Tuesday, May 31, 2005


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Yesterday, together with 15 other researchers ( mostly historians, but also at least one psychologist and a teacher ) I received a prize at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. This was a good opportunity to go and see the new museum. It is very impressive and contains a beautiful and moving collection of pictures, videos, artifacts and other things that visualize the subject. It is a bad place to be if you are claustrophobic: the exposition consists of one long, rather narrow, concrete hallway with zig-zag sideways dedicated to certain periods or aspects of the Shoah. Unlike the old exposition the new museum measures up to its 'competitors' ( I am afraid this term is justified ) abroad.
My father-in-law, my wife and our daughter also attended the prize giving ceremony. In the morning, while I visited some archives in Jerusalem, they visited the Knesset as special guests of one of the parliament's committees. Early in the afternoon I met them at the Mount Herzl cemetery for the "nation's leaders" ( Yad Vashem is also located on Mt Herzl ). There we visited the graves of Theodor Herzl, of former prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Golda Meir, presidents Herzog and Shazar and others. Afterwards the four of us went to Yad Vashem. After the ceremony we drove to Tel Aviv, where my father-in-law went to a Labor party convention to vote. He arrived two minutes before the polling booths were closed ( the vote was about some party rules, I don't know ) and then we went to eat something near kibbutz Shefayim.
Now I will post eleven pictures that I took yesterday.
  1. The grave of Yitzhak and Leah Rabin
  2. The grave of Golda Meir
  3. The grave of Theodor Herzl
  4. and
  5. impressions of Mount Herzl
  6. The new museum at Yad Vashem
  7. idem, the entrance to the permanent exposition
  8. The view that you see when you come out of the exposition
  9. The exit seen from above
  10. and
  11. View from Yad Vashem ( pictures taken right next to the entrance to Yad Vashem's archives )

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Regarding "Program to draw Diaspora youth kicks off today", Ha'Aretz, May 29, 2005: My first year in Israel I spent as a foreign exchange student. Still, I think that investing large amounts of money in attracting young Jews from abroad ( either through Masa or through Birthright ) is often a waste. Such investments will not stop the trend of Israel "losing the Jewish people", as long as these efforts are not linked to a serious attempt by the Israeli government, the Jewish Agency and other representatives of the Jewish state to make radical changes, returning to some of the truly Jewish values to which most of our founding fathers tried to be faithful. As long as the gap between Israel's rich and poor keeps growing, as long as the occupation seems to remain part and parcel of Zionism, and as long as corruption is not fought wholeheartedly, Israel will be viewed worldwide by all too many people - Jewish and non-Jewish - as some sort of 'orange republic' ( the Zionist version of a banana republic ). Only if we become an attractive alternative for educated Jewish youngsters who are planning their future, will these youngsters come here for more than just a subsidized holiday.
Start your Sunday morning with a smile, brought to your face by Andy Capp. Posted by Hello

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Although I do not share the generally optimistic views expressed by Ha'Aretz' editors in this editorial on the occasion of Independence Day 2005, I agree with their conclusion: "The disengagement from Gaza must be the first stage on the way to a logical partition of the country, an opportunity to create two independent entities[...] If the entire intent in the departure from Gaza is to temporarily calm things down, neutralize international pressure and buy time, while looking for new subterfuges with which to grab more land with the help of the flexible route of the separation fence; if every outpost in the West Bank turns into "the rock of our existence;" if every further evacuation is perceived as a trauma and not as a building block for peace - an historic opportunity, nearly the last opportunity to be a truly free nation, will have once again slipped out of our hands."
Thank you Lila, for refering to the best commentary on the AUT-boycott affair that I have read until now. Also thanks to Bloghead's Miriam, for refering to a very interesting opinion article that gave me a more solid basis for the gut feelings of antipathy that I feel every time when I see or hear ( or read something about ) George Galloway.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Here and here you can find two articles that I read in the days preceding this year's Yom HaShoah.
By Tom Janssen. Posted by Hello
Ik ben een liefhebber van de schrijfsels van Frits Abrahams. Hier zijn drie van zijn columns van de afgelopen weken: een over Heere Heeresma, WOII, Elfriede Jelinek, Harry Mulisch en Oostenrijk; een over Geert Wilders en Peter R. de Vries; en tenslotte een kijkje achter de schermen van huize Spijkerman.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Regarding " 'Social' types wrong" by Nehemia Strasler, Ha'Aretz, May 26, 2005: Being neither an economist nor a fan of 'types' like Amir Peretz, I think that what Nehemia Strasler says makes sense: "...growth and going to work are necessary steps in the struggle against poverty and [ for? YDBO ] the improvement in the standard of living for the workers." Being both a dreamer and slightly cynical, I also cannot help wondering what this state's economy would look like with a real leadership that has some sort of long-term vision, with a true opposition, less corruption, definite borders, and without billions of shekels and dollars being wasted on an illegal and morally destructive occupation.
Regarding Views Page, The EU constitution I, II, III, IHT, May 26, 2005: Daniel Cohn-Bendit is right when he says that "antiglobalization activists, Communists and neo-fascists", who are part of the 'camp' agains the EU consitution, are opportunists. Few of those who want to persuade French and Dutch voters ( the Dutch will also vote in a referendum on the subject next week ) to say 'no' offer a credible, positive alternative. Nevertheless, it seems to me that one Dutch EU-official summarized the motives of many probable no-voters very well when he said: "People were not asked anything for years. Decisions about Europe were made either in Brussels or The Hague [ or Paris, BdB ]. Now suddenly we are allowed to vote on the constitution. Well, then the suppressed negative emotions suddenly come out and that is translated into a 'no'". Until now it seems that - see the op-eds by Francois Heisbourg and Dominique Moisi - politicians, analysts and activists have mainly used negative tactics to convince the French to vote either yes or no. An even faster emerging Asia, Yugoslavia, World War II and - of course - the Holocaust, different parts of the world and of world history have been used to conjure up a doomsday scenario that will definitely become reality if the 'other' side 'wins'. It might be too late now to change voters' minds. Whatever the outcome of the referenda, both supporters and opponents of a constitutionalized Europe should finally start making a serious effort to convince the Europeans why a constitution and Europe itself are good for them, or what viable and positive alternatives there are for a more unified Europe.
