Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The other day I read a beautiful posting ( in German ) on a subject that got me both angry and confused last week, and that shocked many Israelis, which alltogether is a good sign: the Palestinian violinist at the army checkpoint. Lila, of Letters from Rungholt, quotes Meir Shalev ( a slightly sentimental text with strong Christian undertones, but still very moving ): "Until now we were always the ones who had to play the violin. The violin was a good instrument for Jews. You can carry a violin with you, when you have to flee. We played at courts, in high society, on the platform of Auschwitz. The others had the gun, we had the violin. But now the picture has changed. We laid down the violin. Only for a transitional period, until the country is safe, so we promised ourselves, did we take up the gun. But that period has become a long term, and now others play the violin, while we stand beside them. One thing we should not forget: the violin defeats the gun. Always."
PS: You are invited to read the comments and see this article on Ha'Aretz' website today. It deals with the incident. It is hard to know whose version we should believe, although the violinist's argument that if the soldiers suspected that his viloin contained explosives they would not have let him play right next to them, makes much sense.
Regarding "The grim ordeal of France's hostages", IHT, November 27-28, 2004:
It remains fascinating to see how people such as Charles Lambroschini are still bending backwards to understand and explain the motives and trains of thought of Islamist terrorist by Western ratio and values. Men like Zarqawi don't care two bits whether brave and honorable journalists, intellectuals and humanitarians show solidarity or fascination with this or that Muslim nation or cause, or try to achieve objectivity. Poor men and women like Margaret Hassan, Michel Seurat and the two French journalists still being held by their kidnappers are perfect tools for Islamist fanatics to achieve their goals: sowing disorder and deadly terror, and trying to force Western societies into an existential war with Islam as such, even with its many, many moderate believers. Maybe the fact that they are so much seen as representatives of 'the West with a human face' makes people like Georges Malbrunot and Christian Chesnot even more attractive targets for the terrorists. Of course we in the West' have to change many of our ways - settling debts in the Third World, ending Israel's occupation of the Westbank and Gaza, limiting our dependence on MidEast oil and ending our support for repressive and undemocratic regimes in the Muslim world, to name just some of them - but believing that fanatics like Bin Laden can be pacified by showing solidarity with the causes which they pretend to support is naive. In the end such a belief serves no one but the kidnappers and murderers themselves.

Monday, November 29, 2004

In my opinion PM Sharon is making a huge mistake by courting the (ultra-)orthodox parties while totally disregarding Shinuy. As a coalition party the latter has been very loyal to Mr Sharon from the very beginning of this cabinet period, whereas he always has had to beg ( with a bag of money in his hands ) for the support of parties like Shas and UTJ. I probably would never vote Shinuy and their achievements as a government member are very meager ( look for instance at subjects like civil marriage, conversion, the plight of foreign workers ), but Lapid c.s. have stood by Arik Sharon during some of his hardest times as a prime minister, something which cannot be said even of the members of his own Likud. Peres and Labor are not really helping by constantly putting out their feelers towards joining a governing coalition with whomever Sharon feels like taking into his government.
Could it be that Sharon - now that there are 1) opportunities for change that never were there on the Palestinian side 2) no serious legal threats facing him and his sons and 3) little chances of support for him within the Likud - lost all his eagerness to promote and implement any disengagement? Were all the skepics right from the very beginning? I hope not, but I am getting less optimistic every day.
Regarding "Fears flower over funding for higher education", and "Right-wing poised for anti-pullout public campaigns", Ha'Aretz, November 28, 2004 ( published in its entirety in today's English edition of the newspaper ): Of course the settlers cannot be blamed for all the holes in Israel's budgets during the last four decades. Still, I cannot help wondering how the Jewish state would have looked if all those many, many millions of shekels and (wo)man-hours pumped into the occupation and into the settlements had been invested in projects that are - more than living outside the Green Line on some remote hill in a caravan or in a luxurious villa, confining one's neighbors to bantustans, forcing Jewish soldiers to become occupiers, and endangering the very continued existence of Israel as a Jewish state - based on real Jewish values: compassion for the poor and less advantaged, seeking justice and prosperity for Jews and non-Jews, educating both the masses and the elite, sustainable housing and safe roads, health care and scientific research. The Israel that I read about before making aliyah was far from being perfect. Still, egalitarianism and solidarity were two of the keywords in all that I read about Israeli society. If today I had to describe the state of this country's society - where, don't get me wrong, I still love to live - I would put those keywords in brackets and add some more: alienation, haves and have-nots, racism, apathy and indifference. It is never too late to admit one's mistakes and to make amends. If we end the occupation, start fighting corruption and general decay, and invest most of our efforts and larger parts of our state's budgets in abovementioned projects, we might discover that a good life ( including an affordable education ) is within reach of most, if not all Israelis.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Today's Ha'Aretz had a more than usual amount of thought-provoking articles. In addition to two articles the reading of which prompted me to write a letter to the editor ( see tomorrow's posting ) I read with great interest an op-ed article by Gideon Levy and a feature article by Zvi Harel. After Arafat died I was very annoyed that suddenly most people seemed to have forgotten the less admirable parts of his personal history. A similar thing - mutatis mutandis - happened after Rafael Eitan died. Not that the man did not do many great things, there just were some parts in his biography that were less wonderful. Gideon Levy tells us that - for the sake of historical truth, the public's right to know, and the memory of Raful as a historic figure - those parts should be remembered just as much as the great things that this soldier did. Levy mentions also the opportunism of some of the political "followers" of Raful. One of them is Eliezer 'Modi' Sandberg, a well-known political figure in the Haifa area, who currently serves as Minister of National Infrastructure on behalf of the Shinuy party. Levy says about him: "...there are few parties [he] hasn't joined at some point".
The article by Zvi Harel I would not have read if my curiosity had not been raised by the caption of the picture of Shas MK Peretz, who "was asked to explain the fact that his thesis was written in the first person female". Read the article to get an impression of the way in which some people ( and public servants among them ) have tried - and succeeded - to obtain academic degrees plus the financial and other benefits that such degrees provide. Both amusing and sad, very sad.
Regarding "Raful remembered as a fighter, a farmer and a friend", Ha'Aretz, November 25, 2004:
Although I am sure that when Eli Ashkenazi wrote "simple farmers..." he used 'simple' as in 'straightforward, frank, unpretentious', not as in 'dumb' or 'half-witted' ( the word probably was translated from the Hebrew 'pashut' ), I think that using that description in this context was problematic. Since those who came to honor Rafael Eitan probably really represented "all strata of Israeli society" it was wrong to single out one of those strata by using an adjective with such both positive and negative connotations.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Om dit bericht in het nieuwsbulletin van de Wereldomroep moest ik erg lachen. Leuk initiatief overigens.
Cadeautjes in schoenen biddende moslims
Twee muzikanten uit Nijmegen en Arnhem roepen burgers op cadeautjes te stoppen in schoenen van moslims, als die in de moskee in gebed zijn. Het initiatief is bedoeld om de relatie tussen moslims en Nederlanders te verbeteren. Volgens de initiatiefnemers Alex Gray en Reinout Weebers zullen moslims het gebaar zeker waarderen. Maar mensen moeten bij de keuze van hun geschenk wel rekening houden met bepaalde gevoeligheden. Zo is het beter speculaas te geven dan een marsepeinen varken.Het is overigens niet de bedoeling dat iedereen op eigen houtje de schoenen gaat vullen. De muzikanten raden aan om goede afspraken te maken met iemand van de moskee.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

