Friday, December 23, 2016

Politics – December 2016 – Happy Chanuka – Merry Christmas – Happy New Year!!!

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

Greatness is measured by what one does for others not by what one does for oneself.

History is the outcome of circumstances presented to leaders who take chances, initiate, and make the most of them.

~Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Omry and Ily Gonen

For some days, the entire Israeli nation was touched by the tragedy of Omry and Ily Gonen, a father and his 10-year-old son who went on a family trip and lost their lives.

Climbing down the rocks to visit the Zeelim stream, Ily lost his balance and started to fall 60-70 meters down the slope. Omry saw it. He could not stop the fall. What he could do is to join the fall, hugging his son and trying to protect him with his own body as they both fell down.

Omry died instantly. Ily fought for his life a few days and succumb to the many wounds. The nation cried with the widow who is left with two other children. She decided to donate Ily’s organs to save other lives.

Father and son

May the souls of Omry and Ily Gonen rest in peace.

Reflections on November Newsletter
The Vision of Two State Solution Is Becoming A Distant Dream
Word of the Year
Israel, Greece, Cyprus Agree on European Gas Pipeline
Israel Bolsters Its Relationships with the Muslim World
F-35 in Israel
Did You Know?
My Visit to Israel
MK Benny Begin
Itzhak Zamir
Rafi Malka
My New Article - “Discrimination against Jewish Women in Halacha (Jewish Law) and in Israel”
Book Review - Engaging Extremists
Monthly Poems
Gems of the Month

Light Side

Reflections on November Newsletter

Andreea Argeseanu was the first to answer my query. She knew the significance of the Basel hotel in the history of Zionism. Kudos to you Andreea!

Dr Steve Newman wrote from Toronto:

Hi Rafi,

I found your report of the conversation with Lt. Col. A.S. to be chilling.  I have long known that such people exist, not just on the "lunatic fringe" but walking the corridors of power.  I have always hoped that they are a small minority and without great influence; however, that might be wishful thinking on my part.  Take away his bizarre conviction that Hillary Clinton made a deal with Satan and we're left with fairly conventional, though hardly admirable right-wing views. 

Like Trump, A.S. is a misogynist, dismissing the Donald's boasts of having sexually abused women as "men talk," as though the fact that (some) men are pigs excuses Trump's conduct.  A.S. also appear to share Trump's racist opinion of Mexicans, although even the Donald is now backing away from the idea of a concrete border wall between the US and Mexico.  The idea that the NSA leaked Clinton's emails is new to me --I suspect A.S. is a fabulist who makes up "facts" to suit his fancies.  Or maybe like Trump himself A.S. doesn't recognize the line separating fact and fiction.  Sadly, this could be a rising trend in American politics. 

I don't know how to explain the hatred many on the right have for the Clintons.  Hillary Clinton in particular seems to be a symbol of everything they find repugnant about American government and, indeed, American society itself.  Why this is remains a mystery to me. 

The New Yorker magazine ran a series of articles during the campaign that delved into Trump's psyche and character.  I think those articles, and others of the same sort that appeared elsewhere, present a convincing argument that Trump is a narcissistic sociopath.  It does not surprise me that the likes of A.S. flock to his banner.  What surprises me is that so many ordinary Americans put their trust in the man. 

I understand the desire of unhappy people to poke a stick in the eye of the political establishment.  And we now know, if we didn't know before, that there are a lot of unhappy people in the US, people who are anxious about the future and anxious about their place in a changing world.  Trump embodied their anger.  He fed their anger by appealing to their worst tendencies, especially their fear of the racial and religious "other," and their resentment of political and cultural elites who failed to show them due respect. 

But these voters knew who and what Trump is.  He made no effort to hide his true self.  Here was a man who dodged the draft during the Vietnam war and nonetheless disparaged Senator John McCain, a genuine war hero.  Here was a man who made his fortune on the backs of investors that he swindled and small contractors whom he stiffed.  Here was a man who bragged about not paying income tax.  Here was a man who boasted of abusing women and getting away with it.  Here was a man who demonized Mexicans and Muslims.  Here was a man who threatened to throw his opponent in jail if he won the election, and who refused to say that he would accept the election results if he lost.  His own words make him out to be a bully, a racist, a bigot, a misogynist, a con man, a liar.  And people voted for him anyway! 

What does that say about my country?  Nothing good, I'm afraid.

