Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Politics – June 2016 – In Memory of Michael Feige

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

Israelis and Palestinians need to create spaces of living together to replace places where they die together.

~Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Tel Aviv Terror
Yom Kippur War
Peace Summit in Paris
Global Peace Index 2016
Tzippy Livni
Foreign Minister?
Housing Crisis
Good News - Israel’s Unemployment Rate Dropped to 4.8 percent
The SHABAC Affair
British Referendum
Urine Test to Monitor Bladder Cancer
Did You Know?
My New Article
New Books
Gem of the Month – Oxford
Gem of the Month - Jerusalem
English Football
Novel – The Rosie Project
Monthly Poems

Light Side

Tel Aviv Terror

Sarona is one of my favourite places in Tel Aviv. Mayor Huldai transformed that neighbourhood into a gem. From an old, shabby place into a modern, vibrant and beautiful center which retained the distinctness of old architecture. I grew up not far from Sarona, and I courted my wife in that vicinity. Sarona is important to me, and to many others. It is one of the symbols of modern, bustling Tel Aviv.

On June 8, 2016, horror erupted. Two terrorists opened fire on innocent bystanders. Four people were killed and sixteen more were injured. Among them was Professor Michael Feige of Ben Gurion University. The two terrorists were captured.

See http://in.bgu.ac.il/en/bgi/Pages/In-Memory-Michael-Feige.aspx

Terror is not the way. All that it will yield is more violence, more blood. Senseless brutality.

According to Israel’s emergency medical service Magen David Adom, 34 Israelis have been killed and 460 wounded in more than 285 terrorist attacks since September 13, 2015.

Many Palestinians celebrated the killings. The Jerusalem Post reported that “[u]pon hearing the reports of the shooting, dozens of Palestinians gathered at Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem, singing out loud and cheering the gunmen.” Palestinians also celebrated the attacks on social media with hashtags such as #Webrokethefastkillingthem and #CarloBullet. The latter hashtag refers to the Carl Gustav homemade machine gun, which is the type of weapon used in the attack and, according to The Times of Israel has “become the hallmark of a wave of Palestinian attacks” that began last October. In the West Bank town of Yatta, Palestinians celebrated outside of the homes of the two terrorists who carried out the attack. Celebratory fireworks were also set off in Hebron and in Gaza.

Hamas took responsibility for the attack and stated a warning: “[The] Tel Aviv operation is first of many surprises awaiting the Zionist enemy during month of Ramadan.” Fatah released a statement justifying the attacks, claiming that Israel was “reaping the repercussions of choosing violence against the Palestinian people.”

Following the terror attack, leaders from around the world, including members of Congress, condemned the terror and expressed their support for Israel. Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton condemned the attack, stating: “I stand in solidarity with the Israeli people in the face of these ongoing threats, and in unwavering support of the country’s right to defend itself.” British Prime Minister David Cameron said he was “sickened” by the “appalling” attack. French President Francois Hollande condemned “with the greatest strength the odious attack.”

Michael Feige was scheduled to present a paper at the 32nd Annual Meeting of the Association for Israel Studies (AIS). Below are excerpts of a blog published by Howard Adelman. I thank him for his permission to republish the following.

Michael Feige by Howard Adelman

At the AIS General Assembly meeting, Professor Ilan Troen, the current President of the Association spoke about his old friend and colleague, the late Professor Michael Feige. Ilan was not offering a eulogy. A very moving one was delivered at Michael’s funeral attended by 500 -700 people. There have been many eulogies published such as the one by Professor David Myers:   

Michael was a man who was always modest in spite of his prodigious academic publishing record. He was collegial, not only with colleagues with whom he did research and wrote papers, but with all his students who, clearly from the remarks made by them at the conference, truly adored him. Though he was a critic of current government policy, he always engaged in criticism by making an enormous effort to understand the position of the other. And though he believed in speaking truth to power as a cultural anthropologist, he never did so as an assault on the other. Unlike his professional cultural anthropologists colleagues in the American Anthropological Association (AAA), Michael never abandoned the scientific values of detached observation and objectivity. In sum, he was an academic and intellectual mensch.

