Friday, April 30, 2004
After reading on the website of Sky News about the terrible misconduct in iraqi prisons of which several American soldiers are being accused, I sent the following e-mail to the channel's Your Views-page: The pictures that were shown on CBS television show some very serious stuff. I don't know why exactly, but the faces on some of the pictures look to me like the work of a bad Photoshop-amateur. Still, if the crimes portrayed on them were indeed committed, those responsible should be severely punished. Of course, bad, mean, disgusting things happen in every war, and many of Saddam's little helpers are guilty of much worse misconduct and atrocities, but all that can never be an excuse for any outrageous behavior.
Posted by Bert at 10:35 PM
When I went to get our son at his kindergarten I listened to an interview with Avigdor Kahalani on the radio. Kahalani, one of Israel's outstanding heroes ( he took part in some of the hardest and most decisive tankbattles in the 1973 war, and - so he said in the interview - was in one of the first tanks that entered Rafah and other places in the Gaza Strip in 1967; he never really succeeded in his political career, partly because of racism within and malfunctioning of the Labor party ) explained very clearly how Israel's occupation of the Gaza Strip does not provide any positive contribution to our security. Kahalani, doubtlessly a military expert, even said as a figure of speech something that I - a total amateur when it comes to security-related matters - have been thinking for a long time: if we used all the soldiers who serve within the Strip to guard its border after an Israeli withdrawal, we could put one soldier every ten meters, and you would have the best security possible. As he said, an Israeli presence in Gush Katif does not protect Ashkelon or Sderoth. Those who today fire rockets into Israeli territory don't do that from those parts of the Gaza Strip that are under our control. When we stop the occupation it will become much easier for us to hit back any time some hostile action is taken or initiated from the Palestinian territories. It was a mistake to settle parts of the Gaza Strip, and it is painful to admit that we ( the Israeli governments since 1967 ) were wrong, but it is better to admit a mistake than to continue it and pay for that in many ways.
Posted by Bert at 1:33 PM
Here are pictures of the two cakes that my wife made for the birthday parties of our daughter. The first one was for the party at her kindergarten, which she celebrated together with her friend and neighbor. It is a centipede which consists of a head and thirty-something muffins. With special edible-colouring-pens the girls wrote the name of one child in their class on the icing of each of the little cakes. The second cake, which will be used at the party in a kibbutz nearby, is almost a sculpture made of cake and sugarpaste, which consists of three mermaids on a rock, one for each of the three girls whose birthday we will celebrate. All cakes were designed and made by my wife. The one with the mermaids she made with a little help from Tal Tsafrir, of Taltalim.
Posted by Bert at 11:50 AM
Thursday, April 29, 2004
Now that I am going to sleep, Maccabi Tel Aviv is leading 66-60 in the 4th quarter of its semi-final game against CSKA Moscow. Voor al mijn Nederlandse lezers: een fijne koninginnedag morgen!
Posted by Bert at 11:16 PM
Tonight at 21.30 local time Maccabi Tel Aviv will play its first game in the Euroleague Final Four, against CSKA Moscow. As we will celebrate our daughter's birthday tomorrow at her kindergarten and - together with the families and friends of two of her best friends, who also were born in late April/early May - at a kibbutz nearby, tonight I will be either busy helping my wife to prepare for tomorrow ( although almost everything is ready ) or in bed, gaining strength for what doubtlessly will be a busy day. That - and the fact that I am not really into sports, any sports - is why the chances of me seeing the whole game are nil. Still, Israel could do with some positive vibes and good news, so I will keep my fingers crossed. Yalla Maccabi!
Posted by Bert at 1:16 PM
Under normal circumstances and in another country, people such as Hagi Ben Artzi would be regarded as eccentric, irrelevant and maybe even insane. But we do not live under normal circumstances, nor in a normal country, and besides, not only is Mr Ben Artzi not the only potentially or actually dangerous person living on the extremist fringes of one of the many sides of the Palestinian-Arab-Israeli conflict, he is also the brother of Sara Nethanyahu, the wife of our Finance Minister and former ( and future? ) Likud leader. This family link apparently provides whatever he has to say with some relevance, because as far as I can remember before each election ( or referendum ) during the last decade or so his views have been widely published. This time there is a long interview with him in Ha'Aretz' Friday Magazine. In it, we can read the usual hysterical Holocaust-comparisons ( which, I already wrote about that earlier, in my opinion are a disgrace, both regarding the memory of those murdered by the Nazis and as far as our soldiers and policemen and -women are concerned ) but also does Mr Ben Artzi promise us another Masada at Gush Katif ( " The end of settlement in Gush Katif is the end of spiritual life. And when you reach the end of spiritual life, there's no more point to physical life " ). Vered Levy-Barzilai asks him all the questions and makes most of the remarks that I came up with when reading his words. Not that nothing that he says makes any sense. I mostly agree with Hagi BA when he talks about the motives behind Sharon's plans and actions ( or about his brother-in-law's opportunism ), although he gets carried away a bit, as seems to be one of his habits. Of course, as in every interview with Hagi Ben Artzi the wide spectrum of political opinions within the Ben Artzi family ( Hagi's oldest brother is a "radical leftist", and father of pacifist Yonathan Ben Artzi, another brother is a former fighter pilot who defines himself as a centrist ) is described, as is what he describes as his "path of faith". For me, the bottom line of Mr BA's world view is expressed in these lines: "Q: In other words, the idea that lies at the foundation of a democratic state is unacceptable to you. A: I'm sorry, I have one God. And the laws of the state are not a second god. The system of the Torah is the final word. Nothing is sacred in my eyes except that.[...] The war here is over the question of who will carry on the ancient covenant of the Tanakh - the Jewish people, Islam or Christianity? And that, unfortunately, will be decided on the field of mesirut nefesh. That's a fact. Q: In other words, the victor will be the one with more shaheeds (the Islamic term for religious martyrs)? A: Yes, what can we do? This struggle is long, bloody and requires mesirut nefesh in practice." Am I the only one who by words like these is reminded of arguments and ways of thinking used by our most dangerous enemies on 'the other side'? The situation is totally absurd. Although I very much oppose the non-policies of the current government, I think that the disengagement plan at least is a start, a sign that also on the Israeli right some people have come to understand that the occupation hurts us much more than it could ever benefit us, if it could benefit us at all. Also, a humiliation for Sharon on Sunday will make this country even more ungovernable. He would lose most of his legitimacy - having lost the support of his own party -, whereas the opposition is far from ready to assume any governing role. This leaves our future in the hands of people like Mr BA ( Hagi, not one of his brothers ), and for some reason thoughts about scenarios involving Masada, messianism, Amalek etc. make me slightly nervous.
Posted by Bert at 12:13 PM
While reading an article about the controversy surrounding Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code and about the way in which many Christian anti-liberalists and fundamentalists try to fight this mixture of facts and fiction, I was reminded of a recent, still continuing, controversy that involves a Roman Catholic fundamentalist, Jews and Jewish organizations, and a movie which was presented as some kind of ultimate interpretation of the last hours of Jezus of Nazareth. In Brown's book, questions are raised about the official version of the history of early Christianity. It is suggested that Jesus was a mortal who had a conjugal relationship with Mary Magdalene, and that dogmas such as the ones regarding his divinity were imposed by religious-political leaders for purely political reasons. Probably unwillingly, one scholar links the Brown and Gibson controversies very convincingly, when he says ( about Brown's book, but it might as well be said about Gibson's movie ) that it "takes facts and gives them a spin that distorts them seriously." History and religion, an always interesting and potentially explosive concoction.
Posted by Bert at 11:37 AM
On Friday night, the ABC News program "Nightline" will broadcast the names and faces of every member of the armed forces killed in action in Iraq. While I understand the fact that the American public is growing tired of that war, and think raising questions about its justifiability is a good thing, this kind of populist statements by what is supposed to be a responsible news network is wrong, I believe. On the day before Independence Day, in Israel we remember those killed and murdered in the wars between Israel and its neigbors, in terrorist acts and in anti-terrorist acts. On that day - from the evening before Remembrance Day until the beginning of Independence Day the following evening - on one public channel all the names of the more than 20.000 Israelis killed in the more than 60 years of our existential struggle are shown. If such a thing was done in the States, with the names of those killed in Iraq placed within a wider historical context, it would make sense. Now it is just one of several gratuitous and cheap political statements, the likes of which make it almost impossible for democracies today to fight against any totalitarian or religiously driven opponent. The war in Iraq might be wrong, and the Bush administration is managing it very poorly - to say the least -, but if one opposes Bush's Iraq policy ( or lack of it ) one should use proper political means aimed at the political leadership, not cheap stunts, abusing the names and faces of those who died in Iraq. Weakening the morale of those brave men and women who serve their country so far away from home is wrong. They deserve our sympathy and support, and should know that if - G'd forbid - something happens to them they will not turn into passive and posthume pawns in what is just another cheap political game.
Posted by Bert at 11:15 AM
Zojuist vond ik in onze postbus een kadootje van een trouwe bloglezeres uit Nederland: Het ontsnapte land, het door Geert Mak geschreven Boekenweekessay van 1998. Behalve zijn laatste werk was dit het enige van zijn boeken dat ik nog niet bezat en/of gelezen had, iets wat ik eerder hier had vermeld, zonder bijbedoelingen overigens. (Hartelijk be)dank(t)! Normaal gesproken zijn boekjes van dat formaat ideaal om in de bus of trein te lezen, maar aangezien ik in Israel de laatste jaren vrijwel niet met het openbaar vervoer reis zal ik het op mijn nachtkastje leggen, om te lezen zodra ik een boek over de bezetting van Griekenland in WOII, geschreven door Mark Mazower, uit heb.
