Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Is this becoming some sort of trend? ( Ha'Aretz news flash ) 16:38 Jewish American immigrant sets himself on fire outside J`lem Ulpan (Haaretz)
Het volgende artikel staat vandaag in het Reformatorisch Dagblad:
Post-Gaza Blues
Wat betreft de dagelijkse verslagen in de massamedia is het meest traumatische en dramatische deel van de uitvoering van Ariel Sharon's terugtrekkingsplan achter de rug. Dat wil niet zeggen dat iedereen nu rustig achterover kan leunen en kan gaan afwachten. Vorige week citeerde een verslaggever op de Israëlische televisie een legerwoordvoerder die zei "Wij hebben de operatie met succes uitgevoerd, nu is het aan de politici om de wonden te laten helen en de revalidatie te beginnen." Alhoewel de woordvoerder het alleen over Israël zelf had, kan iets soortgelijks worden gezegd over de internationale gemeenschap en over de Palestijnen. In de afgelopen weken is er in Israël geschiedenis geschreven. Voor het eerst in de geschiedenis van de joodse staat gaf de regering uit eigen beweging land op dat in een oorlog was veroverd, zonder dat duidelijk was dat aan Palestijns-Arabische zijde hier iets tastbaar positiefs tegenover zou staan. Het ging 'slechts' om zo'n tienduizend kolonisten die gedwongen werden hun huizen te verlaten, maar de emotionele – soms ietwat gedramatiseerde of hysterische – scènes maakten voor veel Israëliërs duidelijk wat ze al wisten: het gaat hier vaak om mensen die geloven dat hun aanwezigheid in bezet gebied een goddelijke opdracht is, dat het weggeven van delen van het Land aan niet-joden letterlijk zonde is, en dat Sharon hen en Israël verraden heeft . Het vertrouwen in en respect voor de staat heeft door de terugtrekking bij veel – vooral religieuze – Israëliërs blijvende schade opgelopen. Nu ook de laatste van de 25 nederzettingen die onder het plan vielen ontruimd is kan worden vastgesteld dat de vertegenwoordigers van de kolonistenbeweging en andere tegenstanders van Sharon – die veelal tot op het laatst volhielden dat dit 'duivelse' plan niet zou worden uitgevoerd – ongelijk en een flinke politieke dreun hebben gekregen. Toch staan zij er politiek waarschijnlijk veel beter voor dan de Israëlische premier zelf. Het is duidelijk dat de terugtrekking uit de Gaza-strook niemand tevreden stelt. Om op wat voor manier dan ook tot een internationaal erkende en gesteunde modus vivendi – en wie weet, werkelijke vrede – tussen Israël en de Palestijnen te komen zal Israël afstand van een aanzienlijk deel van de nederzettingen in de Westoever moeten doen. Het gaat daarbij om veel meer dan tienduizend kolonisten. Om zoiets zelfs maar bespreekbaar te maken zijn twee dingen een absolute vereiste: Europa en de Verenigde Staten zullen Ariel Sharon meer moeten bieden dan de prijzende woorden en de photo-ops die hij tot nu toe van hen gekregen heeft, en de 'leiders' van de Palestijnse Autoriteit moeten nu eindelijk eens laten zien dat het hun menens is als ze terrorisme afwijzen of veroordelen. De aanslag afgelopen zondag in Be'er-Sheva en de raketten – made in Iran – die vorige week vanuit Libanon richting Israël werden afgevuurd beloven niet veel goeds wat betreft de goede bedoelingen aan de 'Arabische kant' van het conflict. Het was al lang duidelijk dat er snel na de uitvoering van Sharon's plan nieuwe verkiezingen zullen komen. Het aftreden van zijn grootste politieke rivaal, Binyamin Nethanyahu, aan de vooravond van de ontruimingsoperatie bevestigde dit alleen maar. Sharon zal aan die verkiezingen alleen kunnen deelnemen als hij een meerderheid van de Likud-kiezers achter zich zal krijgen, of als hij er in slaagt zichzelf aan het hoofd te plaatsen van een nieuwe politieke partij of beweging, al dan niet in samenwerking met kopstukken van andere partijen. Beide scenario's zijn niet erg waarschijnlijk, tenzij de Palestijnen en hun leider Abu Mazen voor grote verrassingen zullen zorgen. Voorlopig ziet het er naar uit dat de woede, angst en frustraties van Sharon's tegenstanders een rechtsere regering aan de macht zullen helpen, waarna onderhandelingen – laat staan het opgeven van nog meer nederzettingen – voorlopig weer uit den boze zullen zijn. Voor de Palestijnse leiders, voor de verschillende Palestijnse extremistische groeperingen, maar ook voor sommige politici en belangengroepen aan Israëlische zijde, lijkt de status quo een bijna ideale situatie te zijn. Ondanks alles hoeft de toestand niet hopeloos te blijven. De Europese Unie en de Amerikanen zouden de lof voor de vastberaden uitvoering van Sharon's plan kunnen uitdrukken in onomwonden politieke steun voor de Israëlische regering, liefst vergezeld van een aantal economische hulpmaatregelen waarmee Sharon aan zijn landgenoten kan laten zien dat de Westerse wereld Israël's afstaan van bezette gebieden waardeert, zeker zolang er aan Palestijnse kant niets positiefs tegenover lijkt te staan. Dit betekent niet dat men in Brussel en Washington geen kritiek kan uiten, bijvoorbeeld op Israëlische plannen om de veiligheidsmuur rond Ma'aleh Adumim te bouwen, meer dan twintig kilometer ten oosten van de Groene Lijn. Integendeel, het Westen kan een tegelijkertijd kritische en constructieve rol spelen in wat voor vredesproces dan ook, maar dan moet de Israëlische bevolking wel overtuigd raken dat kritiek op de bezetting voortkomt uit bezorgdheid om het karakter en de veiligheid van de joodse staat, en dat in gelijke mate de 'andere' kant wordt bekritiseerd. Ook zou het aardig zijn als Abu Mazen en andere Palestijnse leiders het lot van hun volk in een positieve richting stuurden, door niet alleen maar steeds met beschuldigende vingers richting Israël te wijzen maar nu eindelijk ook eens zelf verantwoordelijkheid te nemen voor het welzijn van de Palestijnen. Hoe onvolmaakt Sharon's Gaza-plan ook is, een Israëlische regering heeft tenminste opnieuw laten zien dat het de ( keiharde en gevaarlijke ) confrontatie met haar politieke tegenstanders aandurft als het 'nationaal belang' dat vraagt. De bezetting kan niet eeuwig als excuus voor dadeloosheid en wanbeleid worden gebruikt, ooit zullen ook Palestijnse leiders op hun daden worden beoordeeld.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Regarding "Shfaram victims won't be recognized by terror law", Ha'Aretz, August 30, 2005: The law governing compensation for terror victims recognizes only "victims of hostile acts perpetrated by 'enemy forces' ". Since Eden Natan Zada was a Jew(ish 'soldier') he is "not considered a member of enemy forces". Ergo, in fact, enemy is basically a synonym of Arab. Maybe the victims of Jewish terror should be thankful that they are not marked as enemy victims. Terrorists such as the members of TNT ( Terror against Terror ) in the 1970-80s, Ami Popper, Baruch Goldstein, Eden Natan Zada and their ideological soulmates ( such as Yona Avrushmi and Yigal Amir ) are a much more existential threat for Israel - both as an independent Jewish state and as a democracy - than any Palestinian, Arab or Muslim terror group or individual will ever be. The fact that Israeli-Arab blood spilt by Jews will never have the same national and emotional 'value' as Jewish blood spilt by Palestinians explains only some of the frustration and anger felt by about a fifth of this country's population.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Right now the finals of the Israeli version of American Idols ( Kokhav Nolad, A Star is Born ) is taking place. Although I did not watch even one of the preliminary rounds, it is impossible not to know who the finalists are, since - like everywhere else in the world, I suppose - this show has been overmarketed, pushed down the throat of everyone who has been watching Channel 2 or 24 ( music channel ), reading newspapers and magazines and listening to the radio in Israel in the last three months or so. Even Ha'Aretz had a whole article on the subject today. I did not follow the program in other countries ( in the Netherlands there were cases of mass hysteria when some of the finalists of the first edition appeared in Amsterdam, I remember ) but I doubt that it was ever as sectorial as it is here. Whoever wins tonight, the chances are that (s)he will win only or mainly because (s)he 'represents' a certain sector of Israeli society. One of the three this year is religious ( a few minutes ago he was greeted by his rabbi ), one of them is from the Ukraine ( I cannot stand seeing or hearing about his grandmother in Kiev anymore ), and the last one is a beautiful girl ( from Dimona, if I am not mistaken ) who does not seem to be a great singer. May the most marketable win!
It is time again for some cartoons. I chose four Editorial Cartoons from artists that I did and do not know. The one made by M.E. Cohen seems to be a crossing of the two cartoons by Christo Komarnitski.
by M.E. Cohen

