Friday, 6 January 2017

Diamonds, Jews and Gays

The Diamond neighbourhood in Amsterdam is named after the Jewish workers in the diamond industry who used to make up the population there before the Holocaust. 
It has many special buildings and monuments in the Amsterdam School style of architecture.
Nowadays it is mainly populated by ethnic Moroccans.

All the Jews have left. No recognizable Jews would enter the neighbourhood. If they did, they would be lucky to escape with only spittle on their faces. 
However, it may begin with the Jews, but it never stops there.

The Diamond neighbourhood became notorious some ten years ago because of reports that ethnic Moroccan youths were intimidating, harassing and driving out other inhabitants of the neighbourhood. Their main prey was the LBGT community.

“Streetcornerwork” is a Dutch organization that works with at-risk youth, also in the Diamond neighbourhood. One morning an agitated young man walked into the Streetcornerwork office of a friend of mine. 
He told him the following story.

He was gay, had never had any problems with the youths and was upset with the negative reports about the neighbourhood in the media. He thought it was all very Islamophobic. 
So he decided to do something about it.
He went on local television and told his story: he was gay, enjoyed living in the neighbourhood and had never had any problems with the youths. 

He received a lot of positive and supportive feedback after his television appearance. 

A few days later when walking to the shops he passed a group of ethnic Moroccan youths who started to hurl insults at him. 
After that, every time the youths saw him, they would insult and threaten him.
Things came to a head when he went to buy chips at the local snackbar. There was a larger group there and they started jostling him. 

He was scared and ran away. 

He could not understand what was going on. My friend explained it to him.
For him and people with his norms and values, harassing gays and forcing them out of the neighbourhood was a bad thing. 
He thought he was defending the youths when he spoke on the local television.

However, for the youths, harassing gays and forcing them out was a good thing. They were proud of what they were doing. According to them, gays were polluting their neighbourhood. 
They found his appearance on television insulting and a provocation. He had insulted their honour and they would not stop until they had forced him to leave the neighbourhood.

My friend offered to ask the housing corporation to find him a flat in another neighbourhood. He accepted the offer.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

The reaffirmation of IDF ethics

An IDF sergeant has been found guilty of shooting dead an incapacitated Palestinian assailant “without reason”. 
Certain elements of this case resonate with me because of a past experience. They may be very different but both this case and my experience are in essence about the reaffirmation of IDF ethics. 

One part of the Zionist dream has been fulfilled. Jews have become a “normal” people in their own state. Unfortunately, normal also means that Israel has its fair share of (potential) criminals and murderers. The prisons are full.
The bad people are also called up. They become soldiers as well.

I met a sadist in the IDF.
It is 1966 and I am serving in a special paratrooper base. It is tough.
It has been called suicide base. There was an incident where a soldier ground up razor blades and ate them. I am not sure if this story is true or just a legend.
I did know someone who never used to clean his mess tin because he said he wanted to get jaundice.

The sadist was our platoon sergeant (there were three squads). His name was Velvella. He was a short, stocky man of Moroccan ethnicity who also used to give us unarmed combat training.
During the day he had little to do.  He used to wait until the night when we were allowed to go to bed. Then he would keep us up half the night by making us clean things and extra inspections.

He knew who the weakest were and he used to give them humiliating punishments.
One of his favourites was “walking like a whore”. Then the soldier would have to squat, hold his rifle above his head and walk about. After a bit this would become very tiring. If the soldier stopped or fell over he would kick him. He would punch soldiers if they were not quick enough.

I remember one incident. It had been raining and the whole area was muddy. He ordered one of his favourite victims to crawl through the mud. He thought he was not crawling fast enough, so he started kicking him. The soldier suddenly began to scream and the mud started turning red. He had to be taken to hospital.

We did not get on. He did not try those punishments on me but said he was filing complaints against me for insubordination. As there were so many complaints, he said, my prison sentence would be very long and I would be sent to a special prison.

Velvella was aggressive towards everybody, even his own family. I had a friend who worked in the office. He said he overheard Velvella phoning his wife.
He told her he would not be coming home until late, because he would be fucking the female officers.

One time we were sent up north in trucks with full gear. It was for an infiltration raid in Lebanon. A mine had exploded on a football pitch near the border.
At the last moment the raid was called off and instead we lay in diamond form ambushes all night.
I heard that Velvella was really angry that he did not get the chance to kill anybody. On the way back he saw a pack of wild dogs. He chased after them in his jeep and shot them. 

