Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Politics – October 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

Peace should be Israel’s strategy.

If peace is not achieved, Israel is doomed to experience cycle upon cycle of violence.

~Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Another bloody month. The Palestinians are unhappy with the present situation. The occupation is most unpleasant and troubling. They yearn for a change. As any positive change is unlikely to stem from Israel at present, they resort to violence, hoping that violence will serve their purpose for a positive change. Jerusalem, especially East Jerusalem, is the heart of the conflict.

On October 8, 2015 alone, eight Israelis were stabbed across Israel. Starting in the early morning hours, rocks were thrown at Israelis before the first stabbing occurred around noon in Jerusalem. Another terrorist stabbed five Israelis with a screwdriver in Tel Aviv. An Israeli was also stabbed in Hebron, and a 20-year-old soldier was stabbed in Afula.

The Palestinian leadership does not condemn this surge in terror. It seems some Palestinian leaders in the occupied territories and inside Israel are inciting terrorism. It has been reported that the Palestinian Authority repeatedly incites violence by claiming that Israel is trying to undermine Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. Times of Israel journalist Elhanan Miller wrote: “Abbas and his government have effectively been echoing the rumors and misinformation disseminated on Palestinian social media, rather than refuting them.”

On October 8, 2015, the Palestinian cabinet called on Israeli leaders to be “held accountable for their decision to allow the occupation forces to kill and assassinate defenseless children and civilians, who have become a permanent target for acts of summary executions and cold-blooded murder.” Abbas maintained that the “Palestinian side didn’t attack, nor did it carry out any act against Israelis. The residents of Jerusalem are acting in self defense, which is our right. We must all protect our holy sites — the Islamic and Christian ones. If they [the Israelis] think of dividing al-Aqsa, that will never happen.” On its Facebook page, President Abbas’s Fatah party posted an image of burning tires, a kufiya-clad youth throwing rocks, and a knife with the phrase “#third intifada.”

At the end of the bloody Thursday of October 8, 2015, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that even though the terror attacks are mostly unorganized, “they are all the result of wild and mendacious incitement by Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, several countries in the region and – no less and frequently much more – the Islamic Movement in Israel,” especially when it comes to spreading lies that Israel intends to alter the status quo at the Temple Mount. See PM Netanyahu's Press Conference Statement, http://www.pmo.gov.il/English/MediaCenter/Events/Pages/eventPressConference081015.aspx  

Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a video clip, showing the Palestinian incitement to violence. The YouTube clip is titled “Culture of Hate - the Palestinian Incitement Kills”,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4h2q33BqhM&feature=youtu.be

Other sources: “With terror raging, Abbas is in a state of denial”, http://www.timesofisrael.com/as-terror-rages-abbas-is-in-a-state-of-denial/

The only assured thing that violence yields is more violence. The two sides need to sit down and talk. Talk about anything. Meet. Communicate. Discuss. Understand. A solution is good for both parties, not only the Palestinians. The present situation is not a solution. It is a major problem.

Salzburg Global Seminar
Interview with Mr. Ted Widmer
Russia Increased Involvement in Syria
Oil. In Israel?
MESG Program 2015 – 2016
Jerusalem Post Review of my book
Philosophia Call for Papers
Facebook Responsibility
New Books
Gem of the Month - Schloss (Palace) Leopoldskron
Monthly Poems

Light Side

Salzburg Global Seminar

Earlier this month I was invited to the Salzburg Global Seminar on The Search for a New Global Balance: America’s Changing Role in the World. I delivered two talks: “The Impact of the Middle East on Global Peace”, and a dinner table talk on my new book, Confronting the Internet’s Dark Side, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2635990

The “Salzburg Seminar in American Studies” was founded as an international forum for those seeking a better future for Europe and the world. The founders believed that former enemies could talk and learn from each other, even as countries reeled from the ravages of war. Looking beyond Europe’s immediate needs for physical reconstruction and economic development, they argued for a “Marshall Plan of the Mind” as a critical element of recovery. From day one, Salzburg Global’s program has addressed the principles, values and leadership responsibilities critical for peace and human dignity to flourish.

I was invited to Salzburg twice in the past but various reasons did not go. This time I did go and liked it very much. There were more than fifty participants from twenty seven countries. Most of them with a background in international relations, security studies and American studies. Most are academics, some diplomats. An intelligent group of people, many of them very nice and pleasant to talk to

Can you recognize familiar faces? (-:

The Salzburg Global Seminar operates in accordance with the Chatham House Rule which prohibits anyone from attributing any quotes or opinions expressed during the discussions. Thus I will give you some general impressions with no names of individuals.

