Thursday, February 28, 2019

Politics – February 2019 In Memory of William Warner Van Alstyne (8 February 1934-29 January 2019)

“What we want others to give us we are prepared to give to others. We do not want to suffer injustice in the diaspora, to have our rights oppressed and to be robbed of justice, and we cannot and do not desire to do that to others in our country; we do not want foreigners to rule over us and our fate…We who come humbly and sincerely before the entire world to demand total national equality for ourselves are thus committed to put this demand to ourselves as well”.
~David Ben-Gurion (1931)

Old anti-Semitism, based on racist and religious pernicious sentiments, cannot be redeemed. New anti-Semitism, based on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, can be redeemed if and when the conflict is resolved.

~Raphael Cohen-Almagor

I was saddened to hear that William Van Alstyne had passed away, age 84. 

When I taught at UCLA School of Law, I was fortunate to meet and exchange views with a number of American constitutional law scholars whose knowledge of American law made great impression on me. One of them was William Van Alstyne. Van Alstyne was one of those scholars, who could be found in each of the major American law schools, who had encyclopedic memory of American law and its precedents. He could recite dozens, if not hundreds of precedents, making connections between them, explain how they built or contradict each other, put them in timeline, explain their context and their impact on American law. He used to carry a copy of the American Constitution with him. You could agree or dispute his views on certain issues. But you cannot but appreciate Van Alstyne’s wide scholarship and depth of knowledge. His was, in one word, impressive.

William Warner Van Alstyne was born on February 8, 1934, in Chico, Calif., to Richard and Margaret (Ware) Van Alstyne. His mother was an author of children’s books, his father a professor and historian.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Southern California in 1954 and graduating from Stanford Law School in 1958, he worked on voting rights cases in the South for the Justice Department.

Following a stint in the Air Force, he joined the faculty of Ohio State University, where he was named a full professor of law three years after being hired.

Professor Van Alstyne worked with Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Civil Liberties Union to advance the Equal Rights Amendment for women.

In 1965 he joined the faculty at Duke, where he taught for 39 years until 2004 as the Perkins professor of law. He was a professor of constitutional law at William & Mary Law School from 2004 until he retired in 2012.

The NY Times wrote: Professor Van Alstyne defied political or ideological pigeonholing: He was both an enrolled Republican and a national board member of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Van Alstyne argued that banning abortion would be unconstitutional; that the Second Amendment guaranteed individuals — not only militias — the right to own guns; and that warrantless wiretapping by the administration of President George W. Bush was illegal.

In 1982, Van Alstyne vigorously opposed a proposed constitutional amendment to permit voluntary school prayer, concluding that it would “install the first seeds of theocracy into our government institutions.”

He supported affirmative action programs to help rectify bias, but opposed provisions that amounted, he wrote, to any “variety of racial discrimination under the auspices of the government of the United States.”

Van Alstyne also maintained that gerrymandering congressional districts on the basis of race, so that black votes counted more in majority black districts, merely revived the discredited principle of “separate but equal” and would “compel the worst tendencies toward race-based allegiances and divisions.”

A defender of academic freedom, Professor Van Alstyne was president of the American Association of University Professors from 1974 to 1976.

Reflections on Last Newsletter


Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit Decides to Indict PM Netanyahu

Gantz: We Don’t Want to Control Another People

Netanyahu Strikes a Deal with Kahane’s Followers

Trump Peace Plan

Antisemitism in Britain

Antisemitism in the British Labour

Interview with former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert


Democracy in Crisis

Tackling Homelessness

US Senate Passed Anti-BDS Bill

Latest Brain Studies

Advice for Teachers

Future Public Transportation

My New Article - “Interview with Former Head of Mossad Shabtai Shavit”

New Books - The Fall of ISIS Islamic Caliphate Is Victory Not Peace

Settled at My UCL Office

Gem of the Month – London

Theatre – The Price

Monthly Poems

Light Side - First date

Reflections on Last Newsletter

One more memory from Amos Oz, his last interview for the radio, speaking about his book The same sea, authentic, humane, fascinating. 31 minutes in beautiful Hebrew.,7340,L-5465926,00.html#autoplay

