Friday, May 25, 2012

Politics – May 2012

Support is sought to facilitate the work of the Middle East Study Group. Information at

I also welcome promoting the two-state solution. See

At the age of 64, we expect Israel to be able to recognize her strengths as well as her frailties, be attentive to her health problems so that she grows old in dignity, tranquility and peace.

Occupation qua occupation is morally repugnant.

Strange Ménage à trios:  Netanyahu, Barak, Mofaz. They don't even like each other.

A regime built on bayonets could survive for some time, even for a long time, but not indefinitely; the heavy bleeding would eventually bring the vile regime down as no brutality could stifle freedom forever.

    ~Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Sometimes I read the Israeli newspapers and need to verify the date, whether April 1 has already gone. If politics were not that serious, we could all have a good laugh.

Twists and turns in Israeli politics. One day it seemed that elections will be held in September 2012. Another day a deal is struck with Mofaz and now the elections are scheduled for the original date, when they are supposed to be – November 2013.

Prime Minister Netanyahu knows what we all know about Mofaz: A person with no principles whose only motivation is power for himself. It was an easy buy. Mofaz received a fancy title, Deputy Prime Minister, and provides Likud with a safety net to continue its rule. Only yesterday Mofaz declared that the Likud led a terrible government in which the people have no trust; the following day Mofaz secures the government’s extension of power so it could continue harming the people whom he wishes to represent. Mofaz gives hypocrisy new horizons. He has no shame. I hope the Israeli people won’t forget. November 2013 is not far away. For a year and a half in power, Mofaz made himself Netanyhau’s poodle. He is no longer a rival to Netanyahu but a servant.

The Majority of the Kadima MKs are pleased with this move as it gives them more time in the comfortable seat of the Knesset. Some, however, may see beyond their nose and actually care about principles. If these people exist, they might split from Mofaz’s Kadima and for them there are two options: establishing a fraction party with Tzipi Livni, or returning to the good-old Likud. The Likud certainly needs more moderate elements in its ranks.

The new boy on the political map, Yair Lapid, is not a threat to Netanyahu. He takes votes from other parties, not the Likud. The more he speaks, the less convincing he sounds. I am not sure at present how well he will do in the elections. He might be the black horse. But he might be a flop.

Politicians love their seats, and see no reason to risk them. They go to elections only when the alternative is worse for them. Mr Netanyahu is conducting his maneuvering in such a way that does not rock the boat. He sometimes makes noises, sometimes wind, but nothing serious. The settlers know that he is their best friend.

Ehud Barak
constantly checks the water. I presume he orders polls on a regular basis to examine his options and his deal power. Barak is said to be the main driver behind the likely marriage between Netanyahu and Mofaz. Recent polls have shown that his small party, Atzmaut, was hardly passing the threshold required to enter the Knesset. With the bolstering of the coalition, Barak gave himself more time in power, hoping there will be some positive development for him to maintain power. Barak, like all politicians, wishes to retain his power. He would not risk “an adventure” (i.e. elections) which might give him 4 seats in the backbenchers. He wishes to be the next defence minister. He will aim to strike a deal with Netanyahu prior to the coming elections.

The problem, of course, is that short-term thinking might come at the expense of long-term achievements. Both Mofaz and Barak think they are best qualified for the job. The keys are in the hands of PM Netanyahu.

Immediately after this strange Ménage à trios was formed, speculations began to air: maybe this is for the better; maybe something good will come of it; maybe this will delay an attack on Iran; maybe this trio will lead an attack on Iran; each speculation in tandem with the view of the beholder.

Maybe now Netanyahu will  sincerely embark on peace talks with the Palestinians.

I wish.... I'd be surprised if Mr Netanyahu would become THE HOPE we yearn for. People confuse reality and hope, between impression and substance. For some reason, quite a few foreign politicians (no politician in Israel, not even the eternal optimist President Peres) and wishful-thinking "experts" (mainly from Haaretz newspaper) believe Netanyahu is a pragmatist. Eyes they have yet they don't see. The nagging problem in the peace process is not Lieberman. The nagging problem is Netanyahu.

Reflections on April Newsletter
Reflections on My Article - “Zionism – A Just Revolution”
Separating between Remembrance Day and Independence Day
Moshe Dayan on Syria
Letters from Iran
Just War Theory and Civil Wars
Former Head of the Shabac, Yuval Diskin, Has No Faith in PM Netanyahu
Haggai Amir Released from Prison
Israel on UN List of States Limiting Human Rights Organizations
US Launch of the Atrocities Prevention Board
The Leveson Inquiry
The Press Complaints Commission is to Shut Down
Hull Local Elections
Hillary Clinton Honored with The Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service
Role of Nurses in Third Reich "Overlooked"
Sign a Petition for a Moment of Silence in the Olympics
World Chess Championship 2012
Visitors to the University of Hull - Professor Mervyn Frost
Visit to Israel
New Books
Monthly Poem
Gem of the Month
Light Side – Dating Advice from the Rabbi

Reflections on April Newsletter

An Exchange with a Bereaved Mother

Short and concise = true!
Wish I could join in your Independence day enthusiasm. 9years with tears ago, I believe I could, we were a whole family then.
Happy spring days,


Hi F.

I was saddened to read your remarks about Yom Ha’atzmaut. I think there are three separate issues:

1. Whether you believe in the right of Israel to exist; whether you believe the Zionist mission is justified.
2. Whether you agree with the implementation of the Zionist mission. Meaning, you do not contest Zionism but disagree with the form and shape that the Zionist mission is taking.
3. The proximity in time between the Remembrance Day and Yom Ha’atzmaut, which is most difficult, possibly impossible.

