Thursday, March 31, 2005

After having read more reactions following this morning's ruling by Israel's Supreme Court regarding the recognition of non-orthodox conversions, I believe it is not me who is hysterical. Take for instance Shas faction leader Eli Yishay, who called the ruling an "explosives belt that has brought about a suicide attack against the Jewish people." He also said "This is the most difficult day in the history of Israel". Bloody hell, this man should be forced to add a bit of knowledge of Jewish history to all that he knows about Thorah and the arts of political bargaining.
Ha'Aretz news flashes:
11:03 MK Effi Eitam: High Court conversion ruling (*) represents `hostile takeover of the country`
06:01 Rabbis, settler groups and pullout opponents call on IDF soldiers not to return to service after Passover holiday
Could these be the first tangible signs of some sort of civil war that is waiting for us in the coming weeks or months, after the anti-disengagement activists have lost every hope of achieving their goals through parliamentary means? Nah, I am probably just being hysterical.
(*) 08:45 High Court orders state recognition of non-Orthodox conversions finalized overseas

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

As it has been very quiet during the last hour or so, I supposed that in the World Cup qualifying soccer match between France and Israel ( played in Ramat Gan ) no goals had been made yet, or France was leading. When I checked Ha'Aretz Newsflash my assumption was confirmed, the French just made a goal in the 49th minute of the game. That's a pity.
PS: I also read that the player who scored for France was sent off with a red card for hitting an Israeli colleague. That is not nice, isn't it?
PPS: When I heard shouts coming from the neigbors' house I knew that Israel scored as well. The game ended in a 1-1 draw.
Wouldn't this be a good project for Shinuy's Yosef 'Tommy' Lapid to invest part of the 700 million which he was promised by Sharon in order to secure his party's support for the government's budget? Israel is losing its technological edge - our biggest national asset - very fast, not in the least because of typically Israeli short-term thinking, planning and budget cuts. If between 10 and 15 % of the 700 million were spent on the national supercomputer unit, at least its annual development budget of $2 million needed "to retain Israel's status in the field" would be guaranteed for a decade. To me that seems a more worthwhile cause than the privately funded Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, which is not known for lacking funds ( or for charging low tuiton fees ). Yesterday it appeared that part of the sum promised to Shinuy would go to that center, which happens to be headed by professor Uriel Reichman, who happens to be the party's council president. By the way, before the deal between Sharon and Lapid was made professor Reichman urged his party to abstain during the vote on the budget, rather than vote against it, as the party's MKs were expected to do.
By giving the impression that its support for the budget was a result of oldfashioned political bargaining rather than being inspired by a feeling of national responsability ( the disengagement plan ), in many Israelis' eyes Shinui ( meaning 'change' in Hebrew ) has proven to be just another political party, not any better than the religious parties which it has always attacked for being extortioners.
On Israeli television I saw the "Naked Chef" Jamie Oliver deliver a petition to PM Tony Blair calling for better meals at Britain's schools. Sky News asked its website visitors for comments, and I especially liked this one : I remember school meals being good, filling and tasty. However, I'm now 40, weighing in at 18st and suffering from diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol problems, so maybe Mr Oliver has a point! P Ford, West Sussex

PS: If you ask me about celebrities whom I would like to meet, I think Mr Oliver would appear in my reply.

Ik was erg verbaasd over het plan van Medy van der Laan met betrekking tot de publieke omroepen. Die omroepen zijn voor zover ik weet een internationaal unicum. Geen amusement = lagere kijkcijfers = minder advertentieinkomsten = uiteindelijk het einde van de publieke omroep. Zou het kunnen dat de regering daar op uit is? Hanneke Groenteman en Verbal Jam schrijven er meer over.
On the frontpage of today's Ha'Aretz, an eyeopening article about one Gush Katif settler whose family has been turned into pariahs within their community because he openly said that he is willing to be evacuated. but who is still stuck in the Gaza Strip because the government agency handling compensation and resettlement has not received the necessary funds yet.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Regarding "Schiavo's parents again ask Florida governor to intervene", IHT, March 29, 2005: While the whole circus surrounding Terri Schiavo-Schindler focuses on the question "Who, if anybody, has the right to decide whether she should live or die?", few questions are raised regarding the way in which this poor woman is perishing. To me, it seems that being starved to death is one of the most cruel ways for a human being ( or an animal ) to die. Terri's terrible fate is the result both of faulty, unimaginative and ruthless legislation and of partisan fanatics with their own narrow religious and political agendas.
In the past week several articles in both the International Herald Tribune and Ha'Aretz were particularly interesting. I will refer to them here in no specific order. Again, Bradley Burston provides us with possible scenarios for Israel's near political future. This time he gives us the nightmare scenarios for Sharon and for the settlers and their supporters. After yesterday's vote against a referendum on the disengagement plan, we can cross off the first episode in Sharon's nightmare scenario. Plenty of episodes remain. In yesterday's editorial Ha'Aretz called for stronger political backing for forceful IDF and police actions against rightwing extremists who hurt Palestinian property and people and some of whom probably will not refrain from using violence against our armed forces if and when the disengagement will become a reality. Roger Cohen gave an insightful analysis of much of the anti-American mood and resentment in countries like Korea and Germany: "Asking for gratitude, or expecting it, will get America nowhere. The cold war is history - even if relics like North Korea remain - and people live in the present. The struggle to defeat the Soviet Union is part of a heroic American narrative, but in the Middle East, as in Asia and Latin America, that victory involved acts of hypocrisy, ruthlessness or worse that are more alive in the minds of many people than the heroism. Those people form the generation in power. " Another resentment, one that I did not know anything about, appeared in yesterday's IHT: that of local American farmers who are not too happy with the arrival of Dutch colleagues who flee the restrictions of large-scale farming in the European Union. In the same issue I read an article with background information on the case of poor Terri Schiavo-Schindler. Clearly a lose-lose-lose situation, with poor Mrs Schiavo being condemned to die of starvation. One article in yesterday's Ha'Aretz made me very angry, another contained a glimmer of hope. According to Eli Ashkenazi an Israeli report with data about malignant diseases in communities with more than 10,000 residents left out all but one of the Arab communities in the country. I agree with attorney Khaider Ala from the Center Against Racism, who says in the article "The report has produced two different groups. [...] One, an overprivileged group, whose lives are dear to the state and to the Health Ministry; a second, whose lives are of no importance to the state. The state must implement an economic and social policy that will ensure the health of all its citizens." Although I failed to listen to the radio when the song "In my heart" was broadcast ( simultaneously on Israeli Army radio and by the Palestinian Broadcasting Authority ), I applaud the efforts by David Broza ( whom I admire any way, he made some excellent records and wrote some beautiful songs ) and Said and Wisam Murad to show that Palestinians and Jews do have much in common and - with a little help from our friends and a little more effort from our leaders - could and can live and work together. Richard Silverstein of Tikun Olam dedicated a whole posting to this initiative. Last but not least, two interesting articles on Jewish culture. On the occasion of Purim, Michael Handelzalts wrote about the origins of the script in which Hebrew is written, as well as on the origins of the word 'semitic', as in anti-Semitic and in Semitic languages. Hagai Hitron tells us about a new double CD, with recordings commemorating the musical tradition of the Ashkenazi community of Amsterdam.

