Thursday, September 17, 2020

 Politics – August-September 2020 – Happy New Year – Shana Tova


This is a very busy and challenging time. Certainly, anything but normal. My family and I continue to live cautious life. COVID-19 is of much presence, affecting our lives quite substantially. 


In addition to health of safety, we are preparing for the coming year. Our younger son Roei is about to leave for his university studies. From a very young age he said that he wishes to cure cancer. This is what he intends to study. And yes, we are concerned. I hope his fellow students will be sensible and maintain health and safety regulations.


I will be teaching online this coming semester. Preparations require incredible amount of work as we seek to engage our students, and entertain them, in all possible ways. I am not only recording lectures but also selecting video clips and podcasts; preparing quizzes, identifying texts for discussion and writing short essays, preparing discussion groups etc. Actually, I have been advising to do all these things to my universities (Haifa and Hull) for many years as it became apparent to me that the traditional way of delivering information are ill-suited for this generation. For hundreds of years, we have been talking to students, and we have been assessing them mainly with exams and writing essays. All these three methods are not really geared to the 21st Century student. Now universities are forced to change. I would also like to provide students opportunities to produce video clips and games, relevant to their studies, instead of writing essays or exams.


I mean, I have students who, in normal times, do not go to the cinema because they do not wish to commit that amount of time and money. They rather remain at home, watch movies at their schedule while eating and playing video games. Let them focus on what they love to do rather than on what we are used to do.


These preparations take the majority of my time. Therefore, this Newsletter will be brief. 


The major positive event that took place during the past few weeks is the normalization between Israel, on the one hand, and UAE and Bahrain, on the other. Every step towards peace, reconciliation and tranquillity is blessed. Kudos to President Trump, PM Netanyahu and all others involved in making this happen. 


Photo: Getty images



Elections are looming in the USA. I hope Americans will have a close look at the past four years, examine their own lives and make the most obvious decision: They, and the world, cannot afford another four years of Donald Trump. Trump is simply too much for the world. He needs to go home and have some rest, if he can. This Trump tsunami is inflicting immense damage on America. Yes, sometimes he does good things (see above) but even a faulty clock tells the right time twice a day. American future must be Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Obama won the presidency with the slogan CHANGE. Now change is needed even more.




The United Kingdom is coming to realization, slowly but surely, that Boris Johnson is not the right leader for the aching country. The more I know about Sir Keir Rodney Starmer, the more I like to know. Such a refreshing leader following Corbyn. I see him as the future of Britain.


Israel, like the USA, is in crisis. Anywhere you look you see the problems and challenges. While Israel tackled the first COVID-19 wave successfully, its rush to normal life backfired hard. The amount of deaths has been tripled in recent months. Israel economy, like most economies, is struggling. The government is fragmented and ill-functioning. Protests against the indicted prime minister are a normal scene. Law and order are challenged. I will be surprised if elections will not be held prematurely. Netanyahu should be able to read the writing on the wall. It is quite clear. His era is coming to an end. 



Reflections on Last Newsletter


Position Paper by 14 Palestinian Human Rights Organisations on the Rule of Law in the Palestinian Authority


Psychologists in the Service of Nazism

Israel’s OrCam gets soccer star Lionel Messi to be face of startup to help blind


Jerusalem-based BrainsWay receives FDA clearance for magnetic stimulation system to help smokers quit 


The first UAE Investment in Israeli high Tech


Did You Know?


Book Review: Tamara Neuman, Settling Hebron. Jewish Fundamentalism in a Palestinian City (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018). Journal of Modern Jewish Studies (published online 7 September 2020). 


Monthly Poems


Light Side




Reflections on Last Newsletter


Dr Yoav Tenembaum wrote from Tel Aviv:



I fully agree with your comments about freedom of speech. I couldn’t have put it any better.


I also agree with you about the plan by Netanyahu to extend Israeli sovereignty to areas in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). The Trump Peace Plan does not entail any unilateral extension of Israeli sovereignty. Israel was to be extend its sovereignty to around thirty percent of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) in the context of a peace agreement with the PA. It was only subsequently, that the unilateral plan to extend Israeli sovereignty emerged. Incidentally, Israel was to compensate the PA with Israeli sovereign territory for its extension of sovereignty in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). Would Israel agree to do that unilaterally as well? The move, in my humble view, was politically-motivated. It was both unwise and counter-productive. Talking about it was unwise and counter-productive.


