen. I will never give up on that idea, I will never give up on our cause and I will never give up on our fight.

Thank you again for everything, and please, keep on fighting too. The course of progress and social justice is never simple or straightforward, and change happens because people like us don’t give up.



Time for Labour to have an experienced woman as its leader.

Congratulations – Jonathan Arkush

Hearty congratulations to Jonathan Arkush on his election to president of the board of deputies. I am certain he will continue to provide great service to the UK Jewish community and that he will fulfil his position with professionalism, responsibility and dignity. 

Mazal Tov Jonathan!!

The Vatican Recognized Palestine
On May 13, 2015, the Vatican announced that it would soon sign a treaty that includes recognition of the “State of Palestine” about the “essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine.”

Both parties, according to the statement, “agreed that the work of the Commission on the text of the Agreement has been concluded, and that the agreement will be submitted to the respective authorities for approval ahead of setting a date in the near future for the signing.”

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said:  “We have recognized the State of Palestine ever since it was given recognition by the United Nations and it is already listed as the State of Palestine in our official yearbook”. The Vatican welcomed the UN General Assembly’s resolution in 2012 recognizing Palestine as an observer nonmember state, a move that gave the Palestinians the same status at the UN as the Vatican.
Israel and the Vatican have themselves been unable, after some 16 years of glacial negotiations, to sign an agreement that would deal with matters such as the status of the Catholic Church in Israel, the issue of sovereignty over some 21 sites in the country, and taxation and expropriation issues.


Touched My Heart

JK Rowling has more than 4.5 million followers on Twitter. One of them wrote to her:

This may get lost in the noise..but what would you say to someone who has failed to find meaning and wants to finally give up?

Rowling spotted this, did not ignore it and replied:

“I would say: look at this”.

Then she sent him two more beautiful photos and added:

“And I'd say, the world is full of wonderful things you haven't seen yet. Don't ever give up on the chance of seeing them”.

The troubled fan received many more encouraging tweets from Rowling’s fans to which he replied:

I'm tearing up over here! Humans can truly be amazing to one another. Thank you @jk_rowling and everyone replying.


I met an Iranian expert who told me that Iran won't sign the nuclear deal. The discussion will fail. This will stir some anger in Tehran. There will be “something” in the summer in protest. He further predicts a counter-revolution in the next three years. He also told me that the Iranian regime is taking orders from Moscow, and that many of the Mullahs are KGB agents.

My Visit to Poland

I continue to present my new book in various forums. This time I was invited to speak about Holocaust denial on the Internet in Kraków. We visited the Oscar Schindler museum where the tourist guide spoke of the Jewish and Polish victims, Jewish and Polish suffering etc. He depicted Kraków as a city under German occupation that had three tiers of people: German, the master race; the Poles who suffered a great deal under the Nazi boot, and the Jews, the non-entity, the non-human subjects designated for extermination.

Oscar Schindler’s desk

When we last lived in Haifa, our home was in Oscar Schindler Street.

We also visited Auschwitz-Birkenau. I read volumes about this horrific place, and saw quite a number of documentaries. But there is nothing like seeing with your own eyes. I was perturbed. This is the lowest point of so-called humanity I have ever witnessed.

Upon my return to Kraków I sat down and wrote four poems. I am still shaken by this ghastly experience.

Below is one of the poems. It is written in my native language.


25 אפריל 2015

אני שומע את הקולות 
צווחות המעונים בתאים המצחינים 
הנמקים בעומדם או בשכבם בחורים אפלים

אני שומע את הקולות 
פקודות אדנות חסרי רחמים
גולגלות מוות אוחזים קלשון 

אני שומע את הקולות
תחינות להפסקת הסיוט הבלתי פוסק
פצפוץ עצמות מרסק

אני שומע את הקולות 
יריות המוצאים להורג
קול השוט החותך אוויר ואחר בשר מדמם

אני שומע את הקולות 
צעדת העבדים לעבודת פרך
ואגנר מנוגן בדיוק גרמני מסורתי

נביחות הכלבים
האם היו כאן ציפורים ?

As I exited Auschwitz I felt that a universal prayer hall for people of all religions would be most appropriate.

I thank Zbigniew Maciag, Jerzy Malec, Jerzy Marcinkowski, Jonathan Ornstein and Joachim S. Russek for their kind hospitality.

My New Article/Letter

Tom Mortier, René Leiva, Raphael Cohen-Almagor and Willem Lemmens, “Between Palliative Care and Euthanasia”, Journal of Bioethical Inquiry (April 2015).

