Thursday, September 29, 2005

As sceptical as some might be about the sincerity of the IRA, the organization's announcement that it would end the armed struggle and disarm ( and the confirmation of that disarmament by outside observers ) has been one of the most promising and positive events of this year, I think.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

( this beautiful picture I found here )
Please allow me to already wish you all a healthy and happy, sweet and successful, prosperous and - we can always hope - peaceful 5766.
Ik wens al mijn lezers - en ook degenen die mijn blog niet lezen, maar die zullen nooit weten wat ik hun toewens, tenzij ze het van een van mijn lezers horen - alvast een gezond en gelukkig, zoet en zorgeloos, veilig en vredig 5766.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

This week most nights I have to put our two children to bed on my own, since my wife - with Rosh HaShanah coming up and the school year just beginning - has all kinds of meetings at her school and with the parents' committee of our daughter's class. On Sunday, after the two of them had taken their bath and brushed their teeth, I played for them part of the Riverdance video ( the one with the live show from New York's Radio City Music Hall ) that I received from a friend years ago. They loved it: our daughter loved the dancing ( every time she sees the video she laughs about men wearing shoes with heels ), and our son - who appears to have a more than average musicality, which should not be too surprising, he must have gotten some genes from his grandfather - is crazy about both the dancing and the music. He loves everything that has something to do with an accordeon ( he might even appreciate De Kermisklanten, who knows? ). Almost every morning, before my wife takes him to kindergarten, he takes out his headphone/microphone and his blue toy accordeon, and he starts a performance, imitating the music teacher who comes to his school twice a week. ( every performance starts with "Shalom children, how are you? My name is Tali. Are you ready?" ). He also often likes to pretend that he is a musical clown entertaining children at a birthday party ( he loves those parties and clowns ).
When we were in Paris two years ago one of the Riverdance companies was performing in the French capital. I went to buy a ticket, but the cheapest one was 36 Euro, and the nice salesperson at the FNAC bookstore was honest enough to tell me that from the cheapest seats the view is not really that good, so I decided not to go. Now I am sorry that I did not go then, because I am afraid that the chances of me ever seeing the show being performed live on stage are very small. In October this year the Avoca company is performing in both Paris and Amsterdam, but I will only be in Europe in another two months. Hey, maybe they will come to Israel one day? Fat chance. Bloody anti-semites :-)
Regarding "Gunmen in Iraq add teachers to target list", IHT, September 27, 2005: Ever since the Taliban and Saddam Hussayn were removed from power, anybody who endangers his life by trying to make life a little better for the people of Afghanistan and Iraq has been on the Islamists' hit list. It is naive to think that targets are added to such a list, basically every non-Islamist has been on it from the early days of Islamist terror. While thousands demonstrate worldwide against the presence of American and other Western troops in Iraq, few of those demonstrators raise their voices against the efforts by Zarqawi c.s. to ruin the country even more, or even worse, they solely blame the Americans for the chaos. As flawed as I believe American policies are, I think that those demonstrators' claims and protests would be slightly more credible and constructive if their concern for the wellbeing of the Iraqi people and their anger over Islamist terror was as obvious and outspoken as their hatred for the US and what it stands for.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Regarding "The air crackles with hatred as Likud seems to implode", Ha'Aretz, September 26, 2005: If I lived in a normal country I would probably be happy to see a party that in many respects represents the opposite of what I believe in heading for self-destruction. Still, as a leftwing Zionist watching what goes on in and around the Likud Central Committee not only fills me with revulsion, it also makes me sad and worried. Aware that the Labor party is hardly in a better shape than Likud, I know that this is the way in which our state is run and how the future of me and my family is being taken care of. Whichever of the two main governing parties is or will be in power, we can be sure that in the foreseeable future the only choice that we can make is between a total lack of guidance and a leader who has proven to have guts but whose leadership is paralyzed by ( accusations of ) corruption and by a lack of true support within what was once his ideological home. Israel has every reason to complain about a lack of authority on the 'other' side, but in fact when it comes to responsible, caring and visionary leadership our situation is not much better than that of the Palestinians.