Friday, September 28, 2018

Politics – September 2018

It saddens me a great deal that Trump is a role model for children and youth all over the world only because he is the president of the United States.

Evil thrives when silence prevails.

The best way to lock up your political opponents is to put them in your cabinet.
~Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Reflections on Last Newsletter

Linoy Ashram


Debate on Anti-Semitism at the House of Lords

Israel Religiosity on the Eve of Rosh HaShana

Ultra-Orthodox Israeli Radio Station Fined $280k for Excluding Women

Israeli Economy

Israel-Philippine Relationship

Rosh HaShana Poll

Trump’s Peace Plan

UNRWA Funding

Closure of the PLO Diplomatic Mission in Washington

Trump, Again


German Right-Wing Extremism

Organ Donation: Where are the Most People Willing?

Newspaper Article: “Patients should be allowed to die at home, surrounded by family and friends”

My New Article - “Between Individual Rights and Group Rights”, Academicus, Vol. 18 (2018), pp. 9-25.

I Wonder

Gem of the Month – Switzerland

Paul Grüninger

Top 25 Museums in the World

Monthly Poems – Waterfalls and New Year Prayer
Light Side

Reflections on Last Newsletter

From Anthony Smith, former President of Magdalen College, Oxford:

Dear Rafi

Your August letter was one of the most interesting ever, packed with 
stimulating reports and observations.

I was naturally particularly interested in your account of the Jewish 
settlement in medieval Oxford. I thought I would pass on a little more 
information about it. I was always told that the centre of the community 
was in fact under what is now Pembroke College, some yards from the area you
sited, in the area covered by present day Christ Church, but it was a 
flourishing community and it could well have covered both of these sites.

What has long intrigued me is the presence of a Jewish cemetery under 
what is now the Oxford Botanic Garden, the property of Magdalen College 
since the 15th century.  Apparently the graveyard is there fully intact 
deep beneath the gardens,  Just across the road, in what is now 
Magdalen, there was the washing chamber for the cemetery and when we 
were restoring Magdalen we found the entrance to that space, just 
beneath the ground.  You can see it today inside the main cloister just 
at the side of what is now the Bar (until recent times the main kitchen 
of the College). We put a sheet of glass over the top of this carved 
stone archway so that it is easily visible today. Everybody passes it 
without realising what it is. Under Magdalen Bridge, however, there is a 
plaque which tells the story of the burial ground. Water for the 
washing chamber came across what is now the Deer Park in a natural 
culvert, now invisible beneath the ground.... the stream came from a piece 
of land which was and is still I believe - in the possession of Merton 
College which was founded before the 1290 Expulsion.

Another item which I like to draw to people's attention is Dead Man's 
Walk. This is a pathway which runs to the south of Christ Church and 
along the gardens of Corpus Christi College.  Once it stretched back 
into the area of Jewish settlement (at Pembroke/Christ Church territory) 
and it got its name from the fact that it was the route that funeral 
processions took from the Jewish settlement area to the burial ground. 
It is amazing that the path has survived and the whole story is 
preserved in a name which has survived for 800 years.

By the way I think you are a little hard on Jeremy Corbyn (my response below. RCA). A great deal of the abuse being thrown at him is politically motivated and delivered 
not always by people free of anti-semitic prejudice themselves - in all 
the parties. He was put in power by a group called Momentum, with many 
Jewish supporters among its leadership. He would, as far as I have 
understood his position, agree largely with the contents of the Ronald S 
Lauder NY Times article which you publish. He probably isn't the 
greatest leader the Labour Party has ever had but he achieved the 
leadership because Ed Miliband reduced the cost of party membership to 
£3, and half a million people joined up, many of whom hold very 
primitive views on a variety of subjects. Our party system is in total 
mess. We have no political leadership anywhere at present and no sign of 
any cropping up in the near future. The UK is in a serious long-term mess.

