Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Politics – May 2017 in Memory of Max Gold (1945-2017)

This has been another successful year for of the Middle East Study Group (MESG).
I begin organizing research and seminar activities for next year. Support is sought to facilitate the work of the MESG.
If more information is required, simply Google “Hull MESG”.
All help, great and small, is appreciated.

“Peace cannot be kept by force, it can only be achieved by understanding”
~Albert Einstein

“Denial of Israel’s right to exist is anti-Semitism… History must be respected. Jerusalem is a holy city for three religions.”
~UN Secretary General Anntonio Guterres

“We have to fight for our own future, as Europeans, for our destiny.” 
~Chancellor Angela Merkel 

It takes us one year to learn to talk. And it takes at least 40 years to learn to be quiet and listen. Some never learn.
~Raphael Cohen-Almagor

This has been yet another month when Trump occupied the world headlines.

Zaavit and I were saddened to hear about the death of Max Gold, a true lover of Israel. Baruch Dayan Emet.

The Cohen-Almagor family arrived at Hull in February 2007. Until we were able to find a suitable house, the University of Hull had kindly hosted us in a nice hotel not far from the university. One evening, as I returned from my office, I saw my wife sitting in the hotel living room talking to a stranger. I went in and met Max Gold for the first time. He was president of the Hull Jewish community, heard through the grapevine (I think his hairdresser) that an Israeli family has arrived in Hull and is staying at the Pearson Park Hotel and he decided to come along and introduce himself. Max immediately invited us for dinner at his home and introduced us to his surprised wife and to his stamp collection.

Max was a man of many interests and passions, with a constant smile on his face. I last saw him just a few days before he died. We met at Hull Limmud (see below) and he told me that he is about to undergo a triple bypass at one of Hull’s hospitals. Max died in the operation room. He will be missed by many people in Hull, the Jewish community, the Rugby community and many others who worked with him and knew him.

23 May 2017. 06:30 am. Horrifying news from Manchester remind me of Israel during the 1990s. Zero sum game between democracy and terror. We shall overcome. The proactive steps we take will determine how soon with minimum innocent casualties.

25 May 2017. 11:00. At the swimming pool. Announcement to have a moment of silence in memory of the innocent people who were killed in Manchester. The pool came to a stand-still. You could hear a pin falling.

Reflections on April Newsletter
Photo of the Month
Trump – Abbas Meeting
Trump Visit to Israel
Poll on Settlements and Occupation
How Israelis Perceive Their Situation?
Corbyn’s Challenge
Theresa May
Doron Almog – A Model Leader
TV Channel 1 – The End
My New Article
With Israeli-Made Goggles, Cyclists Get Pilot's-Eye View of Their Surroundings
Israeli Startups Make Multimillion-Dollar Exits
My Visit to Cardiff
My Visit to Boston
Monthly Poems
Gem of the Month – Ferens Art Gallery
Gem of the Month – Limmud in Hull
Gem of the Month – Last Game of the Premier League at KCom

Light Side

Reflections on November Newsletter

Mr Jai Sharma, Chairman of the World Commission of Human Rights asked me to post the following:
The World Commission of Human Rights is heavily involved in campaigning for rights of women in a number of countries. On 3 May 2017, Toni Grange, representative of the commission In Australia, made a submission to parliamentary enquiry into a better family, law system to support and protect those affected by family violence. Nada Starovlah, President of MSG of the commission in Cyprus, is campaigning for uniformity for rights of women on maternity leave with other European countries. A Campaign is also taking place in India, where sexual assaults are increasing.

The organization is involved in violation of rights of individuals particularly in Asia. This is due to appeal of victims about fabricated charges and arrest In Bangladesh. Commission contacted Chief of Police, the attorney general and judges who were and are still involved in those cases.

On the issue of why the allies did not bomb Auschwitz I received a link to what the great historian, Sir Martin Gilbert, wrote:

I thank Dr David Goldberg (Glasgow) for bringing this to my attention:
UNESCO Education about the Holocaust and preventing genocide

And also this:
Against the occupation

The Daily Journalist republished parts of my article “President Trump and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” under the title “President Trump and the Thorny Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” (16 May 2017),

Professor Amos N. Guiora (Utah) shared the following:

Happy Birthday, Amos!!