Participants distinguished between three forms of US intervention in world affairs: USA is invited to intervene; USA generates intervention; USA intervenes without invitation. Many argued for the first and against the two others.

I said that American presidents had intervened in other countries for three reasons:
Maintain World Leadership;
Protect American interests (economic, political);
Humanitarian concerns. These should not come at the expense of essential American interests.
I spoke for American interventions mainly on humanitarian grounds. I also spoke in favour of an American inward looking policy, improving American education, health system and infrastructure before rushing to intervene in world affairs and compete with Russia, China and Europe on world hegemony.

We discussed how to best secure American citizens. Is it by interfering in world affairs, or by protecting American borders?

We explored at length the differences between the Bush administration and the Obama administration, and how these differences affect world order. George W. Bush took great strides to intervene in internal affairs of dictatorships and corrupt countries. Iraq and Afghanistan cost dearly, in human resources, and in finance, at the expense of American lives and economy. Did the wars make American lives more secure?

President Obama came with a different perspective. Invest far less, certainly in American lives. Return the troops back home. Invest in local leadership and education. Back to diplomacy. Shows very little will to invest in military interventions in troubled places: Syria, Yemen, Somalia are a few examples. As can be expected, there were major disagreements among participants concerning the role the USA should adopt in world affairs. Both Bush and Obama have admirers and critics.

We do not know who will succeed Obama in the White House and what kind of a balance the new president will adopt between diplomacy and material commitment. I said that when one starts a war, one never knows how it will end. The next president will need to weigh carefully repercussions of involvement, the short-term and long-term effects of any policy s/he chooses.

What is clear to me is the following: The next president will need to be very careful;
Giving precedence to diplomacy over military interventions; Involvement of other countries with stakes in the region; Working with the more moderate elements in the region; Support your allies; Invest in building trust; Understand the politics and culture of the region, the different and conflicting interests, the language, the norms of different actors. Avoid stereotypes and crude generalizations. The so-called “Arab world”, and “Muslim world” are complex, heterogeneous, with many layers and much to unfold and understand.

We discussed the role of the media and agreed that it is important to be fair, to let the case be heard. Good journalism should allow for a variety of views to be heard, and to be heard fairly. I learned that embedding/attaching journalists to military forces at time of conflict is out of favour now in the USA. The army is against embedding, looking at journalists as spies. The practice will be used selectively in the future.

I explored the viability of a two-state solution. There is disagreement whether this option is still viable. We all agreed that the situation is difficult, that change is required, and that it is hard to see a solution at present.

See http://www.salzburgglobal.org/go/ssasa13

Interview with Mr. Ted Widmer

 In Salzburg I interviewed Ted Widmer for my new book about the failed peace process. Widmer was Bill Clinton’s speech writer in his second administration. He provided some illuminating insights into the working of the White House, and Clinton’s personality and decision-making process.

Russia Increased Involvement in Syria

Vacuums in politics do not last. They are filled. In the face of the American administration reluctance to hold the reins and dictate the moves in Syria, Russia stepped in. Last July, Russia and Iran decided to undertake joint military action to prop up Bashar al-Assad. And now they take action.

The first step of the joint offensive against ISIS in support of the Syrian regime was planned by the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — Qods Force, Qassem Soleimani, who reports directly to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and who was recently in Russia. The October offensive against the so-called “rebels” which combine ground operations and heavy bombing raids underscores several months of planning between Russia and Iran.

Russian soldiers are fighting alongside Syrian army units and the Syrian military received massive aid in weapons. The upscale in Russian involvement shows that the West is not the sole enemy of the Islamic State, and that the East can be as forceful as the West, if not more.

Sources: “How Iranian general plotted out Syrian assault in Moscow”, Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/10/06/us-mideast-crisis-syria-soleimani-insigh-idUSKCN0S02BV20151006

“Report: Russian Troops Fighting for Assad in Syria”, The Tower, http://www.thetower.org/2312-report-russian-troops-fighting-for-assad-in-syria/

Oil. In Israel?

Israelis have been frustrated, witnessing the rich oil reservoirs all over the Middle East but in Israel. Some years ago, gas was found across the shores of Israel, a discovery that resulted in many debates as to who will profit from this energy (answer: the tycoons, of course). And now, for the hundredth time (as far as I remember, but I could be wrong) news has been received that major reserves of oil have been discovered on the Golan Heights, which could make Israel self-sufficient for many years to come. In the past, the promising words had evaporated and we were left with the Land of Milk, Honey, and Olive Oil. This piece of news, however, might be true, for a change.