From: Professor Amos Guiora, USA

Rafi/trust this finds u well
Podcast w me on issues relevant to law and ethics re conflict in Israel,
Thought u might find it of interesting

From: Abe Silverman, Canada
I read your peace plan with an open heart and an open mind. The first thing that struck me was the issue of recognition. I don't know if it was an over-site or intentional but it seems to me that without the Arabs recognizing that Israel is the Nation State of the Jewish People you leave them this dream that one day the land of Israel will one day again be Holy Muslim land. There should be no ambiguity that Israel will always remain Jewish and Democratic with a Jewish Majority and equality for the minority. You set out a very ambitious peace plan. So much of it is idealistic and reliant on the good will of others. I can see this as being acceptable to the Palestinians but see how it would ever be accepted by Israeli's.  
I also think that you are missing an important historical fact. Erik Sharon left Likud and formed his own party and went on to become Prime Minister because he promised disengagement. Not only Israeli's supported this idea but so did much of the Jews in the Diaspora. And Sharon promoted the idea of disengagement with walls separating Gaza and eventually the Territories precisely because he could not get any agreement with the PA. He removed every Jew out of Gaza and was prepared to do the same in much of the Territories. Thank G'D that never happened. 

My response:

My proposal provided ground principles. Each paragraph is opened to negotiation, compromise and modification. It does include Mutual recognition – Israel shall recognize the State of Palestine. Palestine shall recognize the State of Israel.

Sharon was right in disengaging Gaza. He was wrong on unilateralism. Sharon had a problem dealing with the Palestinians. This was the main reason why he did not coordinate his moves with the PA. Abu Mazen warned of the potential consequences. Sharon refused to listen.

If Sharon did not die, there is no doubt in my mind that he would have evacuated isolated settlements in the West Bank.

In the long run, two-state solution works best for Israel. Any other so-called solution will be bloodier and put Jewish existence in Israel in danger. There is a limit to the extent that people can live (and die) by the sword. The key to Israel's survival in the Middle East is peace with its neighbours. 

Best wishes


After many years, I have hope for change for Israel.

Hope is sweet.

On February 20, 2019, Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid of “Yesh Atid” announced that they would run together in the coming elections. Former Chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, joined them. The joint list includes three former chiefs of staff in the top four: Gantz, Ya’alon and Ashkenazi. Should the new party wins and forms a government, Gantz would be prime minister first for a period of two and a half years, and then Lapid would take over.

L-R: Ya'alon, Gantz, Lapid, Ashkenazi

If I were in Israel, this hopeful party would have been my choice. I call all my friends and colleagues to vote for change. Israel needs change.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit Decides to Indict PM Netanyahu

After many months of deliberations, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced his plans to indict Prime Minister Netanyahu on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Mr. Netanyahu is entitled to a hearing to challenge the charges. Israeli law only requires that a prime minister step down if convicted, but experts have suggested that Netanyahu could have a “problem” if he seeks to stay in office after a formal indictment is filed at the completion of a hearing process. Under law and High Court of Justice precedent, ministers other than the prime minister are required to step down in such a situation. There is no clear legal rule regarding the prime minister. If the case proceeds, he would be the first sitting prime minister to be indicted.

According to polls, the majority of the Jewish public believes that Netanyahu should resign from the leadership of the Likud if an indictment is issued against him before the elections.

The attorney general detailed the allegations in a 57-page document that was released on Thursday evening.

Mandelblit wrote that according to suspicions the prime minister “damaged the image of the public service and public trust in it” and is suspected of abusing his position and status, and of “knowingly taking a bribe as a public servant in exchange for actions related to your position.”

The police accused Mr. Netanyahu, 69, of trading lucrative official favours for gifts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars including cigars, Champagne and jewellery, and for flattering news coverage whose value was incalculable.

