Thursday, June 30, 2005

Professor Bill Freedman of Haifa University wrote a letter that has a similar message as the letter that I sent regarding the same article. I agree with every word that he wrote: Regarding "The outcome of contempt" by Yair Sheleg, Haaretz, June 27 Yair Sheleg asks that we join Sheila Shorshan, the bereaved settler, in her request that "the left-wing people come and feel our pain." To some very small extent I feel their pain. Partly because they are being uprooted from their homes, partly because they are being compelled to abandon their ideological fantasy, however ill-conceived. But people are uprooted from their homes in Israel every day, people who are evicted because they cannot pay the rent and who are given no compensation whatever when they are set adrift. I feel their pain far more sharply, though no one, I notice, is asked to. And as for the abandonment of a dream, when the settlers moved in, all who dreamed of a decent, peace-seeking, democratic Israel watched helplessly as the settlers replaced it with a dream of conquest backed by an expansionist nightmare of cruelty, messianic fanaticism and lawlessness. No one ever asked the settlers to "feel our pain," and had we asked, they'd have scorned us with the contempt Sheleg fancifully blames for the settlers' arrogant indifference to all that made Israel a far better place than they have left it. Bill Freedman Haifa
After having sent yet another e-mail to Blogger Support about the bug that is affecting the look of my weblog, I received the following reply:
Hello there,
Thanks for your continued patience. A bug is being addressed by the development team to resolve the issue you're having. Please be assured that the bug will be fixed soon. I apologize for any inconvenience it may have caused.
Sincerely, ---
This morning I discovered that a vandal bent the antenna of our car, to which I attached a blue ribbon the other day. I am sure that this has happened to antennas with orange ribbons as well. It just shows that Israel is a pseudo-democracy of bullies, where you have to shout in order to be heard, and where you have to be violent in order to be taken seriously. In the cases of both Hamas and the settlers, Israel is being beaten by a monster that we ourselves created and nurtured. Even if the militants are beaten, democracy and sanity will be the biggest losers in our war against terror and vandalism.
The headline of this article ( Survey: 500,000 North American Jews could immigrate ) to me sounds more or less like "Survey: Shimon Peres could win the next elections".

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

That our worst enemies within have much in common with our worst enemies without could once more be seen today in the illegal outpost Tal Yam in Gush Katif. A Palestinian who was wounded by stones lay on the ground and was beaten by Jewish settler-heroes, and an IDF soldier had to shield him and lead him to safety, after which he was brought to a hospital.
Here are some random observations about how the work of the militants who right now are blocking traffic on some of the main junctions in the country and of their colleagues who have been fighting both Palestinians and IDF soldiers in the Gaza Strip once again proves some things that we already know for years from the work of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, PFLP etc.:
  1. People who fight for their personal narrow interpretation of a religion and for their homes are very dangerous, especially if they are desperate and well-funded
  2. You only need tens or hundreds of dedicated fanatics to totally disrupt the life in a democratic country: maximum results with minimal effort and relatively few resources
  3. Militants have to succeed only once to obtain their goal, whereas security forces cannot really afford to lose even once
  4. The use of children enhances the effect that militants' actions have. The public often feels both disgust and sympathy because of the minors who appear so prominently in demonstrations, blockades etc, but the main thing is that every exposure - positive as well as negative - serves 'the cause'
  5. Related organizations that have a more moderate reputation and more public obligations ( the PA, the Yesha Council ) can always say that a few lawbreakers are not their responsibility, while those lawbreakers do parts of the job that those organizations - largely financed by taxpayers and foreign donors - cannot be seen doing
  6. Extremists from all sides know exactly when to strike, and such strikes are often made simultaneously by groups with interests that both are opposed and run parallel, of course without being directly coordinated. See for example the Hezbollah attacks on Har Dov in the North: Hezbollah knows that Israel has other priorities than an escalation on its northern border, so the organization backed by Syria and Iran can score a few PR points ( very important in view of the ongoing powerstruggle in Lebanon ) without getting hurt too seriously. That Hezbollah - like Hamas and other organizations, and of course like organizations such as the Yesha Council, National Home, etc. - is interested in a continuation of the occupation is not a coincidence, rather one of the main reasons for the timing of their attack. Do not forget that the blockades by the Jewish fanatics were announced days if not weeks ago, and that the Hezbollah attacks ( also ) have all the characteristics of a well-planned military operation.
  7. As I said before today, acts of terror and vandalism bring about a lot of anger, criticism and curses, but also sympathy and understanding for the cause of the militants. In more than one way terror pays off, and doubtlessly democracy is always a loser when confronted with terror and vandalism, no matter who 'wins' in the end.

I do not agree with MK Michael Eitan who said that this morning's anti-disengagement actions "bordered on an act of terrorism". Such a border has been crossed more than once already by several of the more extreme elements among the settlers and their little helpers. You do not have to have too much imagination to somehow include endangering people on a major highway and vandalizing private and public property in an all-inclusive definition of terror(ism). Still, as Johan Cruiff says in one of his most famous aforisms, each disadvantage has its advantage: it becomes clear to most sane Israelis who our most dangerous enemy is, and believe me, it is not Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad or even Iran. The Prime Minister's Office came out in an unprecedented way against the Jewish 'militants', and they will be dealt with in unprecedented ways. However, at the same time, for some reason - in ways that remind me of the anti-American backlash that has been sweeping Europe after 9/11, a backlash that has made many Europeans quite willing to accept some of the motives and justifications ( I would prefer the word 'excuses' here ) behind the hideous acts of Bin Laden, Zarqawi etc. - the settlers' cause has received a sympathetic ear among many Israelis. Maybe it is because the settlers are being portrayed as innocent victims of consecutive evil governments, probably the incompetent and inefficient ways in which the government deals with the issue of compensation play a role, and the fact that those who want to leave already have been unable to do so because of bureaucratic hindrances also does not help.
Here is a good article that I just read. It was published last week but I saved it so that I could read it later. The article tells us about biblical precedents when it comes to giving up parts of the Land of Israel, and shows once again how easily religious sources can be read selectively in order to serve any political goal.
While orange ribbons have been seen on the streets of Israel for more than a month already, recently pro-disengagement activists started to hand out a blue ( or blue/white ) alternative. The other day I did something that I hardly ever did before: I made a political statement in public by tying a blue ribbon to the antenna of our car. I am not a fan of such statements, and the only other time that I made one was in the early 1980s when I wore one or more buttons with slogans against the deployment of American cruise missiles in the Netherlands. I did not participate in the huge demonstration in the Hague that protested that deployment, though ( I both hate and fear large crowds ).
The reason why this time I decided to openly express my opinion is that I think that because the opposition to the disengagement is so vocal and the subject so important ( without disengagement from Gaza each other withdrawal from occupied territories will become totally impossible, and in my view the occupation is one of the root causes of much of what is wrong in the Jewish state ) those who support disengagement should make their voices heard as well. A blue ribbon is not a sign that one loves Sharon ( his personal history makes it hard for me to love him as a political person, although I respect him in more than one way ) but that one wants him and his government to ( finally ) implement the disengagement plan. After the implementation we will see what can be done next. Personally I hope that this will be the beginning of the end of the occupation, but I have serious doubts that that hope will materialize.
Here you can read who is the big winner of the ribbon campaign:
For Roni Ratzon, the owner of the Jaffa textile factory cutting ribbons for both pros and cons, it's all very profitable. He's hired three extra workers and extended working hours from 10 to 24 hours a day so he can cut up to 100,000 orange and blue ribbons daily. "I have no political opinion. I am not a political person. I just want to make money," Ratzon said.
By the way, the blue ribbon icon I found at a website dedicated to a campaign against censorship and for free speech on the internet.
Regarding Ha'Aretz, June 28, 2005 issue: In today's issue of Ha'Aretz two serious editorial mistakes caught my attention. In the article about the anti-disengagement highway protest - in which Yesha sources are cited without question, even though their claimed number of participants is at least five times higher than the number given by the police - you quote without properly using quotation marks. When you write " Bentzi Lieberman said yesterday that the event was "a tremendous success," and that people were demanding that the government and Knesset reconsider the plan, which is incredibly dangerous from the security standpoint, and incredibly reprehensible from a moral and social standpoint." ( the first and last quotation marks being mine ), the impression is given that you agree with the standpoint part. Another thing that, if I am not mistaken, an editor should have noticed is the following. On page 11 we see, right next to a big headline that says "Cell phones invade the Arab world", a large picture of a woman in Iran using a cell phone. In the last paragraph of the article we read: "In Iran...[...]. In other Arab countries...." I surely hope that this mistake ( Iran might be a part of the Muslim world, but it is certainly not an Arab country ) is the responsibility of one of your editors, not of Zvi Bar'el, who as far as I am aware knows very well what he writes about.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

