Monday, June 30, 2003

While feeding our son before I put him in bed I watched the news on the commercial Channel 10. As part of a series of broadcasts from all over the country Micky Chaimovich, the anchorwoman of the channel's news program, was in the settlement of Eli. Watching the broadcast, part of which contained portraits of some older and younger settlers, I was left with very mixed feelings. On one hand I could not help but feeling some sort of admiration and enthusiasm when I heard these 'pioneers' talk about their love for the land, about the bond between themselves, about an idealism that in many ways is similar to that of the founding fathers and mothers of this state. On the other hand, I became very angry when one of the youngsters - one among a group of friends that had lost three or four of its members to terror - said that "people in the center of the country do not know what it is like to lose friends at such an early age". What about the friends and family members of all those soldiers, policemen and civilians from Tel Aviv, Rehovoth, Rishon Letzion who have been killed during the last years? What about those who lost their loved ones in the Dolfinarium bombing two years ago? Partly because settlements such as Eli exist, creating a defensable border has become almost impossible for political and other reasons. This makes crossing the Green Line for almost any determined, healthy Palestinian a piece of cake, and until now all the suicide bombers were both healthy and determined. The group of young friends from Eli, some of whom were identified as belonging to the "hilltop youth", then half jokingly talked about who was supposed to eulogize whom if any of them was to be killed, in which plot he or she was going to be buried, and next to whom. Such fatalist idealism should not be what Zionism, the dream of a state of its own for a truly independent Jewish people, is all about. These young men and women, "the salt of the earth", should not be occupying isolated hilltops and living in lonely caravans for the defense of which too many soldiers' lives unnecessarily have to be put in danger. We need them here, to help build, develop and enrich a truly Jewish homeland within defensable borders. In the meantime Jews on both sides of the Green Line, belonging to one and the same people, appear to live on different planets, and not just mere kilometers away from each other. Each side blames the other(s) for all or part of the misery that befalls us. That in such a situation we do not ( want to ) notice the even greater misery of most Palestinians - as Dany Rubinstein wrote today in Ha'Aretz - does not come as a surprise. Neither does the fact that young Palestinians who see the beautiful swimming pool in Eli, from where part of the program was broadcast, and think of their own living conditions and lack of freedom, become furious with anger, envy and frustration.
Regarding "EU rejects American demand to halt Hamas funding", Ha'Aretz, June 30, 2003 ( Published in Ha'Aretz, July, 1, 2003 ): You do not have to be a genius to comprehend the fact that many Palestinians find it difficult to consider the ( current ) American government an honest broker in the negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis. At the same time it is quite easy to understand why for many in Israel it is hard to perceive Europe as an honest and balanced mediator. This perception is partially due to the efforts by some European leaders to address terrorism through some form of dialogue with the terrorists. True, terrorism has its causes and the American, one-dimensional, approach in its war on terror does not contribute to making the world a safer place, but neither does the ambiguous attitude - found in several European capitals - towards the terrorist threat and its various manifestations. While the French foreign minister recently wrote in this newspaper that the French " understand that Israel's major preoccupation is the security of its citizens and we will always be on Israel's side against fanaticism, violence and terrorism ", his president has a hard time understanding the difference between the necessity " to talk with Hamas " and what he appears to see as the need to lobby for channeling funds in the direction of a number of the terrorist group's shadow organizations. As long as the European Union as a whole does not take a clear, univocal stand against terrorism in all its shapes and appearances, it should not expect to be able to play a crucial role in making this region a more peaceful and prosperous place for all of us.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Zojuist heb ik even zitten surfen om wat informatie te zoeken over de violist Vadim Repin. Eerlijk gezegd had ik nog nooit van hem gehoord, maar overmorgen ga ik wederom met vrijkaartjes hier in Haifa naar het Israel Philharmonisch Orkest onder leiding van Kent Nagano luisteren, en daar zal Repin de solist zijn in de Symphonie Espagnole van Lalo. Deze jonge violist heeft al een uitgebreid repertoire opgebouwd. Ik las net dat hij aan de vooravond van hun huwelijk op een speciaal concert voor Willem Alexander en Maxima en hun gasten heeft opgetreden. Ben benieuwd, het zal wel mooi worden. Verder staan nog op het programma de 4e symfonie van Ustwolskaja en de tiende van Shostakovich. De laatste vind ik mooi, de eerste ken ik niet.
Regarding "US official speaks out on Hamas", IHT, June 27, 2003: While supporting the efforts by the United States administration to view and treat the political and terrorist ( which the IHT and other media often mistakenly call military ) wings as two inseparable parts of one and the same terrorist organization, I regret the fact that when it comes to American foreign policy, highly intelligent people such as Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell adopt the one-dimensional, simplistic approach of their boss and his closest aides. When Rice says that Hamas stands as " the single biggest threat to the goal of achieving what is known as the road map to peace between Israel and the Palestinians ", she appears to totally ignore other threats and obstacles, which have to be taken into account as well, if she and her government want the road map to lead this region to some better future. Sure, Hamas is a major threat, but so are Islamic Jihad, several factions and militias within Fatah, as well as - in a different way - Israel's continued building in the territories, some of the settlers, etc. etc. It is tempting to believe that where complicated solutions for such a complicated conflict failed, an oversimplified solution might work. For a much more evenhanded, logical, straigthforward approach towards and basis for a just solution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, I would like to refer Rice and her colleagues to The Peoples' Voice, an initiative by Dr. Sari Nusseibeh and former head of the Israeli General Security Service, Ami Ayalon.

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Emotievervaging Wat ik hier ga schrijven vervult me met schaamte, ook al gaat het om een impuls, die een mens nu eenmaal niet in de hand heeft. Surfend op het internet zag ik vanmiddag op teletekst dat er in Den Haag een gasexplosie had plaatsgevonden, en dat er een persconferentie en een extra nieuwsuitzending zouden komen. Gewend als ik hier in Israel ben geraakt aan extra nieuwsuitzendingen en persconferenties begon ik gespannen details over de explosie te lezen. Toen ik las dat er 22 gewonden waren, waarvan zeven zwaargewond, was mijn eerste gedachte: " Oh, is dat alles? Valt wel mee!". Het is duidelijk, ik moet me schamen. Terreur maakt blijkbaar veel meer in een mens kapot dan hem lief is.
Zo, een lekker dagje met de mannen onder elkaar. Onze dochter is met mijn vrouw en mijn schoonmoeder naar het Dan Panorama hotel in Tel Aviv, sinds gisteravond tot vanavond. Bij de zuurstofflessenfabriek waar mijn schoonmoeder werkt zijn het afgelopen jaar twee vrij ernstige ongelukken geweest, en om de werknemers, die door al het gedonder veel overuren hebben moeten maken en van wie een groot deel aan de ongelukken een fysiek of psychisch trauma heeft overgehouden ( dit klinkt overdreven maar is het niet ), een beetje op te peppen ( a la Emile Ratelband, maar dan op een minder achterlijke manier ) heeft het management voor een van de ultieme Israelische vormen van genot gekozen, een verblijf in een luxe hotel. Mijn schoonvader had er weinig zin in ( zijn 'rouwjaar' loopt bijna ten einde, zie 19 juni ) en bood zijn plaats aan zijn dochter en kleindochteraan. Onze dochter is gek op hotels, dat wil zeggen ze vindt het prachtig om ( met sabba en savta en/of met ons gezin ) buiten de deur te slapen. Voor haar betekent 'hotel' simpelweg 'buiten de deur'. Ze gaan daar lekker naar het zwembad, eten goed, en doen mee aan allerlei activiteiten. Onze zoon en ik zijn alleen thuis. Deze gelegenheid heb ik te baat genomen om de ramen te wassen. De laatste keer dat ik dat gedaan heb is zo rond de Hoge feestdagen geweest, dus een maand of negen geleden. Het voordeel van zo lang wachten is dat je het verschil erg goed ziet. In de winter heeft het geen zin om hier de ramen te wassen, omdat iedere keer dat het regent een enorme hoeveelheid zand meekomt, en na ieder bui ( en dit jaar zijn we wat regen betreft buitengewoon gezegend ) zou je bij wijze van spreken weer kunnen beginnen. Niet dus. De kans dat het tussen nu en september/oktober nog gaat regenen is nihil, dus werd het tijd om het er op te wagen. Ik haal de ruiten er stuk voor stuk uit ( het zijn schuiframen, ze zitten op een soort aluminium rails ), spoel iedere ruit met water af, maak haar schoon met zeep, nogmaals spoelen, trekker erover, afdrogen met krantepapier en klaar is kees. Ieder raam heeft twee ruiten en een hor. De horren zitten boordevol met zand, het enige wat je moet doen om hen schoon te maken is hen met de douche afspoelen en dan met een handdoek afdrogen. Voordat ik de ruiten en het hor terugzet maak ik de rails schoon. Ik heb de ( grote ) ruiten van de badkamer/het washok en de twee ramen van onze slaapkamer al gedaan ( alles bij elkaar zes ruiten en drie horren ), wat overblijft zijn het raam van de kinderslaapkamer, het keukenraam, een raam naast de deur en de twee glazen schuifdeuren naar het balkon. Het raam van de beveiligde kamer maak ik in de loop van de week schoon, wanneer ik mijn werkkamer helemaal op orde heb. We gaan in augustus/september voor een maand of vier/vijf naar Parijs, en zijn nu bezig om alles voor die reis klaar te krijgen. De werkkamer geordend achterlaten maakt deel uit van die voorbereidingen. Zo, de kleine schat - die de hele tijd vanuit mijn wipstoel naar me heeft zitten kijken terwijl ik de ruiten in het bad afspoelde en schoonmaakte - is in slaap gevallen. Ik ga nog even een computerspelletje spelen, en dan weer verder. Op de achtergrond klinkt Joop Visser. in de CD-wisselaar zitten twee van zijn CDs, samen met Volkslieder II van het Duitse duo Zupfgeigenhansel. De CD Gefeliciteerd van Joop Visser begint met 'Elke morgen...", waarin het volgende couplet voorkomt: Elke morgen komt de zon op Elke avond valt de nacht Over palmen en woestijnen Over tempel en moskee Over joden en Palestijnen Ik bemoei me er niet mee.
Regarding "Arthur Miller honored in Jerusalem", Ha'Aretz, June 27, 2003: It is incomprehensible to me why the Jeruzalem Prize was awarded to the amazing American playwright Arthur Miller. Not only did he not show up in person, he also had the hutzpah to criticize, in a video message during the award ceremony, our government's sage policy of continued building in the territories, by saying that Israel is " shooting itself in the foot ". An Israeli painter recently had his Israel Prize revoked merely for refusing to show up at the award ceremony. ( PS: One has to be familiar with the "Gershoni affair" in order to be aware of the fact that this posting/letter was meant to be sarcastic. If it was up to me, the man who wrote such plays as Death of a Salesman and Incident at Vichy had already been awarded every prize that one can think of. )

