Thursday, December 23, 2004

Only rarely does 'Dilbert', which appears daily on the comics' page of the International Herald Tribune, make me laugh like it did this morning. Posted by Hello
Binnenkort kom ik naar Nederland, ik zal dan ook met deze situatie, weergegeven door Tom Jansen, te maken krijgen. Posted by Hello
Ik heb natuurlijk beloofd om Bernhard te laten rusten, en een deel van wat er vandaag in Trouw stond was al bekend, maar toch is dit artikel - met links naar de originele documenten - te boeiend om er niks over te schrijven. Zouden we iets dergelijks ook in de Volkskrant hebben kunnen lezen, of mogen we blij zijn dat er ook nog een wat kritischer ( want protestante? ) vorm van journalistiek bestaat als het om de prins zaliger gaat?

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Regarding "Karadi: Public opposition could thwart evacuation of Gush Katif" and "Coalition agreement won't be signed before next week", Ha'Aretz, December 21, 2004:
What keeps me optimistic regarding the question whether or not Israel will still be occupying Gaza in another year or so is the pure hatred and frustration displayed by settlers and their supporters towards Ariel Sharon, feelings that might point at a honest determination on the latter's side to finally get us out of there. When official representatives of the settler movement publicly sing the praises of both passive and active unlawfulness, we should not be surprised when settlers, who for years were made to believe that they themselves are the law, start harrassing soldiers, or worse. Once again it is being proven that Palestinian terrorists and our own, homebred fanatics have at least one goal in common: finishing off Israel as it was meant to be by most of its founding fathers: a Jewish, democratic state. No matter how annoying and dirty the coalition building games are, if one of the results is going to be an end of the occupation of Gaza ( and, G'd willing, of other occupied territories ) it will all have been worth it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Regarding "Yesha council calls for campaign of civil disobedience..." + "Katif farmers fear collapse...", Ha'Aretz, December 20, 2004:
Could it be that the representatives of the settlers are beginning to understand that the days of their being able to continue living in an impossible reality - cashing in on other peoples' misery and commandeering our nation's destiny - might be numbered? While the Israeli government still has not shown true signs of recognizing that settling occupied territories as such is wrong, our Prime Minister appears to have come to understand that the settlements are not an organic part of the consensus among Israelis anymore. Even more than other Israeli employers the settlers know for a long time that their enterprise cannot be based on 'Hebrew labor', so after having benefited for several years from cheap Arab labor they started to exploit foreign workers who were more than willing to come, in spite of the dangers involved. The fact that many Thai workers want to stay in Gush Katif because the immigration police does not operate there and because Sabbath observance there guarantees them a day of rest says a lot about this country's policies regarding foreign workers and slavery. It is not enough to remember only once a year that we ourselves used to be slaves in Egypt. If we want to make this state both truly democratic and Jewish the first necessary step is to get us out of the territories. After that much, very much work remains to be done.
Regarding "In defense of France", Letters to the editor, Ha'Aretz, December 20, 2004:
For a long time it has been easy for us Jews to find reasons either to love or to hate France and the French. Similarly the French never really had a hard time looking for reasons to either admire and love or condemn and hate Israel ( and the Jews ). Relations between the Americans and the French and between France and the United States show similar patterns. Could it be that all this is the result of the three peoples having more in common than what divides them? To name but two elements that Israelis, Americans and French have in common, as can be seen and heard in the media coverage of the love-hate relationship between them ( e.g. Yoel Marcus' "Five comments on the situation", but also the remarks recently made by the French ambassador in Israel ): a certain arrogance and megalomania, and an apparently irresistible fondness for over-simplification. As a historian who deals with relations between Jews and non-Jews in France I can say that those relations sometimes have been troubled and often are emotionally charged but always will remain fascinating. Both French and Israeli authorities should invest ( even ) more than they do today in strengthening the deep, intriguing and mutually beneficial bonds between the two countries and peoples.

Monday, December 20, 2004

I liked this cartoon by Biderman of Ha'Aretz. It depicts Victor Yushchenko, who apparently has shown interest to be treated for his skin disease - which according to Austrian doctors is the result of dioxin posisoning - by specialists in Israel. The Hebrew version says "We will register you at Ronith Rafa'el" ( RR is a commercial center for plastic surgery ), whereas in the paper's English edition it says "We'll throw in a free tummy tuck". Posted by Hello
Today's Wizard of Id episode is very similar to the Hagar episode that I posted last Friday. Once again I was reminded of my father-in-law. Posted by Hello
( Ha'Aretz News Flash )
18:16 Nobel Peace laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire compares alleged Israeli nuclear arsenal to Nazi gas chambers
Things like this prove that being a Nobel ( Peace/Literature ) Prize winner is not synonymous with being smart, having a sound historical and/or political judgement, or being a mensch. Another example of that lack of synonymity is Jose Saramago, who suggested that the plight of the Palestinians is comparable to ( that of the Jews in ) Auschwitz.
As far as Mr Vanunu ( hey, why did he not get the Peace Prize this year? ) is concerned, maybe Israel just should let him go and let him celebrate Christmas in the States with Mrs Maguire, Mel Gibson and other people whose relationship with the Jewish people is slightly complicated, to use a euphemism.
Of course my sarcasm is not aimed at other Christians. Happy Christmas to all of you, and a happy, healthy and - who knows - peaceful 2005!

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Part of the subject tackled by Bob Herbert in this op-ed article was covered in an article that prompted me to write a letter to the editor last Thursday.
I read this good article in this weekend's IHT. Frank Rich wrote it, and it deals with popular culture, hysteria and religion in the US, and with a threat posed to that nation's powerful majority by a supposedly even more powerful minority.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Dit vind ik dus waanzinnig knap. Petje af voor Ton Sijbrands. Hoe is het trouwens met Harm Wiersma ( en zijn politieke carriere )? Posted by Hello
PS: Op de website van de Telegraaf kwam ik deze informatie nog tegen. Leuke en voor alle partijen interessante vorm van sponsoring, zou ik zeggen:
"Het was sinds 1982 de negende recordpoging van Sijbrands, die nog altijd de wereldranglijst aanvoert. De vorige succesvolle poging was twee jaar geleden, eveneens in de bedrijfskantine van zijn sponsor, het kunstoffenbedrijf Wildkamp uit Lutten. Sijbrand zette toen het record blindsimultaan dammen op 22 partijen (zeventien keer winst en vijf remises). De grootmeester begon vrijdagmiddag om vijf uur aan de uitputtingsslag, die hem fysiek minstens even zwaar viel als geestelijk. Sijbrands moest ruim 24 uur wakker blijven, kon tussendoor niet uitgebreid eten en moest geconcentreerd blijven. Hij zat daarom afgezonderd van alles en iedereen in een apart kamertje en gaf zijn zetten via een microfoon door aan de wedstrijdzaal, waar 24 zeer geoefende dammers achter de borden zaten. Het duurde tot zaterdagmiddag, eer hij tegenstanders op de knieën kreeg. Tegen drie uur had hij pas drie partijen gewonnen, maar daarna ging het snel. Na vijf uur stroomde de punten binnen en even na half zes was het record een feit. De vier dammers die er tegen de doodvermoeide Sijbrands een remise uitsleepten, waren Gert Jan Hoeve, Marco Veneboer, Fred Elgersma en Jan Veneman. In de komende tien jaar zal Sijbrands nog twee keer een poging wagen het record te verbeteren. Dat ligt contractueel vast. Sponsor Wildkamp bood vorig jaar Sijbrands tot aan zijn 65e levensjaar financiële ondersteuning, maar als tegenprestatie moet de dammer tot die tijd nog drie keer een aanval doen op het wereldrecord blindsimultaan. De eerste van de drie pogingen is nu geslaagd. "

Friday, December 17, 2004


Education IV Posted by Hello
Education III Posted by Hello

Education II Posted by Hello

Four cartoons dealing with education ( following my previous posting, in Dutch ).  Posted by Hello
Ik ben blij en dankbaar dat ik nog een min of meer ouderwetse gymnasium-opleiding heb mogen genieten, weliswaar op een grote scholengemeenschap maar toch. In mijn geval hebben die zes jaar me ook praktisch veel gegeven, maar ook wie zich niet met talen, geschiedenis en aanverwante 'nutteloze' onderwerpen bezighoudt houdt vaak wat zinnigs over aan de lessen Latijn en Grieks. Het zou goed zijn als in ieder geval de mogelijkheid blijft bestaan om die vakken ( grondig ) te leren. Je hoeft geen snob te zijn ( al helpt het misschien wel ) om niet in absolute nivellering te geloven: zolang eliteonderwijs niet ( voornamelijk ) afhankelijk is van de portemonnee van pappa en mamma maar eerst en vooral van de mogelijkheden en talenten van de leerling(e), is er niets mis mee om kinderen de kans te bieden een net iets andere opleiding dan 'alle anderen' te laten volgen, integendeel. Piet Gerbrandy, een voormalige leraar klassieke talen schreef een mooi artikel over het gymnasium in de Groene Amsterdammer.

