Saturday, December 31, 2005

Deze spotprent van Tom Janssen kwam ik nog tegen, leuk genoeg om het oude jaar glimlachend uit te luiden.
For more than 24 hours I was unable to blog, read or send e-mails etc. because of technical difficulties. At least everything started working again just in time to write a last posting for 2005. We do not really celebrate New Year's Eve here ( some people do, though ). This evening we are invited to our friends and neighbors. Together with them, their children and another couple of neigbors/friends with their children, we will light the Hanukah candles ( seven tonight, plus the shamash of course ) and have a light dinner. This morning I made a cake ( 'spiced cake with almond paste' according to my dictionary, gevulde speculaas in Dutch ) that smells wonderful. If my wife and I are awake at twelve o'clock ( we probably will be asleep already ) we will open the windows to hear the boats in the Haifa harbor honking ( is that the right word?).
I have no serious resolutions for next year, except for finally finishing my PhD. As for the most important events of the past year, I do not think my choices are very surprising, they appear in most reviews:
  • For the world: the bomb attacks in London ( July ) and the riots in France ( November )
  • For Holland: the rejection of the European consitution ( June )
  • For Israel: the implementation of the Gaza-disengagement plan ( August )

Obviously, by choosing these events I do not say that other events ( the aftermath of the Tsunami, the earthquake in Pakistan, hurricane Katherina, Bush' second inauguration, the election of a new pope, the start of the process against Saddam Hussayn, terror in Egypt, Iraq and elsewhere, anarchy in the Palestinian territories, the process against the murderer of Theo van Gogh, terror alerts and arrests in Holland ) were unimportant or less impressive. Choosing events of the year does not make sense in any case, but to me the visual and/or possible historical impact of the abovementioned events was/seems to be the most significant. A happy, healthy and hopefully peaceful 2006 to all my readers ( and to most of the other 6 355 543 350+ people on this planet )!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

My father-in-law happened to be at the city hall of the city where we live when army officials arrived there to verify the address of the family of the officer who was killed in the suicide attack in the West Bank this morning. My father-in-law, who used to be chairman of the local council a few years before it was made into a city - one of the last official acts of Yitzhak Rabin before he was murdered -, knows the family quite well and was visibly upset when he came home, where our daughter and I met him and my mother-in-law for lunch.
Talking about wasting money. Yesterday I read that the Houston Holocaust Museum brought an old railcar all the way from Germany. It is not at all sure that this particular car was used to transport Jews to concentration and/or extermination camps during the Holocaust, but nevertheless it will be officially unveiled early next year in the presence of former President Clinton as " a powerful symbol ". This is what happens when you have Holocaust and Genocide Museums shooting up like mushrooms all over the world ( and particularly in the United States ). After all, each museum has to be filled and to attract visitors, and whether or not the objects on display are absolutely genuine does not appear to be very important. That the fragmentation of remembrance and research and this use of 'almost-or-maybe-somehow-genuine' objects make the work of Holocaust doubters and deniers easier ( and that so many Holocaust survivors in Israel - and elsewhere, I suppose, as well - live in poverty ) does not interest those who have to justify the existence of 'their' musea. Of course, it is important to offer as many people as possible the opportunity to get familiar with the details of the organized murder of millions of Jews and others by the Nazis and their helpers, but I wonder if that is what is the primary goal of some of those musea's initiatiors, and if this is the right way to make those details known.
When recently it became possible for gay people in Britain to officially register as couples, I read that Israeli gays watched the celebrations with envy. Today I discovered that in Israel we have something that the British can be jealous of: one millionaire came to Eilat to marry the love of her life, a dolphin who is her junior by six years. It always amazes me how some rich people search for ( and find ) such wondrous ways to waste their money and time.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Three pictures taken from, and one of, the Tour Montparnasse in Paris, two weeks ago. On the first three pictures you can see the Eiffel tower, the Hotel des Invalides, and the Jardin du Luxembourg.
Het laatste kliekje voor vandaag. Niet vaak kom ik online een column uit een van de gratis dagbladen tegen die me bijblijft zoals deze.
Een opgewarmd blog-kliekje, dat ik volgens mij al bijna een jaar bewaar. Toch nog wel leuk om te lezen, dat artikel.
Geert Mak schreef voor de Groene Amsterdammer een boeiend portret van een door hem geobserveerd deel van de Verenigde Staten, aan de vooravond van de verkiezingen, waarvan het resultaat ons inmiddels al lang bekend is.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

In het nieuwsbulletin van de Wereldomroep dat ik zojuist in mijn mailbox ontving stond het volgende bericht ( ik had er al op andere websites over gelezen in vrijwel exact dezelfde bewoordingen, blijkbaar is dit de tekst van een persbericht van het ANP o.i.d. ):
Stille tocht Kamp Westerbork
Ongeveer tweehonderd mensen hebben op tweede kerstdag meegelopen in een stille tocht in Herinneringscentrum Kamp Westerbork. Het thema was dit jaar 'Mensenrechten kennen geen grenzen, ook niet in Darfur'. De initiatiefnemer van de stille tocht, Appelgroep Westerbork, begon ermee in 1993, toen er overigens nog maandelijks een tocht werd gehouden om aandacht te vragen voor de oorlog in voormalig Joegoslavie. Naderhand werd de stille tocht een jaarlijks evenement op tweede kerstdag, elke keer met een ander thema. Voorzitter Visscher van de Appelgroep stond in een toespraak stil bij de brand in het detentiecentrum op Schiphol, waarbij elf mensen omkwamen. Volgens Visscher leidt de omgang in Nederland met vreemdelingen tot de vraag of de mensenrechtensituatie in eigen land wel zo goed is. Albertien van der Veen, de voorzitter van de Nederlandse afdeling van Artsen zonder Grenzen, beschreef de aanhoudend slechte situatie in Darfur. Volgens haar is het de hoogste tijd dat we aandacht schenken aan de omstandigheden in de Sudanese regio.
Wat ik totaal miste was een verwijzing naar datgene waaraan het Herinneringscentrum herinnert, of in ieder geval zou moeten herinneren. Betekent dit dat wat zich in Westerbork afspeelde vanaf het einde van de jaren dertig ( van de vorige eeuw, moet ik zeggen ) tot en met de bevrijding in 1945 zo algemeen bekend is dat er vanuit wordt gegaan dat iedereen zich daarvan bewust is? Als die veronderstelling juist is, dan is het met de historische kennis van de Nederlanders toch niet zo gek gesteld als de verkiezing van Pim F. tot grootste Nederlander aller tijden zou doen vermoeden. Helaas heb ik een donkerbruin vermoeden dat een korte vermelding van de functie van het kamp Westerbork vlak voor en tijdens de Duitse bezetting ( en ook van de functie ervan na het onafhankelijk worden van Indonesie, al verwijzen de "tromellaars uit de Molukse gemeenschap" waarover ik op de site van de Telegraaf las daarnaar ) niet overbodig zou zijn. Met die kennis als achtergrond wordt de symbolische waarde van dergelijke stille tochten een stuk sterker, en zijn die tochten opeens iets minder zinloos, lijkt me.
If what Binyamin Nethanyahu said tonight is true ( "the prime minister [is] 'secretly planning' a unilateral withdrawal from 90 percent of West Bank" ) I think he is doing Ariel Sharon a favor: for me that would be a reason to seriously consider voting for Sharon's list, Kadimah. Unfortunately, there are no signs of Ariel Sharon or of any of his closest associates really contemplating substantial surprises when it comes to giving up parts of the West Bank. Au contraire, as part of the election campaign - or so it seems, otherwise the timing is quite a coincidence - tenders have been issued for more than two hundred houses in two settlements. O.k., both settlements belong to blocs that will probably remain in Israeli hands even after a ( unilateral ) withdrawal, but ( the timing of ) tenders such as this one will not help to create an atmosphere that will enhance the chances of success for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. If Sharon has already given up on such negotiations - and I would have some understanding for such an approach, given the not very hopeful signs that we receive from 'the other side', no matter what Israel's role is in this - he should tell us so before the elections, If he intends to launch a Disengagement II plan for the West Bank he ought to make that part of the election campaign, clarifying what he thinks that the dimensions of such a disengagement will/should be. By the way, Likud MK Gid'on Sa'ar, the former chairman of what used to be the governing coalition, is talking 'out of the back of his neck' when he says that "the intensifying Qassam rocket attacks attest to the disengagement plan's failure". As an IDF spokesperson said earlier this week, while about 230 Qassam rockets have fallen since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, a larger number fell in the corresponding period before the implementation of the disengagement plan. Of course, Israeli communities and cities that border on Gaza should get more and better means of protection, and the IDF should respons as forcefully as possible and necessary to these attacks, but when Mr Sa'ar says that o"nly the Likud can place an effective dam in the face of the continued policy of withdrawal and deterioration in the security situation" he shows himself in his true colors, colors that have become a tradition in Israeli politics: those of a politician trying to turn security problems and the misery of others into a political asset. If the intensifying attacks prove anything, it is that the election campaigns and political interests of 'their' extremists and ours run parallel in more than one way.