Friday, June 27, 2003

It is true, I am not really a sports fan ( to use an understatement ), but this newsflash, found on the website of Ha'Aretz, made me happy and a little proud tonight: Israeli soccer team defeats Bosnia 3-0 to claim gold medal at Special Olympics in Dublin, Ireland.
Nu ik toch bezig ben met het promoten van anderman's weblogs kan dit er ook nog wel bij. Kijk eens op Verbal Jam ( zie link links ). Ik heb net een paar stukjes gelezen uit zijn rubriek "Gozertje" ( links op VJ, onder "Bij de Jordaan", waar je overigens aardig wat leuke en mooie stukjes over Israel kunt vinden ) en erg gelachen. Aanraders: "Hagelslag" ( de opmerking over geld op de rug ), "De oude hagedis" ( Saddam Hussein ).
Een blog waar ik bijna dagelijks wel eens langsga is het fotoblog met de titel "Wat heeft Geert nu weer gefotografeerd?". Ook vandaag stonden er weer een paar prachtige foto's. Links staat er een link naar Geert's fotoblog. Als ik zijn foto's zie krijg ik vaak zin om heen en weer te wippen naar Nederland, om daar lekker even een paar uur rond te lopen, te wandelen of te fietsen ( niet te ver ).
Regarding "Bush urges Europe to cut Hamas funds", IHT, June 26, 2003: The jury in my head is still out on whether to laugh or cry about two things that I read in this article. First, George W. Bush claims that he knows " the history of the terrorists in the Middle East ", even though he has always given us the impression that he never paid particular attention during lessons on history and on the Middle East. Then it said that Hamas ( still ) receives support and funding from European Union member states. We all know about the close links between the political and social sections of 'liberation movements' in Europe such as the IRA and ETA, and their illegal terrorist branches. In the last years much has been learnt about the close cooperation between the 'legitimate' socio-political and the terrorist parts of movements such as Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and Hamas. Many of Hamas' 'humanitarian' or political activists have been moonlighting as 'militants', by assisting in or personally carrying out terror attacks, or by publicly defending such attacks. What explanation, then, can we have for a continuing European support for whatever branch of Hamas, other than that Europe approves in a way of this terrorist organization's methods and aims?

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Regarding "SLA veterans to guard Israeli buses", Ha'Aretz, June 26, 2003: Although I think it is a good idea - both from a socio-economic and a security point of view - to let the veterans of the South Lebanese Army who today live in Israel with their families participate in the country's efforts to enhance security, I wonder what the spokesman of the Transportation Ministry meant when he said that these men have " special abilities that will help in the identification and apprehension of potential suicide bombers ". Do these abilities refer to what Deputy Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra said after the latest bombing in Afula, when he proposed that Arab citizens of Israel should be employed as security guards in Israel because only they have " the sense of smell needed to smell other Arabs, more so than guards who are immigrants from the former Soviet Union"?
Once in a long while you hear experts talk about 'the conflict' in a way that makes sense, and sometimes hearing a sane and resonable Israeli or Palestinian explain his interpretation fills you with a little hope, even for just a few minutes. All this happened to me this evening, while watching "Nocturnal meeting", the excellent late night program hosted by Koby Meydan. In tonight's program surreality took over. In the midst of today's madness and turmoil we saw and heard Ammy Ayalon - former head of the Israeli Navy and of the General Security Service - and professor Sari Nusseibeh talk in a very rational, calm, civilized manner about their "National Trust" initiative. This initiative consists of a number of points that address all the thorny issues that form the heart of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Some of these points are concessions by one of the sides, most are compromises, all make a lot of sense. What was amazing was the fact that neither of the two accuses the other's side. Both Nusseibeh and Ayalon are proud nationalists, who understand that it is in the very interest of their respective peoples to reach a solution based on two states and compromise, and - as professor Nusseibeh said - to start dreaming about the future and to stop dreaming about a past. Professor Nusseibeh also explained the dream of many Palestinians, who remember a past in which they might have been happy but which can never be reconstructed, and therefore it is the future of their children that they must think of. Both agreed that a two-state solution has to be reached soon, because otherwise the only option will be some sort of one-people state, which will leave most people empty-handed. This army-man and Oxford-academic were brought together by reason, and reason alone. Now they start to make people on both sides of the conflict aware of the existence of their initiative, to raise popular support for its principles, and to make as many people as possible sign their agreement. This initiative deserves every possible support, I believe. For their website you can go to The Peoples' Voice.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Ami Ayalon and Sari Nusseibeh will be on Israeli T.V in "Pgisha Leylit" with Kobi Meydan Channel 2, on June 25 ( i.e. tonight ) at 22:50. For their Statement of Principles see The Peoples' Voice. The main question remains, in how far will Ayalon and Nusseibeh be able to get popular support for their initiative. On paper their compromise looks almost perfect to me, as it contains in principle reasonable solutions to all the thorny issues that torpedoed any possibility of previous agreements being signed or implemented. Still, how many people ( both ordinary citizens and supposed leaders ) on each of the different sides will really be able and/or willing to live with a compromise?

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Regarding "Arabs boycott Israel at Special Olympics", Ha'Aretz, June 24, 2003: It is hard to find a more cynical proof of the lack of consideration for their citizens' wellbeing on the part of the regimes that rule the countries surrounding us, than the boycott by Arab teams and players of their Israeli colleagues at the Special Olympics in Ireland. Not that Israeli authorities are totally guilt-free when it comes to somehow letting politics interfere with sports, though. According to a report in The Irish Times, a 21-year old Palestinian handball player has been unable to attend the games, as he " was not allowed to cross the border between Gaza and Egypt despite holding an Irish visa ".