This is good news: Idan Raichel has been invited to take part in the WOMAD festival in Britain this summer. WOMAD ( World of Music, Arts, and Dance ) is an organization, founded in the 1980s and inspired by the work of Peter Gabriel, which has as its aim to " bring together and to celebrate many forms of music, arts and dance drawn from countries and cultures all over the world". The festival in Rivermead ( UK ) is one of the events organized by this organization. Idan Raichel is a talented and popular artist, whose work is both very Israeli and very cosmopolitan. He brought together a group of young singers and musicians under the name The Idan Rachel Project. Two albums have come out already, and I really like many of their songs. On his/their website, go to video and listen to/watch the songs/clips "Milim Yafot Me'ele" ( Words more beautiful than these ) and "Im Telekh" ( If you go ) to get an impression. Highly recommended!
For those who wonder why my weblog has been looking so weird during the last couple of days, here is a mail that the Blogger Support team sent me after I mailed them three or four times telling that my postings appear only where my sidebar ends:
Hi there,
Thanks for bringing this formatting issue to our attention. We've foundthat this is a bug. Our development team is currently aware of this bug and is working on a fix. We apologize for any inconveniences it may have caused. Please check Blogger Status for any updates. Thanks for your patience while we work to resolve this issue.

Sincerely, Blogger Support

Gistermiddag plaatste Verbal Jam's Arnoud een kort commentaar dat ik schreef naar aanleiding van de geboorte van de jongste kleindochter van koningin Beatrix.
PS: Als je op deze webpagina op de rode letters HIER klikt hoor je het eerste couplet van Joop Visser's prachtige lied Maxima. De Mini-CD met dat lied is uitverkocht, maar het is ook te beluisteren op Visser's laatste CD, getiteld Acht. Zelf ben ik in het gelukkige bezit van alle door Joop Visser uitgebrachte CDs. Op Acht staat trouwens ook een heel mooi ( ook al ben ik het niet helemaal met de inhoud eens ) liedje dat "Israel" heet.
Regarding "Doctors at US base linked to questioning", IHT, June 25-26, 2005: The violation of professional ethics by military doctors who assist interrogators of detainees pales into insignificance in comparison with the violations perpetrated by doctors who assist in the execution of human beings. Whereas one can somehow argue that the psychiatrists and psychologists at Guantanamo Bay serve life by fighting terror ( no matter how questionable the methods used in that struggle ), an executioner's sidekick truly deserves the name 'Dr Death'.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Regarding "IDF destroys Katif structures in bid to thwart new outpost" and "The outcome of contempt" by Yair Shaleg, Ha'Aretz, June 27, 2005: It is obvious that behind Avi Biber's refusal to participate in the demolition of the eleven structures in Shirat Yam are honest and deeply felt motives and emotions. Still, just as he says that he and his family did not come to Israel to expel Jews from their homes, I can say that I did not come here to participate in an unjust occupation and in the suppression of another people. I made aliyah ten years ago because I believe in the right of the Jewish people to a truly independent state of its own, with clearly defined and internationally accepted borders. When I decided where in Israel I wanted to start a family, one important practical and political criterion was whether that place was an undisputed part of the Jewish state. I very much sympathize with Shella Shorshan, and I feel sorry that she probably will be forced to move the graves of her husband and daughter our of the Gaza Strip. Nevertheless, I do not feel any need to go over there and feel the settlers' pain "together with them". All members of all post-1967 governments are responsible for that pain, as much as they are responsible for much of the pain felt by the Palestinians and by non-settler Israelis as a direct or indirect result of the occupation. Let those politicians go and feel the pain of the evacuation. My conscience is clear: just as my wife and I made our political, ideological and practical choices, so did each and every every family head who chose to live ( or remain ) in the territories. As a result of government policies many Jewish residents of Gaza and the Westbank were probably tempted to go and settle across the Green Line during the past 38 years ( financial incentives, small communities, nice and sometimes relatively cheap housing ), but as far as I am aware no one was forced to go and build his home there. That ideology or naivete apparently made most settlers unaware of the fact that the occupation can not go on forever is too bad, but apart from our sympathy and from making sure that they receive a fair compensation we, who for whatever reasons did not choose to live in the territories, do not owe them anything.
Last night I saw Batman Begins. Not really a bad movie, but hardly a very good one either. All the attention that the movie receives is due to very good marketing, it seems to me. The storyline is quite confused and confusing, the script contains many superfluous pseudo-mystical phrases, and few of the characters are convincing. Katie Holmes is o.k., as are Cillian Murphy ( dr. Jonathan Crane ), Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Rutger Hauer, Holland's pride in Hollywood. As for Christian Bale, as a comic character Batman possesses one dimension more than this guy has in the movie. Even Liam Neeson and Gary Oldman ( two actors whom I like very much ) were a bit annoying. Still, the film is well produced, and I did not really suffer for 140 minutes while watching it. It saved me a lot of time: if Christian Bale is the perfect Batman and the best Bruce Wayne ever ( as I read in at least one review ) I definitely do not want to see Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, or George Clooney in that role.
By chance ( I checked out one of the links through which people came to my blog ) I found out that about half a year ago Dutchblog Israel had been nominated for an award. I did not win the Koufax Award for a Weblog Most Deserving of Wider Recognition, but still, as several people say once a year in Hollywood, "It was an honor just to be nominated".

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Felicitaties voor de koninklijke familie met de geboorte van nog een kleindochter voor de koningin. Een zondagskindje dus. Zouden haar ouders het arme meisje weer met zo'n onmogelijke naam opzouten? Dat grenst aan kindermishandeling, zou ik zeggen. Volgende week weet het volk meer, dan zal Willem-Allexander zijn dochter officieel bij de gemeente Den Haag aangeven. Om de een of andere reden roept dat laatste woord bij mij altijd een associatie met de NSB op, maar dat is natuurlijk een afwijking van mij.
My wife and I already saw Mr and Mrs Smith ( good movie, funny, lot of action ). Because our friends are unable to go with us and since my wife does not have time to go again before the subscription expires, we have two tickets left. One of them I will use tonight to watch Batman Begins, the other I sent this morning to my wife's uncle near Tel Aviv, who is a big film fan. Batman was the only real option among the movies that are screened in Rav Hen movie theaters in and around Haifa and that I haven't seen yet. The other movies that are screened there and that I haven't seen yet ( but I would probably not want to see them even if I was paid to do so ) are: Sin City, Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, or The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
As insignificant as it may seem, today's demolition of empty buildings in one of the settlements in Gush Katif could be the symbolic first tangible step towards implementation of the disengagement plan.

Ha'Aretz News Flashes: 15:17 Israel begins razing abandoned beach homes taken over by Gaza settlers (AP) 15:10 Settlers, police clash in Gush Katif after IDf demolishes empty buildings (Haaretz) 14:36 IDF bulldozers demolishing buildings in Gaza`s Shirat Hayam settlement (Haaretz)