Monday, December 26, 2005

After my wife took our daughter to a show, I bathed our son, brushed his teeth and put him to bed. Then I made myself a sandwich and wanted to watch one of the DVDs that I bought or received as a present during my last visit to Paris and Holland, but when I turned on the television I landed in the second half of what must be one of my five favorite movies of all times, Scent of a Woman. It is broadcast about once every other week on one of the movie channels, and each time that I find myself in the middle of it I find it hard not to watch it until the end. It is funny, moving, has a good storyline and leaves me with a wonderful feeling every time that I watch ( part of ) it. Next time that I watch it I will try to pay attention to the 'goofs' in the movie. I never notice such things ( probably because I watch a movie to enjoy it, not to study it ), but you can find them on various websites, such as Internet Movie Database.
This is an old posting that I wrote in the spring of this year, and that I saved for future posting. The political reality has caught up with much of what I wanted to say, but some of it is still relevant. Two articles ( here and here ), both more than half a year old but still relevant, about Amir Peretz, who recently announced his candidacy for the leadership of Israel's Labor Party. On its way to primaries for that leadership the party claims to have enlisted 100.000 new members, recruited by supporters of each of the possible candidates in order to boost that candidate's chances. Israel's democracy at its best, but not a sign of the growing strength of the party among Israeli voters. I know personally of at least one case of a lifelong Likud voter who said that she will keep voting Likud but who was enlisted to help a friend in local Labor primaries. I really do not know which candidate is the best or most suitable one. Most of them I cannot really stand. Matan Vilnai is sympathetic and talented but does not stand a chance, Avraham Burg is not available ( and also would not be able to beat the competitors ), and I am not sure whether Yitzhak Herzog or Ofir Pines-Paz will be nominated. One of the most serious problems in Israel is the lack of a credible and viable opposition party, which offers good alternatives in the fields of socio-economics, justice, the separation of synagogue and state, security, the environment, etc. Now that the main governing party is in disarray as well, we are left to the tender mercies of..., well, of whom?
Apparently our situation - when it comes to politics, the economy, poverty, security, etc. - is very good. After all, even though Qassam rockets are still being fired from Gaza to Israel today's main headlines concern the weight ( 115 kgs according to Ha'Aretz, elsewhere I read 118 kilo ) and the cholesterol level of our Prime Minister. By the efforts to 'prove' that a clearly overweight person in his seventies is in perfect health ( as someone pointed out after one of Sharon's advisers said right after the stroke that the PM looked excellent: "He did not look excellent before the stroke, how are we expected to believe that he does now?" ) I am constantly reminded of the - succesful - attempts, years ago, to convince the American public that Vice President Cheney's health problems were nothing to worry about. Of course, Ariel Sharon's health is a news item, and totally relevant, since he is and wants to remain the leader of this country. But this whole circus has become slightly absurd, with an editorial in Ha'Aretz telling us "...one can demand from a man whose leadership abilities are so outstanding, in the army as well as on the political battlefield, to show the same leadership when it comes to the area of health, which has felled so many more than all of the terror attacks and wars combined. Many people will follow Sharon, and support him in the difficult war, if he sets a personal example the same way he did in his paratrooper days, by calling out: "After me, toward a diet and healthy habits." All this reeks of political spin, it sets a precedent, and what is more important, it is one of the main reasons why there is little talk of the real issues that the elections should be about: social issues and reaching a final deal with the Palestinians and/or determining the borders of the Jewish state.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

I really do not know what kind of comments to write on local events and developments these days. Something about the health of Ariel Sharon? That subject has been squeezed dry already, I think. Something about the comments of the speaker of the Knesset regarding the qualities of this outgoing Knesset's members? Although the man is right, of course ( his advice to the Israeli public "Choose better parliamentarians" is just brilliant ), I find it hard to take seriously a politician who was one of the leaders of the political attacks against Israel's Supreme Court and who thought Vienna was the perfect place to say that Israel is "possibly too sensitive about anti-Semitism". I could write something about the escalation in the south, with Qassam rockets being fired again from Gaza into Israel, but how can I top the wise words of politicians like Yuval Steinitz, who proposed cutting off the electricity supply to the Gaza Strip in retalialion ( the hell with what the world thinks of us, no? ), or Danny Yatom, who expressed fears that Steinitz' words might drag us into a war with the Palesistinians ( what would he call the current situation? )?. Another subject could be the weather, but I can only say that I am waiting for the rain to stop ( it has been raining almost continuously since last night, and it seems that this will go on until Monday ) and for the sun to start shining again. Therefore I will simply post some more pictures from Paris. The one of Heinrich Heine's grave I took at the Montmartre cemetery in Paris on Sunday, December 11th, almost two weeks ago. The other two show the view from the apartment where I stayed.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Happy Hanukah!

Merry Christmas and a happy 2006!

Since the three holidays ( Hanukah, Christmas, New Year ) coincide this year, I can wish the vast majority of my readers happy holidays simultaneously. Therefore: Merry Christmas ( for my Christian readers and all the others who somehow celebrate the holiday ), a happy, healthy and hopefully peaceful new year for all my readers, and Hag Urim Sameah for my Jewish readers. This afternoon me and my family will visit Lila of Letters from Rungholt. Our daughter very much wanted to see a Christmas tree ( and Lila's daughter Quarta ) again, so it was about time for another meeting of our families. Interestingly enough, the Druze neigbors of my parents-in-law also have a tree on their balcony. Although they do not celebrate Christmas they adopted the tree-custom from their Christian neighbors in the village where they lived previously.

PS: Of course, also happy Festivus for those who celebrate that nondenominational holiday.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Four cartoonists' views on the trial of Saddam Hussayn. The cartoons were collected and saved months ago.
Tom Janssen ("Before... and after his trial" )