The net result of Velvella’s influence on my platoon was that we moved about like sleep-deprived zombies and we had an astronomical percentage of AWOL (Absent Without Leave).
I used to talk about this with a corporal from another platoon. How we met is another story. He was dati, religious. His surname was Goren and he was a relative of the Chief –Rabbi at the time.

Our base received a new commanding officer. He did not understand how our platoon could have such a high AWOL. He started asking questions.
Goren told him what was going on. He was the whistle-blower. He told him to speak to me.

I was informed that the commanding officer wanted to see me. I did not have to go to his office he would come to me.
Everybody knew why he was coming and people started pressuring me to keep my mouth shut. There were no threats. It was more stuff like, we get the best food and we can solve the problem without outsiders.

The commanding officer turned up and took me to one side. He asked questions about the situation and I told him what I had witnessed.
Then he said to me, “why didn’t you shoot him?”.
I had not expected that question and did not have a real answer.
He continued by saying that we were the first generation after the Holocaust and the IDF was not the German army. We had a high moral code and that is what made us different from the Germans and Arabs.
He said that if I ever witnessed an IDF soldier being punched or kicked I should shoot whoever was doing it. “Tell them afterwards that I gave you permission”.

After listening to him I had two dominant emotions.
The first was shame that I had done nothing to stop what was going on.
My second emotion was pride. The pride of belonging to the IDF, an army with such high ethics.

Fifty years later an IDF sergeant has been found guilty of manslaughter by a military court for shooting dead an incapacitated Palestinian assailant “without reason”.
I am not comparing sergeant Azaria to Velvella. I am comparing the IDF reaction in two cases with a gap of fifty years.
Not right-wing or left-wing, just the reaffirmation of the same IDF ethics. A resounding answer to those who accuse the IDF of heinous crimes.
According to a poll, 67% of Israelis want sergeant Azaria to be pardoned. The judges who convicted him have been threatened and now have to be protected.
The country, not the IDF, has changed. And I do not think for the better.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Lapses of memory

I forget things.
Either because my subconscious wants me to forget or because of advanced age.

My older sister was bitten by a dog when I was about five years old. I was there, but I cannot remember anything about the event.
That is an example of my subconscious removing a traumatic memory.
The list of things I forget because of old age is getting longer and longer. That is why I am writing down what I can still remember.
Then there are situations that I can only partially remember because of both subconscious and old age memory lapses.
This story is about one of those situations. The story also gives some extra information about life on a kibbutz.

The year is 1966. I was doing my time in the paratroopers. Every six weeks I had leave.
We received so little leave because there always had to be a minimum of paratrooper battalions on alert during the Shabbat.

My base was up north and my home, a kibbutz, was in the south.
I had no money, so I hitchhiked. This was not difficult but it took a lot of time. I usually arrived at my kibbutz late afternoon on a Friday and left late afternoon on Saturday.

I had no room. It was a waste giving me a room if I only turned up for one night every six weeks. I used to kip in an empty room.
If I could not find one, I put up a stretcher bed at a friend’s place.
There was nothing to do on a kibbutz unless there was a festival. There was no television or anything like that. All I mostly did was lounge about.

On one of my leaves I met a young Belgian Jewish girl, Ariella.
I cannot exactly remember why she was there. It may have been a trial period for her to see if she wanted to stay. She may have been a member of a younger youth group that was coming sometime in the future and she was now just visiting.

I ended up at her hut.
She had to start work early in the morning. When someone came to wake her, I hid behind a bookcase.
I got up around lunchtime, took a shower and started walking down to the communal dining room. I was going to have lunch with my best friend, Zvi, who would then be finishing work.

The first people I saw on my walk were two women of my age. One was a schoolteacher for the children and the other was a member of my group. They were close friends.
They smiled at me, said hello and started giggling. That did not bother me as they were the giggling types.

I passed other people who greeted me with broad smiles. This kind of happy reception was a bit unusual.
Then I saw Noach and Peel from a distance. Noach was one of the founding Romanians of the kibbutz. Peel, which is Hebrew for elephant, was his Israeli sidekick. They worked in the garage.
On a kibbutz the garage is the man cave. It is where the men go to gossip.

I had got to know them well when I was serving in a nearby border post, Kerem Shalom. As there was not much to do on the post I could sometimes come and work on my kibbutz. My visits were too irregular for the sheep, so I started work in the garage.
I did not have to do much. They had a big armchair where I used to take a nap. All they wanted from me was information.
My border post was mixed, men and women. They wanted to be kept up to date on all the lurid details of what was happening there.

