Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Politics – May 2018 – In Memory of Bernard Lewis (1916-2018)

When leaders send soldiers to war, they should see each and every one of these soldiers as their own sons. Then they should re-reflect and ask themselves: Is this absolutely necessary? Do I have clear aims? Are they justified? Do I have the means to meet the ends? What is my Plan B?

~Raphael Cohen-Almagor

What did we have this month?

Earlier this month it seemed that North Korea may rescind its nuclear program and open a new chapter with South Korea and the West. Later this optimistic scenario has changed. President Trump cancelled the summit. I presume he had reasons to believe that the summit would fail as the gaps he hoped were beginning to close appeared to be still too wide. It was premature on his part to call for a summit when a lot of work is still needed. There may be many twists and turns in this plot.

Israel won the Eurovision song contest for the fourth time with the song “Toy”, appropriate for these times, by Netta Barzilai.

May 14, 2018. A U.S. delegation celebrated the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a "glorious day" that had "made history." Trump appeared on video and asked God to bless the embassy.
“May there be peace,” he said.
There was not.
At the exact same time, along Israel's border with the Gaza Strip, some 40,000 Palestinians were protesting not only the opening of the embassy but also their being in a large “open prison” and their desperate decline in living standards. Some tried to breach the fence to enter Israel and to harm Israeli soldiers. The Israeli reaction was swift. Soldiers used tear gas, rubber-coated bullets and live ammunition.

At least 59 Palestinians were confirmed dead and 2,400 wounded, making Bloody Monday the bloodiest day in the enclave since the 2014 war with Israel.

The two simultaneous events created a jarring juxtaposition. On social media and cable news, footage of Trump administration officials laughing and celebrating with Israeli leaders appeared next to footage of largely unarmed Palestinian civilians in Gaza wounded or dead from Israeli gunfire. These photos may hurt Israel for a long time.

Israel needs to change live fire tactics or Palestinian demonstrations will grow and spread; death toll will rise far beyond already unacceptable levels. Time for Israel to talk to Egypt about negotiating a de-escalation with Hamas. Pompeo should help. That’s what friends are for.

Bernard Lewis (1916-2018)

Reflections on Last Newsletter

Hamas Officials: 50 Of The Fatalities Were Hamas Members; This Is Not Peaceful Resistance

Israel – An Endangered Democracy

Trump’s Peace Plan


My Lecture about Trump’s Decision

Israel-Saudi Arabia

Gino Bartali – Righteous Among the Nations
Giorgio Perlasca
Amos Guiora - Wannsee 1942-Wannsee 2018

Advice Re London Accommodation

My New Article - “Discrimination against Jewish Women in Halacha (Jewish Law) and in Israel”, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 45, No. 2 (2018), pp. 290–310.

New Books – Eugenia Siapera, Understanding New Media (London: Sage, 2018)

Visit to Berkeley and to Israel

Monthly Poems
Light Side  


Bernard Lewis (1916-2018)

Days short of his 102nd birthday, the great Middle East historian has passed away. For 80 years, Lewis was a towering scholar of Islam, and of Jews in the Middle East. His wide-ranging intellect shines through his published works. Lewis influenced and inspired thousands of scholars all over the globe. His remarkable oratory -- he delivered speeches well into his nineties without a note -- informed scholarly, governmental and popular audiences alike. I met him in 2011 at the Annual ASMEA (Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa) Conference in Washington DC. Lewis established ASMEA as he was fed up with the constant Israel-bashing in the well-established Middle East Studies Association of North American (MESA). Lewis was always friendly, interested and interesting. He was a staunch Zionist and a strong supporter of Israel.

Prime Minister Netanyahu eulogized Lewis by saying: “Bernard Lewis was one of the great scholars of Islam and the Middle East in our time. We will be forever grateful for his robust defense of Israel… “I will always feel privileged to have witnessed firsthand his extraordinary erudition and I gleaned invaluable insights from our many meetings over the years. I was also deeply moved by his wide ranging conversations with my late father, Professor Ben Zion Netanyahu”.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “The world lost a true scholar and great man, Bernard Lewis, this past week. There is less knowledge and less wit with us today following his passing.” Pompeo said he read much of what Lewis wrote and that he owes “a great deal of my understanding of the Middle East to his work. Mr. Lewis was a hard-nosed defender of democracies around the world — including in the Middle East. He was also man who believed, as I do, that Americans must be more confident in the greatness of our country, not less.”

Former Vice President Dick Cheney said of Lewis in 2006: “You simply cannot find a greater authority on Middle Eastern history.”

