Wednesday, June 30, 2004

We had a good time at Ikea, especially in the restaurant. I did not have the patience to watch the semifinal of the European Football Championship 2004 between Portugal and Holland. I only watched the national anthems and listened to Dutch radio for the last ten minutes of the game. Although the commentators for ten minutes complained about the referee, I understood from other analysts that the Portugese deserved to win, which seems fair if you take into account that the only goal for the Dutch this evening was made by a Portugese player, and that until now only one game was won in regular time. The person whom I heard saying that this is probably the maximum that this Dutch team+coach were able to achieve was right, apparently. It is a shame. The team that most of all deserves to win is that of the Czech Republic, which tomorrow will have to beat Greece to reach he final. Good luck to them. I am tired, I'll have a shower and watch a rerun of Seinfeld. Layla tov.
In about half an hour I will go and pick up my wife at our daughter's kindergarten, and we will drive to Nathanya, to the Israeli IKEA. I will not have much more time today to post something of my own, so here are three cartoons that I liked: one by Reg Smythe ( Andy Capp ), one by Chip Sansom ( The Born Loser ), and one by Brant Parker ( The Wizard of Id ).
To those who would like to try and learn Hebrew without leaving the house, I would recommend the website of Milingua. The website offers a free beginners course, and if the intermediate course and other parts of the website - to which you can have access through a paid subscription - are as good as the beginners' course seems to be promising, taking a subscription might be a pretty good deal.
Wat betreft asociaal beleid kunnen Bibi & co. gerust in de leer bij De Geus en trawanten. Sancties op aanvulling loon bij ziekte ( Bron: Bulletin Nederlands nieuws van de wereldomroep ) Het kabinet gaat zieke werknemers straffen die in het tweede jaar van hun ziekte meer krijgen dan de wettelijk voorgeschreven 70 procent van het laatstverdiende loon. Wanneer deze werknemers na twee jaar in de WAO belanden, krijgen ze niet meer de gebruikelijke 70 procent van dat laatstverdiende salaris, maar 70 procent van het minimumloon. Met de maatregel wil minister De Geus van Sociale Zaken zieke werknemers stimuleren om weer aan het werk te gaan. Ook gaat De Geus werkgevers aanpakken die het loon in het tweede jaar aanvullen. Zij moeten dan tenminste nog twaalf maanden extra het loon doorbetalen. Wederom wordt er uitgegaan van het vanzelfsprekende feit dat alle zieke werknemers helemaal niet ziek zijn, ze zijn gewoon te beroerd om te werken. Ook worden de weinige werkgevers die heuse menschen zijn afgestraft. In het geval van De Geus geldt het spreekwoord "Wiens brood men eet, diens woord men spreekt" meer dan ooit. Van het wanbeleid van Balkenende lusten de honden echter al tijden geen brood meer.
Regarding "Top rabbi: Din rodef on anyone ceding land", Ha'Aretz, June 30, 2004: It is sad to see what men such as Avigdor Neventzal, who in the article is called a "respectable", "top rabbi", have to offer their followers. Not unlike the version of Islam preached by our staunchest enemies, their blind interpretation of Judaism puts the Land in its most absolute sense above those elements of our beautiful religion that have proven much more essential to our physical and spiritual survival. This rabbi says that "...certainly land should not be given to idolators", but I wonder who the true idolators are here.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

This was the view from our balcony last night at five minutes past nine PM.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Zelden maak ik me druk over de manier waarop in buitenlandse media berichten over de gebeurtenissen hier worden weergegeven, mede omdat Israel ook niet echt haar best doet om haar image te verbeteren en een juistere, meer gebalanceerde weergave van nieuwsfeiten te stimuleren. Toch slaat wat er momenteel op NOS Teletekst staat alles wat betreft vermelding van de feiten, achterhouden van belangrijke informatie en verdraaien van de werkelijkheid. Op pagina 126 staat geschreven over de raketaanval op Sderot ( en over de aanval op de Israelische legerpost gisteren tijdens de wedstrijd Tsjechie - Denemarken ): Doden bij Palestijnse raketaanval *************************************** JERUSALEM In het zuiden van Israël zijn bij de Gaza-strook twee mensen om het leven gekomen bij raketaanvallen van Palestijnse zijde.De raketten landden in Sderot,vlakbij het buitenhuis van premier Sharon. De raketten werden slechts enkele uren na een Israëlische vergeldingsactie afgevuurd.Israël bestookte in Gaza een werkplaats,na een Palestijnse aanval op een Israëlische controlepost. Zowel Hamas als de al-Aqsa Martelaren Brigades hebben de verantwoordelijkheid voor de aanslag op de controlepost opgeëist.Onder de post was 1500 kilo springstof tot ontploffing gebracht. Ariel Sharon's huis ( dit is echt geen buitenhuis, dat heeft hij niet echt nodig met zo'n mooie, grote boerderij ) ligt inderdaad naast Sderot, maar niet zo dicht bij dat gesuggereerd zou kunnen worden dat het huis het eigenlijke doel van de raketaanval was. Ook op de website van Ha'Aretz staat vermeld dat "de ranch" van de premier ongeveer een kilometer verwijderd is van de plaats waar de raketten insloegen. Wie die boerderij en Sderot een beetje kent weet dat het huis nooit in gevaar is gekomen. De raketten waren eerst en vooral bedoeld om burgerdoelen te treffen. Sderot is een kleine stad in de periferie. Een raket raakte een cafe, de ander landde naast een kleuterschool. Wat niet vermeld wordt is dat de ene dode een voetganger van rond de vijftig is, en de andere een kind van drie of vier, wiens moeder zwaar gewond is geraakt. Heb ik het mis of wordt bij Palestijnse slachtoffer ( terecht ) wel meestal een onderscheid gemaakt tussen burgerslachtoffers, kinderen en terroristen ( militanten )? Last but not least, ook al was de aanslag op de legerpost gisteren een enorm succes voor de terroristen, er moet ook niet worden overdreven: het ging om 150 kilo explosieven, niet 1500. Nog een teken dat wie daar bij Teletekst de teksten redigeert en/of zit te typen in de verste verte niet weet waarover hij/zij het heeft. Niet dat het hem/haar waarschijnlijk ook maar ene zier boeit. PS: Ik heb een kopie van deze posting naar het door de NOS aangegeven e-mail adres voor informatie over Teletekst gestuurd. Het zal me enorm verbazen als ik een reactie krijg.
Was it only last week that our Minister of Defense boasted about the steep decline in succesful terror attacks? Each time Israel thinks things are back to 'normal' again, one or more terror attacks that do succeed wake us up. Then we will move massive forces back into Gaza or send some Apaches, kill some terrorists and/or some civilians, move back out again, claiming success, and everything starts all over again. One pedestrian and one 3-yearl old boy were killed by Qassam rockets that landed in the Israeli town of Sderot. Automatically we heard comments by Effi Eitam c.s. that this is a result of the disengagement plan, and we will also hear others claim that a pull-out of Gaza will bring these attacks to an end. I have no illusions, attacks against Israel will not stop the moment we leave Gaza ( or other occupied territories ). Does that mean that I oppose disengagement? No, I still believe that we never should have started settling so much of the territories in the first place, and us being there hurts us much more than it serves the interests of the state of Israel. Also, if attacks against Israel will be carried out from some sort of sovereign state or territory, our hands will be less tied than they are today if we decide to hit back. Yes, sorry, that is the way things work here: we do need some sort of political vision and leadership, but with the kind of enemies surrounding us our lives and theirs will for many more years to come be characterized by us hitting them and them trying to hit us back. Fantasies of all of us living together within one state in peace, harmony, prosperity and mutual respect and understanding are still too far away from reality for us to start believing that one day they will come true.
The university has returned.
Apparently the foreign media were wrong about the number of casualties as a result of the attack yesterday against an IDF outpost in the Gaza strip. This morning Israeli media mentioned ''''only'''' one soldier killed, not five. Still, the fact that terrorists were able to dig a tunnel right under the outpost, plant 150 kilograms of explosives and detonate them with a remote control, could in the eyes of some be considered a success for our enemies. Or as Amos Harel tells us: "If there is one thing that has become abundantly clear in Israel's long war with the Palestinians, it is that there should be restraint when operational successes are mentioned. There are no big victories in this conflict, nor even decisive battles. Apparently, the most that one side can hope to achieve is a temporary advantage - in points - until the adversary discovers your weak point and takes advantage of it."
No, this blog is not becoming a photoblog, but this morning when I looked out our bedroom window, I discovered that Haifa University - which takes up an important part of the view from that window - suddenly had disappeared.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