A drilling company, Afek Oil and Gas, found large reserves of oil at three drilling sites in the south of the region. Afek, a subsidiary of American company, Genie Energy, estimates that oil production at the site could potentially reach billions of barrels. Currently Israel consumes 270,000 barrels of oil a day. While the oil find is confirmed, exact quantities, quality, and the cost-effectiveness of extracting the oil have still to be investigated.

Experts in the field have many concerns. Since Israel was founded, some 530 exploratory wells have been drilled across the country but none of them has turned up oil that can be commercially exploited. In addition, in the Golan, environmentalists and local residents have been campaigning bitterly against the drilling because they fear that it will damage the region’s sensitive and significant natural landscapes, flora and fauna.

The good has this lousy tendency to come with the bad.

Source: “Major reserves of oil found on Golan Heights”, http://www.israel21c.org/major-reserves-of-oil-found-on-golan-heights/

MESG Program 2015 – 2016

4 November 2015, 16:20, WI-LR13

Ruth Wodak
Professor in Discourse Studies
Lancaster University/University Vienna 

The Politics of Fear: The Discursive Construction of 'The Stranger'

Inclusion and exclusion of migrants and refugees are renegotiated in the European Union (and beyond) on almost a daily scale: ever new policies defining and restricting immigration are proposed by European member states. A return to more local policies and ideologies can be observed, on many levels: traditions, rules, languages, visions, and imaginaries are affected. I claim that we are currently experiencing a re/nationalisation in spite of (or perhaps because of) multiple globalising tendencies. Moreover, recent heated political debates across Europe, about citizenship, language tests related to citizenship and immigration, and the construction of the immigrant as ‘the post-modern stranger’, coincide with the global financial crisis and the crisis of the welfare state. We are dealing with global and glocal developments.  Post-nationalism and cosmopolitanism have become utopian concepts.

Such tendencies are reinforced and reproduced by right-wing populist parties such as the Austrian Freedom Party, the French Front National, the Hungarian Jobbik, and the British UKIP in election campaigns and in everyday politics; the success of these parties seem to influence mainstream parties in a shift to the ‘right’: a normalisation of ever more exclusionary rhetoric (and related policies) can be observed.

In my lecture, I will analyse these recent developments in respect to immigration policies across Europe from a discourse-historical perspective, and will try answering the question why such right-wing populist parties and their slogans seem to be so successful: I focus on the discursive construction of national and transnational identities, and on the analysis the ‘politics with a new face’. The data - analysed both qualitatively and quantitatively - consist of a range of genres (party programmes, TV documentaries, citizenship tests and language tests, and election campaign materials).

Ruth Wodak is emeritus Distinguished Professor of Discourse Studies at Lancaster University, UK, while she has remained affiliated to the University of Vienna (as full professor of Applied Linguistics). Besides many other prizes, she was awarded the Wittgenstein Prize for Elite Researchers in 1996. In 2008, she was awarded the Kerstin Hesselgren Chair of the Swedish Parliament and an Honorary Doctorate from University of Örebro in Sweden in 2010. In 2011, she was awarded the Grand Decoration in Silver for Services for the Austrian Republic. She is Past-President of the Societas Linguistica Europea, and member of the British Academy of Social Sciences and the Academia Europea.

Recent books include The Politics of Fear. What Right-wing Populist Discourses Mean (Sage 2015); The discourse of politics in action:Politics as Usual’ (Palgrave 2011); Migration, Identity and Belonging (with G. Delanty, P. Jones, LUP 2011), The Discursive Construction of History. Remembering the Wehrmacht’s War of Annihilation (with H. Heer, W. Manoschek, A. Pollak, Palgrave 2008), Gedenken im Gedankenjahr (with R. de Cillia, Studienverlag 2009); The SAGE Handbook of Sociolinguistics (with B. Johnstone and P. Kerswill; Sage 2010); Critical Discourse Analysis (2013; 4 Volumes; Sage Major Works), Analysing Fascism: Fascism in Talk and Text (with J. Richardson, Routledge 2013), and co-editor of Rightwing Populism across Europe: Politics and  Discourse (London: Bloomsbury, 2013).

See http://www.ling.lancs.ac.uk/profiles/Ruth-Wodak for more information on on-going research projects and recent publications.

