Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Karin Kloosterman, a Canadian-Israeli freelance journalist living in Tel Aviv, sent me an opinion article about a vote by the Ontario division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees - Canada's largest union - to boycott Israel. In the article she points out that those who voted for the boycott should also stop using :
  • all those cellphones that use technology developed by Motorola Israel;
  • computers that use Intel's Centrino chips or Intel's new multi-core processors, both of which were largely developed at the company's facilities in Israel ( several parents in our children's school and kindergarten, and at least one friend of ours work for Intel R&D here in Haifa );
  • AOL Instant Messenger: the technology behind this was developed by four young Israelis ten years ago;
  • water taps: according to Karin Kloosterman "almost every town and city on the grid in Ontario distributes water through valves developed by Israelis";
  • Skype: VOIP, the technology that made Skype possible and enables us to talk for free over the internet services, was Pioneered in Israel;
  • Several drugs that save lives or make lives more livable and that were developed by Israeli companies and/or researchers: Copaxone and Rebif ( drugs for multiple sclerosis ), Exelon ( used against Alzheimer's disease ), Doxil ( an anti-cancer drug );
  • OHIP: covered camera-in-a-capsule technology of Given Imaging ( where one of our neighbors works, according to the company car that she drives ), which eliminated the need for painful colonoscopies.

As you see - and as the blinkered 'idealists' of the so-called Left in many western countries fail to notice - Israel did contribute a little more to humanity than only that damned occupation. For some reason I believe that the Jewish state has contributed and continues to contribute much, much more to mankind than all those regimes that will never have to fear a boycott by CUPE, NATFHE, and other organizations and individuals who claim to care for the wellbeing of the Palestinian people. Unless of course you consider Hama rules and suicide terror in its ultimate form to be laudable contributions.

Probably all those who voted in favor simply did and do not have any idea what the Jewish state is all about, and that the occupation is something that many of those Israelis who in a more normal world would be their natural allies would like to get rid of as soon as possible, if not sooner. In the meantime, many of the public employees in the Ontario area will stop using what they know to be Israeli products, unaware of the Israeli origins of so many things that will continue to make their lives easier and more pleasant. As Karin Kloosterman told the teachers of Ontario before they were about to vote on the boycott ( unfortunately her advice did not have the result she hoped for ): "...perhaps you should think about reneging on your vote, and be reminded of something my grade 4 teacher used to teach us about searching for the truth, no matter what the consequences, lest you all be like the type of vegetarians that no one likes- the ones who sneak meat when nobody is looking."

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Als je van wereldmuziek houdt en een goede Israelische band aan het werk wilt zien raad ik je aan om over een week naar de Melkweg in Amsterdam te gaan. HaBreyra HaTiv'it ( De Natuurlijke Keuze ), het muziekgezelschap van en rond Shlomo Bar, zal daar dan een optreden geven. Ik heb de live-CD van het gezamenlijke optreden van hen ( d.w.z. van Shlomo Bar met de band in de samenstelling van een jaar of tien geleden ) samen met David De'or, heel erg mooi.
Even if some of the details of this article turn out to be not entirely true ( I have no reason to assume they are not, I just try to give the suspects some benefit of the doubt ), the Ashdod baby-corpse-kidnapping affair furnishes the umpteenth evidence that, no matter how beautiful religion is and can be, if applied in extremist ways it can cause people to do the craziest, ugliest and most despicable things imaginable, and that Muslims definitely do not have a monopoly when it comes to religious fanaticism and religion-induced insanity.
It's time for some cartoons, once again I chose some that deal with Iran ( and Bush ). Notice that most cartoons on this subject have one out of only two messages: a possible attack on Iran as some sort of diversionary tactic for the US administration; Ahmadenijad as the successor of Adolf Hitler.
Robert Ariail

John Cole

Henry Payne

Henry Payne

Mike Luckovich

Christo Komarnitski

Joep Bertrams ( "New Challenge"; Irak, of course, is Dutch for Iraq )

Chappatte

I've never been to London or anywhere else in the UK. The infamous academic boycott might even reduce the chances of me ever having to go there for my work. If one day I decide to go there ( I heard London is a wonderful and beautiful city ) I will most probably try and meet Daniel - of Daniel's Counter - and take his advice to contact the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University College London to see if they are interested in a guest lecture or another professional rendez-vous.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Herman Berkien zaliger zei het al, je moet niet alles geloven wat er in de Telegraaf staat. In een artikel over een nieuw Amnesty-International campagne tegen internetcensuur lezen we: " In landen als China, Tunesië, Vietnam, Iran en Israël komt of kwam volgens Amnesty censuur [ van websites ] voor." Als je naar de website van Amnesty gaat ( dat kan ik hiervandaan vrijuit doen, overigens ) zul je niets over webcensuur in Israel vinden. In de brief in de Observer van de hand van de directrice van AI in het Verenigd Koninkrijk, waarmee de campagne werd gelanceerd, wordt Israel genoemd in een rijtje van landen waar 'internetonderdrukking' wordt toegepast. Het enige concrete voorbeeld dat AI van deze onderdrukking geeft is de medewerking die Microsoft gaf aan de Israelische authoriteiten bij het onderzoek naar de - volgens de Israelische wet - illegale contacten van Mordechai Vanunu met buitenlandse journalisten. Afgezien van het feit dat medewerking van internet- en softwareproviders met authoriteiten ook in andere landen voorkomt als het gaat om ( mogelijke ) misdrijven (*) en het dus maar de vraag is of hier sprake is van 'repression', moet ik hier toch echt vaststellen dat het niet om censuur gaat. Er zijn genoeg misstanden in Israel, maar internetcensuur is daar toch echt niet een van, wat de Telegraaf ook moge beweren. (*) Ik laat hier in het midden wat mijn mening over de staat Israel vs Vanunu is, wat hier relevant is is dat hij in Israelische ogen de wet heeft overtreden.
Of course the boycott of Israeli universities and academics by Britain's National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education is stupid and hypocritical, and it smacks of more than just anti-Zionism. What I found interesting, though, was the way in which the NATFHE's secretary-general tried to justify his brave action. He made clear how unjust the situation of the Palestinians is, noting that " more Palestinians than Israelis have been killed since September 2000, the unemployment rate was higher among Palestinians and 185 Palestinian schools have been shelled or fired at, compared to one Israeli school ". Hey, that means that we can easily bring some justice to this conflict! All that we have to do is simply to allow Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Syria, Iran, Al-Qaeda etc. to do an even better job by letting them maim and murder more Israelis and shell more Israeli schools than they managed to do until today. Since they love to use suicide bombers for their work the unemployment rate among Palestinians will go down drastically, which will solve the third injustice named by Mr NATFHE. I am sure that through terror, and by boycotting Israel's academics - many of whom, by the way, are at the forefront of the struggle against the occupation, but that is something that is lost on Mr Mackney ( or was it McCarthy? ): after all, like his fellow fanatics he doesn't care much about nuances, it is tough and decisive actions that count - all those who care so much about the Palestinians' wellbeing and interests will make a truly worthy and constructive contribution to a better future for all of us. PS: Unfortunately the cruel reality that is the Middle East shows its ugly, ironic face almost on a daily basis. On the same day that the self-righteous do-gooders of NATFHE showed their 'concern' for justice, academic freedom and human rights of the Palestinians, terrorists in Iraq murdered two British journalists in Baghdad and two British soldiers in Basra. I am sure that Mr Mackney somehow blames us bloody Zionists, our American henchmen and British puppets for this. The terrorists in Iraq have so much in common with Israel's worst enemies. Why is it that we hardly ever hear the likes of Mr Mackney complain about the crimes of those enemies? Could it be that one of the main goals of those enemies ( the destruction of the Jewish state ) resembles that of so many British and European lefties much more than the goal of most Israelis (*) ( and of by far most Israelic academics, I am convinced ), i.e. a Jewish state and a Palestinian state living - more or less peacefully - side by side? (*) Like the Palestinians, many Israelis will continue to dream of a Greater Israel, but the vast majority of us is more than willing to give up that dream in favor of some sort of peaceful coexistence. Most of us have come to realize that the occupation hurts us as much as it hurts the Palestinians ( but obviously in different ways ).
Two articles that appeared about two months ago on the website of Ha'Aretz. One is an interview with David Landau, editor-in-chief of Ha'Aretz. The other was written by a journalist and a history teacher who published a book about the wondrous ways in which many French school students are taught about their country's place in today's world, the role played by the evil empire on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, and terrorism as a not necessarily condemnable means to confront and oppose that empire.
My brother sent me a link to a website where I found this picture. I really hope that it is the work of someone who knows how to use Photoshop, and that Mrs Winfrey did not really had such billboards made. If she did I do not understand why the billboards did not say "Oprah does Auschwitz" instead. That would be a catchier phrase, wouldn't it?

