Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Ha'Aretz editorial to which the previous posting refers appears here. I left a reaction, consisting of the letter to the editor that I sent this morning ( see the previous posting ) plus some additional, more virulent, comments that 'bubbled up' afterwards:
"Democracy is not a one-way street, or a grab bag from which you can pick whatever suits you while ignoring all the stuff that is less to your liking. Almost all of the supporters of disengagement have put up with the occupation for almost four decades, serving and doing reserve duty in Gaza and the Westbank, financing the impossible dream of a Greater Israel, and being manipulated by the settlers and their various lobbies so that more facts on the ground could be created, facts that haunt us and will continue to do so for many more years.
Ironically, the settlers now raise a hue and cry over the fact that they are being evacuated ( with grants that might not be as generous as what they are used to, but that still are as fair as the taxpayers can afford ), stopped at checkpoints, asked for identity papers etc. whereas we never heard them when the rights of many, many more human beings were trampled in much less considerate ways, often only to make life easier and more comfortable for the same settlers whom we now hear using al kinds of disgusting Shoah-analogies. It is o.k. to lock Palestinians inside their homes in Hebron and to disrupt their daily lives, so that a few Jewish fanatics can march through the streets of the city, but when our security forces try to prevent those same fanatics from joining forces with the more militant opponents of the disengagement plan inside the Gush, that suddenly is part of a large plan to implement some final solution to the Jewish question? Let`s get real, and let`s get out! "
Regarding Editorial "The downfall of democracy", Ha'Aretz, July 31, 2005: Kudos for this biting but oh so true commentary. Since on several occasions the leaders of Yesha openly said that the goal of their marches on Gush Katif is to stop or at least to hamper the implementation of the disengagement plan, these marches cannot be considered to be harmless demonstrations or innocent protests. They are deliberate attempts to interfere with the carrying out of decisions that have been approved more than once by our government, by a large majority of the Knesset, and by Israel's Supreme Court. Those endeavors might expose Israeli citizens and especially members of our security forces to even more dangers than they already face. No democracy that takes itself seriously can afford to allow such efforts to succeed.
Gideon Levy, in today's Ha'Aretz, points at one of the absurdities of politics in Israel: the support of people in the development towns for the struggle to continue the occupation of Gaza, from the consequences of which they suffer more than most other Israelis. What he fails to mention is the fact that most of the politicans and parties on the Left care as little about the development towns as the settlers, like all politicians they only remember the people of Sederot, Ofakim and Netivot when they need their political support.
Regarding "He's orange, Gordon Liddy, he's orange", Ha'Aretz, July 31, 2005: It seems that the only non-Jewish support from abroad that the Israeli Right and extreme-Right manage to enlist for their struggle against Ariel Sharon and his plan to end the occupation of Gaza comes either from religious fanatics who like to cast us Jews in an unappealing role in their rewritten scenarios of Apocalypse Now, or from men such as Gordon Liddy, whose actions and words make clear how much he cherishes democracy and freedom. In the past MK Yuri Stern also traveled to Europe to discuss cooperation with local far-right parties. In most cases foreign support for Israel's ( extreme ) Right is motivated by a deep hatred of Haman, rather than by a true and unconditional love for Mordechai.
Start your week with these very deep thoughts of the Wizard of Id.
Regarding "No more fooling the Arabs", IHT Views, July 30-31, 2005: It is good to know that Arab and Muslim audiences do not automatically believe their elites and leaders anymore when the latter blame Israel ( and/or the Jews ) for every one of their own failures, for suicide terrorism and for most other miseries befalling the world. Maybe Western leaders such as Ken Livingstone could learn something from those audiences.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

On yesterday's opinion page in the IHT I read two good articles ( click here and here ) about the problems faced by members of the security services when dealing directly with - suspected - suicide bombers.
What I do not understand about the Vatican's refusal to specifically include terrorist attacks in Israel among those acts of terror that it condemns, is why the Pope's men explain their refusal by pointing at some of Israel's reactions to ( suicide ) terror attacks. I always thought that terrorism in general, and suicide terrorism in particular, is wrong to begin with. Apparently terrorism is o.k. or not condemnable if now and then it draws responses that from within the walls of the Vatican seem to be disproportionate. Seems not very logical to me, but then I never studied logic with friends in dresses.
What I do understand is that the Pope c.s. expect us to turn the other cheek - something that we stopped doing about 60 years ago -, and that for the Vatican all innocent victims are equal, but some Jews among them are less equal than other victims. Pope Benedict XVI has still a lot of work ahead of him if he wants to earn the respect and affection from the Jewish people that his predecessor had. I doubt whether such respect and affection are among his priorities, after all, why should they be?

Friday, July 29, 2005

I have been computerless and offline for the last 36 hours, because of a thorough computer cleanup, carried out by a good friend of us. That is, I brought him our computer and he re-installed all the vital software, defined all the hardware etc. Later this weekend I will probably make some postings again. Shabbat shalom.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Regarding "He had a dream" by Uzi Benziman, Ha'Aretz Opinion & Comment, July 27, 2005 ( published in Ha'Aretz, July 28, 2005 ): Thank you for this beautifully written exposure of the settlers' opportunism and hypocrisy. Apparently Jewish history and the Holocaust do not offer enough reference material for the settlers to abuse, African-American history can be exploited just as easily. Historical comparisons are always problematic - no situation in history has ever been identical - but when, like Pinhas Wallerstein, you are defending the continuation of an unjust, controversial and money-squandering enterprise such as Israel's occupation of and settlements in the territories you should think more than twice before trying to enlist history for your cause and interests.
While some of the pain of some of the settlers is felt by most Israelis, that does not mean that all Israelis feel all of the pain of all settlers, as president Moshe Katzav claimed. Tom Segev wrote a good op-ed on the subject ( never mind the historical parallel that he draws, one that is as problematic as the comparison made by Pinhas Wallerstein ), in which he says, contradicting the claims by Israel's president: "The settlements play no role in the achievements of the state. On the contrary, the more they multiplied, the smaller the chance of reaching an agreement with the Palestinians and the greater the danger to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.The values of the settlers contradict human rights and liberty."
There never was a Jewish terrorist of the calibre of Bin Laden. That does not mean that we do not have our own brand of despicable religious fanatics. That would not be so worrying if a person like Yigal Amir, whose murder of Yitzhak Rabin z"l we will remember again in a little more than three months' time, had not grown up in an environment that in fact encourages or at least condones auto-da-fe's such as his, if Israeli society took threats coming from that environment a little more seriously, and if Israel's judicial system had learnt a lesson or two from the mistakes made ten years ago. The latter is certainly not the case. Like then, people on the fringes of Israel's rightwing extremism are allowed to play their voodoo rituals in front of a camera ( it is said that they were even paid for having it filmed by a supposedly respected television show ), and I just saw an MK of the National Religious Party and some rightwing journalist of the Israeli 'newspaper' Ma'Ariv downplaying the significance of the ritual. So what if one of the rabbis involved participated in the same ritual before Yitzhak Rabin was murdered ( he justified his participation then and justifies it now ) and if another participant once was held in administrative detention because he planned to launch a missile in the direction of the Temple Mount? Why should we take these persons seriously? Yigal Amir did not take part in the ceremony, did he?
I don't think that Israel will be able to overcome the murder of another Prime Minister. If, heaven forbid, such a murder happens, in my eyes we will lose if not our right then at least our ability to exist as a state. It is up to the security services and the law enforcement agencies to deal decisively with all actual and verbal acts of violence. This includes possibly violence-encouraging interpretations of religious texts such as the one found in a highly popular local weekly newspaper.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

