Friday, March 31, 2006

While Labor and Kadimah officials have started their coalition quarrels by means of mutual accusations and threats, the first post-election terror attack has occured, and unfortunately it was quite a 'success'. It seems very significant that the attack was carried out by the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, linked to Fatah, and not by Hamas ( or Islamic Jihad, which in recent weeks has been the main target for Israel's security forces ). It is probably only a matter of days or weeks before the massive post-election operation against terror groups in the Westbank, which according to Israeli media was being planned before the elections, will start, unless Hamas and Israel start cooperating soon, something that is not very likely.
Het volgende bericht uit het nieuwsbulletin van de Wereldomroep toverde vanmorgen een glimlach op mijn lippen. Kijk zelf maar waarom:
'Nieuwe spelling geen probleem voor scholen'
De nieuwe spelling die op 1 augustus ingaat, heeft nauwelijks gevolgen voor de schoolboeken in het basisonderwijs. Dat zegt uitgever Wolters-Noordhoff. Uit een inventarisatie van de uitgever blijkt dat in 95 procent van de boeken niets veranderd door de nieuwe spelling. Voor de overige 5 procent heeft Wolters-Noordhoff oplossingen bedacht. [...]

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Als het goed is staat het volgende, door mij geschreven artikel vandaag in het Friesch Dagblad. De getallen die er in voorkomen zijn nog die van de voorlopige uitslagen zoals die gisteren bekend waren.
Voorwaarts, waarheen?
De verkiezingsuitslag waarmee Israël gistermorgen opstond was vast en zeker niet het resultaat waar Ehud Olmert van gedroomd had. Het is en blijft natuurlijk een prestatie voor Kadiemah ( Voorwaarts ), een tot voor kort slechts virtueel bestaande partij die werd gevormd rond het charisma en de reputatie van Ariel Sharon, om onder leiding van diens minder inspirerende opvolger zomaar ineens 28 van de 120 zetels in de Knesset te behalen. Toch wordt de overwinning als een teleurstellende uitkomst gezien, vooral omdat de opiniepeilingen – nogmaals, virtueel – de partij op een gegeven moment zelfs meer dan 40 zetels toebedeelden. Vooral twee dingen kwamen na het bekend worden van de uitslag naar voren. Allereerst bleek weer eens dat het Israëlische electoraat enorm verdeeld is, en dat op de Arbeidspartij en Kadiemah na in feite alle partijen ( in zekere zin ook de Likud ) een sterk sectoraal karakter hebben en zich zelden op meer dan één onderwerp richten. Daarnaast waren sommige Kadiemah-partijbonzen overduidelijk tevreden over de enorme val van de Likud, en over de vernederende nederlaag voor Binyamin Nethanyahu. Deze tevredenheid leek het sterkst bij voormalige Likud-kopstukken die Sharon's Gaza-terugtrekkingsplan hadden gesteund en met de voormalige generaal een nieuwe politieke weg waren ingeslagen. Weliswaar kozen vrijwel alle kiezers die op de twee grootste partijen stemden onomwonden voor de ontruiming van een belangrijk deel van de joodse nederzettingen op de Westoever. Een voortzetting van wat Sharon in Gaza was begonnen was één van de belangrijkste ontstaansredenen van Kadiemah. Toch heeft die partij samen met de Arbeidspartij slechts 48 zetels. Het kiezerspubliek dat de strijd tegen het Gaza-plan voerde of steunde is politiek verdeelder dan ooit, maar vormt toch altijd nog een blok waar rekening mee moet worden gehouden. Het zal dus voor Olmert moeilijk worden om een parlementair draagvlak voor verdere ontruiming en terugtrekking te creëren. De meest voor de hand liggende coalitiepartners voor hem zijn de ultra-orthodoxe partijen Shas ( 13 zetels ) en Thorah-Jodendom ( 6 zetels ), de gepensioneerden-partij ( 7 ), en eventueel het linkse Meretz ( 4 ). Het probleem bij zo'n coalitie, die op papier het meest waarschijnlijk lijkt, is vooral dat de twee ultra-orthodoxe partijen destijds tegen Sharon's Gaza-plan stemden. Als hun steun voor een verdere Israëlische terugtrekking op de Westoever 'te koop' is zal de prijs erg hoog zijn, zowel financieel als politiek. De Gepensioneerden hebben als belangrijkste eis een betere zorg voor de belangen van ouderen. De partijleider zei onlangs dat hij bereid is om deel te nemen aan elke coalitie die die eis inwilligt. Nu deze partij – deels door proteststemmen van jongeren – vijf zetels meer heeft gekregen dan zelfs de meest optimistische peilingen voorspelden zullen de zeven gekozen Knessetleden snel moeten beslissen of ze een eventueel 'convergentieplan' ( Olmert's plan om uiterlijk in 2010 eenzijdig Israël's grenzen vast te stellen, inclusief ontruiming van nederzettingen ) zullen steunen. Op het gebied van sociale zaken en economie zal het makkelijker zijn om een eensgezind beleid te formuleren. Wel moet hierbij worden aangetekend dat veel kiezers en politici van Kadiemah een liberalere koers voorstaan dan de andere coalitiepartners. Voor de verkiezingen zeiden de meeste deskundigen dat de nieuwe regering allereerst drie onderwerpen zal moeten behandelen: de nederzettingen en een eventuele ontruiming van een deel daarvan; de armoede en de economie; de Iraanse dreiging. Dat laatste is zo ongeveer het enige waarover een brede consensus bestaat, al zijn er natuurlijk verschillende antwoorden op de vraag hoe die dreiging het beste kan worden aangepakt. Ironisch genoeg zou de verlossing voor Ehud Olmert wel eens uit Gaza kunnen komen. Het moet niet worden uitgesloten dat er uiteindelijk met de Hamas-regering en met de Palestijnse president serieus te praten valt over een gecoördineerde Israëlische terugtrekking uit de Westoever, vanzelfsprekend op voorwaarde dat er geen terrorist of raket meer in de richting van Israël wordt uitgezonden of afgeschoten. Bij zulke onderhandelingen, minder idealistisch maar pragmatischer en doeltreffender dan de Oslo-akkoorden, zouden onder andere de oprichting van een Palestijnse staat, de grenzen tussen zo'n staat en Israël, en de ontruiming van nederzettingen ter sprake moeten komen. In de Palestijns-Israëlische context moet niets voor onmogelijk worden gehouden. Hamas zou zich dan ook wel degelijk kunnen ontpoppen als een onderhandelingspartner die zijn nieuw verworven verantwoordelijkheid serieus neemt en – in tegenstelling tot Yasser Arafat en de zijnen – inziet waar de werkelijke belangen van zijn volk liggen. In dat geval zal Olmert zonder al te veel moeite een ruime meerderheid voor Israëlische concessies en ontruimingen in de Knesset krijgen. Niemand hoeft jaloers te zijn op Ehud Olmert. Hij zal nog heel wat slapeloze nachten hebben voordat hij een werkbare coalitie rond heeft. Niet alleen schijnbaar onoverbrugbare posities tussen de coalitiekandidaten maar ook persoonlijke en ideologische spanningen en ruzies binnen Kadiemah en binnen de Arbeidspartij zullen hem daarbij parten spelen. Het is nu aan deze ervaren en geslepen politicus om 'de weg van Arik' ( de Israëlische versie van de geest van Pim ) voort te zetten.
Ehud Olmert's position became a little more comfortable today. After the votes of the IDF soldiers, Israeli diplomats who work abroad, prisoners and prison wardens, people lying in hospital, and the handicapped (*) were counted, Kadimah, Likud and Meretz received one more Knesset seat, while Shas, Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beytenu and the Arab Ra'am-Ta'al list lost one. If the Pensioners' party agrees in principle to support further unilateral withdrawals that means that Olmert has a 61 majority ( Kadimah 29, Labor 20, Pensioners 7, Meretz 5 ) for his convergence plan. It does not mean that he will decide ( or be able ) to carry out such a plan immediately but it definitely improves his position in coalition negotiations, particularly with Shas, a party that is very eager to enter the government but made great efforts to portray itself as strongly opposing Sharon's disengagement from Gaza. If Olmert manages to form a government of Kadimah, Labor, Shas ( plus UTJ ), the Pensioners and possibly Meretz he could have a broad and relatively stable coalition, unless of course one or more of the coalition partners will start internal power struggles. The changes in the division of the Knesset seats also mean that if Shas enters the government the leader of the Likud ( maybe Bibi, maybe somebody else ), and not Avigdor Lieberman will be the head of the opposition. That might give Lieberman another reason to try and become a member of the government, although I do not think that engaging Lieberman is high on the list of Ehud Olmert's priorities. The final results of the elections are:
  • Kadimah 29
  • Labor 20
  • Shas 12
  • Likud 12
  • Yisrael Beytenu 11
  • National Union - National Religious Party 9
  • Pensioners' Party 7
  • United Thorah Judaism 6
  • Meretz 5
  • Ra'am-Ta'al 3
  • Hadash 3
  • Balad 3