16 December 2015, 16:20, WI- LR13

Mr Paul Giannasi OBE
Head of the Cross Government Hate Crime Programme, Ministry of Justice

Hate Speech and Hate Crime in the UK, Including Crimes That Target Muslims

Paul Giannasi has led the cross-Government programme in the UK since 2007 and leads the development of hate crime policy for the police, authoring the 2014 national police Hate Crime Strategy and Guidance (http://www.report-it.org.uk/strategy_and_guidance). He will outline the emergence of hate crime as a policy area and compare the UK response to other states. He will discuss some of the particular challenges in balancing the often competing rights to free speech and protection form targeted abuse and talk about the operational challenges this brings to law enforcement, particularly since the proliferation of social media.

Paul will also examine how the impact of Middle East conflicts play out on the streets of the UK will argue that the single most important policy decision is to follow a human right approach, protecting all citizens equally and protecting the individual rather than any theology or characteristic, he will argue that this approach protects all but that officials must understand the nature of hostility to be able to deliver this equitable protection. He will also give his view of the current level of hostility towards Muslims in the UK.

Paul works in the Ministry of Justice in the United Kingdom. He leads the cross-government Hate Crime Programme which brings all sectors of government together to coordinate efforts to improve the response to hate crime across the criminal justice system.

Paul is the UK National Point of Contact to the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights on hate crime and has worked to share good practice within the OSCE region and within Africa.

Paul has 30 years experience as a police officer and is a member of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Hate Crime Group. He manages True Vision (www.report-it.org.uk) on behalf of the police and is the author of the 2014 Police Hate Crime Manual which offers guidance to all UK police officers and partners. He is the co-editor of the 2014 ‘Routledge International Handbook on Hate Crime’.

Paul was awarded an OBE in the 2014 New Years Honours list for services to policing, equality and human rights.

17 February 2016, 16:20, WI- LR13

Book Celebration
MESG Members
Professor Lord Bhikhu Parekh

Professor Jo Carby-Hall

Dr Gary Edles

Professor Raphael Cohen-Almagor

2 March 2016

Professor Caroline Kennedy, 16:20, WI-SR294
Chair, PPIS, Hull

Reflections on the War on Terror in Afghanistan

Caroline Kennedy is Professor of War Studies and Head of the School of Politics, Philosophy and International Studies. She is currently working on IEDs, Drones and the effects of Drone Strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. She is also working on the future maritime security implications of the High North as well as leading on the University India and South East Asia Project.

9 March 2016

His Excellency Ambassador Mazen Kamal Homoud, 16:20, WI-SR294
Embassy of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

Before entering the Foreign Service in 1986, the Ambassador completed two years army conscription. His first posting was at Jordan’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York. He was then seconded to the Royal Hashemite Court where he was Deputy Chief of Royal Protocol until December 1999. Between 2000 and 2007, the Ambassador became involved with economic sectors of the government. He was Deputy CEO of the Jordan Investment Board and General Manager of the Jordan Tourism Board. In 2007 he took up the position of CEO of a major public shareholding company in the real estate development field in the port city of Aqaba.

The Ambassador carries several decorations: The Grand Cordon of the Order of Independence (Jordan); Commander of the Order of Orange-Nassau (Netherlands); Officer of the National Order of Merit (France); Knight of the Grand Cross (Austria); Grand Officer of Legion of Honor (France).

Born in 1962, he received school education in several cities such as New Delhi, Baghdad, Cairo, and Moscow. He later attended boarding school at Dover College and Greylands College in the Isle of Wight. He graduated Political Science and Sociology from the University of North Alabama in 1984 and completed Senior Executive Education from Harvard Business School in 2003, and is a 2004 Eisenhower Fellow.

The Ambassador is married to Alia Mohammad Armouti since 1988, and together they are blessed with a son and daughter.

13 April 2016

Dr Sophia Dingli, 16:20, WI- LR13

Obama’s Arabian debacle? Re-examining US policy in Yemen amidst the rule

Intent on mitigating the threat posed by the Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), while strengthening the Yemeni state, Obama’s policy in Yemen consisted in the utilisation of unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance and to attack AQAP targets, the strengthening of the Yemeni military’s counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency capacities and the provision of some aid through USAID to help build the state’s governance and development capacities. In September 2014 Obama declared that Yemen was emblematic of the USA’s successful policies. A few days later a northern militia force took over Sanaa and by March 2015, a mere five months after Obama’s triumphant statement, the state was mired in several all-out conflicts. In retrospect, Obama’s press statement in September resembles Bush’s ‘Mission Accomplished’ moment, making Yemen Obama’s personal Arabian debacle.

