Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Politics – July 2017

When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace”-

~Jimi Hendrix

Israel must remain significant and relevant for the lives of Jewish diaspora. It is part of its raison d'ĂȘtre.

~Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Reflections on Last Newsletter
Israel’s Hope: Avi Gabbay
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel
Israel Is Ditching Two-State Solution, Now Explicitly
Palestinian Poll
Academic Professionalism
My New Article
New Books
Novel  –  Road to Paradise
Gem of the Month – Wimbledon
Monthly Poems

Light Side

Reflections on Last Newsletter

Professor Giuliana Mazzoni wrote from Florence:
I find it rather ironical that the call against Qatar comes from countries (e.g., Saudi Arabia) that created Wahhabism, funds Sunni militants and Isis, and is a truly authoritarian state with a very poor record on democracy. 

The move is just a move to expand Saudi power over the region, bolstered by the rather un-welcome and dividing Trump stance during his visit. All this as part of the century-old Sunny-Shiite pseudo religious fights. Qatar might have played games, but do not tell me Saudi Arabia has not! 
People suggested as means to fight terrorism decrease polarisation & increase cross-cultural contact and increased cooperation and integration across communities.

Dr Bert Keizer wrote from Amsterdam:
The Dutch Newspaper NRC June 30, 2017 published a piece by Derk Walters, one of the most important Dutch newspapers, who was thrown out of Israel due to his unpopular views. It is titled:

Israel is no longer ashamed - and doesn't say sorry anymore. 

Bert translated some parts of the article and I share with you the following:

I did not see this coming when in September 2014 I arrived as correspondent for Israel and Palestine. Three years ago I thought that the country within the Green Line was a democracy, a state under the rule of law. In name it still is. But to an increasing extent opponents of the government are regarded, not as mere opponents, but as dissidents or traitors who must be silenced.

In particular, organisations that fight against the occupation experience this: B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence.

Internationally the focus is no longer very strongly on Israel; there are many other troubled areas who claim our attention.

Colleagues in journalism are inclined to say: ‘I would never want to go to Israel, I’d rather write about countries where change is possible.’

But beneath the surface many things have changed. The most important development, as I see it, is that Israel in the past 3 years has become much more self-assured. A process that sped up after the 2015 elections.

In 2010 Netanyahu wouldn’t have dared to speak of stopping foreign funding of ngo’s, because he would have feared the critical reactions from abroad. That explains Netanyahu’s careful treading during the Obama years, when it came to expanding the settlements.

This is no longer the case. In all sorts of areas the government goes its own impervious way. Yes, impervious. Listen to the deputy foreign minister Hotovely who describes the word ‘occupation’ as ‘a lie, produced by the Palestinian libel-factory.’ She has instructed all Israeli diplomats worldwide to stop being cautious: the message may, no, must be brought clearly, that ‘the whole of the land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people.’

The entire (biblical) land of Israel: this includes the occupied West Bank. In the past Israeli officials may have thought this, but they didn’t dare speak out. But Israel is ashamed no longer.

The question is how long will the people in the Gaza strip put up with the blockade? Will there be a Third Intifada when Palestinians are bereft of even the last glimmer of hope for their own state?

Hezbollah is waiting at the north frontier with thousands of rockets. Israel is for the time being only safe in appearance.

The military occupation of the West Bank of the Jordan has been going on for fifty years last month. Netanyahu’s reason for not breaking up this status quo is due to the price of the occupation. Thus wrote Nathan Thrall in a brilliant essay in The Guardian last May. He calculated that ceasing the occupation would be far more costly than carrying on.

This is mainly due to the absence of international pressure. Israel can transgress international law whenever it wants to. There is no boycott, no visa-duty imposed, no exclusion from international organisations.

Almost every country in the world regards the settlements as illegal – but the EU does nothing beyond imposing special labels on products from the occupied areas. Economically and culturally everybody cooperates with Israel.