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

When I read that a senior Kadimah official said "Arik, mission accomplished!" I thought "The mission must have been to humiliate and crush the Likud." Few Israelis shed tears - and many more must have felt a certain satisfaction - when a defeated and disgraced Bibi Nethanyahu appeared before a small number of supporters, shooting in all possible directions without really taking responsibility. Every commentator mentioned Silvain Shalom and Limor Livnat when they named the prominent Likud members who were missing on stage, but I noticed in particular that David Levy ( is this the final end to his political career, or will he adopt Kadimah as his political 'home'? ) and Bibi's wife Sarah were absent. I admit, the election results were not as bad as they could have been ( a rightwing majority was possible, even though the Right is utterly divided) but they are certainly not a clear victory for the Center-Left that supposedly will form the basis for the new government. A disengagement-II will be very, very difficult to implement. O.k. those who voted for the two biggest parties clearly want us out of ( most of ) the Westbank, but these two have only 48 seats together. Meretz has only four MKs ( and definitely prefers negotiations to unilateral steps ), Shas and Thorah Judaism voted against the Gaza disengagement plan ( and buying their support for further withdrawals might be too costly ), the Pensioners' position on disengagement is not univocal, and the Arab parties - on whose support no PM wants to depend in any case - mostly oppose unilateral disengagement as well. Also, when it comes to social policies the goals of the Pensioners, Labor, Shas and Kadimah ( do they have a social policy? ) lie far apart. If there is anything that was proven by the voters it is that Israeli society is fragmented like never before: in a way, apart from Kadimah and Labor all parties are sectorial, including the Likud.
Could it be that the key to success for Ehud Olmert lies in Gaza? If he manages to find a serious partner to negotiations on the Palestinian side ( and we should not be too surprised if Hamas is going to be such a partner ) some sort of negotiated withdrawal/peace-agreement could be found that will have the support of 70-50 Knesset majority. While the election results were not the nightmare that they could have been for Olmert ( for what was only a new, virtual party to emerge as the biggest party is still an impressive achievement, even though we still have to see what can hold such a diverse collection of opportunists together ) they still will cost him several nights' sleep. He will have a hard time to build a stable coalition that is able to bring about the changes that are necessary to make life a bit more liveable ( and keyf - fun -, a phrase used by Olmert in his election campaign ) over here.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