Lewis is known for his long-term rivalry with Edward Said. While Said referred to Lewis as “active policy scientist, lobbyist and propagandist”, Lewis accused Said of unleashing an “unsavory mixture of sneer and smear, bluster and innuendo.” Both Said and Lewis were right. Said and Lewis never pretended to be objective in their view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Both exhibited clear biases. I once took part in a small workshop organised by Said. It was the most one-sided, ideological and biased workshop I have ever attended in my life. It is hard to be objective about this polarizing conflict.

The ENCYCLOPAEDIA JUDAICA article on Prof. Lewis reads as follows:

LEWIS, BERNARD, British-born historian of Islamic studies. Lewis received his Ph.D. from the University of London (1939), then served in the British army and was attached later to a department of the Foreign Office. He was professor of history of the Near and Middle East at the School of Oriental and African Studies in the University of London (1949–1974). Subsequently, he was appointed professor in the Cleveland E. Dodge Chair of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University and a long-term member of the Institute for Advanced Study. He retired from Princeton and the IAS in 1986.

Lewis received many academic prizes and was awarded 15 honorary degrees. His studies have been translated into more than 25 languages. Most deal with Islamic history, chiefly Arab and Turkish, although he also translated poetry from Hebrew, Arabic, Turkish, and Persian into English and served as editor of the second edition of the Encyclopaedia of Islam. Among his numerous books are The Arabs in History (1950); The Emergence of Modern Turkey (1961); The Muslim Discovery of Europe (1982); The Jews of Islam (1984); Semites and Antisemites (1986); The Political Language of Islam (1988); Islam and the West (1993); Cultures in Conflict: Christians, Muslims and Jews in the Age of Discovery (1995); The Multiple Identities of the Middle East (1998); Music from a Distant Drum (2001); What Went Wrong: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response (2002); The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror (2003); and From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East (2004).

May his soul rest in peace.

Reflections on Last Newsletter

I thank those of you who wrote to voice sympathy for my loss. Aunt Betty resides in my heart forever.

Disproportionate Force in Gaza? Context Matters
May 23, 2018

Dear Rafi
I know you are trying to strike some balance to the conflict but don't you think that you are being unreasonably critical in your pursuit. 
Lets examine some of your bullet points. 
Israel is wrong to make Gaza a prison. Really, is that the way you honestly see it. Hamas trying to smuggle more and more dangerous weapons into Gaza does not justify Israel's insistence that everything going in and coming out of Gaza be inspected? Why are you not critical of Egypt. Why do you think they have their border with Gaza sealed off. 
Gazans have the right to peaceful demonstrations. Shades of David Grossman. Does that mean that you and David think that what Gazans have been doing for the last week was demonstrating peacefully. 
And do you or I have the expertise to determine what an appropriate response is to those violent demonstrations. 
And I can't believe that you may actually believe that Israel is not a beacon of freedom of the press. Give me an example of where the press is more free. Maybe as free but definitely not more free. You may want to fact check and see why the 1 Palestinian reporter was killed. Of course we are saddened by the loss of lives innocent or otherwise. But don't you think that the fault lies with Hamas. No violent demonstrations no dead demonstrators. No rockets and tunnels, no airplanes and tanks, no terrorists, no home demolitions. No terrorists, no check points. Yes to recognizing that Israel is the National Home of the Jewish people and the Palestinians will have a State tomorrow. I think that the conflict is that simple to explain. Unfortunately much more difficult to solve. 
Warm regards 
Abe Silverman

Hamas Officials: 50 Of The Fatalities Were Hamas Members; This Is Not Peaceful Resistance

Hamas officials have admitted on several occasions that the movement took an active part in the marches. Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar said that movement members "took off their military uniforms and put their weapons aside. They temporarily abandoned the means of armed struggle" and joined the marches.[1] Hamas political bureau member Saleh Bardawil said that, of the 62 people killed in clashes along the Gaza border on May 14, fifty were movement members.[2]Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahhar said that calling the campaign "peaceful resistance" was to "deceive the public". He said: "When you are in possession of weapons that were able to withstand the occupation in the wars of 2006, 2008, 2012, and 2014... When you have weapons that are being wielded by men who were able to prevent the strongest army in the region from entering the Gaza Strip for 51 days, and were able to capture or kill soldiers of that army – is this really 'peaceful resistance'? This is not peaceful resistance. Has the option [of armed struggle] diminished? No. On the contrary, it is growing and developing. That's clear. So when we talk about 'peaceful resistance,' we are deceiving the public. This is a peaceful resistance bolstered by a military force and by security agencies, and enjoying tremendous popular support. As for [Fatah's] 'peaceful resistance,' it consists of rallies, demonstrations, protests, pleas, and requests, in order to improve the terms of the negotiations, or to enable talks with the Israeli enemy. This deception does not fool the Palestinian public."[3]

Israel – An Endangered Democracy

On my blog, I spoke a number of times about the multiple dangers that Israeli democracy is facing as its entire political map continuously moves to the right at the expense of plurality of ideas, human rights and ample checks of balances against abuse.

