Thursday, September 30, 2004

There is a heated discussion going on in Europe about the question whether Turkey should be allowed to join the European Union, and if so, what changes ought to be made before its access to the EU will be considered. In Holland, one parliamentarian, the slightly eccentric and quite extreme Geert Wilders, broke away from his party - the liberal VVD - because he claimed that Turkey should never be allowed to become part of the Union. In my opinion Turkey should be allowed and enabled to join the EU, the sooner the better. That is, if the EU ( and the West in general ) want to be taken serious when it comes to the war - in particular the unarmed fight - against terror. You cannot protest against the US using mainly sticks if you refuse such a large carrot to one of the countries that is highly vulnerable to the threats of Islamist politics and terror while at the same time having the potential of becoming one of the world's most important examples of a country where Islam, modernity and democracy go hand in hand ( I would almost use the phrase "Islam with a human face" here ). The other day right next to my letter to the editor that was published in the IHT ( dealing with the socio-economic policies of the EU ), there was a letter on this subject, written and sent by someone with what without any doubt was a Dutch name, Vincent van Zeijst, living in Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania. I very much liked what I read, so here is his letter: Turkey, key to the Mideast
Condoleezza Rice argued during the 9/11 hearings in Washington that bringing democracy to the Middle East was the "generational question of our time." Thomas Friedman argued earlier in this newspaper that the current war in Iraq was the Big One, a war about values, ideas and governance in the heart of the Muslim world. Both were right. But after one and a half years, tens of thousands of dead and billions of dollars, the war is far from over, and its final effect on Mideast stability is still very unpredictable. Next door to Iraq there's Turkey, one of the few secular Muslim countries, an established democracy and, just as Iraq, pivotal for regional security. It helped the liberal democracies for 39 years in containing Communism. For decades, Turkey has been eager to join a club of such democracies called the European Union. In a few days, the European Commission will recommend whether to start membership negotiations with Turkey. Where the Americans consider Iraq the start of solving their "generational question," Turkey might well be the EU's start of helping to solve the same question. Where the United States approaches the problem with guns, the EU can do the same with trade, aid, dialogue and respect. It will also cost many, many years and billions and billions of euros. There are huge challenges: human rights, poverty and the Kurdish question being just three. But Turkey wants nothing more than for Europeans to help them belong to the modern world. Turkey and the European Union can help show the world that Islam and modernity can go together. What more could we wish for? It would be an error of historic proportions if Brussels would not grab the hand stretched out to Europe from the other side of the Bosporus. Vincent van Zeijst, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Regarding "Joy in Italy as 2 aid workers go free in Iraq", IHT, September 29, 2004: Thank G'd Simona Pari and Simona Torretta returned home safely. Thank who? If indeed a ransom was paid for the release of the two Simonas, the Italian government - together with the Dutch, Israeli, Spanish, French and other governments that negotiated with or gave in to the demands of terrorists and criminals - will bear partial responsibility for the fate of all present and future victims of kidnappings and other terrorist activities. If - as in the case of Arjan Erkel, the Dutchman who was taken hostage in Dagestan while working for Doctors Without Borders - the aid organizations for which the two italian women worked participated in the negotiations and/or contributed to any ransom, it should come as no surprise if some people will refrain from donating money to such charities, since that money might end up financing terror activities. Neither should we be surprised if even more American voters will hesitate to vote for John Kerry, since - if that was possible - he would be chosen by an overwhelming majority in Europe, a fact that strengthens Bush' image as being the only one who is tough on terror.
The two Italian women and the Israeli-Druze CNN producer who were kidnapped have returned home, and the two French journalists who have been held hostage might be freed soon as well. Of course this is wonderful news, especially for them and for their families, and hopefully Ken Bigley will be spared the fate of his two American colleagues as well. Still, the big victory in this case is for the kidnappers and for the murderers of all those Nepalese, Turkish, American and other victims who did not return home alive. While Italian PM Berlusconi denies having paid a ransom, it is hard to believe that there has been no quid pro quo whatsoever, especially since in almost all cases of ransom rumours after kidnapped people were released, those rumours turned out to be true. See for instance the Dutch aid worker Arjan Erkel of Doctors Without Borders who was kidnapped in Dagestan ( I am not sure if the legal fight between DWB and the Dutch government about whether DWB should return the ransom paid by the government has been solved yet ). Obviously the released hostages and their families do not give a damn about that ( who can blame them? ), but by giving in to terrorists' demands ( through money, declarations in support of or showing understanding for the terrorists' causes, retreating from Iraq ) the ( French, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, Turkish etc. ) authorities and compamies bear part of the guilt ( or of the responsibility, at least ) for every future victim of terrorism in general, and of terrorist kidnappings in particular.
PS: Although Israel claims not to negotiate with terrorists, the dealings with Hezbollah about the return of the remains of Israeli soldiers and the release of Elhanan Tennenbaum in exchange for the release of a large number of terrorist prisoners is proof that it has not really the right to blame others for such negotiations and deals.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

I have no idea why Ha'Aretz has to place adverts of either the Republican or the Democratic party on its pages or on its website. Right now on top of the newspaper's website's opening page you can find as one of the rotating ads a link to a website of Republicans Abroad Israel. Kerry has a lot of work to do if he wants to convince a majority of American voters, and I have nothing against people voting for Bush, but a picture such as the one below ( taken from the RAI website ) simply disgusts me. Can anybody tell me why I am reminded of Hamas demonstrations?

Regarding "EU 'opens the door' to a longer workday", IHT, September 23, 2004 ( published in IHT, September 28, 2004 ): There is no reason for us to be surprised that so few ordinary EU citizens bothered to come and vote in the last elections for the European Parliament. Whereas in recent years EU officials and several representatives of EU member states have openly stated their opposition to many facets of US policies ( the death penalty, Iraq, Kyoto, to name a few subjects ) it is remarkable that one of the main results of the European Union's socio-economic policy - one of the Union's most important pillars - is a steady Americanization of its member states' societies. Most measures proposed by bodies such as the European Commission serve first and foremost the interests of the employers and the rich. Achievements which were made by trade unions in the course of the 19th and 20th centuries and for which generations of workers have been paying ( improved working conditions and shorter workdays, social security, secondary benefits ) are either abolished or severely eroded. Maybe the Bush government and the EU leadership have more in common than the latter would like to admit.
A very true eye-opener, by Aluf Benn, for many on the Israeli Left who still believe that Ariel Sharon could be our savior: "Anyone who believes Sharon and wishes to see the bulldozers rise on Gush Katif should not holler afterward "I didn't know", when confronted by Arafat's corpse and the new neighborhoods in the settlements. Sharon must be taken as a whole: one who builds and destroys, fights the settlers and the Palestinians, and always lacks real inhibitions. This is how the public debate must be conducted, not with selective hearing."
It should be noted here that the article's author even left out some of the reasons - found in our Prime Minister's 'colorful' past - that indicate why we have to be very suspicious when it comes to trusting someone like Sharon.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Women and men, living apart together:

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Een mooi project op de website van Trouw ( in samenwerking met de Deense krant Politiken ): Zelfportret Europa. In 25 interviews/monologen portretteren evenzoveel Europese schrijvers hun land aan de hand van een schilderij, foto, persoon, ding, tekst, lied, gedicht, gerecht, plaats en gebeurtenis.
Een kanttekening. Obsessief als ik soms ben kon ik het niet laten om te kijken of er in de ogen van deze schrijvers een rol voor joodse Europeanen is weggelegd in de geschiedenis en cultuur van het continent. Dat viel tegen. Voor zover ik kon nagaan ( laat alsjeblieft weten als ik het helemaal mis heb ) komen in slechts vier van de vijfentwintig portretten joden voor. Als in de introductie tot het portret van/door de Tsjechische schrijver Ivan Klima niet duidelijk vermeld stond dat hij als joods jongetje nauwelijks Theresienstadt overleefde zou wie hem verder niet kent niet weten dat het hier om een joodse schrijver gaat. In het portret van Oostenrijk staat een citaat van Sigmund Freud, zonder verdere uitleg. De Portugese Agustina Bessa-Luis koos als tekst een zestiende-eeuwse novelle die is toegeschreven aan een joodse auteur. Tenslotte koos Monika Maron, die Duitsland portretteert, een schilderij gemaakt door een uitgesproken joodse en Duits-Berlijnse Europeaan, Max Liebermann, en - als persoon - Hannah Arendt.
Wie deze 25 portretten over honderd of tweehonderd jaar leest zou kunnen denken dat joden geen rol speelden in de hoogte- en dieptepunten van de Europese geschiedenis, dat er nooit joden in Polen gewoond en gewerkt hebben ( laat staan dat vermeld wordt dat ongeveer de helft van de in de jaren 1933-45 vermoorde Europese joden uit Polen kwam, of dat de enige opstand tegen de Nazis in Warschau die van augustus 1944 was, toen de stad al zo goed als judenrein was ) en dat de Tweede Wereldoorlog ( in veel portretten genoemd ) een oorlog als alle andere was, alleen iets groter.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Like many secular Israelis we spent an important part of Yom Kippur on the street, running after our children who were driving their bikes and tricycles. In Israel there is only one day a year that children can drive their bikes on the streets, and shops were bicycles are sold make about 25% of their yearly profits in the month before the Day of Atonement. We had excellent weather today, the expected heat wave will only start tomorrow, which made life easier for those who fasted. I did not write anything today ( except for these few lines ), so here is something that I prepared some weeks ago:
Try the Belief-O-Matic test, and see if your beliefs fit your religion. In my case I got 100 % Reform Judaism, 84 % Sikhism, 83 % Liberal Quakers, 80 % Orthodox Judaism, 74 % Islam, etc. etc., plus 21 % Jehovah's Witnesses.