From what I know about you, I do not think that you are anti-Zionist. I think you became disillusioned with the way politicians have been shaping Israeli policies as you paid a very high price for their handling for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A person should not cease to be religious because some rabbis are corrupt and hypocritical. A person who loves oranges and entered into a row with the shop owner where she buys oranges should not become anti-orange. She will choose another shop. Similarly, in a democracy there are ample ways to voice dissent and influence decision-making processes: We vote; we protest; we write; we publish; we dissent; we assemble; we march; we picket; we establish parties. I hope time will come, in my life time, to see a change in policy making, where our leaders decide that the key to our survival in the Middle East is peace, full integration into the region by making the necessary sacrifices, paying the precious price for peace and secure uncontested borders.

As for the third issue, many years ago, when the State of Israel was founded, a small committee decided to attach the two important days to one another. They had good reasons. But the reality has changed. 22,993 people died in wars, operations, and terror attacks. 22,993 died as a result of vicious cycles of violence. The loss is immense. It affects every single home in Israel. Many people cannot just switch from the depth of agony to the supreme joy of independence celebrations.

It is a time to convene another small committee that will enquire what the Israeli population wants: To leave things as they are, or to change. I think a gap of at least one week should separate between these two most significant days. There should be time to mourn, and time to rejoice. And there should be ample time to allow the transition between the two.

With my very best wishes


Hi Rafi,

All three issues go to my heart and no, I don't want any change whatsoever. The proximity of the events has an old enough significance of its own that I wouldn't interfere with because there is one thing that you, with all due respect don't understand and I wish you should never understand: we, the beaten, the humbled... mourn all year long.

All your examples are correct, they just don't work for a bereavement like ours.

You should know one thing: each person mourns in a different way, he cannot be judged for. I read all the existing literature on the subject that the Haifa U. library had available till the year 2008 when I became busy with grandchildren, had all possible treatments and am still under medication. My mourning is different from my husband’s (who is most hurt in my eyes); ours is different from our daughter’s who tries to make her mourning palatable to their two boys. The older one came up with horrid news (no idea where from) which gave him and his parents a sleepless night. I still read whatever I can get, to help all around me. There are people, Rafi, who can overcome their sadness. I am not one of them and I should keep my feeling to myself.


Dr. Yoav Tenenbaum wrote from Tel Aviv:


Thank you for your latest Newsletter. As ever – it's very interesting!

I liked very much your list on what the British say, mean, and others understand! It reflects what I keep saying to Israelis: never interpret what British people say based on your socio-linguistic assumptions… I know Israeli students have had many problems misunderstanding what their supervisors at Oxford University meant when, for instance, they would say "This is rather unwise," or "I would re-consider…" or "This is a thought-provoking remark…"

Your list ought to be presented to any foreign student coming to pursue academic studies in the UK…

On another matter, your reference to - "Thyroid Disease - More Research Needed" is very interesting and important. Incidentally, last week I underwent a surgery at the Parathyroid Center in Tampa General Hospital, Florida, for a tumor in one of my Parathyroid glands (there are four). I had undergone a surgery last September (2011) in Israel, which failed. A healthy gland was removed, but no tumor was found. This last operation was successful. People tend to confuse Parathyroid and Thyroid. Still, they are close neighbours. A Parathyroid tumor can cause serious health problems, and affect most adversely the quality of life. The problem is that few people are really experts on this illness, as the head of the Parathyroid Center at Tampa General Hospital, in Florida, Professor Jim Norman, is. He is the foremost expert in the world, as far as I know. His whole attitude and methods are singularly advanced. 

Your reference to Martin Gilbert's Atlas is interesting. I still remember an Atlas he edited on the Arab-Israeli conflict many years ago. Unless my memory fails me, this latest edition must be an up-dated version of that Atlas I remember…Am I wrong?

I hope you and your family are well.

All the best,


Victor Kotsev wrote:

Dear Rafi,

Thanks for the always-fascinating newsletter. One thing captured my interest: why do you think the Israeli leaders would wait until the elections to strike Iran? What would their calculus be in that respect?

Many thanks,


Dear Victor

I did not mention Iran. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of targets to wage war on: Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, and now potentially Iran, although I believe that war-of-words is usually a substitute for war-on-ground. Israel waged diplomatic and media war on Iran. Silent countries launch “surprise” attacks. Vocal countries wish to refrain from attack.

Anyway, I said what I said because the prime interest of politicians, Mr. Netanyahu included, is to continue their rule. There is something addictive about power: Once you experience it, you do not wish to let go. Some may wish to continue forever. This is why I appreciate the British for the House of Lords invention. This institution is made especially for politicians who fail to realize that their time is up. These are pushed gently into the House of Lords.

Going back to Mr Netanyahu, he would not endanger is re-election, which now seems quite safe. War can only interfere with retaining his seat, because when you start a war, you never know how it will end. It might bring you points, but it might also sink you. Politicians start wars when they are about to lose elections, not when they are about to win them.

Best wishes


I received a couple messages relating to Martin Gilbert, The Routledge Atlas of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (London: Routledge, 2012). The thing is that when one finds inaccuracies in some data, that is very concise throughout the book, this erodes one’s confidence in the whole book as now each and every date and number needs to be verified. One would expect that an atlas do a better work verifying each and every piece of information.

I received more than twenty messages relating to Israel Independence Day and to Israel’s many achievements. I think Zionist pioneers would be proud were they to know and see what we were able to achieve until now, despite many obstacles.


Reflections on My Article - “Zionism – A Just Revolution”, Ethical Perspectives, Vol. 18 (2011), pp. 646-659.

