Monday, November 16, 2020

Politics – October-November 2020 


A New Dawn. Sense of Relief.

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Four years of trauma for people who believe and endorse the values of justice, tolerance, human rights, respect for the other, decency, civility, minority rights, women rights, health rights, social responsibility, social care, care and responsibility for future generations.

I have been following elections campaigns in Israel, the USA and the UK since the 1980s. I have never seen anything like Trump. And I certainly hope never to see again.

There is a very small number of things I put to Trump’s credit, and an enormous number of things that I truly disliked. He was like a storm that aimed to destroy liberal values.

Trump lost. Trumpism is here to stay. We should be alert and very cautious of the seeds Trump had plant in the USA and elsewhere. We should continue to fight for our just values. Justice for all, not only for the privileged some.

I hope people will study Trumpism as a social, historical and political phenomenon. I hope never to live it again.

Common sense does prevail. Sometimes it hesitates. But eventually it does prevail.

Reflections on Last Newsletter

My New Article: Should liberal government regulate male circumcision performed in the name of Jewish tradition?

Holocaust Denial in Canada

Cracking the Mystery of How the Brain Achieves Skilled Movement

F-22 to Israel

Israel and Hamas Said to Reach a 6-month Truce

Cyprus, Israel, and Greece Agree to Boost Defense Cooperation

Israel will sell natural gas to Egypt and Jordan as part of a deal estimated at $30b 

Israeli delivers Iron Dome to US Army

Elbit Signs $50 million Contract with US military

Israel is to set to ban the fur trade 

Animal Cruelty

MESG Research Seminar: The Making of Alliance: The Origins of Israel-US Special Relations

Did You Know?

Book Review: Cary Nelson, Israel Denial (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2019). Israel Studies Review, Vol. 35(2) (2020): 199-201.

Movie of the Month - The Crimes that Bind (2020)

Monthly Poems

Light Side

Reflections on Last Newsletter

Some of you asked me to advise of Professor David Drewry’s recorded lecture. It is available at

I was asked what do I think of the normalisation accords that Israel signed with UAE, Bahrain and later with Sudan. I always believed that THE key to Israel’s security and survival is its integration into the region. The more such accords, the better. With UAE and Bahrain, the accords are important economically. With Sudan, it is symbolically and also due to its practical implications. 

UAE and Bahrain present great trade and business opportunities. They are also touristic destinations for many Israelis.

Sudan is a very big country, with population of 40 million people. Symbolically, Sudan until now was known as the country that hosted the Arab summit in which the three No’s were invoked: No to peace with Israel; No recognition of Israel, and no negotiations with Israel. See The Khartoum Resolutions
September 1, 1967,

Now, things are different.

Practically, Israel seeks to settle the issue of some 6,000 Sudanese who work in Israel. Most, if not all of them, infiltrated Israel from the Sinai Desert. Israel has said that it has no legal obligations toward them and has sought a solution to them for many years.

These treaties lessen Israel’s isolation, pressure the Palestinians to seek avenues for normalization with Israel, and challenge Iran. I expect other Gulf countries to follow UAE and Bahrain. Later, Saudi Arabia may join too. Much will depend on American leadership and drive as a powerful mediator.

On Wednesday 20th January 2021, 18:00, I invited His Excellency Fawaz bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, Ambassador of Bahrain to the United Kingdom, to present his ideas on “The Normalisation Accord between Bahrain and Israel”. You are welcome to join.

I was asked what do I think on Facebook’s decision to bar Holocaust denial. I have been calling social networks to do this for a number of years, signalling Facebook due to its prominence.

In my articles, I advance three arguments in support of my plea for banning Holocaust denial: Principled, consequentialist and formal. The principled argument holds that Holocaust denial is a form of hate speech. It is negative by definition, destructive and anti-human. From a principled viewpoint, there is no redeeming value in assisting the dissemination of hatred.

The consequentialist argument holds that the aim of hate speech is to hurt people. Evidence shows that there is direct correlation between hate speech and hate crime. Increasingly, there is also correlation between hate crimes and terrorism. Therefore, Internet companies should be extra careful in assisting the promotion of hatred and terror.

The formal argument holds that Holocaust denial contravenes Facebook’s own terms of service. The terms of service said: “You will not post content that is hateful, threatening, pornographic, or that contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence”. There was a gap between the statements and the conduct. This gap should have been closed many years ago. Companies should be loyal to their terms of service. Otherwise these terms are meaningless. Better late than never, I welcome Facebook’s decision and call upon other social networking sites to follow the same line.