Posted by Bert at 11:06 AM
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
It is both unreal and fascinating to see a whole nation anticipate and analyze the possible outcome and consequences of a referendum in which only a small minority of its citizens - pressured by an even smaller but very vocal minority - could decide the fate of that nation for years to come. In previous elections there have been cases of votes cast by people who were deceased. This time some of the followers of the Lubavitcher rabbi even revived their leader and teacher - who died ten years ago, may his memory be a blessing; as I wrote earlier on this blog, I am very fond of the work that Lubavitch does in the diaspora and here, but the strong link made by some of its followers between politics and religion worries, troubles and outrages me - to declare that giving up the Gaza Strip is wrong ( an advertisement that I saw already weeks ago on buses here in Haifa ) and to give posthumous blessings to those Likudniks who vote against Sharon's plan, as can be read in an analysis of the possible results of the referendum, by Bradley Burston ( and Yossi Verter ) of Ha'Aretz.
Posted by Bert at 8:06 PM
Thank G'd at least the main friction until Sunday is among rightwing Israelis, i.e. between those Likudniks who support Sharon's disengagement plan on the one hand, and its opponents within the Likud and their more extremist little helpers within parties such as the NRP and the National Union, together with some members of the very fringes of rightwing activism in Israel, on the other. The latter, according to all the opinion polls that I saw, represent a minority of Israelis, but because they are totally convinced of the rightneousness of their holy cause and because they use every possible means to let themselves be heard, there is a real possibility that they - that is the Likud members among them - will prevail in Sunday's Likud party referendum. As soon as real choices will have to be made - and the divisions will be once again between left and right - and Israel's government finally will commit itself seriously to evacuate settlements in the territories, some of the hardcore settlers and their sympathizers might not satisfy themselves anymore only with disrupting meetings of their political opponents. An interim plan to solve the problems here should considt of a four-state solution: one for the sane and compromising Jews, one for their Palestinian counterparts, and one each for the die-hard fanatics on both the Palestinian and the Israeli side. After a while the two peace-and-quiet-seeking states could merge. Also Palestinian and Jewish extremists might find that they have much more in common than they are willing to admit, so in the end one state for all of them might be an option as well. Two states for four peoples, so to speak.
Posted by Bert at 4:13 PM
Tuesday, April 27, 2004
Zojuist heb ik mijn keuze gemaakt uit de 200 genomineerden voor de titel "De grootste Nederlander". De door de jury gemaakte selectie roept natuurlijk - zoals elke selectie - veel vragen op, en sowieso is de vraag "Wie was/is de grootste Nederlander" eigenlijk onmogelijk te beantwoorden, omdat je een fantastische sportman/vrouw niet met een uitmuntende geleerde of staatsman/vrouw kunt vergelijken. Toch bevat de lijst - naast een aantal mij verrassende namen - alle personen wier namen spontaan in mij opkomen als ik aan in groots- en grootheid uitblinkende Nederlanders denk, op een persoon na, Max van der Stoel. Bij enkele categorieen stond ik nauwelijks stil. Alle sportlieden die op de lijst voorkomen hebben geweldige prestaties geleverd, en ik zou er niet een van hen specifiek uit kunnen lichten, al heb ik even aan J. Cruyff gedacht. De Oranjes en zijn belangrijk geweest voor de Nederlandse geschiedenis, maar geen een van hen vond ik voldoende Nederlander of zonder blaam en uitzonderlijk genoeg om hem/haar mijn stem te geven. Voor de meeste op de lijst voorkomende ondernemers heb ik enorm respect, maar ik heb te weinig affiniteit met het ondernemerschap om een van hen als grootste Nederlander alle tijden te beschouwen, mede omdat zij ( vrijwel? ) allemaal - terecht, daar niet van, al moet ik bij Freddy Heineken nog steeds denken aan Joop Visser's woorden, "Heiniken is een harddrugdealer" - rijkelijk beloond zijn voor hun (ver)diensten. Uit de vier kunstcategorieen heb ik een persoon uitgekozen. In mijn ogen steekt Rembrandt van Rijn met kop en schouders uit boven alle kunstenaars die Nederland heeft voortgebracht. Bovendien vertegenwoordigt hij, net als twee anderen die in mijn lijst voorkomen, de periode waarin Nederland groot is geworden en in velerlei opzichten haar karakter en plaats in de wereld werd bepaald. Door hem te kiezen kies ik in zekere zin voor alle Hollandse schilders uit de 17e eeuw, van wier werken ik bijna zonder uitzondering geniet. Aletta Jacobs staat onder de noemer "Politici en staatslieden", en Johan de Witt onder "Helden en ontdekkingsreizigers". Dit zou volgens mij andersom moeten zijn. Johan de Witt is eerst en vooral een staatsman, die ik heb gekozen omdat hij zo principieel was, omdat hij mede verantwoordelijk is voor de bloei van de Nederlanden, en omdat hij - net als Johan van Oldenbarnevelt - niet bang was om de confrontatie met het koningshuis aan te gaan toen dat nog levensgevaarlijk was. Aletta Jacobs, in mijn ogen meer een heldin dan een politica, heb ik gekozen vanwege haar symbolische waarde - als vrouw, als jodin - maar vooral voor haar strijd voor democratische en sociale rechten, en haar solidariteit met de arbeidersklasse. De derde vertegenwoordiger van de Gouden Eeuw is Jan Adriaensz. Leeghwater, voor zijn veelzijdigheid en omdat hij iets typisch Hollands vertegenwoordigt, de pogingen om land uit de zee te winnen en de zee te bedwingen. Als laatste heb ik Johan Huizinga gekozen. Tot ik hier in Israel de overstap van taal- en letterkunde naar geschiedenis maakte was ik me niet bewust van het feit dat hij zo'n enorme invloed heeft gehad op de moderne historiografie, en dat iedere zichzelf respecterende historicus zijn naam kent ( wat niet wil zeggen dat hij/zij Huizinga's boeken ook allemaal gelezen heeft ). Kortom, mijn lijst van vijf favorieten ziet er als volgt uit: 1) Rembrandt van Rijn ( 1606 - 1669 ) 2) Aletta Jacobs ( 1854 - 1929 ) 3) Johan de Witt ( 1625 - 1672 ) 4) Jan Adriaensz. Leeghwater ( 1575 - 1650 ) 5) Johan Huizinga ( 1872 - 1945 )
Posted by Bert at 9:48 PM
MK Re'uven Rivlin said what he had said he would say yesterday evening, and his remarks and the comments which they provoked showed once again that this country is as far as ever from being united or having a convincing consensus. Anyway, thousands if not millions of Israelis went out to celebrate our independence, meeting friends, listening to local or national star performers, and eating all kinds of junk food. My wife and I took our daughter to the celebrations in the city where we live, leaving our son sleeping at home with my parents-in-law as babysitters. We saw some local talents, a Russian singer, the famous singer Yehoram Gaon and some fireworks. Today we will visit very good friends of ours, to do what many, many Israelis do on Independence Day: have a nice BBQ.
Posted by Bert at 7:18 AM
Monday, April 26, 2004
As could have been expected with the Likud referendum less than a week away, this year's Memorial and Independence Day appear to become dominated more than ever before ( i.e. since I came here 12 years ago ) by politics. As on Holocaust Day, in his speeches Prime Minister Sharon combined a promise to do everything to achieve peace ( as always mentioning the necessity of painful concessions ) with a vow to hunt down everyone who seeks to hurt us. If Knesset Speaker Re'uven Rivlin keeps his promise, he will lift the torch he is supposed to light tonight "in honor of all the generations who have settled the land, from Hanita to Kfar Darom and from Negba to Kiryat Arba" and praise the work of the settlers in his speech. This morning Rivlin - who, it is clear, opposes Sharon's disengagement plan - already gave a taste of what is to come tonight, when at a ceremony at Gush Etzion he said that Israel “will continue to hold on to the soil in this good land, even if a weariness is emanating from the edges of the camp, and even if [the weariness] is eroding the leadership of those who advocated the vision of the land for years but have recently loosened their grip.” Yesterday I saw a small part of a very interesting documentary on channel 2, with VIPs such as Shimon Peres, Abba Ebban, Yitzhak Shamir, Alexander Haig, Henry Kissinger and others being interviewed about events in the history of Israel. Of course I was hardly surprised to hear many of them ( Rafael Eitan and Yitzhak Shamir really went far in this ) mix politics and apologetics with their view on history, but still, I heard and saw some fascinating details about historic events. On Channel 1 I saw an item about the parents of Gil, a soldier who was killed ( I do not know where or when, I did not see the item form the beginning ). At some ceremony Ariel Sharon mispronounced their son's name, calling him Gal. Right afterwards he called to apologize, and the parents and Ariel Sharon met. One of their meetings was in Sharon's office, on camera, and there we saw Sharon as we do not often see him, as a parent who lost a son himself, and as a very conscious, friendly and highly likeable person. In today's Ha'Aretz I found two articles that I would like to recommend. The first is a long interview with president Moshe Katzav. This man really deserves more credit than he will ever get. When he and not Shimon Peres was chosen as this country's president, I was among those who were disappointed. Today I am very glad that he and not Mr Peres became our head of state. Moshe Katzav has proven himself to be someone who really tries to be the president of all Israelis, who can be very diplomatic, who speaks out when he thinks that is in the state's interest, and who has represented the country very appropriately on many occasions. The other article appears on the Opinion & Comment page. In a very personal attack against Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz Ze'ev Sternhell describes the former Chief of Staff as a "man without qualities". Sternhell admiringly writes about paratroops officer Danny Wolf, who died last week. He compares outspoken and non-conformist officers such as Wolff to career-minded and less original officers such as - according to Sternhell - Mofaz. He finishes his article with these words: "The list of talented officers and men of character who have been pushed aside while mediocre yes-men were advanced to the top ranks is as long as the Exile. And the price that society pays for this is no less steep. " In the Independence Day supplement of Ha'Aretz there is much worth reading, but little that would make us proud or happy. The public's view of the members of the Knesset, the legal adventures of Knesset members and government ministers, the verbal abuse MKs throw at each other, and the "true face of Messianic Israel", an article about the eleven Knesset members who live across the Green Line. In this last article professor Shevah Weiss, former Knesset speaker, compares the 'old elite' of kibbutzniks and moshavniks with the new, settler-related, elite: "while there are many similarities between the settlers and the kibbutzniks/moshavniks, one cannot ignore one substantial difference: Whereas the MKs representing the "working rural settlements" came from the heart of the consensus in Israeli society, the MKs from the West Bank and Gaza come from the heart of the dispute." Happy Yom Ha'Atzma'ut!