From Professor Lester Grabbe, University of Hull, relating to Professor Kellner’s remarks

Lester Grabbe

Dear Rafi,

I've looked up what I originally sent to you.  Obviously you used only what you felt was necessary for your thesis, but I think some of the additional material actually partly answers Kellner's comments.  Here are my own comments on his:

1. As my original material to you indicated, there were a number of deportations of Jews in history.  The first of these, by the Assyrians, was lost to history--hence, the "Lost Tribes of Israel".  But the Babylonian captivity (in 597, 586, and 582 BCE) left a large community in Babylon.  Only a minority ever returned to Judah.  Centuries later the Babylonian community of course produced the Babylonian Talmud and many other works.
2. A large Jewish diaspora in the Mediterranean developed during the Greek and Roman periods.  In some cases, it was natural migration.  In other cases, Jews were taken elsewhere as slaves but then freed and developed their communities (e.g., in Rome).
3. But Jews remained in Palestine.  They produced the Mishnah, the Palestinian Talmud, and many other writings, and a major textual school producing the Masoretic text was in Tiberias in the Middle Ages.
4. Although it is outside my area of specialty, I understand Jews migrated (as traders, etc.) from the Mediterranean to Germany and from here to Eastern Europe.  This was not deportation or exile but a natural diaspora.
5. The question of the *number* of people in a place over a period of time is not necessarily dependent on the number migrating but especially on the birth rate.  The birth rate may have been more favourable in some disaspora communities than in Palestine.  But if we have information on the demographical data in the various places, I am not aware of it.  But, again, once we pass 135 CE, I am out of my area of specialization.

Hope this helps.



Separating between Remembrance Day and Independence Day

For many years I am deeply troubled by the proximity of these day important days: One day you mourn the fallen who died on the mission of defending Israel, or were victims to terrorist attacks; thousands of people attend remembrance ceremonies all over the countries, visiting cemeteries, mourning the dead: fathers, mothers, children, relatives, close friends. And then, the same evening, the most important annual celebrations of Yom Ha’atzmaut. I always found this rapid transition most difficult. For some people, it is an impossible transition. They cannot simply transform from the deeply emotional experience to festive people who are rejoicing the success of Zionism.

We humans need time to heal. We need time to digest. We need time to reflect. We need time to sink deep into our sorrow, memories, agony; we need time to return to calm; we need time to rejoice. It is very difficult to do all this in a span of two days.

Many years ago, when the State of Israel was founded, a small committee decided to attach the two important days to one another. They had good reasons. But the reality has changed. 22,993 people died in wars, operations, and terror attacks. 22,993 died as a result of vicious cycles of violence. The loss is immense. It affects every single home in Israel. Many people cannot just switch from the depth of agony to the supreme joy of independence celebrations.

It is a time to convene another small committee that will enquire what the Israeli population wants: To leave things as they are, or to change. I think a gap of at least one week should separate between these two most significant days. There should be time to mourn, and time to rejoice. And there should be ample time to allow the transition between the two.


People continue to surprise me by their ignorance, and that ignorance does not stop people from consolidating very definite judgments. There is no shame in not knowing; but one needs to admit that one does not know and postpone making judgments until knowing.

I had a discussion with a reader in an English politics department. One may think that readers in politics should know something about politics, even if the subject matter is remote from their own expertise, and if they lack expertise, they won’t rush into conclusions. We discussed religions, Christianity and Judaism. He spoke about the former, and then he asked me about Judaism. I explained that there are five major denominations in the Jewish world: Hasidic, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist. And as I was explaining, he interrupted me, saying: “And there is also Zionist”.

I looked at him, puzzled, and said “No”.
“No. Zionism is not a form of religion”.

I explained that Zionism has nothing to do with religion, that the majority of the Zionists who established Israel were not religious, that Zionism is about the right of the Jewish people to a free sovereign state.
“So, are you Zionist?”
“Of course I am. I believe in the right of Israel to exist, therefore I am a Zionist”.

He looked at me with complete puzzlement. I looked at him with complete puzzlement. Communication can be difficult.

From the look of his face, it seems he was thinking to himself: And I thought Rafi was a liberal. And now he freely admitted, quite explicitly, that he is a fascist.

Sad. It is sad when people assemble bits and pieces of information and consolidate an opinion without much probing. The UK media help in this erroneous process as their coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian is skewed and unfavourable to Israel.

Moshe Dayan on Syria

I was re-reading Moshe Dayan. In an interview that was published in 1997, Dayan explained that as long as Assad is in power, he cannot see Israel signing peace with Syria because Assad is Alawii. The Alwaii are a small minority in Syria and therefore any Alawii leader must be more extreme, far more than any Sunni. Assad, Dayan explained, was first Alawii, then Syrian. The best interests of his own community are more important than the best interests of the nation. Only if a Sunni leader would come to power, things might be easier with Syria and there will be a chance for peace.

Dayan said that he did not fulfill  his role as defence minister when he did not stop the capturing of the Golan Heights in 1967. He said that David Elazar and members of the Galilee kibbutzim exerted pressure on PM Eshkol to take the Golan, but this was not justified. In his words: “It is possible to speak in terms of the Syrians are corrupt; we need to fuck them, this is a good opportunity and such talk, but this is not a policy. You do not fuck the enemy because it is corrupt, but because it threatens you, and the Syrians, on the fourth day of the war, did not threaten us” (Tal 27 April 1997).