France24 sought my views on the matter. A fragment of my interview was published at


My New Article: Should liberal government regulate male circumcision performed in the name of Jewish tradition?

Just published the attached:

“Should Liberal Government Regulate Male Circumcision Performed in the Name of Jewish Tradition?”, SN Social Sciences, Vol. 1, Article 8 (2021). (published online 9 November 2020).

The final part of the article includes a proposal for humane male circumcision that considers religious sentiments and the rights of the child, aiming to strike a reasonable balance between competing interests.

I hope the article will promote discussion and debate among researchers, parliamentarians, legislators, religious authorities and other interested parties.

Holocaust Denial in Canada

This past month I travelled virtually to Budapest, Montreal and London, delivering lectures on COVID-19, privacy, human rights, hate on the Internet, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and Holocaust denial in Canada. 

You can watch my talk on Holocaust denial in Canada at

I thank Professor Marlene Grossman for arranging this.

Cracking the Mystery of How the Brain Achieves Skilled Movement

A team led by Technion’s Professor Jackie Schiller has uncovered surprising ways the brain learns and adapts skilled movement. The findings hold promise for future treatments of brain disease and disorders.

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Survival depends on our ability to move. Whether it be to acquire food, eat, take care of our offspring, or protect ourselves, the coordinated movements we make daily require subconscious adjustments and adaptation to changes in the environment or our bodies. The brain must learn from previous movements and use that information to correct current and future movements. However, little is known about how neurons in the motor cortex – the part of the brain that directs skilled movement – process and apply experience to achieve coordinated and essential skilled movement.

F-22 to Israel

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After the US agreed to sell F-35 fighters to the UAE, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said that the Trump administration has approved selling F-22 stealth fighters (“Raptor”) to Israel. Such a sale requires Congress to overturn a current law barring Washington from exporting the advanced fighter jets. The House of Representatives passed the law in 1998 over concerns that the nigh-unparalleled stealth technology in the F-22 could fall into the hands of Russia or China if the aircraft were sold abroad, including to Israel. Israeli defense officials asked to buy the F-22 — one of the world’s most advanced fighter jets — to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region. 

Israel and Hamas Said to Reach a 6-month Truce

On October 12, 2020, it was reported that Israel and Hamas reached a truce agreement mediated by Qatar that will see quiet for 6 months. In return, Qatar will transfer $100 million to Hamas in a deal coordinated with Doha by Mossad head Yossi Cohen alongside the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. Qatar’s envoy to Gaza, has regularly visited the strip in recent years with Israeli approval, bringing funds for purchasing fuel, paying civil servants and helping Gaza’s poor. The most recent set of funding was set to run out within weeks. With the exception of 2 incidents of rocket fire, an unofficial agreement between Israel and Hamas has mainly held since the end of August, when Hamas Gaza chief’s office announced that the terror group had accepted ceasefire terms negotiated by Qatar. Israel tacitly indicated its consent by lifting the restrictions imposed on the Strip since the beginning of the August escalation in violence. 

Source: The Times of Israel

The defense ministers of Greece, Israel and Cyprus agreed to step up military cooperation they said will keep their armed forces better prepared, help create more jobs and bolster security. Defense Minister Benny Gantz said it was agreed during talks in Nicosia to "promote large-scale industry cooperation that will bolster our defense abilities and create thousands of jobs for all three economies."


Israel will sell natural gas to Egypt and Jordan as part of a deal estimated at $30b 

Israel will sell natural gas to Egypt and Jordan as part of a $30b deal. Israel is one of seven countries that launched the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum at an event organized by Cairo, the seat of the forum's headquarters. Ambassadors from forum members Italy, Greece, Jordan, Israel, Cyprus, and the Palestinian Authority, tuned in from Cairo. The ambassadors of three other countries interested in joining the forum – France as a member state and the US and the EU– also participated. The EMGF was established by Israel Energy Minister Steinitz and Egyptian Energy Minister Tarek el-Molla as an informal grouping after Israel and Egypt discovered offshore natural gas fields. 

Israeli delivers Iron Dome to US Army

Sometimes the fox can help the lion. Israel’s Ministry of Defense has delivered the first of two Iron Dome Defense System batteries to the U.S. Army. Defense Minister Benny Gantz said the system had saved many Israeli civilian lives and “I am proud that this advanced system will also protect U.S. Army troops.”

