Monday, February 01, 2016

Politics – January 2016

Support is sought to facilitate the work of the Middle East Study Group. Information at

Peace should be Israel’s strategy.

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

~Raphael Cohen-Almagor

This was an interesting month. Far too interesting for my taste. I am yearning for a boring month, for a change.

So what did we have? Stabbings. Running cars into crowds. Shooting. Rockets. One attack at the heart of Tel Aviv, my beloved Dizengoff Street. A terrorist opened fire into a pub and fled. It took the SHABAC one week to find him and restore peace of mind.

The wave of violence continues. Little importance as to how to call it: Third Intifada, or a new cycle of terror. From Rosh HaShana (September 2015) until December 24, 2015, 24 Israelis were murdered and 259 were injured. The attacks take place in all parts of Israel. The Palestinian attackers are men and women of various profiles. The popularity of stabbing Israelis among Palestinian population is rising. I fail to see how this terror can promote the Palestinian cause. It increases and widens the gulf between Israelis and Palestinians, providing legitimacy to extremism on both sides. The extremists have been dictating the political agenda for too many years. The inevitable results are blood, violence and gore.

Reflections on December 2015 Newsletter
Six steps to defeat ISIS
Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research Poll
One Year to the Charlie Hebdo Terror Attack
Good News: Games for Peace
Good News: New Programme for Social and Employment Development for the Israeli-Palestinian Community
Good News: Israel and Turkey have reached an agreement to restore diplomatic relations
Good News for Patients with Knee Cartilage Damage
Good News: Animal Rights
Bad News: Poverty in Israel
Stamford Hill Jewish School that does not teach English ordered to close
When Kids Go Online
My New Article
Book Review
Gem of the Month (November 2015) – Pontevedra
Monthly Poems

Light Side

Reflections on December 2015 Newsletter

Some readers commented on my students' peace negotiations. One suggested that it would be interesting to get groups of students all over the UK - and perhaps beyond the UK - to undertake the same project. And then meet to compare their results.  If some sort of unanimity were achieved in one area or another it could even exert some influence the minds of the people really wrestling with these issues. The reader suggested that one could get the thing moving by contacting a few student unions and encouraging them to do it for themselves.

This is an excellent idea, maybe someone will pick the glove and do it?

Another reader questioned some of the conclusions reached, saying that the important question regardless of who the teacher is, is the message. Are Jewish and Arab children being taught to live together, to share and respect each other? 

The reader vigorously opposes any attempt to remove settlers against their will. If they legally own property in Palestine and wish to live in Palestine they should be able to do so just as Arabs who own property in Israel can live in Israel. And Jews should have the right to apply for Palestinian Citizenship as do Arabs living in Israel.

The point of the exercise if to push my students to think about the topics, the complexities, the conflict. For the first time in their lives, these students were asked to be actively engaged with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to appreciate the stakes. For me, the very exercise is important.

Six steps to defeat ISIS
by Giora Eiland
AUTUMN / 2015

Eiland is one of the most thoughtful Israeli generals. When he speaks, I listen. I recommend his recent piece.

Giora Eiland spoke to Fathom about six steps the coalition must take to defeat ISIS: cooperating with Russia, persuading Turkey to play a constructive role, supporting the Kurdish forces on the ground, ensuring a flow of actionable intelligence that can be translated into timely and effective strikes to destroy ISIS, passing a UN resolution making it clear that any state, company or individual that trades with ISIS will face very painful sanctions, and waging a real battle of ideas. A former head of the Israeli National Security Council, a post he held from 2004 to 2006, Eiland served in the Israel Defense Forces for 33 years, heading the Strategic Planning Branch at the end of his career. He is now a senior research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. The interview took place on 04 December 2015.

Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research Poll

These are the results of the latest poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip between 10 and 12 December 2015. The period before the poll witnessed significant escalation in Palestinian-Israeli confrontations with increased number of stabbings by young Palestinians in the West Bank and in Israel and stone throwing at checkpoints and other areas of friction.  At his UN speech in September, PA president Mahmoud Abbas threatened to suspend Palestinian implementation of the Oslo agreement obligation as long as Israel does not implement its own obligations. There were several terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut and the downing of a Russian civilian plane over Sinai in October.  Major waves of refugees from Syria, Libya and Iraq hit Europe during the months preceding data collection. This press release addresses many of those issues and covers attitudes regarding Palestinian elections, conditions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, reconciliation, Palestinian-Israeli confrontations, the Palestinian threat to dismantle the Oslo agreement, and other internal and international issues. Total size of the sample is 1270 adults interviewed face to face in 127 randomly selected locations. Margin of error is 3%. 

For further details, contact PSR director, Dr. Khalil Shikaki, or Walid Ladadweh at tel 02-296 4933 or email

Main Findings:
Findings of the last quarter of 2015 indicate a continuation of three recent developments documented in our last poll in September: two thirds continue to demand the resignation of president Abbas; a growing majority supports return to an armed intifada; and a growing majority continues to reject the two-state solution. Moreover, while a majority supports ending PA commitment to the Oslo agreement, a similar majority doubts Abbas’ seriousness about abandoning that agreement. As we found in our last poll in September, the “Oslo generation” of youth between the ages of 18 and 22 are the most supportive of an armed intifada and stabbings and the least supportive of the two-state solution.

If presidential elections are held today, Hamas candidate would win a clear victory against Abbas. If parliamentary elections are held today, Hamas and Fatah would receive two-thirds of the popular vote, one third each. But Marwan Barghouti remains Fatah’s only hope of defeating Hamas. 

In the context of the current escalation in Palestinian-Israeli confrontations, two thirds support stabbing attacks against Israelis even though an almost three quarters express opposition to the involvement of young school girls in such stabbings.  Half of the public believes that the current confrontations will escalate into an armed intifada. If so, two thirds believe that the armed intifada will serve Palestinian national interests in ways that negotiations could not.