Because Ilan found it so difficult to speak of his late friend, he read two poems, one by Chaim Nachman Bialik and another by Wislawa Szymborska. Ilan summarized the first three verses of the Bialik poem but read the fourth one. The poem reads as follows:


Say this when you mourn for me:

There was a man – and look, he is no more.
He died before his time.
The music of his life suddenly stopped.
A pity!  There was another song in him.
Now it is lost

A great pity!  He had a violin,
a living, speaking soul
to which he uttered
the secrets of his heart,
making all its strings vibrate,
save one he kept inviolate.
Back and forth his supple fingers danced,
one string alone remained entranced
still unheard.

A pity!
All its life that string quivered
silently shook,
yearned for its song, its mate,
as a heart saddens before its fate.
Despite delay it waited daily
mutely beseeching its saviour lover
who lingered, loitered, tarried ever,
and did not come.

Great is the pain!
There was a man – and look, he is no more.
The music of his life suddenly stopped.
There was another song in him.
Now it is lost

The other poem Ilan read was “Could Have” by Wislawa Szymborska.

It could have happened.
It had to happen.
It happened earlier. Later.
Nearer. Farther off.
It happened, but not to you.
You were saved because you were the first.
You were saved because you were the last.
Alone. With others.
On the right. The left.
Because it was raining. Because of the shade.
Because the day was sunny.

You were in luck -- there was a forest.
You were in luck -- there were no trees.
You were in luck -- a rake, a hook, a beam, a brake,
A jamb, a turn, a quarter-inch, an instant . . .

So you're here? Still dizzy from
another dodge, close shave, reprieve?
One hole in the net and you slipped through?
I couldn't be more shocked or
how your heart pounds inside me.

Michael's work focused on the sociology and anthropology of Israeli society, and his contribution to our understanding of the society in which we live received wide recognition in academic circles throughout the world. Michael's book on the development of Gush Emunim and Shalom Achshav (Peace Now), and their impact on the Israeli public sphere, appeared in English and Hebrew editions and was the recipient of the 2009 Shapiro Award for Best book in Israel studies, awarded by the Association for Israel Studies. Dr. Feige's research was always penetrating and invariably profound. He brought a unique perspective to the diverse topics he studied—the shaping of Israeli collective memory; the place of archaeology in Israeli society and the meanings and implications of clashes over antiquities; the changing memory and commemoration of the Rabin assassination; the memory of the Yom Kippur War in Israel; and other subjects central to our understanding of Israeli society in the past five decades.

All who knew Michael knew that he was always able to combine his penetrating and analytical thinking with a profound respect for others and a gentle and accepting manner even in argument and debate.

Michael was a friend, scholar, and teacher. Above all, Michael was the incarnation of a man of reason, tolerance and peace.

We are left with a deep and painful void with his loss.

Yom Kippur War

One researcher spoke in the conference about 'special means' that Israel had employed prior the 1973 war, referring to listening devices planted in the Egyptian communication system that allowed the IDF to listen into confidential conversations between the Egyptian government and its army. These devices apparently were operated on batteries and worked only when the IDF wanted them to work. In October 1973, argued the speaker, they were silent. In early October, Golda Meir asked Eli Zeira if the special devices were working. Zeira answered: Yes they are, and they do not indicate war. This was a lie. The speaker could not explain why Zeira lied to the prime minister.

Peace Summit in Paris

I was asked what I think of the Paris Peace Summit. Well, not much. The idea of discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without the Israelis and the Palestinians seems odd. Both sides should be present.

Global Peace Index 2016

The new Index shows that the world is a less safer place (surprise surprise), more conflicts, wars and terror.

If you seek safety, Iceland is the place for you. Unless a volcano erupted….