About ten minutes after I started to watch the football match between the Czech and Danish national teams, my brother called, and we talked for more than an hour. Just before the half time break the broadcast was stopped because of the attack against the IDF post in the Gaza strip. Here they are talking only about many wounded, on foreign websites it was already said that at least five soldiers were killed. Hopefully the foreign media are wrong, but most probably the only reason why in Israel we have not heard yet about soldiers being killed is the fact that the families of the victims have not been notified yet. Of course, the first political reaction was already given, this time by a Yesha spokesperson, who said that a retreat under fire will only enhance terror. Right now I do not see much of a retreat, especially when we consider the successful actions by the IDF this weekend.
Here is a very interesting article about Israeli period songs. It was published more than two years ago, and reappeared today on the website of Ha'Aretz after Naomi Shemer, who more than anyone else influenced modern Hebrew songwriting, passed away yesterday. May her memory be a blessing.
Just before I was about to throw away last week's Friday Magazine I glanced through its pages one last timem and only then did I start reading an article about and interview with a young Israeli writer, Dror Burstein. I discovered that his and my view on Zionism, politics and life in Israel are very similar. Dror Burstein says, and I totally identify with his words: "I do think that Jews have to live in a country of their own, and cannot live in another country. [...] One can talk a great deal about theories of state and power, but you see what happened to people who were defenseless. I do think that we must have a country with an army, even with the Shin Bet." He also says, and I am afraid that I have to admit that he is right here as well: " The great majority of Israeli citizens are settlers at heart. I agree with Leibowitz, who said already at an early stage that the State of Israel prefers occupation to peace. Most Israelis think that the price is not too high. It's only a matter of nuance, the substance is the same: We are a capitalistic, militaristic society that is interested in power and money." I think my wife will receive his book "Avner Brenner" as a present in the near future, I just have to think of an appropriate occasion to give it to her.
As on most spring and summer days the Haifa horizon viewed from my study is a bit hazy, but I still managed - less than five minutes ago - to take a picture that gives you all an impression of about half of the view that I enjoy while I am working.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

If - heaven forbid - a penalty shootout has to decide whether the Dutch or the Swedish team will reach the semi-finals of Euro 2004 in Portugal, I would urge Ruud van Nistelrooij but especially Frank de Boer, Clarence Seedorf and Patrick Kluivert not to do what David Beckham did: take advice from a rugbyplayer.
In this week's Week's End supplement of Ha'Aretz I read an article by Tamar Rotem about a wonderful project conducted in Austria by two Viennese journalists. Within this project, called 'A letter to the stars', Austrian high school students 'adopt' victims of the Nazi-regime ( most of them Jewish, but also gypsies, Jehovah witnesses, homosexuals and others ) who resided in Austria, and try to find out as much as possible about their adoptive victims' lives. Most of these victims were murdered, so the students who 'adopt' them also do research on when and where they died. If someone survived the war, he or she often is contacted, and in some cases meetings take place between the Austrian youngsters and their 'adopted victims'. Students also write personal letter addressed to the subjects of their research. In addition to the tools for historical research that the students acquire through their work they also learn about their country's history ( for instance about the role of Austrians in the planning and implementation of the Final Solution ), and they can identify with men, women and children who lived and were persecuted right where they are living now. When you go through the list of victims whose lives have already been described by the Austrian youngsters ( in German, only part of the site is in English ), just click on a name and read the short decription of that person's life and of the circumstances of his/her death, if known. Because each such person has a name, a place and date of birth, and in some cases even a picture, it becomes easy for us to identify with his/her life's story, which makes the impact of this kind of history very powerful. For instance we read about Otto Metzl, who at the age of almost 60 was arrested during or right after the Reichskristallnacht, and who finally in August 1942 was deported from Vienna to Theresienstadt, where he died two months later. Another example is Alice Baron, who was only five years old when together with her mother she was deported from Vienna to Maly Trostinac/ec, where she was murdered, apparently either by firing squads or in a 'Gaswagen'. It is easy to see which students really made an effort to get as much information about the subjects of their research, and which ones did not care very much. Also, in some cases the available information about the victims seems to have been very sparse. Still, the project is very praiseworthy and valuable. Until now about 15.000 students have participated in the project. Taking into account that ( according to the project's website ) about 80.000 Austrian men, women and children were murdered by the Nazis, there still remains a lot of work to be done.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and I have two things in common: both of us used to play basketball and both of us are historians today. In this week's Friday magazine of Ha'Aretz there is an interview with the endearing and fascinating person that Mr Abdul-Jabbar is. He talks about his latest book ( a study of a tank battalion made up entirely of African-Americans ), the importance of presenting facts correctly, his meeting with former Israeli chief rabbi Yisrael Lau, his writing, the status and history of blacks in the United States, relations between blacks and Jews, the importance of promoting values like family and education, and religion.
Al lijkt het me sterk dat de column van Youp van 't Hek van deze week een houdbaarheid van meer dan een paar weken heeft, toch vond ik hem leuk genoeg om hem op mijn artikelenblog te plaatsen. Het zou leuk zijn als het Nederlandse elftal vanavond prachtig spel laat zien en flitsend verder gaat naar de halve finales. Ook minder virtuoos maar effectief spel mag van mij, al hoor ik liever dat commentaren moois pel prijzen dan dat ze zeggen "Je verveelt je dood, maar hetw erkt wel." Ik snap geen moer en houd niet echt van sport in het algemeen en van voetballen in het bijzonder, maar kan me niet herinneren dat ik ooit ( ik word volgende week 36 ) een voetbaltoernooi ( of een ander sportevenement ) met zo'n belangstelling en spanning gevolgd heb als Euro 2004. Met het schaamrood op mijn wangen moet ik zelfs bekennen dat ik bij een paar doelpunten die ik toevallig gemaakt heb zien of horen worden ( ik heb niet het geduld om hele wedstrijden te kijken, ik zap heen en weer of luister naar de radio ) mijn handen in de lucht heb gestoken of een zachte schreeuw van vreugde heb geuit. Hopelijk kan ik ook vanavond weer zulke fratsen uithalen. Veel plezier met de wedstrijd.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Now that Edna Arbel's recommendation to indict Ariel Sharon in the Greek island affair has been published, it seems that both Menachem Mazuz' and Mrs Arbel's version of the truth can indeed coexist, something which has been said by many legal experts but which is quite uncomprehensible for us laymen and -women, and unacceptable for some of us. The different results of the deliberations by Mazuz and Arbel seem to be the outcome of totally different approaches by two legal minds to the appropriate behavior of public figures, to the role of the rule of law in society, and to the boundaries between legal, illegal and hardly legal, as well as between criminal, acceptable and recommendable. One of the main points of discussion is the role of the chronology of events. The article tells us about Mrs Arbel's recommendation: "The order of events, she stressed, was unimportant: The events "did not have to happen in any particular order. The overall picture, using the criteria of common sense, reveals a mutual relationship of give and take."" This makes a lot of sense, much more than the somehow naive and legalist approach of Mr Mazuz, but alas, you need more than common sense to convict a person. It becomes clear that the chances of convicting the Sharons of purely criminal offenses were/are slim. At least now Menny Mazuz openly admits that that does not mean that they received a hekhsher ( certificate of being kosher ) from him. Yoel Marcus wrote a very good piece on the matter. He tells us that it is a good thing that Mr Mazuz was "was right not to indict Sharon on criminal charges. Because the problem is not crime. The problem is unethical practices and corrupt public morals." We read about David Ben Gurion, Mencachem Begin, minister Pinhas Sapir and president Shazar as examples of real Israeli leaders who were strangers to self-indulgence. On the other hand , today " There is no social event, big or small, organized by the Israeli jet set where you won't find ministers and MKs. It is here that they establish their little backroom connections. Anyone who wonders how government officials and senior politicians morph overnight into financiers turning over millions a year can look for the roots of the phenomenon in this hobnobbing with the rich and beautiful while they are in public office." The solution according to Yoel Marcus? " We need new codes and norms based on those in the most civilized nations. We need a ceiling on individual contributions and a ban on contributions from overseas and conglomerates. And most of all, we need a watchdog organization with teeth and claws to work alongside or above the State Comptroller, to oversee the overseers - before the rot spreads through the whole system." Amen to that.
Regarding "For radical Islamists, beheadings as power", IHT, June 25, 2004: Taking in account the way in which authorities, media and some segments of the public in the United States have often turned legally and publicly accepted executions of convicts into media circuses, we might say that the outrage among Americans about the disgusting videos made by Islamist terrorists of the murders of their poor victims is slightly hypocritical. The fact that convicts at least did receive a trial and that the actual execution of human beings is not broadcast by American authorities or media does not turn the Americans into 'saints', as opposed to the Islamist 'devils' who have no mental blockage to stop them from humiliating and tormenting their victims, whose only crime was to have been at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong nationality. Still, there is at least one fundamental difference between American society and the societies where the likes of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi come from. Whereas in American and other Western societies new and wonderful technological achievements such as the internet have become an essential tool for spreading knowledge and for otherwise 'advancing the masses', in most Muslim societies new technologies have first and foremost been used by oppressive regimes to strengthen their grip on their subjects and by fanatical ideologues to spread and market their repulsive and hateful messages, messages that offer no hope whatsoever of a better future for the members of those societies.
I am almost sure that the people responsible for the "Letters to the editors" section at the International Herald Tribune were unaware of the fact that the writer of the third letter in yesterday's edition did not use his/her real name. The chances of someone in Israel bearing the name "Annie Beseder" ( I am o.k. ) are very slim.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Vier ontroerende en/of grappige stukjes die in de afgelopen weken in de rubriek Ik@nrc.nl in het NRC Handelsblad stonden. PS: Een oplettende trouwe lezeres wees me er op dat ik vijf, geen vier, Ik@nrc columns had gepost. Bedankt, ik ben altijd slecht in rekenen ( en tellen, blijkbaar ) geweest.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Regarding "A Jewish Madonna? What next?", IHT, June 22 2004 ( published in IHT, June 23rd 2004 ): While the original madonna was 100% Jewish, 'Esther' Ritchie-Ciccone's link to and interest in Judaism is as superficial as her artistic output. Judaism and Kabbalah are not some New-Age kind of magic supermarket where every ( rich ) person who is bored, confused or searching can choose and buy whatever he or she likes or finds suitable to improve his/her image or market value. The perfunctory and shallow fascination of many Americans with everything Jewish is hardly something for us Jews to be thrilled about: just like our staunchest enemies' hatred, their interest has its origins in bias. The way in which some Jewish charlatans market Kabbalah 'confirms' at least one of the many prejudices regarding Jews. If Mrs Ritchie had a true affinity with the Jewish faith and people, she would not have cancelled her performances in Israel so easily. If she asked her 'teachers' ( or used her common sense ), she might know that all children and adults in Israel and elsewhere in the world - Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist etc., etc. - are exposed to the same dangers and protected by the same G'd. PS: The phrase that I put in italics was deleted by the editors of the International Herald Tribune.
Among all the pieces dealing with the Mazus-Arbel-Sharon-Appel controversy-scandal-affair I failed to notice one of the clearest articles on the subject, written by someone who as far as I am aware seldom says something just for the hell of it, Nehemia Strasler, who in Ha'Aretz writes about and on television comments on economic and financial affairs. His article somehow reminded me of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, with paraphrases of "if the millions which David Appel delivered to Gilad Sharon are not bribery, what is?" instead of "For Sharon/Appel/Mazuz is an honorable man". PS: On Sunday June 27th another very clear article on the subject caught my attention. Uzi Benziman writes about the dangers of letting the "judgment of the public" decide who is 'right' or 'wrong', Arbel or Mazuz. "Mazuz declared before the High Court of Justice that his decision to close the Greek island file does not mean that he is granting clean bill to those investigated, and it does not rule out the possibility that the suspects did something illegal. The attorney general's declaration raises the suspicion that Ariel Sharon committed illegal acts and behaved dishonestly, but cannot be brought to trial for lack of evidence. Mazuz manifests naivete by letting the public draw conclusions about the prime minister's questionable behavior. [...] Does he not know that the standards of public corruption have reached such levels that no sanction, social or political, is imposed on public figures that deviated? [...]" Benziman concludes: "Mazuz must decide: if Sharon's behavior in the Greek island affair attests to dishonesty, he should charge him and not rely on the public's judgment; if his behavior was proper, why then did he include in his response to the High Court of Justice the statement casting suspicion on Sharon?" "
Ik moest erg lachen toen ik op de website van de NOS een column van niemand minder dan Jan Marijnissen over het Europese Kampioenschap voetbal las. Het blijkt maar weer eens dat ook voor leden van de Socialistiese Partij geldt dat niets menselijks hun vreemd is: de geachte afgevaardigde maakt zich druk om het al dan niet succesvol zijn van een van de weinige overgebleven symbolen van het Nederlandse nationale gevoel: het Nederlandse elftal. Lees maar: "...Het worden voor iedereen bange dagen en uren, in de aanloop naar de wedstrijd tegen Letland. [...] Zelf wil ik er dolgraag nog vertrouwen in hebben, maar het lukt mij even niet. Ook ik ben in de put gewisseld. Ik zou graag een optimistische en enthousiaste column schrijven: de schouders eronder, de neuzen dezelfde richting op, bloed zweet en tranen en zo nog wat cliché’s. Maar dat gaat nu ff niet…, we hebben het immers allemaal niet meer in eigen hand..." Het is een soms lange maar uiteindelijk eenduidige weg van maoisme en marxisme-leninisme naar het gesundenes Volksempfinden.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