This one reminds me of my father-in-law. Posted by Hello

To start the weekend with a smile, here are some comics that I enjoyed recently. Posted by Hello

Thursday, December 16, 2004

In today's Ha'Aretz: an interesting article by Yossi Melman, who interviewed Dr. Sharam Chubin. The subject: Iran's nuclear program.
Regarding "How did normally careful White House falter on nominee?", IHT, December16, 2004: If Mr Gonzales, the person who - if president Bush gets his way - in about a month will become responsible for the enforcement of law and order in the United States and who will play a central role in the country's security policies is not even able to properly conduct a relatively simple and highly routine background review of the nominee for a cabinet position, that does not promise well when it comes to his abilities to fight criminals and terrorists. Alfred E. Neuman's "What me worry?" should be the question of the day among Americans.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Toch nog wat woorden vuilmaken aan de dood van 'de Prins'. Op de website van de Volkskrant ik het volgende. Gezien de spreker moet het ( ik bedoel de hieronder vetgedrukte woorden; de rest van het citaat leek me om andere redenen interessant ) haast wel om een ( Freudiaanse? ) verspreking of om een fout van de redactie gaan ( of de spreker is gewoon niet erg nozel ):
Erik Versluis, secretaris Oranjevereniging Beatrix Ameide-Tienhoven: 'Bernhard deugt, absoluut. Zijn goede daden vallen in het niet bij zijn slechte. Iedereen maakt misstappen. Hoge bomen vangen veel wind. Het is dapper dat hij zijn buitenechtelijke kinderen en de Lockheed-affaire durft toe te geven. Natuurlijk was het dom en naïef, hij heeft zich door de verkeerde mensen erin laten luizen. Dat hij misschien lid is geweest van de NSDAP moet je in de context van die tijd zien. Iedereen werd begin jaren dertig lid gemaakt, zonder goed te beseffen wat er ging gebeuren. '
Nog een ( 1 ) vraag/opmerking en dan laat ik de prins rusten: hoe komt het toch dat hij het van alle Nederlandse media nou juist met de Volkskrant steeds zo goed kon vinden ( deze interviews, de open brief een jaar geleden )?
My recommendations for today: an article about Ukraine, the elections and the country's Jews ( as far as anti-Semitism is concerned the candidates sound like tweedledum and tweedledee to me ), and a piece about the ugly past of the country once ruled by Augusto Pinochet, and about the ways in which torture and political terror affect people and nations for more than one generation.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Ha'Aretz News Flash:
12:48 PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas: The armed uprising against Israel was a mistake and should end
Sharon should do all he can to give Abu Mazen the opportunity to win popular support and legitimacy in the elections, and to start negotiations over the future relationship between a Palestinian state and Israel right after those elections. Mahmoud Abbas is not the Messiah, but right now he is the best chance we have of reaching a situation with and in which both Jews and Arabs will be able to live side by side somehow. For Palestinians it takes a lot of guts to publicly make declarations such as this one.
Regarding "Christian conservatives take aim", IHT, December 14, 2004: Isn't it ironic that several states of the United States of America - a country that has been sending its soldiers to places like Afghanistan to purportedly introduce them to the age of light ( women's rights, personal freedom, intellectual progress etc. ) - themselves are slowly but surely returning to the dark ages, by muddying the boundaries between religion and the state, imposing religious values, interfering with women's right to choose and making a mockery of education based on evidence that is supported by science rather than by the Bible?

Monday, December 13, 2004

Happy Hanukah! This picture was taken about two hours ago. We lit tonight's candles ( seven, tomorrow is the festival's last night ) at the house of our neighbors, together with another family who lives in our building. Their and our children go to kindergarten together and we, the parents, have become good friends. As you can see each of our six children lit his own hanukiyah, even our two-year old son. Posted by Hello
Wat ben ik toch een zeurkous. Vanmorgen zag ik de Journaal-uitzending van gisteravond. Daarin werd o.a. gesproken over de ontruiming van het stadion van Real Madrid na een bommelding. De nieuwslezeres zei doodleuk "De politie doorzoekte het stadion..."
Regarding "Likud MK praises officer accused of 'confirming kill' " and "Sharon, ministers slam media discourse on IDF morality", Ha'Aretz, December 13, 2004: As sure as I am about the moral standards of the vast majority of our soldiers, I do have serious doubts about the moral and ethical standards of some of our politicians. Describing the killing of a 13-year old Palestinian girl as "wiping out a terrorist" sounds a bit like immoral overkill to me. Also, instead of accepting responsibility for having put our nation's finest in impossible situations under impossible conditions for too long already, our so-called political leaders blame the media for doing what they are supposed to do: expose excesses and incidents which prove that it is virtually impossible to occupy and keep one's moral standards simultaneously. Our soldiers deserve our full support, but even more they deserve not having to play anymore the inconceivable role of the benevolent occupier.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Both those who maintain that the IDF should continue to try and eliminate active Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorists, and those who keep telling us that Israel should have left ( Gaza and ) the ( other ) territories long ago and that we should have proper borders separating the territories from Israel, will probably say that tonight's attack on the Rafah checkpoint proves that they are right. Personally I tend to support both claims right now.
This is typical behavior of our politicians. They are the ones who put our nation's finest into impossible conditions, but instead of accepting responsibility if anything goes wrong, they will be the first to blame the messenger. Of course the media are far from perfect, each of them has its own interests, but in all the controversial cases mentioned in the article the basic facts were not incorrect, only in some of the cases the context should have been stressed more explicitly. Obviously almost all IDF actions in the territories are weakening Israel's international standing, but hey, the main reason for that is the simple fact that we should have left the territories ages ago already. I am sure of the moral standards of most Israeli soldiers, less so of the moral and ethical standards of our politicians.

Marriage counseling III Posted by Hello

Marriage counseling II Posted by Hello

Marriage counseling I Posted by Hello

Here are some comics that I read and enjoyed recently. Have a comic and a smile. Posted by Hello
Regarding "Bush tells top rabbis: Sharon is a great man", Ha'Aretz, December 12, 2004:
It has never been clear to me why George W. Bush' personal endorsements of Ariel Sharon and of his non-policies regarding our relations with the Palestinians - the positive part of which until now has consisted only of verbal declarations and plans on paper, whereas in fact the occupation and Sharon's traditional pro-settler policies largely continue as before - are considered as a sign of support for Israel. If there is anything that we need from our most consistent and powerful ( some might say our only ) ally it is a widely respected and accepted American President who will have the courage and the public support at home and abroad to confront the leaders on all sides of the conflict, and to persuade them either by carrots or by some sort of stick into accepting compromises that will finally open the way towards solving a conflict that should have been solved years ago. Such courage will be an expression of a much more honest and helpful support for Israel than the current American policy vis-a-vis Israel, which basically encourages the continuation of an impossible, unjust and dangerous status quo
Sorry for not writing as much as usual these last days. I am busy preparing for quite a long stay in Paris. This stay will be much shorter than last year's, but I'll be all alone this time, and my schedule will be very tight, because I will not have time or money to go there again before I finish my PhD thesis. Therefore everything will have to be organized very well. Things are going great, I found myself a nice apartment on a wonderful location ( which means rent in French ), got some good responses from librarians and archivists - who are all very helpful and friendly -, and all tickets, financial and technical things have been taken care of. Still, there is much work to be done before I will be able to sit down, relax, and fully enjoy the company of my wife and our children for a couple of days prior to my departure. So forgive me if I write a little less than you might have become used to.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Toch nog een posting vandaag. Ik heb net het journaal bekeken met o.a. een verslag van wat een mooie en indrukwekkende prinselijke uitvaart lijkt te zijn geweest. Wel moet ik Youp van 't Hek gelijk geven die naar aanleiding van de 'generale repetitie' vandaag in het NRC schrijft: " Het leven is zinloos. Duizenden mensen keken donderdagavond naar een oefenende rouwstoet zonder lijk en een door het Journaal geïnterviewde muts in een geel windjack vertelde dat het oefenstoetje heel indrukwekkend was. Hoe saai moet je leven zijn als dit al een verpletterende indruk op je maakt? ".
Prins Bernhard was ongetwijfeld een markante persoonlijkheid, met net als de meeste mensen goede en minder goede kanten en witte, grijze, en zwarte pagina's in zijn verleden. Omdat ik de goede man niet kende en zijn leven nooit echt gevolgd heb heb ik nauwelijks blogruimte besteed aan zijn dood. Toch zou ik de lezers het volgende citaat niet willen onthouden. Ik las het op de website van Trouw en het bevat volgens mij een prima typering. De spreker heeft over het onderwerp misschien weinig recht van spreken maar des te meer verstand van zaken: "Willem Aantjes, destijds fractieleider van de Anti-Revolutionaire Partij (ARP), typeert Bernhard als een echte, maar inmiddels vrijwel uitgestorven soort Duitser: ,,Hij was een rechtse rakker met een hang naar het autoritaire. En hij hield van uniformen. Dat gaf hem iets on-Nederlands. Aan zijn verdiensten in de oorlog wil ik niets afdoen. Hij vervulde een symboolfunctie die het volk houvast gaf in moeilijke tijden. Die rol speelde hij goed, kón hij ook goed spelen, omdat die helemaal bij hem paste. Maar of hij de zaak waarvoor werd gestreden heel erg toegedaan was, waag ik te betwijfelen.''

