Saturday, April 29, 2006

While we were celebrating our daughter's birthday quite a few Dutchmen and -women with their families celebrated 'Queen's day' in Ra'anana.
The birthday party yesterday afternoon was a big success. Both the children and their parents had a wonderful time, and I think that for Shavuot ( seven weeks after Pesach; also named 'birthday of the Thorah', celebrating the day on which Moses received the Thorah; there is a tradition of eating dairy foods on that day, which originally was mainly an agricultural holiday ) we might visit this dairy farm again with the kindergarten of our son.
Voor mijn Nederlandse lezers: een fijne Koninginnedag!

Friday, April 28, 2006

Have a laugh once more, at the expense of George W. Bush ( or of the American people, some might argue ).
M.E. Cohen

Robert Ariail

This is the cake that my wife made for the birthday party of our daughter this afternoon. I pinked out the names of our daughter and her friend ( we have the party together with her family ). The party will take place at a moshav nearby, at a dairy-farm called "The Milky Cows' Way".

Two recent articles of Bradley Burston, one about Pesach, slavery and freedom, the other about the role the Holocaust plays in our lives, and about how we should honor the memory of its victims: "Just this once, however, it might be time to look at the Holocaust for what it remains - a wound that will never heal, an experience that is beyond our experience, comprehension, or puny, wrongheaded automatic comparisons to current events.Just this once, after all these years, let us honor the victims and survivors with introspection, with compassion, with modesty, with respect, with awe. ". An article on a similar subject was written by Tom Segev.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The first thing that I read this morning was an item about the Swedish government deciding not to participate in a military exercise in Italy because Israel is one of the participants. If you read the feedback on Ynet you would almost believe that the Swedes are burning Jews at the stake or desecrating synagogues. When you read the article carefully you will see that the decision makes sense. The ( original? ) aim of the drill is to "prepare for future cooperation in international peacekeeping operations". Israel has not yet participated in such operations (*). Because Sweden has an official policy of neutrality it cannot take part in a military exercise that includes a country that has been at war with its neighbors ( and some other countries ) for almost 60 years. From their point of view it makes sense, and the fact that their pilots probably could learn a thing or two from what many consider the best air force in the world does not change that. While the Swedish government's decision certainly seems to be prompted ( also ) by criticism of Israeli policies, cries of anti-Semitism are obviously stupid, inappropriate, counterproductive but hardly unexpected. (*) There is a discussion about whether or not the country should send soldiers to take part in UN missions. Personally I think it should not do so, at least as long as 'the conflict' is going on: I would not want my son and daughter risk their lives in some conflict zone far away as long as we ourselves live in one of the main conflict zones and our soldiers risk their lives for our own security on a 24/7 basis.
Het volgende door mij geschreven artikel staat als het goed is deze week in het Friesch Dagblad.
Geen nucleaire holocaust
Afgelopen dinsdag was het in Israël Yom HaShoah, Holocaustdag. Op die dag worden de zes miljoen joden herdacht die tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog door de Nazis en hun handlangers werden vermoord. Op scholen wordt speciale aandacht besteed aan het onderwerp, en in de verschillende media vertellen mensen die de verschrikkingen hebben overleefd over hun lotgevallen en over hun dierbaren die werden vermoord. In de context van het Arabisch-Israëlische conflict worden te pas en vooral te onpas verwijzingen gemaakt naar de jaren 1933 – 1945. De recente uitspraken van de Iraanse president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad behoren in zekere zin tot die context, maar verdienen meer dan slechts zijdelingse aandacht. Dat hij de manier waarop Israël met de Palestijnen omgaat vergelijkt met de behandeling van joden in Nazi-Europa is niet echt uitzonderlijk. Per slot van rekening wordt die absurde analogie ook gelegd door menige Westerse, meestal linkse, 'supporter' van de Palestijnen of tegenstander van Israël. Ook het feit dat Ahmadinejad de Holocaust een mythe noemde hoeft geen verbazing te wekken: hij bevindt zich daarmee in het gezelschap van heel wat – linkse en rechtse – Holocaustontkenners. Holocaustontkenning gaat meestal hand in hand met jodenhaat, en niet zelden ook met een zekere sympathie voor de 'Palestijnse zaak'. Dat is verder niet echt bijzonder en nauwelijks iets waar wij ons al te zeer zorgen over hoeven te maken. Toch moet de Iraanse president serieuzer worden genomen dan iedere andere jodenhater na 1945. Niet alleen zegt hij openlijk dat Israël van de kaart geveegd moet worden, zijn land probeert ook zo goed als zeker wapens te ontwikkelen waarmee het zijn antisemitische ambities kan verwezenlijken. In tegenstelling tot andere vijanden van Israël – zoals bijvoorbeeld Nasser's Egypte, Saddam's Irak, en Al-Qaida onder leiding van Bin Laden – zou een nucleair Iran een existentiële bedreiging voor de joodse staat vormen. De term 'nucleaire holocaust' krijgt zo opeens een wel heel sinistere en angstaanjagende bijklank. Ik hou niet van historische vergelijkingen, en ik geloof niet dat geschiedenis een leerboek voor de mensheid is. Mijn tenen trekken krom wanneer rechtse Israëliërs en hun supporters in het buitenland Palestijnen gelijkstellen aan Nazis, of het deporteren van joden naar vernietigingskampen op één lijn plaatsen met het evacueren van joodse nederzettingen in bezet gebied. Desondanks valt het me steeds meer op dat er wel degelijk parallellen gevonden kunnen worden tussen de Tweede Wereldoorlog en sommige ontwikkelingen in de wereld van vandaag. Net als bij Hitler zijn de joden in de ogen van Ahmadinejad, Bin-Laden en andere militante moslims de belangrijkste, maar zeker niet de enige vijand. Zowel de Nazis als de Islamisten en Iran hebben niet alleen een nationale maar ook een regionale of zelfs globale agenda. In beide gevallen werden en worden de dreigementen aan het adres van het joodse volk openlijk geuit. In januari 1939, tijdens zijn beroemde toespraak in de Rijksdag, kon Hitler niet vermoeden dat hij de kans zou krijgen om zijn visioen over "de vernietiging van het joodse ras in Europa" voor een aanzienlijk deel te verwezenlijken. Nu weten we dat hij en zijn regime, toen ze eenmaal de kans kregen om miljoenen joden uit te roeien, die gelegenheid met beide handen aangrepen. Nog een parallel wordt gevormd door de reacties van de internationale gemeenschap. Toen en nu wist en weet men niet echt goed hoe er met de dreigementen en het gevaar moet worden omgegaan. Ook nu zorgen uiteenlopende internationale belangen ( verhoudingen met Iran, olie, angst voor escalatie, solidariteit onder moslims, etc. ) voor besluiteloosheid en gemengde reacties. Van "als…als" geschiedschrijving wordt niemand wijzer, en het is maar de vraag of Hitler-Duitsland werkelijk in een vroeg stadium gestopt had kunnen worden. Toch lijkt het me zonneklaar dat wanneer staatshoofden en plein public over het doden van joden praten en anti-semitische met militaire ambities combineren, pappen en nathouden geen optie is. Alhoewel er enorme verschillen en onderlinge tegenstrijdigheden en conflicten bestaan tussen de diverse takken van de militante Islam, vormt het Iraanse gevaar een deel van een groter geheel. Toch is de dreiging die van dat land uitgaat veel specifieker en gevaarlijker dan die van andere landen en organisaties. Nooit eerder klonken in de laatste zestig jaar megalomane bedreigingen naar de joden toe zo luguber en wezenlijk. Wat nodig is zijn een onderkenning van het gevaar en internationale eensgezindheid en coördinatie. Overbodig wapengekletter en stoere taal zijn hierbij contraproductief, maar het moet voor alle betrokkenen ook duidelijk zijn dat het gebruik van geweld tegen een aggressief en nucleair Iran een reële optie is. Misschien dat er toch nog iets van de geschiedenis te leren valt voor ons allemaal, jood en niet-jood. Laten we vooral niet vergeten dat zes jaar nadat Hitler de joden van Europa bedreigde naast zes miljoen joden ook tientallen miljoen niet-joden het slachtoffer van zijn waanzin waren geworden.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