This is what I would call driving Be'Ezrath HaShem ( with G'd's help ): Police stop vehicle containing 20 unbelted babies. For heaven's sake, in less than a week six children died in Israel because of accidents or ( criminal ) negligence: three were run over by a vehicle, one choked on a piece of sausage, one choked and burned to death because his father left him in the car, one was killed by a murderous dog. Who needs terrorists when we have drivers, parents and caretakers who take Amstaff dogs into their homes, drive around with 20 unbelted babies and 'forget' children in their cars?
I just read the chilling news about the latest victim of Islamism having been beheaded. All those Arab and other websites, television stations and other media who help the likes of poor Kim Sun-il's murderers spread their diabolic and repulsive message of fear and fundamental fanaticism by publishing before-and-after pictures and videos, as well as those websurfers who get their thrills by searching for gruesome images of the victims bear an undeniable responsibility for the success of Islamist terror.
In an interview with Nathan Guttman, Dr. Dov Zakheim, former undersecretary of defense in the Bush administration, says some very true things about Israel today. Now here is what appears to be a true friend of Israel, whose criticism we should take seriously, and whose advice we should at least consider.
Avirama Golan wrote a very sharp opinion article, in which she makes perfectly clear not only that corruption in Israel was not invented by Ariel Sharon and the Likud ( although I think that they can be largely credited for turning it into a real profession ), but also that today's Likud and Labor are two very similar sides of one and the same coin. Professor Golan's conclusion? "The alternative, of course, is for Labor to rehabilitate itself as a peace-oriented, social-democratic party that manages to appeal to a broad constituency. Nu, it's time for them to wake up."
Regarding "Survey: Most Jewish Israelis support transfer of Arabs", Ha'Aretz, June 22, 2004: According to Dr. Kanti-Nissim, the survey described in the article "reflects a known phenomenon in the world, in which a threatened public tends to develop hostility toward the minorities living in it". Could it be that the survey reflects even more two not less known interlinked phenomena in the world: sectoriality and racism? In Israel both phenomena can be found among Jews, Arabs and other non-Jews in equal measure.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Tonight the Israeli band Machina is giving a very loud concert at the Technion. It is a good thing that the band has fallen apart: imagine what noise they would make if they were still together. :-) At least we saw a nice fireworks show. Luckily we did not intend to go to bed early ( sleeping would have been impossible, I am afraid ), with two exciting football games being played in Portugal. Here is an impression of the fireworks. The picture was taken from our balcony. Some of the pictures that I took made Haifa look like Baghdad live on CNN more than a year ago. Sorry, I did not have time to prepare my tripod. Soon I will post one or more pictures of a better quality to show you all what a beautiful view we have from our house. Layla tov.
Over drs. Verdonk gesproken, Wim de Bie had nog wat aardigs te zeggen over haar taalkundige toelatingseisen tot Nederland. PS: Dinsdag voegde hij deze posting er aan toe.
Als er in 2003 al een "vertrekoverschot" ( wat is dat nou weer? ) was, kun je wel nagaan dat 2004 - met de door minister Verdonk voorgestelde oprotpremie als mogelijke beleidsondersteunende maatregel - helemaal een positief beeld zal geven.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Youp van 't Hek had gisteren weer een prachtige column. Toen ik het vanmorgen terug las moest ik aan de Oranje hordes denken. Ze hadden beter verdiend. Het valt me mee dat ik nog niets over bedreigingen aan het adres van DA heb gehoord, of heb ik op de inzamelingsactie voor een vliegticket voor de falende trainer/coach naar Brussel na iets gemist?
Here are some articles to start off with. Seldom do I agree with Benny Begin, but there is no doubt that he is honest, sincere and smart. This weekend Ha'Aretz published an article by him, in which he comes up with what I think is a brilliant analogy regarding some Israeli analysts'/politicians'/officials' dealings with and perceptions of Arafat and the Palestinians. Hannah Kim and former Supreme Justice and attorney general Yitzhak Zamir wrote about different aspects and repercussions of the Sharon-Appel-Mazus-Arbel affair. Gideon Samet gives us an interpretation of the role of facts, created reality and memory in the Jewish state today. Finally, Zvi Bar'el tells us about the involvement of shady Western organizations and individuals in the 'new' Iraq. This was a selection of this weekend's articles in Ha'Aretz, just to celebrate the inauguration of 'my' new blog.
When I write something about an event or certain developments in Israel, the Middle East or elsewhere in the world, I often refer to one or more articles that appear on any of the websites that I visit. Often I use a quote from such an article, if I think that the quote could be helpful to make the reader understand what I am trying to say, or if a journalist or commentator says something that in my eyes is very true, interesting, wise, or funny. Mostly a certain part of a sentence, or one or two lines are enough, but sometimes I would like the reader to read the whole article, or at least have the opportunity to do so. At websites such as that of the International Herald Tribune the URL link to an article allows us to read the article even after many months, whereas for instance at Ha'Aretz after a couple of weeks you are simply refered to the website's main page, and the possibilities to search the site for a specific article are very limited. Therefore yesterday I created a second blog, where I will post complete articles that are relevant to subjects on Dutchblog Israel but could become inaccessible after a short while. This way you ( and I ) will be able to read articles even months after they were published, without me having to post large texts - other people's work - on this blog. The hardly original but quite functional name of the new blog is YonathanBert Articles, and it can be found here.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Als Dick Advocaat bij een gewone baas had gewerkt, had hij nog voor zondag zijn ontslagbrief gekregen. Ik neem aan dat het nog nooit gebeurd is dat een trainer middenin een toernooi werd verwisseld, maar zou dit niet een mooi moment voor zo'n primeur zijn? Ik weet zeker dat de trainer van Hapoel Kiryat Gat of van Maccabi Afula ( ik doe maar een gooi ) graag tijd zou vrijmaken en met de spelers van het Nederlandse elftal veel betere resultaten zou boeken dan de angsthaas die ze nu als trainer/coach hebben. Ik heb de ballen verstand van voetbal, ik weet alleen dat zolang ik me kan herinneren Nederland geroemd werd om zijn aanvallers, never nooit om zijn prachtige verdedigende spel.
Today we could witness how news items are born, or maybe one should say created, by certain media, in this case the BBC. On the website of Ha'Aretz a clear sequence of events is presented in the Newsflash window: 16:41 Military sources: British lawmakers` visit to southern Gaza Strip was not coordinated with IDF 16:07 British official: Too early to say whether U.K. lawmakers in Gaza came under fire from IDF or Palestinian gunmen 15:26 IDF says unaware of incident in which soldiers opened fire on British lawmakers, but checking report 13:36 British lawmakers say they were shot at by IDF troops during UN-supervised visit to Rafah in southern Gaza Strip Right after the incident we could read reports on the website of the BBC, with hysterical British MPs - outspoken friends of Israel, it seems, and not in the slightest way prejudiced - saying things like "I thought they're trying to kill us", " I wondered if I was going to make it" ( she probably meant making the headlines, and I must say she succeeded, at least at the BBC website ), "One of the most perturbing things was that we had been surrounded by children as we arrived, but they were not terrified by this - it's obviously a fairly common occurrence". According to one of the MPS the incident showed her first hand "the indiscriminate violence faced by Palestinians on a daily basis". IDF spokesmen - who heard about the incident only through the media - checked the reports, but that did not really matter, the news was out. A little more than two hours later British officials already said that it was not certain whether IDF soldiers ot Palestinian gunmen fired at the MPs. Still, anyone who reads the BBC website receives confirmation of the 'fact' that we were the shooters. Do you think that someone at the BBC will bother to correct the information if it turns out that a mistake was made? Yeah, right.

