Wednesday, December 01, 2021

 Politics – November 2021 In Memory of Eliahu Mazza (1935-2021) 


Eliahu Mazza

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.

In a recent report, Haaretz says that Israel and Egypt continue talks over a proposal for a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas, which could see to Israeli civilians and the bodies of two Israeli soldiers returned from the Gaza Strip. Israeli and Egyptian officials are working on drafting an agreement, which includes new solutions for issues Israel is concerned by. Hamas representatives are also part of the intensive talks between the parties. The details of the outline have been placed under a gag order, and the proposal has not yet been approved by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett or discussed by Israel's security cabinet. 

In Memory of Eliahu Mazza (1935-2021): Personal Reflections

Raphael Cohen-Almagor

On October 29, 2021 Eliahu Mazza died. Israel has lost one of its wonderful sabras, salt of the earth, a wise, gentle and modest mensch.

Eliahu was born in Tel Aviv, served as a military judge in the IDF and in 1976 joined the civil justice system. In 1991, he was appointed to the Supreme Court, and in 2004 Eliahu became Deputy President of the Supreme Court. He served in this capacity until his retirement in 2005. 

I came to know Eliahu in the mid-1990s, after he had read my book The Boundaries of Liberty and Tolerance that was published in Hebrew and in English in 1994. We embarked on correspondence. Occasionally we would meet at the Supreme Court. Every once in a while, I used to travel to Jerusalem and visit the Supreme Court and some of its justices. One of them was Eliahu.

In 2003, when I established the Center for Democratic Studies at the University of Haifa, Eliahu supported the initiative and endorsed its importance. He attended and spoke in some of the conferences on issues that were close to his heart, including those on medical ethics and the right to die with dignity, and on the boundaries of freedom of expression.

Photo: Center for Democratic Studies

In 2005, the then recently retired Deputy President of the Supreme Court Eliahu Mazza said that the fact that a statement is halachic does not cleanse the criminal nature of the speech.  Mazza argued that at least in the case of Yigal Amir (Rabin's assassin) there is historic proof that rabbinic incitement led to murder. Maybe that is not legal evidence, but historically we are able to connect incitement to murder.

The most well-known case in which a notable rabbi stood trial and was convicted concerned Rabbi Ido Elba, rabbi of the Cave of Machpellah Yeshiva in Hebron. This case is an important precedent, so some explanation of the context and the ruling is important. In April 1995, Rabbi Elba was charged and convicted by the Jerusalem District Court on five different counts: first, the publication of a pamphlet entitled “An Examination of Religious Directives (Halachot) Concerning the Killing of Gentiles”; second, attempts to produce weapons; third and fourth, trying to persuade an officer of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to steal weapons and explosives for him, and also to disclose the location of IDF bases which he could penetrate and from which he could steal ammunition; and fifth, finally, with trying to obstruct and disrupt legal proceedings. Rabbi Elba was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment and to conditional imprisonment of two additional years for a period of three years.

Rabbi Elba appealed to the Supreme Court, but the Court affirmed the conviction in a 5 to 2 decision. The two dissenting Justices, Zvi Tal and Yaakov Tirkul, accepted the conviction for four of the charges but objected to the conviction on the first charge, the subject of our discussion here, that the publication constituted “incitement.” Speaking for the majority of the Court, Justice Mazza argued that the pamphlet constituted incitement to racism under Section 144B of the Penal Law, and that it also encouraged violence against Arabs in violation of Section 4 of the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance. 

Justice Mazza elaborated on the content of Rabbi Elba’s writing. Central to the publication were halachic justifications for the killing of non-Jews. The publication explicitly stated that the prohibition on murder does not include instances in which a Jew kills a non-Jew. Rabbi Elba’s pamphlet further postulated that it is a mitzvah, a command from the Torah, to kill gentiles who believe in other religions that deny the basic beliefs of Israel and the eternity of the Torah; that during periods of war “it is a mitzvah to kill every gentile rival, even women and children”; that it is permissible to launch an attack against gentiles in order to kill them if suspicion exists that these gentiles might attack Jews in the future, and that it is obligatory to attack gentiles whose aim is to make Jews abandon their settlements. 