This news item I 'discovered' only when I I saw it mentioned on an online news site. Although I think that it is not very wise of the Tnuva CEO - nor is it for any businessman - to say anything political, especially on such a sensitive subject as the territories, I fully agree with what he said. I also agree with what is said in the statement by the Kibbutz Movement ( I suppose the article means the United Kibbutz Movement here ): "Whoever wants to boycott those who think differently than they do will quickly find that the majority of the state of Israel will boycott one another."
Still, now that 'the' settlers are calling for a boycott of the company, for some time in the near future you will find many Israelis - and me and my wife among them - choosing Tnuva products over their competing alternatives, for spite. We already are loyal customers of Tnuva ( almost all the cheese, milk, 'custard' etc. that we buy are produced by that company ), so there will not be much difference. By the way, I will never support a boycott abroad of things produced in the settlements ( even though I could think of worse ways to express one's disagreement with Israel's policies regarding the territories ), but you will not see me buying something that I know for sure was produced there, if I know there is a reasonable 'blue-white' alternative that is made within the Green Line.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

I just returned from Jerusalem, where I attended two different international conferences, yesterday at Yad Vashem and today at the Hebrew University. I am tired, will have a shower and go to bed. Tomorrow I will post something probably.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

One of the most heroic and Israeli but also controversial and political soldiers of the Jewish state, former Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan, drowned this morning in or near Ashdod, where he supervised a harbor building project. While reading his biography in Hebrew, I read something that I never heard before: " He wasn't Jewish; his parents were Russians who came to the Land of Israel and did not ( make the effort to ) convert. This did not bother his friends in the Palmach: he was a farmer, a fighter, and he spoke Hebrew. That was enough. " Sorry the link is to a page in Hebrew, I did not find any reliable reference in English. I have no way to verify this piece of information, but the website that I refer to is not overly sensational or known for its serious inaccuracies, as far as I know. His being Jewish or not Jewish is not really relevant, of course, I was just surprised to read it. He was an active player in all major wars that Israel fought in its first 40 years of existence. May his memory be blessed.

Monday, November 22, 2004

In today's IHT: Corrections: For the record
An article in Wednesday's European editions about tensions in the Netherlands incorrectly referred to Lousewies van der Laan as a man. She is also not the parliamentary leader of the D66 party, but its deputy chairman.
How sad it is, and how frustrating it must be for a politician, to appear on the pages of such a respectable international newspaper when that paper misstates not only your position, but even your sex!
The fact that PM Sharon was satisified with the results of two out of the three elections for key posts within his Likud party yesterday shows how precarious his own position within that party is. Tzachi Hanegbi, who had to give up his post as minister of Internal Security because he is being investigated for a string of political appointments when he was minister of the Environment and who is not exactly a firm supporter of Sharon's disengagement plan, and Danny Naveh, who is one of the plan's most vocal opponents but voted with Nethanyahu and Livnat about a month ago, were considered 'Sharon's candidates' only because the alternatives were even fiercer opponents of Sharon within the ranks of the party. Still, 'Arik' will continue to have a hard time every time he wants to get support from any of the party's institutions ( especially the Central Committee ) for any step taken in the direction of any disengagement from any of the territories ( what an ugly sentence, I know ).

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Although I suppose that I wasn't the only one who pointed out their mistake to the editors of the IHT's Letters to the editor section, I felt a certain satisfaction when I read in today's newspaper ( which came out yesterday in the rest of the world ):
Because of an editing error, a letter to the editor on Nov. 10 in response to Jeff Jacoby's opinion column about Yasser Arafat referred incorrectly to Yitzhak Shamir. He is still alive.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