Just one cartoon to see if the new ( or rather the new old ) feature of Blogger ( directly posting images ) works. I chose another cartoon by Chappatte dealing with the elections in Iran. The heading "Election: Iran covers up its tracks ". Bush is told by his advisor: "Let's go through this once again: the one with the turban who pulls a long face is the nice one ( or: the one we like )".
If you are really bored try this game.
When I read this article by Uzi Benziman about another Uzi, I was reminded of our wedding day. After followers of Uzi Meshulam had made serious threats against him and against other officials, Moshe Shahal, then Minister for Internal Security, was one of the most threatened and protected public figures in Israel ( which was quite a feat only half a year after the murder of Yitzhak Rabin z"l ). He happens to be a - political - friend of my father-in-law, so together with some other ministers and public figures he was invited to our wedding ( at an Israeli wedding you even invite your manicurist ). When a few weeks before the wedding my wife and her father went to give an invitation to Mr Shahal they were almost knocked down by some General Security gorillas. They were saved by Mrs Shahal, who told the security guys that they were friends of her husband. The two of us did not see him at our wedding. Just before we arrived in the wedding hall ( we waited outside in the car of Guy - a good friend of ours whom my wife knew from the army - because we forgot my soon-to-be-wife's bouquet at the house of my brother-in-law, where we had spent about an hour to freshen up after a long photo shoot at the Ahziv beach, where I was greeted by all - mostly Israeli Arab - visitors with cries of "Mazal tov, Ahi ( my brother )", "Mabruk, Ahi" etc. ) an Israeli couple had been murdered somewhere in the territories ( near Bethlehem if I am not mistaken ). The Minister was rushed straight out of the wedding hall to his office. On the wedding video you can see him signing our guest book, with bodyguards wearing earphones surrounding him. All the guests who brought their cameras took pictures, and judging by the many flashes there were more of them than the number of photographers at the signing ceremony of some agreement between world leaders. By the way, the man, a very accomplished lawyer, has a beautiful handwriting. As a gift he gave us a set of plates for chips and dips, beautifully decorated with a motive in naive style. At least one of the plates is broken, and I am not sure if we still have the rest of the set.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Niet dat voetbal me zo interesseert, maar nu het Jong Oranje team het zo goed doet op het WK houd ik de wedstrijden wel een beetje in de gaten. Toen ik zag dat na twee verlengingen het nog steeds 1-1 stond besloot ik toch even naar de penalties te luisteren via live online radio 1. Wel spannend. Er wordt flink tijd gerekt door de Nigerianen. Voor de tiende penalty houd ik het voor gezien, vrouw en kinderen wachten op me bij mijn schoonouders voor het avondeten. Ik kijk later wel weer op de website van de NOS of het Marokko-Nederland of Marokko-Nigeria wordt.
PS: Nu, twee uur later, weet ik dat als ik nog twee minuten gewacht had ik rechtstreeks had kunnen horen dat Nederland het niet gehaald heeft. Jammer maar helaas.
Haifa is known for the relatively excellent relations between religious/secular and Jewish/Arab Israelis. Of course there are tensions, such as when the illegally built home of an Arab family was knocked down at the Checkpost junction a couple of weeks ago, or last night when religious Jews protested against the opening of a road between different neighborhoods of the city, a road that had been closed on Shabbat for 35 years. Anyway, in about twenty minutes I will take our son for a ride. We are going to eat icecream at a huge supermarket nearby. The store is part of a network known for its large choice of non-kosher meat products. While I do not eat non-kosher meat in Israel ( abroad I am not really strict, to use an understatement ) and at home we do not eat milk and meat simultaneously, we do not have separate meat/milk sides and utensils in the kitchen, and you might be served coffee with milk or a piece of cheesecake after a lunch or dinner that included chicken ( unless you do not like coffee with milk or cheesecake, or if you are stricter than we are, of course ). Sometimes, when we forgot to buy some things during the week, I take one or both of our kids to this supermarket on Saturday. It has all the regular kosher products in addition to its non-kosher assortment. It also has an enormous choice of icecream tastes, at very reasonable prices. That is why it is almost certain that we have icecream every time that we visit the store. Our son will probably take chocolate, I will get one scoop of white chocolate flavor, and one scoop of strawberry.
One last Chappatte cartoon for the road today. Posted by Hello
As much as the EU needs to do some serious introspection, it has 'chosen' a bad time to indulge in and spend so much precious time on navel-gazing ( by Chappatte ). Posted by Hello
Although Chappatte was probably right in picturing the presidential elections in Iran as a choice between Tweedledum and Tweedledee, it is worrying that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appears to have beaten Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani by a large majority. Even more than before we can expect developments in and around Teheran to determine events and developments in the Middle East as a whole, and thus in the rest of the world as well. Posted by Hello

Friday, June 24, 2005

There seems to be a tiny technical problem: the postings appear only there where the sidebar ends. I checked "Known issues" at Blogger Help but did not find anything relevant. Blogger has been notified and I expect to hear from them soon. In the meantime, just scroll until the end of the sidebar ( but you already knew that if you reached this posting ).
NB: I haven't made any changes in the template of my blog these days, so for a change I do not have to worry that I did anything wrong.
Our six-year-old daughter, who already knows how to read a few hundred words in Dutch ( Hebrew she reads fluently ), was excited when she managed to spell out her father's name and the name of the city where we live in this morning's IHT Letters to the Editor section. From my own experience I know that it does not take much besides some luck to get a letter published, but still, knowing that the IHT is published all over the world gets me a little excited too when I see that a letter was printed. One letter in today's IHT deals with a subject that is similar to the one that I wrote about, in a different part of the world. Africa's corruption Jeffrey Sachs blames the United States in large part for Africa's problems ("Africa's future is threatened by U.S. neglect," Views, June 15) but fails to address the fundamental issue: corruption. When someone finally figures out how to get aid money to the actual citizens of an African country, instead of in the pockets of corrupt government officials, Africa's poverty will be reduced. Sharon Stetz, Bonn
When for my research I go through periodicals that were published 50, 60 years ago, I often read the letters to the editor very carefully. In my opinion they are one of the more interesting parts of a newspaper or magazine. As one reader pointed out on this blog, in the old days one had to sit down and write a letter, put it in an envelope, write an address on the envelope, go to the post office and buy a stamp in order to have a chance of getting one's letter published. That means that in every letter that was published a lot of time and effort was invested, and one can assume that whomever wrote such letters really cared about what (s)he wrote about. Today things are much easier. In the last four years I have written more than a hundred letters to the editor, about 25 or 30% of which were published ( I estimate ). I do care much about most of the subjects that I write about, but that does not mean that I put much thought into every letter that I write and send. Nevertheless, letters to the editor are always much more serious and interesting than feedback on a newspaper's website ( not in the least because editors take some time selecting letters ), as you can see on the website of Ha'Aretz, which often contains hateful and totally irrelevant non-discussions. Since I am such a fan of letters to the editor, I would very much appreciate it if the English edition of Ha'Aretz published a bit more than the six or seven letters a week maximum that you can find there. It seems that I am not the only one. In today's Ha'Aretz a reader from Haifa expresses similar views. Rethinking feedback Regarding "The Trouble with Talkback," Ha'Aretz, June 21 It is right and just that a newspaper, in print or electronic format, provide a means for readers to respond. Ever since free press newspapers in their present format were first published at the end of the 19th century, there have been letter pages. My American family has a long tradition of writing letters to local newspapers. When I started reading Israeli newspapers, I was surprised to find little or no published letters to the editor, which I do feel encourage a vibrant culture of a free and democratic press.However, I feel the feedback responses to opinion articles are completely the wrong approach. Most of what is written are terse comments and create a forum for hate and anger, not insightful responses to daily issues. There are plenty of forums available on the Internet to facilitate the level of conversation found in the feedback responses, andHaaretz is not creating anything new with their own.My own hometown newspaper, The San Jose Mercury News, published from three to five insightful letters a day. Some of them were from well-known members of the community, and sometimes gave a chance for those highlighted in the regular news articles to give a personal response to issues that touched the daily lives of the San Jose area's one million residents. There was also a Silver Pen award for outstanding letters from readers.I think that a letters section is a better facility for reader response. It would be the responsibility of the newspaper's editors to select those it found worthy of publication. Although some may suggest that publishing selected letters may be undemocratic, I trust the editorial staff of Haaretz to be fair and equal in the letters it would select. Also, since the online format doesn't present space limitations, there should not be a limit of five or ten letters, but rather allowance for all those worthy of publication. David Baird, Haifa
In the last three weeks I have visited a movie theater more than I had visited one in the last year and a half before that, I think. Last year through the teachers' union ( my wife is a teacher ) we bought 12 tickets for 180 shekel ( 33 Euro, 40 dollars ), which is less than half the price per ticket. For some reason we forgot about the tickets ( we do not go out very much ) and about a month ago we checked their validity and discovered that it expires on July 1st. Since they are only valid in two cinemas in Haifa our choice was limited ( the cinemas' repertoire is not changed very frequently ), but we still had a good time. The first movie that my wife and I saw was The Pacifier, with Vin Diesel. Predictable but highly entertaining ( not surprisingly it is produced by Disney ). One week later we invited two good friends of ours, with whom we saw Monster in Law ( Jane Fonda & Jennifer Lopez ). Again, not very original but perfect for 90 minutes of relaxed entertainment. This Sunday I went to see Assault on Precinct 13, a remake of an original that I never saw but definitely want to see now. A very good action movie, very violent but nevertheless ( or maybe in particular because of the violence ) very enjoyable. I was the only person watching the movie in the house. One day later I saw, again without my wife, Kingdom of Heaven, by Ridley Scott, whose Gladiator I liked very very much. This movie is not as good. The story is a bit shaky, it contains very few solid characters, and it tries too hard to teach us how bad it is to fight over religious issues, land and stones. Still, it was more than o.k., especially because it has some beautiful full screen views and many good fighting scenes. Next week we will spend our last four tickets - we will again invite our friends - to go and see Mr. and Mrs. Smith. We will definitely buy another subscription for next year, but this time we will make sure that we spread our visits to the cinema more evenly over the year, so that we can really choose what movies we want to see.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Today's cartoon in Ha'Aretz depicts a racist and hypocritical reality: contenders for the chairmanship of the Labor party are wooing Arab party members. As if anyone of them ever truly cared about the needs and wishes of Israel's Arab citizens. Notice that the cartoonist appears to assume that Arab = Muslim.
Posted by Hello
Regarding pictures on front page, "Gunfire greets official at Palestinian refugee camp", IHT, June 23, 2005 ( published in IHT, June 24, 2005 ):
Even though Israel obviously carries some serious responsibility for the chaos within Palestinian society, events like this make clear that one cannot blame the Israelis for all the misery that is afflicting the Palestinians. They also partly explain why many Israelis fear that a Palestinian state in the Westbank and Gaza Strip might turn into some sort of Feudistan. The occupation should be ended - better today than tomorrow - but it is evident that without American, European, Arab ( and Israeli ) assistance and thorough internal reforms a Palestinian state has no chances whatsoever of developing into an independent, prosperous and viable democracy.
The following letter to the editor in today's IHT I like very much: Changing the guard
Closing the U.S. detention facilities at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, is no more necessary than closing the White House ("Guantánamo and who we are," editorial, June 20). The solution is simpler: Change the personnel.
Kevin L. Mahoney, Colleferro, Italy