On page 16 and 17 of the book that I started reading this afternoon ( Sybille Steinbacher, Auschwitz: A History ( London: Penguin Books, 2005; translation of Auschwitz: Geschichte und Nachgeschichte, Munich: Beck Verlag, 2004 ) I learnt an interesting detail that I had read before but somehow never really paid attention to:
" [...] on 26 October 1939, when the regulation concerning the establishment of the new border of the German Reich, drawn up by the Border Commission within the Reich Ministry of the Interior, came into effect was the decision finally made: Auschwitz was part of Upper Silesia, and thus of the German Reich. [...] The annexation of western Poland had an immediate effect on Auschwitz: the town was part of the German Reich - and did not, as is often suggested, lie in the geographically nebulous East. In other words: the largest extermination site in the Third Reich was ( like Chelmno extermination camp in the Warthegau ) on German soil..."

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Today is Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Day. Officially the day's name in Hebrew is Yom HaShoah WeHaGvurah, the Day of the Holocaust and of the Courage/Heroism. In English the official name is even longer, as you can see above. Personally I am not a big fan of the use of the word 'martyrs' to describe those who were murdered by the Nazis and their helpers. Click here for more information about the day ( I noticed at least two mistakes: in contrast to the day of remembrance for those who were killed in Israel's wars, the siren does not blow at sundown on the evening before Yom HaShoah, and this morning it will blow at 10.00 AM, not 11.00 AM ). This year for the first time I had to explain to our daughter ( she is in first grade and the subject has been dealt with at school in a number of ways in the past week ) what the Shoah is, why some people hate the Jews so much, etc. I used the story of Haman and Purim, one of the most frightening parts of Jewish history with which children become familiar at a very early age, to tell our daughter about Hitler and the Nazis. Probably because the events of Purim happened so many years ago the story does not scare children, and from experience I know that when you present Hitler as a kind of super-Haman children do get the message and receive answers to their questions without developing unnecessary fears. Of course our daughter asked if her grandparents "were in the Shoah", and she showed a kind of pride ( something that I witnessed with other grandchildren and greatgrandchildren of survivors and victims ) when she heard that they were. She was a bit sad when she heard that the father of savta was deported and murdered, but then - after we finished our little talk - she returned to her dolls and continued to play. I wrote an article in Dutch about Holocaust Day ( I am trying to get it published ), and about the fact that while we should refrain from making unhistorical and hysterical comparisons there is one lesson that can be learnt from the Holocaust: we should take seriously any national(ist) leader who openly threatens Jews with annihilation while at the same time doing his best to achieve 'means of mass aggression'. In the end aggressive anti-Semites threaten all of us, Jews and non-Jews. After all, six years after Hitler openly threatened the Jews in the Reichstag in one of his famous speeches - more than half a year before WWII had officially started - not only six million Jews but also tens of millions of non-Jews had lost their lives because of his and the Nazis' vicious visions. You cannot compare Nazi-Germany with Iran or Al-Qaida or any other militant Muslim organization or state, but there is one parallel between Nazism on the one hand and Islamism and other forms of militant Islam on the other: for both Jews are only the first on a long list of targets that can and must be eliminated. While Israel started its yearly day of remembrance for the six million last night, terrorists ( most probably - sent or hired by - members of some Islamist terror group ) made that clear once again in Dahab, Egypt.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