This paper argues that in light of these events, we need to re-examine US policy in Yemen. It does so in three parts. The first analyses how we read and perceive US intentions and policies in Yemen, especially questioning the assumption that strengthening the Yemeni state was and remained an imperative. It examines the presuppositions driving the assumptions found in the literature and provides an alternative reading of US policy goals and actions. It then proceeds to analyse how we can interpret US policy if we assume that the Yemeni state became largely disposable for the US. In its third part the paper moves to reread the story of US policy in Yemen in recent years not in isolation but as part of larger movements in the international arena and their implications. In its conclusion, the paper returns to its original question, whether Obama’s policy in Yemen has indeed been a debacle, examining other possible courses of action for the US and offering a tacit reading of future developments.

Dr. Sophia Dingli is a Teaching Fellow at the University of Hull. She holds a BA in history and Politics, an MA in International Law and Politics and a PhD in Politics. Her research is driven by the question of ‘silence’ and its implications for the theory and practice of international politics with a special focus on its implications in the Middle East. Among her publications: Prudence and the Politics of (Re)Unification: Lessons from Yemen for Cyprus and Is the Failed State Thesis Analytically Useful? The Case of Yemen.

4 May 2016, 16:20
MESG Annual Lecture
Lord Williams of Baglan, Ph.D

Search for a Diplomatic Solution to the Syrian Conflict

Raised in South Wales, Lord Williams aspired to an international career from an early age. He studied at University College London and the School of Oriental and African Studies in London where he gained his Ph.D. and M.Sc. before starting his career with Amnesty International. In 1984 he joined the BBC World Service as an editor, where he formed a lifelong bond with the corporation – its people and its ethos.
Following his time at the World Service, he moved to the United Nations where he was based in Cambodia as Deputy Director for Human Rights; in former Yugoslavia as Director for Information; Geneva as Adviser to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and New York as Director, Office for Children and Armed Conflict. Between 2000 and 2005 he was Special Adviser to two Foreign Secretaries: Robin Cook, and then Jack Straw. During that time he also continued his contribution to the BBC as a board member of the BBC World Service Trust.
More recently he has worked once again for the United Nations and returned from Beirut in 2011 after three years as Under-Secretary General, UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon.
He was appointed to the House of Lords in October 2010 and joined the BBC Trust in December 2011.

All are welcome!!

As ever, I welcome the continued support of the identified and unidentified people who make the work of the Middle East Study Group happen. Information for funders at http://www2.hull.ac.uk/fass/mestudygroup/informationfordonors.aspx

Jerusalem Post Review of my book

Jagdish N Singh, “Towards a safer and more responsible Internet”, The Jerusalem Post (8 October 2015),

One of the inevitable lessons history teaches us is that intellectuals must remain constantly vigilant and come forward with such ideas and tools as would defend and promote the noble institutions and inventions we have inherited from our previous generations. In his ground-breaking book Confronting the Internet’s Dark Side: Moral and Social Responsibility on the Free High Way Raphael Cohen-Almagor, Professor and Chair in Politics at the University of Hull, United Kingdom, has performed precisely this enlightened scholarly function. He has suggested in this enterprise how to address challenges posed by misuse and abuse of the Internet, a great invention for the benefit of humanity in our times. In the focus of his analysis are antisocial activities: terrorism, cyber-bullying, child pornography, hate speech, and cybercrime.

The British professor rightly observes the Internet provides cheap, instantaneous and anonymous distribution in multiple locations. It has, however, no central management or coordination. Certain hate groups find it handy in carrying out their acts of anti-social behaviour. They use websites to share their ideology of hatred, link to similar sites, recruit converts, advocate violence and threaten all those sections of humanity who do not conform to their thinking.

Cohen-Almagor has argued that the social conscience of individuals, corporations, state and the international community needs to be invoked to address the malady of the Internet misuse. He implores Internet gate-keepers to adhere to the Promotional Approach (PA) rather than to irresponsible content-neutrality, promoting social, humane, civil, moral norms on the Internet.  Cohen-Almagor calls upon ISPs and web-hosting services to promote on the Net the basic ideas of respect for others, and not harming others.