Findings also indicate a growing rejection of the two-state solution. Similarly, two thirds believe that the two-state solution is no longer viable due to settlement expansion, and three quarters believe that the chances for the establishment of a Palestinian state next to the state of Israel in the next five years are slim or none existing.

Responding to the declaration by the Palestinian president that the PA will not continue to honor its Oslo commitments if Israel continues to ignore its own Oslo obligations, two thirds say they support abandoning the Oslo agreement. A similar majority however does not believe that Abbas is serious about his declared intention to abandon the Oslo Accords. Regardless of the price that Palestinians might have to pay, the public is particularly in favor of ending security coordination even though a smaller majority supports also the suspension of Palestinian-Israeli civil coordination. 

(1) Popular Palestinian-Israeli confrontations:
  • 67% support and 31% oppose use of knives in the current confrontations with Israel. But about three quarters (73%) oppose the participation of young school girls in the stabbing attacks and a quarter supports it.

  • 37% believe that the current confrontations will develop into a new armed intifada, 18% believe they will develop into wide scale peaceful popular confrontations, and 13% believe they will develop in both directions. By contrast, 19% believe the confrontation will stay as they are now and 10% believe they will gradually dissipate.

  • 66% of the public (71% in the Gaza Strip and 63% in the West Bank) believe that if the current confrontations develop into an armed intifada, such a development would serve Palestinian national interests in ways that negotiations could not.

  • 50% of the public (61% in the Gaza Strip and 43% in the West Bank) believe that if the current confrontations develop into wide scale peaceful popular confrontations, such a development would serve Palestinian national interests in ways that negotiations could not.

  • 51% of the public (62% in the Gaza Strip and 43% in the West Bank) believe that if the current confrontations stay as they are now, they would serve Palestinian national interests in ways that negotiations could not.

  • 51% of the Palestinian public (67% in the Gaza Strip and 40% in the West Bank) believe that most of the Palestinians who fell after being shot by the Israeli army or settlers have in fact stabbed or were attempting to stab Israelis. But 47% believe that most of those who were shot have not stabbed or were not attempting to stab Israelis.

  • We ask the public in an open-ended question what reason it believes behind the lack of large popular participation in the current confrontations. The largest percentage (43%) said that the reason might be fear of the PA or the occupation; 19% thought the reason is despair and the belief that the confrontations are likely to be in vain; 6% said that most people are busy providing for their families; 5% said it is due to lack of factional leadership for the current confrontations; and 4% said it has to do with the lack of friction points with the Israeli occupation forces.

  • We also asked the public in an open-ended question about the motivation of the little school girls who participate in stabbing attacks: 41% said they believe they are driven by national motivation; 26% said the motivation was personal; and 16% said the motivation was religious. 11% said it was a combination of national and religious motivations.

  • When comparing the level of support of various parties for the current confrontations, Hamas comes on top with 71% of the public believing that it supports them, followed by the PFLP, receiving 66%, Fatah (59%), and al Mubadara or the Initiative (53%). By contrast, only 33% say president Abbas supports the confrontations, 28% say Jordan supports them, and only 14% say Egypt supports them.  

(2) The future of the Oslo agreement:
  • 90% of the public believe that Israel does not abide by the Oslo agreement and 6% believe it does.
  • 68% support and 25% oppose abandoning the Oslo agreement.

  • But 67% of those who believe that Israel does not abide by the Oslo agreement believe that president Abbas is not serious about abandoning Palestinian Oslo obligations and only 25% think he is serious.
  • 70% support and 26% oppose a decision to ban entry of Israeli products into Palestinian areas even if Israel responded by banning the entry of Palestinian products into Israel.
  • 64% support and 33% oppose a decision to stop security coordination with Israel even if Israel responded by preventing Palestinian police access to B and C areas.
  • 58% support and 39% oppose a decision to stop civil coordination with Israel even if Israel responded by banning the travel of those carrying newly issued Palestinian passports that were not coordinated with Israel.
  • A majority of 52% believe that Israel will abandon its current settlement policy and agree to enter serious negotiations to end its occupation if the Palestinian side suspended its implementation of its Oslo obligations. By contrast, 37% believe that a Palestinian suspension of its Oslo obligations will lead to PA collapse and the return of the Israeli civil administration.

(3) Palestinian Elections:
  • 65% of the public want president Abbas to resign while 31% want him to remain in office. These results are identical to those obtained in our previous poll three months ago.
  • If president Abbas does not nominate himself in a new elections, 30% prefer to see Marwan Barghouti replacing him, while 21% prefer Ismail Haniyeh.  Ramil al Hamdallah, Khalid Mishal and Mohammad Dahlan, and Mustapha Barghouti receive 6% each; Salam Fayyad receives 4% and Saeb Erikat receives 3%.
  • If new presidential elections were held today and only two were nominated, Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud Abbas, the former would win 51% (compared to 49% three months ago) and the latter 41% (compared to 44% three months ago). In the Gaza Strip, Abbas and Haniyeh receive an almost equal percentage (47% for the former and 48% for the latter) and in the West Bank Haniyeh wins with 53% compared to 37% for Abbas.  
  • Level of satisfaction with the performance of president Abbas continues to decline from 38% three months ago to 35% in this poll; satisfaction with Abbas stood at 44% six months ago.
  • If presidential elections were between Marwan Barghouti and Haniyeh, the former would receive 56% and the latter would receive 38% of the participants’ votes. If presidential elections were between three: Mahmud Abbas, Marwan Barghouti and Ismail Haniyeh, Abbas would receive 25%, Barghouti 36% and Haniyeh 35%.
  • If new legislative elections were held today with the participation of all factions, 71% say they would participate in such elections. Of those who would participate, 33% say they would vote for Hamas and 33% say they would vote for Fatah, 11% would vote for all other third parties combined, and 23% are undecided. Three months ago, vote for Hamas stood at 35% and Fatah at 35%. In June 2014, just before the Gaza war, vote for Hamas stood at 32% and Fatah 40%. Vote for Hamas in the Gaza Strip stands in this poll at 35% and for Fatah at 37%. In the West Bank vote for Hamas stands at 32% and Fatah at 30%.

