Friday, May 29, 2020

Politics – April-May 2020. In Memory of Ed Lambeth (1932-2020)

Leadership requires daring. 

In Memory: Ed Lambeth (1932-2020)


Israel Facing the Coronavirus




France Pushes for Tough EU Response to Any Annexation


Worrying News: The Palestinian Authority Is No Longer Bound by Accords with Israel and the USA

The European Parliament Condemns Hate Speech in Palestinian Schools


PM Netanyahu Trial Opens


Good News: Sniff Test Can Predict If Brain-injured Patients Will Wake Up

Congratulations to Professor Wendy Sandler

Call for online interview for research purposes

Dead Sea Scrolls Come Alive 


Did You Know?


Series of the Months - Downton Abbey

Another Recommended Series – Caliphate

New Book - ANATOMY OF AN ELECTION by Gregory Tardi

New Book - Revivalistics: From the Genesis of Israeli to Language Reclamation in Australia and Beyond by Ghil‘ad Zuckermann

My Book Review - The Angel: The Egyptian spy who saved Israel 

Monthly Poems

Light Side

Chag Shavuot Sameach

In Memory: Ed Lambeth (1932-2020)


A person wearing glasses and smiling at the camera

Description automatically generated

Photo: Missouri School of Journalism

I am saddened to learn about the death of Ed Lambeth. His wife Fran calls him “My gentle giant”. Indeed, Ed was a gentle giant.

Ed had a long, distinguished and effective career in journalism and in the studies of journalism. He was a marvellous educator. In 1961, he was named a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association, and later, in 1967-78, a Nieman Fellow at Harvard. 

In 1968, Ed founded the Washington Reporting Program in which he supervised students’ reporting projects for newspapers, radio and magazines for 10 years. Ed left the School in 1978 to serve as a professor of journalism at Indiana University and subsequently the director of the University of Kentucky School of Journalism.

In 1987, Ed was appointed Associate Dean for graduate studies and research at the University of Missouri (UM). While in this post, he oversaw the growing work of the Stephenson Research Center and Media Research Bureau. Ed also served as director of the Center on Religion & the Professions (CORP). The Center was awarded a $1.4 million renewal grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts to advance religious literacy in the professions and to conduct research to enhance the news media’s coverage of religion and public life. Ed was very proud of this achievement in a field that meant greatly for him.

In 1992, Ed published Committed Journalism,, which was one of the very first books I read in the field of media ethics. What a fine book this is, indeed a classic. I am still teaching from this book. Many of my students came to learn Ed’s ideas and his diligent commitment to journalism, ethics and religion. 

At MU in 1995, Ed was presented the Thomas Jefferson Award, often considered the highest recognition granted by the four-campus University of Missouri System. Three years later Ed received the Scholarly Excellence Award by the UM Board of Curators for the best faculty book produced by the University of Missouri Press in 1998. His book, Assessing Public Journalism, published in 1998, , combines methods of social science and the humanities to explore the new and heatedly debated movement in American journalism.

I first came to know Ed in 1996, when he organised at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, a workshop in media ethics. This was a great workshop, with many interesting people. For about a week, a group of 12-15 people sat from morning till evening to debate ethical issues in journalism. Each of us presented a paper, or ethical dilemma. The group was composed of university professors in the fields of media, communication and journalism, and media practitioners who worked in national and local newspapers. Most of the participants were Americans. I was one of the junior participants, in age and certainly in experience. I entered the field of media ethics only a year earlier although I had background in ethics acquired during my studies at Tel Aviv and Oxford. Listening to those highly experienced and wise people was great privilege. I learned a lot. I was humbled to be in a group of giants such as Ed Lambeth and Cliff Christians who have served as an inspiration and models to follow.

I loved the dinners in which discussions were less formal and provided an opportunity to know the people on the personal level. This was clearly important to Ed who was the perfect host, always attentive, inquiring, making sure we are all well and in good spirit. His attentiveness was clear from the start as he organized for me, upon my arrival at Nashville, a private tour in Nashville and the area around it. This was my first visit to the South of the United States. When I visited the US before the American civil war was almost a non-issue. Nashville was different. Almost from the word GO, the civil war was in my face. My host took me to see locations of famous battles, and the home of Andrew Jackson which brought to the fore discussions on slavery, and the impact of slavery on life in the USA, especially in the South. 

