Thursday, December 10, 2015

Politics – December 2015 - Happy Chanuka, Happy Christmas, and Happy New Year!

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Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction.

~ Albert Einstein

Peace should be Israel’s strategy.

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

~Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Reflections on November Newsletter
In Memory – Yossi Sarid (1940-2015)
Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the University of Hull
My Visit to Israel
Cambridge University Press, Misusing the Internet
Guest Article by Gemma Warner
My New Article
Book Review
New Books
Gem of the Month - Dublin
Monthly Poems
A Plea to British Rail

Light Side

Reflections on November Newsletter

Dear Rafi

I would like to make 2 points. I do believe that Peace is Israel's strategy. Every Poll that I have read in the last 25 years clearly shows that 82% of Israelis support a 2 State Solution and 66% of Palestinians support the destruction of the Jewish State. Institutional incitement against Israelis is a fact and is vigorously supported by much of the Palestinian leadership. I am not aware of any incitement against Palestinians that is supported by any Israeli Government agencies or its leadership. 

Peace will be achieved when Palestinians, Arabs and the Muslim world will finally say " We accept that Israel is the National Home of the Jewish people"

I would also like to remind Dr. Valerie Alia that Israel is a world leader in Renewable Energy and their technology is exported all over the world. Israel has been using Solar Energy longer than any other Nation in the world. And to refer to Naomi Klein who sees Boogieman behind every tree lends no credibility to her arguments. Maybe the good Dr. can answer a question that I have asked many times of many environmentalists but never received an answer. I don't for a moment doubt that we are doing serious damage to our environment and must take steps to stop polluting our air, land and sea. But that is a completely different issue then climate change. Climate change is a natural earth cycle. Hence the Ice age some 15,000 years ago and a Tropical High Arctic some 100,000 years ago. And most climate scientists believe that we will have another ice age in another 10,000 to 15,000 years. We may be able to slow down the process if we clean up our environment but we will not stop it. It just seems to me that the debate would be better received if it was about changing how we treat our environment. 

Abe Silverman
Edmonton Canada

In Memory – Yossi Sarid (1940-2015)

Israel had lost one of its greatest peace drivers.

I was saddened to read about the premature death of Yossi Sarid. He was only 75 year-old. His death came as a surprise.

Sarid was a man of words. One of the most articulated politicians in Israel, a man of sharp mind and a sharp tongue. His honesty was sometimes brutal. Sarid often expressed his views in the most open and candid way. He had strong views about everything, and little hesitation to express them. As a result, he enchanted many and antagonized many others.

Sarid was a journalist who loved politics. He understood that if you wish to change things for the better, you need to enter politics. He was astute, principled, incorruptible, and critical. Above all, he was a man of peace. He dedicated his life to the pursuit of peace and paid a price, political and personal, for holding unpopular views. As Palestine and Israel radicalized, an inevitable result of the occupation, the Israeli left became marginalized and so was Sarid. He continued to fight for his views until his last day, saying time and again that peace is the key for Israel’s security and that the occupation is the mother of all evil.

Sarid’s father, Yaacov, was a major influence on young Yossi. Sarid spoke of his father with clear admiration and followed his footsteps. Yaacov was the Director General of the Ministry of Education. Yossi felt an obligation to be an educator himself and volunteered to work as a citizenship teacher in Sderot, a little and most troubled town in Israel’s periphery. A leader has to lead by example, explained Sarid. When he was nominated to serve as Minister of Education in the Barak government, Sarid was the happiest person. Sarid felt his father would have been proud of him.

Sarid started his career in Mapai. His way with words impressed the Mapai leaders who gave Yossi his first role in politics: party spokesperson. Minister of Finance Pinhas Sapir took him to serve as his assistant and later Prime Minister Levy Eshkol took Sarid under his wings. Both Sapir and Eshkol appreciated Sarid’s sharp mind, endless cynicism and critical sense of humour.