All good wishes


From Esther Gilbert, London:

Dear Rafi,

You mention 'the Jew Jacob' in Oxford.  Martin told me about his connection to Merton (where Martin had been a fellow) and I found this for you in his manuscript of a history of Jews in Britain that he was working on when he became ill:
... to the university students. These students lived in digs in the town, many of them in Jewish houses, to which they paid rent. There were several student riots against the Jews, protesting at the high rents, the most serious in 1244, when several Jewish houses were looted. As a result, King Henry III intervened, laying down that no student could be charged more than two pence rent a week.

To end the tension, a wealthy Jew, known as the Jew Jacob, went to see the Bishop of Merton, the patron of one of the colleges, with an idea. Jacob noted that the teachers – the priests – lived in the college, with their chapel and dining room, library and teaching rooms, while the students, as was then the universal custom, did not live in college but in lodgings in the town, paying rent. Jacob suggested to Walter of Merton that he sell two the stone houses that he owned next to the college buildings, and that they become the residential side of college life: an innovation that was to become the norm in Oxford whenever new colleges were built. The houses were sold, enabling the college to create a quadrangle inside its front gate, and Merton became the first residential college. Merton’s students no longer had to pay rent to Jews, and tension between town and gown declined.

‘The Jew Jacob’ has a celebratory gargoyle at the entrance to Merton College. With his help, the college bought more land from Jews in both London and Basingstoke, creating a fine endowment. In the Hebrew document preserved in the archives of the college is the land sale deed, signed by ‘Jacob, the son of Moses of London’ both ‘on my own behalf and on behalf of my wife Hannah.’

Merton College

For more info on Sir Martin,

Shana Tova, a sweet and healthy year to you and your family,

_ _ _

From Art Hobson, Professor of Physics, USA:

Dear Rafi - 

In your last newsletter, you "sense the winds of war.”  I agree, but my interpretation is different.   There is already a halting, simmering war between Hamas and Israel, with violence and organized attacks by both sides.  This is tragic—as war always is—and it could escalate into something much worse.  But there are also winds of a more dangerous war—more dangerous for Israelis and for the world at large.  That wind gathers in Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United States.  President Trump made a mistake by pulling out of (violating?) the international nuclear agreement with Iran.  Europe, Russia, and China strive to save the agreement, i.e. to forestall Iran from also pulling out by returning to uranium enrichment.   Trump’s decision was based largely on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s vehement opposition to the agreement.  Iran’s revival of enrichment could trigger military action by the U.S. or Israel, resulting in a high-stakes war with Russia involved on one side and the U.S. on the other.   Surely there is a more rational way to deal with our grievances toward Iran.  

- Art Hobson

Linoy Ashram

Congratulations and Mazal Tov!! Israeli rhythmic gymnast Linoy Ashram won the silver medal at the individual all-around final of the World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships held in Sofia, this after becoming the first Israeli to win a silver medal in the games, a feat she accomplished in the Hoop discipline. She also won the bronze in rope final. An amazing gymnast.


Rabbi Shmuley Boteach explains why Jews, but not only Jews, are concerned about Corbyn’s prospects to ever become a prime minister. Corbyn fails to understand that support for Palestine does not necessarily mean the destruction of Israel. After all, the future State of Palestine should be sustainable. And to be sustainable, it requires some help. Palestine will have three neighbours: Egypt, which blocked the border with Gaza and which is most concerned about any sign of strengthening the Muslim Brotherhood; Jordan that is reluctant to act in any way, negative or positive, that would awake the Palestinian citizens inside Jordan, and Israel. Which country is most likely to help Palestine the most?

Your call.

So here are the examples that Shmuley has gathered: 