That wonderful workshop served as a springboard to designing participants’ courses in media ethics. I adopted some of the dilemmas discussed in the workshop and they became an integral part of modules I am still teaching. The case studies change from time to time, but the same dilemmas are still very much alive. 

Ed, his lovely wife Fran and I kept in touch. Sometime after the workshop, Ed told me that he would like to apply for a Fulbright fellowship in Israel and asked whether I would be willing to host him. I said I’d be delighted. Ed won the fellowship, as could have been expected, and I helped Fran and Ed to find a house in Haifa. It was a lovely home which Fran and Ed enjoyed during their one-year stint. At the University of Haifa Ed taught a course in English “Journalism & Democracy”. The course examined the relationship between the news media and democracy, drawing upon the work of philosophers, social scientists, humanists, journalists---and citizens. It critically evaluated the performance of the news media as they interact with the legal, legislative and administrative arms of government as well as the culture of democratic societies. The students very much enjoyed the course that was quite different from other courses they were taught at Haifa. Ed showed, again, just how conscientious and caring person and teacher he was. Ed was attentive, considerate and wise, with wealth of experience both as a former journalist and as a professor of journalism. 

Fran and Ed loved Israel. They took advantage of the opportunity that the Fulbright Foundation presented to them to visit different parts of Israel, especially those associated with their Christian faith. They loved the people and they very much enjoyed the beauty of the city of Haifa, which they loved. I was happy to be the matchmaker between this beautiful couple and Haifa. Ed remained forever grateful to the Fulbright Foundation for a year that made significant impression on him. Years later, he was reminiscing places, events and people he met in Israel.

In one interview, Ed humbly said about himself: "If I have strengths, they may be more in creative activity, teaching and identifying research that is important and doable." A recognized authority on journalism ethics and civic journalism, Ed said he enjoyed originating and conceptualizing research and then mustering the energy and wherewithal to make it happen. Ed was also a great facilitator and organizer. From 1983 to 2003 he directed the National Workshop on the Teaching of Ethics in Journalism—first at the University of Kentucky, and later at the University of Missouri. 

Ed was a Coolidge Fellow, Taiwanese Science Council visiting professor, National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow, and also Fulbright’s Orszagh Chair in Szeged and Budapest. Ed served as vice president, president-elect and then president of the Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication between 1986 and 1989.

Ed and I kept in touch until the last years of his life. The last few years were challenging as Ed suffered from Alzheimer. Fran kept me posted about his well-being.

You can also read about Ed here:

Walt Harrington, “The path to excellence: Hard thinking, constant worry and ‘lunch-pail labor’”

An award-winning journalist honors the teacher who helped shape him: Ed Lambeth, 1932-2020

May 7, 2020

Ed was the perfect gentleman, appreciative of his life, ethical in his standards, humble, always positive, a wealth of information and a lovely human being. Ed said: “What a beautiful planet God has given us! How vivid and pregnant with opportunities is the very consciousness he has given us as human beings made in his image!” Ed will surely be missed by all who knew him. He was a model to follow. His soul now rests in peace.


The major issues that occupied many of you were Benny Gantz and the Supreme Court decision to allow Netanyahu to lead another government.

Gantz took a huge gamble. Once he failed to compose a coalition his options were: fourth elections during which the expectation was that his party will do worse; head the opposition which apparently had very little appeal to him, or the surprising move to strike a deal with Netanyahu. This surprised not only many of his voters who believed him that he will never sit in government with Netanyahu, but also his number two in Blue and White, Yair Lapid. Lapid did not see this coming and called the move the greatest betrayal in Israeli politics. Lapid has a point.

For the time been, Gantz is completely in the hands of Netanyahu. He is waiting to his term in office, aiming not to do drastic mistakes while waiting. The waiting period is unknown. Gantz hopes the downfall of Netanyahu will be soon, due to negative court verdicts. Netanyahu has still a few cards under his sleeve. He will play all of them. Netanyahu has shown during the past years incredible abilities to outmanoeuvre opponents. He may find the justice system more difficult to manipulate. As this is not his territory, he hired the best legal brains in the country to assist him. In politics, Netanyahu taught Gantz some important lessons and will feed him more lemons as these two are destined to work together for a while. 

Pompeo arrived for a six-hour visit to Israel during which he met Netanyahu and Gantz. Tells you something about the Trump involvement in Israeli politics.

The Israeli Supreme Court decision to reject the petitions against the Netanyahu government was the expected, sensible decision. Of course, the situation is very problematic as Netanyahu will be busy with his court cases.