Taking land from another country because it is good for agriculture cannot be a justified aim for aggression. If Dayan is right, and mere greed brought about the conquering of the Golan Heights, then this was wrong. But Dayan also recognized in the same interview that the Syrian shot on the kibbutzim from time to time, and constituted a constant threat for the lives of the Galilee civilians.  It seems that Israel wished to seize the opportunity to defeat the Syrians. Riding on the extraordinary victory in the south against Egypt, they wanted to change the geo-strategic balance also in the north by taking the Golan Mountain that overlooks the entire Galilee. At the same, Ben-Gurion said immediately after the Six Day War that Israel would need to return all conquered land, with the exception of Jerusalem and the Golan, but he told Dayan that if it was possible to sign a peace treaty with Syria, then Israel should return the Golan as well (Tal 27 April 1997, p. 4).

Source: Tal, Rami, “Moshe Dayan: Self-examination”, Yedioth Ahronoth (27 April 1997), pp. 2-6.

Letters from Iran

This is a one-hour documentary, filmed underground in Iran, showing the undercurrent in the Iranian society; society living in fear, terror and hope for change; society of bereaved parents, of students who wish to live in freedom, of courageous people who are willing to pay the highest price for a better future.

People of Iran: A regime built on bayonets could survive for some time, even for a long time, but not indefinitely; the heavy bleeding would eventually bring the vile regime down as no brutality could stifle freedom forever.

Just War Theory and Civil Wars

I was reading Steven P. Lee, Ethics and War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).

Chapter 7 relates to civil wars, asking whether just war theory can provide an adequate explanation of the moral dimensions of civil wars. The discussion can be useful both to Syrians who are fighting against dictatorship, and to humane nations who are troubled by the bloody scenes stemming from Syria. Lee provides some examples to illustrate his arguments, including the Congo civil wars and the problem of global terrorism. Syria, of course, is a significant contributor to world terrorism, providing further justification why the Alawii regime should become a sorry chapter in history, not a living present.

Former Head of the Shabac, Yuval Diskin, Has No Faith in PM Netanyahu

The Who is no less important than the What. Former Head of the Shabac, Yuval Diskin, did not say anything that is very revealing, nor did he express surprising views. He just articulated well-known facts. But the fact that it was HE who said what many know for a long time was enough to capture the headlines of the weekend following Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day), April 27-28, 2012.

Diskin leveled heavy criticism against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Barak over Iran and the so-called peace process which exists only in the fantasy world of Cinderella and little mermaids.

Diskin said that he had "no faith in the current leadership, which must lead us in an event on the scale of war with Iran or a regional war."

"I don't believe in either the prime minister or the defense minister. I don't believe in a leadership that makes decisions based on messianic feelings".

Diskin deemed Barak and Netanyahu "two messianics – the one from Akirov or the Assuta project and the other from Gaza Street or Caesarea," referring to the two politicians' luxurious places of residence.

Diskin’s criticism of Netanyahu over the Palestinian issue is even more significant than his declarations over the Iranian issue. The reason for this is that the Shin Bet is the body responsible for the Palestinian issue, on both the political and security-related levels. This, as opposed to the issue of a nuclear Iran, which falls under the Mossad’s area of expertise as well as that of IDF's intelligence unit.

“Forget the stories they tell you about how Abbas is not interested in negotiation... We are not talking to the Palestinians because this government has no interest in negotiations."

"I was there up to a year ago and I know from up-close what is happening. This government is not interested in solving anything with the Palestinians, and I say this with certainty”.

Diskin pointed the finger toward Netanyahu. “This prime minister knows that if he makes the slightest move forward, then his well-established rule and his coalition will fall apart."

"It’s simple,” he said: “Thus, no one has any interest in changing the situation. Abbas made mistakes, but this is beside the point. We as a people have an interest in this, but not this government. The problem becomes more difficult with every passing day.”

Diskin also warned that a “feeling of hopelessness” was developing among the Palestinians. He stated that he was in contact with senior officials in the Palestinian Authority who tell him about “the lack of faith that something will change, especially in the West Bank.”

"In this kind of situation, when the concentration of gas fumes in the air is so high, the question is only when they spark will come to light it... It won't happen tomorrow morning…but all the basic element to allow it are there."

Diskin further said that most Israeli governments, from 1948 onwards, did not wish to address the issue of the Israeli-Arabs. Prime Minister Rabin allocated more resources to the Arab sector but he did not do anything else besides that to see that the Israeli Arabs are equal citizens. Prime Minister Olmert also increased the resources for the Arab sector. Today, there is no policy with regard to the Israeli-Arabs.

Furthermore, in the past fifteen years, Israel is becoming more racist. The racism is against Arabs, against guest workers, against non-Jews in general. Israel is becoming more aggressive in its attitude to minorities. It believes in force as a useful instrument for solving problems.

Diskin warned against another political assassination, saying that there are people who might resort to this in situation of settlement evacuation and giving up land for peace. Evacuation of settlements in the West Bank would be far more difficult than the evacuation of settlements in Gaza.,7340,L-4221655,00.html (Hebrew),7340,L-4221547,00.html (Hebrew).

Haggai Amir Released from Prison

On May 4, 2012, after 16.5 years in prison for the role he played in the Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, Haggai Amir is a free man. The assassin, his brother Yigal Amir, awaits his time. I sincerely hope that no president and no government will ever authorize his release.

Haggai Amir was accepted with celebration and joy by people who see him as a hero who salvaged the Jewish people. He has no regrets whatsoever, thinking he did the right thing.

I suspect we will continue to hear about him.

Israel on UN List of States Limiting Human Rights Organizations

UN Human Rights Commissioner, Navi Pillay, lists Israel among countries that limit human rights organizations together with countries such as Belarus, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Ethiopia and Venezuela.