by Christo Komarnitski

by Christo Komarnitski

by Bill Day

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Anglosaxy has been back for quite a while now, so I just re-added his blog to my list. He is a father now ( see here ) and his postings seem to be better than ever.
Regarding "Between Haider and a hard place", Ha'Aretz, August 28, 2005: When Filip Dewinter says that his "grandfather was also a member of the Resistance" he implies that non-Jewish men who - like his father - were sent to forced labor in Germany were automatically members of the Resistance. Of course, some of the forced laborers had resisted the Nazis or participated in some sort of resistance while working in Germany, but forced labor and resistance were hardly synonyms. As for the overtures that Mr Dewinter makes to the Jews, Avigdor Lieberman and his political soulmates have had - and maybe still have, I don't know - contacts with extreme rightwing parties and personalities in Europe. Still, Jews should realize that the only reason why the post-, pseudo-, neo- or whatever kind of fascists pretend to be our allies or friends is the fact that they happen to hate and fear Muslims just a little more than Jews. For them, the most active enemy of their most acute enemy is nothing more than their temporary friend.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

This is a book that I put on my list of books to read. Hirsh Goodman's views are often very similar to mine, and his columns in the Jerusalem Report ( I received a 30 months' subscription last year when one of my articles was published in the magazine ) are among the better comments in English on Israel-related affairs. I knew he was from South Africa, I had no idea that he used to be a member of the HaBonim youth movement. In the article in Ha'aretz' Anglo File, Goodman very well says that parallels can be seen between Israel and the land where he was born and grew up, while stressing the fundamental differences that make comparisons unjustified and wrong: "To compare the two [systems] demonstrates ignorance or malevolence".
Like many on the Left, he welcomes the disengagement but insists that it will not be enough to leave only Gaza: "You remain with the problematics of two societies living on one land with different rules applying to them [...]. And the time to do something is now, before the right-wing extremist fringes get too large. That's the urgency of this book - we've got to do something before we reach a point of no return. Everyone says the writing was on the wall about [the assassination of Prime Minister] Rabin; now I'm saying the writing is on wall regarding Israel's democracy."

Friday, August 26, 2005

One of the best blog postings that I read about and during the implementation of the disengagement plan was written by Lila, from Letters from Rungholt. It expresses most of the feelings that I have had in the last two weeks, and tells us about some of the most moving television moments of the evacuation of the Gaza settlers. If you can read German I also recommend this posting, about one of her daughters ( and about the rest of her family ). Lila does not stop amazing me, she has four children, works hard and always finds time to write very long, very personal, often beautiful and always interesting postings. Kol HaKavod! ( Sorry that I have not called yet, Lila ).
While we shed both real and crocodile tears over the poor settler children who were forced from their homes, other victims of the disengagement ( whose mothers probably will not receive hundreds of thousands of dollars, shekels or even Romanian lei as compensation ) are easily forgotten. Tom Segev tells us about the Jewish terrorist who tried to stop the disengagement last week in the settlement of Shiloh about a week ago, and about the 16 children whose fathers that terrorist, a father himself, murdered. Look at the picture of the widow and children of one of those murdered. It is hard to imagine these beautiful children ( the girl on the left has the same age as our daughter, and the blond boy on the right is as old as our son; like my kids, both children have gorgeous blue eyes ) cursing soldiers and turning the Holocaust into a joke. At the same time, why should be be surprised and who will be to blame if one of them becomes a terorrist him/herself some day? Terror(ism) is certainly capable of creating such a truly vicious circle.
This morning I found this on the website of the French daily Le Monde. Wait a few seconds until it is loaded, and then click on "continuer". You will see a map of Paris, with about 20 dots in different parts of the city. By clicking on a dot you will first see a picture taken in august 1944, when the city was liberated from the German occupation, and then one taken sixty years later on ( almost ) exactly the same spot. Highly recommended!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

I just returned from the swimming pool. Our children had a bath and went to bed, and I went upstairs to check my e-mails and write this short posting. The three of us had a wonderful time in the pool, and my wife had enough time to make most of the preparations for next week, when school wil start again. Our daughter will start first grade, by the way. That is exciting for all of us, believe me. Oh yes, I almost forgot, I received an e-mail telling me that a seminar in Paris to which I will be invited is supposed to take place in the first week of December, something else for me to get excited about.
As you can see, while the most difficult part of the disengagement plan was being implemented we - like most Israelis, I suppose - have had other things to worry about and to keep us busy.
Voor een prima dossier over de terugtrekking uit Gaza ( op de website van het Reformatorisch Dagblad ) klik hier.
Most of the day that will see the evacuation of the last two settlements within the framework of the disengagement plan I will spend with our two children in the swimming pool of the Technion. My wife, who is a teacher, will be at home making preparations for the new school year, which will start next week on Thursday. I will probably post something later today.
P.S.: The last time that I wrote "will be continued" I did not keep my 'promise'.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Regarding "After Gaza, challenges all around", IHT, August 22, 2005: Like most leftwing Israelis, who have been Ariel Sharon's political opponents for almost three decades, I support his efforts to get us out of Gaza and four Westbank settlements. You have to know quite a bit about Israel society and politics to appreciate the physical and political courage required of that man during the last two years. It is far from being a perfect plan, it does not end the occupation yet, and it might very well be that when it was conceived not all of Sharon's motives were totally kosher. Nevertheless, if something so important for Israel's wellbeing is being done - even for the wrong reasons and maybe not exactly in the right way - I do not see any reason not to support it. As bad as the occupation is for the Palestinians, in the end it is even worse and more destructive for the state of Israel. If only the Palestinians ever had had one or two national leaders of the same personal calibre as Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon - men whose lives were dedicated to fighting the other side, but who realized that to win the war for their people total victory is not a feasible option -, we might already be living right next to a prosperous and peace-loving Palestinian state.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Some general remarks regarding the disengagement and its implementation:
  • The implementation appears to go very well. It is not over yet, and we are warned that tomorrow's evacuations of Homesh and Sa-Nur will be particularly difficult. Still, the security forces rightly receive compliments for their behavior and their work. It seems that they prepared very well for this operation. Also, of course, most settlers behave in a responsible way. Few will blame them for emotional outbursts, although I think that too many believe those outbursts are only emotional and not proof of a deep rift between different parts of Israeli society. The events in Kfar Darom last week shocked the settlers as much as it shocked everybody else, which is why the evacuation of Homesh and Sa-Nur might be accompanied by less violence than expected. Let's wait and see.
  • Some supporters of a Greater Israel have strange ways of expressing their unconditional love for the Land. During almost every one of their protests we see black clouds of smoke coming off burning rubber tyres. Don't they understand that without breatheable air the Land is not worth very much, and that those fires poison not only the air but also the Land itself? The same goes for their love for the sanctity of synagogues. When I looked at the synagogue at Kfar Darom after the siege was ended, I wondered what sanctity is served by so much paint, oil, empty bottles and other filth and rubbish ( let alone the violence of many of the young militants ).
  • Palestinians should start working to prove that a Palestinian state can be an asset for Israel, rather than continuing to point their accusing fingers and making demands. If they want a state of their own in the Westbank and Gaza, now is the time to make their dream come true. Like the dream of a Greater Israel, the dream of one undivided Palestine is not viable. Brave and talented leaders are required on both sides to realize that, and to make both peoples realize that. We all have much to lose by waiting any longer. Any political leader in Israel who can prove that getting us out of Gaza served our interests and security will have broad political support to evacuate more settlements in the Westbank, and to seriously negotiate a final peace agreement with the Palestinians.
  • While it is obvious that for a viable final agreement Israel will have to give up more than just Gaza, the West should support Sharon, relieve some of the internal pressure that he faces, rather than press him right away into more concessions.
  • The IDF appears to have been strengthened in the last few weeks.
  • Religious and secular Zionism will have to do a lot of work in the field of soulsearching and self-definition.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Sometimes I am surprised to find references to DBI on websites that are not exactly the kind of sites that I would visit myself. One such site, which refered several of today's visitors to my blog, bears the name Right Wing News. It sounds worse than it is, in this case right wing seems to be a synonym for conservative. Welcome to all the RWN readers ( hey, I am not a bigot, some of my best friends are conservatives ).
It is great fun to see your words translated into another language, especially if it is a language as beautiful as Spanish. Part of this posting appears here. My Spanish is not good enough to see if the translation is perfect, but as far as I can see its author, Jose Cohen, conveys very well what I wanted to say.
Al zeker een jaar of vijftien, twintig had ik niet aan hem gedacht, en zijn bijzondere naam was ik eigenlijk al vergeten, totdat ik afgelopen woensdag dit opiniestuk in de International Herald Tribune tegenkwam. Ik had het artikel misschien overgeslagen als de naam van een van de auteurs me niet was opgevallen: Bruce Bueno de Mesquita. Toen ik die naam zag zag ik opeens weer heel duidelijk de komiek voor me die ik als kind regelmatig op de televisie heb gezien ( bij de Mounties, Andre van Duin, en ik neem aan ook bij Ron Brandsteder ). Hij leek een beetje op Manuel in Fawlty Towers. Ik wist dat hij joods was, maar verder heb ik me nooit in zijn persoonlijke geschiedenis verdiept. Nauwelijks een dag nadat ik na zo lange tijd weer aan hem herinnerd werd is Abraham Bueno de Mesquita overleden (*). Yihyeh Zikhro Barukh. (*) Niet te verwarren met David Abraham Bueno de Mesquita ( 1889-1962 ), de schilder en illustrator.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Regarding "The 'orange' camp must not win" and "Even the rabbis are a target for the extremists", Ha'Aretz, August 16, 2005 ( published in today's Ha'Aretz ): Sometimes it can be very unpleasant to discover that one reaps as one has sown. This is true both for the state of Israel regarding the settlers, and for the settlers as far as the extremist youngsters among them are concerned. For decades the settlers were allowed to hold authority in contempt, and while their Arab neighbors have been subjected to their whims and to harsh military rule, they have been able to more or less do as they please. As far as the hilltop youth - and many other young men and women who were born and grew up in or with the settlements - know this is a natural situation: there are Palestinians, there is a Jewish state that is useful as long as it serves the interests of the settlers, and there are settlers who are the only true Zionists, with other Israelis being surrogate-Jews at best. Of course we all know that most settlers are loyal and law-abiding citizens, but if the settler movement - assuming that such a thing still exists - continues to ignore the fact that some rotten apples have grown in its midst, and to deny that that phenomenon has to be dealt with, these youngsters will continue to do their destructive work. These extremists are not the scum of the earth ( well, maybe a few of them are ), but they are neither the salt of the earth, and it is about time that we stop considering and treating them as such.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