Friday, June 18, 2004

According to one of Holland's better interviewers and t.v./radio-personalities, Hanneke Groenteman,whose weblog I added this morning to this blog's list of Dutch/Flemish weblogs that I like to read, the website Classical Live Online Radio contains links to all classical music radio stations in the world. Since I do not have the time, patience or possibility to verify her claim, I simply believe her. Such a website deserves a place on the list of various websites that I like to visit.
Met op de achtergrond de digitale klanken van een Flairck-CD voeg ik aan mijn lijst van Nederlands(talig)e blogs het weblog van Hanneke Groenteman toe. Soms interessant, meestal leuk en altijd erg leesbaar. Ik kwam haar blog tegen op de lijst van Boekbloguitgevers.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

My last posting ( at least for today ) on the legal-political battle that has kept so many policemen, lawyers, politicians, commentators and others busy for such a long time consists of two cartoons, that happened to be published today. The first one, which I found in this morning's IHT, tells us something about political corruption. The second also speaks for itself. Could it be petty jealousy which leads many of those who have some sort of problem with big money finding its way into the hands of politicians, their friends, families and associates?
Here is what I intend to be 'my' second-last posting on the Appel-Sharon-Mazuz-Arbel issue. It will consist of a quote, an op-ed and the editorial commentary from today's Ha'Aretz, all dealing with the role and behavior of the Attorney general, as well as with the difference between legality and morality. Normally I put only hyperlinks to certain articles here, but because after a few weeks links to Ha'Aretz only lead to the paper's homepage and because some very basic things are said in the piece by professor Segal and in the editorial, I decided to quote both of them in full. First, in an article about the petition filed by the Movement for Quality Government against Mazuz' decision to close the Sharons' files questions are raised about the way in which the AG basically legitimizes possible corruption: "The Movement for Quality Government petition argued that, whereas the normal standard for submitting an indictment is a "reasonable chance to convict," Mazuz, though he claimed to be using this standard, in actuality used the standard of "almost certain conviction." He thereby exceeded his authority and "effectively turned himself from the head of the prosecution into a court," it said. "The attorney general's decision is full of assumptions that are unacceptable in a democratic society, which aspires to draw a line between capital and government," the petition continued. "This line is meant to prevent the modern form of corruption, which is based on politicians' dependence on tycoons for their election and political survival, on one hand, and on the tycoons' use of politicians to advance their businesses, on the other." Mazuz, the petition charged, "legitimized this type of corruption by his decision."" Here is one professional view on the matter. AG versus the prosecution By Ze'ev Segal Attorney General Menachem Mazuz has decided to close the case against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his son Gilad. That decision is within his authority and his rights. He did so because, in his assessment, a "sufficient infrastructure of evidence" for an indictment did not exist. He said he reached this conclusion using the test of whether there was "a reasonable chance to convict," and from a belief that "there is only one law for both the prime minister and the ordinary man." The attorney general proved to be a legal innovator in the way he reached his decision not to indict. The innovation lay not in the fact that his conclusion differed from that of a senior team headed by former state prosecutor Edna Arbel, which recommended indicting the prime minister. That has happened before. The previous attorney general, Elyakim Rubinstein, decided not to indict former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Amedi affair, despite Arbel's contrary opinion, but this did not create any "earthquakes" of the sort that are being felt now. Mazuz's legal innovation lay in the fact that he appointed a new team to evaluate the evidence - something that has never before occurred in the prosecution. From that moment on it should have been clear that something had happened that would affect the way decisions are made about indicting a prime minister or any other senior official in the future. The minute the conclusions of a skilled and experienced team are not accepted, a new team will be appointed in its stead. The mythological Buzaglo, who can be indicted by any police prosecutor, can only sigh as he reads the attorney general's declaration that "all citizens are equal before the law." The attorney general's lack of faith in the prosecution was not just expressed in his decision to set up his own team. It also emerged from many pages of his detailed and reasoned decision regarding Sharon. This decision contained a legal-factual analysis and an interpretation of the facts about which the last legal word has not yet been spoken. Yet it seems that never before has a document written and signed by the head of Israel's prosecution, the attorney general, portrayed the skilled team subordinate to him as an empty vessel. The attorney general's remarks about "evidentiary material that suffered from weakness" with regard to both the factual and the psychological elements of the crime, and that it "did not add up to a structure capable of standing on its own," essentially assigned a grade of "unsatisfactory" to the prosecutors whose job it was to assess what jurists call "the sufficiency of the evidence." The attorney general treated the prosecution's opinion as an "allegation" that Sharon had accepted a bribe. This allegation, in his opinion, "is based on a web of generalizations and indirect and circumstantial evidence." This finding is a direct slap at work in which great effort was invested. Not only is such a style not the norm among civil servants who are supposed to work together in enforcing the rule of law, it is also not to be found in criticisms by external bodies such as the State Comptroller's Office or the courts, which are always careful of an agency's dignity even when they cancel its decisions. High Court of Justice rulings that have overturned attorney generals' directives or their decisions not to indict someone due to lack of "public interest" have never leveled such grave accusations. The standard phrase used by lawyers, "my learned colleague," which has already eroded over time, has now suffered a mortal blow from the attorney general, who is supposed to set an example for young attorneys. The attorney general's temper had not cooled when he met reporters and launched an unprecedently vicious attack on the prosecutors who were part of Arbel's team. He described the head of the team as having "influenced" the others and of having set herself a "target" - something that to jurists would constitute an egregious lack of professional integrity. Hurling such accusations is like accusing the attorney general of having approached the Sharon case with the "target" of not indicting him - something that is equally inconceivable. The attorney general announced yesterday, a day late, that he would publish the state prosecutor's opinion and the draft indictment that she had prepared. This will make it possible to evaluate the nature of the evidence and the reasonability of the prosecution's recommendation and the attorney general's decision. But regardless of the reasonableness of the attorney general's decision not to indict, his style, and the accusation that he drafted against senior prosecutors who as civil servants are barred from responding publicly, are clearly unreasonable. Mazuz must now demonstrate leadership by putting his house in order, without defining a "target," and by finding a way to close the case of "the attorney general versus the prosecution." Finally a commentary on the problematic nature of Ariel Sharon's actions and position from a public-moral perspective. If it was only that perspective - and not a purely legal or moral-legal one - which lead Edna Arbel to recommend indicting the Prime Minister, her position as a Supreme Court justice could become intenable. That does not mean that the fight for a government clean of any questionable or possibly suspicious links to the big money should not be fought by lawyers and legal authorities. The question today is who made that fight more difficult: Edna Arbel by maybe using questionable arguements and methods in order to reach an indictment, or Menachem Mazuz by maybe ignoring potential pioeces of evidence or by certainly discrediting the whole state prosecution system. Disgraceful conduct ( Today's Ha'Aretz Editorial Commentary ) From the legal perspective, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz put an end to the Greek island affair by deciding to close the file on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his son Gilad - unless the High Court of Justice voices reservations on his considerations. But the legal aspects and decisions, important in themselves, cannot push aside the urgency of examining the prime minister's public behavior. This behavior, as the facts clearly show, is not in keeping with the public norms of personal and public propriety that are required of a person in public office, never mind the highest public office. The complex of personal, business and political relations between the Sharon family and David Appel, the huge sums of money received by Gilad Sharon for his services to Appel, despite lacking either experience or know-how, as well as other deals like the Cyril Kern affair which the prosecution is still probing, raise huge question marks. If the questions are not about the cleanliness of the prime minister's hands, then they are certainly about his cleanliness of mind: it is very hard to accept the "lack of knowledge" excuse that characterized Sharon's answers to questions about his son's business dealings. Mazuz's opinion that "the evidence does not bring us even close to the feasible possibility of conviction," as he put it, might give the mistaken impression that it is also a sweeping kosher certificate for all of the prime minister's behavior in this and other affairs. The