Monday, March 28, 2005

By defeating the proposal of a referendum on the disengagement plan with an overwhelming majority ( 72-39 ), the Knesset refuted all claims of the Yesha Council and its supporters regarding the undemocratic character of the disengagement plan. The undue understanding which some Yesha representatives express for possible acts of violence by frustrated and angry settlers sounds almost like an early legitimization of such acts. Obvious threats - such as the ones that could be heard during a commemoration service for Baruch Goldstein and the Purim celebrations in Hebron ( Noam Federman comparing Sharon to Haman, stressing the fact that Haman was hung in the end, to name one example ) should be dealt with seriously and with all possible force. On the other hand, we should beware of delegitimizing the settler community as a whole, as long as they keep their protests within the limits of the law and of the democracy which Israel still is. Oded Ben Ami, anchorman of a channel 2 program, was wrong to ask a representative of the Yesha Council why its members had reported to the police about efforts by one or more Jewish extremists to sell handgrenades to them for use against our security forces. Nevertheless, the council crossed a dangerous line when it said in a statement today: "(Prime Minister Ariel Sharon) has ruined chances of bringing the disengagement plan to the people for a decision and thus prevent a violent confrontation and a civil war." I read this as saying that if a civil war breaks out - the chances of which are not great, but they do exist - Sharon will be responsible, not the rightwing extremists many of whom can be found among Yesha activists ( NB: the biggest threat is some lonesome outsider unknown to organized extremists and to the security forces ).

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Hieronder volgen zes van de mooiste en leukste recente afleveringen van die ik gisteren heb zitten lezen.
Michels Bijna vijftien jaar terug in het vliegtuig van Wenen naar Amsterdam, na afloop van een of andere conferentie. Aan de andere kant van het gangpad Marco van Basten, met zonnebril. Voor hem de bondscoach. Hij was gaan kijken naar de Europa-Cupfinale tussen AC Milan en Benfica. Twaalf jaar was mijn oudste zoon. Ik besefte wat me te doen stond en pakte mijn kladblok. Marco van Basten hield zijn zonnebril op en zette zwijgend een krabbel. De bondscoach stond op en keek me vragend aan. ,,Ik ben bang, meneer Michels, dat ik niet zonder uw handtekening thuis kan komen.'' Priemende oogjes en in onvervalst Amsterdams: ,,Eigenlijk mos je die confrontatie maar 's aangaan.''
Herman Amelink
Wildplassen Met de trein naar Amsterdam om nog eens mijn oude kantoor op het Surinameplein te bezoeken, waar ik vijftig jaar geleden werkte. Al lopende vanaf het Centraal Station bereikte ik de Overtoom in hevige 'plasnood'. Nergens was een urinoir te bekennen. En de horeca die ik passeerde was 'Wegens vakantie gesloten' of nog dicht. In mijn hulpeloze situatie overwoog ik al het risico van een boete wegens wildplassen. Maar toen de nood het hoogst was, doemde een schitterende zaak op met veel licht en glitter en jeugdig bezoek. Ik rende naar binnen en deelde de ober mee dat ik na het toiletbezoek direct een consumptie wilde bestellen. Na terugkomst stond ik in een dameskapsalon.
Dick van Ommeren
Stroopwafel Kwart voor acht donderdagavond en een meute tot ver buiten de boekhandel in de Breestraat in Leiden. Opvallend jong, beginnend grijs en ouderen van dagen staan in 'n lange rij met één, twee of een heus stapeltje boeken. Paaseitjes en krakelingen worden door het personeel uitgedeeld om de fans buiten zoet te houden. Daar zitten ze, wat een prachtig stel! Karina opent de aangereikte boeken en Jan zet er met de ware zorg van een kunstenaar een fraai stempel - met kukelhaan - in. Naast hen op de signeertafel een schaaltje met drie stroopwafels voor als één van beiden trek krijgt. Een klein meisje na mij ontvangt het mooist gesigneerde boek. Op het titelblad komt een heerlijke stroopwafel van Jan te liggen.
Ruud de Klerk
Escort? Het is een uur of acht 's avonds als er beneden wordt aangebeld. Ik wou net aan een lekker kopje koffie beginnen. Wie kan dat nu zijn? Ik loop naar de intercom en pak de hoorn van de haak. ,,Hallo?'' ,,Bent u van de escort?'' vraagt een jongeman. Wát? ,,Euh...euh'', zeg ik. En ik denk: 'Zou dat blonde meisje van beneden dan toch...?' Dan hoort de jongeman beneden mijn verwarring. Hij schrikt. ,,O, nee, ik bedoel... bent u van de grijze Escort beneden? Ik wou even zeggen dat de lampen nog aan staan.''
Lieke Mulder
Matthäus Sinds enige jaren zit ik in het organisatiecomité van de Matthäus Passion, een liefhebberij die dezer dagen voor veel telefoonverkeer zorgt. De oudste zoon neemt de telefoon op. Ik hoor hem zeggen: ,,Met wie spreek ik? ... Hoe zegt u?... Ja, ja... De Matthäus?... Oh, u bent solist... Ja, ja, dan moet u mijn moeder hebben, een ogenblik alstublieft.'' ,,Mam, telefoon.'' En met zijn hand op de microfoon: ,,Jezus vraagt of hij zijn vrouw kan meebrengen.''
Carla Willemsen
Aan het kruis Een bezoek bij basisscholen om over een bepaald boek te praten is elke keer weer een belevenis. Voor mijn verhaal heb ik de eerste kruistocht nodig en die moet ik wel eerst even in de tijd plaatsen. Vervolgens vraag ik: ,,Waarom gingen de kruisvaarders nu speciaal naar Jeruzalem? Wat had Jeruzalem nou voor bijzonders dat ze die lange, gevaarlijke tocht maakten zo rond 1100?'' Als er geen antwoord komt, ga ik verder: ,,Wie was daar in Jeruzalem dan gestorven, heel lang geleden?'' En als er dan nog niemand antwoordt, zeg ik: ,,Wie was in Jeruzalem aan het kruis gestorven?'' Gelukkig meldt zich Mark. Ik vraag hem nog of hij het zeker weet. En Mark weet het zeker. Met luide stem roept hij: ,,Arafat.''
Hans Ulrich