Posted by Bert at 8:05 PM
Sunday, April 25, 2004
From tonight until tomorrow evening Israel officially remembers and honors those who were killed or murdered "in the battles of Israel". Their official number stands at 21,781 ( "From the time the first Jewish settlers left the walls of Jerusalem in 1860 and started building Jewish quarters, to April 19 "; the number of those who were killed between November 29th 1947 and April 4th 2004 is 20,196 ), which as far as I know includes the civilians who were murdered by terrorists. Since such a number is hardly fathomable, especially for anyone who has been lucky enough not to have experienced a personal loss as a result of the continuous struggle that in most cases we have been forced to put up for our very survival, here I will refer to only one personal story, that of a promising young girl whom I never met or knew, but about whom I just read on the Israeli website www.nana.co.il. Tal Kehrmann was murdered by a suicide bomber in a bus on March 5th 2003 in the Moriah Avenue in Haifa, three months before her 18th birthday. Only weeks before she died she started a weblog in Hebrew, named My Demented World, on which you can read the things that - I suppose - many 17-year old girls think and write about. On her blog she had a list of books that she especially liked. It says that she is in the middle of reading The Lord of the Rings + The Hobbit. She never would finish reading that epic. On the beautiful website built to honor her memory and celebrate her life you can read about one victim of the hatred and absurdity that surround us, look at her pictures, read comments by some of her friends and teachers as well as some poems that Tal wrote only days before being assassinated, sign a guestbook and light a virtual candle in her memory. May her memory and that of the other 21,780 be blessed.
Posted by Bert at 8:13 PM
This morning I read an article in Ha'Aretz about EL AL and the Israeli Ministry of Transport seeking US approval for the use of the newly developed FlightGuard system, which is designed to protect civil aircraft from missiles. The last sentence confused me: "Trying to win approval from U.S. officials, [ Avigdor ] Lieberman could provide assurances that the El Al planes will take off and land in the U.S. with their FlightGuard systems switched off." What is the use of developing and installing a highly expensive aircraft-protection system, if at the time when as far as I have always been told an airplane is the most vulnerable ( take-off and landing ) you turn the system off? Or has the US suddenly become the first country in the world where no terrorists are to be found?
Posted by Bert at 11:56 AM
Regarding "Despised in their own country", Ha'Aretz, April 25, 2004: While Gideon Levy has a point when he criticizes the local press for its "nearly total enlisment in the service of the security forces" ( although I have no idea why he mentions Elhanan Tannenbaum in this context ), he fails to convince me with his suggestion that Mordechai Vanunu should be considered a hero. Vanunu is not a hero or a dissident. Neither is he a traitor or a spy, as most Israeli officials hysterically try to label him. He might be a troubled and visibly frustrated individual who tried to take revenge on the establishment of the country which he had come to despise, or a gullible pawn who happened to be in the right place, on the right time, and with the right state of mind to serve the sometimes sinister interests of his state. Each of those who support him abroad has his or her own reasons for supporting someone whom they consider as a victim of Israel's policies. All that does not turn Mordechai Vanunu into a hero, nor does it justify comparing him in any way to true, dedicated, courageous and convincing fighters for justice in their own societies, such as Aung San Suu Kyi.
Posted by Bert at 11:25 AM
Aluf Benn explains why Sharon's threat against Yasser Arafat serves everybody's interest: Sharon's, Arafat's and Bush's. He concludes: "As on previous occasions, the threat on Arafat will be put back in the drawer until next time.", which confirms what I wrote more than once on Sharon's perfectly timed slip-of-the-tongues, statements without actions backing them up, and actions that are meant primarily to draw counteractions which justify countercounteractions.
Posted by Bert at 7:40 AM
Saturday, April 24, 2004
Only during the last few days did I follow the coverage of the referendum held today in Cyprus, and I never really studied the history of the island and of either its Turkish or Greek population. Therefore I am definitely not an expert on the subject. Nevertheless, it seems strange and slightly unfair to me that after having rejected the UN reunification plan the Greek Cypriots will be rewarded by becoming a member of the European Union, whereas their Turkish neighbors - who accepted the plan - will be left out, just like mainland Turkey. A guided and controled inclusion of Turkey within the Union will benefit both the EU and Turkey, and it will strengthen that country's secular forces, while in all probability severely weakening the islamist forces over there. True, Turkey has a lot to learn and improve ( and it was the one that invaded Cyprus ), but one cannot expect the Turks to remain Euro-oriented if Europe frustrates and snubs their aspirations time and again.
Posted by Bert at 9:38 PM
Now that his 'victory' in the Likud referendum on his disengagement plan is very far from being secure, Ariel Sharon once again starts to deflect attention away from his lack of vision and long-term policies. Because of the referendum and as a result of his son Gil'ad's legal tricks few people still talk about Sharon's legal troubles, but if his plan does not receive a solid majority in the referendum on May 2nd, Sharons political position will be severely weakened, which might in the end expose him to closer and more thorough scrutiny by the police and the courts. So what does Mr Sharon do? He starts talking again about killing Yasser A., even though he knows that the whole world would condemn such an act. Although Arafat and Sharon are two totally different persons with a completely different background and personal history, in a way they are like Yin and Yang: they need each other to keep themselves politically alive and somehow relevant. This is why I do not think that the Israeli government will ever be stupid enough to carry out a threat which it has been talking about for several years. On the other hand, with this government you never know, and in his fight for political and legal survival Arik has surprised us already more than once. Let us hope that at least this time common sense ( and considerations for the interests of the state of Israel ) will prevail.
Posted by Bert at 10:13 AM
Friday, April 23, 2004
Jonathan Edelstein of Head Heeb more or less wrote everything that I wanted to write about a very promising experiment being carried out in the Negev desert by what Jonathan calls " the real pioneers, the real settlers, the real Zionists" of today. Both of us read about it in this weeks Friday Magazine of Ha'Aretz. Reading such articles makes us believe that in spite of all that we read ( and write ) about, people are still dreaming here, and what is even more important, some people are still working very hard to make their dreams come true.
Posted by Bert at 10:19 PM
Not being a great sports fan, and - though I am in many ways proud to be Dutch and consider myself a highly motivated Zionist - having my doubts when I hear people talk about love for their country etc., I shrugged when I read headlines telling me that a former NFL star was killed while serving in Afghanistan. Then I clicked on a link to this and this article and I read the amazing story of Pat Tillman, an American who half a year after September 11th 2001 left a multi-million-dollar career to join the US Army together with his younger brother. Len Pasquarelli wrote on the ESPN website after it became known that Tillman was going to enlist: "The free-spirited but still consummately disciplined Tillman turned his back on a three-year contract proposal worth $3.6 million for a gig that pays roughly 18 grand a year. Then again Pat Tillman, a man whose carefully sketched blueprint for life was altered by the arrival of terrorism on our shores, is not most of us. There is, it has been said, nothing sadder than the death of an illusion. But happy is that occasional man who thumbs his nose at convention, who clings to nonconformity as if it were the last piece of driftwood floating past a sunken ship, and who answers to his heart and not his wallet." Pat Tillman was killed in action as a member of the US special forces pursuing terrorists in Afghanistan. There are very few good things that I can say about the policies of the current American government and quite a few bad things that I could say about American ( foreign ) policy in general. Still, we should never forget that because of ordinary American, British and other men and women like Pat Tillman, who are willing to risk everything because they believe that their country and the world needs them, the free world has been able to defeat men such as Adolf H. and Saddam H. If only Bush, Blair and other world leaders were able and willing to appreciate the dedication of people such as Pat Tillman, and to use their dedication, commitment and talent more wisely, this world would be a much better place. May Pat Tillman and all his comrades who are killed in their fight against terror rest in peace.
Posted by Bert at 9:57 PM
An interesting explanation for at least one of the ways in which some Israelis cope with 'the situation' is given by director/producer Yo'av Tsafir: "...since, politically, I'm part of the support group that is called `The Left,' the last few years have induced a kind of apathy in me and I think that a lot of people from this group feel the same way I do. So the escapism took over. We're living in a situation where there's no solution and any solution you think of isn't practicable, so you prefer not to think about it and instead of grappling with it, you try to make entertainment."
Posted by Bert at 10:58 AM
In case you wondered what the score to date is in the deadly game between us and our nearest neighbors, we already have a winner: us! At least, that is what Ari Shavit thinks. Today we read that Israel's unemployment has reached an unprcedented 11 %, that someone who used to be a minister in the Israeli government - and who is a paediatrician by profession - decided or was forced to become involved in drug smuggling ( in order to make a decent living? ), and that the results of what would not have been the pinnacle of democratic decisionmaking to begin with possbibly will be ignored alltogether, as our beloved Prime Minister suddenly seems to have discovered things such as public and moral commitment, as opposed of course to legal and contractual commitment. Still, on the same day Ari Shavit declares us the winners in the conflict, as we have "gained the upper hand". At least he admits that we still have to be cautious: Palestinian terror has not been eradicated, and Palestinians still have to undergo a "revolution in awareness that is the only thing that will make it possible to put an end to the conflict". I am afraid that I also have to undergo some revolution in awareness: I am not sure whether Mr Shavit and I have been living in the same society for the past decade, and his description of reality is often at odds with the way I am perceiving things. He is right, it seems that militarily Israel is winning the war against the Palestinians. In my view it would be a disgrace if we were losing, with all the expertise, human resources and money that we spend on killing those that are fighting us ( and those who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time ). That most Israelis - even though they won't tell you so openly - are still anxiously waiting for the mother of all revenges ( either here or abroad ) is irrelevant here, as Hamas has proven to be unable to carry out any major attacks anymore, or hasn't it? Economically, we are supposed to be leaping forward and to believe in ourselves once again. Doesn't Mr Shavit think that in order for the national economy to seriously start growing again we need foreign faith in our financial and economic capabilities and prospects more than faith in ourselves? A good example is the tourism industry. It is true, hotels and other accomodations are full again during the holidays, but pumping our own money into our own industry is like treading water economically: very little cash comes in from abroad. What impressive diplomatic achievements does Mr Shavit see? That President Bush decided "to shut out the option of the Palestinian right of return and to abolish the sanctity of the Green Line"? Has anyone explained to Ari Shavit what the international standing of Mr Bush is? Being endorsed by him is worth about as much as the endorsement of Howard Dean by Al Gore. "Prime Minister Ariel Sharon deserves quite a lot of credit for the victory that is in the offing. He is the one who conducted the military campaign patiently, wisely and calmly. He is the one who conducted the diplomatic campaign with impressive talent. " What campaign, what patience, what wisdom? Yes, Arik S. has given proof of considerable talent, a talent to survive politically by talking without acting, by now and then threatening to quit, by carrying out perfectly timed military actions that create headlines that push away those regarding his own financial-legal escapades to some small column on the bottom of page five of the newspapers. Giving him credit for 'the victory' would mean that he had a plan, a vision, an all-out strategy. If he had, his greatest talent must be that he has been able to conceal all that from us. Ari Shavit's conclusion - and although I have my doubts about the way in which he reaches it, I agree with him here: "...in the final analysis, the limited Israeli victory is not the victory of Sharon. It's the victory of the Israeli individuals who have withstood the supreme test in recent years. It's the victory of Israeli civil society, which knew how to maintain a sense of proportion and a sense of reality even in times of terror. [...] These Israelis are the real heroes of the present war. In their abrasive way, they are more impressive, wiser and even more moral than all their critics. They deserve to win."