Abe Silverman wrote from Alberta:

"Trump" My take.

I remember as a 6 year old singing and dancing with joy with hundreds of other Survivors in a DP camp in Vienna when the Declaration of Statehood for the Jewish people was announced. It was this one single incident that shaped my beliefs in the necessity of a homeland for the Jewish people. A place where Jews could run to the next time another Hitler sprung onto the world stage. And 3500 years of history has shown that there will be another Hitler. 

So, all of my adult life I have been going to the poles and asking myself "is the person I'm voting for good for Israel and the Jewish people". Trump to me looked and sounded like a buffoon and a clown during the Primaries and the Presidential elections. Will he be good for Israel and the Jewish people? I think so and partly  because of the people around him.

Ambassador John Bolton, Rudi Giuliani , Newt Gingrich, and many others have shown an incredible loyalty to Israel. Will this translate into a strong support for Israel's position on the world stage? We shall see. I am prepared to give Trump the benefit of an open mind for the next 4 years. 

Argeseanu Andreea knew that the Three Kings Hotel constitutes an important milestone in the history of Zionism.

The Vision of Two State Solution Is Becoming A Distant Dream

As you well know, I am a firm believer in a two-state solution. I see it as the only viable solution to assure the long-term sustainability of Israel. I see peace as a strategic goal, and believe that without resolving the conflict with the Palestinians on a fair and just basis, Israel is doomed to continue living by its sword, and its very existence will be challenged time and again.

Unfortunately, the Netanyahu administrations present a difficult discrepancy between speech and deed. Officially, Netanyahu is committed to two-state solution. Practically, he builds settlements that make his statements curious and present him as a blatant liar.

On December 5, 2016, the Knesset passed a law that would make some 100 Jewish settlements and outposts, the majority of which built on private Palestinian land in the occupied territories, legal. This is despite the vocal objections of the Legal Advisor of the Government who said that the law violates international law.

This was a sad day for the Knesset, a sad day for Israel, a sad day for the Palestinians, a sad day for peace. The Israeli government behaves like a bully. It creates facts on the ground, legitimizes them, makes them legal with little or no appreciation for the Palestinians. It does it simply because it can. This is bullying.

On December 5, 2016, the vision of a two-state solution became a distant dream. The Israeli government does not want peace. It wants to enlarge Israeli territory unilaterally, leaving the Palestinians a very small piece of land, and expect them to suck it because they do not have much choice.

On December 5, 2016, the Israeli government sent a clear message to the children of Israel: Your destiny is to fight. Your destiny is to be resilient.

On December 5, 2016, the Israeli government sent a clear message to the parents of Israel: Your destiny is to send your children to fight. Your destiny is to be resilient.

This is a sad and disparaging message. This is a tragic milestone in the history of Israel that makes its future difficult to sustain. I see more bloodshed and violence. I see little hope for reconciliation.

I am very sad.

Word of the Year

Post-truth was voted “word of the year”.
I beg to differ.
Trumpism is the word of the year. And it will get wider awareness, fans and critics.


With Hilary Clinton, you knew what to expect. She would have continued more or less the same line we are familiar with from Bill’s term in office, and Obama’s administration. With Trump, people who say they know what the future will bring are likened to prophets.

In Hebrew we say: Today prophecy is given to people with whom you would not like to be associated.

Trump has no history in politics. He is arrogant. He thinks quickly and speaks in the same speed. He is ignorant of world affairs. He is an American patriot. He takes risks. He thinks he has good instincts. After all, taking risks and quick thinking brought him to be where he is now, a very successful business man who likes the media, big houses, beautiful women, and power. Trump is a world narcissist who likes to see himself on the news all the time. He will be happy to provide constant headlines, and to see how the world – its media, leaders, public opinion, speak endlessly about him. He loves that.

A big question relates to whether he is a team player, and whether he is willing to listen to people who voice dissenting opinions. Listening to judgements of many people who know lots about lots of different things is most effective because the collective pool of information matters. Seeking out information from many sources is essential. Integrating perspectives and the information contained within them is most valuable.

Trump likes to be associated with Ronald Reagan. I hope he will take example from John F. Kennedy after 1961. Following the Bay of Pigs fiasco, Kennedy ordered an enquiry to figure out how his people could have botched it so badly. It identified cosy unanimity as the key problem and recommended changes to the decision-making process to ensure it could never develop again. Two people were nominated intellectual watchdogs to pursue relentlessly every bone of contention in order to prevent errors arising from too superficial an analysis of the issues.