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Als ik het nieuws uit Nederland zo lees en hoor lijkt het me erg gevaarlijk op de Nederlandse wegen, helemaal als ik bedenk dat beide keren dat ik vorig jaar met mijn gezin vanuit Frankrijk voor een paar dagen naar Nederland kwam we een Citroen ( Xsara Picasso en Xsara ) hadden gehuurd ( met dank aan de nieuwsbulletins die de Wereldomroep me dagelijks per e-mail stuurt ):
* Mercedes-rijder na 'complot' rijbewijs kwijt
De Mercedes-automobilist uit Ede die auto's van Franse makelij van de weg reed, is definitief zijn rijbewijs kwijt. De Raad van State heeft een klacht van de man tegen het Centraal Bureau Rijvaardigheidsbewijzen (CBR) afgewezen. De man beweerde dat socialisten en rooms-katholieken een complot hebben gesmeed om hem te dwingen in een Franse auto te gaan rijden. De Raad van State beticht de man van 'ernstig gestoord gedrag'.
* Meisjes promotieteam veroorzaken file
Schaars geklede dames hebben voor de tweede dag op rij voor extra verkeersopstoppingen op de A1 gezorgd tussen Amsterdam en Amersfoort. Bestuurders, aangenomen wordt vooral mannen, trapten massaal op de rem om een gedegen blik te kunnen werpen op de vrouwen. De dames zijn ingehuurd door een frisdrankfabrikant om promotiewerk te doen, waarvoor ze nu een tankstation bezochten aan de A1. Het promotieteam zal tot de kerst nog verscheidene andere benzinestations aandoen, extra fileleed of niet.
This could be the ultimate gift wrap for the holiday season in a multicultural society.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Regarding "Sign the Petition! Refuse to participate!" by Nadav Shragai, Ha'Aretz, December 8, 2004:
This article shows once again that a two-state solution might not be enough to solve 'the conflict', and that three, four or even more states might be needed to solve several conflicts. In fact, it appears that in addition to the Arab/Palestinian-Israeli divisions the gaps between the different interest groups within Israeli society and between (extreme)right- and leftwing activists and their sympathizers among the Jewish part of the Israeli public are becoming wider every day. Being both a historian and a Zionist, more and more - in particular on days when realistic pessimism gains the upper hand of my Zionist idealism - it seems to me that most of what is shared by the various segments of Israeli society on the other, lies in the past ( Jewish and Israeli history, religious and cultural heritage, common roots in secular Zionism ), whereas it remains to be seen whether we can share the present and future. For every Zionist refusal to serve or to carry out orders given by IDF commanders is wrong. Still, there is a difference of heaven and earth between a highly individualistic and still marginal phenomenon of refusal of serving in the territories and an openly propagated, well-organized, religiously sanctioned, and potentially violent campaign to draw our soldiers into the dirty swamps of what still are largely democratic politics.
Three days ago in the International Herald Tribune two articles had my particular attention. The first was an article that appeared on the last page of the second half of the newspaper, most of which I normally glance through very fast because I am not very much interested in - nor do I understand anything about - sports and finances, and I do not travel a lot. The comics are the only part of that second half that I read every day. Yesterday's Travel section had an article about the city of Johannes Vermeer, Delft. I was raised - and lived for more than twenty years - in Zuid-Holland, the same province where Delft is located, and I cannot remember ever having visited the city. There are still large parts and many cities in the Netherlands that I do not know, which is an advantage now that I visit the country once every couple of years with my family, as a tourist: most of what we see is as new to me as it is to my wife and our children.
The other article that I read with special interest was about the fake-Dow-spokesman who succeeded in fooling the BBC. I happened to see one of the two broadcast of the interview with the man. Of course what he did was not very nice, but I could not help chuckling over the affair. It appears the man is connected to an organization called The Yes Men, which with this hoax attacked not only the BBC but also Dow Chemical, and those are not the most unworthy targets for such an assault. If there is any reference to the whole affair on the BBC News website, it is well hidden, I was unable to find it through a regular quick search.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Regarding "Vanunu: Israel's nukes push neighbors to get atomic weapons", Ha'Aretz, December 6, 2004:
Claiming that Islamist and other Middle Eastern countries are pushed by Israel to pursue atomic bombs and other WMDs sounds a bit like like justifying this or that terror attack by saying it is a response to such and such action by Israel. Countries like Iran ( after 1979 ) and Syria have never really searched for excuses to try and destroy the Jewish state. From 1948 onwards the very existence of that state has always been reason enough for them to look for ways to eradicate it. Those countries and the terrorists whom they sponsor will use every opportunity to harm Jews ( and other Westerners ) in general and Israelis in particular, irrespective of specific 'incentives' provided by Israel. As for the threats facing Mr Vanunu: if Israel had wanted to harm him physically it most probably would ( and certainly could ) have done so a long time ago. It must be hard if, after having been in the international spotlights for so many years, the only threat facing you is that of falling into oblivion.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