In 1974, Sarid became Member of the Knesset in the Labour party, under Rabin’s leadership. At that time, Sarid’s relationships with Rabin were not great. Sarid had natural suspicion of generals, and Rabin did not appreciate Yossi’s sharp tongue and cynical sense of humour. Indeed, Sarid and Rabin were very different characters. Sarid did his best to climb in the party ladder but time and again was put in his place by the more experienced politicians, first and foremost by Shimon Peres.

In 1984, Sarid crossed the lines to the small left party Ratz. Peres decided to enter in coalition with Likud in order to become prime minister. Sarid despised the move. He thought this move betrayed Labour principles, that it was short-sighted as it legitimized and empowered Likud, that it was bad for the party and bad for Israel: democracy needs a strong government, but also a strong opposition. If you put all the cats into one place, the unavoidable result is that they will freely drink the milk without reservations, and no one will stop them when necessary. Sarid thought Labour should be in the opposition. When his views were not accepted, he moved to the opposition as a Ratz member.

Sarid and Ratz leader at that time, Shulamit Aloni, understood that if they wished to have real influence in politics, they needed to be part of a larger party. They had good relationships with the leader of Mapam, Yair Tzaban, and leader of Shinuy (“Change”) Amnon Rubinstein, and the three small parties untied into Meretz. In 1992, Meretz became a central component of the Rabin government.  

Although Sarid was initially not a member of the government (Meretz received three ministries that were given to Aloni, Tzaban and Rubinstein), he became close to Prime Minister Rabin. Now Rabin could see beyond the sharp tongue also Sarid’s many qualities. As Rabin’s agenda was to make peace, he made Sarid one of his close associates. Between 1992 and 2001, in the Rabin and Barak governments, Sarid was in every junction of peace negotiations.

Rabin needed Sarid in the government and in December 1992 he made him Minister of Environment Protection. This was, still is, a small ministry and Sarid did his best to promote its causes. But the main reason for accepting this role was to be part of a government whose agenda was peace.

Sarid felt that he was more capable than Aloni to lead Meretz. Aloni repeatedly complained and blamed Sarid that he was undermining her. She was right. Sarid did undermine her and in 1996 became the Meretz leader. Three years later, following Barak’s victory in the 1999 elections, Sarid assumed his second-most-wanted dream job: Minister of Education.

Sarid was unable to achieve his prime political goal: to become prime minister of Israel. Loyal to his principles, and brutal in his language, Sarid was unable to forego his conscience as politicians often do. Sarid was not a “regular” politician and Meretz paid a high price. A mere year after getting his second-most-sought-after job, Sarid retired from office due to his deep rivalry with the Ultra-Orthodox Party Shas.

Sarid was also unable to retain all the components of Meretz intact. Some members of Shinuy did not like his “too leftist” views and retired. Shinuy was resurrected under the leadership of another journalist, Yoseph Lapid. In the 2003 elections, Shinuy won 15 Knesset seats and Meretz only 6 seats. Sarid announced that he understood the message and retired from the Meretz leadership. Two years later, at the age of 65, he retired from politics altogether and returned to his old love – journalism.
Last year I interviewed Sarid for my book on the failed peace process. Sarid was, as usual, honest, critical, sharp and articulate. He was a great story teller, and enjoyed elaborating on anecdotes and stories that encapsulate Israel’s tragedy. But this time he was also sad and gloomy. Yossi that I knew was always cynical and optimist. But last year, as he was lighting one cigarette after another and zipping one cup of coffee after the other, Yossi was pessimist to an extent that I have never heard before. “I cannot see peace in the coming 100 years”, he said with sad eyes.

I hope he was wrong this time.

Dear Yossi: May you rest in peace as you so deserve.

Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the University of Hull

In my course on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, after introducing the main hurdles to peace, I divided the class to three groups: Israel, Palestine and the USA. I asked them to solve the conflict.