After the police and the army have shown every possible consideration for the feelings of the people who locked themselves in the synagogues and for the special character of the houses of prayer, the criminals who had barricaded themselves on the roof of the Kfar Darom synagogue show how much respect they rhemselves have for the sanctity of the synagogue. Look at the place right now, and look at the policemen who come out in their underwear, after they had to take off their clothes because acid was thrown at them. At least ten policemen are wounded by the acid. We are not talking about a few punks anymore, this is at least one group of tens of criminals( will be continued, i have to go and get my wife and our kids from the swimming pool ).
And now for something completely different. If you happen to be in the Netherlands this week, make sure to go to Amsterdam and have a look at Sail 2005 ( I am not sure if the problems with the trains and the garbage disposal in Amsterdam have been solved already, I am sure somebody will comment on that ). I was there I think ten years ago with my - then future - wife and it was amazing. For some live pictures go to this website and click on the cameras.
For most Israelis the evacuation of the settlements in the Gaza Strip is not very tangible. Three television channels provide us almost all day with live broadcasts, and for those who do not have the opportunity to watch t.v. there are radio broadcasts and the internet. This morning I left my home early to get to the doctor ( I had to get a prescription for antibiotics, I started to suffer from a combination of laryngitis and otitis ). At nine o'clock I came home, where my wife was working on the computer, our daughter was drawing and our son was watching Hop!, the ( excellent ) children's channel. Around ten I brought the three of them to the swimming pool at the Technion ( the technical university ), where they spend the day. I returned home to work and to clean our house for the weekend. Just to give an idea of how surreal life in Israel can be: at exactly 15.30, when the security forces started to enter two synagogues in Neveh Dekalim to evacuate the people who after long negotiations and several deadlines still refused to leave on their own, I almost finished cleaning the house, by vacuuming and mopping the floor. Two out of our three television sets were turned on ( one in the living room, one in our bedroom ) so that I could follow the events even when I went from room to room. After that, with the evacuation of the synagogues still being broadcasted live, I had a shower and went upstairs to write this posting. Right now I listen to one of John Field's piano concertos.
Do I feel guilty for not letting the disengagement determine my whole life these days? Not really. In a way I feel sorry for the settlers, but on the other hand I hear too many extremist voices among them to really identify with them and with their pain. I feel very much sorry for their children, who are nothing but pawns in the ideological games played by their parents. One of the reasons why I do not feel any guilt is that my conscience is clear: I do not see myself as any less of a Zionist than they are, the only difference is that I decided to make my home within Israel itself, not in a place that is under heavy dispute and that would expose me and my family to unnecessary dangers.
Not a few of the settlers moved to Gaza after I came to Israel in June 1992, i.e. after the Oslo accords made it clear that the days of the Jewish settlements in the territories were numbered, or at least that the Jewish presence there is not something that should be taken for granted. I admire the faith that many of those people have, but I believe not only in G'd but also in my duty, as a Zionist and as a parent, to take reality into account, to show maximum respect for the laws and symbols of the state as well as for the main victims of the occupation - the Palestinians -, to teach my children that same respect and to protect them from unnecessary dangers and violence.
Some of my feelings are expressed well by OrthodoxAnarchist: “what’s going on right now is painful. i feel for the families yet find it difficult to fathom their shock and suprise as it’s been shown in the news. this has been a year in the coming; they’re acting like they didn’t believe the day would come. their disbelief is staggering. israel’s been terrorizing arabs, knocking down their houses, razing their villages, suppressing their rights, brutalizing and dehumanizing them for decades. they didn’t think the government would do the same to them when they they no longer served the government’s interests?”
At least one good thing came out of all the mess of these last few days: the number of visitors to my weblog has risen steadily, and many of those visitors I had never seen before. For example, I found myself being quoted at a website named Global Voices ( and apparently somehow related to Harvard University ). Also, the shares at the Tel Aviv stock exchange have gone up, according to a report that I heard this morning when I drove home from the Technion.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The implementation of the disengagement plan seems to be going very well, if we are to believe the media ( and so much is being broadcast that I find it hard to believe that much is being hidden from our eyes ). Still, it ain't over till, well..., till when exactly? At least till the last Israeli civilian will have left the Gaza Strip.
I have enormous respect for all soldiers and police(wo)men who participate in the operation. Today I again heard some of the insults that are thrown at them. One boy who appeared to be barely past his bar-mitzvah shouted "Arabs are deporting us" when he found out that one of the soldiers was a Druze, an Ethiopian policewoman ( rather a girl, actually ) was asked if for this she had made her way through the Ethiopian desert, at Kerem Atsmona ( which consists of caravans only! ) one freak shouted all kinds of things that will happen to the soldiers if and when they reach the Afterlife, and of course there were the Holocaust references to which we have become used. At least one Israeli flag was burnt, and I saw a father hold up his crying daughter ( about ten years old ) to a soldier, telling him "Deport her" and spitting on the flag on the soldier's uniform. The girl was only one of the children who could be seen being ( mentally ) abused by their parents today. In Morag there even was a case of what was immediately called "the Jewish Michael Jackson", with a settler holding a baby-boy ( first it was thought the boy was his son, later it was said he was holding his nephew, as if it matters ) outside a window on the second floor of a house, shouting "You want him?". In Kerem Atsmona one extended family came out of their caravan with their hands raised and orange Stars of David on their clothes. All the young children were crying. You wonder how much brainwashing and psychological pressure these poor kids must have endured these last months, and sorry, I do not consider the authorities ( solely ) responsible for that. I am sure in the last few days many parents in Israel have at least once tried to imagine what it must be like to be forced by your own army and government to leave your home, but I am also sure that most of those parents would have let common sense and love for and the best interest of their children prevail over ideology. More than half of the residents of the evacuated settlements chose that option, packing and leaving until last night to spare their children and themselves the traumatic experiences that we have witnessed today and will continue to see in the next week or so.
The shooting at Shiloh reminded me of a word that a cousin of my wife used once : "mitnahabel", a combination of 'mitnahel' ( settler ) and 'mehabel' ( terrorist ).
And yet another Jewish terrorist has struck. I am looking forward to get more details about him. He does not have the age of someone whose actions can be described as the work of a young hothead, and as far as I know the settlement where he comes from is not a known breeding place for frustrated fanatics. Of course Hamas has announced it will revenge the murders. Could it possibly be that that is exactly what their Jewish colleague aimed at?
Obviously it was only a matter of time before we would start seeing pictures such as this one. Personally I am amazed by the self-control, the professionalism and the dedication of all soldiers and police(wo)men who participate in this huge operation. By implicitly or explicitly comparing those wonderful boys, girls, men and women to Hitler's henchmen, people like the two women above only make themselves ridiculous. They also hurt their lost cause even more, and they make a joke of the memory of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis, of the millions of Shoah survivors, and of all those who gave their lives for the defense of the Jewish state. All in all it must be said that most settlers are behaving responsibly and in a dignified way.
In the last few weeks more than once Ariel Sharon was called the Trojan horse of the Likud. This is a very strange analogy, i.e. if you know the history of the horse, of the Likud and of those who built that party. Anyway, if the Trojan-horse comparison is valid anywhere in today's events here, it is in the case of the youngsters who have infiltrated into the Gaza Strip and who are among the most fanatic and militant opponents who face the security forces during the evacuation. They were welcomed with open arms by the settlers, and who were preseneted as the living proof of solidarity among the settlers and other religious Zionists, and of their dedication to the Land. Yesterday I saw Shaul Goldstein, a prominent member of the Yesha Council, shouting against some of them, and he and others already have asked the authorities to help the settlers to get rid of these firebrands. The agitators have already openly attacked community leaders and at least one prominent rabbi, they have made it almost impossible for some settler families who decided to leave 'voluntarily' to pack their belongings, and they have been responsible for most of the violence directed against the security forces. In the end these troublemakers appear to have made life easier for the soldiers and police(wo)men whose task it is to carry out the evacuation. The evacuation goes much more smoothly than expected, and the ugly and painful scenes of people being forced to leave their homes do not arouse as much indignation as they would have if all of the so-called supporters of those people had behaved in more responsible and less violent ways. With friends like these...
Bij de Wereldomroep vinden ze het blijkbaar nog steeds erg moeilijk om te accepteren dat de hoofdstad van Israel Jeruzalem is, en niet Tel Aviv. Dat krijg je als je een voormalige voorzitter van het Palestina Komitee ( ik ben gek op die anti-fascistische spelling ) als Midden-Oosten 'specialist' in dienst hebt. Toegegeven, weinig landen accepteren de annexatie door Israel van het oostelijke deel van Jeruzalem ( de reden waarom veel ambassades in Tel Aviv of Ramat Gan zitten; ik zou er goed mee kunnen leven als de stad een gedeelde hoofdstad van een joodse en een Palestijnse staat zou wouden, op voorwaarde dat daarmee het conflict ook werkelijk de wereld zou worden uitgeholpen ), maar zowel het parlement als de regering, de president en het hooggerechtshof zetelen in Jeruzalem. Tel Aviv heeft geen enkele officiele status.
* Teheran houdt Washington en Tel Aviv in de ban
De nieuwe ultra-conservatieve regering van Iran sluit uit dat de diplomatieke betrekkingen met de Verenigde Staten worden hersteld. Met Israel zal Iran nooit een band krijgen, zo liet president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad verder weten.De uitlatingen komen op het moment dat Iran onder zware druk staat van het Westen om zijn omstreden nucleaire programma op te schorten. Teheran kreeg vorige week een vermaning van het VN-atoombureau IAEA, nadat in Isfahan een nucleaire installatie weer in bedrijf was genomen.Iran liet maandag nog eens weten dat het zijn nucleaire programma onverminderd voortzet.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Some more examples of non-violence, settler-style:
One police officer was wounded when settlers threw acid in his eyes. The officer began shouting "I can't see!" Rioters sprayed another policeman with gas and he suffered from burns on his back. Youths also assaulted senior officers and journalists present at the scene, destroying a camera of a Reuters photographer, throwing paint and cleaning fluids at an army colonel, and breaking the glasses of another journalist. Two settlers were also lightly wounded during in the clashes.
In the end all this will make the work of the security forces easier. Not only will the settlers lose even more of the sympathy and the respect they still have among ordinary Israelis, but also is it less difficult for soldiers and policemen and -women to deal with violent than with truly non-violent resistance. This is one of the reasons why the work of organizations such as Islamic Jihad and Hamas enables Israel to continue the occupation. If a vast majority of Palestinians would choose veritable non-violence as their means to achieve independence, there is no way that Israel could stop them. Ghandi ( the original one, not Mr Ze'evi z"l ) achieved much more than Yasser Arafat, and the latter was only able to achieve anything for his people when he ( pretended to have ) renounced violence.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Good Luck to Katie-Yael: tomorrow she will make aliyah ( immigrate to Israel ) from New York. Her weblog tells us about one-person's ( and some cats', if I am not mistaken ) disengagement by choice. Kol haKavod ( +/- "kudos" ) for her, to make such a decision in these trying times for the Jewish state.
No picture says as much about the emotions and difficulties that both settlers and security forces faced today ( and will face in the next few days and weeks ) as this one does. Its caption ( on Ha'Aretz' website ) said: "A settler and IDF soldiers weeping Mon. during the dismantling of a synagogue in Nissanit. (Reuters)".
Ariel Sharon addressing the Israeli public tonight. Whether you love or hate him ( or something in between ), and no matter how many dark sheeps this man has in the closet that is his personal history ( what a terrible sentence and what an awful metaphor ) , most of us will have to admit that they never believed that what Sharon started about two years ago would result in an Israeli pullout from Gaza, that he would be able to pull this off. I will say it several more times: he will not win a beauty contest for the way his 'plan' has been prepared and is being implemented, and I am convinced that not only legitimate considerations and concerns led him to the disengagement plan, but he does deserve some credit, even if it was only for his perseverance and - yes - courage.
Today he was blamed by many for not going to the settlers personally to confront them, and of sending his officers and soldiers instead. He met more than once with settler representatives, and as far as official visits by government and army representatives to Gaza are concerned: in many cases their tires were punctured and they were often harassed by the same riff-raff that we saw today show its 'solidarity' with the settlers of Gaza. I am sure that those responsible for the PM's security would not have allowed him to go there.
Lik with most people on the Left my support for Sharon is temporary, opportunistic and far from being unconditional. The day after the completion of the pullout he will have to convince many Israelis that he deserves to continue to lead this country after the coming elections. Hopefully he won't be re-elected only because the alternative(s) is ( are ) much, much worse.
The first of two "days of grace" of the implementation of Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip is almost over. PM Sharon just finished addressing the nation, not very convincingly. Some things became clear today, most of them were already known:
  1. Things won't be easy for anybody directly involved in the evacuation; we saw soldiers wiping their eyes ( and the really hard part has not started yet ), officers embracing settlers, a Golani officer in the reserves ( not a settler himself, but active in the Orange Cell, a group of students opposed to disengagement ) who cried in front of the commander of the Golani Brigade, under whom he used to serve
  2. The rule of law is a joke in this country, especially when politicians and rabbis are concerned. This is apparently even more true when an MK who happens to be a rabbi is involved: on television I saw and heard MK Benny Elon openly call ( using a megaphone ) for soldiers and policemen to refuse to carry out orders
  3. Most of the provocations, confrontations and escalations seem to be initiated by the mistanenim ( infiltrators ) and shaba"him ( shohim bilti hukiim, those whose presence in what is now a closed military zone is illegal ), people - often youngsters - who do not live in the Gaza Strip or in the Northern part of Samaria and who are driven by ( religious ) fervor and fanaticism, boredom, a lack of respect for authorities in general and for the IDF and the State in particular, etc. I heard at least one settler ( from Morag ) complain today about outsiders who tried to prevent residents from getting organized towards the evacuation. Also in Morag, a Channel 1 reporter told us that a young mother ( not a resident herself ) had said to one of the soldiers who came to hand out the evacuation orders that when he returns she will use a weapon not against him but against herself.
  4. Some of the settlers continue to pretend that everything is normal, they claim to believe that the evacuation will not take place; for them, and I suppose especially for their children, the reality that will fall upon them in about 30 hours could be unbearable.
  5. This is not an exercise, I repeat, this is not an exercise. As cynical as I was until a few months ago, this is the real thing, Israel - with Ariel Sharon as prime minister - is going to evacuate an important part of the occupied territories. As I wrote before, it might be for the wrong reasons and not exactly in the right way, but in the end part of the burden of the occupation will be lifted from our shoulders.
  6. Nobody has an idea what will happen after the implementation of the pullout plan. Sharon does not tell us anything substantial about his motives and about his plans for the future. This partly explains the anger and frustration of the settlers, and makes the work of our security services unnecessarily more difficult.
  7. Not for everybody the disengagement is the main item of interest, or There is a life after/besides disengagement: tonight one of the semifinals of the Israeli version of A Star is Born ( or Israeli Idols, or whatever you might call that senseless and shallow talent scouting show ) is being held, and I have a gut feeling that that program's ratings will rival most national news broadcasts today. There is also some soccer game, Israel-Ukraine, on the television.