Photo of the Month

Trump – Abbas Meeting

After hosting Netanyahu in the White House, President Trump welcomed President Abbas at the White House. Trump said: “I’m committed to working with Israel and the Palestinians to reach an agreement. But any agreement cannot be imposed by the United States, or by any other nation. The Palestinians and Israelis must work together to reach an agreement that allows both peoples to live, worship, and thrive and prosper in peace. And I will do whatever is necessary to facilitate the agreement — to mediate, to arbitrate anything they’d like to do”.

President Trump raised the issue of incitement against Israel, saying: “… there cannot be lasting peace unless the Palestinian leaders speak in a unified voice against incitement to violate — and violence and hate. There’s such hatred. But hopefully there won’t be such hatred for very long. All children of God must be taught to value and respect human life, and condemn all of those who target the innocent”.

President Abbas responded: “I affirm to you that we are raising our youth, our children, our grandchildren on a culture of peace. And we are endeavoring to bring about security, freedom and peace for our children to live like the other children in the world, along with the Israeli children in peace, freedom and security”.

I wonder.

Abbas told Trump: “We believe that we are capable and able to bring about success to our efforts, because, Mr. President, you have the determination and you have the desire to see if come to fruition and become successful”.

In a rare moment of agreement, outgoing Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said he believed the current administration has a “greater threshold for boldness” than its predecessors.

To be clear, Hamas was and remains a great obstacle to peace. In a new policy document , Hamas said that while it would accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, it still remains opposed to a Jewish state within the pre-1967 armistice lines, calling the establishment of Israel “illegal.”

After the meeting, Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri said: “No one has authorized Mahmoud Abbas to represent the Palestinian people and no one is obligated to any position he’s issued”.

Abbas’ term in office ended in 2009 but no elections were held since then and Abbas is still president with dubious legitimacy. Past weeks saw Palestinian protests against Abbas in the West Bank, raising concrete and legitimate questions about corruption, leadership and legitimacy.

Trump Visit to Israel

President Donald Trump had the pleasure of visiting Israel for two days on May 22-23. No previous U.S. president has visited Israel in the first months of his term.
I do not recall such a relaxed and friendly atmosphere in any previous visit of an American president to Israel. Trump and his family came to Israel not because they had to. They came to Israel because they wanted to. It was clearly a special visit to them. Their care, friendship and warmth to Israel were noticeable.

Despite the considerable delegation that accompanied Trump, this was more a private visit than a state, business visit. Trump did what he wanted to do: visiting the holly places, being with people who share his worldview and who genuinely like him, in a country that he clearly appreciates, even admires, with his loving and supportive family around him enjoying each and every moment in the Holy Land. The visit was short and sweet, accentuating the bond between the USA and Israel.

Upon landing at Ben-Gurion Airport, Trump delivered a short and sweet address, thanking the people who came to greet him and speaking warmly about the special and unbreakable bond between the two great nations, the USA and Israel. The speech was warm and friendly with no qualifications or hesitations.

Netanyahu, unlike his meetings with Trump’s predecessor, was relaxed and beaming, welcoming a friend to the “united capital of the Jewish state”.

Trump and Netanyahu share the same worldview on many important issues. Netanyahu expressed this feeling by saying: “I think we quote each other…We understand each other and so much of the things that we wish to accomplish for both our countries.”

Trump met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin. Trump pledged that “Iran will never have nuclear weapons”. He spoke of the Iran deal, orchestrated by the Obama administration, in the same derogatory terms that Netanyahu has been using in his critique of that deal. Netanyahu was clearly happy to listen to his great American friend.

Melania Trump touched the Israeli people with her humane, simple and direct attitude to Ms Rivlin. During the visit to the president house, Ms Trump held the hand of Ms Rivlin, showing compassion and friendship.

Trump has said a few times in the past that he wishes to see peace with Israel and the Palestinians. He boldly remarked: “There is no reason there’s not peace between Israel and the Palestinians – none whatsoever.” However, during his short visit no critique of Israel, the settlements and the occupation was voiced. Judging from this visit Trump’s determination to bring peace is similar to my determination to study ballet. Peace requires painful compromises. The honey will hopefully come later.

Trump visited Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center. The visit was short and Trump uttered all the right words, voicing sympathy, outrage and commitment that this unique and most tragic episode in Europe will never happen again.