Netanyahu will face the court in defending himself against corruption allegations. It will be some fight whose results are unknown, at least to me. As ever, we are heading to interesting time. I trust proceedings will receive more than adequate coverage.

I was asked about Israel’s energy relations with Turkey. You can read a fraction of my answer here,

Israel Facing the Coronavirus


A picture containing text

Description automatically generated


Population-wise, Israel is a middle size country of 9 million people. Its leaders’ reaction to the coronavirus was swift and effective. Netanyahu and his government saved many lives. For this, Israel should be most grateful to Netanyahu for his leadership and foresight.

Here are the numbers: As of 28 May 2020, 16,793 people were infected; 281 people died. 

In Switzerland, whose population is 8.7 million, 1,917 died. In Austria (population 9 million), 645 people died.
I will not go into details in explaining Israel’s success until now in controlling the crisis. Next month I will deliver a lecture about this and may share its highlights in one of the forthcoming newsletters. Suffice here to say that it was a combination of prudent decision-making process, strong leadership, effective implementation of the decisions by the Israel Defense Forces, the SHABAC and the public sector, and an excellent health care system. The results could have been even better if all sectors of society, including the ultra-Orthodox (Haredi), were to abide by government directives from the start. Netanyahu risked some of his political capital in confronting the Haredi sector and forcing them to accept the emergency regulations.




Prime Minister Netanyahu said Israel must seize the opportunity to apply sovereignty to portions of the West Bank in July. “For the first time since 1948, there is a historic opportunity to apply sovereignty in an agreed-upon fashion with the US as a diplomatic, sovereign act of the State of Israel in Judea and Samaria… This is an opportunity that should not be missed.” Netanyahu told Likud MKs he has “a goal date in July, and we won’t change it.” The prime minister also said he is constantly working on the map with Trump administration representatives. 


See also ‘‘Israel's Netanyahu Says He Won't Miss West Bank Annexation Opportunity’’ (Reuters)


France Pushes for Tough EU Response to Any Annexation

France is urging its European Union partners to consider threatening Israel with a tough response if it goes ahead with a de facto annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank. Belgium, Ireland and Luxembourg also want to discuss the possibility of punitive economic measures. All member states would have to agree to any collective action. 

Netanyahu has said cabinet discussions will start in July overextending Israeli sovereignty to Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley in the West Bank, as was mooted under U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan. 
Source: Reuters

Worrying News: The Palestinian Authority Is No Longer Bound by Accords with Israel and the USA

After Netanyahu was able to confirm his very large government on 17 May 2020, the writing of annexation is written clear and loud on the wall. In response, President Mahmoud Abbas terminated all agreements with Israel and the United States, including security cooperation with Israel. Terminating security cooperation with Israel is especially warrying. 

In a speech to Palestinian leaders in Ramallah, Abbas also said Israel would have to assume responsibility for the civilian Palestinian population. 

The 19 May 2020 announcement said:
First, the Palestine Liberation Organization and the State of Palestine are absolved, as of today, of all the agreements and understandings with the American and Israeli governments and of all the commitments based on these understandings and agreements, including the security ones;

Second, the Israeli occupation authority, as of today, has to shoulder all responsibilities and obligations in front of the international community as an occupying power over the territory of the occupied state of Palestine, with all its consequences and repercussions based on international law and international humanitarian law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which holds the occupying power responsible for the protection of the civilian population under occupation and their property, criminalizes collective punishment, bans theft of resources, appropriation and annexation of land, bans forced transfer of the population of the occupied territory and bans transfer of the population of the occupying state (the colonialists) to the land it occupies, which all are grave violations and war crimes.

Third: We hold the American administration fully responsible for the oppression befalling the Palestinian people and we consider it a primary partner with the Israeli occupation government in all its aggressive and unfair decisions and measures against our people. Yet we welcome all the positions of the other American parties that rejected the policies of this administration that are hostile to our people and their legitimate rights.

Fourth: We will complete today signing agreements for the state of Palestine to accede to international agreements and conventions that we have not yet joined.

Fifth: We reaffirm our commitment to the international legitimacy and the relevant Arab, Islamic and regional resolutions, which we are part of, and we reiterate our firm commitment to fighting international terrorism regardless of its shape or source.