(4) Domestic Conditions:

  • Positive evaluation of conditions in the Gaza Strip stands at 15% and positive evaluation of conditions in the West Bank stands at 21%. 
  • Perception of safety and security in the Gaza Strip stands at 53%.  In the West Bank perception of safety and security stands at 29%. Three months ago, perception of safety and security in the Gaza Strip stood at 40% and in the West Bank at 49%.
  • Findings show that the percentage of Gazans who say they seek to immigrate to other countries stands at 41%; in the West Bank, the percentage stands at 24%. 47% of the Palestinian public believe that if emigration was feasible, 40% or more of Gazans would emigrate, 15% say that the percentage of Gazans who would seek to emigrate is likely to be between 25% and 40%, and 38% say that about a quarter Gazans would emigrate.
  • Area preferred by Palestinians seeking to emigrate to is Europe, selected by 44% of them (Sweden is the most preferred country selected by 17%, followed Germany selected by 8%, Norway was selected by 4%, and 15% selected other European countries). 15% selected Arab Gulf countries, 13% selected Turkey, 12% selected the US, 4% selected Canada, and 4% selected Jordan.
  • Hamas’ al Aqsa TV viewership is the highest, standing at 23%, followed by Palestine TV (22%), Al Jazeera and Maan-Mix at 16% each, and Al Arabiyya at 6%. 
  • Perception of corruption in PA institutions stands at 78%. 
  • 18% say there is press freedom in the West Bank and 20% say the same about the status of the press in the Gaza Strip. 
  • 34% of the Palestinian public say people in the West Bank can criticize the PA authority in the West Bank without fear.
  • Optimism about the success of reconciliation and the end of the split stands today at 30% and pessimism at 66%. Three months ago optimism stood at 40% and pessimism at 56%.  
  • Belief that Hamas was responsible for hindering the functioning of the reconciliation government does not exceed 23% while 30% believe that the PA and president Abbas were to blame for that and 14% blame the head of the reconciliation government.

(5) Peace Process and Israel’s long term aspirations:

  • In the absence of a peace negotiation, 60% support a return to an armed intifada; 76% support joining more international organizations; 60% support a popular non-violent resistance; 46% support the dissolution of the PA. Three months ago, only 57% supported return to armed intifada.
  • Only 45% support and 54% oppose the two-state solution. Three months ago, 48% supported and 51% opposed this solution.
  • 36% support and 62% oppose a package permanent settlement along the lines of the Clinton Parameters and the Geneva Initiative. But 12% of those opposed to the package change their mind and accept it if Israel also accepted the Arab Peace Initiative.
  • Palestinian views on the most effective means of establishing a Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel vary: 46% think that armed action is the most effective, 26% think negotiation is the most effective, and 23% think popular non-violent resistance is the most effective. Three months ago, only 42% said armed action was the most effective and 29% said negotiation was the most effective.
  • A majority of 65% believes that the two-state solution is no longer practical due to settlement expansion while 34% say it is still practical.
  • Despite this, only 29% support, and 70% oppose, a one-state solution in which Arabs and Jews enjoy equal rights.
  • 75% believe that the chances for establishing a Palestinian state next to the state of Israel in the next five years are slim to non-existent and 24% believe the chances are high or medium.
  • The percentage of those who are worried that they would be hurt by Israel or that their land would be confiscated or homes demolished stands at 79%. 21% are not worried.
  • Furthermore, an overwhelming majority of 82% believes that Israel’s long term aspiration is to annex the lands occupied in 1967 and expel their population or deny them their rights. 16% believe that Israel’s long term aspiration is to insure its security and withdraw from all or most of the territories occupied in 1967.
  • When asked about the long term aspiration of the PA and the PLO, 65% said that it is to recover all or parts of the land occupied in 1967 while 26% said it was to conquer the state of Israel or conquer the state of Israel and kill most of the Jews.
  • Findings also show that 45% support the Arab Peace Initiative and 53% oppose it. Similarly, only 39% support a mutual recognition of national identity of Israel as the state for the Jewish people and Palestine as the state for the Palestinian people and 61% oppose it.
  • An overwhelming majority believes that al Haram al Sharif is in grave danger: 51% believe that Israel intends to destroy al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock and replace them with a Jewish temple; 17% believe that it intends to divide the plateau on which the two mosques sit so that Jews would have a synagogue alongside the Muslim holy places; and 9% believe that Israel intends to change the status quo prevailing in the plateau since 1967 by allowing Jews to pray there. Only 11% believe that Israel is interested in maintaining the status quo without change. 

(6) ISIS, Paris attacks, and waves of refugees:

  • An overwhelming majority of 88% believes that ISIS is a radical group that does not represent true Islam and 7% believe it does represent true Islam. 5% are not sure or do not know. In the Gaza Strip, 10% (compared to 5% in the West Bank) say ISIS represents true Islam.
  • 77% support and 20% oppose the war waged by Arab and Western countries against ISIS.
  • 87% oppose the recent bombings in Lebanon and 8% support them; 80% oppose the November Paris attacks and 14% support them; and 78% oppose the downing of the Russian plane in October and 16% support it.
  • 42% believe that the Paris attacks will have no impact on the Palestinian cause but 41% think they will have a negative impact and 8% think they will have a positive impact.
  • 55% say the European treatment of the current wave of refugees from countries like Syria, Libya, and Iraq is bad or mostly bad and 37% say it is good or mostly good.