On the website of the Dutch newspaper Telegraaf I read an article about a ( former ) rabbi who lives with seven wives. Since that did not make sense I checked the website of the Telegraph, where the information came from. There I saw that a guy named Philip Sharp, who for some reason carries the title 'rabbi', indeed lives with several women, who are his wives only 'in the eyes of God', five children, three dogs and two horses. If you read the article you will see that we are talking about members of a 'messianic Jewish' congregation, i.e. Christians. Some of them might very well be Jewish according to halakha, or have Jewish roots, but they have not really anything to do with Judaism or with the Jewish people. Still, the Telegraph and the BBC, which made a documentary about this man - who has been the subject of a Charity Commission investigation over the alleged misuse of funds from his religious charity shops - and his family, insist on calling him a rabbi, thus suggesting a real link to Jews and Judaism. At least that way the newspapers got a catchy headline, don't they? A Jewish freak is sexier and more interesting than a Christian one, apparently.
Het volgende artikel staat als het goed is ( ik kan het niet nakijken op de website van de krant, maar de vorige keer liep alles gesmeerd, dus ik neem aan dat dat ook deze keer zo is ) deze week in het Friesch Dagblad
Spelen met Dynamiet/k
Over de wetenschappelijke waarde van het rapport van de Wetenschappelijke Raad voor het Regeringsbeleid, Dynamiek in islamitisch activisme, kan getwist worden. De onderzoekers zochten enkel en alleen naar "positieve aanknopingspunten", waarbij "de zo bekende negatieve manifestaties" bewust buiten beschouwing werden gelaten. Mij lijkt dat een foute benadering voor onderzoek dat zich richt op een 'holistische' levensbeschouwing als het 'islamitisch activisme'. De WRR schijnt nauwelijks onderscheid te maken tussen mainstream moslims en de meer actieve – militante – gelovigen. Natuurlijk houdt maar een klein deel van 'islamitische activisten' zich met terreur bezig, maar je kan en mag de socio-economische en democratisch-electorale activiteiten van organisaties als Hamas en Hizbollah – en van de regimes die hen steunen – niet los zien van hun terreurdaden. Het succes van de ene tak van zulke organisaties staat of valt bij dat van de andere tak. Bovendien valt het op dat er in de hele indrukwekkende bibliografie niet één werk te vinden is in het Arabisch, Farsi of een andere taal waarin de belangrijke moslim-ideologen schrijven. Dit is problematisch om twee redenen. Allereerst krijgen de onderzoekers – en dus ook de lezers van het rapport – zo hun informatie vrijwel uitsluitend uit de tweede of derde hand, geparafraseerd en geïnterpreteerd. Daarnaast spreken in het Midden-Oosten officiële woordvoerders en opiniemakers vaak met twee tongen: één boodschap en terminologie – in hun moedertaal – voor hun achterban, en een andere, doorgaans meer gematigde – meestal in het Engels of het Frans – voor de ( ongelovige, Westerse ) buitenwereld. Er is in Nederland geen gebrek aan 'islamologen' die vloeiend Arabisch of Farsi lezen en spreken, en je zou toch verwachten dat minstens één van hen mede-samensteller van een rapport als dit was geweest. Met een werkwijze en benadering waarbij dusdanig grote vraagtekens kunnen worden gezet hebben ook de conclusies en aanbevelingen een dubieuze waarde. Zoals gebruikelijk in politiek-correcte kringen wordt ook hier de hand vooral in eigen boezem gestoken. Confrontatie en sjabloondenken zijn de hoofdoorzaken voor de slechte verhoudingen tussen 'hen' en 'ons', en dialoog, cultureel-religieus relativisme ( bij ons is ook niet alles zo geweldig ) en een soort ontwikkelingshulp zullen de verlossing brengen. Men ziet over het hoofd dat het juist de 'andere kant' is die de confrontatie en de polarisatie zoekt, daarbij vaak uitgaand van een variant op Marx' Verelendungstheorie: als moslims in Islamitisch landen het maar slecht genoeg hebben, en als de moslims in het Westen maar voldoende vervreemd raken van hun omgeving wordt iedere moslim vanzelf een ( militante ) activist. Voor een succesvolle toenadering en dialoog moet er aan beide kanten een zekere bereidwilligheid en een minimum aan respect voor 'de ander' zijn. Blijkbaar moeten alleen wij steeds maar toegeven, respect tonen en tot een dialoog bereid zijn. Als er onder islamitische activisten al zo'n bereidwilligheid, respect en neiging tot compromissen bestaan, dan betreft het in de meeste gevallen een minderheid die haar leven niet zeker is, of pragmatische ideologen met tactisch inzicht. Het lijkt dat de samenstellers van het rapport menen dat democratische ontwikkelingen en een verbeterde mensenrechtensituatie in sommige moslimlanden een direct gevolg zijn van islamitisch activisme. Ik ben niet overtuigd. Hooguit kan worden gezegd dat islamitische activisten zeer handig gebruik maken van democratische processen ( en van Westerse steun daaraan ) om hun uiteindelijke doelen te verwezenlijken. Het is goed om te benadrukken dat terroristen niet het monopolie op islamitisch activisme hebben. Ook kunnen in sommige gevallen op korte termijn politieke zaken worden gedaan met islamitische activisten, zelfs met hen die terreur niet per se afwijzen. Toch moet gezegd worden dat, net zo goed als het naïef is om te denken dat je het islamistische terrorisme kunt bestrijden door bijvoorbeeld een democratisch gekozen Hamas-regering te boycotten of door zo goed als elke moslim als vijand te bestempelen, het onnozel is om te denken dat de belangen van het Westen en van een groot deel van de islamitische activisten te verenigen zijn. Als er op de lange termijn een oplossing bestaat voor de problemen van moslims in het Midden-Oosten en elders – en dus voor het conflict tussen 'de' Islam en het Westen – dan ligt die bij gematigde en seculiere moslims die westerse waarden, democratie en mensenrechten van harte ( en niet vanuit een cynisch opportunisme ) omarmen. Als hun ideeën meer gangbaarheid en legitimiteit kregen onder moslims wereldwijd zou een vruchtbare dialoog en een constructieve toenadering tussen moslims en het Westen een minder onwerkelijk ideaal worden. Het probleem is dat hun stem vooral in het Westen wordt gehoord, en dat ze niet alleen door veel islamitische activisten maar ook door veel door het Westen gesteunde regimes en regeringen als een gevaar worden gezien. Als Nederland en de Europese Unie al hun nut en dienstbaarheid kunnen bewijzen dan is het op dit gebied. Zolang wij ons echter in allerlei bochten wringen om islamitische activisten ( en andere moslims ) vooral niet te schofferen, en zolang we blijven geloven dat 'wij' en 'zij' hetzelfde doel voor ogen hebben en via eenzijdige compromissen onzerzijds prima kunnen samenwerken, neemt Huntington's 'botsing der beschavingen' alleen maar in hevigheid toe.
Arab MKs are standing in line to meet with Hamas officials. What they think to achieve I do not know exactly, they might want to prove to their voters and to the Israeli public and state that they have a certain relevance. I do not like to see them holding hands with Hamasniks, but I also think that the fuss that is being made about it is a bit overdone. We all know that sooner or later Israel will have to do business with Hamas just like we did and do business with the PLO, so it is a waste of precious time to pretend that we can ignore Hamas and their Palestinian voters forever. One MK of the Likud annnounced that he will propose a bill banning meetings with organizations listed as terror groups under Israeli law. Talking about having to prove that you are still relevant. What I do support, though, is the proposal to ban ( Arab ) MKs who met with Hamas representatives ( in a week that saw nine people being murdered in an attack that was defended by the Hamas government ) from becoming members of the Foreign Affairs and Security Committee. I do not expect every Israeli Arab to be loyal to this state ( although I know that many of them are ) but I do not think that men like as-Sana belong in that committee.
Tom Janssen made a very thoughtful cartoon after last Monsday's terror attack in Tel Aviv. It is titled "Political Suicide".
"I'm standing solidly behind you!"