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

For some odd reason I have a scenario in my head of an evacuation of settlements with small-scale bombings and shootings being carried out by militant/fanatic supporters of the occupation on both sides, the IDF and AIF responding with massive force, and ordinary soldiers, Palestinians, settlers and other Israelis paying the price - as usual - for decades of bad policies, failed leadership, lack of resolve etc. No disengagement under fire? Let's wait and see: I am sure opponents - Jewish and Islamist - will try to test the determination of Israel's military and political leaders.
Soms irriteer ik mezelf bijna met mijn betweterigheid, maar ik kan het toch vaak niet laten. Op de website las ik een kort bericht over het treinongeluk gisteren in het zuiden van Israel, dat het "ernstigste treinongeluk in Israel ooit" werd genoemd. Ik schreef even vlug een e-mail naar de redactie: Beste redactie, Op jullie website staat dat het treinongeluk gisteravond bij kibbutz Revadim het "ernstigste treinongeluk in Israel ooit" was. Was dat maar waar. In 1982 botste een trein op een bus met schoolkinderen bij moshav HaBonim, waarbij als ik me niet vergis 50 kinderen omkwamen. Met vriendelijke groet,... Meteen kreeg ik een bedankmailtje van de hoofdredactrice, en de fout is inmiddels verbeterd.
Since I could not think of something meaningful to say about yesterday's horrible train accident in the northern part of the Negev, I decided not to write about it. That is, until I read an article on the frontpage of today's Ha'Aretz titled "Anti-pullout protests postponed due to train wreck". "Oh," I thought, "the opponents of disengagement show repsect for the people who died and were wounded in the accident". But no, not really. The plans to block traffic at major junctions throughout the country were postponed because the train wreck "would make it impossible to get proper media attention".
Regarding "US marines uncover torture cell in Iraq", IHT, June 20, 2005: Even though I have great respect for much of the work done by American soldiers done in Iraq and elsewhere in the world, when I read this article I could not help thinking about Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. So what if torture methods uncovered by the marines are worse than the mostly psychological abuse and humiliations that have been taking place in American detention centers? By resorting to both physical and psychologcal terror and torture US soldiers lost much of the high moral ground that they might have had before. If the United States and other Western countries are as right as they - and I - think they are in their war against terror, they should not have to turn to terror in order to beat the terrorists. Of course, sometimes using brutal force will be necessary in that war, but showing the world time and again how cruel and destructive our enemies are, and seriously offering a true, hopeful alternative to those people around the world who are searching just for such an alternative might be more productive than humiliating and hurting a few poor ( often low-level ) suspects.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

This is a picture of Wafa Ibrahim, a young woman who was supposed to blow herself up in Israel yesterday, apparently in or near a hospital. She had special permits to visit the Soroka hospital in Beer Sheva, for treatment of severe burns that she sustained from an exploded gas balloon half a year ago. Thank G'd the IDF soldiers manning the border crossing between Israel and Gaza found her suspicious, so that the 10 kgs of explosives that she carried in her pants were discovered. She has been interviewed by Israeli and foreign reporters, and made several contradictoray statements.
This story teaches us at least five things:
  1. How much terrorists care about their own men, women and children, no matter how weak, helpless and ill.
  2. How difficult the work of the soldiers and police(wo)men manning the roadblocks and checkpoints is. Since the terrorists feel no qualms about abusing humanitarian causes ( au contraire - the worse the situation of the Palestinians is, the better for the extremists; btw, this of course is something that goes for most if not all extremists and fanatics ) it is up to these young Israelis to decide whether someone with or without a permit really needs medical help inside Israel or whether (s)he is faking it for whatever reason. It is easy ( and sometimes very justified ) to criticize the procedures at the checkpoints, but we should not think lightly of the responsibility of those manning them.
  3. How desperate some Palestinians must be, caught between an unjust occupation, having to cater for their own and their families' needs, and a corrupt and useless pseudo-leadership.
  4. How cruel and patronizing Palestinian society is: one of the reasons why Wafa Ibrahim supposedly 'volunteered' for her failed mission is that she is disfigured because of the burns on her body, which makes it hard to marry her off. One of the female suicide bombers who did 'succeed' in her glorious task was a mother who was accused of adultery. You won't hear any pro-Palestinian feminist in Europe or elsewhere take up the cause of these social outcasts. After all, all this is Israel's fault, isn't it?
  5. It will be impossible to rely completely on the professionalism and good intentions of Egyptians, Palestinians ( and possibly UN soldiers ) when it comes to controling the passageways between Israel and the territories. On the Israeli side Israel will have to be responsible for the entrance of Palestinians into Israel, at least as long as it is clear that we cannot count on the efforts of the Palestinian Authority to fight terror.Posted by Hello

Monday, June 20, 2005

Regarding "Vatican suspends beatification of French priest", Ha'Aretz, June 20, 2005:
While the fact that pope Benedict XVI is German, was a member of ( not "served in" ) the Hitler Youth, and served in the Wehrmacht was newsworthy and relevant when he was elected as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, it seems a bit too much to repeat those facts whenever his relations with the Jewish people are a topic of discussion. The man has proven himself as someone who understands what is important for us in our relationship with his church, and we should 'judge' and appreciate him as a member and as the head of that church, not as a German who happens to be guilty of being born a few years too early.
In yesterday's Ha'Aretz I read two op-eds that contained difficult, even painful, but very true messages. Gideon Levy writes about Israel's Arabs in/and the country's Labor Party ( which I normally support, not enthusiastically ), and in particular about that party's opportunism as far as the Arab electorate is concerned. Zvi Bar'el tells us about the necessity of an end to the occupation, and about our leaders' duty to tell the Israeli public that a withdrawal from Gaza will not be the last step that is required on our way to an occupation-free Jewish state.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Ha'Aretz news flash: 08:50 Peres: Bringing back normalcy to life in Gaza is crucial (Israel Radio)
Is this the reason why he suggested a few days ago that Israel should give guns to the PA in order for the Authority to be able to restore and keep order? Does, in Mr Peres's view, normalcy include Palestinians using weapons issued by Israel to shoot at Israelis? What, by the way, happened to the guns that - as far as I can remember - were ( supposed to be ) handed out to the PA within the framework of the Oslo agreements? Did the PA hand them out to third and fourth parties?
As much as I am in favor of ending the occupation and letting the Palestinians have a state of their own, and although I admire Shimon Peres very much( mostly for work that he did many, many years ago ), I think this idea of once again giving weapons to the Palestinians is a bit too much. Even if his basic assumption might be right, the symbolic value of such a gesture would be disastrous for the government's PR both in- and outside Israel.