Tzippy Livni

I continue with my research on the failed peace process in the Middle East. While in Jerusalem I interviewed MK Livni about Oslo, Camp David, Taba and about her own involvement in the peace process. I learned some things I did not know, and became aware of issues that are important to Livni. Her prime concern is the refugee right of return. In due course I will publish this as well as other interviews. 23 and counting.

Foreign Minister?

Since the establishment of the current Netanyahu government, Israel does not have foreign minister. And no one seems to care. There is no outcry about the need to have one. How many countries in the world do not have foreign minister?

Housing Crisis

The housing crisis in Israel is continuously growing. Price of apartments is exceedingly high, and it is significantly higher than last year, making the dream of home ownership unattainable for the majority of Israeli younger generations. A few years ago, there was a social movement that demanded a review of housing prices and market reforms. Since then, nothing positive has happened. Quite the opposite. Prices continue to rise. The market is dictated, much like the London market, by external investors. No minister is developing a scheme that would make the dream of ownership closer. There are not apartment blocks geared for young families. For many Israelis, if they wish to own a home, they need to go to the settlements. This is a sad reality indeed.

Good News - Israel’s Unemployment Rate Dropped to 4.8 percent

Many countries in the world battle with unemployment, including England.  According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, unemployment is now at 4/8%, the lowest rate since 1983.

This places Israel in the range of what economists call the “natural rate of unemployment,” which is caused by people changing jobs, retraining, or moving — what’s expected when an economy is doing well — rather than a lack of demand. “The jobless rate is not only low historically but low by international standards, and by conventional economic definitions there’s no unemployment at all in Israel,” Haaretz‘s Moti Bassok explained.

Israel’s unemployment rate is just behind that of the United States (4.7 percent) and Germany (4.2 percent), and still ranks among the best within the 36-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which averages a 6.4 percent rate. Israel’s unemployment rate is also nearly half of the European Union’s average of 8.7 percent.

When unemployment reaches such low levels, wages rise as employers don’t have as big a pool of job seekers to choose from. Wages have been rising at a five percent annual rate since the beginning of the year. The average monthly wage is now 10,128 shekels ($2,645).

The SHABAC Affair

During my visit to Israel I interviewed Itzhak Zamir about the SHABAC affair. In the name of security, the prime minister, ministers, the Knesset, the SHABAC and other senior officials engaged in cover up, deception and lies. More than two hours about the arguably most disturbing affair in the history of Israel. Fascinating insights. Itzhak was candid and sharp, speaking freely about the disturbing events of the 1980s as they unfolded. Itzhak and I will need to meet again to complete the interview as I was able to ask only half of my questions. I regard this as a historic interview, possibly the most detailed interview he has granted on this troubling affair until now. We all need to know it and learn from it.

British Referendum

I supported the IN campaign. I believe Britain should remain in Europe. It is part of Europe. I believe there was a lot at stake here, and I am not talking only about money. I thought that vote to remain is a vote for strong economy, for pluralism, for inclusion, for greater opportunities. I voted Remain because Britain needs European funding to support cutting edge science. I voted Remain because I want my university to remain international and pluralistic. I voted Remain because I do not believe in isolation and small Economy that would undercut enterprises and mobility. I voted Remain because I believe in strong unified Europe and resent the island mentality that does more harm than good. I voted Remain as I wish Britain to progress rather than return to the 1960s.

Today, 24 June, I am saddened and disappointed.

Urine Test to Monitor Bladder Cancer

The Israeli company Nucleix has developed a simple, inexpensive urine test to monitor bladder cancer, which has the highest lifetime treatment cost per patient of all types of cancer. 

Bladder EpiCheck is expected to be available in Europe in the third quarter of 2016, says Nucleix President and Chief Operating Officer Opher Shapira.

“We expect to earn the CE mark this summer, and probably next year we will start clinical trials in the US and then apply for FDA approval”. Shapiro explains that because bladder cancer has a high rate of recurrence, patients must be monitored invasively every few months after initial treatment. Nucleix therefore saw a market need for a noninvasive “liquid biopsy” assay using body fluids rather than body tissues.