I advised them to start with the relatively easy issues and progress to the more difficult ones. The exercise was slotted for one-hour class and I knew that they won’t be able to negotiate all issues. But I wanted them to understand the complexities.

The Israeli delegation opened the negotiations. They suggested that all schools in Israel and Palestine will teach Hebrew and Arabic. The Palestinians objected, saying that Israeli teachers might indoctrinate the Palestinians. It was agreed that Palestinian teachers will educate the Palestinians, and Israeli teachers educate the Israelis.

An agreement was reached on this point. The good start facilitated good mood and set in motion a positive momentum.

Second, the Israeli demanded that the Palestinians denounce terror and stop all terror activities. The Palestinians decided that they should open talks with Hamas and other spoilers. They also decided to invest more in Palestinian social services to bolster support for the Palestinian Authority. Also agreed to help SHABAC detect terrorist elements in the Palestinian population.

Israel agreed to fight against its own spoilers. Zero tolerance to any form of terror.

Both sides agreed that spoilers who murder the other people of the population will be handed in to the other side for a fair trial, with due process, and that the terrorists will serve jail time in the prisons of the country they offended. Thus, a Palestinian terrorist who murdered Israelis will stand trial in Israel and serve time in Israel, and vice versa with regard to Israeli terrorists. They will be handed to the PA and serve time there.

On borders, both sides agreed that the entire Gaza Strip, and 96% of the West Bank will comprise the Palestinian state. Israel will evacuate settlements that are not part of the 4% clusters. In return for the 4%, Israel will erect a bridge that will connect between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and give the Palestinians additional 3% territory adjacent to the Gaza Strip.

The evacuation of the occupied territories will be done in stages. The students assumed that the endgame would allow 250,000 Israeli settlers to remain in the West Bank, and 250,000 settlers will be relocated. The relocation will be done piecemeal: 25,000 people each and every two years. Homes of those who left the West Bank will be given to Palestinian refugees who have the right of return. Thus, gradually the West Bank will be emptied of Jewish settlers and will be populated by Palestinians. Eventually, 250,000 refugees will settle in the West Bank.

In addition, Israel agreed to take into its own territory refugees. Israel opened the negotiations by offering family reunification of three families. The Palestinian delegation was offended, protesting that zero is a better number. They responded with 3 million figure. Intensive negotiation ensued. The Palestinians insisted for some time on the 250,000 figure which was unaccepted for the Israelis. At the end, the delegations agreed on 100,000 refugees, on the basis of family reunification.

Both sides will evaluate the situation each year and review petition of refugees who wish to settle in Israel, in the West Bank, or elsewhere. The international community, led by the USA, will assist in this process.

I was very sorry to end the class before the students engaged with Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. But given the good will on both sides to sit and resolve the conflict, there is little doubt in my mind that they would have come with solutions.

Maybe we should send students of the University of Hull to conduct the peace negotiations. They do not carry the baggage of hostility, hatred and mistrust that Israelis and Palestinians carry in abundance.

It was a great exercise. I enjoyed the exchange.

My Visit to Israel

Next month I plan a visit to Israel. As ever, I’d be delighted to see friends and colleagues.

I will have two book celebrations:

Book celebration: Confronting the Internet's Dark Side -- Moral and Social Responsibility on the Free Highway, School of Communication, Bar-Ilan University (25 January 2016).

Book celebration: Confronting the Internet's Dark Side -- Moral and Social Responsibility on the Free Highway, School of Communications, IDC Herzliya, Israel (26 January 2016).

All welcome. I very much look forward. It is always good to come home.

Cambridge University Press, Misusing the Internet

A Virtual Roundtable
Four Cambridge authors continue their roundtable discussion about cyber psychology by addressing what happens when cyber bullies and online aggressors misuse the powerful tools the web provides.

Patricia Wallace, the author of The Psychology of The Internet
John Suler, the author of The Psychology of the Digital Age
Kent Norman, the author of Cyberpsychology
Raphael Cohen-Almagor, the author of Confronting the Internet’s Dark Side

Online aggression and cyber bullying is becoming more and more of an issue, how can we help control negative outcomes derived from the miss use of the internet?

