Friday, August 22, 2003

Regarding "Ex-con uses false ID to get a job with Brinks, and makes off with NIS 4.7 million", Ha'Aretz, August 20, 2003: Here is a story about a man whose hutzpah - circumventing, by means of what appears to be a very basic scheme, the supposedly very strict selection procedures for employment at the Brinks armed money transport company - almost fills us with awe, if we did not know that in the end we are the ones who will pay from our pockets for slip-ups like this one. Hopefully when Brinks' CEO applied for a job at the company, his name ( Yitzhak Rabin ) raised enough suspicion to have his identity and credentials thoroughly checked.
Regarding several articles in IHT, August 21, 2003: Not very often can those who pursue the evil ways of terror proudly look back on so many major achievements in one week. Not only did they murder about twenty Jews – among whom two tiny baby boys whose only crime had been to be born Jewish and destined for a mostly very peaceful life of religious studies –, an act which Israel will not and in the madness that is called the Middle-East probably even can not leave unanswered, they also killed the most senior UN official in Iraq, one among many other victims of a suicide attack at the UN compound in Baghdad. Like the murderous acts perpetrated on September 11th 2001, the suicide bombing in Iraq shows that this category of terror attacks is not a unique result of or outcry against occupation, Israel or America, humiliation, poverty and despair ( as those who send the suicide murderers on their way, as well as their worldwide supporters, sympathizers and apologizers want us to believe ). Suicide terrorism first and foremost is about creating havoc and chaos, instilling fear in the hearts of innocent civilians, pushing Marx’ Verelendung-theory to its very extreme and satanic limits, support for and from repressive reigmes, blind - often religious - fanatism, and hatred of anything that does not resemble one's own narrow interpretation of the truth. Although each and every form and act of terrorism is different when it comes to local aims and circumstances, it is no secret that terrorist actions are highly coordinated by the regimes and groups that support and carry out these actions. This is why this week will probably be fondly and proudly remembered by all terrorists and those who support their causes. Not only was a ransom almost certainly paid by Germany or by one or more other countries for the release of 14 Europeans who were held hostage for months by Islamists in the Sahara, also details were made public about the bazaar-deal between Libya and the UN security council, according to which the country of arch-terrorist Qadaffi will pay some sort of compensation to the families of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing in installments that are conditional on the lifting of sanctions against Libya. It comes as no surprise that that very Security Council is chaired by Syria, champion of human rights and the fight against international terror. Another typical reaction to terror in the wake of the suicide bomb attack against the UN compound in Baghdad came from the European Union. Whereas Chris Patten said he was “appalled and saddened ” by the death of Sérgio Vieira de Mello, the European Commission immediately announced it will drastically scale down its staff which is assessing Iraq’s aid needs, thereby delaying EU plans to finance the country’s reconstruction. Game and set for the terrorists. If the democracies of the world are serious in their desire to defeat terrorism, their leaders should show at least the level of coordination that can be witnessed among the perpetrators of terror. This includes some sort of unified approach: not calling ‘your own’ terrorists terrorists while labeling those in other regions of the world ‘militants’, ‘rebels’, ‘freedom fighters’ etc.; not condemning negotiations between a country and some terrorist country or organization while secretly or openly conducting negotiations yourself ( e.g. Israel and Hezbollah ); being aware of the link between those parts of a terror organization that provide vital services to a population and such an organization’s ‘military’ wing or wings, and taking measures according to such an awareness; not sacrificing clear international security interests for narrow short-term national economic or political profits. As long as such an approach is only something imaginary and unattainable, the terrorists and their all too many supporters and admirers will have the upper hand.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Two badly chosen headlines on the website of the English edition of Ha'Aretz: 1) Annan says UN staff to stay in Iraq; dozens feared trapped under rubble 2) The ultra-Orthodox community reflects on the first Haredi terror attack, and prepares to mourn its dead

Thursday, August 14, 2003