When I saw the heading of this article I thought it dealt with the electoral power of the Russian-speaking community in Israel. Then I started reading it, realizing that it says 'emigrants' not 'immigrants', and that the article is about proposals to introduce absentee votes in Israel's political system. While I do use my rights as a Dutch citizen by voting for the national and European elections, I am uncomfortable with it, and I am not sure if the right to vote should not be abolished for people willingly living outside their country. In the Israeli case I think there is no room whatsoever for allowing expatriates-by-choice to vote. Almost every political decision here has 'physical' consequences, not in the least because - apart from some parts of the orthodox and non-Jewish populations in the country - most Israelis have to spend two or three years of their lives in the army, and male citizens and residents are obliged to perform several weeks of reserve duty each year. It is easy to support the idea of Greater Israel ( or far-reaching compromises with the Palestinians ) and to preach Zionism from New Jersey, Paris, Sydney or elsewhere, but fateful decions regarding the only Jewish state in the world should remain in the hands of those who choose to live in that state.
For a concise summary of current French-Israeli relations, and of the issues that play a role in those relations, see this op-ed article by Adar Primor.
Regarding Letters to the editor "London bombers", IHT, July 27, 2005: If there is some kind of Nobel prize for PR and for influencing public opinion, Bin Laden and his cronies would certainly deserve it. They have convinced people all over the world that theirs is a justifiable 'struggle', prompted not by a perverted interpretation of a religion as beautiful as any other, but by injustices perpetrated against their brothers and sisters in Iraq or Palestine, by insults against Islam in general, and by the difficulties faced by immigrants in the West. Never mind that so many of their victims are Iraqis and ( other ) non-Islamist Muslims, never mind that the main suspects of the latest acts of terror in London - like the murderer of the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh - did not have any qualms about enjoying the hospitality and facilities that Western society offered them, and never mind that apart from extremist Muslims few immigrants in the West become ( suicide ) terrorists. As for the difference between Spain after March 11th 2004 and the US after September 11th 2001: while it is hard to believe that PM Zapatero was elected only because of the Madrid bombings, his ending the Spanish military presence in Iraq was the main demand of the terrorists behind the bombings. More than anything else, that "knee-jerk reaction" could explain the 16 months of quiet in Spain.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Welcome back home, Lila, of Letters from Rungholt. She visited Germany and the Netherlands. Her visit to Holland was both for pleasure and for business: she is an art historian who loves Dutch art of the Golden Age ( just like I do, only I know hardly anything about it ). About the city of Delft she writes "Isn't it a scandal that I have never been there?". I think it is an even bigger scandal that as far as I can remember I have never really been there, except for the few times that I passed through the city by train on my way from Amsterdam to Rotterdam.
On this website you can find a list with the names of the more than 700 Jews of the Dutch city of Haarlem who did not survive the Shoah. Most of them were murdered in Poland, a few died of natural causes ( n ), and some committed suicide ( 'z' for zelfmoord ). Most of those who committed suicide did so on the day of or right after the Dutch army's capitulation to the Germans, only five days after Holland was invaded, the majority of them committed suicide together with other family members. The following three names caught my attention:
Mayer, Walter Anna van Burenlaan 51 28 mei 1909 - 15 mei 1940 Haarlem (z) Mayer - Cohn, Annelise Anna van Burenlaan 51 22 maart 1913 - 15 mei 1940 Haarlem (z) Mayer, Marianne Yvonne Anna van Burenlaan 51 6 november 1936 - 15 mei 1940 Haarlem (z)
Details such as these turn the Holocaust into something that is all but tangible. Everybody who has children of his/her own can identify with Walter and Annelise Cohn, almost feel the anguish and despair of these Holocaust victims, imagine how anxious and desperate they must have been and how much they must have loved each other and Marianne Yvonne, their - only - child, to make a decision to take their own lives and that of their daughter rather than wait for a future that had probably even more misery in store for Jews than this young couple could imagine. May their memory be blessed.
I was impressed with this analysis of Sharon's political situation these days, the disengagement between the state of Israel and a part of the Israeli public, the importance of elections right after the implementation of the disengagement plan, and the almost absurd situation in which Sharon has become the main hope of all that is Left in Israel.
The following Newsflash made me smile: 04:02 Knesset to discuss bills to simplify divorce on Wednesday (Haaretz)
Maybe it would be a good idea also to discuss bills to simplify weddings on Sunday, funerals on Monday, Bar Mitzvahs on Tuesday, Bat Mitzvahs in Thursday, and Britot on Friday?

Sunday, July 24, 2005

When I visited the This Day in History webpages of the New York Times and the History Channel this morning, I read that 60, 54 and 53 years ( and one more day: because of the time difference with the US, apparently ) ago several historical events took place that are relevant to my fields of interest: 1945 French Marshal Henri Petain, who had headed the Vichy government during World War II, went on trial, charged with treason. ( NYT ) 1951 Petain, leader of the Vichy government, dies ( HC ) 1952 Egyptian military officers led by Gamal Abdel Nasser overthrew King Farouk I. ( NYT, HC ) Also, I read about something that happened almost one year before I was born and that I did not know about: 1967 Rioting that claimed some 43 lives erupted in Detroit. (NYT, HC )

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Felicitaties voor Lance Armstrong: hij won vandaag de eennalaatste etappe van de Tour de France, waardoor het wel heel onwaarschijnlijk wordt dat de eindoverwinning ( zijn zevende ) hem morgen zal ontgaan ( niet dat de kans daarop vanmorgen, toen de tijdrit van vandaag nog verreden moest worden, erg groot was ). Misschien lees ik de website van iets te kritisch, maar je moet toegeven dat de woordkeuze in het volgende stukje erg ongelukkig is, zeker gezien de recente gebeurtenissen in London, Irak en Sharm al-Shaykh: Lance Armstrong heeft zijn etappezege in de 92ste Tour de France binnen. In de individuele tijdrit over 55,5 kilometer rond Saint-Etienne liet de Amerikaan de klok op 1.11.46 stilstaan. In de boeiende strijd om het erepodium maakte Michael Rasmussen letterlijk en figuurlijk een forse duikeling. Voor de Rabo-renner ging alles fout wat er fout kan gaan. Hij viel tot twee keer toe, lag in de berm, moest meermalen van fiets wisselen en zakte naar plaats zeven. Jan Ullrich die tweede werd op 0.23 van Armstrong, nam de derde plaats over van de Deense bergkoning uit de Rabo-ploeg. Ivan Basso blies zichzelf op, maar bleef wel tweede in de rangschikking.
The Palestinians' cause got another boost today in Egypt, when more than 60 foreigners and Egyptians were murdered by terrorists. I feel sorry for a people that has men like Ken Livingstone as its most vocal advocates and men like Bin Laden as its most active supporters.

Friday, July 22, 2005

In an article in Ha'Aretz' Week's End, historian Hanna Yablonka analyzes the abuse and distortion of the Holocaust by disengagement opponents.
In today's IHT I read an article by Uri Avnery and, quite exceptionally ( some of my 'fiercest' letters to the editor were written after I read something that he wrote ), I agreed basically with every word he says. The struggle between orange and blue is about the future of the State of Israel: "a democratic state on the one side, a nationalist-messianic state on the other".