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Today the official deathtoll of the eartquake on Java rose in the direction of 5,000. When I watched the news on the BBC tonight I was surprised to see that the main headline was about pope Benedict's visit to the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. I found this impressive picture, made by a Reuters photographer. A visit by a pope to Auschwitz remains a very significant and symbolic event, particularly if that pope was born in Germany and grew up under the Nazi regime, as many commentators pointed out before me. I understood that the pope personally insisted on adding the site to the program for his visit to the land of his predecessor, and on going on foot through the gate with what is probably the most infamous three-word-phrase in German. Kol HaKavod to him, for his courage and for what appear to be his good intentions. Why the car that brought Mr Ratzinger within meters of that gate had to be an Audi I do not understand, but that of course is just me being a nudnik, splitting hairs without a justifiable reason. On the other hand, go and find any big company that existed 60-70 years ago and did not get its hands dirty somehow. Would Ford have been a better choice?
Last week I read an interview with an ex-general who has some interesting and not always encouraging things to say about the political-military reality in which we find ourselves. I was reminded of a quote by Amos Oz when I read the following passage: "Eventually we will have to arrive at a solution, and it will be more or less identical to the Clinton outline and the Geneva Accords. The question is how much blood will be spilled until then."
I think any academic boycott against Israel is wrong ( at least as long as Iran, Sudan, China and all other countries that have far less democratic regimes than Israel and/or that are not less unjust occupiers than the Jewish state are not boycotted as well ), but I also believe that the Hebrew University and Israel's General Security Service made a serious mistake when they started a very public cooperation program. All over the free world security services and academic institutions cooperate, but there was and is no reason to turn such a cooperation into a highly publicized program. That is particularly true when you already have trouble with people abroad who will do all that they can to smother academic freedom by turning your country's brightest into academic lepers.
If Mr Ahmadinejad's latest complot theory is true or not I do not know, but it got me thinking. As far as I know in Germany Holocaust denial is an offense. Not that I am very much in favor of trying Holocaust deniers in a court of law, but if Iran's president arrives in Germany for the Worldcup, could he be arrested and put on trial?
Captain Kirk is visiting Israel this week to promote a very worthy cause.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

De Telegraaf vond het nodig om dit bericht bovenaan zijn webpagina te zetten. Ik dacht bij en na het lezen ervan precies hetzelfde als twee van de lezers die een commentaar achterlieten:
  • Belachelijk dat deze man met naam en foto in de krant komt voor een dergelijk klein vergrijp. Een moordenaar wordt alleen met zijn initialen in de krant gezet.
  • o ja, en die oplichters-bende van AHOLD. man, wat een verschil.