Saturday, March 26, 2005

To whom it may concern: Happy Easter/Fijne paasdagen. Posted by Hello
Ha'Aretz News Flash:
13:14 Israeli think-tank: Jewish, Muslim extremists would carry out terror attacks to influence eventual pullout referendum
Wow, I wonder how long this tank had been thinking before it figured out something so obvious.
Het volgende, door mij geschreven artikel staat vandaag in het Reformatorisch Dagblad.
Het 'Beloofde' niemands'Land'
Toen ik een maand geleden van Schiphol naar Tel Aviv vloog zat er bij mij in het vliegtuig een groep mensen met t-shirts waarop "Am Yisrael Hai" ( Het volk van Israël leeft ) stond. Voor het instappen raakte ik aan de praat met een paar van hen, en ze vertelden me dat ze christenen waren die een solidariteitsreis naar Israël maakten, onder andere om de kolonisten in de Gaza-strook een hart onder de riem te steken. Ik moest aan hen denken toen ik afgelopen weken de ontwikkelingen rond Sharon's Gaza-terugtrekkingsplan in de Israëlische media volgde. Zo zag ik in de Israëlische kwaliteitskrant Ha'Aretz een foto waarop "leden van een Noorse pro-Israël christelijke organizatie" bloemen uitdeelden en steun betuigden aan de joodse inwoners van Gush Katif, het grootste nederzettingenblok in de Gaza-strook. Als reactie schreef ik een ingezonden brief waarin ik mijn ergernis uitsprak over het feit dat dergelijke steunbetuigingen altijd aan 'pro-Israël' individuën en organizaties worden toegeschreven. Zou het niet veel meer in het belang van de joodse staat zijn als we ons nu eens eindelijk uit de bezette gebieden terugtrokken, om te beginnen uit de Gaza-strook, volgens het plan van Ariel Sharon? Het valt me steeds weer op hoezeer juist de extremisten aan Palestijnse en (joods-) Israëlische zijde van 'het conflict' openlijke steun vanuit het buitenland genieten. Wie zich er het meest op laten voorstaan solidair te zijn met hun Palestijnse (moslim)broeders en zusters zijn de geestverwanten van Bin Laden, samen met de leden van Hezbollah en hun Syrische en Iraanse broodheren. Wanneer demonstranten in Europa of elders in het Westen zeggen de Palestijnse zaak te steunen zul je maar zelden gematigde leuzen horen die oproepen tot een rechtvaardig en 'redelijk alternatief', vreedzame coëxistentie van joden en Palestijnen in twee staten. Aan de andere kant vindt Israël de laatste jaren vooral steun bij Amerikaanse politici wier gedachtengoed van religieus fundamentalisme is doordrongen. Bij zogenaamde pro-Israël demonstraties worden de Palestijnen voornamelijk als terroristen, nauwelijks als mensen afgeschilderd. Deze demonisatie vindt vaak zijn ronduit antisemitische spiegelbeeld tijdens pro-Palestina demonstraties. Wat me de laatste tijd meer dan voorheen duidelijk wordt is in welke mate christelijke organisaties een kwalijke rol spelen in het nog verder verscherpen van wederzijdse vooroordelen, en in het verder polariseren van 'het conflict'. Door verschillende protestantse kerkgenootschappen zijn en worden pogingen ondernomen om te komen tot "divestment from ( companies operating in ) Israel", teneinde de Palestijnen te helpen. In sommige gevallen wordt benadrukt dat men alleen bedrijven wil boycotten die zaken doen met of in de nederzettingen in bezet gebied. Meestal wordt er echter totaal geen onderscheid gemaakt tussen Israël binnen de groene lijn aan de ene en de bezette gebieden aan de andere kant. Daarbij wordt niet zelden de indruk gewekt dat het bestaansrecht van de joodse staat als zodanig danig in twijfel wordt getrokken. Dergelijke activiteiten bevestigen in de ogen van veel Israëliërs hun vooroordelen over christenen. Ook maken ze het voor gematigde, pragmatische activisten hier nog moeilijker dan het al is om tegenover hun thuisbasis een bemiddelingsrol voor westerse buitenstaanders te bepleiten. Andere, minder 'progressieve' kerkgenootschappen zetten zich met gebed, collectes en solidariteitsreizen nu juist weer in om de bezetting oneindig te laten voortduren. Voor veel van deze fundamentalistische christenen zijn wij, joden in Israël en daarbuiten, slechts pionnen in een angstaanjagend apocalyptisch wereldbeeld. Moslims spelen daarbij vaak de rol van de tegenstander van de ware gelovigen in de eindstrijd. Natuurlijk zijn er ook christenen die een heuse, onvoorwaardelijke liefde koesteren voor het joodse volk, of die juist helemaal geen onderscheid tussen Israëliërs en Palestijnen maken. Sommigen onder hen komen hiernaartoe om daadwerkelijk hulp te bieden aan joden en/of Arabieren in Israël, de Westoever of de Gaza-strook. Toch wordt hun bewonderenswaardige werk in de media – hier in Israël en het Midden-Oosten, maar ook in Europa en de Verenigde Staten – volkomen ondergesneeuwd door wat hun minder genuanceerde geloofsgenoten zeggen en doen. Het werk van eenzijdige, al dan niet christelijke, organizaties en individuën krijgt genoeg aandacht in kranten, op de televisie en de radio. Het zou aardig zijn – en het zou een einde aan de bezetting en dus een mogelijke vrede dichterbij kunnen brengen – als er veel meer zendtijd en paginaruimte werd besteed aan projecten die gericht zijn op joods-Palestijnse samenwerking, wederzijds begrip e.d. Zowel in Israël als onder de Palestijnen zijn er genoeg interessante mensen en instellingen die zich inzetten voor een twee-statenoplossing zonder hun eigen nationale identiteit te ontkennen. Er bevindt zich hier een enorm niemandsland tussen enerzijds hen die een Groot-Israël nastreven en anderzijds diegenen die zich één ( Palestijnse ) staat voor twee volken ten doel stellen. Christenen die werkelijk een betere toekomst voor joden èn Palestijnen willen zouden al hun aandacht op dat niemandsland moeten concentreren.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Om het volgende bericht, dat ik op de website van de Telegraaf las, moest ik grinniken. Zo wil ik ook wel examen doen. Aan de andere kant blijkt ook maar weer eens hoe weinig bestuurders en ambtenaren soms na- en doordenken.
Inburgeringsfilm ook zonder blote borsten verkrijgbaar
DEN HAAG - De videofilm over de Nederlandse film die migranten in spe kunnen gebruiken om zich voor te bereiden op de inburgeringstoets in het buitenland, is ook in een gekuiste versie verkrijgbaar. Hieruit zijn de beelden van een strand met topless vrouwen, van een huwelijk tussen twee mannen en een popconcert geschrapt. Dat is volgens minister Verdonk (Vreemdelingenzaken en Integratie) nodig, omdat in sommige landen mensen risico lopen als zij zo'n openhartige film in bezit hebben. Verdonk heeft dit onlangs begrepen van het ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken, dat de ambassades had aangeschreven, zo liet zij dinsdag weten tijdens het vervolg van het debat over de plannen voor inburgering in het buitenland. Problemen zoals vervolging zijn onder meer te verwachten in Marokko, Afghanistan, Tunesië, Maleisië en mogelijk Egypte. De bewindsvrouw zei wel dat er maar één examenversie is.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

When - with some delay - I read a belated but as always insightful comment made by Head Heeb's Jonathan Edelstein ( see posting on this blog on March 14th ), I was reminded of yesterday's editorial in Ha'Aretz. Of course, Israel is a much stronger state ( and democracy ) than Lebanon, but the threat from the fringes of Israel's rightwing extremist groups and individuals is very real, I am afraid, and should be neither exaggerated nor underestimated. This, of course, is a truism, but still, that does not mean that it should not be said.

The notice on the door says "Worldbank", and the title of the cartoon is "Wolfowitz credit". Posted by Hello