At the Israel Museum in Jerusalem (not the Knesset), President Trump condemned the terror attack on Manchester, proclaimed the historical connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, invoking the reign of King David. Trump reaffirmed “the unshakable bond between the United States and Israel”. He pledged: “My administration will always stand with Israel” and voiced his deep appreciation of the many achievements that Israel has achieved. Trump continued with his theme of demanding that Muslim leaders stop supporting terror, assuring Jewish leaders that he is firmly committed to “halting” Iran’s support of terrorists and militias, in a clear reference to the Iranian government’s arming and funding of Hezbollah and Hamas.

Trump travelled to Bethlehem to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. At the White House, Trump treated Abbas with respect. Reports say that he shouted at Abbas in Bethlehem, “You lied to me”, referring to Israeli reports that Abbas continues to support terror and violence against Israel.

Judging from this visit it is hard to imagine that Abbas will progress much in his requests from trump to exert pressure on Israel regarding the thorny and painful issues. Trump said: “Peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded, and even rewarded... We must be resolute in condemning such acts in a single, unified voice.” At present it seems that Trump is unlikely to have the political will to do what is necessary to broker a just peace agreement. Possibly Trump needs to be more relaxed in his position, seeing through the investigations against him and other people who are/were close to him. The cloud that hoovers around him must be disconcerting.

The timing of the visit coincided with the day Israelis celebrate the unification of Jerusalem, which begins on the evening of May 23. The Americans announced prior the visit that Trump will not announce the fulfilment of his campaign promise to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

Poll on Settlements and Occupation

On May 30, 2017, Walla News published a public poll that shows:
30% of the Israelis (24% among Israeli-Jews) never visited the West Bank;
51% of the Israelis (50% of Israeli-Jews) visited East Jerusalem during the past year.

That means, Jerusalem – East and West – has a special place in the hearts of Israelis. While only a minority visits the West Bank, the majority visits all parts of Jerusalem.

49% of Israeli-Jews perceive the West Bank as "Liberated Territories". One assumes that for almost half of the Israeli Jews, the occupation can continue.

Only 21% of Israeli-Jews perceive the West Bank as "Occupied Territories". Israeli governments under Prime Minister Netanyahu have been successful in legitimizing the occupation.

19% regard the West Bank as “held” or “administered territory”;
11% do not know.

How Israelis Perceive Their Situation?

On the eve of Israel’s 69th Independence Day, Professors Tamar Hermann and Eppie Yaar published The Peace Index for April 2017. The Index this time was focused on the public’s perception of the state of the country in the present and the future, and on its opinions about Israel’s achievements in key areas. We also looked into how the interviewees view their personal situation, how proud they are to be Israeli, and whether they feel that they are part of the country and its problems.

The general state of the country and of the individual: Unlike the gloomy situation assessments that are often made by professionals and in the media, 44% of the Jewish public views Israel’s situation as very good (12%) or good (32%), 39% see it as medium (“so-so”), and only 16% regard its situation as bad (10%) or very bad (6%). That is, the public’s assessment clearly tends more to the positive than the negative, though it could not be called euphoric.

An even rosier picture emerges for the personal sphere: 74% of the Jewish interviewers describe their situation as very good (24%) or good (50%), 24% as medium, and only 2% as bad or very bad. In other words, as in several recent Democracy indices, respondents rank their personal situation considerably higher than they rank the national situation in general.

A segmentation by the Jewish interviewees’ voting in the 2015 Knesset elections revealed that the rate of those defining the state of the country positively was highest among Habayit Hayehudi voters (69%) and lowest among Meretz voters (5%). Regarding personal situation, again Habayit Hayehudi voters defined it as good or very good at the highest rate (86%) and Kulanu voters at the lowest rate, though still with a clear positive majority (65%). 

Among the Arab interviewees, a higher rate was found than among the Jews of those viewing the state of the country as good or very good (66%) but a lower rate of those viewing their personal situation that way (57%). 

Proud and optimistic: Likewise, and even more decisively, a very large majority (86%) of the Jews are proud of being Israeli, and a similar rate (82%) also feel that they are part of the country and its problems. A segmentation by voting for the Knesset revealed that the rate of those who are proud of their Israeliness is highest among Habayit Hayehudi voters (100%) and lowest among Meretz voters (40%).

