Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Politics – July 2015

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

I wish all nations would name national airports after scientists and artists.

While Florence is the museum city, Venice is the postcard city. All cities in the world would love to have any scene captured by the camera in Venice.

Venice is so lovely that I was wondering whether the local people got used to its beauty or they thank their lot each and every day for being able to wake up to such charming and mesmerizing beauty.

~Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Without a formal declaration, Israel is facing a war of attrition. It is not an all-out intifada but brutal episodes of violence. Rockets on civilians; stabbings; shootings; cars driven to maim and kill; attacking soldiers and police officers. These are now happening frequently. Much of it is ignored by the world media. Lack of interest, it is called.

The attacks are launched from Gaza, the West Bank and apparently also from Sinai. Hezbollah is too preoccupied with Syria to join in.

I recently saw two very different films about whistleblowers. The first is a documentary with significant historical value. The second is a fine drama based on a true story. Both films are disturbing in different ways…

We, society, should change things for the better.

Reflections on June Newsletter
Philipp Missfelder, MP - An Obituary Note
Nagging Question
Human Rights in Israel and in The Occupied Territories  2014
32-Month Service
Global Peace Index – 2015
Amazing Grace
Avraham Steinberg
Interview to The Economist
New Article
New Books
Gem of the Month - Florence
Gem of the Month - Venice
Movie – Citizenfour
Movie – The Whistleblower
Monthly Poems by David N. Weisstub

London Theatre – The Importance of Being Earnest or The Importance of Being Ernest

Light Side

Reflections on June Newsletter

Dr John Lantos wrote from Kansas:

1) Iran is going to build a bomb one way or the other.  Sanctions clearly would not have stopped that. 2) Iran will continue to sponsor terror and subversive groups throughout the mideast with or without a deal; 3) China and Russia clearly want to do business with Iran and don't care one way or the other about Israel.  So 4) indefinite sanctions were unsustainable; Given that, this deal is better than the status quo or any alternative.

I do wonder what unwritten side deals were made and among whom to get this through.


On July 13, 2015, an historic agreement was signed between Iran and a group of six nations: Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States. Not many people believed that this would be possible but when two parties have a vested interest to reach a deal, bridges can be found, compromises can be made, and white smoke can be aired after long (20 months) and persistent negotiations.  

The agreement would limit Tehran’s nuclear ability for more than a decade in return for lifting international oil and financial sanctions against Iran.

The agreement is said to hold 80 pages, outlining in painstaking detail how much nuclear fuel Iran can keep in the country for the next 15 years; what kind of research and development it can perform on centrifuges and other nuclear equipment; and the redesign of both a nuclear reactor and a deep-underground enrichment site that Israeli and American officials feared could be invulnerable to bombing.

Most of Iran’s infrastructure at the country’s main nuclear sites will remain intact, although much of it would be disassembled and put in storage. Some restrictions limiting Iran’s program will begin to be phased out after 10 years. Then, after 15 years, Iran would be free to produce as much enriched uranium as it wanted. In theory, though, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, to which Tehran is a signatory, would prevent it from taking the last steps to produce a weapon.

The American Congress has now 60 days to approve or reject the deal. Although some provisions, including the arms embargo, are expected to be especially contentious in Congress, Mr. Obama’s chances of ultimately prevailing are considered high. Even if the accord is voted down by one or both houses, he could veto that action, and he is likely to have the votes he would need to prevail in an effort to override the veto. But he has told aides that for an accord as important as this one — which he hopes will usher in a virtual truce with a country that has been a major American adversary for 35 years — he wants a congressional endorsement.

The Israeli government was quick to criticize the deal, saying it is a bad deal for the world. All its efforts to stop the deal came to nought. Three weeks prior, five former members of President Obama’s inner circle of Iran advisers wrote an open letter expressing concern that a pending accord to stem Iran’s nuclear program “may fall short of meeting the administration’s own standard of a ‘good’ agreement” and laying out a series of minimum requirements that Iran must agree to in the coming days for them to support a final deal.

“Most of us would have preferred a stronger agreement,” the letter begins, going on to assess the proposed accord as useful for delaying Iran’s program, but not a long-term solution to the problem of a nuclear Iran.

“The agreement will not prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapons capability,” it continues. “It will not require the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear enrichment infrastructure. It will however reduce that infrastructure for the next 10 to 15 years. And it will impose a transparency, inspection, and consequences regime with the goal of deterring and dissuading Iran from actually building a nuclear weapon.”