Monday, June 23, 2003

Alhoewel ik graag zou willen weten hoe elke lezer(es) van dit weblog hier terecht komt, en wat hij/zij verwacht of zoekt, zie ik zo nu en dan bezoekers die me nog nieuwsgieriger maken dan ik normaal gesproken al ben. Zo zie ik regelmatig dat Dutchblog Israel bezocht wordt vanaf de Universiteit van Amsterdam. Zou die lezer(es) me alsjeblieft een e-mail kunnen sturen? Ik ben erg benieuwd en beloof een persoonlijke reactie te zullen geven.
Two weeks ago ( see June 8 ) I promised to write some more about Thomas Keneally's Flying Hero Class as soon as I would finish the book. For some reason on the book's jacket a quote taken from a review in The Guardian says " Once you start reading, you can't put it down ". That did not happen to me, which is why it took me two weeks to finish a book of only 268 pages. Even though the beginning was very promising, in this book the author tends to wander off a bit, telling us very little about the aboriginals' culture. What really interested me were the relations between the hijackers and the passengers, between the three 'guilty' passengers and the rest of the hostages, and among these three themselves. None of this is worked out properly, nor is much told about the background of the ( Palestinian, who else ) hijackers. At the end of the book I was left very much dissatisfied. It seems that the research that went into writing this book was very, very superficial. As the author says in his acknowledgment, David Gilmour's Dispossessed: The Ordeal of the Palestinians provided " the basis for the fictive backgrounds" of the hijackers. Gilmour's book was already ten years old when Keneally's was first published, which does not mean that it was worthless, but someone who is really interested in the subject would have made an effort to use some more up-to-date material. Here I will point out two mistakes made by Keneally. They might not necessarily be typical for the research done by him, but they are neither proof of very thorough homework. First, when one or more of the three persons who are singled out as 'guilty' are about to be executed, Keneally has Stone, the " Zionist Agent ", a Jew, uttering Kaddish ( page 227 ). Never mind that I believe that Shma Yisrael would be more fitting in such a situation. What is truly wrong is that the author writes that the "prayer for the dead" is said in Hebrew, and that "it was all unfamiliar to McCloud except the word Elohim". Every basic introduction to the Jewish faith and rituals will tell you that Kaddish is written ( and said ) in Aramaic. Besides, the word 'Elokim' ( G'd ) does not appear in Kaddish. The second mistake made by Keneally raises doubts about his knowledge of the history of the Holocaust, which is interesting as Thomas Keneally also wrote Schindler's Ark , used by Steven Spielberg as the basis for his Oscar-winning movie. On page 217 McCloud, the main protagonist, is told by his tailor, a Mr Katz, " You want to know the reason I'm here? I'm here because I was the favourite of a certain NCO in Mauthausen ". 21 pages later it says "...Mr Katz, favourite of some forgotten Oberscharfuehrer in Poland ". As most readers probably know, the Mauthausen concentration camp was located in Austria, near Linz. All in all, this book appears to have been a missed opportunity. This is why I do not think that it would be a proper basis for a discussion here of the phenomenon of "blaming the victim". If I ever decide to write something about that, I will make sure to rely on more solid and better researched material.
As you can see I removed the "Comments" by HaloScan. Every other day the people of HaloScan seem to have problems with their server, so I will try and find other possibilities to add comments to my blog. Thanks to the readers who already sent comments.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Regarding "Now, Belgian official faces charges" and "Belgium sets trial date in pedophile killings", IHT, June 21-22, 2003 ( Published in IHT, June 25, 2003 ): Thanks to the New Flemish Alliance, a party that I never heard of before, I laughed out loud this Sunday morning while reading this paper's front page. Because of a lawsuit filed by the party against Louis Michel, Belgium's foreign minister, Mr Michel himself finally 'discovered' that the way in which his country applies a controversial international war crimes law is " mad, ridiculous, irrational and malign ". Why did it take this lawsuit for Mr Michel to understand that "Belgium is being ridiculed on the international stage"? If he had been doing his job properly he would have discovered that his country had become the joke of international politics years ago. Its more-than-righteous stand against the United States and the war in Iraq, and the fact that the carpet under which Belgium's many scandals are swept is approaching the ceiling, certainly do not enhance the country's international reputation.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