In this week's Friday Magazine of Ha'Aretz, the Family Affair section - the first thing that I read every Thursday when I receive the Magazine - is very moving. It contains a portrait of Victoria ( 38 ), Shulamit ( 14 ) and Rinat ( 8,5 ) Wieselman from Netanya, whose husband and father Arkady, z"l, survived the suicide attack on the eve of Pesach 2002 at the Park Hotel, where he worked as a chef, only to be murdered less than two months later, when he went to the market to do some shopping. Their story has most of the 'right' elements: pure Zionism, true and strong love , tragedy, a very human and balanced view on the situation here. It is easy to identify with such victims of the terror and madness that surrounds us.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Regarding "A Ben-Gurion model and an Abbas reality", IHT, August 13, 2003 ( A shortened version was published in IHT, August 14, 2003 ): Not only do today's non-leaders on both the Israeli and the Palestinian sides of the conflict's dividing lines lack essential leadership qualities such as vision and undisputed legitimacy, they also are rather 'estate-builders' than state-builders. Whereas the name of David Ben-Gurion has become almost synonymous with an austere, Spartan lifestyle, we are regularly confronted with reports about the considerable personal fortunes that Yasser Arafat, Ariel Sharon and other members of the Palestinian and Israeli leadership, their relatives and trusted confidants have accumulated and are still managing. In addition, both Sharon and Abbas lack the will and power to risk civil war within their respective societies, rather than endangering the very existence ( or possible establishment, in the Palestinian case ) of a nation-state for their own people. This is why Sharon has not seriously confronted the settlers yet and why Abu Mazen has not shown and probably will not show any earnest efforts to finally enforce his authority. It would be too much to ask these days for leaders of the calibre of Ben-Gurion ( who was far from perfect, had dictatorial habits but also a wall-to-wall authority, and his concept for the wellbeing of 'his' state was his highest personal priority ), but the least we should expect from those determining our daily lives and our children's futures is a certain level of altruism, and concern for the fate of the people that they pretend to govern rather than for their own financial interests.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

The headline "Israeli blasts shatter peace" at the "Sky News-Witness the event" main page ( Aug 12, 2003 ) is an example of irresponsible journalism. There was nothing Israeli about the blasts in or near Rosh Ha'Ayin and Ariel, except for the fact that one took place within Israel proper and the other right beyond the Green Line. The responsibility for both lies with one or more Palestinian organizations. Better choices for a headline would have been "Palestinian blasts..." or "Blasts in Israel...". Where two seemingly mutually exclusive versions of the truth are facing each other, and where innocent people on all sides of the dividing lines are hurt and killed because of the faulty decisions by their so-called leaders, journalists should make a little more effort to try and have at least the appearance of being objective. To use catchy but objectively untrue headlines is incompatible with such responsibe journalism.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Regarding "Two Likud MKs vow to defy warnings and visit Temple Mount", Ha'Aretz, August 7, 2003: The higly publicized announcements by MKs Gavrieli and Hazan regarding their insistence on visiting the Temple Mount on the ninth of the month of Av, despite the warnings of Police Chief Aharonishki and even Public Security Minister Tzachi Hanegbi ( never mind the halakhic problems involving visiting the site ), show us two things, which we basically knew already. First of all, some MKs will do everything to get some publicity, even if it involves endangering public security and the lives of civilians and members of the security forces. Inbal Gavrieli backed down after her urge of feeling important had been satisfied. Yehiel Hazan's need to get some 'positive' coverage as an MK apparently was not satisfied until he twice physically was confronted by police officers, who as we all know have nothing better to do than preventing publicity-seeking MKs from igniting another religious fire. The officers' claims that MK Hazan " would be endangering himself as well as the people gathered to pray at the Western Wall " left him unconvinced. Another thing that became clear once again is the fact that some MKs believe that their being a member of Parliament places them far above the law, and that parliamentary immunity is a synonym for being able to thumb one's nose at those who abide by or enforce the laws of this country. In the case of these two MKs ( Hazan is suspected of being involved in the double-voting scandal, while doubts were cast on Gavrieli's qualifications for membership of the Knesset and her family ties to some of the 'grey' sectors of Israeli society were stressed in most media when she gained an unexpectedly high number of votes in the Likud primaries last year ) all this is especially ironic.