Gary Varvel

Chappatte

Billy Day

The following article, which I wrote on the occasion of the Nobel prize ceremony in Stockholm earlier this month, appeared in the latest issue of The Jerusalem Report:
Give me your bright, your noble...
Just as anti-Semites enjoy “proving” that Jews control the world or parts of it, some of us love to glory in “our” contributions to mankind. On www.jinfo.org you can see lists like “Jews in chess,” “ Jews in sociology,” and of course “Jewish Nobel Prize winners”. Of all Nobel Prize winners, the site says, 22 percent are Jewish or “half-Jewish,” though we make up only approximately 0.25 percent of the world population.
What is more interesting than such ethnic-religious statistics, though, is the fact that so many of the Nobel Prize winners, Jewish and non-Jewish, come from emigrant families or are emigrants themselves. The biographies of the winners of this prize of prizes, which can be found on http://nobelprize.org/, are fascinating. A total of 776 individuals and organizations won the prize since 1901. Let’s narrow that down to the 564 winners of the prizes for chemistry, physics, physiology or medicine, and economic sciences, since the choice of winners for the peace and literature prizes is less objective and has often been controversial.
In many of the life stories we read that the scientists, their parents, grandparents or ancestors moved to a foreign country – mostly the United States, but also Great Britain, France, Israel and other countries – in search of a better or safer life. I found at least 148 winners who for one reason or another left their native country for good, 52 whose parents were emigrants, and 24 whose grandparents emigrated. Americans – virtually all of whom are immigrants or descended from immigrants – make up the majority of scientists whose biography does not specifically mention some sort of migration.
Several Nobel laureates are Holocaust survivors. Some of them fled or were sent to the United States or England before World War II broke out – for instance economist Robert Aumann (Israel’s representative in Stockholm on December 8), and Walter Kohn (Chemistry 1998). Others survived the war in occupied Europe, such as Daniel Kahneman (Economics 2002) and Rita Levi-Montalcini (Medicine 1986).
But not only Jews appear as refugees in the biographies. For example, the ancestors of at least three laureates were Huguenots who arrived in America after having fled religious persecution in France. Also, not all the migrants are refugees. Often a scientist simply went abroad – again, mostly to the U.S. – to puruse his or her research or a job offer.
Clearly the work that turned these 564 scientists into Nobel Prize winners constitutes only a small part of outstanding human endeavors and achievements in the last century or so. And clear, not all migrations have been a blessing for the immigrants themselves or for the countries that received them.
Still, the biographies of the Nobel laureates suggest that there is a certain connection between a country’s intellectual freedom, religious-political tolerance and hospitality on the one hand, and its prosperity, scientific and cultural bloom on the other. That more than 250 out of the 564 prize-winners are Americans can hardly be a coincidence. Whatever this says about American institutes of higher learning and research, there might also be a link to the U.S. being a country of immigrants.
The U.S. is not an isolated example. In the Netherlands’ Golden Age, the Dutch economy and cultural life thrived partly because of the country’s colonial enterprises but also as a result of its reputation for tolerance, which attracted many Jewish and Protestant refugees. Something similar is true for the Muslim world: it reached its zenith when in some respects its tolerance outdid that of Europe.
These days many Westerners tend to see immigrants – and particularly the Muslims among them – as a burden and a threat rather than as a source of fresh blood that can help to invigorate our societies. An economic recession and stereotyped ideas but also Islam’s apparent lack of adaptability and Islamist terrorists can be blamed for this.
Nevertheless, the U.S. and other Western countries should not give in to Islamist terror by turning themselves into inaccessible fortresses. Obviously we cannot afford to let terrorists abuse the openness and tolerance of our societies, yet we have to remember that these remain two of our most powerful assets, which should be cherished and defended, not sacrificed in our war against terror. Allowing the fanaticism of others to erode our own tolerance and hospitality weakens us and lets the terrorist have their way.
As for us Jews, it is clear that as immigrants who contributed to the countries that received them we form part of a larger whole. For good reason, some immigrant groups abroad look at the local Jewish communities to learn about their own integration and advancement. If we could help Muslims and other minorities integrate more successfully into Western societies, that would be one of our most significant contributions to humanity in the 21st century.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Normally I do not watch television at this time of the day but a technician of Yes, the satellite television service to which we subscribe, was here to fix some minor problem, and I left the television on to check the news on CNN and Sky, so I happened to see Mr Sharon leaving the hospital on live Israeli television. N., the friend and DBI commentator whom I met in Utrecht last week, pointed out something that I had not thought of yet. Could it be, she wrote me, that this would be a good thing for peace: a Prime Minister who - having had a glimpse of death - wants to immortalize himself even more than before by bringing about peace, or - and this is me continuing her line of thought - at least borders for the Jewish state and some sort of normalization in the relations between Israelis and Palestinians? I already kind of liked the man before his medical tsures, but now - after I saw and heard Arab and Jewish fanatics celebrate his stroke and praying for his death, not that we were unaware of the similarities between 'their' meshuganes and ours - I admire him even more, and in the current political reality in Israel I would like to see him return to lead the country, if possible in a coalition with the Labor party. Let us face it, there is no credible alternative right now. Last night my wife was one of the Israelis who participated in opinion polls that showed that political support for Sharon and for his 'party' remains high.
O.k., enough politics for today, I return to working on my laptop. Have a nice day.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Yesterday, on my way from the Ben Gurion airport to my wife and children, I heard about the 'mild stroke' that Ariel Sharon suffered. I did not expect to be forced to face the political facts in Israel so fast after my return home. To be honest, I had not really caught up with the depelopments here in the last two weeks, but the 'mild stroke' made most of those developments irrelevant anyway. It stressed just once again that even if Kadimah was to promise to bring us the Messiah, as long as that promise depends only on the health and physical wellbeing of one human being - particulary if that human being is a septuagenarian who is very mortal and who is hated by some of the most fanatic and determined opponents of peace among both Jews and Arabs ( never before was it so clear that our worst enemies within and without have oh so much in common; see also here )- the chances of some sort of redemption really coming in our lifetime are small, I am afraid. Kadimah needs more than one pillar, and some sort of ideology, to become not yet another shortlived electoral adventure of a bunch of opportunists whose only common denominator is their political ambition.
In a few hours we are supposed to know who will lead the Likud for the next four months. There is no serious comment that I can give to that right now.
Last but not least, I promised to post pictures from Paris, so I will post a few today, and some others later. The three that I picked for today show a veterans' ceremony at the Champs Elysees, ( taken on Saturday evening, December 10th; I was told they have this ceremony every evening ), one of the main 'roads' at the Montmartre cemetery, plus the buste found at the grave of the composer Jacques Offenbach at that same cemetery.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

From Monday onwards I will be blogging more regularly again. This Thursday I arrived in Holland with the Thalys train from Paris. In The Hague I had a very pleasant and interesting meeting with someone at the CIDI. It seems he and I have a lot of opinions in common as far as Israel and the Middle East are concerned. The funny thing is that in Israel many of his views would be considered leftwing, whereas in Holland he is very liberal-rightwing. I took the train to Utrecht. At what for me remains one of the best and nicest bookshops that I know ( Broese at the Oude Gracht ) I bought some children's books for our daughter and son. Later I met with who has become a very good friend ( and frequent commentator on DBI ). This was the second time that we met face to face, and it is as if we have known each other for years. She gave me three beautiful, practical and very thoughtful presents ( thanks again ). Dinner I had with my brother and his fiancee ( he also had some wonderful presents, one of them a CD of the late Bram Vermeulen ), and then I took the bus to my parents. Yesterday I packed my bags already, to see if I am going to have any overweight problems tomorrow. It seems that I do not have too much weight to take with me. I wanted to post some pictures from Paris, but I do not have a way to transfer them from my laptop to my parents' PC. You will see them in the course of ( the ) next week(s). Tomorrow in the afternoon I will depart from Schiphol airport, and in the evening I will return home. After that I will start following the news again, and this blog will stop being mainly about my personal life and more or less return to normal.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Had a very good weekend. On Friday I went through all the tribulations of someone who wants to see/photocopy something at the Archives Nationales, but it was worth the trouble. Thanks to two very friendly staff members who (wo)manned the desk in the large reading hall I was able to make digital photocopies of the file that I was interested in, even though I had been unable to reserve one of the two places de photo. The file contained some very interesing reports on public opinion in occupied France. Yesterday I went to buy some presents for our children and for my two nieces. On my way back I passed underneath the Arc de triomphe, where I saw - and took pictures of - a ceremony by war veterans, held every evening. Today i worked for two hours in the archives of the mémorial de la Shoah ( CDJC ), where thanks to a good friend and colleague some very good sources were waiting. After that I walked through the Rue Rivoli, on my way to a store in the Rue du Louvre, where I had to search for a certain model of an aeroplane for a family friend. I did not find it, and I continued to the Montmartre cemetery, close to where I live and write this posting right now. I visited and took pictures of the graves of some famous people ( Hector Berlioz, Adolphe Sax, Heinrich Heine, and a few others ) and returned home to work. Hopefully I will manage to post some of the pictures tomorrow or on Tuesday, if not you will get them next weekend, or right after my return home on Sunday next week. Wow, I just realize that in another week i will be back home again! Time fmies when you are having fun. Part of the fun was the book that I have been reading from the moment I landed in Paris one week ago until this morning ( I did not have much time most of the week ), Philip Roth`s The Plot against America. Very well written, and - although normally I cannot stand if-history - highly convincing and believable, with some brilliantly portrayed characters with whom it is easy to identify. Now I started reading a Tom Clancy novel, The teeth of the Tiger. Seems to be typically Clancy, a bit annoying but very entertaining. Off to the shower and to bed. Tomorrow morning I am working at home - entering today`s photocopies into my laptop, organizing everything - and after that I leave for my mast afternoon at on of the archives where I worked last week. On Tuesday I have some social commitments, plus a lecture - by a leading German historian - on Holocaust historiography, on Wednesday morning I work in a Jewish archive near my apartment, and on Thursday I will take an early train to Holland. If I have some time left in between i might visit the Pere Lachaise and Montparnasse cemeteries as well. It is very soothing to visit such cemeteries, and it is easy to make beautiful pictures over there; the subjects do not move very much. As promised, I will try to post some pictures in the following days ( or maybe weeks, depending on the number of pictures that I will take ). By the way, i did read that Shaul Mofaz and Tsachi Hanegbi `defected` ( I have no idea why that word is chosen ) to Sharon`s party. No comment yet; Again, this posting is unedited, maybe I will do that later this week, when I have a more convenient keyboard available ( and some more patience ).