Justice Mazza explained that a publication would be considered a racist incitement “if the publisher was aware of the nature of the publication, the given circumstances, and the probability of causing racist incitement,” and if his intention was to incite racism or at least if he or she foresaw the probability that the publication would incite racism. In Justice Mazza’s opinion, the so-called academic and theoretical framework of the publication was only a façade. 

In sustaining Rabbi Elba’s conviction under Section 4 of the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance, Justice Mazza explained that a publisher would be found guilty in violation of the Ordinance if his publication might lead to provocation to violence. Justice Mazza further clarified that the Ordinance prohibited such publications, even if behind the publications stood one person, or members of a group, who did not identify themselves as members of a terrorist organization. The prohibition on such publications was derivative from the terrorist nature of the violent conduct, and not from the publisher’s affiliation to a terrorist organization. 

It is interesting that Justice Mazza conclusively argued that of the five charges against Rabbi Elba, the first—racist incitement—was the most severe. Justice Mazza explained that Rabbi Elba’s publication offended basic values of the State: the equality of a person and his right to defend his life, body, and dignity. Racist incitement hurt the character of the State of Israel as a Jewish democratic state. Justice Mazza maintained that the State of Israel "could not afford, nor could it permit, for the sake of its integrity and future, to treat the foul phenomenon of racist incitement mercifully.” Mazza thought that, as a matter of principle, racist expressions should be excluded from the protection of the Free Speech Principle.

When Mazza retired and, as customary, a book was in the making in honour of the retiring judge, President Aharon Barak asked me to contributed a chapter and I gladly complied. My chapter related to one of Eliahu’s favourite topics, titled “Addressing Incitement in Israel”. I also wrote a personal letter to Eliahu, and here I’d like to translate parts of it:

“It is good for the people that these are its judges.

We cannot stop the wheels of time. We all recognize this constant move and sometimes we regret it. I certainly regretted the moves of this unstoppable wheel when I heard about your pending retirement from the Supreme Court. This is a great loss.

I have appreciated and still deeply appreciate your intelligence, your courage, your sharp logic, and the excellent analytical ability you possess. I consider myself your student, and I have given you many more students because over the years I have taught some of your most prominent court rulings. You have left an important mark on Israeli law, and as a citizen I am proud that people like you are our judges”.

Eliahu served as President of Lilach, an NGO that supports physician-assisted suicide and the right to die with dignity. This is another sphere which we often discussed. Eliahu thought that the Dying Patient Law should be extended to patients who are not at the end of life, i.e., with projected prospect of no more than six months of living. We corresponded on the validity of advance directive and living wills. Eliahu was of the view that the opinion of family members, who present the patient's position to the doctors, always requires a thorough clarification due to the fear that the position presented reflects mainly their own interest and not necessarily the interests of their sick loved one. In a personal letter, he explained that this is why it is so important to prepare preliminary medical instructions and / or even appoint a loyal proxy, who will present the patient's wishes to the doctors when he himself will no longer be able to do so. As a proxy, a person deserves to choose a close soulmate, who is willing to take on the difficult role, and not to impose the heavy moral burden on any of the patient’s family members.

In 2012, together with Ori Arbel-Ganz and Asa Kasher I edited a volume titled Public Responsibility in Israel. Mazza contributed one of the best chapters titled “Judicial Responsibility” in which he argued that the public responsibility of the judges combines three main duties: the duty of the judge to rule lawfully; his duty to conduct a fair trial, and his duty to apply to himself appropriate behavioral standards and limitations required by his position, both in his role and in his private life. The judge's first duty stems from his subordination to the law. His second and third duties are based on the rules of judicial ethics. Underlying all the obligations is the notion that the independence and immunity granted to a judge is intended for one purpose only, and that is to enable him to properly fulfill his judicial role.