  • Addressed a pro-Palestinian rally in 2010 in which Corbyn compared Israel to the Nazis by suggesting the Israeli blockade of Gaza was similar to the sieges of Stalingrad and Leningrad in World War II.
  • Written a complimentary post on Facebook regarding a mural depicting a group of bankers playing Monopoly on the backs of the poor that was considered antisemitic. 
  • Had tea in Parliament with Palestinian Sheikh Raed Salah, an “honored citizen” whom a British court ruled had used a “blood libel” in reference to Jews.
  • Took money to host a show on the Iranian propaganda broadcaster Press TV.
  • Met with the emir of Qatar, the principal funder of Hamas. 
  • Been a member of several social media groups used as platforms for antisemitic posts.
  • Spoken at the wedding of Husam Zomlot, a PLO official who claimed that Israel had “fabricated” the Holocaust.
  • Was forced to suspend a member of his Shadow Cabinet who suggested that Israelis should be relocated to the United States and the former mayor of London, who defended him and added Hitler “was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.”
  • In 2014, Corbyn took part in a memorial in Tunisia for Palestinian terrorists who murdered 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics and was present when a wreath was laid for one of the masterminds of the attack. Lamely, Corbyn said he “wanted to see a fitting memorial to everyone who has died in every terrorist incident everywhere.” If that were true, writes Shmuley, instead of standing by the graves of the culprits, he would be laying wreaths in cemeteries in Israel where the men, women and children killed by Palestinian terrorists he lauds are buried.

Debate on Anti-Semitism at the House of Lords

The debate was initiated by Lord Popat, a Hindu. You are welcome to read it at:
Anti-Semitism, House of Lords, Hansard, Volume 792 (13 September 2018)

Israel Religiosity on the Eve of Rosh HaShana

On September 9, 2018, on the Eve of Rosh HaShana, Haaretz published a comprehensive poll on the religiosity of Israeli society.

According to the poll, 54 percent of Jewish Israelis believe in God, and another 21 percent accept the existence of an undefined superior power other than God. Compare these figures to the USA: A poll published by Pew Research a few months ago found that 56 percent of Americans believe in the original God of the Bible and another 23 percent in a superior force.

The closest Western European countries in terms of belief in a classic God are the Catholic threesome of Italy (46 percent), Ireland (39 percent) and Portugal (36 percent).

Slightly more than half of Jewish Israelis believe that their rights to the Land of Israel derive from God’s divine covenant in the Bible and 56 percent believe that the Jewish people are chosen people.

Religious differences also divide Israel geographically. Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to a lesser extent the south are relatively devout while Tel Aviv, Haifa, the central region and to a lesser extent the north are avowedly secular. The stark differences between holy Jerusalem in the Judean Hills and hedonist Tel Aviv on the Mediterranean coast, which have been stereotyped to death, are borne out in the poll.

Eighty-five percent of Jerusalemites believe in God, compared with only 44 percent in Tel Aviv and the central region. Only a quarter of Israeli Jews fully keep Shabbat, but in Jerusalem it’s 66 percent compared with just 15 percent in Tel Aviv or Haifa. Thirty-seven percent don’t believe that humans and apes share a common ancestor – a disturbing finding – but in Jerusalem the anti-Darwinians enjoy an absolute majority of 81 percent while in Tel Aviv they're in a distinct minority of “only” 27 percent.

But perhaps the most startling gaps are generational. In Israel 2018, the younger the Jew, the more likely he or she is to be more religious, observant, conservative and willing to impose his or her beliefs on others. Sixty-five percent of the population would let supermarkets and groceries operate on Shabbat, but that position is supported by only 51 percent of people between 18 and 24, compared with 84 percent of those 65 and older.

Younger Jews also lead the pack in adhering to supernatural beliefs that are seen as primitive superstitions by the secular majority. Forty-four percent of all Jews believe in life after death, compared with only 35 percent who have accepted that death is the ultimate dead end. The belief in life after death is strongest among the ultra-Orthodox (100 percent), the religious-Zionists (83 percent), Jerusalem residents (71 percent) and people between 18 and 24 (58 percent).

But there's another side to this coin. Jews may profess their belief in God but they are reluctant to keep his directives and commandments, aka mitzvot. Sixty percent of Israeli Jews don’t keep Shabbat in any way, shape or form. Fifty-five percent don’t keep kosher. Forty-five percent don’t fast on Yom Kippur. Only 23 percent have read a passage from the Bible in the past week and only 17 percent went to synagogue to pray.

Sixty-five percent want supermarkets to remain open on Shabbat, 67 percent oppose the Orthodox Rabbinate’s monopoly on marriages, 61 percent support recognition of same-sex marriages, and 73 percent support letting women  enlist in combat roles in the army. And 58 percent believe religion is playing an oversize role in Israeli affairs. To each his own seems to be the common theme, at least in theory.