John Suler: Thanks to the online disinhibition effect, there is a wide range of antisocial behavior – everything from off-putting remarks by friends to cunningly hostile assaults by psychopaths. Even in its beginnings, cyberspace felt like the wild west. People took the law into their own hands as they staked their claim in a weakly regulated territory. Opinionated settlers used it as a soapbox for “free speech.” Sociopaths seized it as their playground.

Given this complexity, we need a variety of strategies to cope with aggression. It will not be easy. Law enforcement professionals try to control blatant crimes. That leaves aggression that is not technically illegal. We could create new laws prohibiting certain types of behavior, like cyberbullying, but that steers us onto the slippery slope of trying to define them in ways that can be enforced.

Education will help. If people understand online aggression, they stand a better chance of coping with it. That education would include practical advice, such as learning to spot trolls (including such tricks as sock-puppets), then simply ignoring them. Education might help people understand how someone’s hostility may not have anything to do with them, but is instead a transference reaction. We might also warn people about the wild west atmosphere that prevails in many areas online: If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Or as Paul Vixie said, “The internet is not for sissies.”

Some gaming companies use machine intelligence to control hostility. An algorithm detects inappropriate language then warns, punishes, or bans the player. But this may not work in social media where people do not like machines looking over their shoulders.
We should consider the social problems in the “real” world that cause the frustration and anger people displace into cyberspace. Online hostility is not just about the Internet.

Kent Norman: For the past four years I have been teaching a course on the psychology of social networking and social computing. Each student is required to keep a weekly journal of sessions and activities on social media sites. From these logs, the time and frequency of sites is in this order: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, Email, GroupMe, and YouTube. Interestingly, their activities on these sites are split between academic use (organizing study sessions, group projects, and clubs) and social interactions. While college students often use Facebook for keeping up with friends and family, it seems to be more often used for school organizations, clubs, fraternities, and sororities. These activities are on the positive side!

Also on the positive side, students are aware of the need for social capitol. The more links that they make, the more people that they can call on for references, backup, and favours. Many of the seniors are already on LinkedIn building their networks and promoting their skill sets.

However, on the negative side, some students obsess with keeping up with latest things posted on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and SnapChat. They seem to suffer from the fear of missing out (FOMO). They report checking social the first thing when they get up, multiple times during the day, and the last thing before they turn out the lights.

I think that I am fortunate dealing with college students rather than K-12. By college, most have learned how to navigate through social media and use it to their advantage by amplifying its positive benefits and minimizing the negative.

Raphael Cohen-Almagor: There are moral, social and legal means to fight against these challenges. Most of us are rational beings who are able to apply reason, assess alternatives, consider the merit of different modes of activities. People understand that their conduct has consequences. Responsible people need to evaluate the likely consequences of whatever mode of conduct they choose. And most of us operate within the realm of the law. Most of us are law-abiding citizens.

Education is a key tool. We need to invest in communication, and in education. With awareness to the imperative of responsibility that is the duty of each and every one of us, whether we are Netusers who upload information to the Web, or readers of Net material, or Internet Service Providers (ISPs), government officials, or people who are operating in the international arena, we all need to weigh freedom of expression, on the one hand, and social responsibility, on the other. With combined effort of all stake-holders it is possible to promote awareness that some things are simply not to be done.

Cyberbullying is a growing concern because it is easy, cheap, instantaneous and has a certain utility for the bully. The bully is able to hide his or her identity, the IP address of the computer, and vent hostilities continuously. Only combined efforts of all can potentially redeem this growing and most troubling phenomenon that sometimes results in suicide. Cyberbullying should be fought at school and at home by Netusers, by readers, by the ISPs, by the state, and by the international community at large. As ISPs are the gatekeepers, they need to be proactive far more than they are now. ISPs should fight against cyberbullying as stringently as they fight against copy-tight abusers. Cyberbullying is more important as human lives are at stake.