He argues that social-networking sites should scrutinize content and discriminate against illegal content (child pornography, terrorism) as well as against clear morally repugnant and hateful content – racism and cyber-bullying. A new voluntary browser called CleaNet may be established.  Under this browser and by utilizing tools of deliberative democracy Netusers in liberal democracies would agree on what constitutes illegitimate expression to be excluded from this new, socially-responsible browser. CleaNet would facilitate a safer and more responsible surfing of the Internet.

The author pleads that Net users and Internet Service Providers act like responsible citizens of the online world. His main argument is for striking a balance between two important values: freedom of expression, on the one hand, and social responsibility, on the other. We all have a moral responsibility to confront those who abuse the new technology to spread the culture of hatred and violence. Or else, the very values that have given rise to the freedom of expression through the Internet would themselves be in peril.  Aberrations (hatred and violence)might destroy the very democratic process (the idea of freedom) itself.  

Cohen-Almagor suggests, “With the right cooperation the international community has the capabilities to address the formidable challenges and provide appropriate answers. Failure to cooperate is inexcusable. Without responsible cooperation, Net abusers will prevail and our children will suffer. Nations and responsible Net-citizens are obliged to ensure that  future generations will be able to develop their autonomy, their individuality and their capabilities in a free but also secure environment, both offline and online” (p. 306).

The author is optimistic. He says, “the tide of pro-active Corporate Social Responsibility is rising and now is a good time for corporate officers to join the flow” (p.326).The author notes that several efforts have been made by the US and other states indicative of the growing sense of international responsibility to contain violent and criminal activities (pp.275-306). In 2001, American Attorney General John Ashcroft and Chief Postal Inspector Kenneth Weaver announced Operation Avalanche to arrest child pornographers. In 2000, the Hoover Institution, the Consortium for Research on Information Security and Policy, the Centre for International Security and Cooperation and the Stanford University recognized "cyber-crime is transnational and requires a transnational response" (p. 277).Since 2001, under the leadership of the European Commission, law enforcement agencies, major ISPs, telecom operators, civil liberties organizations, consumer representatives, data protection authorities and other interested parties are acting together to combat cybercrime (p.277).
Pertinently, in September 2014 the US State Department of State Bureau of Counter-Terrorism listed 59 terrorist organizations. More than forty of them were established by radical Islamic groups. The majority of these terror organizations use the Internet as a primary tool for their activities. The number of pro-terrorism websites is estimated to have increased from approximately 12 in 1998 to more than 4800 by 2010. There is extensive literature on hacking strategies, encryption methods, bomb making and allied activities on their sites (pp. 179-180).

The author’s diagnosis of the evil is accurate and commendable indeed. It offers a global analysis of some of the most troubling uses of the Internet.  The author’s nine-year research for this book has involved extensive survey of literature on free speech, media ethics, problematic speech on the Internet, government position papers, state laws, court cases, and law-enforcement measures. He has conducted informed discussions and semi-structured interviews in Canada, France, Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States with key policy makers, parliamentarians and public officials, security and police officials, legal scholars and justices, media and Internet experts, and representatives of human rights and free speech NGOs. 

The book is a must read for researchers, policy planners as well as laymen who are interested in social responsibility on the Internet. The Internet is one of the finest means for education, communication, entertainment and commerce in our times.  It has fostered unprecedented advancement in our productivity and engagement. Ironically, however, the crooks, terrorists and the bigots have been misusing this tool to spread violence and hatred. They have been using social media  sites --  Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc. -- to promote racism, casteism, sectarianism,  homophobia,  misogyny and allied vices. This thoughtful and well-argued book should help in checkmating such misuse.

Pertinently, the prescriptions given in the book should be helpful to India’s current government as well. Like one of his eminent predecessors Rajiv Gandhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is aware of the need to bridge the digital divide in India today.  Recently , he was in the Silicon Valley meeting important Internet giants, including Google’s Sundar Pichai, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Apple’s Tim Cook,  Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to rope them all in to achieving  this goal. At the same time, New Delhi seems to be interested in combating the misuse of the Internet. While the Government withdrew its controversial draft encryption policy that proposed to make it mandatory for every citizen to save all digital communications, including emails and chats for a period of 90 days, India leaders are acutely aware of the security challenges that the Internet poses. The Government of India could draw appropriate inputs from Confronting the Internet's Dark Side in reformulating its encryption policy.