Van selectieve bezorgdheid en woede wordt niemand wijzer De vrij recente bezorgdheid van voormalig premier Van Agt om het lot van de Palestijnen is gedurende het afgelopen jaar breed uitgemeten in diverse media. Het is de vraag of die zorg niet iets al te selectief is. Dat eenzijdige bezorgdheid en verontwaardiging niemand echt verder helpt staat vast. Een meer op belangen dan op sentimenten gebaseerde benadering zal alle onschuldige slachtoffers van het Palestijns-Israelische conflict pas echt een betere toekomst bieden. Je kan veel zeggen over mr. Andreas Antonius Maria van Agt, maar niet dat hij tijdens het actieve deel van zijn politieke carriere ooit blijk heeft gegeven van een bijzondere belangstelling of een buitengewoon inzicht waar het gaat om internationale conflicten. Het heeft er dan ook alle schijn van dat hij zijn kennis op het gebied van het Palestijns-Israelische conflict vooral heeft opgedaan in de door hem zo geliefde Heilig-Landstichting. Hoe zouden we anders zijn eendimensionale benadering van de ingewikkelde problematiek die ten grondslag ligt aan dit conflict kunnen verklaren, of de manier waarop hij zijn ogenschijnlijk zo plotseling opgekomen belangstelling voor het lot van de Palestijnen uit? Persoonlijk hoed ik me uitdrukkelijk voor het te pas en te onpas bezigen van de term ‘antisemitisch’ als het gaat om het beschrijven van kritiek op het beleid van de Israelische regering en op het optreden van het Israelische leger in de bezette gebieden. Ik ga er in principe van uit dat een groot deel van de kritiek op Israel oprecht en constructief bedoeld is, en geloof dat hij niet zelden terecht is. Zelf steek ik mijn bezwaren tegen aspecten van wat ik vaak het non-beleid van onze non-leiders noem ook niet onder stoelen of banken. Toch valt het moeilijk te ontkennen dat sommige mensen die onsympathieke gevoelens koesteren ten aanzien van het joodse volk dergelijke gevoelens uitleven door eenzijdig kritiek te leveren op zo goed als alles wat Israel doet, en door ‘solidair’ te zijn met een volk wiens lot – indien het tegenover een niet-joodse tegenstander zou staan – hen waarschijnlijk geen zier zou kunnen schelen. Gretta Duisenberg heeft al verschillende malen laten zien dat in haar klaarblijkelijke zorg om het erbarmelijke lot van de Palestijnen ( een lot waarvoor Israel een aanzienlijk deel van de verantwoordelijkheid draagt, ik zal de laatste zijn om dat te ontkennen ) ook minder ‘koshere’ motieven een rol spelen, getuige haar – bewuste of onbewuste, dat is om het even – gebruik van termen als “ de rijke joodse lobby ” en “ zes miljoen handtekeningen ”. Het zou echter al te makkelijk zijn om een alom gerespecteerd staatsman als Dries van Agt van antisemitisme te beschuldigen. Desondanks valt het me zwaar niet te twijfelen wanneer de voormalige bewindsman het in een inmiddels berucht interview in het Reformatorisch Dagblad ( 25 juli j.l. ) heeft over “…het feit dat er uit ons land akelig veel ( sic ) joden zijn gedeporteerd… ” of wanneer hij over wat de huidige pro-Israel-koers van het CDA wordt genoemd zegt dat die “ getuigt van een verknochtheid aan inzichten die inmiddels overwonnen had moeten zijn ”. Twee in iedere beschrijving van Van Agt’s politieke carriere terugkerende affaires versterken mijn twijfels: de hem als minister van Justitie verweten nalatigheid in de zaak rond Pieter Nicolaas Menten en zijn iets te daadkrachtige en enthousiaste pogingen om de heren Kotaella, Aus der Fuenten en Fischer al in 1972 vrij te krijgen, waarbij hij ongevraagd en zonder voorbehoud publiekelijk een 'arier-verklaring' aflegde. Weinigen zullen ontkennen dat onschuldige slachtoffers te vinden zijn aan alle kanten van de scheidslijnen die gevormd zijn in de loop van het al veel te lang durende en logisch gezien overbodige conflict tussen joden/Israel en Palestijnen-Arabieren. Bovendien geldt het aloude “ Waar twee kijven hebben beiden schuld ” in het Midden-Oosten nog meer dan elders, zeker omdat hier heel wat meer dan twee kijvers meespelen. Van eenzijdige en gratuite uitspraken, beschuldigingen, petities, uitingen van verontwaardiging en bezorgdheid wordt niemand wijzer, zeker de slachtoffers niet. Het doet er hierbij niet toe of 'eenzijdig' pro-deze of anti-gene partij betekent. Daadwerkelijk geengageerde en evenwichtige zorg en inmenging van buitenaf is vereist om de gemiddelde jood, moslim en christen een perspectief te bieden op een betere toekomst. Het zogenaamde “kwartet” ( V.N., E.U., V.S. en Rusland ) kan hierbij volgens mij uitstekend als ‘honest broker’ dienen, aangezien vrijwel iedere bij het conflict betrokken partij een ( 1 ) van de leden van dat kwartet als bondgenoot ziet en minstens een ( 1 ) van de andere als vijand of of zijn minst als bevooroordeeld beschouwt. Een meer op belangen en minder op sentimenten gebaseerde benadering zou bij het zoeken naar een oplossing erg kunnen helpen. Een goed voorbeeld van zo’n benadering is het initiatief ( ) van de Palestijnse professor Sari Nusseibeh en Ami Ayalon, die commandant van de Israelische marine en hoofd van de Algemene Veiligheidsdienst was. Deze twee totaal verschillende persoonlijkheden hebben ieder voor zich en in gezamenlijk overleg ingezien dat het belang van hun eigen volk gediend is met een einde aan dit nodeloze conflict, en dat om zo’n einde te bewerkstelligen een door brede lagen van de verschillende bevolkingen gesteund compromis onontbeerlijk is. Het door hen voorgestelde compromis, waarvoor binnen de joodse en Palestijnse gemeenschappen handtekeningen worden verzameld, bevat in mijn ogen alle elementen die een naar omstandigheden zo reeel, redelijk en rechtvaardig mogelijke oplossing voor het conflict zal bevatten: twee staten voor twee volken; een gedemilitariseerde Palestijnse staat; de grenzen van 4 juni 1967; Jeruzalem als open hoofdstad van twee staten; compensatie voor de Palestijnse vluchtelingen. Een praktisch initiatief zoals dit verdient brede internationale steun, omdat joden en Palestijnen het van dergelijke initiatieven moeten hebben waar het een mogelijke verlossing uit de huidige ellende betreft. De enige bijdrage die mensen als Dries van Agt en Gretta Duisenberg ( en hun tegenhangers aan de pro-Israel zijde ) per slot van rekening aan de verschillende vredes- en ontwikkelingsprocessen in het Midden-Oosten zullen hebben gebracht is het bemoeilijken en vertragen ervan.