Thursday, July 21, 2005

While I checked out what Debka has to say about the events in London, I found an interesting in-depth article on a possible Al-Qaeda - African Sahara - London terror link. Again, I cannot guarantee that all that Debka writes is true, but few of their stories turn out to be ordinary conspiracy theories.
If Ken Livingstone has a security advisor, I think I know what his advice will be after the latest bombings: hunt down all those bloody Likudniks who live in our city!
"Incidents reported in tube stations" in London ( Sky News ). Debka reports: " First report of explosions at three central London underground stations Warren Street, Oval and Shepherd’s Bush, which have been evacuated. One train commuter reported an exploding rucksack in the hands of a young man. People fled the carriage in panic."
Now this is an aspect of the disengagement that I had not given any thought yet.
Yesterday I saw this young girl on Israeli television, trying her bit of psychological warfare on the soldiers who were preventing settlers and their supporters from leaving Kfar Maimon in the direction of Gush Katif. " Refuse orders now, and you will enter paradise." Of course, it is impossible and wrong to make comparisons between this girl and her Palestinian peers, but I could not help thinking that the use of children and the promises of paradise ( "If only you do this or that..." ) sound all too familiar in the context of 'the' conflict. I know that in our religion the afterlife plays an important role ( see for instance Mesilat Yesharim of the Ramha"l ) but isn't Judaism first and foremost about life here on earth?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The opponents of an end to the occupation of Gaza make it clear that they believe anything that is done by the authorities but that does not suit their own political goals is un-democratic. On channel 2 I heard a rightwing professor and a rightwing sports commentator for Ma'ariv talk about the undemocratic character of what has been approved for at least the third time by a large Knesset majority ( today alone three bills calling for postponement of the disengagement - but aimed at stopping it entirely - were rejected, with 69-41, 68-43 and 69-40 majorities). How more democratic do they want it? So what if Sharon did not deliver on what he promised before being elected? He is not the first and will not be the past politician to do so. The majority of his party's Knesset members voted with him, and a clear majority of Knesset members has supported him each time there was a vote directly linked to the disengagement plan. If that is not democracy, what is? It is obvious that the settlers and their supporters will accept political decisions and orders from the security forces only if those orders and decisions mean that they can continue to rule this country, to decide on its economic and military future, and to look down on anyone who is not as 'Zionist' as they claim to be. Anything that endangers their privileges is undemocratic, Nazi-like, bad for the Jews, etc. etc. They represent ( or they are ) G'd, so they can do whatever they want, curse our soldiers, compare them to cossacks or nazis. It is disgusting, many Israelis cannot stand them anymore, yet at the same time they succeed in playing the role of the underdog and gaining sympathy, also because they have no problems using their children. Of course, what they do is the summum of democracy ( Iran-style, perhaps ):
21:43 Pullout foes plant another dummy bomb in J`lem; sappers called in (Haaretz) 22:25 Two girls puncture tires of IDF jeep in Gaza settlement of Neveh Dekalim (Israel Radio)
This article reminded me of something. Last week my wife and my father-in-law went with our daughter to buy 'school uniforms'. In this context 'uniform' means literally that: the t-shirts and sweaters have more or less the same shape, but you can buy and wear them in any color you like, as long as they have the school logo on them. Our daughter, who will start first grade on September 1st, chose t-shirts in six or seven different colors ( sweaters will be bought later ). My wife told me that the store is stuck with orange clothes. Apparently even opponents of the disengagement plan are uncomfortable with sending their children to school with what today is considered a political - not a fashion - statement.
Vandaag staat het volgende, door mij geschreven, opinieartikel in het Reformatorisch Dagblad. Ik was gevraagd om te reageren op dit stuk van de RD-correspondent in Jeruzalem, Alfred Muller. Het was misschien spannender en sappiger geweest als Alfred Muller tegen het terugtrekkingsplan was, maar in feite zijn we het aardig eens. Wel geloof ik dat hij iets te optimistisch is over de toekomstige verhoudingen tussen Israel en de Palestijnen. Mijn stuk vult het zijne aan, samen vormen de twee artikelen een pleidooi voor steun aan uitvoering van Sharon's plan.
Ook vóór Sharon, maar minder optimistisch
De zelfmoordaanslag in Nethanya en de voortdurende beschietingen, door Palestijnse terroristen vanuit de Gaza-strook, met Qassam-raketten van dorpen en steden in Israël zelf zijn volgens de tegenstanders van Ariël Sharon een teken dat Israël zich uit Gaza laat verjagen en dat de terroristen voor hun wandaden beloond worden. Voorstanders van Sharon's terugtrekkingsplan brengen daar, in mijn ogen op overtuigende wijze, tegenin dat de aanvallen laten zien dat een Israëlische aanwezigheid in 'de' gebieden Israël geen veiligheid biedt, ja zelfs kwetsbaarder maakt. Alfred Muller heeft gelijk als hij zegt dat zowel de militaire als de religieuze argumenten die gebruikt worden om een Israëlische terugtrekking uit de Gaza-strook aan te vallen verre van onweerlegbaar zijn. Ik moest bij het lezen van zijn artikel denken aan professor Mordechai Cogan, die onlangs in Ha'Aretz duidelijk maakte dat zij die Gaza als onlosmakelijk deel van de landbelofte zien de Bijbel selectief lezen. Immers, ook koning Salomo droeg gebieden van het Land aan niet-joden over, zonder dat iemand zich daar druk over maakte: "Het bezit van gebieden in Eretz Israel door het Joodse volk is altijd een weerspiegeling geweest van de politieke en militaire omstandigheden van de periode". Helaas deel ik Muller's voorzichtige optimisme wat betreft 'de morgen na de terugtrekking' niet. Dat neemt niet weg dat ook ik Ariël Sharon van harte steun in zijn pogingen Israël uit Gaza terug te trekken. Volgens mij zijn de belangrijkste argumenten die vóór Sharon's plan – en voor een einde van de bezetting van grote delen van Judea en Samaria ( de Westoever ) – pleiten politiek-diplomatiek en economisch. Weinig realistische Israëlische politici en diplomaten koesteren de illusie dat de bezetting eeuwig kan voortduren. In de hedendaagse werkelijkheid is diplomatieke legitimiteit en samenwerking niet minder belangrijk dan pure militaire kracht. Een heuse, goed afgebakende, internationaal erkende en goed te beveiligen grens is meer waard dan een groot deel van de nederzettingen, die vaak moeilijk te verdedigen zijn en het vrijwel onmogelijk maken om de ingangen naar Israël hermetisch te beveiligen. De nederzettingen vormen ook een economische last voor de joodse staat. Als gevolg van de enorme beveiligingskosten, disproportionele investeringen in de infrastructuur en diverse subsidies zijn de overheidsuitgaven per hoofd van de bevolking voor de nederzettingen veel groter ( in sommige statistieken tussen de 20 en 50 % ) dan die voor de rest van Israël, inclusief achterstandsgebieden. Een teugtrekking uit Gaza zal de internationale positie van Israël versterken. Dit zal, samen met een lastenverlichting voor de Israëlische economie, voor een economische opleving kunnen zorgen die alle Israëliërs ten goede kan komen. Er zijn verschillende terreinen waarin de joodse staat gauw structureel moet gaan investeren om onherstelbare schade te voorkomen: onderwijs, gezondheisdszorg, sociale zorg, criminaliteitsbestrijding, wegenbouw en waterbeheer. Twee jaar geleden nam Ariël Sharon voor het eerst publiekelijk het woord 'bezetting' in de mond, en hij zei dat de bezetting slecht is voor Israël. Alhoewel het aannemelijk is dat hij naast het landsbelang ook persoonlijke – juridische – belangen op het oog had toen hij het Gaza-terugtrekkingsplan te berde bracht, lijkt het erop dat hij voor 100% gelooft dat uitvoering van het plan het belang van de joodse, democratische staat Israël dient . Voor de meeste voorstanders van en Israëlische terugtrekking uit Gaza maakt het niet echt uit wat Sharon – ooit een zo formidabele tegenstander van links Israël en de held en maecenas van de kolonisten – ertoe bracht om zijn plan te lanceren, zolang hij er maar in slaagt het uit te voeren. Alfred Muller is in mijn ogen erg optimistisch waar het gaat om de toekomst na het teurgtrekkingsplan. De kans dat de Palestijnse Autoriteit er in zal slagen orde op zaken te stellen binnen de Gaza-strook lijkt me niet erg groot: de Islamistisch-nationalisten zijn te sterk, Abu Mazen heeft teveel tegenstand onder zijn eigen politieke achterban, en de Autoriteit is te corrupt om goed te kunnen functioneren. Ook het concept "land voor vrede" is bijna te mooi om levensvatbaar te zijn, tenzij je van vrede niet meer dan een simpele wapenstilstand verwacht. Er is meer dan het afstaan van land nodig om heuse vrede te maken. Toch steun ik Sharon van harte zolang hij de enige lijkt te zijn die het terugtrekkingsplan kan realiseren. Om het even wat er aan de Palestijnse scheidslijn van het conflict gebeurt, Israël is nog meer dan de Palestijnen gebaat bij wat Amos Oz heel mooi als een pijnlijke echtscheiding beschreef. Wanneer beide kanten – de een meer dan de ander met hulp van buitenaf – een beetje tot zichzelf zijn gekomen kan er misschien over hechte Palestijns-Israëlische samenwerking op bepaalde gebieden worden gesproken. Voorlopig zou een uitweg uit de huidige impasse – een dagelijkse nachtmerrie voor vrijwel alle betrokkenen – al een hele stap vooruit zijn. De terugtrekking uit Gaza kan daarbij helpen.
Although generally I oppose the death penalty, when I read about the very light sentence given to the German teenager who last year released the Sasser virus I had thoughts that are very similar to those of John Tierney in his IHT/NYT opinion article last week.
Some quotes:
"Hackers are the Internet equivalent of Richard Reid, the shoe-bomber who didn't manage to hurt anyone on his airplane but has been annoying travelers ever since. "
" Most painful of all for any geek, make him use Windows 95 for the rest of his life."
Two weblogs and two NGOs were added to the permalinks in my sidebar. Have a look yourself to see what these blogs and NGOs are all about: the Adva Center, House of Wheels ( I found out about their work through this article in last Friday's Ha'Aretz Magazine ), Harry's Place ( recommended: this article on 'the Left and Israel' ), and Chapati Mystery.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The citizens of London are blessed with a wonderful mayor who cannot differentiate between a rightwing political party ( which has its fanatics and lunies, but hey, you can find those everywhere, and I have not seen anyone of them proudly blowing up him/herself among men, women and children on purpose ) and an organization which has turned suicide terror into its most recognizable political statements. Under the guidance of Mr Livingstone Londoners will without any doubt whatsoever win their battle against terror.
I just found the following letter in my mailbox: Unite Against Terror’ Statement
Invitation to bloggers to sign and Sign and link Dear Blogger Please consider signing and informing your readers about the statement ‘Unite Against Terror’ Written by bloggers in the UK after 7/7 posted on Friday it has attracted hundreds of signatories from UK USA Europe Iraq and the Middle East. The statement begins:
Terrorist attacks against Londoners on July 7th killed at least 54 people. The suicide bombers who struck in Netanya Israel on July 12 ended five lives including two 16 year old girls. And on July 13 in Iraq suicide bombers slaughtered 24 children. We stand in solidarity with all these strangers hand holding hand from London to Netanya to Baghdad: communities united against terror.
The statement ends: We invite you to sign this statement as a small first step to building a global movement of citizens against terrorism.
Initial signatories include: Alan Johnson (Labour Friends of Iraq personal capacity) Ali Fadhil (Iraq); Adele Geras (author); Peter Tatchell; Jane Ashworth (Labour Friends of Iraq pesonal capaciity); Anthony Julius; Alex Gordon (UK National Union of Rail Maritime & Transport Workers RMT - personal capacity); Omar (Iraq the Model Iraq Pro-Democracy Party); Professor Norman Geras (normblog); Dr. Elizabeth Stewart (The Open University England); Jeff Weintraub (USA); Cllr David Boothroyd (Westminster City Council UK); Syed W Ahmed (Islamic Center of Chicago); Ami Isseroff (Israel MidEastWeb for Coexistence); David Green (Oxford University Labour Club and Delyn Constituency Labour Party; Micheline Ishay (Director International Human Rights Program University of Denver personal capacity);Osama Al-Moosawi (Iraq); Shalom Lappin (King's College London UK) Brian Brivati (Professor of Modern History Kingston University London personal capacity); Pierre-André Taguieff (France CNRS Research Director); Cynthia Epstein (graduate center CUNY USA); Christopher Hitchens; Eric Lee; Stephen Bronner, Adrian Cohen and hundreds of others.
There is no way in the world that I am going to sign this letter. First of all, I hate being part of a herd, and only rarely will you see me sign online or other protests or calls for this or against that. Besides - and most importantly -, why do these friends of Iraq, of democracy, and of humanity in general think only now that it is time for "a global movement of citizens against terrorism"? Islamist terrorism did not start on 7/7 or 9/11, it has hit Israeli citizens ( Jews and Arabs ) and others for many decades. For more than a decade now Israel has witnessed suicide bombings that made I do not know how many times more victims than the number of victims of the attacks in London two weeks ago. Like most Israelis, I identify with the people of London and Iraq, but I think that the indignation of most of the signatories of this statement is selective and comes too late. No matter what political cause ( justified or not ) it claims to serve, terrorism is wrong and should always be condemned and fought by all means possible. You cannot label murderers of Israeli citizens as freedom fighters or militants, while calling the perpetrators of the bombings in London terrorists ( well, of course you can and many do, but you shouldn't, it just does not make sense ). It is too late to start condemning terrorism only when it starts hitting you and your own loved ones.
PS: Don't get me wrong, I am sure that most if not all of the people who signed are as kosher as can be ( Norman Geras of Normblog, Ami Isseroff of MidEast Web, Pierre-André Taguieff of the CNRS in Paris, to name just a few ) and that all of them have nothing but good intentions, but I have opposed all kinds of terrorism for as long as I can remember, and I do not need statements like this one to make my opposition to terrorism known to the world.
My wife and I just spent a wonderful 30 hours together. Yesterday morning she was surprised to hear that we were going away for a day. Everything was taken care of, a bag was already packed, our children spent the night at their grandparents' house. We drove up north, to Rosh Pina. There the two of us, both enthusiastic meat-eaters, had lunch at The Black Steer, which was more than o.k. Then we continued to The Cedar House in Korazim, where I had reserved the luxurious honeymoon cabin for the night. It has a jacuzzi and a home cinema system ( i.e. a regular television with an amplifier and surround stereo ). We watched some television, my wife read some copied pages of the latest Harry Potter and solved some sudoku's that I had printed out for her ( from this website ), and I read the first 150 pages of what seems to be a wonderful novel by an author whose work I like very much. We did not get out of our cabin until this morning, when we had a nice country breakfast on the cabin's balcony. Then we left Korazim, and through Tiberias and kibbutz Shaarey HaGolan ( where we briefly visited a distant relative of my wife ) we drove in the direction of Haifa. We had lunch at the best restaurant in Israel that I know ( The Herb Farm, on Mount Gilboa; it has a very rich and varied menu, and offers dishes and combinations that I never thought of but that always turn out to be a pleasant surprise ) and got home about two hours ago.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Regarding " 'This is no Jewish Olympics," says two-time golden Olympian ", Ha'Aretz, July 17, 2005 ( published in Ha'Aretz, July 18, 2005 ):
I am really sorry that Alyson Annan and Carole Thate had to witness less professional procedures than the ones to which they are used, apparently. When I read this article, a Dutch-Yiddish expression entered my mind: "Kunsjt!" ( "there is nothing clever about that", or "that's not a real achievement" ). I always thought that the Maccabiah is about bringing Israeli and Jewish athletes from all over the world together in Israel in order to to get to know each other in a competitive but relaxed environment. If competitiveness is the main goal, and the Dutch team is allowed to bring two non-Jewish coaches - one Dutch, the other Australian - whose only qualification is that they won Olympic gold and bronze ( an impressive feat but hardly relevant in the context of the Maccabiah ), then why did the Dutch not bring along Inge de Bruin and Pieter van den Hoogenband? With all due respect to Mrs Annan and Thate, their Olympic accomplishements are dwarfed by those of the two Dutch swimmers.
(PS: The idea of sending Pieter vdH is not mine, I got it from a comment by Nanette ).
"And the city that has been chosen is..." Two more cartoons by Tom Janssen. This is it for today, until tomorrow evening I will be offline.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Here are two recent cartoons by Tom Janssen that I liked.
Regarding "Israel hits Hamas, killing 7 militants", IHT, July 17, 2005: The only serious problem that I have with Israel's latest strikes against terrorists is that there is always a real chance that innocent people could get hurt, something that should be avoided at all costs. This time, according to media reports only known and wanted terrorists were killed and wounded on the Palestinian side, and few Israelis will shed a tear over these men's deaths and injuries. Not that I admire every aspect of Ariel Sharon's policies, but - as far as the disengagement plan's implementation and Palestinian terror aimed at stopping that are concerned - he seems to be on the right track: fighting terror as if there is no disengagement plan and implementing the plan as if there is no terror.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Regarding "Tour de force", Ha'Aretz Magazine, July 15, 2005: Have we all gone mad? Has Israel become a huge theme park where foreign-currency-paying tourists can satiate their lust for excitement and ( the Jews among them ) appease the Zionist part of their conscience by meeting the stars and visiting the hot spots of this crazy and highly lethal reality show? If that is the case I would suggest some more excursions for the mission's participants:
  • Visit Yigal Amir in his cell, or watch his conjugal visits on candid camera.
  • Witness a real 'targeted assassination' on live closed circuit television.
  • Take part in the evacuation of a real settlement, or put on an orange Star of David, block some highway and verbally abuse soldiers, policemen and -women.
  • Shoot rubber ( or, to make it more exciting, metal ) bullets at real Palestinian demonstrators.
  • Humiliate Palestinians at a checkpoint.
  • Vote off ( by sending an SMS with the mobile phone that is part of the holiday package ) Ariel Sharon, Yonathan Bassi, the Chief of Staff, or the leaders of the Yesha Council