The thought is: you have to talk with the Israelis and make them change their minds. Does this work? Israel surely does change its mind, but not in the direction that the liberal West is hoping for. I myself have experienced the dubious honour of having been thrown out of the country because the authorities were displeased with my reporting. The fact that the state persisted in my case is an example of this new self-assured course. Israel doesn’t say sorry anymore.

Israel’s Hope: Avi Gabbay

On July 10, 2017, Avi Gabbay was elected as the Labour new leader. He is the hope of the Israelis who do not believe in Netanyahu’s way.

Who is Gabbay?

Gabby is a new comer to the Labour Party. He served as a minister in Netanyahu’s government when he was with the Kulanu Party. He quit the post in May 2016, when Yisrael Beytenu of Avigdor Lieberman joined the government. Gabbay not only quit government but also Moshe Kahlon’s party, crossing the political aisle and joining Labor. A year later, and he is elected leader.

Avi Gabbay, 50, comes from a working-class Moroccan family with eight children.  He was born in Israel, and grew up in the heart of Jerusalem. He studied in a prestigious high school, and served in the IDF in the intelligence (Unit 8200). After completing army service, Gabbay studied economics at the Hebrew University, completing BA and subsequently MBA. He worked at the Finance Ministry, and later became the CEO at Israel’s telecommunications giant Bezeq.

After stepping down from Bezeq, Gabbay pivoted into politics in 2015 with the center-right Kulanu Party. The party leader, Moshe Kahlon, became Finance Minister, and he nominated Gabbay as the Minister for Environmental Protection.
In May 2016, after the rift with Netanyahu, Gabbay joined Labor, announcing he had signed up thousands of new members to begin building support for the leadership race. When he declared his candidacy, he said his goal was “to transform it from a party with correct principles to a party that wins elections.”

Gabbay cannot be the Knesset opposition head, as he is not a sitting Knesset member. Kahlon brought him to serve as a minister from outside parliament. He must pick a lawmaker for that position. Gabbay said that he will keep Herzog in the position.

Gabbay first challenge is to convince the Israeli public that he is the alternative to Netanyahu. According to the polls, up until now the centrist party, Yesh Atid, led by the former journalist Yair Lapid, has been the second most popular party.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel

The visit was very successful. Here are the main highlights from the joint Op-ed written by Modi and Netanyahu in the Times of India editorial.

* India and Israel are walking hand in hand into the future as partners. India is a growing economic powerhouse with a large market and talent pool. Israel is a world leader in high technology and innovation.
*From start-ups to space, communications to cybernetics, Israel’s technological capabilities are merging with India’s.
* Israel’s extreme water crisis in the past place it in a unique position to understand India’s quest for efficient water solutions.
* We both recognise the threat terrorism poses to our countries and to global peace and stability.
* Both leaders recognise the threat terrorism poses to our countries and to global peace and stability. Accordingly, a few years ago we signed a landmark agreement on cooperation in homeland and public security. India and Israel are committed to working together to fight this scourge.
* This week’s historic visit, as we celebrate 25 years of full diplomatic relations between India and Israel, reflects not just the close cooperation of our governments, but also the great sympathy and affinity between our peoples.
* The Jews of Indian origin in Israel are proud of their heritage and have left an indelible imprint on both societies.

Prior his visit, Modi approved a NIS 9.4 billion ($2.5 billion) purchase of an Israeli-developed anti-aircraft missile system for the Indian Army.

During the visit, Modi announced the inauguration of a flight service to Tel Aviv from Delhi and Mumbai. Modi and Netanyahu signed seven agreements in fields including space, agriculture, and water conservation.

Interesting fact: Over 40,000 Indians visit Israel annually, and more than 40,000 Israelis visit India annually.

Modi and Netanyahu made an unscheduled stop at Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem to pay respect to the modern Zionism founder (and one of my personal heroes) Theodor Herzl.

