Conversations with friends: Mostafa Elostaz on the UAE deal, Palestinian refugees

August 23, 2020

Mostafa Elostaz (Paris / Jerusalem)

Tom Gross speaks to Palestinian academic and peace activist Mostafa Elostaz about his life and views. Mostafa grew up in Kuwait to parents who moved there from Gaza, and were originally from Majdal Asqalan (Arabic) / Ashkelon (Hebrew). Mostafa taught many years at Al Quds university in east Jerusalem, and now teaches at Tel Aviv University. Should the Palestinians welcome the UAE-Israel peace deal? Should they take up Trump and Netanyahu’s offers to negotiate?

In case you want to skip to the political parts, these start at 15 minutes into this interview, where we begin our discussion about the Israel-UAE deal, the Trump plan, and how the Palestinians should best react to Israeli peace offers, and offer to negotiate.

(Discussion by zoom on August 19, 2020.)


Other conversations in this series:

Tom Gross

As part of a series of informal conservations with friends, Paul Lewis asks Tom Gross about his own life experiences and views: growing up surrounded by cultural and literary luminaries in London and New York; Sunday brunches with Elvis Presley’s songwriter; crossing Checkpoint Charlie into East Berlin with his grandmother during communism; helping the Roma when almost no one else would; Tom’s close relationship with his godmother Sonia Orwell (the model for the heroine Julia of her husband’s masterpiece ‘1984’); being in Manhattan on 9/11; the Mideast; the importance and legacy of the Holocaust; and other matters.

(Discussion by zoom on June 28, 2020.)


World aclaimed pianist Evgeny Kissin (Prague)

Described by The Economist magazine as “the world’s most acclaimed classical pianist” Evgeny Kissin talks about being a child prodigy; his favorite concert halls and musicians; learning new repertoires and visiting Kafka’s grave during coronavirus lockdown; about Stalin’s murder of Yiddish writers, his own love for Yiddish, his support for Israel, and his political views about Russia and the West.

(Discussion by zoom, while under coronavirus lockdown in Prague, on May 24, 2020.)

* You can see shorter extracts from the conversation with Evgeny Kissin here: Conversations with friends: Evgeny Kissin on music, the Yiddish language, Israel and the Soviet Union


Zoe Johnson (Oxfordshire)

Zoe Johnson is the second woman ever to be appointed Senior Treasury Counsel by the attorney general to prosecute the UK’s most serious cases including Islamic terrorism, organized crime, abuse of public office, and honor killings. And she has done all this with the added difficulty of being confined to a wheelchair for almost her whole life.

(Discussion by zoom on August 12, 2020.)


Jonathan Freedland

Award-winning Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland in conversation with Tom Gross about the state of the world; the Trump presidency (and whether some of his policies might be good); Britain’s coronavirus failures; early Zionism; whether Britain can still learn from the American constitution and system of government; and as a teenager how Jonathan was a mentor to Sasha Baron Cohen before he became Ali G and Borat.


* There is also a separate shorter conversation: Should statues of antisemites come down?

Jonathan Freedland & Tom Gross discuss left-wing antisemitism, and English antisemitism

Jonathan Freedland: Most British people aren’t aware that “one of Britain’s gifts to the world, which originated in England, is the blood libel” -- which led to countless Jewish deaths over many centuries of European history.

Tom Gross: Should the large statue outside the British Parliament of Richard the Lionheart (who was responsible for murder of tens of thousands of Jews) and the bust of Karl Marx (who wrote about Jewish vermin) come down?

(Answer: no they should remain. But schoolchildren should be taught at least a bit about historic English antisemitism, in addition to the wrongs, as well as rights, of the British Empire.)

(Conversation by zoom while under coronavirus lockdown on June 18, 2020)


The last Nazi-hunter Efraim Zuroff (Jerusalem)

Efraim Zuroff speaks about why he became a Nazi hunter, his pursuit of war criminals all over the world over many decades, and his efforts to make countries such as Lithuania, Latvia and Croatia admit to their own nation’s very substantial collaboration with the Nazi genocide. As the last survivors die out where does Holocaust education and memory go from here?

Why did it take Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film Schindler’s List to make Holocaust education finally become incorporated into the British education system some years later? Why did western countries and the Vatican and Red Cross help Nazi criminals escape at the end of the war? Why were so many doctors Nazis?

We also discuss the trial of Bruno Dey (charged for his part in the murder of 5,230 people at Stutthof death camp) which is continuing now in Hamburg – it is 75 years late but the German judge insisted it continue despite the coronavirus restrictions.

(Discussion by zoom, while under coronavirus lockdown in Jerusalem, on June 8, 2020.)