As legitimate and worthty as the cause is for which Shurat Hadin says it stands, nothing can be an excuse for turning the most difficult aspects of our national existence into one big attraction and into another typically Israeli Beggar's Opera.

Tomorrow S., our neighbor will receive her pre-ordered copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by express mail. Since she will be at work, Y. my wife, will receive the delivery ( she is a teacher and has started her vacation this week ), and she will start reading it before S. My wife hardly ever reads something in English, but she read all five previous Harry Potters in their original version. S., who is both American and Israeli, reads much faster in English than Y., so Y. will photocopy a few chapters of the book to read in the meantime, and after S. has finished it she will continue reading it. Both Y. and S. are adults with academic degrees, each a mother of two children ( S. is expecting their third boy ), and both of them are crazy about HP. In spite of all the Potter-mania I really admire J.K. Rowling for writing the books, influencing the lives of so many millions of children and adults in a mostly positive way. By the way, through Bloghead I found out that Harry Potter might be Jewish.
Dit nieuwsbericht uit het Bulletin Nederlands Nieuws van de Wereldomroep wilde ik jullie niet onthouden:
Boerengolf verovert Europa
Het Achterhoekse spel boerengolf is bezig met een Europese opmars. Naast ongeveer vijftig banen in Nederland, zijn nu ook in Belgie, Duitsland en Frankrijk de eerste 'courts' geopend. Volgens de organisatie van het tweede open Nederlands kampioenschap Boerengolf wordt het spel inmiddels door meer dan 250.000 mensen beoefend.Boerengolf wordt gepeeld in weilanden tussen de koeien. Het gemiddelde golfcourt telt acht tot tien holes, bestaande uit emmers in de grond. De golfbal is veel groter dan bij het traditionele golf en de club waarmee wordt geslagen, is een houten stok met een klompvoet.
HaloScan still appears to have server problems, I see "No comments yet" at postings that do have comments attached. You can always send me an e-mail instead.

Friday, July 15, 2005

There is enough going on that I could comment upon, but because I am working on two longer pieces ( one of them ordered by a Dutch newspaper as a reaction to an article on the disengagement plan by its correspondent, the other in English ) and I also have to work on my research, I just do not have time to write something for my blog. Maybe later today, maybe tomorrow, maybe I will just post a cartoon or something. Shabbat shalom.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Je m'excuse, but I totally forgot to wish my friends in France a happy Bastille Day. I hardly look at the calendar when I am busy, which is why I tend to forget to congratulate friends and family on time ( dag mamma ). Not an excuse, just an explanation, for what it's worth.

Apparently the Jewish settlers and their Israeli supporters are not the only ones opposed to ( and trying to prevent ) the implementation of the disengagement plan:

  1. 18:31 Mortar shell fired at town north of Gaza, one person seriously wounded (Haaretz)
  2. 18:23 Palestinians fire 3 mortar shells at Gaza settlement, causing damage (Israel Radio)
  3. 17:12 Palestinians fire mortar shell at western Negev; no casualties (Israel Radio)

PS: The young woman who was wounded by the Qassam rocket has died. While opponents of the disengagement plan say that this proves that terrorism pays and that the disengagement will lead to more terror, its supporters can say just as easily that this proves that the Israeli presence in Gaza cannot and does not protect us, and that if there is a proper border between us and the Palestinians we will have all the means and every right to respond harshly to such attacks, which would be a safer and saner situation than the current one.