Patricia Wallace: Cyberbullying differs from face-to-face bullying in several ways, and strategies for reducing this behavior and controlling negative outcomes have to take into account the nature of cyberspace. Unlike the playground bullies who taunt and tease their victims in person, cyberbullies can torment victims 24 by 7, and they can spread the victimization to a much wider audience through Twitter and other social media. In extreme cases, the victim’s suffering goes viral, and the material the cyberbully posted remains online for years – potentially forever – so the pain is renewed again and again as new people discover it. This is what happened to the “Star Wars Kid,” whose classmates posted a video he made of himself brandishing a light saber and pretending to be a Jedi knight. The boy suffered years of harassment and even death threats, and he eventually quit school and sought psychiatric help for depression. At the time, neither the police nor the school administrators were able to do anything about it.

What can parents and educators do to protect youth from cyberbullying, and prevent them from becoming cyberbullies themselves? Research points to the importance of the three “E’s”:
  • Education
  • Empathy
  • Eye contact
Cyberbullies can’t see their victims’ faces when they read a hateful text message or learn that an embarrassing photo became public. But education that makes a victim’s emotions much more salient, through eye contact, for example, can promote empathy. Such experiences can have a powerful effect on young people, and such empathy lessons may even lead them to stand up for the next victim. It’s important to combat the kind of toxic disinhibition that the Internet can foster in some people, and emphasizing the old netiquette rule – “remember the human” – is one way to start.

Guest Article by Gemma Warner

Israeli Defence Force Suicides Double In A Year - But Drop Overall

Suicides among Israeli Defence Force members more than doubled in 2014. This comes as something as a surprise as a year prior to this, IDF suicides had dropped to an historic low, and it appeared that the force was getting a handle upon what has been a very troublesome problem for the force. The Israeli military has stated that, while they deeply regret the deaths of the soldiers in question, they do not believe that this spate of suicides stems from their own actions. Rather, they believe them to be the tragic result of external circumstances personal to the soldiers involved. This may well be true, but it opens an interesting new chapter in the IDF's relationship with mental health in general and suicide in particular.

The Background

Not so very long  ago, suicide was cited as the primary cause of death for Israeli soldiers. On one level, it speaks well of the force that their operations seem rarely to prove deadly to soldiers. On the other, it paints a worryingly grim picture of mental health within the force. Indeed, the force's mental health provision as a whole was markedly poor. Even soldiers who attempted suicide were given little to no therapy or help afterwards - they were spared death, but not saved from the demons which had driven them to this sorry pass. Since then, the military has gradually worked on improving its mental health provisions, making notable advances with the spotting and treating of PTSD - which is a major problem for any force serving in conflict zones. This seemed to pay off. In 2009, suicide was the main cause of death for serving Israeli soldiers. In 2010, 28 soldiers committed suicide. By 2013, this number had dropped to just seven. However, just a year later, fifteen soldiers took their own lives. Why? 

Moving Forward

In general, the overall trend is for an improvement in the mental health services afforded to Israeli troops, and a subsequent drop in suicide rates. This is something to feel very positive about, and a welcome progression. This rise in suicides is tragic, but may well be - as the IDF says - a temporary coincidence. However, it is nonetheless a development which the military would do well to keep an eye upon, considering their history in this area.

My New Article

Book Review

Ariella Azoulay and Adi Ophir, The One-State Condition, Stanford Studies in Middle Eastern and Islamic Societies and Cultures (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2012). Pp. 316. ISBN-13: 978-0804775922. $18 paper.

In: Israel Affairs, Vol. 21, Issue 4 (2015), pp. 698-701.