Sixth: We reaffirm our commitment to a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict based on the two-state solution, with our readiness to accept the presence of a third party on the borders between them, on the condition that negotiations will be held to achieve that under international auspices (the International Quartet plus) and through an international peace conference based on international legitimacy.

Seventh: We call on world countries that have rejected the deal of the century and American and Israeli policies and their measures that violate international legitimacy and agreements signed with it to not be satisfied with rejection and condemnation but to take deterrent steps and impose serious sanctions to prevent the Israeli occupation state from implementing its schemes and its continuing denial of the rights of our people. We call on those that did not yet recognize the state of Palestine to quickly recognize it to protect peace, international legitimacy and international law, and to implement the Security Council resolutions on providing international protection to our people in their occupied state.

We will continue to pursue the occupation for its crimes against our people at all international authorities and courts. In this context, we affirm our confidence in the independence and integrity of the International Criminal Court.

Eighth: We reiterate our salute to all our people at home and in the Diaspora for their patience, steadfastness, struggle and support of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. We vow to our martyrs and heroic prisoners and wounded that we will remain loyal to the oath until victory, freedom, independence and return, to raise together the flag of Palestine over Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in our Jerusalem, the eternal capital of our Palestinian state.

I am worried. There is an unsettling sense of violence in the air.

The European Parliament Condemns Hate Speech in Palestinian Schools

The European Parliament passed a resolution condemning the Palestinian Authority for continuing to include hate speech and violent material in school textbooks. The resolution said the European Parliament, the legislative branch of the European Union, “is concerned that problematic material in Palestinian school textbooks has still not been removed and is concerned about the continued failure to act effectively against hate speech and violence in school textbooks.” This parliamentary report, which was drafted in March, scrutinizes EU spending for the financial year 2018 and was drafted by Monika Hohlmeier, a German European People’s Party lawmaker and member of the legislature’s budgetary control committee. The report could have implications for how the EU allocates its budget going forward. In a separate clause, which didn’t single out the Palestinians, the resolution stressed the need to “guarantee that no Union funds are used to finance textbooks and educational material which incite religious radicalization, intolerance, ethnic violence and martyrdom among children.”



PM Netanyahu Trial Opens


Netanyahu is the first prime minister to stand trial while in office. Netanyahu tries to project “business as usual” but it must be difficult for him. There is no doubt in my mind that he can handle strain. He has done it successfully for the majority of his life. The trial is expected to be long, with many witnesses and a lot of data. Its consequences will be very important not only for Israeli politics, but also for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and for Israel’s stance in the international arena.



Good News: Sniff Test Can Predict If Brain-injured Patients Will Wake Up


According to a study published in in the journal Nature, 100 percent of the unconscious brain-injured patients who responded to a “sniff test” regained consciousness during the four-year study period.

The study was conducted by Weizmann Institute scientists and colleagues at the Loewenstein Rehabilitation Hospital, Israel. Lead researcher Anat Arzi said:

 “Astonishingly, all patients who were classified as being in a ‘vegetative state’ yet responded to the sniff test, later regained consciousness, even if only minimal. In some cases, the result of the sniff test was the first sign that these patients were about to recover consciousness – and this reaction was observed days, weeks and even months prior to any other signs.”

Moreover, the sniff response not only predicted who would regain consciousness, it also predicted with about 92% accuracy who would survive for at least three years.
“The fact that the sniff test is simple and potentially inexpensive makes it advantageous,” explained Arzi. “It can be performed at the patients’ bedside without the need to move them – and without complicated machinery.”

This is a major scientific breakthrough. I have dedicated a few years of my life to studying post-coma unawareness patients and witnessed how they are treated in different countries. Often times, patients who could have gained awareness were put to death prematurely. I hope this discovery will help to save life.

Congratulations to Professor Wendy Sandler

My former colleague at the University of Haifa, Professor of Linguistics Wendy Sandler was accepted as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is the first Israeli in the humanities field to be inducted into the Academy since its founding in 1780.

Call for online interview for research purposes


I am Suchibrata Roy, a PhD research Fellow at Jindal School of
International Affairs, O. P. Jindal Global University, India. My
research topic is Israeli Travelers in Himachal Pradesh, India. I am
interested in taking online interviews of Israelis who have traveled
and spent significant time in India. The online interview will be
conducted through Skype (approximately 20 to 30 minutes) or through
email questionnaire. If you are interested feel free to reach out to
me at Your views would be a great
contribution to this research. I promise to not take too much of your
time!. Looking forward to receiving your views on this.