With - at the time of their statements - more than half an hour to go before the first exit polls were to be published, did these Kadimah and Likud party officials already know something that us ordinary people did and do not? We might know in another twenty minutes.
Unsure

I like today's cartoon by Dutch cartoonist Joep Bertrams, even though Israelis do not vote by means of a red pencil. Neither do most Dutchmen and -women anymore: they vote electronically, as far as I am aware. An anachronotopism ( a word that I just invented )?

Two hours ago I finished my shift at the polling station, in one hour the polls will close and the counting will start. At 'my' station voter turnout was quite high, when I left almost 60% of the voters had voted already. All over the country turnout is very, very low, which normally should be bad news for Kadimah and Labor. Judging by the number of party slips that had to be replenished now and then ( have a look here to see how one votes in Israel ) very few people in 'my' station voted Kadimah, and more than expected chose Labor. Likud and the Pensioners' party also appeared to receive more votes than was expected by the pollsters. While Israel has been busy voting ( again, the third time in seven years ) France has been striking ( again ) and rioting, at least that is what I just saw on television. I am off to have a shower and watch the exit polls while lying in my bed. My wife is still working, she will participate in the counting of the votes and won't be home before midnight, that is for sure. Layla tov, and maybe we will wake up tomorrow to the possibility of a stable, center-leftwing, coalition. I have my misgivings about that possibility, though. As I said before, let's hope my pessimism was unfounded all along.

Monday, March 27, 2006

There are several reasons why I hope that in another 26+ hours we will learn that the next government will have Kadimah and Labor as its main coalition parties. One very important reason is this: I do not want this state to be ruled by bullies who ( are often made to think that they can ) get away with every possible form of political violence ( including cursing and attacking members of the security forces ), violence that at least with one election ( 1996, half a year after Rabin was murdered ) paid off. While I am not a big fan of Kadimah, I think that Tsippi Livni has been the biggest positive surprise of the last Sharon government, and the way in which she was forced from the Mahaneh Yehudah market - where she had as much business being as Michael Kleiner had being in Yaffo, but that is not important here - is a disgrace, one of all too many in the history of Israeli democracy. Tomorrow morning and afternoon I will be working at a polling station in the city where we live. The afternoon and evening I will spend being with our children and writing a behind-the-scenes account of the election day for Wednesday's edition of a Dutch newspaper.
Two fish in, of all places, Liverpool are being hailed as " a message from God " ( Allah, that is ), because the markings on their back supposedly spell out the words Allah and Muhammad ( in Arabic, of course ). Thank G'd that the fish did not have any cartoons on their back.
A story of a man who managed to get important things done and to move bureaucrats, researchers and businessman in the right direction is impressive. When that man does it for the health and wellbeing of his children the story is even more impressive and touching.
Een van de interessante, maar ook minder aangename, kanten van de geschiedenis van Frankrijk is dat de Fransen - en de ( voormalige ) vreemdelingen die Frankrijk als hun vaderland geadopteerd hebben - regelmatig de neiging hebben om ideologisch nogal eens door te draaien, met alle gevolgen van dien. Hier is weer eens een aardig voorbeeld daarvan te vinden. Toevallig ken ik het EHESS-gebouw aan de Boulevard Raspail ( Metro station N.D. des Champs ), er wordt eens per maand door een Franse of buitenlandse deskundige een - vaak zeer interessante - lezing over de geschiedschrijving van Nazi-Duitsland en/of de Holocaust gegeven. Wanneer ik in Parijs ben doe ik altijd mijn best om zo'n lezing mee te pikken.
Eitan Haber, an experienced journalist, was Yitzhak Rabin's director-general of the Prime Minister's Office when Rabin was murdered. In this article he points out exactly what will be the three most important issues that the next government will have to address. His priorities seem to be right.
This is a - controversial - research that you will probably see quoted by many Dutch ( and German ) weblogs and other media in the coming hours and days: on average the Dutch and the Germans are supposed to have the highest IQ in Europe. I wonder if the researchers will change their conclusions after watching the Dutch' entertaining behavior during the coming Weltmeisterschaft.
Five cartoons by the Dutch cartoonist Tom Janssen.

For my Dutch readers

"...Young people nowadays !!" "Low-budget enough for you, mister?!!" "Who is the crook who misled you?" ( The person on the right is Dutch PM Balkenende )

"It can't be anything, but come on, let's try it!"