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Here are some of the articles that I enjoyed reading in this weekend's Ha'Aretz. Often I am not very fond of what Julie Burchill writes, she is often too blunt and over-simplified to my taste, but this time she very well said some of the things that should be said about attempts by some Muslims to turn the memory of the Holocaust into something so general and meaningless ( and, at least in their eyes, politically correct, as if Holocaust Memorial Day as it is is the summum of political incorrectness ). The experienced diplomat Alon Liel breaks a lance for unilateralism as a possible key to securing Israel's future. Also, the newspaper's magazine carried a very interesting interview with the president of Bar-Ilan University, professor Moshe Kaveh.
Finally, one article from last week's Friday magazine that I copied to my articles' 'blog' before forgetting about it: an interview with/portrait of one of the highest officers who participated in the implementation of the disengagement plan. He happens to be a secular man who grew up in a religious family, and who has a view on Israel, the disengagement and the army that is both very philosophical and practical. Reading the articles about professor Kaveh and Brigadier General Gershon Hacohen made me a little wiser, I believe.
By the way, don't get me wrong: that I cannot stand Binyamin Netanyahu and suspect him of silently enjoying people in Sderot shouting for Sharon to go ( as I heard and saw yesterday on the television ) does not mean that I do not support the harshest possible response to the Qassam rocket attacks against Israel. On the contrary, now that we are not in Gaza anymore the IDF has more freedom than ever to do whatever it seems necessary to stop those ( and other ) terrorist attacks. At the same time, it is obvious that these attacks are not perpetrated by the Palestinian Authority, they are rather directed against it, something that should be ( and is ) taken into account when considering the different ways of how to respond. It is clear - not that we did not know that - that Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other extremists have aims that go far beyond ending this or that occupation.
Na een tijdlang de columns van Frits Abrahams niet gelezen te hebben ( zonder speciale reden ) heb ik gisteren weer even op de website van het NRC zitten surfen. Van twee artikelen genoot ik in het bijzonder. Dit stuk, met als titel de naam van een van de producten van Dr. Vogel ( tot op de dag van vandaag nemen mijn echtgenote en ik een goedkopere kloon ervan in bij de eerste tekenen van keelpijn of verkoudheid, het helpt verdraaid goed ), zou ik bijna zelf geschreven kunnen hebben, ware het niet dat Frits Abrahams alleen nog maar in de verleden tijd over zijn moeder kan schrijven. Het andere artikel dat ik zeer de moeite waard vond ging voornamelijk over de oostindische blindheid van veel organisaties die ( claimen ) allochtonen ( te ) vertegenwoordigen of ( te ) steunen, en eigenlijk ook over het langs elkaar heen praten en leven van allo- en autochtonen in Nederland ( iets wat overigens niet iets typisch voor Nederland is ).
While things were heating up in and around Gaza I finished reading Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East, by Michael B. Oren. It has been a long time since I last read such a good and well written (*) historical study, and I highly recommend it to anybody who wants to get an idea of the events and developments that led to, made up and followed the Six Days War. Reading the book I learnt some interesting things. For instance, the ministers of the National Religious Party - which since the 1970s has been the political home for many if not most settlers - were the least bellicose members of the Israeli government before and during the war, always trying to rein in the more daring ministers, like Yigal Allon. Also, the victories achieved by Israel were often bloody and far from being a matter of course. Especially the Jordanians fought very bravely. That the battles with the Jordanian army were fought almost from the very beginning of the war I did not realize, nor did I know that the final decision/permission to attack the Golan - an attack that gave Israel the most strategic asset that was conquered in the war - was only made/given in the last phase of the war. If the Arab countries had agreed to a cease fire proposed by the UN Security Council after two days of fighting, most of Israel's conquests ( e.g. Jerusalem's Old City, the Golan, Sharm al-Sheikh ) would not have taken place. Also, although I knew that Israel was threatened before June 5th, I did not know that it took so long for both the country's government and the army leaders to decide on the pre-emptive strikes that have become so famous. All in all, I say it again, a highly recommended book.

