Sunday, February 27, 2005

In today's Ha'Aretz, a portrait of the four Israelis murdered in Friday, all members of a very Israeli group of friends. Instead of getting married in a few weeks Yael Orbach z"l, one of the four, was buried today at noon in Kfar Saba.
It is safe to assume that whichever Palestinian group will turn out to be responsible for this attack, its main sponsor will be found outside the territories, probably either in Damascus or Teheran. Whoever says that "this proves once again that the Palestinians cannot be trusted with our security" or that any progress in the disengagement process ought to be conditional upon Palestinian actions against terrorists is either looking for any reason to keep the occupation going on perpetually or having an unrealistically high opinion of the capabilities of Abu Mazen and other Palestinian leaders. While security arrangements between Palestinians and Israelis will be a central part of any post-occupation scenario, Israel will never be able to totally rely on the Palestinian willingness or ability to uncompromisingly fight terror, in particular if that terror is sponsored by opponents of any compromises on the part of the Palestinian national leadership.
Regarding "Now Hezbollah", Letters to the Editor, IHT, February 26-27, 2005:
While it is obvious that Hezbollah is one of the parties that will have to "play a major role in re-establishing peace and calm in Lebanon", it is not only up to the US, Europe and Israel to help the Lebanese people regain its sovereignty and freedom: those two will never be achieved as long as Syria and Iran - the main players when it comes to financing and facilitating Hezbollah's activities - continue to see destabilization of the region as vital to their national interests, whether through bombing political opponents or by continuing to fuel the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

This one sounds very much like the big blast at the Dolfinarium disco almost four years ago, with many youngsters ( in June 2001 most of the victims were 'Russian' teenagers ). Again, first we read or hear about wounded, then they become several wounded, then several injured and some dead, and in the end we are being told about many casualties. The attack at the Dolfinarium disco I remember better than most other attacks, because my wife and I spent the fifth anniversary of our marriage in a ritzy hotel nearby. It was hot and humid, and we were in our hotel room with the windows hermetically closed and the airconditioning at full power, when my father-in-law called me if we had heard or seen anything, which was not the case.
Now I am going to do what we did then: follow the news via the television set in our bedroom. In spite of all this: Layla tov.
Before going to bed I just read about what appears to be yet another terror attack in Tel Aviv. I wonder who was waiting more expectantly and anxiously for this to happen: those Israelis who fear a new wave of ( suicide ) attacks will delay/make impossible any pullout; those members of the Israeli security forces who knew it was coming but still hoped to stay ahead of the terrorists for another day; those among the settlers and their supporters who hope that after even more terror attacks 'we' will open our eyes and finally understand that the only solution is an even more comprehensive and ruecksichtslose occupation of Palestinian territories, not giving them even the smallest and most miserable piece of land; those Palestinians who also knew it was only a matter of time before all talks of hope and a possible pause in or even end to the current mess will stop again; etc. etc. At least the brother of our Education Minister will be happy, since one of his main goals will come just a little more within reach, without him and his fellow-fanatics-on-what-is-supposed-to-be-our-side-but-basically-is-the same-one-as-Hamas's having to lift a finger:" Noam Livnat, who heads the Defensive Shield anti-pullout campaign, said that if the Israel Police is busy trying to quell stormy anti-disengagement demonstrations throughout the country, it will not have the manpower to implement the pullout."