( The sign says "The way of the intifadah" and "The way of peace" )

Today's CDs:
  1. and
  2. Michala Petri: The ultimate recorder collection
  3. Smetana: Ma Vlast
  4. and
  5. Joseph Haydn: Die Schoepfung ( The Creation ) - Oratorium

Sunday, March 26, 2006

A good article on the Israeli elections can be found here. As for my gut feelings, normally I hate to be proven wrong, but I really wil not mind having to admit on Wednesday morning that my pessimism was ill-founded and that I was wrong to somehow believe that the opinion polls which for months have predicted 35+ seats for Kadimah, 15-20 for Labor and 20- for Likud did not reflect the true spirit of the Israeli voters. Isn't it ironic that I had feelings of yearning when I saw Ariel Sharon in a Kadimah election spot yesterday evening, or that I would love to see Ehud Olmert as our next Prime Minister ( not that I am a Kadimah voter ) ? Nothing is more fickle than man, especially when that man lives in a reality show that is called Israel.
Cartoon-wise, the week and a half that I spent with our daughter in Holland were a bit slow, according to the websites that I like to visit. Here are four cartoons, published during those ten days, that I did like.
Henry Payne
John Cole

Mike Keefe

Robert Ariail

After having listened to three compilations of classical music ( Aangenaam Klassiek 2003, 2004 and 2005 ) for almost a week, I started the new week with the following CDs:
  1. and
  2. and
  3. Matthaeus-Passion ( 1969/1989 EMI recording of the Consortium Musicum, directed by Wolfgang Goennenwein )
  4. Tchaikovsky's Violin concerto ( live concert in Leningrad - oops, St Petersburg -, May 2nd 1990, by Itzhak Perlman and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, directed by Zubin Mehta ) + works by Tartini, Kreisler, Prokofiev, Bloch, Wieniawski, Tchaikovsky and Bazzini ( live concert in Moscow, April 30th 1990, by Mr Perlman and Janet Goodman Guggenheim, piano )
  5. Mendelssohn and Bruch's ( nr. 1 ) Violinconcertos ( Itzhak Perlman and the Concertgebouw Orchestra, directed by Bernard Haitink )

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, one of the main spiritual leaders of the settlers, is only the latest in a long list of religious fanatics ( Muslims, Christians, Jews ) who, knowing exactly what G'd wants us to do, tell us that whoever supports a political party that does not follow their fanatical political views can forget about a place in Paradise. The rabbi defines Israel's disengagement from Gaza and four Westbank settlements as "the greatest damage to the people of Israel in our time". Clearly a case of fanatical blindness. How else can one explain the fact that this man, who can hardly be called stupid and who had his bar-mitzvah while Germans and others were murdering Jews by the thousands in almost unimaginably cruel ways, willingly ignores ( or even worse, belittles and trivializes ) what even the greatest nitwit will admit is truly the greatest and most painful disaster that befell our people in the modern era?
An interesting week is ahead of us, never mind that some media turn everything that has even the remotest connection to the elections into a circus. I started the week by watching the second half ( I was zapping, did not know that the movie was on ) of one of the most beautiful, most moving and funniest films that I know, Little Man Tate. When I looked for a link to the movie on IMDb, I read that Adam Hann-Byrd, the actor who played Fred Tate ( one of the most ador- and lovable movie characters that I know ), graduated two years ago with a degree in both Psychology and Film Studies. Have a good week!
Don't ask me why exactly, but I have a bad feeling about the elections this Tuesday. While all Likudniks and other ( extreme ) rightwingers that I know will definitely go the polls, many of my friends who would normally vote Labor ( or Kadimah, or Meretz ) can hardly be bothered, and some of them seriously consider voting for pointless one-issue parties such as the Pensioners' party or the Green Leaf party. Particularly elderly people ( like my mother-in-law ) have sympathy for the Pensioners' party, and my saying that they should think about their grandchildren's long-term interests ( such as where they want our son to do his army service in another 15 years: in Israel or near some isolated fanatic settlement in the Westbank ) rather than about their own short-term illusions and apathy convinced only a few of them. I do not believe for one moment that one of the three parties that I would like to see in the next government has the key to Paradise ( and no, Shas is not one of them ), but the Right is becoming dangerously strong again according to the opinion polls, and the only three parties that can - together - make sure that Israel will carry out the largest possible unilateral retreats from the occupied territories ( and in my opinion such a retreat is vital for any possible solution of most major problems that have to be dealt with in the coming years) are Labor, Meretz and Kadimah. I still have to see Kadimah get more than 30 ( and the Likud less than 20 ) Knesset seats, and the virtual stable ( center + leftwing; two, max. three-party ) dream-coalition that 'existed' more than a month ago does not seem realistic right now. Let's hope that my gut feelings are mistaken, and that the pollsters - who probably are to blame partly for the voters' apathy - have been right all along.
Om heel eerlijk te zijn moet ik zeggen dat ik al jaren niet meer aan Ria Beckers had gedacht. Van de week las ik dat ze is overleden, en ik zag haar heel duidelijk voor me. Toen ik op de middelbare school zat zag ik haar regelmatig op het treinstation van Geldermalsen ( de naam van dat station is ongeveer het enige woord dat mijn schoonvader uit het Nederlands heeft onthouden, hij spreekt het uit als Geldemausen ), waar we dan allebei de trein naar Utrecht namen, ik op weg naar Culemborg, zij naar ik aanneem op weg naar Den Haag. Het was de periode van de demonstraties tegen de kruisraketten, en ik herinner me haar als een gedreven, principiele en oprechte politica, in wier mening ik me vaak kon vinden.
Look at this expression of thanks by the wife of the British hostage who was rescued in Iraq by American and British troops earlier this week. Apparently I am not the only one who thinks it would have been nice if she had specifically mentioned the soldiers who risked their lives to save their husband and two other hostages. Or does she honestly believe that the kidnapping of hostages is mainly to be blamed on the presence of those soldiers to begin with? Just imagine whom the Kember family and other 'peacemakers' would have found fault with if any of the three hostages had been seriously hurt during the operation to liberate them. Thank G'd no Allied serviceman or -woman was hurt in this military action. Maybe the American and British armies have no business being in Iraq, but I wonder if the presence of people such as Mr Kember is more beneficial to ordinary Iraqis than that of the Allied soldiers. PS: It seems that Norman Kember himself was ( made ) aware of the hiatus. I just saw him arriving at Heathrow airport, and he said: "I do not believe that a lasting peace is achieved by armed force, but I pay tribute to their ( sic ) courage and thank those who played a part in my rescue."

