Friday, December 31, 2021

  Politics – December 2021 In memory of Tony Smith (1938-2021)  


Israel should do whatever it can to bring home Avraham Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed as well as the remains of Hadar Golden and Shaul Aaron. 

It is no less than state duty and, of course, the just and decent thing to do.


On 28th November 2021 I lost my good friend Tony Smith.

I first met Tony when I was a student at Oxford during the 1980s and Tony was the President of Magdalen College. Tony was interested in Israel and in peace. He invited me to his office to discuss both. When I started my Blog in 2000 he was one of the first to join the listserv. With the years, our friendship grew. We shared love for the arts, especially for theatre, and we used to go to the theatre together whenever I was in London. Tony knew the theatre scene inside out. His taste in theatre was superb, that is, similar to mine… We enjoyed the same shows and trusted each other’s choices. Before or after we had a long talk over dinner. We continued to go to the theatre until he was no longer able to climb the stairs. 

We continued to meet at his flat at Albany. During my year at UCL, we would meet more regularly at his home. I used to bring him fruit that he loved. I saw how his health was deteriorating during the last two years of his life. It was painful to watch how this giant of a man, with vast interests and knowledge, was able to do less and less. One by one, he had to relinquish things he loved to do. 

Tony was a dear and kind friend. I enjoyed listening to his many stories that were part of his rich career in the arts and at Oxford. During our last phone conversation, a few weeks prior his death, he spoke of Bhutan, the little kingdom he loved and his relationships with Bhutan’s kind king. Tony established relationships between Oxford and Bhutan that hopefully will last for a very long time. 

I am sure Magdalen College will find ways to celebrate Tony’s life and many achievements. Tony was arguably the most successful of its presidents, certainly in the modern era. His vision and ability to translate ideas to reality was admirable. Tony lived inside the College. He lived and loved the College 24/7. I never witnessed such dedication in any other college I have known at Oxford. 

Many people are indebted to Tony for all the kind things he has done for them; indebted for his care, for his attention, for listening to them, for giving them his heart and soul. Tony’s was a people person. He helped scores of students from all over the world. Many of them never forgot the goodness he showed to them and kept in touch with him until his last days. Tony had friends all over the world. He was loved and appreciated by many. His departure was a sad day.

I miss you, Tony. I know you rest in peace. 

Mr Anthony Smith CBE (1938-2021) President of Magdalen College, 1988-2005 

This is the letter that Dinah Rose QC, President of Magdalen College, sent to her colleagues:

It is with deep sadness that I write to inform you of the death of Anthony Smith CBE, President of Magdalen College from 1988 to 2005.

Tony died at his home in Albany, Piccadilly on 28th November following a long illness. Tony Smith had a long and distinguished career in broadcasting culminating in the role of Director of the British Film Institute, but it is as President of Magdalen that he will be most remembered. His Presidency was characterised by his unwavering devotion to the College, his infectious pride in its buildings, music and academic life, and his kindness and care for all its staff and students. After his retirement he took on new challenges while always remaining loyal to Magdalen.

Magdalen owes an enormous debt of gratitude to Tony. The Grove Building provides a constant reminder of his legacy and future generations of students will continue to benefit from the Student Support Fund which he did so much to build up. Tony also had the foresight to encourage Governing Body to inaugurate and develop the Oxford Science Park which is now playing such an important part in safeguarding the long term financial security of the College.

Tony’s funeral will take place in Magdalen College Chapel at 11.30am on Saturday 11th December 2021 followed by a buffet lunch in College. Old Members can request seats for the service but numbers will be limited by space restrictions in Chapel and the Antechapel. You can register your interest in attending at the following link. Details of the live-stream of the service will be made available on the College website in the days before the service, and will be emailed to those who indicate that they wish to watch online.

At Tony’s request, Magdalen will not be holding a memorial service but we hope to find other ways of celebrating his life, and acknowledging his immeasurable contribution to College, during 2022; a book of condolence will also be available in the College Chapel - you are welcome to email or post contributions for inclusion. For further information and queries please contact

Although we are all mourning let me end with Seamus Heaney’s tribute on Tony’s retirement:

A Toy for Tony
Fritillaries in flower, the deer,
He’ll miss them, miss them. And the tower.
And choir and cloisters, fellows’ gardens,
The office even and its burdens.

And we shall miss his just being there,
His sprezzatura, staying power.
His presidential head of steam.
His smile. His visionary gleam.

Dinah Rose QC
President, Magdalen College. 