Kennedy would sometimes leave the room to let the group talk things through, knowing that there was less true give-and-take when the president was present. How the Kennedy White House change its decision-making culture for the better is a must read for students of management and public policy because it captures the double-edged nature of working groups. The change in Kennedy’s decision-making process in a must read for any president, including Donald Trump.

Israel, Greece, Cyprus Agree on European Gas Pipeline

At a meeting in Jerusalem, government ministers from Israel, Greece, and Cyprus agreed to continue their promotion of a natural gas pipeline from Israel to Europe. Israel Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy, and Water Resources Yuval Steinitz and colleagues Greek Minister of Economy, Development, and Tourism Giorgos Stathakis and Cypriot Minister of Energy, Commerce, Industry, and Tourism Georgios Lakkotrypis agreed to hold a joint meeting on the subject with European Union Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arais Canete.

This is great news for the three countries.

The European Energy Commission announced that it would consider Europe's 124 bilateral energy contracts in order to create a unified regulated market that could reduce Europe's great dependence on Russian gas. Another important point is that the greater the quantities of gas transported through the proposed pipeline, the more economically worthwhile it will be. If additional gas fields are discovered in Israel, and if a corresponding measure currently being promoted by Lakkotrypis succeeds, the pipeline will become more worthwhile.

Steinitz said, "Additional natural gas discoveries in opening the Israeli and Cypriot waters to oil and gas exploration are making our region attractive, and a common gas pipeline is one of the strategic channels for exporting to Europe. As part of a series of trilateral meetings, this meeting is bolstering cooperation between the countries, and I was glad to see our common desire to move this project forward as part of closer relations between the countries."

Source: Globes [online], Israel business news - - on December 8, 2016,

Israel Bolsters Its Relationships with the Muslim World

Following the strengthening of Israel’s relations with countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, Israel is now strengthening connections with important countries in the Muslim world. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently met with the Azeri President Ilham Aliyev. Netanyahu said: “Here we have an example of Muslims and Jews working together to promise a better future for both of us.” Netanyahu also travelled to Kazakhstan. Both Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan are Muslim-majority nations. The two countries want to strengthen their ties with Israel.  

Israel has a strong economic and security relationship with Azerbaijan, buying more than a quarter of its oil from the country. It is also reportedly one of Azerbaijan’s largest weapons merchants, selling close to $5 billion in defense equipment. “Azerbaijan is more important for Israel than France,” Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said in 2012, noting at the time that Israel did more trade with Azerbaijan than France.

Netanyahu’s trip reportedly irked Azerbaijan’s southern neighbor Iran. “It is unacceptable when a Muslim country tries to develop ties with a perpetrator. The Azerbaijani authorities must take this into account, as it is unacceptable for the Muslim society,” said a top Iranian cleric.

Speaking at a joint press conference at President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s residence in Akorda, in the capital city of Astana, Kazakhstan, PM Netanyahu said that relations between the two nations serve as an “example of Muslim-Jewish cooperation … that reverberates throughout the world.”
Akorda Presidential Palace
“Our relations with our Muslim Arab neighbors are changing dramatically. Not all of [it] is public, some of it is, but it’s changing dramatically. And I view the relations with Kazakhstan as being part of this great change that the world is waiting for,” added the Israeli prime minister, the first to ever visit the Central Asian nation.
Netanyahu asked Nazarbayev to back Israel’s petition for a rotating seat on the influential Security Council in 2019. “You know that we supported Kazakhstan’s successful bid to be in the Security Council. Now if you want a real change in the world, imagine the State of Israel on the Security Council of the United Nations – that’s a change,” he said.
Kazakhstan will begin serving its two-year term on the council in January.

F-35 in Israel

The first two F-35 arrived in Israel and the media proudly cover every movement of the F35 in the skies. These are the first of 52 that Israel has agreed to purchase in coming years. The F-35 will replace the aging F-15s and F-16s. Among the dignitaries on hand to celebrate the arrival of the American-made jets were Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter.

Netanyahu thanked Carter and the United States for allowing Israel to purchase the planes. “It’s a sign of your personal friendship, your personal commitment to the U.S.-Israel alliance, and…I wish to thank as well, on behalf of all the people of Israel, President Obama, the American Congress, and the American people.” Netanyahu added: “Israel is your best and your most reliable ally in the Middle East—in my opinion beyond the Middle East—we will always remain so.”

