Saturday, February 15, 2003

Nelson looked outside his window in Paris, and took some pictures:

Both Steve DenBeste in his latest article, and Scott Forbes in his (to which Steve links at the bottom of his) call on a diplomatic war on the Old Europe. They have different weapons in mind, though. Steve calls for a diplomatic nuke. Scott wants to kill them with kindness. Well, no, not really. What Scott is saying is that we should engage Europe, rather than alienate them, because we will need them in the post-war Iraq. His propaganda war is the one where everyone wins. Now, this is not some pacifist nonsense along the lines of "why cannot we just all get along". I actually think there is a lot to be said for saving the world, rather than nuking it, diplomatically or otherwise.

I love Europe. I don't want to see Paris and Berlin go down the social/economic/diplomatic drain, even if it is entirely of their own making. I also happen to believe that it would be nice to have a strong democratic (which it is neither) Europe, that would play a positive balancing and complementary role to the US, culturally and otherwise. Think of it as of a good marriage. It's too late for this one, though. The question now is, will we separate and remain "friends", which is to say: will we speak in one voice to the kids, and punish them together when they misbehave, or will we try to destroy each other. It looks like what Europe has been doing is to promise the kid a new car for disobeying his parents over and over again.

Now, sure, most of the times both partners are to blame for a failing marriage. President Bush 1, whose diplomatic skills Scott rightfully admires, did not back them with enough consistent and determined action, neither military nor diplomatic, with regard to Iraq, and the Arab world in general. And president Clinton hardly backed his diplomacy with any military action at all, at least with regard to the Arabs in general, and Iraq and OBL in particular. All he did was to suck up to everyone and anyone. North Korea comes to mind. It is probably true that the Bush 2 administration was from the beginning so bent on "not being Clinton", that it has overdone it, by not toning down some of it's early rhetoric, and maybe even neglecting diplomacy. I am sure there are lessons to be learned from the last decade. But I doubt they can be applied right now: it is too late to buy off Paris and Berlin, even assuming it may have been a good idea to do so earlier. It looks like we will have to nuke them diplomatically now, so that we don't have to nuke or be nuked physically later.
OK, problem solved: it turns out Belgium is a hoax! Thanks, Leo.

Friday, February 14, 2003

Do you know what IPT means? Imshin can help. I love this woman. She better watch out after I move back to Israel: I'll be stalking her.
IBA radio cites a London based Islamic news agency al-Ansar as reporting that they have purchased a video, on which Osama Bin-Laden's is seen reading his will, and also calling on Muslims to attack the US and the Jews. The agency is reported as saying that they have negotiated for a week with an anonymous seller on the internet. On the tape OBL allegedly expresses his will to die as a martyr, not in a coffin, but in the belly of an eagle. The news agency's director Imran Han explained that the eagle symbolizes the US, which means that OBL wishes to die in a terror attack against it. He says that he was at first reluctant to buy the tape, because he thought that it is the same tape that has been broadcast on al-Jazeera about a week ago, but after an investigation he concluded that this is a new and authentic tape.
I am under the impression that many in the blogosphere and the larger media are missing an important point, so I'd like to make sure it is clarified. The latest decision of the Belgian court is not only about Sharon. In fact, Sharon is off the hook now, since he enjoys diplomatic immunity. The truly problematic part of that decision is about Amos Yaron, who commanded the IDF forces in Beirut at the time of the Sabra and Chattila massacre, and who is now facing the possibility of being prosecuted. He does not enjoy diplomatic immunity, as do not any IDF soldiers who may become targets of similar prosecutions in the future. And I have no doubt that the Belgians would not miss an opportunity to apply this to American soldiers as well, should it arise.
Nelson writes:


A friend of mine who happens to be an excellent poet and an excellent person sent me a text against the war written by Senator Robert Byrd of Virginia, and asked me to move it further if I agreed with it. After following closely all the posturing of so many of my most mediocre colleagues in the Anglo-Saxon world and elsewhere, I have to confess that his mail, by an admirable poet, left me pretty saddened. I deplore the standpoint taken by almost all poets I admire, but I will continue to admire their work as far as it continues to deserve literary, poetic and esthetic admiration. I'm under no illusion, however, that the professional differentiation I will go on making between the other poets' works and their politics will be neither reciprocated nor extended to poets like me who, because they see the political landscape of the world in other terms, are, I'm in no doubt about it, in the absolute minority in the literary community. On the other hand, it is also true that I couldn't care less about it. Here is the answer I sent him today.