Yesterday morning, before throwing away last Friday's IHT, I went through the issue once more and read two articles. The first one, by David Brooks, I had simply missed. Much of what went through my mind when reading about the Newsweek-Koran-Quantanamo affair can be found in this piece. The other article I probably would not have read if - since the piece was published - Hanna Laslo had not won the Best Actress Award in Cannes: it is an interview with the Israeli director Amos Gitai about Free Zone, his latest movie. I only know his movie on the 1973 Israeli-Arab war, Kippur. When I was in France last year the Pompidou Museum had a retrospective of his work. Also during my last stay there his Promised Land received much publicity.
Op de website van Radio Nederland Wereldomroep vond ik een informatief artikel over de EU-scepsis in Nederland. Een EU-ambtenaar verwoordt het kort en bondig: "Mensen is jarenlang nooit iets gevraagd. Beslissingen over Europa werden in Brussel of Den Haag genomen. Nu opeens mogen we stemmen over de grondwet. Ja, dan komen de opgekropte negatieve emoties er opeens uit en dat vertaalt zich in een nee."

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Om dit bericht op nos.nl moest ik lachen:
Schrijffouten op Belgische ID-kaarten De nieuwe Belgische identiteitskaarten bevatten enkele schrijffouten. De naam van het land wordt er vermeld in vier talen. In plaats van het Duitse Belgien staat er echter Belgine en het Engelse Belgium is gespeld als Belguim. Volgens regeringswoordvoerder Luc Vanneste zijn de fouten bewust gemaakt, om vervalsers om de tuin te leiden.
In an op-ed in today's Ha'Aretz Aluf Benn asks a question that hardly any Israeli politician will ever ask: not in public because that would be political suicide for someone who exists merely by the grace of the voter, and not in private because no Israeli politician is known for having any viable long-term vision. That question is "What's so vital about Ariel and Ma'aleh Adumim and Efrat and Kiryat Arba, that it's worth getting killed for them?".
Of course, the disengagement plan - if ever implemented - does not mean the end of the occupation. Nevertheless, it appears to be a sine qua non for such an end. Because no Israeli government ever really sat down to decide what it wants the Jewish state to look like ( as far as the economy, relations between diverse ethnic/religious/socio-economic groups, social justice, the place and role of religion, the environment, the rule of law, but also the nation's borders and relations with our neigbors are concerned ) we always have found - and will continue to find - ourselves in situations that were forced upon us.
When I plead for an end to the occupation and for clear borders I don't do that ( only ) because I have so much sympathy for the Palestinians. I want them to have a good life, because they deserve that like all other human beings, but most of all because that is in the interest of myself, my family and the state that I chose to live in. For the same reason - my personal interest - I want this state to have clear and internationally recognized borders, to stop being eroded away ethically, morally and financially by the occupation, and to start finally working on the definition of its own identity according to a framework of values cherished by Zionism's initiators.
We still are in a position of strength towards our neighbors. If we act right we will almost certainly have the full support of both the US and the EU, which remain today's strongest economic, political and military powers in the world. This is why our political leaders should grab the opportunity, make some tough decisions and start acting on our own initiative instead of reacting to facts created on the ground by Israeli settlers, Arab or other terrorists, etc. Looking at the way the disengagement plan is being 'implemented', and knowing that whoever is in power will always need a parliamentary majority chosen by a highly polarized electorate which consists of groups that have mutually exclusive interests, I fear that such deciciveness and such initiatives will remain an unattainable illusion.
In the meantime, Aluf Benn points out the necessity ( and implies also the impossibility ) of Israel's leadership telling the Israeli public what it does not want to hear regarding the territories: "There's no need to rush to the Green Line. One can and should demand a suitable security and political return from the Palestinians and the Syrians. But a courageous leadership would prepare the public for the inevitable withdrawal, come up with creative solutions for border amendments and territorial exchange and enlist international support for them, instead of deluding the public with empty promises that will only cause more killing and sorrow."
Three articles worth reading. Bradley Burston often writes very insightful pieces on Israel's society and on this country's politics. Here he analyzes the complex situation in which many Israelis find themselves when confronted with Ariel Sharon, the disengagement plan, 'the situation', political choices and an uncertain future. Yossi Melman tells us why Israel should do much more to get Jonathan Pollard out of jail: "It is true that Pollard is not an easy person. In recent years, he has surrounded himself with a bunch of extreme right-wingers. (Perhaps this is because the left and center, with a few exceptions like MK Ophir Pines-Paz, have unfortunately taken no interest in him.) This bunch acts in a blatant way, bordering on rudeness, and this certainly does not help enhance public sympathy for Pollard. But this does not detract from the government of Israel's obligation to exert efforts to attain his freedom." Finally an editorial in Ha'Aretz on a controversial project initiated by the municipality of Beth She'an, a one-day trip to Auschwitz for students who normally would not have the means to go on the 'regular' trips to Poland. Personally, I find it hard to support those trips in general, but this "poor-man's Auschwitz" journey, as Ha'Aretz names it cynically, really is a disgrace. I do not think that I will ever make the journey there, and in my opinion the enormous amounts spent on such trips could and should be spent in better ways.
