Saturday, 3 September 2016

Noble Ancestry ?

Israel has an impressive, well-known, and highly respected record of scientific discoveries.  

At the Tel Aviv airport, the Israeli Ministry of Science, Technology and Space has covered a long wall with placards describing the inventions and their inventors. Curiously, they have decided to include the Jewish but not Israeli Albert Einstein, and… Maimonides who died in 1204 in Cairo, 744 years before the establishment of the State of Israel, in this tour-de-force.

Is this an equivalent of claiming noble ancestry to reinforce a new ruler’s legitimacy? 

Headphones to rescue

I don’t know whether El Al sells tickets on the basis of buy one ticket and take two children for free but it seemed like that to me, as I arrived at the Frankfurt airport last week. The noise level was unbelievable. Already at the gate.

A few days earlier, I bought a pair of rather expensive headphones. I am glad that I did. It may sound like a commercial, but it was really wonderful: headphones on and I became oblivious to whatever else was happening on the plane. It felt as if I had just taken a drug. I saw everything, including all those annoying kids, through a kind of screen, only half taking it in, whilst I was totally immersed in the music I was listening to.

As an additional bonus, the headphones did a great job of keeping the engine noise out.

On Boycott and Blackmail

A month ago Brussels Airlines announced that, further to requests by Palestinian passengers, it had stopped offering a sweet (Halva), as it was produced in the Occupied Territories.

I personally think that products manufactured by the occupying Israelis in the West Bank should indeed be boycotted. The Israeli government – not surprisingly – does not share this view of mine. Moreover, Israel is evidently stronger than the Palestinian lobby and the airline has now announced that it has changed its decision and that said Halva will be available again.

In the campaign to pressurise Brussels Airlines, Israel activated Diaspora Jews and soon, claims that the airline was “giving in to racism” and about anti-Semitism could be found on social media. Whatever one’s views about Israeli settlements and occupation, it is outrageous and dishonest to suggest that boycotting products made by occupier owned companies is giving in to racism or anti-Semitic.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Get Out and Schadenfreude

In recent conversations with Germans, I get the feeling that Brexit brings about what seems to be some Schadenfreude, this wonderful German term for which there is no English equivalent. According to the Oxford dictionary, Schadenfreude is the malicious enjoyment of another’s misfortune.  

Under no circumstances would it be right – I was told – for the British government or parliament to seek ways of staying in the EU. No, it does not matter that the referendum was only a consultative instrument, it does not matter that the majority of the pro voters was so slim, it does not matter that the majority of MPs seems to be against Brexit.  

Therefore the new prime minister of Britain who claimed to have been against Brexit should now do what she considers to be bad for her country.

Would those Germans, who believe that the British government must “respect the will of the people”, have said the same had the British referendum decided to wage war against Germany?  

Cameras at the Opera

Most performing arts venues do not permit video, audio or photo recording during performances. Having to hold back through the performance, very often, as soon as a performance ends, smartphones are up in the air recording the curtain calls. Why? It’s just a bloody curtain call. What do they do with these pictures?

In Salzburg, last week, after a wonderful performance of Jules Massenet’s Thaïs, hundreds of these smartphones were doing their thing. Just in front of me, there was a gay couple, each had their instrument and both were recording. Why? Will they be comparing shots in the bedroom?

I should clarify that it is probably not a gay thing: I remember sitting next to a Japanese couple on a plane, a few years ago. I had the window seat and as we were flying over the snow covered peaks of the Alps, first the husband and then the wife gave me their cameras and asked me to take pictures of the mountains. In answer to my question, why they needed the photos in both cameras, they explained that they each “have their own memory of the trip.” 

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Christine Lagarde and I

I am not sure what I think about Christine Lagarde, the Director General of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but she evidently like my ideas:

It took Lagarde four years, but she has now joined me and supports my suggestion that the Olympic Games should be moved to a permanent home in Greece.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

No wish to be castrated

Senator Joni Ernst, one of the US politicians who were mentioned as possible running mates by Donald Trump, did not get the job.

Could it be that Trump was worried that this female senator, who had boasted about her experience in castrating pigs, would be too close to him?

Metaphors change

We cannot say that we have not been warned: Some six months ago, Turkey’s president, explained that his craving for more power, has precedent and brought Hitler’s Germany as an example.

Now we have stage II: In the aftermath of last week’s putsch attempt, thousands, probably tens of thousands, have been arrested. Erdogan, who has promised to bring in the death penalty, explained that "they will pay a heavy price for this. This uprising is a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army." 

Erdogan spoke of the need to “clean the virus responsible for the coup.” The virus being the purported "terror group", led by Erdogan’s former associate, Fethullah Gülen.  

Going back to the role models, brings to mind the “night of the long knives”, in which Hitler had the head of the SA, Ernst Röhm, killed. Röhm had been a close friend and ally, who had become too powerful for the rest of Hitler’s team. As Hitler and his associates set to dismantle Röhm’s organisation, Hitler explained, “I gave the order to cauterise down to the raw flesh the ulcers of this poisoning of the wells in our domestic life.”   

Virus or ulcers poisoning the wells… Metaphors change.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

The Johnson Suicide

It has very quickly become apparent – not only to the remain camp – that the leaders of the leave campaign have irresponsibly misled and lied and thereby led the country in a downward spiral to a frightening unknown.

The unexpected outcome of the Brexit referendum has opened an interesting discussion about how to avoid following the wish of the majority (albeit a slim one) as it was expressed on 23 June. The referendum would not have taken place at all, had we had a responsible adult in Great Britain and more than anything else this is what we are lacking now: a charismatic politician to responsibly lead the country out of this mess. A Churchill or De Gaulle would have been right for the occasion.

Some have suggested calling a general election, but the parties need a trigger to clarify clearly what their positions on Europe are. And here’s my suggestion:

Going out with a bang would establish Boris Johnson forever as a truly tragic hero. Books, plays, even operas would be written about him, were he to commit suicide. 

He would need to leave a suicide note addressed to his followers, explaining that the whole Brexit idea was a terrible mistake, his miscalculated bravado, for which he apologises to the British people. He would add a suggestion that Parliament be dissolved and new elections be called, in which the competing parties would clarify whether they are IN or OUT.

The ball (?), Boris Johnson, is in your court.

Quds Tag Berlin

The Quds Day, on which anti-Israel demonstrations take place in many countries, was brought to life by Iran as anti-Israel propaganda. Often these demonstrations would include anti-Semitic slogans, and in Germany, an anti Quds Day lobby has managed to successfully emasculate the Quds demonstration.

So the organising committee no longer simply call for a demonstration against Israel but instead define the demo as “together against Zionism and Anti-Semitism”. 

The demonstrators are instructed not to chant any slogans that were not pre-approved by the committee (and checked by the police). The speaker had his own little erective moment in which he fully quoted the slogan about cowardly Jewish pigs that the participants were not to repeat.  Various other limitations, including Hizbollah flags that were not to be flown, were made on the group of ca. 300 demonstrators who saw nothing weird in carrying placards about children-killing-Israel, only two days after a Palestinian terrorist killed a 13- year-old girl sleeping in her bed. 

The icing on the Quds Day cake were three ultra-orthodox puppets from a small anti-Zionist sect, Neturei Karta, who were flown in from London to show their support. The sign they were holding said that according to the bible, Palestine should be under Palestinian sovereignty. I repeatedly asked them to tell me where exactly this can be found in the bible. They did not know and suggested I send an email to their HQ in London...