Friday, September 24, 2004

For my Jewish readers ( maybe for the non-Jewish readers as well, I am sure it won't hurt ):
Tsom Kal ( Have an easy fast ) and Gmar Hatimah Tovah.
Trouw is in mijn ogen niet alleen een van de beste en evenwichtige kranten in Nederland, het heeft ook een uitstekende website. Een rubriek waar ik regelmatig even in grasduin is De Tien Geboden, waarin Arjan Visser bekende Nederlanders interviewt aan de hand van, je raadt het al, de tien geboden. Klik op bovenstaande link, en onder 'meer dossier artikelen' vind je een lange lijst van geinterviewde personen. Voor wie nog niet geregistreerd is op de website, geloof me, het loont de moeite.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Zojuist lees ik op Teletekst dat Andre Hazes op 53-jarige leeftijd is overleden. Hij ruste in vrede ( of kun je dat niet zeggen als iemand gecremeerd wordt? ). PS: Hanneke Groenteman, Wim de Bie en Youp van 't Hek bewijzen hem allemaal een mooie laatste eer.
My apologies to the Dutch and Israeli athletes who take part in the 2004 Athens Paralympics. Unlike the 'regular' Olympics this event takes place when my wife is at work and our children are in kindergarten, so I finally have time to work and less time to follow any sports events. Also, unfortunately there are hardly any broadcasts on television, so that I only read about the previous day's results in my newspaper each morning. Actually, the Israeli Paralympic athletes are doing much better than their Olympic colleagues, and the Hatikvah was played already twice. It was very impressive to see on the evening news program how Itzhak Mamistalov obtained his gold and silver medals. Kol HaKavod to the Dutch and Israeli teams.
Three soldiers were killed when terrorists - two of whom were killed as well - entered an army outpost near the Morag settlement in Gaza. It is most probably just a matter of time before we will hear or see statements by rightwing activists that the disengagement plan is what encourages the terrorists to carry out attacks like this. Just as easily - and in my humble opinion more truthfully - one could argue that those soldiers and the settlers whom they are protecting should not have been there ( anymore ) in the first place. All this is irrelevant for the three soldiers who were killed, or for their families and friends. May the memory of these three - and of Yonatan (Mamoya) Tahio and Menashe (Meni) Komemi, the two very brave Border Policemen who yesterday, by approaching a young Palestinian woman who looked suspicious to them, with their own bodies saved the lives of many civilians who were standing nearby - be blessed.
Now I understand why Yusuf Islam ( the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens ) was not allowed access into the US. Maybe it would have been different if he had chosen a different last name when he converted, just to avoid problems with US officials.
The article says:
"U.S. authorities provided few details about Islam's alleged connection to terrorism."
Anybody who knows how to interpret a text according to its context knows that here we are talking about ( Mr Yusuf ) Islam. You can hardly blame those short-sighted US officials for focusing on his last name alone. It is difficult to deny that these days there is more than an alleged connection between ( certain extremist brands of ) Islam and terrorism. Therefore Mr Islam's last name apparently worked as a red rag to a bull for the US authorities.
The US authorities should either come up with hard and credible evidence explaining why Yusuf Islam might pose a security threat, or they should stop harrassing someone just for being a prominent Muslim. Just for spite I am listening right now to Teaser and the Firecat, one of his albums in my CD collection.
Regarding "Israel's nukes serve to justify Iran's" by Jonathan Power, IHT, September 22, 2004: It might very well be that Iran did not start a war in 200 years. That does not mean that its political-religious leaders did not initiate or wholeheartedly support other violent actions that were aimed at achieving its goals: kidnapping a whole embassy for 444 days, blowing up Jewish, American, French and other targets and thus killing many hundreds of people. While Israel has a lot to answer for, and - as long as it continues its occupation of the Westbank and Gaza - can be blamed for a significant portion of the tension in the region, it is particularly countries like Iran, Lybia, Sudan and Syria that make this part of the world such a dangerous neighborhood. Suggesting that Israel should get rid of its nuclear weaponry only because it can trust the goodwill and common sense of countries such as Iran and Syria, a country which has a very active chemical weapons program ( and which according to Western intelligence reports tested its chemical weapons' expertise on the people of Darfur ), is proof either of simple-minded naivety or of almost evil shortsightedness.
Het volgende, door mij aanvankelijk ongeveer een maand geleden geschreven en sindsdien ietwat aangepaste, artikel verscheen gisteren in het Parool:
Het eenzijdige medeleven voorbij
Anja Meulenbelt, op Wim de Bie's weblog laatst ‘deskundige in het Palestina-Israël conflict’ genoemd, steekt een indrukwekkende hoeveelheid tijd en passie in haar betrokkenheid met het Palestijnse volk. In tegenstelling tot Gretta Duisenberg lijkt mevrouw Meulenbelt niet te worden gedreven door een ongezonde dosis verveling en behoefte aan zelf-promotie. Uit haar artikelen, boeken en preken spreekt een oprechte zorg voor het welzijn van de Palestijnen, en ze brengt haar preken ook in de praktijk. Wat zij evenwel met mevrouw Duisenberg en met veel andere supporters van deze of gene partij in ‘het conflict’ gemeen heeft is dat ze zich eenzijdig blindstaart op de kip-of-het-ei schuldvraag, haar steun aan het door haar uitverkoren volk soms vertaalt in een vergoeilijkende vereenzelviging met de motieven en doelstellingen van de extremere elementen binnen de met dat volk verbonden national(istisch)e bewegingen, en de meer gematigde oppositie onder Israëliërs en Palestijnen vaak geringschat of negeert. Als senatrix Meulenbelt al over Israëlisch(-joods)e burgerslachtoffers schrijft is het vaak in een 'vreselijk..., maar...' stijl. Na een demonstratie van 40.000 kolonisten in Jeruzalem tegen het Gaza-plan van de regering Sharon schreef ze onlangs bijna triomfantelijk " Zoveel mensen krijgt de vredesbeweging niet op de been ", daarbij enkele van de grootste demonstraties in de geschiedenis van Israël ( o.a. 15 mei j.l. ; 4 november 1995 ) gemakshalve vergetend. Wanneer ze het heeft over "het beste deel van Israël, de mensen van het echte vredeskamp" geeft mevrouw Meulenbelt bovendien blijk van eenzelfde arrogantie als die van de joodse nationalisten die graag zouden bepalen wie de Palestijnen mag vertegenwoordigen. Mede hierdoor wordt het voor een deel van de activisten in Israël die een vreedzame twee-staten oplossing bepleiten ( veel van hen worden door de door Anja Meulenbelt zo bewonderde Uri Avnery minachtend ‘linkse Zionisten’ genoemd ) vrijwel onmogelijk om hun – op werkbare compromissen, niet op absolute rechtvaardigheid of ideale oplossingen gebaseerde – ideeën aan een achterdochtig Israëlisch publiek te verkopen. Een van de grootste obstakels voor heuse veranderingen in Israël en Palestina is de angst voor een onzekere toekomst. Die angst beweegt beide volken ertoe met alle geweld vast te houden aan de ellendige werkelijkheid waarmee ze zo vertrouwd zijn geraakt. Hierdoor slagen non-leiders als Sharon en Arafat er steeds weer in de steun – hetzij van harte, hetzij bij gebrek aan beter – van een meerderheid van hun volk te krijgen, zodat ze hun corrupte en destructieve wanbeleid kunnen voortzetten. Tegelijkertijd kunnen de kolonisten rustig doorgaan met het creëren van facts on the ground, terwijl de fanatici aan Palestijnse kant genoeg hebben aan af en toe een geslaagde zelfmoordactie om hun duivelse Palestijns-Islamistische variant op Marx’ Verelendungstheorie te verwezenlijken. De Algerijnse onafhankelijkheidsoorlog ( 1954 – 1962 ) wordt regelmatig gebruikt als vergelijkingsmateriaal voor de strijd tussen Israel en de Palestijnen. Als er al iets van die oorlog geleerd kan worden is het dat hij verloren – of dat de vrede gewonnen – werd in het politieke midden in Frankrijk: zodra men daar inzag dat de bezetting meer kostte dan ze opleverde en men het zat werd om soldaten voor een verloren zaak op te offeren vond er een omslag in de Franse publieke opinie plaats. Het enige wat extremisten aan beide kanten bereikten in de tweede helft van de oorlog was het uitstellen van een onderhandelde vrede. Zo’n politiek midden bestaat in Israël ( ik veronderstel en hoop dat voor de Palestijnse maatschappij hetzelfde geldt ), het dient alleen geactiveerd te worden. Zolang echter de oppositie in Israel niet functioneert, onderling verdeeld is en nauwelijks op daadwerkelijke steun vanuit het buitenland kan rekenen, bepalen Sharon en zijn supporters-vijanden ter rechterzijde samen met Hamas en de Islamitische Jihad de politieke agenda. Om Palestijnen en Israëliërs te helpen inzien dat ze weliswaar tot elkaar veroordeeld zijn maar dat die veroordeling geen vanzelfsprekend doodvonnis betekent, zelfs een zekere hoop met zich meebrengt, is brede internationale steun nodig. Die steun moet zo evenwichtig mogelijk zijn, en niet voornamelijk bestaan uit het onevenredig bevoordelen of veroordelen van één van de partijen in het conflict. De middelen die daarbij gebruikt kunnen worden zijn legio: economische en politieke hulp en pressie, advies en financiële hulp maar vooral ook publiciteit voor de gematigde plaatselijke oppositie en voor de vele plaatselijke NGOs die zich in Israël en de bezette gebieden bezighouden met overleg tussen uiteenlopende groepen joden en Palestijnen, projecten op het gebied van coëxistentie, ‘vredesonderwijs’, etc. Pas wanneer de huidige non-leiders hun populaire mandaat verliezen, de fanatici die belang hebben bij voortduring en zo nu en dan escalatie van het conflict de mogelijkheid wordt ontnomen hun stempel op de dagelijkse werkelijkheid te drukken, en de meeste joden en Palestijnen – die heus vrede en een veilige en welvarende toekomst voor hun nageslacht willen, iets wat niet genoeg gezegd kan worden, ook al klinkt het vanzelfsprekend en lijkt de realiteit op iets totaal anders te wijzen – eieren voor hun geld zullen kiezen, komen die vrede en zo'n toekomst binnen handbereik. Het door onze ‘supporters’ steeds maar weer gevraagd en ongevraagd beantwoorden van de eeuwige schuldvraag, het goedpraten of doodzwijgen van het ‘eigen’ geweld tegen onschuldigen aan de ‘andere’ kant, en het negeren van verre van ideale maar desondanks realistische alternatieven werken in dit geval averechts, en dienen alleen de belangen van een minderheid van tegenstanders van wat voor vrede dan ook, belangen die al te lang het bestaan van joden, moslims en christenen hebben verziekt.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Two persons were killed and several wounded, apparently by a female suicide bomber, in the French Hill junction in northern Jerusalem.
Although, of course, each man, woman or child wounded or killed means a lot of suffering, agonizing hours of waiting, and periods of mourning, the first two things that we cyically look at are place and numbers: where was it, and was it a big or a 'small' one? If it is somewhere where you know that people dear to you work, live or travel, you get very worried and start calling them on their cellular phones. If it is in a place where as far as you know your friends and family probably do not work, live or travel, you simply follow the news via the television, or alltogether return to your daily routine. When it was a big attack, the chances of people staying glued to their television sets are higher.
While I do not really care about the terrorists and find it always hard to feel true sympathy for their families ( as opposed to the really innocent - random - Palestinian victims of Israeli violence ), especially when these families praise their sons/daughters' deeds ( which could very well be part of their way of coping with their loss ), I always wonder:
1) Is there some sort of competition between families of suicide bombers when it comes to the number of people their sons/daughters murdered? Is it considered more honorable to die having murdered ten, twenty or more bloody Zionists than it is to die having 'only' killed one or two?
2) We all know about sexually tinted promises allegedly made to ( often very young ) men when they kill themselves for the sake of Islam. What do they promise young women ( except for those who did it to save or restore some lost honor, such as the young mother who about a year ago blew herself up because she was accused of adultry )?
Whereas many Israelis used to dream about an agreement with our neighbors that would trade land for peace, now we are basically being offered an occupation-for-occupation deal by Lebanon ( and its puppetmaster Syria ). I wonder if the term "all Arab lands" includes Israel proper or not.
This really seems ridiculous. On numerous occasions Mr Islam ( Stevens ) has condemned all acts of terror, and specifically those of 9/11, and his activities show more than anything else one of the most beautiful and very human faces of Islam.
Een eerlijk, menselijk, lief en hartverwarmend, schijnbaar waargebeurd verhaal: Bie(cht)slog.
When Sky News asked viewers and readers to answer the questions whether something can be done to save the life of Ken Bigley, a British citizen who was kidnapped and is threatened to be executed by his kidnappers in Iraq, whether PM Tony Blair can and must do something, and how such kidnappings can be avoided in the future, I wrote the following ( which was not published on the network's website ): Terrorists provide their victims, their victims' families and friends and the rest of the world with the illusion that the fate of the poor kidnapped men, women and children is in the hands of our political leaders. We are made to believe that these simply have to give in to the very reasonable short-term demands of the kidnappers, who then will return to the peaceful lives that they were living before they were forced to turn to violence. Thus if and when the victims are brutally murdered the public in Britain, the US, Italy and elsewhere often blames its leaders for doing too much or too little, making them almost more guilty than the murderers themselves. This devilish play with our minds is only part of the much more comprehensive action plans of Islamist and other terrorists. If these murderers really were serious about their simple demands, just killing their victims would be enough. Instead they make sure that the whole world can see how they slaughter their victims in gruesome and humiliating ways, instilling people all around the globe with fear, one of the main aims of today's Islamist version of terror. We should definitely try to take away - by political and economic means - the breeding grounds of terrorist hatred and anger, but parallel to that we have to fight terrorism also through uncompromising force, without giving in to the terrorists' demands. Of course Bush, Blair, Putin, Sharon and others can be blamed for much and are bad guys in numerous ways, but let us never ever forget who the worse guys are.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Ik zit nu live te luisteren naar het alternatieve Kroonrede-commentaar door Bieslog's Mike van der Molen. Ik kan me Verbal Jam's ingebeelde reactie van Hare Majesteit bij het voor het eerst doorlezen van de tekst van de rede goed voorstellen. De Nederlanders worden geacht wel heel veel vertrouwen te hebben, gezien het veelvuldig gebruik van dat woord. Na het "Hoera, hoera, hoera" houd ik het voor gezien.
PS: Verbal Jam heeft de troonrede keurig ontleed.
The other day I read an article about the Bush presidency, written by Tom Friedman more than 2 1/2 years ago, which is still very relevant: " Ultimately, presidential greatness is measured by what you do at home. If this war on terrorism ends with nation-building only in Afghanistan and not in America, it will be no victory at all."