Today's cartoon in Ha'Aretz. Posted by Hello
Regarding "Nitsanit residents offered luxury tracts near Ashkelon", Ha'Aretz, June 19, 2005: While I do agree that settlers who are evacuated from settlements deserve a generous compensation for the property that they are forced to leave behind, I think some of them are going a bit over the top with their demands. The people from Nitsanit and other settlements should realize that much of the quality of life to which they have become used has been at the expense both of the Palestinians - who have borne and continue to bear more than anybody else the burden of an unjust occupation - and of the average Israeli taxpayer. It is about time that someone explains to them that, no matter how much a private beach and other privileges are things that are taken for granted by an occupier, in a post-occupation Israel burdens and privileges should - and, we can always hope, might - be distributed more equally.
Lichtelijk verbaasd las ik het volgende bericht in het nieuwsbulletin van de Wereldomroep: Etnische spanningen op scholen Amsterdam
Op scholen in Amsterdam verruwen de verhoudingen tussen leerlingen, docenten en ouders. Op een paar scholen proberen allochtone jongeren andere leerlingen hun wil op te leggen. Dat blijkt uit onderzoek op 25 scholen, in opdracht van de gemeente Amsterdam. Op 21 van de 25 scholen zijn de verhoudingen tussen de leerlingen redelijk tot goed, en wordt er snel ingegrepen bij conflicten. Op vier locaties zijn er flinke etnische spanningen. Volgens de onderzoekers moeten vooral homo's, westers geklede meisjes en niet-moslims het daar ontgelden. Verder raken leraren gedemotiveerd of overspannen. Zij vinden het schoolklimaat onveilig en ervaren een groeiende kloof met groepen leerlingen.De verruwing is het grootst op scholen voor praktijkonderwijs en vmbo; op havo en vwo wint vooral onder Marokkaanse leerlingen een streng-religieuze en anti-westerse houding terrein.
Vooral de twee zinnen die ik heb benadrukt wekten bij bij een mengeling van verbijstering, woede en lachlust. Wie ontgeldt het niet op die vier locaties, als ik vragen mag? Zijn dit de uitwassen van de Islam waar Geert Wilders het zo graag over heeft ( "Ik ben niet tegen de Islam, ik ben tegen de uitwassen van de Islam" )?

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Joep Bertrams' vision on the European Union today, after the French and Dutch referenda and the failed summit in Brussels. Posted by Hello

Friday, June 17, 2005

When outsiders ( journalist and others ) report on what is going on among the most active members of the religious Zionist movement today we are often shocked. When someone who is obviously an insider writes about the contempt and hatred that many young - and not so young - religious Zionists ( seem to ) feel for the secular part of Israel, for Israel's political leadership and for the state's institutions and laws, that shock is even greater. I felt some sort of shock when I read an op-ed by professor David Assaf, who heads the Department of Jewish History at Tel Aviv University. Based on his own personal experiences ( and, I suppose, also as a historian ) he looks at the "youth in orange" in a historical perspective.
Some quotes:
" entire generation of spoiled fruit has grown before our eyes - in the settlements, in the clubhouses and yeshivas of the Bnei Akiva youth movement, in the institutions of the state religious educational system. Young men and women who, along with a strong and authentic love for the Land of Israel (which always lies beyond the Green Line) and an impressive willingness to contribute to its security - military service in combat units - feel a deep contempt for its institutions and its representatives.These "youth in orange" (as Israel Harel affectionately dubbed them) are not as wonderful as they think, or as their rabbis, educators and admirers see them. They are arrogant and condescending, full of self-satisfaction and afflicted with moral blindness and distorted values - a lost generation. [...]
There is something rotten in the wonderful and efficient educational system of the kingdom of the settlers, and the roots of this rot go back to that same speech by Haetzni in the Russian Compound. This damaged generation, which is now furious at the "crime" of the disengagement, will not be stopped after the plan is implemented. It will be with us for many years to come, and do everything possible to embitter our lives and destroy any hope for change, any plan that involves concession, acceptance or reconciliation."

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Those of you who can read Hebrew ( and who are familiar with the sight of graffiti/stickers saying Na-Nah-Nahma-Nahman Me'uman ) will probably smile when seeing this picture ( thanks to Miriam of Bloghead, who found it 770 Eastern Parkway Blog ). Posted by Hello
The work of Physicians for Human Rights I mentioned some time ago, when I wrote about the series that Haim Yavin made about the occupation. In today's Ha'Aretz I read a moving op-ed by professor Zvi Bentwich, a PHR directorate member. I am not much of an activist, I like to comment, identify with the goals and admire the work of more than one NGO, but at the same time I am too busy/lazy/impassive/timid/spineless/suspicious to demonstrate or be otherwise active. Just to make the work of some of my 'favorite' NGOs slightly better known - at least among the readers of this blog, that is - I added a few links to the righthand margin.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Although I oppose the death penalty, Wizard of Id cartoons playing with the subject almost always make me laugh. This morning's episode shows us a conversation between a lawyer and his client.
Posted by Hello
Two recent editorials in Ha'Aretz tell us about the reluctance among supporters of an Israeli pullout from Gaza to express their support in an active way ( I have to admit I am one of those supporters ), and about the sometimes all too hysterical responses by settlers and their sympathizers to the disengagement plan:
"The State of Israel is a state of immigrants and displaced people. Anyone who came to Israel was uprooted from a home, a neighborhood, a synagogue or a cemetery in his place of birth - in Europe, Asia or Africa. These displaced people, immigrants and refugees, who today form the backbone of Israeli society, saw the very absorption in Israel as compensation for the evacuation, and they did this under harsh personal and economic conditions, without money, without knowing the language, and sometimes without a shred of sympathy from the veteran Israelis. Therefore, the evacuated settlers of Gush Katif need to keep things in proportion when they talk about trauma."
The latter editorial also points out something very important. Last week Supreme Court judge Edmond Levy was the only judge who did not turn down the petitions by the settler groups against the Evacuation Compensation Law. The Supreme Court ruling brought down the last possible legal hurdle on the way to implementation of the disengagement plan, and the settlers quoted from Edmond Levy's minority decision to show that there was still one righteous left in Sodom. What they forgot to mention was one sentence of that decision that is quoted in the Ha'Aretz editorial: "Now that the High Court of Justice has also ruled by a majority that there is no flaw that justifies cancelling the law entirely, all of us are obligated to obey the law, even if there are some who will be compelled to do so with gritted teeth."

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

According to an annual survey by the Israel Democracy Institute, Israel's Supreme Court "remains the most trustworthy of the state's three branches of government as far as Israel's citizens are concerned". Not a big surprise or an extraordinary achievement, if you consider the fact that the other two branches are the country's parliament and government.
Under Israel-related weblogs another Dutch weblog was added. Ratna Pelle ( "neither Jewish nor Palestinian nor Israeli nor Arab" ) writes about Zionism and the Arab-Israeli conflict. I discovered her blog after she left a comment on mine. When I saw her name it somehow rang a bell, and I was right: it turns out that in the late 1980s or early 1990s both of us were members of the youth section of the Dutch Labor party in Amsterdam ( I was a student of Semitic Languages, she was still at high school ), and we met during one or more local activities.
For some reason I have a very strong suspicion that the consultant who appears in today's episode of Dilbert is also employed by one or more governments.
Posted by Hello