Moreover, the Jewish public as a whole is optimistic (73%) about the state of the country in the future. Here the rate of optimists about Israel’s future was highest among Shas voters (95%) and lowest among Meretz voters (40%). 

The rate of Arabs who are proud of Israeliness is much lower, though still amounting to a small majority (51%). The same is true for optimists, who also constitute a majority but a considerably smaller one than among the Jews (61%). 

Israel’s achievements: On this issue the interviewees were presented with six areas and asked to assess the country’s achievements in each of them. In the areas of maintaining the country’s security, medicine and health, maintaining economic stability, and education and science, a clear majority of the Jewish interviewees define the country’s achievements as very good or moderately good (respectively: 83%, 65%, 60%, 59%). However, in the other two areas—attentiveness to what the citizens want and reducing the social gaps—only a small minority sees the country’s achievements as moderately or very good (respectively: 22%, 19%). Thus, from the public’s viewpoint, there is a stark contrast between, on the one hand, Israel’s success in maintaining its security and maintaining a stable economy, and, on the other, its failure—in the eyes of the public—in reducing the social gaps and being attentive to what its citizens want.

The Arab interviewees’ evaluation of the country’s achievements was higher than that of the Jews in all those areas (except for the security issue where the rate of those defining Israel’s achievements positively was lower—75%). 

Corbyn’s Challenge

On June 8, elections will be held in Britain. Many people who grew in homes enshrined with Labour values are still undecided. Corbyn is a polarising figure. Many, included one member of the Cohen-Almagor family, won’t vote Labour because of Corbyn. Some people, including another member of the Cohen-Almagor family, are so disillusioned that they won’t bother to vote at all. Corbyn did not do enough to clean Labour of anti-Semitism and sweeping anti-Israeli sentiments.

For many Jews, Corbyn presents a real challenge because of his problematic views on Israel and his “friendship” with Hezbollah and Hamas.

But Corbyn enjoys his time as Labour Leader. He declared that he will continue to lead the party notwithstanding the results. He can take losses as the recent local elections just showed. Labour lost many significant seats and Corbyn remained unmoved, perceiving himself as the greatest thing since the invention of pasta. He thinks he belongs at 10 Downing Street. Well, who knows. Stranger things have happened…

Theresa May

May has had a very poor campaign, full of twists, lies, dishonesty, and negativity. She has shown poor leadership and overt willingness to hurt the British middle class. People of the middle class should think very carefully as they go to the polls.

May does not deserve to be PM in June.

I will be in Cardiff on Election Day and already casted my vote via the post. Ms. May did not receive my vote. Her values are not mine. I do not believe in enriching the rich and impoverishing the needy.

For many people in Britain, the issues are social justice, solidarity, soft Brexit, peace, multiculturalism, sensible immigration policy, security, strong NHS, improved education system, low tuition fees and economy from below.

Doron Almog – A Model Leader

People ask me: Are there leaders in Israel who are able to lead the nation forward to peace and tranquillity, who will break the endless cycle of violence?

Yes. Israel has good people. It has leaders. We need to recognise them and empower them. Doron Almog is a model leader. Watch this video and understand why.

The Greatest Teacher of my Life | Doron Almog | TEDxTelAviv

TV Channel 1 – The End

The Minister of Propaganda who is also prime minister in his spare time, Benjamin Netanyahu, closed the Israeli BBC, Channel 1.

The national TV station was established in 1968 and until the early 1990s was the only TV channel in Israel. Then media revolution took place. The experimental Channel 2 started (now the most popular channel) and cables went in. From then on, most Israeli households that had one Israeli channel (and played with the antenna with the hope to capture a glimpse of the Jordanian station) could choose among hundreds of channels. The 1990s were transformative years in the Israeli media.

Channel 1, like the BBC, was sponsored by tax payer money. This is the most striking likelihood between the two national channels. While the BBC is arguably the best TV station in the western world, the Israeli national channel was world apart. For more than twenty years, the channel knew many ups and downs, especially downs, and its average managers were unable to put it on track. Still, it is a sad day to see this historic channel which accompanied my life for so many years closing down. I wonder whether this was the right solution. This was the preferred solution for Netanyahu who, no doubt, will shape the replacement entity in his own image and ideas, helping him to consolidate power further and drive Israel to an even more nationalistic and depressing future, based on the holy trinity of Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael and Torat Yisrael. Ve’ba Le’Zion Goel (and redemption will come to Zion).