“A urine test is very simple and painless, and if there is a tumor there are many markers present in the urine,” says Shapira. “We had wonderful results in our own tests on 200 patients, and to get regulatory clearance we have to replicate those results on hundreds of patients.” The urine test has been shown to have 90 percent sensitivity, 83% specificity and 97% negative predictive value. “Negative predictive value is especially good for monitoring; if we say there is no cancer, you can trust it,” says Shapira.

The company, based in Rehovot, saw a high level of interest from urologists following its presentation to the American Urology Association in San Diego last May.

Did You Know?

Did you know that one of Hitler's field marshals was Jewish?
Do you know who he was?
How come that no Hollywood producer has decided to do a film about him?

My New Article

“Tolerance”, in Kocku von Stuckrad and Robert Segal (eds.), Vocabulary for the Study of Religion (Leiden: Brill, 2016).

Abstract: The origins of the concept of tolerance are explored via looking at the writings of Castellio, Locke, and Mill. The contest between rival religious and political opinions sparked discussions about tolerance. Mill accentuated the notion of the pursuit of truth to promote tolerance of differing views, and to enhance individual autonomy. Tolerance is not to be equated with apathy, indifference, or neutrality. The tolerator has a strong negative opinion regarding a certain phenomenon, has the ability to curb it, yet decides to uphold overriding principles to permit it. ⸙ 

As ever, I am happy to send the piece to interested parties.

New Books


Ethics Pays is a unique book analyzing multiple facets of academic findings in ethics, geography, economics, politics, business, psychology and sociology. The book analyzes the most relevant and actual parameters of performance in all the countries of the world in the prism of their ethical conduct and level of corruption. The book has a message – it proves that "Ethics Pays", as the most ethical and least corrupt countries score the highest ranks in quite all the parameters examined in this book. The book condenses also the most salient parameters per country for the 300 countries in an abbreviated format or an extensive format, in 60+ tables/lists and thousands of links to the best sources, thus in one or two clicks one can find all the parameters he needs.

Within a few minutes the readers can find all the relevant data on the country, its maps, flag, population, area, but also in the tables - the GDP, exchange rates, external debt, budget surplus, unemployment, or even corruption perceptions and quality of life indices. If the readers want even more data – they can with one click visit the best Internet's websites on those countries. The book was published in 2016 in English as an eBook, and due to its thousands of links, it is offered free of charge and anyone can print it. The eBook was published in the libraries of outstanding universities and organizations all over the world.

Gem of the Month - Oxford

On 19 May 2016, I was invited to take part in a debate organised by one of the world most distinguished debating societies – The Oxford Union. The debate revolved around the question whether the two-state solution for Israel and Palestine is still viable. The Motion was titled: This House Believes A Two-State Solution in the Middle East is Unattainable.

The Pre-Debate Poll showed: This House Believes A Two-State Solution in the Middle East is Unattainable
41% Aye
59% No

I have been campaigning for a two-state solution since 2011.I hoped that a Palestinian speaker will be included on my team so as to show that both Israelis and Palestinians support two state solution. Unfortunately this was not the case.

On my side were Sam Sussman, an MPhil International Relations student from Pembroke College who is also the founder of Extend, an NGO which facilitates conversations between American Jewish leaders and Palestinians; Yiftah Curiel, Head Spokesperson of the Israeli Embassy in London, and John Lyndon, Executive Director of OneVoice, an international grassroots movement which supports a two-state solution by amplifying the voices of mainstream Israelis and Palestinians.

On the endorsing side of the motion were Manal Cheema, a second-year PPE student also from Pembroke College; Gideon Levy, an Award-winning columnist for Haaretz whose writing focusses on the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza; Salma Karmi-Ayyoub, criminal barrister and external consultant for Al Haq, a Palestinian human rights organisation, and Prof. Padraig O’Malley, a specialist in divided societies and the author of a book I teach titled "The Two-State Delusion: Israel and Palestine – A Tale of Two Narratives."