Readers notified me about problems with my blog, e.g. sometimes there is a possibility to write and read comments, sometimes there is not. Blogger, the company responsible for the technical side of this weblog, is making all kinds of changes to the blogs. Please be patient, and do return, I am sure that in a couple of days everything will work again the way it should.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Regarding "MPs compare Gaza to Warsaw ghetto", The Guardian, June 19, 2003: As a historian who has been working for years on subjects related to both the Middle East and the Holocaust, and who is very much aware of the destructive character of the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, I am amazed about the total lack of historical knowledge and consideration on the part of MPs Tonge and King. Israeli policy regarding the territories is mostly wrong in my opinion, but to even suggest a link between the nature of that and the policy of the Germans in Warsaw is of an incredible and malicious absurdity. The fact that Jews could not " get in or out ", and had to perform forced labor was certainly part of a " gradual squeeze " policy, but one that was aimed at rooting out a whole people, not at fighting suicide bombers or even 'just' occupying an other people's land. To compare any aspect of the Holocaust with any aspect of the Arab-Israeli conflict - no matter whether such a comparison is made by a Jewish or non-Jewish, pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian person - is to insult not only the victims and survivors of the Holocaust but also those who already fell victim to or on a daily basis still are suffering from the horrors of a conflict that should have been ended long ago. There is no way that such comparisons could bolster support for " the moderate voices as opposed to strengthening extremists ", something which Ms King claims she wants to achieve.
Today the first evacuation of an 'inhabited outpost' within the framework of the problematic roadmap was started. For reports on the evacuation of Mitzpeh Yitzhar, in which according to the sources that I use hundreds of soldiers ( paratroopers ) and policemen face hundreds of settlers, see the websites of Ha'Aretz, Y-Net ( Hebrew ), or ( for whom these two media are too left-wing and biased ) the Jerusalem Post. Readers of my weblog know what my opinion on the settlement policy in general and on the illegal settlements in particular more or less is. One thing is for sure. If the settlers had been Arabs, they would not have been able to get away with wounding policemen and soldiers, with setting fire to wheat-fields, with sabotaging bulldozers etc. etc. At least not all of them would have gotten away alive. Really, Israel knows no racism, and everybody is equal before the law.
Gisteravond ben ik samen met mijn vrouw en mijn schoonmoeder naar een bruiloft gegaan. Efrat, de bruid, was ( en is nog steeds ) de jongste dochter van zeer goede vrienden van mijn schoonouders. Sinds onze bruiloft zeven jaar geleden zijn ze ook goede vrienden van ons. Omdat ze jaren geleden een aantal jaren in Nederland hebben gewoond in het kader van Yankele's werk ( hij is stadsplanner of iets in die richting ) begrijpen ze Nederlands en spreken ze het ook een beetje. Om die reden hadden we hen speciaal uitgenodigd voor de shabbat voor onze bruiloft, zodat ze mijn ouders, broer, zus en zwager een beetje tekst en uitleg konden geven, en hen sowieso een beetje op hun gemak konden laten voelen. Ook op de trouwdag zelf, een dag later, waren ze vanzelfsprekend aanwezig. Op alle belangrijke familiegebeurtenissen aan weerszijden gedurende de afgelopen zeven jaar hebben we elkaar ontmoet, en we hebben regelmatig telefonisch contact. Het zijn ontzettend hartelijke en warme mensen. Dat mijn schoonvader gisteren niet mee ging kwam overigens doordat zijn moeder vorig jaar augustus is overleden. Voor wie niet bekend is met joodse rouwgebruiken: bij het overlijden van naaste familieleden houdt men drie opeenvolgende periodes van rouw in acht, met aflopende intensiteit. De eerste is shiv'a ( zeven ) en duurt een week na de begrafenis, het volgende 'station' is shloshim ( dertig ) en loopt af op de dertigste dag na de begrafenis, en vervolgens is er een periode die aveloet ( rouw ) heet, die na twaalf Hebreeuwse maanden eindigt. Gedurende de aveloet periode wordt men geacht geen feestelijke bijeenkomsten waar muziek wordt gespeeld of gedraaid bij te wonen, en geen theatervoorstellingen of concerten te bezoeken. Alhoewel een groot deel van de Israeli's zich niet aan ( al ) de voorschriften van het jodendom houdt, volgen de meeste mensen toch wel in mindere of meerdere mate de rouwgebruiken. Zo gaat mijn schoonvader al bijna een jaar iedere morgen naar de synagoge om kaddish ( een van de oudste gebeden in de joodse liturgie, gaat terug tot de periode van de Tweede Tempel. In het in het Aramees opgestelde gebed wordt G'd geprezen, het is in feite een verklaring van de verheven grootheid van G'd, waarin ook om verlossing wordt gevraagd ) te zeggen. Binnenkort zal hij daar waarschijnlijk mee ophouden, of in ieder geval zijn synagogebezoek drastisch verminderen. De bruiloft vond plaats in een soort boomgaard in de buurt van Caesarea, waar de ouders van Asa, de bruidegom, wonen. De mooi aangeklede boomgaard/tuin maakt deel uit van kibbutz Gan Shmuel. Veel kibbutzim hebben tegenwoordig een deel van hun terrein voor dergelijke gelegenheden ingericht of omgebouwd. Wie wel eens op een bruiloft in Israel is geweest kent de ( in mijn - Nederlandse - ogen soms ietwat of zelfs erg overdreven ) overvloed aan eten, drinken, aankleding. Er bestaat hier een complete huwelijksindustrie, met catering, bruiloftszalen en -tuinen, bruidssalonnen, allerlei vormen van entertainment, etc. etc. Natuurlijk zijn al die dingen ook in Nederland te vinden, maar de omvang ( en de relatieve omzet, neem ik aan ) van het geheel is niet te vergelijken. Op de grootste bruiloft die ik me uit Nederland kan herinneren waren misschien honderd mensen aanwezig. In Israel zou dat bij wijze van spreken een intiem familiediner kunnen zijn. Gisteren telden we rond de veertig tafels van tien personen, wat volgens mij middelgroot is. Zelf hadden wij destijds rond de 500 gasten. Het grappige is dat je op een bruiloft, een brith ( besnijdenisceremonie en -feest ), bar/bat-mitzvah of begrafenis bijna altijd wel mensen tegenkomt die je kent, zonder ooit geweten te hebben dat je allebei banden met bruid of bruidegom had ( Zie Verbal Jam, Bij de Jordaan, onder "Joodse bruiloft" ). Met name mijn vrouw ontmoet bijna altijd wel iemand tegen uit het leger of uit de kibbutz-jeugdbeweging. Zo ook gisteren. Oh ja, ook tijdens de prijsuiteiking in Yad Vashem ( zie 2 juni ) kwam ze iemand uit het leger tegen. Hij was daar namens een van de families die geld voor de prijzen beschikbaar hadden gesteld. In Israel vallen de huwelijksceremonie ( choepa ), de receptie en het diner samen, wat deels het grote aantal gasten verklaart: in Nederland nodigt men sommige mensen bijvoorbeeld alleen voor de receptie uit, terwijl hier iedereen die uitgenodigd is het hele pakket krijgt. Een andere verklaring is het feit dat vrijwel iedereen wordt uitgenodigd die ook maar een verre band met de bruid of bruidegom of ( nog meer ) met de ouders van hen heeft. Naast vrienden en vriendinnen en naaste en verre familieleden zijn niet alleen collega's, ( voormalige ) klasgenoten, buren en zakenrelaties van de partij, maar ook ( in ons geval ) de manicuriste en schoonheidsspecialiste van de moeder van de bruid en een aantal vage kennissen. De gigantische kosten worden meestal gedeeld door de ouders van beide kanten. Het meest gebruikelijke kado is een envelop met inhoud, in de vorm van een cheque of papiergeld. Normaal gesproken is er eerst een receptie, waarbij de ouders van het bruidspaar de gasten begroeten, soms met maar vaak zonder het bruidspaar zelf. Daarna komt het paar binnen en vindt de choepa plaats. Dan wordt er gedanst, gegeten, nog meer gedanst, en 'gemingled' door het versgetrouwde paar en hun ouders. Gisteren was de volgorde omgekeerd. Eerst werden de gasten verwelkomd, daarna werd er gegeten, waarna de choepa plaatsvond. Tenslotte werd er gedanst, en tijdens het dansen werd het dessert geserveerd, dat uit verschillende soorten fruit ( watermeloen, meloen e.d. ), taart, koffie en thee bestond. Tegen die tijd gingen de eerste gasten al weer naar huis. De choepa werd geleid door een fantastische rabbijn. Asa en Efrat hebben elkaar leren kennen tijdens hun studie aan het Technion, de vooraanstaande technische universiteit hier in Haifa. Een van de professoren daar is ook rabbijn, en hij zou hen trouwen. Omdat hij op het laatste moment verhinderd was stuurde hij zijn schoonzoon, die maar net iets ouder leek te zijn dan het bruidspaar zelf. Beide rabbijnen zijn verbonden aan Tzohar ( window, aperture, skylight ), een prachtige organisatie van orthodox-joodse mensen die seculiere joden een kans gunnen om de religieuze kant van hun joods zijn in te vullen zoals zij dat willen, binnen de mogelijkheden die het orthodoxe jodendom biedt. Aan de choepa gisteren kon je zien dat het orthodoxe jodendom - in tegenstelling tot wat veel niet-religieuze joden denken en wat een groot deel van vertegenwoordigers van de orthodoxe en ultra-orthodoxe joden lijkt uit te stralen - niet star en statisch hoeft te zijn. De rabbijn legde elke fase van de ceremonie uit, en de bruid - die normaal gesproken geen actieve rol speelt - kreeg de gelegenheid om een soort liefdesgelofte af te leggen. Het breken van een glas door de bruidegom aan het einde van de choepa symboliseert de verwoesting van de tempel. De meeste mensen weten dat de bedoeling daarvan is dat we ons er van bewust zijn dat we elke vreugde met verdriet verbinden, dat geen vreugde compleet kan zijn zolang de Tempel niet herbouwd is, etc. etc. Deze rabbijn gaf naast deze uitleg nog een prachtig mooie interpretatie, die ik gisteren voor het eerst hoorde. Hij sprak over de integrale verbinding tussen verdriet en vreugde, maar ook tussen verleden en heden, en tussen alle vorige generaties joden en de huidige. Daarbij noemde hij de namen van die (over)grootouders van beide kanten die al overleden waren en zei dat ook zij in onze vreugde deelden. Het eten was trouwens heerlijk. Je kon bij een groot aantal buffets allerlei soorten vlees, vis, salades, aardappels, rijst, pasta., brood enz. krijgen. Obers en serveersters kwamen langs om frisdranken en - voor wie dat wilde - bier en sterke dranken te brengen. Rond half elf, na de heerlijke taart, de watermeloen ( favoriet bij mijn echtgenote ) en de perfecte dubbele espresso ( voor mij ) gingen wij naar huis. Ilanit, een zeer betrouwbare babysitter ( een gediplomeerd kleuterleidster die in het kinderdagverlijf van onze zoon werkt ) had op onze kinderen gepast, hen in bad gedaan, eten gegeven en in bed gestopt. ( Na het schrijven van deze zin zie ik dat hij grammaticaal niet helemaal kosher is: 'hen' vervult eerst de functie van accusativus/lijdend voorwerp, dan van dativus/meewerkend voorwerp, en tenslotte weer van acc. Laat niemand zeggen dat ik een wijsneus ben. ). Om half een gingen we naar bed, om vanmorgen weer - als iedere morgen - om zes uur op te staan.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Regarding "Palestinians and Hamas near truce", by Ian Fisher, IHT, June 18, 2003: ( This posting has no real structure, but I decided to post it anyway, since it reflects the confusion that engulfs me these days ) The misleading nature of the heading of this article says much: Hamas members are - just as those of Islamic Jihad, Fatah, Tanzim, Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, PFLP etc. - Palestinians, and form an organic part of Palestinian society. The leaders of these organizations have an essential influence when it comes to decision making on the Palestinian side. Of course this does not mean that all Palestinians are terrorists, but it does indicate what kind of compromises and peace efforts we can expect from the - elected or other - representatives of what will become our neigboring state. " With no major violence since Friday, the parties are optimistic ". For heaven's sake, where in the world would one be optimistic about the chances of ( true ) peace only after less than four days without 'major' violence, whatever that may be? I suppose the killing of an Israeli soldier in Jenin on Friday or the two Israeli women being seriously hurt by gunfire north of Ramallah do not come under the category of "major violence", nor do the attack by and killing of two armed Palestinians near Rafah and Beit Hanun on Sunday. As usual the optimism, which already started on a shaky basis, was premature; by the time we read this article the 7-year old Noam Leibovitch had been murdered and her 3-year old sister was moderately wounded by terrorist fire, while their family was driving within the Green Line. How are we supposed to believe Abu Mazen, Yasser Arafat, Marwan Barghouti, Mohammed Dahlan or anybody else among the Palestinian leadership, when they talk about a cease-fire? If we do business with Abu Mazen, will we be able to rely on him, or will we have to close separate deals with ( or eliminate ) the leaders of each and every terrorist Palestinian organization? Why would they trust Ariel Sharon, or any Israeli? Will a peace deal end the conflict, or at least make life much harder for the terrorists? Should physical separation be a part of such a peace deal? The number of questions we want to see answered these days is overwhelming. How comforting it must be to simply belong to one of the extremist currents on the different sides of the conflict, and to be assured that you have answers to each question that might come up in your head. Or do extremists not ask questions at all?