U.S. Secretary of Defense said: "F-35s will help U.S. and Israel air forces operate more jointly and more effectively. Together, we will dominate the skies."

The Hebrew name for the F-35 will be “Adir,” meaning “mighty.” Carter said that the name was appropriate for “aircraft that represent the full force of military might.”

Israel is the first country to purchase F-35 from the USA.

Did You Know?

Almost nine-tenths of Israeli wastewater is purified and used in irrigation, making it the world leader by far. Spain, the second-place country, recycles only 20 percent of its wastewater, compared to Israel’s 87 percent.
Israel is also a role model in desalination, and is set to assist Egypt in a series of large-scale economic projects, including the “desalinization of seawater to address concerns over water levels in the Nile River, which could lead to a dramatic shortage of water available for drinking and irrigation.” Israel is a pioneer in desalination and has become the world leader in recycling and reusing wastewater for agriculture.

The Association for Israel Studies awards the Ben Halpern Prize for the best doctoral dissertation in Israel studies (broadly defined) approved during the 2016 calendar year. This award honors the memory of Ben Halpern, a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Association for Israel Studies. His book, The Idea of the Jewish State, is still seminal in the study of Zionism. An inspiring teacher at Brandeis University, Ben Halpern left a powerful and distinctive intellectual legacy including a commitment to the study of Israeli society in accordance with rigorous scholarly and scientific norms.
To submit a dissertation for consideration, a candidate should send each member of the Halpern Award Committee a copy (electronic or hard copy) of the dissertation and two recommendation letters by scholars familiar with the candidate's work. Recommendations should explain how the dissertation has advanced knowledge in the field of Israel Studies (including the Yishuv period). Candidates for the award must be members of the Association for Israel Studies (newly registered or renewd membership for 2017) prior to submitting their dissertation for consideration. Please include contact information (including email) for confirmation and decision. Dissertations in English or Hebrew will be accepted. Letters of recommendation can be in either language as well. The deadline for submissions is December 31, 2016.

2017 Award Committee:

Raphael Cohen-Almagor. Chair 
School of Law and Politics 
The University of Hull             
Cottingham Road
Hull, HU6 7RX
United Kingdom   
Professor Orit Rozin 
Tel-Aviv University 

Professor Ami Pedahzur
The University of Texas at Austin
Professor Uriel Abulof
Princeton University and Tel-Aviv University

My Visit to Israel

I was invited to a conference in Jerusalem. It was a great conference organized by Midreshet Adam in one of my favourite places in Jerusalem, Mishkenot Shaananim. See below. I also interviewed three people, all three salt of the earth, for my research.

MK Benny Begin

With Begin I had an off-the-record discussion about the 1982 Lebanon War. So many years have passed, and Begin is still very careful, very guarded. Yet he said some very disturbing things that helped me better understand that awful war. What he said went against my basic assumptions. Reality exceeds common sense, even imagination. It was an eye-opener, disturbing discussion.

MK Begin was the only member of the coalition to oppose the law that was designed to make the illegal settlements and outposts legal. Not all laws are just. This law shames the Israeli Knesset. It might be kosher as it was passed democratically, but it stinks. Begin did not wish to be associated with this stain. I think his father would have been proud of his conscientious son.

Itzhak Zamir

Former Legal Advisor to the Government agreed to grant me a long on-record interview about the SHABAC Affair. I have known Itzhak since 1992. Since 2007, I have been meeting with him regularly in most of my visits to Israel. For many years, I asked him to grant me an interview about the SHABAC Affair. Recently he agreed. We met twice. I received a very comprehensive account of what had happened, from his perspective. Again, it was most disturbing to hear Itzhak’s account of the events.

Rafi Malka

Itzhak suggested that I should meet one of the heads of the SHABAC during the sorry affair, Rafi Malka. I knew the name, of course, but never met Rafi before. In many respects, it was a moving interview. Malka lives the affair as it happened yesterday. Undoubtedly, the SHABAC affair had a tremendous impact on his life. Malka talked and talked, and I was unable to complete my long list of questions. We agreed to continue the interview during my next visit to Israel.

Both interviews are historical interviews. The words should be heard. Lessons should be learned. The SHABAC Affair poses a red signpost as to how leadership should not behave. With a few exceptions, many of Israeli leaders at that time acted in a way that showed little leadership and very poor judgment.