In 2002, Belgium became the second country in the world to legalize euthanasia. A few studies dealing with the Belgium euthanasia practices have been published, based on a survey given to a sample of physicians and nurses. These studies have implicitly proposed the practice of euthanasia as a medical act. Moreover, an article published in the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry argued that the Belgian experiment concerning medical end-of-life decisions is unique in the world and that the Belgian palliative care system, including euthanasia, should serve as a role model for the rest of the world. This conclusion is rather an overstatement. We analyzed the latest data provided by the Belgian Federal Euthanasia Commission. Almost 40 percent of the patients who received euthanasia did not see a palliative care specialist nor interacted with a palliative care team. Moreover, the charts of the patients euthanized cannot be reviewed since they are anonymous and nothing is known about the unreported cases. Professional carefulness dictates cautious conclusions.

I am happy to send the piece to interested parties.

My Newspaper Article

“Breaking the Israeli-Palestinian Deadlock”, Retos International, Vol. 5, No. 11 (2014),

The article was published in Mexico and communication appears difficult… I just discovered that my article was published earlier this year.

Book Review

Abraham H. Foxman and Christopher Wolf, Viral Hate (NY: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2013).
This is another version of the book review published in Political Studies Review, Vol. 13, Issue 2 (May 2015), pp. 281-282.

Abe Foxman is the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Chris Wolf is the national chair of the ADL Civil Rights Committee. The ADL has been in the forefront of fighting hate and bigotry for many years. It is one of the leading world organizations that are actively engaged with the challenge that hatred presents.

Hate speech is designed to threaten certain groups publicly and act as propaganda for offline organizations. Hate groups use websites to share ideology and propaganda, to link to similar sites and to recruit new converts, advocate violence and to threat others. This useful book analyses the ways hate mongers are utilizing the Internet, and asks what can be done to counter their activities. The book discusses the targets of hate on the Internet and offers practical proposals to address this increasing problem. The Internet provides cheap, instantaneous and anonymous distribution that can be easily downloaded and posted in multiple places. The transnational nature of the World-Wide-Web, its vast content, the fact that it has no central management or coordination, and that the routing computers do not retain copies of the packets they handle provide ample opportunities for people to exploit the Net's massive potential to enhance partisan interests, some of which are harmful and anti-social, thus undermining people’s sense of trust in the Net. The problem is presented by the relatively small number of people who abuse the Net to harm others.

In this timely and disturbing book, Foxman and Wolf explain the scope of the challenge. The Internet is a vast ocean of knowledge, data, ideologies and propaganda. It is omnipresent, interactive, fast and decentralized. The ease of access to the Internet, its low cost and speed, its chaotic structure (or lack of structure), the anonymity which individuals and groups may enjoy, and the international character of the world-wide-web furnish all kinds of individuals and organizations an easy and effective arena for their partisan interests. The Internet contains some of the best written products of humanity, and some of the worst ones.

Foxman and Wolf further explore how social media giants such as Facebook and YouTube, as well as the most successful search engine Google, are struggling to reconcile the demands of business with freedom of expression and the real-life threats posed by the present purveyors of hate. The Internet, of course, is not the problem. The problem arises where it is utilised to undermine our well-being as autonomous beings living in free societies. Foxman and Wolf explain that only unified efforts by parents, educators, Netusers, law enforcement officers, and policy makers can possibly stop the hate contagion before it translates into hate crimes.

I thank Chris Wolf for a copy of this book.

New Books

John Hoffman and Paul Graham (eds.), Introduction to Political Theory (London: Routledge, 2015), 3rd ed., Paperback

Introduction to Political Theory is a wonderful text for teaching undergraduate course in political theory. It is well-structured, full of food-for-thought, with intriguing chapters and up-to-date contents. It brings together classic and contemporary political concepts and ideologies, introducing the major approaches to political issues that have shaped the modern world, and the ideas that form the currency of political debate. The book opens with an examination of essential concepts: What is power?, reflecting on the familiar topics of State, freedom, equality, justice, democracy, citizenship and punishment. The book then examines ideologies that shaped the world: Liberalism, Conservatism, Socialism, Anarchism and Fascism. I also teach Feminism, Multiculturalism and Ecologism and the book covers these issues as well. Finally, the book considers contemporary ideas: human rights, civil disobedience, political violence, difference and global justice.

