Wednesday, 11 November 2015

I made my mother proud

My parents were shocked when I decided to emigrate to Israel in 1964. Nobody in our London community did that. It was hot and dangerous there. Besides, all those Israelis were communists as well.
To cap it all I was going to do manual work on something called a kibbutz . After they had scrimped and saved to send me to a boarding school. After I had passed my A levels and could go to a good university and have a fine career.
Well, those were the kind of things they said. Anyway, I went.
Later I did feel a bit sorry for my mother. She could not brag like the other women when they were playing klaberjass together. My son is milking sheep in the desert, would not have given her a lot of bragging points.

When I was in the Israeli army my father became very ill. My mother went to the Israeli embassy and asked them if they could find me and tell me to come and visit. The embassy contacted the military.
The first I heard about it was when some attractive female officer who had something to do with soldier welfare spoke to me. I was on a special paratrooper course at the time. The only way you could get off it was in a coffin. Which is not really that funny, because the popular name for my base was suicide base.
Everybody was nice about it. No, I could not leave the course, but afterwards they would do all they could to help. Compassionate leave would then be no problem.

My father’s health improved and then the war started. So I forgot about going to London.
The Six Day War was a watershed moment for British Jews. The community suddenly discovered Israel and they were proud.

The Jewish community was always organizing special dinners and dances. They were usually events where the rich and famous could flaunt the fact that they were rich and famous. There was a spate of dinners to celebrate the Israeli victory.
Some bright mind hit on the idea to organize a dinner with the British parents of soldiers serving in the Israeli army (IDF) as guests of honour.

They went to the Israeli embassy to get a list of names. It could not have been very long. I had never heard of another British Jew in the army. The embassy had my name because my mother had been round to see them about my compassionate leave.
My parents received an invitation to be among the guests of honour at some dinner with important people. My mother later wrote me that they had been treated like royalty. The food was not too bad either.

She said it was the proudest moment of her life.

Who cares?

A story from my past.
They were two young ladies. One was white, robust and healthy-looking. The other was small and black, a Hindu from the former Dutch colony, Suriname. They were lesbians who lived together in a flat above the flower shop in the van Woustraat, that is on the edge of the Pijp neighbourhood in Amsterdam. 
They were a happy couple. 

They did not actually live in an ethnic Moroccan neighbourhood but ethnic Moroccan youths used to hang around their street. They had a run in with a group of these youths who started to bully them. 
The youths liked to harass lesbians and the Hindu lady being black was a bonus.

The ladies went to the police to file a complaint about the harassment. Surely one should not accept such things in a democracy?
The friendly police officer explained to them that this sort of thing was difficult to prove, it did not have much priority and the police certainly did not want an unnecessary confrontation with the youths. He suggested they move.
Of course they refused. The cheek of the man. One does not give in to intimidation.


The harassment got worse. The group started hanging around near to their flat every evening. The youths were waiting for them to step outside. 
The police did nothing. 
The young ladies did not leave their flat in the evening any more.

The Hindu lady had the most problems. In the beginning when she told her friends about the predicament, they were all ears. It was exciting. 
However, she did not stop talking about it and became a bore. Her friends began to avoid her.
She was obsessed with her helplessness and had trouble sleeping. She had trouble concentrating as well and lost her temper quickly. That is why she was fired from her job.


I had just started work in the borough. There was a public meeting about harassment by ethnic Moroccan youth. I sat on the elevated platform with the important people. The young ladies were in the audience.

The Hindu lady stood up to tell her story, but she kept breaking down and crying.
An alderman leaned over and whispered to me. He said I should not take the complaints about harassment too seriously. Most of those who complained were, like that Hindu lady, not mentally stable.
The ladies eventually moved.

It's the contex, stupid

Analysis is always dependent on context. You change the context, you get a different analysis. The recent Kristallnacht “commemorations”  in Amsterdam are a good example.
The relevant facts.

On Sunday there was the speech of Haneen Zoabi. She had been invited by a so-called anti-racist "platform" that has broad support in Dutch society. The specific persecution of Jews was secondary in her speech.
Her primary goal was the delegitimization of Israel. For her, Israel and Israelis were barbaric, the modern equivalent of the Nazis. Her speech was a tirade of hate, filled with lies and half-truths.

On Monday, Ahmed Aboutaleb, the mayor of Rotterdam, held a dignified speech at the official Kristallnacht commemoration. The persecution of Jews was central in his speech. He also referred to the atrocities of IS as modern day forms of barbarism.

The first context is the battle of the commemorations.
This places the two speeches at opposite ends of the spectrum. For many Dutch Jews, Aboutaleb’s speech was a breath of fresh air. He gave them their commemoration back.

The second context is the delegitimization and demonization of Israel and Israelis.
Some statistics. According to an ADL global poll, 5% of the Dutch population are overtly anti-Semitic. According to research of the University of Bielefeld, 39% of the Dutch population believe that Israel is trying to exterminate the Palestinians. This research took place before the last Gaza war.

All available data supports the contention that many in the Netherlands agree with Zoabi’s tirade against Israel. Many more than the number of overt anti-Semites.
Therefore, for these people the two speeches were not the opposite of each other, they were complementary. They also believe that the Holocaust was barbaric. For them, Israel and IS are the two prime examples of modern day barbarism.
Recent statements from Aboutaleb reinforce this conclusion. His argument against anti-Semitism in the Netherlands is: you cannot blame Dutch Jews for what Israel does, just like you cannot blame Dutch Muslims for what IS does.

Zoabi's speech was controversial. Both Israel-lovers and Israel-haters applauded Aboutaleb's speech.
For the Dutch mainstream the two speeches were complementary and as such reinforced the rising delegitimization and demonization of Israel in the Netherlands.