values of society are not determined only in courts of law, or by the opinions of lawyers. They are constructed in a long process of public discourse, which guides and cultivates the rules according to which society requires its leaders to act. This is also why public discourse clashes with legal decisions. The criteria for conviction in a criminal trial are narrow and rigid, and in a law-abiding state, they should be. On the other hand, the moral and ethical norms that are supposed to guide a civilized society must be seen as broader in scope, yet at the same time flexible, so that they give a clear direction to anyone in public office facing a value-related dilemma. A "dry" trial cannot always overcome the built-in gap in any democratic regime - between what the public at large defines as immoral behavior and what the law books and verdicts define as such. By virtue of his high office, Ariel Sharon is also on public trial. The large amount of information revealed in the investigation file and the report written by the attorney general can and should be used as evidence by a public concerned for society's values - or at least as a basis for several hard questions Sharon should answer. The public trial is not restricted by the rules of evidence that are required for a judge's verdict, and it can also be based on feelings of revulsion aroused by these facts. Sharon may be permitted to derive satisfaction from the attorney general's arguments and decision, but the public too is permitted to define the prime minister's conduct as inappropriate - even disgraceful.
When I come across a blog or another website that seems to be readable, funny, informative and not offensive and/or too one-sided, and that I would like others to see and/or read, I often put its URL among my favorites to view it later and include it among my weblog's list of blogs and sites that I visit now and then. During the last month or so I had built up quite a long list of those websites and -logs. Today the time has come to clean that list and to finally update my blog's template. As you can see, the list of Israel-related blogs has become much longer. The following blogs were added: Celestial Blue ( I dream Therefore I Am ), Chayyei Sarah, Fiddish ( Steven I. Weiss' blog on the website of the Forward ), Haggai's Place, Jerusalem Wanderings, Not a Fish ( provincially speaking ), Thoughts from a Rabbi, Unplugged Mike, World Watching, and Zackary Sholem Berger ( who has also a weblog in Yiddish! ). The website of British writer-journalist Melanie Phillips often contains interesting pieces, so I put it under Various Websites. There I also put a link to Jewish Education and Entertainment, one of several websites set up and maintained by Jacob Richman. This particular site contains links to websites with Jewish trivia questions, Hebrew language games etc. Finally, via this blog you will be able to visit the Memory of Holland ( Geheugen van Nederland ), a beautiful Dutch website with a lot of information and pictures that relate to the history of the Netherlands. To read the site in English just click on the brown-white button in the upper-right corner of the screen. Just click and have a look on any of the abovementioned sites.
This hilarious variant of a commercial for a major credit card company really made me laugh, in spite or probably exactly because of its lack of political correctness. Sorry, I was unable to reduce the size of the picture.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Significantly enough, today the Menachem Begin Heritage Center was dedicated, with our Prime Minister attending. Menachem Begin z"l ( 1913 - 1992 ) did get his share of sh*t from his political opponents on the Left, and I also neither did nor do recognize myself in many of his views. Still, you can say what you want about him, he was and remains the last great leader of Israel whose one and only motive was love for the Jewish state and for the people of Israel. He lived modestly - not unlike his great rival Ben Gurion - and his son and late grandson - his only two family members about whom the public really got to know something - built a career solely on their own merits, one as an academic and researcher ( and as a not very successful - because conscientious and honest? - politician, the other as an Airforce pilot and student(*). All Israeli leaders and statesmen after him have in one way or another been associated with or involved in somehow mixing their political activities with their personal interests or with those of institutes, a party or one or more persons to which/whom they were related. The basis for Israel's corruption scandals and grey-area politics was laid long before Menachem Begin finally became PM, but after him the country's political landscape has never been crystal clear again, and after this Sharon-Appel-Mazuz-Arbel business all hope of creating and enjoying a truly clean government in the Jewish state - the only interest of which is the interest of the state and the people of Israel - is gone. (*) A very good friend of mine met Jonathan Begin z"l when she was an officer in the army. She said he was very modest and always introduced himself as Jonathan or Joni, without mentioning or stressing his family name. Unfortunately he and his navigator died in an F16 air crash off the coast of Haifa in 2000. PS: Tonight on Channel 1 I heard an eminent jurist, professor Emanuel Gross of Haifa University - whose specialty I know ( from the years that I worked in the university library ) to be military law but who also knows a bit about evidence and criminal procedures - explain how even the simplest minds would not assume that Gilad Sharon received the enormous amounts of money that he received just for his skills or hard work. While there is a difference between what is questionable and what is criminal, and even though when it comes to criminal proceedings a high state official or his relatives should be treated exactly the same as any ordinary citizen, I still have some funny feeling that tells me that politicians ought to be clean of any suspicion of confusing or mixing personal and political interests, and that everything must be done to ensure that a prime minister can never get in a position where he could be suspected of making or influencing decisions that might further his personal financial interests. With PMs such as Barak, Sharon and Nethanyahu being millionaires themselves and/or having very close business or personal-political contacts with other millionnaires, Israel has just become more Italian than Italy, it seems.
Even though I really have not used my Gmail account yet, I can say that at least one good thing came out of Google's endeavors to conquer the e-mail market: now Yahoo also offers very large ( 100 MB, instead of 4 MB ) free e-mail boxes. Does this mean that I will not receive any more requests from people who would like me to give them one of the two Gmail accounts that I could give away as a Blogger-user?
Nobody was surprised that Attorney General Menachem Mazuz decided not to indict Ariel Sharon and his son Gilad in the Greek island affair. Many were surpised, though, by the question marks that Mr Mazuz raised over the integrity and judgment of the newly appointed Supreme Court justice Edna Arbel, and even more people - including some of the Sharons' closest associates - were amazed by the praise that Mr Mazuz heaped on the head of Sharon's youngest son: "Yesterday it turned out that every dollar paid to him was paid lawfully. And they, the close associates, didn't know he had it in him." ( Yossi Verter in Ha'Aretz ). If we are to believe the AG, Mrs Arbel really conducted a witchhunt. Otherwise, how can we explain such enormous differences between the conclusions of two supposedly highly professional teams? What remains of this whole affair - which officially has not ended yet, but few judges will risk burning their fingers on this case, after the AG had publicly made it so clear that he believes that Sharon and son are not guilty whatsoever of any wrongdoing - is a bad aftertaste in the mouths of each and every Zionist who would like to see some sort of clean government here. As Hannah Kim writes, " The prime minister's acquittal and the songs of praise, written by Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, for the talents of his son Gilad legitimize a system that includes David Appel among its founders: businessmen entering politics to influence politicians so as to help their businesses. Those who got excited about the Gavrieli family and Shlomo Oz's gang joining the Likud can relax now. It's okay, it's allowed. " Yossi Sarid also said some true things: "If the millions of shekels the Sharon family received from David Appel is not bribery, I don't know what bribery is. [...] If the attorney general does not see fit to indict in this case, highly connected public figures in Israel will never be indicted, and they will be able to do what they want without fearing the law." Even Tommy Lapid - apparently without being aware of it: if he says something that is in agreement with what people like Sarid say, that can only be a coincidence - expressed concern, during his press conference after that given by the AG, about the links between big money and government in Israel. Appeals to the Supreme Court will probably be of no avail. From now on, every effort by organizations such as the Movement for Quality Government in Israel to make politicians accountable for 'grey dealings' will be branded as an attempt by Leftists and the legal system to wrongly persecute law-abiding citizens. No matter who is to blame, Arbel or Mazuz, the damage to the rule of law in Israel seems to be enormous. Obviously, those close to Sharon and to the PM Office were overjoyed and felt vindicated yesterday ( see Ehud Olmert's reaction in Q&A ). One of them, commenting on the failure by Edna Arbel ( and the media ) to crucify Sharon, even " noted that "in Japan it is customary to commit hara-kiri after such a failure" and recommended that "some people in Israel" adopt that custom." An interesting conclusion, by Yossi Verter: "One thing will remain forever unknown - whether, as many believe, the main reason for the disengagement plan's delivery by one who never supported unilateral withdrawal was the legal plight of Sharon, who, so the theory goes, sought to influence the attorney general and public opinion to spare him. If that was indeed the case, fate had quite a laugh."