My New Article

“Combatting Terrorism on the Free Highway”, Sustainable Security, Oxford Research Group (26 May 2017),

With Israeli-Made Goggles, Cyclists Get Pilot's-Eye View of Their Surroundings

I am always happy to hear news when companies that excel in military technology decide to divert their knowledge and energies to civilian matters. I think this is a good sin, don’t you think?

Elbit, Israel's defense technology giant, will soon bring its first consumer product to market: augmented reality goggles for bicyclists, based on technology that is used for fighter-pilot helmets.

The goggles, which are slated to reach the market by the end of the year, provide riders with information about the terrain they're navigating, their performance and even give them the ability to receive calls and texts. The goggles include a map projection overlay to give the rider a full view of his surrounding that, according Chief Financial Officer Joseph Gaspar, is similar to the accident avoidance technology that was developed by Mobileye.

Source: The Israel Project

Israeli Startups Make Multimillion-Dollar Exits

US-based Magento acquired Shopial, which created software that helps online businesses develop a social version of their stores, for an undisclosed purchase price in April. The Israeli company is in the process of being moved to Philadelphia. 

And SeatGeek, a US-based mobile-focused ticket platform that enables fans to buy and sell tickets for events, bought Israel’s TopTix, known for cutting-edge software for ticketing, fundraising and customer relationship management, for $56 million. 

via Israel21c

My Visit to Cardiff

In early June I plan to be in Cardiff and will be happy to meet friends and colleagues.

My Visit to Boston

In mid-June I plan to be in Boston and will be happy to meet friends and colleagues. Interesting time to return to Trumpland, more so to Boston where freedom and responsibility go hand in hand.

Monthly Poems

And Her Face and Her Words and Her Promises

she says that my face
is the last she sees
before sleep takes her,
and she cannot sleep
without it.

but I know that
there are other faces
that float above
her eyes.
and the stars are out
tonight and I
need them to dance.

have I said too much
she says with
a halfhearted question
of love.
no, but you have not
kept your promise
and your promise
has not kept

and all the while
the clock spins circles
on the wall
and a dog barks
at the moon.
and her face sits
resting on my

I say I need to go
I am tired
and her face
and her words
and her promises
will not let me

Ben Paynter

Gem of the Month – Ferens Art Gallery

Fantastic exhibitions at Hull Ferens Art Gallery including two pieces of Rembrandt, my all-time favourite painter.

The Ferens has a magnificent collection of paintings and sculptures, including works by other European Old Masters, portraiture, marine painting, and modern and contemporary British art. Highlights include masterpieces by Lorenzetti, Frans Hals, Antonio Canaletto, Frederick Leighton, Stanley Spencer, David Hockney, Helen Chadwick and Gillian Wearing. This is one of the best art collections in the country outside London.

Rembrandt will stay in hull until August 28, 2017. Not to be missed.

Ferens is now a highly recommended museum.



Gem of the Month – Limmud in Hull


I was very pleased to take part in the first ever Limmud one-day conference in Hull.

Limmud conferences are dedicated to Jewish learning in all its variety. They strive to create individual, collective and communal experiences, through which people strengthen and develop their Jewish identity. Limmud aims to create opportunities for communities and individuals to connect.

I spoke about the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and was delighted to be amidst people who share my interests and concerns. I wish all my student would be as interested to learn and discuss to the extent that my audience was.



Gem of the Month – Last Game of the Premier League at KCom


I went to see my team, Spurs, playing against Hull. The game did not mean much. Spurs had already secured second place and Hull had already relegated. The contrast between the two sides was evident. No contest. The game finished with Spurs’ highest ever score away from home: 7-1. I felt pity for the Hull supporters who remained in the stadium until the very end to thank the Tigers’ players. It was not easy for them. Each Spurs attack gave them a fright. I enjoyed Spurs playing. The game was a fitting conclusion to a delightful season. Next year, they need to advance one place.



Light Side

All those who believe in psycho kinesis, raise my hand.
(Stephen Wright)

Jean Paul Sartre is sitting at a French cafe, revising his draft of Being and Nothingness. He says to the waitress,
"I’d like a cup of coffee, please, with no cream."
The waitress replies, "I’m sorry, Monsieur, but we’re out of cream. How about with no milk?"

Peace and love.

Yours as ever,


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