Once a rebel... Posted by Hello

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

An interesting portrait of one young ( he is older than I am, but that doesn't make him old yet ) German and his relationship with Israel, his work for the Bertelsmann Foundation, and the wartime history of Bertelsmann, the media giant.
With Joep Bertrams' work, sometimes the animated version is better than the cartoon. Have a look here. The title of the cartoon/animation is "(Too) hot news".
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This is Joep Bertrams' vision on Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, the Dutch people and the EU Referendum. Posted by Hello
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Hieronder volgt de eerste aflevering van weer eens een persoonlijke keuze uit recente aardige, ontroerende en/of leuke afleveringen van ik@nrc.nl.
Free writing Een beetje bezorgd was ik over het niveau dat m'n studenten 'Dutch for Beginners' aan het eind van de cursus zouden hebben. Met maar twee uur les per week dacht ik dat het niet veel zou worden. Bij het nakijken van het laatste examen werd ik echter gerustgesteld door een dialoog die een student voor het onderdeel 'free writing' had geschreven: A: ,,Wat heb je liever, koffie of thee?'' B: ,,Nee, ik heb geen dorst.'' A: ,,Je hebt geen dorst! Wat wil je eten?'' B: ,,Een ijsje.'' A: ,,We zijn niet in een McDonald's, luldebehanger.''
Dick Verweij, York (GB) Twee minuten
Op 200 meter van de plek waar Theo van Gogh werd vermoord, zit ik even voor achten op een bankje. Dodenherdenking in de Linnaeusstraat in Amsterdam-Oost. Het verkeer raast voorbij. Klokslag acht uur stappen twee allochtone jongens van hun fiets. Ze vragen me of ze moeten stoppen. Ik zwijg. Zij zwijgen terug. Een minuut lang. Dan stapt één van de jongens weer op zijn fiets en maakt aanstalten om te vertrekken. Zijn vriendje fluistert geschrokken: ,,Het is TWEE minuten, sukkel!''
D. Haije
Engels Met een kennis die niet zo goed in zijn talen zit, ga ik op bezoek bij een internationaal gezelschap. De voertaal is Engels. Mijn kennis ziet wat tegen de avond op, Engels spreken doet hij niet voor de lol. Ik moedig hem aan zich toch vooral zich in het gesprek te mengen, daar leer je immers van. Een klein foutje geeft niks en veel woorden lijken best op het Nederlands, voeg ik er luchtig aan toe. Eenmaal aangekomen blijft hij wat stil in de hoek zitten en duidelijk nerveus steekt hij een sigaret op. Ik ben opgelucht als ik merk dat hij korte tijd later toch wat gaat zeggen. Dapper vraagt hij de gastvrouw: ,,Do you have something to put my ass in?'' M. Kleemans
Vakantiegeld Al jaren is ze niet tevreden met haar neus. Geïnspireerd door de 'make overs' op de televisie besluit ze er iets aan te laten doen. Met het vakantiegeld in aantocht moet dat lukken. Ze maakt een afspraak met een gerenommeerde kliniek. Het intakegesprek verloopt vlot en sympathiek. De chirurg maakt een foto en bewerkt daarop de neus zoals hij er uit komt te zien. Helemaal goed. Ze wil meteen een datum prikken. ,,Het kost u 4.500 euro.'' Klaarblijkelijk ziet de dokter dat ze schrikt, want hij vervolgt: ,,U moet rekenen dat ik er misschien wel een uur werk aan heb.'' Kitty van Vlaanderen
Spijkerman Het is vrijdagmorgen 29 april rond kwart over twaalf, heel het Mediapark staat in voorjaarsbloei. Alles geurt en bloesemt. Ik loop naar het Net3-gebouw (waarin VARA, VPRO en NPS samenwonen) en zie over het asfalt van het parkeerterrein een man naderen, lichtgebogen, met een plastic zak waaruit een rol papier steekt, waarschijnlijk een poster. Ik herken hem. Het is Jack Spijkerman! Ik roep vrolijk naar hem: ,,Bureau leeggemaakt?'' Hij antwoordt bevestigend en voegt er nog aan toe dat hij dat liever nu zelf doet dan dat een ander het straks doet. Daarna stapt hij in zijn auto. Een afscheidsreceptie met maar één bezoeker, zo voelt het. Dini Bangma
Moeder De 50-jarige Rinus is een bekende verschijning in de Haagse Schilderswijk. 's Ochtends brengt hij, met een bakkie achter zijn fiets, buurtkrantjes rond en 's middags maaltijden voor armlastige bejaarden in de buurt. Het was zeker drie jaar geleden dat ik hem voor het laatst had gezien, maar gisteren zag ik hem weer eens door de wijk fietsen. ,,Hé Rinus'', riep ik hem toe, ,,hoe is het met je?'' Met hem ging het goed. ,,En hoe is het met je moeder?'' vroeg ik, want ondanks zijn leeftijd woonde hij nog steeds bij moeder thuis. ,,Ook goed'', antwoordde hij enthousiast. Hij keek even bedenkelijk en ging verder: ,,Nou ja, goed... ze is vorig jaar april overleden.'' Sandra Parry

Monday, May 23, 2005

Regarding "Clad in orange, N.Y. Jews heckle Sharon", Ha'Aretz, May 23, 2005: As an opponent of Israel's presence in both the Westbank and Gaza, I believe that my vision of Zionism is very different from that of the settlers and their supporters within Israeli society. One could even argue that our 'Zionisms' are mutually exclusive. Still, I do respect the way in which most of them are dedicated to their cause. Just like me, they more or less do as they preach, most of them serve in the army, and they and their loved ones accept and directly endure some of the results of their political choices. Accompanying this article is a picture of demonstrators in New York, who are heckling someone who - it has to be said, whether or not you identify with his political views - dedicated his life to Zionism, at least to his personal interpretation of Zionism. In addition to the fanaticism in their eyes, their racism, their absolute truths - all of which are not always distinguishable from the ones to which our worst enemies adhere -, what I really cannot stand about these demonstrators is that they think that by embracing a rightwing pseudo-variant of Zionism they can make up for not bearing the ultimate consequence of being a Zionist. If you are Jewish and you really believe that ( parts of ) this land belong to the Jewish people, you should pack up your things and take the first plane to Israel. If not, you can of course still support or criticize whatever government is in power here, but it does not help anybody - Jew or Palestinian - if you overcompensate for your own weaknesses and failures. Showing 'solidarity' with the settlers by coming here in order to complicate the work of Israel's security forces, shouting at Israel's Prime Minister, embracing the Jewish-Zionist version of trying to be 'more Catholic than the Pope', all those expressions of 'love' for the Jewish state by rightwing Jews abroad are meaningless, and only are yet another proof that fanatics on both sides share oh so many ideas and interests.