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Some more information about the seminar in which I participated. There were a little more than thirty young and not so young researchers of ten or more nationalities. Most of them were historians, but other academic disciplines were represented as well. About half of them presented their current or past research project, but the most important part of the two day event was the social aspect. I got to know some very nice colleagues, and I am sure that I will stay somehow in contact with at least four or five of them. After my presentation I got some very good feedback, especially from the people whose opinion I value highly. There was a strong Israeli ( or at least Hebrew speaking ) 'delegation', about 20 percent I guess. On the first day we visited the Memorial de la Shoah ( which I already know pretty well, I used the opporunity to go and say hi to two friends of mine in the library/archives, yesterday I went back to have lunch with them ) and met with Simone Veil, who presides over the foundation that organized the seminar. She is a very impressive personality. One of the questions that she asked was about the whole restution process in Holland and Belgium in comparison with France, and I was asked to tell something about the Dutch case. On Tuesday, after the seminar, we ( only about half of the participants remained: it was going to end late, and most people had to travel further than Paris ) had a private screening of Belzec, a movie by Guillaume Moscovitz about the extermination camp. For two hours ( and for two minutes after the lights went back on ) there was almost absolute silence, except for the movie`s soundtrack. Most of us were reminded of Claude Lanzmann's Shoah, but the movie has a very distinct character of its own. The most impressive part - except for the interviews with Polish witnesses of what could be seen, heard and smelled from outside the camp, who still live in the village - was the story ( in Hebrew ) of Brakha, the only one of the three known survivors who is still alive. As a seven year old she was smuggled out of the camp in a bread basket, and hidden by a Righteous Gentile - for more than a year, ttwenty months if I am not mistaken - under a pile of wood where she could not move or talk. When she was taken out of the pile she could not stand on her feet, she could only whisper and she had forgotten what the sky was or looked like. You do not have to be a father or mother to imagine how that poor little girl must have suffered, but I could not help thinking about my own daughter when I heard this 70-year old woman tell about her ordeal. The other participants stayed for the night at the center where the seminar had been held, I returned to Paris around 11 PM with Mr Moscovitz and the person who had organized the seminar and the film screening. We talked all the way to Paris, about the movie and its making, Israeli politics and several other subjects. All in all two very well spent days. Yesterday I spent digitally photocopying two microfilmed periodicals ( one of former resisters and deportees, the other of Auschwitz survivors ), I will finish that on Monday. Tomorrow I will be at the Archives Nationales ( they close on Saturday for several weeks ). On Saturday I will sleep late, work on my laptop and see a bit of Paris. On Sunday I will work at the CDJC, on Tuesday I hope to work in the Resistance Museum, on Wednesday I will work at the Alliance, and on Thursday I will leave Paris. Seems like a productive week and a half to me. The weather is very pleasant, coldish but nice, with a little rain now and then but also a lot of sun. The news and Israel and elsewhere I know only from headlines that I see when checking my mail or my weblog. The news can wait another week, although I know that pretty bad things are happening at home. This posting is not edited, so simply ignore mistakes etc.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Don`t worry, everything is o.k., I just returned from the second and last day of the seminar that was the main reason for my visit to Paris. I find it hard to use the macintosh mouse and keyboard in the apartment, so i think i will spend a Euro or so before the end of this week to sit in an internet cafe and use a - French, but still better than a French macintosh - keyboard in order to give you some more details. My lecture went well, I got good feedback and some very useful comments. About the terror attack in Nethanyah yesterday I heard from a friend who works in the Memorial de la Shoah, which I was visiting together with the other participants of the seminar.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Wow, I managed to get the computer started. The apartment is small but very comfortable and cosy. Right now I am listening to a compilation with quiet classical music that I burned for our son when he was born, there is a pretty good stereo. The apartment has cable television ( which I probably will not use, but nevertheless ), and there is a Macintosh computer with an internet connection. It is quite different from what I am used to ( keyboard, mouse ) but it does the job. I bought some basic groceries, and now i am going to have a shower, after which I will sleep, setting th alarm clock for tomorrow morning. Tsohorayim, errev and layla tovim ( good afternoon, evening and night ).
I forgot to mention that my mother could be right, I bring good weather with me. For the last week or so the weather forecast predicted heavy rain in Paris for today, and except for a few drops and a grey skyI have not seen any sign of rain. Hopefully it will stay this way until next week. I bought an umbrella, but I would not mind not having to use it at all.
Everything went smoothly, I arrived in Paris around 5.30 this morning, easily found the RER platform, bought the public transportation ticket that I need for this week, and then went straight to the Marais quarter, where I had two coffee and a pain au chocolat at a Jewish daily that was already open ( it was about 7.30 AM ). At 10 AM I went to the Memorial, returned the microfilms, and then went to buy a telephonecard. Now I am waiting in an internet cafe close to the apartment where I will live for the next ten days. In another hour I will receive the keys to the apartment, then I will call my wife and parents, do buy some groceries for the next few days and go to sleep until tomorrow morning. Tomorrow and Tuesday I will be at the seminar, and from Wednesday I will be a little more relaxed. I am not sure whether I will be able to post anything for the next two days, but be patient, there will be more postings before I go to Holland next week. By the way, I forgot again how annoying the French keyboard is.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