Whereas each failure understandably gets a lot of media attention, we do not hear about most of the successes achieved by the men and women of our security forces. If such successes are published they often disappear quite fast to the botom of webpages or the inside pages of a newspaper. Tonight a major success was achieved with the arrest of the most wanted Hamas member in the Westbank, who is responsible for the murder of almost a hundred Israeli civilians. Notice that this man, who ever had any doubts about sending young suicide terrorists to their deaths, chose to stay alive and surrender to those bloody Zionists when his own life was at stake.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Not that we did not know it, but this proves once again that when it comes to the fight against Islamism and Islamist terror Germany, France and Italy are not exactly the most trustworthy allies. We know that the record of countries like the US, the UK and Israel ( or the Netherlands: see the case of Arjan Erkel ) is not spotless either and it is far from clear that they know how to deal with terror, but criticizing the Anglo-American axis, financing and pacifying terrorists and criminals seem to have become three of the main weapons in the German-French-Italian war 'against' terror.
Three pungent views on the situation in Darfur.
Mike Luckovich
Joep Bertrams ( "Peace agreement" ) Chappatte
Recently I saw Insider Man, the latest Spike Lee movie, with Denzel Washington and Jodie Foster. Good movie, recommended.
As the anchorwoman of a popular morning show on Israeli television said this morning, here is another state that will not give us any points in future Eurovision Song Contests. Actually, she used the word 'tenaknek', turning the word 'naknik' ( sausage ) into a verb. I think in English I would translate that into a not very nice five-letter verb that, like the word sausage, starts with an 's'.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The following article was published yesterday on Ynet, the English website of Israel's largest newspaper Yedioth Aharonoth. In this piece I deal with a subject that I care - and worry - about a lot: lawlessness in Israel in general, and on the country's roads in particular. While I know that most if not all of the bad habits that I describe here exist in other countries as well I find them a lot more annoying and worrisome in the country where I chose to live.
Suckers no more
According to the website of the National Road Safety Authority 28.974 men, women and children lost their lives in road accidents since the Jewish State was established. A little more than two weeks ago we remembered the 22.123 men, women and children who were killed in wars or terror attacks since 1860, the year that the first Jewish settlers left the secure walls of Jerusalem to build new Jewish neigborhoods. The latter number rose to 22.125 this week, but it remains significantly lower than the number of people who died on Israel's roads. On Channel 2, after a news report on the deadly road accidents near Beitar Ilit and the Drorim junction last weekend, Oded Ben-Ami said something like "What must be done to stop this?". A few hours after I saw Oded Ben-Ami on the television I drove to the supermarket, a five minutes' drive from our house. In those five minutes I saw several indirect answers to his question. One block away from where I live I saw a car with a police license plate parked next to a red-and-white curbstone, although there was plenty of parking space less than ten meters away from there. On the main road I was overtaken by several cars that exceeded the speed limit – 60 km/h – by at least 20 km/h. Two drivers listened to very loud music, and while I waited for a traffic light I noticed two young children in the back of a car who did not wear a safety belt. Their mother – who held a cellphone between her head and her shoulder – accelerated very fast as soon as the orange light came into view. Traffic offenses are not the only way in which Israelis express their disrespect for and lack of faith in the law. On the day before Lag Ba'Omer children and teenagers all over the country collected wood for the bonfires. In our street, in an average middle-class neighborhood, a group of teenagers raided a building site, taking – among other things – a perfectly good wooden ladder. In order to prepare the ladder for the bonfire they broke it with large stones that can be found right across from our building. Of course after this was done the stones were left on the sidewalk and in the street. When I wanted to go out and tell the kids that at least they should have the decency of not leaving the stones on the street my wife, who was born and raised in Israel, told me not to get involved: they probably would sass me and might hurt me or my family, and the police would not do anything anyway. My father-in-law – who like my wife is a model citizen, I think – had given me a similar reaction a few months ago when I told him about a local pizza parlor where children who were clearly much younger than 16 years old were filling out Toto-Winner betting forms. With doctors, mayors, state officials, politicians, rabbis and many others involved in widely published corruption cases and other law violations it is no miracle that the average Israeli believes that 'the law' is only a relative notion. Sometimes it appears to me that most Israelis simply believe that the state is our greatest enemy, and that by by-passing that state's laws they simply try to survive in some kind of eternal war. Whoever willingly and openly obeys those laws is considered by many Israelis to be either a sucker or some sort of collaborator with the forces of evil. All this applies as well to traffic rules. Many of us stick to them only in order not to get caught and booked, not because we sincerely believe that they are meant to protect us and our fellow road users. O.k., not all laws make sense, and some could and should be changed. Also, a lot of money has to be invested in imroving this country's roads. Finally, those who pretend or are supposed to lead us do not exactly try as hard as they can to set a good example. Still, all that is not an excuse to turn constantly breaking the law into an accepted and almost legitimate way of life. This state is what we make of it, and no matter how wrong other people's behavior is, we remain responsible for our own. We have to understand, and our so-called leaders have to convince us, that what is good for the state in the end is good for us. Only when we become convinced that the laws and those who make and enforce them are really there to protect us and to make our lives more livable, will our roads become truly safer. That a more law-abiding Israeli society will probably also be more just, more prosperous, stronger and more secure is a welcome bonus, I would say.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Yesterday I did something that I never did before: I voted for a participant in the Eurovision Song Contest. Although I have no idea why Brian Kennedy participates in the ESC ( he is way too good for that ) I voted for him. The main reason why I decided to watch the contest while I was folding a large pile of laundry ( my wife was helping a friend of ours to make a birthday cake ) was that to my big surprise I had seen the name of Brian Kennedy on the list of participants. I have his debut album on CD, it is one of my favorite pop albums. After watching all 20-something countries I thought that almost all of the other candidates ( including the three girls from Holland ) were so bad that it would be unfair not to vote for somebody who is so talented, who has such a beautiful voice and who took the competition really seriously by writing quite a nice song. Of all the songs that I heard his was the only one that I would not mind hearing again. I will vote for Mr Kennedy on Saturday night as well. If he does not end at least in the top five that will be the final proof that today ESC stands for EasternEuropean Scratch-my-back-and-I'll-scratch-yours Circus. In that case I really think that countries like Holland, Ireland and Israel should stop wasting money and energy on the ESC in the future.
These days more than ever before, it seems, Palestinians prove almost on a daily basis that - no matter how much they try to blame Israel for all their troubles and misery ( and believe me, I know that we bear an important part of the responsibility for their woes ) - they themselves are their own worst enemies.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

If you thought that things could not get any more embarrassing for the Blair government, think again.
Only now did I read the enite press release ( thanks to Pieter at Peaktalk ) given by Ayaan Hirsi Ali when she announced her resignation from the Dutch parliament. My respect for this fragile, stubborn, smart, maybe sometimes annoying but always very courageous woman just grew a little bit more. She basically thumbs her nose at all those who suddenly 'discovered' that she had given a 'false' name when she arrived in the Netherlands, by pointing out her full name to us: Ayaan Hirsi Magan Isse Guleid Ali Wai’ays Muhammad Ali Umar Osman Mahamud.
While eating breakfast yesterday morning I watched a taped rerun of Frasier. When I finished I zapped through the different channels before returning to my computer. I was amazed to see what was obviously an ultra-orthodox Jew playing the leading role in a video clip on MTV. Then I understood that this must be Matisyahu, a phenomenon that I read about on various websites. The song, called King without a Crown, seems to be a mix of hiphop, rap, rock and whatever ( sorry, I am not an expert ), the videoclip seemed to fit in perfectly with what you normally see and hear on MTV, except for the fact that it is a bit weird to see tsitsit on that channel. Maybe I would not have been surprised to see such a symbol of ( religious ) Judaism in a clip of Madonna, oops, Esther. Was it a coincidence that right after Matisyahu's video the latest clip of Madonna was shown? The song, 'Sorry', starts with the singer trying to say 'Sorry' in several foreign languages. She got it wrong in Dutch. 'I'm sorry' is not 'Iek bien droeviek" ( Ik ben droevig, which means 'I'm sad' ) but 'Het spijt me'.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

De romans van Leon de Winter heb ik bijna allemaal met veel plezier gelezen. Over zijn essays ben ik iets minder te spreken, zijn Ladi Di in een bevallige pose heb ik na een aantal bladzijden gelezen te hebben weggelegd. Wat hij over Israel en het Midden-Oosten schreef zorgde bij mij niet voor geween maar wel voor heel wat tandengeknars en kromme tenen, zoveel gemeenplaatsen en gebrek aan werkelijke kennis. Sindsdien is zijn non-fictie er wel op vooruit gegaan, al deel ik zijn mening vaak niet. Ik ga niet de uitzending van Zembla zitten bekijken om te zien of De Winter's kritiek juist is, maar ik vond wat hij over het programma schreef wel interessant genoeg om er hier naar te verwijzen. Zie ook een artikel op de website van de Telegraaf over De Winter en Hirsi Ali.
Tom Janssen
Tom Janssen

Joep Bertrams ( "Has to/Will be removed!" )

Three cartoons on the Hirsi Ali affair, by my two favorite Dutch cartoonists. The VVD is the liberal party of which both Ayaan Hirsi Ali and minister Rita Verdonk ( who appears on the chair in Joep Bertram's cartoon and on the boat in the one by Tom Janssen ) are members. The boat is named 'straight forward' or 'fair and square', a reference to Verdonk's campaign promise to steer a straight course on immigration and other issues. Miss Hirsi Ali is surrounded by bodyguards, she has been living in safe houses and under government protection ever since ( and I think even before ) the Dutch journalist/filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered by a Muslim extremist. She wrote the script for Submission, a controversial 10-minute film about abuse and oppression of women in the Muslim world. Miss Hirsi Ali announced that she is working on Submission part 2, on the discrimination of homosexuals in Islam. The short movie apparently was what prompted Mohamed B. to murder Theo van Gogh. On Van Gogh's body he left a letter which, among other things, contained direct threats towards Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Zembla is the name of the t.v. program in which the lies that Ayaan Hirsi Ali told when she entered the Netherlands - lies that were known to many people, including the leadership of the VVD party, when she entered parliament - were 'exposed' again.