The opponents of the disengagement have no reason to complain about the airtime that they receive in the electronic media. I just saw a broadcast of "Six with Oded Ben Ami" ( a former IDF Spokesmen, brigadier-general in the reserves ) on Channel Two. First a girl was interviewed who was earlier seen in a very loud and verbally violent confrontation with policemen and -women at one of the checkpoints ( isn't it ironic? ) on the border between Israel and Gaza. She expressed the pain and furstrations of the Gush Katif settlers very well, but Ben Ami ( who does not appear to be rightwing or an opponent of disengagement, on the contrary ) did not reply at all to her accussations and claims ( he seemed either to feel uncomfortable with her or not be prepared very well ). Then rabbi Elyakim Lebanon, the head of the Elon-Moreh hesder-yeshiva ( one of a number of religious schools that have an 'arrangement' ( hesder ) with the army: their students combine regular army service with religious studies; several hesder-yeshivot are in the occupied territories ) was interviewed. Five of his students yesterday refused to participate in the closure of the Gaza Strip. He said clearly that orders from the army ( he literally said "MiBaHutz", i.e. from the outside, making clear what he thinks is the relationship between the state and the army on one hand and religious Zionism on the other ) that contradict orders from rabbis should not be carried out. Oded Ben Ami did not say anything himself, even though I think he should at least have interrupted the rabbi when he talked about "MiBaHutz": this is basically an admittance that we are talking about two armies for two peoples ( i.e. two parts of only one of the two peoples who will have to share one of the two states, if ever a two-states-for-two-peoples-solution will become reality, something that I am becoming more doubtful about every day, some sort of twelve-tribes-solution seems more realistic ). The Chief of Staff has threatened to rethink the arrangement with the yeshivot-hesder if it turns out that some sort of organized refusal will become a phenomenon among hesder soldiers. Later he retracted or rephrased this threat, I believe.
When the third guest turned out to be a spokesman for the March on Gush Katif that will be held by settlers and their supporters on Monday, I decided that I had had enough for one day, and I returned to my laptop.
Toevallig las ik de laatste twee regels in een achteraf-berichtje in het Nieuwsbulletin van de Wereldomroep over een liedje dat gemaakt is met gebruik van de woorden van Mohammed B. tijdens zijn proces:
"Justitie heeft dinsdag per ongeluk een verkeerde versie van het requisitoir van de aanklagers naar buiten gebracht. Daardoor zijn de volledige namen van getuigen bekend geworden, terwijl deze mensen anoniem hadden moeten blijven."
Ik heb hier elders nog niets over gelezen. Als dit waar is lijkt het me duidelijk dat Nederland aan kneuzen is overgeleverd in de strijd tegen de terreur ( niet dat ik al een hoge pet ophad van iemand als Donner ).
( Ha'Aretz News Flash ) 12:34 A few Gaza settlers write I.D. no. on their arm in protest of seal on Strip (Israel Radio) Another sign that:
  1. Some people have no limits or shame when it comes to making a political point
  2. For some Jews the Holocaust is not much more than a frame of reference that can be used at will for every purpose
  3. Settlers have become desperate, realizing that for the first time in decades they are not in charge anymore in the Jewish state, and that Ariel Sharon does not appear to be willing to back down

Regarding "Old tactic emerges in new locale", by Douglas Jehl, IHT, July 14, 2005: Basically Douglas Jehl says it all when he writes about suicide bombing: "It is a tactic that has proved so effective in cities like Beirut, Jerusalem and Baghdad...". If suicide bombings are effective, that is because the only effects that suicide terrorists and their puppet masters aim at are destruction, murder and fear. It is the ultimate proof - if we needed any - for the totally nihilist character of Islamist terror.
Regarding "Iraq bomber kills 27, most of them children", IHT, July 14, 2005: How can anyone believe that there is a causal connection between poverty, lack of democracy and the plight of the Palestinians on the one hand, and the brutal murder of commuters in London, schoolchildren in Beslan and poor Iraqi children on the other? The only link that I can think of in this context ( and after the murder, in Israel, of three beautiful young women and one lovely grandmother, whose daughter and 3-year-old granddaughter are still fighting for their lives ) is one between a perverted version of religion and blind hatred, absolute evil, a lack of humanity, and contempt for life.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Whereas the families of Palestinian suicide bombers often can count on a supportive environment, those of the four British terrorists who appear to have carried out last week's bombings in London are surrounded by a very hostile public. In spite of the serious subject I could not help smiling and agreeing when I read one of the reactions on the website of Sky News: I see the friends and neighbours of one of the bombers say he was a 'normal' and nice person. Then they mention he had been away for a long time when he had to gone to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Hello? 'Normal' people don't go to Afghanistan for their holidays! Anyone who is known to have gone to Afghanistan should immediately be put on the watch list. David O'Brien
You cannot blame anyone for being worried or frightened, or for panicking after a terror attack, but I was a bit surprised that the only Maccabiah athlete who decided to leave Israel after the bombing in Nethanya yesterday is Dutch. I could think of at least one other European nation that is better known than the Dutch for surrendering right after the first shot is fired/bomb has exploded.
I fully understand if someone is afraid of visiting Israel because of 'the situation'. The coming weeks and months will probably be more tense and violent than the last few months, since most Palestinian opposition groups are interested in seeing the disengagement delayed or canceled, and/or in making it look like Israel is being chased away by them. When friends or family ask me whether it is safe to come ( this reminds me of Laurence Olivier torturing Dustin Hoffman and asking "Is it safe?" in The Marathon Man ), I warn them and tell them that we live very ordinary lives, but that the danger of terrorist attacks remains and will remain for at least some time.
Security risks are something that you always have to take into account when you come here, it is quite 'un-smart' ( I want to say it in a nice way ) to think that being in Israel is nothing but having fun, seeing beautiful Jewish boys and girls, feeling oh so Jewish and proud, and then you go back home, feeling good that you have done your Zionist mitzvah for the next few years. Kol HaKavod to all those who decided to stay. In Zionism there always has been a very important role for checkbook-Zionists, but there is no such thing as sun-and-beach-Zionism, if you decide to come here you are not asked whether you want the whole package or not.
Regarding "Suicide bomber kills 2 in Israel" and "Van Gogh defendant confesses to murder", IHT, July 13, 2005 ( this letter says much of what I intended to say in the Dutch article that I posted yesterday, so I will not translate that article. Thanks anyway to the eight readers who asked me to translate it ): Through his written and verbal statements Muhammad B., as he is known in Holland, has offered us a rare insight into the mind of some of the Islamist terrorists who are wreaking havoc on the world today. Theirs is an agenda that is global and purely religious. If there is a link between Islamist terror and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict it could be an ideological bond between the terrorists, but you have to use a highly illogical line of argument to find a causal connection beween the plight of the Palestinians and the murder of more than fifty commuters in London, a filmmaker in Amsterdam, police recruits in Iraq, theatre visitors in Moscow, or school children in Beslan. The agenda of groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad is way too local and limited for zealots such as Muhammad B. and Osama bin L. Other, less Islamist, terror groups are out of bounds for non-Palestinian Islamists, and a non-violent approach is even more an anathema to them. Most of the foreign aid that Palestinian terrorists receive comes from or through Syria, Saudi-Arabia and Iran, all archenemies of Al-Qaeda's brand of Islamism. Like other local conflicts with a religous-nationalist character, for Bin Laden c.s. 'the' conflict is only one of many excuses that can help to further a universal cause. Israel's occupation of Gaza and the Westbank has to end because it is wrong and unjust, hurts Western interests and endangers the existence of the Jewish state, not because Islamists tell us that they care so much for their Palestinian brothers and sisters. Whoever believes that after an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and other occupied territories Islamist terror will stop or even diminish is fooling himself and the rest of the world. Palestinian Islamists will not stop until there is no Jewish state left, and the least that their foreign colleagues aim at is an Islamist utopia in all of the Muslim world. The only way for all Western and other democratic countries to understand, fight and beat the Islamists is by studying their global agenda, and by acting accordingly in a coordinated, uncompromising and nationally-altruistic way.
I have to give credit where credit is due. I have not heard any public rightwing told-you-so reactions to last evening's suicide bombing in Nethanya yet. That proves once again that a historian should never try to predict anything, (s)he has to confine her/himself to things that already took place.
Of course, on many websites you can read accusing phrases that link between Oslo, disengagement, terror etc. but at least official settler spokesmen did not abuse this latest attack to try and prove themselves right.
Thank you, Miriam ( from Bloghead ), for refering me to two subjects that I am interested in but cannot dwell on for lack of time: the Maccabiah ( see OutOfStepJew for some impressions behind the scenes ) and the forced, nay ridiculous, nay dangerous and almost sickening attempts by the BBC ( link to Melanie Phillips ) to be politically correct and/or not antagonize - heaven forbid - any non-Westerners. In general, Miriam's blog is a good source and reference guide for information and opinions regarding events in ( Jewish ) Britain.
PS: Other bloggers who wrote about the BBC in post-7/7 Britain: Norm and Jack. It turns out that a whole weblog is dedicated entirely to BBC-bias: click here.
Other subjects that are of interest, and weblogs that have something worth reading to say about them: the trial of the murderer of the Dutch filmmaker-columnist Theo van Gogh ( Peaktalk ), Britain's post-7/7 reality( Aspasia, Neither Here nor There ), the beautiful outcome of intensive Israeli-English cooperation ( Anglosaxy ).