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Regarding "Jewish leader's drug probe rattles Germany", Ha'aretz, June 17, 2003: The mere fact that leaders and members of the Jewish community in Germany have to worry about the impact of a drug possession investigation against Michel Friedman, one of the community's most prominent members, and about " possible anti-Semitism " as a result of that investigation, shows that Jews and non-Jews in Germany are still " far...from normality".

Monday, June 16, 2003

Wow, I just managed ( using logic, common sense and Blogger FAQs ) to create some links to other people's weblogs and to websites that I like to visit. Then I figured out where to put and how to organize everything in the margin on the left side of my blog. You are invited to visit the weblogs and websites. It goes without saying that the views expressed on other weblogs or -sites are not necessarily identical or even similar to mine.
Other inhabitants of the WWW ( wonderful world of weblogs ) have started to notice Dutchblog Israel. Quotes from my blog can be found on weblogs in French ( Fraternet, June 11, 2003 ) and Russian ( Anatoly Vorobey, a.k.a. Avva, June 10, 2003 ). Arnon Trauring ( Aron's Israel Peace Blog, June 15, 2003 ) wrote some interesting remarks on the ' Gideon Levy affair ' after having read Levy's article and my comment on the affair.
Regarding "US urges Sharon, Abbas to show restraint, resume talks", Ha'aretz, June 15, 2003: Whereas it is obvious why Colin Powell urged Israel to show restraint in its responses to terror attacks and in its initiatives to kill terrorists, I have no clue as to why Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas was also urged " to exert maximum restraint ". Until now all that Abu Mazen appears to have shown is restraint, i.e. in his efforts to confront and contain the rejectionists within hiw own people. True, Ariel Sharon has not made it easier for Abbas, Dahlan and others to start taking security control within the territories and to stop the attempts by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatah and others to sabotage the implementation of the road map, but if these man are serious about all that the last thing they should exert is restraint.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

From Newsflash: Dep. Defense Min. Boim: Israel got yellow card from U.S. over Rantisi hit, but Hamas got red card for Jerusalem bombing. Hey, does that mean that we won?
Ingezonden brief naar aanleiding van "Vijftien begrafenissen in Gaza", NRC Handelsblad, 14 juni 2003: Laat ik beginnen met te schrijven dat Ariel Sharon volgens mij met de timing van de mislukte liquidatiepoging van afgelopen week de verdenking op zich laadt niet serieus in het uitvoeren van de routekaart geinteresseerd te zijn. Bovendien zou het Israelische leger er mijns inziens goed aan doen om - als al besloten is om deze of gene leider van ( de politieke tak van ) een terreurbeweging te doden - iets beter zijn best te doen om onschuldigen te sparen, iets wat ooit veel hoger in het vaandel van onze veiligheidsdiensten stond. Dit alles betekent echter niet dat de mannen ( en vrouwen ) van de Hamas en van Izz al-Din al-Qassem klakkeloos "(vrijheids)strijders" of "militanten" genoemd kunnen worden. Wie soldaten aanvalt is een strijder of militant, wie als hoofddoel heeft om zoveel mogelijk joodse, ' Zionistische ' of andere burgerslachtoffers te doden of te verminken is een terrorist. Ook in andere conflicten tegen de achtergrond van een bezetting ( Algerije, Zuid-Afrika ) werd een gewapende strijd tegenover een leger gecombineerd met wat volgens elke redelijke definitie als terrorisme geldt. Het lijkt me sterk dat uw krant of een ander medium het zou wagen om degenen die de aanslagen op Bali of in Nairobi, New York, of Omagh pleegden anders dan als terroristen aan te duiden.

Saturday, June 14, 2003

Regarding "The channel everyone loves to love", Ha'Aretz Magazine, June 13, 2003: When asked to compare the Netherlands, where I was born and raised, to the country where about ten years ago I chose to live, I always used to say that there are two things that are undoubtedly better here than in Holland: customer service and everything involving pregnancy and childbirth. Ever since we have satelite television I had to add something: the Hop! television channel. Our daughter ( 4 years old; our son is still too young to watch t.v. ) only watches between 30 and 60 minutes of television a day, but when she does it is definitely Hop!, a channel that proves that television can play a positive role in a young child's life. No violence, no stereotyping, no parochialism or patronizing, no consumerism, a lot of warmth. A lot of kudos for Alona Abt and Tamir Paul!

Friday, June 13, 2003

Last night for almost three hours I forgot about bus bombings, the road map, conflicts of interests and assassination attempts. I received two free tickets for a concert in Haifa by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Kurt Mazur, with Natalia Gutman as soloist in the cello concerto by Schnittke. Tal, a friend of ours, husband of Rotem and father of our daughter's friend Yoav, picked me up at home, and both of us had a wonderful evening. We sat in the sixth row, with an excelllent view of the podium. Schnittke's cello concerto is very virtuosic, and it certainly has some beatiful melodic passages, but modern classical music is not exactly my cup of tea. Still, it felt good to see two internationally acclaimed musicians such as Masur and Gutman perform here, when many others fear to set foot in Israel. Bach's third Orchestral Suite ( which includes the famous Air on a G String ) was a delight, and Beethoven's third symphony ( ' Eroica ' ) was also performed beautifully. Hopefully I will be able to attend one or more concerts in the near future, this was a perfect way to relax and forget about everything, if even only for a couple of hours.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

During the last two weeks the number of visitors to my weblog has risen sharply, and people from many different countries entered the site. Several of them also returned. I am very curious to know how you people arrived here ( search engines, weblog directories, recommendations, just by chance ) and whether my blog more or less provided you with what you were looking for, that is, if you were looking for something. Please leave a comment or send me an e-mail. Most probably I will be able to answer each mail personally, the number has not risen that much yet. Also if you have harsh criticism, if something that I wrote irritates you, let me know. I will not start discussions here, nor will I change or adapt what I write, at least not drastically. The weblog will remain one of the main channels to vent my personal feelings, frustrations, anger, and hopes, in particular regarding all that is taking place here in Israel and the Middle East but also about other subjects that have caught my attention. You can write me in English, Dutch, French, German or Hebrew. I just saw that someone from Fontenay-sous-Bois visited my weblog. Could you please contact me? I would very much like to ask you something.
While reading the news on the otherwise quite trustworthy website of Sky News, I noticed that they used the word "militant" for the murderers who were responsible for yesterday's bombing in Jerusalem. I sent the following e-mail to the news editor of Sky News: Although I very much appreciate your news broadcasts that we receive here, I just saw that on your website ( which I often use, it normally is as trustworthy and up-to-date as your news broadcasts ) you call the people who carried out the bombing in Jerusalem yesterday "militants". Sorry, I am against the occupation, I criticize Sharon constantly ( see my weblog: ), but I am also a proud Zionist, and I believe that the ones who carry out suicide missions or other attacks against civilians are terrorists according to any sane definition. I am sure you would not think about calling the 9/11 suicide-murderers, or the Omagh or Bali bombers militants, freedom fighters or anything else but terrorists, would you? You might call terrorists who attack soldiers militants, but choosing civilians as primary targets is THE difference between a militant and a terrorist.
Ingezonden brief, gepubliceerd in Trouw op 12 juni 2003. In mijn artikel op de Podium pagina van Trouw van 31 mei j.l. schreef ik over de door mij gedeelde skepsis van veel commentatoren met betrekking tot de streken van de vos Ariel Sharon. De ( mislukte ) poging om de Hamas leider Abdel Aziz Rantisi om te brengen lijkt - gezien de timing - er op het eerste gezicht op te duiden dat alle illusies over de ' nieuwe ' Sharon niet meer dan illusies konden zijn, en dat zijn beloften aan de Amerikanen een wassen neus zijn. In Israel weten we dat de kans dat de ' leiders ' aan Palestijnse zijde van gedachten zullen veranderen erg klein is, hun uiteindelijke doel zal de vernietiging van Israel blijven. Onze enige hoop - en hopen blijven we, anders zouden we knettergek worden - is dan ook dat onze eigen ' leiders ' ooit hun dogma's en versteende benadering van de problematiek hier zullen veranderen. Als de gebeurtenissen van afgelopen dinsdag een betrouwbare indicatie van Sharon's nieuwe-oude lijn zijn, zullen we het voorlopig weer alleen met hoop - hoe ijdel ook - moeten doen. De gruwelijke aanslag op de bus in Jeruzalem maakt overigens opnieuw duidelijk dat degenen die de schuldvraag en de kip-en-het-ei kwestie steeds weer aan de orde stellen de komende dagen opnieuw overuren zullen maken.
Regarding " PM and Goldberg square off at Knesset panel ", Ha'aretz, June 11, 2003, and "Loophole may save MKs from budget cuts", Ha'Aretz, June 10, 2003: Retired Justice Eliezer Goldberg told the Knesset State Controller's Committee: " If someone wants the State of Israel to become a banana republic by abolishing all the rules, and the Knesset legislates that there are no more rules against conflict of interest - I don't hink MKs or the public want that. " Looking up the definition of " banana republic " in the New Oxford Dictionary of English ( OUP, 2001 edition, edited by Judy Pearsall; p. 133 ), I found the following: " a small state dependent on foreign capital, typically as a result of the domination of the economy by a single trade, and hence politically unstable ". Of the four elements of this definition, Israel only lacks the third to qualify. If one was to be really cynical, one could even argue that the country's economy is maybe not dominated but at least highly influenced by a single trade: a mixture of pulling strings and nepotism. So maybe the Jewish state is not yet totally a banana republic, but the way in which it is run most certainly will not qualify for the definition of proper government. In Israel coincidentally almost each time that its prime minister's conduct is being publicly scrutinized, real or fake threats regarding one of its neighbors are suddenly widely publicized or some military action - at first sight apparently badly timed - is undertaken. Also we see loopholes being used by members of parliament to avoid a budget cut of NIS 24,000 for each of them while the budgets of other, more vulnerable sectors of society are slashed without any second thoughts from these same parliamentarians. Let us also not forget in what questionable manner several of these MKs entered our parliament, and how sweeping allegations of improper conduct under the carpet has become a more urgent matter than clearing one's name. I suggest that for such a country the decription " orange and banana republic " should be adopted.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