I just do not have the time to follow and write about the affair that has been making headlines in the Netherlands for the last few days ( and that has been covered extensively all over Europe and in the US as well ): the case of the provocative, very outspoken and intelligent Islam-critic and member of the Dutch parliament Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who this week was forced to end her career as a parliamentarian, apparently as a direct result of the power struggle within the liberal party of which she is a member (*). In English you can get excellent reports and background information from a Dutch blogger and a Dutch expat blogger. Peaktalk's Pieter wrote an almost prophetic posting more than a year ago: "If you want to succeed in Dutch politics the one thing you can’t have is star-status and on the policy front you need to be able to show some ability for compromise and moderation. Hirsi Ali fails on both counts. [...] She’ll be an asset to any think-tank and be able to influence a far larger audience if she’s given the time and room in a less politicized and much safer place." He also points out what happened to five Dutch politicians and opinion makers "who have tried to initiate a debate [ about Islam, immigration and related problems in the Netherlands, BdB ] and tried to change the direction of the troubled nation ": Frits Bolkestein: Retired Pim Fortuyn: Murdered Theo van Gogh: Murdered Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Humiliated and expelled Rita Verdonk: Disgraced I do understand that Ayaan Hirsi Ali's position in parliament had become untenable, but threats of revoking her citizenship seem to me to be unnecessarily cruel and populist. If you read the feedback on websites ( e.g. that of De Telegraaf, Holland's biggest newspaper ) and on internet fora you will see that some people are really happy with Miss Hirsi Ali's current troubles: Islamists ( and other Muslims as well, obviously ), rightwing extremists and those Dutchmen and -women who still believe that if you ignore a problem long enough it simply does not exist or will disappear eventually. One visitor of the Telegraaf website wrote: "...that stupid chick already caused so much trouble in the Netherlands. Good riddance!" Ayaan Hirsi Ali has often been too provocative and I am not sure if her way of initiating a public debate on certain subjects was the right one, but the problems that she talked and wrote about are real, and they will not become less real by expelling this Dutch-Somali Cassandra. (*): In all the Dutch media coverage that I found I did not read any reaction from Verdonk's main opponent, Mark Rutte. Can any Dutch DBI reader correct me on this? And if not, does that say anything about this witch hunt being a part of the power struggle within the VVD?
Mocht je om een baan zitten te springen dan is dit misschien een optie ( met dank aan het nieuwsbulletin van Radio Nederland Wereldomroep ):
Heineken zoekt bierproevers
Bierbrouwer Heineken zoekt veertig mensen die een paar dagen per week bier gaan keuren. Ze krijgen ervoor betaald en worden per taxi van en naar de fabriek in Zoeterwoude gebracht. De proefpersonen krijgen geen volle glazen bier, maar telkens vijf of zes slokjes. Heineken zoekt mensen van 21 jaar en ouder. Ze moeten twee jaar lang twee tot drie dagen per week komen proeven. Van het salaris kunnen ze leven, zo laat de bierbrouwer weten.

Monday, May 15, 2006

A fellow-blogger told me that my weblog has unprompted pop-ups. I do not see them but please let me know if you also see pop-ups that you did not ask for, and if so, what sites do they refer to.
Hag Sameah! Tonight Lag Ba'Omer started, and bonfires are being lit all over the town where my family and I live. We went to the bonfire of our daughter's class. While looking for a nice Lag Ba'Omer picture to post here I found a whole website dedicated to the Simpsons and how they count the Omer. I know counting the Omer is serious business, and a lot of bad things happened to our people in this period, but what I saw on that website made me smile and laugh nevertheless. Under Extras you will find a photo essay on Jewish life in Springfield.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

It is sad but oh so true that those who die weeks or months after they were hurt in a terror attack do not receive the 'publicity' that those who were killed 'on the spot' got. This weekend the terror attack at a shawarma stand near the old bus station in Tel Aviv four weeks ago claimed two more lives. Yesterday 26-year-old Lior ( Eliyahu ) Anidzar died of his wounds, and today Daniel Wultz, an 16-year-old American teen died "of organ failure" after he was badly wounded in the same attack. The total number of victims of that attack is eleven. May their memory be a blessing.
When the main praise for a High Court decision comes from the Yesha Council and from the notorious racist Barukh Marzel you know that that decision might be problematic and questionable. That becomes even clearer when you see that six judges supported the decision ( i.e. rejected the petition that prompted it ) while five opposed it, and that one of the senior members of the court has a legal opinion that totally contradicts the opinion of the Chief Justice ( News Flash 10:54 Cheshin: Citizenship Law does not infringe on legal rights of citizen (Haaretz) vs 10:58 Chief Justice: Law infringes on citizens` civil rights (Haaretz) ).
While I can understand the anger and disappointment of Arab and leftwing MKs and NGOs, I am afraid that Justice Minister Ramon was right when he responded to the court's decision, saying that " every state has the right to determine who can become a citizen, and that a state can be particularly selective in case of war. No place in the world is required to admit citizens from a country or authority with which it is in a state of conflict. We have to remember that this law was legislated during the Palestinian uprising, when several people who received citizenship through family unification carried out attacks. " Maybe if one day Palestinians and Israelis are living side by side in peace Israel will be able to be more generous.
Please have a look at this picture. What do you see? No it is not an IDF soldier harassing Palestinian children, nor does he accompany settler children on their way to school. The photo, taken by Dan Keinan for Ha'Aretz, shows us a member of an IDF escort protecting Palestinian children from attacks by Jewish settlers. Of course, we all know that only a minority of the settler communities consists of violent lawbreakers, but too many of them still believe - and the circumspect ways in which they are treated by the Israeli authorities only strengthens that belief - that they are far above the law. This only proves once again that the occupation should end ASAP. Israeli soldiers should guard our borders, their task should not be to protect settler children from Palestinian terrorists or Palestinian children from Jewish terrorists.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Yossi Banai z"l was laid to rest yesterday in the cemetery of kibbutz Giv'at HaShlosha. There are at least nine members of the Banai family - a Jerusalem family of Iranian/Persian descent - whom I know ( I do not think I ever saw or heard Ya'akov or Haim Banai perform ) and until yesterday I never was sure what their exact family ties were. Then I found this Wikipedia article, from which the family tree that you see here was taken. Eliyahu Ya'akov Banai had five sons, one of whom was Yosi.

  1. Ya'acov Banai was an actor, whose son Ehud has built a very impressive career as a singer-songwriter.
  2. Yosi Banai's son Yuval is also a singer-songwriter, his greatest success he achieved as the frontman of the very popular band Machina. His wife, Orly Zilberschatz-Banai, is a highly successful actress. One of her greatest, also international, successes was her role in a film named Broken Wings.
  3. Gabry Banai was a member of the legendary HaGashash HaHiver comedy trio. His son, Uri, is an actor and singer. He played in several television series and had one big hit, "Butterflies".
  4. Yitzhak Banai is ( or was, I do not know ) a judge, he is the only one of the five siblings who did not have a career in the entertainment industry. On the other hand, three of his ( and his wife's ) children have been very succesful artists. Meir and Evyyatar are singer-songwriters, their sister Orna is a comedian.
  5. Haim Banai is an actor and story teller. PS: Shai ( of Shaister ) wrote an extensive posting about the Banai family.