Only 48 percent of Israeli Jews want to be buried in a Jewish ceremony, including just 23 percent of secular Jews. Twenty percent prefer a civil burial, 10 percent would like to donate themselves to science, and eight percent prefer to be un-Jewishly cremated. 

Ultra-Orthodox Israeli Radio Station Fined $280k for Excluding Women

An Israeli court awarded one million shekels (about $280,000) in damages in a class action suit brought against an ultra-Orthodox radio station that refused to put women on the air. The suit was filed by Kolech, a group of Orthodox feminists, on behalf of ultra-Orthodox women who protested against the exclusion of women from Kol Barama broadcasts. Kol Barama is an ultra-Orthodox radio station, known for its long-standing discriminatory attitude against women. 

The suit, which was filed in 2012 in the Jerusalem District Court, is the first class action suit on civil rights in Israel.  In September 2014, the court approved its class action nature and determined that the radio station had operated in a discriminatory fashion. The station appealed the decision in the Supreme Court. Its appeal was rejected a year later, and several hearings have since been held to determine the amount of damages to be paid.

Israeli Economy

Since its founding in 1948, Israel’s population has surged from 806,000 to 8.84 million, and the state has absorbed some 3.2 million immigrants over those years as well.

Economically, over the past 20 years, Israel’s governments have adhered to a policy of fiscal restraint that gives the nation credibility with foreign investors and lowers financial costs. Coupled with its responsible fiscal approach, the country has also become a world high tech power.  In the 20-year period 1997-2017, 16,000 high-tech companies were set up, of which 8,000 are currently active.  The nation has 505 cybersecurity companies, which have raised some $5.6 billion (by some accounts this represents 2/3 of worldwide investment into cybertech R&D over the last few years making Israel a major center of such development).

Over the course of its history, Israel has had $143 billion worth of exits, of which $132 billion were mergers and acquisitions and $11 billion were initial public offerings.  Recently, Pepsico agreed to purchase Israel’s SodaStream for $3.2 billion in cash, among the largest buyouts in Israeli history.  Israeli venture capital funds raised some $20 billion in 1997-2017.
Israel had a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of some $5,000 when the state was established in May 1948. The Gross Domestic Product per capita in Israel was US$38,427 in 2017, when adjusted for purchasing power parity (PPP). The GDP per Capita, in Israel, when adjusted for Purchasing Power Parity is equivalent to 187 percent of the world's average. GDP per capita PPP in Israel averaged US$26,787 from 1990 until 2017, reaching an all-time high in 2017 against a record low of US$19,760 in 1990.  Today’s GDP per capita is, therefore, close to the median of other developed OECD countries, according to data compiled by the Bank of Israel.

Israel’s economy grew 3.4% in 2017, and has averaged 3.3% annual growth since 2000, higher than in many OECD countries, partly driven by strong population growth as well (Israel is one of the few countries in the West whose birth rate is well above replacement levels).  The economies of OECD countries, by contrast, grew at an average rate of 2.4% in 2017, while growth in the US was 2.3% for the same period.

Israeli tech companies raised a record $5.2 billion in 2017 and there were $23 billion worth of company exits, defined as merger and acquisition deals and initial public offering of shares. As well, some 94 Israeli companies are listed on the NASDAQ exchange.

Economy is a funny field. Pomerantz does not speak about unemployment rate; the fact that 22% of the population is under the poverty line, a line that is quite low; the heavy taxation that results in many thousands of families whose expenses exceed their income; the fact that most people cannot afford buying a flat (not to mention a house); the immense and growing gap between the very rich and the very poor; the brain drain that afflicts the country, and I can go on.

Source: Sherwin Pomerantz
President, Atid EDI

Israel-Philippine Relationship

President Duterte visited Israel and signed more than 20 agreements worth nearly $83 million. 14 memorandums of agreement and understanding between Israel and the Philippines were signed, and eight letters of intent from Israeli firms interested to invest in the Philippines.