All over the country we can already see election posters. Most of them are aimed at the party members who will vote in the Labor and Likud primaries. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom has a very lame slogan ( "Only Silvan can" ) that has been used by more than one politician in the past. The guy married into one of the richest and most influential families in Israel ( the Mozes family, owners of Yedioth Aharonoth ), and that is all that he and his advisers could come up with? If he had asked me I would have suggested something like "Rotsim Shalom? Matsbi'im Silvan!" ( "Want peace/Shalom? Vote Silvan" ), I can hardly imagine that someone did not at least propose doing a similar thing with his name. Shaul Mofaz, one of the most loyal Sharon supporters in the last two years, tries to find favor in the eyes of the right wing of the Likud by making all kinds of pro-settlement and anti-Oslo statements. He cried on one of the most popular tv shows ( hosted by Yair Lapid, son of the Shinuy leader Tommy Lapid ) and also tries to score points by profiling himself - rightly, in more than one way - as the only non-extremist who worked his way up all by himself. Sharon's posters are impressive and persuasive ( "Israel wants Kadimah ( forward )", but the slogan that keeps playing in my head is the one used by the online-casino businessman Avi Shaked, who runs in the Labor party primaries. His posters say "Avi Shaked, socialist-millionnaire, and not ashamed of it". I knew he dealt with online gambling, but I did not know him as a veteran Beilin-Peres supporter and activist. The chances that I will vote for him got smaller, though, when I received a telephone call with a recorded message from him. Shimon Peres' campaign sent me tens of such calls in the weeks leading up to the elections for the Labor party chairmanship, and those calls are one of the main reasons why in the end I voted for Binyamin 'Fuad' Eliezer.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Ik maak zelden reclame, zeker niet als ik het produkt niet ken of ( nog ) niet gezien heb. Deze keer maak ik een uitzondering, omdat ik de maker van het produkt ken en vertrouwen heb in zijn initiatief. Gisteren kreeg ik een e-mail van Arnoud de Jong, de schrijver achter ( voor, op, naast, etc. ) Verbal Jam. Een paar ( reacties van ) DBI kijkers zouden geen kwaad kunnen, lijkt me. Zelf zal ik de programma's pas later zien ( als ze online bewaard blijven ), want vanmiddag vertrek ik per Sherut-taxi naar het vliegveld ( Ben Gurion ), om midden in de nacht richting Parijs op te stijgen. Aanvankelijk zouden we vandaag gevijven ( mijn gezin plus mijn schoonmoeder ) richting Qiryat Ono vertrekken. De tante van mijn vrouw woont daar met haar gezin, we zouden er 's middags eten en in de loop van de middag zouden Y., de kinderen en mijn schoonmoeder terugrijden, 's avonds zou de tante of iemand anders me dan naar het vliegveld brengen ( Q. Ono ligt ongeveer een kwartier rijden van BG ). E., onze driejarige zoon, heeft echter een ongelukkig moment uitgekozen om te doen wat hij en zijn zus hoogst zelden doen: ziek worden, en dan nog wel met hoge koorts, veel diarrhee en - eergisteren, inmiddels niet meer - overgeven. Ik heb dus donderdagmorgen alsnog een sherut-taxi besteld, dat is echt een uitkomst. Voor nog geen zestig shekel ( ongeveer 11 Euro ) word je voor de deur opgehaald en naast de vertrekhal afgezet. Op de terugweg kom ik vrijwel altijd met zo'n taxi. Het enige nadeel is dat je soms heel Haifa te zien krijgt ( als je de eerste op de route bent ), want je reist met max. acht of negen andere reizigers, maar het blijft makkelijk en goedkoop. Alles is ingepakt, ik wil alleen nog een keer mijn lezing doorlezen voordat ik haar definitief uitprint. Ik geloof wel dat ze aardig gelukt is. Vanmorgen ben ik om half acht opgestaan, en we eten al om twaalf uur bij mijn schoonouders, zodat ik nog een uur of drie kan slapen voordat de taxi komt. Ik land morgenochten in Parijs rond zes uur. Vandaar ga ik meteen richting het Memorial de la Shoah, waarvan het Centre de Documentation Juive deel uitmaakt. Ik moet acht microfilms terugbrengen naar het CDJC, die had ik in bruikleen gekregen als interbibliotecaire lening tussen het CDJC en de universiteit van Haifa. Het CDJC gaat om 10 uur open, ik neem aan dat ik rond een uur of half negen daar zal zijn, dan heb ik nog lekker de tijd om rustig ergens te ontbijten. Daarna ga ik naar het apartement dat ik voor elf dagen gehuurd heb. Als ik me daar geinstalleerd heb ga ik naar de Auchan in La Defense, boodschappen doen voor anderhalve week. Ik zal vroeg naar bed gaan, want ik heb toch een nacht gemist. Maandag en dinsdag ben ik op het seminar dat de aanleiding voor de reis is. Dinsdagmiddag geef ik mijn lezing ( mijn eerste ooit ). Vanaf dinsdag begint wat ik als een werkvakantie zie. Die zal ik voornamelijk in het archief van de Federation Nationale des Deportes et Internes Resistants et Patriotes ( 'kort'om FNDIRP ) doorbrengen, al zal ik ook een paar ochtenden op het CHAN doorbrengen en ga ik waarschijnlijk ook nog even langs bij het AIU om gedag te zeggen, ik woon daar tenslotte in de buurt. Het laatste weekend van mijn reis breng ik in Nederland door. O.K., nu dan toch nog de mail van Arnoud, waar deze posting om begonnen was. Inmiddels staat er op VJ ook een posting met de tekst van de e-mail, dus verwijs ik daar maar naar. Ik raad aan om te kijken en te reageren, in de moeilijke mediadagen van Van der Laan is alle steun voor een (concept)programma en voor de publieke omroep in het algemeen hard nodig, neem ik aan. By the way, hopelijk heeft mijn eerste en tot vanmorgen laatste 'reclame' geholpen, dat weten we dinsdag.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

A picture of the Eshkol building at Haifa University, taken a few months ago.
Tom Janssen's vision on Ariel Sharon's "change of heart". The Dutch words used in the cartoon speak mostly for themselves, I think, except maybe "routekaart", which means "road map".

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I am not sure if Ariel Sharon and his close aides should be so happy with all the electoral "assets" who joined Kadimah these last few days. As much as I admire Shimon Peres, if I ran in an election I would rather have his sympathy and support from a distance than a public embrace. Also, it seems that the only two things that people like Ronit Tirosh ( the not very popular head of the Education Ministry under Limor Livnat ), Daliah Itzik and Haim Ramon have in common are their own political ambitions plus their conviction that Sharon is the one who can fulfill those ambitions. Could it be that men like Shaul Mofaz and Amir Peretz, rookies compared to Sharon when it comes to playing political games, are outmastering the master? Their bases of support within their parties seem to be more solid than the hotch-potch that is gathering around big Arik. It would be a shame if Mr Sharon is unable to deliver only because he tried to keep too many satisfied. On paper a Sharon-Peretz coalition ( together with one or two of the - according to the polls - smaller parties ) could produce a wonderful government, but four months until the elections are a very long time, and four years after the elections are an eternity.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

An article that I proposed to and wrote for the Jerusalem Report has been accepted and will be published in the magazine's next issue. As soon as the issue comes out I will post the article here as well. This article's publication makes me prouder than most other articles ever did. Not only was about 90% of the original preserved in the final version, but also the title ( a pun that I made up myself, you will see ) was adopted by the editors. Besides, while normally I send a finished product to a newspaper or magazine this time I only suggested an idea and asked if the JR was interested. They were, I wrote the piece and sent it to them. The editors' suggestions for improvement really improved the text, but they gave me the opportunity to make the changes myself. I save the final version of the article as a draft, so that I can post it here during my stay in Paris. I assume that will be towards the end of next week or in the beginning of the week after that.
Could it be that I have underestimated Amir Peretz? Could it be that he deserves more credit than I, together with many Israelis, have given him? His election to the Labor party leadership has directly or indirectly brought about what appear to be very meaningful ( and positive ) changes in Israel's political landscape. Ariel Sharon finally decided to start his own party ( something that had been brewing for a while, but the timing is a direct result of the winds of change in Labor ), the Likud is in disarray as a result of that, Shimon Peres seems to have finished his political career ( at least within the Labor party, and behind Sharon he will be allowed to play second fiddle at the most ), and Labor is witnessing some sort of revival. Yesterday Kadimah already presented a political platform, and it contains some very clear points, making clear once more that in the coming elections Israeli voters probably will be able to choose between real alternatives, something that they were unable to do in most previous elections. A high turnout at the elections would be the best thing that has happened to Israeli democracy in years, and if that happens we will have to thank Mr Sharon and Mr Peretz for that.
Within the framework of "good riddance", people like Haim Ramon and Daliah Itzik ( and possibly, with all due respect - and there is a lot of respect -, Shimon Peres ) have left Labor to join Kadimah, and new and highly promising, often quite young, faces are joining Peretz' party. Avishai Braverman - whom until know I only knew as the president of Ben Gurion University, but who apparently is a very talented and accomplished expert in economic and financial matters - did not accept any tempting offers from Sharon ( who will have a hard time keeping all those who joined Kadimah happy: most of the 'members' of his new party have enormous egos and definitely expect some quid pro quo for their public support ) and joined Labor, as did Shelly Yehimovitch, who as a high profile journalist has always stressed the importance of addressing social issues. The announcement of Shelly Y. joining Labor came a few hours after it became known that Daliah I. joined Kadimah, and some are already asking "Daliah who?". Another new member who could contribute a lot is veteran diplomat Alon Pinkas, former consul of Israel in New York. Of course Labor still has many members of the old guard in its ranks, but whereas apart from a few men and women ( Tsippi Livni, Michael Nudelman, I think ) almost all those who joined Kadimah are political opportunists, it appears that most of the fresh faces in Labor belong to people who ( take considerable career risks not because they believe in polls but because they ) have ideals that are larger than their political ambitions. Who knows, I might be a bit too optimistic now, but at least there is something that triggered that optimism, something that did not happen for a long time.
Hopefully Shimon Peres read the painful but oh so true op-ed that Yaron London wrote. This morning I saw Mr Peres in Barcelone, doing what he knows better than any Israeli: working for our interest from abroad. Sean Connery called him Shimon, as if they are childhood friends. Why is it that such an intelligent man does not understand that the best service that he can do to his country ( and to a cause that he so much believes in ) is to promote peace and co-existence in international fora, meeting with VIPs all over the world. He is one of the living Israelis whom I admire the most, but it is about time for him to understand that he will never get the respect and opportunities here in Israel that he receives abroad. Only when you know your limitations will you be able to realize your full potential, and I am sure that Mr Peres has not realized his yet.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Yesterday I saved an interview with Alain Finkielkraut on my parallel blog. It was published last week in Ha'Aretz and deals with the recent riots in France, the identity of the French and of immigrants in France, democracy, integration. As always, Mr Finkielkraut has some interesting and insightful things to say.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