In the first case, known as Case 1000, the police said that the Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, an expatriate Israeli, aided by the Australian billionaire James Packer, sent expensive cigars, jewellery and Champagne worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to the prime minister and his wife. In return, Netanyahu promoted legislation that could benefit Milchan, though it was blocked by the Finance Ministry. Netanyahu saw nothing wrong in accepting these lucrative gifts from his “good friends”. Mandelblit said he intends to charge Netanyahu with fraud and breach of trust.

In the second case, Case 2000, Netanyahu was accused of discussing with the publisher of Yedioth Ahronoth Noni Mozes, one of two largest biggest newspapers, the possibility of a deal for favourable coverage: He would press a competing newspaper, Israel Hayom, to curtail its free circulation, and in return Yedioth Ahronoth would treat Netanyahu more kindly. The deal was never completed. Netanyahu claimed “everyone is doing this”. There are strong connections between politics and media. Politicians, editors and journalists often exchange views. Mandelblit will seek to charge the premier with fraud and breach of trust, while Mozes will be charged with bribery. 

In the third case, Case 4000, widely seen as the most serious, Netanyahu had pushed regulatory actions through the Communications Ministry, which he controlled at the time, that were enormously lucrative to Shaul Elovitch, the principal owner of the Bezeq telecommunications giant. In return, Elovitch arranged for fawning coverage of Netanyahu and his family in Walla news, a popular website owned by Bezeq. Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing. Mandelblit announced he intends to charge Netanyahu with fraud and breach of trust, and both Netanyahu and Elovitch with bribery.

Israeli politics is a little pond. Often it is “all stay in the family” sort of business. Mr. Mandelblit used to be Netanyahu’s cabinet secretary. As cabinet secretary, he was a trusted aide, whose job required close daily consultations with the PM. After three years as cabinet secretary, Netanyahu promoted Mandelblit for the post of attorney general.

In 2017, Mandelblit brought fraud charges against Sara Netanyahu, the prime minister’s wife, accusing her of misusing some $100,000 in public funds. Now he decided to indict the husband. The implications can be huge.

For years, Netanyahu repeated the mantra: “There was nothing. There is nothing. There will be nothing”. Well, now he and his lawyers are required to address at least something.

Gantz: We Don’t Want to Control Another People

After years of indifference to Palestinian plight and to Israeli occupation, now we hear a leader who has other, more peaceful ideas in mind. Israel Resilience Party chair and former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz said Israel must find a solution to the settlement crisis “that does not require us to exercise control over other people.” When asked if has in mind something similar to the 2005 Disengagement from the Gaza Strip, Gantz praised the unilateral move. “All sides had a lot at stake and the state managed to do it without tearing the country apart... We must take the lessons of the Disengagement and implement them in other arenas.”

One lesson is coordination with the Palestinian Authority. I hope this lesson has been learnt.

Netanyahu Strikes a Deal with Kahane’s Followers

In his hunger to retain power, Netanyahu forged an alliance with the far-right Jewish Home party that could give followers of the notorious Jewish fascist Meir Kahane a stronger voice in Israeli politics. Netanyahu agreed to set aside two cabinet posts for Jewish Home if it merged with the Kahane’s Jewish Power party. Polls have shown that Jewish Home and Jewish Power might not garner enough votes on their own to win seats in the Knesset. My first academic book dealt with Kahane: The Boundaries of Liberty and Tolerance: The Struggle Against Kahanism in Israel (Gainesville, FL: The University Press of Florida, 1994). I have been researching his movement for many years, and warned against its terror and violence. Now Kahane’s followers are embraced by the power-hungry prime minister. The party that once had no legitimacy and was prevented from the Knesset is now invited to serve on the Israeli government. This is appalling.

I am quite certain that the Israel Elections Committee will discuss whether Jewish Power (Otzma Yehudit) should be banned. I have voiced my opinion time and again that violent parties that undermine the democratic foundations of the state and incite to racism should be disqualified. If my opinion were to be heard, this Judeo-Fascist party should be qualified.

See R. Cohen-Almagor, “Disqualification of Lists in Israel (1948-1984): Retrospect and Appraisal”, Law and Philosophy, Vol. 13, No. 1 (1994): 43-95.

“Disqualification of Political Parties in Israel: 1988-1996”, Emory International Law Review, Vol. 11, No. 1 (1997): 67-109.