(*) As is all too common even in books brought onto the market by renowned publishers such as Oxford University Press and Penguin, there are some ugly or badly edited sentences, annoying grammatical and other errors in this book, but that did not spoil the enjoyment of reading it. Two examples:

* p. 237: In Gaza, the installation of a full military government was approved and charged with preventing looting and restoring normal life.

* p. 220: Built by the British during Mandate times and later passed on to the UN, the Police Academy was believed by the Israelis to house 'Ata 'Ali's main headquarters and was therefore heavily defended. In fact, the area was manned by a single company, 140 men, of the 2nd al-Husseini Battalion under Capt. Suliman Salayta. ( the second part of the first sentence does not make real sense ).

The cartoon in today's Ha'Aretz says it all: by launching Qassam rockets on the city of Sderot and other parts of Israel that border on the Gaza Strip, and by holding aggressive demonstrations and openly continuing to embrace violence as the prefered option to further their cause, Islamic Jihad and Hamas are making life easier for Bibi N., paving the ( his ) way to the ousting of Ariel Sharon from - the leadership of - the Likud, which will deliver the party into the hands of those who would do anything to settle their score with the first person in Israeli history who had the guts to say 'No' to the settlers and their supporters. As has been said so often ( I think it was Henry Kissinger who first uttered the phrase ), Israeli has no foreign policy, it only has domestic politics. By the way, the same seems to apply to the Palestinians, most of the violence on their side should be seen against the background of the power struggles that started already months before the implementation of Israel's retreat from Gaza.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Ik zag net op de website van Tom Janssen dat mijn commentaar gisteren bij de nu al beruchte foto van minister Hoogervorst niet echt bijster origineel was. Het viel natuurlijk te verwachten dat veel reacties op het incident een variatie op eenzelfde thema zouden zijn.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Kan het zijn dat minister Hoogervorst met dit gebaar onbewust voor heel wat mensen hun mening over het huidige kabinet en het beleid daarvan 'verwoordde'?
I just finished something that I worked on yesterday evening, an addition to the sidebar of my weblog: my musical favorites. Divided into three categories, links were created to some of the composers, artists and bands that I love to listen to. There are many more composers ( Brahms, Bruckner, Prokovjev, Telemann, Haendel, Vivaldi, Mendelssohn, Dvorak, Schubert, Gerschwin, Rachmaninoff, Rossini ), artists ( Pat Metheny, Alanis Morissette, Vangelis, Terence Trent d'Arby, Mercedes Sosa, George Dalaris, Linda Ronstadt, Edith Piaf, Lenny Kravitz, Reinhard Mey, Elton John, Boudewijn de Groot ) and bands ( Alan Parsons Project, Queen, Focus, Oasis, Erasure, Greenday, Camel, Beautiful South, Styx etc.: I mention just the names that I can think of right now ) that I listen to every now and then, but those names that I mention in the sidebar are more equal than the others. I have several CDs of each and every one of them ( except for Jacques Brel: I have only one compilation that contains his best songs in French and Flemish ), and of some of them ( Tracy Chapman, Enya, Clannad, Yves Duteil, Sky, Joop Visser, Loreena McKennit, plus the complete Bach Collection ) I have already ( almost ) all their regular albums.
Now this is a perfect example of Bibi's mind boggling b***s***: ( Ha'Aretz news flash ): 07:06 Netanyahu: PM expelled thousands from land, he`s made us into Meretz (Israel Radio)
Like most PR-experts ( with Joseph Goebbels as their shining example ) Binyamin Netanyahu believes ( i.e. knows ) that no matter how far from the truth something might be or how much politicians love to falisify history, as long as you say it with enough conviction and as many times as possible it will stick and people will start believing your spin.
1. The Sharon government did force several thousand Jews to evacuate their homes, and to rebuild their homes within Israel proper. We don't hear Bibi about the many more thousands of Palestinians who have been expelled from their homes, whose houses have been destroyed or whose olive trees were uprooted, all for security reasons of course, and all this with the permission and often on the initiative of this or that Israeli government.
2. If Meretz ever was responsible for expelling anybody from his or her land, it must have been when the party participated in the governments of Rabin, Peres and Barak, and those expelled were Palestinians (e.g. the four hundred and something Palestinians who were deported to Southern Lebanon in 1992-3, and who - after international pressure - had to be allowed by Israel to return home again ). The only governments that had the wisdom and courage to force Jewish settlers to leave their homes and return to Israel were led by the Likud, whether Bibi likes it or not.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