I am not as optimistic as Yossi Beilin about Marwan Barghouti's intentions and convictions, and winning 96% of a vote somehow reminds me of the percentages won by Soviet leaders in the good old days when communism still was communism ( on the other hand, the guy is immensely popular among certain parts of the Palestinian population ), but still, I think that Marwan Barghouti represents the kind of Palestinian leaders whom Israel ultimately will ( have to ) deal with. Therefore, when Mr Shalom says that Mr B. will "Never" be released I raise my eyebrows. Never is a very long time in politics, especially in the Middle East. This was probably the candidate for the Likud leadership talking. After all, the party's primaries will be held in less than a month, and the tougher he looks the more votes he might get.
An old, but still funny, cartoon by Tom Janssen. Mr Hussein says "The mother of all humiliations."
Posted by Hello
Five weblogs and one website were added to my blog's sidebar. Israel-Palestina is a laudable initiative by two ( or more ? ) Dutch leftwing activists who want to present balanced information about both the Palestinian and the Israeli side of 'the' conflict. Most of the website is in Dutch but parts of it are in English as well. There is a lot of very good reading material, and it contains many links to interesting websites. Two German weblogs were added, one of them I found through a comment on DBI, the other I was refered to by Lila of Letters from Rungholt. I was sure that I already had a link to Brian Blum's This Normal Life, but I was mistaken, so now that blog has a link too. Finally, The Siren's Song and Lonelythinker were added, I think I discovered them after their authors left a comment on my weblog.
I am not really into sports but I thought I should mention this. For the first time in history there is a Dutch world champion in gymnastics ( or practice/perform gymnastics, I am not sure what is the right word ). Juri van Gelder, the reigning European champion in the flying rings category, won the title at the world championships in Melbourne, Australia. Congratulations to him. The Dutch daily De Telegraaf already called him The Lord of the Rings.
If you think that the advisers of Bibi Nethanyahu or president Bush have one of the most difficult PR-jobs these days, think again. Those who have the worst PR-job that I can think of are the advocates of Islam. Why, you ask? It is rumored that Wacko Jacko, aka Michael Jackson, aka the world's most famous children's 'friend' ( even more famous than Gary Glitter ), considers conversion to Islam. I can totally understand the reaction of one Abdel from Nablus, Palestine, on Ynet: "WE DON'T WANT HIM!!!" PS: On the Israeli satirical program "Wonderful Country" they said about Jackson's anti-Semitic comments "...and we thought only black people say such things."

Friday, November 25, 2005

Sinds ik gisteren een elektrische radiator vanuit onze opslagruimte naar mijn werkkamer heb omhoog gesjouwd is het in Israel uitzonderlijk warm voor de tijd van het jaar. Maandag ben ik door- en doornat geregend in Tel Aviv, en vanmiddag kon ik met een t-shirt met korte mouwen over straat. In Nederland is het noodweer, begrijp ik. Sterkte daarmee. Vanaf volgende week zondag wil ik droog weer in West-Europa, voor twee weken. Een beetje sneeuw zou leuk zijn, maar niet teveel, het treinverkeer is al zo gauw ontregeld. Shabbat shalom.
Two excellent cartoons, by Joep Bertrams ( "Mistress", depicting Germany's Bundeskanzler(in) Angela Merkel ) and Chappatte, that I found when I looked for cartoons about Sharon and his new party.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Clearly not only the Likud is starting to panic. Tommy Lapid and Shinuy also understand that they will almost certainly lose many voters to Sharon's new party. Since Shinuy did not do anything unforgettably positive during its short stay in the Sharon II government and because it can take no credit whatsoever for the best - or maybe the only really good - thing that this government has done, it knows that it will have to resort to tricks and punches below the belt. Uncharacteristically, Lapid made one serious mistake this evening. He said that Sharon's party bears the same name ( Kadimah in Hebrew ) as that of the party of Mussolini ( Ynet; according to Ha'Aretz the name is the same of a slogan used by the Duce; I checked the Hebrew websites of both newspapers, and the differences are the same ). Wrong! Avanti ( Forward, Kadimah ) was the socialist paper of which Mussolini was the editor before he switched to rightwing extremism, and it was neither a slogan nor the name of the fascist party. Of course, forward is a word often used in socialist and social-democratic contexts ( e.g. the name of Yiddish newspaper in America, or of a gymnastics club in the small city where I grew up ), but to me that hardly seems a reason why Ariel Sharon should have refrained from using its Hebrew equivalent. In fact, the offices of Avanti were burned by Mussolini's fascists in 1926, and the newspaper went underground, basically becoming a part of the anti-fascist resistance. Until the end of WWII it appeared irregularly in Italy, France and Switzerland. Lapid should have checked his history books or the internet before he said about Sharon's campaign managers: "They either don't speak Italian, or know nothing about history".
Apparently some people see the internet, and in particular search engines such as Google and Ask Jeeves, as some kind of oracle: you ask a question, any question, and an instant anwer pops out. According to my website statistics, provided by Webstats4u.com, at least twice someone arrived at DBI by asking Jeeves a question:

Jeeves does not really know the answer, he reminds me of some of the workers at a local supermarket, on the back of whose red jackets white letters tell us "Ask me", but when you ask them a question they rarely know the answer. I could easily answer the second question: 'leraar' does not mean anything in English, because the word simply does not exist in English. If you are looking for the most common English translation of the Dutch word 'leraar', you will find the word 'teacher'. As for the first question, I do not really understand it, but I am sure it would be harder to answer than the second one.

Joep Bertram's ( "Getting off" ) and Chappatte's views on Ariel Sharon leaving the Likud.
This morning I sent a revised version of an opinion article to Gershom Gorenberg, the Viewpoint editor of the Jerusalem Report, after he had suggested two minor changes to the original that I had submitted. Hopefully the article will be published in the next issue of the magazine or in the one after that, because it has to do something with the Nobel prize-giving ceremony that is to take place on December 8th in Stockholm. In the last issue of the JerRep Mr Gorenberg wrote an article that deals with - and links - two subjects that I have a more than average interest in: France's war in Algeria ( 1954 - 1962 ) and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. These two conflicts are often linked, but Gorenberg, quoting Robert Aron and Albert Memmi - two of my favorite French-Jewish intellectuals -, points out the differences between them very well.
On the website of Sky News I read about an actor in a theater in London's West End who received a standing ovation when he banished a member of the audience when her cellphone went off three times. I think ringing cellphones and flashing screens are annoying when you are watching a play or a movie, so I agree with most of the views expressed on the website. If you are expecting a very important call when you are in a ( movie ) theater, or if your work requires you to be stand-by, you should make sure you have a phone with a silent/vibrate function. The following comment made me smile: Despite the insistence that we should not use mobile phones in hospitals, the surgeon who was performing minor surgery on me kept stopping to answer calls on his mobile. He ended the final conversation with "Can't talk now, I've got my hands full". I was quite flattered since he was performing my vasectomy at the time! RM, Birmingham

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

One more cartoon, this time by Ed Stein, and then I will stop blogging for today, unless something really urgent comes up ( let's hope not, urgent postings are hardly ever prompted by events that bring a smile on my face ).
Only to show you that I do not let Israeli politics depress me, here are two Wizard of Id cartoons that I enjoyed very much. While I am working I have five CDs in my player:
  1. a very-best compilation of the Dutch band Focus ( Jan Akkerman, Thijs van Leer and others, 1960-70s; right now "Sylvia" is playing at a high volume );
  2. "Rhapsody in Blue", an album with music of George Gerschwin, played by the Amsterdam saxophone quartet and the pianist Daniel Wayenberg;
  3. Grieg's Holberg Suite, Melodies and Dances, by Michala Petri ( recorder ) and the English Chamber Orchestra;
  4. Spanish Guitar Music ( Albeniz, Rodrigo, De Falla and other composers ) by John Williams;
  5. The Jazz Album, music of Shostakovich by The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra under the direction of Riccardo Chailly.