Two more cartoons by Joep Bertrams of the Dutch daily Het Parool. This one is about Lebanon, titled "New Beginning". Posted by Hello
I was pleased to read the following item in today's IHT's 'People' section: President Jacques Chirac of France asked his national library and culture ministry last week to devise a plan to make European literature available on the Internet, after the head of the library expressed fears that a similar plan announced by Google last year would result in a dominance of English-language texts, Reuters reported. Chirac asked Jean-Noël Jeanneney, the president of the library, to research plans to make the libraries of France and Europe more accessible, and said that he would pursue a coordinated effort among European countries to get their works online.
This way libraries ( and possibly archives too ) in France and elsewhere might become much more accessible and user-friendly. Thank you, Google.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Arnoud de Jong, publicist en columnist, begon in oktober 2001 een persoonlijke website, lang voordat 'bloggen' een gangbaar woord werd en iedere gek die denkt iets te melden te hebben zijn eigen weblog begon ( zegt een van die gekken ). Pas nadat ik zelf Dutchblog Israel was begonnen werd ik door mijn broer op het bestaan van Verbal Jam gewezen. Sindsdien bezoek ik Arnoud's weblog regelmatig, en geniet er van zijn vaak zeer rake en soms uiterst vermakelijke beschouwingen en commentaren. Omdat hij net als ik een meer dan gemiddelde belangstelling voor het Midden-Oosten in het algemeen en Israel in het bijzonder heeft, heb ik hem vlak voor mijn laatste reis naar Europa voorgesteld om ergens in Amsterdam af te spreken voor een kop koffie. We hebben elkaar vlak voor de jaarwisseling ontmoet, en het was erg gezellig. Sinds kort maakt Verbal Jam gebruik van gastschrijvers, of 'teamleden'. Aanvankelijk dacht ik "Jammer, dat zal de kwaliteit van VJ niet ten goede komen", maar het tegendeel is waar: eind vorige week kreeg ik een mailtje van Arnoud met de vraag of ik er iets voor zou voelen om af en toe de rol van Verbal Jam's Midden-Oosten correspondent te spelen, door middel van bijdragen die te maken hebben met Israel, joodse cultuur en geschiedenis, Midden-Oosten e.d. Eergisteren is mijn eerste stuk op VJ verschenen. Het betreft een vertaling/bewerking van iets wat ik min of meer al in het Engels op Dutchblog Israel had geschreven, dit was vooral om te kijken of ik ongeveer aanvoel wat er van me verwacht wordt. Gezien het leuke aantal en het soort reacties zit dat wel goed. Het volgende stuk dat ik bij Arnoud zal inleveren zal origineler zijn. Ik raad wie VJ nog niet kent aan om er eens een kijkje te nemen ( een link naar de website is een van de oudste permalinks op mijn blog ). Als je daar bent aangekomen, klik rechts op 'navigatie', en dan op "Bij de Jordaan" om Arnoud's observaties over het dagelijkse leven in Israel te lezen, en op "Gozertje" als je zin hebt om eens lekker te schaterlachen.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Op Bieslog kwam ik nog dit aardige item tegen, waarin zowel naar de Boekenweek als naar de dood van dr. De Jong wordt verwezen.
Regarding "Infant euthanasia: A doctor explains" and "Judge and lawmakers square off in feed-tube case", IHT, March 19-20, 2005: Because of most Dutchmen and -women's ability to openly face some of the less pleasant facts of life, and their willingness to discuss all aspects of human life in public and among professionals, dr. Verhagen and his colleagues are able to concentrate on their profession and to feel an extraordinary empathy with their patients. I admire those doctors' fortitude and their dedicated love for the human beings who are consigned to their care. On the other side of the planet, in the sneaky US society under George W. Bush a woman might very well be starved to death - as far as I can imagine an unnecessarily cruel way to die - because no doctor has the courage and the legal backing to end her life in a more humane way. Many of the same Americans who are now demonstrating and praying for the life of Terry Schiavo to be extended indefinitely never raised any objections when underage, retarded or possibly innocent human beings were condemned to death and - often after many years of legal struggles - executed. Why would I believe that the sanctity of life is all that these fundamentalists care about?

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Regarding "A way for Israel to show its magnanimity", by Uri Dromi, IHT, March 18, 2005: While, like Uri Dromi, I can not think of any reasonable excuse for Ariel Sharon to destroy the houses and other buildings in the Gaza settlements after their planned evacuation, I would not call a decision to hand them over to the Palestinians an act of magnanimity or generosity, given the way in which we in Israel in general - and many of the settlers in particular - have behaved ( and after leaving only a small part of the occupied territories will continue to behave ) towards the Palestinians. Rather, I would call it an act of common sense, and an attempt towards building bridges in addition to security fences. On the other hand, unlike Mr Dromi and Rabbi Natan, I do not see a need to convert our enemies into friends. Instead, I would go for Amos Oz' approach: the opposite of war is not love, compassion, generosity, forgiveness or brotherhood, but peace.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Ha'Aretz News Flash ( today ): 17:32 Gush Katif spokesman: Like czarist Russia, Israeli gov`t is determining `Pale of Settlement` for Jews to reside in. He is right, only we use to call that 'Pale(stine) of Settlement' the State of Israel.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

In this excellent analysis Ha'Aretz correspondent Bradley Burston gives us a comprehensive overview of the possible bring-Sharon-down-and-stop-the-disengagement ( nightmare )scenarios that could or could not unfold before our eyes here in the coming months. Let's hope none of them will turn into reality, and 'our Arik' ( never believed that I would write those two words together, even in an ironic sense ) will be able to pull it off. As I have written more than once, getting us out of Gaza certainly does not mean an end to the occupation as such and will not bring us peace and quiet until eternity, but if Sharon does not succeed to evacuate the settlements over there nobody probably will, and in that case further evacuations will become virtually impossible and the occupation will continue indefinitely.
Regarding "Vatican goes on offensive against 'Da Vinci Code'", IHT, March 17, 2005:
Although I hardly ever like to read books in which fictional versions of history are presented ( I am a historian myself ), I must say that I am tempted to read Dan Brown's bestseller, if not only because of the seriousness and fervor with which the Vatican attacks it. Unbelievers will find it highly amusing that of all people it is one of the highest Vatican officials who says that he is " shocked that a book founded on so many errors and on numerous lies could have such success ". Based on Cardinal Bertone's time- and money-consuming efforts, we might think that there are no poverty, disease and hunger to be fought by God's servants on earth anymore. The cardinal asks himself regarding 'similar' books about Mohammed, or about the Shoah. First of all, some of the worst cases of Holocaust denial have involved devout Catholics, and hardly ever did we hear the Vatican's office on doctrinal orthodoxy or any other heavyweight official catholic body condemn their falsifications. As far as books about Mohammed are concerned, maybe the Cardinal forgot about the Rushdie-affair. Could that be because the institute that he represents and serves basically invented book-burnings?