This month, the Knesset approved a bill that empowers the prime minister and his defence minister to declare war without cabinet approval. This can be done in “extreme circumstances”. Now Netanyahu and Lieberman can decide, they alone, whether to open war.

Do you trust them to make the right decision?
Is this a necessary law?

Trump’s Peace Plan

On May 4, 2018, The Jerusalem Post reported that the Trump administration will ask Israel to withdraw from four Arab neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, which will likely become the capital of a future Palestinian state.

The transfer of control over the neighborhoods – Jebl Mukabar, Isawiya, Shuafat and Abu Dis – was presented to Minister of Defence Liberman as just one piece of the larger peace plan the administration has been working on over the last year.


Great News: On May 21, 2018, Paraguay opened its embassy in Jerusalem, following the United States and Guatemala. In the Trump era, President Horacio Cartes became to be a close friend of Israel.

I wish to see 120 flags flying in Jerusalem. Here is a photo of this special city, with a message...

My Lecture about Trump’s Decision

On May 13, Jerusalem Day, I was in Manchester speaking on “Was President Trump right in his decision to relocate the American Embassy to Jerusalem?”. As usual in these occasions, the audience was attentive and asked poignant questions. I deliberately spoke for only 20 minutes or so, leaving enough time for Q&A.

I thank Bobby and Peter for their kind hospitality.

Israel-Saudi Arabia

It is interested to witness the growing relationships between the two countries. Reading between the lines, it seems that a lot is going on behind the scenes as the American administration serves as a linchpin. Israel and Saudi Arabia see eye to eye on a number of geo-strategic concerns: terrorism, Iran, Qatar, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Trump.

Israel and Saudi Arabia were the only two countries to warmly welcome the American withdrawal from the Iran deal. Here is what Khalid Bin Salman, the Saudi Ambassador to the US had to say:

KSA supports and welcomes the steps announced by @POTUS regarding the United States’ withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. KSA also supports reinstating economic sanctions on the Iranian regime, which have been suspended under the nuclear deal.

KSA always believed that the int’l community cannot address Iran's pursuit of WMD, without addressing the mass destruction Iran is inflecting on the region. Any future deal must address Iran’s ballistic missile program, and its increasing financial/military support for terrorism.

KSA reaffirms its support of the strategy previously announced by President Trump towards Iran, and hopes the international community will take a firm and unified stance against the Iranian regime, and its destabilizing aggression in the region, its support to terrorist groups.

Following announcement of USA’s withdrawal from the JCPOA; an official from @SaudiMEIM reassured that KSA remains committed to supporting the stability of oil markets, benefiting producers and consumers alike, and to sustaining growth in the global economy.

Gino Bartali – Righteous Among the Nations

As the Italian Giro comes to Israel, it is time to remind us of Gino Bartali’s humanism and heroism.

The Giro d'Italia's Secret Holocaust Hero and Cycling Champ

Giorgio Perlasca
Speaking of Italian heroes:
Giorgio Perlasca worked for an Italian importing firm in BudapestHungary. When Mussolini fell in July 1943, all Italians in Hungary were requested to return home. Perlasca refused to go to a German-ruled Italian puppet state. As Perlasca said: "I was neither a fascist nor an anti-fascist, but I was anti-Nazi." Perlasca was interned; however, on October 13, 1944, he was able to talk his way out of the hotel where he was being held.
He made his way to Angel Sanz-Briz, the Spanish envoy in Budapest, and applied for a job. Sanz-Briz, along with other members of the diplomatic community, had been issuing protective passes to Budapest Jews since the spring of 1944. Sanz-Briz put Perlasca in charge of the "safe houses" sheltering Jews from deportation and from the Arrow Cross militia.
On November 30, 1944, Perlasca learned that Sanz-Briz had gone, leaving him a note saying that he could obtain a visa to Switzerland through the Spanish embassy in Vienna. Although Perlasca did not have an official letter appointing him the charge d'affaires of Spain, he made himself the charge d'affaires and continued to issue protective passes. He changed his first name from the Italian "Giorgio" to the Spanish "Jorge." Perlasca later said, "At first, I didn't know what to do, but then I began to feel like a fish in water. I continued giving out protective passes and looked after the Jews in the 'safe houses' flying the Spanish flag. As the proverb says, 'Opportunity makes the thief.'"
Between November 1944 and January 1945, Perlasca worked with Raoul Wallenberg from Sweden; Friedrich Born, from the International Red Cross; and Angelo Rotta, from the Vatican; in issuing protective passes. It is estimated that Giorgio Perlasca saved approximately 3,500 Hungarian Jews.
On April 5, 1945, Dr. Hugo Dukesz, one of the Jews saved by Giorgio Perlasca, wrote, "On this occasion we want to express the affection and gratitude of the several thousand Jews who survived, thanks to your protection. There are not enough words to praise the tenderness with which you fed us and with which you cared for the old and the sick among us. You encouraged us when we were close to despair, and your name will never be omitted from our prayers. May the Almighty grant you your reward."
Giorgio Perlasca returned to Padua, Italy, and died in August 1992.