Our last meeting was in July 2017 at his local coffee-restaurant at his home neighbourhood. We discussed our lives, health, politics, theatre, possible amendments to the Dying Patient Law and its implementation. I was curious to know how many people signed advance directives and deposited them at the Ministry of Health archives. Eliahu pushed to increase the figures. 

Eliahu supported my research on end-of-life in Israel and he was one of the people I consulted upon writing my books and articles. As our interests converged, he found interest to read and comment on my writings on freedom of expression, medical ethics, women’s rights and Israeli democracy. The last publication he commented on was my book Just, Reasonable Multiculturalism (2021). His feedback on the chapter that concerns Israel was of vital importance. I amended it in light of Eliahu’s critique. 

As can be expected, Eliahu did not want any eulogies at his funeral. At the same time, however, he asked to say at his funeral words of a traditional Jewish nature and Elyakim Rubinstein obliged. Rubinstein chose to read from Psalms, chapter 15 and asked his audience to think of Eliahu:

Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?

He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.

He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.

In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.

He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.

Ely Rubinstein also recalled President Aharon Barak’s speech at the retirement ceremony of Justice Mazza. Barak said that if he himself had to plea before the court, he would have prayed that Eliahu Mazza would be his judge. 


Reflections on Last Newsletter

Great News: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Public Policy Fellowship

MESG Programme 2021-2022

Israel Follows the USA


UNRWA Is on the Verge of Collapse

Israel-Morocco Defence Agreement

235 Bnei Menashe arrived in Israel

Good News: Israel and Jordan Cooperation Agreement

The Brute Reality of the Occupation

New Article: “Can Group Rights Justify the Denial of Education to Children? The Amish in the United States as a case study”, SN Social Sciences, 1: 164 (2021).

New Book: Kenneth Newton and Jan W. van Deth, Foundations of Comparative Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021).

Book Launches


Do You Know who is Tesla? 

Monthly Poem

Light Side

Reflections on Last Newsletter

I disagree with Dr Aron Mor completely. Biden's withdrawal from Afghanistan created chaos at the time and most likely into the future. His administration watched the Taliban march across Afghanistan from the date that Biden announced his withdrawal almost unopposed. What did they think was going to happen once the US troops left. The tragedy for Afghan women and girls who enjoyed freedom for 20 years has now disappeared. They have been returned to the dark ages. And those left behind that are US alias will surely be slaughtered by the thousands. The return of Al Qaida and ISIS is almost assured. And for what purpose. The US has maintained bases in Germany and Japan for 78 years. The US has maintained  bases in South Korea for the last 68 years. South Korea would be under Communist rule if not for the US. Up until the chaotic withdrawal not one US soldier was injured or killed in the 18 previous months. The US and now Israel have forgotten how to win. The result is 500,000 dead in Syria, thousands more Rwanda and Bosnia, Hamas terrorizing Israelis with rockets and missiles and Hezbollah with an arsenal of weapons in Southern Lebanon that has the potential to overwhelm Israel's defenses 

Abe Silverman

Edmonton Canada

Great News: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Public Policy Fellowship

Getty Images

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars is one of the greatest research centers in the world. It is certainly the best I know. I was fortunate to spend a year at the Wilson Center in 2007-2008, writing my book about the Internet. And now, the Center conferred on me a public policy fellowship to work on my peace book. I am scheduled to return to Washington in June 2022 for a three-month period. It won’t be enough to complete the book, but it will jumpstart my book.

I am grateful to the Wilson people for their generosity and trust. I will be wonderful to come to my beloved Washington. Coming to Washington may be likened to coming to Rome during the Roman Empire.

MESG Programme 2021-2022

The last MESG Research Seminar with Rt Hon. Alistair Burt, former Minister for the ME and North America, Sir Richard Dalton (MESG), Sir Vincent Fean (MESG) and Sir Tom Phillips (MESG) on Britain in the Middle East: Does it still have a role? was superb. 



Those of you who saw it surely enjoyed it. If you did not see it for some reason, this unmissable event is available at

Please register and join our next seminar;

19 January 2022, 5:00-7:00pm 

MESG Ambassador Forum

Professor Daniel Kurtzer (MESG)

Biden’s Agenda in the Middle East: How Relevant will the United States Be?