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Here is that famous picture. Posted by Hello
Last year, on December 4th, I refered to an article about the photographer Paul Goldman in Ha'Aretz. Today I read another article about Goldman and Spenser Partrich, an American collector-benefactor who basically has been saving Goldman's work for posterity. One of the most famous pictures taken by Goldman is the picture of David Ben Gurion on the Herzliyah beach in September 1957.
In this morning's IHT I noticed the following letter to the editor. it is good to see that other people ask ( themselves and others ) questions similar to those that I have been asking for a long time. Terror in Spain Sometimes you read an article that leads to an obvious question, and it's very frustrating when the writer doesn't ask it. Apparently there are hundreds of Islamist militants preparing terrorist strikes in Spain ("Spain still thwarting Islamists' terror plot," March 14). The obvious question is why? The Madrid bombings gave the Islamists what they wanted: a change in government and the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq. So what do they want now? I'm sure there are a lot of informed people in Spain who could enlighten us about this, but of course they have to be asked. Richard Kalvar, Paris
Yesterday, when the new Yad Vashem Holocaust museum was opened with many foreign dignitaries attending, the 'father of Dutch WWII-historiography', Lou de Jong ( whom many still call Doctor de Jong, even though he had been a professor for several decades already ) passed away at the age of 90.
De Jong, who was Jewish, escaped with his wife to England right after the German invasion of the Netherlands. During the war he was responsible for the official Dutch radio broadcasts from London. In October 1945 he became the director of the national institute for WWII research. In 1955 he received the official commission from the ministry of Education and Sciences to write a scientific historiography of the war in the Netherlands. That project was supposed to take six years to be completed. With the help of the workers of the institute, the first volume of this study appeared only in 1969, and only in 1988 the last part ( nr. 12, two appendices appeared after that, containing errata, commentaries etc. ) was published. This study - and even more the television series The Occupation which Lou de Jong presented in the first half of the 1960s - turned him into the official spokesperson on anything related to the years 1940-45 in the Netherlands. I always admired him very much, and he seemed to be a very nice person as well. His study, The Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Second World War, is far from perfect and has been ( and will continue to be ) criticized in many ways. Still, no researcher of Dutch WWII history and historiography will ever be able to ignore the work of Dr. de Jong. May his memory be a blessing.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Yesterday my wife and I visited a trial violin lesson with our son ( 2 years and 4 months old ). He appears to love music and have a good feeling for rhythm, and since unlike his sister he does not attend any afterschool activities we thought of trying this course, given at the local 'Matnas' ( Center for Culture, Youth and Sport ). This is a course that follows the teachings of Shinichi Suzuki ( "music as mothertongue" ). I was sure that E., our son, is way too young for this - my wife was even less enthusiastic than I, she hates the violin as long as it is not being played by someone on the level of Yitzhak Perlman - (*), but we heard very good stories about the person who teaches here, and wow, I am certainly not disappointed.
Although our son does not really speak yet ( i.e. he speaks, but you have to know him very well in order to understand ) he communicated perfectly with Moshe, the teacher. Moshe is strict and teaches his pupils discipline but in a very child-friendly way ( he is not 'Russian'; 'Russian' - music - teachers are known for their harsh discipline and high demands, something which does not go very well with most Israeli children), and E. was mesmerized for a full 30 minutes, following Moshe's instructions. E. was visibly happy when at the end Moshe played him a little tune while he himself held the 1/16 children's violin, and he did not stop talking about the experience on our way home. We registered him for the course, and we will see if in another month or so he will still like it as much. If he does, do remember the name E. Bar-On/de Bruin, and don't forget that you heard the name for the first time on his father's blog. (*) The last thing that we want is to push our children into anything that they do not really want themselves. One of the other three parents whose children were in Moshe's class yesterday was quite pushy and annoying, answering all the questions before any of the children ( Moshe put her in her place in a very friendly but effective way ) and writing down ever single world that Moshe said. Still, as far as we know ( and as far as the courses given at our local Matnas are concerned ) this is the only musical instrument which you can learn at such an early age, and we might as well try it as long as E. seems to enjoy it. The course is not very expensive, 80 shekel ( about 14 Euro ) a month for one weekly lesson of 30 minutes, plus 20 shekel ( 3.5 Euro ) a month to rent a children's violin. For a nice and informative website ( in Dutch ) of a Belgian Suzuki-violin teacher click here.
I forgot to mention that the Matnas in the small city where I live with my family is very active, and offers many excellent children's courses in arts, sports, music etc. Many communities in Europe would love to have a music centre as beautiful and well-equiped as the one where our son had his first violin lesson yesterday.
A regular visitor to this blog, who keeps up with the news more and better than me and than most people I know, made me aware of something that I missed. The fact that Sharon received the Dutch PM - who together with tens of other important international figures will attend today's opening of the (re)new(ed) Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem - after Mr Balkenende had visited his Palestinian colleague, shows how much things have changed here. Before Arafat's death it would have been inconceivable for any foreign dignitary to be officially received by Israel after having first visited the Palestinians. Maybe the optimism of people like Kofi Anan regarding a certain Israeli-Palestinian peace process is not entirely out of place.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Knowing the peculiar attitude of Israeli drivers ( m/f ) and their lack of patience , I seriously wonder if this evening the settlers chose the right method to protest against Sharon's disengagement plan, that is if they are still interested in somehow trying to get some sympathy from the general public.
The political and ideological heritage and memory of statesmen and politicians can be a problematic subject, especially if the state decides to adopt and finance it, and even more if the person's heritage involved controversial or outright reprehensible actions and ideas. In today's Ha'Aretz we find an interesting article about a bill proposing to erect a memorial for Rehavam Ze'evi z"l, the man who introduced the term 'transfer' into Israeli politics, and who is the only Israeli politician murdered by Palestinian terrorists. Ironically enough, today the term 'transfer' is used by many political soulmates of 'Ghandi' to give a negative connotation to the evacuation of Jewish families out of settlements in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. That the bill is supported by 70 MKs should not surprise us. What is surprising, though, is the fact that so many of the so-called Left were among its supporters. Just to get an idea of parliamentary logics, and of how members of parliament spend our tax money by studying the subjects they are supposed to vote on, here is a quote from the article: Deputy Minister Orit Noked (Labor) said that she "is in favor of anything that preserves and commemorates things associated with a love of the Land of Israel, and I know that Rehavam Ze'evi very much loved the Land of Israel. I made an absolute distinction between the person's political opinions and the content of the bill." Asked if an additional research institute on the Land of Israel was needed, and if this was not a waste of public funds, Noked said, "I admit that I did not delve too deeply into this question."
To me personally it seems that most of the centers named after illustrious statesmen and politicians are a waste of public funds, the main goal of which is to provide nicely paid moonlighting jobs for political friends. But in the case of Ze'evi, I think that the racist ideas which made him into much more than just another controversial public figure should preclude the use of public money for anything more than a state ceremony in remembrance of his murder, and possibly a small monument near or inside the Hyatt hotel, where he was murdered. I agree with most of what Meir Pa'il ( and Yossi Sarid ) say(s) in the article:
Historian Meir Pa'il, who served in the Knesset as a representative of Moked and then Sheli, said that the mere submission of the bill "is very definite proof that a fascist right is rising in our midst.
What are the life's work and heritage of Ze'evi that the bill is immortalizing?
The Greater Land of Israel, with `blood and fire and columns of smoke,' and the Sons of Ishmael, who have the legal standing of a mob. If they stay, they have no rights. If they are wise guys - they are expelled. When you gain control on the ground, if it is possible to take advantage of the tumult and expel as many as possible, then even better. Gandhi's heritage is, I would say, a fascist, chauvinist, Zionist heritage. It is a classic example of the sort of intolerant beliefs that could be found in the big, wide world among fascist Nazi elements," responded Pa'il.
But Ze'evi spoke of "voluntary transfer."
"There's no such thing as `voluntary transfer.' That is demagoguery. There isn't a single Arab in our region who would be willing to do `voluntary transfer,' " Pa'il said. Pa'il said that Ze'evi "died like an irresponsible person, who despite his opinion goes to stay in an hotel close to the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, without taking the trouble to protect himself, to see to it that he is secure. Such a man, with these opinions, should have been careful." Pa'il said he finds no parallels between Ze'evi and Rabin, calling them "two opposites." "During his term as prime minister, Rabin succeeded in making a real push toward peace with Jordan and the Palestinians. That is why he was murdered. And if there was anything wrong about the Rabin affair, it is those who did not guard him in an adequate fashion," Pa'il said. He said that Ze'evi, on the other hand, "is a negative national figure and military figure. A nationalist and a brutal racist of the first rank. So in my opinion, establishing an institution named after him would be another indication of an extremely severe moral decline."
Zelfs al zou je nog bewondering kunnen hebben voor de politieke en menselijke moed die Geert Wilders aan de dag legt door openlijk en consequent voor zijn mening uit te komen, je kunt er niet om heen dat als geheel het gedachtengoed van de man ronduit eng is, en zelfs voor Amerikaans-Republikeinse begrippen ver gaat. Het is duidelijk dat zijn meningsverschil met de VVD veel meer omvatte dan alleen het al dan niet mogelijk maken van Turkije's toetreding tot de EU. Opheffing van het ministerie van Onderwijs en de Eerste Kamer, herverdeling van Nederland in vier provincies ( zou hij gouwen bedoelen? ), het is allemaal wel erg doordraverig. Ben benieuwd wat voor invloed het bekendmaken van deze ideeen op zijn peilingpopulariteit - die al niet meer is wat het bijvoorbeeld meteen na 2 november was - zal hebben, al vraag ik me af of de gemiddelde ultrarechtse stemmer de complete partijprogramma's van de marginalen ooit zelfs maar doorbladert.
Nu iets anders. Het is weer Boekenweek. Het is al min of meer traditie geworden dat mijn ouders of mijn broer me aan het begin van het jaar het boekenweekgeschenk en -essay opsturen, net als aan het einde van het jaar de Aangenaam Klassiek (dubbel)CD ( ik heb met de hulp van mijn vader en moeder en van sinds kort de hele collectie compleet, vanaf 1992 tot en met 2004 ). Omdat het dit jaar om 'een Wolkers' gaat ( die weliswaar niet echt goed ontvangen is door de critici, maar ach, dat drukt de verwachtingsvolle pret bij mij nauwelijks ) en het onderwerp van de Week vaderlandse geschiedenis is ( waarin ik me overigens pas ben gaan verdiepen lang nadat ik naar Israel was geemigreerd, en toen ik al weer wat jaren een heuse historicus was ), kijk ik met veel plezier uit naar Zomerhitte en het boekje van Henk van Os. Toen ik in Nederland was heb ik heerlijk gechineesd ( ik bedoel hier de culinaire variant ) met N., een trouwe lezeres van mijn blog en artikelen en inmiddels - voor zover mogelijk op zo'n afstand en met e-mail als voornaamste contactmiddel - een goede vriendin. Zij gaf mij een boekje, Moet je horen van Guido van Oorschot, muziekjournalist voor o.a. de Volkskrant. Ik vind het altijd leuk om klassieke muziek te horen, en er niet al te technische dingen over te lezen. Ik heb dan ook erg genoten van het cadeau. De stukjes van Van Oorschot zijn niet allemaal even geweldig, maar in het lexicon aan het einde van het boekje ( door Hans Tecker ) las ik heel veel wat ik niet wist of al lang vergeten was ( ik ben met muziek groot gebracht, heb zelf tien jaar in een fanfare gespeeld; mijn ouders hebben elkaar leren kennen bij een harmonie in mijn geboortestad Utrecht, en voor mijn vader is muziek al ruim 55 jaar zijn lust en leven ). Er zit ook een CD bij met een paar stukken klassieke muziek waarover in de columns geschreven wordt. Bij zulke CDs vind ik het altijd erg irritant als net de in het boek genoemde stukken die ik niet ken ( of op CD heb ) er op ontbreken, terwijl sommige overbekende ( en vaak in meerdere uitvoeringen in mijn CD-collectie aanwezige ) stukken er wel op staan. In dit geval heb ik desondanks wel mooi twee wonderschone delen ontdekt van symfonieen die ik niet of nauwelijks kende. Voor het eerst hoorde ik het Allego non troppo uit de 8e symfonie van Shostakovich, dat geweldig mooi is. Daarnaast hoorde ik voor het eerst bewust ( ik kende vooral de 'verpopte' versie door de band Sky en heb weliswaar een CD met het origineel maar heb daar nooit goed naar zitten luisteren ) de Allegretto non troppo ( Marche au supplice ) uit de Symphonie Fantastique van Hector Berlioz. Ook prachtig. Al met al dus een zeer geslaagd, nuttig en gewaardeerd cadeau, waarvoor ik N. hierbij nogmaals heel erg bedank.
PS: De titel "Moet je horen: De mooiste klassieke muziek" riep bij mij aanvankelijk een zekere tegenzin op: "Ik moet niks, en bepaal zelf wel wat ik het mooiste vind". Gelukkig heb ik me erover heen gezet en erg van het boekje en de CD genoten.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