I am not familiar with the details of the Azzam Azzam case, but the happiness and gratitude of Mr Azzam speak for themselves. This prisoner-exchange appears to be much less controversial - i.e. not controversial at all, a very good deal - than the one involving Elhanan Tennenbaum.
On the same day that two professors from Haifa's Technion left for Stockholm to receive two thirds of this year's Nobel Prize for Chemistry, yet another massive attempt is under way to initiate/impose a boycott against Israeli academics, by not allowing them to publish, to participate in conferences etc., and not awarding them any prizes. This time the venue is a conference at the London University School of Oriental and African Studies. Although one can hardly accuse me of supporting Israel's policies regarding the occupied territories, or of using the A-word easily, I wonder when those hypocrites will start boycotting academics from China, Iran, Sudan, and other countries that have much worse records than Israel when it comes to human rights and occupation, and I cannot help but suspecting that at least some sort of anti-semitism is one of the motives behind the unacademic activities of the likes of Tom Paulin, Steven and Hilary Rose, and Mona Baker.
A few days ago I noticed a new website among the list of sites that refered to Dutchblog Israel, History News Network. Part of that website is a group blog called Cliopatria, maintained by several historians from around the globe, most of them - still: the blog is fairly new and I was told they are working at becoming more 'cosmopolitan' and 'inclusive'- residing in the US. I already thought about adding the blog and its mothersite to the righthand margin of my own blog when I found an e-mail in my Yahoo! mailbox this morning telling me that Dutchblog Israel has been added to Cliopatria's blogroll, and asking me to consider doing the same with Cliopatria. Voila, that is what I just did. Probably in the near future I will add most if not all of the Cliopatria's contributing bloggers' blogs to the list as well.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Sometimes by reading a newspaper article you get to know somebody whose work you have come across but whom you never really heard about. In last week's supplement or magazine of Ha'Aretz ( I am not sury which of the two ) a portrait of an interesting personality, Paul Goldman - the photographer who took the famous picture of David Ben-Gurion standing on his head on Herzliya beach - and his professional heritage.
An article by Michael Tarazi, described as a legal adviser to the PLO, sparked a lively discussion. He relaunched the idea of a binational state for Jews and Arabs. Among others, ( even ) Uri Avnery and Ha'Aretz' Avraham Tal came up with arguments why that might not be such a good idea. I agree with Tal's warning regarding the settlers: " In their fanaticism they will yet bring about the fulfillment of his ( Tarazi's ) boss's vision."
( Not long after the publication of Tarazi's article and me writing this posting, Tarazi's boss died ).
Henry Siegman, whom I do not know to be an enemy of the Jewish state, heavily criticizes the arrogance of men such as Dov Weisglass, as well as the stupid naivety or purposefully bad intentions of American officials who have supported the Sharon government's policies for the last 12 months.
On this website the European Union, one of the main parties to whatever solution will ever be found to the Palestinian/Arab-Israeli conflict - "whether we like it or not" -, gives us insight into its Mediterranean and MidEast policies: motives, objectives, and the ways in which it tries to obtain its goals. A rich source of information.
An analysis by Yossi Melman of the terror threat warnings issued by Israeli authorities and how the Israeli public deals with them. ( Written some time after the Taba bombing ).
Today I post some postings that I prepared weeks and in some cases months ago, as some sort of backup. Other, more urgent and relevant issues came up, so I wrote about those issues instead. The post-dato-postings are still interesting, I believe, which is why I decided to get them out into the open in this massive cleanup.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Now that's a relief and quite an achievement: 12:01 Four people killed in road accidents this week, smallest number in past four years ( Ha'Aretz News Flash )
Amidst all the ( understandable and justified ) consternation regarding the photo of the Palestinian fiddler at the army checkpoint, we tend to forget one side of the story. In today's Ha'Aretz I read a very moving and highly convincing letter to the editor, written by a father (*) whose daughter was murdered by explosives undetected at some army checkpoint: Regarding "Soldiers force Palestinian to play violin at West Bank checkpoint," November 25 Your article and accompanying photo regarding the Israeli soldier who demanded that a Palestinian "youth" at a checkpoint play his violin omitted the following relevant details. On August 9, 2001, another Palestinian "youth," this one the son of a well-to-do restaurant owner from Jenin, managed to slip through a checkpoint on the border of West Jerusalem and stroll to the city center with a guitar slung over his shoulder. He entered the Sbarro pizzeria and saw a room crowded mostly with children out for a light lunch. Then, with the explosives hidden in his guitar, he murdered 15 Israelis in cold blood. Among those victims was my daughter, Malki, and her friend - two sweet 15-year-old girls with hearts of gold. There are many more stories of eternal pain wrought by that guitar. To ignore the context of those searches at the checkpoints - four years of barbaric terror attacks on innocent Israelis - is dishonest. But in this case, what exactly is MachsomWatch criticizing? The soldiers in Horit Herman-Peled's photo, which Haaretz chose to print, not once but twice in one issue, do not appear to be gloating or enjoying the Palestinian's music. Rather, they seem intent on confirming, without dismantling and damaging it, that this was indeed nothing more than a violin. The fact that an army spokesperson apologized for the soldier's conduct without mentioning the above facts is disconcerting. It highlights the destructive pressure that MachsomWatch is exerting on the people entrusted with defending us and our children. One day, an uncertain soldier at a checkpoint may be forced to make a split-second choice between inconveniencing a Palestinian and being thorough. The intimidating presence of someone like Herman-Peled on the scene may push him to err on the side of leniency toward another Palestinian like my Malki's murderer. Frimet Roth Jerusalem
(*) PS: Why I automatically supposed that the author is Malki's father I do not know. Lila, of Letters from Rungholt, corrects me ( without specifically saying so ) and writes about "Malki's mother". She also writes some more about the many 'twines of sorrow' in the fiddler affair. I underwrite her 'conclusion': "...the discourse in Israel is self-critical and still deals with moral points of view - something of which I am proud. The army responds. Moral self-control functions. In spite of everything."
Tenslotte ( voor vandaag dan ) nog de Digitale Bibliotheek voor de Nederlandse Letteren. Verre van volledig en natuurlijk nooit een vervanging voor het lekker lezen in bed of in de trein, maar toch heel erg rijk aan inhoud. Je kunt hier bijvoorbeeld Jan Terlouw's Oorlogswinter of Johan Fabricius' De Scheepsjongens van Bontekoe lezen, verschillende naslagwerken raadplegen ( veelal verouderd maar soms ook delen uit nog lopende projecten ), of genieten van het volgende nagelaten gedicht van wijlen Willem Wilmink ( gepubliceerd ter gelegenheid van de opening van het deel 'jeugdliteratuur' op de DBNL ):
Dankgebed van Sam Heb dank, Heer, voor het ei, dat men in plakken snijdt en voor de bami, die zo zacht je keel inglijdt en voor de kroepoek, Heer: wij moeten de Chinezen naast U, Heer, voor dat fijns geweldig dankbaar wezen. Bij peren, sinaasappelsap, bij boontjes en ijsthee benedicamus Domino, al ben ik nog geen twee. Dank voor de dierentuin met leeuw en aap en beer en met de tijger die langskomt en keer op keer stilstaat, heel vlak bij mij en doet of hij moet braken en ik begrijp dat wel: hij wil me aan 't lachen maken. Voor deze tijger, Lieve Heer, met zijn enorme tong benedicamus Domino, al ben ik nog heel jong. Dank voor de olifant, die omsnoft met zijn snuit en voor de fietspomp met een soortgelijk geluid. Heb dank voor al wat piept en voor de papegaaien en voor die molens, die ook als ze stilstaan, draaien. Voor de twee triplex eenden, Heer, in glanzend wit en rood benedicamus Domino, al ben ik nog niet groot. Voor de auto die ik met mijn voeten voortbeweeg, voor 't bord met letters dat ik van een oma kreeg, voor vogels in de tuin, waar je zacht bij moet praten, voor pappa, die vol vlijt een harde wind kan laten, voor plassen in de straat, waar ik zo fijn in stampen kan, benedicamus Domino, al ben ik nog geen man. Voor Joosje, Lieve Heer, die is nog heel erg klein, maar luister hoe ze boert: ze kan al geestig zijn. Voor treinen, waar men in en waar men uit kan stappen, voor oma's met hun liefde, voor opa's met hun grappen, voor mamma, ook als die wel eens wat strenger over kwam, benedicamus Domino. Dit is getekend: Sam.
Nog een prachtige website, die van het vernieuwde Joods Historisch Museum.
Via joods.nl kwam ik ( weer eens ) terecht op de mooie en informatieve website van het Nederlands Instituut voor Oorlogsdocumentatie. Daar werd verwezen naar een andere website, waar je inventarissen van enkele van de belangrijkste Nederlandse archieven online kunt inzien. Fascinerend. Op de NIOD-pagina met actueel nieuws kwam ik het volgende opmerkelijke bericht tegen ( toevallig op 4 mei gepost ):
Dr. L. de Jong genomineerd als Grootste Nederlander Op de lijst van 200 namen die genomineerd zijn voor het multimediaproject van de KRO 'De Grootste Nederlander', staat dr. L. de Jong, tot 1979 directeur van het Nederlands Instituut voor Oorlogsdocumentatie.Iedereen kan stemmen, of andere 'Grote Nederlanders' aanbrengen, via.... ( website De Grootste Nederlander ).
Ben ik een zeurkous, of is de term 'aanbrengen' in deze context een beetje vreemd? Maar ja, op dezelfde pagina staat het volgende ( toevallig gaat het over de eergisteren overleden Prins Bernhard ), wat erop wijst dat zorgvuldig taalgebruik niet de sterkste kant is van degene(n) die verantwoordelijk is(zijn) voor de website. Zoek de vaut:
17.2.2004 De stelling van Hans Blom: Onweersproken beweringen mogen niet doorgaan voor feiten.
In een interview met Elsbeth Etty in het NRC Handelsblad van 15 februari j.l. ligt NIOD directeur deze stelling toe. Aanleiding tot het vraaggesprek is de commotie rondom de ‘open brief’ van Prins Bernhard. “Is alles wat Prins Bernhard niet tegenspreekt waar? Zo’n gedachte is intellectueel ontoelaatbaar” zegt Hans Blom.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Congratulations to Jonathan Edelstein: today is the second birthday of his wonderful weblog, The Head Heeb. I wish him many, many more postings, and success with whatever actual engagement and involvement he will choose in the issues that he cares and writes about. Kol Hakavod to him! He even finds time to post insightful comments on other people's blogs ( see for example his comment on my posting about the Palestinian fiddler at the IDF checkpoint, November 30th ).
PS: This was today's last posting ( a promise, not a threat ), unless something really urgent comes up.