Elbit Signs $50 million Contract with US military

Israel's Elbit Systems said its U.S. subsidiary won a $50 million contract to produce spare parts for the aviators' night vision imaging system head-up display system of the U.S. Army. The contract, to be carried out over 5 years, was awarded by the Defense Logistics Agency. An initial order for $17.9 million was placed to be supplied until 2023. The day and night display system connects to the helmets of army helicopter pilots, allowing their heads to remain upright and looking out of the aircraft, with all applicable information presented in front of their eyes. 


Israel is to set to ban the fur trade 

Israel is to set to ban the fur trade - the first nation in the world to do so. Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel said, "Utilizing the skin and fur of wildlife for the fashion industry is immoral." Even the BBC reported the news.

Animal Cruelty

Too often I see on social media and “talent” competitions animals trained to behave like humans. Dogs, horses, pigs, cats and more. People invest hundreds of hours in training animals to do tricks that would impress us because then the animals behave like humans or, worse, like human athletes. Some of those tricks are unnatural for those animals to do. Dogs do not naturally walk on two. I do not think they like it very much.

Subjecting those poor animals to such training amounts to animal cruelty. It should stop.

There is no “talent” in training your dog to behave like a human athlete or simply to behave like human. 

Show your talent by behaving like your dog, horse or cat. Behave like them. Subject yourself to a rigid regime of training when you learn to walk like a dog, roll like a dog, run like a dog, stretch like a dog, try to catch a fly like a dog.

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It would be nice for a change, and far more interesting, to see humans doing dog's stuff rather than seeing dogs behaving like humans. 

MESG Research Seminar: The Making of Alliance: The Origins of Israel-US Special Relations

Middle East Study Group

Research Seminar

Wednesday 25 November 2020, 6.00pm – 8.00pm

The Making of Alliance: The Origins of Israel-US Special Relations

Professor David Tal

Yossi Harel Chair in Modern Israel Studies

University of Sussex, UK

Link to register:


In December 1962, President John F. Kennedy told Israel’s foreign minister, Golda Meir, that “the United States has a special relationship with Israel in the Middle East comparable only to that which it has with Britain.” While agreeing that indeed, the Israeli-American relations could be labeled as ‘special,’ most students of American-Israeli relations marked the 1967 war as the turning point in the American-Israeli relationship. Israel’s astonishing victory made it, so went the argument, a valuable ally to the United States. However, the roots of the Israeli-American special relationship are to be found much earlier. Religion, values, and history are in the heart of the American-Israeli relationship, and they decided the nature and direction of the relationship from the inception of the Zionist movement in the United States. 

The lecture will explore how those premises created, on the one hand, strong commitment on the part of the United States to help the Zionist movement and Israel to achieve their aspirations and to secure their existence, and on the other hand, made American presidents and administrations receptive to Zionist and Israeli statesmen and diplomats, and allowed the creation of constant dialogue between Americans and Zionists and Israelis.


Professor David Tal is the Yossi Harel Chair in Modern Israel Studies at the University of Sussex. Professor Tal got his Ph.D. from Tel Aviv University in 1995. He had taught at Tel Aviv University and was a visiting professor at Emory University and Syracuse University. In 2009 he was appointed as Kahanoff Chair in Israel Studies at the University of Calgary, Canada, and was the head of the Israel Program there. Professor Tal was a NATO research fellow (2000-2002), INSCT research fellow (Syracuse University, 2008-2013) and Daniel Abraham Center for International and Regional Studies research fellow (2011-2012, 2013-2014, 2019-2020). Professor Tal specializes in Israel’s military and diplomatic history and US nuclear disarmament policy. He authored four books and edited two. His most recent authored book is US Strategic Arms Policy in the Cold War: Negotiation and Confrontation over SALT, 1969-79 (London: Routledge, 2017). He published more than 40 articles and book chapters in the major journals pertinent to Israel’s military and diplomatic history and US foreign policy. His present project is the history of US-Israel special relationship from the early 20th century to the present. Cambridge University Press will publish the book.

Date: Wednesday 25 November 2020, 6.00pm – 8.00pm

Please register directly with the online platform: 

Please register:

All are welcome to attend

More information at 

Did You Know?

The Hawaiian alphabet has 13 letters.

