Saturday, April 02, 2016

Politics – March 2016

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

Governments cannot do the whole job themselves. Increasingly, change comes from the bottom up and not from the top down. Increasingly governments find themselves paralyzed to do what they ought to do. And the Arab-Israeli peace process is a very good example of a conflict in which political authorities seem paralyzed and unable to do what they need to do. Small wonder then that groups (of citizens increasingly) gather. . .to attempt to change that relationship from the inside out.
~ Amb. Harold "Hal" Saunders  (1930-2016)

The triumph of humanity is to recognise diversity and difference yet have the ability to bring people together and to create bridges between them.

~Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Israeli citizens continue to live under the threat of terror. The media are now describing this wave of terror that started Rosh Hashana (New Year) 2015 as the “Third Intifada”. In my February blog I provided a terrorist profile. Generally speaking, young people decide to become Shahids, take knives and go to kill as many Israelis as they can. On March 8, an American tourist who was in the wrong place in the wrong time was stabbed to death while touring the attractive streets of Jaffa. His wife was stabbed too. Another couple, tourists from Russia, and nine other Israelis were stabbed in the same attack as the terrorist ran from Jaffa to Tel Aviv, stabbing people on the beautiful promenade until he was killed by the Israeli police.

Here is how Al Jazeera related to this one day after the attack:

Joe Biden arrives in Israel on day of deadly violence

Four Palestinians have been shot dead in separate incidents after allegedly trying to kill Israelis in occupied East Jerusalem and Tel Aviv

Another reason why I never appeared on Al Jazeera nor wish to appear on this channel.

Reflections on February Newsletter
Hope: Cancer's 'Achilles' heel' discovered by British scientists raising hope of 'cure'
MESG Ambassador Forum – His Excellency Ambassador Mazen Kamal Homoud
Democracy under Threat
48% of Israeli Jews Back ‘Expulsion’ or ‘Transfer’ of Arabs, New Pew Survey Says
Does Britain Sponsor Terror?
Arms Trade

Report: Saudi Arabia buys drones from Israel through South Africa

Good News for the Citizens of Israel
Good News: First Arab-Israeli school of Entrepreneurship
Good News: Novel device boosts survival chances after chest trauma
The single most important issue in cyber psychology
My New Article (English)
My New Articles (Portuguese)
The Future of British Theatre
Idan Raichel
Monthly Poems

Light Side

Reflections on February Newsletter

It was nice to receive a “Thank you” message from Sacha Pfeiffer following my positive review of Spotlight.

Several readers noted that the Palestinian relentless incitement to violence plays a crucial part in brainwashing the minds of young, impressionable people, driving them to commit atrocities. This point is well taken.

In all my peace proposals, I suggested to clean the atmosphere. Education free of incitement on both sides is essential to attain peace.

In my most recent article “Parameters for Two State Solution”, Palestine-Israel Journal, Vol. 21, No.2 (2015) I wrote:

Incitement — Both sides shall improve the atmosphere by fighting bigotry, racism, incitement and hate on both sides of the fence. This includes a close study of the education curricula in both the PA and Israel. Both sides need to overhaul their textbooks to remove incitement, racism, bigotry and hate against one another. The curricula should reflect a language of peace, tolerance and liberty. Both sides should utilize the media to promote peaceful messages of reconciliation and mutual recognition.

Dr Bert Keizer wrote from Amsterdam:

dear rafi,

about anti-semitism in the Netherlands I am not well-informed.

that is to say: I do not move in circles where it is shown, but neither do I move in circles where it might be experienced.

as Joe Orton said: some of my friends are the best jews. I have no idea really.

but I do know that I never came across anything startling on this point in the world of dutch medicine.

all of this reminds me of Benjamin Britten's conversation with a Russian conductor.

Russian: how many jews are playing in the London Philharmonic?

Britten: I don't know. we don't count them.


but in 1973 I never forget my Pakistani friend Asghar asking me in a tone of outrage: 'do you realize how many professors in Amsterdam University are jews?'

that struck me as laughable.

this muslim-attention focusing on the how many? how many? question has lost all of its amusing quality over the years.


last year in Russia I came upon outright jew-hatred when a religious young man led us through a church while deriding 'foreign elements of a cosmopolitan nature tainting the holiness of Russia's soul' and explicitly naming Yelena Bonner, Sacharov's wife.

we were so aghast, didn't catch on at first. wondered what IS this man saying??

it was upsetting. didn't know where to look.

ah well.

lots of love from amsterdam rafi,



Hope: Cancer's 'Achilles' heel' discovered by British scientists raising hope of 'cure'

A major British discovery is expected to lead to revolutionary bespoke treatments for patients with advanced cancer that could enter trials within two years.

The scientists behind the breakthrough believe they have identified the “Achilles’ heel” of cancer cells.

In a video about the findings, Cancer Research UK, described how immune cells could be marshalled to exploit this weakness.

“They could form a fierce cancer-fighting force with the potential to target every cancer cell in the body.” The research could even result in “a revolutionary way to treat or even cure cancer”, the video added.

The researchers found rare "flag" proteins that act as immune system targets and are displayed on the surface of all of a patient's tumour cells, wherever they might be in the body.

Normally they are shielded from the immune system, or missed because rapidly evolving cancers present too many constantly changing targets.