Posted by Bert at 10:49 AM
Regarding "Livnat livid B-G Univ. won't fire outspoken professor", Ha'Aretz, April 23, 2004: True, professor Lev Grinberg's use of the expression "symbolic genocide" was wrong and should be condemned by anyone who has even the slightest notion of the history of the Shoah and of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Still, I wonder what Education Minister Livnat means when she calls upon Ben Gurion University to fire professor Grinberg and, mentioning "academics around the world [...] calling for a boycott of their Israeli counterparts", she says "we must set an example". An example of what? Of the fact that just like those boycotting pseudo-academics abroad we in Israel are not interested in freedom of speech, academic or not?
Posted by Bert at 9:57 AM
While Arab and Muslim countries are pleading for a larger UN role in whatever processes are taking place in the Middle East, the UN special envoy for Iraq calls Israel's policy "the biggest poison in the region". Could it be that incidents such as this one are among the reasons why Israel is suspicious of any major UN involvement in finding solutions for its confict with the Palestinians and the Arab world?
Posted by Bert at 9:32 AM
Thursday, April 22, 2004
Ik zit nu via de website Uitzending Gemist de derde uitzending van KRO's Reporter: Het Nederlandgevoel te bekijken. Heb heel even gepauzeerd om een tot nadenken uitnodigende uitspraak van Tweede-Kamerlid voor de VVD Ayaan Hirsch Ali te noteren. Ze zegt dat Nederland misschien wel nooit helemaal zo tolerant is geweest. Immers: "Wegkijken en wegduiken voor problemen is geen tolerantie." Zo heb ik iets wat ik altijd als typisch Nederlands heb beschouwd nog nooit bekeken. Ik ben trouwens sowieso erg onder de indruk van de manier waarop mevrouw Hirsch Ali zich uitdrukt in het programma. Ik had al veel over en weinig van haar gelezen, maar haar nog nooit zien of horen praten, en de eerste indruk is uitermate positief. De Partij van de Arbeid heeft destijds door haar overstap naar de liberalen ( waar ze in de huidige politiek-maatschappelijke context op haar plaats is, lijkt mij ) een 'kanon' ( een Israelisch equivalent van wat ik volgens mij in het Nederlands een zwaargewicht zou noemen ) verloren.
Posted by Bert at 9:58 PM
It seems that I am not the only one who believes that Mordechai Vanunu ( or as he was called this morning in the headline of the Israeli daily Yedioth Aharonoth " Mordechai the Christian " ) - with or without his knowledge, with or without the assistance and planning of Israeli officials - might have served very specific Israeli interests with his revelations, his time in prison, and his highly publicized release yesterday.
Posted by Bert at 8:52 AM
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
Could it be that by launching his impromptu idea of an internal Likud referendum on the disengagement plan Ariel Sharon cut off his nose to spite his face? The referendum was supposed to give the Prime Minister some kind of legitimacy on the Right, but until now it only seems to have caused a serious split, less between the Likud and the ultra-Right than within the Likud itself. If the Likud members do not endorse the disengagement plan by a large margin, that will be considered an enormous loss for Arik, possibly forcing him to resign and hand the Likud leadership to someone else, to try and form a national unity government, and/or to call for early elections. On the day that we read another interesting episode of the saga around Mr Sharon's youngest son and his respect for the justice system in this country, we also get to know that public funds provided to Yesha are used to support those Likudniks who are campaiging for us to stay in Gaza and the other territories, that rabbi Ovadyah Yosef seeks the advice of the Chief of Staff ( see here ), and that the gap between Likud members who might vote in favor of or against the plan is negligible. And of course, we were told today once again through all possible media how dangerous Mordechai Vanunu is, even though I hardly understood a word of what the poor man said after he came out of the Shikma prison. Is that troubled man a danger for the security of this country? Then we are in deeper sh*t than I thought we were.
Posted by Bert at 10:45 PM
Regarding "Mubarak details hatred for U.S.", IHT, April 21, 2004: President Mubarak seems to have a short memory when he claims that before the invasion of Iraq "there was no hatred of the Americans". At least since the 1980s Americans have continuously been among the primary targets of most Arab-Muslim terror groups. While many in the Muslim world expressed shock and horror at the horrible terror attacks in the US on September 11th 2001, what we never will forget are the public displays of popular jubilation by Palestinian and other mobs in the Middle East and in major Muslim countries. It is true, today more than ever American policy regarding the Middle East is flawed and hardly balanced, but to claim that Arab-Muslim hatred of ( the West in general and ) everything American ( in particular ) is something new is proof of short-sightedness and populism.
Posted by Bert at 9:14 AM
Regarding "Shiite cleric defends Hamas", IHT, April 21, 2004: The chances of a Shiite cleric becoming the imam of Al-Azhar are non-existent since, as you write yourself, he is ( one of ) the leading religious authority ( -ies ) in Sunni Islam. As much as each death of a soldier causes us Israelis great pain and sorrow, Sheikh Tantawi is right when he says that ( in the ongoing war between Palestinians and Israelis ) attacking military targets does not really qualify as terrorism. What he seems to forget ( or condone ) is the fact that the main targets and by far most of the victims of Hamas have been Jewish and Arab civilians. This makes Hamas primarily a terrorist organization. By the way, if we follow the logic of Shaikh Tantawi and Hamas operations against Israeli military targets are legitimate self-defense, then the liquidation of Hamas leaders by Israel's security forces is just as legitimate.
Posted by Bert at 9:12 AM
Tuesday, April 20, 2004
Regarding "Prodi praises Spanish move", IHT, April 20, 2004: It is absurd that Romano Prodi is allowed to wage his political campaign as leader of the Italian opposition while speaking as the European Commission's President. Europe does not have a truly common position regarding the conflict in Iraq, and as one of the highest EU officials Mr Prodi should refrain from applauding every decision by leaders of EU members that suits his own narrow inter-Italian political goals. PS: This letter was published in an edited form in the IHT of April 22, 2004. After I sent the letter by e-mail, I thought that I should have added the following line: " While the institutons of the EU are normally a home for not always elderly politicians who have retired or been side-tracked in their home countries, in this case one of the most powerful positions within the Union is used as a springboard to (re)launch a national political career."
Posted by Bert at 11:03 AM
Regarding "Israel should destroy reactor, scientist says", IHT,April 20, 2004: One can call Mordechai Vanunu many things: an idealist, an embittered Israeli, maybe gullible, stubborn. Nevertheless, just as there is no reason for Israelis to label him as a spy and traitor, there is no justification for the IHT to call him a scientist. He worked in Dimona as a technician, and that fact plus his 18 years in prison does not turn him into a scientist.
Posted by Bert at 11:00 AM
Monday, April 19, 2004
Read this editorial in Ha'Aretz and see that I am not the only "progressive" who - while having his doubts about the political motives of those who gave the green light for the operation - will not shed a tear about the killing of Dr Rantisi being justified. The newspaper of progressive Israel even praises the IDF for the professional way in which the killing of the Hamas leader was executed.
Posted by Bert at 8:29 PM
Every time I read about the Vanunu-affair I wonder which game is being played and who that game's players are. In Ha'Aretz' Friday magazine a few weeks ago ( I could not find the article; almost all other links that deal with Mr vanunu belong to organizations on whose information I would not rely, so you will not find any hyperlink here ) have been able to read about the problematic security-related background that Mordechai Vanunu had before and while he was employed in Dimona. Also the way in which he was lured into the arms of some charming 'Mossad-agent' and kidnapped to Israel has been exposed widely in the national and international media. Today we read about a taped interview with Mordechai Vanunu made "by a senior defense establishment official and a Shin Bet representative" about a month ago, which will be broadcast on Israeli television. We also hear that Mr Vanunu is still considered to be a threat to "the existence of the state of Israel" ( a channel 1 correspondent for military affairs on the Erev Hadash program ) etc. etc. Israel's security services have never been infallible. They have made some serious mistakes in the past. Still, it is hard to believe that real professionals who deal with security matters ( and I would like to believe that most people working for Israel's security know quite well what they are doing ) would not be able to prevent what they claim is information of the most sensitive and damaging kind from being leaked more than once ( the Sunday Times interview, the kidnapping, Vanunu's famous 'handwritten' statement, this latest tape-scandal ). Could it be that Israel's security services just cynically used one gullible and embittered person to get out exact that version of their truth that they wanted the world to know? If this man really is so dangerous for our very existence, why is he still alive, why did he have to spend only 18 years in prison, and why will he be released on Wednesday? People have mysteriously and silently disappeared or physically been punished for far less serious offences, according to the many books and articles that deal with Israel's security policies. The whole media circus surrounding Mr Vanunu's release from prison ( not unlike the thousands of publications regarding his 'spying', his arrest, his trial and his years in prison ) would not happen if someone wanted to make a serious effort to stop it from happening. I wonder if what he believes he knows is truly damaging to the existence of our state, or to its security in general. Maybe he is just a poor puppet, his strings being pulled by masterly puppeteers and brilliant spin-doctors.