It would be really great if the author's prescriptions had the desired effects on educators, Net-users, law enforcement officers, and policy makers. Frankly speaking, to expect them to be enlightened enough to make unified efforts against the hate contagion seems to be too tall a proposition. In the world we live there are too many rulers -- policy makers and intellectual allies in the undeveloped or developing world, including the Middle East and South Asia  -- who fund/aid hate groups and terrorists, and there are rulers -- in the so-called advanced West-- who have been the former’s secret bed-partners ! 

Confronting the Internet's Dark Side: Moral and Social Responsibility on the Free Highway(NY and Washington DC.: Woodrow Wilson Center Press and Cambridge University Press, 2015).
ISBN 9781107105591

Philosophia Call for Papers
Philosophia will dedicate one of its forthcoming issues to a symposium on Professor Raphael Cohen-Almagor’s new book, Confronting the Internet's Dark Side: Moral and Social Responsibility on the Free Highway (NY and Washington DC.: Woodrow Wilson Center Press and Cambridge University Press, 2015).

The symposium will include a synopsis of the book, papers on different aspects of the book, and Cohen-Almagor’s response. Among the possible issues are: 

Responsibility of Net users
Trust on the Internet
Responsibility of readers
ISP responsibility
State responsibility
Responsibility of the International community
Terrorism and New Media
Child pornography on the Internet
Hate on the Net
Racism on the Net
Cyber bullying
Cyber stalking
Crime on the Net
Net Threats
Suicide on the Net 
Net neutrality
Internet monitoring
Internet security
Revenge Porn on the Net
Anonymity and encryption
Psychology of Social networking
Video Games on the Net
The future of the Internet

This is not an exhaustive list. Other themes are welcome.

The length of the papers should be of 3000-5000 words. Interested parties are invited to send me an abstract of 500-1000 words by15 December 2015. The deadline for the full papers is 1 July 2016.

Professor Asa Kasher
Editor in Chief, Philosophia

Facebook Responsibility

On 14 October 2015 I received an alert from a friend that Facebook hosts a page titled “Stab Israelis”; this at the height of a wave of terror that is inflicting the country that includes daily stabbings. The person who sent me the information about the inciting page pleaded with me to send a complaint to Facebook.

I did. Within two hours, I received a notification from Facebook that it was decided to take off the page:

“We revised our decision on your report of ‎حملة غُُُُُُُُُُُُُُُُُْْْْْْْْْزُه وريّحه لدعم أبناء فلسطين Stab Israelis‎

We reviewed the Page you reported for harassment. Since it violated our Community Standards, we removed it. Thanks for your report. We let ‎حملة غُُُُُُُُُُُُُُُُُْْْْْْْْْزُه وريّحه لدعم أبناء فلسطين Stab Israelis‎ know that their Page has been removed, but not who reported it.”

Facebook asked me if there is anything I wish to add or recommend. I recommended that they won’t post this and similar pages from the start. It is called Social Responsibility.

New Books

Bat-Zion Eraqi Klorman, Traditional Society in Transition (Brill, 2014).

This is an interesting, well-researched book about Yemini Jews and their aliyah to Israel. Eraqi Klorman offers an account of the unique circumstances of Yemeni Jewish existence in the wake of major changes since the second half of the nineteenth century. The book follows the community's transition from a traditional patriarchal society to a group adjusting to the challenges of a more modern Israeli society. Yemeni Jews participated in the Zionist enterprise, accepted secular education, adjusted family practices and changed the status of women.

This is an illuminating study on a little known chapter in Zionist history.

This book competed for the Shapiro Prize for Best Book in Israel Studies, 2015.


Tom Rob Smith, Child 44

At the heart of this crime thriller is security officer Leo Demidov, a person whose brain was washed for many years to the extent that he confuses good and evil. Leo was trained to execute terrible, ghastly orders without hesitation or doubt. Until one day he wakes up. In the face of clear injustice he becomes literally sick. Leo realizes that an innocent person was sent to death. As he begins to doubt, his officers begin to doubt him and put him in an impossible position: he needs to choose between his wife and his loyalty to the grisly regime that he represents. Leo makes the right choice and then runs for his life.
Leo’s personal story is interwoven in a crime story that involves a series of gruesome child murders in Joseph Stalin's Soviet dictatorship. The story is based on true events masterminded by the serial killer Andrei Chikatilo who murdered over 50 people in the 70s and 80s. Many of his victims were young and innocent children.