“Disqualification of Lists in 1988 and 1992: A Comparative Analysis”, in Michel Troper and Mikael M. Karlsson (eds.), Law, Justice and the State (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1995): 88-103.

Trump Peace Plan

The Trump peace plan includes two ingredients that are of great importance: involvement of regional powers, and economic boost to the region.

Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, met with the Saudi king and crown prince during a tour of the Middle East to try to build momentum for his long-awaited plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.  Kushner also met with President Erdogan of Turkey.

The Trump peace plan includes investments of tens of billions of dollars to the Palestinians and other countries in the region. The New York Times reported that the funds would include around $25 billion for the West Bank and Gaza and another $40 billion for Israeli neighbours including Egypt, Jordan and possibly Lebanon.

While the US would contribute part of the funds in question, Kushner planned for most of the contributions to come from the region’s countries.

Antisemitism in Britain

Jewish community leaders and politicians have condemned a third successive year with a record number of antisemitic incidents.

Last year, 1,652 incidents, a 16% increase on 2017, were logged by the Community Security Trust, which has monitored antisemitism for 35 years and provides security to the UK Jewish community.

The CST said the spread of incidents throughout the year, with more than 100 a month, indicated a general atmosphere of intolerance and prejudice. However, there were also spikes related to events in Gaza and the argument over antisemitism in the Labour party.

The biggest number of incidents were in April and May (151 and 182 respectively), when scores of Palestinians were killed and hundreds injured in protests at the border fence between Gaza and Israel. May was the highest monthly total recorded since August 2014, when there was a major conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

In total, there were 173 incidents recorded that explicitly showed anti-Israel motivation alongside antisemitism, the CST said.

It also recorded 148 incidents over the year that were explicitly related to arguments over alleged antisemitism in Labour, with 49 in August when there was significant media and political attention on the issue.

Politics in the UK 2019: Brexit, May, Corbyn, disunity, antisemitism, no vision, no thinking, lack of leadership. Depressing.

Antisemitism in the British Labour

The Labour Party has received 673 complaints in 10 months alleging acts of anti-Semitism by its members. Some Labour MPs had enough.

Eight MPs have resigned from the Labour Party in protest at Jeremy Corbyn's approach to Brexit and anti-Semitism.

They are: Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Joan Ryan, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker and Ann Coffey.

Ms Berger said Labour had become institutionally anti-Semitic and she was "embarrassed and ashamed" to stay.

The MPs, who all back a further EU referendum, are not launching a new political party - they will sit in Parliament as the Independent Group. They said there would be "no merger" with the Liberal Democrats, who have 11 MPs.

Many others in Labour dislike Corbyn and oppose his leadership, but they prefer, for their own reasons, to remain in Labour and fight from within.

On February 20, 2019, three Pro-European Tories Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen resigned from the Tory Party, citing Ms May's "disastrous" handling of Brexit as their motivation for joining the new Independent Group.
The plot thickens.

May more MPs join this Independent Body (Party) and together establish a centrist party. This new party is likely to attract many votes, and many rich donners who became disillusioned with both Labour and Tories, for different reasons.

Interview with former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert

I continue my research on the failed peace process between Israel and the PLO. My research is based, in the main, on interviews and archives. My last interview was earlier this month with Ehud Olmert. He granted me a 2-hour long interview during which we spoke about the peace process from Oslo until now, with emphasis on his own role. As you know, Olmert came the closest to sign a peace accord with the Palestinian Authority. What Olmert offered was unprecedented. No prime minister in the history of Israel offered what Olmert did. Abu Mazen did not say Yes. He also did not say No. He left the proposal in the air. The important thing is that he did not sign.

I asked Olmert why he thinks Abu Mazen did not sign. I also inquired about his own transformation from a hawk into a dove, a peacenik. Olmert remains committed to two-state solution, thinking that 70% of the Israeli public supports such a solution.

The interview was fascinating for many reasons, including Olmert’s unabashed views on some of the leaders Olmert worked with. Olmert predicts that Netanyahu won’t be the next prime minister of Israel.