Ik kon het niet laten deze prachtige tekening van Joep Bertrams die vandaag in het Parool verscheen nog even te posten. Posted by Hello
As you can see I figured out how to transform GIF files into JPEG files. For several months now, in order to post pictures on the blog I am forced to use the services of Picasa's Hello, which made posting anything but simple texts much more complicated. You can only use JPEG files. I have been saving several cartoons or comics that I liked, but I was unable to post them because all of them were GIFs.
Yesterday for the first time ever I met someone whom I got to know via my blog, Lila of Letters from Rungholt. It appears that we have quite a lot in common, and socio-politically we agree on most issues, so the hour or so that we sat, drank excellent coffee and talked went by very fast. This was fun, I am sure we will meet again, probably even with our families some day. Lila was the one who told me that GIF files can be easily turned into JPEGs, so yesterday evening I sat, tried and succeeded in doing just that. Expect some more cartoons and comics in the near future.

Nog een cartoon, ook vooral om te testen of het posten van foto's niet al te ingewikkeld is. Deze is van Joep Bertrams, het onderwerp is duidelijk. Ik had de tekening al eerder willen plaatsen, maar wist niet hoe ik GIF tot JPEG moest maken. Posted by Hello
Op basis van de 10 eerste minuten van Het Misdrijf van Abraham Prins, die online te zien zijn, lijkt dit een erg mooie en ontroerende documentaire te zijn die door het levensverhaal van een ( 1 ) Nederlands slachtoffer van de vervolging van en moord op de joden te vertellen duidelijk verschillende aspecten van de Holocaust in Nederland laat zien: hoe Nederlands de meeste slachtoffers, daders en omstanders waren, hoezeer toeval een rol speelde ( iets wat natuurlijk niet uniek voor de jodenvervolging in Nederland was ), hoezeer de gebeurtenissen in die jaren vandaag de dag nog doorwerken, vooral voor de ( nabestaanden en nazaten van ) de slachtoffers.
Ik heb bij de IKON geinformeerd of de hele film online te bekijken is, maar dat is helaas niet het geval. Wel kan een opname besteld worden, maar 25 Euro is me iets te gortig. Heeft iemand de film toevallig opgenomen? Ik zou heel graag een VHS opname van de documentaire ontvangen, zodat ik de overige 40+ minuten ervan kan zien.

They Are Only Human

Last month the following article that I wrote was published in the Jerusalem Report. In the JR's last issue a letter by Jeff Peri from Los Angeles refers to the article. Interestingly enough Mr Peri not only appears to view the occupied territories as a country, he also firmly believes that Ariel Sharon can match himself against George W. Bush when it comes to establishing democracy and supplying "unparalleled sources" to Afghanistan, Iraq and the territories.
Mr Peri's letter is the first published reaction to one of my articles in English, and I am grateful to him for that, even though we appear to have very serious differences of opinion and I am not sure whether he understood what I intended to say with the article. Of course people have been giving me feedback by e-mail or in person, but few of my twenty-something articles that were published were honored with published reactions. Could that be because I am often stating the obvious? Should I become more insulting or aggressive? The first published reference to something that I wrote in Dutch was an article by rabbi Evers in het Reformatorisch Dagblad, which followed an article that I wrote for the same newspaper ( I reacted to rabbi Evers' article with a letter to the editor of the RefDag, which was published ).

They are only human


The world tends to react with disgust, shock and anger to terrorist acts such as the hostage drama in Beslan, the beheadings in Iraq, and bomb attacks in Taba, Bali, Be'er-Sheva, Madrid or elsewhere. Few people can imagine how human beings are capable of taking children hostage, tormenting and killing them, and of killing innocent civilians on purpose in the most brutal ways imaginable. In responses given on the internet, television, radio and in newspapers the men and women responsible for those crimes are often called animals or monsters.

It is wrong and dangerous, and unfair to animals, to deprive those fanatics of their human character. As far as I am aware animals do not cause pain and agony to other animals just to fill them with pure fear and to disturb their daily lives, yet that is exactly what terrorists are aiming at: fear and chaos. Islamist terrorists find their inspiration in a mixture of nationalism and religion, two elements that for all I know are not a part of the animal realm. Although we are talking about incomparable phenomena (historical comparisons are always problematic), it is interesting to note that also those who devised and carried out the horrors of the Third Reich have been described as monsters and beasts. By seeing mega-murderers as inhuman we appear to try and grasp incomprehensible crimes: these atrocities are so extraordinary in dimension and nature, and their perpetrators so far removed from the way we view human beings, that we simply call them unique and inconceivable, which enables and allows us to return to our daily lives. However, especially with horrifying and extraordinarily large crimes we should try to fathom the men and women responsible for those atrocities.

Such an approach is not only right if we want to create a picture of the gruesome deeds that is as historically accurate as possible. We also owe it to the victims, and it might enable us to prevent such deeds in the future, or to stop them in an early stage. The most human reaction to (Islamist) terror would be a call for revenge. After all, the devastating passion of men such as Bin Laden seems to be irrational, and a primordial response appears to be the logical thing to do. Nevertheless, we should not think that something is illogical when it runs against our sense of logic. In the inescapable fight – without compromises – against terrorism an utmost effort ought to be made to understand the line of thinking and the ratio of the terrorists. We have to see them as the human beings that they are, and to fight them accordingly. What motivates Islamists and other religious zealots is a combination of destructive nihilism, hatred, and degenerated versions of religion and nationalism. Some – prominent among them are George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon – confront that nihilism with a totally negative non-policy: we are told time and again that we and the rest of the world face a common enemy, and that enemy has to be destroyed. Hence Days of Atonement and the raids in Falluja. We are never really told what kind of world our leaders want to offer us after the promised victory over evil.

Although the impression should be avoided that the pseudo-motives of the terrorists are taken seriously, it is short-sighted to believe that terror can be eradicated through military means alone. In their war against terror the West and its worldwide allies have to disseminate a clear, positive message, not only as a tempting and convincing counterbalance for the misanthropic world that Bin Laden offers us, but also as an alternative to the negative and hopeless view of Bush and Sharon. People who feel oppressed, humiliated and left behind – in Chechnya, the Westbank, Gaza, Iraq, but also in other parts of the world – have to be convinced that they do have a real chance of getting a better, more prosperous, free and promising life, and that the West can and wants to help them make that perspective come true. Only if and when we are able to gain their confidence and make them and their children truly believe that it is worthwhile to exchange a narrow, dead-end but familiar worldview for the prospect of an uncertain but hopeful future, will the most important breeding ground for terrorism disappear. In order to succeed in doing that we, the voters in the West, first have to make clear to our leaders that we do not want to know only against whom we should fight, but also for what: nothing dispels the ‘forces of evil’ better than the ‘forces of light’. It is time for Sharon, Bush, Kerry, Putin and all other chosen and potential leaders to tell us in what light they view our future.

Here is an Andy Capp Comic, just to see if everything works. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The other day I read a beautiful posting ( in German ) on a subject that got me both angry and confused last week, and that shocked many Israelis, which alltogether is a good sign: the Palestinian violinist at the army checkpoint. Lila, of Letters from Rungholt, quotes Meir Shalev ( a slightly sentimental text with strong Christian undertones, but still very moving ): "Until now we were always the ones who had to play the violin. The violin was a good instrument for Jews. You can carry a violin with you, when you have to flee. We played at courts, in high society, on the platform of Auschwitz. The others had the gun, we had the violin. But now the picture has changed. We laid down the violin. Only for a transitional period, until the country is safe, so we promised ourselves, did we take up the gun. But that period has become a long term, and now others play the violin, while we stand beside them. One thing we should not forget: the violin defeats the gun. Always."
PS: You are invited to read the comments and see this article on Ha'Aretz' website today. It deals with the incident. It is hard to know whose version we should believe, although the violinist's argument that if the soldiers suspected that his viloin contained explosives they would not have let him play right next to them, makes much sense.
Regarding "The grim ordeal of France's hostages", IHT, November 27-28, 2004:
It remains fascinating to see how people such as Charles Lambroschini are still bending backwards to understand and explain the motives and trains of thought of Islamist terrorist by Western ratio and values. Men like Zarqawi don't care two bits whether brave and honorable journalists, intellectuals and humanitarians show solidarity or fascination with this or that Muslim nation or cause, or try to achieve objectivity. Poor men and women like Margaret Hassan, Michel Seurat and the two French journalists still being held by their kidnappers are perfect tools for Islamist fanatics to achieve their goals: sowing disorder and deadly terror, and trying to force Western societies into an existential war with Islam as such, even with its many, many moderate believers. Maybe the fact that they are so much seen as representatives of 'the West with a human face' makes people like Georges Malbrunot and Christian Chesnot even more attractive targets for the terrorists. Of course we in the West' have to change many of our ways - settling debts in the Third World, ending Israel's occupation of the Westbank and Gaza, limiting our dependence on MidEast oil and ending our support for repressive and undemocratic regimes in the Muslim world, to name just some of them - but believing that fanatics like Bin Laden can be pacified by showing solidarity with the causes which they pretend to support is naive. In the end such a belief serves no one but the kidnappers and murderers themselves.