It does not happen very often that you are aware that you are watching history being made. At midnight, as my wife was sleeping beside me, I watched as the entrance to the Gaza Strip at the Kissufim junction was closed. This morning I also saw on television the first confrontations between settlers and the officers who came to tell them that they have 48 hours to leave their homes. It is all a bit unreal: right after watching the news I had breakfast and watched a videotaped rerun of Spin City. Then I turned on the news again and saw tires being burnt at Neve Dekalim. This settlement, dubbed the capital of Gush Katif, is expected to be one of the toughest spots as far as the evacuation is concerned. Tonight the place also saw some incidents:
"... hundreds of Gush Katif youths, both residents and illegal infiltrators, blocked the entrance gate into the nearby settlement of Neveh Dekalim to block any troops who may attempt to enter it. The youths lit up bonfires on the road and blocked it to traffic. They slashed the tires of army jeeps making their way into Neveh Dekalim and also surrounded a stranded army jeep with four soldiers in the vehicle. Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, head of the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva, came to the scene and tried to persuade the rioters with a loudspeaker to disperse. A major brawl broke out as several youths tried to assault Aviner while others protected the rabbi. The army jeep left the area only an hour later as the brawl subsided. "
Some of the settlers ( or more probably: some of their so-called supporters ) give a totally new meaning to non-violence, just like they have very special ways of showing their love for the Land, e.g. by poisoning the air with thick black smoke by burning tires. And this is before even one house has been evacuated by the army.
Now I go back to work. Later this morning I will go to the post office, send two presents from our children to their cousins in Holland, send eight blue and orange ribbons to a Dutch woman living in Israel who uses the ribbons for her work with handicaped children and submit some request to an American-Jewish organization.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Many of the extremists among the opponents of the disengagement are religious, but it cannot be stated enough that extremists form only a small minority of the pullout opponents and of the national-religious public in Israel. Itamar Ben Gvir, Nadia Matar and others on the fringes of Israel's right-wing politics have made it difficult for most secular Israelis to identify with the settlers. When you hear ordinary people who are ( or eventually will be ) forced to evacuate their homes - such as the members of the Neuman family from the Neve Dekalim settlement, who have been portrayed and followed for weeks on the channel 2 news broadcast - talk about what they are going through it is easy and natural to share their fears and their anger. On the other hand, when you hear fanatics repeat their slogans, or when you see children who are brainwashed so that they know exactly what - according to the laws that they despise so much - they are allowed and not allowed to do and to say to policemen and soldiers, it is hard not to think "Yalla, let's get this over with asap", or less exalted thoughts.
The media, especially the television channels, can not be blamed for not having given the opponents of disengagement enough room and airtime to say what they want to say. For weeks I have hardly heard any coherent argument in favor of disengagement, whereas on a daily basis I was told that - and sometimes also why - the pullout is bad for us. That fanatics took away much of that room and airtime is not the media's fault.
These days it often seems that insanity has taken us all hostage. That most of us are still ordinary Zionists who somehow want to ( continue to ) live together in the only state of our own that we will ever get - even though sometimes I think that a 2-state-solution will not be enough to solve the conflict - becomes clear when you read postings such as that of a fellow blogger ( F ), who is religious and lives in Jerusalem. Last Friday she wrote ( by the bold type I stress what I feel right now ):
"I prayed that whatever happens next week should be for the best, and that if the disengagement happens, it should happen peacefully and in a way that sanctifies Hashem's name.There is nothing more I feel I, personally, can do. I have shared many opinions on my blog. I have emphasized, here, my wish for national unity and for everyone, Orange and Blue, to live in brotherhood on the Day After. The rest is out of my hands. It's in the hands of the army, the police, the settlers, the protesters . . . but not mine. In a way, that is a relief."
Here is an article, by Amira Hass, that turns our attention to:
  1. one of the aspects of disengagement that ( and some of its victims whom ) we hardly hear or read about;
  2. at least one of the reasons why the occupation should end;
  3. at least one of the reasons why the occupation cannot last forever, unless we want to lose altogether our right to exist as a nation within a state of our own;
  4. the fact that there is a link between the quality of ( some of ) the settlers' lives and some of the misery of the Palestinians;
  5. the fact that colonialism "decays both the colonizer and the colonized", with the colonizer and the colonized becoming totally dependent on each other ( see Albert Memmi ).
  6. the fact that no occupation has ever been just.