Israel Is Ditching Two-State Solution, Now Explicitly

Israeli government under the leadership of PM Netanyahu did not strive to push the peace wagon forward. While officially, Israel remained committed to two-state solution, on the ground its actions were and are clearly contradictory to this vision. Prominent members in the government, first and foremost Minister of Education Naftali Bennett, said time and again that two-state is off the table.

And now Minister of Defence is telling the Americans: Forget about it. Seek other solutions. Liberman advocates a regional arrangement for peace with the Palestinians, instead of the as-yet unsuccessful bilateral approach. During a weekly meeting with the political party he chairs, Yisrael Beiteinu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman called upon US President Donald Trump’s advisor on Israel, Jason Greenblatt, to end efforts aimed at a bilateral peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority (PA).

“I doubt if we can advance anything, let alone a historic or far-reaching agreement,” Liberman said. “Therefore we call on the American envoy to ditch the bilateral track and instead invest all efforts into a regional arrangement”. Liberman maintained: “If all the energy is invested in normalizing ties between Israel and the Arab states, the Palestinians and all others will have no choice but to join the initiative.”

Israel should do something to resolve the Palestinian hardship, otherwise violence is inevitable.


Palestinian Poll

A recent survey conducted by the Conrad Adenauer Institute and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, Dr. Khalil Shikaki among Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem showed:

84% of the respondents oppose the decision of the Palestinian Authority to stop paying Israel for the electricity it receives through the Gaza Strip. At the same time, 88% of respondents expressed opposition to a PA cut in the salaries of government officials in the Gaza Strip - two measures taken as a punishment by Abu Mazen against the de facto Hamas administration in Gaza. 40% of the respondents believe that these measures were intended to create economic pressure in Gaza.

The survey shows a significant decrease in support for an armed intifada. Three months ago, 51% supported this, while 39% support it now. More than half of respondents said they support nonviolent resistance.

Half of the respondents believe that relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority will continue to deteriorate. A third of them believe that relations will remain the same.

43% believe that the election of Ismail Haniyeh and Yahya Sinwar to Hamas leaders will lead to an escalation in relations between Israel and Hamas. 31% of the respondents think that Haniyeh and Sinwar's election to Hamas leaders will reduce the chances of intra-Palestinian reconciliation, while 25% think the election will strengthen the chances of ending the split. As a rule, a decisive majority of the public believes that the split between Fatah and Hamas is unlikely to end in the near future.

Regarding the payment of salaries to the families of the terrorists, 91% of the respondents believe that this procedure should not be stopped. This explains the insistence on Ramallah to continue paying despite pressure from the United States and Israel, with the understanding that the public will not accept such a decree. The Palestinian public is divided over whether in its opinion the Palestinian Authority will stop the payment or not.

Source: Palestinian poll: Stop armed intifada, oppose termination of funding for Gaza Electricity Authority by Elior Levyforsem, YNET, 05.07.17

Academic Professionalism

Discussion with a colleague (let’s call him PLW).
PLW: My new book is about to be published. Would you be willing to write a blurb?
RCA: Yes, in principle. What is the book about?
PLW explains the themes in a few words and says: I can send you some information about the book, enough from you to write a few sentences.
RCA: Sorry, I need to read the book first.
PLW: Can’t you write a short blurb based on the publisher’s promotion material?
RCA: No. Not really. I am sorry.

Apparently, some academics write blurbs on books without reading them. My sense of professionalism would never allow me to do this.

My New Article

“JS Mill’s Boundaries of Freedom of Expression: A Critique”, Philosophy (2017).
The Royal Institute of Philosophy, London
Published online: 06 June 2017

In Memory of Geoffrey Marshall (1929-2003) – scholar, mentor, friend

The essay opens with some background information about the period in which JS Mill wrote. The discussion revolves around the concept of blasphemy which Mill considered to be highly problematic. Tagging unpopular views as “blasphemous” amounted to abuse of governmental powers and infringed on the basic liberties of the out-of-favour speakers. The discussion on blasphemy sets the scene to the understanding of Mill’s concerns, his priorities and consequently his emphasis on the widest possible liberty of expression. Section II presents the Millian principles that are pertinent to his philosophy of free speech: liberty and truth. Section III analyzes Mill’s very limited boundaries to freedom of expression, asserting that the consequentialist reasoning had led Mill to ignore present tangible harm. It is argued that democracy is required to develop protective mechanisms against harm-facilitating speech.