Monday, September 20, 2004

While I do not think that total refusal to serve in the IDF is the proper thing to do, I am absolutely positive that the contribution made to Israeli society and to Judaism by these five conscientious objectors has been and will be much greater than that of men such as the rabbi who hopes that PM Sharon will die ( and gladly will lend a hand in casting a curse to speed things up ) and other fine men like Itamar Ben-Gvir. What a depressing day for everybody who lives in and cares about the Jewish State. The Attorney General basically gave the green light for every extremist to threaten politicians and public officials with whom (s)he disagrees, for the umptieth time a rightwing fanatic used superfluous, wrong and dangerous Holocaust-analogy to try and deligitimize any pullout from occupied territory ( see articles here and here), Israeli banks apparently succeeded in doing what their Swiss counterparts did not even really try ( to reduce their obligations in the Holocaust victims' dormant accounts-affair ), and because of power struggles between and within the government and the Histadruth from tomorrow onwards we will face yet another general strike.
Regarding "If Chirac can't deliver on hostages, who can?" by Roger Cohen, IHT, September 18-19, 2004: Apparently neither using only military means ( Israel, US, Russia ) nor trying to convince the whole world that one is Islam's best friend ( France ) is a sure way to deal successfully with Islamist terror. Of course, the easiest way out would be simply giving in to the terrorists' demands ( Spain ), but that is something that the West as a whole cannot really afford. Maybe it is time to try something that seems so obvious but has never really been tried until now: a combination of, on the one hand, uncompromising military actions against active terrorists, their supporters and infrastructures, and, on the other, a sincere and truly encouraging action plan for the future of Muslim-Western relations. Such a plan should include real change on all sides, including an end to Israel's occupation of the territories, democratic changes in all Arab and most other Muslim countries, major structural investments in many parts of the world, and much better cooperation and coordination between the European Union and the United States. If a plan like that succeeds in convincing Muslim youngsters that by embracing life they will be able to fulfill their potential in the service of their communities, countries and religion, every dollar, dinar, yen, Euro, shekel, rubel, pound, riyal, dirham invested will be recovered with an unprecedented interest rate. Before there is a real chance of such a plan being seriously proposed by anyone - let alone considered by most parties involved - two obstacles have to be dealt with first. The United States has to recover its largely lost credibility as a world power which knows that its real interests are broader and more vital than those of a few lobbies in Texas and Washington. In addition, European policy has to become much more than just a sum of local policies and national egos.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Om eens lekker achterover te zitten en te lezen, een verzameling interviews door de Vrij Nederland-redacteur Coen Verbraak.
An interesting, long article by Aviv Lavie about behind-the-scene activities of some of the Israeli men and women who signed the Geneva-declaration, about a year ago. I find it hard to understand the antagonism between the initiators of the People's Voice and those of the Geneva declaration, since I think that both are hopeful and inspiring initiatives that expose the common ground between Palestinian and Israeli moderates. As Aviv Lavie writes, the enmity is probably a result of ego wars.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Although I listed the websites of some major German newspapers among my Favorites, I do not visit them on a regular basis. Luckily I often visit the website of the Dutch daily het Parool, which next Monday is supposed to publish an article that I wrote, otherwise I might have missed this article, which refers to a very interesting piece of news published in the German newspaper Die Welt and written by Jacques Schuster.
Mr Schuster tells us that according to Western intelligence services in June of this year Syrian special units, in cooperation with Sudanese authorities, used chemical weapons against the black-African population of Darfur. According to the sources five planes of Syrian Arab Airlines, the civil national airlines of the country, flew to Khartoum loaded with technical equipment and specialists of the Syrian Academy for Chemical Warfare. Witnesses reported that in June several dozens of frozen corpses with extraordinary ( 'remarkable' ) wounds were brought into the Al-Fashr hospital in Khartoum, and after a while Sudanese soldiers sealed off a wing of the hospital. According to the witnesses only Syrian doctors were allowed access to that wing, and Sudanese soldiers took away the corpses after some days.
Again, the article in Die Welt is based on reports from Western security services, and its content is supported by eye witness reports that were published in several Arab media. Except for the articles in Het Parool and Die Welt I did not read anything about this subject, which involves a country that not only is a former member of the UN Security Council but which - frightingly enough - on a very clear day I can almost see from our balcony.
PS: Searching the internet in Hebrew I found some references to this news item on websites such as Walla! and Channel 7. I also saw a small article on the subject in Yedioth Aharonoth. The same goes for several obscure websites, many of them based in or at least linked to MidEast countries. On the website of the BBC I did not find any mentioning of the subject. Interesting. Maybe I just do not know how to search.

Friday, September 17, 2004

I subscribe to the wishes expressed by Yoel Marcus, although I have not really an idea what he means with the second half of his tenth wish.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

You do not have to be paranoid or a security wizzard to understand that keeping track of the participants in this conference of anti-war and anti-globalization groups in Beirut ( sponsored by Hezbollah, the Democratic Front for the Liberation for the Palestine, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Fatah, among other organizations ) might help us to identify some people who because of their ideology or their gullibility could be possible security risks in the future. If there is one NGO ( although Hezbollah is sponsored by Iran, and its activities are allowed and sometimes by Syria, it is officially an independent Lebanese 'resistance movement' ) that is not exactly anti-war and that uses the tools of globalization very well, it is Hezbollah, I would say. Yet another reason to be suspicious when people fanatically dedicate their lives to the war against war and against globalization.
About two hours ago I came home from the house of my parents in law, where we had a nice festive family dinner for the eve of Rosh Hashanah. My wife will come home soon, our daughter sleeps over at her grandparents', and I took our son home to bathe him, put on his pyjamas, brush his teeth and put him in bed ( nice excuse to return home right after finishing the meal, it works perfectly every time ). Now I had some time to sit down, surf the internet, answer some e-mails and write a posting or two.
Last night I saw Avraham Burg on Channel 1. I admire him very much, whenever I had a chance ( during the party primaries of Labor ) I voted for him, and he hardly ever says something that I totally disagree with. For my father-in-law we bought Burg's latest ( only? )book, Elohim Hazar ( God has returned ), as a present for the holidays. Not only do I think that my wife's father, who is very active in the Labor party, who loves all the wheelings and dealings of party politics, and who - in my opinion - often supports the wrong people within that party, should read the book, I even think that I will read parts of it myself.
What Avrum said yesterday made so much sense, although I do not have much patience for television these days I sat down as soon as he started talking and listened to him until he and David Witstum, the interviewer, finished their conversation. Among the things that he said two were interesting in particular. He said that we do not witness a clash or war of civilizations today, but a war between democracy and theocracy. That war is being fought not between nations, continents etc. but within the Islamic, Christian and Jewish nation-states and societies themselves. The other observation that I found to be interesting was that David Ben-Gurion's Judaism was based solely on the Bible, and that his worldview hardly took into account those parts of Jewish philosophy, ethics and culture that developed in post-Biblical Judaism. A similar approach to our culture, history and religion can be found among many of today's religious authorities, and therefore also among the political leaders who follow those authorities.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

People who are responsible for Israel's PR must have a tough job, and I am glad that I am not one of them. Take this article for instance. When I heard about the 'injury' of the Iranian Bayern Muenchen player I thought "Here we go again", and I already wanted to write a letter to the editor, about the spirit of sports, the need to separate sports and politics etc. Then I read the last part of the article ( something that I had not read or heard about ), and I saw that Israel also - to use a Dutch expression - has quite some butter on its head when it comes to ignoring that separation. How are Israel's salesmen and -women supposed to make a point if the complete opposite of that point is being made by the country's politicians, security forces and/or other state representatives? The Iranians are at least consistent in their denial of Israel's right to exist.
Yesterday on Israeli television I heard a certain rabbi Yossi Dayan, from the Psagot settlement near Ramallah, say that just as he performed pulsa de-nura ceremony - a kabbalist ritual, performed in Aramaic, in which a person is cursed - against Rabin when he was asked to, he would be ready to do do so again against Ariel Sharon. He also admitted that he wished that Sharon would die. Today officials have been meeting to discuss whether to take action against this rabbi. Two comments: 1) If this man had been an Arab living in Israel or the territories, and he had said similar things, would officials meet to discuss whether......, or would they just take action, most probably of a very physical nature ( arrest, targeted assassination, etc. )? That this man is still walking around as a free man is proof that there is at least some racism when it comes to Israeli officials dealing with terror. 2) Since we are talking about a kabbalist ritual, maybe rabbi Dayan should wait for Madonna, Demi Moore and Donna Karen to help him. They will be here for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The rabbis of the center for Kabbalah - or whatever the name is of the organization ( I almost wrote 'sect' here - to which they donate so much money - are no less charlatans than rabbi Y. D.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Yesterday I read a balanced article on what is labeled the "food distribution `festival' ": it seems that more than in previous years all kinds of volunteer organizations but also companies are busy these pre-holiday days distributing food and other vital things to the many, many needy people in Israel. On Sunday there was a big telethon with artists and businessmen and -women trying to make us donate some more. While zapping I watched Yair Lapid ( son of our Justice minister, who happens to be a member of Shinuy, the same party to which Interior Avraham Poraz belongs. The latter became the symbol of the government's/Shinuy's arrogance regarding the socio-economic divisions in this country, when he claimed that nobody is hungry in Israel; for some more of his wisdoms and for a wonderful analysis read this column by the article's author, Ruth Sinai ) and Eli Yatspan introduce Ofer Nimrodi - the son of, who himself spent time in jail -, after which I did not really feel like watching any more. Of course the volunteers and companies should be praised for their kindness and good work. Nevertheless, the following passage in the article basically sums up my feelings on the issue: "Professor Hillel Shmid of Hebrew University's School of Social Work also approves of the coupons allowing the needy to buy food in an orderly fashion. He disapproves of the ostentatious manner in which food is now distributed, in front of media cameras, shaming entire populations. However, Shmid is primarily worried by the manner in which the state is handing over more of its responsibilities to non-profit organizations. "The NPOs don't do just what the government should do, they also dull the sense of anger and frustration and serve as a sort of brake." The method works for all involved - the state, NPOs and donating public. "Those who have, feel good giving to those less well off," says Ben Gurion University sociology professor Uri Ram. "But the method contributes to a lack of awareness and understanding of what really causes the polarity between the haves and the two-thirds of the population of have nots. This charitable giving is typical in developing nations or places like the U.S. that are not welfare states. It doesn't exist in just societies."" Anyway, a happy, healthy and - who knows - peaceful year to all of you. Leshanah Tovah Tikatvu weTihatmu!

