Thursday, 18 June 2015

They want Respect

The well-respected Israeli actor Oded Kotler got into trouble for a comment he made a few days ago at an emergency meeting of Israeli artists considering their options following the appointment of a former military censor and Likkud politician, Ms. Miri Regev, as Minister of Culture.

Regev had already explained that she was going to call the shots, as “we got 30 Knesset seats, …we don’t need to get confused about who the public is, and who [the public] chose.” The new minister called on Israeli artists to increase their outward expression of Israeli nationalism during performances.

Kotler, addressed Regev and said: “Imagine your world is quiet — without books, without music, without poems, a world where no one disturbs you and no one stops the nation from celebrating the 30 [Knesset] seats which are followed by a herd of straw and cud-chewing cattle.”

I am not quite sure how one should define the almost million Israelis who voted Netanyahu and his gang. However, this reminded me of a story my father told me about the man in 1920s Berlin, who was taken to court and made to pay a fine for having said “you stupid cow” (or rather dumme Gans) to a lady. Before leaving the court, the man addressed the judge and asked: “I understand that I may not call an honorable lady, a stupid cow. Could you please tell me if I may call a stupid cow, an honorable lady?”

The judge smiled and said that that was indeed permitted. Upon which, the defendant turned to his accuser and said “ Goodbye, honorable lady”. 

Break or Silence

The mayor of Cologne succumbed to Israeli pressure and cancelled a planned exhibition in his city of Breaking the Silence, an Israeli organisation that collects and publicises testimonies of former Israeli soldiers about human rights violations committed or observed during their army service.

If they can’t break them, the Israeli government, wishes to at least silence them:
 - We will not be complacent when an organization whose whole purpose is to tarnish IDF soldiers acts in the international arena in order to cause serious damage to Israel’s image. - Israel considers the more than a thousand Israelis who have given these testimonies to be traitors and or liars.

It now turns out that Cologne’s mayor has succumbed yet again, this time to criticism over his decision, and the exhibition will take a place at a later date. To be fair, the exhibition should not have been scheduled – as it was - to be part of the festivities marking 50 years diplomatic relations between Germany and Israel. The mayor of Cologne, however, was right to quickly find a solution for the exhibition to take place after all.

The work of Breaking the Silence is laudable and deserves to be supported.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

What is a Democracy?

 This is how Britain voted last week:

% of Voters
% of MPs
UK Independence
0   (1 MP)
Liberal Democrats
Scottish National
0  (1 MP)


A Jewish State ?

In recent years, Netanyahu has been demanding that Palestinians, Iran, other Arab countries – in fact, anyone he would rather not compromise with – recognise Israel as Jewish state.

This designation of Israel - considering the ever-lower sinking moral norms of Israeli society and the Israeli ruling class – may have disastrous consequences not only for Israel but also for the whole of the Jewish people, on whose behalf Netanyahu often purports to be speaking.

Question: Does current Israeli policy and politics turn you into an anti-Semite? It may not be politically correct, it may not be justified, but is that the result?

Wednesday, 15 April 2015


A day after I booked my flight with German Wings to Berlin, one of their pilots decided to kill all his passengers on his personal suicide trip. I decided that German Wings were unlikely to have more of the same and bravely kept my booking.

As I boarded the flight, I found the following on my seat and wondered:


Expenses on the first day:  Uber taxi to Heathrow - £37; a full month’s Berlin public transport travel card - £41.


The architect who built this house in Schöneberg wanted something soothing and pleasant to the eye:

However, Germans are truly anal about their garbage. It is all  Abfalltrennung, that is separation of garbage, and this is what the originally beautiful courtyard looks like now:

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

More Bach

It seems that some readers have misunderstood what I had written about Bach’s Johannes Passion. I did not go into the question whether Bach was an anti-Semite or not, nor into whether Bach had wanted to propagate anti-Semitic texts. All I pointed out was the effect that this most beautiful music combined with some of the texts of St. John Passion will most likely have had on listeners over the centuries.

Why doubt the manipulative power of beautiful music?

Israel Elections - What now?