Monday, June 13, 2005

An oldie by Tom Janssen. It is a variation on a theme that I have seen in several cartoons. "SH attacks Iran, SH kills thousands of Kurds with poison gas, SH invades Kuwait, SH bloodily crushes a rebellion, America attacks SH, Holy War!" Posted by Hello
De stukken van Elsbeth Etty vind ik vaak aardig om te lezen, en ik ben het niet zelden met haar eens. Hier zijn twee wat oudere artikelen van haar uit het NRC Handelsblad, een over Elfriede Jelinek en Anne Frank, een over terreur, Islam, en de gevaren van zowel het generaliseren als het al te veel begrip tonen voor de terroristen.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Normaal gesproken zou ik over het volgende item in het nieuwsbulletin van Radio Nederland Wereldomroep hebben heen gelezen:
Van der Vaart en Meis getrouwd
Voetballer Rafael van der Vaart en presentatrice Sylvie Meis zijn in Heemskerk getrouwd. Het veelkoppige publiek en de massaal toegestroomde journalisten trotseerden de regen om een glimp op te vangen van het paar.De twee wilden in Heemskerk trouwen, omdat Van der Vaart daar is geboren en getogen. Bovendien herbergt de gemeente het fraaie Chateau Marquette, dat zich goed leent als locatie voor de als 'sprookjeshuwelijk' geafficheerde trouwpartij.Meis en Van der Vaart hebben de uitzendrechten van hun huwelijk verkocht aan SBS6. De omroep doet al de hele week op tv verslag van de voorbereidingen en is op de heuglijke dag zelf met man en macht uitgerukt.
Ware het niet dat ik gisteren toevallig het volgende las op Willemijn's Neplog, een blog waarop we dagelijks kunnen lezen wat iemand die blijkbaar Willemijn heet ( en die blijkbaar in Almere woont of werkt, het is niet duidelijk of hij/zij voor zijn/haar werk 'iets met televisie' doet, het kan ook zijn dat het om een persoon gaat die beroemd is in Nederland maar die ik verder niet ken ) zoal is opgevallen bij het televisiekijken die dag:
op het plein voor de kerk stond een handjevol mensen (door de weddingplanner ingehuurde figuranten?) het bruidspaar op te wachten, de kerk zelf was half leeg en de vips bestonden uit zijn zaakwaarnemers, haar stilist en een fotograaf van de story.

Het lijkt me dat het hier om twee tegenstrijdige verslagen gaat. Wie o wie zit hier te jokken?

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Read this portrait of a Gush Katif family that is preparing to leave its home, before the evacuation begins. The article gives us a very human side of the disengagement story. Arieh Abowitz, the pater familias, sums up some of the main rationales behind the disengagement plan:
Abowitz remains a fierce opponent of giving back territory. "Territories for peace is absolute bullshit," he said yesterday, noting, however, that he gradually began to find some logic in a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. "First of all, it is a way of dealing with our demographic problem; second, Israel is the only country that doesn't have borders, and this is a step in that direction. And third, we are not living in this world alone. We are tied to Europe and the United States. Even if this is a holy place, there are still politics. We cannot turn the State of Israel into a ghetto."

Friday, June 10, 2005

Gisteren heb ik Koud Liggen van Bert Keizer gelezen, een van de vier Boekenweekessays uit 2003, toen het thema "Styx - leven en dood in de letteren" was. Het boekje bevat beschouwingen over verschillende zaken die met de dood te maken hebben. Ooit, toen ik voor het eerst in Frankrijk was, heb ik op een regenachtige zondag op mijn kamer in een voorstadje van Parijs Keizer's Het Refrein is Hein in bijna een ( 1 ) ruk uitgelezen. Ook dit boekenweekessay leest - ondanks een niet altijd even vloeiende schrijfstijl - lekker weg en bevat tegelijkertijd een boek rake observaties en boeiende beschouwingen vanuit een vrij uniek perspectief. Over overlijdensadvertenties schrijft hij ( p. 47 ): "Teksten van rouwadvertenties zijn ongeruster dan grafschriften, tenzij het om de dood van hoogbejaarden gaat, wier verscheiden niemand meer de stuipen op het lijf kan jagen. In NRC Handelsblad wordt vaak het genoten onderwijs meegesleept. Dr. Drs. Prof. Dr. Mr. Ir. worden als zielige vlaggetjes uit de kist omhooggestoken, waarmee nog eens benadrukt wordt dat ook doorleren niet echt helpt." Nadat hij zich verbaast over wat sommigen in gedrukte vorm uitkramen bij het overlijden van een dierbare, besluit hij het essay met een prachtige zin: "Maar als je de fratsen hier vanaf trekt, blijft er voor ons allemaal precies dezelfde pijn over: wij staan hier, elk in eigen onmacht, bij de scherpste rand die er op aarde is."
PS: Nu ligt het laatste boekenweekgeschenk, van Jan Wolkers, op me te wachten. Ik moet er even tijd voor vinden, zodat ik er van kan genieten. Niet alles wat hij schrijft is altijd even geweldig maar als het op leesplezier aankomt ruil ik de meesterwerken van alle door de 'deskundigen' zo goed ontvangen moderne schrijvers in voor de grootste prut van Wolkers. Mocht iemand trouwens toevallig nog een exemplaar over hebben van het geschenk ter gelegenheid van de Maand van het Spannende Boek ( van dit jaar of van voorgaande jaren ), dan houd ik me aanbevolen. Ik bewaar de boekenweekgeschenken meestal voor als ik op reis ben, het neemt zo makkelijk mee. De boekjes van Keizer en Wolkers las/lees ik bij uitzondering thuis, omdat ik iets korts zocht voor tussendoor.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Regarding "Getting killed wherever necessary" and "On values and settlers", Ha'aretz Opinion & Comment, June 9, 2005: Here we see two totally different - and apparently mutually exclusive - visions of what the Jewish state should be, and of what the army that is supposed to defend that state should do. If we have to believe Israel Harel, Yesha stands for the whole of Israel, and as long as we ( i.e. those true Israelis who are willing to sacrifice their lives for every illegal outpost and for every grain of sand between the Mediterranean and the river Jordan; the IDF can manage without the favors of the softies from Tel Aviv and the kibbutzim ) continue the occupation, the people in Ramat Aviv Gimmel do not have to worry about being able to continue their hedonist liefestyle. Dan Ben-David, on the other hand, believes that the occupation - together with some of the settlers who symbolize it and take a whole state hostage for the realization of their eschatological worldview - is at the root of most of the evils afflicting us these days. The keyphrase in this discussion - there is nothing new under the sun, compared with the days when this state was founded - is "Who, or rather what, is a Jew?", and the keyword - obviously I agree with Dr. Ben-David - is values, that is Jewish values. Who knows, maybe the occupation of Gaza will end soon. In any case, even if the disengagement plan is implemented we still will have to decide in the near future what kind of state we want the Jewish state to be. We can choose a state with clear and internationally recognized borders and with an army in which there is no discussion whatsoever about the legitimacy of its task ( the defense of the state's borders ), a state that is Jewish in spirit and with traditionally Jewish values leading it. Or we can continue on the way that seems to be so cherished by Mr Harel and his fellow believers in the values ot the occupation. In that case we should stop complaining - or at least stop being surprised - about the violence, the contempt for the law, the corruption and the poverty that are sweeping Israel. Dan Ben-David is absolutely right when he says: "Occupation corrupts."