Regarding "Cuisine trumps ideology at the Socialist International", Ha'Aretz, May 23, 2005: It is sad that we are currently being led by a Prime Minister who does not appear to know exactly in which direction he is leading us. What is even sadder is that those who are supposed to offer an alternative for Sharon's lack of inspiration and hope are fully responsible partners to his odyssey-to-nowhere. There are too many cases of social unjustice, too many existential problems to be solved here for would-be-social-democrats to allow themselves to indulge in costly and overly decadent parties with their foreign counterparts. We have to work really hard to achieve some sort of normalcy for Palestinians and Israelis before we will be able to pretend that such a normalcy already exists.
Vorige week heb ik - na een oponthoud van een week of wat - eindelijk Geert Mak's Hoe God verdween uit Jorwerd uitgelezen. In dit boek geeft Mak ons een indruk van de geschiedenis van een Fries dorpje in de 20e eeuw. Het lijkt erop dat de teneur van het verhaal - het verdwijnen van een van de pijlers van het traditionele dorpsleven: de kleinschalige en middelgrote landbouw - geldt voor meer dan alleen Jorwerd of Friesland. Alhoewel een goede redacteur het boek leesbaarder had kunnen maken en het meer zeggingskracht had kunnen geven (*), heb ik zoals altijd met plezier gelezen wat Geert Mak te vertellen heeft. Sinds ik in den vreemde woon en ruim 3000 km verwijderd ben van waar ik geboren en opgegroeid ben heb ik een meer dan gemiddelde belangstelling gekregen voor geschiedenis van en in Nederland. Mak is geen historicus maar wel een alleraardigste verteller, met belangstelling voor dingen die ook mij boeien. Hij speelt goed in op de zichtbare populariteit van locale geschiedenis in de laatste jaren, en hij behoort tot het selecte groepje auteurs wier werk ik, wanneer ik daartoe de gelegenheid heb, koop of cadeau vraag zonder op recensies te wachten, omdat ik weet dat ik altijd van hun boeken geniet.
Gisteren ben ik begonnen in Heeft Geschiedenis Nut? van Maarten van Rossem. Wat ik tot nu toe heb gelezen ziet er veelbelovend uit: lekker en helder geschreven, boordevol informatie, duidelijke meningen en analyses, o.a. een heel duidelijk en beknopt overzicht van het ontstaan, het verloop en de gevolgen van de Eerste Wereldoorlog. Ik heb al een paar voor mij bruikbare passages ( en zelfs een aantal citaten ) gevonden.
(*) Een paar voorbeelden van onlogische of niet echt lopende zinnen en van andere gebreken die een redacteur er uit zou moeten halen ( ik las de 23e druk, 2001 ):
  1. p. 53 "Wie op een vroege herfstochtend de brug bij de oude schilderswinkel over loopt en daarna langzaam Jorwerd uit wandelt, wie dat voor de eerste maal doet wordt overweldigd door licht, door honderd verschillende soorten licht."
  2. p. 76: "De grote crisis [ van de jaren dertig ] verhoogde de modernisering van het platteland, maar stuitte die niet."
  3. p. 91: "Een bevriend boerenechtpaar liet me ooit hun 'Rekenboeck' zien, uit de periode 1965 tot 1975. Zijn vader had in 1930 zijn eerste koe gekocht, op de pinkstermarkt in Oudeschoot, en hij was ermee aan een touwtje naar huis komen lopen, zeker twintig kilometer verderop."
  4. pp. 222-223: "...en hij onderscheidde daarin drie types nieuwkomers. Het eerste type...., De tweede soort...., De derde categorie...., En de vierde soort - nauw daaraan verbonden - noemde hij...."

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Just to show that German is - or can be - such a beautiful language if you are willing and able to appreciate it ( and as long as it is spoken or written by the right person ), here is what my neigbor Lila has to say about some of the issues that have been taking up Israel's media's headlines lately. The use of cases and a rich vocabulary often turns German prose almost into lyrical poetry. I was disappointed to hear that Lila does not like Patrick Sueskind. One of the things that I love in his work are the long, perfectly constructed and very descriptive, detailed sentences, while Lila - if I understood her correctly - thinks that his prose is (*) too constructed and organized. Except for 'professional' stuff and some online articles, news items and Lila's blog I do not read much German these days, but every now and then I take out one of Sueskind's books ( I have all five that are available: he should write more ), only to read one or two pages of his beautiful prose, just like once in a while I read a few pages of ( mostly Dutch, sometimes French ) poetry or song lyrics.