The most effective speaker on their side was Gideon Levy who denounced Israel, the occupation and what he termed “the lie of the two state solution”. He proposed social justice for all.

I was delighted when the vote was announced. We won by 2 to 1, vast majority endorsing the two state solution. Indeed, any other solution would be far more costly, far more violent.

The official announcement was: Tonight's Motion: This House Believes A Two-State Solution in the Middle East is Unattainable.
Aye: 37%
No: 63%

Thus, we were able to convince more people that the two state solution is the only possible solution. All other solutions are by far more violent, involving much bloodshed.
It was an evening to remember, with all the Oxford shticks, bells and  décor, starting with the black tie suit, the drinks before and after, the dinner, official photograph, the debate in the lovely chamber, and the other Oxonian formalities that makes this place so special.

It was good to return to Oxford and to the Union. I felt very much at home.

You can see photos at https://www.facebook.com/theoxfordunion/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1175636635804036

The Union posted the debate footage to YouTube: 

Gem of the Month - Jerusalem

This time I stayed in Ein Karem. The area is stunningly beautiful. Jerusalem has a certain magic, certain feeling that is unparalleled. At night, I was pleased to see the area of Jaffa, Ben Yehuda and King George lively and bustling with many young people, mostly religious, who go out for fun times. Lots of music at street corners singing songs that you will not hear in Tel Aviv.

English Football

This was one of the most interesting years in the history of the Premier League.

Football experts thought at the start of the year that four teams would compete for the championship: The defending champion, Chelsea; the big spender Man. Utd.; the other big spender, Man. City, and the experienced Arsenal.

At the end of the season, Chelsea was ranked 10
Man. Utd. 5
Arsenal 2
Man. City 4

This is my 11. My Premier League team this year is biased in favour of two teams that excelled above the rest: Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur, known as Spurs.

Only two players – David Silva and Sergio Agüero – retained their place in my team from last year. This is a testimony to the changes that the Premier League had this year. Leicester is the new Champion. Who would believe this at the start of the season? Leicester was on the verge of relegation for the majority of last season.

My team, Spurs, had the best year since I can remember.

Goal Keeper:

Hugo Lloris (Spurs and France)
Loris is an excellent goalkeeper, the best Spurs has had since Pat Jennings. He was better than David de Gea, Man. Utd., another excellent goalkeeper.

  Hector Bellerin (Arsenal and Spain)
  Michail Antonio (West Ham and England) played brilliantly in this position late in the year.

Toby Alderweireld (Spurs and Belgium)
The best tough defender in this tough league.

Ashley Williams (Swansea and Wales)
Jan Vertonghen (Spurs) played wonderfully, when he played. Unfortunately, he was injured for a significant part of the year.

Virgil van Dijk (Southampton and The Netherlands)


Riyad Mahrez (Leicester and Algeria)
What a bargain

David Silva (Manchester City and Spain)

Kevin de Bruyne (Man. City) replaced him when Silva got injured, and what a replacement he is! Brilliant!

Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool and Brazil)
He is called “The Magician” for a reason.

Dimitri Payet (West Ham and France) and Georginio Wijnaldum (Newcastle and The Netherlands) are also great players. Wish to see them playing for Spurs. They will be great additions. Both deserve to play for bigger clubs.


Jamie Vardy (Leicester and England)
Which producer will be the first to make a film about this Cinderella?
24 goals

Sergio Agüero (Manchester City and Argentina)
City will do whatever it takes to keep him.
24 goals
Harry Kane (Spurs and England)
Spurs pride, “One of our own”
25 goals

Footballer of the Year

It has to be the Cinderella of the Cinderella:  Jamie Vardy.

Novel – The Rosie Project

This is a lovely book. It has been a while since I enjoyed reading such an entertaining book. Graeme Simsion has taken a complicated issue and turned it into a fun journey of exploration in which the reader better understands the nature of Asperger disease (see http://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is/asperger.aspx if you wish to know more) as well as enjoying a journey of two very different people who fell in love.