Rosh HaShana Poll

The monthly Peace Index of the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University, finds that at the new Jewish Year 64% of Jewish-Israelis think that the previous year was a good year for Israel and 85% look forward to spending holiday meals with family. In the coming year, the public wants the government to focus on closing socioeconomic gaps (22%), improving the economy (18%) and reducing governmental corruption (16%). As for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the majority of the Israeli public thinks that Palestinians deserve an independent state, yet 56% believe that if a peace agreement were to be signed on the basis of the two-state solution, it would be impossible to implement.

Trump’s Peace Plan

For months, some people (not me) held their breath to hear the comprehensive peace plan of President Trump. In early September, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Trump's peace team offered him a political plan based on forming a Palestinian-Jordanian confederation. According to Abbas, he told the administration that he would only agree to such a plan if Israel is part of the suggested confederation. Abbas spoke in Ramallah at a meeting with Israeli left-wing movement Peace Now and Israeli lawmakers. "I was asked if I believe in a federation with Jordan," Abbas said about a talk he held with Trump's aide, Jared Kushner, and his Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt. "I answered: Yes, I want a confederation with Jordan and Israel. I have asked the Israelis if they would agree to such an offer." 

Palestinian-Jordanian confederation is an old idea, adopted at certain times by at least three former prime ministers, Shimon Peres, Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon, among others. I am not principally opposed to the idea of Palestinian-Jordanian confederation. The problem is that both Palestinians and Jordanians oppose the idea. Jordanian government spokeswoman Jumana Ghneimat said that joining the kingdom with the West Bank is not a matter that is open for discussion. A well-defined non-starter.

I am in the process of writing a book about the failed peace process between Israel and the PLO. For this book I am interviewing people who took part in peace negotiations, including former President of the Supreme Court Aharon Barak, who was in Camp David 1978. Barak told me that Israel proposed that Egypt will annex Gaza. Egypt refused. Prior to the peace summit, Barak discussed with Carter, with Begin’s approval, the idea of a confederation between Israel, Jordan and Palestine. Israel and Jordan as independent states, and Palestine as an autonomy. The Americans did not pick it up.


UNRWA Funding

People ask me what I think of the US decision to stop funding UNRWA. During the years, I met quite a few senior Israeli officials – politicians and heads of security. They said that UNRWA is, in effect, a Hamas organisation. Many of its directors are Hamas members. Former of the Mosad, Shabtai Shavit, told me in an interview for my peace book, that 95% of the UNRWA board members are Hamas. The money does not go to support only refugees but also terrorist activities. Moreover, UNRWA sustains the refugee status. It does not aim to solve the problem but to perpetuate it. The Trump administration operates on financial issues as a firm. It examines costs and benefits, constantly asking the question: What do we, the USA, get from this? The administration reached the conclusion that the USA does not get much in return from sponsoring UNRWA. According to estimates, the USA gave UNRWA over the years more than $6 billion. Peace has not come any closer. The refugee problem is not solved and is still a major obstacle to peace. According to The Palestine Right to Return Coalition there are about 7.2 million Palestinian refugees worldwide. According to other estimates, there are 5 million Palestinian refugees.

Most sources agreed that as a result of the 1947-1948 war, around 650,000-750,000 Arabs lost their homes and became refugees. How come that the numbers are increasing so much, rather than decreasing with time? This is because with regard to the Palestinians, the status of refugee is being transferred from one generation to another. And close to 1 million refugees were added in the aftermath of the Six Day War.

According to The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, when the West Bank and Gaza Strip were occupied in 1967, the UN reported that approximately 200,000 Palestinians fled their homes. These 1967 refugees and their descendants today number about 834,000 persons.

According to the World Bank, more than $31 billion in international aid was given to the Palestinians since 1993. Palestinians are among the world's largest per capita recipients of international foreign aid. The numbers of refugees, despite the significant aid, are only increasing. Clearly, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, UNRWA and the relief organisations do not operate in an effective way. Thus change is required.

