Sunday, 3 February 2013

Settlements Out?

Israel may be right in accusing the UN Human Rights Council of being “systematically one-sided and biased”. That, however, does not mean that the findings in the latest report of the Council, according to which Israel is in violation of the Geneva Convention, are incorrect.

The UNHRC’s panel of judges speaks of Israel’s “gross violations of human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law.” Their report states that Israel “must cease all settlement activities without preconditions” and start withdrawing all settlers from the occupied territories.

Curiously, the UNHRC has not called for an international boycott of the Settlements. It should have. 

Syphilis Sells Books

In time for Benjamin Britten’s 2013 centenary, Penguin is publishing a new biography. The press is full of the “exciting” findings that Britten’s heart failure and death were the result of Syphilis, of which he was unaware and which he probably was given by his partner Peter Pears.

Twenty years ago, another biography of Britten, which went to great lengths to discuss Britten’s homosexuality and even possible abuse in his childhood, was published. At the time, I asked a friend of Britten’s who was also a close friend of my parents, what he thought of the newly published biography. This friend did not like it and thought that this delving into Britten’s private life was wrong. I disagreed.

I thought and still think that Britten’s sexuality and attitude to homosexuality played an important role in his work and that the information was therefore relevant. This cannot be said about Britten’s sexually transmitted disease. We do not need this very private information in order to understand his music.

Could it be that syphilis sells more books than musical analysis of the composer’s Church Parables?

From Russia with Love

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has announced that the Syrian government is in control of its chemical weapons, adding that, “the situation doesn’t give any grounds for serious worries.”

Most people do not really care about Syria or its neighbours or about if and how exactly they get killed. Most of those who do care probably do not believe a word of what a Russian foreign minister says.

So why bother?