Reflections on Last Newsletter

Great News: The 2023 Olof Palme Guest Professor 

Globalization and Solidarity

UK So-Called Leadership

Anti-Tunnel Barrier around Gaza

Level of Violence in the West Bank Is Increasing

The Evil of the Occupation


Excellent News: Israel Becomes Associated to Horizon Europe

UK-Israeli partnership to promote ground-breaking aging research

UK-Israel strategic partnership: memorandum of understanding 2021

Listen to The MESC Annual Lecture, Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman

Invitation to the MESC Ambassador Forum

Remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III on Middle East Security 

My new book, Just, Reasonable Multinationalism

New article: “Coercion”, Open Journal of Philosophy, Vol.11, No.3 (August 2021), pp. 386-409.

Did You Know?

Gem of the Month: The Netherlands 

My Most Unpopular Opinions 

Monthly Poem

Light Side 

Reflections on Last Newsletter

Dr Yoav Tenembaum wrote from Tel Aviv:


I have found your Newsletter to be particularly interesting.


With regard to UNRWA, I must admit that I have precious little sympathy for the organization and its activities.


I can sympathize with the plight of refugees, but not with the plight of UNRWA.


The leadership of the Arab world, and particularly that of the Palestinian Arabs, have for many years used the plight of the refugees as a political tool. UNRWA is an organization that cares for the descendants of the refugees. That is quite exceptional.


One cannot blame Israel for everything.


Had the leadership of the Palestinian Arabs, and the Arab states, to be sure, endorsed the 1947 UN Partition Plan, there might have been no refugees. Had the Arab states, apart from Jordan, really cared for the plight of the refugees, there would have been considerably less refugees at present, if at all.


The eight-hundred thousand Jewish refugees from Arab states were mostly settled in Israel, which was then a poor country beset by security and economic problems. There was no UNRWA for the Jewish refugees from Arab states.


There is a point at which the leadership of the Palestinian Arabs, and of the Arab states, should acknowledge their own mistakes – and stop blaming Israel, and the international community, for all their problems.


Great News: The 2023 Olof Palme Guest Professor 

Getty Images


The Swedish Research Council has decided that Raphael Cohen-Almagor at the University of Hull will be the 2023 holder of Olof Palme's guest professorship.

Olof Palme's visiting professorship is awarded to internationally prominent researchers in the humanities, social sciences, theology or law.

The Professorship was established by the Swedish Riksdag in 1987 in memory of Sweden’s former prime minister, Olof Palme. Every year, the Swedish Research Council issues a call and Swedish universities compete by nominating internationally prominent researchers in areas of importance for the understanding of peace in a broad context – areas to which Olof Palme had a life-long commitment. The research may cover areas such as international politics, peace and conflict research and the comparison of social institutions.

In 2023, Olof Palme’s guest professorship will be held by Raphael Cohen-Almagor, professor of political studies at the University of Hull, UK. During his time in Sweden, he will work at Lund University.

The Olof Palme’s guest professorship is a world-renowned position, one of the most important professorships in the world in the field of peace studies. The purpose of the Olof Palme Visiting Professorship is to give universities the opportunity to develop a subject area by inviting an internationally prominent researcher as a visiting professor for up to one year.

The position comes with many responsibilities, including collaborating on research, delivering lectures and seminars, supporting PhD students, advising Lund University and its partners in facilitating this professorship, communicating with politicians, decision-makers and the media. In making this application for the Palme Professorship, Lund partnered with Gothenburg University, The Swedish Institute of Foreign Affairs, Stockholm University, The Folke Benadotte Academy, and the University of Copenhagen.

Globalization and Solidarity

Enhanced ability to travel, multifaceted webs of communication, open job markets, immigration, tourism, knowledge exchange, international organizations and business are some of the reasons that have made our world a global village. Whether we like it or not, humanity is now interconnected in many ways. These connections mean that we have the same fate, and we better look for each other because misery in one place will affect all of us. Climate change is one of the issues that affect all of us. Irresponsible conduct in one part of the world affects not only that part of the world but all of us. Pandemic is another issue. Leaders of the world should come together to combat the pandemic. If they do not, the writing is on the wall. Global solidarity is a must. Now that it has been proven that vaccination is the key for fighting COVID-19, vaccination should be a global program where the affluent societies in the world help the less fortunate to vaccinate their people quickly and efficiently. Otherwise, we are bound to hear many strange names that will trouble our lives. After Delta and omicron there will be more variants, with even stranger names. 

