Friday, February 29, 2008

As has happened a number of times in the last year or so, right after I found time to write that I will not have time to blog a lot, I read something that angered me so much that I made time to write about it. At the conference in Jerusalem the MEMRI chairman showed us some examples of very young Muslim children being poisoned with anti-Semitism in television shows from all over the Arab world. Maybe that triggered my anger when I read about the Egyptian boycott. I should say something about the events and developments in Gaza and Southern Israel as well, but things are so dynamic and depressing over there that I cannot think of any short comment that can do justice to all the victims. Except that it goes without saying that I identify with all the people on the Israeli side of the Gaza border, that I feel sorry for ordinary Palestinians on the other side of that border, and that hearing about Israeli and Palestinian civilians - men, women, and above all children - being killed, wounded and traumatized makes me feel sad, furious and frustrated. Well, I suppose you get the point: don't hold your breath until the next posting, but don't expect a total blogbreak either. Shabbat shalom.
The International Film Festival for Children in Cairo boycotts this Dutch children's movie. The reason? A movie ( the word 'video clip' will probably be more appropriate, it is supposed to be 10-15 minutes long ) that until this day has not been more than a mere rumour. For months now Dutch rightwing and anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders has been announcing that he plans to bring out a movie that will "expose the fascist character of Islam". The movie already has a title ( Fitna ) but nobody knows who is making it, what exactly it will be about, or what kind of images it will use. One thing is for certain, if the movie is released it probably will not be very Islam-friendly, given Mr Wilders' political record. Most Dutch Muslims are relatively relaxed with all this, which might be a sign of them becoming more Dutch than the Dutch themselves. The only ones who for some reason take the movie very seriously are foreign Muslim fanatics and the Dutch government and authorities. The latter have been in a panic ever since Wilders started talking about his plans to conquer 'Holy'-wood. They have tried to convince him not to release the film, they already asked imams and other Muslim community leaders to keep the peace and quiet, and they have drawn up emergency plans for Dutch embassies, just in case. Islamist calls for the killing of Geert Wilders have been heard. The man is used to death threats. Since the murder of Theo van Gogh, he has received government protection, being forced to change addresses about as much as you and I change socks ( between you and me, I change socks at least once a day ). While I am not exactly a fan of Mr Wilders - I am convinced his professed love for Israel is mainly a result of his hatred of Muslims, it is sad that Israel needs the support of such 'friends' - I have a certain respect for his outspokenness and - yes - courage, in spite of his blind- and obnoxiousness. And, of course, I think that if he wants to release his little movie he should get the opportunity to do so. Whether or not that movie is insulting or crosses legal boundaries is for a judge to decide, and by the word 'judge' I do not mean a qadi or some mullah. I don't know, when the likes of Ahmadinejad & co. threaten a country with repercussions if one of that country's citizens does this or that ( this or that being something that is entirely legal in that country ), I think that this or that is exactly the thing that should be done. But maybe that is just me ( plus a few Danes, apparently ). Anyway, it seems that the Egyptians - who recently did not allow a wonderful Israeli movie to be shown at a Cairo film festival - prefer this kind of filth to beautiful, lovely, truly valuable and educational works of art such as Where is Winky's Horse?, the sequel to the equally amazing Winky's Horse. Their loss, I would say.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Jerusalem conference that I attended earlier this week was wearying but very, very interesting. I met several experts and colleagues with whom I will almost certainly stay in touch, got a few ideas for newspaper articles, and learnt a lot. Since I came home I have been working on the book that I am writing, on a proposal for a work project that I would love to set up ( related to the conference ), and on my thesis, which I plan to finish this spring or early summer. In between I started reading a study of the life and career of Adolf Eichmann. While the study is well-written and full of information that I never read anywhere else, I often have my doubts about the conclusions drawn by the author, and about the way in which he builds his arguments. While much is going on in Israel and there is no lack of subjects to blog about I am afraid that I will not have too much time for regular postings in the near future. A picture, short comments or an article here and there, cartoons and You Tube Israeli video-clips, that will be it. It will probably take a while before I start blogging again as frequently and intensively as I used to. Once again, I apologize, though the regular DBI visitors have become used to this in the last year and a half.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Two Dutch cartoons that deal with current issues which are making international headlines.