Dead Sea Scrolls Come Alive 

Two exciting initiatives involving the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls. The first is a German-Israel project to build a website for digital editions of the pieced-together manuscripts. The second is the recent discovery of hidden writing on fragments of the scrolls that previously seemed blank.

Did You Know?

The Covid-19 crisis has renewed interest in quizzes. 

Where is the oldest university in the world?

University of Karaouine, Morocco.

Series of the Months - Downton Abbey

During this lockdown, my wife and I are watching Downton Abbey (normally, I refuse to commit time to watch series). 

A group of people standing in front of a crowd posing for the camera

Description automatically generated

In the early seasons, I was somewhat troubled by the depiction of Jews in this series. I do not know whether you have ever watched it, but one of the major figures, Cora, is the daughter of Martha and Isidore Levinson, and she has Jewish relatives in the United States. Her brother Harold is described as a man who is obsessed with money, women and fast life (such as yachts), in this order. In series five, Lady Rose MacClare, a young member of the family, falls in love with Ephraim Atticus Aldridge. He proposed to her, and she accepted. The depiction of Jews has improved significantly (for the time being). Problems arise as the two come from very different backgrounds. Some people do not particularly like Rose to marry a Jew. Ephraim’s father initially objected to his choice until Rose saved the day for him when his former lover stepped into the castle quite unexpectedly and the sharp Rose was quick to act and prevented a scandal.

I have been learning a lot about England in this elegant series, mainly about class but also about politics, social norms, medicine, WWI, etiquette, art, fashion, food, journalism, pig farming and numerous other things.

Another Recommended Series – Caliphate

I have been watching on Netflix a Swedish series, Caliphate

A picture containing person, indoor, woman, sitting

Description automatically generated

The plot takes place in Sweden and in in Raqqa, Syria. It shows how ISIS weaves its spider web in the West, luring young people to join the jihad, the holy fight against the non-Muslim world. Its agents are looking for young, aimless people, who seek an adventure. ISIS offers some grand adventures, including glorified death with vengeance. 

The acting is superb, and the plot is believable. The first 2-3 chapters were not impressive, but as the plot thickens, the series is progressively captivating until a dramatic end of the season.

New Books


ELECTIONS ARE THE HIGH POINT OF DEMOCRACY. They provide scheduled opportunities for the people at large to have a participatory voice in their own government. Contrary to impressions generated by the media, elections are neither solely political events nor personality contests. In fact, elections are the ultimate blend of constitutionalism, politics, public law, and public policy. ANATOMY OF AN ELECTION takes a comprehensive and interdisciplinary look at Canada’s 2019 federal election as an example of a democratic election. It sets the scene by enumerating the foundational elements of Canada’s electoral system, focusing on the constitutional principles, the legislation, and the major court judgments. It then traces the flow of political legal events since 2015 that have led to the forty-third general election. Most importantly, this text provides a day-by-day diary that records the most important political and legal events throughout the campaign. Anatomy of an Election does not favour any party or candidate and is designed to inform Canadian citizens about the electoral process and its fundamental importance in the public life of the country. 

GREGORY TARDI, BCL, LLB, DJur, is a member of the Québec Bar. He has served as Legal Counsel for Elections Canada and Senior Parliamentary Counsel at the House of Commons.

Zuckermann, Ghil‘ad 2020. Revivalistics: From the Genesis of Israeli to Language Reclamation in Australia and Beyond. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978–0–19–981279–0 (pbk), ISBN 978–0–19–981277–6 (hbk)


Professor Ghil‘ad Zuckermann’s seminal book “Revivalistics: From the Genesis of Israeli to Language Reclamation in Australia and Beyond” (Oxford University Press) introduces for the first time a linguistic game-changer: revivalistics. Revivalistics is a trans-disciplinary field of enquiry surrounding language reclamation, revitalization and reinvigoration. Revivalist-linguist Zuckermann makes a strong case for a clear distinction between revivalistics and documentary linguistics, the latter being the established field recording endangered languages before they fall asleep. Whilst documentary linguistics puts the language at the centre, revivalistics puts the language custodians at the centre. The book is divided into two main parts, reflecting Zuckermann’s fascinating and multifaceted journey into language revival from analysing critically his Israeli mother tongue to reclaiming what he calls “dreaming, sleeping beauties” in Australia and globally.