The previous posting appeared already two days ago on my blog, I reposted it because it was published in this weekend's International Herald Tribune. The first line was deleted for obvious reasons by the editor's ( they knew it was their responsibility to check whether Mr Shamir - sheyizkeh lehayim arukim - was dead or alive ). In today's IHT there was also a very good letter from a reader in Haifa, who expresses something that I have thought many times before:
Call it what it is
How dare you publish a photo caption using the word "executed" to describe what happened to Margaret Hassan, an Iraqi aid worker? "Execution" carries the connotation of a process of law. The savage beheadings in Iraq, whether of Hassan or of other unfortunate men and women, have nothing of legal about them. They are murder, pure and simple. The choice of a word carries enormous weight, whether it is calling a terrorist a "militant" or calling the beheading of an innocent person an "execution."
Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel
Regarding Margaret Shaida's letter to the editor "Remembering Arafat", IHT, November 18, 2004 ( published in the IHT, November 20-21, 2004 ):
First of all, Yitzhak Shamir is still alive, so writing articles on his death would be a bit premature. Second, certainly the scope, methods and targets of Jewish terrorism in mandatory Palestine were incomparably different from those of 'modern' Palestinian and Islamist terror, especially when one notices the fact that acts of terror by the Etzel and Lehi were vehemently denounced by a vast majority of the Jews living in Palestine before 1948. Third, the biggest difference between Menachem Begin and Yasser Arafat was that the former was able to make the transition from a terrorist to a statesman, whereas for the latter his being a terrorist was so much a part of his identity and of his self-definition that when he had the chance to become the founding father and first president of a Palestinian state - far from what he and his people dreamt of, but still much better than what they had ever had -, he was unable to serve what according to most experts was the common good of his people rather than his personal interests and those of his cronies. In my opinion Mr Jacoby's op-ed article offered some food for thought as a balance to all the canonizations of Yasser Arafat published in most media.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Yesterday I sent the following mail to Sky News' Your Views, following the apparent murder of Margaret Hassan:
From the targets chosen by terrorists in Iraq we can learn very clearly what their goal is: to create or intensify chaos and to prevent any relief being brought to the poor people of Iraq, and/or the establishement of some sort of democracy in that country, no matter how imperfect. Terrorism - whether it is motivated by a political or a religious form of nihilism - thrives on disorder, misery, and peoples' anger towards their leaders. The fact that, after the brutal murders of Ken Bigley, Margaret Hassan and others, many Britons, Americans and other Westerners lay the blame for those murders the blame on Bush and Blair - who do bear a serious part of the responsibility for the mess in Iraq, but that is another subject to discuss - instead of focusing on and denouncing the hideous crimes of the murderers of Mrs Hassan and her fellow-victims, proves that the terrorists are achieving at least some of their goals.
I just saw this picture on the Ha'Aretz website. The caption said "Members of the Palestinian National Security Council praying for Yasser Arafat at the start of a meeting in Ramallah on Wednesday. (Reuters)". No offense to anybody's feelings, but isn't it a bit late to pray for him? Or are they still discussing with Suha whether or not to let him die in 'peace'?Posted by Hello

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Voor de KRO zou de uitslag van "De Grootste Nederlander" niet echt moeten uitmaken: wat doet het er toe of de ene of de andere afvallige katholiek gewonnen heeft?
Yesterday evening I saw something that really gave me the creeps. In "Mish'al Ham", a political talk show hosted by Nissim Mish'al, there was an item on Jewish groups that are making efforts to have the Temple rebuilt. There are at least 8 official groups like that, some of them partly funded by governement money and one of them working closely together with the chief rabbinate. No ( serious ) problem with that. What scared me, though, were some words spoken very casually by a spokesman of one of those groups, a guy named Baruch Ben Yosef who - with a heavy American accent - said that the Temple Mount does not have any importance for the Muslims, and that he was sure that the Temple is going to be rebuilt in the near future, either by the State of Israel or - and this is what really frightened me - "by what will replace it [ i.e. the State of Israel ]".
Om de ene pols een oranje bandje, om de andere een rood stukje touw tegen het boze oog ( a la Madonna en haar 'kaballah'-kolder, en alles sal reg kom. Waarom had niemand daar eerder aan gedacht?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Whereas it is hard to argue about the 'greatness' and achievements of the "Greatest German" ( Konrad Adenauer ) or of the "Greatest Briton" ( Winston Churchill ), the main accomplishment which earned the "Greatest Dutchman" his election, which was announced yesterday, was being murdered. True, Pim Fortuyn had an impressive career as an academic and author, and he was a gifted speaker. Still, he was shot before he had a chance of proving himself as a politician - and, who knows, statesman -, and all that his followers and admirers were left with on May 6th 2002 were unfulfilled expectations, slogans and one-liners that remained just words ( transparent government, measures aimed against - especially Muslim - immigrants, etc.). None of the parliamentarians who were elected on the LPF ( List Pim Fortuyn ) ticket in the following elections left a truly lasting impression or legacy, except for cheap and empty populism, many parliamentary street fights, back room deals the fight against which had been one of Fortuyn's election promises to begin with, and a cabinet that was shortlived mainly because of them.
Today, with media votes being conducted through SMS and internet, it is easy to cheat and hard to keep such votes from being manipulated by well-organized interest groups with members who have too much spare time and a mostly emotional link to the group, country, song, person etc. which/whom they vote for. That way people who - in totally incomparable ways, but that is another subject - truly contributed to the prosperity and greatness of the Netherlands were beaten by a murdered populist, who probably even got many more votes in the two weeks since the murder of Theo van Gogh. The latter happened to have some of his ideas regarding Islam in common with Fortuyn, and if he could have been added to the list of candidates he might have been elected yesterday.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Wat ik wel een aardig detail van deze verder natuurlijk niet veel zeggende enquete vond: Dries van Agt bungelt onderaan het lijstje, en wordt zelfs door een al vele jaren dode Joop den Uyl - hij ruste in vrede - 'verslagen'. Wel sneu voor de Palestijnen dat hun grote vrind door maar 8% van de ondervraagden als momenteel meest geschikte premier van Nederland werd gezien.
This morning two letters to the editor of Ha'Aretz dealt with ( the death of ) Yasser Arafat. Although their authors appear to be from opposite sides of the pro-this or pro-that spectrum, both letters contained much truth. Arafat was much more a terrorist than a statesman ( although comparisons with Bin Laden or Hitler are totally wrong ), but on the other hand, now that Yasser A. is not around anymore Sharon will have to prove that the head of the PLO/PA - and not anybody else, hint, hint - was personally and almost exclusively an obstacle to peace, something which I think the Israeli PM and his government will have a hard time proving.
Many obituaries abroad turned Arafat almost into a saint. Yesterday the International Herald Tribune reprinted an op-ed article - which I liked, although I get angry and sick every time someone mentions the Third Reich and Palestinian terrorism in one and the same piece or sentence - from the Boston Globe by Jeff Jacoby, which reminded readers of one of the most notorious crimes for which Arafat bears responsibility: the kidnapping and murder of 21 schoolchildren and several adults at a school in the northern Israeli town of Ma'alot, a little more than 30 years before we followed the horrific events in Beslan. The author of the Out of Step Jew-weblog gives us one of many reasons that might or might not explain the success of Yasser Arafat when it comes to getting international attention and sympathy, as opposed to the leaders of less known but probably not less just religious-nationalist-humanitarian causes.
In today's IHT Thomas Friedman writes about the void of achievement left by Arafat, a void which will have to be filled by more responsible Palestinian, American and Israeli leaders.
Finally - and then I will try to let Mr A. rest - an article that I saved in my Favorites' file some days ago. Taken from the IHT and provided by the Associated Press, it is one of many articles published these weeks about the mysterious millions of the late Ra'is.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