Als het goed is staat vandaag het volgende artikel in het Friesch Dagblad.
Israel/Palestina, nu of nooit
Wat er van de Palestijnse Autoriteit over is lijkt in een rap tempo naar de knoppen te gaan. De Palestijnen en hun supporters wijten zoals gebruikelijk al hun problemen aan Israël en aan de bezetting. Israël legt de schuld wel erg makkelijk bijna exclusief bij de Hamas, waarbij vergeten wordt dat met Mahmoud Abbas – die nu soms wordt afgeschilderd als een soort ideale onderhandelingspartner – ook vóór de verkiezing van de Hamas-regering nooit echt serieuze onderhandelingen zijn gevoerd, vanwege zijn veronderstelde politieke en militaire onmacht. Ondertussen lijden de Palestijnen nog meer armoede en honger dan voorheen en blijven ze afhankelijk van buitenlandse aalmoezen, terwijl in Israël de kloof tussen arm en rijk steeds groter wordt, mede als gevolg van 'het' conflict. Aan de verschillende kanten van de scheidslijnen van dat conflict neemt het geloof in een betere toekomst af en wortelen cynisme en haat zich – voor zover mogelijk – nog dieper. Dit is een ontwikkeling die globale consequenties heeft. Het aantreden van de nieuwe Israëlische regering is een goede gelegenheid om te proberen het conflict voor eens en voor altijd op te lossen. Wordt hiermee te lang gewacht dan zal Israël vrijwel zeker eenzijdig haar grenzen vaststellen, iets waarbij per saldo iedereen verliest. De Palestijnen krijgen zo minder gebied en een levensvatbare staat zal voor hen een illusie blijven. Israël trekt zich dan geheel terug achter een betonnen muur, kan internationale erkenning van haar grenzen wel vergeten, en de geld verslindende bezetting - van een kleiner gebied dan nu, maar toch - zal haar moreel en ethisch verder uithollen. Van normalisatie zal zo geen sprake kunnen zijn, wat de Palestijnse economie nog verder ten gronde zal richten en ook de Israëlische economie niet bepaald ten goede komt. Terroristen zullen de Palestijnse maatschappij blijven ontwrichten en keer op keer opnieuw proberen Israëlische doelen te treffen, extremisten aan beide kanten zullen hun 'gelijk' steeds weer bevestigd zien, en wereldwijd zullen Islamistische en andere terroristen – samen met fanatieke regimes zoals Ahmadinejad's Iran – het conflict als een excuus ( om het even hoe ongeloofwaardig ) voor hun acties kunnen blijven gebruiken. De weigering van Hamas en Israël om elkaar te erkennen is eigenlijk vooral kunstmatig. Of er ooit een heuse vrede tussen Israël en een toekomstige Palestijnse staat zal komen is maar de vraag, maar alle retoriek ten spijt zou het heel goed kunnen dat juist met Hamas, in overleg met president Abbas, bereikt kan worden wat met Fatah en Arafat onmogelijk was: een overeenkomst waar beide kanten zich aan houden en waar beide volken letterlijk en figuurlijk mee kunnen leven. Hamas begrijpt heel goed dat de Palestijnse staat naast en niet in plaats van Israël tot stand zal komen, en dat zo'n staat nooit door Hamas geregeerd zal worden als de bevolking niet te eten heeft. Hamas is realistischer dan het openlijk zal toegeven. Ook Ehud Olmert weet dat wat twintig jaar geleden voor de PLO gold nu van toepassing is op Hamas: wie met de Palestijnen zaken wil doen kan uiteindelijk niet om deze organisatie heen. Hij zal dan ook volgens mij maar wat graag de kans grijpen om een onderhandeld vredesverdrag aan de Knesset te kunnen presenteren. In tegenstelling tot een eenzijdige Israëlische terugtrekking zal zo'n verdrag hoogstwaarschijnlijk door een ruime parlementaire meerderheid worden gesteund. Het zal eerder een pragmatische dan een hartelijke vrede zijn, maar dat geeft niets. Zoals Amos Oz zei in een boekje getiteld "Help ons scheiden": het tegenovergestelde van oorlog is niet medelijden, ruimhartigheid, broederschap en vergeving, maar vrede. Om de Palestijnse en Israëlische regeringen tot directe onderhandelingen te brengen is een sterke impuls van buitenaf nodig. Het Midden-Oosten Kwartet is daar als collectief ongeschikt voor. Drie van zijn leden – de VN, de VS en Rusland – genieten om uiteenlopende redenen ( o.a. respectievelijk een gebrek aan daadkracht, partijdigheid, binnenlandse problemen en te weinig economische invloed ) weinig vertrouwen bij minstens één van de meest betrokken partijen, en alleen al het coördineren van de Midden-Oosten politiek van de vier kost te veel tijd en energie. Het enige kwartetslid dat een daadkrachtige rol van betekenis zou kunnen spelen is de Europese Unie. Door de verscheidene buitenlands-politieke tradities van haar afzonderlijke lidstaten is de benadering van de Unie redelijk evenwichtig en eerlijk in de richting van zowel de Palestijnen als Israël. Bovendien bezit de EU de economische middelen om samen met andere donors een Palestijnse staat van de grond te helpen tillen. Zo'n staat zou dan samen met Israël en andere staten in de regio met de Unie kunnen samenwerken om langzaam maar zeker verpaupering en religieuze ethnisch-religieuze haat te vervangen door welvaart, groei en stabiliteit. Een dergelijke inmenging is mogelijk binnen het kader van het bestaande Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, dat per slot van rekening ook en vooral de belangen van de Unie en haar lidstaten dient. Een leidende rol kan hierbij worden gespeeld door Nederland. Dit zou voor Nederland een minder kostbare en minder gevaarlijke missie – met een grotere kans van slagen en een waardevollere bijdrage aan de Amerikaanse coalitie tegen het terrorisme – zijn dan het avontuur in het verre Uruzgan.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Als je eens een ( of liever twee ) van de allerbeste ( naar mijn smaak ) Israelische artiesten live wilt zien en horen optreden, en je hebt daar 40 Euro per kaartje voor over, dan raad ik je dit concert aan, over elf dagen in Amsterdam. Prachtig mooie website van het Concertgebouw trouwens, je ziet precies waar je komt te zitten. Het lijkt me dat de zaal goed vol zal zitten, er zijn alleen nog maar ( nog ) duurdere kaarten te koop, voor de achterste rijen. PS: Ik ben een fan van Ahinoam Nini en Gil Dor, maar ik geloof dat ik de voorkeur zou geven aan dit concert over twee maanden, voor minder dan de helft van de prijs.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