The first part of the book provides a ground-breaking analysis of the Hebrew revival, which took place in 1880s-1930s. Zuckermann’s radical theory contradicts the conventional accounts that the language of the Hebrew Bible is now miraculously re-spoken by modern Israelis. He demonstrates in detail and a convincingly systematic way, how grammatical cross-fertilization with the revivalists’ mother tongues is inevitable in the case of successful “revival languages”. According to Zuckermann, “revival languages” contradict the tree model in historical linguistics. Whereas the tree model implies that a language only has one parent, Zuckermann argues that successful “revival languages” follow the Congruence Principle, which is statistical: the more contributing languages a linguistic feature occurs in, the more likely it is to persist in the emerging revival language. According to Zuckermann, revival languages share many common characteristics, and they should therefore be classified under the “revival language” “family” rather than under a specific language family such as “Semitic”. The second part of the book applies lessons from the Israeli language to revival movements in Australia and globally. It also describes the “why” and “how” of revivalistics. It proposes systematically ethical, aesthetic and utilitarian reasons for language revival, suggesting for example that language, albeit intangible, is more important than land. It also offers practical methods for reviving languages, for example the quadrilateral Language Revival Diamond (LARD), featuring four core revivalistic quadrants: language custodians, linguistics, education and the public sphere. With regard to the public domain, for example, the book promotes Native Tongue Title, financial compensation for linguicide (language killing), as well as declaring Indigenous tongues the official languages of their region, and erecting multilingual signs, thus changing the lanGscape (linguistic landscape).

Zuckermann demonstrates two examples of righting the wrong of the past: (a) A book written in 1844 in order to assist a German Lutheran missionary (Clamor Wilhelm Schürmann) to introduce Christianity to Aboriginal people at the expense of Aboriginal spirituality, is used 170 years later by a secular Jew (Zuckermann), to assist the Barngarla Aboriginal people of Eyre Peninsula (South Australia) to reconnect with their own Aboriginal heritage, which was subject to “linguicide” (language killing) by Anglo-Celtic Australians. (b) Technology, used for colonization (ships, weapons) and Stolen Generations (“governmental black cars kidnapping mixed-race Aboriginal children from their mothers in order to forcibly assimilate them”), is employed (for example, in the form of Zuckermann’sBarngarla Aboriginal Language Dictionary App) to assist Aboriginal people to reconnect with their cultural autonomy, intellectual sovereignty, spirituality and wellbeing. 

The book ends with a plea to listen to the voice of Jenna Richards, an Aboriginal woman who takes part in Zuckermann’sBarngarla reclamation workshops: “Personally, I found the experience of learning our language liberating and went home feeling very overwhelmed because we were finally going to learn our “own” language, it gave me a sense of identity and I think if the whole family learnt our language then we would all feel totally different about ourselves and each other cause it’s almost like it gives you a purpose in life.” Barngarla woman Evelyn Walker (née Dohnt) adds: “Our ancestors are happy!”


“To linguists Ghil‘ad Zuckermann is already something of a hero. This book shows why. Professor Zuckermann’s account of his work with language reclamation and salvation is as fascinating, enthralling and gripping as any great fictional adventure story, but with a purpose and meaning greater and more noble than any Allan Quatermain or Indiana Jones.”—Stephen Fry

“In Revivalistics, technically rigorous in content yet approachable in presentation, Ghil‘ad Zuckermann mounts a persuasive argument that the language spoken by ordinary Israelis is best thought of as a hybrid. He uses the story of the successful revival of Hebrew to propose how near-extinct Aboriginal languages of Australia can be brought back to life with immeasurable benefit to their traditional owners. With a multitude of the world’s languages staring oblivion in the face, this will be a key text for the new discipline that Zuckermann calls revivalistics.” —JM Coetzee

“Zuckermann is a polymath as well as a polyglot, and Revivalistics is a brilliant study, challenging the conventional wisdom in its field, making good use of comparative material, sparkling with perceptive one-liners and making an eloquent argument for the revival of endangered languages.” —Peter Burke, University of Cambridge

“Zuckermann gives a linguist’s insider view of his native tongue, Hebrew as they now speak it in Israel, including its rollickinghumour. He shows how a language could literally ‘arise from the dead’ but also how different is the task of reviving other languages today.” —Nicholas Ostler, Chairman of the Foundation for Endangered Languages

My Book Review - The Angel: The Egyptian spy who saved Israel 

Uri Bar-Joseph, The Angel: The Egyptian spy who saved Israel (NY: Harper, 2016). 374 pages. In Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 32, No. 4 (2020): 883–885.