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Sinds mijn dochter en ik thuis zijn gekomen krijgen zij en onze zoon iedere avond voor het slapen gaan - schoongewassen, met gepoetste tanden en in hun pyjama's - één aflevering van Kabouter Plop te zien. Ze vinden het allebei prachtig. Ook K3 vinden ze leuk, en ze zingen regelmatig "Omhoog, omlaag, omhoog, omlaag" ( uit Plop's Regendans ) of "Hoera, hoera, Kabouter Plop is jarig...". Er kleeft één nadeel aan: de melodietjes van K3 en Plop blijven dagenlang in mijn hoofd hangen. Zo moet ik echt moeite doen om de regels "Van Afrika tot aan Amerika, En van de Himalaya tot in de woestijn..." uit mijn hoofd te krijgen.
This is good news, even though the American member of the group of four hostages already had been tortured and murdered. I doubt if this will help to make activists and others who are - rightly - concerned about the war in Iraq appreciate at least part of the difficult task that is being carried out by American, British and other troops in the country, and to make those who for more than three years have opposed the war in Iraq acknowledge that, no matter how little Bush c.s. cared about the Iraqi people and how incompetent and irresponsible some of us think they might be, the truly bad guys in this war are to be found on the 'other side'. PS: I found the reaction of Sir Iqbal Sacranie of the Muslim Council of Britain rather amusing. Among other things, he said that " the 'collective effort' of people from all groups had secured the men's release." Yeah, right. Unless, of course, by 'people from all groups' he means American, British and other soldiers who are stationed in Iraq.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A.B. Yehoshua, a very active and outspoken Israeli writer, and Shay Tsur, a very active and outspoken Israeli blogger who together with Lisa Goldman got the opportunity to publish on the website of The Guardian, tell us very clearly why one should vote for Labor or Kadimah, respectively. Often Shay's political opinions are similar to mine, and I am much more critical of the political and the socio-economic record of the Labor Party than A.B.Y., but I would side with Mr Yehoshua on this one. On paper a majority of Kadimah and Labor could bring about a dream coalition. Unfortunately, if the regional and local realities here are ever linked to dreams, it is to nightmares, not to rosy reveries, so my hopes are not running very high.
This is the kind of 'news' that I consider a bit premature: ( Ha'Aretz News Flash ) 09:21 Likud MK Sa`ar calls on Yisrael Beitenu, Shas not to join Olmert coalition For goodness' sake, what coalition is he talking about? Was I unconscious for a whole week and did I miss the elections? Did Kadimah ( already ) win?
Voor uitgebreide, uptoedeete en nederlandstalige informatie over de protesten en de ( sociale ) onrust in en om Parijs ( en, natuurlijk, in de rest van Frankrijk ) is er het weblog van Olivier van Beemen, een Nederlandse correspondent in de Franse hoofdstad.
Ik weet het niet hoor, maar toen ik deze krantekop ( "Moslims verslaan homo's op voetbalveld" ) las was het woord 'verbroederingstoernooi' niet het eerste dat bij me opkwam.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Maybe our next ministers of Finance and Social Affairs could learn something from the people of Id.