We all knew that there would be some sort of power struggle among the Palestinians after the death of the Ra'is, but that it would turn so violent so fast comes as a surprise. Will Israel be blamed for this as well?
Een alleraardigst idee van het NRC Handelsblad: laat twee prominente historici de vaderlandse geschiedenis samenvatten in een "artikel dat in een kwartier te lezen zou moeten zijn". De professoren Bank ( van de Universitiet Leiden, volgens de inleiding tot het artikel ) en De Rooy ( UvA ) namen de uitdaging aan en schreven "Wat iedereen moet weten van de vaderlandse geschiedenis" ( pdf-document, Adobe vereist ).
Iedereen slaat hier op iedereen in Nederland, neem ik aan.
John Grisham is one of my favorite authors. O.k., I know that his books do not have any literary value, so what? They ( I read 15 of the 18 books that I know he wrote ) have provided me with many hours of wonderful entertainment, especially during the loneliest of shifts and breaks while doing my reserve duty somewhere in the desert, or during airplane or train journeys. Mr Grisham is a great story teller, whether he writes about Southern court rooms or about non-legal subjects. A little more than a week ago I read his Skipping Christmas, which - though a bit disappointing, especially towards the end - is funny and entertaining. Of course, it was made into a movie , which - as I just discovered through an advert which popped up while I checked my Yahoo! mail account - will come out next week in the US, around Thanksgiving. Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis star as Luther and Nora Krank. Seems like a fun movie, if you are looking for an unpretentious way of spending 90 minutes or so with your boy/girlfriend, husband, wife etc.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Gisteren stond ( een lichtelijk veranderde, niet verbeterde versie van ) het volgende artikel in het Reformatorisch Dagblad. Zoek de verschillen. Bijv.: door mijn (werk)titel "De dood van een symbool" te veranderen in "Arafat is maar een symbool' wordt in een klap de toon van het stuk veranderd. Anyway, ik ben blij dat het geplaatst werd, het is altijd prettig samenwerken met het RefDag.
Het sterfbed van een symbool

Voor mij, een naar Israël gëmigreerde Nederlander die zich constant met nieuws verzadigt, was het de afgelopen weken ‘smullen’ geblazen. De Knesset zette de tot nu toe belangrijkste stap op weg naar een terugtrekking uit de Gaza-strook ( en, wie weet, nog meer bezette gebieden ), Yasser Arafat begon wat zijn enige mislukte overlevingsstrijd werd, en op de dag dat Amerika met een toch nog onverwachte meerderheid Bush jr. herkoos werd de moord op één Amsterdammer door een andere Amsterdammer wereldnieuws.

Je hoeft niet al te veel fantasie te hebben om deze vier gebeurtenissen met elkaar in verband te brengen. Het sleutelwoord daarbij is terreur. Terreur bestond al lang voordat Israël werd opgericht of voordat de Gaza-strook werd bezet, Yasser Arafat heeft haar niet uitgevonden. Wel gaf hij haar een van haar meest herkenbare gezichten. Direct of indirect was hij verantwoordelijk voor minstens honderden terreurdaden. Gedurende korte tijd leek het er op dat Arafat – net als bijvoorbeeld Sadat, Begin, Rabin en Mandela – zijn rol van soldaat-vrijheidsstrijder-terrorist voor die van vredesstichter en responsabel leider van zijn volk kon en wilde inruilen. Al snel werd duidelijk dat hij – door onmacht, onwil of volgens een voor ons niet altijd begrijpelijke logica – de Palestijnse terreur actief steunde dan wel welwillend of oogluikend toeliet. Niet voor niets werd hij omschreven als een man die nooit een kans liet liggen om een kans te laten liggen. Het komt maar weinig voor dat een terrorist of guerrillaleider een succesvol staatsman wordt. Arafat heeft die overgang nooit echt gemaakt. Als hij eieren – in plaats van Parijse koopjes voor zijn vrouw Suha, steekpenningen, geheime bankrekeningen, kogels, bommen en granaten – voor zijn geld ( of liever dat van zijn volk ) had gekozen zou hij de geschiedenis in kunnen zijn gegaan als een groot historisch leider. Nu zal hij vooral herinnerd worden als een symbool van corruptie, machteloosheid en gebrek aan goede wil, en – naast o.a. opeenvolgende falende Israëlische en Amerikaanse regeringen, alle Arabische leiders – als één van de hoofdschuldigen aan het niet te benijden lot van de Palestijnen. Desondanks is hij altijd door zijn volk, dat nooit echte andere leiders heeft gekend, vereerd, en hij heeft een niet te ontkennen rol gespeeld in het vormgeven van de nationale identiteit van de Palestijnen.