About 1.4 million of registered Palestine refugees live in the 58 UNRWA-recognised refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. It will be good if these people will receive citizenship and equal rights in the countries in which they reside, and that the Arab countries as well as the PLO and Hamas utilize their resources to integrate them into society as equal citizens rather than keeping them in the eternal status of refugees so as to keep the resistance flame alive.

Closure of the PLO Diplomatic Mission in Washington

The Trump Administration ordered the PLO to close its diplomatic mission in Washington. The move will eliminate a communication channel—diplomatically and physically—that has been at the heart of the peace process under four Administrations.

The State Department cited the Palestinian failure to “advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel” as the reason for the closure. It also accused P.L.O. leaders of condemning “a U.S. peace plan they have not yet seen” and said that they “refused to engage with the U.S. government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise.”

Diplomacy is the art of negotiation with adversaries. Trump knows very little about this art. This is a major blow to peace. This is a gross mistake. This is not the way to deal with obstacles. This is just adding to the existing obstacles, and making the situation more complicated. If you give up on peaceful means, prepare for the worse. The future is bleaker.

Trump, Again

I try to avoid him to the best of my abilities, but he just won't let go. Every day, new stories emerging, providing more evidence about his shady personality and conduct. Trump's presidency is a trauma, even more so when I know that this man, awful as he is, by the very position that he holds serves as a role model to children all over the world. This gives me the crepes.

The anonymous rebel put Trump off balance. Everyone is a suspect. Soon we will see heads rolling.

The "failing" New York Times will outlast the failing US president whose administration protects Great America from his poor judgment and twisted agenda.

Donald Trump condemns Bob Woodward book as 'con'.
Who do you believe, Woodward or Trump? Your call.

This month saw the passing of Senator John McCain. Yet again President Trump showed how little of a man he is.
I hope to see his days over, soon.


A new study shows that more than 2.6 million people have abandoned their support for Brexit and now back staying in the EU. In total, the study concluded that 2.6 million Leave voters have switched their support to Remain, while 970,000 have moved the other way – a net gain for the pro-EU side of 1.6 million. The study found that Labour voters accounted for 1.4 million of the 1.6 million switchers to Remain, significantly outnumbering the 837,000 Tory voters who switched the other way. Many people are calling for a second referendum, arguing that the public was not fully informed of the Brexit implications. Of the 262 Labour-voting constituencies, 161 currently support a new referendum, while a further 55 are expected to switch in the coming months. In total, 69 Labour constituencies have moved to Remain, while just three have switched to Leave.

The survey found that women made up almost two-thirds of those people ditching their support for Brexit. Middle-aged voters are also increasingly switching their support due to fears about the impact of Brexit on the economy and the NHS.

German Right-Wing Extremism

Disturbing scenes.

Never Again!

Organ Donation: Where are the Most People Willing?

In Germany there is an emerging debate around the issue of organ donation. The government is weighing the prospect of introducing an 'opt-out' system, similar to that in place in Spain, whereby citizens are automatically listed as potential organ donors unless they say they do not want to donate in the event of their death. The idea behind the concept is of course to increase the number of potential donors, but when it comes down to it, how many would actually choose to opt-out? 

According to an extensive Ipsos survey, the figures vary significantly from country to country, with Colombia, India and Spain at the top of the list with 75, 74 and 72 percent respectively. Germany comes in much lower, at 53 percent while 67 percent of respondents in the UK say they would be willing to donate.

Canada: 69%
Australia: 68%
Italy: 66%
USA: 65%
France: 57%
Japan: 33%
Russia: 30%

Please write to me if you know the figures in Israel.

Newspaper Article: “Patients should be allowed to die at home, surrounded by family and friends”

The Economist, as part of its Open Future initiative, wanted to open up the conversation to both sides on assisted suicide, in the spirit of respectful debate. 
Over the course of two weeks, The Economist published essays by people who are both for and against assisted dying. They have got a wide range of contributors: from doctors and lawyers who have fought for the right of patients or clients to die as they choose, to medical practitioners and atheists who are opposed to the idea.

Contributions come from Guernsey (where a recent attempt to allow assisted dying was squashed), Britain, Canada, Switzerland and Belgium.