New Books

Let me reiterate that I am happy to promote your books but – generally speaking -- if you wish me to do this, I need to receive a copy. This is the policy especially when you publish books in my fields of expertise.

Novel –  Road to Paradise by Paullina Simons

Road to Paradise is an adventure book about three young girls who seek purpose in life. One girl who introduces herself by the name Candy Cane, 17, is already a mother. She has suffered abuse all her life and wishes to escape her miserable life and open a new chapter with her daughter. She has to fight against all odds including her stepfather who used her for producing violent child pornography. Another girl, Shelby, was raised by her aunt and embarks on a journey to find her mother before starting her studies at Harvard. She is driving a distinctive shiny yellow Mustang that she tries to hide from any lorry driver on the road. The third is beautiful Gina who is in love with a man whom she knows does not love her. All three drive across the United States with the aim of not returning home. On the way, they experience adventures, take high risks and pay hefty prize. The story is well written, captures American scenery, conflicts between religion and secularism, discussions about the meaning of life, parenthood, friendship, sex and love.

The girls did not approach the only people that could have helped them - the police.

The book can serve as an excellent base for a potential multi-award film. The script is fantastic.

Gem of the Month – Wimbledon

London in July is about the green, green grass: tennis. For two weeks, tennis occupies much of British attention. Spending time at Wimbledon is sheer pleasure. I love the atmosphere, the games, the loans, the buzz. This time we were fortunate to watch Martina Navartilova, Lleyton Hewitt, Alejandro Davidovich-Fokina and Axel Geller, among others. The weather was perfect. A glorious day at Wimbledon.

Monthly Poems

Give All To Love 

Give all to love; 
Obey thy heart; 
Friends, kindred, days, 
Estate, good-fame, 
Plans, credit, and the Muse,- 
Nothing refuse. 
'Tis a brave master; 
Let it have scope: 
Follow it utterly, 
Hope beyond hope: 
High and more high 
It dives into noon, 
With wing unspent, 
Untold intent; 
But it is a god, 
Knows its own path, 
And the outlets of the sky. 
It was not for the mean; 
It requireth courage stout, 
Souls above doubt, 
Valor unbending; 
It will reward,- 
They shall return 
More than they were, 
And ever ascending. 
Leave all for love; 
Yet, hear me, yet, 
One word more thy heart behoved, 
One pulse more of firm endeavor,- 
Keep thee today, 
To-morrow, forever, 
Free as an Arab 
Of thy beloved. 
Cling with life to the maid; 
But when the surprise, 
First vague shadow of surmise 
Flits across her bosom young 
Of a joy apart from thee, 
Free be she, fancy-free; 
Nor thou detain her vesture's hem, 
Nor the palest rose she flung 
From her summer diadem. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Light Side


Ooo Heaven is a place on earth

Sid and Irv are business partners. They make a deal that whichever one dies first will contact the living one from the afterlife. So Irv dies. Sid doesn’t hear from him for about a year, figures there is no afterlife. Then one day he gets a call. It’s Irv. ‘So there is an afterlife! What’s it like?’ Sid asks. ‘Well, I sleep very late. I get up, have a big breakfast. Then I have sex, lots of sex. Then I go back to sleep, but I get up for lunch, have a big lunch. Have some more sex, take a nap. Huge dinner. More sex. Go to sleep and wake up the next day.’ ‘Oh, my God,’ says Sid. ‘So that’s what heaven is like?’ ‘Oh no,’ says Irv. ‘I’m not in heaven. I’m a bear in Yellowstone Park.’

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

Yours as ever,


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