Once the omnipresent proteins, or "antigens", are isolated, potent immune system cells called T-cells can be employed as homing missiles to zero in on them and destroy the cancer. Such an approach, which involves mapping the DNA in a patient's tumour sample, would help to overcome the ability of cancers to resist therapies by altering their genetic make-up.

The work is at an early stage and so far just two of the special antigens, plus the T-cells that recognise them, have been identified in two lung cancer patients. But the scientists hope to see rapid progress leading to patient trials, and are optimistic about similar targets for other cancers being found. Professor Charles Swanton, from University College London's Cancer Institute, a leading member of the Cancer Research UK-funded team, said: "I will be disappointed if we haven't treated a patient within two years.

"Do we think it's going to work? I hope this is going to result in improvements in survival outcomes. If this doesn't work, I'll probably hang my hat up and do something else."
He pointed out that a tumour evolutionary tree was like a "snowflake or fingerprint", unique to each patient. That presented a problem for clinicians and patients, because as tumours developed the tree grew new branches containing novel genetic mutations which helped the cancer resist treatment.

The new research had shown there were potential immunotherapy targets from the "trunk" of the tree that are flagged up on all of a tumour's multiplying cells.

One way of exploiting the discovery would be to develop T-cell-activating vaccines based on the antigens, said the researchers. Another would be to "fish out" the small number of T-cells in tumours that are naturally primed to recognise the antigens, multiplying them in a laboratory, and returning them to the patient.

Currently there are too few of the ready-primed T-cells in patients to make a difference. In the samples analysed by the scientists, they only made up 1% to 2% of the T-cells in a tumour.

Another hurdle to be crossed is the way cancer protects itself using proteins that are normally employed to keep the immune system in check and prevent it running out of control.

In practice, the new antigen-targeting therapies would have to be accompanied by so-called "checkpoint inhibitors" - drugs that are already being used to treat cancer patients.
Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK's chief clinician, said: "This ... research gives us vital clues about how to specifically tailor treatment for a patient using their immune system.

"It gets us closer to knowing why some patients respond to immunotherapy treatment and others don't, and how we might select which patients will benefit the most."

Experts are increasingly coming round to the idea that the future of cancer treatment is personalised medicine, tailored to small groups of patients or even individuals.

Source: John veo Radowitz and Ian Johnston, “Cancer's 'Achilles' heel' discovered by British scientists raising hope of 'cure'”, The Independent (March 4, 2016),

MESG Ambassador Forum – His Excellency Ambassador Mazen Kamal Homoud

On March 9, 2016, the Ambassador Forum of the Middle East Study Group at the University of Hull hosted His Excellency Ambassador Mazen Kamal Homoud of the Embassy of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in London.

Speaking before a packed hall, the ambassador gave an overview of Jordanian history and its special position in the Middle East. He spoke for half hour and then fielded 70 minutes of fascinating Q&A. The discussion was informative and rich in details. Here I wish to focus on some elements that might be of interest to you.

Jerusalem: In both the lecture and the Q&A, Ambassador Homoud emphasized the special interest that Jordan has in East Jerusalem as a custodian of the Haram al Sharif and the al-Aqsa Mosque. Jordan observes with growing concerns the Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem which include the expansion of settlements and the tightening of control. Jordan will maintain its recognized responsibilities in East Jerusalem and the establishment of the State of Palestine, with Jerusalem as its capital. Then it will transfer its responsibilities to the newly founded state.

Two-state solution: Ambassador Homoud reiterated Jordan’s commitment to two-state solution, the only possible solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He said that as long as the conflict is not resolved, the Middle East will continue to be in turmoil. The Arab world cannot accept anything short of ending the occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Ambassador Homoud explained that the Israeli expansion of the settlements is dishonest as it undermines Israel’s verbal commitment to a two-state solution, and that it bolsters spoilers, resistance in the occupied territories, Lebanon and other places.

Palestine: Ambassador Homoud spoke of Jordanian commitment to its brethren in Palestine, the special relationships with Palestine as there are close ties between Jordan and Palestine. Some 45% of Jordanians are Palestinians, either those who accepted Jordanian citizenship and became full-fledge Jordanians, part and parcel of the country, as well as those in the refugee camps who refused to accept Jordanian citizenship, keeping the hope and flame to return one day to Palestine. Ambassador Homoud estimated that 500,000-700,000 such refugees are now living in the refugee camps.

The occupation: Ambassador Homoud denounced the occupation, declared that the whole international community recognizes that the settlements are illegal, and that the Israeli expansion of the settlements spoils the special relationships with Jordan. Jordan is committed to the peace agreement it signed with Israel in 1994 but it wishes to see concrete steps that will end the occupation.

Relationships with Israel: Ambassador Homoud emphasized that the relations are good, that trade and business with Israel is important to the Jordanian economy, that Jordan and Israel share common interests in fighting against ISIS and all forms of terror.

ISIS: Ambassador Homoud said it is impossible to talk to ISIS. It needs to be destroyed. Jordan is careful not to take ISIS elements into its territory and to guard its borders against ISIS infiltration. ISIS betrays Islam. Its message of terror and violence in the name of religion is dishonest. Jordan as well as other Arab countries are committed to bringing about its destruction as ISIS undermines stability in the Middle East and risks the position of the legitimate governments in the region.