The destruction of the Arab armies and the decisive conquest of territories changed the geo-strategic and the political landscape. While Israel added more land to its territory, it also had, and still has to address the challenges posed by the conquered people residing in the precious land. This book details the ugly face of the occupation, arguing that the occupation is here to stay. While the occupation is said to be temporary, that false temporariness of the occupation generates blindness, cleanses the Israeli conscience and enables the indefinite continuation of systematic discrimination of another nation. Azoulay and Ophir explain that to enable the daily Israeli life, the occupied territories are bracketed off, forgotten and denied. The Israelis live in self-denial that it is possible to be a democracy and an occupying force at the same time.
Ariella Azoulay and Adi Ophir put a mirror in front of the Israeli eyes and ask them to look closely and fathom what Israel does to the Palestinians on a daily basis. But Azoulay and Ophir do not stop there. Their agenda is far broader. Their argument is that the occupation is only one aspect, one manifestation of a greater problem which is Zionism. They question the logic and the need of having Israel as the home for the Jewish people. They claim that Israel was engaged in 1947-1949 in ethnic cleansing of the weak Palestinian people who became victims in their own land. They sympathize with the Nakba and condemn the Israeli war of independence. They claim that Israel was engaged with “destruction project”, the destruction of the Palestinian people. They criticize the biased Zionist education system. They see no need to continue the Zionist mission of creating a viable home for the Jewish people. They accept the Palestinian Right of Return. This book is ideologically driven, with clear biases against Israel and pre-determined post-Zionist agenda. Ideas are more important than facts. No need to present complex scholarly history of the conflict. Suffice is to present a one-sided narrative. And the end of condemning Israel clearly justifies the means.
Thus, I suspect not many people in Israel will read this book. The book might not even strike a chord with people who are already convinced that the occupation is evil. It will not resonate with those who are unconvinced or who are in self-denial regarding the evil of occupation. This is because the book falls into the familiar fallacy of presenting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in black-and-white. It provides yet another biased historiography, exhibiting the extent to which academic scholars are willing to sacrifice painstaking scientific methodology in order to hammer their ideological agenda.
Indeed, one of the most frustrating features of the vast literature that has been written on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is that it lacks nuance. The conflict is so complex, so protracted, so bitter and so bloody that people find it hard to maintain objective scholarship, take a step back and strive hard to really fathom the causes of this brutal reality. Unknowingly, and sometimes knowingly, they drift from academic scholarship to ideological propaganda. This book, from its back cover endorsements, and from its very first pages, tells its readers that if they wish to read a nuanced, balanced history of the conflict they should go elsewhere. This book is not about the many shades of grey of reality. It is a story about evil people on the one side who do horrible things to other people. The authors of this book, like many subjective authors before them, passed the fine line between academic writing and political platform. Once they have passed that line, critical readers must take every assertion that Azoulay and Ophir are making not merely with a grain of salt, but with spoonful of salt.
However, the story of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not one sided. There are no angels in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Indeed, the conflict is so bitter because there are no angles, because both sides have grievances, because both sides have committed so many mistakes and often lost their calm, lost their humanity. In this book, however, the emphasis is put squarely on the Israeli wrong-doings. The Israelis are active. The Palestinians are passive or reactive. The Israelis are occupiers. The Palestinians are victims.