When it comes to ( fighting ) terrorism, retaliations, liquidations etc. the chicken-and-egg question of who is to blame can hardly be answered. Again, the terrorists never search for reasons to kill and maim Jews and others. Still, after yesterday's terribly timed ( and failed ) assassination attempt it was obvious that before the end of the week at least one major terror attack would be carried out. Each of the different sides in this ridiculous conflict is afraid to be considered a softie by his enemies and his public, so all the time the different parties make sure the others understand that they are still able and willing to throw their weight ( together with some explosives, a rocket or two and many, many bullets ) around. If it is true that each people receives the leaders it deserves, I wonder what the Israelis and the Palestinians did to deserve the non-leaders with whom they are stuck today.
Regarding " IDF starts dismantling..." and " US Christians donate NIS 12.5 million for Israel's social needs", Ha'Aretz, June 10, 2003: These days we see so many young, healthy and dedicated young men and women who are desperately trying to hold on to pieces of land that - even if emotionally, morally or in any other way they belonged rightfully to the Jewish people - will never 'remain Jewish', even not in the 'best' deal that Israel might get within the framework of any peace agreement . Let us just imagine for one moment that all these people - and the young, healthy and dedicated young men and women who are forced to confront and evacuate them instead of defending the rightful, defendable borders of our country and fighting the terrorists - would go and settle the Negev and the Galilee, help the truly needy, educate the children who without proper help will become another lost generation, etc. etc. Even though I am definitely not an expert in economics, my common sense somehow tells me that if such a revolution of thoughts and deeds was to take place in the Jewish state, we would not have to depend anymore on charities from abroad, that are very well meant and welcome but also a disgrace for the Jewish people. As long as so much taxpayers' money and precious manpower is wasted on legal, semi-legal and illegal outposts and settlements, Israel will be a Jewish state only in name. I would prefer a smaller, defendable, compassionate, genuinely Jewish state to the 'Greater Israel' of today, where we have to be afraid on a daily basis, where our sons and daughters are killed for the sake of ideology, and where besides the hills and stones hardly anything particularly Jewish can be found.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Wat volgt is iets wat jullie niet veel op dit weblog zullen zien, een tekst die ik van elders heb overgenomen, in dit geval van Ik kan nauwelijks een betere en zinvollere manier bedenken om - los van alle politiek - vandaag de dag vanuit Nederland Israel en de Israelische bevolking te helpen dan door een bijdrage, hoe bescheiden ook, aan dit project. Zichron Menachem, de Israelische organisatie voor steun en begeleiding van kinderen met kanker en hun families, heeft tot doel jonge kankerpatienten op verschillende wijzen te steunen en hun zware lot iets dragelijker te maken. Deborah Maarsen doet de fundraising voor die reis in Nederland en roept iedereen op een bijdrage te leveren aan wat een onvergetelijke reis moet worden. De organisatie is tien jaar geleden opgericht door Chaim en Meri Ehrentahl, nadat zij een zoon aan leukemie hadden verloren. Tijdens zijn ziekbed merkten zij dat er geen goede opvang is voor de zieke kinderen, maar ook niet voor de gezonde kinderen die thuis blijven als de ouders dag en nacht aan het bed van hun zieke kind staan. Ze zijn toen begonnen met het oprichten van een vrijwilligersgroep die van huis uit opereerde. De vrijwilligers namen de taak van de ouders thuis over, zodat de ouders zich volledig konden focussen op het zieke kind. Dit initiatief groeide uit tot een stichting, welke vernoemd is naar de zoon van Chaim en Meri Ehrentahl, Menachem (Zichron Menachem, ter herinnering aan Menachem). Zie verder de website van Donaties via gironummer van CIA (Collectieve Israel Actie): 777777, onder vermelding van "Zichron Menachem Kinderreis".
After I had been without radio, t.v.or internet for a few hours, I just went online and saw that an assassination attempt against Hamas leader Rantisi failed to kill him. Several others were killed or wounded. For heaven's sake, how stupid can our 'leaders' get? Could Sharon just not live with the idea of not being the bad guy of international headlines for a couple of days? Was our optimism - no matter how sceptical - totally misplaced? Of course, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatah and all the other murderers' organizations have never made a real effort to look for reasons to kill Jews, but this attack was as badly timed as can be. If they had wanted to kill the man, the security forces should have done so long ago, not now, when if only for a few days Israel was regaining just the slightest bit of international goodwill. I feel sorry for any innocent people who were hurt or killed, not for Rantisi himself. I also feel sorry for the Israeli victims of the new wave of attacks that is undoubtedly coming, for the victims of any Israeli retaliation that will follow such a wave just as certainly, etc. etc. For the umpteenth time we have returned to square one. Today Ariel Sharon was heard before the Knesset's State Control Committee in the case of an alleged conflict of interest involving an agricultural law that benefitted him personally, and that he advocated in a telephone conversation with the director of the Israel Lands Authority. I mentioned this case earlier on in a number of postings, and after the Aqaba summit until this morning I was not sure whether I wanted Arik Sharon to be 'guilty' or 'not guilty' in this case. Now I am even not sure whether the timing of the assassinaton attempt against Rantisi and the hearing are not somehow linked. Everyone with a penchant for conspiracy theories and paranoia will not have a hard time finding inspiration here in Israel and the Middle East today.

Monday, June 09, 2003

Regarding "Jordan is the partner" by Benny Elon, and "The settlers...", by Uzi Benziman, Ha'Aretz, June 8, 2003: It is becoming clear that rejectionists on both the Israeli-Jewish and the Palestinian-Arab sides of the dividing lines have realized that this time the multilateral efforts to reach some sort of peace agreement and to establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel might be serious and - G'd willing - even efficacious. Ariel Sharon appears to mean business, almost as much as George W. Bush does. Abu Mazen's true intentions seem to be better hidden, as are those of other Arab leaders. Still, those who cannot stand the thought of a two-state (pseudo?)solution to the needless conflict do their best to torpedo the latest endeavors towards peace or a peace surrogate. On the Palestinian side we witnessed already many attempts to kill and maim Israeli soldiers and citizens since the Aqaba summit. Since one of the main players in the road-map-drama is someone who used to be one of their own, the right-wing rejectionists in Israel have reacted above all with confusion and incomprehension. Apparently they were caught off-guard, as they did not come up with any new argument to lobby their cause. An example of that is yet another unpersuasive attempt by the minister of tourism, Benny Elon, to convince us ( and maybe himself too ) of the viability and logicality of the Jordan=Palestine mantra. That he advocates the total destabilization of the country ruled by the only Arab leader who at least gives the impression of wholeheartedly pursuing some form of true peace, proves how 'much' Mr Elon and his political cronies are interested in finding a - any - way to end the current havock and bloodshed.