Monday, September 13, 2004

Now that is interesting: I did not know we had any jurisdiction in the UAE.
( Ha'Aretz News Flash ) 23:31 Israel arrests Abu Dhabi man in the United Arab Emirates for making bombs for a Palestinian militant group in Gaza
Regarding "Sharon slams incitement, hatred", Ha'Aretz, September 13, 2004:
If Prime Minister Sharon's claims regarding the threat of civil war are as real as he wants us to believe, we have quite an ironic situation: four of the greatest dangers facing the Jewish state are a direct result of the policies of subseqent Israeli governments and of the machinations of several politicians, most prominent among them Arik Sharon himself. When Israel was ubwilling to talk with Arafat's PLO, much more radical groups were allowed to come up in the territories, so that in addition to Arafat and his factions today we also face groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. In Lebanon, Hezbollah started its activities in 1982, right after Israel invaded the country. As minister of Defense Arik Sharon played a central role in both cases. The third danger, if we are to believe Ariel Sharon and the heads of our security services, consists of a hard core of fanatical settlers. For decades the settlers were given free rein by every Israeli government, and today some of them believe that they are above the law, or that the laws of the state of Israel are irrelevant if - in their view - those laws contradict halakha. Now that people who used to be considered mainstream settlers - such as Pinhas Wallerstein and Uri Elitzur - do not rule out violence in the case of the evacuation of settlements, we could say that we have a serious problem and a possible threat. As we all know, one of the main 'motors' behind the settlement movement was Arik Sharon. The fourth threat is Iran becoming a nuclear power. While as far as I am aware Israel did not help the country in its efforts to acquire knowhow and equipment which will enable it to produce nuclear weaponry, in the 1980s Israel - in cooperation with the United States, and with, again, Arik Sharon as Defense Minister - did its best to help the ayatollahs in their war against Iraq. Hundreds of millions of US dollars' worth of Israeli weapons found their way to Iran. The country's strength and boldness today probably would not have been possible without that help. These days we witness the results of the fact that most of our leaders have been busier trying to counter things that they do not like ( nurturing Hamas and Lebanese Christian militias against the PLO, Iran against Iraq, settlers against a Palestinian state ), than to come up with some positive plan for our future. Negative policies are sometimes useful, but it is impossible to sustain them indefinitely, unless one's aim is to destroy the state.
My attention was caught by two parts of the open letter signed by righwing public figures last week, in which they urged "soldiers and policemen to disobey orders to evacuate Jewish settlements in the territories". 1) "the ethnic cleansing of Jews from their homeland": what do the respected professors, officers etc, say about calls - by individuals and political groups in the past and present - for a voluntary or forced transfer of Israel's Arabs? Exacly a week ago on page 3 of Ha'Aretz I saw a picture of a demonstration by "Gush Katif settlers and Women in Green members" One of the demonstrators, with a knitted yarmulke, held a yellow sign which says "Expel the Arab enemy". Isn't that a call for ethnic cleansing?
2) "We declare that the Israel Defense Forces were intended for defense against enemies, not for operations against Jewish citizens. The IDF is the people's army, not the army of any political group." I also thought that the IDF was not intended for defending an unjustifiable and unsustainable occupation which endangers the Jewish state from within and without. The IDF is supposed to carry out the policies decided upon by a government which represents the majority of the Israeli people. If that government, with the support of the Knesset, decides that Israel's interest is best served by an evacuation of certain ( or all ) settlements, that is what should be done, and the IDF is the most proper and effective body to carry out such an evacuation. Only if a small minority of vocal and possibly violent people is able to keep the IDF from carrying out what it was ordered to do - forcing it to continue the occupation -, only then will the IDF become the army of one political group.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