In another 168 hours we more or less will know who is going to lead ( or 'lead' ) us for the next ( "four", I almost wrote here ) years. On a daily basis we can read articles about mock elections, about which party will get or turn down which portfolio, and about who is willing or unwilling to sit with whom in which coalition. It is way too early for all that. There are two possibilities: either the opinion polls were right, or nobody had a clue and we will all be surprised. In both cases talking about coalitions should not start before the voting has ended and the exit polls have been published. Few things are as bad for democracy as a low turnout, especially if that is the result of most people - in particular those in the political centre of society - believing that everything is already fixed, that they are sidelined and nobody listens to them. Today we were reminded once more of a reality that most of us only become aware of when the members of our security forces fail in their difficult job: what probably would have been a major terror attack was foiled when a would-(not?)-be-suicide-bomber and his explosives were caught on Highway 1. My wife is at a meeting of the parents' committee of our daughter's class. I am going to have a shower, lie in bed and continue to watch Lost in Translation ( it is beautiful, thank you EJ ).
Zo, het werd weer eens hoog tijd voor een posting in het Nederlands, al is het maar een kort niemendalletje. Ik heb weer volop mijn dagelijkse routine opgepakt na tien heerlijke dagen in Nederland met onze dochter. Allebei onze kinderen zijn nu gek van Kabouter Plop en K3, onder invloed van hun twee nichtjes en van de DVDs die we hebben meegenomen. Ze leren er nog Nederlands ( nou ja, Vlaams, maar wat geeft dat ) van ook. Vanavond liep onze zoon, net als in de Regendans van Plop, te zingen "omhoog, omlaag, omhoog, omlaag". Mijn schoonmoeder is vlak voor de oorlog in Antwerpen geboren, en heeft daar nog familie wonen van haar vader ( die ze nooit gekend heeft: hij is in Polen vermoord ). Toen onze dochter nog geen twee jaar was gingen mijn vrouw en schoonouders met haar op visite in Ra'anana bij een redelijk ver familielid van mijn schoonmoeder. Er was daar ook iemand die Vlaams sprak, en mijn vrouw zei me later dat onze dochter meteen doorhad dat dat anders dan Hebreeuws was, en ze begreep het en reageerde erop. Waar Belgen al niet goed voor zijn ( denk nu niet dat ik iets tegen Belgen heb: mijn beste vrienden - in ieder geval een paar goede vrienden en collega's - zijn Belgen ).
Voor het eerst sinds ik naar Israel ben geemigreerd had ik op mijn vliegreis vanaf Schiphol naar huis geen gewichtsprobleem, omdat ik ook 20 kilo op 'rekening' van onze dochter kon meenemen. Naast heel veel speelgoed en kinderboeken hadden we ook aardig wat snoepdingen en boeken voor mijzelf bij ons. Op het Boekenweekgeschenk na waren het allemaal non-fictie werken: column-bundels van Maarten van Rossem, Bas Heijne, Frits Abrahams en Sylvain Ephimenco, een boek van Gijs Groenteman over Ischa Meijer, het boekenweekessay van Paul Witteman, en een boekje van Geert Mak. Ik kan voorlopig weer vooruit, zou je zeggen. Momenteel lees ik Rainbow Six van Tom Clancy, daar was ik in begonnen in het vliegtuig op weg naar Nederland, maar in de tien dagen daar heb ik nauwelijks iets gelezen, dus daar ben ik nog wel ruim een week, zo niet langer, zoet mee.

Monday, March 20, 2006

When it comes to religious idiocy, un-holy hatred and fanatical blindness, people like Baruch Marzel have worthy counterparts on the Palestinian-Muslim side of the conflict.
In the last issue of the Jerusalem Report ( hopefully in the next issue of that magazine another opinion article of mine will be published ) I read a wonderful column by Hirsch Goodman. His political opinions are almost always parallel to mine, and in this piece he explains why, with the Israeli public being quite indifferent and in spite of the fact that politics and politicians are so irritating, it is important to "hold your nose and vote" next week.
These two cartoons, by Chappate and M.E. Cohen, were supposed to illustrate yesterday's posting, but for some technical reason I was unable to add them, so here they are.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

With the elections little more than a week ahead of us, our 'situation' was never any better, it seems. Warnings issued by the State Department to American diplomats residing in Israel appear to be related to mob violence and organized crime rather than to terrorism, and in the days since I returned home the headlines in all media deal more with bird flu than with Hamas. In two kibbutzim that I know personally ( I stayed for more than a year in Kissufim, I met my wife when she was a youth movement leader in neighboring Eyn HaShlosha ) and in some other places hundreds of thousands of chickens and turkeys are being poisoned to death ( 'culled' is the word used in most media ). As with all bad things that happened in Israel after last summer ( or like so many others who love to embrace the holy trinity of politics, religion and fanaticism ), immediately at least one religious quack stood up to claim that political-divine anger is what caused this plague. With some experience in the chicken coops of Kissufim ( and, sorry but I cannot help it, as an avowed meat-eter ) I suggest that if heavenly retribution has anything to do with this, it could be that someone wants to remind us that we cannot mess with nature with impunity, and that we should consider more humane and less unnatural ways of raising animals in order to eat them.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Eleven days ago I wrote that my next posting probably would be posted from my parents' house. I did not intend to have such a long blogbreak, the longest since I started DBI. Our daughter and I had a wonderful time, and so did my parents, my brother and his fiancee, and my sister and her family, I believe. We visited the Dolfinarium, met a very nice Dutch-Israeli family, spent a whole morning in this playground, a weekend in Utrecht ( including my brother's house and this wonderful museum ), three and a half hours in this entertaining and educative place, crossed the IJ six times, saw the Royal Palace - on the outside - ( I think our daughter is the only real fan of the Royal Family in my family, she adores princess Maxima ) bought many, many books, a few CDs, a lot of presents ( in particular for our son ), went for a swim with my father, and spent most of the time with my parents and my daughter and her family. Tonight we fly back home again. I hardly followed the news in Israel, and I read about the Jericho siege on teletext, hours after it happened. My mother-in-law was convinced it had nothing to do with the coming elections, but I have a slight suspicion that she could be mistaken. :-) I do not know if it was a wise or a necessary move, but I smiled when I read about the Palestinians' indignation and their 'reactions' and threats. After all, they have never had a lack of 'reasons' to carry out suicide and other terror attacks, so this is just another such 'reason' and another threat, and already tens of foreigners have known the pleasure of enjoying the hospitality of Palestinian kidnappers who used various and very divers reasons to justify their deeds, so a few more kidnappings do not really convince me that their anger is more urgent or justified than before.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Do not believe everything that you read in the newspaper ( or on a website, this blog included ). On the website of Ha'Aretz the caption of this picture says " An Israel Arab carrying a sign reading 'We are all brothers', at a protest Saturday in Nazareth". My Arabic is a bit rusty, but I had no problem reading the sign, which says something different, although the message is similar: "We won't give up peaceful coexistence". I am unable to read the small letters in the middle, but I cannot see any words there that say 'brothers' or 'all'. Tomorrow at this hour I will be flying with our daughter, somewhere above Austria or the former Jugoslavia I think. This morning I sent an election t-shirt of the Labor party plus a Kadimah sticker to a friend of mine in Holland, and if all goes well I will arrive in the Netherlands before the envelope. Be'Ezrath Hashem my next posting will be posted from my parents' house.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

An interesting news item that did not get very much attention here is the 'Dubai Ports Deal', which "would put a Dubai state-owned company in control of operations at terminals within six American ports". Read also this and this. The idea sounds absurd in today's, post-9/11, reality, but maybe I just don't understand anything about globalization and/or security. Not surprisingly the subject provided some American cartoonists with inspiration. Here are nine examples.