UK So-Called Leadership

The United Kingdom has known many bad prime ministers. Of them, Boris Johnson is unfathomable phenomenon. I keep wondering how and why he became prime minister. Johnson is a senseless populist. He is constantly contradicting himself, truth is not a value, and self-serving is the only principle that guides him. I never found his so-called charm and so-called charisma appealing, and now more and more people understand just how dangerous it is to deposit the keys for the country in his most incapable hands. His decision-making on COVID should be studied for dissertations as how a leader should NOT make decisions. 

On 9 December 2021, Boris Johnson approval rating sank to a record low of 29 percent,

Anti-Tunnel Barrier around Gaza

Israel has completed construction of an anti-tunnel barrier around the Gaza Strip, Defense Minister Gantz announced. The barrier took four years of work and $1.1 billion to build, and features sections both above and below ground. With the massive 32.8-foot-high barrier that stretches across 40 miles, Israel hopes to end the threat of cross-border attack tunnels from the coastal enclave. 

Level of Violence in the West Bank Is Increasing

Occupation is abnormal. Abnormality creates abnormal situations. The signing on the wall is clear and wide. Israel is sitting on a powder keg that is about to explode.

Like Old Cato I say time and again: The occupation has to stop, the sooner the better.


The level of violence in the West Bank is increasing. Some dozens radical settlers have been tormenting the lives of Palestinians, thinking that their conduct might convince them to flee. They are, of course, wrong. They are wrong to the same extent that Palestinian terrorists are wrong when they think that murdering settlers would end the settlement enterprise.

The main thing that violence successfully does is breed more violence.

On December 16, 2021, a settler was murdered by Palestinians. This was the wrong Palestinian response to dozens of settlers’ provocations. 

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid regarded extremist violence as “a stain on Israel” as the rate of violent attacks by settlers continues to rise. In an interview to The Atlantic, Lapid said that whoever attacks innocent people is a hooligan and a criminal and is going to be treated as such. Lapid added that Defense Minister Benny Gantz is creating a task force to suppress the violence.  In 2020, the Shin Bet registered 272 violent incidents in the disputed territory; so far in 2021, the domestic security agency has recorded 397, with two weeks still to go before year’s end.” To date, most of those behind these acts of nationalist terror against Palestinians have gone unpunished.

Source: The Atlantic,

The Evil of the Occupation

Israel has occupied the west Bank for nearly 55 years. This is a very long time for a state of affairs that was supposed to be temporary. The evil of the occupation, like most evil, is that when it is prolonged it is also normalized. People get used to it as a way of life. This, of course, not true for those who have to endure the evils of occupation on a daily basis. They continue to suffer greatly. But it is true for the idle observers. It is true for the Israeli population the majority of which does not raise its voice against the occupation and demand that it will be replaced with a human system of governance. Nobody would wish to live under military occupation for even one day but, somehow, this abnormality is accepted by Israeli-Jews for the Palestinians. This is wrong. It is unjust. It is bad for the Palestinians, and it is bad for Israel. The occupation erodes Israeli moral fiber, its humanity and civility. As human beings, as Jews, we should recognize this evil and see that it is stopped. The sooner, the better.


Occupation qua occupation is evil. It denies the Palestinians basic human rights. It deprives the Israelis of their humanity.


If Israel won’t withdraw the occupation, it will withdraw itself from the community of nations and its existence will continue to be challenged and questioned.


Israelis are innovative, imaginative, resourceful; still they are unable to relieve themselves of the burden of occupying other people.


The Peace Index of December 2021, conducted by Dr. Nimrod Rosler and Dr. Alon Yakter of Tel Aviv University, shows that more than three-quarters of the Jewish public hardly feel any guilt or shame for Israel’s control of the Palestinians in the territories. Among Arab opinion holders in Israel, about two-thirds feel guilt or shame about Israeli control. Regarding the worsening acts of violence by settlers towards Palestinians, two-thirds of the Jewish public support prosecuting those who carry out these violent acts, but a similar percentage oppose prosecution of soldiers who stand aside or who aid in these acts. In the Arab public, a great majority support prosecution in both cases.

I believe that ignoring the evil of occupation disserves the best interests of Israel.

I believe that ending the occupation is in Israel’s best interests.

I believe that Israel and the PA should start negotiations to diminish the occupation until its elimination, step by step.

I believe this is essential for establishing peace between the two sides. It is a vital milestone on the road to peace.



Excellent News: Israel Becomes Associated to Horizon Europe

The European Research Commission signed an agreement formally associating Israel to Horizon Europe. This makes Israel the seventh country after Norway, Iceland, Ukraine, Turkey, Moldova and Armenia to officially join the current EU programme for research and innovation, with some of the agreements still pending ratification on both sides.