Posted by Bert at 6:17 PM
Today is the day on which the people of Israel officially remember the Shoah. Also, 61 years ago on Pesach eve, April 19th 1943, the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto started. Last night, after we already went to bed, I watched the second half of a very good, Oscar-winning Dutch movie, The Assault ( De Aanslag ), which was broadcast on one of the channels here. After that I watched part of the Israeli documentary "Because of that war". This film, made in 1988, describes the relationship of the popular Israeli musician Yehudah Poliker and his artistic partner and producer Ya'acov Gil'ad with their parents, who survived the Shoah. Yehudah Poliker's father tells about his experiences during the war in Saloniki and Auschwitz, and Helena Birnbaum, Ya'acov Gil'ad's mother, about what she went through in Lublin and Maidanek. A very moving documentary, with beautiful music from Poliker/Gil'ad's album "Ashes and Dust".
Posted by Bert at 8:37 AM
Sunday, April 18, 2004
Just to be fair: the reader and colleague-blogger mentioned in the two previous postings is Richard Silverstein of Tikun Olam. I was reluctant to mention his name or quote large parts of the e-mail correspondence that we had, but Richard, whom I already after the few e-mails that we wrote to each other consider as a virtual friend, wrote extensively about the posting in which I made clear not to have serious problems with the killing of Dr Rantisi, so I suppose he does not mind being identified himself. Richard is right when he describes me as "a progressive who supports Israeli-Palestinian peace wholeheartedly and the Palestinian right to self-determination". Although I am not quite sure anymore what progressive means, when it comes to my world view I have never had much in common with people who call themselves conservative. I do support both Israeli-Palestinian peace and the Palestinians' right to self-determination wholeheartedly. I admire Richard's principles and mountainhigh values very much, I just do not think that we can always live exactly according to them. Thank G'd that I never had to make choices about life and death, even regarding my most lethal enemies. Still, it is hard for me to condemn the "succesful liquidation" of someone who knowingly and voluntarily took upon himself the leadership of an organization that aims at the liquidation of the Jewish state as such, who bears direct responsibility for the murder of many innocent Israelis ( Jews, Arabs and others ), and whose organization will continue to try and kill as many Jews as possible, be it under the pretext of revenge, as an act of national or religious liberation, or just for the fun of it. It could very well be that Ariel Sharon timed this assassination to receive some vital support for the Likud-vote on his disengagement plan, which fits right in with his political survival tactics. At least this time the killing did not leave scores of innocent bystanders dead or wounded. One last note. Richard mentions Etzel and Lehi ( Stern-gang ). I do not think any serious comparison can be made between the murder of Count Bernadotte by the Lehi and the assassination of Yassin or Rantisi. If one feels obliged to make any comparisons, one between Lehi and Hamas might be possible, though ludicrous ( those who read my stuff know that I am not a great fan of historical comparisons ). By the way, it would be good for us all if Arafat and the PA were to make as serious an effort of trying to bring the members of organizations such as Hamas within the legal boundaries of a future Palestinian state and of breaking these organizations' military infrastructure, as Ben Gurion, Rabin, Sadeh and others made to integrate the members of Etzel and Lehi into the new Jewish state and army. There is still a lot of understandable bitterness about that process, but all in all we can say that no matter how much they opposed the policies of the Haganah and of Ben Gurion before and right after 1948, most of the people who belonged to Begin's or Shamir's groups became good, productive and law-abiding citizens of the state of Israel.
Posted by Bert at 1:02 PM
Some more short remarks about the killing of Rantisi. The colleague-blogger who told me he seriously disagreed with me wrote that our differences of opinion might be a result of the fact that I am on the front line and he is not. He also asks how with both sides flagrantly violating international laws and basic human values we can " posit a future in which both peoples will leave in peace & harmony, and under the rule of law...?". It is people like Rantisi who have turned the whole of Israel into one big frontline, and people like his friends and colleagues ( as a terrorist, not as a paediatrician ) who turned the whole world into such a frontline. I will not say that Bush and Sharon have been very help- or successful in the fight against terror, but when we are talking about today's Islamist version of international terror, we are not exactly talking about a straight line between causes and consequences. The people of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al-Qa'ida etc. do not need and are not looking for excuses to carry out their murders, they just wait for opportunities. I am sure that for the victims of this brand of terror it hardly matters whether they were murdered or maimed at the occasion of the anniversary of this or that event in the history of Muslim-Western relations, in revenge for the killing of this or that leader, or because of the suffering of Muslims in general or of this or that part of the Muslim world in particular ( Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya etc. ). Obviously I have become more cynical ( some might call that realistic ) than idealistic. Do not get me wrong, I have a great deal of sympathy for all the ordinary Palestinians, and I would love to see all of them prosper and live in peace and harmony. Nevertheless, I believe that the chances of us and them living together in peace and harmony in the foreseeable future are basically nonexistent. Too much has happened between us, and we have too little in common to build a future together right now. This is why I would like to see an almost total disengagement between the territories and Israel, with the Palestinians having the (respons)ability to handle all of their own affairs within a state of their own. Of course, Israel's Arabs are amd remain a welcome part of Israeli society. I am against the occupation not only because occupation is wrong from every possible perspective but also - and especially - because I am absolutely convinced that that occupation destroys the state where I chose to live and which is very dear to me. Ending the occupation might open up a way towards real peace ( though I doubt that ), but it will surely make it easier for Israel to address some of its most own urgent socio-economic and political problems. Only by addressing and solving those problems will we be able to create and ensure a peaceful and prosperous future for us and our children. If we succeed in doing that, and if the Palestinians prove in a post-occupation world that they deserve the state which was given to them, peace and harmony might settle between us one day. Until then I am afraid we have to be a bit more realistic.
Posted by Bert at 11:38 AM
One reader wrote me that he seriously disagrees with my views on the ( killing of ) Rantisi. I agree with him when he says that the Palestinians should have a state of their own, because only then will Israel have a full right to respond to cross-border attacks. Let it be understood that if I had to make the decisions over here ( thank G'd I do not have to ) I probably would do things differently, that if I was allowed to compose our and the Palestinian leadership things would look differently, and that I still am convinced that Ariel Sharon does not have any comprehensive plan that will improve the future of us and of our children dramatically. His ad-hoc decision making still seems to be largely linked to his struggle for political and legal survival. Still, I am convinced that the killing of some of those responsible for terror attacks against us is, or at least could be effective in a way. Not - as the reader and colleague-blogger supposes - because I think there has been a "lull" in attacks since Yassin's murder. Not only have there been tens of serious attempts - some of them succesful - to revenge Yassin's death, I think it would be stupid to underestimate the determination and the ability of Hamas and its partners in crime to strike against Israeli, Jewish and western targets, so you will not hear me talking about any "lull", I am among those who still are waiting for the mother of all revenges. What I do believe is that the top of the Hamas leadership is in some sort of disarray. Future (ex)leaders appear to be more busy looking to defend themselves against Israeli attacks than they are planning new attacks ( I am sorry that I sound like some of Israel's official spokesmen, but in this case they seem to be right ). Once again, this does not mean that I foresee an end to terror in the near future, nor does it mean that we should not rather be seeking a political solution that will honor the justified demands of Palestinians for a state of their own and serve the interests of most parties involved in the conflict. What it does mean is that I think we should differentiate between potential or real political, pragmatic leaders on 'the other side' ( from Arafat to Nusseibeh, from Barghouti to Arekat; I am not looking specifically for anyone who has no drop of Jewish blood on his/her hands, as this would make the composition of a wall-to-wall representative leadership almost impossible ) and hardcore terrorists, who will never ever be interested in reaching a compromise with us. The former should receive all the carrots that we can give them, the latter are legitimate targets for our sticks, that is until the Palestinians will become truly responsible for law enforcement on their side of the border.
Posted by Bert at 8:51 AM
Saturday, April 17, 2004
When I wrote that our so-called leaders should visit hospital wards more often, I had no idea about ( or mean ) what happened tonight. It must be quite frustrating to be an insurance agent for Hamas leaders these days. Abd el-'Aziz Rantisi has become the second ex-Hamas leader in less than a month. In contrast with the assassination of Ahmad Yassin, I have no serious problem with the timing or execution of this killing. No innocent people seem to have been killed or wounded ( at least no foreign news agency reported such casualties, whereas if there is any collateral damage - I hate that expression - it is always mentioned right away; only more than half an hour after the first reports did I hear some Gazan doctor on the BBC talk about the "many, many women and children" who were supposed to be wounded or killed ), and only hours before was an Israeli checkpoint attacked by a Hamas-Fatah terrorist, claiming the life of an Israeli Border-policeman. Besides, Dr Rantisi was certainly not a frail man in a wheelchair, whose death had mainly a symbolic value. He fought a real short power struggle to receive the leadership of the terror organization, and he knew what he was getting into when he did that. I still wonder why it took so long for Israel's security services to kill the man - after several political and military leaders had claimed before and after Yassin's death that all terror leaders are potential targets for assasination -, but in the war against terror arresting or killing those responsible for acts of terorrism has proven effective in many ways. Of course, all that does not relieve Sharon and his government of the obligation to try and find a true, more or less just and long-term solution to the conflict.
Posted by Bert at 9:54 PM
Gisteravond in het ziekenhuis ben ik begonnen met het lezen van Ooggetuigen van de Wereldgeschiedenis: in meer dan honderd reportages, " ruim honderd authentieke verslagen van belangrijke momenten uit de wereldgeschiedenis ", verzameld door Rene van Stipriaan en Geert Mak. Ik had het boek anderhalf jaar geleden in Nederland gekocht en opzijgelegd voor wanneer ik weer eens mijn reservedienst zou moeten vervullen, maar ik heb het maar van de boekenplank gegrist gisteren, toen ik snel een tas met spullen voor onze dochter, mijn vrouw en mezelf moest klaarmaken voor een verblijf in het ziekenhuis. Alhoewel er natuurlijk - zoals met elke compilatie - heel wat valt af te dingen op de gemaakte selectie leest het lekker weg, en wederom ben ik niet teleurgesteld door een boek van Mak. Ik heb al zijn boeken ( behalve het Boekenweekgeschenk van 1998, Het ontsnapte land; als iemand weet hoe ik daar aan kan komen houd ik me aanbevolen ) en bewaar Hoe God verdween uit Jorwerd , het enige van zijn boeken in mijn bezit dat ik nog niet gelezen heb, voor als ik eens lekker wil leesgenieten.