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

This is a worrying but hardly surprising development. As I have written before, religions think in centuries and millennia, not in decades, years, months or weeks, and those whose political views and actions are inspired by extremist religious views are patient, since they know that the democracies that they face cannot afford such patience. Most analysts say that the recent attacks by Hamas are meant to show that the Hamasniks are the ones who caused Israel to leave Gaza, or that the attacks are part of a tug-of-war between the different factions within Palestinian society. I think that one other possibility should be taken into account: the Hamas prefers the Israeli occupation to continue, because that occupation is the raison d'etre for the organization, its struggle against Israel provides it with a lot of prestige ( and money ) among Palestinians and others in the Arab world, and it is not sure whether it will find an attractive niche in a post-occupation Palestine. If this assumption is true, then the same goes for what I ( and others, of course ) wrote long before Ariel Sharon saw the 'light' that lead him to the disengagement plan: the settlers and most of the different Palestinian factions that oppose negotiations and any kind of peace deal with Israel have at least one thing in common, i.e. a strategic preference for a continued Israeli presence in the territories ( which explains why periodical escalations are in their interest ).
With the settlers and their active supporters as dedicated as they are, with a government that is not exactly convinced of the rightfulness of its actions ( and that is too divided and busy with political infighting to dedicate itself to one politically tricky goal ), the disengagement plan has turned into a war of attrition and footdragging. There is no organization on the Left that can match what the opponents of disengagement have to offer in terms of funds, man-, woman- and childpower, spare time and religious and/or political convictions, so the Israeli public at large remains lethargic, and it is always easier to convince a lethargic public of something positive ( remain in Gaza ) rather than of something negative ( get the hell out of there, disengage ). You do not have to be a prophet or an expert to understand that a hot, annoying and violent summer is awaiting us.
While watching breakfast television on channel 2 this morning I got a lump in my throat when I heard about a 3-year-old ( Jewish ) girl who died during a routine eye operation, and saw the father of a 7-year-old ( Arab ) girl who received the other girl's heart thank the poor dead girl's parents. Just a simple human interest story on Israeli television. I hate to mention the fact that one girl is Jewish and the other Arab, but in today's reality here I am afraid that it is relevant and important to point it out. If things were managed more by 'ordinary' people, according to 'our' interests and on a person-to-person basis, we somehow would get along fine, at least that is what I want to believe.
Posted by Hello
Reading articles by Gideon Levy and Amira Hass often makes me uncomfortable for a number of reasons. One of them is that what they write contains so much of the ugly truth for which ( not only, but still ) Israel is responsible. That the two of them only shed light on one side of 'the' conflict is an irrelevant argument often used in discussions of what they do, because that is their very task and makes their work so important. No other Israeli reporters give us such an intense and compelling glimpse of what is going on on the 'other' side. That we have our own problems and suffer our own, real sufferings, that Palestinian terrorist kill us - men, women and children - whenever they can, all that is not an excuse for us to fail to recognize ( and do our best to stop ) the suffering of ordinary Palestinian men, women and children, as Gideon Levy wrote last year in October in an article on the Palestinian children as victims of the war in the territories.
To be honest, if I plead for an end to the occupation and for the establishment of a Palestinian state, and wish the Palestinians all the best, I do not do so because I care so much for them. What I feel towards them is probably a kind of compassion, but most of all I recognize that their wellbeing is my own personal interest, and that of the state where I chose to live. I believe that selfinterest - unlike altruism - can be a very healthy basis for an effective Realpolitik, from which almost all parties involved ( most of all the 'ordinary' Palestinians and Israelis ) can benefit. As I have written more than once before, if only our so-called leaders would choose their peoples' interests over their personal ones, or over those of their cronies and of the interest groups on whose support their political power is based.
De tweede aflevering van mijn persoonlijke keuze uit recente afleveringen. Hier kun je trouwens een idee krijgen over wat de redacteuren van de ik@ rubriek zoal opgestuurd krijgen. Babel Fish Internet maakt van de wereld een dorp. En talen hoef je niet meer te leren, want internet biedt ook vertaalprogramma's. Een veel gebruikt programma heet Babel Fish. Verhuurder Pierre van mijn vakantiewoning in de Belgische Ardennen deed er alles mee, glunderde hij. Het was zo eenvoudig! Hij tikte zijn Franse tekst in en hoefde maar op Enter te drukken en het was Nederlands. Klaar was Pierre. Zijn welkomstboodschap lag op tafel: ,,Wij wensen u een aangenaam verblijf in ons onderdak van vakantie. Zie hier enkele kleine adviezen en of vragen om ons onaangenaamheden te vermijden. Vooral niets werpen in WC, met name hygiënische servetten maar de met het oog hierop voorziene vuilnisbakken eerder gebruiken. Wij hebben reeds verschillende keer de gestopte septische kuil gehad. Na 22 h. vragen wij u om geen nachtkabaal te doen.'' Joep Dohmen
Boek 'In de ministerraad wilde hij nog wel eens een boek lezen.' Aldus het 'In Memoriam J.P.A. Gruijters' in NRC Handelsblad. Die boeken kocht hij onder meer in de boekwinkel waar ik eind jaren zeventig werkte. Het was er op een keer doodstil. Heerlijke bibliotheekstilte. Gruijters was in de zaak. Verder alleen een wel als lilliputter omschreven vrouwelijke klant. Opeens richtte de vrouw zich tot mij als boekverkoper: ,,Zou je voor mij een boek willen pakken?'' Voordat ik iets kon doen, haastte Gruijters zich naar de kleine vrouw. Hij tilde haar op bij haar middel, waarop zij zelf het boek van de plank pakte en hij haar weer neerzette. Opnieuw stilte. Not-done? Done! Anton de Goede
Bonafide Net als ik sta te koken, gaat de telefoon. Het is de Postcodeloterij. Ik zeg het meisje meteen dat ik niet meedoe aan telefonische enquêtes, en vertel dat ik me heb aangemeld bij een speciaal telefoonnummer van een instantie die ervoor zorgt dat bonafide enquêteurs zich daar ook aan houden. ,,Maar wij zijn helemaal niet bonafide!'' zegt het meisje verontwaardigd. ,,Is de Postcodeloterij niet bonafide?'' vraag ik verbaasd. Ik hoor een diepe zucht aan de andere kant van de lijn. ,,Laat maar zitten!'' roept ze dan en verbreekt de verbinding.
Claire van Putten
Klasse Tijdens een vlucht van British Airways tussen Johannesburg en Londen klaagt een 50-jarige blanke vrouw bij de stewardess dat er een man met een donkere huidskleur naast haar zit. Op hooghartige toon en duidelijk hoorbaar voor andere passagiers in de cabine eist ze een andere vliegtuigstoel. De stewardess belooft haar om na te gaan of er andere stoelen beschikbaar zijn. Even later komt ze melden dat de Economy Class en Business Class vol zijn. Maar ze kan in overleg met de gezagvoerder en bij hoge uitzondering een upgrading naar de First Class aanbieden. De vrouw kijkt triomfantelijk, totdat de stewardess aan haar buurman vraagt om zijn handbagage mee te nemen naar het upper deck. Een luid applaus klinkt door de cabine.
Ton Eijmberts
Tehuis Mevrouw Walters wordt 's nachts vaak wakker. Dan roept ze dat ze Tilly is, dat ze naar huis moet en waar ze woont. Het personeel weet hoe het haar gerust moet stellen: ,,Ben jij Tilly van de familie Walters van het Zuiderdiep?'' ,,Ja, dat ben ik.'' ,,Je bent in slaap gevallen, maar je moeder belde. Ze zei dat het heel donker is en dat je mag blijven logeren. Morgen vroeg komt ze je ophalen.'' ,,Maar mijn fiets staat nog in de regen.'' ,,Die zwarte, met die mooie bel? Die heb ik binnengezet.'' ,,Dank u wel.'' ,,Nog een glaasje melk en een liedje? Maar dan nu wel slapen, anders lig je nog in bed als je moeder je komt halen.''

Monica Metz

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Regarding "Under Likud, illegal outposts received 70 million", Ha'Aretz, June 7, 2005: It is wrong to suggest, as is done in this article's headline, that of the two political parties which have been in charge of Israel's policies in the territories for the last 38 years, one is more guilty than the other when it comes to wasting public funds on an immoral and destructive occupation.
Een prima initiatief van NRC Handelsblad en de VPRO: iets meer dan een week voor de referenda in Frankrijk en Nederland bracht men een groot deel van de buitenlandse correspondenten van de krant bij elkaar ( ter gelegenheid van de tweejaarlijkse bijeenkomst van die correspondenten in Nederland ) en liet hen onder leiding van Mark Kranenburg over Europa - gezien vanuit het perspectief van hun standplaats - praten. Het lijkt trouwens wel dat veel correspondenten zich sterk identificeren met de landen waar ze gestationeerd zijn, het is vaak moeilijk te zien of zij hun persoonlijke mening ventileren of de in hun gastland gangbare percepties doorgeven. De correspondenten in Warschau en Istanbul, Stephane Alonso en Bernard Bouwman, komen bijzonder sympathiek over. Het boeiendst vond ik de manier waarop, althans volgens Garrie van Pinxteren, China tegen Europa aankijkt.
Op de website van het NRC kun je video-columns van 22 verschillende buitenlandse correspondenten van de krant bekijken. In zijn column komt Oscar Garschagen objectiever en empathischer naar beide kanten over dan in de televisie-discussie. In zijn column zegt hij iets wat ik ook heel sterk voel: "Nergens is de geschiedenis zo zeer een bestand van het heden als in mijn wereld." Misschien heb ik daarom wel voor de switch van talen naar geschiedenis gekozen, en misschien voel ik me daarom wel zo thuis hier. In de discussie brengt hij - naar ik aanneem door tijdgebrek - slechts een (1) punt naar voren: het gebruik van de holocaust door Israel om Europa te chanteren ( en de daaraan verbonden Palestijnse stelling dat zij de prijs betalen voor misdaden waar ze part noch deel aan hadden ). Het is zonder meer waar dat Israel te pas maar ook vaak te onpas de holocaust 'gebruikt' om de geldigheid van kritiek op Israel te weerspreken, maar het is natuurlijk onzin om te zeggen dat de verhouding tussen Israel en Europa alleen maar om de holocaust en anti-semitisme draait ( al zouden naast Oscar Garschagen ook heel wat Israelische politici ons dat willen doen geloven ). Door de manier waarop hij de naam van de beste Israelische krant ( Ha'Aretz ) uitspreekt en doordat hij - wanneer hij het over een heftige discussie onder prominente Israelische journalisten heeft - alleen Amira Hass noemt ( die, hoe belangrijk ik zelf haar werk ook vind, weliswaar buiten Israel grote faam geniet maar in Israel toch redelijk marginaal werk verricht ), neem ik aan dat hij geen Hebreeuws kent en alleen van de Engelstalige ( en misschien de Arabische ) media afhankelijk is voor zijn nieuwsvoorziening wat Israel betreft. Dit maakt hem natuurlijk niet tot een mindere journalist ( ik heb online heel wat goede door hem geschreven stukken gelezen ) maar het maakt hem ook niet echt tot een specialist als we het over de Israelische perceptie van Europa hebben.
Jonathan Edelstein, the Head Heeb, is a New York lawyer. On his weblog he gives proof of an indepth interest and knowledge of what is going on in many different corners of the world. Israel and the Palestinian territories are one of those corners, and Jonathan often has a balanced and insightful opinion on events and developments here. In this posting he describes ( and ranges ) the supreme courts in ten countries. Here is what he has to say about the Supreme Court of Israel ( nr. 6 on his list ):
From its inception, the Israeli high court has shouldered a difficult burden: it has administered justice during a constant state of emergency, without a written bill of rights and within a system composed of a patchwork of national and religious legal traditions. Even with the best of intentions, these conditions lend themselves to erosion of the rule of law. Far from acquiescing in such erosion like many courts in similar circumstances, however, the Israeli court has become one of the world's most active watchdogs, building a solid base of human-rights precedent and not hesitating to challenge the political branches of government. As such, the high court is one Israeli institution that is respected throughout the world; its rulings are cited as a model for balancing freedom and security during wartime; its interrogation methods decision has become one of the standard refutations of the "ticking bomb" justification for torture, and its case law has been relied upon even in countries like Malaysia which normally have frosty relations with the Jewish state.
By Tom Janssen, for the Dutch daily Trouw. "...Genocide...Genocide...", "Well...", "That is such a big word...." ( sorry for the flawed translation ) Posted by Hello