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Two classic cartoons by Clay Bennett of the Christian Science Monitor.
I added a "Commentaries and Analyses" section to the permalinks on the righthand side of this blog. One link is to the website of Alon Ben-Meir. I knew his name and read some of his articles, his website I only 'discovered' after I read this article on Ynet. The other link is to Project Syndicate, where you can find op-ed and other articles and analyses, written by various international experts for newspapers and magazines all over the world. I found the website after my brother sent me the translation of this article by Ralf Dahrendorf, which appeared in a Dutch newspaper. Professor Dahrendorf also wrote a good article after the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections.

Monday, April 17, 2006

For updates about the latest terror attack in Tel Aviv see the weblog of Yael, a new immigrant from the US. Lisa Goldman ( the blogger-journalist of On the Face ) arrived on the spot right after the attack and took pictures of its aftermath.
Een hint. Op de website van Elsevier kun je je favoriete weblog aangeven, en uitleggen waarom je dat weblog goed vindt ( met dank aan Nanette voor de verwijzing ).
Late last night I finished watching Conspiracy, a dramatic recreation of the Wannsee Conference ( January 20th 1942; the link refers to a website in both English and Dutch, with links to short biographies of most of the participants ). I also am reading a book by Mark Roseman about that infamous conference, which I purchased together with the DVD. The movie is quite impressive. It is not known what exactly happened at the conference, the exact discussions were not written down, but the overall atmosphere seems to be reproduced in a realistic - or at least a credible - way. Even the fact that the actors speak English and not German, normally an annoying detail in WW-II movies, is not really distracting here. The script is based on the only remaining copy of the conference's protocol ( the one sent to Martin Luther of the Foreign Ministry, nr. 16 out of 30 copies ), but of course details were added: what was served, what people were wearing, the small talk among the participants etc. When I heard the words Wannsee Conference I used to think about bureaucrats, cold detailed discussions that led to - or gave some sort of official, pseudo-legal stamp of approval for the continuation and intensification of an already ongoing- mass murder. I never thought about the 'practical' details that must have been a part of that 'bloody Tuesday' in Berlin: snacks and lunch for the participants, cards with their names being written, their drivers passing the time outside, etc. Notice, when you look at the list of officials who attended the conference, that more than half of them were Herr Doktor, that many of them had studied law, that all of them seem to come from 'good', 'normal', often (upper)middle-class families, and that only few of them were convicted and truly punished for the part they played in the Holocaust. PS: On the memorial and educational site of the House of the Wannsee Conference you can see some of the original documents related to the meeting. Notice that the "discussion, followed by a breakfast" was originally planned for December 9th 1941.
As serious and tense this whole Iran-is-going-nuclear-and-has-to-be-stopped business may be, it appears to provide cartoonists with a lot of inspiration. My favorite among the seven cartoons that I picked out for this posting is the one by Rob Rogers.
Robert Ariail