A few weeks ago, Israel’s electorate have made it clear that they are not particularly troubled by the one issue that troubles the rest of the world (that is those that take an interest): their continued occupation and settlement of Israelis on Arab land and their control over Arab population. Security, cost of living and house prices were the election issues.

For some time and more so since the last elections, voices have be heard that Israel must be punished for this immoral stance. There are calls for boycott and sanctions.

It is not difficult to name many other countries whose human rights record is poorer than Israel’s. Indeed many of the countries that chair or run UN Human rights and similar organisations are nasty dictatorships themselves. Who are they to criticise Israel? Why should anyone listen to them and why should Israel be picked for punishment?

It should be borne in mind that many of these calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions are orchestrated by countries, bodies and individuals that object to the very existence of Israel, organisations that strive for the dismantling of the Jewish state. And then there is anti-Semitism: There are doubtlessly many whose criticism of Israel is a reflection of their anti-Semitism but Israel – again doubtlessly - gives good reason for serious criticism.

So let’s forget punishment. It is about saving. Proverbs taught us that he who spares the rod hates his son (Proverbs 13, 24) Israel is not a child and the world is not its parent, but naively, I hope that the world will save Israel from the moral downward spiral it has been on for too many years. The Occupation brutalises Israel, makes it more fundamentalist and more racist. It also increases the hatred of Jews in the Diaspora.

The USA could do it easily: it funds Israel, it arms Israel and it supports Israel diplomatically. A group of conservative Jews havs successfully built a lobby that has made the support of Israel as American as apple pie and no politician dares to criticise, let alone demand a change of policy in regard to Israel. We have lately seen, that Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu has virtually waged war on President Obama, as yet with impunity. That leaves Europe.

I am saddened by the awareness that without effective external pressure that translates into sanctions, Israel will not give up its hold over the Occupied Territories. It would be nice to do the right thing without being force to do so. This is a plea and undemocratic hope of a change that will make Israel democratic again.  

Sunday, 22 March 2015

St. John Passion

It is the time of year for St. John Passion and last night I heard a splendid rendering of Bach’s Johannes Passion in the Freiburg Münster. Bach in his great talent managed to vividly bring home the story told in the Gospel of St. John. Almost like an impressionist painter, with his choir, Bach brings out the atmosphere, the [Jewish] crowds and hysteria. The result is anti-Jewish agitation to the most beautiful music.

Sitting in the sombre gothic cathedral, I remembered my mother – who sang in the choir that performed the Passion in Israel in the late 60s and early 70s of last century – telling me that the words of the Johannes Passion made her feel more uncomfortable than any text she had previously sung. At the time, I did not really take much heed. I loved the music and that was enough. Having grown up in Israel, anti-Judaism was something I had never experienced. My other, who was born in Germany and had to flee with her family had first hand experience.

45 Year later, leaving the Freiburg Münster, I found myself thinking of the many generations of Christians leaving their solemn churches after hearing Bach’s Johannes Passion depicting the Jews driving the death of their Lord. How many of them, upon subsequently meeting a Jew in the streets of their town, then reacted with hatred, aggression and even violence, as a result of the animosity towards Jews that was planted in their hearts with the aid of the beautiful, so very beautiful music of Johan Sebastian Bach?

Use and abuse of the term Zionism

An article of mine on use and abuse of the term Zionist and Zionism, has just been published by the German Süddeutsche Zeitung.

A link is available on  request.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Israelis – Not so smart after all

Virtually all former heads of the Israeli secret services as well as hundreds of retired Israeli generals have for years made it clear that getting out of the Occupied Territories and reaching an agreement with the Palestinians is of vital strategic and existential importance to Israel.

But will the Israelis listen to them? No. Instead, they listen to and buy into the propaganda of the Israeli right wing politicians ranging from the messianic to the basic greedy land grabbers.

Israelis disregard their own security experts and instead listen to ideology driven doomsday scenarios, the latest of which is that a Palestinian State would be a launch pad for ISIS – the bogeyman en vogue. And they vote accordingly. There is hardly any political party running in the coming elections (17 March) that is truly interested in getting out of the West Bank and willing to say so.

The right-out stupidity of Israel’s population is the proof to anyone who has ever believed racial notions of Jewish superior wisdom, that there is no such thing.

How can so many people be fooled like that?