(*) I did not misunderstand what she said, I just did not choose the right words here, and should have written that 'his stories are' ( not 'his prose is' ) too constructed and organized.
The Indian scarve-scare in the Knsesset today shows just a part of the panic with which the goevernment and Israeli officials are fighting against the opponents of the disengagement. This is what happens if your government is not exactly sure what it is fighting for. The campaign by the opponents for public awareness regarding the plan seems to be working. Without being a fan of the Dutch royal family I always liked the colour orange, in particular in children's summer clothes. These days I cannot help thinking "Hmmmm, is this a good idea?" when dressing my children in an orange dress or shirt.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Ralph Fiennes presented the Prix d'Interprétation Féminine, or Best Actress Award, to Hanna Laslo for her performance in Free Zone by Amos Gitai. ( Official website of the Cannes Film Festival 2005 )
When I read this I was amazed. I know Hanna Laso as a comedian and as one of the evil characters in a highly popular series, "Our Song". She always gives me the impression of being very rude and 'cheap', although in the case of the tv series you can blame the producers and writers. It seems that with the right director and cast this woman is capable of being a serious actress and of winning one of the most prestigious awards that an actress can win. Kol HakAvod to her.
This morning a tiny weblog-conference, with two bloggers participating, took place in northern Israel. Me and my family went to visit Letters from Rungholt's Lila and her family in their kibbutz. Lila and I had already met once at the university where both of us are working/studying, and - apparently because we seem to have quite a lot in common - we have stayed in contact through our weblogs ever since. Lila had suggested another meeting so we could talk about something that she is working on ( she loves Dutch art of the Golden Age; me too, although I hardly know anything about it, whereas she is a real expert ). It was clear that making an appointment in the middle of the week would be difficult, so I suggested a weblog/family meeting in Lila's kibbutz, an idea accepted enthusiastically by both Lila and my wife.
Lila and Y., her husband, and their four children were excellent hosts. Our children had a great time, and so did we. It is always wonderful for city-dwellers like us to be in a kibbutz, being able to walk around without ( really ) having to worry about traffic and other urban dangers. The main subjects of conversation that came up during the tasty breakfast, the visit to the playground, the sheepfold ( I hope this is the right name for the place where the sheep are raised and milked, in Hebrew you call it a "dir kvasim", I knew the word 'dir' only in connection with pigs ) and the horses' stable: blogging, our studies, raising kids in general and our children in particular, Israel's education system, the kibbutz, the fact that both Lila and I had quite a good life here in Israel and would never be able to return to Germany/Holland for an unlimited period of time. Our daughter, who started out with her usual shyness, towards the end of our visit got along very well with their youngest daughter. As afraid as she normally is of animals, together with her brother and Quarta ( although Lila writes much more about her personal life than I do, she does not mention the names of her children, instead she gives them ordinal numbers in Latin ) our daughter even petted a horse and fed it some straw. Lila, Y., my wife and I also got along very well, and I think we will meet again in the future.
Later today or tomorrow you will probably be able to read a more extensive report on this morning's meeting on Lila's blog, written in beautiful German ( and in much more ornate prose than mine ) and interlaced with more personal observations and impressions. I am sure that the internet is fested with bigots and that some worldwide bloggers could very well be maniacs, serial killer or other unpleasant creatures. Still, all the people whom I somehow met through my weblog give the impression of being very nice, very friendly, very respectful of and interested in ( most ) other people's opinions ( without the need to agree: in Paris I met a very friendly and pleasant conversation partner whose views in many fields are more or less the opposite of mine ), very much willing to make this world a slightly better place to live in, etc. etc. As with all inventions, it is possible to use this fascinating phenomenon called blogging for whatever purpose you choose.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Regarding "Blowing up an assumption" by Robert A. Pape, IHT, May 19, 2005: Professor Pape's theory should definitely be taken into account by all those who deal with suicide terrorism. Still, it focuses too much on one of the answers that explain why suicide terrorists do what they do, while ignoring or downplaying all other explanations. After reading the article I ask myself: how come that of all foreign military forces particularly those in the Near and Middle East have become the target or the pretext for suicide terror attacks; why is it that Jewish and Christian fanatics rarely turn to this brand of terror, but hardly anyone raises an eyebrow when we hear about a Muslim ( or better: Islamist ) suicide bomber; why is it it that so few suicide terrorists appear to have come from a background that is firmly rooted in democracy? When Mr Pape writes that of 315 suicide bombings and attacks in 23 years, 76 were carried out by the ani-religious Tamil Tigers, "more than Hamas ( 54 ) or Islamic Jihad ( 27 )". He forgets to mention that the main differences between the latter two groups have to do with their sources of financing, not their ideologies, both of which are Islamist-nationalist. 27 + 54 is more than 76, and if we consider the fact that in all eulogies of the murderers who carried out bombings for secular Palestinian-nationalist organizations Islamic phrases and justifications took up a central part, it will be hard to deny that Islam(ism) plays a vital role in today's suicide terrorism. That "nearly all suicide terrorist attacks [...] took place as part of organized political or military campaigns" is hardly a convincing argument in favor of Mr Papes theory: in Islam - and in particular in its Islamist version - there is no separation between religion and politics, and military or terrorist campaigns can serve both. Again, the article contains valuable information. Nevertheless, its title is a bit too ambitious: rather than blowing up an assumption, the article replaces one assumption with another one. Many more assumptions like these, together with interdisciplinary research and actually inter-national cooperation are needed for the various governments that are facing suicide terrorist threats to be able to find appropriate answers.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Two things were added to my sidebar: a clock that gives you the time in Haifa ( for some reason I had to define it as GMT +3 hrs ), provided by ClockLink.com, plus a link to an expat blog directory, for which I was invited by its initiator. I must say, I like the look of my sidebar with all the latest additions. For a technical ignoramus like me inserting the bits of html into my blog's template is a challenge, and I am proud of the fact that in the two years since I started blogging I have been able to figure out - sometimes with the help of fellow-bloggers, but often on my own - how to make changes to the way my weblog looks, to add different fancy features ( comments, links, icons, a scrolldown menu for the DBI archives ), to post pictures, etc. Of course you have to be a real genius not to be able to work with Blogger, but still.