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Never before were letters that I sent to the editor of a newspaper published one day after the other. Both yesterday and today the Letters to the Editor section of Ha'Aretz contains a ( long ) letter that I sent. Regarding "Mazuz seen likely to close Greek Island case this week" and "Get ready for the mother of all petitions", Ha'Aretz, June 14, 2004: Although I wonder with Yuval Yoaz how David Appel could be charged with bribing a "public servant" while there is not enough evidence to charge that same public servant with being bribed, I do not know enough of Israeli or any other law to be able to say something sensible about Sharon's Greek Island troubles from a legal perspective. What I can say, though, is that I find it frightening to know that there is a possibility that the man responsible for the wellbeing and security of me, my family and millions of others was not "aware of the connection between the favors he received from businessman David Appel and the assistance he granted him". Apparently that awareness cannot be proven. What appears to be undisputed is that Sharon did receive favors from Appel and granted him assistance, with Gilad Sharon as a middleman. Is the logical conclusion not that our Prime Minister is stupid, naive, or cunning enough not to leave any written or recorded proof of hardly legal conduct? Some people say that peoples receive the leadership that they deserve. Also, right now - with the extremist Right trying to bring down Sharon and the Left being too busy with deciding who of its non-leaders will not lead the opposition - Ariel Sharon seems to be the sanest alternative to his own failing government. In any case, with today's lack of true leadership on the Palestinian, Israeli and American side we, the people in Israel and Palestine, are up a dangerous and frustrating creek without any paddle in sight.
It is 5.15 AM and the boys are home alone. My wife and our daughter just left, together with a friend of ours from the United States, for Eilat. Our daughter is very excited, it will be her first time in Eilat. Our friend, who came to Israel from Rumania in 1950 or 1951, has been living in California since the early 1960s but comes to Israel once or twice a year, has not been in Eilat since about 1967, so I am sure much of what he will see will be new for him as well. One of the things that they will visit on their way to Eilat is the grave of David Ben Gurion ( 1886 - 1973 ) and his wife Paula, located at - in my eyes - one of the most beautiful places in Israel. They will also visit kibbutz Yotveta, where one of my favorite food products is produced: chocolate milk. The three of them will return on Thursday.
With a little delay, here are some more articles in Ha'Aretz that caught my attention this weekend. Doron Rosenblum is amazed by the settler's sudden interest in and care for the rule of law and democracy: "It's true that Ariel Sharon's conduct has never been a model of elegant refinement and legalistic pedantry, and it's true the dismissal of the ministers was carried out with the same hair-raising insensitivity that is typical of all his behavior. But it requires an excess of hypocrisy and self-righteousness on the part of those who until now cheered that same behavior to call now for the help of those who have been trampled by it for a generation. Because the naive question, "What would have happened if the situation had been reversed?" etc., can be answered simply: "What do you mean `if'?" After all, the "reverse" happened a long time ago! It has been with us for decades! The settlement enterprise and the outposts and the annexation were carried out without asking the "bleeding hearts" and the "guardians of the law," and, in effect, without even asking the public. Moreover: According to any democratic parameter - general elections, public referenda - the settlement and annexation movement was always defeated and crushed down to about two or three seats every time it presented itself as such to the public - unadorned, and undisguised.[...] But this petty matter - the absence of public, formal democratic support - never bothered our new democrats. On the contrary: The settlers, in their arrogance, drew mystical strength from it. Because according to their belief, they are the "representatives" of a far more important and significant public than the Israeli one: They are the self-appointed representatives of the transcendental "amyisrael" (the Jewish people), the living and the dead, the nation that is here, there and everywhere in the universe. On that plane they are always guaranteed a majority, and to hell with the Israeli voter, not to mention his ephemeral governments. Only a fool will therefore be impressed by the heroic battle of Benny Elon and his ilk to preserve democracy; the fact is that "democracy" (like "statesmanship," like "settlement," like "the security reasons") interests them as much as the wall interests the lizard. For them it is just a temporary stepping stone, a backdrop on which they can camouflage themselves, on the way to "the profound, hidden goal." This approach may perhaps contain the secret of the settlers' effective use of democracy, as opposed to the "left." The "left" treats democracy as the apple of its eye, as an end in itself, as though it were a luxury car that one has to take care of, to wax and polish, to upholster in plastic, even to use only sparingly, so that it won't get scratched, God forbid. Whereas for the settlers, "democracy" (like "the security reasons") is only another means of transportation from one point to the next: just a stolen, beat-up old wreck that one can jump into and drive a little, and then abandon on the side of the road, on the way to "the profound, hidden goal," which is known only to them and to their rabbis." Thank G'd, Shari Arison is back. I am sure that much of the media and public attacks Mrs Arison and her husband had to endure in the last year or so are motivated by jealousy and pettiness ( who does not endulge once in a while in phantasyzing about being as rich as she is ), and that she is as good and righteous a person as any average Israeli, probably even better and more righteous. What I do not understand, though, is why her spokesperson ( I forgot his name, I saw him more than once on the television, he wears some very colorful glasses ) had to stress in every interview not only that his boss is a very generous person who does not boast about all the charity she gives, but also that the amount she supposedly has to pay to the Israeli tax authorities, $30 million, is dwarfed by the amount that she donated to charity last year, which is about $150 million. Either you do not boast or you do not mention over and over again how generous you exactly are. By the way, if the budget for her "Pearl of Wisdom" theater project ( see my posting of May 6th ) makes up part of those $150 million, that amount deserves some scrutiny: who knows, Mrs Arison's intentions regarding tzedakah might turn out not to be alltogether charitable. Tsilla Hershco wrote an interesting review of yet another important booklet/pamphlet by the always fascinating Alain Finkielkraut ( enough compliments here ) " In the Name of the Other ", which was published in French almost a year ago. He lays bare and analyzes the self-righteousness of many ( leftwing ) French intellectuals, and its role in the development of the 'new' anti-Semitism in France. Tsilla Hershco doubts whether that anti-Semitism is very new indeed. I don't know, I refuse to believe that France and the French are more or less anti-Semitic than, let's say, the German, Dutch and English peoples, and after having lived and worked in Paris for half a year without ever hiding the fact that I am Jewish and live in Israel I still say that the harshest expressions and incidents of anti-Semitism that I have encountered took place while I served in the Israel Defense Forces, with some of the Russian-speaking soldiers whom I served with made clear to me and to their commanders that they have more in common with the likes of Bogdan Chmielnicki than with the Jewish people. Yes, the French state should do more to really fight hatred of and attacks against Jews, but French officials and government agencies are doing their best to ensure the safety of their Jewish copatriots, and much is invested by the French Republic in making amendments for the wrongs committed in the past. That certain members of French society even attack the very memory of some very young Jews who were sent to their deaths by French officials does not change the fact that the efforts by Jacques Chirac to protect and help his Jewish citizens and to improve relations with Israel are sincere. Therefore, attempts by Israeli officials to use this 'new anti-Semitism' to try and bring more French Jews to Israel are uncalled for and wrong.