Yesterday evening I watched "Politika" while folding a medium pile of laundry. Wow, the Likud is really panicking. Bibi Nethanyahu was unable to control his anger, and also Michael Eitan and Yisrael Katz did not manage to control their emotions very well. Of course the media got most of the blame for the mess the Likud and Israel find themselves in. What's new? Unfortunately, Ronny Bar-On, one of the opportunists who joined Sharon's list/party, showed very well that his 'party' does not intend to renew Israel's political anti-culture, by shouting and interrupting more and louder than the other participants in the discussion. By the way, he was the attorney who was supposed to become attorney-general in the Hebron - Bar-On deal that involved Aryeh Der'i, Bibi and others; interestingly enough, the journalist who exposed that story, Ayalah Hasson-Nesher of Channel 1 ( one of the few journalists at that channel whose opinion and analysis are interesting and worthwhile ), also was there. Yuli Tamir, a former professor and Peace-Now activist who never succeeded in impressing me as a politician, tried to get across Amir Peretz' election message, but her insistence on using the word "hevrati" ( social ) over and over again, plus the succesful efforts of Ronny Bar-On and the other male politicians to shout her down, did not help her really.
Anyway, we have four annoying, hot, stressful but entertaining months ahead of us. Thank G'd I do not have the time to follow everything seriously, I am simply too busy with more important things. Let's just hope that most of this will result in changes for the better. On the other hand, we have been hopeful before, only to be disappointed again and again.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Things are more or less getting back to normal in most parts of Northern Israel. I find it strange and irresponsible that the name of the soldier who "killed most of the [ Hizbullah ] gunmen" is mentioned. Did the radio station want to stress that yeshiva students can be good soldiers? I don't think that many Israelis had any doubts about that. Not for the first time Hizbullah shows that it can do a good contractor's job not only for Iran but also for its secondary master, the Assad regime, by trying to divert attention from Syria's political and diplomatic problems through attacks against Israel. I would not recommend Hizbullah and the Syrian president to continue pursuing this path, because it will weaken Hizbullah and might speed up Assad's own downfall. Also, the Lebanese government has a great interest in restoring the calm at its southern border. With the disengagement only months behind us and elections coming up, Israel's Prime Minister and Minister of Defense - both of whom are doing their best to curry electoral favor with Likud voters, for different reasons - will do everything to make sure the Israeli public feels that Israel won't be trifled with. As for Israeli politics, while reading Rushdie's book in the train yesterday I saw other people reading two articles with an identical title ( "Earth quake" ) in different Hebrew dailies ( Ma'ariv and Yedioth ). I am not sure if earthquake is a proper description of what has been and still is happening here, especially because earthquakes mostly come as a very unpleasant surprise, whereas Sharon's leaving the Likud did not surprise many of us anymore, and I could think of more unpleasant things than seeing at least six Likudniks compete in order to become leader of a party that for many years has been dysfunctional already.
The most positive result of Sharon's decision to leave the party of which he was one of the main founders seems to be that in the coming elections Israeli voters will have two very clear options to choose from, at least as far as our presence in the territories is concerned. That is, I would be surprised if Sharon will use phrases like "The fate of Netsarim - one of the settlements that were evacuated in the Gaza Strip - is like the fate of Tel Aviv" like he did in previous election campaigns. Sharon will probably not outline Israel's exact borders as he envisages them, but it is clear that a vote for him is a vote for ending the naturalness of the occupation and for allowing 'painful territorial concessions' to be discussed and considered seriously. In that respect, Israel's Right has changed profoundly. Under Peretz, Labor will support every move that is aimed at ending the occupation ( in most of the territories ), by negotiations if possible, unilaterally if necessary. Still, let's wait and see, opinion polls and election results are not one and the same thing ( I almost added this cynical remark: ..."in particular when you have Shimon Peres on your team" ).
Two things I do not like, though. First, after the disengagement I am convinced that Sharon is capable of taking and carrying out at least some of the decisions that are absolutely necessary to make life much better for most Israelis ( disengagement II for instance, but also social issues ), but as with Rabin, it seems that 'Sharon's way' is totally dependent on one person. There is no solid and ideological movement behind him, only or mostly political opportunists have supported him in the last couple of years. If, heaven forbid, something happens to Ariel Sharon, we will be back to square one in most respects. If I know this, our worst enemies within and without know it as well, don't you think? Second, we pin our hopes on septua- and octogenarians such as Sharon and Peres, and there is not a young alternative or replacement ( with vision, leadership qualities, integrity - not Sharon's strongest asset, by the way -, etc. ) on the horizon yet. Amir Peretz does have some positive qualities and characteristics, and if he manages to lead Labor to some good election results he could become a key member of the next government and a driving force behind some of the changes that have to be made , but calling him already an alternative or a serious candidate for Prime Minister is premature.
This morning I had a nice breakfast: two glasses of milk and four slices of ontbijtkoek ( my dictionary translates this as gingerbread but I believe that is something different ). Yesterday was a very productive day, and I also managed to pamper myself a bit. I had a quite healthy ( a large salad, tehina ) and very savoury ( two eggs, fresh bread, cheese, 'fresh' strawberry-apple juice ) breakfast at the Yotveta restaurant in the Azrieli mall. When I entered the Tower Records shop, only to see what is new, without any intention to buy, I saw that Enya has a brand new album. Although the lyrics that she uses are too wooly and New-Agy to my taste, her albums contain beautiful melodies and are perfect background music when you are working, sleeping or relaxing. I have all her CDs, except for Paint the Sky with Stars, because I won't buy a compilation because it has one or two new songs. I would not have bought Amarantine if it did not have such an attractive price: twenty shekel less than the regular price of new albums ( and of all the other Enya CDs ). It is in my CD player right now, as expected it is more of the same, you feel a nice kind of familiarity already from the very first time. When I looked on Enya's website this morning I saw that the album came out only yesterday. I also treated myself to a new book, that I will take with me to Paris: Philip Roth's The Plot against America. For a long time I have not really read any serious literature, but the last week I have enjoyed a wonderful book by Salman Rushdie, Haroun and the Sea of Stories. With beautiful words and phrases and a lot of wit and symbolism - much of which I failed to pick up, I am sure - Rushdie, who wrote this story in the late 1980s when he was hiding from the Shi'ite colleagues of OBL, tells us a fantastic and entertaining story, in which he deals with censorship and free speech, tyranny, language and much more. If I am not mistaken the book has already been made into a play and an opera, I think it would be perfect for an animated feature as well. In reviews influences of the Arabian nights and Indian literature are mentioned, I was also reminded of books and movies like Through the Looking Glass/Alice in Wonderland and the Wizard of Oz. Very much recommended, this book.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Less than 24 hours I am cut off from my regular news sources and all hell breaks loose. The government falls, Sharon starts a new party and what has all the appearances of an all-out war is being fought in the North of the country, with all residents being urged to enter the bomb shelters.
This morning I left home at 5.10 AM to make it to the 6.00 train to Tel Aviv, where I had not been for over a year, except for passing through parts of it on our way to my wife's uncle, aunt and cousins on Saturday once in a while. In the last 38 1/2 hours I have only slept about four hours, so I am quite bushed ( this is the Am-En equivalent of afgepeigerd that I found ). Last night I wanted to go to sleep early but around 9.30 PM our neighbors asked if one of us could go down to babysit, they had to go to the hospital to see their newborn son who has jaundice ), so I went to bed only at 1 AM.
In Tel Aviv I had a number of meetings ( one of them with the initiator and teacher of the Dutch school in Tel Aviv, I made some copies from microfilmed primary sources for my research, I ate Dutch fries/chips in a snackbar located at Allenby street nr. 40 ( pretty good, I had a patatje oorlog, with real Dutch mayonaise and peanut-sauce ), and in the Dutch shop Beatrice.nl ( Rashi Street 19, right next to King George Street ) I bought some things for myself, my wife and children and my father-in-law: Peijnenburg ontbijtkoek, bakkers speculaas ( a good brand ), Koopmans poffertjesmix + a real poffertjespan, Drost cocoa. Sorry for those who do not understand some of the words here, I am really too tired to start translating and explaining them.
In the next few days I will probably provide some comments on the political and military events that have been taking place these last few days. Layla tov.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Preparations for my trip to Paris in another two weeks are the main reason why I have not been posting very much during the last couple of weeks. One of the things that I have been doing is to give my mailboxes ( I have two, one at Yahoo and one through our internet provider ) a thorough 'cleaning'. One of the things that I came across ( and deleted ) was sent to me more than four months ago by a good friend of mine, whom I will be seeing in Utrecht in less than a month. The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility. As part of the negotiations, the British Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5-year phase-in plan that would become known as "Euro-English". In the first year, "s" will replace the soft "c". Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard "c" will be dropped in favour of "k". This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter. There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome "ph" will be replaced with "f". This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter. In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent "e" in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away. By the 4th yer people wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing "th" with "z" and "w" with "v". During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vords kontaining "ou" and after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a reil sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru. Und efter ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst plas.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Posted by Hello
Posted by Hello
Posted by Hello
Today I will post some comics that I saved early this year for future postings. Posted by Hello
Om dit bericht, dat ik las in het nieuwsbulletin van de Wereldomroep dat vanmorgen in mijn e-mailbox zat, moest ik toch wel erg lachen. Gelukkig maar dat het weer rustig is in en om Parijs. Over twee weken ga ik er voor anderhalve week bivakkeren. Wees maar niet bang, het apartement dat ik gehuurd heb ligt ver van alle rotzooi af, vlakbij Pigalle.
* Rust weergekeerd in Franse voorsteden
Na drie weken van onlusten is de rust weergekeerd in de Franse voorsteden. Volgens de politie is de toestand in het hele land genormaliseerd.In de nacht van woensdag op donderdag werden bijna honderd voertuigen in brand gestoken en arresteerde de politie 33 mensen. Dat zijn gebruikelijke aantallen voor een doorsnee nacht.[...]