This morning I was amused with this cartoon in Ha'Aretz, the work of Amos Biderman. Posted by Hello
On the advice and following the instructions of other bloggers ( among them Shawn of R& S ) I added something called RSS Feed to my blog ( or enabled it, or whatever ), even though I still do not understand exactly what it is or what purpose it serves. You can find it in the sidebar on the right. Two requests I have for Bloggers or others who know what RSS is all about:
  1. Please check if the RSS Feed link works and send me an e-mail or comment.
  2. ( in particular Blogger users ) Let me know how to turn the words "RSS Feed" in the link into a nice-looking icon, preferably something that matches the colors of my weblog.

On the occasion of Israel's 57th Independence Day Ha'Aretz more or less followed in the footsteps of several European television networks, by 'choosing' the ten Israelis who "made Israel what it is". I must say that Ha'Aretz' choice makes sense, although of course here and there changes could be made. Obviously the most controversial choice is that of number 10, Amos Oz, but it is true that Mr Oz "introduced Israelis to the world", he could be a suitable representative for all the artists and authors. Not surprisingly people submit their own candidates mostly on the basis of whom they admire, like or identify with politically, not on the basis of the main criterium.
As I promised to a reader, here is another cartoon by Tom Janssen. "The struggle/battle between evil and worse". Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The latest addition to this blog's sidebar: This Day in History, featuring websites of the New York Times and the History Channel.
"Well? Where are those weapons of mass destruction?" ( by Tom Janssen ) Posted by Hello
One of the problems of globalization. Posted by Hello
This item, about possible anti-Semitic leanings of the young Salvador Allende, I found interesting. Like the murder of Kennedy ( and Rabin, and many other murders and other events in history ), Allende's death provides people who have an active imagination - and for whom history itself is not exciting enough - with a basis for so-called imaginary or alternat(iv)e history. What would have happened in Chile in the last thirty+ years if not Pinochet but Allende had ruled the country after 1973? Whereas we know many of the crimes committed by Pinochet's regime, it remains a guess what kind of ruler Allende would have been. This article does not give us a real clue about that, but the study mentioned in it could help to refine the almost sacrosanct image of the man that has been created after his violent death.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Since I have been blogging for more than two years now my list of monthly archives had become quite long. Therefore I put them into a scrolldown menu. You can find the DBI Archives - just like before - at the bottom of the blue sidebar on the right.
Regarding whole issue of Ha'Aretz, May 17, 2005:
As a Zionist who chose to live and raise his family here, I found reading today's issue of Ha'aretz a frustrating experience, even more depressing than usual. Teachers are forced to beg and humiliate themselves in order to have a tiny chance of continuing to be allowed to earn a livelihood by working with our foremost national asset. Israel's representative in the capital of our most important ally is engaged in a highly publicized mud-slinging-fight with our Foreign Minister, who together with his wife enhances our image abroad in many ways. Our security forces are being turned into a laughing stock by children, this time Israeli, not Palestinian. Settlers, who until recently satisfied themselves with playing the role of lawmakers and -enforcers inside the(ir) territories only, now are becoming the lawlessness incarnate in Israel itself as well. Their love for the Land of Israel is expressed by polluting that land and the air that we breathe with burning tires. We are basically told that Jewish terrorist-wannabees and provocateurs - who if they had been Palestinians would probably have been eliminated already - first have to act ( on the Temple Mount, against the Prime Minister, whatever ) before they can be taken off the streets. In the meantime the person who is supposed to lead us - if he knows whereto he is doing a wonderful job hiding that - ignores our Parliament and hardly has a political party on which to rely. If only there was a credible opposition, but no, those who in a normal democracy would offer us a proper alternative for the government's lack of direction are part of that same government, publicly comparing - in no uncertain terms - their impressive military pasts in an ugly fight for their party's ( not their country's ) future. If the goal of Zionism was to create a just and democratic society of which Jews all over the world could be proud, I am afraid we have to admit that it ( or better: we ) failed. Even if its aim was to make us into a nation like all the others it did not succeed: although I still love to live here I find it hard to name another - more or less democratic - country where one can find so many cases of injustice, such waste of resources and such chaos and anarchy as in what was supposed to be the realization of a dream.
Regarding "Israel's no-Madonna blues", IHT, May 17, 2005: What is really sad about this back-and-forth-innuendo-affair is that it shows once more how and by whom Israel's diplomacy and PR - two tools that, one would think, are more important than ever in the fight against our enemies and for some kind of normalcy - are being handled. It is obvious that - in addition to injust, wrong policies and faulty leadership - more than anything else our own incompetence, political powerplays, and infighting over petty and often nonsensical subjects are to blame for the bad press that Israel receives worldwide. Nevertheless, it remains much easier to simply say that the whole world is anti-Semitic and therefore against us.