Reindeer like bananas.

The most commonly used letter in the alphabet is E

The 3 most common languages in the world are Mandarin Chinese, Spanish and English

Did You Know?

62 Internet Statistics That Will Wow You in 2020

Book Review: Cary Nelson, Israel Denial (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2019). Israel Studies Review, Vol. 35(2) (2020): 199-201.

Cary Nelson has been fighting against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement since 2006. He was the president of the American Association of University Professors between 2006 and 2012 and had to deal with the movement and the challenges that it posed to freedom of expression and academic freedom. 

Israel Denial examines the tactics that university professors have used to demonise, discredit, delegitimize and punish Israel for all the wrongdoing that it inflicts on the Palestinians. It is the most comprehensive study to date of the BDS challenge. Nelson explains that many BDS activists believe that Zionism is racist at its core, that the very idea of a Jewish state is illegitimate, that Israel has no right to exist, and that any Israeli institution and organisation that fails to condemn Israeli policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians should be banned. The book does not make an easy read as the information provided is quite disturbing.

Chapter 1 analyses the goals and tactics of the boycott movement. BDS advocates three categories of boycotts: academic, economic and cultural. Nelson shows that the BDS’s claim that it does not target individuals is completely false. Nelson provides numerous examples of attacks on certain individuals who were targeted by the BDS movement. The absurdity of the BDS action is exemplified by the removal of two Israeli academics, Miriam Shlesinger and Gideon Toury, from editorial boards notwithstanding the fact that both of them were human rights activists who were vocal about protecting Palestinian rights (p. 31). Another troubling incident concerned Amit Duvshani whose application to conduct research at Oxford was rejected on the sole ground that Amit served in the Israeli army (p. 32). The merit of his application was deemed irrelevant.

Part two of the book is the most disturbing section of this comprehensive volume. It is comprised of four chapters (3-6), each discusses the twisted and incoherent views of four prominent BDS activists who strive to make the world a better place by isolating Israel and its supporters. Truth be told, I found these four chapters most distressing and frustrating. I do not wish to elaborate on the views of those four individuals (Butler, Salaita, Makdisi and Puar) because I do not wish to give them any legitimacy, any recognition, indeed more time than they deserve. Nelson has done brilliant work in exposing their distorted and uninformed viewpoints. Those notorious BDS activists speak about a “just and peaceable coexistence” between Israel and the Palestinians and the same time promote hatred, vilification and violence against Israel and its supporters, failing to see that achieving peace via violence and destructive means is contradiction in terms. Those who wish to boycott Israel undercut academic freedom and betray values we all hold dear: Freedom of expression, tolerance, equality, justice and peace. Sweeping boycott decisions are truly horrible.

In chapter 7, Nelson discusses course planning and classroom teaching of BDS academics tailored to delegitimise Israel. Nelson highlights incidents of intimidation and ridiculing students only because they were Israelis or because they dared to raise questions that are, prima facie, neutral or supportive of Israel. Nelson thinks that the best antidote to courses that demonise Israel are courses that promote nuance and subtlety on both sides of the conflict (p. 293).

Chapter 9 describes the effort by Modern Language Association faculty to boycott Israeli universities. Similar anti-Israeli argument were invoked in boycott proposals that were tabled in the American Anthropological Association, the American Historical Association, and other groups. Some of the arguments amounted to a claim that Israel’s only raison d'être as a nation is the torture of the Palestinian people (p. 334). Such ill-conceived arguments are supplemented by distortions that dilute the case for academic boycott as they put BDS activists’ bad judgement on display (p. 340).

This is a damning book of the BDS movement, exposing it for what it is: anti-Semitic, vile, destructive, dehumanising and hateful. The BDS movement paints the world in black-and-white while reality is far more multifaceted and complex. The BDS movement is destructive and negative. It does not offer any positive solutions towards peace or reconciliation. It has done nothing that actually helped the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territories nor offered any constructive proposals to improve their situation (p. 22). 

The book is thorough and honest. It does not cover up the problems. It is not aimed to beautify reality, to justify injustice or to condone Israeli policies whatever these are. What needs to be complimented is celebrated, and what needs to be condemned is castigated. Unlike the BDS that offers no practical solutions, Nelson suggests constructive solutions that are humane, just and reasonable.