Israel was named due to the bill approved by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation six months ago to restrict funding by foreign governments to nonprofit organizations. Prime Minister Netanyahu supported the bill throughout most of its formulation. However, he ordered it frozen after Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said such a law would be struck down by the High Court of Justice.

Although the law never reached the Knesset, Pillay said in her statement: "In Israel, the recently adopted Foreign Funding Law could have a major impact on human rights organizations, subjecting them to rigorous reporting requirements, forcing them to declare foreign financial support in all public communications, and threatening heavy penalties for non-compliance."

Israel is the only democratic country listed in Pillay's statement. The others are all dictatorships or developing countries. Among them is Ethiopia, where human rights groups have been shut down by a law prohibiting foreign funding in excess of 10 percent of a group's budget. She also lists Cambodia, where a law is being promoted that would shutter NGOs whose work is found to "harm national unity, culture, customs and traditions of the Cambodian national society." In Belarus, which is ruled by the dictator Alexander Lukashenko, a law passed in October 2011 criminalizes the acceptance of foreign grants that are outlawed by the legislature.

Last month, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman instructed the Israeli mission to the United Nations in Geneva to cut ties with the UN Human Rights Commission after member countries in the Human Rights Council voted to establish an international commission of inquiry on the West Bank settlements. A senior source in the Foreign Ministry said Israel's inclusion in Pillay's statement was a direct outcome of Lieberman's move. "This was a mistake and now we see the results," the source said.

US Launch of the Atrocities Prevention Board

Remarks by President Obama at the United States Holocaust Museum, April 23, 2012
"Never again" is a challenge to defend the fundamental right of free people and free nations to exist in peace and security -- and that includes the State of Israel.  And on my visit to the old Warsaw Ghetto, a woman looked me in the eye, and she wanted to make sure America stood with Israel.  She said, "It’s the only Jewish state we have."  And I made her a promise in that solemn place.  I said I will always be there for Israel.

So when efforts are made to equate Zionism to racism, we reject them.  When international forums single out Israel with unfair resolutions, we vote against them.  When attempts are made to delegitimize the state of Israel, we oppose them.  When faced with a regime that threatens global security and denies the Holocaust and threatens to destroy Israel, the United States will do everything in our power to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon……

We’re making sure that the United States government has the structures, the mechanisms to better prevent and respond to mass atrocities.  So I created the first-ever White House position dedicated to this task.  It’s why I created a new Atrocities Prevention Board, to bring together senior officials from across our government to focus on this critical mission.  This is not an afterthought.  This is not a sideline in our foreign policy.  The board will convene for the first time today, at the White House.  And I’m pleased that one of its first acts will be to meet with some of your organizations -- citizens and activists who are partners in this work, who have been carrying this torch.

The Leveson Inquiry

The Leveson Inquiry Committee continues to capture the headlines in Britain. The Committee was established on July 6, 2011 by Prime Minister Cameron to study the culture, practice and ethics of the British press following the News International phone hacking scandal which, until now, brought the closure of News of the World newspaper. The Committee is operating under The Inquiries Act 2005,

On July 13, 2011, PM Cameron appointed Lord Justice Leveson as Chairman of the inquiry, with a remit to look into the specific claims about phone hacking at the News of the World, the initial police inquiry and allegations of illicit payments to police by the press, and a second inquiry to review the general culture and ethics of the British media. Not only the press should be examined. The Murdoch family also owns Sky media.

James Murdoch is sticking to his story that he never saw an incriminating email regarding phone hacking at News of the World until 2010. Speaking before the Leveson Inquiry into press standards, the former chairman of News Corp.’s British newspaper division insisted management told him the paper had a clean bill of health. Much of the questioning on April 24, 2012 ( focused on the relationship between Murdoch and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who Murdoch denied acted as a "cheerleader" for News Corp.

The Murdoch family must address allegations over the attempt to gain even greater control over the British media through close contacts with senior politicians, what did the politicians gain from their cooperation, and the media empire’s illegal activity. One may assume that the practice of phone hacking was not restricted only to the News of the World. If it happened in one of the Murdoch’s paper, it is likely to happen in others as well as in the empire’s electronic media. I would expect the largest newspaper in Britain, The Sun, to be under close scrutiny.

I wonder just for how long could the Murdoch move freely in, and especially out, of the UK? I find it difficult to assume that editors of newspapers can act so grossly unethically and illegally without the guidance, and knowledge, of the owner.

The Press Complaints Commission is to Shut Down

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) is to be shut down after 21 years, closing one of the most controversial chapters in the history of self regulation of the UK newspaper industry.

The watchdog, which was fatally wounded by its response to the phone-hacking scandal, has confirmed that it will formally close and be replaced with a transitional body which will take charge of press regulation until a new system is set up in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry. The long-term replacement for the PCC is not expected to be up and running for at least a year and may not be in place until 2014 if statutes are needed for a proposed arbitration unit offering a libel resolution service.

In the meantime, the newspaper industry has decided that closing the existing self-regulatory body will offer the press a clean break from the past and an opportunity to regain the confidence of the public.

The PCC chairman, Lord Hunt, said: "So we're very much now on the front foot and listening to all sides and determined to bring forward the sort of independent self-regulatory structure that everyone will approve of" (The Guardian, March 8, 2012).

The name of the new body and its structure have not been finalised but Hunt said the parts of the PCC that had worked would be retained, including the complaints resolution service.

Lord Justice Leveson is expected to publish his findings in October and may recommend some sort of statutory regulation to enable a new body to include a legally binding libel arbitration arm.