One Year to the Charlie Hebdo Terror Attack

The Critique has published a special edition to denote one year to the Charlie Hebdo terror attack. This was part of The Great War Series (Part II), Charlie Hebdo, Free Speech & Religious Violence,

The swiftly executed paramilitary killing of twelve people at the Parisian headquarters of the French satirist magazine Charlie Hebdo by two heavily armed Al Qaeda-trained French brothers on January 7 2015, as well as the associated fatal shooting of four people at akosher supermarket two days later, reignited familiar debates about the limits of free speech and the dangers of religious dogma.

Only this time, the official characterization of the grocery store attack as ‘anti-Semitic’ reinforced (justifiably so or not) the insecurities of some French Jews about their continued cultural existence in an increasingly multiculturalism but religiously segregated France and in a world where the acts of terrorism most threatening to the French Jewish community are sponsored by organizations that not only claim to be the most faithful representatives of authentic Islamic devotion, but are also clearly capable of recruiting the disenfranchised Muslim youth of the French suburbs to carry out their ignoble biddings.

Is this fear justified? Should Jews be concerned about their safety in Europe? Is multiculturalism partly to be blame for the terror of January 2015? Are the teachings of Islam and scriptural religions in general problematic for those trying to discourage religiously motivated violence? If so, is absolute freedom to criticize such religious views the best way to combat the bad results of such indoctrination? Or should members of democratic liberal states simply learn to watch what they say about people’s sacred beliefs?
The 17 expert contributors gathered for this exclusive treatment of the philosophical challenges of terrorism and warfare following the Charlie Hebdo attack offer some of their insight.

My article “The Charlie Hebdo Affair: Between Speech & Terror” features among the contributions

I analyse the terror attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices through several prisms: freedom of expression; the principle of profound offence; the fallacy of universal liberalism; globalisation, and the era in which we live of violence and terror. It is argued that after the violent episodes of “The Satanic Verses”, The Danish Cartoons and the Hebdo Cartoons we know full well that freedom of speech has a price. Responsible people should weigh the consequences of their conduct – action and speech. We should learn from these affairs, take offence seriously, acknowledge the fallacy of universalism and the reality of globalisation where speech in a liberal part of the world may provoke negative and violent reaction worldwide. We should fight for our principles while being cognizant of the price tag which might be high and bloody. And the price would not necessarily be paid only by the speaker. The speaker also endangers others. Responsible speakers should ask themselves whether their struggle to express outrageous ideas freely justifies putting other people’s lives as risk. Our freedoms should always be tempered by responsibility.

Good News: Games for Peace

Many parents complain that their kids spend far too much time playing games. Many of them find fighting against this popular trend as effective as banging their heads against the wall.

The issue, however, is not about fighting against playing but rather what kind of games the kids (young and old) are playing.

By age 21, most children have spent 10,000 hours playing online games. Many spend more time playing games than they do studying at school.

Israeli software executive Uri Mishol understood that here there is an amazing opportunity to do goo. Kids are attracted to games. We can we take advantage of this platform in promoting tolerance, trust and dialogue, breaking stereotypes and racism.

Mishol developed Games for Peace,  a movement to bridge gaps between young people in conflict zones through a shared experience of playing popular video games requiring communication and collaboration within a virtual world.

Games for Peace (G4P) adapts internationally beloved games, particularly Minecraft, to accomplish its goal.

Kids across the Middle East can play G4P together from the safety of their own school or home. One way to do this is periodic Play for Peace weekends, the first of which attracted 100 players in January 2014 in a fun collaboration to build the world’s first virtual peace village via Minecraft.

Automatic translation was incorporated into the game’s chat system to allow natural conversation in multiple languages. Play for Peace events are organized with The Peace Factory, an Israeli social-media initiative.

The second G4P platform is weekly Play2talk Minecraft sessions for children on mixed teams from an Arab and a Jewish school.

Using avatars, they advance through a series of virtual construction challenges, each requiring increasingly more cooperation, communication and dependency among team members.

As they progress, the students exchange information about their real-life selves and finally have a chance to meet one another in a neutral location or at one of their schools after completing the online task.

Itay Warman, CEO of G4P, said: “I think our two challenges now are to widen the circle of participants and to develop the program from school outward... We want teachers to join our effort and the best way to do that is to make them developers.”

He envisions a teacher-supervised team of 20 Arab and Jewish students building an online Play2talk environment with games that present their local culture in the Minecraft virtual world.

Mishol and Warman also are working with their Jewish and Arab partners to plan an annual, large-scale Middle East Gaming Challenge.

Last year, the European NGO Elva brought G4P to the attention of the European Union, which commissioned the Israeli organization to introduce G4P in Georgia. The goal was to help ease tensions between Georgian and Abkhazian youth that have been simmering since the Russo-Georgian war in 2008.

“This is a deeply rooted conflict,” says Mishol, “and it was a fascinating experience for us to see that the basic notion of using well-known computer games to connect between youth works there as well as here. It taught us a lot about how to bring programs to another culture and language.”

G4P has also sparked interest in Northern Ireland and in India. Mishol and Warman believe it could have a positive effect among youth in European countries where numerous migrants from the Middle East and Africa are setting off an uneasy cultural shift.

“We’re offering a novel solution that breaks down the walls of the school to make a social impact, and we have the self-motivation of the students,” says Warman. “This is a unique combination.”

Source: Gaming as a game-changer for peace, By Abigail Klein Leichman, DECEMBER 30, 2015,

Good News: New Programme for Social and Employment Development for the Israeli-Palestinian Community

Israeli-Palestinians are discriminated in all spheres of life: in the job market, housing, having access to land, land planning, rural and urban development, municipality budgets, education, urban development and basic civil rights. Previous Israeli Prime Ministers have recognised the existence of discrimination between Jewish and Arab communities in Israel. Former PM Ehud Olmert described the need to tackle it as “in Israel’s national interest”.