I was also reminded of the words of an employee of relatives of mine, who used to say - even though he definitely was not a socialist: "There are bad employers and very bad employers."

Never before since I made aliyah has the news here been so emotional, exciting and important. Yet now of all times I have been unable to follow the news as closely as I would like, and to write about what is going on as much as I would want to. These last weeks I have been working around the clock to arrange all kinds of affairs, most of them related to my PhD thesis. My work paid off, I won't give you all the details, but two things I can tell you: I got a one year's extension from the university ( including another year of the Rothenstreich scholarship that I won two years ago ), and eight copies of microfilms with parts of two important French-Jewish archives have finally - after 1 1/2 year - arrived at Haifa's University Library. These microfilms contain the last part of those primary sources needed for my research that are available and were missing in my collection until now.
As for the disengagement, lately I have not really been inspired to write great postings about it, or about any other subject. Like most Israelis I feel frustrated and am fed up with it all, I have already seen to many stickers, ribbons and posters, and heard to many slogans and slurs. I feel a lot of anger towards some of the settlers and their supporters, as well as towards a government that has not explained properly to the settlers, to the security forces and to the public in general why this step is so vital for Israel's wellbeing, and that has not given all bodies involved the proper time and means to prepare themselves for this "national task". The right thing is being done in not exactly the right way, let's hope it is at least being done for the right reasons. Let's pray that it will be done as swiftly as possible, with as little violence and as few ugly scenes as possible.
There are some things that I want to say about all this, I just have not found the time and enough inspiration to write them down. Maybe that inspiration will come, maybe not. In the meantime I will continue to post my regular stuff, more or less with the frequency that you have become used to.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