Rob Rogers

M.E. Cohen

John Cole

Joep Bertrams

Chip Bok

Bob Englehart

Two interesting articles that I read in Ha'Aretz. One, by Ari Shavit, is about the challenges that the government and people of Israel face as we "try to leave the enslavement of occupation for the liberty of sovereignty". The other, an interview with professor Shlomo Ben-Ami, provides us with a very good analysis of ( the lack of ) social-democracy in Israel.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Three excellent cartoons by Ed Stein.
Nederlandse en Amerikaanse soldaten kunnen blijkbaar heel wat van elkaar leren als het gaat om het vrij beschikbaar maken van wat beter geheim zou moeten blijven ( niet dat er hier in Israel nooit blunders op dat gebied worden gemaakt ).
Ynet had an article about Einsatzgruppe Egypt, a mobile killing unit that was supposed to do in wartime Palestine what similar units did in Eastern Europe: round up and murder as many Jews as possible. Thank G'd Erwin Rommel was unable to conquer Palestine, so the Germans did not have the chance to implement their policies among the Jews here. The article says that the unit remained in Greece. I wonder if its members played a role in the murder of Jews in Greece and other countries.
Globalization a la Israel 2006 ( here and here ). Whenever I read sad stories about foreign workers who came to the Jewish state I always wonder how desperate - or out of your mind - you have to be to try your luck in - of all places - this part of the world.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

When I read about the case of the ultra-orthodox teenager who is accused of abusing and killing his three-month-old son, I wondered what the mother of the baby had to say, and why the haredi community is so desperately defending this man who is allegedly a child-abuser. I almost started to believe their claims that this is a blood libel, and that the police are trying to frame an innocent Thorah-student. Then I found this website, of the Awareness Center ( The Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault ), based in Maryland. There I read a very clarifying analysis, written by Anshel Pheffer in the Jerusalem Post, a newspaper that is not known for its leftwing, anti-religious bias. The article deals with domestic ( and sexual ) abuse within the part of the ultra-orthodox community to which Yisrael Valis/Vales belongs. What Anshel Pheffer writes makes a lot of sense, and I would be surprised if the defenders of Mr Vales will turn out to have been right all along. PS: Some members of the haredi community have started to change their tunes. Still, it seems that the wellbeing and honor of the father - who even according to his staunchest defenders appears to be guilty of at least "carelessness or negligence" - are much more important than the life of the poor baby. Look what one of the leading legal authorities who visited Yisrael Vales in prison said about the biting signs on the infant's body: "The bite wasn't something that endangered the child.". Busha we hirpa, as we say in Hebrew. If this isn't Hilul HaShem, what is?
Two years ago Elem, an organization that deals with youth in distress ( see the link in the margin of this weblog ), started to raise funds through its Light of Hope campaign. In the weeks before Independence Day people are invited to donate money by sending an SMS or through the telephone or a credit card, and for every donation the organization lights one light bulb that forms part of a huge Israeli flag. This year the flag is 'hanging' from the city hall in Tel Aviv.
Red Ken did it again.
I started the long Pesach weekend with the following CDs, all by Loreena McKennit:
  1. Elemental
  2. To Drive the Cold Winter Away
  3. Parallel Dreams
  4. The Visit
  5. The Mask and the Mirror

Then I listened to these albums:

  1. Olivier Messiaen: Quartet for the End of Time & Theme and Variations for violin and piano
  2. and
  3. Various works of Hector Berlioz ( Symphonie fantastique, Le carnaval romain etc. ), performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, directed by Charles Munch
  4. Tchaikovsky: Symphony nr. 4 & Overture 1812
  5. Tchaikovsky: Symphony nr. 6 'Pathetique'

Today I started to listen to four CDs with music composed - and, apart from Stanze, performed - by Ludovico Einaudi. Some of his music I would describe as twanging, but most of it is very melodious and soothing:

  1. Eden Roc
  2. I Giorni
  3. Le Onde
  4. Stanze

Voor wie nog niet genoeg over ( de dood van ) Gerard Reve heeft gelezen of gehoord is er dit weblog. Vandaag wordt de volksschrijver begraven. Ik las in het nieuwsbulletin van de Wereldomroep dat na de kerkdienst naast het graf nog een "joods gebed" zal worden uitgesproken. Ben benieuwd wat voor gebed dat is. Toevallig las ik gisteren dat deze week ook de bassist van het Cocktail Trio is overleden. De naam klonk me wel bekend in de oren, en ik kon me nog wel de zanger met de baard voor de geest halen, maar toen ik de titels van hun hits las moest ik toch heus erkennen dat ik geen enkel nummer van hen kende, ze waren echt van voor mijn tijd. Ik keek toch maar even op de officiele website en zag daar een paar pareltjes die vandaag de dag tot poetische en/of politiek-correcte rellen zouden leiden. Een paar voorbeelden: Kom in mijne wigwam, lieve bleekgezicht En doe, als je binnen komt, de wigwam dicht O, jouw blonde scalp bewonder ik al lang Want die staat zo mooi bij m'n streepbehang Als ik met m'n lasso straks jouw hart verstrik En jou speels met pijltjes in je maagstreek prik Dan wordt mijne wigwam een Indiaans paleis 't Vuurwater staat al leker koud op ijs [...] "He, Li-Wang Tai-Fu, wat hebben ons gehoold? Ga jij uit jouw lestaulantje weg Ja, ik heb passage geboekt op de slow-boat to China O, dat is jammel, want dan kunnen ons niet meer lekkel bami-bami eten. En d'l zijn ook geen tulpebollen O, daal zijn toch lotusbloesem Ja, maal jij kunnen toch geen lotusbloesem eten. Lotusbloesem zijn toch mijn vlouw O, neem mij niet kwalijk. Ons een liedje zingen, samen Goed" [...] Lola daar kan ik niet tegen Lola ik word zo verlegen Lola als jij in de trein gestegen bent Lola daar kan ik niet tegen Lola ik word zo verlegen Lola ik ben zo'n verlegen vent [...]

Friday, April 14, 2006

Nog twee cartoons, een van Tom Janssen en een van Joep Bertrams, over onderwerpen die de afgelopen week in het ( Nederlandse ) nieuws waren.
Two cartoons, dealing with the same subject, by Tom Janssen.
To whom it may concern: Happy Easter!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

( Porcelain Seder-plate, made by Ridgways, 1850, London; collection of the Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam )

( E-card found at Yahoo )

Six cartoons, all of them Bush-related.
Robert Ariail Robert Ariail

Robert Ariail

Robert Ariail

Mike Keefe

M.E. Cohen ( published on April 1st 2006 )

Monday, April 10, 2006

About 90 minutes ago I returned home, after a productive, nice, busy and exhausting day in Tel Aviv, so I only went up to my study to check today's headlines and my mailbox, then I am going to bed ( after a hot shower ). As much as I feel bad about the Palestinian children who have been killed in the latest round of cat-and-mouse games between Israel and the various Palestinian terror factions, what saddened me most was the story of the three-month-old baby who died after having been abused, beaten and bitten by his 19-year-old father, Yisrael Vales, who belongs to a highly respected haredi ( ultra-orthodox ) family. The father has admitted the abuse, saying that "one of the reasons for his violence was disgust he felt toward his son due to a physical defect in the child's neck muscles". Also, he was angry at his son because he "wouldn't let him sleep ". The story in itself is sad enough, but what made me even sadder ( and angrier ) were the reactions by members of the haredi community to which the family belongs. They still deny that the father could be guilty, and the police is even afraid that riots could erupt now that the father has been charged with killing - rather than 'only' absusing - his son. What worth do your values and your frumkeit have when the life and the wellbeing of a helpless baby are less important than the 'honor' of your community and of one of its deranged and despicable members? Why did nobody ring any bell to protect this poor baby, whose three months' worth of life consisted mainly of abuse? Of course this does not say anything - well, it does not say much - about the haredi communities in general, and I am sure that on average haredi parents are as good or bad as any less devout mother and father, but I truly pity the poor children who are born in the community of which Yisrael Vales is such a respected member.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