Rafi, I believe that the leadership of the Palestinian Arabs has committed serious errors. As Shlomo Ben-Ami says, the leaders of the Palestinian Arabs are ready to accept the right solution but when it’s too late. I have my serious reservations that a peace agreement between Israel and the PA is possible.  However, even if such an agreement were to be deemed to be impossible to achieve, I don’t think that Israel should undertake steps that might be detrimental to its own interests and values.



Position Paper by 14 Palestinian Human Rights Organisations on the Rule of Law in the Palestinian Authority


On August 12, 2020, 14 Palestinian Human Rights Organisations published a joint position paper on inherent problems within the Palestinian Authority that obstruct basic human rights.


The Position Paper says that for 13 years, attempts to achieve national reconciliation and end the internal Palestinian political divide have been at a standstill, allowing for an undemocratic environment to prevail across all components of the Palestinian political system. Legislative and presidential elections have not been held, which are long overdue as of 2010, eroding the legitimacy of all authorities due to the absence of democratic practices. This has led to the executive, legislative, and judicial powers to operate contrary to the Palestinian Basic Law. As a result, an entire generation has been deprived of their right to political participation and access to decision-making circles. Meanwhile, a set of interests have been allocated to certain groups, who perceive the end to the political division as a threat to their own.


The human rights organisations voiced concern regarding the erosion of separation of powers, noting that in the absence of prospects for national reconciliation, the judicial system has continued to decline and exacerbate. The Executive branch interfere more and more in the judiciary, obstructing judicial independence and undermining the rule of law. The 14 organisations called for:

  1. Applying the Judicial Authority Law in good faith.

  2. Restore the permanent High Judicial Council expeditiously without delay, while ensuring non-interference in judicial affairs. 

  3. Launch consultations by the permanent High Judicial Council with all official and nonofficial bodies to present its vision, reflected in a plan with a clearly defined timeframe, to promote and advance the Palestinian judiciary.

  4. Revisit the formation and law of the Supreme Constitutional Court, ensuring its independence, impartiality, and non-politicisation. 

  5. Take serious steps to restore democratic life, foremost by putting an end to the internal Palestinian political divide and calling for legislative and presidential elections as soon as practicable. These will ensure the right of all people to participate and engage in national decision-making processes and strengthen institutional performance, rights, freedoms and the rule of law.


Psychologists in the Service of Nazism


Some of you expressed interest in this subject. Below is a letter from Prof. Dagmar Herzog and a recent exchange with German expert, Prof. Dr. Herbert Fitzek. Let me start with Dagmar:

Dear Raphael,
I have given your inquiry recurrent thought, since I received it way back in June. The difficulty in answering is due to the fact that I think your question is based on the wrong premise.
You say: "I think it is quite likely that psychologists took an active part in planning the journey from the victims’ homes in the Jewish Ghetto to the gas chambers."
You also ask about: "the role that psychologists had played in the Nazi machine, especially in their propaganda and extermination."

Yes, intuitive understanding of the workings of human psychology was evident at every turn in the Third Reich's many cruelties, and in every dimension of the Holocaust.
But that does *not* mean that academically trained psychologists were particular contributors to (or even especially attuned analyzers of) those turns and dimensions. As the "psy sciences" go,
MD psychiatrists and neurologists had, as far as I can tell, far bloodier hands - not least with regard to their deep complicity in the hundredthousandfold mass murder of the disabled. And - think of Johannes H Schultz - in the tormenting (albeit in the guise of evaluation) of men accused of homosexuality.

With regard to psychology of antisemitism and everyday dynamics on the home front, I think the best scholar is Michael Wildt:
And re Holocaust, a powerful new study on the killings fields is Omer Bartov's:
You may also be interested in a new book coming out with Cornell this fall, Edward Westermann's Drunk on Genocide.

But I recognize that's not what you are asking about. And you may well be right that there were key malevolent individuals, professional psychologists, that we should all know more about. I just suspect, for example, that theologians may have been more pernicious in exacerbating and affirming antisemitic lies than professional psychologists.

My understanding is that Geuter's work, which you cite, explores the role of psychologists in the German military, but more with regard to fitness for battle and not in terms of any planning or coordinating of antisemitic persecutions and genocide.