This morning I was at the university, and right after I returned home I got a phonecall from a very friendly woman, named Liesbeth, who is one of the initiators of the 'Dutch school' in Tel Aviv. Already for one year a Dutch school exists in the city of Modi'in, a wonderful initiative of some Dutch and Dutch-Israeli fathers and mothers who wanted their children to get some basic knowledge of ( part of ) their roots, and to learn the Dutch language. This year a similar project will start in Tel Aviv, and Liesbeth is trying to find out if there are enough families in the northern part of Israel to set up such a school here. I am very enthusiastic, and I know of some other people who would like their children to attend class once a week to learn and play in their parents' mothertongue. Hopefully all this will work out, and soon my children will hear Dutch not only from me, but also from Liesbeth and from their peers. Even though I am rarely the first to volunteer - my wife does that for me - I am more than willing to put some time and effort in this initiative.
Anyway, because I had not been online ( or watched any television ) all morning, it was only after my mother sent me an e-mail that I learnt that Simon Wiesenthal died. In the last decade or so I read a lot about him that turned him into a more human and less god-like person than the image I had of him when I was a youngster, but still, this man did a lot of important work, and he rightfully was and for some time will remain one of the main symbols of the remembrance of the Holocaust, as well as of the ongoing efforts to name and shame its perpetrators, and to bring them to trial if/where possible. May his memory be a blessing.

Monday, September 19, 2005

In today's IHT three articles on business in the Netherlands: a new channel that was started by John de Mol, advertising agencies in Amsterdam, and three well-known publishing powerhouses that have historic ties to the Netherlands ( Wolters Kluwer, VNU and Reed Elsevier ). It is interesting to see that the same famous Dutch tolerance that for more than four centuries has given Holland a prominent place in international book publishing ( take for instance the renowned Hebrew publishing house of Menasse Ben Israel in the 17th century ) also is at the basis of populist television programs such as De Mol's Big Brother.
Regarding "Abortion 2005: A ground-level view", IHT, September 19, 2005: It is amazing how in 21th century America religious fundamentalism and the inability or unwillingness to deal with a basic social matter such as unwanted pregnancies make life even harder for people who are already going through a very difficult time. Katrina, an immense gulf between haves and have-nots, the death penalty, backward policies regarding abortion and other social issues: there are many problems that the United States should address and solve before the world will start giving real credence to politicians, diplomats and others who try to sell and impose American values abroad.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

If the exit polls that were published after the German elections ended tonight are right, one of the most difficult jobs in Europe in the next few weeks ( or months ) could very well be that of the person(s) who has/have to build a governing coalition for the country. The social-democrats were basically voted out of power ( although less dramatically than was expected when the election campaign started ), but the christian-democrats lost only one percent less than the party of the outgoing Bundeskanzler, which makes them the biggest party by only one percent. Not really a clear mandate for radical changes, I would say. The Greens lost a little, and the liberals gained between 2 and 3 percent, which would make a CDU-FDP-Green coalition possible, although I cannot seriously imagine someone like Joshka Fischer serving in a government with christian-democrats and liberals. On the other hand, why not? Many have been pleasantly surprised by him as a foreign minister; it might make sense if he continued that job, especially since the worsening in German-American relations was hardly his fault, and rebuilding those relations should be one of the priorities of whatever government comes out of the coalition talks. Still, it will be hard for Fischer and for his party to support some of the changes in socio-economic policy planned by Angela Merkel, in particular because the SDP and the "Lefts" ( a party that is hardly taken into account in any serious commentary on possible coalitions ) will fiercely oppose most such changes, as will many Green voters, party members and activists.
Nog eentje van Joep Bertrams, ik vond deze te aardig om te laten liggen.
Three Dutch cartoonists' views on the 60th anniversary of the United Nations.
Joep Bertrams, Atlas having his birthday. ( VN = UN )
In the thirteen years that I have lived in Israel I do not remember ever having seen so much rain before Sukkoth. A downpour woke us up around one o'clock last night, and rain was still coming down at seven this morning, when my wife and our son left the house. Right now ( almost 9 AM ) the skies are clearing up, I put laundry in the washing machine, cleaned the dishes, opened the windows again, went up to my study, changed the discs in my CD player ( now I am listening to the Andy Statman Klezmer Orchestra; the other CDs are 2,3,4,5 ), and started to work. Have a nice day, and a good week.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