Among the people who signed the letter are Dennis B. Ross; David H. Petraeus, the former C.I.A. director who oversaw covert operations against Iran until he resigned two years ago; Robert Einhorn, a longtime State Department proliferation expert who helped devise and enforce the sanctions against Iran; Gary Samore, Mr. Obama’s former chief adviser on nuclear policy who is now the president of the advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran, and Gen. James E. Cartwright, a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and an architect of Mr. Obama’s effort to build up military forces in the region.

Among Republicans, the most notable signatory is Stephen J. Hadley, Mr. Bush’s national security adviser in his second term, who presided over efforts to slow Iran’s progress.

At the core of the letter are what Mr. Einhorn, now at the Brookings Institution, called “required elements that have not yet been achieved.” He said that all the signatories supported a negotiated settlement, and “there is no poison pill here” intended to undercut the chance of an agreement.

The substance of the letter is less notable for what it says — the positions were frequent talking points for the Obama administration before it faced the inevitable compromises involved in negotiations — than for the influence of its signatories.

But as often happens in negotiations, the mechanics of the trade-offs to get a deal often conflict with the negotiating objectives. Inside the White House of late, there has been what one senior official called “vigorous debate” over the risks of walking away — which would free Iran to return to full-scale production — versus accepting a deal whose specifics still leave some officials uncomfortable.

The letter gets to the heart of the dispute, saying that inspections “must include military (including I.R.G.C.) and other sensitive facilities. Iran must not be able to deny or delay timely access to any site anywhere in the country.”

The inspectors, they write, must be able “to take samples, to interview scientists and government officials, to inspect sites, and to review and copy documents as required for their investigation of Iran’s past and any ongoing nuclear weaponization activities.” The letter adds: “This work needs to be accomplished before any significant sanctions relief.”

On another delicate issue in the talks, the letter calls for “strict limits on advanced centrifuge R&D, testing, and deployment in the first 10 years,” and for measures to prevent “rapid technical upgrade” when those limits expire.

The authors insist that the United States publicly declare — with congressional assent — that even after the expiration of the agreement Iran will not be permitted to possess enough nuclear fuel to make a single weapon. “Precisely because Iran will be left as a nuclear threshold state (and has clearly preserved the option of becoming a nuclear weapon state), the United States must go on record now that it is committed to using all means necessary, including military force, to prevent this.”
The letter emerged from a study group on nuclear issues organized by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a policy institute.

Sources: David E. Sanger and Michael R. Gordon, “Iran Nuclear Deal Is Reached After Long Negotiations”, NY Times (July 14, 2015),


David Sanger, “Ex-Advisers Warn Obama That Iran Nuclear Deal ‘May Fall Short’ of Standards”, NY Times (June 24, 2015), http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/25/world/middleeast/former-advisers-caution-obama-on-iran-nuclear-talks.html?_r=1

See also “Obama Makes His Case on Iran Nuclear Deal”, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/15/opinion/thomas-friedman-obama-makes-his-case-on-iran-nuclear-deal.html

Philipp Missfelder, MP - An Obituary Note

I was sorry to learn from Dr Alan Roth that a good friend and supporter of Israel had died suddenly. Upon Dr Roth’s request, I am posting the following obituary:

The strongest advocate of Israel and the Jewish People in the European arena, German MP Philipp Missfelder, died unexpectedly last week. He was 35 years old and was considered one of the most promising young politicians in Germany.
Missfelder studied history at the Berlin Technical University and graduated with a dissertation on the Jewish journalist Max Harden. He then became one of the youngest ever Members of the Federal Parliament at 26, serving two consecutive terms. At the time of his passing he was also serving as Spokesman for Foreign Policy of the ruling CDU/CSU (Christian Democratic Union) Parliamentary Group – the youngest MP to hold this position – as well as Head of the CDU/CSU group in the Foreign Affairs Committee. Since 2014 Missfelder was in the Parliamentary Assembly at the Council of Europe.
Besides his public office, Missfelder was for 12 years Federal Chairman of the Junge Union Deutschlands (Young Union of Germany), Germany’s largest political youth organization with about 130.000 members. He was the longest serving Chairman of the organisation since its foundation in 1947, influencing a new generation of young politicians throughout the country. In 2013 the World Economic Forum elected him as a Young Global Leader.
Missfelder used each of his platforms, at every opportunity, to speak up with a strong, independent voice in support of Israel and to fight anti-Semitism.

Missfelder travelled regularly to Israel to meet Members of the Knesset and representatives of the civil society. He took part in many conferences in Israel, including the Herzliya Conference on “The Balance of Israel’s National Security” and the Israeli Presidential Conference “Facing Tomorrow” under the patronage of Shimon Peres. Last year he was awarded the price “Shield of Israel” at the Jabotinsky Institute in Tel Aviv for his long-time commitment to German-Israeli relations.