Monday, June 14, 2004

All right, he states something that is very obvious, but what Thomas Friedman writes about Israel's plans of withdrawal in today's IHT/NYT cannot be said enough: "If you are going to get out of Gaza unilaterally, get out all the way to the UN-blessed international border. Do not do it halfway; otherwise you end up with the worst of all worlds: still embroiled in a guerrilla war, still taking casualties, unable to use your superior firepower and getting blamed for everything."
Regarding "Qaeda chief's nephew among 10 suspects held", IHT, June 14, 2004: While the capture of 10 suspected Al Qaeda members by Pakistani authorities is a real news item, there is no reason to turn the fact that one of those arrested is the nephew of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed into the heading of an article on the subject. If that fact was a news item in itself, the war on terror would become much easier: with 'those Muslims' all having large extended families, we could just go after the parents and grandparents, siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews of every known and unknown Islamist terrorist, couldn't we? Just to be on the safe side, maybe their neigbors and friends should also be included in the wanted lists.
Regarding "Religious Zionists cannot retreat" by Yisrael Harel, Ha'Aretz, June 10, 2004 ( published in Ha'Aretz, June 14, 2004 ): Ironically enough, even though Yisrael Harel claims to disapprove of some settlers' use of Nazi-era imagery to express their frustrations and feelings of betrayal ( Gush Katif = Stalingrad ), he himself - like so many on the Jewish and Israeli Right, as well as on the non-Jewish Left in Europe and elsewhere - freely uses connotations that suggest that comparing the behavior of Israeli security forces to that of Hitler's soldiers and henchmen is possible and legitimate. How else can we explain Mr Harel's use of the term "Judenrein" to describe a post-occupation Gush Katif? Although the National Religious Party has had some of Israel's foremost political leaders and democrats among its members, Yisrael Harel proves that ( at least his interpretation of ) religion and democracy do not mix. By saying that a certain approach to religion and politics "must not get the upper hand even if the majority of the NRP's Central Committee favor this" and that "there is no chance, even if he is elected party leader, that [ Zevulun Orlev ] will be able to withstand the tremendous pressure to resign" he makes perfectly clear that his is a version of democracy according to which a minority can always bully its way towards imposing its truth upon the majority. Just as people like Mr Harel try - and probably will succeed - to win the power struggle within the NRP, they are constantly trying to impose their apocalyptic agenda upon us valueless, selfhating but still somehow democratic Zionists. It is up to what is left of the secular-Jewish leadership in Israel to make clear and sure that the Harels and Feiglins will not be the ones who determine the future of what started out as a beautiful national enterprise.
Via de webstatistieken van Nedstat Basic zag ik dat iemand op mijn blog terecht was gekomen via de zoekwoorden 'Cruyff' + 'joods'. Zou hij/zij hebben willen checken of Neerland's grootste voetballer aller tijden joods is? Helaas, Johan Cruyff - vergeef me mijn sarcasme, hij is en blijft een geweldige speler en voetbalkenner - heeft slechts in twee opzichten een band met ons: hij denkt dat hij G'd is en dat hij - door zichzelf? - is uitverkoren.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Just finished watching the last minutes of the England-France game. As I already said, I am not a big sports fan and do not have the patience to watch a whole game, but while reading I zapped to the England-France game every once in a while, and I happened to see all the goals being scored. One could say that life is not fair, or ask the big "If" question about Beckham's missed penalty over and over again, but fact is that Zidane beat England with one beautiful goal and a successful penalty. Both the French and the English deserve to reach the next round, that is for sure.
I am sure that I was not the only person in Israel who had no idea why the war between the two Amosses ( Maj. Gen. ( res. ) Amos Malka, who was head of Military Intelligence, and Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad, who was responsible for the MI research division under Malka's command and who today heads the political-security branch at the Defense Ministry ) is so important. After all, Gilad's assessments about Palestinian pre-intifada intentions and about Israel not having somebody to talk to on the Palestinian side - assessments which Amos Malka has stated to have been distorted and not based on the intelligence and evidence available at the time - have been proven right. Or have they really? In today's Ha'Aretz I read a very interesting interview, by Yoav Stern, with the former head of the Palestinian section in the MI research division, Col. ( res. ) Ephraim Levie. Levie, "an Orientalist and a veteran intelligence officer" who "enjoys the reputation of being a professional, honest officer and so far has refused interviews to the press", now has joined " the demands to investigate the 'no partner' for talks concept". Of course, what apparently started as a discussion between professionals who might or might not have political views of their own now has become a fullscale political war, with Tommy Lapid saying that "the attacks on Gilad [originate] in the Israeli left and [are] intended to undermine Gilad's correct evaluations." One should read the whole interview with Mr Lavie to get an idea about the complex nature of the issue under debate, an issue that he says is essential: the whole subject of intelligence gathering and analysis is at stake, as is the use of such intelligence by politicians. Ephraim Lavie uses terms such as " dogmatiation of the concept", an "apparent match between the apporach and the reality", which remind us of the failures that lead to the Yom Kippur War of 1973. In the last part of the interview Ephraim Lavie makes clear what the main points of criticism towards his former commander's assesments and presentations are ( I stressed some lines ). " 'Concept' is not a dirty word. A concept is meant to be the main axis of every intelligence assessment, and as such it must constantly be under examination. The main trap is an undercover process in which the concept becomes dogma and then axiom and then factual information is interpreted wrongly to fit the concept. To reduce that risk, there must be constant examination of the validity of basic assumptions and the concept itself, and criticism of it should be encouraged, and it should be doubted. "Therefore, I very much am in favor of an examination of the validity of the existing concept with regard to the Palestinian issue. Otherwise, we could end up in a situation similar to that of the Yom Kippur failure, when, staring in 1972, there was a process that turned concept into axiom, making it into a dogma. And the tragic result was that various signs indicating the military intentions of the other side were rejected or interpreted in a way that fit the dogmatic concept." You can see a situation similar to Yom Kippur nowadays? "Absolutely. I think that after the Taba talks, a process of dogmatization of the concept began, saying that Arafat is not interested in anything other than the destruction of Israel through the right of return, and since then it has become dogma. That concept had no support in the official assessments, and it even clashed with the assessments. One must make a distinction in this matter between style and substance: Just because an intelligence officer sounds utterly convinced and determined about the concept during presentations over time to the political echelon and in broad forums and the media, does not say anything about the correctness of that officer's approach. "Nor does the apparent match between the approach and reality point to the correctness of the approach, because from the moment the approach was adopted by the military and political echelons in Israel it became an assessment that fulfilled itself, since Israel is the powerful side. That's why Arafat's behavior nowadays cannot be considered proof of the correctness of the concept. Sometimes, because of the stature and character of the intelligence officer, something said by one of the great sociologists comes true: if people define certain situations as realistic, then those situations become realistic in their outcome." Wasn't it your responsibility to warn about the mistaken concept becoming the dogma? "The professional truth of the arena that I headed was presented to the heads of Military Intelligence and the division in real time, both in writing and orally. The written assessments were not designed to fit concepts unfounded in intelligence that were made from time to time in internal MI forums. They were based on credible, verified intelligence information, procedurally confirmed by the heads of the division and disseminated to the decision makers. The summaries delivered by the commander of MI at key assessment sessions did not include any formulations in the spirit of the currently prevailing concept. "Only over time did we learn to understand," says Lavie, "that there were gaps between what the reports prepared and documented by division and what was presented to the decision makers, and that was because in most case, things were said in closed session of the General Staff and the political echelon. I think that the phenomenon of the differences were fully understood in all their significance only much later, as a result of public lectures and later statements that were adopted in content and substance by the leadership as the seemingly professional assessment of Military Intelligence. As time went by, the statements became dogma for the decision makers and in public opinion, as if they were professional intelligence statements and assessments." Lavie agrees that there is a possibility there could be "two contradictory research assessments, for example, the one that appeared in the division's written publications and the one presented orally to the leadership. But that could only be true on condition that the two assessments fit all the intelligence facts and neither could be proven baseless from the professional aspect, in other words, both rely on intelligence data and facts. In such a case, the professional intelligence element's responsibility is to present the political echelon with both assessments. But, he says, "it is clear that if there is a contradiction between the factual information and the concept, the concept must be regarded as mendacious and baseless, and therefore must be replaced. To the best of my understanding, in this case, there was no professional-intelligence condition for the creation of a gap between the conflicting intelligence assessments, the written one based on facts, and the verbal one, presented to the leadership. Moreover, apparently the decision makers were never presented with the possibility, indeed, the prerogative, to decide between the two. That, apparently, is the root of the failure. As far as I can tell, to the best of my judgment as an intelligence officer, there is no choice but to investigate the case in depth and produce the appropriate and necessary professional lessons." Why is it important to retroactively examine the concept, especially when the reality is quite clear about Arafat and the nature of the conflict? "If we don't deal with the issue and don't examine the facts, the professional failure will be perpetuated. If the concept is "there's nobody to talk with and nothing to talk about,' then the room for maneuver left to the leadership is only in the realm of unilateral steps, including withdrawal from the territories under fire without any political quid pro quo from the Palestinians. I think that the focus on Arafat as `the crux of the problem' is what led to the simplistic approach and ignores the complex political and social context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And, there is suspicion that forbidden norms of work will take root, preventing intelligence's ability to fulfill its missions and duties as required for the policy makers." Of course, all this does not exonerate Yasser Arafat or any other Palestinian non-leader when we talk about responsibility for the current mess. Only the question is raised whether or not on the Israeli side people like Amos Gilad might have turned the 'no partner' concept into a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is a subject that deserves serious analyis. The chances of such a professional approach - which would improve the professionalism of military and other intelligence and would doubtlessly serve the current and future security interests of the state of Israel - being taken by today's political and military leaders are slim, I am afraid: see the remarks of our Justice Minister, whose Shinuy ( Change ) party ever since entering the government has been giving us much of the same crap that we have become used to from our so-called leaders.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

In about half an hour I will be leaving for Tel Aviv, to see Itzhak Perlman, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and Giora Schmidt perform. Tomorrow I will post some postings, BeEzrath Hashem/D.V./G'd willing/Insha'Allah. For today, enjoy somebody else's work: and for the football/soccer fans among my readers, enjoy the European Championship, which starts today in Portugal. Here is what Reg Smythe's Andy Capp ( Linke Loetje ) has to say about the chances of the Dutch team. Still, although I am not a sports fan and think that many football players are overpaid, like most Dutchmen and -women I would love to see the Orange team play the beautiful game that most of its members know to play, and advance into the final stages of the tournament, because otherwise I will lose interest very fast. On Tuesday the Dutch will play the Germans. Good luck to them! May the best team become the European football champion, as long as that team is not Die Mannschaft! PS: This last remark shows that even after having lived in Israel continuously for almost 12 years I still am slightly more Dutch than Israeli, because the Israelis would not mind for a moment if the German team won the championship.