On 30 December 2015, the Israeli government approved an ambitious five year plan worth 15 billion NIS (approximately £2.62 billion) programme for social and employment development for Israel’s Arab community.

The programme, rather than being a one-off grant or temporary increase in funding, represents an adjustment to budget distribution mechanisms.

20 different budget mechanisms – including in fields such as infrastructure, employment and industry, transportation, some components of the educational budget and housing – will allocate budgets to Arab citizens according to their proportion in the overall population (20 per cent). In addition, affirmative action will be taken in order to compensate for the historic disparity in budget allocation. Arab local authorities have historically received less state aid than Jewish ones. For instance: only seven per cent of the public transportation budget.

Parts of the programme include: allocating 40 per cent of the national budget for road infrastructure development in Arab communities; 20 per cent of the informal education budget will now be allocated to Arab citizens; at least 25 per cent of the construction budget for new day care centres will be allocated to Arab communities; 42.5 per cent of the budget for industrial parks will be allocated to industrial parks that yield income to Arab communities; and 40 per cent of the budget of the Ministry for Development of the Negev and the Galilee Periphery will be allocated to Arab communities.

Gila Gamliel, a Likud MK and one of the Ministers responsible for the package, described it as “an important and historic step on the route to closing the gaps and promoting equality in Israeli society.”

Source: Kobi Gideon, “Changes to Israel’s budget allocation to Arab communities”, BICOM (8 January 2016),

For discussion about the status of Israeli-Palestinians, see R. Cohen-Almagor, “Israeli Democracy and the Rights of Its Palestinian Citizens”, Ragion Pratica, Vol. 45 (December 2015), pp. 351-368.

Good News: Israel and Turkey have reached an agreement to restore diplomatic relations

During the past five years, the relations between Israel and Turkey have been strained. In December 2015, an understanding between the two countries was reached in Zurich by Joseph Ciechanover, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s personal envoy to Turkey; Israeli National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen; and Turkish Foreign Ministry Under-Secretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu.

You may recall that the crisis in relations between the two countries was exacerbated by the IDF’s 2010 raid on the Mavi Marmara. The ship, which was under the control of the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation was part of a flotilla attempting to break Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. After the IDF boarded the Mavi Marmara, they were attacked by members of the crew. Ten crew members were killed in the ensuing fight, and several Israeli soldiers were injured. The other ships in the flotilla were diverted without incident. Israel has agreed to pay $20 million in compensation for those killed or injured in the raid, and Turkey will pass a law annulling any further legal claims against any IDF personnel stemming from the incident.

As a result of the deal, Turkey and Israel will restore full diplomatic relations and return ambassadors to Tel Aviv and Ankara, respectively. Turkey will also expel Salah al-Arouri, a senior Hamas official based in Turkey who directed the terror group’s operations in the West Bank. In recent years, many top Hamas officials have taken refuge in Turkey where they have been able to operate in the open, but Turkey has agreed to crack down on Hamas’ operations in its territory (see ).

After the agreement is finalized, Israel will begin selling natural gas to Turkey and will lay a pipeline through which Israel will be able to export natural gas to Europe.

Israel and Turkey share significant security concerns. ISIL is a threat to both countries. ISIL has a presence in Sinai Peninsula. ISIL and Hamas are cooperating. Iran figures in the national security concerns of both countries. Israel and Turkey, at different times, have been targets for Iran.

Good News for Patients with Knee Cartilage Damage

Agili-C, a revolutionary cartilage regenerating technology from Israeli startup CartiHeal that could revolutionize treatment for cartilage damage and osteoarthritis, is preparing for a 2017 launch in the European market. 

In addition to its original indication for patients with knee cartilage damaged by traumatic injury, the biological scaffold is now being tested for effectiveness in certain cases of osteoarthritis. This would widen its potential market significantly. 

Cartilage, the flexible soft tissue that cushions joints – especially in the knee – cannot self-heal once damaged, because it lacks blood vessels. The Agili-C surgical implant is a biological scaffold onto which the body’s own stem cells grow and regenerate the damaged bone and cartilage naturally. Gradually, over six to 12 months, the scaffold is replaced with a top layer of hyaline cartilage and a bottom layer of bone identical to the body’s own tissues in a normal joint.

Good News: Animal Rights

You remember the story of Cecil, a 13-year-old Zimbabwean lion, killed by an American hunter. Dr Palmer is one the estimated 15,000 American tourists who visit Africa on hunting safaris each year.

I was delighted to read that Delta Air Lines, the American carrier with the largest footprint in Africa, confirmed that it is banning all lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo trophies from its cargo holds. Its decision was, effectively, a capitulation to an online petition that has amassed nearly 400,000 signatures (and which was launched months before Cecil's death). We, the people, have some power to do good if we want. Two other US carriers—United Airlines and American Airlines—quickly followed suit.

Bad News: Poverty in Israel

The most recent OECD Report ranks Israel as the country with the worse poverty rate among member states: 21% of Israeli citizens are below poverty line.

The average poverty rate among OECD countries is 11%.

Men earn in Israel 22% more than women. Israel is ranked fourth in this category after Japan, Estonia and South Korea, where men earn 36% more than women.

Israel is ranked third in salary gaps between rich and poor, after USA and Mexico.

Stamford Hill Jewish School that does not teach English ordered to close

The Charedi Talmud Torah Tashbar School in Stamford Hill, north London has been ordered to close by the Department for Education next month after Ofsted inspectors warned that it was failing to meet the “minimum” standards required.

Inspectors who investigated the school, which has more than 200 pupils, said that its curriculum, taught in Hebrew, encouraged “cultural and ethnic insularity because it is so narrow and almost exclusively rooted in the study of the Torah”. 

The school was found to “severely restrict the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils” and prevent them from “developing a wider, deeper understanding of different faiths, communities, cultures and lifestyles, including those of England”. 