Robert Ariail

Rob Rogers

Mike Luckovich

Mike Keefe

M.E. Cohen

John Cole

Jeff Parker

Daryl Cagle

Ed Stein

Archbishop Elias Chacour is right when he says that the incident yesterday evening in the Church of the Annunciation is embarrassing for Israel. Still, it is only embarrassing, not much more. Almost all religious officials, political leaders and security forces behaved in a very responsible way, and they did a good job of crisis management and cooperation. The only ones who should be ashamed of themselves, since they showed an absolute lack of responsible leadership by trying to use this incident - which was caused by troubled individuals, not by political or religious fanatics - for their own political gains, are men such as Mohammad Barakeh, Ahmad Tibi, Sheikh Salah and Azmi Bishara. The fact that less than half of the Israeli Arabs who are entitled to vote intend to go and us their democratic right on March 28th is not only an embarrasment for the State of Israel, it is also - and particularly - an embarrasment and should be a warning for those who pretend to be the leaders of the Arab minority in that state.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Take three troubled individuals ( only one of whom is Jewish, by the way, and none of whom is a rightwing extremist ), a holy site, longstanding and once in every while rekindled religious tensions and fears, a few irresponsible and hateful politicians who according to the polls are being threatened with becoming utterly irrelevant if it wasn't for a little drama and demagoguery, and of course a small number of firecrackers, and you could have had a Christian Intifadah or a local worldwar on your hand.
This beautiful picture was made yesterday by a good friend of mine from the Netherlands, who happens to be one of the most loyal readers of DBI. Hopefully our daughter and I will be able to see pictures similar to this after we arrive in Holland on Monday. She would love to see some real snow. When the four of us spent half a year in Paris two years ago some sleet fell one Sunday, but except for that during those six months ( including two visits to Holland ) our children only saw snow on the television, when parts of Jerusalem were snowed under.
In de 'gevallen' Kalou en Taida Pasic zou het heel goed kunnen dat Rita Verdonk gelijk heeft, al snap ik niet echt waarom ze de Bosnische scholiere niet haar VWO-diploma kan laten halen, zeker in het licht van het feit dat Taida echt niet de eerste vluchteling/immigrant is die gelogen en/of de wet creatief geinterpreteerd/omzeild heeft ( zie bijvoorbeeld Hirsi Ali ), en ze niet echt een belasting of gevaar voor de Nederlandse maatschappij vormt. Maar in het geval van Iraanse homo's schiet de bewindsvrouw volgens mij toch echt te veel door. Ik krijg nog kippenvel als ik denk aan de foto's van de twee mannen die een paar maanden geleden door de ayatollahs werden opgehangen, en afgaan op verklaringen van de Iraanse autoriteiten lijkt mij dubieus in meer dan een opzicht, niet alleen in deze context. Om een initiatief zoals dit kan ik dus wel lachen. Wat me trouwens ook kippenvel bezorgt zijn sommige van de reacties bij de artikelen waarnaar in deze posting wordt verwezen.
Robert Ariail
Robert Ariail
Marshall Ramsey
John Deering
Gary Varvel
Chriss Britt
Bill Day
Since I am working on my research, finishing an article for the Jerusalem Report and preparing for a short stay in Holland with our daughter I do not have much time to blog. Today I will post six pictures from my two weeks' stay in Paris last December ( all taken at the Montparnasse cemetery ), plus some cartoons on Iran ( and Bush ). Shabbat shalom.