The book is well-written and thoughtful. My fascination with this book was not so much with the crime story but with life under the Stalin dictatorship. The logic of dictatorships is so different from what I am accustomed to. Sometimes I come across evil people who adopt twisted logic to justify their selfish and wicked conduct. But luckily I grew up and I live in democracies where the principles of not harming others and respect for others are enshrined in the constitution and governance of society. Following the logic of a malevolent regime is intriguing, baffling, and most troubling. Many times during my reading of the book I stopped to ponder certain episodes, and certain sentences that Smith had put in the mouths of his heroes. I thanked my good fortune to live in democracies and not to have experienced the illogical sense of evil “justice”, where immoral is moral, where deceit is right and doing right is wrong.

This book reminded me of Hans Fallada’s Alone in Berlin. I found many similarities in Smith’s descriptions of the Stalinist dictatorship and Fallada’s descriptions of Nazi Germany. Did Stalin learn from Hitler? Did Smith learn from Fallada? Are all dictators the same?

Child 44 will torment and agonize you. It will startle you and make you appreciate your safety and tranquillity.

Gem of the Month - Schloss (Palace) Leopoldskron

I admit: Palaces and castle move me. I am not used to them. Their grandeur, architecture, art, gardens impress me. Put my life in perspective: social, historical, cultural. In Israel there are no palaces, and the castle are standing in ruins.

Leopoldskron Palace was built in 1736 as a family owned by Salzburg's Prince Archbishop Leopold Anton Freiherr von Firmian (1679-1744).  Leopold Firmian was a great lover of science and art. Count Lactantius, art collectors and artists themselves, enriched the castle Leopoldskron with a large collection of paintings, including works by Rembrandt, Rubens, Dürer and Titian. Lactantius was also one of the first promoters of Leopold Mozart and his son Wolfgang Amadeus.

In 1918, the Schloss, which by that time had fallen into a state of severe disrepair, was sold to Max Reinhardt, Europe’s most famous theater director and co-founder of the Salzburg Festival. Reinhardt committed his considerable creative talents to the restoration of the Schloss, and with the assistance of Salzburg artisans, he renovated the staircase, the Great Hall, and the Marble Hall.

During the WWII, Nazi authorities used the Schloss as a summer residence and guesthouse. In 1945, it was returned to the Reinhardt estate, and in the summer of 1947, Helene Thimig offered the use of Schloss Leopoldskron to Clemens Heller, a Harvard graduate student, visionary and co-founder of Salzburg Global Seminar. 

The Library

Salzburg Global Seminar, an independent non-profit organization, now owns Schloss Leopoldskron, having bought the building outright in 1959, adding the neighbouring Meierhof to the organization in 1973.

Monthly Poems

Some years ago, just before my birthday, I visited the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, one of my preferred places on earth. One of my friends there asked me whether I still continue writing poetry. Her question prompted me to write:

Do You Write Poetry?
19 October 2012
Washington DC

Do You Write Poetry?
Do I breathe?
Do I think?
Do I love?
Life without poetry is like life without love
Like tree without shade.
Why living?
Better leaving
No afterlife
Live today
Love today.

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them –
The summer flowers depart –
Sit still -- as all transform'd to stone,
Except your musing heart.

How there you sat in summer-time,
May yet be in your mind;
And how you heard the green woods sing
Beneath the freshening wind.
Though the same wind now blows around,
You would its blast recall;
For every breath that stirs the trees,
Doth cause a leaf to fall.

Oh! like that wind, is all the mirth
That flesh and dust impart:
We cannot bear its visitings,
When change is on the heart.
Gay words and jests may make us smile,
When Sorrow is asleep;
But other things must make us smile,
When Sorrow bids us weep!

The dearest hands that clasp our hands, --
Their presence may be o'er;
The dearest voice that meets our ear,
That tone may come no more!
Youth fades; and then, the joys of youth,
Which once refresh'd our mind,
Shall come -- as, on those sighing woods,
The chilling autumn wind.

Hear not the wind -- view not the woods;
Look out o'er vale and hill-
In spring, the sky encircled them –
The sky is round them still.
Come autumn's scathe -- come winter's cold –
Come change -- and human fate!
Whatever prospect Heaven doth bound,
Can ne'er be desolate.

Light Side

Kindergarten 2015

Jane, a young mother, arrives at the kindergarten to take her son home. Jane sees all the kids on the grass, playing with their cellphones, while Susan, the kindergarten teacher, is taking a nap on her rocking chair.

Jane rushes to the teacher and wakes her up, reprimanded Susan: How can you sleep? What if the children run away beyond the fence?
Susan: Do not worry. We have wi-fi only till the fence.

Peace and 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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