All best
Nelson Ascher

" Having lived in a military dictatorship myself and knowing through my parents about their experience with much worse dictatorships (fascist and communist Hungary, Nazi Germany), having seen innocent people murdered by religious fanatics in NY, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa, Indonesia etc., having visited synagogues burned down recently in Europe, and after having seen below my own Parisian window people marching with openly anti-Semitic slogans, I think you'll understand me if I'll ask you a small favor. It is the following: please direct me to sites where I can find poets fighting against tyranny, dictatorship, Muslim fundamentalism, fascistic Arab nationalism, against people who praise and/or promote the intentional murder of civilians because, for instance, they are Americans, Australians, Brits, Jews. I'd like to know if there is any site with poets fighting for justice for the Kurds and the punishment of those guilty for their massacre. I'd also like to know if there's any site where poets write and fight against the bizarre and sadistic North Korean dictatorship. Once I had dinner with script writer Jean Claude Carriere and a friend of his, an exiled Iranian writer with whom he translated medieval Persian poetry into French. They both explained to me that the only way to imagine the Iranian parliament would be to think of an European one where there'd be places only for bishops and cardinals. Surely, thus, in the US there must also be sites with poets fighting against such a regime. Am I wrong? I'd also like to know if there's any site with poets writing about the crimes of the Belgians, older ones like Congo, more recent ones, like the murder of Patrice Lumumba, and pretty new ones, like their guilt in the genocide in Rwanda. By the way, any chance of finding a web site with poets protesting against Russian crimes in Chechnya, Chinese ones in Tibet, French ones all over Africa, the French backing of military dictatorship in Algeria, the Rwandan genocide, and their military intervention in the Ivory Coast? A country with so many excellent poets like the US surely has poets worrying about all these things, doesn't it? Humbly, I myself, in Brazil, had time to write in my newspaper against so many tyrants, from Pinochet to Castro, I had also time to write about all the massacres perpetrated in the Arab world besides Sabra and Chattila. So, I believe, there must be lots of poets writing and protesting against all of this. I cannot imagine that thousands of poets are obsessed only with writing about Bush or trying to save one more tyrant's skin. Coming to think of it, I can remember many great poets who wrote in praise of Stalin, Lenin, Hitler, Franco, Mussolini, Mao, for god's sake, even Enver Hodja. But I find it not only hard to remember any who wrote against any of the above without in the same breath praising some of the others, but I don't remember any great poet who wrote consistently good odes in praise of good old bourgeois democracy. But maybe I'll find the site for which they've been writing. As a Trotskyite since my teens I cannot but fight fascism, be it black, red or green. Oh yes, I do know about things that are worse than war: my two grandfathers and my paternal grandmother, I'm sure, would have loved the chance to die fighting in a war instead of being killed in the way they were."

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Some deservedly strong reactions in Israel to the Belgium court ruling. BTW, I am afraid that the AP reading of this is a bit too optimistic. IBA radio says that the owner of the Princess hotel in Eilat has informed the Belgian ambassador in Israel that Belgian citizens are not welcome in his hotel, as long as that court decision remains in force. I like the spirit of it, although I seriously doubt that many are coming as it is. Imshin has some thoughts of her own on Belgium. Fuck them, too.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Carnival of the Vanities no. 21 is up! Go check it out.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Another great post from Imshin, which includes an amazing story on how aan Iraqi Jewish man saved Saddam's life before he was even born. And, yes, Arabic should be compulsory.
It seems to have been just pouring out of me today, doesn’t it? Well, you can all blame Nelson for this. Just as I was going about my business cleaning and cooking, he had to send me this e-mail, and get me thinking about all this stuff that absolutely does not put dinner on the table. Good thing I don’t have a real job…And this is much more fun, too! Nelson, more please!