Each chapter contains a bibliography. Some chapters contain points in focus, helpful summaries, and questions to trigger discussion. The book also contains many intriguing examples and case studies, making political theory lively, contentious and relevant.
This updated third edition reflects on the latest questions facing political theory - the French burqa controversy, ethnic nationalism, the value of research from sociobiology, consensual sadomasochism, affirmative action and same-sex marriage.

The revised glossary, revamped website for further reading and new streamlined layout make Introduction to Political Theory a valuable accompaniment to undergraduate study.

Gem of the Month - Krakow

This was my first visit to this city that has rich Jewish history. I enjoyed the main square, the castle, the salt mines, and the old city. The Jewish presence in Kraków is very noticeable. We visited Jewish Kraków, a must tour. Kazimierz is now one of the most lucrative neighbourhoods of Krakow.

Krakow has one of the largest squares in Europe. It serves as a meeting place for locals and tourists. The surrounding churches and buildings are majestic. I liked the atmosphere and the constant buzz. Until late at night the square is full of action, lively and quite beautiful.

English Football

Another exciting year of excellent Premier League football. English football is still the best in the world. Chelsea has dominated the league. Here is my team of the season:

Goal Keeper:

David de Gea (Manchester United and Spain)
He has been so good that it is reported that next year he will be playing for Real Madrid.


Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea and Serbia)
Ivanovic was on my team also last year. Consistently very good.

Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham and Belgium)
An asset for Spurs. Should be the Captain.

John Terry (Chelsea and England)
The heart of Chelsea defence. A champion material.

Leighton Baines (Everton and England) very good.


Yaya Touré (Manchester City, Ivory Coast)
Touré was on my team also last year. Consistently very good.

David Silva (Manchester City and Spain)
Silva was on my team also last year.

Eden Hazard (Chelsea and Belgium)
Hazard was on my team also last year.

Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool and Brazil)
Coutinho was on my team also last year.


Sergio Leonel "Kun" Agüero del Castillo (Manchester City and Argentina)
Top scorer in the Premier League with 26 goals. The Man. City fans simply love him. He is a natural scorer who enjoys terrorising defences with his quick feet and immense pace.

Diego Costa (Chelsea and Spain)
First year in the Premier League, and what an impact! Costa was a crucial factor in securing Chelsea the Championship. Strong. Focus. Alert. A natural goal scorer. 20 goals, many crucial in secure the Championship. Third in the Premier League.


As usual, this has been yet another mediocre, frustrating, trophy-free season. Spurs has quite a strong squad but it misses some key players in key position. Some of its football was exciting (the win against Chelsea) yet much of it was, in one harsh word, boring. Sometimes I fell asleep watching them. This is not very good, is it?

The squad still includes some mediocre players that should seek their fortune elsewhere.  Brad Friedel has retired and a new goal keeper will come, possibly from Spurs academy. Younes Kaboul, Vlad Chiriches, Erik Lamela, Nacer Chadli, Etienne Capoue, Benjamin Stambouli, Roberto Soldado, Emanuel Adebayor and Paulinho have not made the impact expected of them at Spurs. They are incapable to lead Spurs to trophies. I wish them luck in other clubs.

Spurs needs two excellent central defenders, a first-rate midfielder playmaker to help Eriksen, and two world class strikers. Selling the above nine players can bring to Spurs new five excellent players.

Monthly Poems

Broken Music 

The mother will not turn, who thinks she hears 
Her nursling's speech first grow articulate; 
But breathless with averted eyes elate 
She sits, with open lips and open ears, 
That it may call her twice. 'Mid doubts and fears 
Thus oft my soul has hearkened; till the song, 
A central moan for days, at length found tongue, 
And the sweet music welled and the sweet tears. 

But now, whatever while the soul is fain 
To list that wonted murmur, as it were 
The speech-bound sea-shell's low importunate strain, - 
No breath of song, thy voice alone is there, 
O bitterly beloved! and all her gain 
Is but the pang of unpermitted prayer. 

Dante Gabriel Rossetti 

A Golden Day 

I Found you and I lost you, 
All on a gleaming day. 
The day was filled with sunshine, 
And the land was full of May. 

A golden bird was singing 
Its melody divine, 
I found you and I loved you, 
And all the world was mine. 

I found you and I lost you, 
All on a golden day, 
But when I dream of you, dear, 
It is always brimming May. 

Paul Laurence Dunbar 

Light Side

Go to school

Mom: get up Liam, you will be late for school
Liam: but I don't wanna go, all the teachers and students hate me
Mom: you have to go
Liam: give me one reason why I should go
Mom: you're 35, and you're the principal

Peace and love.

Yours as ever,


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