Posted by Bert at 3:20 PM
Last night I slept in the Bney Tsion ( Rothschild ) hospital on Mt Carmel in Haifa, right next to the bed where our daughter, who very soon will celebrate her fifth birthday, was sleeping. On Wednesday evening her finger was all swollen up, and the doctor whom she, my wife and my father-in-law visited, prescribed antibiotics and soaking the finger in a iodine solution. When yesterday morning the finger still was swollen, we went to our paediatrician ( we would and should have gone to him right at the beginning, but he was out of town until yesterday ), who refered us straigthaway to the hospital. There they decided to carry out an operation ( incision + drainage of abcess ), during which the little patient had to be anaesthetized. Before the operation we were told she had to receive antiobotics ( intravenously: most small kids do not like or are unable to take them orally ) three times a day for at least 48 hours after the operation, which took place yesterday evening around eight o'clock. We thought we were in for a long stay in the hospital, at least until Monday. In Israel one parent is supposed to sleep next to the child in a paediatric ward. Luckily enough, after a very good night's sleep for both her and me, when the doctor came this morning to see how she was doing he saw that the wound looks fine. When he heard that she has no problems taking antibiotics orally ( maybe I should be worried: she even likes the taste of them ) he said that there is no reason to keep her in the hospital, so we went home. She only has to go every day to the local Kupat Holim clinic, to have the bandage refreshed and to soak the finger in a iodine solution, but she can go to kindergarten and do whatever she wants to do. On Thursday she will have to return to the hospital, to see how the wound is healing. Why did I write all this? Normally you will not read much about my children on this blog. First of all, I would like to stress here how good the Israeli health system works. I have no idea how it is managed and maintained, and I am sure mistakes are made and cases of mismanagement occur. Still, all the times that me or one of the members of my family needed medical services, I/(s)he received the best service possible, and all the attention, explanations and kindness that I/(s)he needed at that moment. In addition, I think we should start managing life in Israel just like life in hospital wards in this country is lived and managed. Both among the patients and among the personnel ( cleaning persons, male and female nurses, residents and specialists ) you will find a homogenous blend of Russians, Ethiopians, veteran ( Jewish ) Israelis, Christian and Muslim Arabs, Druze, and everybody gets along very well. This is especially felt on the maternity ward, where the happiness about the birth of every new child is shared by all new ( or soon-to-be ) parents and family members, no matter what one's religious or ethnic background is. For me, when I came out of the room where my wife just had given birth to our daughter ( and 3 1/2 years later our son, both in the Bney Tsion hospital ) it was quite an experience to have my hand shaken and to be greeted with a genuinely felt "Mazzel Tov!" by representatives of most if not all ethno-religious groups that make up the communities in and around Haifa. The two of us shared a room with a 1-year old baby named Omar and his mother. The boy had undergone a medical circumcision, and his family and mine talked together, gave each other food and drinks, and his mother and I talked with each other and watched each other's child when the other had to go to the toilet or something. All of us agreed that this was some sort of peaceful micro-cosmos. If only our so-called leaders spent just some ( more ? ) time visiting the different wards in our hospitals. There is much to be learnt and appreciated there.
Posted by Bert at 2:38 PM
Friday, April 16, 2004
In Israel the Shoah is remembered daily by thousands of survivors and their families, by educators and researchers. Every now and then we also hear some politician use some Holocaust-related phrase or analogy for his/her own particular purposes. On Yom Hazikaron lashoa welagvura ( litt. Day of remembrance of the Shoah and the Courage, the official title in English is Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day; the addition of "courage" and "heroes" says much about the way in which Israel's leadership dealt with the Holocaust in the first decade of the country's existence ), which will be marked from this Sunday at sunset until Monday evening, the persecution and destruction of ( mostly ) European Jewry in the years 1933-45 is officially remembered. Ceremonies are held at Yad VaShem, kibbutz Yad Mordechai, kibbutz Lochamey HaGetta'ot, at other memorial sites and at all schools and universities. Places of entertainment are closed, and the programming on all Israeli television and radio stations is adapted to the special character of the day. Almost every year you can see at least one version of the diary of Anne Frank, one movie ( either a documentary or an enacted version ) of the Nuerenberg trials, Spielberg's Schindler's List, etc. On 10 o'clock AM on Monday for two minutes a siren is heard all over Israel, bringing the whole country to a standstill. Although in my eyes some of the ways in which the Holocaust is remembered officially have a slightly oblogatory character, in the week preceding Yom HaShoah I often read more newspapers and watch more television than during the rest of the year. What moves me each time again in particular ( not only while reading books or newspapers or watching television, but also during my research ) are the personal 'little' stories of individuals, because these are the participants of the most difficult part in Jewish history with whom it is easiest to identify myself with. This week's Ha'Aretz' weekend supplement and magazine carries several very interesting and moving stories. One of them deals with a real medical school that functioned within the Warsaw ghetto. The other tells us about two brothers from Hungary/Czechoslovakia ( now Ukraine ), who only after almost 60 years told each other ( and Malka Adler, who published a book about the two ) about their personal experiences during the war. The fragments describing what they saw and lived through in Auschwitz hardly leave anything to the imagination. Some other very moving pictures and stories can be found on the official Yad Vashem website for Yom haShoah. Under Photo Exhibition you will find eleven pictures plus some information about the men, women and children who appear in them. Click on Torchlighters and you can read about the lives of the six Israelis who will light the torches at this year's Yad Vashem official ceremony, in remembrance of the six million Jews who were murdered.
Posted by Bert at 10:43 AM
Thursday, April 15, 2004
Ever since I discovered his blog I have read Jonathan Edelstein's postings with admiration and interest. He surely seems to know quite a lot about ( or at least have a genuine interest in ) things that take place in many different corners of our globe. Tonight I clicked on a link in the righthand margin of his blog which says "My Middle East views summarized", and I must say that his summary could have been mine, if it weren't for the fact that English is his mother tongue, and not mine, which makes him a bit more eloquent than I am. No really, he very well expresses most of the things that I believe in: the guilt of all parties and at the same time the futility of asking questions about guilt, the incompatibility of some sort of peace and absolute justice, the legitimacy of Zionism as just another nationalist movement. Jonathan's conclusion ( with which I agree, as you might understand ): " Militant moderates are less interested in getting even for the latest suicide bombing or missile attack than in securing a future where Israelis have security and Palestinians freedom."
Posted by Bert at 9:49 PM
What can I say about the Bush-Sharon summit? They achieved quite something, these two: antagonizing the settlers, the Palestinians and all other Arabs, the Europeans and Koffi A. with a non-plan that would not solve anything, as we still would be stuck with most settlements, we still would control the lives of too many Palestinians, we still would be unable to create proper, defendable borders, and the Palestinians still would not have anything that remotely resembles a state and independence. This is what happens when you have two non-leaders without any vision, who are too busy fighting for their political ( and in Sharon's case also legal ) survival, come together trying to please everyone, but instead end up being booed by the whole world. One day a solution will ( have to ) be found for the problems caused by the Palestinians' insistence on their right of return ( and on finally eradicating the Jewish state as a whole ) and by the settlers' on their right to stay, but it does not make any sense whatsoever ( and it does not serve any one's interests, including Israel's ) if the president of the US de facto legalizes something that as far as I know is illegal according to each basic handbook of international law, and makes something which in the end every sane person understands as being an impossible demand into a Holy-of-Holies' conditio sine qua non.
Posted by Bert at 8:57 PM
An American relative of my wife who visits my blog once in a while sent me some "Jewish haikus". Most of them probably are too American-Jewish for me to truly appreciate their humor, but some of them deal with classic "Jeiwh complexes", and made me laugh. Here is a selection: Beyond Valium, the peace of knowing one's child is an internist. *** The shivah visit: So sorry about your loss. Now back to my problems. *** Seven-foot Jews in the NBA slam-dunking! My alarm clock rings. *** Is one Nobel Prize so much to ask from a child after all I've done? *** Quietly murmured at Saturday services, Yanks 5, Red Sox 3.
Posted by Bert at 10:14 AM
Wednesday, April 14, 2004
One item in tonight's evening news shocked and frightened me, another literally moved me to tears. Although I had read about the far from successful press conference of president Bush, I did not know it had been so bad. This man is in no way up to the job of leading the most powerful nation in the world. He was totally unprepared and had no idea how to improvise. God beware us from him taking fateful decisions in real time. The last item on Mabat, the news program on Israel's channel 1, dealt with a number of handicapped soldiers who volunteered to serve in the IDF and who received their insignia of corporal today. You could see how the mother and grandfather of Ido Neuman, who has been crippled since birth, were proud of him. Himself a Hapoel Jerusalem fan, he said that he was more emotional yesterday, when his favorite team won the European cup.
Posted by Bert at 9:31 PM
While eating lunch I finished reading old issues of Ha'Aretz and the International Herald Tribune that I put aside during the last two weeks. Marie-Christine de Montbrial wrote an interesting review of "The Passion of the Christ", which she calls "a sin against quality entertainment and, most sadly, against emotion". Once again, I will not go and see the movie, but following all the passion that this film has aroused I cannot but sympathize with her conclusion: "In a time troubled by fanatic fundamentalists spanning all the world's religions, I regret that this simplistic film purports to present a religion supposedly based on love as a masochist sect in a fanatic world. Whether this was done on purpose or not is another question. "The Passion of the Christ": What a disappointment, but what a marketing job!".