News from the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association


The ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association's co-founder Rafal Pankowski received this year’s Paul Ehrlich-Gunther K. Schwerin Human Rights Award.

The Award was established in 1998 by the US-based Anti-Defamation League to honour those who have fought antisemitism throughout Europe. The award was presented by the ADL’s Director of European Affairs Andrew Srulevitch during his visit to Poland on 6 February 2019.

In the preceding months, Rafal Pankowski had been subjected to numerous public attacks for his work in documenting and countering antisemitism and xenophobia. Several days before the handing of the award, government-controlled TV labelled the Warsaw-born researcher as ‘a horrible person’, ‘belonging to the worst sort of Poles’ who ‘lives from a hatred of his own fatherland’. In response, the Polish Human Rights Commissioner Adam Bodnar initiated a formal complaint to the National Council of Radio and Television in protest against the hateful language used on air.

In 2018, Rafal Pankowski (who is also a Sociology Professor at Warsaw's Collegium Civitas) authored the widely discussed article detailing the resurgence of antisemitic discourse in Polish media and politics, published by the Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs. Over the years he has cooperated with numerous think tanks and academic institutions including, among others, Chatham House (London), the Institute of Human Sciences (Vienna), and the Centre for European Studies at Chulalongkorn University (Bangkok).

He was recently included in the annual ‘J100’ list announced by editors of The Algemeiner, a New York-based Jewish weekly. The list recognizes one hundred people who made positive contribution to the life of the Jewish communities in the last year and, besides political figures, it has included actress Sharon Stone, the UK's Prince William and Indian conductor Zubin Mehta, among others. The ‘NEVER AGAIN’ co-founder was commended for his role in opposing antisemitism and racism.

The ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association is an independent organization established in Warsaw in 1996. ‘NEVER AGAIN’ has campaigned against racism, antisemitism and xenophobia, for peace, intercultural dialogue and human rights both in Poland and internationally.

More information:

Rafal Pankowski, ‘The Resurgence of Antisemitic Discourse in Poland’, Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, July 2018:

Democracy in Crisis

Democracy is undergoing an “alarming” decline across the world as a growing number of countries move towards authoritarian rule, according to the Freedom House think tank. 

The annual “Freedom in the World” report found 2018 was the 13th consecutive year of deteriorating freedoms around the globe.

A total of 68 countries suffered a decline in political rights and civil liberties during the past 12 months, with only 50 counties registering any progress in these areas, it said. 

“More authoritarian powers are now banning opposition groups or jailing their leaders, dispensing with term limits, and tightening the screws on any independent media that remain,” the report stated.

Experts also identified a troubling “crisis of confidence” in the US and Europe, where far-right populist forces are pushing against long-held democratic principles like the separation of powers, press freedom and the legal protection of migrants.
Hungary fell from “free” to “partly free” status in the past year. The report said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán had presided over “the most dramatic decline” in civil liberties ever charted by the organisation inside the European Union.

Serbia also dropped to “partly free” status because of election irregularities and President Aleksandar Vucic’s accumulation of extraconstitutional powers.

The organisation also offered a damning assessment of the health of US democracy, noting Donald Trump’s attacks on the rule of law and fact-based journalism. The report found his government had “improperly restricted” the rights of asylum seekers and immigration policies had become “excessively harsh or haphazard”.

In Central America, Nicaragua dropped to “not free” following a crackdown on anti-government protests, Venezuela was deemed to have held a “profoundly flawed” election, and in Brazil the newly-elected Jair Bolosnaro expressed his nostalgia for military dictatorship.

Freedom House found that 24 countries around the world – including Russia, China, Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia – have targeted political dissidents abroad with practices such as extradition requests, kidnapping and assassination in the past year.

Ethnic cleansing is another growing trend, with an increase in regimes making concerted efforts to alter the ethnic composition of their territory and attacks on freedom of expression has been aided by new tools in internet censorship and surveillance.

A growing number of political scientists believe they have identified a strain of thought among voters that goes beyond traditional ideas of left and right; a strain that cuts across class, education, income and religiosity – even across different political cultures.