Sunday, June 08, 2003

Yesterday I saw another episode of the beautiful series "The Wandering Jew" on the new Israeli channel Tekhelet ( Light-blue, the color of the threads in the tallith - prayer shawl - ), run by modern-orthodox Israelis and aimed at a broad public. In this program Jacky Levi, who nolens volens has become a spokesman for the religious public in many secular programs, visits cities in Europe and tells about places with a 'Jewish connection', stressing the beauty and richness of ( European ) Jewish history without ignoring the difficulties and suffering that were also an inseparable part of that history. This time he was in Berlin. When he told us about Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy that composer's Wedding March ( from A Midsummer Night's Dream ) was played in the background, but Jacky Levy himself unknowingly sang the Bridal Chorus from Wagner's Lohengrin and attributed it to FMB! Smarty that I am, I sent an e-mail to the channel's website. This weekend I started reading Flying Hero Class by Thomas Keneally ( the author of Schindler's List ) ( London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1992 ). The book tells us about the hijacking of a plane by Palestinian terrorists. The reader follows the story through the eyes of an aspiring author who is on the plane together with the Aboriginal dance group that he manages. What is interesting, I believe, is the way in which the terrorists try to set up the majority of the passengers against three of their fellow-travelers, blaming these three ( one branded "Zionist Agent" for - being Jewish and - doing business with Israel; another "Zionist Hack" for being a journalist; the third, the dance group manager, "Exploiter of Landless People", because in an article it was suggested that one of the group's tour sponsors has mining interests in the area from which the dancers originated ) for the plight of all the passengers. Since I only started reading the book I cannot say yet whether or not the terrorists succeed ( some people already have shown hostility towards the three whom the hijackers' leader promised to put to trial later on ). Still, the phenomenon is fascinating and frightening, in particular when we see it in the light of modern Jewish history. Both the Nazis and - of course in a completely different context, but still - Bin Laden & Co. have used 'real' and completely imaginary accusations against the Jews to 'justify' what they did and to - often succesfully - rally the active or passive support or approval of what otherwise would have been neutral and/or innocent bystanders. When I finish the book I will return to this subject.

Friday, June 06, 2003

Today I added another feature to my weblog, made possible by From now on it is possible to add comments to each date of posting. The readers of Dutchblog Israel are invited to share their views on one or more particular items with me and with each other. Vandaag heb ik een element aan mijn weblog toegevoegd, mogelijk gemaakt door Van nu af aan is het mogelijk om commentaar te leveren bij iedere datum waarop ik iets gepost heb. Ik nodig de lezers van Dutchblog Israel uit om hun meningen over een of meer items met mij en met elkaar te delen.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

The following article was written after weeks of polemics and accusations addressed in newspapers and on internet fora against Gideon Levy of Ha'Aretz newspaper, following his review of the Hebrew translation of Sebastian Haffner's Geschichte eines Deutschen. The English translation of the review can be found at: Haaretz For an impression of the angry letters to the editor I refer to Ha'aretz in English and Hebrew, for forum 'discussions' and commentaries ( in Dutch and German ) see ( Israel forum ) and This article was published in a shortened version in the letter section of Ha'Aretz, Hebrew edition, on June 25, 2003. The right to compare By affirmatively answering - in his review of the Hebrew translation of Sebastian Haffner's Geschichte eines Deutschen - his own question whether there is any basis for comparing the situation in Germany during the years that lead to the rise of Nazism to what is happening in Israel today, Gideon Levy caused a real storm, which raged in newspaper columns, in letters to the editor, and on internet fora in Israel and abroad. As always when Israel is named in one and the same sentence, paragraph or article with the words ' Nazi ' and ' Germany ' and their derivatives, many reactions were understandably emotional. Still, as a historian who has worked intensively on holocaust-related subjects, I was not shocked while reading the article, nor did I manage to be offended in any serious way while re-reading it when the storm started to rage. Personally I think the parallels that Mr Levy draws are questionable, not because they are totally non-existent, but because I know historical comparisons to be intrinsically problematic, as each and every situation in history is unique when it comes to the situation's genesis and to its combination of time, place, persons and circumstances. Nevertheless, it is very natural and perfectly legitimate for historians and lay(wo)men alike to want to juxtapose certain situations, developments, events that occurred in different places in the world and/or in different periods in history. In order to understand and judge such a comparison one first and foremost has to consider which factors are compared, and which point is made by the author who makes the comparison. It is clear that many of those who claim to be offended by Gideon Levy's review apparently did not bother to read the whole review itself, or failed to understand the points that its author tried to make. I will not be Mr Levy's advocate here, but it should be stressed that - contrary to what many have written in letters to editors and on internet fora - he did not compare Israel to Nazi-Germany. If he makes comparisons, it is between Israel today and Weimar-Germany, i.e. the Germany that witnessed the developments that led to the Nazi party’s rise to power. Each time Gideon Levy looks for or believes to have found parallels, he asks questions and raises doubts rather than determining facts. Ironically, many of those who expressed their anger about Gideon Levy's work in general and the Haffner-review in particular assert that the situations in Germany before and after 1933 and in Israel today are and will aways be incomparably different, whereas right after expressing their anger they start off with a list of comparisons, to show how much better, more humane - than (Nazi)Germany - Israel is, how evil the Palestinians are etc. etc. Either one should compare or one should not, but you can not compare and deny someone else the right to do so. Often in the history of the Jews of Europe, one of the first ' privileges ' that were taken away from Jews by regimes that would later humiliate, hurt and/or murder these same Jews was the right to perform religious slaughter. Today a discussion about this privilege has become perfectly mainstream in several European countries. Thank G'd this is something we most certainly will never have to worry about in this Jewish state of ours. Nevertheless, other developments that have taken place in Israel in the last decades should worry us, not because they have parallels in modern or not so modern history, but because they reflect the fact that in Israel today it has become socially accepted to question certain rights and privileges that should be a completely natural and integral part of an enlightened and democratic society, such as freedom of the press and the right to strike. Questions such as " Levy, are you for us or against us?" and allegations that Mr Levy " does not accept our right to live in a Jewish state " are both unfair and irrelevant. Stressing the evil character of our enemies and the difficulties that our soldiers face in their struggle for Israel's security does not absolve us from the obligation to acknowledge the fact that the occupation is affecting our moral and democratic values. Just as much as Israel Harel has the right to regularly annoy me - a reader of Ha'Aretz - with his vision on reality through the lenses of a settler, men like Gideon Levy and women like Amira Hass have the right to irritate or bother me with their sometimes one-dimensional but often disturbing and worrying reports from the other side of the Green Line. That their work is abused by anti-Israel and anti-Jewish propagandists should not prevent them and others who are concerned about the Jewish-humane and democratic character of Israel from exposing or even magnifying the less pleasant aspects of Israel's policies towards our neighbors, since we have the right to know about those aspects and the duty to somehow be aware of them.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Regarding "Counting on Palestinian rejectionists", by Nadav Shragai, Ha'Aretz, June 2, 2003: Reading the heading of this article I expected to find once more proof of converging interests between Palestinian terror groups and our own fanatic ultra-nationalists, who would hate to see an end to the occupation. When Nadav Shragai writes that " After losing their faith in Ariel Sharon, [ the residents of Efrat and Karmei Zur ] are now pinning their hopes on the Palestinians. That is, they believe that, to a large extent, the future of the settlement enterprise depends on continued Palestinian rejectionism ", it is suggested that continuing Palestinian terror attacks will serve the interests of those who say they will resist the evacuation of settlements. If that is what the writer and editors of the article intended to transmit to us readers, they should have used portraits of different spokesmen and -women than the ones whose words are quoted in the article. We read about a young widow whose husband was killed by terrorists. She says that the road map awards a prize to the murderers of her husband, angrily dismisses the possibility of evacuation of her settlement as irrelevant, since the settlements are " not just an ideological statement. They are a lifelong project, a personal and communal home to us all." The next interviewee rejects the possibility of armed settler resistance against the IDF, while calling the Palestinians the occupiers. The last person portrayed in the article shares with us his doubts, says that we lack a true partner on the Palestinian side, and states some of the major problems of a continued occupation. He also expresses criticism of the road map, as well as his view that evacuating settlements will be necessary: " I do not hink that every settlement is holy...There is no need to make this into a scared principle, beyond any logic." Nothing in what these three settlers said suggests that they see their interests served by " continued Palestinian rejectionism ", and most of their words make a lot of sense, ' even ' to an opponent of the settlement policies and the occupation such as I am. In these days of tension, expectation, cynicism and - who knows - opportunity journalists and their editors have a larger responsibility than ever before. Instead of suggesting things that were not said they should stick to the truth. If that truth is ugly and troublesome it should be published, but if reasonable things are expressed and interesting points are raised by our ' ideological adversaries ', their words should not be given suggestive headings. Other settler representatives provide the media with enough material that does not require any suggestion or imagination.