When they waved to me on my walk to the communal dining room, I waved back.
Then they gave me the thumbs up sign. Now I knew something was going on.
For the rest of the walk I kept my head down and stared at the ground.

At the back of the building with the dining room there was a soda tap. I went there first to drink some soda.
I felt a thump on my back. It was Zvi.
He congratulated me on my new relationship. It was all over the kibbutz. Ariella was wallowing in the attention she was getting.
Like I said, nothing much happens on a kibbutz and this sort of thing was big news.

I explained to him that it was only a one night stand and I had no intention of starting a relationship with the girl.
And that is where my memory fails me. I think I spoke to her about it, but I cannot remember what I said.
Anyway, I left that afternoon to go back to my base.

When I came home on my next leave she was not there. I never saw her again.
I presume she got over me. Everybody else did.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Jews are good for something

In 1948, the Israelis and Jordanians fought for Jerusalem.
The Israelis secured West Jerusalem. The Jordanians won East Jerusalem with the old city and its religious sites.

The old city has a Jewish Quarter where Jews had lived since Ottoman times. It is also home to the holy sites of Judaism, including the western wall of the destroyed Jewish temple. 
The Jordanian authorities did not allow any Jew to stay or pray in the old city. They did not bother with the upkeep of the Jewish holy sites. 

In 1967, Israel captured the old city from the Jordanians. Jews returned to the Jewish Quarter and Jews from around the world came to pray at the western wall.
There was an agreement reached with the Jordanians that gave sovereignty of the Muslim holy places to Jordan.

In December 2016, the United Nations Security Council adopted a "no Jews in Jerusalem" resolution.
The resolution decrees that any Jew living in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem is a flagrant violation of international law and that all the sites that Jews consider to be holy belong to a new state called Palestine.

The Security Council vote was a logical follow-up of resolutions adopted by UNESCO two months earlier. 
In October, 2016 UNESCO adopted Palestinian formulated resolutions that deleted any mention of Jewish ties to Jerusalem.

The Palestinians rejoiced. The "world" agreed with them. Jerusalem must be Jew-free. There is only one question left.
How should they rename the Jewish Quarter?

My first thought was, the "May Quarter".
After all we now know that Theresa May helped formulate the Arab "Jews out of Jerusalem" resolution. And she did pressure other members of the Security Council to support it.

Was she trying to atone for the Balfour Declaration?
It was a really professional act of perfidy. Praising Israel and Jews with a broad smile and then kicking them out of their holiest religious sites.

She does have a lot going for her. Still, I do not think she will get the honour.
The Palestinians have become more and more religious. According to Pew, some 89% support Sharia punishments. I do not think they will rename it after a woman. 

That only leaves Barack Obama.
The Obama Quarter. It has a nice ring to it. If they were to decree that all the toilets there must be gender-neutral, he might agree to take part in the renaming ceremony.

The Palestinians can still use the old name for tourist purposes. Jerusalem tours of where the Jews used to live might be profitable.
European countries do that and it is quite a thriving business.
So you see, Jews are good for something.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

No need for antisemites

Nina Siegal grew up in New York. She has been living in Amsterdam since 2006, where she works as an author and a frequent contributor to the New York Times.
She usually writes about art.
In an article for the Jewish Book Council in 2014 she reflected on being Jewish in Amsterdam. For her, that is reflections on dead Jews.
Not a word about the situation of live Jews. Of the growing antisemitism, mainly from Muslims.
On July 29, 2016 she wrote a glowing article for the New York Times about a new political party in the Netherlands, called DENK.
She referred to it as a party, "led by a multicultural group of candidates seeking to combat xenophobia and racism in the Netherlands."
In reality, DENK is led by two Erdogan-supporters.
On a popular Muslim site the party's leader was proudly referred to as, "the Dutch Erdogan".
As to be expected, they support the Muslim Brotherhood and Grey Wolves. They also deny the Armenian genocide and call all Kurdish organizations terrorists.
Ms. Siegal missed that.
She missed other things that are important for live Jews.
DENK hates Israel intensely. That is one of the attractions for its potential electorate.
It supports the "resistance", Hamas.
In its charter, Hamas calls for the murder of all the Jews in the world. It maintains that Jews are responsible for all evil since the French Revolution and killing Jews is the only way to rid the world of evil.
To summarize the above:
Ms. Siegal is in Amsterdam reflecting and lamenting the Holocaust of 6 million Jews.
Ms. Siegal writes a glowing article about a political party that supports Hamas, who calls for a Holocaust of 14 million Jews.
With Jews like Nina Siegal, who needs antisemites.