After I read this article on Ya'acov Nimrodi, I still do not know the final answer to this question: "Is the director of Ma'ariv a criminal or not?".
This UNRWA press release, which I found after having read a posting on the weblog of the Dutch senator, feminist and author Anja Meulenbelt, seems pretty standard and innocent. It is indeed unforgivable that children get hurt or killed by gun- and tankfire, especially when they are in a school class. Yet what neither the press release nor Miss Meulenbelt say is that Israel fired as a reaction to the ceaseless firing of Qassam-rockets by Palestinians into Israel. One of those rockets landed a few weeks ago right next to a kindergarten in Sderot, and killed a 3 1/2 year-old boy named Afik Zahavi z"l. A passerby, about 50 years old, was killed as well, I am not sure whether by the same rocket or by another, in any case it was on the same day. We never hear Miss Meulenbelt or the UNRWA about the Israeli victims, probably because only Israel commits injustices and is guilty of terror. Of course sometimes Israel's responses to terror are random and out of proportion, but on the other hand we only are sure to get the world's sympathy whenever we play the role of the submissive, patient victim, a role that we cannot afford to play all the time. Could it be that Israel fired in the direction of the refugee camp because that is where the Qassam rockets came from? Whomever has been following my writings knows hat I am not trying to defend Sharon's terrible policies here, or to justify the occupation which should have ended a long time ago. Are we talking, in the case of the Qassam rockets, about a legitimate act of resistance against an illegal occupation, and in the case of the Israeli response about an illegal reaction to that legitimate resistance? Or are we talking, in the case of the Israeli reaction, about a legitimate response to incessant terror attacks. Not long ago a Palestinian boy was killed by terrorists because he and his family protested ( fearing a Israeli reaction ) when those terrorists ( sorry, militants ) wanted to fire one or more rockets right next to the boy's home. Are the Israelis or the terrorists to blame for his death, and is his murder an act of resistance or an act of terror? Who knows. For the children and other victims who are involved and traumatized by the war those questions are hardly relevant. Why is it so hard not to ignore the fact that both ( or rather all ) parties are very guilty of all the sorrow, and that most Palestinians and Israelis are simply victims of their failing leaders? For poor kids like Raghda Adnan al-Assar and Afik Zahavi it really does not matter which side started, which one bears more or less responsibility, and which will have to give in more than the other. PS: The UNRWA talks about homemade rockets. Never mind the fact that those rockets have proven to be very lethal, the cynical side of me could not help thinking that all of the bullets and grenades use by Israel are homemade as well.
Lees deze posting van Anja Meulenbelt eens. Op zich niets mis mee, het is inderdaad onvergeeflijk dat kinderen gewond raken of gedood worden door tank- of geweervuur, helemaal wanneer ze in een schoolklas zitten ( zie hier het UNRWA persbericht ). Toch moet hier uitdrukkelijk vermeld worden dat Israel vuurde als reactie op het onophoudelijk afschieten van Qassam-raketten door Palestijnen naar Israel. Een van die raketten kwam een paar weken geleden neer naast een kleuterschool in Sderot, en doodde een 3 1/2 jarig jongetje genaamd Afik Zahavi z"l. Een voetganger van rond de vijftig werd eveneens gedood, ik weet niet meer of dat door dezelfde raket gebeurde of door een andere, het was in ieder geval op dezelfde dag. Over de Israelische slachtoffers horen we mevrouw Meulenbelt zelden of nooit, immers alleen Israel begaat onrecht en maakt zich schuldig aan terreur. Natuurlijk zijn de reacties van Israel soms buitenproportioneel en lukraak, maar aan de andere kant hoeven we alleen op sympatie van de wereld te rekenen wanneer we de rol van lijdzaam slachtoffer spelen na weer een aanslag, en dat kunnen we ons nu eenmaal niet altijd veroorloven. Zou het kunnen dat in de richting van het vluchtelingenkamp werd geschoten omdat daarvandaan deze keer de Qassam raketten werden afgevuurd? Wie mijn geschrijf een beetje volgt weet dat ik hiermee geen pleidooi wil houden voor het wanbeleid van Sharon en zijn voorgangers, of een bezetting wil goedpraten die al lang beeindigd had moeten worden. Is in het geval van de Qassam-raketten sprake van legitiem verzet tegen een illegale bezetting, en gaat het in het geval van de Israelische reactie om een illegaal antwoord op dat legitieme verzet? Of gaat het in het geval van de Israelische actie om een legitiem antwoord op onaflatende terreuraanvallen? Onlangs werd een Palestijnse jongen door terroristen gedood omdat hij en zijn familie protesteerden ( uit angst voor de Israelische reactie ) toen die terroristen een of meerdere raketten naast hun huis wilden afschieten. Is zijn dood de schuld van de terroristen of van Israel, en was zijn moord een terreurdaad of een verzetsdaad? Wie zal het zeggen. Voor de betrokken en getraumatiseerde kinderen en andere slachtoffers zijn die vragen niet echt relevant. Waarom is het zo moeilijk om niet te willen zien/hardop te zeggen dat beide ( of liever: alle ) partijen enorme schuld hebben aan alle ellende, en dat de meeste Palestijnen en de meeste Israeliers simpelweg slachtoffers zijn van hun falende leiders? Voor stumpertjes als Raghda Adnan Al-Assar en Afik Zahavi doet het er echt niet toe wie begonnen is, wie meer of minder schuldig is, en wie er als eerste en/of meer dan de ander toe zal moeten geven.
PS: De UNRWA heeft het over een homemade rocket, wat mevrouw Meulenbelt netjes als zelfgemaakte raket vertaalt. Afgezien van het feit dat die raketten zeer dodelijk zijn, kon mijn cynische kant het niet laten om te denken dat de kogels en granaten die Israel gebruikt ook bijna allemaal zelfgemaakt zijn.
While yesterday I thought about writing something about the link between New York, Madrid, Bali, Jakarta, Beslan, Be'er-Sheva, Moscow etc., I found that whatever I started to write would become easily cliche-ridden and meaningless. Therefore I chose not to write anything for one day, leaving one day out of 30 postingless this month.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Have a look at the website of the "Israel Law Center" ( there is a link to it on Ha'Aretz' website ), where for only US $ 1,590 plus a tax-deductable donation of at least $500 you can participate in The Ultimate Mission to Israel. What does that mission include? In addition to taking numerous trips all over the country and the territories you can hear lectures by a number of senior members of the security forces, attend "an exhibition by IDF undercover soldiers who carry out targeted assassinations of Palestinian terrorists and deep penetration raids in Arab territory", and observe "the trial of Hamas terrorists in an IDF military court".
Hey, hallo, have we gone mad? Has Israel become a huge theme park where foreign-currency-paying tourists ( many of them American Jews ) can satiate their lust for excitement and appease the Zionist part of their conscience by meeting the stars of this crazy and highly lethal reality show? If that is the case I would suggest some more excursions for the mission's participants:
* Visit and mock Yigal Amir in his cell, or watch his conjugal visits on candid camera.
* Witness a real 'targeted assassination'.
* Take part in the evacuation of a real, inhabited settlement.
* Shoot rubber bullets at real Palestinian demonstrators.
As legitimate and worthty as the cause is for which Shurat Hadin stands, it should not be an excuse to turn the most difficult aspects of our national existence into one big attraction ( or Beggar's Opera ).