Mitchell Ash coedited a volume with Geuter:
Ash is terrific, and he may have additional ideas for you  - he also wrote that great essay back in 2001 about science and politics being resources for each other.

And I don't know Peter Mattes, but he is in that anthology as well - as an expert on postwar psychology and the history of psychology in Germany more generally, also in its institutional dimensions.
He would be my best bet for potentially identifying key individuals whose history you could dig into further.,1,td1D7huQr4pQbp9eotPiV5TzB2RPUuDDC_8ubeeVD5qWUmvo8kAqsQCcXY4KnCZDAsMVK8a7Pct2su3oAGwnMMKv9mdMhgrCg4j6NptmOww,&typo=1

Do keep me posted.

All my best,



Exchange with German expert, Prof. Dr. Herbert Fitzek:


I wonder whether there were official connections between the German
Psychological Association and the Nazi Party. I wonder whether Association
officials served in the SS, the propaganda office, and other positions of
influence in which they were asked to utilize their expertise for Nazi
purposes. far as I know there have been no official contacts between party and
scientific association. Actually they have not been looked for from the part
of the party (!). The Nazis did not estimate science so much and it has not
been necessary to influence science because the scientists have been eager
to adjust themselves from the very beginning onwards...

I also wonder whether the German Psychological Association has archives that cover 1933-1945. If not, what might be other pertinent archives that might
shed light?

...Ulfried Geuter used every archive he could find. You probably find out
about the state of documentation in his work. Off course if you plan a
profound examination there will be supplementary archives. Germany is a
federal country with a very differentiated archive landscape...

Consider this: Brutal knocks on the door at 2am. Armed men come and give the
family 10 minutes to get organised and move to the “East”. Long train ride
in impossible conditions. Some people die. Smell of urine and feces. After
many hours, sometime days, the train stops, door opens, only to be greeted
by armed men and barking dogs. Selection. Short march to have a shower. That is the yearning of people after been locked in a train for some time, with
all the smells, no food and no water. Victims cannot see anything as they
are blinded by projectors. Awful noise of people shouting and dogs barking
accompany them. After this brief march, they go down the stairs to the
showers. Get undressed and gassed.

...Off course

I find it hard to believe that psychologists were not consulted in the
design of this murderous plan.

...from my point of view scientists have not been asked because the Nazis
didn't need them. As I mentioned there have been very few who have been
proudly engaged in a Nazi organisation (SA not SS) and some of them
seemingly have been occupied in the torturous medical experiments, but even
the attempts to install a "German psychology" have not been adopted by the
Nazis. Nazi leaders suspected the Nazi psychologists to utilize the ideology
for their personal careers - and surely they have been right in this. So
paradoxically the Nazi authorities neglected the Nazi psychologists and
tried to win the authorities for their policy...

Other murderous plans involved deception. Train stations that looked like
normal train stations, and behind them a death camp. Dr Goebbels´ mass
propaganda. As he was meticulous, I thought he consulted experts in the
psychology of the masses.

...Goebbels surely found that he himself was the best mass psychologist in
Germany. Scientific psychology at that time has been occupied with questions
of perception and thinking. But Nazism brought up a strong intellectual
anti-Nazi mass psychology - especially by Wilhelm Reich and others. This is
a fascinating topic and not yet exposed scientifically as far as I know...

Preparing the SS, especially the Einsatzgruppen, for their roles and
supporting them in the extermination process. evidence and I think nobody had to cover anything in this respect. The
Nazi regime and the behaviour of the German people are incredibly evil, but
things went forward in a subtle way, that makes things even worse from my
point of view... 

I am interested in the role of psychologists in the Nazi regime and the Jewish extermination. All ideas and comments are very welcome. 



Israel’s OrCam gets soccer star Lionel Messi to be face of startup to help blind

OrCam Technologies, a Jerusalem-based maker of artificial intelligence-based wearable devices to help the blind and visually impaired read texts via audio feedback, said Lionel Messi has agreed to be the face of the company. 


The device is a wireless, lightweight and compact computer, the size of a finger, that fits onto a pair of glasses. The AI-driven technology can discreetly read printed and digital text from any surface out loud to the device wearer. Newspapers, books, computer and smartphone screens, restaurant menus, labels on supermarket products, and street signs become accessible, OrCam said. Additional features offer also instant face recognition and identification of consumer products, colors and money notes, and there is a Smart Reading feature, launched in the US in July, that gives users the ability to use voice commands.