Syria: Jordan is taking special interest in the situation in Syria. Syria is a neighbor. There are close ties between the two countries. Families reside across the border. Jordanian people used to travel to Damascus on a regular basis, and Syrians used to visit Amman. It was common to go for a meal in Damascus, and to tour the country. Because of these special relationships, Jordan took into its own territory 1.4 million Syrian refugees. 20% of the Jordanian population is now Syrian. This has taken a great toll on Jordanian economy.  Ambassador Homoud expressed the hope that one day these refugees will be able to return home to Syria.

Ambassador Homoud spoke of the need for a process. It is a mistake to oust a regime without installing a viable government instead. President Assad needs to remain in office as long as ISIS is in his country, as long as the fighting continues. When peace is restored then it will be the time to consider his ousting and regime change. Doing this now will be a mistake as this will only play into the hands of ISIS.
The Arab Spring and its effects on Jordan: The Arab Spring (or Winter, as the Ambassador said) took place because many minorities felt disenfranchised, marginalized. They had nothing to lose. This cannot happen in Jordan because Jordan always strove to integrate its minorities. The Jordanian Parliament has a long history. The story of Jordanian society is one of integration, not isolation. The Hashemite Kingdom has based its rule on making all people feel part of the Jordanian society. Thus all elements within society, the Palestinians, the hundreds of tribes, the minorities, the middle class, all have an interest in maintaining the Kingdom because it has been good to them.

Hamas: Ambassador Homoud explained that resistance exists because of Israeli actions. If Israel will truly show its commitment to the two-state solution, stop settlement expansion, continue with the peace process, help the PLO in its nation-building efforts and invest in seeing the establishment of Palestine alongside Israel, with East Jerusalem as its capital, people would cease support for Hamas. The resistance would become irrelevant. People wish to live in peace and decency, to lead a normal life with economic stability. When they are denied a normal life, and live under occupation, this provides fuel for Hamas.

BDS: Ambassador Homoud distinguished between BDS of Israel, and BDS of the settlements. Jordan is committed to peace with Israel, but like any other member of the international community it sees the settlement as illegal and destructive. The settlements undermine the viability of peace. Thus, while Jordan supports sanctioning settlement products, it does not support the entire BDS movement of sanctioning Israel at large.

Relationships with the Jewish community in London: Ambassador Homoud emphasized to me time and again his personal strong connections with the Jewish community in England, and his personal good relationships with the Israeli Embassy in London. These relationships are clearly important to him, and he wishes to maintain them.

Democracy under Threat

This Netanyahu government undermines Israeli democracy. Since it has been installed, it is fighting against democratic values and brings fresh winds of authoritarian changes to society. Many people in Israel are very concerned. Me too.

The government dismisses civil servants who do not sing the same nationalistic tunes. Minister of Education, Naftali Bennett, simply fires scientists, civil servants and public officials who do not see eye to eye with his Zionist-patriotic-religious-nationalistic agenda.

Minister of Culture Miri Regev undermines artists, public officials and cultural institutions that dare to voice democratic values for tolerance, equality, human rights, civil rights, especially those who raise their voice against the occupation.

Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked signals very clearly the agenda: pro-settlements, nationalism, Jewish values, non-egalitarianism, fighting against NGOs that are liberal-democratic, initiating anti-democratic and anti-Arab motions in the Knesset, making the life of anyone who still wishes to defend basic human rights difficult. Justices of the Supreme Court are required to tune-in very carefully to these messages.

Other ministers are blatantly sectarian, working for the interests of the settlers and the religious communities.

The government delineates clearly who are the “forces of light” and who are the “forces of the night”; who are Israeli, Zionist, patriotic and Jewish, and who are “the others”. “The others” are marginalized, delegitimized, dismissed, constrained, undermined.

This is very sad. Israel departs slowly but surely from the small group of democratic nations in the world, becoming more and more authoritarian, undermining the basic values that enshrine democracies, those of Respect for Others, and Not Harming Others.

The gulf between “The State of Jerusalem” (Judea) and “The State of Tel Aviv” (Israel) is enxpanding all the time. The cities of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are only 40 minute apart, yet their respective ways of life are worlds apart.

And the silent majority continues to be silent, playing into the hands of the powerful, highly motivated, highly organized minority that sets a backward agenda for Israel, and pushes it away from the western world.

I am very sad.

48% of Israeli Jews Back ‘Expulsion’ or ‘Transfer’ of Arabs, New Pew Survey Says

Almost half of all Israeli Jews are in favor of transferring or expelling the state’s Arab population, a major U.S. survey of Israeli public opinion has found. That staggering statistic comes from the Pew Research Center’s report on Israel’s religiously divided society, released on March 8.

The Israelis polled were not responding to an Israeli government policy proposal, but rather the broad concept of transfer and expulsion. Forty-eight percent of Israeli Jews strongly agree or agree with the idea while 46% strongly disagree or disagree.
Image: Anya Ulinich

“[Jewish] Israelis are feeling, at the time we took this survey at least, quite divided about the long-term prospects for living together with the non-Jewish population,” said Alan Cooperman, director of religion research at Pew. According to the report, Jews constitute about 81% of the country’s population; non-Jews, the vast majority Arabs, constitute 19%. There are 8.4 million people living in Israel total.

Cooperman said the alarming data point should be taken in context of other findings in the report, such as the fact that 45% of Israeli Jews say that a Palestinian state cannot exist alongside Israel, while 43% believe that one can.