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

In the latest issue of the Jerusalem Report I read a good opinion article that was written by a very young person. Titled "Giving in to the bullies", its conclusion is something that I can largely sunbscribe to: [the settlements] "are a physical barrier between Israel and Palestine, but in addition, as long as they exist, they are an insurmountable barrier between Israel and security, and more importantly, between Israel and morality." As an experiment I made a photocopy of the article with my digital camera. The result can be seen here. Click on the photo and you will be able to enlarge it once, which makes the article readable. The original picture ( i.e. not within the confinements of the weblog but on the screen of my laptop ) can be enlarged even more, and it can be read easily on a computer screen. This is how I made photocopies of tens of thousands of newspapers and documents for my research. My Nikon CP 5400 has a function that enables you to make high-quality black-and-white photocopies without a flashlight, perfect for working in archives and libraries.
Two days without a posting, that does not happen very often. I am working on a paper that I will present at a seminar in Paris in less than three weeks, and on an article in English for a magazine. With the world going crazy as it is I do not miss the news that much. In Holland two of the main news items have to do with animal ( and human ) abuse. Two youngsters tried to rob a disabled woman, who was driving a 'scootmobile' and taking her lap dog for a walk. When she told the boys that she did not have any money on her they attacked her and hanged the little dog, tying it to an iron fence. The poor animal did not survive the ordeal. In the north of the country preparations are under way for Domino Day, a yearly event in which an attempt is made to break the previous year's world record of bringing down as many dominoes as possible. This year the record is supposed to be more than 4 million dominoes. A sparrow, which - I did not know that - is a protected species, somehow entered the exposition hall where the event will take place on Friday. The little bird managed to bring down 23.000 dominoes before one of the protection mechanisms stopped any more pieces from falling down. The organizers hired a company that specializes in vermin control, and one of its employees shot the bird with an air gun. This animal also did not survive. Obviously many Dutchmen and -women are outraged by the fact that an animal was killed for what in some comments ( if you understand Dutch read this; even 'Conny Mus' reacted :-) ) is called a futile occupation for the unemployed. At least one death threat has been issued against the shooter. A radio dj has promised a 3000 Euro reward for the person who succeeds in bringing down the dominoes before the official attempt on Friday. He called on all roadworkers in the Netherlands to come with pile drivers and other equipment to the exposition hall and speed up the attempt. In Israel I stopped following the political events closely, knowing that none of our politicians will bring about redemption any time soon. Three other items got my attention, though. Yesterday evening I cried when I saw on television how the parents of 13-year old Ahmed Ismail Khatib, who two weeks ago was shot to death by IDF soldiers ( who supposedly mistook his toy gun for a real one ) and whose organs were donated for transplantation, visited an Israeli hospital and met the children who received their son's organs. His heart was given to Samah, a girl who before the transplantation was unable to get out of bed and who now was standing and hugging them. Ahmed's father told Samah's mother "We feel as if we are looking at our son. If this girl asks you something and you cannot attend to it, come to us. We are her parents too." One of Ahmed's kidneys was transplanted to the body of 5-year old Muhammad Gaboua. Also Tovah Levinson came to thank the Khatibs, her 3-year old daughter received the other kidney. A Druze girl, a Bedouin boy and an ultra-orthodox girl, it could hardly have been more symbolic. On the same day an IDF officer was acquitted of all charges relating to the 'confirmed killing' of a 13-year old Palestinian girl in October last year. From a legal point of view the Givati captain's were apparently right ( some soldiers who testified against their commander admitted of having lied because they wanted him ousted; also, what he did is said to be "a known IDF practice employed to eliminate immediate threats" ) but the whole affair leaves a very bad aftertaste. I am not a military expert and do not know the exact circumstances of the event, but if the reports in the media at the time and today are correct ( the officer confirmed the killing of the girl by emptying a whole magazine of bullets ) there is at least a slight suspicion of overkill. I am afraid I have to agree with the poor girl's father, who said something that we already knew: "there is one law for Jews and another for Arabs, ...had an Arab killed a Jewish girl, this would not have been his sentence ". Another proof of that was given yesterday by the Supreme Court. Shimshon Sitrin, who allegedly led the attack, by a small mob of settlers, on a Palestinian youth in June in the Gaza Strip, was released to house arrest. What is interesting is the motivation of judge Edmond Levi. Accoring to the honorable judge, Shimson S. "understood the error of his ways", and although the man "continues to stand by his belief in the Land of Israel, he has understood that violence is not the way to fulfill it, but rather a way of life that combines Torah studies with manual labor." Personally I think that with so many prisoners being or becoming religious, a prison would be a perfect place for Mr S. to combine such studies with manual labor. This morning I saw his father being interviewed on television. If S. jr understood the error of his ways, his father certainly does not. He attacked the media ( extensive footage of the attack has been shown on all major national and international networks ) and "you Leftists" in general, said that the Palestinian was a terrorist and only pretended to be wounded, etc. etc. It is sad and worrying that on a day such as yesterday the most beautiful side of human nature is shown by two parents who are proud members of a people that is said to be our enemy, whereas we ourselves exposed some of the ugliest sides that Israeli society has come to know. "And God created humans in his image. In the image of God did He create him." ( Genesis 1:27, from this verse the Israeli NGO Betselem took its name ).