From tonight until tomorrow evening it is Tisha Be'Av. on which the destruction of the two Temples ( and some other disasters that befell the Jewish people ) are remembered. Folding a large pile of laundry that had amassed on our bed in the course of two days I watched a part of the evening news on Channel 2. Of course many opponents of the disengagement plan link its implementation ( postponed so that it would not fall within the three weeks leading to Tisha Be'Av, a period with special customs related to the mournful character of this day ) to the destruction of the temples. On live television MK Effi Eitam ( a former army officer and 'ba'al teshuva' - a secular Jew who (re)turns to religion - who became head of the National Religious Party and now heads a break-away faction of that party; recently he moved to one of the Gaza settlements with his family as a sign of solidarity and protest ) used some phrases for Sharon and Peres that I would not expect from a religious person, especially on this day. He basically compared them to Titus and Nebukadnezar, and when the reporter - herself religious if I am not mistaken - asked him if there is not a difference between on the one hand the destruction ordered and carried out by foreign forces against a subdued and beaten people, and on the other an evacuation decided upon by the autonomous governement of the Jewish state, he became aggressive and told her very rudely not to interrrupt him.
On Bloghead I read about a fairly new custom honored by Avraham Burg: in the middle of Tisha Be'Av ( a day of fasting ) he and his family have a "se'udat mitzvah" ( a mitzvah dinner or festive meal ) "since Jerusalem is no longer destroyed, but built up and flourishing, and because the people of Israel control their own destiny." No orthodox Jew would change tradition that easily, but then few will consider Mr Burg orthodox anymore, I am not sure how he defines himself. In the article on Bloghead it says that he prays in a Conservative ( masorti ) synagogue, which could explain the above.
Rabbi Melchior of Meimad/Labor was his usual sympathetic self, arguing very friendly and reasonably with several studio guests, among whom Eyal Megged. When the latter disdainfully spoke of the false Messianism of Peace Now and others, rabbi Melchior pointed out that if there is false Messianism it is on the side of the settlers, who consider every inch of the Land as being holier than the state and the people of Israel.
Anyway, an easy fast for those who observe it. In my humble opinion the impending evacuation of the settlements in Gaza and the Westbank does not even come close to any of the catastrophes remembered today, but hey, who listens to me? We can be certain this is the start of a difficult week, which will be followed by another couple of difficult weeks. Still, shavua tov/gut woch to all of you.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

When President Moshe Katsav, whom I respect very much, asked forgiveness from the settlers " for the demand that you leave after dozens of years of building and sacrifice ", he did not do so in my name. I feel sorry for them, sure, and I think the state owes them fair compensation and everything, but I do not see any need to ask them to forgive me for anything. I am sure they made sacrifices, but so did many Israelis who chose to live within the Green Line. As for the building, much if not most of it was done by Palestinian workers, and I do not see anyone asking for their forgiveness. The rest of Mr Katsav's speech was quite impressive. Right now I enjoy the sounds of the new micro audio system that my wife and I bought for my study this afternoon. It contains this CD, this double CD, plus two CDs from this collection.
Legal measures against incitement are a tricky subject, and democracies should be careful not to limit free speech under the pretext of fighting extremism. Still, I find it both ironic and scary that our Attorney General found today ( during one of the most volatile periods in Israel's history, and now that finally countries in Europe - partly influenced by and certainly with encouragement from the US and Israel - are starting to understand the link between ( religiously inspired ) incitement and terrorism, and between verbal and physical violence, and to act against incitement ) to be the perfect moment to say that basically there is no ( proven ) link between religious incitement and one of the worst acts of Jewish terror ever.
When I read this I was reminded of some leftwing Israelis saying years ago that if Ariel Sharon was to be elected as Prime Minister they would emigrate. I don't know where those people are today ( probably silently supporting Mr Sharon from some posh suburb of Tel Aviv ), but post-pullout politics will most probably be exciting and worrying again. It would be good for all of us if the disengagement turns out to be a success. Personally I would think that Ariel Sharon deserves such a success more than anybody else. You can say what you want about him ( his biography contains not only a lot of brave deeds but also some less kosher achievements ) but it has taken him quite some courage to continue on and - hopefully - finish the road that he started - maybe not alltogether for the right reasons - about two years ago, and we owe him some credit for that. In spite of all that praise, we could expect some bold IDF/IAF action in the next few weeks or months. After all, Mr Sharon is very much a(n Israeli ) politician, and we all know that nothing can gain a political leader more public support than some successful military action, support that can be vital for political leaders who face upcoming elections and who are attacked within their party for being too weak ( see Begin in June 1981, with Ariel Sharon being Minister of Agriculture, before being promoted to Minister of Defense after the elections two months later ).
( Ha'Aretz News Flash ) 09:37 Police nab French tourist tying anti-pullout orange ribbons to cars (Israel Radio)
Now I know why we see so many orange ribbons ( ;-) ). My wife recently went to pick our son up at his kindergarten, and she was surprised to see the car of a good friend of ours ( by the way, I congratulate her, her husband and their daughter with the birth of their daughter and sister on Monday ) with an orange ribbon. It turned out that someone had tied a ribbon to the antenna while the car was parked downstairs. Those bloody French!
:-)
Regarding "Abbas urges Palestinians to stay calm for pullout" + Editorial "Disengaging Netanyahu", IHT, August 10, 2005: Nothing would "lift the image of Palestinians in the world and hasten the coming of an independent Palestinian state" more than calm being ensured on the Palestinian side not only during but especially after Israel's pullout. If all the doomsayers on our side are proven wrong ( and I am not talking about a week or two ), it could very well be that Benjamin Nethanyahu and his co-supporters of a perpetual occupation will lose their support within the Likud. Only in that case is there a chance that some sort of coalition between moderate Likudniks and Labor will get us out of ( most of ) the Westbank as well, so that finally real borders between Israel and a Palestinian state can be drawn. Unfortunately, on both sides of the conflict there are people like Petyah Neriya, who receive their "orders from above". Whereas Mr Neriya's heavenly orders tell him to settle as much of the Land of Israel as possible - at no matter what financial, political and human costs - the divinely inspired Palestinians send us Qassam rockets and suicide bombers. Maybe if Jews and Palestinians were able to reduce God's role to playing second violin ( instead of being the director ) in this concert for two peoples and some fanatics, a combination of realism and optimism would be allowed to replace "negative wish fulfillment" here one day.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Thank G'd the Discovery landed safely at USAF base Andrews in California.
For a short while this picture appeared this morning on the website of Ha'Aretz. The caption said: "A boy peering Mon. at a picture of a Holocaust survivor at a museum in Kfar Darom in Gaza. (AP)". Just another example of how sloppy the work of website and newspaper writers and editors can be. The girl whose picture is seen on the right did not survive the Holocaust at all. Her name was Anna Maria ( Settela ) Steinbach, and in May 1944 she was transported from the Dutch transition camp Westerbork to Auschwitz, where she was gassed a few months later. Of her family only her father survived the war, he died in 1946. Ironically this picture - part of a film made in Westerbork on the orders of the Germans - became one of the symbols of the Jewish Holocaust, until a Dutch journalist discovered the identity of the girl. It turned out that she had not been murdered for being a Jew but for belonging to the Sinti/Roma ( it is unclear to me what the correct name is; they call the genocide of their people porajmos). She was only nine years old when she died in Auschwitz. May her memory be blessed.
Nimrod Sapir, who together with his wife Chen and their son Ben is portrayed in last week's Family Affair in Ha'Aretz, says that unlike his wife he does not see a need to fly blue or blue-and-white ribbons on cars ( one of those ribbons is attached to the side-view mirror of his Citroen Berlingo ), since " everyone who does not fly an orange ribbon is in favor of the disengagement plan."
Although I do not agree with him ( it is important to speak out, and you never should count on a silent majority when vital issues are at stake ), he has a point. Among those who are staunchly opposed to the disengagement plan there seem to be few who hesitate to express their feelings out of fear of having their cars vandalized ( personally I still have not heard of any car with a orange ribbon being damaged, I am still waiting for reports on such incidents ) or of being verbally attacked. All my friends and acquaintances who oppose the pullout plan say so openly ( and except for two of them they all fly orange ribbons on their cars ), whereas almost all of those whose opinion I asked because they hardly talked about the subject and did not make any colored confession said that they want Israel to get out of Gaza a.s.a.p. Some of them said that they wanted to put a blue or blue-and-white ribbon on their car, but they were afraid to see their antennas being broken or bent, the way the antenna on our car was ruined. More than half of the opponents of the plan whom I talked to said that they do not oppose the pullout as such, but they would like it to be better organized, something with which I can only agree.
All in all, it could very well be that the oranges form a much smaller minority than what they pretend to represent.
Nu snap ik hoe het aantal slachtoffers van het conflict ( en de sterftecijfers in het algemeen ) hier tot een minimum kunnen worden teruggebracht: gewoon de gemiddelde temperatuur met een graad of tien naar beneden brengen.
( uit het nieuwsbulletin van de Wereldomroep ) Relatief lage sterfte door slechte zomer
Het slechte zomerweer van de afgelopen weken heeft geleid tot een relatief lage sterfte. Dat blijkt uit onderzoek van het Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek.Volgens het CBS is er een sterk verband tussen de temperatuur en het aantal sterfgevallen. In de week van 20 tot en met 26 juni, toen het gemiddeld 27,6 graden was, overleden in Nederland bijna 2800 mensen. Dat zijn er ongeveer 300 meer dan in een gemiddelde week in de zomer. Na 26 juni daalde de temperatuur flink, waardoor het sterftecijfer weer onder het gemiddelde uitkwam.Overigens blijkt uit de CBS-cijfers dat de sterfte het laagst is als het overdag gemiddeld 16,5 graden is.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Ehud Barak is probably right in what he says about the situation within the Likud. On the other hand, when he extends his and Labor's hand out to the Likud voters it jsut does not make sense, as Labor's situation is not much better than that of Sharon en Bibi's party. While I have a lot of respect for Mr Barak, I think that if Bibi has a counterpart within the Labor party, it must be Ehud Barak. Unfortunately his party does not have any real leader right now, even though there are some very gifted and dedicated young Labor politicians today. Ethan Cabel, Ofir Pines-Paz, Yitzhak Herzog are among my favorites, and we should never count out Avraham Burg. In my opinion Burg's opinion articles - such as this one - on Israeli politics and society are always among the best analyses of what is going on here and of what roads should be taken if we want Israel to be a truly Jewish, democratic state.
Many experts whom I heard talking on television yesterday agree that Nethanyahu was a good Finance Minister. Nevertheless, he chose a perfect time to quit, one day before the National Insurance Institute was about to publish a report saying that 1.5 million Israelis ( 20-25% of the population !!!!!, almost half of them children ) live below the poverty line.
Nehemia Strasler of Ha'Aretz, who also seems to be an expert on economics and finances, writes that Bibi proved ( again ) that - as opposed to claims he made during his press conference yesterday afternoon - he is made of neither leader nor prime minister material: "Anyone who abandons the socioeconomic war in this fashion proves that neither the economy nor society interests him. In other words, the entire public does not interest Netanyahu. The only one who interests Netanyahu is himself. Such a man is unfit to be a leader. And he is certainly unfit to be prime minister."