The transfer question, along with several other questions on the survey, was just asked of Israeli Jews. The margin of error for these questions was plus or minus 2.9%. For the broader survey, Pew researchers conducted 5,601 face-to-face interviews with Israeli adults over the age of 18 between October 2014 and May 2015. The sample for the broader survey included Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze. East Jerusalem Palestinians were also included in the survey, but not Palestinians on the West Bank. The questions for Jews only were put to 3,789 Israeli Jews.

Israeli opinion on transfer correlates with religious identity. Those who identify as “datim,” or Orthodox, tend to prefer transfer more than other groups. Seventy-one percent of datim agree that Arabs should be transferred or expelled from Israel. “Hilonim,” or secular Jews, feel differently, with 58% disagreeing with the idea. “But even among these self-described secular Israeli Jews,” the study noted, “about one-third (36%) favor the expulsion of Arabs from the country.”

Unsurprisingly, political identity is a strong indicator of feelings about transfer. Seventy-two percent of Israelis on the right agree with the concept, while 87% of Israelis on the left disagree.

It correlates with where the respondents live, but only to a degree. Settlers in the occupied West Bank, which includes land that Palestinians claim as part of a future state, favor transfer at about the same rate as Israelis who live inside Israel proper. The difference is that some of them feel more intensely about it; 27% of settlers strongly agree with transfer, compared to 20% of other Jews who strongly agree.

The topic has a long history in Israel, which is why it was included in the wide-ranging report. According to the research of historian Benny Morris, early Zionist leaders, including founding father David Ben Gurion, advocated for the transfer of Palestinians from the Jewish state. In Israel’s founding war, some 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled by Jewish forces. But intense debate still seethes among historians on whether the exodus was due to a plan designed before or during the war by Zionist leaders, or whether it was an unintended result of the war. Government policy set soon afterward barred these Palestinians from returning.
More recently, Knesset Member Avigdor Lieberman raised the specter of a kind of transfer with his plan to swap Arab population centers inside Israel for Jewish settlements in the West Bank. His proposal did not entail the physical transfer of people, but would mean that Arab-Israeli citizens of Israel would be forcibly stripped of their citizenship and transferred instead into the jurisdiction of a Palestinian entity of some kind.

The question of transfer has been studied before in Israel, the Pew report noted, but with different results. Over the past 13 years, a University of Haifa study has asked whether Arab citizens should leave Israel with proper compensation. In 2015, 32% of Israelis agreed with the statement and 64% disagreed. Meanwhile, a 2015 poll in Maariv newspaper asked whether Israeli Jews support “voluntary transfer” of Palestinians from the West Bank. Fifty-eight percent of Jews were in favor, while 26% opposed it.

Does Britain Sponsor Terror?

PM David Cameron and other British officials say time and again that Britain will fight terrorism. They condemn terror activities. They show a resolute stand against terror.

At the same time, the British government has been a generous sponsor of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Its annual support amounts to £72 million. British officials told me that the majority of this money goes to the PA. Small sums go to Palestinian NGOs, such as human rights and relief organizations.

The Palestinian Authority awards lifetime payments to convicted terrorists, despite a promise to end the practice. Monthly payments are transferred to families of convicted terrorists who shed much Israeli blood.

Thus, indirectly, the British government seems to support terrorism. To be loyal to its own declarations about fighting terror wherever it is, the British government should make enquiries where does its support go to ascertain that it does not transferred to terrorists and to their families. The policy “you take, we don’t ask” undermines the sincerity of the declarations. Terrorists should receive no price, no incentive, for their vile brutality.

Arms Trade

One chart that shows the biggest weapons exporters of the last five years

Asia was the main importer of weapons in the last five years

The number of major weapons switching hands around the world was up 14 per cent in the last five years, compared to the five years before that.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, an independent resource on global security, has released a study that shows that India is the world's largest importer of arms.
The chart shows that Asia was the main importer of weapons in the last five years, as the region races to arm itself ahead of its regional rivals: China and Pakistan. The high levels of Indian imports are also the result of its small domestic arms industry, which means it has to buy weapons from overseas.

Russia is the biggest supplier of arms to India, ahead of the US. But US imports there are growing. They were 11 times higher in 2011-2015 than 2006-2010.
Chart: Statista

The US was by far the top arms exporter in 2011-15, with a 33 per cent share of the global market. Exports from the US have increased 27 per cent in the last five years.

Saudi Arabia is its biggest customer, and aircraft are its biggest product. As of the end of 2015, the USA had numerous outstanding large arms export contracts, including contracts to supply a total of 611 of its new generation F-35 combat aircraft to nine states.

The UK is the sixth largest exporter of arms in the world, with a 4.5 per cent share of the global market. Arms exports from the UK increased 26 per cent in the last five years.

Report: Saudi Arabia buys drones from Israel through South Africa

An analyst who is well known for leaking exclusive information about the royal family of Saudi Arabia on Twitter has recently reported that the kingdom buys drones from Israel, in cooperation with South Africa.

The Saudi analyst stated: "Notwithstanding the political controversies between Israel and South Africa, the military cooperation between both states strongly continues, enabling South Africa to purchase drones from Israel”.

According to the Saudi analyst, this deal not only means that the Saudi deputy crown prince and Defense Minister, Mohammad bin Salman, committed fraud by lying to the Saudi people, but it also paints him as a traitor who is serving Israel's interests by purchasing its drones.