My critique of the book relates to its organisation. It seems to me that one chapter (chapter 10 on academic freedom in Palestinian universities) is out of place, while some other chapters should have been in a different order. Chapter 2 outlines components of a peace plan. I think it would have made more sense to place it with chapter 11 that presents a case for a coordinated unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank. Both chapters should have been preceded by chapter 8 that discusses the teaching of Israeli (e.g. Yehuda Amichai, Dahlia Ravikovitch and Aharon Shabtai) and Palestinian poetry (e.g. Mahmoud Darwish, Taha Muhammnad Ali and Samih al-Qasim) together, which may lead to greater political understanding of the conflict. These three chapters together would present a case for constructive and peaceful ways to mitigate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to raise a forceful plea for human rights for all, notwithstanding religion, ethnicity or nationality. This alternative approach to the conflict is much more constructive than BDS.

In conclusion, this is not a book for the faint-hearted. It exposes a most alarming phenomenon that has been shaking the foundations of Western academia. The BDS movement cannot leave you neutral, untouched and indifferent. Professor Nelson provides fair and constructive criticism of the movement and his message is one of peace and justice that are far more effective as redeeming factors than the messages of hatred and bigotry that Israel’s enemies sponsor.

Movie of the Month - The Crimes that Bind (2020)

What does a mother do to protect her son? What measures will she be prepared to take in order to save him from prison? And what happens when she opens her eyes to see what she has failed to recognise for many years?

Love of a mother to a child is special. The maternal bond is strong. It takes a lot to shake it. There is almost no limit to sacrifices that mothers are willing to make for the sake of their children.

This sensitive Argentinian drama tells the story of two mothers. One had a comfortable life. Her upbringing apparently prepared her to be a mother. The other grew up without caring parents, in poverty, with no education. The first has developed strong maternal sentiments. The second does not know how to be a mother. The lives of both mothers became connected when the second arrived to work in the first’s home as a maid. The plot develops in two parallel tales. One tells the story of the devoted mother who would do everything for her son, including crimes to hide crimes. The second tells the story of the woman who does not know how to be a mother, who denies motherhood and has to bear the consequences of her harsh conduct.

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The movie is mainly built around the first mother. Cecilia Roth holds the film together. Her acting is superb. 

4 **** on Rafi’s scale

Monthly Poems

Behold, the morning-glory’s sky-blue cup
Is mine wherewith to drink the nectar up
That morning spills of silver dew,
And song upon the winds that woo
And sigh their vows
Among the boughs!

Behold, I’m rich in diamonds rare,
And pearls, and breathe a golden air;
My room is filled with shattered beams
Of light; my life is one of dreams,
In my hut on
The hills of dawn.

Alexander Posey


I love waterfalls

The sound of water pounding soil

Rainbow reflection in remarkable half moon

Making this perfect shape during the day

Purple, blue, green, yellow, orange and red

I love the smell of peace

Walking into the joyful mist

Scorpions love water

On the merry go round they do not sting

Son of the blue playful dolphin.

I love fireworks above waterfall and stars

Exploding in such a beautiful noise

Illuminating ice and land skies

Thousand of shooting stars 

Making young and old smile.

I love the mystery of going behind waterfalls

Tasting the rainbow without rain

Uplifting without being drunk

Immersing in their endless cycle

Freeing spirit and mind.

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Raphael Almagor

This photo evokes nice memories. Do you recognize these waterfalls?

Light Side

Researchers at Oxford University tested the jokes on 55 LSE students and asked them to score the gags.

The group thought the funniest was the one about the kid vs the barber (published in September 2020), but surely humour is subjective?

Professor Robert Dunbar who led the research gave some insight into the perfect joke: ‘The task of professional comics is to elicit laughs as directly and as fast as possible.

‘They generally do this most effectively when ensuring that they keep within the mental competence of the typical audience member.

‘If they exceed these limits, the joke will not be perceived as funny.’

They also released some of the jokes which just didn’t work, so here are some that you should NEVER say at the pub…

‘If I ever have twins, I’d use one for parts.’

‘Animals may be our friends. But they won’t pick you up at the airport.’

‘Contrary to what most people would say, the most dangerous animal in the world is not the lion or the tiger or even the elephant. It’s a shark riding on an elephant’s back, just trampling and eating everything they see.’

‘I always keep a supply of stimulant handy in case I see a snake, which I also keep handy.’

Peace, Love and Good Health to you all


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

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Twitter at @almagor35