One more thing, something that I just found on Chappatte's website: his view on this week's events in Gaza.
No posting today, except for this one. My wife had an important exam ( she passed it, we are sure ), in the afternoon I went to the swimming pool instead of her ( our daughter has swimming lessons twice a week ), and in the morning I worked. Also, I made a reservation for a studio in Paris, where I will spend 11 days and nights in early December. I have been invited to a seminar, and I add about one week to my stay in Paris, so that I will be able to collect/consult two last periodicals that I have been unable to consult until now. I already managed to reserve a place for six whole days at the small archive where those periodicals are kept on microfilm. In my spare time ( probably on Saturday, and if I have one or two days left towards the end of my stay: I do not know exactly how much work the periodicals will be ) I will try to make it to the National Archives, to have a look at the personal archives of Leon Blum, although I do not have high hopes of finding anything spectacular in those files. After that I will leave Paris to spend the weekend with my family in Holland, before flying back home to my wife and our kids. I am looking forward to what - once again - promises to be a perfect combination of business and pleasure.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

When I clicked on This Day in History I was reminded of the fact that twelve years ago in Washington the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements was signed by Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas. I watched the ceremony in the living room of Michal Goldfarb at kibbutz Kissufim, where I had spent the previous 16 months or so after having come to Israel for one year only ( I have been in the country ever since basically, except for short stays/holidays in Europe and the US, plus five ( with my family ) and three ( alone ) months in Paris ). Isn't it ironic that of all the main characters that played a role in that ceremony only Peres and Abbas are still, or again, more or less in power? Clinton stopped being President seven years later ( may he live to be a 120 ), Yitzhak Rabin was murdered almost ten years ago by a religious fanatic-political opponent, and Yasser Arafat died last year. One month after the ceremony I left the kibbutz, and in recent years the Kissufim has become a household name in Israel and abroad, since it was until yesterday Israel's main entrance into and exit from the Gaza Strip.
Last week I put this article aside because I wanted to comment upon it. Now that I read it again I don't think any commentary is necessary, rabbi Yosef's comments on Bush, Katrina and the "kushim" speak for themselves. Only one thing: a Shas official ( with a very ashkenazi surname, by the way ) basically says that the honored rabbi simply told a joke that was taken out of context. And I thought that religious fanatics do not have a sense of humor. What was I thinking?
In this morning's episode of the Wizard of ID we are given some sound advice.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Regarding "Fearing arrest for war crimes..." and "Report: Blair urged to scrap Holocaust Day in U.K.", Ha'Aretz, September 12, 2005: On the day that we honored the memory of the 9/11 victims it became clear once more how much terrorists, their sympathizers and supporters have gained in the last few years. While in the war against Islamist terror we have seen many crimes committed and mistakes made on 'our' side, I find it ironic that on September 11th we read, not for the first time, how easy it is for those who often refuse or find it very hard to condemn acts of terror that are carried out by their co-religionists or political soulmates, to make life difficult for the men and women who dedicate their lives to fighting terror. Also, we could see once again how frantically politicians and policymakers are trying not to step on the toes of one large minority, no matter how much history is falsified and the feelings of another minority are hurt. If I was a British citizen and one of my relatives or friends served in Iraq or Afghanistan, I would demand from my government to return him/her immediately. After all, it does not make any logical sense whatsoever to endanger British lives in the war against terror abroad, if that same war is being lost at home and everything is sacrificed only to preserve a mistaken idea of political correctness.
Even though right now synagogues are being set alight in the Gaza Strip - something that could have been expected of course, but it still is a painful sight - the cartoon in this morning's Ha'Aretz, by Biderman, brought a smile on my face.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