Soms, als ik in een wel heel cynische bui ben door wat we vandaag de dag aan wereldwijde terreurdaden ‘meemaken’, denk ik wel eens dat we ooit nog bijna met weemoed aan Arafat zullen terugdenken. We weten allemaal dat de man in zijn leven veel, heel veel strategisch foute, voor zijn volk en voor veel onschuldige slachtoffers – joden en niet-joden – desastreuze beslissingen genomen heeft. Toch was zijn opvatting en naleving van Marx’ Verelendunstheorie niets vergeleken bij de hedendaagse Islamistische variant. Behalve wortels in de geschiedenis en de geografische oorsprong van veel van haar ‘agenten’ heeft de terreur die – in totaal verschillende vormen – de laatste jaren in New York, Bali, Madrid, Jeruzalem en Amsterdam huis houdt weinig gemeen met de terreurdaden van de jaren zeventig. Er is niet bepaald een gebrek aan aandacht voor de ‘Palestijnse zaak’, aandacht waarom destijds werd gevraagd door spectaculaire acties tegen vooral joodse en Israëlische doelen. Het is ondertussen wel duidelijk dat de ‘moderne’ Islamistische terroristen – die ondanks hun onderlinge verschillen genoeg gemeen hebben om verbanden te leggen – zich niet tevreden zullen stellen met een Israëlische terugtrekking uit de bezette gebieden of een eind aan Amerikaanse inmenging in het Midden-Oosten. Gezien de doelen die zij uitkiezen ( een jazzcafé in Tel Aviv, het WTC in New York, Spaanse forensen, hulpverleners in Irak en elders, een Nederlandse columnist met uitgesproken meningen over de Islam ) mogen we aannemen dat joden nog maar een klein deel van hun beoogde vijanden – en dus gerechtvaardigde slachtoffers – vormen. De strijd gaat nu tussen een zekere wereldorde samen met alles waar het Westen voor staat aan de ene, en chaos plus een geminimaliseerde versie van de Islam aan de andere kant. Symbolen spelen hierbij een belangrijke rol bij: het soort doelwitten, de manier waarop mensen worden vermoord, de manier waarop leiders, coalities en slachtoffers worden aangeduid. Het woord terreur heeft nooit beter bij zijn oorspronkelijke betekenis gepast als vandaag. Ook bij de Amerikaanse presidentsverkiezingen speelde angst een centrale rol: veel Amerikanen waren bang voor een minder daadkrachtig leiderschap, anderen voor nog vier jaren onder George W. Bush.

Het valt aan te nemen dat Arafat’s erfenis – net als de kracht van zijn persoonlijkheid – vooral symbolisch zal zijn. De geheimzinnigheid rond zijn ziekte en geruchten dat hij wel/niet overleden zou zijn gaven aan dat zijn mogelijke opvolgers bang waren voor de reacties onder hun onderdanen: zal het Palestijnse volk zonder het symbool met de stoppels en de kaffiya kunnen, en wat voor alternatief zal het na zijn dood omarmen? Niemand weet echt hoe een Arafat-loos Midden-Oosten eruit zal zien, wie Arafat zal opvolgen, en of er met hem of hen ( of haar, laten we alle mogelijkheden, hoe theoretisch ook, openhouden ) beter of slechter te onderhandelen valt. Als men in Israël, Washington en Europa maar niet zo stom is om met de handen over elkaar te gaan zitten afwachten. Om het even wat er de komende dagen en weken in Parijs, Gaza-stad en Ramallah gebeurt hebben Israel, de Palestijnen, het Midden-Oosten en de hele wereld alle belang bij daadkracht: verbeterde betrekkingen tussen Europa en de Verenigde Staten, een einde aan de Israëlische bezetting van – eerst en vooral – Gaza, een zelfstandig en zo democratisch mogelijk Irak, en een compromisloze en eensgezinde strijd tegen alle vormen van Islamistische terreur. Het maakt niet echt uit dat dit of dat symbool het tijdelijke voor het eeuwige verwisselt, waar het om gaat is dat alle leiders die stabiliteit en vrede in het Midden-Oosten – en ‘dus’ in de rest van de wereld – nastreven in ieder geval de vereiste dingen doen die ze grotendeels in eigen handen hebben.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Three days ago the Dutch daily Het Parool published this caricature by Joep Bertrams, of Yasser Arafat being kept alive. The Dutch title can be translated as "Trapped again", and an animated version can be found here.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

A very readable, comprehensive and interesting obituary of Mohammed Yasser Abdul-Ra'ouf Qudwa Al-Husseini was written by Ha'Aretz' Danny Rubinstein. A kind of in memoriam that I wrote will be published - my guess is tomorrow or Saturday - in a Dutch daily.
This is one of the most pathetic things that I have seen for a long time: Americans apoligizing online for the re-election of George W. Bush ( thanks to Bieslog for refering to the website). I have never been fond of Mr Bush and I think that in many ways he has proven to be a disaster for the world and for his country. But he was elected in what appears to have been a fair election ( at least this time ), and in my opinion a very important factor in his re-election was the fact that he has been openly ridiculed and dispised constantly by so-called progressive Americans, and that his opponent was 'elected' in numerous 'elections' abroad, especially in Europe. Many people with a minimal sense of national pride do not like outsiders to interfere in their internal affairs, and so it often happens that leaders who are insulted and vilified abroad become much more popular at home than would be the case if they had been ignored or dealt with in less emotional-populist and more rational, professional, diplomatic and issue-related ways. See for example: US/Bush, Israel/Sharon, Palestinians/Arafat, Iraq/Saddam. In the case of the US elections I am sure that Kerry's negative campaigning ( focusing constantly on why Americans should not vote for Bush and Cheney rather than why they should vote for him and Mr Edwards ) was a very bad idea. People do not like to be told what not to do by political candidates.
Where has this man ( "My monkey cloud" ) been for the last 40 years? ( Ha'Aretz News Flash )
07:55 UN chief Annan: Arafat will be remembered for having led Palestinians to accept principle of peaceful coexistence
Ha'Aretz' News Flashes this morning:
06:17 Palestinian officials: Yasser Arafat has died in Paris hospital 06:09 Yasser Arafat dies in Paris hospital 06:05 Sa`eb Arekat says in Ramallah Yasser Arafat`s death has been officialy determined 06:02 Al Jazeera and Fox News say Palestinian officials have announced Arafat`s death in Paris hospital
Could this mean that Yasser Arafat really died?

