Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Regarding "Palestinians see Arafat as key", IHT, September 23, 2003: In this article Palestinians are quoted as saying that if Israel kills Arafat or forces him to leave "we will do suicide bombings all over Israel". Not that I am in favor of expelling or killing Mr Arafat, but why should Israel take such a threat serious? As far as I am aware, carrying out suicide bombings all over Israel is what Palestinians have been doing for ten years now.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Although I do not have much time to read or write anything that is not related to Jews and non-Jews in France during the second half of the 1940s, I almost daily try to get my hands on a copy of the IHT, which to me has proven itself to be one of the best media to keep up-to-date, as I do not need an internet connection for the newspaper, and it can be read on my many rides in the Paris metro, as well as during the breaks that I force myself to take while studying the sources for my PhD thesis. In Saturday's issue there was a moving article about a German woman named Sabriye Tenberken, who in spite of or maybe one should say because of ( I would not dare to say thanks to ) her own blindness started a wonderful project, aimed at teaching blind children and young adults in Tibet the skills necessary to rely upon themselves. The story of her life is amazing, filled wigh perseverance and a lot of hope. The organization which she founded has a website, which can be found here. On the site you can read about the work Sabriye and her organization have done and still are doing, and about how you can support that work.
Click here for an interesting article, which appeared in today's International Herald Tribune, on Dutch policy and perceptions regarding Europe and trans-Atlantic relations.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Klik hier voor ( alweer ) een prachtige column van Frits Abrahams. Het kan zijn dat u zich als lezer moet registreren op de website van het NRC Handelsblad, maar dat is sowieso de moeite waard, al was het alleen maar voor de colums van Abrahams en Youp van 't Hek.
Regarding « Despite his gaffe, Jewish group will honor Berlusconi », IHT, September 19, 2003: By bestowing upon Silvio Berlusconi the Distinguished Statesman Award « in the name of the Anti-Defamation League (…), as American citizens who appreciate what he’s done », Abraham Foxman and his leaguesmen and –women singlehandedly turned all their valuable and appreciated efforts to fight hate groups, anti-Semitism, bigotry etc. into one big joke. Although Benito Mussoline did not send Jews to their deaths himself, he certainly bears direct responsibility for the anti-Jewish laws initiated and implemented under his regime, and at least indirect responsibility for the deportation of Jews from Italy by German forces. Someone who says about such a dictator that he « never killed anyone (…) » and merely « used to send people on vacation in internal exile » could under certain circumstances be an ally, but he will never be a friend of the Jewish people. PS: In an article on the website thejewishweek.com it says: Foxman also noted that Italy is also historically less anti-Semitic than other European nations, and even while Mussolini was dictator and 7,000 were deported, 23,000 Jews were rescued by their Italian neighbors. If anti-Semitism could be measured simply by the number or percentages of Jews deported from a certain country or rescued by such a country's inhabitants during WWII, then why does France often appear to have such a bad reputation in the eyes of Foxman and other cry-wolve fighters of anti-Semitism? According to R. Hilberg's The Destruction of the European Jews ( Chicago, 1961; p. 670 ), quoted by Robert O. Paxton in his Vichy France: Old Guard and New Order, 1940-1944 ( Morningside Edition, Columbia University Press, 1982; p. 372, note 65 ), the prewar Jewish population of Italy had declined at the time of the Liberation by 35 percent, whereas for France the same number was 26 percent. Berlusconi and Italy are not friends of Israel or of the Jewish people, nor are Jacques Chirac and France their enemies, as many Jews in- and outside Israel believe. Things just are a little bit more complicated than Mr Foxman and others would like them to be. Israel and the Jewish people should start looking for more honest, less controversial, and more worthwhile friends than Mr Berlusconi.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Regarding "Muslims who feel Islamophobia" by Adid F. Farha, IHT, September 18, 2003: Although I agree with much of what Mr Farha has to say, I find it hard to accept his use of the adjective ‘true’ as if it was a definite article, in connection with Islam or any other religion/civilization. There is no true Islam, Judaism or Christianity, just as there are no true Muslims, Jews or Christians. Nothing is as relative as truth. As a Jew, I consider myself as true, as rightful a member of the Jewish people/religion/civilization and as much a part of Jewish history as – for example – both Yitzhak Rabin and his murderer Yigal Amir. Similarly, Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein belong just as much to the history and community of Islam as a religion and civilization as their less fanatic and violent fellow Muslims.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Regarding "Israel won't rule out killing Arafat", IHT, September 15, 2003: In the last years, Palestinians and Israelis have been held hostage by attempts by two elderly non-statesmen who make desperate but utterly succesful efforts to continue each other's relevance. Whereas in a more just and perfect reality the political incompetence of and frequent and apparently well-founded corruption accusations against Sharon and Arafat would have turned each of them long ago into irrelevant players in their respective nations' political history, both non-leaders - through calculated and very well publicized 'policy options' that probably will never be carried out, or by well-timed military or terror attacks - have succeeded in remaining in power, no matter what the true interests of their peoples require.