Chair: Sir Richard Dalton (MESG)

Link to register:

Israel Follows the USA

Israel follows the United States in many respects. The present Israeli government is determined to prevent Netanyahu’s return to office and wishes to limit the prime minister maximum time in office to two terms. Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar's bill to impose term limits on the position of prime minister passed in its first reading in the Knesset. 66 MKs voted in favor of the bill, with 48 voting against it.


UNRWA Is on the Verge of Collapse

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) is close to collapsing due to political attacks and lack of funding, according to its Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini. He said that the UNRWA already struggles to pay its bills, including salaries. After addressing a donor conference in Brussels, Belgium, Lazzarini told reporters that he had to “raise the alarm, because if we do not have a real solution now and for the future, the institution is on the edge of a collapse.” The international pledging conference raised $38m of what was already a $100m budgetary shortfall for November and December. While the refugee population is growing - as well as its needs - Lazzarini mentioned that the institution's budget has been largely stagnant. UNRWA services 5.7m Palestinian refugees in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. The commissioner suggested that UN member states are not willing to back up their statements in support of funding the organization. 

Source: I24 News

Israel-Morocco Defence Agreement

Defence Minister Benny Gantz signed defence agreement with Morocco that provides a “solid framework that formalises defence relations between the countries and establishes a foundation that will support any future cooperation … in the fields of intelligence, industrial collaboration, military training and more”.

235 Bnei Menashe arrived in Israel

235 new immigrants from the Bnei Menashe community in Manipur, Northeast India recently landed in Israel. More than 4,000 Bnei Menashe already live in Israel. They claim descent from one of the ten Lost Tribes of Israel that was exiled by the Assyrian Empire more than 27 centuries ago.

Good News: Israel and Jordan Cooperation Agreement

Israel and Jordan signed their largest-ever cooperation agreement, which will see the construction of a major solar power plant in the Hashemite Kingdom to generate electricity for Israel while a desalination plant established in Israel will send water to Jordan. 

The Brute Reality of the Occupation

People need to know what is going on. 

People need to think about serious issues.

People need to see the face of injustice.

People should drive for positive change.

This is not what we should do.

Check out this article from The New York Times. 

Ex-Israeli Soldiers Tell Their Stories

The director Rona Segal learned filmmaking in the Israeli army. Now she turns the camera on her fellow soldiers.

Disturbing on so many levels. The occupation makes me sad. I am ashamed that these things take place. Ashamed as a Jew. Ashamed as a father. Ashamed as a human being. 

New Article: “Can Group Rights Justify the Denial of Education to Children? The Amish in the United States as a case study”, SN Social Sciences, 1: 164 (2021).


Multiculturalism gives preference to group rights over individual rights. This may challenge democratic values. This paper focuses on the Amish denial of education from their adolescents. Criticizing Wisconsin v. Yoder (Wisconsin v. Yoder 406 U.S. 205 (1972)), the paper analyses the power of the Amish community over its members. The main questions are: Is it reasonable to deny the Amish adolescents’ standard American education? What are the limits of state interference in norms of illiberal communities who invoke separatism as a mechanism of cultural and religious preservation?

Open access:

New Book: Kenneth Newton and Jan W. van Deth, Foundations of Comparative Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021).

I find this book most useful for teaching comparative politics. Now in its fourth edition, this textbook gives a clear and concise account of the government and politics of democratic states, comprehensively updated with recent developments. This textbook provides an important guide for BA students who want to understand how and why democratic systems differ between countries and how they are changing in the modern world. The volume is written and structured in an accessible fashion, enabling students to gain vital insights into the working of governments.