This article was also posted to my blog on the Jerusalem Post.
Ms. Siegal complained that I had called her an antisemite. Which is incorrect.
The Jerusalem Post decided that a New York Times columnist is a non-public figure who could not be "personally attacked".
They removed my article.
They of course can do this. It is their newspaper.

I interpret their decision as saying columnists for major newspapers cannot be held accountable for what they choose to write. Even if it is a glowing article about an antisemitic organization that supports terrorists who call for the genocide of Jews.

DENK has been in the news.
To start with, the party split. Then there were the candidates they selected for the coming elections. All are virulent Israel-haters.

There are some variations in their candidates. Two examples.
One candidate is an ethnic Moroccan who started crowdfunding for another ethnic Moroccan who was convicted of kicking a Dutch linesman to death after a soccer match.
Another maintains that ISIS was created by the "cowardly dogs" Israel (and America). Furthermore that the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghadi, is a Zionist spy.

All that the readers of the New York Times know is that this wonderful new political party is "led by a multicultural group of candidates seeking to combat xenophobia and racism in the Netherlands."
They know this, courtesy of Nina Siegal.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Incompetence is Gender-Neutral

In 2009 Margot Wallström wrote an article for the Huffington Post with the title, "Women We Need: Towards a More Female-centred Foreign Policy." 

In her article she argued that (important) women (like her) should play a bigger role in conflict management, policy-making and peace-making processes. 

The major reasons for this upgrading of the "female perspective and experience" were that women are the most vulnerable group and "eighty percent of the world's refugees are women and children".
As a result, women (unlike men) realize that security is a "wider concept, including environmental and poverty-related challenges to the individual's integrity". 

Now fast-forward to 2015 and the surge of refugees entering Europe. Angela Merkel and Margot Wallström have taken over foreign policy in Europe. Their "female perspective and experience" reigns supreme.

What is the result? To start with, women and children are no longer 80% of the refugees. According to UN data, 69% are men, 18% are children and 13% are women. 
The percentage for children is relatively high because in 2015 there has been a surge in the number of "unaccompanied minors". 
In practice these are often young men without papers who say they are minors because they know it is harder to deport minors.

What else have Ms Merkel and Ms Wallström accomplished? Deep divisions between and within EU countries. Possible destruction of Schengen. The EU is on the verge of collapse.

A lot of this new policy will have to be reversed. According to EU vice-president Frans Timmermans, some 60% of the migrants will not be recognized as refugees.

Sweden has now stated that it expects to deport 80,000. The expulsions will "have to be done using specially chartered aircraft, given the large numbers, staggered over several years." 

What is Germany going to do? How is it going to deport 600,000 people (the 60% of Timmermans) and how long will that take? 

This foreign policy based on "female perspective and experience" is a complete and utter failure. Ms Merkel and Ms Wallström have proved that women can be just as incompetent as men.

Incompetence is gender-neutral. 

Friday, 9 December 2016

Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done

Two things bother me about the Wilders-trial.
They have nothing to do with whether he is innocent or guilty according to law. That is not my area of expertise.
I have problems with the way the trial was conducted. This transcends the discussion about “guilt” or “innocence”.

For me one of the most important principles of the rule of law is that justice must also be seen to be done.
This means that the mere appearance of bias during a trial must be avoided. Otherwise the impartiality of the judicial process will become contentious, which in turn diminishes the legitimacy of the rule of law.

That is my first problem. 
There was the appearance of bias during the trial and the defense will certainly use this in the appeals process as an argument for overturning the verdict.
The appearance of bias was in the person of one of the three judges, Elianne van Rens.
In a television programme this judge had publicly criticized Wilders’ ideas and the earlier trial that had acquitted him.

During the trial the defense called a professor of jurisprudence at Leiden University as a witness. He explained why he thought that Wilders was innocent of a crime.
Ms. van Rens interrupted him constantly with remarks (sneers?) like “that is just your interpretation”. She did not interrupt any witnesses for the prosecution.
Unnecessary comments, because it was obvious that it was his interpretation as a professor of jurisprudence.

The defense requested the substitution of the judge. This was refused.

My second problem is with the conclusion of the trial.
After the refusal to substitute one of the judges, Wilders began referring to the trial in the terminology of a kangaroo court. At the end of the trial, the judges wrote that Wilders’ terminology was “unworthy” of a politician.
The judges were there to interpret the law not to pass moral judgments on the “worthiness” of politicians.

This reinforces my amazement at the general arrogance of the judges.
As if they did not care about the sensitivity of trying an elected politician for his political statements.
As if they had never heard of the expression: “Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.”