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

If you want to read good comments on and analyses of the shockwaves going through the Netherlands since the murder of Theo van Gogh ( in English, that is, those who are able to read Dutch know which blogs to visit ) I would recommend Peaktalk, which I came across - as was the case with Letters from Rungholt - only after I discovered that it had a permalink to Dutchblog Israel. Peaktalk's Pieter refers to a blog that I did not know until now, where you can find postings on Dutch topics in English. It is called Zacht Ei ( soft egg? I am not really fond of the illustration heading the blog ) and I included it in my list of Dutch blogs.
PS: I was sure that I already had put Peaktalk in that list. I hadn't, a mistake that I corrected right now. And oh, yes, I finally managed to republish my whole blog, so that from now on all archives are available again, including that of April 2003.
Over het beleg in Den Haag zal ik hier niets schrijven, ik weet niets meer te melden dan wat ik op de diverse nieuwssites lees. Wil je prachtige foto's zien uit - of all places - Almere, kijk dan eens hier, op 9 november 2004.
Since I finished my final exams in 1986 I hardly ever seriously used my knowledge of German, except for a word or sentence here and there, doing a translation German-Hebrew in order to get an exemption here at the University ( I got a perfect 100, thank you ), and reading and rereading the wonderful books of Patrick Sueskind once in a while ( I ordered all of them through Amazon.de a few years ago).
When I checked my blogstats some months ago I found out that several readers got here through a weblog named Letters from Rungholt. Its author is a mother of four who lives in a kibbutz not far away from here. She writes in German, which for me is a good opportunity to read that wonderful language ( I know what some people say about it, but you cannot blame a language for being abused by so many of its speakers, or for their sins and crimes ) on a regular basis again. It is a shame that many readers who are interested in the views and experiences of a mother-kibbutznik in Israel won't be able to read ( or rather, to be more precise, understand: I can read Chinese - i.e. see the letters/characters - but I do not understand a bit of it) her highly personal and often moving, beautifully written, quite long and very frequent postings.
I contacted her and it turns out that we work/study at the same university. In a few weeks' time we will meet for a cup of coffee, I am looking forward to it and sure that we have many things to talk about.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

For several days we have been witnessing different factions within the Palestinian leadership either being very eager to declare that the chairman died or showing an even fiercer eagerness denying that he passed away. Today his death has been both announced and denied, again.
PS: I very much liked what Nanette, a frequent commentator here, said about French criticism on Dutch euthanasia policy. One can hardly say that what is being done with Arafat is a dignified way of taking care of the terminally ill, and since all this is taking place in Paris the French authorities are responsible.
In today's Ha'Aretz I read two excellent opinion articles. Ami Ayalon urges Israel's leaders not to wait and see what will happen on the Palestinian side after Arafat will pass away, but to take the initiative, support Palestinian moderates and revive true peace initiatives.
I heard the name Irshad Manji before but I did not really know her or her work. After reading this article I think I will buy her book, The Trouble with Islam, she seems to be a fascinating personality who knows what she is talking about. She is proof of the fact that critical Muslims do exist, although many other Muslims will probably call her an apostate. Have a look at her website, which is called Muslim Refusenik ( now that is interesting: as far as I know the term 'refusenik' was first used to describe Zionist-Jewish dissidents in the Soviet Union during the 1970 ). An amusing detail ( because of the name of the award ): Irshad was awarded a Chutzpah award by Oprah Winfrey for her “audacity, nerve, boldness and conviction.”
Regarding "Murder fuels fears among Dutch", IHT, November 8, 2004: The association being made constantly between the murder of Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh is wrong. While the victims had some things in common, especially their views concerning Islam and the position of Muslims within Dutch society, the murderers ( in the Van Gogh murder case we are technically still talking about a suspect ) did not. Volkert van der Graaf, Fortuyn's murderer, was an 'ethnic Dutch' militant environmentalist who according to what we know acted on his own, and was not motivated by strictly religious fanaticism. His goal - in which he succeeded - was to stop the rightwing politician from becoming a considerable force in Dutch politics. Mohammed Bouyeri, on the other hand, was the son of Moroccan immigrants, who - apparently driven by blind religious hatred and feelings of alienation - killed the filmmaker-columnist mainly in order to punish him for his highly publicized opinions and to warn other Dutch enemies of ( Bouyeri's interpretation of ) Islam. It seems that Bouyeri was either actively assisted or at least supported and inspired by likeminded Dutch Muslim extremists, and other Dutch public figures were specifically threatened in the letter thet he left on Van Gogh's dead body. Mohammed B.'s act formed part of an international phenomenon - Islamist terror - whereas Volkert van der G.'s did not.