People who are familiar with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will hardly learn anything new from this book. There are no new facts, no ground-breaking research, no interesting interviews or innovative fieldwork. This is a book of ideas that takes upon itself the pretence to document history. The facts are not necessarily correct or verified. Thus, for instance, the authors claim that there were 15,000 settlers in the Gaza Strip (p. 216) while there were 8,600 settlers in Gaza. The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza was, according to the authors, “ingenious plan” because it allowed Israel to maintain its grip on Gaza while rids itself of responsibilities to the Palestinian population (p. 216). The authors did not mention the Israeli disappointment of this disengagement due to the Hamas takeover of Gaza and its subsequent terror attacks on Israel as Hamas refuses even to recognize Israel’s existence. The authors do not consider the proposition that the Hamas takeover of Gaza is the prime reason for Israeli leaders’ reluctance to hand over more territories to the Palestinian Authority.
Throughout the book, Palestinian violence and terrorism is condoned. It is an understandable reaction to occupation. The book’s index bears no reference to Hamas, and only one reference to the Islamic Jihad. The evils created by the separation wall are documented but there is no explanation as to why it was established. In their characteristic context-free prose, the authors write that in April 2002 the Israeli cabinet passed a resolution to create a separation wall (p. 129) with no mention of the Passover suicide bombing at Park Hotel in Netanya on March 27, 2002 which resulted in the killing of thirty people and injury of 140 others. The authors assert that separation has become the ideology of the Israeli mainstream but they provide no explanation as to why most Israelis opted for separation. Reading this context-free prose might bring the uniformed reader to think that suddenly the Israelis had this strange urge, or whim, to erect a wall and separate themselves from the Palestinians. The authors did not mention that between April 1993 and May 2005 there were 164 suicide attacks which resulted in 670 Israelis killed and 4255 Israelis injured. It is also immaterial for the authors to mention that before the wall was erected, the average number of terrorist attacks was 26 per year. Since its partial construction, the number dropped to three-to-zero per year as Israel was able to foil every suicide bombing originating from the northern West Bank and specifically from the cities of Nablus and Jenin, areas that had previously been infamous for exporting suicide bombers.
And so the one-sided, free standing story continues to unfold. There was a steep increase in Israeli use of live ammunition in the suppression of the “Second Intifada” (2000-2003) (p. 149) with no mentioning of the use of live ammunition by Palestinians. The authors argue contrary to popular opinion that Israeli violence is not a direct response to terrorist attacks but rather because “using violence is a fundamental part of their ruling apparatus” (p. 150). The 1948 war is depicted as a war between states, at the expense of Palestinian interests (p. 210) with no mentioning of the Palestinian rejection, and the Israeli acceptance of the 1947 UN Partition Plan. The authors claim that the Israeli educational system denies “young citizens elementary historical and geopolitical knowledge” (p. 230) while the authors themselves do exactly what they criticize: they deny their readers elementary historical and geopolitical knowledge. I should also note that the Palestinians, like the Israelis and the book authors, pursue the same erroneous route in their own education system. As said, there are no infallible angels in this sad and protracted conflict.
Even positive episodes in the history of the conflict are presented in a negative light. Thus, “In late 1994, following the first phase of implementation of the Oslo Accords, it gradually became clear that Israel was tightening its grip on the Palestinian population, while greatly reducing its own responsibility for providing it with services” (p. 102). The authors do not care to elaborate and explain this assertion but they do refer to Neve Gordon, a well-known post-Zionist critique of Israel, in support.
The book suffers from too many repetitions. It should have benefited from a careful editorial work. The book has so many repetitions that one is led to believe that the authors doubt the intelligence of their readers. Even after the third and the fourth time, the authors continue making the same argument time and again. Thus, for instance, almost all of chapter 8 is redundant. Furthermore, a more demanding editor would have insisted on backing statements with references. It is puzzling to read a book published by a scholarly press that allows so many referencing omissions. Often, when the authors do provide references, those are to post-Zionist texts whose bias is noticeable. No wonder that the book’s praises are sung only by post-Zionists. And so the deaf conversation continues.