Friday, June 11, 2004

On May 10th I wrote about Daniel Barenboim receiving the Wolf Prize. Because I had some problems with our copmputer most of Mr Barenboims website was inaccessible for me, and I could not find the full text of his acceptance speech. Now these problems appear to have been solved, because just some minutes ago I was able to get full access to the site, and I found the text. The quotes that were published in the Ha'Aretz article are different from the statement as it appears on his personal website. Still, the text contains no lies or unfounded exaggerations, and I would like to quote it here in its entirety. In my opinion Daniel Barenboim, a wonderful artist and fascinating personality, has enough credit as a Zionist and dedicated friend of Israel to be 'allowed' and able to say with some authority whatever he chooses to say about our shortcomings, mistakes and misdeeds. The Statement of Daniel Barenboim on May 9th 2004 at the Knesset On the Occasion of Receiving the Wolf Prize. I would like to express my deep gratitude to the Wolf Foundation for the great honour that is being bestowed upon me today. This recognition is for me not only an honour,but also a source of inspiration for additional creative activity. It was in 1952, four years after the Declaration of Israel's Independence, that I, as a 10-year old boy, came to Israel with my parents from Argentina. The Declaration of Independence was a source of inspiration to believe in ideals that transformed us from Jews to Israelis. This remarkable document expressed the commitment (I quote) : "The state of Israel will devote itself to the development of this country for the benefit of all its people; It will be founded on the principles of freedom, justice and peace, guided by the visions of the prophets of Israel; It will grant full equal, social and political rights to all its citizens regardless of differences of religious faith, race or sex; It will ensure freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture."(end of quote) The founding fathers of the State of Israel who signed the Declaration also committed themselves and us (and I quote):"To pursue peace and good relations with all neighboring states and people".(end of quote). I am asking today with deep sorrow: Can we, despite all our achievements, ignore the intolerable gap between what the Declaration of Independence promised and what was fulfilled, the gap between the idea and the realities of Israel? Does the condition of occupation and domination over another people fit the Declaration of Independence? Is there any sense in the independence of one at the expense of the fundamental rights of the other? Can the Jewish people whose history is a record of continued suffering and relentless persecution, allow themselves to be indifferent to the rights and suffering of a neighboring people? Can the State of Israel allow itself an unrealistic dream of an ideological end to the conflict instead of pursuing a pragmatic, humanitarian one based on social justice? I believe that, despite all the objective and subjective difficulties, the future of Israel and its position in the family of enlightened nations will depend on our ability to realize the promise of the founding fathers as they canonized it in the Declaration of Independence. I have always believed that there is no military solution to the Jewish Arab conflict, neither from a moral nor a strategic one and since a solution is therefore inevitable I ask myself : Why wait? It is for this very reason that I founded with my late friend Edward Said a workshop for young musicians from all the countries of the Middle East - Jews and Arabs. Despite the fact that, as an art, music cannot compromise its principles, and politics, on the other hand, is the art of compromise, when politics transcends the limits of the present existence and ascents to the higher sphere of the possible, it can be joined there by music. Music is the art of the imaginary par excellence, an art free of all limits imposed by words, an art that touches the depth of human existence, and art of sounds that crosses all borders. As such music can take the feelings and imagination of Israelis and Palestinians to new unimaginable spheres. I have therefore decided to donate the monies of the prize to music education projects in Israel and in Ramallah. Thank you.
Yeeeaaah! Tomorrow evening I am going to see Yitzhak Perlman! The other day I talked with Avi, a friend of ours from the United States who is visiting his mother here in Haifa, about classical music, and he told me he very much likes Dvorak, especially his 9th symphony ( " New World" ). When I received my copy of Ha'Aretz today, there was an advertisement for a series of concerts by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, called "Perlman and his protege", with Yitzhak Perlman conducting and Giora Schmidt playing the violin. The concert tomorrow includes Barber's violin concerto and Dvorak's 9th. Just to be sure I verified that there are still tickets left, and when I was told that for tomorrow there are a few left I called Avi, because I was sure he would be interested. He was, and asked if I wanted to go as well. I said that such things are slightly beyond my budgettary possibilities, but he said that he invites me. This made me laugh, because during the conversation the other day we not only talked about classical music, but also about the shnorrer(beggar)-mentality of many Israelis, and I really did not tell him about the concert in order to go with him. Anyway, he said "shtuyot" ( nonsense ), and I just ordered two tickets. I am really, really excited. Yitzhak Perlman is without any doubt my favorite living violinist, I have at least 15 CDs with him as a soloist. O.k., he will 'only' be the conductor tomorrow, but still, I am very much looking forward to finally seeing him perform live before by own eyes. Prices for the concert are high ( at least for Israeli standards, I have no idea anymore what such a concert would cost in Europe ), up to more than 300 shekel ( 55 Euro ). We got two of the cheapest places, which cost 130 shekel. On the other hand, when I informed about places for Riverdance when I was in Paris four months ago, the cheapest places were 36 Euro, and I was told that you can hardly see anything from those places. At the Mann auditorium there are more than 2700 seats, and there were not many tickets left for any of the three concerts there ( one was given already yesterday, one concert with a different program took place on Tuesday, and one with the same program as tomorrow will be given at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem on Monday ). This proofs two things: there is a public in Israel for high quality art performances, and there are at least some 11.000 people in Israel who are willing and able ( with or without sponsors :-) ) to spend large amounts of money to enjoy such performances. The first thing I knew, the second does not surprise me, even though there are hundreds of thousands of Israelis who would probably rather spend such amounts on more basic things in life. What the hell, I will not let any feelings of guilt spoil my evening tomorrow, I am going to see my very own American (-Israeli ) idol. Shabbat shalom.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

After I updated my version of Windows Media, I felt like watching something Dutch, so I found here a program on the late Dutch singer Cornelis Vreeswijk, who became a real star in Sweden, where he moved at an early age. In between I checked the news and discovered that Ray Charles passed away.
Zo, er kan vanaf nu in Nederland gestemd worden tot vanavond 21 uur ( hier 22 uur ). Ook al zijn de meeste politici natuurlijk enorme zakkenvullers - of ze nu in Brussel, Den Haag of Jeruzalem zetelen - raad ik elke kiesgerechtigde aan om zijn of haar stem niet verloren te laten gaan. Voor weinig moeite krijg je het volste recht om jarenlang te mogen klagen en zeuren, heerlijk toch? Wat is democratie toch prachtig!

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Today is our wedding anniversary, and I thought I would not spend any time blogging, but while surfing through various news media I found a lot of material that I would like to share with my readers. Joep Bertrams (*) is the cartoonist of the Dutch daily Het Parool. He also works for the television program NOVA. On December 15th 2003 I already posted one of his cartoons, about the capture of Saddam. Here are three more examples of his work. The first one will probably be appreciated only by my Dutch readers: The caption of the second one says "Retreating". It was published on May 25th ( for an animated version click here ). The third was published on May 26th ( for an animated version click here ). This is most probably it for today. We will celebrate our anniversary by going to a nice restaurant for lunch. (*) As you can see I finally figured out how to have a new window pop up when you click on a link. Now you can click on the links without leaving my blog. From now on all links to articles, photos etc. on other websites will open a new window. The permalinks in the lefthand margin have already been updated.
An article in today's Ha'Aretz about a 2003 classified report that exposed " severe and ongoing malfunctioning of radiation units and institutes in Israel, as well as failed oversight and quality assurance on the part of the Health Ministry, and severe work overloads and chronic shortage of dozens of staff workers - including doctors, physicists, and radiation technicians who are employed without any training, accreditation or licensing, without proper supervision, and under too heavy a work load." Also something that I already had heard and read about on the television and in other newspapers, the case of a 13-month old boy whose mother had turned him over to adoption, only to regret her decision two months after his birth. She and the father of the child, who apparently entered the picture only after the birth after the mother had cut off relations with him earlier, submitted a joint request to the court for the return of the baby. Obviously the adoptive parents have a hard time to give up the boy whom they have been taking care of since he was only 10 days old. Although I - like most people whom I heard talking about the case - tended to side with the adoptive parents, the story appears to be more complicated than it seems at first sight. Yesterday reports were heard about someone offering $50.000 to the biological aprents if they give up the rights to their child, and also family members of the adoptive parents have made very problematic remarks about the biological parents of the child. For some reason the story brought to my mind the famous story of king Solomon and the two women who claimed to be the mother of a child. I am not sure anymore what would be the best interest of the child in this case, but the story is certainly one that has only losers, except maybe for the lawyers involved. Yesterday one of the two lawyers who represent the biological parents was on the Channel One program Erev Hadash. He seemed to enjoy his few minutes of fame and reminded me of a joke: If you are locked up in a room with a serial killer, a serial rapist and a lawyer, and you have a gun with two bullets, what do you do? You shoot the lawyer twice. Also in today's Ha'Aretz, two interesting letters to the editor. The counsellor of the Turkish embassy in Israel points out a mistake in the translation of some of the phrases expressed by the Turkish PM in an interview with Ha'Aretz last week. The phrases almost made me write another letter to the editor, but what according to the embassy's counsellor is the correct version does not justify any indignation: The Prime Minister is quoted: "Our forefathers, at their strongest time in history, opened up their hearts to the Jews who had been driven out of Spain at the time of the Inquisition and opened up their hearts and their homes to the Jews. Jews were the victims at that time. Today the Palestinians are the victims, and unfortunately the people of Israel are treating the Palestinians as they were treated 500 years ago." But in fact, in original Turkish he said: "Today, the Palestinians are victims, and unfortunately the Israeli administration is doing the exact opposite of what was done by our forefathers to them [the Jews] in those days; in other words - they are not helping the Palestinians as we helped them in those days." The other letter made me aware of something that I had not really known to be a problem: anti-Semitism in Sweden today. Four former chairmen of the Jewish community in the country, who live in Israel today, urge the Swedish Foreign Minister, who visits Israel today, to take determined measures and actions to solve the problem and to enable "every Jewish resident in Sweden who so wishes can practice his religion and tradition without having to fear verbal or physical violence." I was unaware of the following: "Sweden is one of the few countries in Europe forbidding shechita (ritual slaughter), and Sweden is probably the only country in the Democratic world that has instituted a law governing circumcision, and in certain ways have made it difficult to keep a more than 3,000-year-old tradition."