If you read this article I am sure that you will be filled with pity, sadness and anger as much as I was when I read it.
Yosi Banai, one of the greatest Israeli singers ever ( and one of my favorites among the more veteran artists, together with Arik Einstein, Shalom Hanokh, Yehudah Poliker and Chava Alberstein, may they all live to see many more years ) passed away at the age of 74. He was not only a singer but also an actor, and he wrote some of his own lyrics as well. May his memory be a blessing.
Lisa Goldman is possibly the best but certainly one of the most busy journalist-bloggers in Israel. I read about but did not really follow the story of Alaa Ahmed Seif al-Islam, an Egyptian blogger who was arrested during a pro-democracy demonstration, but I totally trust Lisa's judgement, and when she asks to make a simple technical blog-gesture in order "to support democracy in the Middle East by participating 'en groupe' in the Google bomb campaign to help free Alaa" I am happy to comply with her request, although I have no idea how this works, and how it helps Mr Seif al-Islam or ME democracy.
I do believe, but I am not an overly religious person, and I try not to learn too much from history. Still, when I read this morning that Mr Ahmadinejad has once again publicly satisfied himself and other Jew-haters with visions of a world free of Jews, I could not help thinking of another Persian who had similar dreams. Haman was hanged together with his ten sons on the same gallows that were supposed to be used for the execution of Jews. More than 2500 years after his violent death, the Jewish people that he so desperately tried to annihilate is still alive and kicking today.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The concert yesterday was wonderful, I had a great time. There was a very pleasant atmosphere, good food and a young, enthusiastic, disciplined and music-loving public. This company clearly thought that its workers deserved a very nice evening off. Israel can be proud that big international corporations believe that the workforce here is interesting enough to make enormous investments such as the ones made by Microsoft, Intel and Berkshire Hathaway. Pride is not enough though, this state should realize that knowhow and brainpower are its primary assets, and that both depend on high educational standards and on the state investing money and energy to set and maintain such standards.
I just sent an article - on Israel, Hamas and an active role for the EU in somehow getting the two to the negotiation table - to a Dutch newspaper. No time for more blogging today, I have a lot of - sorry: more important - work to do. As some kind of compensation I post six cartoons, some recent, others less so.
M.E. Cohen

M.E Cohen

Dan Wasserman

Bob Gorrell

Chappatte

Chip Bok

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

You won't often find me as excited as I am right now. In about two hours I will be attending a performance of the Idan Raichel Project. A friend of ours, who works at one of the big hi-tec companies in Israel, invited me to a special IRP concert organized by and for that company tonight. For a long time I wanted to see Idan Raichel perform, and tonight it is going to happen. If you are interested in world music and/or in contemporary Israeli artists you should listen to the Project's latest, second, album, MiMa'amakim ( From The Depths ). It is excellent, believe me. The first album is supposed to be good as well, but I know only some of its songs, I do not have the CD.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The main news item on the various news shows on Israeli television today was not so much the eviction of the settler families from the house in Hebron as the mega-deal ( $ 4 billion ) in which Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway bought the Iscar company of father Stef and son Eitan Wertheimer. Mr Buffett, who is not interviewed often but did talk to Israeli reporters, seems to be in love with Israel and/or its economy. He even jokingly said that if any Israeli t.v. viewer knew of an Israeli company that was even remotely similar to Iscar (s)he could call him collect. As PM Olmert said this morning, " Buffet sees in Israel what we hesitate to see in our wildest dreams ". Professor Avishay Braverman, a new MK for the Labor party and a renowned economist, praised the longterm vision that characterizes the business views of both MR Buffett and the Wertheimer families. He said that it is people like Stef Wertheimer ( he used the term 'Yekkim", the plural of "Yekke", a word used to describe Jews of German-Austrian descent ) who made this country great. Of course more than one person tried to jump on the Iscar bandwagon by coming up with the perfect destination for the $ 1 billion that this deal will bring into Israel's public treasury ( in addition to the substantial amounts that the Wertheimer has invested in and will continue to donate to various philantropical causes ). How Israeli:

( Ha'Aretz News Flash ) 18:07 Israel Teachers Union: Channel Iscar deal tax money to fund education (Haaretz) 16:47 Peres: Wertheimer to invest money from Iscar buyout in developing Galilee (Haaretz)