Thursday, February 24, 2005

On the day that I returned to Israel an important step was taken by the Israeli government in the direction of a possible end to our occupation of Gaza ( and let's hope of more of the occupied territories ). Also the name of the IDF's new chief of staff was announced. For the first time a former commander of what some consider to be the best airforce in the world will head the Israeli army. Because of Dan Halutz' reputation as being quite rightwing ( and because he made some highly questionable remarks after several civilians were killed together with one of the heads of Hamas ) and because he will become - as one newspaper labeled him already - "the chief of staff of the disengagement", suddenly the outgoing chief of staff, Moshe Ya'alon, has become the champion of many on both the Right and the Left. I really do not know what to say about either Halutz or Ya'alon. One thing I found interesting. The other day I heard someone say half jokingly that with one of the two biggest challenges facing the new head of the army being Iran's nuclear capability ( the other being the implementation of the disengagement plan ) it is remarkable that we have three men of Persian descent on central posts: president Moshe Katsav, Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz and now also the army's chief of staff, Dan Halutz. That the latter used to be the head of the IAF could very well be decisive when it comes to making decisions regarding the perceived threats from Teheran.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Just to see if I more or less remember how to send pictures to my blog, something which used to be far less complicated. This cartoon was made by Joep Bertram and published in Het Parool. The words on what Mr Bush is knitting and taking apart can be translated as "social security". Posted by Hello
As you can see by my previous posting, I am back home again, reading newspapers and writing letters to the editor.
As wonderful as my 8-weeks' stay in Europe was, it was even better to return home, and see my wife and our children again. Every time that I feel homesick for Israel while abroad confirms the fact that my decision to make the country my home ten years ago was the right one.
The coming months postings will certainly be made on a more regular and frequent basis than during the last two months, but do not expect too much: when it comes to working, my utmost priority will be my research and writing my PhD thesis; articles, letters to the editor and other comments will be made only when I have some spare time or when I am unable not to say something about something.
Regarding "For European Jews, it fits better on the right", IHT, February 22, 2005: Of course it is short-sightedness that leads some Jews in Europe to join or otherwise support extreme rightwing parties or movements: in the short run the latter just happen to hate and fear Muslims slightly more than Jews. Still, to me it seems that if anything, the 'phenomenon' of some Jews openly expressing support for extreme rightwing causes shows their high level of integration within their respective countries, and says more about socio-political tendencies within Europe itself than about developments within Jewish communities in Europe. Today's political reality in Europe is one of polarization, and as long as many politicians on the left side of the political spectrum try to score points by ignoring some of the most serious problems facing Europe and the West ( never mind that their colleagues on the right tend to exaggerate those same problems or use them for their own narrow goals ), or by indulging in simplistic forms of Bush/Sharon-bashing ( never mind that the American president and Israeli PM are to be blamed for many things ), Jews - together with non-Jews - who otherwise would remain within mainstream progressive or conservative parties might choose more extreme options.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Since I left Israel almost two months ago I have hardly visited any other blogs. The only blog where I had a look once in a while is Lila's Letters from Rungholt, because she tells us highly personal stuff in postings that often reflect the mood in Israel among a section of the public that I consider myself a part of and identify with. I met Lila a few weeks before I came to Europe, we study/work at the same university ( she lives with her family in a kibbutz in the North ) and seem to have a few things in common.
Last Wednesday she wrote down a very amusing and essential conversation between her five-year-old daughter Nori and her friend Yaar, of the same age, while they were playing with Playmobil ( my favorite toy when I was a kid ). Since it is in German, I translated it:

Nori: Yaar, will you give me a kiss? Yaar: No, I won't. Nori: Hey ( litt. 'How' ), don't you love me? Yaar: Sure, I do love you. But one can love without kissing as well. Nori: Then do you want to marry me, Yaar? Yaar: No, I first want to eat something.