Israel‘s Ambassador to Germany, Yakov Hadas-Handelsman, said: "Philipp Mißfelder was a great representative of modern German politics and society. His death is a great loss to Germany, but also for Israel. With his sensitive and at the same time resolute commitment, Philipp Mißfelder helped to shape the special relationship between Israel and Germany and developed it tirelessly. He was a representative of the younger German generation that is committed to Israel and the entire Jewish people, in the sense of the past and the future alike. We appreciate his services and will seek to ensure and to maintain his achievements and continue to stand up for them. We appreciate Philipp Mißfelder as true friend.“

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of the great sadness with which Missfelder’s passing was taken in Israel: "(MP) Mißfelder was a true friend of the Jewish people and the State of Israel and never hesitated to express his friendship with clearer and clearer voice. We extend our condolences to his family and his colleagues in the German Bundestag“.

On a personal note, Missfelder once sponsored a Jewish event in the Reichstag – the historic German Parliament Building – for which the kitchens of the parliamentary dining room were completely koshered under rabbinical supervision in order to serve a strictly kosher Shabbat meal.

Missfelder died of a sudden pulmonary embolism on 13 July 2015. He is survived by his wife Anne-Marie and two young daughters.

Nagging Question

In my last Newsletter I posed the question:

Did King Hussein assist Hamas in organizing terrorist attacks on Israel during the early 1990s? 

A senior Palestinian official who served as an adviser to Yassir Arafat said that at the same time that King Hussein embarked on peace talks with Israel (the peace agreement with Jordan was signed in 1994) he collaborated with Hamas in order to undermine the Oslo Accords. Hussein did not like the Israeli-Palestinian peace process that was done without his involvement or blessing. It is well-known fact that Hussein hosted the leader of Hamas, Khaled Mashal in Amman. The Palestinian official said that the Mukhabarat (Jordanian General Intelligence Directorate) provided Hamas with important intelligence and actively assisted Hamas in carrying out its murderous suicide missions that rocked Israel during the 1990s.

Former Deputy Head of the Israeli SHABAC Yisrael Hasson said that he is not familiar with direct Jordanian aid to Hamas in its terrorist operations in Israel but Hamas was a welcome guest in Jordan, it had offices in Amman and directed its operations from the Jordanian capital. All this was done with the King’s consent.

Now, this is fascinating stuff. The Palestinian official has, of course, an interest in highlighting the terrorist connections between Hamas and Jordan. But if this is true, and Hussein did assist Hamas in its suicide missions that undermined Oslo and derailed the peace process, bringing the end of the Labour Party government, then it shows Hussein in a very different light; certainly not the peace-loving gentleman.

If this is true, it also shows that SHABAC was not informed to the extent that it should have about the terrorist connections between Hamas and the Mukhabarat. I should say that the Mukhabarat is a very respected and well-appreciated intelligence agency. It is highly regarded by many intelligence agencies in the world as a very capable agency.

Further information is welcome and appreciated.

Human Rights in Israel and in The Occupied Territories 2014

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. State Department, June 25, 2015

Now in their 39th year, these annual Congressionally-mandated reports provide a picture of how the promise of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is being fulfilled. They help promote awareness regarding the reality of human rights in many of the dark corners of the world and the glimpses of light that brave and committed human rights defenders provide. They are used by the Department of State and other government agencies needs to guide American foreign policy, and by Congress in its determination and allocation of foreign aid and security sector assistance. They also signal to the human rights defenders and activists under siege that the U.S. government recognizes their struggle and stands with civil society in its unending effort to preserve human rights.

http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2014/nea/236602.htm  (Israel and The Occupied Territories)

32-Month Service

July 19, 2015 marks the first round of young soldiers whose draft is shorter than the up-till-now usual service: 32 month IDF service instead of 36 month service. This is very good news, and puts in perspective the demand to see the Ultra-Orthodox recruited. The demand is more a matter of egalitarian principle than of real need.