This will be today's last posting, it goes well with the previous one. The captions that accompanied the picture on the various websites where I saw it tell us that this was a demonstration in Beirut in remembrance of the murdered Rafiq Hariri and in support of Lebanese independence.  Posted by Hello

I liked this cartoon in today's Ha'Aretz, by Daniela London-Dekel, since it makes clear how unwise it is of Israeli officials to say anything in public regarding the Syrian presence in Lebanon. In the paper's English edition it says "Why don't the Syrians get out of there, already?!" Posted by Hello

The caption accompanying this picture in today's Ha'Aretz says "Flower power: Members of a Norwegian pro-Israel Christian organization distributing bouquets to residents of Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip on Friday. A letter of support was attached to each of the 1,700 bouquets." Never mind that it somehow appears as if the man and women on the picture are laying funeral wreaths, or that I never saw any of these Norwegians support Israel by doing guard duty on the Philadelphi route. What really annoys me is that people like this are automatically called pro-Israel. Is pro-settler the same as pro-Israel? Does anybody who opposes the settlements automatically qualify as anti-Israel? Isn't an end to the occupation much more in the interest of the Jewish state than a continuation of our largely illegal and certainly destructive presence there? Posted by Hello

Saturday, March 12, 2005

This cartoon by Joep Bertrams, in the Dutch daily Het Parool, is called "Building the future", depicting the bad ways in which relations between Muslims and non-Muslims are developing in the Netherlands. Because of 'the wall' being built - and demonstrated against - here I found Bertram's use of the metaphor especially interesting. Posted by Hello
This weekend's IHT and Ha'Aretz newspapers contained several highly interesting articles. In addition to the ones refered to in the previous two postings, I would like to mention here an article ( far from comprehensive, but nevertheless worth reading ) about the role of medicine and doctors in Nazi Germany (*), and a study of the effects of malnutrition carried out in the Warsaw ghetto by Jewish doctors who hid their results in milk cans; and a piece on "Alles auf Zucker", a new German 'Jewish comedy' which appears to be both very funny and therapeutical for both Jews and non-Jews in Germany. The film's maker, Dani Levy, won the Ernst Lubitsch Prize for it.
(*) the article cursorily mentions the relatively high number of vegetarians, environmentalists and adherents of homeopathy among Nazi Germans; this is only one reason why I am always a bit suspicious when certain people fanatically claim to be concerned about animal welfare, the environment and their own and other people's health.
Regarding "A year later, train bombs still take a toll on Spain", "Disputing World Court, US pulls out of protocol", IHT, March 11, 2005: The Spanish people properly remembered the victims of the terrorist attack one year ago: only silence is appropriate at such difficult moments. In my opinion it was wrong - and an insult to both victims and fighters of terror worldwide - for the newly elected Spanish government to almost immediately announce the withdrawal of the country's troops from Iraq. Still, besides an end to the presence of Spanish and other soldiers in Iraq, the terrorists aimed at - and in Spain achieved - a much more dangerous goal: sowing political divisions, insecurity and chaos. The Spanish case, still a primary example of the triumph of democracy over fanaticism and dictatorship, has turned into a clear victory for Bin Laden and his cronies. The fact that Bush and his government think that they can take the liberty of withdrawing from international commitments and of not caring a straw for other countries' concerns and criticism makes additional victories like that even more likely.
Regarding "We need evangelical Christian support", Op-Ed, March 7, and Advertisement, Ha'Aretz, March 11, 2005: The threatening and condemning tone of the "petition to the state of Israel to ban the invitation for World Pride 2005" shows that we Jews - in Israel and abroad - are nothing but pawns in the apocalyptic worldview of some of the Christian fundamentalists. Sure, many Christians' affection for the Jewish people is genuine, and their support should be cherished, but fanatics like those behind the "Will you help Israel" petition make clear that theirs is not a true love: after all, should love not be "without limits and without conditions"?