Source: Maayan Groisman, “Report: Saudi Arabia buys drones from Israel through South Africa”, The Jerusalem Post (March 30, 2016),

Good News for the Citizens of Israel

Israel and the U.S. conducted a joint exercise that “represents a final test before Israel begins to deploy one of the most sophisticated missile defense systems in the world,” according to The Washington Post (March 3, 2016). The exercise named Juniper Cobra 16, involved more than 1,700 U.S. soldiers and 1,500 Israeli soldiers from Israel’s Air Defense Command. The purpose was to conduct defense drills to exercise “ballistic missile defense capabilities.”

The advanced missile system is a “coordinated system of radars, launchers and interceptors.” It includes the Iron Dome, which protects Israel from short-range rockets, like those launched by Hamas in the Gaza Strip; David’s Sling, which intercepts short-and-medium range missiles; Arrow-3, which is designed to “repel” long-range missiles; and the X-band radar system. David’s Sling will be delivered over the next several weeks and is designed to handle the missiles built by Iran and Russia that have been given to Hezbollah. The X-band radar system will allow Israel to “detect incoming missiles 500 or 600 miles out, vs. 100 miles, the current limit of their radar tracking systems.”

Israel called David’s Sling “the world’s most revolutionary innovation in the family of interceptor systems.” The system is designed primarily to handle the kinds of rockets and missiles, built by Iran and Russia, that are now in the possession of the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon and the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.

The defense system will be “far superior” to anything in the Middle East and could surpass those used in the United States and Europe. The United States has contributed $3.3 billion to the project over the past ten years, and to complete the development, Israel’s defense establishment has partnered with U.S. firms, including Raytheon, Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

In a joint statement, both parties said that a strong U.S.-Israel relationship is needed to combat the “instability in the region.” U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford said: The relationship between our two countries “is about much more than just the military to military relationship, but I believe that’s one of the foundational elements.”

The United States is currently in talks with Israel about a new long-term agreement on U.S. military aid to Israel. The talks come as the U.S. seeks to soften Israel's concerns about the lifting of sanctions against Iran as part of a nuclear deal.

Sources: Ruth Eglash and William Booth, “Israel to launch one of the most advanced missile defense systems in the world, with U.S. help” (March 3, 2016), The Washington Post,

Good News: First Arab-Israeli school of Entrepreneurship

A new Arab-Israeli innovation hub has joined the local high-tech landscape and leading experts in the field have high hopes for the project’s success. The TRI/O Tech advanced high-tech entrepreneurial hub in the hilltop Israeli Arab city of Kafr Kassem, about 20 kilometers east of Tel Aviv, includes the first Arab-Israeli school of entrepreneurship and a startup accelerator. TRI/O Tech is a joint venture of Tsofen, an Arab-Israeli integration non-profit, and MIT Enterprise Forum of Israel, the Israeli chapter of the global non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the growth and success of high-tech entrepreneurial ventures. The initiative – expected to cost $23 million over three years – is primarily supported by the US-Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) of the US State Department. Hans Shakur, consultant for Tsofen and project manager, said: “The whole operation in this hub is focused on integrating Israeli Arabs into Israeli high-tech, making the entrepreneurial world more accessible to the Arab community, creating jobs for Arabs in their towns so they do not need to travel to Tel Aviv or Haifa for work, and at the same time fostering and encouraging entrepreneurship through the school and accelerator”.

This is good news indeed and I hope for more of the same. At the same time, having such a first initiative only in 2016 is revealing, and that it is enabled by American money, not Israeli, is also notable. Israel itself should invest in such important ventures that create bridges between Arabs and Jews and that encourage Arab economy.

Good News: Novel device boosts survival chances after chest trauma

A father-daughter team from Israel has invented a lifesaving device that could revolutionize treatment of chest trauma, the No. 1 cause of accidental death worldwide.
Technion graduate Irina Kavounovski and her father, mechanical engineer Igor Vaysbeyn, founded Vigor Medical Technologies with Florida-based biomed investor Dr. John Abeles to develop and commercialize the C-Lant self-fixation sealing device for civilian and military medics to prevent lung and heart collapse before a chest trauma patient reaches the hospital.
C-Lant provides a unique answer to the need for a better treatment of chest trauma, says Kavounovski. “It’s a very simple device that self-sticks from the inside and outside without tape or sutures, so you don’t need additional accessories. It can be inserted through the wound or through its own opening made by the sharp point on its tip. As soon as the tip perforates the layers of the thoracic wall it jumps back automatically into the handle, like an EpiPen, so there is no trauma to the patient and it immediately seals the wound.” The one-size-fits-all device automatically adjusts to the anatomy of the specific patient and has an antibacterial coating to prevent infection

The single most important issue in cyber psychology

Patricia Wallace, John Suler, Kent Norman and Raphael Cohen-Almagor, The single most important issue in cyber psychology, Cambridge Blog (2015),

In the fifth of our cyberpsychology roundtable discussions, the authors decide on what they feel is the singular most important issue online.

What do you consider to be the single most important issue in cyber psychology today?

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

Patricia Wallace:
Trust – and the loss of it – looms large for cyberpsychology.  For intimate human relationships and friendships online, as well as relations between individuals and institutions, trust is a fragile commodity that is easy to lose and quite difficult to rebuild.