While in the war against Islamist terror - a war that started a long time before terrorists struck in New York and Washington - we have seen many crimes committed and mistakes made on 'our' side, I find it ironic that on the day that we honor the memory of the 9/11 victims for the fourth time we read, not for the first time, how easy it is for those who often refuse or find it very hard to condemn acts of terror that are carried out by their co-religionists, to make life difficult for the men and women who fight terror.
Interesting: this weekend's interview in Ha'Aretz with the outgoing US ambassador in Israel, Dan Kurtzer.
I am far from sure that in another generation the Holocaust/Shoah will be remembered by the world as it is today in most Western countries, as a more or less singular event or series of events that led to the deaths of six million Jews, hundreds of thousands of Sinti/Roma, and millions of Poles, Soviet war prisoners, mentally and physically disabled, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Communists and others. Already it has become perfectly acceptable all over the world to make unhistorical comparisons between the Shoah and basically every injustice afflicted upon a group of people. If the Holocaust becomes 'just another' genocide, or one more terrible crime perpetrated by human beings against other human beings, then not only Holocaust deniers, 'supporters' of the Palestinians and other bashers of Israel and/or the Jewish people will deserve credit for that. Those Jews and Israelis who for years have emptied words like anti-semitic and Shoah of their historical meaning ( e.g. by equating every form of criticism of Israeli policies with anti-semitism, by calling the evacuation of the settlers from Gaza a Holocaust, wearing stars of david and using terms such as judenrein, Judenrat, Ausweis, comparing Arafat to Hitler or Palestinians/IDF soldiers to nazis, etc. ) will be responsible as well. Les extremes ( et les fanatismes ) se touchent, as always.
Synagogue in Neve Dekalim in Gush Katif ( picture found at IsraelImages ).

Regarding "IDF to begin leaving Gaza tonight", Ha'Aretz, September 11, 2005: Funny how ministers who until now played a very active or cowardly passive role when decisions regarding the disengagement plan and its implementation - decisions that included the destruction of synagogues - were made, suddenly remember how Jewish they are. Could it be that most of them rely on the short memory of Likud and other rightwing voters, and do they really think that the settlers and their supporters will reward them for having 'protected' the synagogues? The synagogues are doomed, the question is only whether they will be destroyed in a more or less dignified way, or by frenzied crowds who are driven by 38 years of occupation and frustration. By claiming that the protection of the synagogues is a first test for the leaders and security forces of the Palestinian Authority, ministers such as Shalom and Hanegbi prove that a true concern for ( the sanctity of ) the Jewish houses of worship is not the main reason behind their political games. If they seriously expect the latter to confront angry mobs in order to safeguard what Jibril Rajoub - not totally undeservedly: just have a look at the synagogue in Neve Dekalim - called symbols of the occupation, that can only mean one thing: they simply want the PA to fail. That way Abu Mazen c.s. can be written off as serious partners for negotiations that would lead to further Israeli withdrawals, a final settlement between a Palestinian state and Israel, and - one can always hope - some sort of peace between the two peoples and countries. Such a failure will relieve us of further territorial concessions and continue the status quo that - not matter how destructive and deadly it is - serves too many politicians only too well.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Here is what Chappatte had to say about two presidents who took a prominent place in this week's headlines.