Anyway, where was I? Oh, and then there is this whole issue of Israel and Europe. Traditionally, Israel viewed itself as part of Europe, at least culturally. Specifically the Old Western Europe. See, Rumsfeld’s Old Europe used to be the New Europe, because before 1917 there was just “Europe”. So even though Israel was founded mostly by Eastern European Jews, and even though it has flirted with communism quite a bit, after Stalin’s death we had to choose sides, and we chose the safe side. And then came the 60ies, and Israeli intellectual and artistic “elite” went to Paris and London, and everyone listened to the Beatles and the Stones, or to Jacques Brel and Charles Aznavour, if they were older. And Europe is much closer and less expensive to fly to. And the food! And the clothes! You get the picture.

I still have a lot of this left in me. I am still annoyed by many things in America, mostly little things, like…well, like food and clothes. And the malls. What can I say: it’s shallow, I know. I never said I was perfect. I know many Israelis who feel the way I do, both on this shallow level, and on the deeper one, the one that has to do with basic trust. But I am also sure that the feelings towards Europe are becoming more and more mixed, to say the least. It’s not that we are becoming disillusioned. We never had many illusions. Those of us who were born in Europe, are used to live with the idea that everyone hates the Jew. Those who were born in Israel feel that everyone hates Israel. This is something we take for granted. It’s like mosquitoes: some are deadly, but most are just annoying. So you put a repellent on, or a screen in your window, and go on with your life.
While I was writing the previous post, I remembered this post Steve has written a while ago. It is very worth reading, as I think it is quite representative of the way Israel is viewed by non-Jewish Americans. Steve lists only a few reasons for the traditional support the US has given Israel, and that is because there are many. But he makes one thing clear: he does not trust Israel as much as he trusts the Australians and the British. He explains the reasons for this, but I’d like to stress the most important reason: we all prefer to trust people who are more like us. So it is not a coincidence that it is the Anglo-Saxon countries that Steve thinks are the most trusted friends and allies of the US.

I have no clear idea how most American Jews view this issue, since I was not born and raised here, although I am sure that that view is quite complex. So I am only going to speak from an Israeli perspective. I think that Israelis are about as suspicious of America’s motives, as Americans (non-Jews) are suspicious of Israel’s motives, and probably for the same reasons. It is unpleasant for me to admit, but that is the reality the way I see it. Besides, it is not a terrible thing to live with, and I have a strong feeling that it is bound to change significantly in a not so distant future.

Paradoxically, Israel and the US have more in common than many in both nations realize. For one thing, it is likely that Israel and the US are the two countries in the Western (i.e. “developed) world with the most religious populations. Unlike in the US, in Israel the separation of religion from the state is far from complete, but that is a different issue. But I have to tell that I was amazed by how religious many Americans were when I first came here 12 years ago. This is not something that is reflected in the “American culture” the way it is exported abroad. Even the Cosby family was never shown going to church on a Sunday morning.

There is also the frontier mentality, to which Steve attributes part of what he perceives as the American Jacksonianism, and which has it’s origins in the respective histories of both countries. There are few other, more anecdotal similarities. I always remember 19-century novels, in which Europeans described Americans as “loud” and “rude”. Obviously, there were no Israelis yet at that time. OK, forget that last example.

In light of the recent crisis between the US and the Old Europe over Iraq, my friend Nelson asks himself the same question Jews everywhere for thousands of years have been asking themselves: Is All This Good Or Bad For Jews? In the most immediate future the answer is most obviously “yes”: a rift between the backers of the “Road Map” is good news. On the other hand, I can without much difficulty imagine a situation where the State Dept. may promise ze French and ze Germans support for ze Map, in exchange for more flexibility on Iraq. What do I know?

Unfortunately, we live in a cynical world. Moreover, cynicism aside, people and countries are looking out for their own interests, which is the way it should be. My husband was very impressed with the support Bush has showed for Israel, and said that he will be voting Republican from now on. I don’t know. I don’t remember that much support before 9/11. And I still remember Bush’s father, who I think is a good man, but who was looking out for his country’s interests at the time. And I also remember Clinton, who loved Israel so much, he nearly loved us to death. I am also likely to vote Republican in the foreseeable future, but that is mostly because there is no decent alternative at this time.

Col. Ilan Ramon was brought to rest today in Nahalal, near the airbase where he served. The ceremony was private, there were no representatives of the government or the media. Yehi zikhro baruch.

Monday, February 10, 2003

Ilan Ramon's family brought his remains to Israel today at 16:30 local time. A memorial service is commencing at this time.