How, for example, do human beings deal with the risks of intimate disclosure online?  The Internet promotes disinhibition, and that can benefit close relationships by encouraging intimacy.  But trusting that shared secrets and private photos won’t wind up in the public domain carries grave risks that can lead to years of embarrassment and negative outcomes, if the material goes viral, whether deliberately or accidentally.

Trust also becomes a casualty because of the growing number of massive data breaches and hacks, as Target shoppers, government employees, Sony executives, T-Mobile subscribers – among many others  — recently learned.  The hack of the Ashley Madison website exposed thousands of people who were seeking an affair, potentially destroying lifelong marriages as spouses checked the database and found their partner’s name.
Revelations about government surveillance programs further erode trust in the integrity and privacy of online communications.  And for different reasons, corporations go to great lengths to obtain personal information useful to marketers, offering “free” services such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter to collect and resell information about our preferences, friendship networks, and behavior patterns.  Research shows that people behave differently when they know or suspect that someone or something is watching.  While tools to preserve online anonymity and privacy are available, they are not foolproof.  For all these reasons, trust is a major issue for the psychology of the online world.

John Suler:
There are several issues, but I think a lot about machine intelligence.
I’m not worried about the “singularity” per se, the moment in history when computers grow more intelligent than us, when they turn sentient, when they might even decide to take over. This is still science fiction.

Tech savvy futurists oscillate between fearing and idealizing artificial intelligence that will supposedly recreate the human mind – while psychologists, who have spent a hundred years studying the human psyche, know that it is far more complex than most futurists realize.

I’m more concerned about our relying on algorithms to assess activity in social media or elsewhere on the Internet, and to automate attempts to change it. Computers can only see what they are told to see, can only do what they are programmed to do, can only learn or “think” the way we train them.

Are they tinkering with happy and sad social media posts to see if they can change our mood, trying to get us to participate more, buy stuff, or make us believe something? Is machine intelligence giving us the information we really need to find in our searches? Do we even want machines monitoring us, recording us, and making decisions about what we experience in cyberspace? We should worry about the agendas of the powers-that-be who design algorithms.

We should worry about where the law of unintended consequences might lead us.
If there is one thing we have learned in the history of psychology, it is that the logic of computers and statistics can provide helpful information, but only the human mind interpreting that information will reach the best possible conclusions. If we rely too much on machines to show us who we are or control what happens to us, we are barking up the wrong tree.

Kent Norman:
Oddly enough I would say, cybersecurity and less than ethical behaviour on the Internet.  While cybersecurity seems to be more of an IT techie thing, it is really very much about psychology.

Having just finished a new chapter on cybersecurity for the second edition of my book, Cyberpsychology, I might be a bit sensitized to the issue.  But at the heart of cyber psychology is anonymity, privacy, and trust.

On one side of the cybersecurity issue are individuals and groups, who hack into accounts and systems for various reasons ranging from hactivism and whistle blowing to revenge and greed.

On the other side are websites and members trying to keep their information secure and private with various motives ranging from personal and financial security to keeping covert and unethical activities secret.

Recent events such at the hack of the Ashley Madison website by “The Impact Team” in July 2015 is a case in point.  The Impact Team demanded that the Ashley Madison and its sister site “Established Men” be shut down or they would release the database.

The parent company Avid Life Media did not, and The Impact Team released more than 25 gigabytes of company data including user details in August 2015 including the records of accounts that Ashley Madison had supposedly deleted at a cost of $20 per member. The fallout of this leak has resulted in public humiliation, suicides, divorce, and extortion.
What is funny is that an analysis of the Ashley Madison database found that the most common passwords that members picked were “123456” and “password”, hardly very secure.  But even hard-to-crack passwords would not have stopped the hack of Ashley Madison’s site itself.

What is even more intriguing is that of the 5.5 million female accounts less than 1% were used on a regular basis according a Gizmodo analysis of the database.  For every one time a female checked her email, 13,585 men checked theirs. Moreover, a very high number of the women’s accounts were created from the same IP address suggesting that they were fake accounts.

All of this underscores the importance of cybersecurity.

How do we know that corporations can protect our information of any type on the Internet?  And for that matter, do we even know what they do with our information let alone the NSA?

Raphael Cohen-Almagor:
We need to better understand the psychology of social-networking. We need to study how people try to impress one another, how they manage their time on the Net, their friendship performance. We need to invest in researching networks and network structure, the relationships between online and offline communications, and we need to address the growing privacy concerns.

Privacy relates to the information Netusers voluntarily upload to the Net, and to governmental and business violations of people’s privacy.

One of the forefathers of the Internet, Vinton G. Cerf, suggests that those who make and operate the Internet and its applications have an ethical responsibility to take steps to improve the ability of Internet-related technology to protect users from harm, to warn them when they are at risk and to advocate domestic and international regimes to provide recourse when harms peculiar to the Internet environment occur.

Indeed, ISPs should continue to develop and embrace initiatives designed to protect Netusers, especially children. These include technological tools as well as educational campaigns. They should carefully balance reasonable expectations of customer privacy with the need to ensure a safe and secure online environment.

Industry should give due weight to societal considerations that may be essential to promote trust of people in it.