Monday, November 29, 2004

In my opinion PM Sharon is making a huge mistake by courting the (ultra-)orthodox parties while totally disregarding Shinuy. As a coalition party the latter has been very loyal to Mr Sharon from the very beginning of this cabinet period, whereas he always has had to beg ( with a bag of money in his hands ) for the support of parties like Shas and UTJ. I probably would never vote Shinuy and their achievements as a government member are very meager ( look for instance at subjects like civil marriage, conversion, the plight of foreign workers ), but Lapid c.s. have stood by Arik Sharon during some of his hardest times as a prime minister, something which cannot be said even of the members of his own Likud. Peres and Labor are not really helping by constantly putting out their feelers towards joining a governing coalition with whomever Sharon feels like taking into his government.
Could it be that Sharon - now that there are 1) opportunities for change that never were there on the Palestinian side 2) no serious legal threats facing him and his sons and 3) little chances of support for him within the Likud - lost all his eagerness to promote and implement any disengagement? Were all the skepics right from the very beginning? I hope not, but I am getting less optimistic every day.
Regarding "Fears flower over funding for higher education", and "Right-wing poised for anti-pullout public campaigns", Ha'Aretz, November 28, 2004 ( published in its entirety in today's English edition of the newspaper ): Of course the settlers cannot be blamed for all the holes in Israel's budgets during the last four decades. Still, I cannot help wondering how the Jewish state would have looked if all those many, many millions of shekels and (wo)man-hours pumped into the occupation and into the settlements had been invested in projects that are - more than living outside the Green Line on some remote hill in a caravan or in a luxurious villa, confining one's neighbors to bantustans, forcing Jewish soldiers to become occupiers, and endangering the very continued existence of Israel as a Jewish state - based on real Jewish values: compassion for the poor and less advantaged, seeking justice and prosperity for Jews and non-Jews, educating both the masses and the elite, sustainable housing and safe roads, health care and scientific research. The Israel that I read about before making aliyah was far from being perfect. Still, egalitarianism and solidarity were two of the keywords in all that I read about Israeli society. If today I had to describe the state of this country's society - where, don't get me wrong, I still love to live - I would put those keywords in brackets and add some more: alienation, haves and have-nots, racism, apathy and indifference. It is never too late to admit one's mistakes and to make amends. If we end the occupation, start fighting corruption and general decay, and invest most of our efforts and larger parts of our state's budgets in abovementioned projects, we might discover that a good life ( including an affordable education ) is within reach of most, if not all Israelis.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Today's Ha'Aretz had a more than usual amount of thought-provoking articles. In addition to two articles the reading of which prompted me to write a letter to the editor ( see tomorrow's posting ) I read with great interest an op-ed article by Gideon Levy and a feature article by Zvi Harel. After Arafat died I was very annoyed that suddenly most people seemed to have forgotten the less admirable parts of his personal history. A similar thing - mutatis mutandis - happened after Rafael Eitan died. Not that the man did not do many great things, there just were some parts in his biography that were less wonderful. Gideon Levy tells us that - for the sake of historical truth, the public's right to know, and the memory of Raful as a historic figure - those parts should be remembered just as much as the great things that this soldier did. Levy mentions also the opportunism of some of the political "followers" of Raful. One of them is Eliezer 'Modi' Sandberg, a well-known political figure in the Haifa area, who currently serves as Minister of National Infrastructure on behalf of the Shinuy party. Levy says about him: "...there are few parties [he] hasn't joined at some point".
The article by Zvi Harel I would not have read if my curiosity had not been raised by the caption of the picture of Shas MK Peretz, who "was asked to explain the fact that his thesis was written in the first person female". Read the article to get an impression of the way in which some people ( and public servants among them ) have tried - and succeeded - to obtain academic degrees plus the financial and other benefits that such degrees provide. Both amusing and sad, very sad.
Regarding "Raful remembered as a fighter, a farmer and a friend", Ha'Aretz, November 25, 2004:
Although I am sure that when Eli Ashkenazi wrote "simple farmers..." he used 'simple' as in 'straightforward, frank, unpretentious', not as in 'dumb' or 'half-witted' ( the word probably was translated from the Hebrew 'pashut' ), I think that using that description in this context was problematic. Since those who came to honor Rafael Eitan probably really represented "all strata of Israeli society" it was wrong to single out one of those strata by using an adjective with such both positive and negative connotations.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Om dit bericht in het nieuwsbulletin van de Wereldomroep moest ik erg lachen. Leuk initiatief overigens.
Cadeautjes in schoenen biddende moslims
Twee muzikanten uit Nijmegen en Arnhem roepen burgers op cadeautjes te stoppen in schoenen van moslims, als die in de moskee in gebed zijn. Het initiatief is bedoeld om de relatie tussen moslims en Nederlanders te verbeteren. Volgens de initiatiefnemers Alex Gray en Reinout Weebers zullen moslims het gebaar zeker waarderen. Maar mensen moeten bij de keuze van hun geschenk wel rekening houden met bepaalde gevoeligheden. Zo is het beter speculaas te geven dan een marsepeinen varken.Het is overigens niet de bedoeling dat iedereen op eigen houtje de schoenen gaat vullen. De muzikanten raden aan om goede afspraken te maken met iemand van de moskee.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

This news item I 'discovered' only when I I saw it mentioned on an online news site. Although I think that it is not very wise of the Tnuva CEO - nor is it for any businessman - to say anything political, especially on such a sensitive subject as the territories, I fully agree with what he said. I also agree with what is said in the statement by the Kibbutz Movement ( I suppose the article means the United Kibbutz Movement here ): "Whoever wants to boycott those who think differently than they do will quickly find that the majority of the state of Israel will boycott one another."
Still, now that 'the' settlers are calling for a boycott of the company, for some time in the near future you will find many Israelis - and me and my wife among them - choosing Tnuva products over their competing alternatives, for spite. We already are loyal customers of Tnuva ( almost all the cheese, milk, 'custard' etc. that we buy are produced by that company ), so there will not be much difference. By the way, I will never support a boycott abroad of things produced in the settlements ( even though I could think of worse ways to express one's disagreement with Israel's policies regarding the territories ), but you will not see me buying something that I know for sure was produced there, if I know there is a reasonable 'blue-white' alternative that is made within the Green Line.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

I just returned from Jerusalem, where I attended two different international conferences, yesterday at Yad Vashem and today at the Hebrew University. I am tired, will have a shower and go to bed. Tomorrow I will post something probably.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

One of the most heroic and Israeli but also controversial and political soldiers of the Jewish state, former Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan, drowned this morning in or near Ashdod, where he supervised a harbor building project. While reading his biography in Hebrew, I read something that I never heard before: " He wasn't Jewish; his parents were Russians who came to the Land of Israel and did not ( make the effort to ) convert. This did not bother his friends in the Palmach: he was a farmer, a fighter, and he spoke Hebrew. That was enough. " Sorry the link is to a page in Hebrew, I did not find any reliable reference in English. I have no way to verify this piece of information, but the website that I refer to is not overly sensational or known for its serious inaccuracies, as far as I know. His being Jewish or not Jewish is not really relevant, of course, I was just surprised to read it. He was an active player in all major wars that Israel fought in its first 40 years of existence. May his memory be blessed.

Monday, November 22, 2004

In today's IHT: Corrections: For the record
An article in Wednesday's European editions about tensions in the Netherlands incorrectly referred to Lousewies van der Laan as a man. She is also not the parliamentary leader of the D66 party, but its deputy chairman.
How sad it is, and how frustrating it must be for a politician, to appear on the pages of such a respectable international newspaper when that paper misstates not only your position, but even your sex!
The fact that PM Sharon was satisified with the results of two out of the three elections for key posts within his Likud party yesterday shows how precarious his own position within that party is. Tzachi Hanegbi, who had to give up his post as minister of Internal Security because he is being investigated for a string of political appointments when he was minister of the Environment and who is not exactly a firm supporter of Sharon's disengagement plan, and Danny Naveh, who is one of the plan's most vocal opponents but voted with Nethanyahu and Livnat about a month ago, were considered 'Sharon's candidates' only because the alternatives were even fiercer opponents of Sharon within the ranks of the party. Still, 'Arik' will continue to have a hard time every time he wants to get support from any of the party's institutions ( especially the Central Committee ) for any step taken in the direction of any disengagement from any of the territories ( what an ugly sentence, I know ).