Regarding "Voters in Sweden say 'no' to euro", IHT, September 15, 2003: Although it would be wrong to compare totally different political situations such as those in Israel, the Netherlands and Sweden, or to reach any conclusions about the motives of the murderer of Anna Lindh before he ( or who knows, she ) is arrested, one cannot fail to notice that in all three cases the causes symbolized or supported by those murdered were lost or at least set back considerably in the elections ( or referendum ) held right after what without much doubt can be labeled political murders. In Israel, the Right came to power after Rabin - who had seemed the only leader on the Left who was somehow able to unite a majority of the country behind a policy that would have lead to some sort of peace agreement with the Palestinians - was killed. In Holland after the murder of Pim Fortuyn , the parties who claimed the charismatic leader's 'ideological heritage' became terribly fragmented and have ceased to be a political force that should be taken seriously. Now the pro-Euro(pean) current in Sweden's politics lost its most vocal and recognized spokeswoman, thus making it much harder for that country to become fully integrated within the Union. Political violence has often paid off, no matter who initiates, supports or tolerates it. These days it more than ever seems to be a potent factor, in democratic countries in particular.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Regarding Views page, IHT, September 12, 2003: As happens so often with experts' comments on 'the' conflict, the views expressed by Marwan Bishara, Uri Dromi and Thomas Friedman all contain some truth and leave out much more. As Mr Bishara tells us, Arabs and Jews have been living on the same plot of land ( Palestine-Israel ) for centuries. Still, if he believes that Jews would like to return to the days where for their daily affairs and their very survival they were totally dependent on the ( mostly non-existent ) goodwill of their non-Jewish neighbors, he suffers of a severe illusionary disorder. Uri Dromi's plea for separation - mutally agreed-upon, or unilaterally initiated by Israel - makes sense. When he writes about Uri Dan's " prophecy suddenly " coming true, though, he forgets to tell us that Uri Dan, Mr Dan's good personal friend Ariel Sharon and many other Israeli politicians and opinion makers never have been really interested in seriously thinking about - let alone implementing - a major condition for any viable agreement that will form a basis for a modus vivendi for Jews and Arabs between the Mediterranean and the Jordan river: evacuating most if not all of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and allowing the Palestinians to build a state of their own. Thomas Friedman rightly stresses the fact that Israelis ( both Jews and Arabs ) are clinging to normality. Nevertheless, considering Jews getting tattoos as a sign of that intention semms a bit odd to me. I support his call for a more convinced and convincing American involvement, although I am not sure if president Bush's government has the right intentions and qualifications to succeed here.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Today I had a whole conversation in French ( and a little Hebrew ) about 'the' conflict. Me and Joelle, my conversation partner, agreed that the situation is confusing, and that one of the main causes for all the mess is a total lack of leadership, and the pursuit - by those who have the hutzpah to consider themselves leaders - of their personal rather than their peoples' interests. Anyway, I once more was at the IHTP where I saw my room and met some of my colleagues there. This is the first time that other historians call me a colleague, in Israel I am much more used to working all by myself. The warm welcome that I recieved and the wonderful facilities put at my disposal ( plus the great time my wife and kids are having, after we found fitting social frameworks for both our daughter and son ) already made us start to think about doing a post-doc in France, or to combine such a stay with some project in Holland. The institute has published an impressive number of excellent studies on topics related to WWII, and Eleonore, who started to introduce me there this morning, offered me a copy of one of the books that i appeared to be interested in. When I said that I read a copy of it from the Haifa University library, she laughed and said that she meant a personal copy, for me to keep! It turns out that as an associate 'doctorant' I can receive a copy of almost every publication of the institute and its members. This is it for today. Probably I will start reading a daily newspaper again soon, so then I might once again write about less personal things than these last postings. PS: at the local synagogue the rabbi told me that after a considerable discount we can reserve two places for Yom Kippour for the sum of €100. I think HaKadoshBarukhHu will forgive us for our absence this year. For Simhat Thorah we will find a nice conservative, liberal or reform synagogue further away, in Paris itself. Hereby I already wish all my readers ( and everybody else ) Shanah Tovah.