Monday, November 08, 2004

In today's Ha'Aretz a short and clear article by Arnon Regular on the financial side of the story of Arafat's death struggle. Yesterday I heard Ya'acov Peri, former head of Israel's General Security Service, say in a television interview that Yasser A. himself lived a very modest life, and that few of the alleged hundreds of millions of PA/PLO dollars stashed away outside the territories were spent by or on the chairman himself. Later Ziyad Abu Ziyad, a prominent member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said about the fact that until last week Mrs Arafat had lived in Paris for about four years without visiting her husband: "The sieged compound where Araft has been living is not a place to raise their daughter". The woman who interviewed him failed to ask why Mrs Arafat chose Paris instead of Gaza, Bethlehem, Jenin or any other Palestinian city. I can assure you that she did/does not pay a 'lousy' 1200 Euros for a 35 m2 Paris apartment like I did for six months last year. Right now she is waging a public struggle with her husbands probable successors ( at least for now ) over the right to end his life: as soon as he is dead she will be a ( very rich, but still ) nobody. One PA official said that Yasser Arafat is not the private property of Suha. When you look at the level of leadership among our neighbors, you would almost thank G'd for the responsible, caring and clean leaders that we have.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Ha'Aretz News Flash:
21:09 Islam Online Web site, quoting Palestinian sources: French doctors have informed PA leaders Arafat is dead (Army Radio)
Regarding "A higher calling, a lower salary", Ha'Aretz, November 7, 2004: G'd save us from ( former ) Prime Ministers who are doing us a favor by giving up highly lucrative jobs and deals in order to impose their state-saving visions upon us. Where are the days when Israel had great, real leaders who dedicated their lives to public service first and foremost out of Zionist ideals and for the good of the Jewish people, not mainly in order to use their acquired expertise later in life for their own personal profit? Of course men such as Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon and Benyamin Netanyahu have their merits when it comes to serving their country, but it would be nice if the people of Israel for once would get the feeling that its so-called leaders had its - and not their own - interests in mind with every single decision they make.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Terwijl ik aan een artikel zat te schrijven luisterde ik naar een uitzending van Hollands Diep, een programma van de Wereldomroep, waarin over - u raadt het al - de moord op Theo van Gogh werd gesproken, en dan vooral over achtergronden en gevolgen ervan. De gespreksleider stelde niet veel voor, trok veel foute conclusies, onderbrak zijn gasten op een vervelende manier etc. Een van de deelnemers aan het gesprek was Hans Jansen, een arabist die ik meer dan eens bij lezingen en af en toe ook op colleges ben tegengekomen. Hij kan zonder meer een deskundige op het gebied van 'de' Islam worden genoemd. Dat hij zo kritisch ten opzicht van dat geloof ( en 'adviseur' van Van Gogh wat betreft het onderwerp ) was/is wist ik niet. Hij maakte een paar zeer rake opmerkingen over cultureel relativisme en over de onzinnige wil van veel progressieven om de 'andere' cultuur te begrijpen zonder dat die andere cultuur genoeg respect voor 'ons' heeft om de onze te begrijpen of te waarderen, laat staan eigen te maken. Ook zei hij iets moois over de AIVD: het is bij veiligheidsdiensten net als een riool, niemand die iets merkt of er iets over zegt zolang het werkt, maar er hoeft maar een klein mankementje te zijn of iedereen gaat meteen klagen. Henk Vonhoff, in mijn ogen altijd een van de meest sympathieke VVD'ers, zei ook wat wijze dingen, o.a. over het gemeenschappelijke in de Nederlandse cultuur en geschiedenis. De enige echt irritante gaste was Ebru Umar. Ik had haar al bij B&W gezien, en ook daar zat ze er steeds tussendoor te kwekken. Het schijnt mij een beetje toe alsof ze veel denkbeelden met Van Gogh deelde, maar nauwelijks een procent van zijn talent of van zijn gevoel voor humor heeft. De vraag is of zonder zijn steun en dood mensen die voor de moord niet of nauwelijks op TvG's website keken ooit van haar gehoord zouden hebben. Natuurlijk heb ook ik mijn kritiek op politici, maar de manier waarop ze Henk Vonhoff constant zat af te zeiken stond me erg tegen. Een echt zinnige bijdrage aan de discussie bood ze niet echt.

Friday, November 05, 2004

In het Hebreeuws heb je een parallel gezegde voor het Nederlandse "Eigen roem stinkt": "Yehallelkha zar welo pikha" ( Dat een vreemde - en niet je eigen mond - je moge prijzen ). Het is altijd leuk om waardering of een compliment te krijgen, zeker als dat afkomstig is van iemand wiens werk je regelmatig bewondert en met plezier leest.
In een lekker leesbaar interview op About(:)blank zegt Arnoud van Verbal Jam ( of verbaljam zoals iemand die ik goed ken dat weblog consequent noemt ): "Op Dutchblog Israel ga ik ook met regelmaat eventjes kijken. Dat is een van oorsprong Nederlandse historicus die met grote kennis van zaken vanuit Israël logt over de Midden-Oostenproblematiek. Gemengd Engels en Nederlands."
Ik werd op dit interview ( en op het feit dat ik genoemd werd ) gewezen door mijn broer, die me ook ooit attent maakte op het bestaan van Verbal Jam.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

While all Israeli media are bringing hourly updates on the ( very bad ) condition of Yasser Arafat I am writing my first posting since I started using my new study this afternoon. I am thinking about ( and - in addition to my regular work - working on ) three articles, one on the Chairman, one about the murder of director-columnist Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam two days ago by a Muslim fanatic, and one about the re-election of George W. Bush as the President of the United States for the next four years. In the meantime I listen to Johannes Brahms' violin sonatas. Now that I finally have enough shelves to beautifully display all my CDs and books I will be able to fully enjoy my large ( classical ) music collection.
Op dit moment zit ik online naar de uitzending van B&W van 2 november te kijken, waarin Hanneke Groenteman met Elsbeth Etty, Theodor Holman, Hans Teeuwen, Sylvain Ephimenco, vertegenwoordigers van moslimorganisaties en anderen praat over de moord op Theo van Gogh. Zojuist hoorde ik meneer Tonca Mat Harben als de heer Nawijn aanspreken. Boeiende, zij het ietwat voorspelbare, discussie.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