Tackling Homelessness

Ever since I became aware of homelessness during the 1970s, when in Tel Aviv there was one homeless person on Dizengoff Street who, I later learned, was a soldier in the 1973 Yom Kippur War who was shell-shocked by what he witnessed and lost everything (at that time, war trauma was not recognized), I was disturbed by the phenomenon. I could not fathom, and am still unable, how a decent and affluent society reconciles itself to have such a phenomenon. It contradicts my values of compassion, solidarity and social responsibility. During the 1980s, when I used to lecture in London, I was disturbed by hundreds of homeless people in the tube tunnels, escaping the bitter cold. I made myself a habit to help at least one homeless person on every trip I made to London. And then, in 1999 I went to Los Angeles for a year and saw that London homelessness was mild compared to the USA, where many thousands of people live rough on the streets, almost invisible to those who live affluent and very comfortable life in Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Malibu, Westwood and Brentwood.

The number of people sleeping rough in the UK has multiplied since 2010. The BBC recommends to learn from the good people of Helsinki where rough sleeping has been almost eradicated thanks to a groundbreaking scheme. What can cities in the UK learn from the Finns?

For the past 30 years, tackling homelessness has been a focus for successive governments in Finland. In 1987, there were more than 18,000 homeless people there. The latest figures from the end of 2017 show there were about 6,600 people classified as without a home. The vast majority are living with friends or family, or are housed in temporary accommodation. Only a very small number are actually sleeping on the streets.

Since 2007, the government has built homeless policies on the foundations of the "Housing First" principle. Put simply, it gives rough sleepers or people who become homeless a stable and permanent home of their own as soon as possible. It then provides them with the help and support they need. That may be supporting someone trying to tackle an addiction, assisting them to learn new skills, or helping them get into training, education or work.

Under Housing First, the offer of a home is unconditional. Even if someone is still taking drugs or abusing alcohol they still get to stay in the house or flat, so long as they are interacting with support workers. They can pay rent through state housing benefit and people can even opt to stay for the rest of their lives.

This is very different to the traditional approach in the UK, where a permanent home is only offered after a homeless person has sought help in a homeless hostel or temporary accommodation.

According to official figures, the number of rough sleepers in England has risen from 1,768 in 2010 to 4,677 in 2018.

Charities such as Shelter say the real number of people sleeping rough is much higher. Official figures are based on the number of homeless people counted on the streets on a single autumn evening each year.

Housing First's success has caught the attention of the UK government, which last year agreed to pay for pilot schemes in Greater Manchester, Merseyside and the West Midlands.

There are already several small scale trials being carried out in Wales, some run by The Salvation Army, others by local authorities. Those behind the schemes say the results so far have been positive.

Trials in England are due to start shortly and will be aimed at helping the most entrenched rough sleepers.

Finland has spent about £262m (300m euros) over the past decade, providing 3,500 new homes for the homeless and more than 300 new support workers.

The UK government is spending £28m on the three Housing First schemes and hopes about 1,000 homes will be provided.

Meanwhile, people are freezing to death. On February 3, 2019, we heard of yet another homeless man who died on the streets.


US Senate Passed Anti-BDS Bill

The U.S. Senate passed a Mideast policy bill including a measure that would allow states to penalize businesses that take part in boycotts of Israel. The Senate backed the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act 77-23. To become law, the bill requires confirmation of the House of Representatives, where opponents of that provision may argue that the constitutional right to free speech protects American participation in boycotts.

Latest Brain Studies

new study reveals taking a short daytime nap can help to consolidate learning and memory of new foreign words.

Astrocytes, ‘caretaker’ cells that surround and support neurons in the brain, may lead the tempo of the body’s internal clock and control patterns of daily behavior, a new study reports.

Pre-teens who use a mobile phone or watch TV in the dark an hour before bed are at risk of not getting enough sleep, a new study reveals.

In a scientific first, neuroengineers have created a system that translates thought into intelligible, recognizable speech. This breakthrough, which harnesses the power of speech synthesizers and artificial intelligence, could lead to new ways for computers to communicate directly with the brain.