The grave of Samuel Beckett

The grave of Joris Ivens

The grave of Jean-Paul Sarte and Simone de Beauvoir

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Whereas until now I gave Hany Abu-Assad and his movie the benefit of the doubt ( I have not seen Paradise Now yet, and today I think that I only will view it if I can get an illegal copy of the movie: I try to avoid sponsoring terror supporters as much as possible, and stealing from them could very well be a mitzvah ) today all my doubts regarding Mr A-A's sympathies and motives were blown away. While most reviews that I read tell us that the movie does not glori- or justify the perpetrators of suicide terrorism, the movie's director most definitely does. If this moviemaker wins an Oscar this weekend the United States should immediately pull out its troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, because endangering the lives of your soldiers as part of the war against terror does not make any sense whatsoever if at the same time outspoken supporters of terror such as Hany Abu-Assad are rewarded with the highest possible - American - award in their field of expertise. I think I said this before, but nevertheless: it is sad when a people feels pride when the only thing it apparently has to offer the world is suicide terrorism turned into an artform, literally or metaphorically. But of course, all that is also the Jews' fault, isn't it?
For several reasons ( some of them historical ) Israelis believe that France is paradise on earth for anti-Semites in Europe. Since I have never visited any European countries except for Holland and France ( as a child I crossed the German border once on foot, and after a few meters ran back, afraid that soldiers with big mean dogs would come to arrest me ) I cannot really make any comparison, but one thing I know for sure: if ever I really experienced anti-Semitism it was in the Israeli army, when I did my basic training with some of the worst Russian immigrants that I came across here ( which does not mean that I have anything against Russians, after all, some of my best friends are Russian immigrants, no really ). During all my visits to Paris I never hid the fact that I am Jewish and from Israel, and whenever I visited archives, institutes, libraries, shops etc. in France's capital I was always helped in the most friendly and courteous manner one could imagine ( which some people who visited Paris might find remarkable ). Without the wonderful help from French - Jewish and non-Jewish - librarians, archivists, colleagues and friends I would not have had such very productive and pleasant times in Paris. The French can sometimes be aloof and annoying, but I never got the impression that that is personal, they only like others - no matter whether those others are Jewish, Muslim, Christian or atheist - to adapt to their manners, customs and culture. That is not necessarily a bad thing, especially when we consider what a fascinating and entertaining culture ( and what a beautiful language ) they have. From my knowledge of the history of and my experiences in France and Holland I can tell you that when it comes to anti-Semitism France is not better or worse than the Netherlands, even though incidents such as this one or the brutal murder of Ilan Halimi z"l suggest otherwise. One thing is certain: both the French media and the French authorities are very much aware of the problem and of their responsibilities, which does not necessarily mean that they know exactly what to do about it ( few of us do ) or have the - political - will to confront it properly. The fact that 'classical' forms of anti-Semitism and 'new' forms - sometimes disguised as anti-Zionism, mixed with anti-globalism, Islamism etc. - overlap and intermingle makes it harder to fight the phenomenon. The most important thing is for Jews and non-Jews alike to recognize anti-Semitism: not to ignore it when it is there, and not to cry A-wolf when it isn't. As for us Jews, in Israel and abroad, we have to acknowledge that anti-Semitism has stopped long ago being a problem of the goyim only.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Ken Livingstone has appeared more than once on my weblog ( see here, here, here, and here ). When his suspension was suspended yesterday I did not feel a specific need to waste words on the man, except for the fact that I found it interesting, hearing and seeing Mr L. during his press conference, that he talked so much about pro-Israel activists accusing everyone who criticizes Israel of being an anti-Semite, whereas the incident with the Evening Standard journalist and the mayor's - suspended - suspension had not really anything to do with his continuous one-sided Israel-bashing. At least he did not directly accuse any Jewish cabal of plotting his downfall, maybe we should be grateful for that.
The abuse of the A-word ( and the H-word ) by rightwing Israelis when criticism of Israel is concerned is a subject that I have written about frequently. In the case of Ken Livingstone I have serious doubts, though. Whether his unhealthy obsession with everything Israeli is inspired by more than 'simple' anti-Zionism is not always very clear. The reason why I did decide to dedicate a posting to Mr L. today was this article on Ynet ( yes, sorry, that is an Israeli website ). A major Islamist cleric, Youssef Qaradawi, ranted once again about Israel and the Jews, saying things like "They [ local Muslims or Muslims in general ] must not allow anyone to take a single piece of land away from Islam. That is what we are fighting the Jews for. We are fighting them... Our religion commands us... We are fighting in the name of religion, in the name of Islam, which makes this Jihad an individual duty, in which the entire nation takes part, and whoever is killed in this [Jihad] is a martyr. This is why I ruled that martyrdom operations are permitted, because he commits martyrdom for the sake of Allah, and sacrifices his soul for the sake of Allah." Of course this is nothing new, the man really tells it like it is, not only about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict but also about Iraq, Afghanistan and the war between the West and certain parts of the Muslim world. What is a bit troubling, though, is the fact that Mr Livingstone once called Qaradawi, who condones wife beating and defends the killing of gays, "a progressive figure who is moving that religion [ Islam ] in the correct direction", and "the most powerfully progressive force for change and for engaging Islam with western values". He even apologized to Qadawi on behalf of the people of London for "the outbreak of xenophobia and hysteria in some sections of the tabloid press which demonstrated an underlying ignorance of Islam", and accused MEMRI and - of course - Mossad of deliberately and falsely blackening the reputation of the respected Islamist scholar. Ken Livingstone and Youssef Qaradawi agree definitely when it comes to the legitimacy of Palestinian terror ( oops, resistance ) against Israelis. While Qaradawi does not approve of "martyr operations" against civilians, he certainly does not condemn such actions against Israeli civilians, as long as they are carried out within Israel or the territories: "I do agree with those who do not allow such martyr operations to be carried out outside the Palestinian territories. Instead we should concentrate on facing the occupying enemy directly. It is not permissible, as far as Islam is concerned, to shift confrontation outside the Palestinian territories." Londoners - Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and all others - should be proud and feel safe with a mayor who embraces such a cleric as someone who moves Islam in the correct direction.
Today I listen to these five CDs:
  1. Flairck: Bal Masqué
  2. Flairck: The Emigrant
  3. Rebecca Evans & Michael Pollock: Songs by Bellini, Verdi, Respighi, Rossini, Donizetti and Wolf-Ferrari
  4. and
  5. Kurt Masur ( conductor ), Gewandhausorchester Leipzig ( and Salvatore Accardo, violin ): The Complete Symphonies of Max Bruch