Global Peace Index – 2015

The Global Peace Index was published recently. Israel features in the 148 place of 162 independent states in the world. This suggests there is room for improvement…

The Report indicates that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was reignited in 2014 by the tragic deaths of several young people from both sides of the conflict. 2,414 conflict-related deaths were recorded in 2014, up from 79 in 2013. Although a ceasefire was in place at the start of the year, a border clash in March 2014 resulted in the most rocket launches into Israel since 2012. Several violent clashes between Israel and different Palestinian groups occurred through April, May and June of 2014, culminating in the July-August hostilities in Gaza. Events escalated after the kidnapping and eventual death of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank. Israeli forces searched thousands of homes in the area and arrested approximately 400 Palestinians. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Hamas for the kidnapping and, citing rocket fire from Hamas-controlled Gaza, Israel commenced airstrikes over Gaza on 7 July 2014. Ground troops followed ten days later. In less than two months, 2,104 Palestinians were killed, including 1,462 civilians, almost 500 of whom were children. Israeli casualties numbered 66 soldiers and seven civilians.

At the start of 2014, Palestine and Israel were engaged in peace talks, but negotiations broke down before an agreement could be reached for the 29 April deadline. Hamas and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) signed a reconciliation agreement on 24 April 2014, meant to unify the Palestinian national movement and the two governments in Gaza and the West Bank. The agreement, however, prompted Israel’s refusal to continue talks with an administration that included Hamas. A new Palestinian unity government was nonetheless sworn in in June, with varying degrees of recognition from the international community, including the US, the EU and the UN.

The Report concludes by saying that during the elections in Israel in early 2015 provocative statements by Prime Minister Netanyahu drew international condemnation, including from the US. His successful reelection campaign promised voters that a Palestinian state would not be realised. This declaration makes it unlikely that the Israeli government will support progress toward a two-state solution.

Amazing Grace

Speaking truth to God. Speaking truth to people. President Obama sings Amazing Grace,

Avraham Steinberg

I was very pleased to see that The Lancet has published an article in its Faith-based health-care series about Avraham Steinberg, a dear friend with whom I was privileged to work for many years.

Interview to The Economist

I was contacted by The Economist and granted them a long interview on end-of-life. Of the almost one hour interview they chose to include one paragraph, and they had cut the last sentence they chose to include in the middle. The reporter did not tell me that The Economist has an agenda: campaigning for euthanasia. I oppose euthanasia.

The paragraph says:

Belgian doctors are also unusually ready to administer life-ending drugs without explicit consent, generally to patients who have dementia or are in a coma. Such situations fall outside the country’s assisted-dying laws, which require that patients are competent and request help to die. Raphael Cohen-Almagor of Hull University, the author of “The Right to Die with Dignity”, has studied doctors’ end-of-life decision-making in several countries, including Belgium and the Netherlands. He finds such cases troubling. “When they legislated in 2002, it was very clear,” he says. “They wanted to empower patients; it was about autonomy and transparency.”

The half sentence that was omitted said: But paradoxically this has contributed to medical paternalism. To prevent abuse, and to ascertain that the patient’s right to die does not open the road for medical paternalism where physicians may play God, it is suggested limiting aid-in-dying to physician-assisted suicide.

Source: Campaigns to let doctors help the suffering and terminally ill to die are gathering momentum across the West
June 27th 2015
The Economist

New Article

“Addressing Incitement in Israel”, in Aharon Barak et al. (eds.), Essays in Honour of Deputy President of the Israel Supreme Court Eliyahu Mazza (Jerusalem: Nevo, 2015), pp. 457-488 (Hebrew).

As always, I will be happy to send a copy to interested parties.

New Books

Aharon Barak et al. (eds.), Essays in Honour of Deputy President of the Israel Supreme Court Eliyahu Mazza (Jerusalem: Nevo, 2015) (Hebrew).

What a GREAT book this is! It was in the works for a few years and now I understand why. An impressive assembly of authors who wrote on topics of their respective specialisation with great authority and wisdom. I am unable to note all the authors as the book is 1000 pages long. Let me mention that the authors include former and present justices of the Supreme Court Meir Shamgar, Aharon Barak, Elyakim Rubinstein, Dafna Barak-Erez, and Yoram Danziger; former Legal Adviser to the Government Meni Mazuz; leading scholars Professors Suzy Navot, Ariel Bendor, Mordechai Kremnitzer, Moshe Negbi, Nili Cohen, Joseph Gross and Yedidya Stern. I was touched to see an article by the late Zeev Segal, may his soul rest in peace.

Congrats Eliyahu!!

Gem of the Month - Florence

I wish that all nations would name national airports after scientists and artists.

Florence is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, a city I always enjoy revisiting. It is a museum city. So much art. So much history. So much beauty.

Italy was an inspiration. Quite a few new poems, in Hebrew and in English, in a span of three days. Bella Italia. If I were to live in that part of the world, I probably would have engaged in writing poetry as a profession.

See the poem below. “Florence” can easily be replaced with “Venice”.