New Books

Kudos to Margaret Somerville on her new book BIRD ON AN ETHICS WIRE: Battles about Values in the Culture Wars.

Kudos also to Hall Gardner on his new books Crimea, Global Rivalry and the Vengeance of History


Hearty congratulations and Mazal Tov on these publications.

Andrew Heywood, Political Theory: An introduction, fourth edition (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2015)

I have been teaching former editions of this book. It is an excellent resource for undergraduate students: clear, lucid, accessible, with key figures, good examples, and questions for discussion. The fourth edition of this highly successful and accessible text has been substantially revised and updated and includes extra coverage throughout on non-western approaches and international political theory. Each chapter discusses a cluster of interrelated terms, examines how they have been used by different thinkers and in the various political traditions, and explores related debates and controversies.

The book covers the following topics:

  • Human nature, the individual and society
  • Politics, government and the state
  • Sovereignty, the nation and transnationalism
  • Power, authority and legitimacy
  • Democracy, representation and the public interest
  • Law, order and justice
  • Rights, obligations and citizenship
  • Freedom, toleration and identity
  • Equality, social justice and welfare
  • Property, the market and planning
  • Security, war and world order
  • Tradition, progress and utopia

I thank Palgrave for a copy of this book.

Gem of the Month - Dublin

Celebrating and promoting my book brings me to different parts of the world. Last month was Dublin where I was invited to present my ideas at the Annual Lecture of the Hibernian Law Journal. I thank the Hibernian Law Society, its President The Hon. Mr. Justice Garrett Sheehan - Judge of the Court of Appeal, and the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Christopher McCann for the kind hospitality.

My previous visit to Dublin was in 1997.  The city has changed for the better. High tech industries, major malls, the city seems less religious and more multicultural.


The organisers booked my hotel. I am not sure whether or not they knew I am Israeli but the hotel was right across the Israeli Embassy in Dublin. The Israeli flag was blowing in the quite nasty wind toll and strong.

Monthly Poems


If I could live again my life,
In the next - I'll try,
- to make more mistakes,
I won't try to be so perfect,
I'll be more relaxed,
I'll be more full - than I am now,
In fact, I'll take fewer things seriously,
I'll be less hygenic,
I'll take more risks,
I'll take more trips,
I'll watch more sunsets,
I'll climb more mountains,
I'll swim more rivers,
I'll go to more places - I've never been,
I'll eat more ice creams and less (lime) beans,
I'll have more real problems - and less imaginary
I was one of those people who live
prudent and prolific lives -
each minute of his life,
Offcourse that I had moments of joy - but,
if I could go back I'll try to have only good moments,

If you don't know - thats what life is made of,
Don't lose the now!

I was one of those who never goes anywhere
without a thermometer,
without a hot-water bottle,
and without an umbrella and without a parachute,

If I could live again - I will travel light,
If I could live again - I'll try to work bare feet
at the beginning of spring till
the end of autumn,
I'll ride more carts,
I'll watch more sunrises and play with more children,
If I have the life to live - but now I am 85,
- and I know that I am dying ...

Jorge Luis Borges

A Plea to British Rail

Whatever I wish to do, British rail insists to bring me to Doncaster, a place I have visited hundreds of times without my volition.
I bought a direct ticket to London, and ended in Doncaster;
I bought a direct train to Norwich, and ended in Doncaster;
I bought a direct ticket to Manchester and, as you by now realise, I ended in Doncaster;
I actually like to visit many places in England, for various reasons. I have no reason to visit Doncaster but somehow I always find myself
Yes, in lovely, enchanting and most inspiring Doncaster
Can someone in British rail explain why on earth you decide, consistently, to bring me to Doncaster?
Does someone in Doncaster pay you to bring me over each and every time? Do you insist I should go and visit the city? What is going on?

May I please visit Doncaster only when I wish to?

Light Side

A teacher is teaching a class and she sees that Johnny isn't paying attention, so she asks him, "If there are three ducks sitting on a fence, and you shoot one, how many are left?" Johnny says, "None." The teacher asks, "Why?" Johnny says, "Because the shot scared them all off." The teacher says, "No, two, but I like how you're thinking." Johnny asks the teacher, "If you see three women walking out of an ice cream parlor, one is licking her ice cream, one is sucking her ice cream, and one is biting her ice cream, which one is married?" The teacher says, "The one sucking her ice cream." Johnny says, "No, the one with the wedding ring, but I like how you're thinking!"

Peace and love.

Happy Hanukka, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

Talk to you by the end of January 2016

Yours as ever,


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