I became emotional when I watched this video clip, Israeli ingenuity and Leo Messi make people happy 



Jerusalem-based BrainsWay receives FDA clearance for magnetic stimulation system to help smokers quit 


BrainsWay Ltd., which develops advanced non-invasive treatment of brain disorders, announced on Monday that it has received U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearance for the company’s deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (Deep TMS) system aimed at helping smokers quit.


TMS treatment involves sitting in a chair and wearing a helmet containing a patented H-coil for 20-minutes. The coil stimulates the brain by creating a temporary magnetic field that generates excitation or inhibition of neurons deep inside the brain.,7340,L-3846389,00.html



The first UAE Investment in Israeli high Tech


UAE-based private equity and venture capital fund KEN Investments has led a $5.8 million investment in Israel’s Salaryo, which provides credit and digital banking services to small businesses in the U.S. It is said to be the first time an Emirati fund has openly invested in an Israeli company.,7340,L-3848856,00.html 



Did You Know?


August has the highest percentage of births.


11% of people are left handed.


Rabbits like licorice.


Ralph Lauren's original name was Ralph Lifshitz.


Book Review: Tamara Neuman, Settling Hebron. Jewish Fundamentalism in a Palestinian City (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018). Journal of Modern Jewish Studies (published online 7 September 2020). 



Tamara Neuman has been researching Jewish ideological settlements for many years. She started her research in 1994, after the signing of the Oslo Accords. In Settling Hebron, Neuman presents the first critical ethnography of the Jewish settler populations in Kiryat Arba and the adjacent Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Hebron. This ethnography illustrates the changes that distinguish and define ideological settlements. Neuman examines how religion functions as ideology in the Palestinian city of Hebron, with a focus on Jewish settler expansion and its close but ambivalent relationship to the Israeli state. Through extensive fieldwork, interviews with settlers, soldiers, Palestinian residents as well as archival research, Neuman provides a fascinating and often disturbing account of a tense, abnormal co-existence between Palestinians and Jews in an occupied territory, populated mostly by Palestinians yet administered by Israeli soldiers.

Neuman analyses the discourses, values, and practices through which settlers justify their settlement in Hebron. Her aim is “to document the lived rather than merely textual aspects of Judaism in this particular context in order to highlight how its transformations legitimate processes of territorial expansion” (p. 4). In other words, Neuman wishes to document life in the settlements. Neuman sees the spatial dimensions of religious practice to be a key domain of power. In the first chapter, she describes views of Palestinians, Jewish settlers and soldiers. She shows how ideology is used to maintain a cohesive community facing everyday challenges. Chapter 2 provides a historical overview of the claims and practices that paved the way for Jewish ideological settlement at the heart of a Palestinian city. Chapter 3 explains how maternalism and motherhood were deployed for political aims. Many religious secular women wish to have large families as a way of rejecting secular feminist norms, and live what they perceive as an authentic expression of Jewish identity (p. 91). Chapter 4 analyses a series of antagonistic social encounters between settlers and Palestinians. Neuman observes that indifference toward the Palestinians enables settlers to navigate through the winding roads of Palestinian areas. The Palestinian residents are subjected to playing the role of unwilling spectators, whilst settlers display their power and domination. Space and movement are clearly demarcated. Whereas the Palestinians are subjected to arbitrary, unjust rules of occupation, Jewish settlers are a constitutive part of Jewish domination and reinforce the occupation. Chapter 5 is concerned with religious violence and extremism in the context of the Baruch Goldstein massacre in 1994 at the Tomb of the Patriarchs. The chapter recounts the disturbing justifications provided by settlers for Goldstein’s heinous crime and explains why countless settlers perceive Goldstein not only as a hero but also as a saint. Their attitudes are characterised by denial, racism and an unwillingness to honestly reflect on what this “good doctor” did when he opened fire on people who were praying inside a holy place, killing twenty-nine of them. In the final chapter, Neuman describes the diversity of the Kiryat Arba population composed of native Israelis and Jewish immigrants from different parts of the world, including the Bnei Menashe who arrived from north-east India, the Beta Israel of Ethiopia, Russians, converts and Sabras (people who were born in Israel). Neuman describes the cultural, ideological and religious schisms that separate these groups. She argues that integrating the Bnei Menashe and the Beta Israel, both non-white, within the settlement did not translate into greater accommodation of social or ethnic difference. Instead it produced an exclusive form of settler Judaism (p. 169). Neuman further argues that the massive Jewish-Russian presence is at odds with the hard-core religious settlement. This is because the Russians are not committed to leading religiously observant lives nor do they particularly ideological. They are not driven by a strong belief in the trilogy of Am (People of) Israel, Torat Israel (Bible), and Eretz (Land of) Israel. The Russians came to Kiryat Arba for economic reasons. This Russian secular, economic-driven presence elicits negative views among the settlement’s long-time residents.