Op de website van de Telegraaf las ik gisteren het volgende: Zanger Hessel in actie voor zieke naamgenoot LEEUWARDEN - De zingende kroegbaas Hessel van der Kooy gooit zijn muzikale talent in de strijd om het doodzieke 6-jarige jongetje Hessel Tros te helpen. De troubadour van Terschelling probeert 140.000 euro bijeen te krijgen voor onderzoek naar ziekte Aicardi-Goutières, waar het kind aan lijdt. Door de ziekte verkalken de hersenen van het jongetje uit Ryptsjerk. Het gaat daarom steeds slechter met hem. De nog ongeneeslijke ziekte is erg zeldzaam. Volgens de organisatie voor goede doelen 'Commissie Impossible', die de inzameling coördineert, is er daarom geen geld voor onderzoek beschikbaar uit reguliere fondsen. De beoogde 140.000 euro is dan ook bedoeld voor onderzoek door kinderartsimmunoloog T. Kuijpers van het Academisch Medisch Centrum (AMC) in Amsterdam. Dit lijkt me een belangrijk en goed goed doel. Kijk op de website Hessel voor Hessel ( een link staat in de rechter marge, het lukte me niet om onderstaande banner daar te plaatsen ) en wie helpen kan en wil, helpe.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Apparently HaloScan is having some technical problems. All day long the comments feature was gone and back on again, gone and back on, etc. etc. Now the link is there but all you get is an empty window. I tried some other websites that use HaloScan and encountered the same problem. Be patient, everything will return to normal, I am sure. Earlier this evening I was able to reply to some comments myself, and everything worked the way it should.
Today 185 officers, former MKs, scholars and other public figures issued 'a right wing petition' calling on police and Israel Defense Forces troops to 'listen to the voice of their personal and national conscience' and refuse to take part in the evacuation of settlements, an act they define as a crime against humanity, a national crime and an explicitly illegal act". About a year ago a group of IAF pilots said that they would refuse to participate anymore in attacks that could endanger civilians in the West Bank and Gaza ( i.e. in so-called targeted assassinations ). Also, quite a few reserve soldiers have proclaimed that they refuse to take part in the occupation, prefering to spend the time of their reserve duty in military prison. It will be interesting to see who - among those who labeled these conscientious pilots and soldiers traitors, and many did so - will come out against this petition. Its most prominent signatory is the father of Bibi, all the other people mentioned in the article I never heard of before ( "the writers Naomi Frenkel and Ezra Cohen" ?), but that of course says more about me than about them.
I am sure that the 9-year old Palestinian boy who was killed this morning during the IDF incursion into Gaza - aimed at stopping the non-stop firing of Qassam rockets by Palestinian terrorists - was not murdered on purpose, as so many victims of the random terror perpetrated by the 'other side' have been. Still, it would be a good thing if Israeli media made a serious effort to find out and report about the lives and the circumstances of the deaths of each and every innocent Palestinian civilian that is killed by our security forces. They, and in particular the children among them, deserve much more than simply being mentioned in one breath with "3 militants" who were killed in the same action. Maybe if we acknowledge and try to grasp the pain and sorrow suffered by innocent civilians on the 'other side' - which is as genuine and agonizing as that suffered by men, women and children on 'our side' - we will ask ourselves one day if all that we do is always justified. PS: In order to avoid misunderstandings and angry comments: I am not suggesting here that the ( accidental ) killing of civilians by Israeli forces in the course of an action against terrorists or terrorist infrastructures can be compared with the intentional murder of civilians by Palestinian terrorists. One person angrily commented on this subject on Jonathan Edelstein's The Head Heeb by saying "the difference between a Palestinian kid or civilan being killed accidently by the IDF and the deliberate cold blooded mass murder of Israeli civilans by terrorist bombs is that the first was not intended, the second was. It is the difference between moral and inmoral behavior in war. Churchill said that he did not make any sort of equivalence between those who start fires and those who put them out! ". I just think that many Palestinian civilians - and certainly all Palestinian children - have no guilt whatsoever when it comes to having started the fire. Besides, maybe we are not the ones who started the fire but some of us ( I will not name any names ) surely like to put some oil on it every now and then.
Right next to my letter in this morning's Ha'Aretz there was the following letter: Terrorism and battles for independence Regarding "A deadly common denominator" by Ze'ev Schiff, September 5 In his analysis "A deadly common denominator," Ze'ev Schiff is trying to find the line connecting the mass murder in a school in North Ossetia with the suicide bombings in Be'er Sheva and other terrorist attacks. The line is very simple: all the terrorist attacks in Russia are related to the struggle of the Chechen people to gain independence from Russia, exactly as the terrorist attacks in Israel are related to the occupation of the Palestinian people. In both cases the solution should be obvious: grant independence to the Chechens and the Palestinians. The problem is that there is no political willingness in both Russia and Israel to do that. They prefer to link these events to "Islamic or Arab terrorism," with which "there is no chance of dealing without international cooperation," as Zeev Schiff writes. This plays very nicely into the hands of George Bush, who will be more than happy to enlist Russia's support in his war against international terrorism in Iraq. In return, he will turn a blind eye to Russia's atrocities in Chechnya, as he has done with Israel's behavior toward the Palestinians. Al-Qaida is the only group that can be defined as international or Islamic terrorists. All the other terrorist events have their origin in a struggle for independence or autonomy of a minority group from foreign domination. In Russia it is the Chechen problem. In Israel it is the Palestinian problem. In Sri Lanka it is the Tamil minority problem. In the Philippines it is the Moslem minority problem. In Turkey it is the Kurdish problem. In Iraq, it is the American occupation. To ignore the origin of the problem and link everything to international terrorism is the wrong diagnosis. When you misdiagnose, you do not solve the problem, as both the Russians and the Israelis should know after all these years. Naphtali Ringel East Rockaway, New York While Mr Ringel is not totally wrong ( nationalist struggles do play a role in many regions where terrorists are active), I wonder how he explains today's explosion in Jakarta, or the bombing in Bali that killed more than 200 people two years ago, or the killing of Iraqis, Saudis, Palestinians etc. by fellow Iraqis, Saudis, Palestinians etc. What nationalist cause are groups like the Jemaah Islamiyah serving in Indonesia? As I see it, we are talking about a degenerated version of Islam which whenever it sees fit uses nationalist causes ( that are often legitimate ) as pseudo-excuses for its destructive war which is aimed at creating chaos and fear and at bringing about the clash of civilizations that almost all non-Islamists ( besides a few fanatics belonging to other religions ) are trying very hard to avoid. Except for the Sri Lanka-Tamil struggle, in all other conflict zones that Mr Ringel mentions Al-Qaida has been actively cooperating with and supporting local terrorist groups. If that is not international Islamist terror, what is?
Regarding "Rivlin: We may be too sensitive to anti-Semitism", Ha'Aretz, September 8, 2004 ( published in Ha'Aretz, September 9, 2004 ): MK Reuven Rivlin saying in - of all places - Vienna that Israel is "possibly too sensitive about anti-Semitism" is yet another proof that it is hard to take serious this symbol of Israel's democracy. After I came to Israel in 1991 I got to know Mr Rivlin as one of the jesters - among them Yehonathan Geffen and Yair Nitsani - who appeared in the popular show "No one to talk to". He was not the funniest of them, but nevertheless I was sure that he is a clown, until someone told me that he is actually a politician. There is no such thing as being too sensitive about anti-Semitism. There is, though, such a thing as false alarm when we talk about this ugly phenomenon. By crying wolf whenever criticism - no matter how justified, sincere and well-meant - at Israel's often ruinous policies is expressed by a foreigner, conservative advocates of the Jewish state have diminished the historical value and power of the word 'anti-Semitism'. By using derivatives of the A-word more discriminately we might restore its powerful meaning.
Enjoy:

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Hoe verkrampte pogingen om politiek correct te zijn al gauw leiden tot journalistieke kolder. Bij een foto op de website van de Volkskrant staat het volgende geschreven: " Een Israëlische legerbulldozer maakt land vrij bij het Jebaliya vluchtelingenkamp, nabij Gaza. Ruim twintig tanks proberen een einde te maken aan het afvuren van raketten vanuit dit gebied, vermoedelijk door Palestijnen, op Israëlische dorpen." Nog wat bijschriften bij (nog) niet bestaande foto's die ik zomaar even uit mijn duim zuig: * "Woedende Palestijnen naast de restanten van een uitgebrande auto, waarvan de inzittenden werden gedood door - vermoedelijk Israelische - helikopters." * "Vermoedelijk joodse gelovigen dragen Thorah-rollen tijdens de traditionele optocht op het Vreugde der Wet feest." * "Terwijl het nationale elftal blundert op het veld laten deze Oranje indianen - vermoedelijk Nederlanders - ons weten wat zij ervan denken."
Shawn of R&S made an excellent comment on a news item that troubled me very much.
An interesting analysis by Danny Rubinstein of the links and frictions between Al-Qaida and Hamas, and about how Israel might ( once again ) create a monster that will be much more dangerous than the one with which we are dealing right now.
Has he done it again? ( Ha'Aretz News Flash ): 07:30 Arab media report: Palestinian PM Ahmed Qureia announced his resignation
Mijn Nederlands houd ik bij door veel te surfen op het internet, af en toe een boek te lezen, en regelmatig een van de gedichtenbundels open te slaan die ik in de loop der laatste jaren tijdens mijn bezoeken aan Nederland heb aangeschaft. En oh ja, ik schrijf af en toe nog wel eens een opinieartikel dat ik dan bij een van de kranten of tijdschriften probeer te slijten, dat blijft altijd een mooie oefening om mijn gedachten over een bepaald onderwerp op een rijtje te zetten en in een min of meer samenhangend verband te formuleren, en om te kijken of ik mijn moedertaal nog niet verleerd ben. Vandaag zal er d.v. weer een stuk in Trouw staan. Mijn Nederlands staat redelijk stil de laatste 12 jaar, neem ik aan, en is een eigen leven gaan leiden, net zoals in het Zuidafrikaans het Nederlands van een paar honderd jaar geleden doorklinkt. Je zult mij nooit het woord 'vet' horen gebruiken, tenzij het om iets eetbaars, een dikke drukletter of iets met (smeer)olie gaat. Wat ik lees is meestal geschreven door schrijvers wier naam al jaren geleden gevestigd is: Jan Wolkers, Boudewijn Buech, Maarten 't Hart, Gerard Durlacher, Leon de Winter, Renate Dorrestein, Ischa Meijer, Middas Dekkers. Van de schrijvers die na 1992 beroemd zijn geworden lees ik eigenlijk alleen Arnon Grunberg. Ook de boeken van Geert Mak lees ik graag, al was die voor mijn vertrek ( zijn eerste boek, De Engel van Amsterdam, verscheen in 1992 ) natuurlijk al actief als journalist. De dichtbundels die ik heb gekocht zijn vaak verzamelbundels ( o.a. een paar Ooievaarpockets, zoals Domweg gelukkig in de Dapperstraat ). Ook heb ik de verzamelde gedichten van Gerrit Achterberg, en vier gedichtenbundels ( Oude Gedichten, Woelig Stof, Onmogelijk Geluk, Geleende Tijd ) van mijn absolute favoriet, Jean Pierre Rawie. De door hem gehanteerde taal is nog archaischer dan de mijne. Het eerste gedicht dat ik zag toen ik net Rawie's Onmogelijk Geluk opensloeg was het volgende. "Een eindeloos nabije hemel", prachtig!: Kinderjaren Ik zoek een tijd te doen herleven, die betekenis moet geven aan het heden; reeler dan de dingen die wij deden wordt wat wij waren in de fantasie. De zolder van de oude pastorie, onttogen aan het huishouden beneden, omsloot een rijk dat niemand mocht betreden, maar dat ik blijvend in den blinde zie. God zat des avonds aan met het gezin, en achter hoge vensters ruisten bomen een eindeloos nabije hemel in. Ik weet niet waar het kind ons is ontnomen, maar eens wordt ieders einde, elk begin, weer in dit doodstil ruisen opgenomen.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

19:36 Commissioner Moshe Karadi says he opposed police investigation of Public Security Minister Hanegbi

Why, oh why am I not surprised? (*)

(*) PS I first thought that Karadi did not think Hanegbi should be inbestigated; it appears that he just thinks that the police should not be the body that carries out the investigation. My cynical remark was not justified. *** 19:10 Iranian judoka who refused to fight Israel`s Udi Vaks gets $125,000 award.

I wonder how much of that amount he will donate to the Palestinian cause, because of which he claimed to refuse to fight Udi Vaks in the first place.
Now that is a nice way to start your army service ( Ha'Aretz News Flash ): 17:18 4 teenagers injured in brawl that broke out in IDF`s Tel Hashomer induction center; 2 suspects arrested for stabbing ( Btw: excellent security check at the gates of the induction center ( Bakum )! Or did they use the blunt kitchen knifes? )
Have a laugh with Flo Capp:
Two articles, one of them found on the website of Ha'Aretz, the other on AP News/TBO, both based on the same Associated Press report, and still quite different. The subject? Post-Beslan attempts at introspection by Arab commentators, religious leaders and intellectuals. That some of the attempts are hardly genuine becomes clear when one 'scholar' from Bahrain - in a passage that is missing in Ha'Aretz - tells us: "I have no doubt in my mind that this is the work of the Israelis who want to tarnish the image of Muslims and are working alongside Russians who have their own agenda against the Muslims in Chechnya."

Monday, September 06, 2004

Regarding "The spectacular rise of the female terrorist" by Alexis B. Delaney and Peter R. Neumann, IHT, September 6, 2004: Women have been an active part of terrorist networks as long as modern terror exists. What makes the case of Islamist terror almost unique ( the only other example that I know of being the Tamil separatist movement ) is its extensive use of suicide terrorists, both male and female. The authors touch upon the reason why Westerners have a hard time grasping the notion of female suicide murderers: strangers to the nihilism of Islamist terrorists, we find it hard to see our girls and women as the 'perfect tools' for destroying human life. While there is still much left for women to fight for, one apprehension is universal among most if not all people around the world: that of women as nurturing and cherishing human life rather than wiping it out. Why is it that we hardly hear about or see any serious demonstrations or other activities against this aspect of Islamist terror by Western feminists, many of whom can be seen at the forefront of ( perfectly justified ) protests against Israel's occupation and against Bush' global non-policies?

Sunday, September 05, 2004

I am not sure if they were published simultaneously on purpose, but in two very good op-eds in this weekend's IHT, Paul Krugman and William Pfaff partly explain to us why the US encounters so many problems in its fight against terror: the current American government is being lead by an unhealthy combination of religion, nationalism and hatred, without knowing what positive things to promise the American people and the world.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