Scientists report brain connectivity appears to be dictated by the spatial architecture of neurons, rather than the cell type-specific cues.

new study reports sleep deprivation increases the levels of tau, and accelerates the spread of the protein, in the brain. The findings reveal a lack of sleep alone may help drive the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers report alterations in RNA editing play a vital role in autism spectrum disorder.

According to a new study, the consequence of daily stress is linked to an increase in REM sleep. Researchers report the increase is associated with genes involved in apoptosis and cell survival. The findings shed light on how stress leads to mood disorders, and how changes in sleep contribute to this.

Advice for Teachers

My colleagues who teach: I recommend taking a few minutes to watch this:

Peer Instruction for Active Learning - Eric Mazur

Provides some food for thinking.

Future Public Transportation

Here is a glimpse to future public transportation,

My New Article - “Interview with Former Head of Mossad Shabtai Shavit”, Fathom (January 2019),

Since 2013, I have been conducting a comprehensive research project whose aim is to provide a detailed analysis of three decades of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), from the start of the Oslo process in 1993 until now. The research project analyses the reasons for the failed peace process, the role of third-party mediation, and the keys for successful negotiations. The research is based on interviews with decision-makers and negotiators who were directly involved in the peace process, and on archival work. I interviewed 32 Israeli, Palestinian, American and British senior officials and peace negotiators. My book sheds new light on the proceedings, offering fresh insights and an in-depth explanation for the failure of the peace process. Here we bring to print a small part of the interview with former Head of Mossad Shabtai Shavit. The interview was conducted on 2 July 2018.

New Books

The Fall of ISIS Islamic Caliphate Is Victory Not Peace
Christophe Stener
Book dedicated to Lakhdar Brahimi & to Aylan Kurdi
Introduction by Alain Juillet

The fall of Daesh’ Islamic Califate is victory not peace. Abou Bakr al Baghdadi claimed a « long war » ahead rebutting the United States for celebrating its “so-called victory in expelling the [Islamic] State from the cities and countryside in Iraq and Syria, but the land of God is wide and the tides of war change.”  Iraqi army, supported by both western coalition and Iran troops, liberated its cities, but ISIS is still committing attacks. Iraqi Kurdish are frustrated from their voted and then vetoed national independence. Iran friendly Adil Abdul Mahdi Iraqi government is facing both Sunni and Shiite contestation, but national unity has been preserved and economic reconstruction is on the way.

Bashar al Assad won the war against ISIS thanks ironically to Arabic-western coalition whose initial objective was to topple him down. Assad crushed democratic opposition. « Where they leave a desert, they call it peace » wrote Tacite. Syria is divided, partly occupied by Turkish army and by US supported FDS militia. This book takes the long history perspective to explain war roots, ISIS surge and fall, analyzes how a democratic Arabic Spring contestation has been perverted in a religious and international proxy war. 
By end of 2018, the half a million-death toll is awful, 5 million Syrian people are refugees, humanitarian crisis will be long-lasting, Bashar al Assad procrastinates to accept political settlement. This war is « one of the most cynical, I faced » declared Staffan de Mistura. There are « winners and losers ». Saudi Arabia is a big looser, Russia a big winner, Israel’s outcome is mixed, US tactics fluctuating success quite uncertain.

This book is updated as of Jan. 1st, 2019. USA President Donald Trump snap decision to withdraw US troops from Syria (19/12/19) is discussed. We strongly question his affirmative “Isis is defeated” bragging affirmation. ISIS may resurge. Syria war is very likely to resume.

Long history (from 1914) as well as contemporary help to understand Iraq and Syria war ISIS roots, development, geopolitics impact and assess likely developments.  Quotes and references help the reader to make his own opinions on often highly controversial geopolitical assessments.

La chute du califat islamique de Daech, une victoire sans la paix
BOD 2019
ISBN 9782322109807
472 pages
Paper back: 20 €
eBook: 9,99 €
French written - English summary – Quotes and references mostly from English speaking international newspapers, think tanks, NGO and governmental sites
Hundreds of html linked pictures, maps, documents

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Congratulations and Mazal Tov Christophe!