- See more at:

By Democratic Audit UK 07/03/2016

The Internet has created seemingly limitless opportunities, but it also offers a platform for violent, hateful, and antisocial behaviour. Drawing on his recent book, Raphael Cohen-Almagor considers how to strike a balance between the free speech principle and social responsibilities. He proposes that deliberative democracy mechanisms could be used to promote content net neutrality and encourage Netusers to think and act like citizens in the online world.
Credit: Pete Markham CC BY-SA 2.0

In the late 1990s, the internet seemed a heaven for business: a facilitator of unlimited economic propositions to people without any regulatory limitations. Cases like Yahoo!in France and Google in Italy (discussed below) mark the beginning of the end of that illusion. They demonstrate that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have to respect domestic state legislation in order to avoid legal risks. Both cases show that companies need to find the right balance between freedom of expression (and business) on the one hand, and social responsibility on the other.

In business, responsibility is defined in terms of obligations accepted by employers in relation to their employees, and suppliers to customers and clients. In both cases there is often a basis in law, but many responsibilities are customary or subject to negotiation according to the interests and balance of power of the parties involved. The acceptance and fulfillment of responsibilities by business actors is mainly determined by considerations of long-term self-interest and maintaining good customer relations, although ethical principles may also play a part and moral responsibilities exist alongside legal obligations.

The Yahoo! saga started in February 2000. Yahoo!’s auction site contained pages upon pages of Nazi-related paraphernalia, where one could find swastika armbands, SS daggers, concentration camp photos, striped prisoner uniforms, and replicas of the Zyklon B gas canisters. France has strict laws against selling or displaying anything that incites racism, and sales of Nazi artefacts are against the law. So while in the United States these auctions are legal, in France they are illegal. Section R645-1 of the French Criminal Code prohibits the display of Nazi symbols. The Paris court found that Yahoo! Inc. had committed “a manifestly illegal disturbance” under the French New Code of Civil Procedure, which in turn was based on the French Criminal Code and the offence of distributing Nazi memorabilia. Yahoo! Inc. was ordered to “take all measures of a nature to dissuade and to render impossible all consultation on of the online sale of Nazi objects and of any other site or service that constitutes an apology of Nazism or a contestation of Nazi crimes”. The company appealed against the decision in an American court but in the end it had to abide by the French court order.

The case highlighted that states may affirm their laws also on the internet. In February 2010, three Google executives were convicted of violating Italy’s privacy laws after a three-minute footage of a disabled boy being bullied was posted on Google Video. The young Down Syndrome boy was shown as he was punched and kicked by four teenagers at a Turin school. Google removed the video and cooperated with the authorities on investigating the clip. However, the Italian prosecutor claimed that the video had been viewed 5,500 times over a period of two months. It reached the top of Google’s Italy “most entertaining” video list and the company had ignored Netcitizens’ appeals to remove it. Only after it was notified by the authorities did Google take active steps. The court decision was later overturned but the affair made Google to be far more vigilant and attentive to both the posting of such problematic content as well as to public complaints.

My new bookConfronting the Internet’s Dark Side, considers these and other cases, aiming to strike a balance between the free speech principle and the responsibilities of the individual, corporation, state, and the international community. It argues that freedom of expression is of utmost importance and value but it needs to be weighed against an equally important consideration: social responsibility. It is the first comprehensive book on social responsibility on the internet.

Countering the dark web is particularly challenging and requires a concerted effort of all stakeholders. The responsibility of ISPs and web-hosting companies is arguably the most intriguing and complex issue. With the advancement of technology, responsibility for gaining and maintaining trust in the Net increasingly falls on those who operate the Net, namely on ISPs and Web Hosting Services (WHSs). Some of these companies act responsibly, in the spirit of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), making an effort to provide a safe environment for their Netusers, thinking that this policy is beneficial to their reputation and business. For instance, Google formally prohibits content that promotes or condones violence against individuals or groups based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, nationality, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity, or whose primary purpose is inciting hatred on the basis of these core characteristics. Other companies uphold internet neutrality and conduct their business in accordance with direct monetary consequences. The main question is whether internet intermediaries should be proactive, i.e. not only cooperate upon receipt of information from various sources but also scrutinise their sphere for problematic, anti-social and potentially harmful material; this in order to promote trust among their subscribers. Here I discuss the concepts of net neutrality, perfectionism and discrimination. I distinguish between three different meanings of neutrality:

(1) Net neutrality as non-exclusionary business practice, highlighting the economic principle that the internet should be opened to all business transactions.
(2) Net neutrality as an engineering principle, enabling the internet to carry the traffic uploaded to the platform.
(3) Net neutrality as content non-discrimination, accentuating the free speech principle.

I call (3) content net neutrality. While endorsing the first two meanings of net neutrality I argue that internet gatekeepers should adhere to the ‘promotional approach’ rather than to neutrality. The promotional approach accentuates ethics and social responsibility, so that ISPs and web-hosting services promote the basic ideas of respect for others and not harming others. They should scrutinise content and discriminate against illegal content (child pornography, terrorism). Facebook, for instance, deploys a variety of technology tools, including easily available reporting links on photos and videos. But Facebook should also be alert to content that is morally repugnant and hateful. It is argued that some value screening of content may be valuable and that the implications from affording the internet the widest possible scope can be very harmful. It is emphasised that only cyberbullying and hate speech feature in this category.