Gem of the Month – Venice

While Florence is the museum city, Venice is the postcard city. All cities in the world would love to have any scene captured by the camera in Venice.

Venice is so lovely that I was wondering whether the local people got used to its beauty or they thank their lot each and every day for being able to wake up to such charming and mesmerizing beauty.

The buying power of Americans and people from Far East is noticeable. Italy is populated with tourists from these corners of the world.

The price of a Gondola ride is still expensive but far more affordable. The majority of tourists who enjoy the ride are Americans and people from the Far East.

With so many tourists, theft is a problem, licensed and unlicensed. In the same day I witnessed a couple who lost their expensive mobile phone to a quick thief and an elderly grandmother with her two grandchildren who were asked to pay a fine of E170 for not validating their bus tickets.

Movie – Citizenfour

Citizenfour tells the story of Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who broke the story about NSA surveillance capacities.

This is a film you all have to watch. It relates to you and me, to our families, to our basic civil rights and freedoms. You need to know what is going on. Without Snowden, we would have continued to be led to believe that the NSA is a fairly humble organization, with modest capabilities, that has no ability, or will, to gather information en masse on millions of people. We still do not know what the NSA does with all this information, for how long does the NSA keep the data, and for what purposes. Prevention of terrorism and crime is one thing. Political purposes is quite another.

Citizenfour won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 2015 Oscars. It is an incredible story.

Snowden was a 29 year-old when he knowingly brought an end to the life he led and went eyes wide open to the unknown. His future is still unknown. His story, as Snowden said himself several times throughout the film, is not about him. It is about the legitimate boundaries of liberty, of governmental powers, of security. And still, it is also about him. Not many people have the audacity to do what he did for the service of the free world. Whether you agree or disagree with what Snowden did, his conduct will challenge you and force you to think hard about his revelations.

Movie – The Whistleblower

I recommend The Whistleblower (2010), based on real life events. A good film to disturb your good night's sleep. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0896872/

The UN and private security companies' involvement in sex trafficking, women abuse and murder. Appalling. https://lnkd.in/ezwsJM5

Monthly Poems

My friend, David Weisstub, sent me his new book of poetry and I am delighted to publish three of them with his permission. The book is titled The Four Corners and is warmly recommended. Enjoy!

Universals and principles
Without particulars and rules
Are skeletons without a heart

Treat Me Like a Poem

I want to awaken to your rhyme
And be caressed by you in endless time
I want all my letters to assemble in your unclaimed trove
And the spirit of my word to be a vigil for our treasured cove
I want you to read me as if I have no beginning and no end
To which all parts of life and death must bend

Welcoming Cocktail: The Berkshires School of Fine Poetry

Here is the place of ‘tough edit’
You will run like hell to get the credit
Forget the past and your poor writing
In this place, your training is fighting
There are authors of renown who had not our course
You are not one of them, but have no remorse
When you have had your drink and paid your tuition
We guarantee that nothing will be left of your intuition

David N. Weisstub, from The Four Corners

London Theatre – The Importance of Being Earnest or The Importance of Being Ernest

My greatest passion is theatre. Fine British theatre is something that I adore. I warmly recommend the newest production of Oscar Wilde's much loved classic The Importance of Being Earnest. Wilde is one of the most talented playwrights in modern history and here he wanted to show the hypocrisy and pomposity of Victorian manners. Essentially it is about people who feel uncomfortable with their lives and therefore they invent identities, events, even feelings. Somehow they are able to live with the duality of personalities, one real, the other imagined, until things get out of control and become quite confusing. The only way to untangle the strings of lies and deception is to tell the truth. But telling the truth after many years of confusing identities is not that simple…

Two bachelor friends, the dependable John Worthing, J.P and upper-class playboy Algernon Moncrieff, pursue two ladies, Cecily Cardew and Gwendolyn Fairfax. Both have created false identities to cope with the pressing Victorian conventions and to allow themselves some much-desired freedoms. Ms. Cardew lives in a world of her own where reality and imagination mix to the extent that one influences the other. This wonderful unfathomable mix confuses all people but one: Ms. Cardew who delightfully wonders between the two.

Hilarious misadventures result from the subterfuge presented with some of the finest dialogue in theatre. The innovation of this production is David Suchet playing Lady Bracknell and I loved Imogen Doel in her free-spirited role of Cecily Cardew.
Go if you are able. Strike this. Run!

Light Side

A la Julius Henry "Groucho" Marx

In university I was going to join the debate team, but someone talked me out of it.

I tried to join Paranoias Anonymous, but they wouldn't tell me where they were.

Peace and summer love.

Yours as ever,


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

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