One day I will publish these interviews in full. I await the right opportunity to do this.

Three interviews. Three decent, down-to-earth, articulate individuals. Three people with impressive integrity. Three people who, in different ways, have contributed immensely to the State of Israel because they wish to do good. We need many more of such people.

My New Article

“Discrimination against Jewish Women in Halacha (Jewish Law) and in Israel”, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies (Published online: 02 Dec 2016).

Democracy is supposed to allow individuals the opportunity to follow their conception of the good without coercion. Generally speaking, Israel gives precedence to Judaism over liberalism. This article argues that the reverse should be the case. In Section I it is explained what the Halachic grounds for discrimination against women are. Section II concerns the Israeli legal framework and the role of the family courts. Section III considers Israeli egalitarian legislation and groundbreaking Supreme Court precedents designed to promote gender equality. Section IV analyses inegalitarian manifestations of Orthodox Judaism in Israeli society today, especially discriminatory practices in matters of personal status. It is argued that Judaism needs to adopt gender equality because of Israel’s commitment to human rights. Israeli leaders should strive to close the unfortunate gap between the valuable aims and affirmations voiced in the 1948 Declaration of Independence and the reality of unequal political and social rights for women.

Key words: discrimination, equality, gender, Halacha, Israel, Jewish law, religion, rights, women

This is a major piece of work that took several years of studies. It is an interdisciplinary research in religion, law, politics and sociology. I consider it as one of my most important works. I hope it will receive the attention it deserves.

The article is available at

Book Review - Engaging Extremists

I. William Zartman and Guy Olivier Faure (eds.), Engaging Extremists (Washington DC: US Institute of Peace Press, 2011), 311 pp.   
ISBN: 978-1601-270-740. Price: £17.95.

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

Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 28, No. 5 (2016), pp. 980-982.