As a result of modern (wo)man's myopic memory hundred women who have lived in the last 60 years or so are named as the "100 Most Beautiful Women Of All Time". Also, it seems that fame and public exposure had more impact on the women's ranking than only their looks. How else could one explain the fact that Victoria Beckham beat Kate Winslet, or that Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton - yuck! - ended up before Anna Kournikova?
Zou het kunnen dat dit bericht gewoon met vijf dagen vertraging op de website van de Telegraaf terecht is gekomen? Ik moest er wel om glimlachen.
The following article appeared in the latest issue of The Jerusalem Report. I wrote it more than a year ago, when the Livingstone-Finegold affair started, but then the magazine's opinion editor was unable to publish it before the subject disappeared from the headlines. One good thing about Ken Livingstone is that he always finds new ways to make those headlines, which is why one year later the JerRep's opinion editor was more than happy to publish a somewhat updated version - with only minor changes - of the original piece.
Code Red or Orange?
Through some of his far from kosher remarks Ken Livingstone, mayor of the city of London, has exhibited an unhealthy obsession with many things Jewish and Israeli. One might say that somehow he got lost within the twilight zone between legitimate criticism of Israel and an utterly anti-Semitic version of anti-Zionism. If he did, that in itself is not surprising, 'Red Ken' would be in the good company of many anti-globalists, Bush-bashers and others, who easily use words like 'ethnic cleansing' or Nazi-era associations when criticizing Israel or the US while somehow ignoring perpetrators of crimes far worse than the ones that they ascribe to Israel's leaders and to George W. Bush. Still, automatically denouncing him – and other critics of Israel – as an anti-Semite is wrong, unwise and counterproductive. It keeps fascinating me how much the 'new Left' – mostly in Europe but elsewhere as well – has in common with Israel's rightwing extremists and with some of the Jewish (neo)conservatives in America when it comes to trivializing the suffering and memory of the millions of Jews and other murdered by the Nazis. For several years each of these three groups has been easily using analogies between the years 1933-45 and 2001-6, making often hysterical and always unhistorical references to the Holocaust in whatever context they saw fit. The anti-Semitism witnessed in the Arab world and in Europe today, Israel's policies towards the Palestinians or towards the settlers, there are no limits to what these people think can bear comparison with the Nazi-crimes in Europe. American-Jewish conservatives such as Ruth Wisse, Ron Rosenbaum and Nat Hentoff, have spoken about the likelihood of " a second Holocaust ", and compared discussions in Jewish intellectual circles in Israel with those in pre-Holocaust Europe. In recent years Israeli settlers and their supporters have frequently used symbols and terms that are related to the Shoah, in order to express their anger and frustration about different aspects of government policies regarding the settlements. Because of these ' Jewish references ', opponents of Israel and some of the critics of the country's policies in the territories - many of whom already could not be blamed for having qualms about using Holocaust analogies lightly - feel even less restraint when it comes to introducing Holocaust-related imagery and comparisons into their discussion of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Thus, when three years ago two British MPs returned from a visit to the Gaza Strip and publicly compared the situation of the Palestinians in Gaza to that of the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto, few ( non-Jewish ) eyebrows were raised. The unwarranted use of the term ' Holocaust ' within the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict is an insult to the memory both of those who were murdered by the Nazis and of the victims of today's ( Islamist ) terrorism. It also shows a lack of appreciation for the work of all the brave men and women who have been and still are defending Israel's security and fighting that terrorism, in Israel and abroad. For Jews and Israelis, the mere existence of the state of Israel and of the IDF should be enough to deem any comparisons between today and the years 1933-45 inappropriate, no matter how difficult the situation in which we find ourselves these days. In a way not dissimilar to the manner in which Jews in Israel and abroad contributed to the trivialization of the Holocaust, a number of supporters of Israel has emptied the word 'anti-Semitism' of its powerful emotional and historical content. The fact that anti-Semitism - whether it is the 'classical' racist version or wears the coat of Islam(ism), Palestinian nationalism or anti-globalization - still haunts us should not surprise us, it has always been and probably will always be part of our history. That should not be a reason not to fight it. Nevertheless, by too often crying wolf when it comes to alleged and imagined anti-Semitic motives of Israel's critics and enemies, conservative advocates of the Jewish state have diminished the value and power of the word ' anti-Semitism ' and of its derivatives. We would serve our national interests and honor the survivors and the memory of the victims of the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis and their collaborators, if we used the A-word only in truly relevant cases, and if we ourselves stopped providing our enemies with the tools to turn the suffering of millions of Jews into something commonplace, viewed as perfect reference material for nearly all that is wrong and unjust in today's world.
I often recognize my views in the articles of Ha'Aretz' Bradley Burston. That is definitely true for his piece about Daniel Pipes and, implicitly, about all those Jews abroad who believe that Zionism is necessarily rightwing and that their extremism can make up for the fact that they live thousands of miles away from the place that they care so much about. When we refuse to heed calls by people like Daniel Pipes to hit the Palestinians harder and harder, because we know that such hits do not hurt them as much as they hurt us, we show that we are truly independent. As Burston says, "Since when did we become mercenaries for Daniel Pipes?".
Ik weet niet of ik na de volgende verkiezingen in Nederland graag een PvdA-SP-Groen Links kabinet gevormd zou zien worden, maar afgaande op wat ik zelf zo lees en gezien heb, en vooral op de meningen van zo ongeveer iedereen in Nederland die ik ken, heb ik de indruk dat het nooit veel beroerder kan zijn dan de huidige regering. In plaats van overdreven zelfverzekerd- en tevredenheid zou Rita Verdonk dus misschien iets meer bescheidenheid en twijfel kunnen tonen. In navolging van Pim F. vond ze het nodig om haar politieke campagne met wat Engels te beginnen. Ze zal dan vast ook wel weten wat 'soul-searching' betekent. Dat de bovengenoemde virtuele coalitie door haar bij voorbaat als '' een rampzalig links kabinet '' wordt afgeschilderd belooft niet veel goeds voor de verkiezingscampagne, die waarschijnlijk eerder door een populisme a la Wilders en SP (*) dan door openheid, realisme en een authentieke zorg om en voor een rechtvaardiger, veiliger en beter functionerende samenleving gekenmerkt zal worden. (*) Alhoewel zowel Geert Wilders als de Socialistiese Partij allebei sterke populistische trekjes hebben wil ik niet suggereren dat ze een pot nat zijn. Bovendien, alhoewel ik nooit op een van beide zou stemmen kan ik het lef van Wilder en de dadendrang van de Socialistiese Partij wel degelijk waarderen.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

QED.
I am not sure that it is good policy of the US, Canada, the Netherlands and other countries to isolate and boycott the Hamas government. On the other hand, I also find it hard to get excited about the letter that the Palestinian foreign minister, Hamas's Mahmoud al-Zahar, sent to Kofi Annan. If the Palestinians really are serious about a two-state solution ( i.e. if by two states they mean Israel and Palestine ) and about a Jewish and a Palestinian state living side by side "in peace and security", why is it so hard for them to refer to Israel and the Jews by name? If Mr Zahar really wants "to enable the Palestinian people to attain their legitimate rights" he knows that Jerusalem is the right address, not Moscow, Brussels, Washington and New York. I am convinced that if the Hamas government makes clear to the Palestinians, Israel and the world that it is sincere when talking about peace and security it will find an eager partner on the Israeli side. Until the Palestinian government convinces us of such a sincerity, Israel should assume that it has to determine for and by itself what its borders will be, as if there is no partner to negotiate with on the other side of the conflict.
Six cartoons that refer to ( President Bush and ) the situation in Iraq.
Henry Payne