Fokke & Sukke were in Belgrade:
" As long as they do not commit genocide, we should not complain ".
Tomorrow and Monday I will be in Jerusalem, attending the International Conference of the Global Forum for Combatting Anti-Semitism. The conference has a very full and interesting program, with an impressive number of speakers and experts from Israel, Europe, South and North America. Unfortunately there is a lot to combat, I am afraid.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Let it be clear that I do not support Israel's Gaza-policy, if it has such a policy. Personally I would seriously consider a more pragmatic approach, including acceptance of the fact that Hamas is part of the Palestinian reality. Hamas is more the poor Palestinians' than Israel's problem. The main thing Israel should be concerned about as far as Gaza is concerned is the wellbeing and safety of those who live on Israel's side of the Gaza border; if the Gazans really want to live long and prosper, Israel should at least allow but preferably even help them to do so; but if they prefer to continue supporting a regime that exists by the grace of ( and acts according to the directives from ) the puppet masters in Damascus and Teheran, Israel has few reasons to invest in the wellbeing of the Gazans. Israel can forget about getting rid of Hamas, as long as the Palestinians continue to support that organization. If I were Mr Olmert I would seriously consider the truce that the Palestinian factions in Gaza supposedly offer. If Hamas is willing - we all know that it is able - to stop cross-border violence I do not see what Israel can lose by agreeing to such a truce. In that case even some sort of normalization could take place. Anyway, in spite of my criticism towards the Israeli government and it's lack of perspective ( except for one or two ministers, maybe ) I find it less and less surprising that Jerusalem does not really care about what is said and decided in Brussels. Only when Israel can be condemned does it seem that the EU can have some kind of decisive and unified policy. Israel should not do this, Israel should do that, and, oh yes, of course, well. maybe it is not very nice to launch those clumsy, only occasionally lethal Qassam or Katyushya rockets, it would be nice if Hamas or Hezbollah stopped that, let's add that as some kind of afterthought to our main resolution. Where is a loud EU condemnation of Ahmadinejad's latest anti-Israel rant? I also will not hold my breath until the EU loudly and officially condemns Turkey's ground offensive into Iraq, in order "to pursue Kurdish rebels". If Israel - instead of turning off the heat and electricity in Gaza and killing those responsible for the rocket attacks against Sderot and other Israeli cities and communities - decides to send 10,000 soldiers into the Strip in pursue of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other 'rebels', the Europeans undoubtedly will be the loudest protesters against such a 'disproportional violent act'. Apart from a handful of European governments ( Holland, Germany, maybe France, I would love to add the UK here, but I am not sure ) Israel has no true friends in Europe these days, it seems. Jerusalem should listen very carefully to those friends, also and especially if those friends voice criticism and concern, but I cannot blame Olmert c.s. if they ignore calls, any calls, from Brussels, Rome, or other European capitals.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Om deze F&S moest ik erg lachen. Eerder deze week werd er bericht over Joop den Uyl's vooroorlogse sympathieen voor bepaalde aspecten van het regime in Duitsland. Ik weet niet precies wat de man in de oorlog zelf allemaal gedaan heeft, alleen dat hij in die tijd is afgestudeerd, op het ministerie van Economische Zaken werkte en bij het illegale Parool actief is geweest. Goed, fout, grijs? Als die indeling al relevant zou zijn zou ik het antwoord in het geval van Ome Joop werkelijk niet weten, omdat ik te weinig van zijn activiteiten en opvattingen tijdens de oorlog weet. Wist hij echt helemaal niets van Vredeling's hulp aan Israel tijdens de Yom Kippur oorlog? Lijkt me een reuze interessant boek, dat proefschrift van Anet Bleich, hopelijk levert het antwoorden op mijn vragen. Voorlopig blijf ik nog een nostalgische sympathie koesteren voor meneer Den Uyl, veel meer sympathie dan voor zijn ( eerste ) Minister van Justitie, die met zijn posthume arier-verklaring en blinde, haatdragende kruistocht tegen Israel slechts argwaan en aggressie bij mij oproept.