Israel has been an active participant in EU Framework Programmes for research and innovation since 1996. Under Horizon 2020, Israeli organisations recorded more than 2000 participations in over 1660 projects, receiving EU contribution of nearly €1.28 billion over the seven years of the programme. This makes Israel the third most successful Associated Country in Horizon 2020 behind Switzerland and Norway in terms of both participations recorded and EU funding received.


UK-Israeli partnership to promote ground-breaking aging research

£1.6 million in grants: British-Israeli research partnership will fund ground-breaking science collaborations in ageing research.

British Ambassador to Israel, Neil Wigan, said: “Scientific collaboration between the UK and Israel is one of our most important fields, and we are working to expand it dramatically in the future. It’s always exciting to see the ground-breaking research proposals coming out of BIRAX – in ageing research and other academic areas – that have real potential to impact the future of us all”.

UK-Israel strategic partnership: memorandum of understanding 2021

The UK and Israel signed a new memorandum of understanding to work more closely over the next decade on cyber, technology, trade and defence.

This memorandum of understanding will allow the UK and Israel to develop a new UK-Israel Bilateral Roadmap to extend and deepen our relationship. The Roadmap will enable closer working in diplomacy, defence and security, cyber, science, technology, and many other areas.


Through the Roadmap, we will elevate the UK-Israel relationship to a strategic partnership. The Roadmap will guide cooperation for the next 10 years.

Listen to The MESC Annual Lecture, Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman

“Great Powers and the Middle East: The Twenty Years Shift”, Wednesday 8 December 2021,

Invitation to the MESC Ambassador Forum

Middle East Study Centre (MESC)

Ambassador Forum

Wednesday 19 January 2021, 5:00-7:00pm LONDON TIME

Professor Daniel Kurtzer (MESC)

Former American Ambassador to Israel and Egypt

Biden’s Agenda in the Middle East: 

How Relevant will the United States Be?

Link to register:

Opening words: Professor Raphael Cohen-Almagor, Director, MESC

Chair and Discussant: Sir Richard Dalton (MESC)


The United States’ approach to the Middle East is changing, from something close to regional dominance to selective involvement consistent with narrower national security interests. This will impact at least three key policy challenges: Iran’s nuclear and regional ambitions; regional conflict resolution efforts, including Israel-Palestine; and the role of outside powers, specifically China and Russia, as they perceive a reduction of American influence. Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer will discuss these challenges in light of America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, seeming detachment from the Israel-Palestine peace process, and the difficulty in dealing with Iran.



Daniel C. Kurtzer is the S. Daniel Abraham Professor of Middle East Policy Studies at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. During a 29-year career in the U.S. Foreign Service, Ambassador Kurtzer served as the United States Ambassador to Israel and as the United States Ambassador to Egypt. He was also a speechwriter and member of the Secretary of State George Shultz’s Policy Planning Staff; and served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs and as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Research. Kurtzer is the co-author of Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace: American Leadership in the Middle East, co-author of The Peace Puzzle: America’s Quest for Arab-Israeli Peace, 1989-2011, and editor of Pathways to Peace: America and the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Ambassador Kurtzer received his Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University. He is a Member of the MESC.

Chair and Discussant: Sir Richard Dalton (MESC)

Sir Richard was a British diplomat from 1970 to 20006.  From 1993-1997 he was UK Consul General in Jerusalem, responsible for dealings with the Palestinian Authority after the signing of the Oslo Accords. He re-established UK diplomatic relations with Libya in 1999 as the first Ambassador to Tripoli for 17 years.  From 2002-2006 he was UK Ambassador in Tehran, playing a part in European negotiations with Iran.  He co-wrote the Chatham House Research Paper of September 2014: “Iran’s Nuclear Future” and has been President of the British Iranian Chamber of Commerce.

Date: Wednesday 19 January 2021, 5:00-7:00pm LONDON TIME

Please register directly with the online platform:

All are welcome to attend

Remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III on Middle East Security at the Manama Dialogue (As Delivered)

NOV. 20, 2021

In his speech, the American Secretary of Defence Lloyd J. Austin III sets what the USA needs (and also intends?) to do:

… we stand up for democracy in Tunisia, and hope to see a rapid return to constitutional order. 

… we stand up for Iraq’s sovereignty and independence, against any party or proxy that tries to violate it.

… we stand by the people of Lebanon in this hour of terrible need.

Our commitment to Israel’s security is ironclad. 