What do you think? Should assisted dying be legal?

My contribution:
“Patients should be allowed to die at home, surrounded by family and friends”, The Economist (August 25, 2018),

My New Article - "Taking North American White Supremacist Groups Seriously: The Scope and the Challenge of Hate Speech on the Internet”, International Journal of Crime, Justice, and Social Democracy, Vol. 7, No. 2 (2018): 38-57.

This article aims to address two questions: (1) How does hate speech manifest on North American white supremacist websites and (2) Is there a connection between online hate speech and hate crime? Section I defines hate speech and explains the research methodology upon which the article is based. Section II analyses the ways that hate groups utilise the Internet and their purposes in doing so, examining the content and the functions of hate sites as well as the agenda of hate mongers. Section III explores the connection between hate speech and hate crime. It is argued that there is sufficient evidence to suggest that speech can and does inspire crime. The article is based in the main on primary sources: a close study of dozens of hate websites, and is informed by more than 50 interviews and discussions with experts in the field.

Keywords: bigotry, hate crime, hate site, hate speech, racism, violence

The article is at

I Wonder
If the cell phone with its wonderful camera were to be invented fifty years ago, would people then be possessed with today's narcissist tendency to take selfies? 

Gem of the Month – Switzerland

Switzerland is a beautiful, calm and rich country. It is a country of lakes, rivers and mountains. Its scenery is breath-taking.

Switzerland has only one natural resource: Water. The Swiss make the most of this resource. Without other natural resources, and with innovative minds and careful thinking, Switzerland is a powerhouse in banking and insurance, in chocolate and dairy food, in watches, in high tech and high education. Tourism, of course, is a major income. It is an impressive country.

Germany is the big brother. There is a lot of appreciation and admiration for Germany, but there is also anxiousness. In Zurich, most people speak Swiss German or “high” German, which is German. In conversations, many somehow refer to Germany, although the focus of my discussion was Switzerland. Quite a few academics are German who came to work in Switzerland as it offers to them better job prospects.

Did you know? If you reside in the German part of Switzerland, and wishes to become a citizen, you will need to pass a language exam in… German. Not in Swiss-German.

Zurich is an international multicultural and attractive city. It is the Swiss version of Amsterdam. Swiss German, German, French, Italian, English, among other languages, in the air. The lake is a source of joy. It is one of the most expensive cities I know, far more expensive compared to my recent home town Beverley.


Zurich has the best public transportation system that I have ever seen. It is most elaborate and punctual, working like clockwork.

According to Starbucks meter, Zurich is the most expensive city I have ever visited. Never paid so much.

The richness of the city is evident on the roads. Zurich has the largest number of Porsche cars compared to any other city I know. Porsche is a symbol of status.
And I am not going to start talking about watches. I am not usually impressed by watches but these watches are simply wonderful. Their price is well beyond my abilities. I remained with my humble Seiko.

Zurich was my base as my office was at the beautiful University of Zurich Center for Ethics. I conducted interviews also in other cities:

Murten (small medieval town of four streets overlooking a lovely lake, perfect for those of you who wish to have a very peaceful vacation).

Bern is a quaint capital. The parliament is impressive. The lake is gorgeous.


The Abbey Library in St Gallen is small and stunning. Certainly one of the most striking libraries I have ever visited. 

Geneva is the Zurich of the French part, a rich and beautiful city.

Lugano is a lovely centre of Italian life in Switzerland. It is quite charming.

I set a world record in departing Zurich. From my apartment in the heart of Zurich to the Duty Free, after check in and security, it took me half an hour. Taxi waited me on time. Empty road. And Swiss efficiency in its best. 

I thank Peter, Holger, Deby and Mandel, Arina and Genadi, Sarah and Gil, Francis, Jack, Helen, Sabine, Jurg, Samia and Pietro, Nikola, Sophie, Martin, Steffen, Susanne and Nina for their kind hospitality. They made my Swiss experience memorable.

Paul Grüninger

This is an opportunity to recall the exceptional story of St Gallen police officer, who refused to forget his humanity for expedient reasons.