Have a look ( here, here, here, here, and here ) at the feedback related to the articles on the evacuation by Israel's security forces of a Hebron house that was illegally occupied by three settler families, the soldier who refused to shake the hand of the IDF Chief of Staff at a ceremony on Independence Day, and settler violence against Palestinian school children and the IDF soldiers who accompany them. I find it interesting to notice that as always the staunchest support for the settlers comes from so-called Zionists who believe that by embracing right-wing views they can make up for being unable or unwilling to do what Zionism is all about: making Israel - within the Green Line - your home, exposing yourself and your family to the beauty and to the dangers of living in the Jewish state, and serving in the army ( and respecting your commanders ). The war for Israel`s existence is partly fought on international podia, but its most important battles take place on a daily basis here in the streets of Haifa, Tel Aviv, Afula, Hadera, Nethanya and Qiryat Shmonah, not in Waco, Texas, Miami, Forida or Brooklyn, New York. Soldiers who damage military discipline by insulting their highest commander, settlers who attack and verbally abuse soldiers and police(wo)men, and pseudo-Zionists abroad who think that they can serve this country by saluting those who oppose its legal government, only damage our security and endanger our future.
Two good articles on Ha'Aretz' website last week. Amir Oren tells us about an IDF report that makes clear that the chances of us developing normal, truly peaceful relations with the Palestinians are slim, to use an understatement. The article refers also to a very interesting official US military report on terrorism ( a link to that report is provided ). Bradley Burston writes about the similarity of the lies that are used by both Israelis and Palestinians to justify their cause and behavior.
If this report is true that would be change things drastically. That Israel saves this or that Arab leader from assassination is interesting but not very shocking, it happened before. That Hamas really planned to murder president Abbas would be shocking news, though. It would indicate major power struggles not only within the Palestinian political leadership as a whole - something that is not uncommon or unexpected - but also within Hamas itself. A succesful assassination attempt could force Israel to act against the Hamas leadership in- and outside the territories.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Het volgende artikel staat als het goed is dit weekeinde in het Friesch Dagblad:
De eeuwige soldaat
In Nederland staan de dagen die voorafgaan aan de Dodenherdenking in het teken van het herdenken, en de dag daarna wordt de Bevrijding enthousiast gevierd. In Israël geldt iets soortgelijks voor de week tussen de 27e van de Hebreeuwse maand Nissan en de 5e van de maand Iyar ( april-mei ). Die week begint met Yom HaShoah, Holocaust-dag, en eindigt met Yom Ha'Atsma'ut, Onafhankelijkheidsdag, welke wordt voorafgegaan door Yom HaZikaron, de dag waarop alle burgers en soldaten die sneuvelden of vermoord werden in de strijd voor Israël's onafhankelijkheid worden herdacht. Dit jaar werd ik meer dan ooit tevoren herinnerd aan het feit dat Israël, natuurlijk net als ieder ander land maar voor mij nu eenmaal een stuk tastbaarder, één grote circle of life is. Op maandagavond om negen uur, één uur nadat door heel Israël sirenes het begin van Yom HaZikaron aankondigden, hadden mijn zwangere echtgenote en ik een afspraak bij de gynaecoloog. Rond de 15e week van de zwangerschap wordt met behulp van een uitgebreide ultrasone scan gekeken of de foetus zich goed ontwikkelt. Bij die scan kunnen de ouders, als ze dat willen, ook te horen krijgen of de baby een jongen of een meisje is. Aangezien we al een prachtige en gezonde dochter en zoon hebben geldt het afgezaagde maar daarom niet minder ware "Als het maar gezond is" voor ons deze keer nog meer dan bij de vorige twee zwangerschappen. Meteen aan het begin van de scan konden we zien dat ons derde kind een zoon zal zijn. Alles ziet er gelukkig gezond uit. Vrijwel iedere vader en moeder in Israël hoopt bij de geboorte van zijn/haar kind dat wanneer dat kind zijn 18e verjaardag zal vieren er vrede zal zijn, zodat de zoon/dochter niet meer het leger in zal hoeven. Ik wil maar al te graag geloven dat Palestijnse ouders een soortgelijke vredeswens voor hun kinderen koesteren. De verschillen tussen 'hen' en 'ons' zijn waarschijnlijk kleiner dan we toe durven te geven. Afgelopen maandagavond kon ik het niet laten om voor mijzelf in gedachten het verband te leggen tussen enerzijds mijn kinderen en de baby die Be'Ezrath HaShem ( met Gods hulp ) eind oktober geboren zal worden en anderzijds de herdenking van de Holocaust, Israël's gevallenen en de 58e verjaardag van de joodse staat. Om het geheel nog symbolischer te maken werd drie dagen later, een dag na Yom Ha'Atsma'ut, de nieuwe Israëlische regering door premier Olmert aan de Knesset voorgesteld. Deze regering zal een oplossing moeten vinden voor sommige van de grootste dreigingen waar Israël in haar korte bestaan mee te maken heeft gehad. Het staat nog te bezien of deze regering de juiste antwoorden zal kunnen en willen vinden voor de militaire, politieke en socio-economische vraagstukken die het democratische en joodse karakter, ja zelfs het fysieke voortbestaan van Israël in gevaar kunnen brengen. Veel Knessetleden van de twee grootste regeringsfracties, de Arbeidspartij en Kadimah, zijn teleurgesteld door de verdeling van de regeringsportefeuilles, en de eerste scheuren binnen die fracties zijn al te zien. Premier Olmert heeft een hoge prijs betaald aan de ultra-orthodoxe Shas-partij zonder daar al te veel voor terug te krijgen: de partij is volgens het regeringsakkoord niet verplicht om een eventueel eenzijdig terugtrekkingsplan – een belangrijk onderdeel van het regeringsakkoord en één van de redenen voor Kadimah's electorale succes – te steunen, wat de kansen op een Knessetmeerderheid voor zo'n plan minimaliseert. De kleinste coalitiepartner, de Gepensioneerden ( 7 zetels ), is de enige partij waarop Olmert bij cruciale stemmingen zo op het eerste gezicht kan rekenen, zolang met haar – niet onredelijke, vrijwel uitsluitend financiële – eisen rekening wordt gehouden. Alhoewel de Arbeidspartij tijdens de verkiezingscampagne regelmatig prat ging op haar sociale agenda en op haar arsenaal van ex-generaals valt in het regeerakkoord weinig van die agenda terug te vinden en wordt de belangrijkste post die de partij kreeg toegewezen, Minister van Defensie, bemand door partijleider Amir Peretz, een uitgesproken vakbondsman die niet echt een militaire specialist kan worden genoemd. De samenstelling van de nieuwe regering maakt mij nog sceptischer en cynischer dan ik normaal gesproken ben. Terwijl professionalisme, eensgezind- en vastberadenheid meer dan ooit vereist zijn lijkt het erop dat opnieuw de Israëlische politieke realiteit – en dus de toekomst van ons en onze kinderen – voornamelijk bepaald zal worden door politieke koehandel, interne verdeeldheid en een zeker amateurisme. Desondanks weet ik zeker dat ik over iets minder dan zes maanden weer naïef genoeg zal zijn om heel eventjes tegen beter weten in te hopen dat onze jongstgeborene op zijn 18e geen uniform zal hoeven dragen en geen wapen zal moeten leren gebruiken om onze onafhankelijkheid en ons voortbestaan te verdedigen.
Forbes published its list of the richest "Kings, queens and dictators". I do not know how reliable that list is, but according to the list the four wealthiest rulers in the world are all Muslims, and three of them are Arabs. Their combined fortune is about $ 74 billion, more than the annual state budget of Israel ( $57.8 billion ). I wonder how much of that amount is invested in the wellbeing of their Iraqi and Palestinian brothers and sisters. Of course the Palestinians' suffering is a result of more than just a lack of money, and I suppose that Western governments and business could do more to fight poverty all over the world, but for some reason I could not help wondering who invests more in the future of the peoples of the Middle East and Muslims worldwide, their own rulers and enterpreneurs, or the state and business leaders of the West.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Het volgende artikel staat vandaag in het Reformatorisch Dagblad:
Nieuwe ronde, nieuwe kansen?
Gisteren, één dag na de 58e Onafhankelijkheidsdag van de staat Israël, stelde de nieuwe Israëlische premier, Ehud Olmert, zijn regering aan de Knesset voor. Deze regering, de 31e van Israël, heeft op papier de steun van 67 van de 120 leden van het Israëlische parlement. Op papier, want het is verre van zeker dat premier Olmert bij iedere cruciale beslissing de benodigde parlementaire meerderheid zal krijgen. De coalitie is relatief snel samengesteld, maar in de zes weken na de verkiezingen hebben de onderhandelaars en de leiders van de twee grootste partijen – Olmert van Kadimah en Amir Peretz van de Arbeidspartij – op dusdanig veel tenen getrapt en zoveel compromissen moeten sluiten dat van de hoopvolle verwachtingen die sommigen voor en na de verkiezingen hadden nog maar weinig over is. De verkiezingsuitslag maakte weer eens duidelijk hoe verdeeld Israël is. Net als bij de vorige verkiezingen is er geen duidelijke 'linkse' of 'rechtse' meerderheid. Een groot deel van de Likud-kiezers bleef thuis of week uit naar een alternatief ( één van de religieuze of ultra-nationalistische partijen, of Kadimah ) en de liberaal-seculiere Shinuy-partij ( 15 zetels bij de verkiezingen in 2003 ) haalde niet eens de kiesdrempel. Alhoewel Kadimah als nieuwe partij een uitstekend resultaat behaalde slaagde de partij er niet in de verwachte en noodzakelijke politieke ommekeer teweeg te brengen. De partij is weliswaar de grootste maar met 29 zetels heeft ze niet het beslissende overwicht dat de Likud na de verkiezingen in 2003 had. Dat Ehud Olmert minder charismatisch is en een minder indrukwekkend militair verleden heeft dan zijn voorganger, die nog steeds in een ziekenhuis in Jeruzalem in coma ligt, helpt ook niet echt. Binnen de twee grootste partijen heeft het flink gerommeld de laatste maanden. Bij Kadimah was dat te verwachten. Het is en blijft toch een veredeld samenraapsel van bewonderaars van Ariel Sharon, voorstanders van een al dan niet eenzijdige Israëlische terugtrekking uit een belangrijk deel van de bezette gebieden, en politieke opportunisten. Binnen Kadimah vind je mensen die tot voor kort op totaal verschillende partijen ( vooral Arbeidspartij, Likud, Shinuy ) stemden. De Arbeidspartij is iets homogener, maar binnen die partij hebben teleurgestelde ego's voor veel wrok gezorgd. Het leiderschap van Amir Peretz is minder vanzelfsprekend dan dat van Ehud Olmert. Sommige ministersbenoemingen roepen vraagtekens op. De Arbeidspartij legde in haar verkiezingscampagne de nadruk op sociale rechtvaardigheid en maatschappelijke veranderingen. Weliswaar kreeg de partij het Ministerie van Onderwijs, maar partijleider Peretz, toch een uitgesproken vakbondsman en 'slechts' kapitein in het leger, eigende zich het Ministerie van Defensie toe , terwijl er binnen zijn partij een overdaad aan militaire specialisten bestaat. Zijn voorganger op dat ministerie, een voormalig opperbevelhebber van het leger, wordt namens Kadimah Minister van Transport. Avraham Hirchson, die zijn sporen als parlementariër verdiende maar wiens enige regeringservaring enkel bestaat uit anderhalf jaar dienst als Minister van Toerisme en Communicatie, kreeg de loodzware post van Minister van Financiën, blijkbaar voornamelijk als bewijs van waardering voor zijn loyaliteit tegenover Sharon en Olmert. Veel Israëliërs vragen zich af of in het kabinet Olmert de juiste mensen op de juiste plaats zitten om de levensgrote problemen en dreigingen die deze regering de komende jaren het hoofd zal moeten bieden op te lossen. De meest in het oog springende dreiging is een nucleair Iran. Dat kon misschien wel eens de meest virtuele dreiging zijn, en het enige probleem dat voor een zekere consensus zorgt. De armoede en andere sociale vraagstukken die de Israëlische maatschappij teisteren zijn zeker zo levensbedreigend voor de joodse staat, en over de aanpak daarvan bestaat nauwelijks eenstemmigheid tussen de vier coalitiepartners ( naast de Arbeidspartij en Kadimah zijn dat de ultra-orthodoxe Shas en de Gepensioneerden ). Ironisch genoeg zou de verlossing voor Olmert wel eens kunnen komen van de kant van wat sommige nationalisten als probleem nr. 1 zien: Hamas. Voor eenzijdige terugtrekking zal Israël's premier hooguit met veel hangen en wurgen een minieme meerderheid in de Knesset weten te krijgen. Toch neemt een Israëlische terugtrekking uit de bezette gebieden een centrale plaats in in het coalitieverdrag, vooral omdat alle Knessetleden van zowel de Arbeidspartij als Kadimah door ideologische of pragmatische tegenstanders van de bezetting aan hun zetel zijn geholpen. Ondanks alle retoriek heeft Hamas in het recente verleden laten zien niet alleen maar fanatiek-ideologisch maar wel degelijk ook praktisch en realistisch te kunnen zijn. Wanneer premier Haniyeh zich realiseert dat een vredesovereenkomst met Israël zijn eigen belang en dat van zijn volk dient zal hij een meer dan bereidwillige onderhandelingspartner tegenover zich vinden. Die onderhandelingspartner zal voor een onderhandeld vredesverdrag vrijwel zeker zonder al te veel moeite een ruime Knessetmeerderheid krijgen en zo alsnog voor de broodnodige politieke en sociale veranderingen kunnen zorgen.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Today Israel remembers and honors those "who gave their lives for the achievement of the country's independence and its continued existence". Since 1860, "the year that the first Jewish settlers left the secure walls of Jerusalem to build new Jewish neighborhoods", 22.123 men and women have been killed defending the land of Israel. I do not know if that number includes the more than 3000 men, women and children who were murdered in acts of terror. Unfortunately there is an ugly struggle between different organizations about the question who should be included in the definition "The fallen of Israel's wars".