The first part of this textbook discusses the development of the modern state and of democracy, the crucial importance of democratic governance and theories of democratic change. The second part concerns the polity, structures and institutions. It explains the idea of separation of powers, the difference between unitary and federal states, the differences between presidential and parliamentary governments, and it explains the functions of executives and legislators as well as the importance of bureaucracy. Part three is about political behaviour, pressure groups, NGOs, the media, electoral behaviour and party politics. The last part of this detailed textbook is about policies and performance. After explaining the nature of political ideologies, the authors explain the nature of policy-making, public spending and the welfare state. Finally, the book discusses the future of the democratic state: what challenges democracies are facing today, and what safeguards democracy needs in order to sustain itself.

I thank Cambridge University Press for sending me a copy.

Book Launches


I was invited to present my book Just, Reasonable Multinationalism with Lord David Neuberger (former President UK Supreme Court), Justice Ely Rubinstein (former Deputy President Israel Supreme Court), and Prof Avrom Sherr (former Director, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies). UCL


I was also invited to launch my new book at Faculty of Law, University of Reading (27 October 2021). 

Please join us for the book launch of “Just, Reasonable Multiculturalism” with the author, Professor Raphael Cohen-Almagor. The session will be chaired by Dr Joanne Murphy and will take place on the 15th December 2021 at 16.30 on Zoom.  Please register here.

Raphael completed his DPhil in Political Theory at St. Catherine’s College, University of Oxford, and is now Professor and Chair of Politics at the University of Hull. 

This book explores the main challenges against multiculturalism. Its primary objectives are twofold: to examine whether liberalism and multiculturalism are reconcilable, and what are the limits of liberal democratic interventions in illiberal affairs of minority cultures within democracy when minorities engage in practices that inflict physical harm on group members (e.g. Female Genital Mutilation) or non-physical harm (e.g. denying members property or education).

In the process, the book addresses three questions: whether multiculturalism is bad for democracy; whether multiculturalism is bad for women, and whether multiculturalism contributes to terrorism.


I wish to invite you to:

8 December 2021, 2:00-3:00pm 

FBLP Research Seminar

Professor Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Just, Reasonable Multiculturalism

Discussant: Professor Naomi Chazan (MESG)

Chair: Professor Massimo La Torre (MESG)

Link to register:

8 December 2021, 6:00-8:00pm 

MESG Annual Lecture

Sir Professor Lawrence Freedman

Great Powers and the Middle East: The Twenty Years Shift

Chair: Professor Stephen Hardy

Link to register:

Do You Know who is Tesla? 

Nikola Tesla was one of the greatest inventors we've ever known. He always seemed to be working on something electrical and made dozens of breakthroughs in the field. Nikola once explained: "Electrical science has revealed to us the true nature of light, has provided us with innumerable appliances and instruments of precision, and has thereby vastly added to the exactness of our knowledge." What's he doing, sitting below this insane device?

In 1899, Nikola was fiddling with an idea for what he called the magnifying transmitter. It was meant to use the natural power of the earth to generate electricity, and it certainly seems to be doing something. It's no wonder Elon Musk named his car company after this guy!


Monthly Poem

It is cold and dreary. I miss summer. Which explains why I choose this:

This starbreak is celestial air, 

Just silver; earthlight, dying amber.

Underneath an arch of pallor
Summer keeps her brightened chamber.

Bright beauty of the risen dust

And deep flood-mark of beauty pressed
Up from earth in lovely flower,

High against my lonely breast;

Thou rhythm like the changing moon’s

The catch to which the waters play,

That as they kiss moon-silver sink,—
As soon to spurn the baffled clay;

Only before the waters fall

Is Paradise shore for gaining now.

The grasses drink the berry-bright dew;

The small fruits jewel all the bough.

Heart-breaking summer beyond taste,

Ripeness and frost are soon to know;

But might such color hold the west,

And time, and time, be honey-slow! 

Light Side 

3 drunk guys entered a taxi. The taxi driver knew that they were drunk so he started the engine & turned it off again. Then said, "We have reached your destination". The 1st guy gave him money & the 2nd guy said "Thank you". The 3rd guy slapped the driver. The driver was shocked thinking the 3rd drunk knew what he did. But then he asked "What was that for?". The 3rd guy replied, "Control your speed next time, you nearly killed us!"


Peace 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