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Whereas things in Israel are a mess without us no less than when we left the country less than a week ago, here the only time that I really had to worry today was ten minutes ago, when I had to find a shelter from the rain while walking from the Musee d'art et d'histoire du Judaisme to the public Library at the Centre Pompidou. This morning I visited the Institut de l'Histoire du Temps Present, which basically adopted me for the duration of my sejour de recherche here in Paris. I will be able to use all its facilities, and receive a room which I will share with several other researchers. I left there around lunchtime, and ate the sandwiches that my wife prepared in a small beautiful park located between the institute and the nearest RER station, Bagneux. Tomorrow I will go to the Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine and to the library of the Alliance Israelite Universelle, and on Wednesday I will be at the Archives Nationales. Then I will have been registered at and familiarized myself with almost all of the libraries and archives the collections of which will form the basis of my PhD research, after which I will finally start really working, i.e. shifting through newspapers, documents and correspondence from the years 1944-1949 for articles, letters etc. that somehow relate to relations between Jews and non-Jews in France in that period: how Jews saw themselves and the relations with their non-Jewish neigbors + v.v. after all that had happened in the country during the years of the Occupation and Vichy rule. Aspects that will be dealt with are, inter alia: efforts, by their parents/surviving family members or by Jewish organizations, to (re)gain custody of Jewish children from non-Jewish individuals or organizations that had hidden them during the war; retrieving stolen property; reactions, both among Jews and non-Jews, to Zionism; memory and remembrance right after the war; returning deportees; awareness of what had befallen European Jewry. This is just a very partial and arbitrary list, if someone is really interested he/she can contact me and - if I have the right facilities at my disposal - I will send the relevant part(s) of my research proposal. The weather seems to be clearing up a bit, so I will go to the library at Pompidou Center. It is open also on Sundays, so that I will be able to maximally make use of my time here, if necessary. As long as possible I will devote the Sundays to quality time with my family, though. Yesterday we visited Eurodisney, where we took an annual passport for an attractive reduced price, as we are officially residents of the Paris area. My wife will go there quite often with our children, I suppose. Our daughter had the time of her life, she received autographs from and had her picture taken with Goofy, Winnie the Pooh, Gepetto etc. etc.

Friday, September 05, 2003

For those who might have worried: everything is o.k. with me and my family. This week we came for an extended period to Paris, within the framework of my PhD research. Preparing this sejour de recherche took quite an effort and a lot of time, so I was not really able to concentrate on blog-related issues. We live in a tiny but comfortable and perfectly located apartment, and already found many fellow-Israelis in and around Paris. As much as we sometimes would like to try and get away from Israel and the Israelis when we are at home, when you are abroad being surrounded by the warmth and the support of other Israelis gives you a safe and comfortable feeling. The coming months I will be more aware of what happened in France right after WWII than of what is going on right now in the world, as I will spend about ten hours a day, six days a week in libraries and archives in and around Paris, submerging myself in an enormous pile of documents and newspapers from the years 1944-1949. Still, I will make an effort to keep up with events in the Middle East and the rest of the world, and to write a comment once in a while. If I find something in one of the archives or libraries that should or might interest the readers of my blog, I also will post something. Shabbat shalom to you all.