ISBN: 9780062420107. Price: £19.00

A picture containing text, newspaper, photo, man

Description automatically generated

On 6 October 1973, more than 100,000 Egyptian soldiers crossed the Suez Canal and stormed the small Israeli army bases manned by some 500 soldiers. This was hardly a match. The surprise attack took place on the most important day in the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur. Israel, known for its intelligence capabilities, took heavy casualties for its intelligence failure. 
For some time, it is known that Israel had a spy in the highest echelons of Egyptian politics; a spy who worked directly for President Sadat, who was Sadat’s man for special missions. How come that despite having such a senior agent, Israel was still taken by surprise?
Bar-Joseph focuses his book on the enigmatic figure of Ashraf Marwan, known as “The Angel”, who worked for Egypt’s arch enemy - Israel. Uri Bar-Joseph aims to answer the following questions:

Who was Ashraf Marwan?
Why did Marwan choose to become an Israeli spy?
Was Marwan an Israeli agent or an Egyptian-Israeli double agent?
Why, despite Marwan’s warnings, was Israel surprised on 6 October 1973?
Who had interest to expose Marwan?
Who killed Marwan?

Bar-Joseph answers most of the questions. His research is meticulous, based on primary and secondary sources, including Israeli government documents, unpublished sources and interviews. The writing is engaging and compelling, and the conclusions are well reasoned and convincing. While one cannot be absolutely certain that Bar-Joseph’s thinking is accurate, it is certainly plausible. Still, some questions remain open, for instance, why Marwan was silent in the crucial period between early September and October 4, 1973? And if the Egyptians knew that Marwan was an Israeli spy already in December 2002, why did they wait so much time until they killed him in June 2007?
The Prologue (pp. 3-5) sets the scene: the rich, complex and secretive life of Ashraf Marwan had come to an end when he mysteriously “fell” from his balcony. And then, slowly, the story unfolds, from the moment that Marwan was born in 1944 until his mysterious, premature death. The first chapter covers the period between 1944 and 1970. The most important milestone was Marwan’s wedding to President Nasser’s daughter Mona in July 1966. Thereafter, Marwan started to work in the President’s Office. However, Nasser did not trust his son-in-law. Marwan felt that he was constantly watched and sought an escape route. In 1968, he arrived in London to pursue a master’s degree in chemistry. Marwan loved London but Nasser wanted him close to him and ordered him to return to Egypt. Marwan was again, under the close watch of the president who grew to dislike his son-in-law to the extent that he begged Mona to divorce Marwan. Mona refused.
In 1970, Marwan offered his services to Israel. Bar-Joseph suggests several explanations why he did this, but is unable to provide a decisive answer. Clearly, Marwan had difficult relationships with Nasser. He was also greedy and craved a life-style that his salary as a public servant could not afford. Marwan was very ambitious, with a tremendous ego, and thought of himself as the cleverest person in the room. Bar-Joseph argues that Marwan was a narcissist with “an infinite craving for honour, power, and influence” (p. 30). He also had a need for stimulus, an adventurer who sought risks. Bar-Joseph thinks that “the act of betrayal itself gave Marwan a sense of adventure that his stormy psyche desperately needed” (p. 32). These explanations are all plausible but, for me, insufficient to explain why a member of Nasser’s family was willing to put himself and his family under such a tremendous risk of operating in the Lion’s Den under the watchful eye of one of the most feared people in Egypt at that time, Sami Sharaf.
Chapter 2 describes when and how Marwan established contact with the Israeli Mossad. From the first meeting, Marwan provided invaluable information, described as “something that happens only once in a thousand years” (p. 43). Bar-Joseph discusses the Mossad doubts about Marwan’s credibility, deliberations about financial incentives and about Marwan’s handler. The handler has a special and very important role to play in engineering espionage. In turn, Chapter 3 concerns the role of MI, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) Military Intelligence. The Mossad and MI are partners but also rivals. Their rivalry might have grave consequences when these two organisations do not see eye to eye. This was the case in 1973.
Chapter 4 details the implications of President Nasser’s death in 1971 on Marwan. When Nasser’s successor, Anwar Sadat, consolidated his power, Marwan enjoyed a meteoric rise in Egyptian politics as he was made Director General of the President’s Office. Israel now had access to the most vital and sensitive secrets of its arch enemy. Soon enough, the quality of information that was provided by Marwan, impressive as it was until then, grew in its importance even further. In chapter 5, Bar-Joseph divulges that Marwan gave Israel the order of battle for the entire Egyptian army (p. 101). Marwan also provided discussions of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, conversations between top generals and their Soviet counterparts, transcripts of meetings between Egyptian officials and officials of other Arab states, and transcripts of the military General Staff meetings (p. 102).
Having access to this invaluable information provided by their angel spy, why was Israel surprised in October 1973? Bar-Joseph dedicates the bulk of his book, chapters 5-11, to this question. He explains Egypt’s war abilities and weaknesses, Sadat’s aims, the mistakes of the Israeli intelligence, and Marwan’s conduct. Bar-Joseph’s explanations are detailed, comprehensive and sensible. There is no doubt in his mind that Marwan provided sufficient information and warning about the looming war. Alas, those were underestimated and/or ignored by the Israeli decision-makers. According to Bar-Joseph, Marwan was highly frustrated by the fact that his warning on the eve of the Yom Kippur War had not been immediately heeded by the Israelis (pp. 240, 267). 
Marwan continued to work for the Mossad after the Yom Kippur War, but his importance declined for the Israelis when he was dismissed from his role in the President’s Office in March 1976 (p. 252). Marwan delivered information to Israel up until the 1990s. In 1981, President Sadat was assassinated and replaced by Hosni Mubarak, a long-time rival of Marwan. Soon after Mubarak was sworn into the presidency, Marwan moved to London (p. 271).
Chapter 12 details Marwan’s business affairs, his friends and rivals. Marwan led a very comfortable life as an affluent multimillionaire in London. However, things changed for the worse for him in 2002 when rumours began to spread about Marwan’s spying career as an Israeli agent. Bar-Joseph argues that former head of MI, General Eli Zeira, was the one who irresponsibly exposed Marwan’s identity (pp. 292-300).
On June 27, 2007, Marwan fell out of his apartment balcony and died. Chapter 13 explains that this was not suicide, and that the people who were behind Marwan’s death were Egyptian agents. Former Head of Mossad, Zvi Zamir, said: “We have lost the greatest source in our history… And we lost him because of criminal negligence… and I failed to protect him” (p. 320).
This book tells an intriguing story about a complex man who played a crucial role in the events leading to one of Israel’s bloodiest wars. At times, the book reads like a spy thriller. It is fascinating in its insights, captivating as it unfolds the string of events that started when Marwan contacted the Israeli embassy in London and offered his services. It is a book about intelligence, human frailties, conceptions and misconceptions. It is an unusual academic book because of its thriller-style, and it is certainly not a common espionage book because of its academic nature. The mixture of styles makes this book quite special.
 Bar-Joseph has served as an intelligence analyst in the Israel Defence Forces. He has deep understanding of the intelligence world in general, and of the Yom Kippur War in particular. This book will be of interest not only to scholars who research the Israeli-Arab conflict and espionage, but also to the general public at large. 