Monday, May 16, 2005

What really makes me angry when reading about yet another plot to attack the mosques on the Temple Mount is this:
They [ the Jewish extremists ] will not face charges but are subject to conditional release, and were freed on the grounds that they had been unable to implement their plan.
For heaven's sake, if these militants ( when I use this word I do so deliberately, because it is one of the euphemisms used to describe terrorists ) were Palestinians they most probably would have been eliminated, just to be sure, without due process, without being released conditionally. Only if you are a Jewish Hamasnik are you allowed to implement your plan before you are put and kept in prison, and the chances of such a terrorist receiving a preventive death penalty are not very high.
As if by accident, another report dealing with Israel's Foreign Ministry's professionalism. This time the country's embassy in Budapest is involved.
One of the issues under investigation:
" According to the document, the ambassador held a very oppulent event for Independence Day, described by people who attended the evening as "overly extravagant." Army Radio reported that the event cost a total of $100,000. [...] In relation to the Independence Day event, he { ambassador Admon } said: "A while after my arrival to Hungary several anti-Semitic events ocurred, and enjoyed a lot of media attention. Our wish was to put together a large event on Independence Day [as a response]. I contacted the foreign ministry in Jerusalem, but was allocated a mere $3,000. What can one do with such a sum?"".
I could give some suggestions to Mr Admon what one can do with such a sum in Hungary ( or in Israel ), but what really interests me is how he managed to turn a $3000 budget into a $100.000 event. Maybe he could teach our Finance Minister some tricks?
Regarding "Police out in force to thwart settlers' plans to block roads", Ha'Aretz, May 16, 2005: It comes not really as a surprise that many of the rightwing militants who organize and carry out the diverse activities against the implementation of the disengagement plan hardly seem to care about our state, its wellbeing and security. How else can we explain the fact that - with thousands living in poverty and our security forces being stretched to the limit in their efforts to protect us - members of extremist settlements and of groups with promising names such as This is our Land, The National Home and Myriad ( Revava ) do their best to waste both manpower and precious budget resouces by placing fake bombs, trying to force their way onto the Temple Mount, harassing and hurting both Palestinians and soldiers, etc. etc.? What does surprise me, though, is that these activists' love for the Land and the People of Israel is totally fake. If they really loved our land and people, they would not burn tires all over the country. That primitive form of protest, harmful to the health of both Jews and Arabs, pollutes the land on which both peoples live.
Regarding "Civil Service embassy probe to go beyond Washington gossip", Ha'Aretz, May 16, 2005: It is hardly relevant who is speaking the truth in this game of back-and-forth-innuendo, though it is tempting to think - regarding all sides involved - that there is no smoke without fire. What is much more important is that this shows once more how and by whom Israel's diplomacy and PR - two tools that, one would think, are more important than ever in the fight against our enemies and for some kind of normalcy - is being handled. Also, it becomes clear, not for the first time, how flawed this country's democracy is when it comes to the media's independence. With only a few families bascially controlling them, our media are often enlisted automatically when a member, friend, political ally or business partner of one of the families becomes involved in this or that public affair.
Just another example of how a lack of interest, insufficient knowledge, and/or poor journalistic values can lead to biased reporting and falsification of history.
In the Radio Netherlands news bulletin that I receive daily by e-mail I just read an item on the Palestinian ceremonies in remembrance of Al-Naqba ( the catastrophe ), the establishment of the State of Israel. The Dutch original says " During the war in 1948 about 760.000 Palestinians were driven (*) from cities and towns by Jewish forces." ( (*) The English version says "fled or were driven" ).
Never mind that the war lasted until the spring of 1949. What is really important is that, while many Palestinians indeed were expelled or 'encouraged' to leave by Israeli forces and officials, a lot of them also left as a result of poor leadership on their side, or simply because they were afraid or did not want to live under Jewish rule.
The Israeli 'official' version maintains that most Palestinians fled 'voluntarily' or because their leaders told them to leave to facilitate the Arab offensive against the Zionists. Arab spokesmen have always claimed that the refugees were expelled intentionally and systematically by the Israelis. As Benny Morris writes in his Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001 ( New York: Vintage Books Edition, 2001 ), p. 253: " Documentation that surfaced in massive quantities during the 1980s in Israeli and Western archives has demonstrated that neither 'official' version is accurate or sufficient." On pp. 253-258 he briefly summarizes what he published earlier in his The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949 ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988 ).
If you read my blog now and then you will know that I do not deny that Israel has a responsibility regarding the Palestinians, not only because of the post-1967 occupation but also because of the very establishment of the Jewish state. Still, that is not exactly an excuse to give unbalanced reports such as the one mentioned above. Well informed, balanced, fair and honest reporting - trying to mention the faults and crimes committed on all the many different sides of the conflict - would help both Palestinians and Israelis.