Posted by Bert at 2:23 PM
The last link for today refers to a painful - because embarrassing and not totally untrue, to use an understatement - article by Amira Hass, about one of the the not always very democratic ways in which Israeli democracy works. It is clear how much Likud members are supposed to be interested in voting on such a fateful decision regarding our country's future: the vote ( which is democratically questionable to begin with ) was postponed to May 2nd, because Maccabi Tel Aviv will play in the Euroleague Final Four basketball games on the original date, April 29th. It is also clear how much this country is divided, as we already see signs with texts like "If you vote in favor, you receive Peres". In public and highly publicized discussions among parliamentarians Shimon Peres is portrayed as a mixture between the anti-Christ and a classic bogeyman, who will join Sharon's coalition as soon as Arik receives approval ( for a withrawal out of Gaza ) from a majority of his party members. Everybody appears to forget that we owe the fact that we are able to not give a rip about what the rest of the world thinks about us to our supposed possession of a substantial nuclear arsenal, and that that arsenal was initiated by Mr Peres, through his supreme diplomacy and his contacts among the relevant European ( read: French ) authorities. I do believe that Shimon Peres should have stepped down a long time ago as a political leader, his 80th birthday would have been a good occasion for that. I also think that he has been quite a poor political leader. Still, no one on the righthand side of Israel's political spectrum can compare his achievements regarding Israel's diplomacy, defense and security with those of Mr Peres, and no settler or Yesha sympathizer has the right to blacken his reputation, or to doubt his commitment to this country's very existence and wellbeing.
Posted by Bert at 11:48 AM
Een verontrustend bericht vond ik op de website van www.joods.nl. De NCRV heeft ervoor gekozen om ronduit antisemitische opmerkingen van een Groningse ex-agent, mede verantwoordelijk voor de deportatie van joden uit die stad, en zijn vrouw te verwijderen uit een door de gevierde documentaire-regisseur Willy Lindwer gemaakte documentaire "Holland, vaarwel!" De NCRV ontkent voor juridische dreigementen van de kant van de familie van de voormalige agent te zijn gezwicht, en komt met het klassieke argument dat zijn uitspraken uit hun context zijn gehaald. Ik vraag me dan altijd af in wat voor context zulke uitspraken wel acceptabel en verteerbaar zouden zijn, maar ja, ik ben natuurlijk een pietlut. Gelukkig wordt de film - in zijn integrale versie - ook in Israel uitgezonden, op of rond Yom HaShoah volgende week. Hier denkt iedereen nog steeds dat iedere Nederlander destijds op zijn minst een ( 1 ) Anne Frank op zolder verborgen had, en dat alle Nederlanders vierkant achter Israel staan. Aan de ander kant ziet men in Israel bijna alle Fransen als antisemieten, ook al werden in Nederland van alle zes joden die er voor de oorlog woonden vijf vermoord, terwijl in Frankrijk ''''slechts'''' 25 procent de oorlog niet overleefde. De verschillen tussen de diverse door de As-mogendheden bezette landen in percentages en absolute aantallen vermoorde joden vormen al jarenlang een dankbaar onderwerp voor onderzoek. Zoals altijd is de werkelijkheid een stuk ingewikkelder dan wij graag zouden willen ( vrij naar Primo Levi ).
Posted by Bert at 11:29 AM
As I am working on a long article in English about developments in Israel, and because by far the most of my time I spend working on my PhD research, I do not have time to write extensively about the visit of PM Sharon to Washington. Therefore today I only post some links. The first is to a project which I think is unique. On the Dutch masterblog of Wim de Bie I read about the Nabuur ( neighbor ) project. This is a website, where Third World communities can explain whatever ( mostly practical ) problems they face, and people from all over the world can offer them advice and expertise, or refer them to other sources of assistance, through virtual adoption of a village, forum discussions etc. . An interactive kind of civil society at its best, without any interference by official bodies. Although I do not know very much about developments in the Third World ( I am not sure whether that description is still politically correct ) and they are not within my fields of urgent interest, I am a great admirer of inspired idealists like Jan Pronk and the late prince Claus, who dedicate(d) much of their lives to helping less-developed countries develop, and I thought it worthwhile to put a link here to Mr de Bie's posting and to the project itself.
Posted by Bert at 11:28 AM
Tuesday, April 13, 2004
Monday, April 12, 2004
The controversy surrounding Mel Gibson's latest blockbuster has been going on for several years already, and as I never intended - and still do not intend - to watch the movie I thought it would be better not to write about it at all. Then this morning, more or less by chance, I came across the official website of The Passion of the Christ ( of course for us Jews Jezus of Nazareth was not the Christ, but 'only' a false one; this is the root of many problems, including the tensions between certain Christians and Jews following the making and release of this movie ), and I could not resist clicking on the link to Merchandise and Soundtrack. No really, there is real merchandise for this movie! I have to admit that I am not very familiar with the Catholic faith, having grown up mostly in a secular-Protestant environment in the Netherlands. Could it be that that is why I was amazed when I saw the following item being advertised? The Passion Nail TM pendants feature Isaiah 53:5 inscribed on the side. This design provides a unique and powerful way to express and share your faith.The solid sterling silver pendant is 7/8" in length and comes on an 18" sterling silver light cable chain. Presented in an elegant velvet jewelry box. Seriously, there is a Passion Nail TM pendant. I particularly liked the TM part. Also the following article is offered for sale: The Placard is a replica of the sign that hung at the top of the cross. The pendant is made from 100% lead-free pewter and comes on a 24" leather cord. To "share the passion" yourself click here and here. For heaven's sake, if ever one needed proof of Mel Gibson's particular brand of Catholicism being an extreme form of idolatry, on his film's website it can be found in abundance. For those who understand Dutch and who are interested in reading about the problematic nature of the movie in the eyes of Protestant Christians, I would recommend this article. A long and interesting article about the movie and its aftermath can be found here. Finally, I would like to refer to an article in Ha'Aretz which describes some of the 'technical' and historical details of crucifixion as a form of punishment. It is obvious that Jesus of Nazareth was just one among thousands of Jews who were killed in this cruel way by the Romans. Ironically enough we Jews are still blamed for Jesus' death, whereas the Catholic Church has its HQ in the same city where his true murderers came from.
Posted by Bert at 10:16 PM
Sunday, April 11, 2004
I was glad to read that Arjan Erkel, the Dutch worker for Doctors without Borders who was kidnapped in the Russian Federation republic of Dagestan in August 2002, has been released or liberated. When I enthusiastically wanted to tell this to my wife, she said that she already heard it on the radio this morning, so it is probably already old news. Still, I am very happy for Mr Erkel and his family and friends, and hope and pray that the hostages currently held in Iraq will soon be released in good health as well.
Posted by Bert at 3:11 PM
On the website Open Democracy I found an interview with someone whom I very much admire, professor Sari Nusseibeh. In the interview he argues vehemently in favor of non-violent means of protest, talks about the differences between the first and second intifadah and between their respective consequences, explains the fact that it is a Palestinian interest to take Israeli interests into account ( I strongly believe in the importance of doing this the other way around ), describes the interaction between occupier and occupied and the importance of a grassroots approach towards peace, and of civil society in any process that will lead to a better future for the Palestinians. He also makes clear that both Palestinians and Israelis are led by their particular self-interests, and that for everyone involved a two-state solution will be the best way of solving the problems, at least for the moment.
Posted by Bert at 2:51 PM
In today's Ha'Aretz I found four articles that I would like to share with you. The first appears on the paper's front page, and tells us about a problematic and often ugly side of Israeli society, the discrimination against the country's Bedouin. Another worrying story is found on the front page of the Pesach supplement: the rise of Moshe Feiglin and his cronies within the Likud Central Committee. But not everything is lost and depressing. An article about Zvi Rish presents us with a portrait of this lawyer, who claims that his client is human rights, and who appears to be very much interested in the truth, for a lawyer that is. Last but not least there is a very interesting essay by Aviezer Ravitzky, who argues that "the survival of the Jewish people requires that it stay as remote from the 'clash of civilizations' as east is from west".
Posted by Bert at 1:49 PM
Saturday, April 10, 2004
This morning I found the following item in the Radio Netherlands news bulletin that I receive in my e-mail box every day. Public opinion turns against presence in Iraq According to a poll by Interview/NSS, a large majority of the Dutch ( 59 % ) think that the Dutch soldiers cannot stay in Iraq under the present circumstances. The situation in the region where the Dutchmen are based still is relatively quiet. But if the Dutch soldiers will come under fire, they should be returned home immediately, according to two thirds of those interviewed. Of course, none of my family members or friends are among those soldiers, so maybe I do not have the right to express my opinion here. But for heaven's sake, if a nation cannot allow its soldiers to do what they are supposed to be doing, i.e. fight, defend themselves and those under their protection, use fire-arms, and if necessary kill anybody who threatens them, then it should have sent social workers, not soldiers. One of the main reasons why I am very pessimistic about the final outcome of the war on terror is the fact that Western society has become totally unable and unwilling to fight a long-term war. Whereas our enemies think in terms of years, decades, eternity, we forget what happened more than a year ago and look forward only to the next week or month. Each casualty on our side causes a national trauma, while 'they' are not only able to suffer thousands of dead and maimed, but also are willing and even eager to sacrifice their own women and children for their holy cause. It is necessary and legitimate to criticize the non-policies of Bush, Sharon and others regarding the Middle East. Still, if we want to prevail in what is - whether we like it or not - a war of civilizations, we should be able and willing to wage a long-term war which must be fought in every conceivable field. Our adversaries are very well aware of our weaknesses. Giving in to them by immediately granting them whatever they aim to achieve is wrong. If Spain, Thailand, Holland and other countries thought they were sending their soldiers to summer camp, their political and military leaders were just stupid, and they might as well abolish their armies if they do not expect their military to do what soldiers are trained to do. By the way, there is a big difference here between Gaza and Iraq: Israel should not have been in Gaza in the first place, and our presence there weakens us militarily and politically. Maybe the US should not have started the war against Iraq, but the moment it decided to invade the country, the Bush government had to make some long-term commitment.