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

When I read about Ken Livingstone's comments about the London attacks not being aimed at presidents and prime ministers, I had thoughts that were very similar to those of Norman Geras ( a posting that I came across via JewishBlogging ).
On the day that British security forces say publicly that four bombers died in the London terror attacks last Thursday, it seems that once again a suicide bomber has struck inside Israel. An explosion took place in or near the Hasharon shopping mall in Nethanya. Could it be that if there is a connection between 'the' conflict and Islamist terror, it is rather a methodological, ideological and religious connection between Islamist and Palestinian ( not necessarily Islamist ) terror's perpetrators than a more general causal one? ( see the article in Dutch ).
The Islamic Jihad already claimed responsibility.
Now it is only a matter of time before the first public told-you-so statements will come from disengagement opponents ( remember: I-told-you-so ). The closer we get to August 15th the more attacks we can expect. Islamic Jihad is as opposed to the disengagement as, let's say......, Hamas.
The following article, which I wrote on Sunday evening, appears in today's issue of the Dutch daily Trouw ( as they say themselves, "Possibly the best newspaper of the Netherlands...", no seriously, it is one of my two or three favorites among Dutch newspapers ). It is the sixth time that an article that I wrote was published in that newspaper. In this piece I say that whoever publicly says that there is a link between 'the' conflict and terror a la Al-Qaida gives the terrorists exactly what they want. I explain that Al-Qaida has a global goal that causes the movement to be active almost everywhere except in Israel-Palestine. If enough readers ( let's say at least ten: you can let me know by e-mail ) are interested in an English translation I will translate the piece and post it here. ( Het volgende stuk staat vandaag in Trouw ( pag. 6, De Verdieping ) ): Een zege te veel voor Bin Laden Twee dagen na de bomaanslagen in Londen bood Tony Blair de waarschijnlijke daders al een gedeeltelijke overwinning op een presenteerblaadje aan. Door te zeggen dat Islamistische terreur veroorzaakt wordt door armoede, een gebrek aan democratie en "het voortdurende conflict in het Midden-Oosten" suggereerde de Britse premier dat die terreur weliswaar niet te rechtvaardigen maar wel te verklaren valt volgens de Westerse logica. Deze na iedere mega-aanslag terugkerende "…maar…"-redeneringen laten zien dat Osama bin Laden er in geslaagd is het publiek in het Westen te laten geloven wat hij wil: er zou een causaal verband bestaan tussen zijn wandaden en het onrecht dat de Palestijnen wordt aangedaan. Dat de Israëlische regering iedereen wijs probeert te maken dat alle moslim-terroristen één pot nat zijn maakt dat verband haast nog aannemelijker. Toch bestaat dat verband niet. Het heeft er alles van weg dat Al-Qaida, eerder een beweging dan een organisatie, op zijn minst indirect bij de Londense aanslagen betrokken is. Deze beweging heeft een globaal einddoel: het tot stand brengen van een Islamistische heilstaat, in ieder geval in het hart van de moslim-wereld ( grofweg Marokko tot en met Pakistan, Sudan tot en met Afghanistan ) maar liefst ook in gebieden die vroeger door moslims werden geregeerd zoals Spanje en de Balkan. De grootste obstakels voor het verwezenlijken van dat uiteindelijke doel – en mede daarom de belangrijkste vijanden van Bin Laden en andere Islamisten – zijn Israël, het Westen in het algemeen en de Verenigde Staten in het bijzonder. Ook de meeste regimes die momenteel aan de macht zijn in de moslim-wereld ( die meer omvat dan de Arabische wereld alleen ) zijn legitieme vijanden in de strijd voor die heilstaat. Datzelfde geldt voor vrijwel alle niet-Islamistische soennieten en voor zo goed als alle sjiieten, zoals we dagelijks in Irak kunnen zien. Hoe vaak onze leiders ook herhalen dat dit geen oorlog tussen het Westen en de Islam is, de Islamisten zullen altijd hun strijd als een jihad tegen de kruisvaarders en de ongelovigen zien. Islamistische terroristen maken graag gebruik van lokale conflicten – met vaak een religieus-territoriale achtergrond – om hun doelstellingen verder te verwezenlijken, infrastructuren te scheppen of te benutten, en plaatselijke of wereldwijde chaos en paniek te creëren of te versterken. Ironisch genoeg zijn er weinig krachtiger symbolen en instrumenten van globalisatie dan Al-Qaida. Dat Bin Laden en zijn ideologie-genoten een globaal doel voor ogen hebben valt op te maken uit de geografische verspreiding van de plaatsen waar de invloed van Al-Qaida te zien is: Rusland-Tsjetsjenië, China-Xinjiang ( Uighuir separatisten ), Irak, Europa, Amerika, Noord- en Centraal-Afrika, Zuid-Oost Azië. Wie in éen van die regio's of landen een band met het lot van de Palestijnen ontwaart mag het zeggen. Opvallend genoeg is Al-Qaida niet of nauwelijks bij het Palestijns-Israëlische conflict betrokken. Dit heeft niet echt te maken met de beveiliging van Israëlische en joodse doelwitten, maar eerder met het feit dat organisaties zoals Hamas en de Islamitische Jihad – die weliswaar een fundamentalistische variant van de Islam aanhangen – een voor Bin Laden veel te beperkte, lokale agenda hebben. De voornaamste buitenlandse steun voor Palestijnse terroristen komt uit Iran ( via Libanon ) en Saoedi-Arabië, aartsvijanden van Al-Qaida. Armoede, onrecht en bezetting moeten worden bestreden en beëindigd omdat ze fundamenteel fout en onrechtvaardig zijn, en omdat ze het Westen verzwakken. De Israëlische bezetting van de Westoever en de Gaza-strook brengt bovendien het voortbestaan van de staat Israël als zodanig in gevaar. In onze ijver voor rechtvaardigheid, voor een einde aan deze en andere bezettingen, en tegen de armoede over de hele wereld moeten we ons laten leiden door onze eigen idealen en belangen, niet door een fanatieke, steenrijke zoon van een Saoedische aannemer, die doet voorkomen alsof hij zijn wandaden pleegt omdat hij zo begaan is met het lot van de Palestijnen. Wie zegt dat er een verband bestaat tussen armoede en terreur beledigt vrijwel alle arme mensen ter wereld, die immers geen terrorist zijn en terreur afkeuren. Ook het feit dat maar weinig terroristen afkomstig zijn uit de onderste sociale lagen van de maatschappijen waarin ze zijn grootgebracht spreekt dit veronderstelde verband tegen. Op twee punten heeft Al-Qaida al gewonnen. De openheid van de Westerse maatschappijen is aangetast, en het wantrouwen van Europeanen en Amerikanen tegenover moslims is toegenomen, ook al proberen we onszelf te overtuigen dat dat niet zo is. De tegenstellingen tussen het Westen en 'de' Islam zijn dus al verscherpt sinds het begin van de 21e eeuw. De Westerse landen moeten Bin Laden niet nog een overwinning gunnen door zijn suggestie te adopteren dat zijn wandaden te verklaren, ja bijna te rechtvaardigen zijn vanuit zijn gevoel voor rechtvaardigheid en zijn compassie voor verdrukte geloofsgenoten. Zijn terreur valt niet te rechtvaardigen, punt uit, en dient compromisloos te worden bestreden. Te verklaren valt die terreur alleen door de globale agenda van het Islamisme erbij te halen. Wie denkt dat na een einde van de bezetting van de Westoever en Gaza de terreur zal verdwijnen of zelfs maar in kracht zal afnemen houdt zichzelf voor de gek, wat niet betekent dat die bezetting niet zo spoedig mogelijk beëindigd moet worden. Telkens wanneer openlijk een verband wordt gelegd tussen 'het' conflict en de bommen in London, Madrid, Casablanca, Istanbul en elders betekent dat een overwinning voor Bin Laden die het Westen zich eenvoudigweg niet kan veroorloven.
In a posting last Saturday I hinted at a lack of professionalism at the unit of the IDF Spokesperson. On Thursday I sent an e-mail to the webmaster of the unit, pointing out a mistake on the CV of the deputy chief of staff, Major General Moshe Kaplinsky. While I do not know whether or not Mr Kaplinsky's is on good terms with the previous Chief of Staff, Moshe Ya'alon ( who left the army with a lot of resentment and after some very public mud-slinging in the direction of some of his colleagues ), I am sure that he does not want his impressive career achievements to be ascribed to his former boss: "The following is a list of positions Major General Moshe Ya'alon fulfilled during his service in the IDF:...". Until now I have not received any reply from the Spokesperson's unit, and one Moshe still receives the credit for another Moshe's career. It would take less than two minutes to correct the mistake.
As Debka reported earlier, there is a real chance that at least one of the bombings in London last Thursday might have been the work of a suicide bomber. This is what I read in The Times: It is understood that the examination of the No 30 bus at Tavistock Square has yielded vital fragments that have sharpened the focus of the police inquiry. Forensic pathologists have been paying particular attention to the remains of two bodies found in the mangled wreckage of the double-decker. A senior police source said: “There are two bodies which have to be examined in great detail because they appear to have been holding the bomb or sitting on top of it. One of those might turn out to be the bomber.” A decapitated head was found at the bus scene which has been, in Israeli experience, the sign of a suicide bomber. This article is quoted by the Dutch daily De Telegraaf: Bij het onderzoek naar de explosieven richt Scotland Yard zich vooral op de ontplofte dubbeldekker. "Er zijn twee lichamen die minutieus moeten worden onderzocht, omdat het erop lijkt dat ze de bom vasthielden of er bovenop zaten. Eén van beiden zou de terrorist kunnen zijn". As I think I wrote before, Debka is not always very precise, and many of its reports or newsflashes are based on very raw material, but more than once it was among the first sources to report news items that later turned out to be absolutely true. I will not add a link to Debka in my sidebar, but although I do not refer to it often it is always one of the first websites that I consult when something terror-related took place.
Kol HaKavod for Asala Halaji, the swimmer from Sakhnin who won the gold medal in the 200 meter breaststroke at the Maccabiah yesterday. She has shown to have a truly Olympic spirit:
"And how does a Muslim girl feel to be a winner at the Jewish Olympics? "I don't see the participants in the Maccabiah as Jews," she said. "I see them as new people from all over the world whom I can get to know - athletes." "
If I had not, by chance, visited the website of the International Herald Tribune this morning before I read the newspaper, I would have missed the following letter to the editor, which for some reason is missing from the newspaper itself. All other letters that appear on the website were printed. I really cannot stand Mr Galloway ( read this and this ), so I agree with every word written by Mr Shawcross. Undue praise Regarding the article "Scotsman keeps 'swimming against the stream"' (July 4): George Galloway is an utterly unscrupulous politician. He was expelled from Britain's Labour Party after he made inflammatory attacks on British troops fighting in Iraq. He then joined a failed Trotskyite group, the Respect Party. In the recent election he targeted the seat of a Labour member of Parliament, Oona King, a black, half-Jewish woman whom he thought vulnerable. Many of her constituents were Muslims who opposed her support for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Galloway accused her of having the blood of over 100,000 Iraqis on her hands. Not content with this grotesque accusation, Galloway added that the Iraqi dead included "a lot of women who had blacker faces than her." He won King's seat. In 1994 Galloway stood before Saddam Hussein and said: "Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability. And I want you to know that we are with you until victory, until Jerusalem." By this time, as Galloway knew well, Saddam had gassed thousands of Kurds, murdered many thousands of his political opponents, attempted to expunge Kuwait from the map and much more - yet Galloway extolled him. Galloway is not a charming maverick. He is an unprincipled opportunist and a bully who uses Britain's stringent laws of libel to cow his critics. He is not worthy of admiration. William Shawcross, London