PS: Dit artikel beantwoordt een deel van mijn vragen.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Can anybody explain to me what kind of ridiculous warning this is, and at whom it is aimed? Senior official in Jerusalem warns that Israel will view any attack on Jews abroad as anti-Semitic act.
Let's hope nobody will suggest sending Mrs Mugniyah to dr. Severino Antinori:
Hizbullah commander Imad Mugniyah's mother said Thursday that she is "pleased" that all three of her sons gave their lives for the Jihad way. In an interview on Hizbullah's Al-Manar television, Mugniyah's mother called on Hizbullah Secretary-General Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah not to fear, saying she regrets not having a fourth son to offer Jihad.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

CNN's Jim Clancy points out something important regarding the bomb blast in Damascus the other day: we can not be sure that Imad Mugniyah indeed died in that blast. After all, in ( ( the war against ) terror and in ) the Middle East most things are hardly ever what they seem. This is something that Joris Luyendijk, a former MidEast correspondent for the Dutch daily NRC, describes in his bestseller Het zijn net mensen ( They are almost human, 2006; I finally bought the book two weeks ago at Schiphol airport, on my way back home, together with In alle staten, by Max Westerman, the former US correspondent for Dutch RTL television). Like cynicism, skepticism is a valuable feature for those who live here and for everybody who follows the local and regional news. On the other hand, on the above AP picture, which I found on Ynet, of Mr Mughniyah's father and grandfather at least one of the two looks rather genuinely sad. I am sure they are very proud of him in any case, whether he is dead or alive.

Matty Caspi - Second Childhood

Another example of a song composed by Matty Caspi, with lyrics by Ehud Manor.

Matty Caspi - Eternal Pact

Thinking about Ehud Manor I arrived at this clip, which is proof of one of the most productive and beautiful cooperations in Israeli music, that between Caspi and Manor z"l.

Shalom Hanokh - The Ballad of Yoel Moshe Salomon

Here is Shalom Hanokh singing the song that I posted earlier this week. The clip is not really the best one that I ever saw, but musically I prefer this version to Arik Einstein's. Notice the young ( now unfortunately late ) Ehud Manor and the quite young Shalom Hanokh ( may he live to see 120 years ) in the first few seconds of the clip.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

As happens regularly, I agree basically with every word that Amos Oz writes here. When I read the - rather predictable - comments I admire the man even more for his courage, his reason and the clarity of his thoughts.

PS: Enough blogging and news for today. Back to work.