When I read the following news flash 17:43 EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana: Palestinian authorities functioning effectively despite Arafat's absence I could not help thinking " 'despite?', maybe Mr Solane meant to say 'thanks to'?"
A moving detail regarding yesterday's suicide attack in Tel Aviv: in Yedioth Aharonoth I read that one of the three Israelis who were murdered in the Carmel market bombing was Leah Levin(e), a woman who had survived the Shoah as a child. Only four years ago she met her brother, a new immigrant from Russia, whom she had not seen since the Holocaust. He was the one who told her when she was born, until then she did not know her exact age. Only for the last four years she had been able to celebrate her birthday with her family. May her memory be blessed.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Het is me de dag wel: ik lees net dat Gerrie "de Kneet" Knetemann op 53-jarige leeftijd is overleden.
Toen ik het volgende bericht op de webxite van De Telegraaf las dacht ik: "Of de getuigen zijn niet echt betrouwbaar of de website/kranteredacteuren gooien er met hun pet naar". Immers, een ( 1 ) minuut is zestig seconden en duurt erg lang, de kans dat iemand "enkele minuten" over zijn slachtoffer gebogen staat om vervolgens te vluchten is niet erg groot. En wat zijn in 's hemelsnaam "intensieve schoten"?
AMSTERDAM - Menno de Hoop bracht dinsdagochtend zijn zoontje naar de crèche in Amsterdam-Oost. "In de Linneusstraat zag ik Theo van Gogh fietsen. Toen werd er geschoten." Volgens De Hoop viel Van Gogh neer en bleef de dader enkele minuten over het slachtoffer gebogen staan. "Daarna is de schutter het Oosterpark ingerend." Ook Paul Vreuls was in de buurt. Hij bracht zijn dochter naar school. " Op zeker moment hoorde ik heel intensieve schoten. Het leek wel wildwest. Ik wilde er naar toe gaan, maar mijn dochter was zo verstandig om te zeggen dat ze nog niet dood wilde."
Ik las net op de website van de Telegraaf dat Theo van Gogh vermoord zou zijn. Ik hoop dat het bericht een vergissing is.
PS: Het bericht is inmiddels bevestigd door de produktiemaatschappij van Van Gogh. Zou dit gevolgen hebben voor de verkiezing van de Grootste Nederlander? Het moet toch @$#%@&@# ook niet gekker worden!
For those who are able to read German ( and also for those who are not, they just will not understand much of it ), here is a posting on yesterday's suicide bombing in Tel Aviv by a blogger whose worldview often appears to be very close to mine, Lila of Letters from Rungholt.
Het volgende bericht stond in het Nederlands-nieuwsbulletin van de Wereldomroep. Ik hoop maar dat de man in ieder geval een geldig rijbewijs had. Automobilist breekt alle wetten Een 24-jarige automobilist heeft zondagavond een verkeersboete gekregen van 1500 euro omdat hij op ongeveer alle denkbare overtredingen was betrapt. In de eerste plaats reed hij met 150 kilometer per uur over de snelweg A4 en ondanks zijn hoge snelheid maakte hij zich schuldig aan bumperkleven. Toen de agenten de man inhaalden om hem aan te houden, zagen ze dat hij een mobiele telefoon aan zijn oor had. Vervolgens deed de wegpiraat op het politiebureau een blaastest waaruit naar voren kwam dat hij een alcoholpromillage had van 0,52. En alsof dat allemaal nog niet genoeg was, bleek de uit Equatoriaal-Guinea afkomstige man geen geldige verblijfsvergunning te hebben. De arrestant is overgedragen aan de vreemdelingenpolitie.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Less than an hour and a half after the attack in Tel Aviv things went back to 'normal': all wounded had been absorbed by the hospitals, in a while the regular programming will return to our t.v. screens. Most experts said that we are talking about 'only' a small bomb ( which is no comfort to those who will mourn a loved one ). As for the perpetrator(s) of the attack and their helper(s), all possibilities are being checked: illegal residents from the territories who are hired by stall owners, Israeli Arabs, a car on its way to Nablus/Shekhem is being chased which might be driven by someone who helped whomever did this, etc. In short, a day full of routine in the Holy Land.
At least four people were killed in what appears to be another terror attack, this time at the Carmel market in Tel Aviv. Normally it takes some time before Israeli sources talk about people being killed ( they talk about 'nifga'im', which kan be translated as 'hurt' ), but at least one source already mentioned such a number. If you have ever been at that market you know that not a large quantity of explosives is needed to injure and kill many people ( there is a high density of people and stalls ), so I am afraid that the number of people killed might rise in the coming hours.
Although it does not really matter who did it, I wonder who will take responsibility, with Arafat being treated in Paris and all.
It is almost impossible to predict how long analyses of or comments upon a phenomenon or situation in the Middle East will remain relevant. Circumstances here are very dynamic, and what is true today may not be appliable anymore tomorrow, or even tonight. Nevertheless, I would like to refer here to some of the articles that appeared during the last weeks in Ha'Aretz, delaing with the issues related to ( the Knesset vote on ) Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan. Even if Arafat passes away, that plan could ( and should, I think ) be implemented, although all opponents probably will grab any opportunity to slow down or prevent its execution (*). I do not have any high hopes that suddenly a Palestinian leadership will emerge that is not only responsible but also representative for and fully supported by large parts of the Palestinian people, in- and outside Gaza and the Westbank. If a negotiated Israeli withdrawal appears to be a viable option Sharon should go for it. If not, he should continue his plan. In the meantime the security forces should continue to prepare for the evacuation of the settlements in Gaza, by the time that evacuation is about to become a reality we will know whether or not there is someone on the other side with whom we can do business. In one of their editorials the editors of Ha'Aretz tell us why they think that a referendum on the disengagement plan would be a bad idea: " Just as the government never held a referendum on the establishment of the settlements and their development, so is there no place for a referendum on their evacuation." Akiva Eldar wrote about the importance of support for Sharon's plan from MKs who participated in the Geneva Inititative and from other members of the Israeli Left and the Israeli and Palestinian peace camps. Amir Oren calls for an Israeli Revolution, which should restore the proper order of priorities for the Zionist enterprise. Finally Daniel Ben Simon wrote a moving portrait of some of the settlers who are to be evacuated if the disengagement plan will be implemented, showing that the religious and nationalist fanatics whom many of us identify with the settler movement - which is understandable, because they are the ones who are featured most prominently on television and in other media - do definitely not represent all residents of the territories, and that many - who knows, probably most - of those who will be evacuated will do so without even thinking of using violence.
(*) After I prepared this posting both opponents and supporters have - as could be expected - come out to demand a halt or changes to the plan.