I was a member of the Israel Press Council and have studied the practice of that body, the practice of the PCC, and the practice of the Canadian press councils for a number of years. In my book, Speech, Media and Ethics (Houndmills: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2005) I wrote about my disillusionment with all the studied press councils and suggested recommendations for a new regulatory body.

Many people in the media portray any limitation on free expression as the infringement of a virtue that lies at the heart of democracy. But often this portrayal is exaggerated. We need to acknowledge the ‘democratic catch’: that the very foundations of democracy might open the gate for denial of fundamental rights. Often the case is not one of a zero-sum game. Quite the contrary: sometimes limitations on free speech are required to safeguard basic liberal values, like the right to privacy. The freedom to print and publish does not include the freedom to unjustifiably ruin one’s name, one’s honour and dignity.

Indeed, the British, Canadian, and Israeli societies have sensational tabloid journalism that does not care much for the work of the press councils, and prints whatever story is likely to increase its sales. Financial and ethical considerations do not necessarily go hand in hand. Competition and sales are in the forefront of their considerations, not ethics and sometimes nor law. To ensure that some standards are maintained, the press must have a strong, independent, and effective Press Council, with significant powers of sanction. The Press Council should publicise itself, its powers, work, and adjudication to make itself known to the public and to gain its trust. The budget to run each council’s affairs should be far larger than it now is. Limited budget of the councils ensures inadequate ability to carry out their duties as they should.

The media industries see the press councils more or less as lightning rods. They exist to show that the press cares about ethics, that it grapples with ethical dilemmas, that it is interested in what the public thinks; therefore there is no need for restrictive legislation. Press councils are designed to receive and deal with public grievances as well as to calm intolerant tendencies on the part of the legislature.

There are many similarities between the press councils in Britain, Canada, and Israel. The only power that the press councils have (until now) is the publication of adjudication against the papers. This is a very limited power. In the three democracies, papers that do publish adjudication of justified complaints against them do not necessarily grant the adjudication a prominent place in the newspaper.

Furthermore, the press councils are little known in their respective countries. Large segments of all three societies are unaware of their existence, and many of those who are aware of their presence do not appreciate their work. This is because the press councils are voluntary bodies, with little authority and powers, with very limited abilities, and they enjoy only qualified support of the industry. The press industries want the councils to act as preventive bodies, to pre-empt measures that would interfere with press freedom. They do not really want the press councils to represent the public interests. They fund the work of the councils and through this they secure their dependence. The result is that the public conceives their work as a ‘sold game’, and most of it remain indifferent or uninterested in what the councils do.

Some of the papers, while upholding the idea of press freedom, abuse that freedom. This should not be allowed. The press councils should be accorded the powers to humiliate, to expose hideous and ghastly publications and behaviour. These powers should include the following:

- The publication of adjudication. Any newspaper against which a complaint has been upheld should publish in full the Press Council’s adjudication on that complaint. The publication should appear in a prominent place. If the Council is unhappy with the placement of the adjudication, it should be able to ask the paper to republish the item on a specific page. The Council should be able to decide where, on what page, the adjudication should be published, so as not to allow newspapers to bury the adjudication-in-brief in small letters on a back page.
- The ability to impose significant fines on newspapers for gross misconduct. These fines should be given to designated charities. Because of the inherent conflict of interests, the fines should not be made available to sponsor the work of the Press Council. After the tragic death of Princess Diana in 1997, the British PCC contemplated this idea but in the end it was decided not to expand the powers of control.
- The ability to suspend journalists for gross misconduct, like phone hacking, for a limited period of time.
- The ability to suspend publication of newspapers. A threat to suspend publication even for one day would be effective, even more than fines. In Britain, where competition between the tabloids is particularly fierce, readers looking for their usual paper would not find it, and would buy another paper, and might switch their allegiance.

The Press Council should be comprised, as they are indeed now, of public representatives and representatives of the press industry, of the proprietors, and of the editors. A special and independent Select (or Appointment) Committee, selected by leading publishers and prominent journalists, would decide who would serve on the Council among those who offer their candidacy. The independent public representatives should have a majority within the body and include the Chairperson. This would be to avoid a partisan majority and a leader who would care more for the interests of the industry than for those of the public.

Members of the Press Council should serve for a period of five years. They could be re-elected by their colleagues for an additional five years if the majority of members felt that they could continue carrying out their duties and if the representatives felt that they were able to continue to commit themselves. After a maximum period of ten years, members should be expected to retire so as to allow the introduction of new members.

Members of the Council should be paid for each meeting in which they take part. One of the inherent problems in the working of all the press councils in the three democracies reviewed concerns the voluntary character they assume. The councils are composed of relatively prominent people who do not have the time and the will to adequately meet the responsibilities involved. Volunteering is a lofty idea but it hinders the effective working of the councils. Serving on press councils should be considered a heavy responsibility that deserves some financial recognition. The exact payment should be decided in accordance with the budget of each council. In any event, the payment should not be seen in terms of a salary but as a token of appreciation for the commitment, time, and effort invested by the members. Members of the Ethics Tribunal or Committees dealing with complaints should convene every two or three months for a weekend during which they would hear complaints and adjudicate. Members of these organs deserve substantial payment for their involvement. Here I follow the pattern set by the British Standards Council (, an independent body on behalf of the audience, whose roles are to consider complaints, to conduct research and monitor the broadcasting media, and to provide a forum for the discussion of wider issues. The twelve members of the Council are paid for their work, and they meet several times a year for concentrated sessions of two to three days to adjudicate complaints.

Complaints to the Press Council should be made in writing, snail mail and electronic mail, free of charge, as is the case now. The procedure should be fast, informal, and available to ordinary people. One should not have to have a lawyer to be represented.