Amos Guiora - Wannsee 1942-Wannsee 2018

On January 20, 1942, a meeting was held at the Wannsee Villa, outside Berlin. Over the course of a mere 80 minutes, fifteen high officials in the German government dined, drank, smoked, and ratified the plan for the Final Solution, the resolution of the “Jewish Problem,” including how to extend it to the entire European continent and how to coordinate for maximum efficiency.
 As the only son of two Holocaust survivors, and as the grandson of two Holocaust victims, it was an extraordinary moment. The Villa—and its grounds—are beautiful, the landscape stunning, Lake Wannsee pristine and clear. The dissonance between the physical beauty of the meeting’s location and the unspeakable evil of the meeting’s purpose is overwhelming, indeed shocking. In a backdrop of elegance, beauty, and serenity, fifteen German leaders planned the murder of millions of innocent, powerless people.

On April 26, 2018, I spoke at the Wannsee Villa (today called the Wannsee Conference Center) at the invitation of Dr. Chris Jasch, director of the Center, to discuss my book, The Crime of Complicity: The Bystander in the Holocaust. Over the course of 90 minutes—ten minutes longer than Heydrich’s meeting—Dr. Jasch and I discussed my book and answered questions from the audience.

If there is one thing I have taken away from researching and writing my book, it is that passivity and silence kills. That theme was front and center when I spoke at Wannsee. If there is one place that theme must be articulated clearly, it is there. Fifteen men planned the murder of millions. But thousands allowed that plan to be implemented with horrific success. Hitler’s maniacal desire to rid the world of Jews demanded the passivity, indifference, callousness, and inaction of the bystander.

A 90-minute lecture in a place where it took 80 minutes to decide to kill millions makes that clear.

Advice Re London Accommodation

I received The Distinguished Visiting Professor to the Faculty of Laws at University College London (2019). I began looking for an accommodation for the period of my UCL Visiting Professorship. I plan to arrive in London on 4 February 2019 for a period of five months until 3 July 2019 and appreciate any advice you may have.

My New Article - “Discrimination against Jewish Women in Halacha (Jewish Law) and in Israel”, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 45, No. 2 (2018), pp. 290–310.

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.

Draft of this article is available at

New Books – Eugenia Siapera, Understanding New Media (London: Sage, 2018)

This is a very interesting book, well researched, well written, very accessible and timely about the scope of new media and its influence on our lives. I decided to incorporate some of the chapters to my teaching in media ethics as the issues are of growing importance and the research is up-to-date.

Here are some of the chapters:

2. The Political Economy of New Media

3. Politics and Citizenship

5. New Media Uses and Abuses

6. Security, Surveillance and Safety

7. New Media and Journalism

9. New Media and Identity

10. Socialities and Social Media

11. Games and Gaming

12. The Future of New Media

I thank Sage for sending me a copy.

Visit to Berkeley and to Israel

Next month I plan to be in Berkeley and in Israel and hope to see as many friends as possible. Do get in touch if you wish to meet.

Gem of the Month

Monthly Poems

A Grain Of Sand 

If starry space no limit knows 
And sun succeeds to sun, 
There is no reason to suppose 
Our earth the only one. 
'Mid countless constellations cast 
A million worlds may be, 
With each a God to bless or blast 
And steer to destiny. 

Just think! A million gods or so 
To guide each vital stream, 
With over all to boss the show 
A Deity supreme. 
Such magnitudes oppress my mind; 
From cosmic space it swings; 
So ultimately glad to find 
Relief in little things. 

For look! Within my hollow hand, 
While round the earth careens, 
I hold a single grain of sand 
And wonder what it means. 
Ah! If I had the eyes to see, 
And brain to understand, 
I think Life's mystery might be 
Solved in this grain of sand. 

Robert William Service 


Light Side


Top 10 Incredible Street Performers Videos,

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Peace and Love. Yours as ever,


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