When it comes to reacting to extremist threats and religious censorship, many countries - I won't name any names - could learn something from the Danes. Wat betreft het reageren op extremistische bedreigingen en religieuze censuur zouden veel landen - ik noem geen namen - iets van de Denen ( je ziet, ik maak toch weer grif gebruik van de Telegraaf website, het blijft een van de meest uptoedeete nederlandstalige online nieuwsbronnen, oppervlakkig als de neten en fout als een deur maar wel bij de tijd ) kunnen leren.
Wat een heerlijke virtueel vod is de Telegraaf toch, en wat een fantastisch lezerspubliek heeft die krant. Hier is een greep uit de reacties op een artikel over Israelische plannen - een tikkeltje onzinnig, als je het mij vraagt, maar dat staat hier los van - om het aantal buitenlandse - vooral Chinese en Thaise, maar ook andere - koks en andere werknemers in Aziatische restaurants in het land naar beneden te brengen. Dezelfde lezers die moord en brand schreeuwen en Wilders de hemel in prijzen als ze iets over moslims lezen, als het om werkgelegenheid in Nederland gaat of wanneer ze zelfs maar vermoeden dat de pleger van een misdaad iemand met een Mediterraan uiterlijk is, komen met de volgende reacties als de Israelische regering paal en perk wil stellen aan uitwassen in wat inmiddels - vooral door de schuld van de overheid, maar wederom, daar gaat het hier niet om - een heuse arbeidsindustrie is geworden. Natuurlijk worden ook de zielige Palestijnen er weer bijgehaald, al heeft niemand het erover dat Hamas minstens 1 hulptransport van de Rode Halve Maan heeft ingepikt, of dat toen de grensovergang tussen Gaza en Egypte met Hamas-explosieven werd opgeblazen er met behulp van miljoenen dollars ( waaronder veel valse ) vanuit Egypte meer bommen, granaten, geweren en raketten Gaza werden binnengesmokkeld dan eten, kleren of medicijnen.
  • Israels houding tegenover de Palestijnen geeft al tientallen jaren reden tot het boycotten van Israelische producten. Opmerkelijk, en tekenend voor de tijdgeest, dat dat niet gebeurt. Tijd voor een nieuw boycotoffensief!
  • Tijd om de Israeliers te verwijderen uit Israel, de oorspronkelijke bewoners kunnen daar weer prima zelf leven en eten wat ze willen. Vermoedelijk hebben die niets tegen asiatische koks...
  • Typerend voor het xenofobe Israel, een land dat bijvoorbeeld ook alle olijfbomen van de Palestijnen heeft vernietigd. Tijd dus om de oorspronkelijke bewoners terug te laten keren. Voor Israeliers is in China wel werk!
  • Een boycot van Israelische producten is een van de manieren om dit land (dat niet van hen is) een toontje lager te laten zingen. Daarbij bestaat Israel grotendeels zelf uit import. Een merkwaardige actie van een xenofoob land, dat de hand boven het hoofd wordt gehouden door het Westen waar we over de herkomst van de loempiabereiders toch echt niet moeilijk doen.
  • als de aziaten niet mee willen werken, worden hun restaurants en tentjes afgepakt, aziaten worden in een ghetto gestopt en met hulp van de Amerikanen (lees: joodse lobby die Amerikaanse low-class soldaten het vechtwerk laat doen) gebombardeerd.
  • Ik kan er wel iets over zeggen,maar iedereen heeft het toch gelezen. Iedereen snapt toch wat hier aan de hand is! Laat ik het dan zeggen: ras puurheid
  • Er was ooit eens een man die had echt gelijk. Rare snor maar hij had gelijk. Bewijs is hier nog maar eens geleverd wat voor schurken de Israeli's zijn.
  • Zo, de overheid vindt dat er teveel asiatische koks zijn in Israel. Wel ik ben net in Israel geweest en ik vind dat er teveel Israeliers zijn! ( Adolf, Leiden )
  • Israeliers weten als geen ander hoe het is om onderdrukt en vernederd te worden en toch doen ze dat andere mensen aan ,onbegrijpelijk.Of zijn ze bang voor een aziatische invasie ?bouw dan nog een muur
  • Dit doet me terug denken aan de tijd voor de oorlogsjaren in de diamantwerkersindustrie toen het slechter begon te worden werden de niet Joodse diamantslijpers zoals mijn vader, zij waren de eerste die ontslagen werden en zonder werk liepen ongeacht hoe lang je daar al gewerkt had,zo zie je maar nog steeds hetzelfde,hebben nog niets geleerd uit het verleden.
  • Als reaktie Israel niet meer in het europese voetbal en ook niet aan het europese song-festival. daar hebben Asiaten niets te zoeken.
  • Ze hebben niet geleerd van hun eigen verleden.

I am not a violent person, and I honestly believe that only in very rare cases violent methods ought to be considered by leaders in the free world in order to to achieve a goal or solve a problem, but when I read this my instinctive reaction were a chuckle and the thought "Maybe it would be best if Hizbullah's accusations are true."

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I allowed myself to stop working early today, in order to spend some ( extra ) quality time with my wife and our children, to watch television, answer some e-mails and write a few lines here. My wife took the above picture a week ago, when she spent a very sunny day on or near the Hermon mountain, together with our two eldest children, and with a friend and her son.