Negotiation is the art of compromise. This volume examines the important issue of negotiations and engagement between states and terrorists. The authors ask what does engagement between states and terrorist organizations seek to obtain, and what are the chances of obtaining those aims? Leaders of states understand that negotiations with terrorists confer legitimacy on them, that recognition might weaken their position and strengthen the terrorists. Zartman and Faure argue (p. 9) that beyond the unethical aspects of dealing with terrorists, negotiations actually encourage terrorism. 
However, negotiations with terrorists may yield important gains. They may provide negotiators with valuable information, and they may influence terrorists in ways that may benefit the state. Moreover, sometimes negotiation may be necessity, the only way to defeat terrorists, to mitigate or to end conflict.
This volume explores different modes of engagement and negotiations with terrorists: tactical (aimed to deal with practical concerns) or comprehensive (aimed to resolve a conflict), direct, indirect or back-channel, distinguishing between direct engagement, mediated negotiations and facilitation.
The first part of the book relates to the question when to engage with terrorists. It consists of five chapters. The first two chapters by Zartman and Khan and by Donohue and Cristal examine the life cycle of terrorism in order to identify times and tactics for engagement. They argue that modern terrorism depends on the Internet for training and tactical support, relying on anonymity and flexibility offered by the Net for their operations. Donohue and Cristal distinguish between three forms of negotiations: tactical, commercial and back-channel. Next, in Chapter 3, Lambert describes the work of the Muslim Contact Unit in London, engaging the help of the Salafi community to counter recruiting tactics of extremists. Lambert focuses on three al-Qaeda propagandists who played a major role in fostering terrorist support in small sections of Muslim communities in the UK: Abu Hamza, Abdullah el-Faisal and Abu Qatada.
The next two chapters examine attempts of engagement in Sri Lanka and in terrorist conflicts in the Middle East, South Africa and Northern Ireland. In Chapter 4, Groeneveld-Savisaar and Vukovic and in Chapter 5 Pettyjohn identify the conditions necessary for third parties to engage in mediation. Groeneveld-Savisaar and Vukovic argue that activities of states as mediators reflect a blend of defensive and offensive motives. States might become involved in negotiations when they fear escalation that might threaten their best interests, and when they wish to extend and increase influence. They further argue that small and medium-size states have limited manoeuvring space on the international level and that mediation increases their usefulness and independence in relation to their stronger allies (p. 110). We witnessed the Norwegian and Swedish involvement in the peace negotiations between Israel and the PLO during the 1990s and the leverage they had gained as a result in their respective relationships with the USA. Norway was also involved in the Sri Lanka’s peace process in 1999-2000. Groeneveld-Savisaar and Vukovic assert that Norway has a consistent approach to peace-making, the key components being time, patience, secrecy, funding and activist facilitation (p. 118). Facilitation of course is not negotiation. It is about preparing the grounds for the actual negotiations.
In turn, Pettyjohn distinguishes between two types of engagement: clandestine and public. Secret meetings are less risky than public negotiations. Pettyjohn explains when the USA is more likely to conduct public engagement, noting that one of the significant variables is the moderation of the nationalist terrorist organization (NTO). Then Pettyjohn analyses the ways an NTO can signal its moderation, arguing that the USA is likely to initiate talks with an NTO only if two conditions are present: The USA must be compelled to interact with the terrorists as no alternative is available, and the US policymakers must believe that the terrorists’ leaders are prepared to compromise and forgo violence (p. 154).
The second part of the book relates to the question how to engage with terrorists. It consists of four chapters. Pecastaing shows how a bottom up strategy is best suited for bridging gaps, handling grievances and reducing violent protest. When communication is impeded terrorism drifts into lethality and gore. Pecastaing argues that broader, indiscriminate repression often has the counterproductive effect of radicalizing a population not necessarily committed to political violence (p. 180). But he then makes a further argument that when repression reaches a certain high threshold, outside the democratic realm, repression can prove to be effective in combatting terror. Only authoritarian societies can step up their counterterrorism to that level where terrorists find it difficult to organize and communicate as democracies are constrained by the rule of law, free media and human rights considerations. Pecastaing notes that since 2000, Russia has tolerated egregious violations of human rights in reinstating its authority over Chechnya (p. 180).
Goerzig supplements and complements the preceding chapter, adding another lens and experience to the discussion. She analyzes the ideology and conduct of the Islamic Society (Gama'a Islamiya) in Egypt, arguing that Egypt’s counterterrorist strategy from the 1970s through the 1990s bore no fruit. The campaign of violence did not cease. Goerzig concludes that repression served to radicalize the Gama'a Islamiya members by feeding into the individual desire for revenge (p. 218).
Hoglund analyses two tactics that states use to influence extremists and that may influence the opening of negotiations with terrorists: resorting to ceasefire as a step in incremental engagement, and measures designed to restrict perpetrators, such as banning by making it illegal to be a member of, or provide support to terrorists as a way of isolating and weakening extremists. The discussion focuses on two case studies: Sri Lanka and Northern Ireland.  Finally, Civico analyzes the difficulties in pursuing unmediated negotiations with Colombia National Liberation Army (ELN). Continued confrontation produced moderation in the terrorists while the government remained unwilling to go beyond merely an end of violence as its demand and concession. 
The third and last part of the book consists of one concluding chapter, written by the editors, offers insights into ways of moving the engagement process ahead. This chapter is designed to shed light on the occasions when negotiating with terrorists can assist in reducing extremism and fight against terrorism. 
This volume is rich with examples and interesting insights. It is thought-provoking and informative, providing food for thought regarding the intricate questions as to when and how states should engage with terrorists. As it is usually the case with edited volumes, some of the chapters are better than others. For instance, Zartman and Khan argue that in Palestine, there is no shortage of willing recruits for martyrdom (p. 40). This is a highly contested assertion. Quoting Sageman, they maintain that the relative absence of sleeper cells in the United States compared to Europe is explained by “the welcoming and integrating atmosphere in the melting pot compared to the social and economic isolation suffered by Muslim immigrants in Europe” (p. 43). This is another contested claim. In turn, Goerzig restricts her analysis to Egypt during the 1980s and the 1990s and says nothing on the very interesting developments that took place in Egypt since then. This is rather astonishing and at least requires some explanation. Even more so as Mubarak was ousted in the same year of the book’s publication (2011). Having said that, Engaging Extremists is an excellent resource book for people who are interested in how and when should states interact with violent radicals. Featuring diverse studies on the art of negotiation, this significant collection of essays contributes to the understanding of the power struggle between democracies and terrorists.

Monthly Poems

A Calendar of Sonnets: December
The lakes of ice gleam bluer than the lakes
Of water 'neath the summer sunshine gleamed:
Far fairer than when placidly it streamed,
The brook its frozen architecture makes,
And under bridges white its swift way takes.
Snow comes and goes as messenger who dreamed
Might linger on the road; or one who deemed
His message hostile gently for their sakes
Who listened might reveal it by degrees.
We gird against the cold of winter wind
Our loins now with mighty bands of sleep,
In longest, darkest nights take rest and ease,
And every shortening day, as shadows creep
O'er the brief noontide, fresh surprises find.