A US official said today that "the United States and its allies have moved closer to capturing Osama bin Laden in the last two months ". I would not be surprised if they came even closer during the next two months, and the man was to be caught on the eve of the American elections. I would not even be shocked if he was already in US custody, and they are waiting to somehow make his arrest public in the days leading to those elections. Such a scheme would be peanuts for men like Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, compared to the dirty trick that the latter's father and Ronald Reagan allegedly played in the election campaign of 1980.
Maybe while John Kerry was fighting in Vietnam, George W. Bush and Der Gouverneur-Erlediger ( I could not think of another German translation for Terminator ) went to some really special night-school together?
Onlangs besteedde Hanneke Groenteman enkele postings ( klik maar: hier, hier, hier, hier, en hier ) aan Boudewijn Buech ( ik heb geen idee hoe ik een umlaut op mijn weblog te voorschijn kan toveren, dus ik doe het maar op deze manier ). Met verbazing, verwondering en fascinatie, maar vooral altijd met veel plezier heb ik veel van de door BB geschreven columns, artikelen en boeken gelezen, en ook heb ik genoten van heel wat van zijn televisieprogramma's. Dat niet alles wat hij schreef ook werkelijk waar was/is zal best, maar dat boeit me voor geen meter. Wat ik nooit zal vergeten is het enthousiasme ( zou hier het woord begeestering niet op zijn plaats zijn? ) dat hij uitstraalde als hij praatte over een van de onderwerpen waarover hij meer dan menig ander wist.
Mevrouw Groenteman verwijst ook naar de website van de fotograaf Klaas Koppe. Deze website bevat veel mooie en boeiende foto's, vooral van schrijvers en dichters.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Ik moest erg lachen toen ik las dat Geert Wilders nog over zijn politieke toekomst nadenkt maar dat hij al een motto klaarheeft: "Rechts doch sociaal". Betekent dit dat hij denkt ( inziet? ) dat rechts en sociaal niet te verenigen ( zouden ) zijn?
Probably like millions of people all over the world I constantly zap to CNN, SKY News and the BBC to learn about what is going on at the school in Beslan. When I first saw the poor girls in their underwear fleeing towards safety, I immediately thought of our 5-year old daughter. Human rights are violated by every side in each conflict, but a new red line has been crossed by the perpetrators of this crime, and I am glad that they are not 'fighting' for a cause that is dear to me.
Miriam, of a very good new weblog called Bloghead ( it already appears in my personal blog list ), says almost exactly that I wanted to say about the non-issue of Yigal Amir and his Larisa getting married yes or no. ( Read the comments as well for the details ).
PS: Kerry returned some high quality mud to Cheney and others who have been and still are trying to discredit him as a possible commander-in-chief/President. Among other things he said "Misleading our nation into war in Iraq makes you unfit to lead this nation. [...] Doing nothing while this nation loses millions of jobs makes you unfit to lead this nation. Letting 45 million Americans go without health care makes you unfit to lead this nation. Letting the Saudi royal family control our energy costs makes you unfit to lead this nation. Handing out billions of government contracts to Halliburton while you're still on their payroll makes you unfit. That's the record of George Busg and Dick Cheney, and it's not going to change. The vice president even called me unfit for office last night,...I guess I'll leave it up to the voters whether five deferments makes someone more qualified to defend this nation than two tours of duty."
Now that is a promising perspective! George W. Bush suggests that the Palestinians should be inspired by the democracy-building experiments of Iraq and Afghanistan. Doesn't that man have anybody to read him newspapers, or to explain in words of not more than two syllables what is going on in those two countries? Nobody really knows if the experiments will ever succeed, but for now I would not claim any successes there. On the other hand, we are talking about a man who said "mission accomplished" more than a year ago regarding US operations in Iraq, and hundreds of Americans and others were killed in that country since then.
John Kerry sums up very well what the issue in the coming elections will be:
"The election comes down to this. If you believe this country is heading in the right direction, you should support George Bush, but if you believe America needs to move in a new direction, join with us."
Some new blogs were added to the list of blogs that I visit once in a while or frequently. Of course, the views expressed on those blogs are those of the blogs' authors. Sometimes I agree with them, sometimes I very much disagree with them, and sometimes I do not really care. You can check them out yourselves: Jerusalem Revealed, R&S, Bloghead, Random Thoughts, Normblog, and Inner Emigration.
Does anybody know what is going on at Not Another Israeli Blog? Its author made some promising postings, but they are posted on a highly irregular basis. I want to make sure that all my permalinks to other blogs refer to active weblogs, that is why I ask.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Het lezen waard: een opvallend artikel van Anil Ramdas, waaraan ik terugdacht toen ik het gisteren met een goede vriendin, die ruim twintig jaar geleden uit Argentinie hierheen emigreerde, had over hoe Israel veranderd is in de laatste tien, twintig jaar.
This week I read four articles that I would like to save for future re-reading and to share with you. Ze'ev Schiff writes about one example of the ways in which the IDF and settlers play cat and mouse. After having read the interview with Colonel Knafo I am not so sure if the cat is always doing its best to catch the mouse. As always Schiff tells us some things that most of us will not read anywhere else.
Avraham Tal and Yossi Sarid each wrote an excellent piece telling us how dysfunctional the Jewish state is, and giving us some of the reasons why.
Sarid says some interesting things: "[...] A long time ago I arrived at the conclusion that most people are "men without qualities." Like the hero of Robert Musil's book "The Man Without Qualities," they don't have character of their own. They also remind me of Zelig, the hero of Woody Allen's mischievous movie, who has the unique talent of becoming contaminated by his human surroundings; [...] Man is born neither good nor evil; the will of the heart is generally like raw material in the hands of the creator. For this reason it is so important that people with a history like Hanegbi's should never reach the status of becoming a creator, in whose hands the too-soft human raw material is placed.[...]"
Last but certainly not least, Gideon Samet analyzes today's Israeli youth and the education system that makes and breaks them. At least his conclusion is not alltogether negative: "[...] there is still a chance, in spite of everything. The clay is good. Only the potters are poor."

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

On Israeli television I just saw pictures of the funeral of 3 1/2-year old Aviel Atash. As we normally do not bury our dead in a coffin, but wrapped in a prayer shawl ( talith ), you could see the contours of his little body. We were told that he was the only child of his parents. His mother, who got pregnant only after many fertility treatments, was hurt seriously in the attack. She and her son were on their way back from the shopping mall. May his memory be blessed.
Regarding whole front page, IHT, September 1, 2004: Five ( * ) out of seven headlines on the front page of today's issue deal with terror. Out of those five at least four are directly linked to brutal murders perpetrated and threats made by Islamist terrorists. Continuing to pretend ( to believe ) that those terrorist are fighting for justifiable nationalist causes and/or for oppressed nations, and that they might have reasonable demands that can be met through negotiations, compromises and indulgence is not only naive and simple-minded, but also dangerous. On the other hand, the only two countries that have come to understand what kind of enemy we are dealing with - Israel and the US - are lead by leaders who have no political vision whatsoever which might give us hope for a better future for their countries and for the world, and who believe that military might alone will make all local and global threats disappear. That both leaders have lost much if not all of their political support at home and/or abroad does not help very much either. I wonder if three years ago Osama Bin Laden imagined that his diabolic magnum opus would bear so much fruit so fast. Since the headlines on the IHT website were changed later in the day, here they are: 1) Bush now vows to 'win' war on terror 2) 12 Nepal hostages slain in Iraq 3) Twin bus bombs kill 16 in Israel 4) Blast leaves 8 dead in Moscow subway 5) French hold hectic talks on captives 6) US says Syria is 'meddling' in Lebanon 7) WTO approves sanctions on US
As usual the school year here could not start without some sort of strike. While we complain about that, there is always a place with bigger problems to deal with: somewhere in a southern province of Russia attackers entered a school and are holding hundreds of hostages, among whom about 200 children. Three regions where terrorists grabbed the headlines this week, in all three cases we are talking about Islamist terrorists who use a national(ist) cause as an excuse for their despicable acts: Iraq ( 12 Nepalese workers brutally murdered, and two French journalists being held hostage ), Russia ( a bomb blast in Moscow killed several people; today's hostage crisis ), Israel ( the dual bomb blasts in Be'er Sheva yesterday, which killed 16 people, one of them a 3-year old boy ). As long as some governments and the peoples of some countries think that the only reason for them being targeted is their support for or lack of opposition to US policies, and as long as some political candidates all over the world offer their potential voters a withdrawal of their troops or contractors from Iraq as a miracle means to buy off the wrath of the terrorists, the Islamists are having their way and attaining their goals. The war on terror cannot be fought alone by military means, political and socio-economic ones are vital too ( or maybe even more vital ), and many drastic changes have to be implemented as far as the policies of countries such as Israel and the US are concerned.
Still, whoever thinks that the terrorists have only reasonable and justified short-term goals is fooling himself, and any politician who thinks so and acts accordingly is fooling and endangering his public.
Petje af voor roeier Diederik Simon voor zijn eerlijke commentaar op de ontvangst, door koningin Beatrix, van de Nederlandse sporters die medailles hebben gewonnen op de afgelopen Olympische Spelen in Athene: " 't was een mooie poppenkast."
Op haar weblog verwijst Anja Meulenbelt naar een brievenactie voor de Palestijnen die in Israelische gevangenissen zitten, zonder overigens maar een woord vuil te maken aan de aanslagen van gisteren. Ik laat deze actie maar schieten, en leg haar netjes uit waarom:
Sorry dat ik verstek laat gaan bij deze brievenactie. De Hamas-terroristen die de aanslagen in Be’er Sheva gisteren hebben opgeeist noemden die moordacties een geschenk voor de hongerstakende Palestijnse gevangenen in Israelische gevangenissen. Met zulke geschenken hebben die gevangenen mijn handtekening niet echt nodig, lijkt me.
Regarding "Marathon attacker is fined 3000 Euro", IHT Sports, August 31, 2004:
All things considered, the latest Olympics were successful and a pleasure to watch. Still, besides some problems with jury voting - for which the organizers cannot be held responsible - there were two serious incidents related to security, which influenced the outcome of two competitions: men's synchronised 3 metre springboard diving and the men's marathon. In the first case, the two Chinese favorites appeared totally confused after some clown was able to force his way onto the springboard, which enabled the two Greek competitors to grab the golden medal. During the marathon a deranged priest was able to attack Brazil's Vanderlei de Lima, frightening him and possibly preventing him from getting more than the bronze medal that he received in the end. With large international ( sports ) events increasingly becoming a global stage for each and every one who feels an urgent need to express his personal and/or political frustrations, organizers of large sports competitions such as the Olympics should not only make sure that people who can be easily recognized as harmful loonies ( such as in the two cases mentioned above ) will not have access to sports accomodations, but also think of changing the rules in such a way that people with harmful intentions will be unable to ruin the chances of winning for men and women who spent years and years training in order to shine on such a global stage.