To me Israel, more than any other country, is one big circle of life. Yesterday, one hour after sirens all over the country announced the beginning of Yom HaZikaron ( Remembrance Day ), my wife and I were in a gynaecologist's clinic for an extensive ultrasound checkup of our third child, who G'd willing will be born towards the end of October. This test generally takes place some time during the third month of the pregnancy: right after we knew that my wife is pregnant we made an appointment with this specialist to be sure that the scan could be performed in the appropriate 'window' in the pregnancy, 9 PM on the eve of Remembrance Day was one of the few appointments that were still available this week. During the scan the doctor checks if everything is o.k. ( Barukh HaShem everything looked fine ) and - if the parents want to know - whether it is a boy or a girl. Right at the beginning of the scan it was obvious that we are talking about another son. Since the state was established Israeli mothers who gave birth to a baby boy have hoped and prayed that by the time their sons reached the age of 18 they would not have to join the army and fight anymore, but I am afraid those hopes and prayers will not be answered in the foreseeable future. Still, let's hope that when this yet unborn baby boy will become a soldier 'the situation' will be a bit better and more hopeful than today, with less threats and enemies facing us and some sort of peaceful coexistence between us and our neighbors having replaced the current reality.

Monday, May 01, 2006

The new Israeli government will probably be presented later this week or early next week. I do not think that Ehud Olmert did the best job possible, unless he does not seriously intend to make real changes, territorial and otherwise. If one of his main goals is to define and settle Israel's permanent borders - either within the framework of some sort of peace agreement with the Palestinians or unilaterally - he should not have looked beyond a pretty stable coalition of Kadimah, Labour, the Pensioners and Meretz ( together 60 MKs ) plus one or two of the ultra-orthodox parties. This is more or less the government that will come out of the coalition talks, but a lot of PR and other damage has been done in the last couple of weeks, not only to Olmert himself but also to the largest coalition partners. I never understood his apparent attempts to have Avigdor Lieberman join his coalition, unless of course he wanted to put pressure on the Labor party. What I really do not understand is the way in which Shas was included in the coalition. With all due respect to Eli Yishai and his party, their support for the containment plan could definitely be bought as long as the price was right. Olmert, though, paid a very high price for nothing: they are not commited to what was supposed to be one of the main pillars of the Kadimah-Labor coalition. When the Knesset will vote on further withdrawals from the territories Shas can basically vote as it sees fit, which could very well be a vote against the government's proposal. To me, that seems a bad deal for Olmert and for Kadimah, Labor and the Pensioners.
Anyway, yesterday evening I felt sorry for Mr Olmert. Maccabi Tel Aviv played CSKA Moscow in the final of the Final Four European basketball championship. It seemed that the whole country forgot that in order for Maccabi to return for the third consecutive time with that trophy the team still had to win one game. Even people who normally cannot tell the difference between a basketball and a hockey stick now were glued to the television screen, convinced that Pini Gershon and his men would do it once again. Unfortunately Olmert, who is known as a sports fan, was unable to do what Ariel Sharon did in 2004 and 2005: congratulate Maccabi's coach with the victory by phone on live television. At least he was a good sport, and we could hear him comfort Pini Gershon and thank him for his and his team's efforts.