Sunday, August 07, 2005

One of the biggest disadvantages of Bibi's resigning is that we will probably see and hear him ad nauseam in the electronic media during the coming weeks and months. Until now he was busy working - at his ministry and behind the political scenes - and did not appear to much on television, afraid to be associated with either the disengagement plan or its loud opposition. Now that he does not have any governmental responsibility anymore and is free to say what he likes ( or what suits him ) he will grab every possible opportunity to do so. If you know Hebrew ( also if you don't, you just won't be able to appreciate the lyrics ) I recommend listening once again to Chava Alberstein's song The Magician ( HaKosem, on her album Tekhef Ashuv/Will Be Right Back ).
16:31 TA stock exchange tumbles after announcement of Netanyahu`s resignation (Haaretz)
Wouldn't it be worthwhile to find out whether Binyamin Nethanyahu warned any of his closest friends and associates of the forthcoming announcement of his resignation? The reaction on the local stock market was predictable - even for a layman - and I am sure that he did/does not want to lose any powerful political friends in the next months, friends whom he needs more than ever before and who would not be happy if they lost serious amounts of money because of him. I wonder if Mr Nethanyahu has any stocks himself.
If Bibi really wanted to see the disengagement not being implemented, you would have expected him to resign in a much earlier phase, not now that too many political, military and other careers depend on it and too much effort has been invested in it for the plan to be cancelled. Also, if he really cared so much about the ( 'his' ) economical revolution that - according to him - would have pushed Israel forward on the way to prosperity and bliss ( or about the national economy as such: yet again it is proven that Israel is a politically very unstable country ), he would have stayed on to see the disengagement successfully being implemented. No, once again it has been shown that when it comes to political opportunism Bibi N. is the master, if not the world champion ( with Ehud Olmert as a close second ). It will be interesting to see in the near future whether his gamble pays off.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

As I am not a big fan of Ma'ariv, one of the three Israeli daily newspapers, only now did I read this ( thanks to the Yahoo! News: Mideast conflict box in the righthand margin of this weblog ). Really disturbing.

Friday, August 05, 2005

As for the blunders that appear to have led to the terrorist ( still ) having an M16 after being AWOl for more than a month, not being arrested or otherwise stopped etc., I know for myself that the army can be very slack when it comes to dealing with problematic individuals. I remember when I did my basic training there was a young American who right at the beginning, on the day that we were supposed to get our weapon, told our commanding officers that he wanted to see the Kaba'n ( Psychological Health Officer ), because he was under psychiatric treatment - he showed us and our officers relevant documents - and thought he might be unfit to carry a weapon. He was told that he would see the kaba'n later, received a gun like all of us, and that was the end of the story.
Obviously the terrorist attack yesterday in Shfar'am was today's main news item. I happened to read about it yesterday after we returned from a party celebrating the end of the year at our son's kindergarten.It was amazing how right away so many tried to interpret the attack according to his own political views. As ten years ago with the murder of Rabin and one year before, when Baruch Goldstein murdered a large number of praying Muslims in Hebron, spokesmen for the colonists and their lobbies condemned this act of a 'lone madman', deliberately failing to recognize or admit that few madmen come to their despicable deeds within a vacuum. On the other hand Minister for Internal Security Gideon Ezra immediately tried to link a large part of the pullout opponents to the terror attack, which was just as wrong. While Israel's Arabs have shown great restraint, some Israeli-Arab politicians tried to gain political points by laying the blame if not on all Jews then at least on Israeli authorities as a whole, and on the army and police in particular.
This morning we were in the swimming pool of kibbutz Kfar Macabi, again with the parents and children of our son's kindergarten. A good friend of ours, who is a bus driver for Egged and whose son is a friend of our son, told us that yesterday afternoon he had sat in the company's canteen in Haifa with Michel Bachus, the bus driver who was murdered by the terrorist yesterday. Of course I also heard someone say things like "Why do they make such a fuss out of it, when an Arab terrorist does something like that we don't talk about it that much." I think that the day we relate to something like yesterday's events in Shfar'am as to any other terrorist act I will pack up and leave, because that day we will have stopped being a Jewish state altogether, and we will have lost our right to exist as a state.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The murder, by an IDF soldier who went AWOL a month ago due to the pullout, of four people raises many questions, but should above all be condemned as a despicable act of terror. It appears that the soldier had become religious recently and joined the Kach movement. Maybe this partly explains why the General Security Service was so eager to put one of the Kach leaders, Noam Federman, in administrative detention, and maybe it is about time that that Jewish Jihad movement should be dealt with once and for all by our legal authorities and security services.
Mister Bin-Laden and Al-Zawahiri deserve some credit: at least they offer the US, Britain and other Western countries a way out of the threats of terror, don't they? In that they have a staunch supporter in the mayor of London, who also says that it is Blair and Bush ( and Ariel Sharon, I suppose ), not the brave cavemen who lead Al-Qaeda, who are to blame for the suicide and other terror attacks on their cities. Who am I to argue with the logic of those two bearded men and their little red elf?
Now this is what I call typically Israeli politics: the Housing Ministry - headed by one of the Labor Party princes, Yitzhak Herzog - continues to issue tenders for building in Westbank settlements. While this will not placate the settlers, it definitely will take away most of the PR points that Israel was going to score internationally with the implementation of the disengagement plan. I am not saying that international PR points should be a primary aim for Israel's government, but since the settlers will not be satisfied by anything less than canceling the whole disengagement plan I do not see any reason why now would be the perfect time for the government to make clear that it has no intention whatsoever to stop building ( in the remaining ) settlements. As long as it can be avoided waging wars on several fronts is not smart.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