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The last one for today.  Posted by Hello

Hagar's advice for sissies like me. Posted by Hello
What follows are some pictures to try the new Picasa 2. This seems to be a very practical and comprehensive picture-managing program. I have no idea yet how to use all of its functions, I just downloaded the program this morning, but it recognizes all the pictures on your computer and allows you to organize them, send them by e-mail or to your weblog, etc. etc.
Het deed me goed om het volgende persbericht toegestuurd te krijgen. Omdat ik destijds het boekje Heb mij lief van Luuk Koelman had gekocht om bij te dragen in de kosten van de bodemprocedure ( of het boekje had gekregen na een kleine bijdrage te hebben overgemaakt, dat weet ik niet meer precies ) werd ik per e-mail op de hoogte gehouden over de juridische ontwikkelingen. Koelman heeft dus gewonnen, en wat belangrijker is, Gretta D. heeft lik op stuk gekregen. Mooi! Voor alle duidelijkheid, het gaat om de volgende column: AMSTERDAM/TILBURG De Meervoudige Kamer van het Gerechtshof in Amsterdam heeft bepaald dat de column 'Menselijk schild in Ramallah' van Luuk Koelman niet onrechtmatig is. De Kamer oordeelde dat de column weliswaar een scherpe toonzetting heeft en als een schending van eer en goede naam kan worden opgevat, maar dat het fictieve karakter en de humoristische toonzetting overduidelijk zijn. Ook de door Duisenberg geeiste 40.000 euro, voor geleden (im-)materiele schade, werd niet gehonoreerd. Tevens dient zij de proceskosten van zowel het kort geding als de bodemprocedure te betalen. Koelman is verheugd over de uitspraak. “Het was even spannend, want je weet nooit of gelijk hebben ook gelijk krijgen is.” Via een inzamelingsactie doneerden honderden sympathisanten een bijdrage voor zijn procedure. Koelman schenkt het resterende bedrag aan WarChild. De column ‘Menselijk schild in Ramallah’ verscheen op 16 oktober 2003 in dagblad Metro en handelt over het voornemen van Gretta Duisenberg om het menselijk schild van Yasser Arafat te worden. In de column wordt een denkbeeldige situatie beschreven, waarin Duisenberg naast Arafat op een stretcher ligt. Omdat zij zich gekwetst voelde, spande Duisenberg een kort geding aan. De Bredase rechtbank vonniste dat Koelman zijn column moest rectificeren en van zijn website verwijderen. Koelman beschouwde zijn column als ‘een spotprent in woorden’ en ging in beroep.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Rabbi Ovadyah Yosef has been at it again. This time he basically cursed Ariel Sharon, although of course his followers claim that he meant to say something else. The problem is that he clearly uses a masculine form of the verbs, whereas both 'plan' and 'disengagement' are feminine. You really have to be a believer if you want to believe that this caricature of a rabbi did not mean any harm. Still, he and other religious freaks cannot be blamed if they get away with such things it is all the system's fault. A properly functioning justice system should be able to deal with such incitement and other threats.
Because of the children we normally do not watch the news in the morning, but this morning we happened to see and hear Mr Yosef on the television. Our 5-year old daughter asked who he was. Although we try to teach them as much about Judaism ( and to show as much respect for religious people in general and rabbis in particular ) as we can, we could not help answering her that he was dressed up for Purim. She heard his words and immediately said "But will they do to Sharon what they did to Rabin?" For heaven's sake, those bloody fanatics - 'ours' as much as 'theirs' - even make our children worry. Now I can stand them even less.
Regarding "Money-laundering scandal", "Lawmakers' gizmos, gadgets and gifts...", "Panel clears bill to make civil service jobs political", Ha'Aretz, March 7, 2005: On one and the same day we have three major articles in the national newspapers that prove once again that Israel has definitely become an 'orange-republic' ( an enhanced version of a banana-republic ). While thousands of people are unable to properly feed their children, medical waiting lists are dangerously long and scientific research - one of the few sources for national pride that are left - is being cut down drastically for lack of funds, criminals are getting richer, three young MKs push a law that would make this country even more prone to corruption, and parliamentarians pay millions for hardly essential services in order to "reach out" to a "public" with which they have lost any touch long ago.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

If you regularly visit this weblog you know that I will be one of the last ones who would say that criticizing Israel is wrong, or that criticism of Israel equals anti-Semitism. On the contrary, much criticism is expressed by people who really love the Jewish state and are concerned for its soul and its well-being. Also, as what under very difficult circumstances is still a relatively well functioning democracy, Israel is rightly expected to abide by laws that dictatorships can ignore. Still, it is remarkable how Israel is often singled out for fault-finding whereas some otherwise higly respected countries again and again get away with absolute evil. Such a country is China, where human rights are a joke, and which for more than 50 years has been occupying Tibet without any serious international protests. Of course, China is an important player in the international field, but a little less enthusiasm in embracing that giant would be appropriate, I think. This is why I very much liked the following letter to the editor ( in particular its last sentence ), published in this morning's International Herald Tribune. It refers to this article by H.D.S. Greenway. ( PS: Yes, I am aware that Israel is one of the more enthusiastic partners of the Chinese government, something which I am not very proud of) What's to respect?
H.D.S. Greenway ("Treat China with respect," Views, Feb. 26) seems to be under the impression that "civilization" is a matter of gracious sculptures and fine fabrics, but it is obviously much more than that. At its core, it is the recognition of human dignity. So when Greenway urges respect for China, he has everything back to front; it is the long-suffering Chinese people who deserve respect, not the dictators in Beijing.
Even if one could ignore the fact that China has close relationships with some of the world's most ruthless, dangerous and oppressive regimes (North Korea, Iran, Sudan, Myanmar, to name a few), it would be impossible not to see how the government treats most of its own citizens: as little more than chattel.
Freedom of religion, movement, expression and information are severely curtailed. Ethnic minorities are bullied or marginalized. The rule of law applies only so long as it suits party cadres. And to top it all off, the government kills; intimidating women into abortion, executing huge numbers of criminals and when it feels the need, shooting them dead in the street. Revulsion, not respect, is the appropriate reaction to such behavior.
And if the Chinese government is civilized, God help us when barbarism raises its ugly head. Jeroen Agneessens, Tervuren, Belgium

Monday, March 07, 2005

Regarding "Graduate Students will need rich parents, spare time", Ha'Aretz, March 6, 2005: It appears that of the few fields in which Israelis have become world leaders, soon only diamond, extasy and arms dealers will continue to eclipse the rest of the world. Academic research, which has brought us so much positive international recognition and praise, is becoming the stepchild of a government which has already made it clear that each reform in education should first and foremost be aimed at saving money, not providing a decent education for everyone and - heaven forbid - stimulating excellence. In recent years the universities themselves have been showing their willing- and eagerness to follow the government's lead, by translating budgetary pressures into cutbacks on research, and by encouraging students to pursue a master's degree without doing any serious independent research. At least this proves that the professors managing our universities have come out of their ivory towers: they seem to be very much in touch with the masses, where Nobel prizes are hardly as important and certainly never will receive the same rating as something like the Eurovision song contest.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