Monday, June 06, 2005

Regarding "Police want to adopt the 'Giuliani Method'..." and "New c'tee to improve law enforcement...", Ha'Aretz, June 6, 2005: The decision not to fire thousands of policemen right after the disengagement plan will be implemented - if at all - is a good example of a typically Israeli political decision. First of all, it is not an investment - something that you would expect if we really are talking about a "national priority" - but a reduced budget cutback. Secondly, and more importantly, this is tackling a problem from its tail end instead of eliminating its root causes. We should not be surprised that we are witnessing such a rise in both violent and white-collar crimes. After all, corruption and a lack of true respect for the law have for a long time been a visible part of politics and public life in Israel. Also, budgets for education and for social services have been slashed as long as I can remember, and an ongoing state of war and our occupation of the territories have contributed to an erosion of some of our moral values, causing us to get used to violence and to become insensitive to the suffering of others. Apparently it has become clear to some of us that crime ( either by politicians, by public officials or by businessmen ) and violence do pay, whereas being honest and gentle, or working in education or other hardly valued professions, is not really worth the effort. As long as the roots of the decay are not dealt with all that we can do is send more and more policemen and -women into the streets. Still, generally a plaster does not help when surgery is needed.
Hier is nog een leuke column van Luuk Koelman over het referendum.
When, about ten years ago, Shimon Peres told us about his vision of a New Middle East, he was jeered at by many Israelis, and I must say that that was not entirely unjustified. His belief that as soon as the Palestinians would have an economy and state of their own peace would conquer the entire region was naive and shortsighted. Many suicide bombings and other events and developments in the Middle and Far East, the US and Europe before and after 9/11 have taught us and the rest of the world that what faces us and many other countries is a conflict with not only the Palestinians, and that instead of "It's ( only ) the economy, stupid!", like Peres tried to convince us, we should say "It's the occupation/economy/Islamism/religious fundamentalism in general/a lack of democracy and abundance of tyranny in almost all Muslim countries/absence of vision and true leadership in most Western countries etc., etc., stupid!".
Nevertheless, it is obvious that in order to end the current impasse and to create a more promising future for the peoples in the Middle East ( and thereby for the rest of the world ), a viable state and flourishing economy for the Palestinians would be vital. According to this article in Ha'Aretz even Ariel Sharon, who was one of the biggest jeerers of Peres a decade ago, recognizes today that the most central element of Oslo - freedom and prosperity for the Palestinians as the key to a peaceful solution to 'the' conflict - was not totally unfounded. Now a balance has to be found between optimism and a certain naivety on the one hand and realism on the other. If the last decade has proven anything, it is that neither an unbridled trust and baseless hope nor total distrust and absolute cynicism get us anywhere.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Tomorrow is Yom Yerushalayim, on which Israel remembers and celebrates the reunification of the city during the Six-Day War in June 1967. Our six-year-old daughter, in spite of having laryngitis and a fever, has been singing songs about Jerusalem for more than a week now. When I drove with her in our car this afternoon we happened to listen to a compilation CD with classic songs in Hebrew, among which Jerusalem of Gold ( btw, recently it has been revealed that the song's genesis is slightly different than had been thought previously: the melody is inspired by a Basque folk song ). When Shuly Nathan sang the refrain "Jerusalem of gold, and of bronze, and of light, Behold I am a violin (*) for all your songs" our daughter asked me "Why a violin? It could also be a drum, a trumpet, a flute or even a tuba, couldn't it?".
(*) the Hebrew word "kinor" means "violin" in Modern Hebrew, but I suppose that here a "kinor David" ( small harp, lyra Davidis ) is meant.
Op het weblog van Anja Meulenbelt vond ik het repliek van Geert Mak op ( een deel van ) de kritiek die volgde op de publikatie van zijn "Gedoemd tot Kwetsbaarheid". Ik vond naast Hans Jansen's bespreking van het boekje ( waarover ik eerder op dit blog schreef, de posting bevat een link naar Jansen's artikel ) nog wat aardige columns en andere reacties naar aanleiding van de ( discussie rond ) Geert Mak's pamflet. Als ik van alle schrijvers die zich met deze discussie hebben beziggehouden ( en van wier bijdragen aan die discussie er in ieder geval een deel online te vinden is ) er een zou moeten kiezen met wie ik het het meeste eens ben werd dat waarschijnlijk toch Hans Jansen. Geert Mak heeft veel zinnigs te zeggen (klik hier, hier, en hier voor wat lezenswaardige opinies van mij verder niet bekende mensen die het grotendeels met hem eens zijn ), maar wat Jansen - ontegenzeggelijk een deskundige op het gebied van 'de' Islam - zegt over het Stockholm syndroom snijdt hout in mijn ogen. Ook Lodewijk Asscher heeft wat bruikbaars te melden. Leon de Winter's romans heb ik bijna allemaal gelezen, en van de meeste heb ik erg genoten. Over zijn non-fictie ben ik minder te spreken, en ik ben opgehouden met het volgen van wat hij over 'het' conflict in het Midden Oosten te vertellen heeft nadat ik de eerste pagina's van zijn Lady Di in een bevallige pose, een in 1996 verzameling opstellen over o.a. jodendom en 'het' conflict, had gelezen: te veel clichés en te weinig substantie. Niet dat ik zelf zulke originele ideeen heb, maar wat hij denkt te melden te hebben staat me vaak net iets te bol van de generalisaties en de platitudes, en hij praat vaak over Israel als zovele joodse Amerikanen die hun vreemde ( want onnodige ) schuldgevoelens over het feit dat ze nooit naar Israel zullen willen of kunnen emigreren proberen te compenseren door rechts-Zionistischer dan Ariel Sharon te zijn. Voor toch een leesbare reactie van De Winter op "Gedoemd..." ( maar weer wel met minstens een ( 1 ) slecht gekozen generalisatie, die al in de titel opduikt ) zie hier. Op de website van Elsevier bevindt zich een door Leon de Winter geschreven weblog. Ook daar zie ik dat hij en ik vaak aan dezelfde kant staan, maar dat hij zich over veel meer zaken uitspreekt dan ik, en vaak in niet of nauwelijks genuanceerde termen.