Posted by Bert at 10:26 AM
Friday, April 09, 2004
Erg verheugd was ik om het volgende bericht te lezen in het nieuwsbulletin van de Wereldomroep dat ik, net als alle dagen, vanmorgen in mijn elektronische brievenbus vond. Ik keek op mijn kalender en zag dat 1 april toch echt al ruim een week achter ons ligt. Vooral de motivatie van de woordvoerder ( hieronder vetgedrukt ) laat weer eens zien hoe meelevend de Nederlandse maatschappij in deze voor ons allemaal barre en soms angstige tijden is. Dreigingen van Al-Qa'ida en radicalisering onder ethnische randgroeperingen? Kom nou, als je ze met bordjes laat wapperen komt alles vanzelf goed. Zou het niet beter zijn om hen gewoon direct een pilotencursus te laten volgen? Rotterdam Airport gaat vijfentwintig jongeren van Marokkaanse afkomst vragen of zij iets voelen voor een baan als platform-medewerker. Het gaat volgens een woordvoerder om laaggeschoolde Marokkanen die in de buurt wonen van het vliegveld. 'Het zijn niet per se de makkelijkste jongens,' zegt de woordvoerder. 'Maar als ze met twee bordjes een Boeing mogen binnenhalen worden ze wel enthousiast.'Omdat Rotterdam Airport langer open mag blijven, ontstaan binnenkort vijfhonderd nieuwe arbeidsplaatsen. Het vliegveld zegt kansarmen in een tijd van grote jeugdwerkloosheid tegemoet te willen komen.
Posted by Bert at 8:31 AM
Thursday, April 08, 2004
Only after we returned from Caesarea I heard and read about the three Japanese citizens and the two men from Eastern Jerusalem who were kidnapped today in Iraq. There are not enough details available to write something coherent and profound about it. Just as in the case of most kidnappings, it is mostly a matter of wait and see, hoping for the best. Knowing the record of kidnappings carried out by Islamist terrorists, what is needed most by the poor victims is a lot of luck and prayers by the believers in every possible god, G'd, and Allah.
Posted by Bert at 8:36 PM
Like most Israelis my wife, our two children, and I used at least part of the week between the first and last days of Pesach to see and enjoy a bit of our wonderful country. Today we visited Caesarea, where some beautiful remains of local and world history are to be found. Below you will find some pictures that i took today. The first one was taken close to kibbutz Yagur, the others show parts of the Caesarea national park.
Posted by Bert at 8:20 PM
Wednesday, April 07, 2004
On the same day that the Dutch Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende and Foreign Minister Ben Bot " praised China for the progress it made regarding the observation of human rights " ( Quote taken from website of Radio Netherlands ) Amnesty International published a report, which states that of the 1146 known executions that took place in 2003, China carried out 726. The true number of executed human beings in China is believed to be much, much higher. Still, even with this number the Asian superpower is way ahead of the three other overachievers when it comes to executing convicts: Iran ( at least 108 ), USA ( 65 ), Vietnam ( 64 ). Click here for the whole AI library of online articles related to China and the real progress of the observation of its human rights. Amnesty International deserves our utmost respect for truly attempting to evenhandedly and impartially publishing accounts of human rights violations all over the world.
Posted by Bert at 12:06 AM
Monday, April 05, 2004
In the margin on the lefthand side of my blog I added three new categories of websites that I like to visit. Two of them are photoblogs, divided into Israeli and Dutch, the other one I just called "Other websites". All photoblogs ( i.e. the new ones, Geert's and Pieter's were to be found here before, they only switched categories ) were found at the website of photoblog.nl, where you can search for photoblogs according to country. The choice is very personal and slightly arbitrary: I chose those blogs that seem to be kept up regularly and where I found pictures ( preferably with mostly people and local - that is Israeli or Dutch - nature and landscapes ) that I liked. If any reader knows about beautiful and/or interesting photoblogs ( or weblogs and other websites, it goes without saying ), (s)he is invited to notify me, I will be happy to check sites out.
Posted by Bert at 2:12 PM
Jonathan Dworkin of Aspasia refers to a beautiful website, Mark Harden's Artchive, with over 2000 famous paintings ready to be discovered, admired, studied, compared, and simply enjoyed. I just spent some time there, once again watching some of the paintings of Eugene Boudin, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Childe Hassam, Henry Ossawa Tanner, and my all-time favorite, Rembrandt van Rijn.
Sunday, April 04, 2004
Today exactly one year ago, when even according to George W. Bush & co. the war in Iraq still was going on, I started this weblog. Like many Jews all over the world I have been busy today to prepare for the seder night tomorrow ( that we will celebrate with my wife's family, at her parents' new house, which is why my preparations consisted mainly of doing some serious shopping for my mother-in-law ), celebrating the exodus of the Jews out of Egypt. It is true, we Jews still have a lot to struggle for, but there is also much to be grateful for, and many things worth defending. Anyway, I can easily blame my mother-in-law for not enabling me to sit down and write something profound and interesting in English to celebrate this blog's first birthday ( she does not read this blog, I am sure). Still, in Dutch I did celebrate in a way. A couple of days ago a journalist from Antwerp, who via Boekblog ( simply: Bookblog ) publishes his exactly-500-character-stories on other people's weblogs, sent me a story, which was inspired by the subject of female suicide bombers. As many of Booekblogger's stories, this one is fascinating and shocking ( I would almost use the word revolting, but Mr Jewpoint already did that in the recent past, describing my blog, so it would have no effect whatsoever. Hey, he probably cannot read Dutch/Flemish anyway ), and his use of language is brilliant, while he utilizes the space on the screen optimally, providing an awful lot of information and picturing a full picture with a minimal(ist) amount of characters and spaces. As some of the most respected Dutch/Flemish bloggers are to be found on his list of publishers, I was more than glad and very proud to publish this ultrashort story on the first birthday of Dutchblog Israel. Those who do not understand Dutch are welcome to the party, they just might have to drink a bit more to enjoy themselves. On the other hand, they also just could start learning Dutch, like my wife did two weeks ago. You do not have to be a visionary to know that if everyone knew Dutch and Flemish, the world would be a better place. Happy birthday to my blog, and once again Hag Sameah to Am Yisrael.
Posted by Bert at 9:15 PM
Al weer een tijdje staat er in de linker marge van mijn blog een permanente link naar Boekblog, een weblog waar links worden geplaatst naar weblogs die ultrakorte verhalen uit "zijx500" publiceerden ". In totaal 100 verhalen, van exact 500 lettertekens. De link had ik destijds geplaatst uit bewondering voor de razend knappe manier waarop de maker van Boekblog, een Antwerpse journalist, met woorden speelt en met ruimte woekert om ongelooflijk veel informatie in een extreem klein kader gewrongen te krijgen. Soms is het resultaat perfect, een andere keer is het ietsje minder, maar steeds biedt het een unieke leeservaring, die de meest uiteenlopende reacties kan oproepen: een glim, grim- of schaterlach, een lichte woede, verrassing, verbijstering, en soms ook een zekere walging. Toen ik hem schreef met het verzoek of hij zich niet eens zou kunnen laten inspireren door iets wat rechtstreeks of zijdelings met de door mij op mijn blog behandelde onderwerpen te maken heeft, om plaatsing van een door hem geschreven verhaal op Dutchblog Israel te rechtvaardigen, stuurde hij mij het onderaan deze posting geplaatste verhaal ter goedkeuring toe. Vanzelfsprekend zorgde het lezen van het verhaal bij mij voor gemengde gevoelens, maar net als bij al het andere werk van de Boekblogger is de voornaamste emotie die het verhaal oproept er een van oprechte bewondering voor het knappe werk dat hij weer geleverd heeft, en voor de schoonheid van de door hem gebruikte taal. Bovendien slaagt hij er in om - in wat zeker niet zijn eigen gedachten uitdrukkende woorden hoeven te zijn - overtuigend de fascinatie van een buitenstaander voor een van de weerzinwekkende maar op een macabere manier ook begrijpelijk boeiende aspecten van de moderne terreur, namelijk de jonge zelfmoordenares, verbaal in beeld te brengen. Ik heb geen enkele reden om te twijfelen aan de koshere bedoelingen van de auteur, zeker aangezien hij me schreef: "[...] al heb ik maar beperkte noties van wat er zich juist afspeelt. [...] Ik kan me zeer goed voorstellen dat het choquerend is als je in een land woont, waar je elke dag te maken hebt met terreur. Het is absoluut geen stellingname, geen keuze voor Israëli's of Palestijnen, en ook geen goedkeuring van zelfmoordaanslagen. " Op de door hem in de naar mij toegestuurde e-mail gemaakte uitspraak " Mijn houding is altijd geweest: er zitten idioten langs beide kanten." kan ik alleen maar volmondig "Amen!" zeggen. Precies een jaar geleden ( op 4 april 2003 ) ben ik met mijn weblog begonnen. Op het bestaan van het verschijnsel "bloggen" werd ik gewezen door de website van het NRC en het weblog van Wim de Bie, waar ik ook voor het eerst over Boekblog las. Het is dan ook met plezier en trots dat ik in zekere zin een cirkel sluit door - via het publiceren van een Boekblog-termijn - op de eerste verjaardag van mijn blog mijzelf toe te voegen aan de lijst van Boekblogpublicisten, waartoe ook Bieslog behoort. Dat juist ik , als beheerder van Dutchblog Israel, daarbij - in tegenstelling tot bijvoorbeeld Verbal Jam - geen enkel gevoel van (occupied)territoriumdrift koester mag in de hedendaagse context op zijn minst ironisch worden genoemd, lijkt me. Engel Zij was een wraakengel, zei ze. Eén wier lichaam morgen in nagels en scherpe stukjes metaal zou uiteenspatten. Ze toonde me hoe mooi het zou zijn. Een foto met héél korte sluitertijd van een glas dat net de grond heeft geraakt. Het zou als een orgasme voelen. Waar elk stukje van je lijf een andere kant uit wil. En of ik met haar al wou oefenen? Ze wilde enkel de bomgordel aanhouden. Ik kon hem voelen tikken tegen mijn buik terwijl ik in haar gleed. Genot is angst met het volume op 10, zei ze En of ik de hele nacht met haar wou vrijen. Opdat ze zich niet zou overslapen. Of ik haar wou opwinden voor morgen. Woorden: 119 / Tekens: 500 / Zij: 6
Posted by Bert at 9:08 PM