Helen Hunt Jackson

Happy New Year

May you wake up on January 1st, 
finding that the world has not come 
to an end, the lights work, the water 
faucets flow, and the sky has not fallen? 

May you ponder how this ultramodern 
civilization of ours managed to get 
itself traumatized by a possible 

slip of a blip on a chip made out of sand? 
May what you see in the mirror delight you 
and what others see in you delight them? 

May someone love you enough 
to forgive your faults, be blind 
to your blemishes, and tell the 
world about your virtues? 
May the telemarketers wait to 
make their sales calls until you finish dinner, 
and may your check book and your budget 
balance and may they include 
generous amounts for charity? 

May you remember to say 
'I love you' at least once a day 
to your spouse, your child, 
your parents, your friends; 
but not to your secretary, 
your nurse, your masseuse, 
your hairdresser or your tennis instructor? 

May we live as God intended, in a world at peace and the awareness of His love in every sunset, every flower's unfolding petals, every baby's smile, every lover's kiss, and every wonderful, astonishing, miraculous beat of our heart. 

A Very Happy New Year to All! 

Mary Wismer 

Gem of the Month - Jerusalem

It is difficult to explain to non-Jews. Jerusalem feels special. I do not necessarily like all that humans do in this city, but the scenery is stunning. The mix of old and new, of history and technology, of tradition and innovation, of religions and tourism makes Jerusalem a unique city that I love to visit.

Gem of the Month - Living in A Mixed City Conference

The Adam Institute for Democracy and Peace,
is one of the few organisations in Israel that bring together youth who otherwise would never meet. Arabs and Jews, ultra-orthodox, religious and secular. Listening to people who work in the communities explains the challenges of pluralism and difference. Language at present is a barrier. Youth in East Jerusalem do not speak Hebrew. Most Jewish youth do not speak Arabic. The Adam Institute believes that knowledge, language and experience empower young people, bridge differences and promote awareness that many of the difficulties we are experiencing are shared by different communities.

This was a feel-good conference with dozens of people who wish to do good, and who are doing good, each in his or her sphere. Human rights activists, people of peace, people who promote tolerance, understanding and co-existence. Each person, an island of good will. Beautiful Israel.

Gem of the Month - The Golan Heights

This is a beautiful part of Israel. Standing at the top of the mountain, looking at the valley below, the vineyards, trees and agricultural land. The temperature drops significantly by 10 centigrade, and you recall how much blood was shed over this strategic piece of land, rich with culture, vegetation and history. 

Gem of the Month - Tel Aviv

My kind of town. I love this place. Home. I didn't have much time but was able to have a stroll to some of my favourite places, including Kikar HaMedina (State Square). I spent many hours of my life in this square: meeting people, running, walking, cycling, resting, reading books. This square has been a constant part of my life.

Gem of the Month - Yehuda Poliker

Poliker is a talented musician, with a distinct voice. I enjoyed his show at Zappa Tel Aviv, where he performed some of his best songs with the help of seven other musicians. I particularly enjoyed the electric violin that provides Poliker with rich sound. I highly recommend the show.

I thank Uki Merushak, Yuval Karniel, Itzhak Zamir, Gila and Reuven Yagoda, Moshe Negbi, Mira and Yizhar Nozick, Noam Lemelschtreich, Betty Basan and Eyal Katvan for their kind hospitality.

Light Side

Police arrested two kids yesterday, one was drinking battery acid, the other was eating fireworks. They charged one - and let the other one off.      

Two aerials meet on a roof - fall in love - get married.  The ceremony was rubbish - but the reception was brilliant.       

Another one was:  Doc, I can't stop singing the 'Green Green Grass of Home'. He said: 'That sounds like Tom Jones syndrome'. 'Is it common?' I asked.  'It's not unusual' he replied.     

I went to the doctors the other day and I said, 'Have you got anything for wind?' So he gave me a kite.   

When Susan's boyfriend proposed marriage to her she said: ''I love the simple things in life, but I don't want one of them for my husband''.   

Peace and love. Merry Christmas. Happy Chanuka. Happy New Year!

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