These last few weeks I hardly ever saw a whole evening news broadcast, simply because I did not have the patience to listen to reports of yet another anti-pullout demonstration. This evening I had nothing better to do and I watched the Channel 10 news. One of the settler leaders, Daniella Weiss ( mayor of Kedumim, a settlement in the Westbank ), confronted a female police officer. The officer showed an order telling Mrs Weiss and others who wanted to enter Gush Katif that the area is a closed military zone. The woman tore up the order and a scuffle started. While Mrs Weiss shouted that she is a religious woman, that the soldiers and policemen and -women should not touch her etc. she herself pushed and pulled the clothes of the police officer. She lied down on the ground, and the officer told the soldiers to leave her like that. Except for the scuffle, with agitation on both sides, everything went smoothly and without overdue force. Then we saw Daniella Weiss, still lying down, giving an interview in English, saying that "we are treated like wild animals" and so on. Personally I was amazed at the calm- and politeness of the soldiers and policemen.
Eli Moyal, the mayor of Sderot, told the 'demonstrators' that there will be no disengagement. Like the leaders of Yesha he urges the settlers to hold on to an unsustainable illusion, rather than helping them to swallow the bitter pill and to start facing reality. This way it will be much harder for many settlers who eventually will find themselves evacuated to rebuild their post-disengagement lives. Joseph Abutbul, a resident who had to pay 260 shekel to the municipality for a place to stand and sell toys ( he hardly sold anything; I wonder if the 'demonstrators' had to pay for the services and facilities that they received from the Culture and Sports Center and other municipal institutions ) said it very well: "If not for Gush Katif and all the money that they 'swallowed', Sderot and Ofakim and all the other development towns would be much better of." Later in the program one of the ( secular ) settlers who left Gush Katif willingly was interviewed after she received one of the "caravillas" ( a new word in Hebrew ) that serve as temporary housing for the evacuees. She sounded very satisfied, said that Nitsanit - the community between Ashqelon and the Gaza Strip that is being prepared for the absorption of some of the settlers - is beautiful, with the same view as the settlement where she came from, only safer. Apparently not all settlers are sad to return to Israel.
Suddenly I feel much safer, I am definitely ready to take Islamic Jihad spokesmen at their word and to completely trust Islamic Jihad as a peace partner:

( Ha'Aretz News flashes ) 14:53 Islamic Jihad denies report it will halt Qassam fire until after pullout (Haaretz) 11:06 Islamic Jihad denies being behind Qassam fire that killed Palestinian boy (AP) 10:43 Islamic Jihad: Qassam attack that killed Gaza boy was `unfortunate incident` (AP) 10:00 Islamic Jihad says will halt firing of Qassams until after pullout (Israel Radio)

Also in today's IHT, two good op-ed articles following the statement, last week, by the IRA that its armed actions are over. Peter R. Neumann draws parallels - without ignoring the enormous differences - between the fights against IRA and Al-Qaeda terror. Padraig O'Malley stresses the bitter legacy of hatred and blood left by IRA terror, while making clear that fanaticism is fanaticism is fanaticism.
While reading this morning's IHT I ame across this funny cartoon by Dan Wasserman.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The View from Here's Harry quotes Natalie Portman: " Sharon surprised me in ways I did not expect. Although I don't know if all the reasons behind the Gaza pullout are as idealistic as we might like to think, at the same time I don't really care why they're doing it as long as they're doing it." Halleluyah and amen to that!
Ik was niet van plan om een posting aan de dood van Wim Duisenberg te wijden, simpelweg omdat ik de beste man niet persoonlijk kende en niet of nauwelijks iets zinnigs over zijn werk zou kunnen zeggen. In alle relevante media is er meer dan genoeg aandacht aan zijn dood, leven en werk besteed. Ik vond het wel grappig om - meteen nadat ik via een e-mail van mijn moeder vernam dat Duisenberg was overleden - op de website van de Telegraaf te lezen dat "De PvdA-er Wim Duisenberg......." was overleden. ( Vrij snel daarna kreeg hij van de krant van wakker Nederland al een wat eerbiediger benaming. ) Mensen als Duisenberg zijn het salon-socialisme ten voeten uit, zou je zeggen. Niet dat de sociaal-democratie het zonder zulke briljante sterren zou kunnen stellen natuurlijk.
Er bestaat geen twijfel over dat Mr Euro 'erg bekwaam' ( ik zet het tussen haakjes omdat die twee woorden zo'n cliche zijn en ik hen automatisch met een soort hete aardappel in de keel uitspreek ) was. Hij ruste in vrede.
Ik kon het niet laten om toch nog wat over hem te schrijven toen ik de bijgaande, prachtige, foto tegenkwam op het weblog van Hanneke Groenteman. Nu ik dan toch een posting aan zijn dood heb gewijd zal ik ook maar schrijven wat ik vrijwel direct na het lezen van mijn moeder's e-mail dacht ( het is niet fraai, ik weet het, maar ik ben ook maar een mens ): nu maar hopen dat Gretta niet nog meer overtollige vrije tijd en speeltruimte gaat krijgen. Haar man leek haar af en toe tenminste nog een beetje in toom te houden. Aan de andere kant, het object van haar meest publieke affecties is natuurlijk al veel langer niet meer onder ons, en sindsdien hebben we verrassend weinig van haar gehoord, dus misschien is mijn ongerustheid ongegrond.
Akiva Eldar finishes a long article in today's Ha'Aretz with the following lines: "In a related matter, quite a number of owners of blue ribbons, particularly in Jerusalem, are waking up in the morning to find their cars with half an antenna. Has anyone heard of damage to an orange antenna?".
When I wrote several weeks ago about our car's antenna having been vandalized only one night after I attached a blue ribbon to it ( read here and here ) I said: "I am sure that this has happened to antennas with orange ribbons as well. " To be honest, I have not yet heard personally of any antenna with an orange ribbon being broken or bent, while friends and family members ( and no, I am not an anti-anti-pullout-ite: some of my best friends oppose the pullout ) have told me about at least two cases of anti-blue vandalism. For example, a friend of us walked in a mall with a blue ribbon attached to her bag. Someone violently but unsuccessfully tried to rip the ribbon off. In other words, I am not so sure anymore about the occurence of anti-orange-ribbon violence or vandalism. If you know about specific cases, let me know.

Regarding "Religious evacuees worried about mixed nature of Nitzan site", Ha'Aretz, August 2, 2005:

At last the disengagement appears to become a reality. More than ever before we can see that the occupation has turned almost all those involved in it into losers. That the Palestinians have suffered as a result of it is obvious, but also many settlers have gained hardly anything but some years, or at the very most a few decades, of living in an unsustainable bubble. Almost all governments in the last 38 years provided us with the illusion that the occupation of Gaza and the Westbank can and will go on forever. In the settlements people were often able to afford a highly subsidized lifestyle that would have been absolutely out of their ( and most other Israelis' ) reach within the Green Line. That all that was at the expense of the Israeli taxpayer, of Israel's poor and disadvantaged and - much more - of the Palestinians did not bother or worry many of those who took the decisions or who enjoyed the settlers' privileges. Neither did many take seriously the non-financial damage that the occupation caused: it corrupted our society, our army and our youth. For more than one generation of soldiers being a member of an army of occupation has been ( and will remain, for the time being ) part and parcel of their military service, with all the consequences which that entails. Now that they are forced to return to Planet Israel the settlers are understandably confused, frustrated and angry. That not all the authorities are completely ready to deal with all the problems related to the evacuation - hey, this is Israel, after all - does not make matters much easier. On the other hand, the last illusion sold to the settlers by their co-called leaders is that the disengagement still is reversible, which is why so many still have not made arrangements to move out. Of course there are people who only gained from the occupation: some contractors, several politicians, some of the most fanatic settlers ( who, if not for the occupation, would have disappeared in historical anonymity ) and of course most Palestinian terrorists, for whom the occupation was an excuse for a productive career. Except for these winners, all Palestinians and Israelis have lost more than they could possibly gain from the injustice, the insolence and the insanity that the occupation is. Maybe the implementation of the disengagement plan will teach all of us how much we can win by finally making the occupation a painful part of our shared history.

Monday, August 01, 2005

As I wrote before, the march on Gaza that is planned for tomorrow is not a demonstration but an organized attempt to make the implementation of the disengagement plan impossible:
"The police refuse to issue a permit for the demonstration unless organizers promise not to try to march toward Gaza afterward, and the Yesha Council refuses to make this promise."
If it was simply meant to be a protest or demonstration within the borders of Israel I would criticize the authorities if they were to prevent bus(s)es from leaving for Sderot or demonstrators from marching in the direction of the border. As long as those who are considered to be the most moderate and sane among the mainstream disengagement opponents are unwilling or -able to commit themselves to not using a legimitate demonstration for illegal and unacceptable purposes, the army and police commanders are right in their efforts not to enable the 'demonstrators' to even make it to Sderot.