Funding is an essential prerequisite for independence of the councils. The press councils should be funded by an independent body - a charity or a foundation - that cares about the press and understands its significant role in a democratic society. This body is required to be apolitical, without any affiliation to the media. Existing bodies like the Ford or MacArthur Foundations would be suitable, or alternatively special charities (“Concerned Citizens for Accountable Media”) could be founded. We must change the existing situation where proprietors fund the councils that are supposed to scrutinize their conduct. There is room to suspect that the public interests are not adequately served when the entire funding comes from the industry.

The press councils’ adjudication should be made in accordance with a written Code of Ethics. The Code should be written in clear language that lay people without knowledge of law can comprehend. The Code of Ethics should not cover areas that are covered by the law but should set normative standards for ethical and professional reporting. The Code of Ethics should be circulated among media circles and among the public at large so people will be aware of its existence. Editors should see that the Code is on the desk of every reporter. This is not the case now in most media organisations in Britain, Canada, and Israel. The Code should be incorporated into the journalists’ contracts.

The adjudication of the press councils should be reported regularly every several months, as is the case in Britain. It is assumed that if the above recommendations were accepted, there would be sufficient material to issue a report every two months or so. These reports should be sent to all people involved in the work of the councils: reporters, publishers, editors, and members of the public.

Finally, serving on the press council should be regarded as an honour for media organisations, reflecting their keeping of ethical standards.

Hull Local Elections

On May 3, 2012 Hull held its local elections. Lord Mayor of Hull, Colin Inglis, invited me to the counting of the votes in the City Hall. It was an interesting experience. In Israel, I was at party headquarters during national election nights, but I have never been in local elections night.

Colin’s ward is Myton. We were watching the counting and early in the evening we were joined by the other four candidates and their guests who also came to inspect the process. These were members of the Conservative Party, Lib-Dem, UKIP (UK Independence Party), and the National Front.

The Conservative candidate was a former student of mine, a young man (first year BA student) who has been living in Hull since he started his studies at Hull University last September. It was a pleasant surprise. I asked Adam how much time did he invest in running for elections and his answer was 10 to 15 hours. I would say the Conservative Party in Hull is quite desperate... It will take more than that to oust Colin from office. With the Conservative backing, the most industrious Adam received 105 votes. But it was a pleasant surprise to see my student standing for election. Adam invests more in his studies... I expect him to run again in the future. He found the experience most interesting.

Far less unexpected was the company of the National Front guy. Full of nationalistic tattoos all over his body (noticeable were those on his skull, neck and hands) in red, green and black which resembled Nazi symbols and the number “88” (stands for SS) features bluntly on his neck. We stood 5 cm apart. I asked my Labour friends what would have happened if he were to know I am Jewish. Their answer was: Not to worry. The police are here, and there was never a fight inside the Hall. I was not worried. Simply disgusted.

Hull is a Labour city. It divided into 23 wards for electoral purposes. Each ward elects either two or three councillors, giving a total of 59.

Following the local election, Labour has retained control of Hull City Council with 39 seats out of a total of 59.

Membership before elections
Labour Group: 34
Liberal Democrat Group: 22
N.E.W. Independent Group: 1
Conservative Group: 2

Membership after elections

Labour Group: 39
Liberal Democrat Group: 17
N.E.W. Independent Group: 1
Conservative Group: 2

Congratulations to Colin for his massive win with 61.% of the vote. Second came UKIP, before the Lib-Dem. The National Front got 70 votes; 70 too many. See

Congratulations also to Mayoress Helena Spencer who became a councilor for the first time. I know she will serve her constituents with responsibility and deep commitment.

Nick Clegg continues to understand that selling his principles and soul for governmental seats is not appreciated by the British public. The Lib-Dem might disintegrate with some members seeking a place within the Conservative Party, some with Labour, while others should find an honest job.

Hillary Clinton Honored with The Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service

On April 26, 2012, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton received the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service during an awards gala attended by many of her closest friends and colleagues. A video tribute featured interviews with former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, James Baker, Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, and Condeleezza Rice. Wilson Center Director, President, and CEO Jane Harman and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde offered opening remarks. 


Role of Nurses in Third Reich "Overlooked"

The work of Nazi doctors is a well-documented lesson in medical ethics. There was even a separate trial for them at Nuremberg and seven were hanged. But what about the nurses who assisted them? Their role has been airbrushed from history, says an Australian academic.

Professor Linda Shields, of Curtin University, expressed her concerns in Nursing Review,

"There has been a great deal of scholarship on the role of doctors and what they did in Nazi-occupied Europe, what has been neglected or overlooked is the role of nurses... And yet most of the killings that we are looking at occurred in hospitals where nurses made up the bulk of the workforce. Nurses were very much involved in the killings and the camp experiments".

Survivor testimonies and available documents state that nurses actively and voluntarily participated in Nazi euthanasia programs, killing over 10,000 people, many of them children. Some estimates are as high as 30,000 victims. While it is impossible to find exact figures on the number of nurses involved - as most of the information was destroyed after the war - Shields says it was a minority of nurses but most have not been held to account for their crimes.

"The bulk of nurses working in Nazi-occupied Europe cared for their patients appropriately, but there were a handful of nurses who chose, and the word is chose, to follow the regime that declared that some of their patients should be killed. These nurses were not forced to do it. The nurses who did these things did them of their own free will."

Many nurses were allowed to relocate to other hospitals because they disagreed with the objectives of the programs, records state. "There is no record of anyone being sent to a concentration camp. There is no record of anyone losing their job over refusing to participate in the sterilisation or euthanasia programs," Shields says.