Settled at My UCL Office

I have now settled at my office. Please do not hesitate me if and when you are in London. My details are:

Raphael Cohen-Almagor
Distinguished Visiting Professor
UCL Faculty of Laws | Bentham House Room 209| 4-8 Endsleigh Gardens | London | WC1H 0EG | | 02031087264

Gem of the Month - London

London, my favourite city in the United Kingdom. This city has many things I love: the best theatre in the world, great football, wonderful orchestras, beautiful music, cuisine from all over the world, excellent universities and think-tanks, parliament and The Thames. I spend much of my time along the river, connecting with the dolphin in me (-:

Theatre – The Price

Any play by Arthur Miller is for me a cause for joy. The American playwright and essayist wrote some theatre masterpieces, including All My Sons, Death of a Salesman, The Crucible and A View from the Bridge.

Miller let you think that The Price is about the furniture (many are hanging from the celling)  left at the home of a deceased father of two brothers who ceased to speak to each other many years ago, and now wish to sell everything for a good price. Well, this is one dimension of the play.

First, we meet one of the brothers, and his alcoholic wife. They come to the attic, where all the furniture are kept. She does not work. He is a cop who considers retirement. Brendan Coyle, as Victor, the hard-working, frustrated cop, is brilliant. Really impressive acting.

In comes Solomon, the furniture dealer, played by David Suchet. He has his way of dealing. Miller returns in his plays, time and again, to the art of selling, and he does it again here. Solomon is an experienced, now retired, salesman, who was surprised to receive a phone call from the cop, requesting his services. The guy is 89. The phone did not ring for two years. And suddenly, someone picked an old yellow-pages, found him and is wishing to sell him the entire content of a home. Solomon has his ways of dealing, and is unwilling to change. Buying is like a slow dance. It takes time. One step forward. Two steps backword. It is an intimate process during which the salesman wishes to know and understand the seller. First and foremost, he needs to know how much the seller understands what he sells, and how desperate he is. Only then the witty, talkative and playful Solomon is willing to reveal The Price.

In comes the brother, just as Victor and Solomon agreed on The Price. Everything opens, and when I say everything, I mean everything. The entire family history. While one brother is a struggling cop, the other brother is a successful physician. During their adolescence, both brothers were ambitious; both were successful in their studies; the world was at their feet. Why is one now financially comfortable whereas the other is struggling? Of course, money is not everything, and is only one important facet of life. Miller explains this as well in the painful dialogue that ensues between the two rivalling brothers.

The Price is a very good play. It is not as great as All My Sons. Well, there are not many masterpieces like All My Sons. Still, it is a captivating, at time funny, at time dramatic and painful. Always interesting. Miller at his second best is still very good and the acting of Coyle and Suchet are to relish.

**** on Rafi’s scale

Monthly Poems

A Calendar of Sonnets: February
Still lie the sheltering snows, undimmed and white;
And reigns the winter's pregnant silence still;
No sign of spring, save that the catkins fill,
And willow stems grow daily red and bright.
These are days when ancients held a rite
Of expiation for the old year's ill,
And prayer to purify the new year's will:
Fit days, ere yet the spring rains blur the sight,
Ere yet the bounding blood grows hot with haste,
And dreaming thoughts grow heavy with a greed
The ardent summer's joy to have and taste;
Fit days, to give to last year's losses heed,
To recon clear the new life's sterner need;
Fit days, for Feast of Expiation placed!

Helen Hunt Jackson

Light Side - First date

First date

A boy was feeling very nervous about his first date, and so went to his father for advice. 
"My son, there are three subjects that always work with women: food, family, and philosophy."
The boy picks up his date and they stare at each other for a long time. The boy's nervousness builds, but he then remembers his father's advice and asks the girl,
"Do you like potato pancakes?"
"No," comes the answer, and the silence returns like a suffocating blanket.
"Do you have a brother?"
After giving it some thought, the boy plays his last card: "If you had a brother, would he like potato pancakes?"


Happy Purim! Peace and Love. Yours as ever,


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