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Although I suppose that I wasn't the only one who pointed out their mistake to the editors of the IHT's Letters to the editor section, I felt a certain satisfaction when I read in today's newspaper ( which came out yesterday in the rest of the world ):
Correction
Because of an editing error, a letter to the editor on Nov. 10 in response to Jeff Jacoby's opinion column about Yasser Arafat referred incorrectly to Yitzhak Shamir. He is still alive.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

The previous posting appeared already two days ago on my blog, I reposted it because it was published in this weekend's International Herald Tribune. The first line was deleted for obvious reasons by the editor's ( they knew it was their responsibility to check whether Mr Shamir - sheyizkeh lehayim arukim - was dead or alive ). In today's IHT there was also a very good letter from a reader in Haifa, who expresses something that I have thought many times before:
Call it what it is
How dare you publish a photo caption using the word "executed" to describe what happened to Margaret Hassan, an Iraqi aid worker? "Execution" carries the connotation of a process of law. The savage beheadings in Iraq, whether of Hassan or of other unfortunate men and women, have nothing of legal about them. They are murder, pure and simple. The choice of a word carries enormous weight, whether it is calling a terrorist a "militant" or calling the beheading of an innocent person an "execution."
Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel
Regarding Margaret Shaida's letter to the editor "Remembering Arafat", IHT, November 18, 2004 ( published in the IHT, November 20-21, 2004 ):
First of all, Yitzhak Shamir is still alive, so writing articles on his death would be a bit premature. Second, certainly the scope, methods and targets of Jewish terrorism in mandatory Palestine were incomparably different from those of 'modern' Palestinian and Islamist terror, especially when one notices the fact that acts of terror by the Etzel and Lehi were vehemently denounced by a vast majority of the Jews living in Palestine before 1948. Third, the biggest difference between Menachem Begin and Yasser Arafat was that the former was able to make the transition from a terrorist to a statesman, whereas for the latter his being a terrorist was so much a part of his identity and of his self-definition that when he had the chance to become the founding father and first president of a Palestinian state - far from what he and his people dreamt of, but still much better than what they had ever had -, he was unable to serve what according to most experts was the common good of his people rather than his personal interests and those of his cronies. In my opinion Mr Jacoby's op-ed article offered some food for thought as a balance to all the canonizations of Yasser Arafat published in most media.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Yesterday I sent the following mail to Sky News' Your Views, following the apparent murder of Margaret Hassan:
From the targets chosen by terrorists in Iraq we can learn very clearly what their goal is: to create or intensify chaos and to prevent any relief being brought to the poor people of Iraq, and/or the establishement of some sort of democracy in that country, no matter how imperfect. Terrorism - whether it is motivated by a political or a religious form of nihilism - thrives on disorder, misery, and peoples' anger towards their leaders. The fact that, after the brutal murders of Ken Bigley, Margaret Hassan and others, many Britons, Americans and other Westerners lay the blame for those murders the blame on Bush and Blair - who do bear a serious part of the responsibility for the mess in Iraq, but that is another subject to discuss - instead of focusing on and denouncing the hideous crimes of the murderers of Mrs Hassan and her fellow-victims, proves that the terrorists are achieving at least some of their goals.
I just saw this picture on the Ha'Aretz website. The caption said "Members of the Palestinian National Security Council praying for Yasser Arafat at the start of a meeting in Ramallah on Wednesday. (Reuters)". No offense to anybody's feelings, but isn't it a bit late to pray for him? Or are they still discussing with Suha whether or not to let him die in 'peace'?Posted by Hello

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Voor de KRO zou de uitslag van "De Grootste Nederlander" niet echt moeten uitmaken: wat doet het er toe of de ene of de andere afvallige katholiek gewonnen heeft?
Yesterday evening I saw something that really gave me the creeps. In "Mish'al Ham", a political talk show hosted by Nissim Mish'al, there was an item on Jewish groups that are making efforts to have the Temple rebuilt. There are at least 8 official groups like that, some of them partly funded by governement money and one of them working closely together with the chief rabbinate. No ( serious ) problem with that. What scared me, though, were some words spoken very casually by a spokesman of one of those groups, a guy named Baruch Ben Yosef who - with a heavy American accent - said that the Temple Mount does not have any importance for the Muslims, and that he was sure that the Temple is going to be rebuilt in the near future, either by the State of Israel or - and this is what really frightened me - "by what will replace it [ i.e. the State of Israel ]".
Om de ene pols een oranje bandje, om de andere een rood stukje touw tegen het boze oog ( a la Madonna en haar 'kaballah'-kolder, en alles sal reg kom. Waarom had niemand daar eerder aan gedacht?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Whereas it is hard to argue about the 'greatness' and achievements of the "Greatest German" ( Konrad Adenauer ) or of the "Greatest Briton" ( Winston Churchill ), the main accomplishment which earned the "Greatest Dutchman" his election, which was announced yesterday, was being murdered. True, Pim Fortuyn had an impressive career as an academic and author, and he was a gifted speaker. Still, he was shot before he had a chance of proving himself as a politician - and, who knows, statesman -, and all that his followers and admirers were left with on May 6th 2002 were unfulfilled expectations, slogans and one-liners that remained just words ( transparent government, measures aimed against - especially Muslim - immigrants, etc.). None of the parliamentarians who were elected on the LPF ( List Pim Fortuyn ) ticket in the following elections left a truly lasting impression or legacy, except for cheap and empty populism, many parliamentary street fights, back room deals the fight against which had been one of Fortuyn's election promises to begin with, and a cabinet that was shortlived mainly because of them.
Today, with media votes being conducted through SMS and internet, it is easy to cheat and hard to keep such votes from being manipulated by well-organized interest groups with members who have too much spare time and a mostly emotional link to the group, country, song, person etc. which/whom they vote for. That way people who - in totally incomparable ways, but that is another subject - truly contributed to the prosperity and greatness of the Netherlands were beaten by a murdered populist, who probably even got many more votes in the two weeks since the murder of Theo van Gogh. The latter happened to have some of his ideas regarding Islam in common with Fortuyn, and if he could have been added to the list of candidates he might have been elected yesterday.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Wat ik wel een aardig detail van deze verder natuurlijk niet veel zeggende enquete vond: Dries van Agt bungelt onderaan het lijstje, en wordt zelfs door een al vele jaren dode Joop den Uyl - hij ruste in vrede - 'verslagen'. Wel sneu voor de Palestijnen dat hun grote vrind door maar 8% van de ondervraagden als momenteel meest geschikte premier van Nederland werd gezien.
This morning two letters to the editor of Ha'Aretz dealt with ( the death of ) Yasser Arafat. Although their authors appear to be from opposite sides of the pro-this or pro-that spectrum, both letters contained much truth. Arafat was much more a terrorist than a statesman ( although comparisons with Bin Laden or Hitler are totally wrong ), but on the other hand, now that Yasser A. is not around anymore Sharon will have to prove that the head of the PLO/PA - and not anybody else, hint, hint - was personally and almost exclusively an obstacle to peace, something which I think the Israeli PM and his government will have a hard time proving.
Many obituaries abroad turned Arafat almost into a saint. Yesterday the International Herald Tribune reprinted an op-ed article - which I liked, although I get angry and sick every time someone mentions the Third Reich and Palestinian terrorism in one and the same piece or sentence - from the Boston Globe by Jeff Jacoby, which reminded readers of one of the most notorious crimes for which Arafat bears responsibility: the kidnapping and murder of 21 schoolchildren and several adults at a school in the northern Israeli town of Ma'alot, a little more than 30 years before we followed the horrific events in Beslan. The author of the Out of Step Jew-weblog gives us one of many reasons that might or might not explain the success of Yasser Arafat when it comes to getting international attention and sympathy, as opposed to the leaders of less known but probably not less just religious-nationalist-humanitarian causes.
In today's IHT Thomas Friedman writes about the void of achievement left by Arafat, a void which will have to be filled by more responsible Palestinian, American and Israeli leaders.
Finally - and then I will try to let Mr A. rest - an article that I saved in my Favorites' file some days ago. Taken from the IHT and provided by the Associated Press, it is one of many articles published these weeks about the mysterious millions of the late Ra'is.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