Friday, September 09, 2005

On the website of Hanneke Groenteman, a Dutch journalist and t.v./radio host, I found these pictures of Katrina ( she does not mention where she found the pictures, I have to believe her that the photos indeed are of Katrina and not of one of Katrina's little sisters or cousins ).
There is a remarkable margin between the percentages of votes that Egyptian president Mubarak supposedly received in this week's elections:

( Ha'Aretz news flash ) 10:42 Egyptian papers: Mubarak won between 69% and 98% of vote for president (Reuters)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

This beautiful picture appeared a while ago on the website of Ha'Aretz. Its caption says "A package of New Orleans-bound emergency aid waiting at Ben Gurion airport on Wednesday. (AP) ".

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Israeli governments have often had a talent for not making use of - and undoing - any international goodwill that they created by this or that political action. Instead of enjoying a few days of grace and relatively good PR that Israel received abroad because we finally dared to confront the settlers and to evacuate some of them, our government - trying, against its own better judgment, to (re)pacify the settlers - dashes all hopes of diplomatic progress by openly talking about building more housing units in the Westbank.
Why is it that when our beloved minister of Education, Culture and Sports says that there is now a "window of opportunity" to build up settlement blocs in the Westbank, I somehow suspect her to believe that such a window was created not by the disengagement - as she says - but rather by something named Katrina? This is what happens when a country has a minister of education who cares more about her political future within the Likud - a future that she has constantly tried to serve by constantly buttering her bread on both sides, staying in the government and at the same time howling with the hounds within the Likud that try to topple Sharon - than about the future of the children who depend on her. I think it is hutzpah if Israel goes blatantly against the wishes of the United States, and even more so if we "demand of the Americans that they do not pressure us on this matter", particularly now that our greatest ally is going through such difficult times. But then again, this would not be the first time that Israel proves that its friendship and cooperation are often only conditional and quite self-serving. We can send as many specialist teams and volunteers to Louisiana as we want, if right now we refuse to at least listen to Washington we simply show - again - that we are untrustworthy and annoying, something that will cost us dearly in the end, and rightly so.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Maar zelden heb ik het geduld om een televisieprogramma van meer dan een half uur aan een stuk uit te kijken. Net heb ik "Ik ben niet echt dood moet je weten" gezien, een programma van bijna een uur over Bram Vermeulen, die een jaar geleden overleed. Ik ken zijn solo-werk niet echt maar in de boeiende en onderhoudende documentaire zijn een paar prachtige liedjes te horen. Bij gelegenheid zal ik zeker een of meer van zijn best-of CDs op de kop proberen te tikken. Hij geeft de indruk een interessante, warme, buitengewoon getalenteerde maar toch altijd wat miskende man te zijn geweest. Aan het einde van de film zingt zijn dochter een van zijn liedjes, een zin daaruit bleef me bij omdat de woorden me zo aanspreken: "Je bent nooit alleen als je samen met jezelf bent."
Regarding "Vogel: Jews suffered, so Israel deserves spot at Germany", Ha'Aretz, September 5, 2005: Although I am sure Johann Vogel's intentions were good when he said "Israel represents the Jews and the Jews suffered in the Holocaust because of Germany. Therefore they deserve a place at the World Cup in Germany.", his reasoning is problematic and absurd. Maybe according to his logic it would make sense if Israel was offered a spot at the expense of Switzerland and France? After all, those two countries were somehow involved in the Holocaust, at least more than Ireland, Cyprus and the Faroe Islands. As the anti-Israel 'demonstration' during the Switzerland-Israel match and Mr Vogel's comments make clear, in most cases sports, history and politics form an awkward and often unworkable combination.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Regarding "Amid tears and protests, French evict squatters", IHT, September 3-4, 2005: French authorities have shown us what capitalism with a human face looks like: if you have poor immigrants living in subhuman conditions, and four fires ( at the time of writing this letter ) kill more than 60 of them, you simply force them to live on the street instead. In Holland, a social housing system that is far from perfect but can nevertheless teach most European countries a lesson or two about what social housing should look like, is attacked by EU commissioner Smit-Kroes ( a Dutchwoman herself ) for not being competitive - i.e. capitalist - enough. There are a lot of bad things to say about socio-economic policies in the US, but at least Americans do not try to sell 'their' capitalism as more humane and compassionate than Europe's. Europeans love to criticize every aspect of American society, and much of their criticism is aimed at the right issues. Still, I think Europeans should try to find the beam in their own eye before they start thinking of pointing at the many motes in the eyes of the Americans. That German political parties exploit Katrina for their own political interests becomes even more ironic in this context.
Three more cartoons on Sharon, the settlers, and the disengagement.
by Henry Payne

by Henry Payne

by Ed Stein

Saturday, September 03, 2005

The vision of Dutch cartoonist Tom Janssen on the same subject, the Iraqi consitution.