I very much liked this cartoon, depicting the new relationship between Syria and Lebanon. It was made by Joep Bertrams and appeared in the Dutch daily Het Parool  Posted by Hello
In all versions of the story about the Italian journalist who was held hostage in Iraq and released last week, only the Americans - who shot at the convoy in which she traveled, wounding her and killing an Italian secret service agent accompanying her - played the role of the bad guys. This item, on the newssite of Yahoo! and written by an AP journalist, casts some doubt on those versions and asks several questions that remain to be answered. Being a fan of neither Bush nor Berlusconi, I found the article very interesting.
Regarding "Survey: some 60.000 French Jews want to immigrate", Ha'Aretz, March 4, 2005: While it was very nice of about a third of Jews living in France to come and visit Israel last summer, maybe we should ask ourselves why the other two thirds remained at home. Even better, we in Israel should stop being so obsessed with France, with the question whether or not that country is more anti-Semitic than other countries, and with trying to convince Jews living there to come and make aliyah. French Jews who come to Israel - out of solidarity, to visit relatives or for any other reason - and show their support for us are just as representative of French Jewry as French Jews who express disgust regarding Israel's policies towards the Palestinians, or regarding the very fact of Israel being a Jewish state. France is an important part of Europe, and Jews living there form an important part of the Jewish people, but in our constant fixation on the two there is something that is almost pathological, if not pathetic. Reducing our attention for France and the French to normal, healthier proportions will benefit Israel, French Jews and French-Israeli relations.
Ik heb een nieuw blog aan mijn lijst van nederlandstalige weblogs toegevoegd. Philippe Levy woont met zijn Nederlandse vrouw en hun vijf kinderen in Gent. Hij schrijft vooral over zeer persoonlijke zaken en zijn gezin. Het leest allemaal lekker weg, en zijn 'alfabet van mijn leven' is een leuk idee. Ik heb hem 'ontdekt' door een commentaar dat hij op mijn weblog achterliet.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

It is about twenty years ago ( when I was a teenager studying French in grammar school ) that I 'discovered' the French singer-songwriter Yves Duteil. Although I had no real idea what he was singing about, I loved the melodies that accompanied his very musical lyrics. Now that my French has improved considerably I have come to appreciate his work even more, even though most Frenchmen and -women raise their eyebrows or shoulders when I mention his name and my affection for his songs. During the 1990s he released few new songs or albums, and - something which annoyed me very much - a lot of compilations appeared, all with more or less the same songs. In recent years two wonderful CD boxes and an acoustic live album have been put on the market, containing much more than just a simple best of...
Tournee acoustique, a live album, contains several classics and also some very good more recent songs, such as one about Dreyfus ( YD is related to him ) and another about Yitzhak Rabin, or rather about his granddaughter Noah. Virages contains Duteil's four first albums, released in the 1970s. I bought it last year, when I was in Paris with my family. The last song on the first CD ( La tendre image du bonheur ) is so simple and beautiful, I can listen to it four or five times in a row and still be moved by it. This year I also bought Un autre regard, a box with three double CDs with "30 ans de chansons", where you will find most of my favorites, some of which I almost had forgotten, e.g. Le chemin du pays ou rien n'est impossible and Les choses qu'on ne dit pas. I do not tend to buy many things just for fun, but I could not resist the temptation to also buy Dans l'air des mots, a book with the lyrics of almost all of the songs that appear on Un autre regard, beautifully edited and with some very good pictures.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Deze ( genomen bij Schermerhorn ) is bijna te mooi om echt te kunnen zijn. Wow! Posted by Hello

IJsselstein. Posted by Hello

Hillegom. Posted by Hello

De duinen bij Zandvoort. Prachtig, dat hert. Posted by Hello

Emmeloord. Posted by Hello
Amsterdam. Posted by Hello
Wat volgt zijn een paar mooie foto's die ik op de website van de Telegraaf vond. Ik zou bijna zeggen dat ik het jammer vind dat het drie weken geleden niet zo sneeuwde en koud was, want ik ben gek op de winter in het algemeen en sneeuw in het bijzonder. Aan de andere kant, met zulk weer had mijn reis terug naar huis wel eens bemoeilijkt kunnen worden, en sommigen van jullie zullen misschien wel jaloers zijn op het feit dat ik hier buiten zonder jas en met zonnebril rond loop.
Blijkbaar is het makkelijker om hetgeen te waarderen waar je niet aan gewend bent. Toen ik voor het eerst in Israel was kon ik met open mond naar de zo veel verschillende soorten landschap kijken, terwijl ik er nu vaak met 80 km/u of meer doorheen rijd zonder op of om te kijken. Pas nu ik hier al weer bijna 13 jaar woon valt het me op hoe ik het Nederlandse landschap soms mis, en hoe ik kan genieten van een simpele fietstocht wanneer ik bij mijn ouders ben, of van foto's zoals degene die hier boven te zien zijn.

Sounds familiar, or what? Posted by Hello
Regarding "More Dutch calling it quits" and "Hidden Dutch legislators come out of hiding", IHT, February 28 and March 4, 2005: After having come here in 1992 to study in Jerusalem for one year, in 1995 I finally emigrated from Holland to Israel. Unlike most of those interviewed in your article I did not escape from anything in the land where I was born, having deliberately chosen to make Israel my new home. On average I visit my parents and siblings once a year, and I closely follow what goes on in the Netherlands and in Europe. Holland has changed during the last 13 years, and - like in Israel - few changes have been for the better, I am afraid. Polarization has become a keyword when it comes to socio-political developments. Of course we are talking about global phenomena, but for obvious reasons I happen to care particularly about Holland, once considered by many as some sort of paradise and a bastion of tolerance. Instead of the relatively small number of dangerous troublemakers being chased and properly dealt with, one whole part of Dutch society is being stigmatized, law-abiding and highly productive citizens start to feel the need to leave their homeland, and opinion makers and politicians ( with whom I hardly ever agree, which - a worn-out phrase in the Netherlands these days - of course is not a reason or excuse to hurt them ) are being threatened, forced into hiding and even murdered. The wife of an Islamist militant is not immediately persecuted when she openly threatens a parliamentarian. This is putting things on their heads, I think. Like all of its counterparts in the West, the Dutch government has a difficult task, having to navigate between guarding one of the main characteristics of Dutch society and protecting that same society against threats from without and within. Still, it must be aware of the fact that too much tolerance might in the end lead to tolerance becoming an impossibility.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Ha'Aretz News Flash, 22:47 :
Netanyahu considering distributing land instead of financial compensation to those who complete IDF service.
Wasn't that what the Roman Empire did, rewarding its army veterans with plots of land, thus both providing them with a livelihood and having them assist in the colonization of parts of the empire? Is there so much land available for give-aways within Israel proper? Shouldn't our finance minister first think about ways to make sure that Israel will stop taking first place among industrialized countries when it comes to the percentage of children living below the poverty line? Each case of a child in Israel who is deprived of proper nutrition, education and living conditions is a disgrace of which all Zionists in the world ought to be ashamed.
Regarding "London conference to omit terror", Ha'Aretz, March 1, 2005:
Now here is a thought. If just nobody mentions terror when talking with the Palestinians, and nobody talks about the occupation when dealing with the Israelis, maybe we can all simply pretend that the whole mess that we are living in is nothing but the result of one big misunderstanding, and there is no such thing as a Palestinian/Arab-Israeli conflict which needs to be solved. That way we can all continue to live happily ever before, during and after, can't we?