While I am busy and the five of us live our uneventful, quiet and quite happy lives, the people of Sderot are still suffering what caused my pregnant wife, our children and me to flee our home after only one week, almost two years ago already. Of course, the people of Gaza are also suffering, but I am afraid that I have to put most of the blame for that on the shoulders of their 'leaders'. Why is it that those leaders invest most of their organizations' energy, money and resources in buying, producing and firing rockets and other weapons, the use of which they know will eventually hurt their own people even more than they hurt Israel, including the poor people of Sderot? Why is it that as soon as there is a breach in the blockade of the Strip - brought about by Hamas explosives, never mind, but still - the holes in the fences are used particularly to smuggle weapons and the like from Egypt, rather than food and other more vital and life-supporting/improving products? While I do agree with mister Olmert when he says that "anger is not an action plan" I also have to admit that Israel cannot leave attacks unanswered that on a daily basis terrify, maim and traumatize tens of thousands of its citizens, including young children. That is why I could not help thinking "serves them right, I find it hard to feel sorry for them" when I read that Ismail Haniyeh and other Hamas leaders have started to seriously fear for their own lives. Not that killing them would solve anything, of course. As wouldn't a large-scale ground offensive, something which we saw more than once before, which did not help us then and will not help us now. Although there is nothing new under the sun I did learn a new absurd fact this week, when I read that Israel's total exports to the Palestinians ( about 3,5 million people ) are equal to those to Italy and France combined ( together about 120 million people ). Which partly explains why Israel will think twice before starting a total boycott of the Gaza Strip's economy.

PS: These days I read a book by a legendary Dutch columnist. Before my last visit to the Netherlands I bought a number of books that I needed to prepare for the interviews that I have been working on for the last four, five weeks. Together with those books I also ordered some books that I simply wanted to read for fun, among them five or six compilations of pieces that Simon Carmiggelt ( for a more detailed description of his life and work, in Dutch, click here; during WWII he worked for the Dutch resistance newspaper Het Parool, which still appears today; his brother, who was arrested because he had helped Jews and others who had to hide from the Germans, was murdered in the Dutch concentration camp Vught) wrote. The columns in the book that I am reading were published in the 1950s and 1960s, and the language sometimes is slighly old-fashioned, but many of the stories - about the writer's children and about his first grandchild - remain funny, beautiful and ageless. The box with almost ten kilos of books arrived about a week after its owner returned home.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Fools of Prophecy - Sound of the Wheel

The lyrics of this song are taken from the Zohar, if I am not mistaken. I heard this amazing song for the first time when three or four of the band's members gave a very moving a cappella performance of it at a Rabin remembrance concert.

Arik Einstein - The Ballad of Yoel Moshe Salomon

Another favorite of mine, sung by one of Israel's best and most veteran singers, Arik Einstein, and written by Shalom Hanokh ( music ) and Yoram Toharlev ( lyrics ). On drums I recognize Meir Yisrael, on guitar Micky Gavrielov, the names of the other band members I do not know.

Yehudah Poliker - Window towards the Mediterranean Sea

One of the most beautiful songs in Hebrew that I know, by one of the Israeli artists whom I admire the most, Yehudah Poliker, from his album Ashes and Dust.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

By the way, Blogger is available now in a Hebrew ( and Arabic/Persian ) version.

With so much news going on ( primaries in the US, the Holloway- Van der Sloot - De Vries files, continuing Qassam attacks on Sderot, mayhem in and around Gaza, the first succesful suicide attack inside Israel in more than a year, in which a 73-old woman was murdered, the Winograd report, trouble in the stock market, and so on ) being unable to follow the news too intensively is both frustrating and a relief.
I spent three wonderful and very productive weeks in Holland plus a day and a half in Birmingham ( all seven pictures shown above were taken during those 36 hours; in Birmingham I interviewed a Dutch football player, which is why I attended the BCFC-Chelsea game, undeservedly lost 0-1 by the home team; it was the first time ever that I visited a football stadium during a real match ). All the interviews went well, most of them are really interesting, I might even have a scoop or two. Today or tomorrow I finish writing out the last two interviews ( I used a digital voice recorder, an amazing piece of electronics that I bought right before I left for Holland ), in the next few days I will rewrite all 16 interviews into publishable pieces, and on Monday I will send everything to the interviewees, as well as - as a first draft - to the publisher and to the organization that commissioned the book. I was also able to meet a few good friends, and to see my parents, brother and sister and their families. As much as I enjoyed my stay abroad, it was good to be home again. As usual most of the weight that I took home with me ( or sent by mail ) was made up of toys ( mostly Playmobil ) and books for our children, candy, snacks and other food products, cosmetics, and books. Today my wife and our two eldest children will play in the snow on the Hermon mountain.