This will probably be my last posting from Paris this year. Next Friday I will travel by train to my parents in Holland, and two days later I will fly back home, where during the last seven weeks the weather has been much worse than here in Europe, and where the extreme and not necessarily so extreme right is becoming more and more desperate and violent. Even former pillars of rightwing opposition within the Likud, like Nethanyahu and Livnat, are being threatened and attacked, and some of their colleagues are afraid to speak out openly against it, fearing to lose their own support among the opponents of an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and from other parts of the occupied territories.
Yesterday I attended a very interesting seminar on the history and historiography of Nazism. This month's lecture was on guilt and responsability in the case of Hans Frank, Traudl Junge and Carl Jaspers. This week I also had some very fruitful sessions, one at the AIU, and several at the CDJC, where I will be working tomorrow and Monday as well. Tuesday and Wednesday I will be at the Documentation Francaise, collecting material from official French periodicals from the period that I am researching. Thursday will be spent finishing some official things, visiting the Fonds pour la Memoire de la Shoah ( which funded almost all of my expenses for this sejour de recherche ), and packing my bag for the next day. Friday, at the Gare du Nord where my train for Rotterdam will be leaving, I will meet someone whom I got into contact with through my weblog.
I sent a suggestion for an article on the newly opened CDJC to two Dutch newspapers. The documentation center and archives are now in a beautifully renovated building, together with the museum of the Shoah ( in France ). Since its highly publicized opening, on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz two weeks ago, large crowds have been visiting both the museum and the documentation center. While working in the center/library, I heard many moving and extremely interesting stories of people who had or were looking for information about relatives or friends who had been deported from France and did not return. I also found details about the transport which took the father of my monther-in-law ( the grandfather of my wife and great-grandfather of our children ) to Maidanek on March 6th 1943. I already had found the dates of that transport ( nr. 51 ) in the records of the Red Cross/Arolsen at Yad Vashem, but now I had the whole list of the 1000 or so men, women and children who were deported on that day, and I read in one of the wonderful books of Serge Klarsfeld ( whose work on the Shoah in France cannot be praised enough ) that this was one of two transports who were sent as a 'represaille' for the killing, by members of the French Resistance, of - I am not sure, I wrote it down somewhere and do not have the note with me right now - one or two German officers. A friend of mine who works in the archive promised me to send me - if they can be found - the Gestapo records of my wife's grandfather's arrival in Drancy. He was murdered in Poland, less than forty years old, and left a pregnant wife and a three-year old daughter ( my mother-in-law ) somewhere in Southern France. They managed to survive the war, my mother-in-law was sent to Israel on a ship with other children, and her mother gave birth to a boy, Moshe, met another survivor, remarried and came to Israel a few years later. Moshe died very young, killed in a traffic accident in Israel, and my mother-in-law's mother - who died about one year before I met my wife - and her new husband had two more children, the uncle and aunt of my wife.
Anyway, the suggested article would deal with the museum and the CDJC ( which has a very interesting history, as it was founded in still-occupied France in 1943 by Jews who wanted to collect material in order not to forget and to be able to prosecute German and French perpetrators of the crimes committed against the Jews ) and contain one or more of the fascinating stories that I hear daily in the documentation center. My wife's family's history I just mentioned here as an example of how, even 60 years after 'the' war, the Holocaust is still very much a 'living part' of the personal history of many Jews, in Israel and abroad, and will probably remain so for at least one or two generations. I would of course ask permission of the persons involved. As I expected - considering the way in which the paper works and is managed - the only Jewish weekly in Holland was not interested ("we already had many stories on the Holocaust in the last few weeks" ), but I am still waiting for the answer of another newspaper, with which I have been working often. They are on holiday this week, so I will probably receive a response early next week, just in time for me to be able to write an article before I leave Paris, that is if they are interested of course.
Wow, this posting has become much longer than expected or intended. Have a nice weekend, and a good week, all of you.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Only a short posting this week. In two hours' time I will meet my brother and his girlfriend at the Gare du Nord, they will be here until Monday morning. Tonight we will probably have dinner together somewhere, tomorrow the two of them will be sightseeing all over the city while I will be working in the Archives Nationales, after that I will meet them again to have dinner again, and Sunday we will spend the whole day together in the Louvre, the Champs Elysees and Montmartre. This has been yet another very productive week, I discovered ( and in about five hours finished all the documents that are relevant for my research at ) the most userfriendly library that I know in Paris, the library of La Documentation Francaise and finished my work at the archives of the National Resistance Museum in Champigny-sur-Marne. Most of the remaining two weeks I will spend at the library and archives of the CDJC. Shabbat shalom to all of you, and probably until next week, unless I will have some spare time and access to the internet before that.