Chip Bok

Daryl Cagle

Rob Rogers Rob Rogers

Henry Payne

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

If anybody expected the politicians to take seriously the apathy expressed by about 40% of Israel's voters when they did not bother to come to the polling stations, or the mistrust that almost 100% of us have when it comes to those who are supposed to represent us and our interests, the past week has proven that such expectations were futile. Optimism and naiveté are very human qualities, here not less - and maybe even more - than elsewhere in the world, but every time that we are disappointed we become slightly more cynical than we were before, only to pin our vain hopes again on one or more individuals or parties when new elections are called, which in this country usually does not take too long after a new government takes office. I totally agree with what Aya Ben-Amos wrote. The flawed, primitive ( in my eyes ) voting system gives parties' representatives the opportunity to haggle over parliamentary seats and leaves the public - and the (wo)men who are supposed to build the coalition - in the dark about the final results of the election. That does not help to gain the people's trust in democracy. The Attorney General called upon the first ever Israeli-born ashkenazi chief rabbi, Yonah Metzger, to resign. AG Menachem Mazuz decided to close the criminal investigation against the chief rabbi ( here is an article on the AG's report ) but recommended the rabbi's resignation, in particular because the latter lied during his investigation. Never mind the question whether the chief rabbi should resign or not, what is most telling is the reaction by Eli Yishay, the leader of Shas, a party whose MKs have a reputation when it comes to being investigated and convicted ( Raphael Pinchasi early 1990s, Yair Levi 1993, Aryeh Deri 1999, recently Shlomo Benizri and Yair Peretz; as you can see, at least half a minyan ) to the report of the AG. Yishai congratulated Mr Metzger on the state’s decision to close an investigation against him and said that he rabbi's contribution to the Chief Rabbinate had glorified the body. Last but not least among this week's news items that caused me to be more sceptical than usual about the chances of this country ever becoming a normal, enlightened and respectable state was this article. Why is it that only non-Jews who want to become citizens will probably have to pass a citizenship test? I am very much in favor of such tests - not only in Israel but also in Europe - but everybody who wants to become a citizen of this country should have some basic knowledge about our common ( Jewish and non-Jewish ) past and about the institutes that make up the state ( no matter how corrupt or flawed they are ). Only a racial-genetic bond with the land is not enough to turn someone automatically into a valuable immigrant who is worthy of citizenship, I am afraid.
A brilliant cartoon by Daryl Cagle.
Since Saturday until this afternoon I listened to the following albums:
  1. Gabriel Fauré - Requiem op. 48 (+ other works by Fauré, Mozart, Bruckner and others; various performers )
  2. Henryk Wieniawski - Violin Concertos no. 1 & 2 + other works ( Itzhak Perlman, Samuel Sanders, London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Seiji Ozawa )
  3. Music for Harp ( compositions by Fauré, Satie, hindemith, Haendel and others, performed by Mariko Anraku )
  4. Classical Guitar Concertos vol. I
  5. idem vol. II

I just put the following CDs in my stereo:

  1. and
  2. Robert Schumann - Concertos ( complete; various performers )
  3. Wibi Soerjadi - A Touch of Romance ( I cannot stand the titles of his albums and for many music lovers he is way too commercial, but Mr Soerjadi knows how to play the piano, and one of my favorite periods, Romanticism, is his specialty, so... )
  4. Franz Schubert - Impromptus op. 90 & 142 ( Martijn van den Hoek )
  5. Franz Schubert - Wanderer Fantasie & German Dances ( Martijn van den Hoek )

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Just finished watching Cold Mountain on DVD. In spite of the mixed reviews that the film received I very much enjoyed it. It is not exactly a feel-good movie but it has several beautiful scenes, an excellent music score ( the hymn in the church scene, various folk songs, Ada Monroe playing the piano ), good actors ( Philip Seymour Hoffman is wonderful ) and a moving story. I already planned to do some serious reading about the American Civil War whenever I have some spare time left but now I am even more determined to do so.
It seems to me, though, that there is one mistake in the movie ( a goof, as they call it at IMDb ).
The announcement about North Carolina's secession comes during a church service which - since everyone is dressed up so nicely - appears to take place on a Sunday. On May 20th 1861 North Carolina was the last state to sign an Ordinance of Secession ( see here and here ), which dissolved the state's association with the United States. This date fell on a Monday. It seems unlikely that news of the secession reached the people of Cold Mountain ( the mountain exists, the village not, I know ) only six days later, or one day early. Please correct me if I am wrong.
If this is true ( and it could very well be ), it might be a proper punishment for the stupid, arrogant, and absolutely unwarranted powerplay that the Labor party has been playing during the last couple of days.
Could someone please explain the logic of this to me? Everybody who claims to be concerned about Israel's democracy complains about the low voter turnout last week, and everybody understands that making sure the next coalition somehow expresses the wishes of those voters who bothered to come and vote would be a key element of helping voters to trust politicians a bit more. So why do some wanglers try so hard to ( threaten to ) form a government without the party that received about 25% of the votes? O.k., Labor did better than the opinion polls expected, but it still lost two seats compared to the previous elections, and its arrogance is completely unjustified. The fairest and most logical step now would be to allow Ehud Olmert to try and build a stable coalition. Every effort to sabotage that is proof that when it comes to ( Israeli ) politics and politicians, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.