Regarding "Jakarta bomb...", "Head of IRA splinter group...", and "Israel frees...", IHT, August 7, 2003: In one and the same issue of a respected international newspaper, edited in Paris and published by a leading American opinion-making medium, we read about three parts of the world where terrorists have tried and are still trying to achieve their goals. Not surprisingly, those who planned and carried out this week's attack at the Marriott hotel in Jakarta, which killed at least 16 people, are labeled 'terrorists'. When it comes to the activities of Michael McKevitt, who was convicted yesterday for leading the "real IRA", a republican splinter group that killed 29 people in a 1998 car-bomb attack in Omagh, the newspaper adopts the wording of the verdict by the Irish antiterrorism court, which found Mr McKevitt guilty of " directing terrorism ". Interestingly enough, the IHT calls the "real IRA" a "republican guerrilla group". Writing about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the newspaper goes one step further, by calling the different Palestinian groups that a little more than a month ago declared some sort of ceasefire " leading Palestinian militant factions ", even though this category includes groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the members of which have proudly killed and maimed scores of people in Israel and the territories. The vast majority of these factions' victims consists of civilians, which undoubtedly justifies calling these groups and their members - together with the different factions of Fatah, which interestingly enough has been responsible for most of the attacks that took place during the hudna - terrorists. Is it just ignorance, or naivety, or does the IHT really believe that only those who aim at American targets can be called terrorists? No matter how unjust an occupation or how just a nationalist or religious cause might be, nothing justifies explicitly and intentionally killing, wounding, kidnapping, hijacking or otherwise hurting and terrorizing innocent men, women and children in order to achieve one's goals. Providing some or all of these actions and their perpetrators with legitimate or pseudo-heroic labels not only furthers their cause, it makes fighting them much, much harder.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Regarding "UK press watchdog backs writer who won't read mail from Jews", Ha'aretz, August 5, 2003: One of the major achievements of Osama bin Laden, his fellow terrorists and his supporters, is to have brought to the surface much of what without their actions probably would have remained in a closet labeled "public embarrassment". Although most of the criticism against Israeli policies in general and against those of the current government in particular is legitimate and quite often justified, it is obvious that since September 11th 2001 - more than ever before - those who harbor negative perceptions of and prejudices against Jews have been able to vent their inner sentiments under the publicly authorized and politically correct umbrella of one-dimensional commentaries upon or disapproval of the policies of the Jewish state, thereby often failing or refusing to distinguish between Ariel Sharon and his government on one side and the people of Israel ( in its broadest sense ) on the other. Two frequently repeated topoi in these commentators' observations are " After all that the Jews went through..." and many colorful and creative variations on the good old " Me an antisemite? My best friends are Jews!" bromide. At least those on the Israeli Left who consider themselves Zionists know today that they have predominantly themselves to rely upon, and that their basis of sincere and concerned support abroad is disappointingly small, and apparently becoming smaller every day. It seems that very few in Europe are truly interested in the fate of Palestinians or in a just and comprehensive peace in this region. Many of the Europeans and other Westerners who claim to support either the poor Palestinians or the threatened Jewish state first and foremost have their own personal narrow, often quite biased political agendas in mind, and could not care less about the fate and future of the average Christian, Jew or Muslim here.