Monday, July 11, 2005

Watching the opening ceremony of the 17th Maccabiah with my wife, I see the Dutch delegation. Then my wife says "Bloody Dutch, they are all against the disengagement!". Ironically the first gold medal for Israel at the games was won by an Israeli-Arab swimmer from the town of Sakhnin, home of the first Arab football team ever to win the State's Cup. As for the real opponents of the disengagement, they were nice enough to keep the police busy with yet another dummy bomb.
( PS: Considering the size of the gas cannister that formed part of the bomb as well as the quite rigorous security checks that I had to pass every time that I entered the central bus station - including having my bag pass through an x-ray machine -, I would not be surprised if this was an 'inside-job', done with the help of someone who works in or delivers goods to one of the many stores in the bus station. Also, the handwriting on the note found next to the bomb, saying "The disengagement blows up in your face", looks very immature. This - and maybe the fact that in the note a form of the hitpa'el is written twice with a yud before the tav, although I have seen academics do that as well - might guide the police in their search for the perpetrators of this act ).
Onlangs kreeg ik de volgende e-mail als feedback op mijn weblog. Ik weet niet echt wat ik er mee aan moet: is dit cynisch of sarcastisch bedoeld, opbouwende kritiek, een bewijs van waardering? Ik heb geen flauw idee.
Hallo Bert,
Jou stukjes vallen niet tegen, ik hou wel van een beetje kritiek op de samenleving, speciaal die van jullie ! Sinds anderhalf jaar heb ik een computer en ben er dus achter gekomen dat de tijd daar bij jullie de afgelopen twintig jaar ook niet heeft stil gestaan. Afgelopen dinsdag een stuk op de voorpagina van de Volkskrant over de toename aan misdaad in Israel, het wordt er daar niet bepaald vrolijker op.
Met een vriendelijke groet, ---
In today's Ha'Aretz and IHT I did not find anything that I want to write about, so instead I posted an article that I read in Ha'Aretz' Week's End last Friday. It is about quite a unique cooperation between a Jewish Israeli and a Palestinian, who met at an army checkpoint and now together own a restaurant in Montreal. Look how most negative reactions come from local Palestinians ( and Christians and Jews ). Musayed Amla, the Palestinian co-owner, replies: "They didn't grow up under the occupation - they grew up here in wealthy families. They aren't familiar with the situation in the region. How long are we going to keep on killing each other? I've had it. I'm proud to say that I'm a Palestinian, but at the same time it's necessary to say that's it. Enough is enough."

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Regarding "Labor of hate", Ha'Aretz Magazine, July 8, 2005: Infighting and power struggles have always been an integrated part of Israel's party politics, in Labor as much as in Likud. Some people always thought that on the Left mud-slinging and bag-stabbing are done in a more civilized way. Now that also in this sphere Labor does not offer any alternative to Likud anymore, it is obvious that voters who want bad policies and violent political theater will prefer to vote for the real thing, rather than for a very bad imitation.
Yonatan Bassi, head of the Disengagement Administration, is one of the Israelis whom I truly admire. If ever I feel envy towards a person it certainly will not be towards this man. In this weekend's Friday Magazine of Ha'Aretz I read one of the most interesting articles on the disengagement that I have read until today, an interview with this beacon of sanity and empathy in a sea of craziness and insensitivity. Highly recommended.
Here is a funny episode of Dilbert to start your week with. I found it this morning in today's/yesterday's IHT ( on Sunday in Israel we receive the Saturday edition of the IHT, together with the Sunday edition of Ha'Aretz ).