Oscar-nominated filmmaker Hossein Amini (London)

Born in Tehran to a distinguished Iranian family (his grandfather was prime minister under the shah) Oscar-nominated screenwriter and film director Hossein Amini speaks with his friend Tom Gross about Iran before and after the Islamic revolution, his career as a filmmaker, his work with Martin Scorsese and Harvey Weinstein, his favorite films, and says that ‘it’s no accident that the MeToo movement started in tolerant Hollywood’. We also discuss racism in Britain.

(Discussion by zoom, while under coronavirus lockdown in London, on May 30, 2020.)


David Pryce-Jones (London, Wales, Florence)

Writer David Pryce-Jones discusses his childhood escape from the Nazis, his friendships with Isaac Bashevis Singer, Arthur Koestler, Stalin’s daughter Svetlana, John Gross and others; and Israel, Italy, and the New York Times.

(Discussion by zoom, while under coronavirus lockdown in Wales, on May 21, 2020.)


John O’Sullivan (Budapest)

Born to modest parents near Liverpool (his father was a ship steward, his mother a shop girl) John O’Sullivan rose to become one of Margaret Thatcher’s most trusted aides and advisors in 10 Downing Street. In this zoom conversation, he discusses Thatcher’s personality and how she developed her views, and other leading figures he met. (On one occasion John had breakfast with Thatcher in London, then flew to Washington and had dinner with President Reagan that same evening.) He and Tom Gross also discuss Donald Trump’s presidency; the future of journalism; and his lifelong love for musical theatre.

(Discussion by zoom, while under coronavirus lockdown in Budapest, on May 29, 2020.)


Amanda Foreman

Historian and writer Amanda Foreman talks with Tom Gross about her life and career; her father Carl Foreman (who wrote the films Bridge on the River Kwai, High Noon, and Guns of Navarone, but who was then driven out of town by Senator McCarthy’s witchhunts); Amanda’s own encounter with John Wayne; her books; her TV series on the ascent of women; her nonprofit that helps deprived American kids to read; and about curating an exhibition last year on Queen Victoria for the current English queen in Buckingham Palace. Amanda also discusses why statues and icons are such popular targets in History wars.

(Discussion by zoom to New York on July 14, 2020.)


Rt Hon Lord (David) Young of Graffham

Lord David Young talks about his life, his ten years in Downing Street working closely with Margaret Thatcher, his five years in Downing Street with David Cameron, and about Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, and modern multicultural Britain.

(Discussion by zoom in Graffham, Sussex, in England, while under coronavirus lockdown, on May 20, 2020.)


Bahra Saleh (Kirkuk, Iraq)

Tom Gross talks with Bahra Saleh about her life and about Kurdistan.

(Discussion by zoom in Kirkuk, Iraq, while under coronavirus lockdown, on May 20, 2020.)


Shmuel Bar (Herzliya)

Shmuel Bar, who worked for Israel’s government for 30 years in various analytical and operational capacities, and who is a world-class expert in a variety of fields, discusses the state of America, Europe, the Mideast and the world, and what dangers may lay ahead.

(Discussion by zoom, on July 2, 2020.)


Orit Yasu (Shoham, near Tel Aviv)

Born to recently arrived Ethiopian-Israeli parents, Orit Yasu talks with Tom Gross about growing up in Kiryat Malachi, the rescue of Ethiopian Jews by the Mossad, her participation in the 1999 Columbine High School shooting memorial while on a school trip to Colorado, on how NYC is too crowded, her trip to see her parents village Ethiopia, and why many Ethiopian-Israelis vote Likud.

(Discussion by zoom, while under coronavirus lockdown, on May 31, 2020.)


Charlotte Cunningham (Yorkshire / London / Luxembourg)

Charlotte, who has established a successful arts organization in England that helps people with mental and physical disabilities, has managed to forge her own path distinct from her illustrious family background -- her grandmother was the ruling monarch of Luxembourg after whom Charlotte is named; and on the other side of her family, her grandfather was US secretary of state under a Republican, Eisenhower, and then US treasury secretary under two Democrats, Kennedy and Johnson.

(Discussion by zoom, while under coronavirus lockdown in London, on June 19, 2020.)


Nidra Poller (Paris)

Writer Nidra Poller discusses hanging out with James Baldwin and other African-American writers and musicians in 1970s Paris, the origins of the name Nidra, how her Japanese partner introduced her to Israel, and the position of women in the modern world.

(Discussion by zoom, while under coronavirus lockdown in Paris, on May 19, 2020.)


Susan Loewenthal Lourenco (Berlin)

Educator Susan Lourenco talks about being the child of refugees from Berlin, her life in four different countries and how she reconciled herself with modern Germany.

(Discussion by zoom, while under coronavirus lockdown in Berlin, on May 12, 2020.)


* You can also find other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page on Facebook

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.