Don Tillman is a handsome and highly intelligent genetics lecturer afflicted with Asperger. As a result of his condition, he lacks social skills; he is an extreme example of a person who is a creature of habit, slave of his own rigid time-table and a loner. Don has very few friends and often finds himself playing the role of the joker. His awkward behaviour makes him the laughing stock among people who know him. Don learned to cope with this. He does not seem to mind.

Don is a scientist and as such he is highly methodological. When he decided that he wanted to marry, he embarked on a spouse project which consisted of an elaborate questionnaire aimed to scrutinize potential candidates. Quite a few women are willing to answer the questionnaire and Don met a few of them with no positive results.

At the same time, Rosie entered Don’s life. She is looking for her father and Don, who ruled her out as a potential spouse (she smokes, unpunctual and has other qualities that make her quite unsuitable) somehow volunteers to assist her, using his genetics skills to map the DNA of the potential fathers. Rosie is intrigued by Don but wishes to protect herself as she understands that Don is incapable of feeling love. Don and Rosie build bridges, make compromises and discover each other as well as themselves in this journey that merged the Spouse project with the Father project.

The book is delightful fun. It is witty and charming, sensitive and humane. I trust you will enjoy it. 

Post on Amazon, goodreads, my own file of book reviews

Monthly Poems

A Jewish Family In A Small Valley Opposite St. Goar, Upon The Rhine

GENIUS of Raphael! if thy wings
Might bear thee to this glen,
With faithful memory left of things
To pencil dear and pen,
Thou would'st forego the neighbouring Rhine,
And all his majesty--
A studious forehead to incline
O'er this poor family.

The Mother--her thou must have seen,
In spirit, ere she came 
To dwell these rifted rocks between,
Or found on earth a name;
An image, too, of that sweet Boy,
Thy inspirations give--
Of playfulness, and love, and joy,
Predestined here to live.

Downcast, or shooting glances far,
How beautiful his eyes,
That blend the nature of the star
With that of summer skies! 
I speak as if of sense beguiled;
Uncounted months are gone,
Yet am I with the Jewish Child,
That exquisite Saint John.

I see the dark-brown curls, the brow,
The smooth transparent skin,
Refined, as with intent to show
The holiness within;
The grace of parting Infancy
By blushes yet untamed; 
Age faithful to the mother's knee,
Nor of her arms ashamed.

Two lovely Sisters, still and sweet
As flowers, stand side by side;
Their soul-subduing looks might cheat
The Christian of his pride:
Such beauty hath the Eternal poured
Upon them not forlorn,
Though of a lineage once abhorred,
Nor yet redeemed from scorn. 

Mysterious safeguard, that, in spite
Of poverty and wrong,
Doth here preserve a living light,
From Hebrew fountains sprung;
That gives this ragged group to cast
Around the dell a gleam
Of Palestine, of glory past,
And proud Jerusalem! 

William Wordsworth

Light Side

Six retired Floridians play high stakes poker in the condo clubhouse.

A member of the group, Jim Jones, loses $5,000 on a single hand, clutches his chest and drops dead at the table.

Showing respect for their fallen comrade, the other five finish playing the hand standing up.

Fred looks around and asks, "So, who's gonna' tell his wife?"

They cut the cards, and Sam "wins" the duty. They tell him to be discreet, be gentle, not to make a bad situation any worse.

"Discreet? I'm the most discreet person you'll ever meet. Discretion is my middle name," he says. "Leave it to me."

Sam goes over to the Jones' apartment and knocks on the door. Mrs. Jones opens the door.

Sam declares, "Your husband just lost $5,000 playing poker, and is afraid to come home."

"Tell him to drop dead!" shouts the wife.

"Will do!"

Peace and love. I wish us a tranquil, peaceful and enjoyable summer.

Yours as ever,


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

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