Monthly Poem

Again the woods are odorous, the lark 
Lifts on upsoaring wings the heaven gray
That hung above the tree-tops, veiled and dark, 
Where branches bare disclosed the empty day. 
After long rainy afternoons an hour 
Comes with its shafts of golden light and flings 
Them at the windows in a radiant shower, 
And rain drops beat the panes like timorous wings. 
Then all is still. The stones are crooned to sleep
By the soft sound of rain that slowly dies; 
And cradled in the branches, hidden deep
In each bright bud, a slumbering silence lies.


Raphael Almagor

Why should you be destructive if you can be constructive
Why should you hate if you are capable to love
Why not leaving the honour of your glorification to others
Why bother asking questions if you do not intend to listen
Why diminish when you can enlarge
Why stifle when you can facilitate
Why reject when you can be kind to accept
Why blame when you can praise

Kindness enriches others, and you.

A close up of a sign

Description automatically generated

Light Side

What is the difference between optimist and pessimist?

Pessimist: “Achhh, things can’t possibly get any worse.” 

Optimist: “Of course they can.”

Chag Shavuot Sameach

A picture containing drawing, food

Description automatically generated

Good Health, Peace and Love. Yours as ever,


My last communications are available on Israel: Democracy, Human Rights, Politics and Society,

People wishing to subscribe to this Monthly Newsletter are welcome to e-mail me at
Twitter at @almagor35