We all knew that there would be some sort of power struggle among the Palestinians after the death of the Ra'is, but that it would turn so violent so fast comes as a surprise. Will Israel be blamed for this as well?
Een alleraardigst idee van het NRC Handelsblad: laat twee prominente historici de vaderlandse geschiedenis samenvatten in een "artikel dat in een kwartier te lezen zou moeten zijn". De professoren Bank ( van de Universitiet Leiden, volgens de inleiding tot het artikel ) en De Rooy ( UvA ) namen de uitdaging aan en schreven "Wat iedereen moet weten van de vaderlandse geschiedenis" ( pdf-document, Adobe vereist ).
Iedereen slaat hier op iedereen in Nederland, neem ik aan.
John Grisham is one of my favorite authors. O.k., I know that his books do not have any literary value, so what? They ( I read 15 of the 18 books that I know he wrote ) have provided me with many hours of wonderful entertainment, especially during the loneliest of shifts and breaks while doing my reserve duty somewhere in the desert, or during airplane or train journeys. Mr Grisham is a great story teller, whether he writes about Southern court rooms or about non-legal subjects. A little more than a week ago I read his Skipping Christmas, which - though a bit disappointing, especially towards the end - is funny and entertaining. Of course, it was made into a movie , which - as I just discovered through an advert which popped up while I checked my Yahoo! mail account - will come out next week in the US, around Thanksgiving. Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis star as Luther and Nora Krank. Seems like a fun movie, if you are looking for an unpretentious way of spending 90 minutes or so with your boy/girlfriend, husband, wife etc.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Gisteren stond ( een lichtelijk veranderde, niet verbeterde versie van ) het volgende artikel in het Reformatorisch Dagblad. Zoek de verschillen. Bijv.: door mijn (werk)titel "De dood van een symbool" te veranderen in "Arafat is maar een symbool' wordt in een klap de toon van het stuk veranderd. Anyway, ik ben blij dat het geplaatst werd, het is altijd prettig samenwerken met het RefDag.
Het sterfbed van een symbool

Voor mij, een naar Israël gëmigreerde Nederlander die zich constant met nieuws verzadigt, was het de afgelopen weken ‘smullen’ geblazen. De Knesset zette de tot nu toe belangrijkste stap op weg naar een terugtrekking uit de Gaza-strook ( en, wie weet, nog meer bezette gebieden ), Yasser Arafat begon wat zijn enige mislukte overlevingsstrijd werd, en op de dag dat Amerika met een toch nog onverwachte meerderheid Bush jr. herkoos werd de moord op één Amsterdammer door een andere Amsterdammer wereldnieuws.

Je hoeft niet al te veel fantasie te hebben om deze vier gebeurtenissen met elkaar in verband te brengen. Het sleutelwoord daarbij is terreur. Terreur bestond al lang voordat Israël werd opgericht of voordat de Gaza-strook werd bezet, Yasser Arafat heeft haar niet uitgevonden. Wel gaf hij haar een van haar meest herkenbare gezichten. Direct of indirect was hij verantwoordelijk voor minstens honderden terreurdaden. Gedurende korte tijd leek het er op dat Arafat – net als bijvoorbeeld Sadat, Begin, Rabin en Mandela – zijn rol van soldaat-vrijheidsstrijder-terrorist voor die van vredesstichter en responsabel leider van zijn volk kon en wilde inruilen. Al snel werd duidelijk dat hij – door onmacht, onwil of volgens een voor ons niet altijd begrijpelijke logica – de Palestijnse terreur actief steunde dan wel welwillend of oogluikend toeliet. Niet voor niets werd hij omschreven als een man die nooit een kans liet liggen om een kans te laten liggen. Het komt maar weinig voor dat een terrorist of guerrillaleider een succesvol staatsman wordt. Arafat heeft die overgang nooit echt gemaakt. Als hij eieren – in plaats van Parijse koopjes voor zijn vrouw Suha, steekpenningen, geheime bankrekeningen, kogels, bommen en granaten – voor zijn geld ( of liever dat van zijn volk ) had gekozen zou hij de geschiedenis in kunnen zijn gegaan als een groot historisch leider. Nu zal hij vooral herinnerd worden als een symbool van corruptie, machteloosheid en gebrek aan goede wil, en – naast o.a. opeenvolgende falende Israëlische en Amerikaanse regeringen, alle Arabische leiders – als één van de hoofdschuldigen aan het niet te benijden lot van de Palestijnen. Desondanks is hij altijd door zijn volk, dat nooit echte andere leiders heeft gekend, vereerd, en hij heeft een niet te ontkennen rol gespeeld in het vormgeven van de nationale identiteit van de Palestijnen.

Soms, als ik in een wel heel cynische bui ben door wat we vandaag de dag aan wereldwijde terreurdaden ‘meemaken’, denk ik wel eens dat we ooit nog bijna met weemoed aan Arafat zullen terugdenken. We weten allemaal dat de man in zijn leven veel, heel veel strategisch foute, voor zijn volk en voor veel onschuldige slachtoffers – joden en niet-joden – desastreuze beslissingen genomen heeft. Toch was zijn opvatting en naleving van Marx’ Verelendunstheorie niets vergeleken bij de hedendaagse Islamistische variant. Behalve wortels in de geschiedenis en de geografische oorsprong van veel van haar ‘agenten’ heeft de terreur die – in totaal verschillende vormen – de laatste jaren in New York, Bali, Madrid, Jeruzalem en Amsterdam huis houdt weinig gemeen met de terreurdaden van de jaren zeventig. Er is niet bepaald een gebrek aan aandacht voor de ‘Palestijnse zaak’, aandacht waarom destijds werd gevraagd door spectaculaire acties tegen vooral joodse en Israëlische doelen. Het is ondertussen wel duidelijk dat de ‘moderne’ Islamistische terroristen – die ondanks hun onderlinge verschillen genoeg gemeen hebben om verbanden te leggen – zich niet tevreden zullen stellen met een Israëlische terugtrekking uit de bezette gebieden of een eind aan Amerikaanse inmenging in het Midden-Oosten. Gezien de doelen die zij uitkiezen ( een jazzcafé in Tel Aviv, het WTC in New York, Spaanse forensen, hulpverleners in Irak en elders, een Nederlandse columnist met uitgesproken meningen over de Islam ) mogen we aannemen dat joden nog maar een klein deel van hun beoogde vijanden – en dus gerechtvaardigde slachtoffers – vormen. De strijd gaat nu tussen een zekere wereldorde samen met alles waar het Westen voor staat aan de ene, en chaos plus een geminimaliseerde versie van de Islam aan de andere kant. Symbolen spelen hierbij een belangrijke rol bij: het soort doelwitten, de manier waarop mensen worden vermoord, de manier waarop leiders, coalities en slachtoffers worden aangeduid. Het woord terreur heeft nooit beter bij zijn oorspronkelijke betekenis gepast als vandaag. Ook bij de Amerikaanse presidentsverkiezingen speelde angst een centrale rol: veel Amerikanen waren bang voor een minder daadkrachtig leiderschap, anderen voor nog vier jaren onder George W. Bush.

Het valt aan te nemen dat Arafat’s erfenis – net als de kracht van zijn persoonlijkheid – vooral symbolisch zal zijn. De geheimzinnigheid rond zijn ziekte en geruchten dat hij wel/niet overleden zou zijn gaven aan dat zijn mogelijke opvolgers bang waren voor de reacties onder hun onderdanen: zal het Palestijnse volk zonder het symbool met de stoppels en de kaffiya kunnen, en wat voor alternatief zal het na zijn dood omarmen? Niemand weet echt hoe een Arafat-loos Midden-Oosten eruit zal zien, wie Arafat zal opvolgen, en of er met hem of hen ( of haar, laten we alle mogelijkheden, hoe theoretisch ook, openhouden ) beter of slechter te onderhandelen valt. Als men in Israël, Washington en Europa maar niet zo stom is om met de handen over elkaar te gaan zitten afwachten. Om het even wat er de komende dagen en weken in Parijs, Gaza-stad en Ramallah gebeurt hebben Israel, de Palestijnen, het Midden-Oosten en de hele wereld alle belang bij daadkracht: verbeterde betrekkingen tussen Europa en de Verenigde Staten, een einde aan de Israëlische bezetting van – eerst en vooral – Gaza, een zelfstandig en zo democratisch mogelijk Irak, en een compromisloze en eensgezinde strijd tegen alle vormen van Islamistische terreur. Het maakt niet echt uit dat dit of dat symbool het tijdelijke voor het eeuwige verwisselt, waar het om gaat is dat alle leiders die stabiliteit en vrede in het Midden-Oosten – en ‘dus’ in de rest van de wereld – nastreven in ieder geval de vereiste dingen doen die ze grotendeels in eigen handen hebben.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Three days ago the Dutch daily Het Parool published this caricature by Joep Bertrams, of Yasser Arafat being kept alive. The Dutch title can be translated as "Trapped again", and an animated version can be found here.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

A very readable, comprehensive and interesting obituary of Mohammed Yasser Abdul-Ra'ouf Qudwa Al-Husseini was written by Ha'Aretz' Danny Rubinstein. A kind of in memoriam that I wrote will be published - my guess is tomorrow or Saturday - in a Dutch daily.