On March 12, 1938, Austria had been officially annexed by Germany and was now part of the Third Reich. From April, visas were compulsory for Austrian nationals entering Switzerland. These visas were like gold.

On August 17, 1938, at the Conference of Cantonal Police Directors, St Gallen's commander Paul Grüninger called for the country to keep its borders open. "It is unconscionable to turn these refugees away, if only for considerations of humanity. We have to allow many of them in to the country," he insisted, according to the minutes. Nevertheless, the Swiss Confederation decided to ban all Austrian refugees from entering the country.

After August 18, 1938 Paul Grüninger was clearly circumventing the law. Along with an informal network of members of the socialist youth, innkeepers, farmers and members of the Jewish community, including the Israelite Refugee Assistance in St Gallen, he turned a blind eye to forged visas, falsified others, and procured entry visas for the relatives of those who had already found refuge in Switzerland. He even issued summons to detainees in Dachau, Germany. In total, Grüninger saved the lives of several hundred Jews, as many as 3,000 according to the estimates of Stefan Keller, journalist and historian, and author of Grüningers Fall. Geschichten von Flucht und Hilfe.

In the spring of 1939, Paul Grüninger was dismissed without notice and deprived of his pension. The following year, he was sentenced by the district court of St Gallen to a hefty fine for "breach of duty and falsification of documents". A conviction he would later state that he was not ashamed of. On the request of an old school friend, he wrote these words in the 1950s, a copy of which is kept in the Vadiana cantonal library in St Gallen (Kantonsbibliothek): "On the contrary, I'm proud to have saved the lives of hundreds of people who were being severely persecuted! Anyone who witnessed, time and again, as I did, the heart-rending arrivals, the complete breakdown of those affected, the wailing and cries of mothers and children, the threats of suicide and actual suicide attempts – no one could have withstood that." He maintained:

“It was a matter of saving people whose lives were under threat. In such circumstances, how could I have concerned myself with mere bureaucracy and numbers?”

Paul Grüninger died on February 22, 1972. A few months before his death, Israel recognised him as one of the 'Righteous Among the Nations'. In 1995 his conviction was overturned and in 1998, following the payment of 1.3 million francs to the heirs "in reparation for moral damages", the Paul Grüninger Foundation was created.

Unfortunately, there were not many similar people at that time. Paul Grüninger was the exception to the convenient rule. Evil thrives when silence prevails.

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Monthly Poems

5 September 2014

I love waterfalls
The sound of water pounding soil
Rainbow reflection in remarkable half moon
Making this perfect shape during the day
Purple, blue, green, yellow, orange and red

I love the smell of peace
Walking into the joyful mist
Scorpions love water
On the merry go round they do not sting
Son of the blue playful dolphin.

I love fireworks above waterfall and stars
Exploding in such a beautiful noise
Illuminating ice and land skies
Thousand of shooting stars 
Making young and old smile.

I love the mystery of going behind waterfalls
Tasting the rainbow without rain
Uplifting without being drunk
Immersing in their endless cycle
Freeing spirit and mind.

Raphael Almagor

תפילה לשנה החדשה
מאת נתן אלתרמן

תן לנו שנה של שקט אמיתי
שנה של לובן הפריחות וירק הדשאים,
שנה של להט אהבות וחום תנור ביתי
ושנדע רק פעם מהו טוב ומה נעים.
שנה ללא קולות שנאה וזעקות השכול,
ללא מראות הדם,ללא הלמות תופי המלחמה,
ללא הפחד המשתק של הנורא מכל,
ללא צחוקו של העתיד אשר נטמן באדמה.
הן לא ביקשנו לנו אוצרות של ממלכות,
לא עושר עילאי ומכוניות פאר,
קורטוב אחד של שקט אמיתי ולובן של פריחות
אשר נוכל בהם בלאט להתהדר.
להתרגש כפעם מריחות הסתיו,
לדהור אל האושר כשריקת רכבת,
לבנות לנו סוכת שלום עכשיו
ולהיות בה ראויים לשבת.

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