Monday, June 02, 2003

( Gepubliceerd in Trouw, 31 mei 2003 ) De passie van de vos De vos Ariel Sjaron heeft de knuppel in het hoenderhok dat het rechterdeel van het Israelische politieke spectrum is gegooid. Het is aan de ( linkse ) oppositie in Israel zelf, en aan de regeringen, individuen en groeperingen buiten Israel die in vrede geinteresseerd zijn, om hem - hun scepsis ten spijt - in zijn nieuwste rol bij te staan. Afgelopen zondag slaagde Ariel Sjaron er in steun te krijgen van een meerderheid van zijn kabinet - 12 voor, 7 tegen, 4 onthoudingen - voor ( een geannoteerde versie van ) de door de Verenigde Staten, de Europese Unie, de Verenigde Naties en Rusland opgestelde routekaart die in drie etappes in principe in 2005 moet leiden tot een Palestijnse staat naast de joodse staat Israel, en tot een einde van het Arabisch-Israelische conflict. Dit betekent nog lang niet dat het nieuwste vredesproces, als we dat woord al kunnen gebruiken, onderweg is. Toch kwamen twee uiterst belangrijke vernieuwingen naar buiten in die historische kabinetsvergadering en in de stormachtige vergadering van de Likud-fractie in de Knesset op maandag, waarin Sjaron door zo goed als alle fractieleden werd aangevallen. Allereerst liet een meerderheid van zo ongeveer het meest rechtse Israelische kabinet ooit blijken in principe de werkelijkheid, zo niet de noodzaak, van de oprichting en het bestaan van een Palestijnse staat naast Israel te erkennen. Daarnaast gebruikte Ariel Sjaron openlijk de uitdrukking " bezetting " en zei hij tegenover een publiek van geestverwanten dat de bezetting slecht is voor Israel. Wie Sjaron's persoonlijke geschiedenis kent, en wie deze week de verbijstering in wat zo mooi het nationale kamp wordt genoemd ziet, begrijpt hoe verregaand Sjaron's ( schijnbare ) ' transformatie ' is. Dit idee van de corrumperende bezetting werd immers tot nu toe alleen door vertegenwoordigers van links Israel geventileerd. De scepsis van veel commentatoren deel ik grotendeels. Een vos verliest wel zijn haren, maar zelden of nooit ( al ) zijn streken en ideologieen. Toch lijkt het me verstandig de ' nieuwe ' Sjaron op zijn minst een kans te geven om zijn tot nu toe nimmer gehoorde passie te preken. Ik zou niet meteen zo ver willen gaan als Shlomo Avineri, die in de International Herald Tribune zei dat Sjaron zijn positie had veranderd " van een generaal die in termen van bergen denkt naar een staatsman die in termen van strategische bondgenootschappen denkt ". Eerder zou ik kijken naar wat de Israelische premier zelf zei tijdens de discussie in het kabinet. Drie zaken die Sjaron noemde vormen mijns inziens de sleutel tot het begrijpen van de manier van denken die hem schijnbaar zo plotseling ' pro-routekaart ' maakten. De twee eerste zijn vrijwel vanzelfsprekend, de derde zou ik voor Ariel Sjaron bijna revolutionair willen noemen, omdat het indruist tegen veel van wat hij tijdens een groot deel van zijn politieke carriere gezegd en gedaan heeft. Zorg om de economische situatie van Israel vormt een van de belangrijkste drijfveren van de premier. Hij legde een direct verband tussen diplomatieke vooruitgang en economisch herstel. Daarnaast erkende hij dat hij niet enthousiast is over de routekaart, maar dat het afwijzen ervan de verhoudingen met de Verenigde Staten - die als we Sjaron mogen geloven zelden zo goed zijn geweest - zou beschadigen, en dat kan Israel zich momenteel niet veroorloven. Na 11 september 2001 en de val van Saddam Hoessein is het duidelijker dan ooit dat Amerika zich eerst en vooral door eigenbelang laat leiden, en dat belang omvat ook rust in het Midden-Oosten. Het meest interessante en smaakmakende ingredient van de uitleg die de Israelische premier gaf aan zijn principiele steun voor de routekaart was te vinden aan het begin van de toespraak die hij hield voordat de kabinetsdiscussie aanving. " De Palestijnse staat " zo zei hij, " is niet mijn levensdroom, maar wanneer we vooruitkijken, is het niet juist voor Israël om over 3 ½ miljoen Palestijnen het bewind te voeren. Als iemand die iedere heuvel en vallei kent begrijp ik de ideologie, maar we moeten een oplossing vinden voor toekomstige generaties." Indien Sjaron uiteindelijk de daad bij deze baanbrekende ontboezeming zal voegen en zijn best zal doen om de routekaart in grote lijnen tot uitvoer te brengen betekent dat een totale ommekeer in zijn manier van denken en handelen. In dat geval zullen de woorden van Shlomo Avineri waarheid worden, en zal Sjaron plaats kunnen nemen in het niet al te lange rijtje van waarachtig grote Israelische staatsmannen, die hun rotsvaste oude ideologieen opzijzetten omdat ze dachten dat het belang van de joodse staat daarmee gediend was. Voordat het zover is moet er nog heel veel gebeuren, en cynisch opportunisme zal een vast en onontkoombaar element in de Israelische politiek blijven. Sjaron heeft echter zijn eerste echte stap gezet. Nu zal hij de steun moeten krijgen die hij nodig heeft om de onderhandelingen tot een goed einde te brengen. Naast medewerking en heuse goede wil aan Palestijnse ( en Arabische ) zijde zal hij hierbij aangewezen zijn op steun van de Israelische oppositie ( allesbehalve vanzelfsprekend, gezien de staat waarin die oppositie zich bevindt ), en op politieke steun en economische hulp van vooral Amerika en de Europese Unie. Als de EU en de regering van Bush Israel en Sjaron meer dan alleen maar lippendienst zullen bewijzen in de strijd tegen de terreuraanslagen die ons hoogstwaarschijnlijk zullen begeleiden bij iedere stap voorwaarts in de richting van de verwezenlijking van de routekaart, zou het goed kunnen dat Ariel Sjaron - de ex-generaal die voor rechts Israel altijd de personificatie is geweest van kracht, vastberadenheid en onverschilligheid ten opzichte van de zo verfoeide wereldopinie - zal slagen waar Yitzhak Rabin en Shimon Peres faalden.

Sunday, June 01, 2003

( zie postings op 4, 9 en 13 april ) Vandaag was ik met mijn vrouw en mijn schoonmoeder in Jeruzalem. In Yad Vashem kreeg ik een aanmoedigingsprijs voor mijn promotieonderzoek uitgereikt, die beschikbaar is gesteld door het fonds ter nagedachtenis aan Norbert en Liza Schechter z"l. We waren speciaal vroeg van huis gegaan om het museum van Yad Vashem en de hal ter nagedachtenis van de anderhalf miljoen in de shoah vermoorde kinderen te bezoeken. Aangezien ik beroepsmatig een groot deel van mijn tijd besteed aan de studie van onderwerpen die direct of indirect met de wandaden van de nazi's en hun helpers te maken hebben, heb ik geleerd een zekere afstand te nemen van de dingen die ik lees, zie of hoor. Nu ik zelf kleine kinderen heb is dat soms verschrikkelijk moeilijk. Halverwege de vaste tentoonstelling zag ik in het deel over het ghetto van Warschau een foto van een brith, een besnijdenisceremonie. Omdat ik zelf minder dan zeven maanden geleden met onze zoon in mijn handen heb gestaan en dezelfde brakhot heb gezegd die vlak voor of na het maken van die foto ongetwijfeld gezegd zijn, en omdat de levenskansen van dat arme ventje en van alle anderen die op de foto staan nihil waren, kreeg ik het te kwaad, en liep ik met tranen in mijn ogen snel door naar het einde van de tentoonstelling. Pas in het deel over de bevrijding kwam ik weer tot rust, en ik wachtte daar op mijn vrouw en mijn schoonmoeder. Over de vroegste geschiedenis van mijn schoonmoeder, die zelf als baby en kleuter ( ze is geboren in februari 1940 in Belgie ) de oorlog heeft overleefd, zal ik later nog wel een keer schrijven.