The book concludes by proposing to establish a new browser for liberal democracies called CleaNet ©. Through mechanisms of deliberative democracy, Netusers would agree on what constitutes illegitimate expression to be excluded from the browser.  As a result, the browser would facilitate a safer and more responsible surfing of the internet. In a sense, CleaNet © will be an enhanced, citizens-based form of server filtering, based on detailed Terms of Fair Conduct. Only material that is deemed problematic by at least 80% of the votes will be listed for exclusion. A separate list, “under review”, will include debatable speech to be considered and debated periodically until a resolution is made: either to permit it, or to filter it from CleaNet ©. The “under review” list will also include the problematic material with restricted access to which Netusers will have to sign up. It will be the responsibility of the ISPs and web-hosting companies to retain the list and to cooperate with law-enforcement whenever required.

My aim with this book is to push readers to think and debate concerns relating to freedom of expression, privacy, security, trust and responsibility. The solutions proposed in this book are likely to provoke discussion and debate, in the spirit of deliberative democracy mechanisms that involve the public. In light of the detailed stories concerning hate sites (toward groups or humanity in general), webcam viewing of actual suicides, the exponential growth of child pornography, internet-based terrorism and crime, it is hard to fall back on knee-jerk First Amendment responses. The book encourages Netusers to think and act like citizens in the online world, insisting that we have a moral obligation to confront those who abuse the technology. Confronting the Internet’s Dark Side is intended to serve as a wake-up call and will challenge its readers to reconsider their views of free expression in the internet age. You may agree. You may disagree. You can hardly remain indifferent.
Note: This post is based on Raphael Cohen-Almagor, Confronting the Internet’s Dark Side: Moral and Social Responsibility on the Free Highway (NY and Washington DC.: Woodrow Wilson Center Press and Cambridge University Press, 2015). ISBN 9781107105591
The journal Philosophia will dedicate a special issue to Confronting the Internet’s Dark Side. If you are interested in tackling any of the issues mentioned in the book, please send a 500-word abstract to Professor Asa Kasher, Editor in Chief by 28 March 2016.

This article represents the views of the authors and not those of Democratic Audit UK or the LSE. Please read our comments policy before posting.
Raphael Cohen-Almagor (D. Phil., Oxon) is an educator, researcher, human rights activist and Chair in Politics, University of Hull, UK. He has published extensively in the fields of political science, law, ethics and philosophy. He was Visiting Professor at UCLA and Johns Hopkins, Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, Founder and Director of the Center for Democratic Studies, University of Haifa, and Member of The Israel Press Council. He is the Founder and Director of the Middle East Study Group at the University of Hull. Confronting the Internet’s Dark Side is his seventeenth book.

My New Article (English)

“Netcitizenship: Addressing Cyberevenge and Sexbullying”, Journal of Applied Ethics and Philosophy, Vol. 7 (2015), pp. 14-23.

This article discusses the phenomena of Cyberevenge, sexbullying, and sextortion, especially among young people. The discussion, based on extensive review of books, research reports, newspapers, journal articles and pertinent websites, analyzes these challenges. The article suggests some remedies to counter these online social ills which pertain to promoting responsibility of netcitizens, schools, governments, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and social networking sites.

Keywords: Cyberevenge; homophobic bullying; internet; netcitizenship; responsibility; revenge porn; sexbullying; sextortion; social networking

The article is available at

My New Articles (Portuguese)

Resolvendo o Conflito Israelense-Palestino - uma Solução Bi-Estatal,

Monthly Poems


I love waterfalls
The sound of water pounding soil
Rainbow reflection in remarkable half moon
Making this perfect shape during the day
Purple, blue, green, yellow, orange and red

I love the smell of peace
Walking into the joyful mist
Scorpions love water
On the merry go round they do not sting
Son of the blue playful dolphin.

I love fireworks above waterfall and stars
Exploding in such a beautiful noise
Illuminating ice and land skies
Thousand of shooting stars 
Making young and old smile.

I love the mystery of going behind waterfalls
Tasting the rainbow without rain
Uplifting without being drunk
Immersing in their endless cycle
Freeing spirit and mind.

Raphael Cohen-Almagor

The Future of British Theatre

Denise Gough. Remember the name.

Ms. Gough is a most talented actress who is able to hold a show together and even to be the show. It is rare to see such a talent on stage.

Idan Raichel

Iran Raichel was asked: If you are asked to note one special performance in your career, which one would it be? 

Raichel: I was invited by the Kennedy Center in Washington to perform on Martin Luther King Day. President Obama was in attendance. Immediately after the show I rushed to the airport to catch a plane back to Tel Aviv. As I landed, I switched on my cellphone and a text message from an unknown person popped. It said: you do not know me. I have a dying son. He is a four year-old, with advanced cancer. He wishes you to perform for him. I called that person and shortly thereafter I arrived at Schneider Hospital for sick children. His son was in a single room. His tiny body was attached to tubes. I sat with him in his room, the two of us. We talked and I sang for him. With due respect to the performance before Obama in the magnificent Kennedy Center, the solo performance for that kid was the most memorable, the most moving experience of my life.

Some years later, by accident, I met the father. He approached me and said: you probably don't remember me. I want to tell you that your performance was the last memory for my son. Since then, my wife gave birth to two beautiful children. Thank you.

Light Side

A Jewish ‘double date’ goes horribly wrong and it’s hilarious

Peace and love.

Yours as ever,


My last communications are available on
Earlier posts at my home page:

People wishing to subscribe to this Monthly Newsletter are welcome to e-mail me at

Follow me on Twitter at @almagor35