Sign a Petition for a Moment of Silence in the Olympics

I have signed this. Please sign it as well and pass this on to all your contacts.

This summer, the London Olympics will mark the 40th anniversary of the murder of the eleven Israeli athletes in Munich.  The International Olympic Committee has never acknowledged this terrible massacre despite repeated requests from the surviving family members for a moment of silence in their memory.

A New York area JCC has established a petition with a goal of one million signatures to ask the IOC for a moment of silence at the London Olympics to remember the eleven Israeli athletes who were murdered when they represented their country in the most important world sporting event. Please take a moment to go to the link below, sign the petition, and forward it to as many people as you can.

Thank you for your help. Together, we can make a difference.

International Olympic Committee: Minute of Silence at the 2012 London Olympics. - Sign the Petition!

I have signed it. Will you sign it as well?

World Chess Championship 2012

Follow the World Chess Championship 2012 between Viswanathan Anand of India and Boris Gelfand of Israel,

Go Boris Go!!!!!!!!

Visitors to the University of Hull - Professor Mervyn Frost

On April 25, 2011 I hosted Professor Mervyn Frost in the Middle East Study Group. Mervyn presented a thought-provoking paper titled “War, Ethics and Foul Play in Contemporary International Relations” which provoked extensive discussion. People were so engaged that I was afraid they won’t let him finish! I brought the meeting to a close twenty minutes after 7 pm, so we won’t be TOO late for dinner.

Professor Mervyn Frost, BA (Stellenbosch), MA (Stellenbosch), B.Phil. (Oxford), D.Phil. (Stellenbosch) is Head of the Department of War Studies at King’s College, London.  He was educated at the University of Stellenbosch and subsequently, as a Rhodes Scholar, he read Politics at Oxford.   He held lectureships at the University of Cape Town and at Rhodes University.  He was appointed to the Chair of Politics at the University of Natal in Durban in 1986.  In 1996 he was appointed Professor of International Relations at the University of Kent in Canterbury.  His research interest is in the field of ethics in international relations. His publications include: Towards a Normative Theory of International Relations (Cambridge University Press, 1986), Ethics in International Relations (Cambridge University Press, 1996), Constituting Human Rights: Global Civil Society and the Society of Democratic States (London, Routledge, 2002) and Global Ethics: Anarchy, Freedom and International Relations (Routledge, 2009).  He has published in Political Studies, The Review of International Studies, International Relations, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, Theoria and Millennium: Journal of International Studies.

I thank Mervyn for his excellent presentation.

Visit to Israel

In late June-early July I plan to be Israel. Hope I will be able to meet as many of you as it possible. I miss Israel a great deal. It has been a while since my last visit.

I intend to participate in a conference in Haifa and to spend the rest of my time in the Tel Aviv area.

New Books

Gus Martin, Understanding Terrorism (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2013), 4th Edition.

Martin has taken upon himself to explain terrorism to undergraduate students in a clear and lucid fashion. This comprehensive volume covers many of the crucial aspects of terror, starting with the problematic definition of terrorism, explaining who are the instigators of terrorism (the State, dissidents, religious movements, left ideology, right ideology), the role of the media, and means to fight terrorism. Martin ends by probing the future of terrorism.

The book is thorough and updated, with many photos and examples that make the book accessible and easy to read. It is an asset for anyone who teaches terrorism in the undergraduate level.

I thank Sage for a copy of this important book.

Monthly Poem

It seemed that Spring had arrived early in Britain. March was wonderful, after a mild winter to compensate for last-year horrible, memorable winter, the coldest ever in the history of Britain since they started forecasting the weather.

Thus, in March flowers began to bloom, preparing for the warm weather, enjoying the sun, pleasing the eye and provoking allergies all over…

April came, and with it came heavy wind, cold and rain. Poor flowers. Nature betrayed them. They are required to develop resilience to survive in these changes. So are we. Many people had their winter flu twice: In winter time, and in April.

May, up until now, has been like autumn. Ups and downs, gloomy, with many drizzles, “classic”, familiar English weather. As if someone has meddled with the seasons and mixed them, and now is enjoying watching the confusion.

Now I am hoping for a true, uninterrupted real Spring, which will bring us to a lovely, sunny summer. I need the sun. I miss the sun. I am a sun-man.

Spring, the Sweet Spring

Spring, the sweet spring, is the year's pleasant king,
Then blooms each thing, then maids dance in a ring,
Cold doth not sting, the pretty birds do sing:
Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!

The palm and may make country houses gay,
Lambs frisk and play, the shepherds pipe all day,
And we hear aye birds tune this merry lay:
Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!

The fields breathe sweet, the daisies kiss our feet,
Young lovers meet, old wives a-sunning sit,
In every street these tunes our ears do greet:
Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to witta-woo!

Thomas Nashes

Gem of the Month

This month I was having a ball. Actually, two balls. In one weekend. On a Friday, a Charity Ball; then, on Saturday Departmental Festive Dinner, celebrating 50 years of the Department of Politics at the University of Hull. Both events were organized by the Lord Mayor of Hull, Colin Inglis, and Lady Mayoress Helena Spencer.

Lord Bhikhu Parekh and Lord Mayor Colin Inglis

I am grateful to Helena and Colin for the organization and the kind invitation.

Light Side – Dating Advice from the Rabbi

You can see other old Jews telling jokes via this link. Some of them are true little gems.

Marty Adickman is "a dentist by profession, but a musician by nature." He plays in a local band called, "The Alte Rockers." He's also the deputy mayor of his village in Russell Gardens, New York.

Peace and love, with the sun warming us and illuminating our lives.

Yours as ever,


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