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Regarding "Orange-haired aide appeals Knesset ban" + picture (*) "New, modern checkpoints between PA and Israel", Ha'Aretz, July 7th 2005: It might be true that the new state-of-the-art checkpoints will make life less difficult for Palestinians who want/have to pass through or enter Israel, but it seems a bit cynical to say that they "serve" these Palestinians. If anything, these checkpoints serve Israel and Israel's security forces. Also, I was surprised that the parliamentary aide to MK Blumenthal who died his hair to protest the disengagement claims that his being denied entry to the Knesset "violates both the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty, and the Basic Law on Freedom of Occupation". I am sure that not the first meaning of 'occupation' that I could think of was meant here, but doesn't Mr Harmelin think that it is ironic that he refers to two basic laws that do not apply in any way to the Palestinians, no matter how many modern and user-friendly checkpoints will be put at their service?
(*) The picture and its caption I could not find on the website of Ha'Aretz. It appears also on the website of the IDF Spokesperson. Notice how many grammatical and other errors the press release contains. Again, I know that my English is far from being perfect, but I always thought that all official written statements are read by some senior editor ( or somebody who knows English pretty well ) before being published.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Two years ago I received a number of complimentary tickets for concerts of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. At the last concert that I attended I watched and heard performances of Symphony in 3 movements and Petrushka of Igor Stravinsky, plus Beethoven's fifth piano concerto. Always when I am working or reading I listen to music, most of it classical. Modern classical music is not really my cup of tea, and I did not like the idea of having to listen to two pieces of Stravinsky. Still, although I went only to see Daniel Barenboim play the Emperor concerto, I really enjoyed the first part of the concert as well. Stravinsky uses a lot of instruments that you do not hear every day in a philharmonic orchestra. Petrushka has some beautiful short solos for different instruments. In the following weeks I searched for a CD with the two works that I heard that evening. I found this double CD, named "Bernstein conducts Stravinsky". It contains both the symphony and Petrushka, plus other famous works by Stravinsky: Le Sacre du Printemps, L'Oiseau de Feu, and Scenes de Ballet. This week I listened to the SdP and to Petrushka several times, and only now did I notice that the orchestra directed by Bernstein is the IPO. The orchestra's name does not appear on the CD's cover ( probably those people at Deutsche Grammophon are a bunch of anti-Semites, I thought, but then, why mention Lenny B.? ), apparently when I bought the album I only looked at the name of Bernstein, the yellow icon of DG and the titles of the compositions.
This letter appeared in today's issue of Ha'Aretz. If I am not mistaken, it happened only once before that two of my letters appeared on consecutive days in the same newspaper. I was glad to see that this particular letter was published because it addresses two subjects that I care about: the Ethiopian Jews, and Israel as a democracy for bullies. I do not know many Ethiopians, but those whom I got to know ( at the university and in the army ) are all very dedicated Zionists, modest but ambitious, who can make a wonderful contribution to Israel and to Zionism. What follows is probably politically incorrect and as racist as hell, but when I see an Ethiopian soldier with a red baret I am filled with a mix of pride and admiration. The best and most Zionist soldier whom I ever served with was Gadi, an Ethiopian Jew who had served in the Border Police.
Regarding "Ethiopian community admits to deep-seated problems, Ha'Aretz, July 5th 2005: It is illustrative of their character that the Ethiopian community's activists do not search mostly outside their community to find or invent reasons for the problems that are haunting them. Whereas other ethnic and religious communities in Israel tend to blame mainly others for their troubles, the Ethiopians are modest enough to admit that there is a possibility that at least part of a solution for their difficult situation lies among themselves. This is even more telling if we take into account that when it comes to immigrant absorption this community has been widely neglected in comparison with the other large immigrant community that has settled here in the last two decades, and that Israel's state and society bear a large responsibility for the largely failed absorption and acceptance of the Ethiopians . In the bullies' democracy that Israel has become you have to shout in order to be heard, and to be violent in order to be taken seriously. Being self-effacing, polite and Zionist without demanding big favors or promoting special interests turns you into a sucker, and suckers are ignored or ridiculed here. If the Ethiopian community's predicament is not taken seriously immediately by the establishment, and if a broad and outspoken political leadership is not created and cultivated among - in particular the young - Ethiopians, thousands of Zionists with a wonderful potential in so many fields will be lost forever for the Jewish state.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Earlier today I heard something that I had failed to notice. Ehud Ya'Ari, one of Israel's foremost ( or at least most famous ) experts on the Arab world, pointed at the fact that Al-Qaeda appears to have initiated wars on all fronts that it could think of. That it fights the West and Israel is almost logical, but it also fights Shi'ite Islam in Iraq and elsewhere ( something that Iran does not like ), it is confronting China by helping Uighur separatists in the Xinjiang province, Russia by its assistance to terrorists ( oh no, militants ) in Chechnya, and - now more than ever before - mainstream Sunni Islam: the Iraqi branch of Al-Qaeda ( somebody explained on t.v. today that we should see it as a movement rather than as an organization ), led by Zarqawi, murdered the Egyptian diplomat who was kidnapped earlier this week, something that will anger not only the not very popular Egyptian government but also the average Egyptian and other Sunni Muslims around the Arab world. An interesting and maybe promising development, promising because it could indicate a high level of despair among the movement's operatives and ideologues. What's for sure, it is still way too early to be truly hopeful, Islamism in general and Al-Qaeda in particular will most probably remain a threat to a life of peace and quiet in the West and elsewhere for many years to come.
This is unusual, and I think improper, behavior: ( Ha'Aretz Newsflash )
21:47 French Interior Minister: Death toll in London bombings has risen to 50 (Reuters)
It is definitely not the task of the French Interior Minister to report on a larger number of casualties than the official number given by what is supposed to be an ally that has been attacked by terror. Of course we all know that the final number will be higher than the 37 dead who are confirmed officially, but foreign diplomats and officials should leave it to the press ( and to the surfers on the internet ) to speculate about such numbers, and to official spokespersons of the country involved to confirm or deny them, or to come with numbers of their own. PS: Today ( Friday ) I read that the Australian PM made a similar statement. Only this afternoon did British officials come out with a statement confirming that the number of casualties is higher than the numbers mentioned yesterday in official statements: 13:16 U.K. police: Death toll in London blasts rises to 50 (CNN)
On any other day the following news flash would - and it still deserves to - be a major item, but it is being overlooked because of the attacks in London. As if it was not clear enough that we all face a common enemy.

18:01 Al-Qaida says it killed Egyptian ambassador to Iraq (Haaretz)

At least I got some good news today. First of all, we received a letter telling us in which of three first classes our daughter will be next year at her school. She will be in the same class as at least one of her best friends, who happens to live in the same building as we. The two of them play together all the time and we are good friends with the girl's parents. I also received an e-mail telling me that a series of microfilms containing some very important sources for my research finally will be sent next week from Paris. The head of the archive where the microfilms are deposited promised me already twice ( in February 2004 and again one year later ) that she would make sure copies were made and sent as an interlibrary loan to the library of my university. I started to get anxious and frustrated already, because she did not reply to my e-mails. Yesterday I sent her one more e-mail, with some trenchant language but not too agressive, and I just got her reply, promising me that she will make sure copies are made this week, and next week the copies will be sent by FedEx. For some reason - don't ask me why - I believe her.
As for the terror attacks in London, when I waited outside our daughter's kindergarten to pick up her and her aforementioned best friend, someone said what is said here often after terror attacks abroad, but what in my opinion is unacceptable: "At least they get to taste something of what we are going through all the time." Even the slightest satisfaction is inadmissible when other innocent people are suffering. Besides, unfortunately the British people knows quite well what we are going through, better than most people in Europe. Terror is not something unknown to them, allthough until now most of 'their' terror came from the IRA and other Irish terror groups if I am not mistaken. There is something Israeli in all this, though: after the joy and relief that was seen in London yesterday when the city was awarded the organization of the 2012 Olympics, now all that we see is confusion, fear, devastation, and blood, lots of it. That is one of the saddest parts of being forced to live with terror: you are hardly ever allowed to fully enjoy the good things of life, every second whatever you are celebrating can be ruined by having to follow the latest news bulletins after yet another attack, or by being right in the middle of such an attack.
When I heard about the blasts in the London Underground, my first thought "Those French are really bad losers!" but almost immediately I understood that this is something serious. While the first reports talked about the possibility of a power surge or collission between two trains, now that a bus appears to have been blown up it is most likely that we are talking about either a highly coordinated terrorist attack or a highly unlikely coincidence involving an accident and a possible terror attack at about the same time. On Debka ( not always reliable, but it often is among the first websites to mention attacks or instant developments ) it even says that there were five explosions in the Underground. No "cucumber news" today.
When ( like On the Face's Lisa ) I noticed a sudden rise in the number of visitors, I thought it was because a link to DBI was added on a website named JewishBlogging ( see the sidebar, under Various Websites ).
I checked out my site's statistics and discovered that most visitors arrived here through the website of the Israeli daily Ma'ariv. Although I am not very fond of that newspaper ( the Nimrodi family that owns it has been linked to some very shady things, and I cannot stand its editor ) I was pleasantly surprised to see that, in an article on Israeli blogs in English, my weblog is one of eight specifically mentioned and reviewed/recommended blogs.
The article's author, Hanan Cohen, writes that in an article last month someone complained that there are no political and social blogs in Israel. Cohen says that when one searches beyond the main Israeli blog providers ( Yisrablog, Tapuz, Reshimot ) one can find "wonderful things". Israeli blogs in English, for instance. About Dutchblog Israel he writes: "Yonathan Dror Bar-On ( it is impossible to write his Dutch name in Hebrew [ actually it is, but it is hard, I admit, which is why I ( also ) use a Hebrew name ] ) immigrated ten years ago from the Netherlands. A historian who specializes in modern Jewish history and is working on his doctoral thesis. Writes in English and Dutch about life in Israel and of course about politics. Apparently the public he aims at are Dutchmen and -women to whom he feels the need to explain "what is going on here" [ partly true, I know that most of my readers are not Dutch ]". That's fun, isn't it?
One person wrote a very cynical comment to the article, which I think is interesting although I do not agree with it: " Interesting that the only ones who live in Israel and write relevant things don't do so in Hebrew. Does it have anything to do with the language? Or with the incapability of Israelis born in Israel to deal with the situation/the occupation? A certificate of poverty for Israeli ethics. Really."
As happy as I was with this positive exposure ( I did not start this weblog to become famous, but hey, I am only human, everybody likes being noticed and getting some recognition ), I was even more satisfied when I found out that Miriam Shaviv, a blogger and journalist whose work - as far as I got to know it - I admire, included my blog in a list of seven weblogs about which she says that she has been particularly enjoying them recently: " They're not necessarily new but more people should know about them. [...] Not to say I don't enjoy many others -- I do. But check these out....". About DBI she writes: "It helps if you speak Dutch but the majority of the pieces are in English. A cool, measured and sensible voice on Israeli and Middle Eastern affairs ( or maybe he saves the inflammatory statements for the Dutch? ) [ actually, I don't ] ".