We continue to work toward progress toward a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

We continue to work to end the tragic war in Yemen, to call on the Houthis to stop their attacks, both on Saudi territory and inside Yemen, and to end the suffering of the Yemeni people. 

We continue to buttress this region’s security architecture through military-to-military cooperation, training, and joint exercises. 

Lloyd J. Austin III spoke of four major challenges:

“First, the pandemic. We can’t beat COVID-19 by leaving it to smolder in some parts of the planet. This terrible disease has been a body blow to every country on Earth. 

So we’re proud to support our regional partners with vaccines, and medical supplies, and economic aid. And we’re proud to be the largest global donor to COVAX. 

You know, we’ve donated more than 8.2 million lifesaving vaccine doses in this region, including donations to Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, the Palestinian territories, Tunisia, and Yemen. And we’re going to keep driving hard with our partners to end this pandemic.”


“And second, we’re intensely focused on the climate crisis. It is an existential threat.”


“Third, we must work together to combat terrorism—including in Afghanistan, from al-Qaeda, and from the malice and sectarian hatred of ISIS.”


“Fourth and finally, I know that many of us share deep concerns about the Iranian government’s destabilizing actions—including its support for terrorism, its dangerous proxies, and its nuclear program. 

The United States remains committed to preventing Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon. And we remain committed to a diplomatic outcome of the nuclear issue.”

My new book, Just, Reasonable Multinationalism

Interview about my new book


Watch Book launch of Just, Reasonable Multinationalism (CUP) with Professors Naomi Chazan and Massimo La Torre.

New article: “Coercion”, Open Journal of Philosophy, Vol.11, No.3 (August 2021), pp. 386-409.


Coercion involves two or more parties who are in conflict and whose relationships are complex and uneasy. Generally speaking, people resent coercion and, when possible, rebel against it. This paper differentiates between circumstantial coercion and person-based coercion, between coercion and brute forms of oppression, and between benevolent and malevolent coercion. Government interference to combat murder for family honour serves as a clear example of benevolent coercion. The paper further discusses the coercer’s intentions and specifically addresses the issues of paternalistic coercion, coercion via third- party, and self-coercion. Two further distinctions are offered: between internalised and designated coercion, and between coercion enforced by a minority versus coercion imposed by a majority.


Autonomy, Coercion, Freedom, Oppression, Paternalism

Did You Know? 

If you add up all the numbers from 1 to 100 consecutively (1 + 2 + 3...) it totals 5050.

Gem of the Month: The Netherlands 

I was invited to deliver talks at the Dutch United Nations Student Association 74th Dies Natalis conference on human rights. The conference revolved around the topic Freedom of Speech in a Digital Age. I attended it in person.


I was pleased to meet dozens of young, motivated students who care about human rights. This field needs many people to wage the fights around the globe. There is so much injustice and violence and the community of human rights activists needs all the help it can get. The students were engaged and asked sharp questions. There were more questions than time, which is always a good sign. I enjoyed their company.


Amsterdam Holocaust Memorial



In Amsterdam, I visited the Jewish Museum, the Holocaust Memorial, and the Portuguese Synagogue. The old synagogue is most impressive, still lighted only by candles.


Amsterdam is beautiful and lively. As Schiphol used to be my travel base when I travelled, I visited Amsterdam frequently. It was good to return after a few years.


My Most Unpopular Opinions 

In this free speech conference in Groningen I was asked what are my most unpopular opinions. Hard choice… Leaving politics aside, here are three:


The world would be better off without alcohol and cigarettes.

Boxing is a modern form of gladiatorial Conduct. I would ban it.

I am unwilling to watch American football do as not to confer any legitimacy on this brutal game.


Whenever I express my opinion about alcohol in Britain, I instantly become the most unpopular person in the room. While I love a good glass of wine for Friday kidush, enjoy it over a good meal and on social occasion, I am willing to forfeit it. Witnessing the damage that alcohol is inflicting, I think the world would be better off without it.

Whenever I voice my objections to American football in the USA, I instantly become the most unpopular person in the room.

I do not have a single good word to say about cigarettes, boxing and American football.

Monthly Poem

Joan Baez & Mercedes Sosa "Gracias A La Vida"

Gracias a la vida - Thank you to life - Mercedes Sosa - lyrics with translation

Or Maybe

Which performance do you prefer?

I thank Jacques Cory for sending me this song.

Light Side: 

A Very Happy New Year to you and your loved ones. Peace and Good Health to you all. I wish 2022 will be a better year.

Photo: Getty images


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

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Twitter at @almagor35