Neuman provides a detailed account of a troubled, unfair and divisive co-existence where Palestinians are denied basic human rights while settlers are driven by exclusive, divine ideology that permits and fuels this injustice. She describes the indoctrination of children who understand from a young age what role God will have in their lives, the different motivations that brought Jewish settlers to live in discord with Palestinians who, according to their extreme ideology, deserve no rights. Neuman sheds important light on this complex reality that bolsters and justifies this occupation, where the “holy Trinity” theology of Am (people of) Israel, Torat (Bible of) Israel and Eretz (Land of) Israel is employed to cleanse that which cannot be cleansed.

The book is dotted with photos that show places and illustrate descriptions and it has extensive bibliography and a useful index. This book is a must read for those who wish to understand the motives that drive the Jewish settlement movement. Anthropologists of the West Bank and the settlements, as well as political anthropologists worldwide will find this book most illuminating. 



Monthly Poems


Let me make the songs for the people,
   Songs for the old and young;
Songs to stir like a battle-cry
   Wherever they are sung.

Not for the clashing of sabres,
   For carnage nor for strife;
But songs to thrill the hearts of men
   With more abundant life.

Let me make the songs for the weary,
   Amid life’s fever and fret,
Till hearts shall relax their tension,
   And careworn brows forget.

Let me sing for little children,
   Before their footsteps stray,
Sweet anthems of love and duty,
   To float o’er life’s highway.

I would sing for the poor and aged,
   When shadows dim their sight;
Of the bright and restful mansions,
   Where there shall be no night.

Our world, so worn and weary,
   Needs music, pure and strong,
To hush the jangle and discords
   Of sorrow, pain, and wrong.

Music to soothe all its sorrow,
   Till war and crime shall cease; 
And the hearts of men grown tender
   Girdle the world with peace.

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Blessing for the New Year

May the sky be blue and clear

And our heart always filled with joyful tear

May peace and tranquillity prevail

Keys for resolving conflict unveil

May we create more than destroy

Making dreams a reality to savour and enjoy

May we all be free of worry

No need to hear or say “I am sorry”

May we have time to delight in museums and parks

And mind to glee when adventure embarks

May we visit in hospital only the maternity ward

And hear our doctor’s concerns only when the other team scored

May we sleep like a log

And captivate listeners like a funny cat or dog

May we surround ourselves with people we love

To enable growth and see all thrive

May we add one true friend to our life

Be with us at moments of strife

May we wish to sing as we wake up with a laugh

Love what we have and our second half

May we know what our loved ones wish and pray

Before a word is uttered, knowing what they want to say

May her lips be welcoming and red

Embrace and ready when you are sad.

Raphael Almagor



Light Side


Kid vs barber

A young boy enters a barber shop and the barber whispers to his customer. ‘This is the dumbest kid in the world. Watch while I prove it you.’ The barber puts a dollar bill in one hand and two quarters in the other, then calls the boy over and asks, ‘Which do you want, son?’ The boy takes the quarters and leaves. ‘What did I tell you?’ said the barber. ‘That kid never learns!’ 

Later, when the customer leaves, he sees the same young boy coming out of the ice cream store. ‘Hey, son! May I ask you a question? Why did you take the quarters instead of the dollar bill?’ 

The boy licked his cone and replied, ‘Because the day I take the dollar, the game is over!’



May I wish you and your loved ones Shana tova Um'Usheret, Good Health, Love, Joy and Happiness.

Year of sweet surprises, blessed routine and new beginnings

Year of enchanting adventures, inner exploration, kindness and tranquility.

Peace to you all




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

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Twitter at @almagor35