The school’s failings are spelt out in a series of Ofsted reports into the school after it applied to be a private school. The reports between 2012-14 were disclosed under Freedom of Information requests.

According to the reports, the school states that “as a matter of religious principle” it does not allow pupils to learn English, nor provide for any secular education. 
Despite the school failing to meet the minimum standards three times, no action has been taken to shut it down and it continues to operate. 

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the Chief Inspector of Schools, disclosed in December that Ofsted was considering prosecuting those involved in the running of unregistered Islamic religious schools.

The British Humanist Association, which campaigns for a crackdown on all illegal “faith” schools, welcomed the decision but called on the Education Secretary to move against scores of other schools like it. “Every year, every month, every week that these places are allowed to stay open, a huge number of children remain isolated, indoctrinated, and very likely abused, so we will certainly be writing to the Government to ask that action is taken far more swiftly in the case of other schools than it has been here.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “It is a criminal offence to operate an unregistered independent school. This school’s application for registration has been rejected and on 30 December it was informed of this decision. It has been told to close by 12 February.”

Source: David Connett, Charedi Talmud Torah Tashbar: Stamford Hill Jewish School that does not teach English ordered to close, The Independent (15 January 2016),

When Kids Go Online

Cyber Peace

A Virtual Roundtable

The cyber psychology roundtable continues: four authors weigh the impact of the changing web on youth, and tackle how parents can approach the challenge of Internet use.

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

The rise of the digital age has posed many new challenges to parents as their children grow up online. What approach can parents take to help protect children from the net’s addictive properties?

Patricia Wallace: The net does indeed feature some virtual environments that have addictive properties, the kind that can lead young people into very troubling behavior in which their grades plummet and their relationships with family and friends sour. Online gaming is one, and although digital games offer many positive benefits, they can also trap players into compulsive overuse. Developers design the games to be very “sticky” so players return again and again, and play endlessly to reach that next level. Other virtual environments are also implicated, such as the social networks, synchronous chat worlds, and even online auctions.

Parents should be aware of what apps their children are using, and should stay alert to any signs that they are starting to fall into a pattern of overuse that can rob them of sleep, damage social relations, and negatively affect academics. Some families wisely set rules, such as “no mobile phones at dinner time,” or “all electronic devices must be checked into the hall closet at bedtime.” Other useful strategies emphasize realism and self-control. An alarm clock attached to the computer can be the unbending referee that buzzes “Stop!” Several mobile apps can also help, by tracking access to the favorite site and blocking it after a set period of time.

For severe cases, treatment centers that admit patients are springing up in many countries. In China, for example, some facilities operate more like military-style boot camps and teens follow a strict regimen with no online access at all. In the U.S., treatment typically draws on cognitive behavior therapy which promotes self-control and improves coping skills. The goal is not to deny children the many benefits of the online world, but to guide them toward a better balance.

Raphael Cohen-Almagor: The rise of the digital age has posed many new challenges to parents as their children grow up online. What approach can parents take to help protect children from the net’s addictive properties?

Many abuses of the Internet can be addressed and resolved by attentive parents, parents who take pre-emptive steps to help their children, warn them against abuse, and communicate with their children. As Internet abuse might continue without a break, 24/7, the effect on children is significant. Parents should enquire about mood changes, lack of appetite, tiredness, reluctance to go to school and similar troubling symptoms that suggest their children have problems. Problems should be tackled and addressed, not ignored or pushed under a heavy carpet.

At the same time, putting all the onus of responsibility on parents might be insufficient. There were cases of suicide, of intense sex bullying, of sexual harassment, of online violence and intimidation that were not mitigated despite parents’ best efforts. Parents need help. The help should come in the form of anti-bullying education and sex education programs at school; proactive, socially-responsible conduct of ISPs to address anti-social behaviour on the Net, and tailored, well-measured activities of states and of the international community at large.

Take, for instance, the tragic story of Megan Meier. Megan’s parents were diligent in trying to protect her. They authorized Megan’s MySpace account, monitored its content, and often were in Megan’s room when she was engaged with her friends. Only the parents had the password to the account. Megan could not sign on without them. Megan had a timed access to the Internet, which she usually utilized in the presence of her mother. The vigilant parents could log into the account anytime. Megan’s mother even called the police to see whether there was a way to confirm who owned the MySpace suspicious account that led to Megan’s suicide. Yet despite this direct and observant involvement, more vigilant than the involvement of most parents, Megan’s parents were unable to prevent the tragedy.

Kent Norman: It used to be 10-20 years ago that parents could easily monitor their kid’s activities online. In my house when the kids were growing up, we had all of the computers in one room. Nothing was private. We could all see what was on each other’s screens. Today, with mobile devices such as smart phone and tablets, this is not the case. Parents today have little way of monitoring what their kids are doing, unless they are constantly following their kids around and looking over their shoulders.

Parenting, then and now, has to emphasize training, transparency, and trust. Parents need to train their children in what is right and appropriate behaviour on the Internet, what we used to call “Netiquette.” Parents and children must be open and transparent about what is going on their lives. Family sharing time showing Instagram posts, Facebook posts, and favourite YouTube videos can be helpful and fun. Finally, there must be trust that children can be responsible handling the power and the temptations of the Internet.
One of my undergraduate honour students is focusing her research on developing and assessing digital tools to encourage delayed gratification (e.g. do your homework now and feed on media later). Rather than getting sucked into hours of Facebook trolling, YouTube watching, and game addiction, self-monitoring and self-restraint are needed.   Self-assessment tools that display an Internet use dashboard of the count of texts, time on YouTube, and other social media might be as useful as exercise and health monitors.