"...there should be a comma over there...!"

This cartoon by Chappatte - on the Iraqi constitution - I liked very much. It shows once more how tricky historical comparisons can be.
Here are three articles ( I, II, III ) that were published in the weeks leading to the evacuation of the settlements in Gaza and in the northern part of the Westbank. I saved them because I wanted to write a long posting about religious Zionism, but in the end I did not write it. The articles are still very much worth reading, and not less relevant than when they were published, so I decided not to delete them.
Soms heb ik nog wel eens kritiek op het werk en/of de werkwijze van CIDI, maar dit stuk van Ronny Naftaniel in de Volkskrant vind ik erg goed. Een vriendin van me wees me erop dat Dries van Agt weer eens deze kant uit zou komen. Het begon bij mij meteen te jeuken, en ik voelde al weer de aandrang opkomen om een stuk te schrijven, maar ik deed wat de vader van George in Seinfeld in een van de afleveringen deed ( "Serenity now!" ), ademde diep en dacht er niet meer aan. Het bezoek van de door Van Agt geleide delegatie was door mij niet opgemerkt, hier heeft niemand over de reis van Dolle Dries gehoord, ik vraag me af of de Palestijnen zelf er wat van gemerkt hebben, maar toch ben ik blij dat Ronny Naftaniel kans zag om een stuk hierover in de Volkskrant ( "vroeger was-ie katholiek, een pijler van bedrog / nu is-ie niet meer katholiek, maar toch, maar toch, maar toch" - Joop Visser ) geplaatst te krijgen.

Friday, September 02, 2005

By insisting that a reporter from Israel's Army Radio station wear civilian clothes if she wanted to interview him, Daniel Barenboim simply showed that he is unaware of the role that the army and this particular radio station play in Israeli society, and of the character of the radio station. Maybe that is because for so many years he has lived most of the time abroad. I wonder if he has similar demands when he does his wonderful work across the Green Line.
Nevertheless, although this time I think that Mr Barenboim exaggerated a bit, I will remain a big fan of him, and I admire him as a musician, as a Jew and as a human being. As it happens, this morning I listened to him, one of two CDs with Mendelssohn's Lieder ohne Worte. Limor Livnat, the overly ambitious and opportunistic minister of Education and Culture, never was a big fan of Barenboim, it seems ( see these postings: I and II ), but this time she really freaked out, calling him an anti-Semite - if that is not abusing or wrongly using the A-word I don't know what is - and saying "As a son of the Jewish people and the State of Israel, he must be taken with a grain of salt." When it comes to being an ambassador and promotor of Jewish culture and to serving the Jewish people and state, Daniel Barenboim could teach Mrs Livnat a lesson or two.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

About half an hour ago I came back home after the "kabalat kita aleph" ( reception of the first grade ) ceremony at our daughter's school. It was very impressive and less emotional than I expected, it seems that our daughter won't have any trouble finding her place there. She has what seems ( and according to other parents is supposed ) to be a very good and warm-hearted teacher named Osnat, and the school also gives the impression of being a good combination of seriousness, study and discipline on the one hand, and warmth, fun and stimulation on the other. Besha'a tova uvehatslaha ( good luck, success ) to all the children who today start many years of learning within an organized framework of education. I started that process 31 years ago, and with minor interruptions it has continued until this very day. Our son happily went back to the kindergarten/playgroup where he has been for two years already, and my wife continues to teach ( third grade, the same class as last year ) at a school in Haifa. We had a wonderful vacation but there is nothing wrong with returning to our daily routine.