Regarding "Germans recognized as victims of WWII", IHT, May 9, 2005, and "German Victims", Letter to the editor, IHT, May 14-15, 2005: Fortunately most serious historiography is not based ( only ) on simplistic assumptions and impressions, such as those in Sandy Kestenbaum's letter. The guilt of 'ordinary' Germans has been dealt with extensively in several well-researched, fairly recent studies. That many of those studies were written by young German researchers says much about their generations' efforts to come to terms with their country's past and to ensure that "Never again" is not just an empty phrase. Not blaming post-war German generations for the innumerable sins committed by millions of Germans in the years 1933-1945 is not a favor that we accord those generations, but the logical outcome of observing a simple historical and judicial principle: you cannot be guilty of crimes committed before you were born. All this does not mean that it is right to suggest - as President Horst Koehler did in a way - that all German civilians ( Jews, Roma, mentally ill people, Jehovah's Witnesses, political and other resisters, as opposed to 'ordinary' civilians ) who suffered under Nazi-rule and its aftermath can somehow be put on a par. Even though it is virtually impossible - and basically wrong - to 'categorize' the suffering, it should be stated clearly that we are talking about entirely different sorts and levels of suffering, if only because of the fact that so many Germans of the war-generation were actively involved in bringing Hitler to power and keeping him there for more than 12 years. President Koehler was right when he said that "there is no closure": it is still too early for that.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Now this is interesting, and it could have serious personal, journalistic and political consequences. Because I haven't seen it in any other online medium I will translate very fast what I read ( in Dutch ) on the website of NOS:
Newsweek: Article about Koran incorrect
Washington - The American magazine says that its report on the desecration of the Koran in the Guantanamo Bay army base could possibly be incorrect. The story said that a Koran was thrown into a toilet in order to rattle detainees.
In Afghanistan and other Muslim countries people responded with anger. The violence killed at least 14 people.
Newsweek based the article on a source withing the government. The Pentagon investigated the case and says that the accusation cannot be substabtiated. By now Newsweek's source is not so sure of his statement anymore.
PS: The item appears on Reuters as well. This was a good opportunity to place a link to the Reuters website among my permalinks. See "News in English" on your right.
Because my wife needed my laptop for one day and our son stayed home with diarrhea, this day was basically lost as a working day. Therefore I decided to be a good housewife, and I baked two trays of 'speculaas', a typically Dutch cookie, very easy to make as long as you have the 'speculaas'-spices needed for it. This was my first attempt, and the cookies turned out very well. I found a simple recipe on the internet ( flour, baking powder, butter, brown sugar, spices, a little salt, almonds ), but when I mixed everything - except for the almonds, which I put on most of the cookies before putting them in the oven: those without almonds are for our daughter, who loves "spikkelikkie", a name that she learnt from her cousin In Holland - the dough was very loose. I added a little milk and one egg, which solved the problem. Then I put the mix in the refrigerator for about 30-40 minutes. After that I made little balls, flattened them and put them on two baking sheets. They were baked for about 30 minutes and came out 'lekker lekker', as my son often says these days.
PS: Hoe kan ik het deeg steviger en minder kleverig krijgen, zodat ik het makkelijk kan uitrollen en er vormpjes uit kan steken?
Instead of the Weather Underground icon I inserted one provided by the Weather Channel. It looks much better and seems to be accurate. The only problem is that my sidebar was slightly widened. Let me know if this is an improvement or that it bothers you aesthetically or otherwise.
In the next few days I will refer to some articles that I saved months ago for later use, not knowing it would take so long before I finally was going to use them.
Here and here are a moving article and an editorial on Darfur, taken from an October issue of the International Herald Tribune. The crimes committed there are still ignored by most of the world. That includes myself, I am ashamed to admit, even though I once got a very good grade for an MA course on Sudan, given by one of the world's foremost experts on Sudanese complex history and society. Religious ( in addition to Islam you will find Christian and animist religions in Sudan ) and tribal conflicts ruin the supposedly beautiful country.
De komende dagen zal ik af en toe ook wat links posten naar websites en artikelen die ik al maanden geleden bij mijn favorieten heb gezet, om er later op terug te kunnen komen. Dat het zoveel later zou worden wist ik toen nog niet.
Dit is een heel aardige link, die deel uitmaakt van de website van Trouw. Je kunt er allerlei wandel-, fiets- en zelfs skatetochten vinden in verschillende streken, dorpen en steden in Nederland. Toen ik de tekst las die tevoorschijn kwam toen ik op de naam van de stad drukte waar ik ben opgegegroeid zag ik mezelf al fietsen over de dijken en tussen de boomgaarden. Heerlijk!

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Ze doen daar in Brussel ook wel erg hun best om mensen er van te overtuigen dat de EU zinvol werk doet, en om ons ertoe te bewegen voor te stemmen, he?
A weather icon was added to the righthand margin of this weblog. Here you can see what time and what temperature ( both in Celcius and Fahrenheit ) it is in Haifa. When you click on the icon you can see a weather forecast and more detailed information. Please let me know if the link works. When I click I get half of the information in Hebrew and half of it in English, I suppose that in Europe and the US you get everything in English. This service is provided by Weather Underground.
Joep Bertrams also makes animated cartoons for the Dutch news program NOVA. Here are some examples:
  1. Mr UK election ( it goes without saying that Irak is Dutch for Iraq )
  2. To Continue ( B = Beatrix, the Dutch queen; WA = Willem Alexander, her son; JP = Jan Peter Balkenende, the Dutch prime minister; maybe a similar cartoon could be made about the English colleagues of Beatrix and WA )
  3. Visit ( Russian President Putin - Poetin - visiting the Middle East - Midden Oosten - )
  4. Iraqi House
  5. Listening Pope ( kindermisbruik = child abuse )
  6. Big Fish ( about the EU referendum; grote vis = big fish; de kiezer = the voter; nee = no )
  7. Doeltreffend ( only my Dutch readers will understand this one )

For my Dutch readers. Posted by Hello
"Listening Pope" Posted by Hello
"Nothing bothers him" Posted by Hello
As promised, here are some postings with cartoons and links to animations made by Joep Bertrams. This is how he himself sees the work of a cartoonist. For more of his animations click here.
This episode of Dilbert made me laugh last week. Posted by Hello