John Suler: Education is important for both parents and children. Start early. Take advantage of books, programs, and movies that teach children about technology. Device use should be an on-going activity between parent and child. The whole family takes time to talk about their digital experiences. They use technology together, rather than always alone in their rooms. To avoid their kids becoming symbiotic with devices while failing to thrive socially and physically, parents should not rely on technology as a nanny or playmate. Kids need time to play with actual toys, and with friends and family members in the real physical world, rather than staring into their screens all day. Do not rely on just the Internet for learning, socializing, and developing the child’s imagination.

We should give careful thought to how old a child must be before we hand over their very own phone. Giving one to a ten year old is like sending a son or daughter off to wander around New York City alone. We not only expose them to potential danger, but also encourage an early addiction to the device.

Adolescents will be a challenge. They want to venture into cyberspace with just their friends, to test out experiences unknown to their parents. They might run into disappointment or trouble. The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) might tempt them into device addiction. If parents start early in educating their children about technology, in using technology with them, in modelling appropriate use, and in learning from their kids who always know something parent’s don’t, they stand a good chance of heading off these problems.
It is a mistake to leave all of this up to parents. The school system needs to step up its role. We need laws to protect children. We need safe online environments for them to experiment and learn.

You can watch a 5-minute video clip about my book Confronting the Internet’s Dark Side

My New Article

“First Do No Harm: Euthanasia of Patients with Dementia in Belgium”, Journal of Medicine and Philosophy (published online 8 December 2015).

Euthanasia in Belgium is not limited to terminally ill patients. It may be applied to patients with chronic degenerative diseases. Currently, people in Belgium wish to make it possible to euthanize incompetent patients who suffer from dementia. This article explains the Belgian law and then explores arguments for and against euthanasia of patients with dementia. It probes the dementia paradox by elucidating Dworkin’s distinction between critical and experiential interests, arguing that at the end-of-life this distinction is not clearcut. It argues against euthanasia for patients with dementia, for respecting patients’ humanity and for providing them with more care, compassion, and good doctoring.

Keywords: autonomy, Belgium, beneficence, euthanasia, dementia paradox, critical and experiential interests

This article is very important to me for different reasons. I invested years in thinking about this complicated topic, right from when I had my exchanges on this issue with my Oxford educator Ronnie Dworkin. I went on to visit wards with dementia patients in several countries around the globe, watching patients, discussing the issue with doctors and with patients’ families.

The article is important also because it is timely. Both Belgium and The Netherlands contemplate expanding their respective euthanasia laws to include also people with dementia. I hope this article will come to their attention.

The article is important to me because one of the scholars with whom I discussed this issue was Ed Pellegrino. Ed provided great help in crystalizing my thoughts. The article is dedicated to his memory.

It has been a long journey, compounded by an unusually long publication process. I hope you may find interest.

Book Review

Brian Michael Jenkins and John Paul Godges (eds.), The Long Shadow of 9/11 (Santa Monica, Ca.: Rand, 2011), 209 pp.   
ISBN: 978-0-8330-5833-1. Price: $16.

Reviewed by: Raphael Cohen-Almagor
University of Hull
Hull, UK

In: Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 27, No. 5 (2015), pp. 976-979.

The coordinated terror attacks of September 11, 2001 have shaken the United States and subsequently world politics. The United States declared a “war on terror” which led to costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These wars, in turn, have rattled the Middle East and led to the so-called “Arab Spring” and to a massive growth in the world-wide jihadi movement.  
The Long Shadow of 9/11 offers detailed discussions on American involvement in Afghanistan after September 11. All the authors come from the RAND Corporation. For many years, RAND has consistently produced fabulous research. The editors asked the senior experts to address various questions, including whether the United States has overreacted to 9/11, what lessons have been learned, what impact did the increased security procedures have on American life, and what are the changes introduced by the so-called “war on terror”.
The United States has shifted its priorities from nation-states to transnational actors. The major threats to American security stem from terror organisations, not from nation states, although nation-states sponsor and assist terror organisations. The United States is the major player in bringing about an unprecedented international cooperation among the world’s security services and law enforcement organisations.
The contributors to this volume reject the idea that wars can always be won quickly and with minimal resources. However, they fail to address some of the major questions that the war against modern terrorism must involve: Was the war on Iraq justified?  What are the guiding principles in waging a just war on terrorist organisations? What do we mean by “proportionality”? To what extent is collateral damage justified? How should we fight against terrorists who shelter within civilian population? Should the laws of combat change? What accommodations, if any, are needed in international law to address these challenges? Is the use of drones justified? What should be done to counter terror on the Internet? What is the role of Internet Service Providers in fighting terror? How real is the threat of cyberterrorism?
These crucial questions are left unanswered. The book does not attempt to address the big questions. Instead, its contribution is far more modest. It looks at particular issues and provides relevant data to shed light on certain events, discern certain developments, highlight strengths and deficiencies.
The editors argue (p. 7) that “America is probably organizationally and militarily better prepared now” and that “Americans may be better prepared psychologically to deal with another terrorist attack”. But the elephant in the room is whether Americans are now safer and more secure than before September 11. Arturo Munoz (p. 31) and Frederick Wehrey (p. 49) rightly point out that the war on terror has had a radicalization effect. Todd C. Helmus explains (p. 121) that individuals join the jihadist cause for different reasons: the excitement of clandestine and militant life, the recognition and fame that they are seeking, the social bonds of peer groups that act together for a greater cause, and the promise of an after-life that offers more than what life offers those recruits. But, Helmus maintains (p. 122), the most common motivation is that a war is being waged against Islam, and the worldwide Muslim community is called to protect Islam. This is at the heart of the jihadist narrative.
Many of the authors discuss American mistakes in fighting “global” terror, which is essentially about fighting terror in the greater Middle East. Arturo Munoz argues (p. 28) that the USA should have backed Karzai’s effort to reconcile with the Taliban, and that greater emphasis should have been given to training and expanding professional, multi-ethnic Afghan national security forces. Frederick Wehrey asserts that the war created a backlash against American presence in the Middle East as well as against the cachet of democratization (p. 49). Some authors (Wehrey, Jenkins) criticize American torture of prisoners as revealed in Abu Ghraib, indicating that this only inflamed the cause of jihad and helped in the recruitment of extremists. Jenkins does not mince his words saying that the abuse of prisoners was a “national disgrace” and damaged American values (p. 205). Jenkins also says that the US Constitution has been severely challenged (p. 200). Still, the critical but patriotic Jenkins concludes by saying (p. 207): “In the short run of responding to this new terrorist threat, America might appear to be the land of the fearful; but in the long run, I believe, the home of the brave will prevail”.
Much of the discussion focuses on al Qaeda. In this respect, the book looks outdated. In 2015, al Qaeda still exists but is certainly not the main terrorist actor occupying the minds of decision-makers and security officers in the United States and in other parts of the world affected by other, no less brutal terrorist organisations. This book captures a certain moment in history. It serves as an example of the thinking and attention that al Qaeda has triggered in the American security agencies. However, the concerns raised about al Qaeda are largely applicable to ISIS, Boko Haram, the Haqqani network, Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist organisations. The exact extent that the learned discussions offered in this book are relevant to the quickly changing reality in the Middle East is an open question.
The discussion on nuclear threats shows how volatile the world is, and how quickly things change. In 2008, experts said that al Qaeda was the CIA’s top nuclear concern (p. 88). They also voiced concern regarding Iran. While I would be surprised if al Qaeda still is at the top of these concerns, Iran remains a real threat on its own right and also because of its direct links with, and sponsorship of global webs of terror.
The United States is still on a learning curve. What are the lessons that we have learned thus far? Brian Jenkins contends (p. 207) that security will remain a dominant preoccupation. Christopher Paul argues (p. 110) that prevailing over terrorism and insurgence requires simultaneously combatting armed adversaries and diminishing their support. Paul maintains that the rightness of American values and the wrongness of extremism are not self-evident. Freedom and democracy have different connotations in different parts of the world and are not always viewed in positive terms (p. 106).
The book highlights the difficulties involved in waging asymmetric warfare and that not all conflicts can be won through force alone. George W. Bush introduced boots on the ground but was unable to defeat the jihadi movement. Barack Obama brought the troops home and opted for warfare that does not put American soldiers in direct confrontation with jihadists. But, as Kim Cragin notes (p. 118), drone strikes are not effective in dismantling physical havens. The most we can hope for from drone strikes is the elimination of key individuals and for others fleeing to other areas, e.g. Pakistan.
For the second edition, I recommend including more chapters by scholars from other parts of the world who are interested in the broader, ethical questions. I would also recommend including a detailed index.
In conclusion, The Long Shadow of 9/11 is a resource book for people who are interested in the war on terror between 2001 and 2010. It provides a rich and comprehensive overview of the subject from a variety of perspectives. It shows that the arguments for security are as relevant today as they were then. Featuring diverse points of view, this significant collection of essays contributes to the understanding of the power struggle that has been reshaping the Middle East.

Gem of the Month (November 2015) – Pontevedra

Celebrating and promoting my book brought me to Pontevedra, Spain. I was invited to present my ideas at XESCOM, the International Network of Communication Management. I thank my beautiful hosts José Rúas Araújo and Jaime Cabeza the kind hospitality.

My visit was in last November. Good memories are retained in my heart.

I had brief visits to Vigo and Santiago and hope to return for further exploration. Galicia is certainly worth a visit.


My hosts took me to visit the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostella. As we entered, I could not believe my ears. The choir was singing the Israeli Hatikva, with words in Latin. They were singing La Mantovana upon which the Haykva is based.

Monthly Poems


By a route obscure and lonely, 
Haunted by ill angels only, 
Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT, 
On a black throne reigns upright, 
I have reached these lands but newly 
From an ultimate dim Thule- 
From a wild clime that lieth, sublime, 
Out of SPACE- out of TIME. 

Bottomless vales and boundless floods, 
And chasms, and caves, and Titan woods, 
With forms that no man can discover 
For the tears that drip all over; 
Mountains toppling evermore 
Into seas without a shore; 
Seas that restlessly aspire, 
Surging, unto skies of fire; 
Lakes that endlessly outspread 
Their lone waters- lone and dead,- 
Their still waters- still and chilly 
With the snows of the lolling lily. 

By the lakes that thus outspread 
Their lone waters, lone and dead,- 
Their sad waters, sad and chilly 
With the snows of the lolling lily,- 
By the mountains- near the river 
Murmuring lowly, murmuring ever,- 
By the grey woods,- by the swamp 
Where the toad and the newt encamp- 
By the dismal tarns and pools 
Where dwell the Ghouls,- 
By each spot the most unholy- 
In each nook most melancholy- 
There the traveller meets aghast 
Sheeted Memories of the Past- 
Shrouded forms that start and sigh 
As they pass the wanderer by- 
White-robed forms of friends long given, 
In agony, to the Earth- and Heaven. 

For the heart whose woes are legion 
'Tis a peaceful, soothing region- 
For the spirit that walks in shadow 
'Tis- oh, 'tis an Eldorado! 
But the traveller, travelling through it, 
May not- dare not openly view it! 
Never its mysteries are exposed 
To the weak human eye unclosed; 
So wills its King, who hath forbid 
The uplifting of the fringed lid; 
And thus the sad Soul that here passes 
Beholds it but through darkened glasses. 

By a route obscure and lonely, 
Haunted by ill angels only, 
Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT, 
On a black throne reigns upright, 
I have wandered home but newly 
From this ultimate dim Thule. 

Edgar Allan Poe 

Light Side

During a flight, suddenly Jane – one of the passengers – shouts:
“Is there a doctor on this flight?”
James immediately rushed to her:
“Yes. I am a doctor. How can I help?”
Jane: “Would you like to meet my daughter?”

Peace and love.

Yours as ever,


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