Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Josef Schusters wichtigste Aufgabe

On Sunday, the Central Council of Jews in Germany elected Josef Schuster as its new president.

Will he, like his predecessors, consider that acting as a sort of Israel spokesman comes with the job? Should it really be up to the Central Council of Jews to be a warning beacon against antisemitism? 

The German daily, Süddeutsche Zeitung, has published my welcome words, Josef Schusters wichtigste Aufgabe, as an op-ed in yesterday’s edition.

Here it is

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Don’t be Chickenshits

As part of its continuous, concerted and successful action-plan to hold onto the Occupied Territories, Israel is cold bloodedly taking advantage of today’s murderous attack by two Arabs from East Jerusalem, to slander the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas. 

Netanyahu: “the terrorists’ act was a direct result of incitement led by Hamas, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and irresponsibly ignored by the international community…”

Economy Minister Bennet: "Abbas, one of the biggest terrorists to have arisen from the Palestinian people, bears direct responsibility for the Jewish blood spilt … while we were busy with delusions about the [peace] process."

Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz "The hands that held the axes were those of the terrorists, but the voice is that of Abbas." And Foreign Minister Lieberman called on the international community to condemn Abbas' "anti-Semitic statements, which lead to terrible acts of slaughter like the one at the synagogue this morning."

Netanyahu and his senior ministers are lying. More than that, with their inciting defamatory statements, Netanyahu and his cabinet are igniting the fire or at least adding fuel to it. Here is what the head of  the shin bet, Israel’s internal security service, Yoram Cohen, said today: "Abbas is not interested in terror and is not inciting to terror. He's not even doing so behind closed doors." Moreover, Cohen laid the blame for the rising tensions in Jerusalem on visits by right-wing Israeli members of parliament to the Temple Mount and their attempts to introduce legislation, which would change the status quo on the holy site.

A few weeks ago The US secretary of state, John Kerry, has condemned as “disgraceful” a description of Netanyahu, as “chickenshit”, attributed to an unnamed US official. Netanyahu may now be a certified “non- chickenshit” but he should probably not risk asking for a similar certificate to prove that he is not a defaming, inciting liar. It is up to the US and the EU not to be chickenshits and to finally read Israel the riot act.  

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Cameron – King of Losers ?

Loser – according to one of the dictionaries is slang for: “a misfit, especially someone who has never or seldom been successful at a job, personal relationship, etc.” There is something unattractively condescending in the use of this term. Indeed, one of the dictionaries defines loser as “a person who one feels is below one's social stature.”

So here I go: David Cameron, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, is rapidly becoming the king of losers. Instead of approaching UKIP and the supporters of this “UK Independence Party” head on, Cameron tries to convince that group of losers that he and his Tory party will deliver even more effective anti-Europe, anti-Foreigners, anti-Immigration, anti-Aid results, than UKIP will.

As a real loser, the spoilt brat Cameron succumbs to pathetic macho talk and irresponsible brinkmanship. Instead of trying to out-ukip UKIP, the Tories and Labour too, must stand up against the frightened “let’s draw the bridge up” rhetoric of UKIP with both values and facts. 

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Go to Rembrandt

There is a wonderful, truly wonderful Rembrandt exhibition at the National Gallery in London. Go!

Many exhibitions are just marketing ploys and I did not expect much. Anyway, has one not seen them all? The exhibition concentrates on Rembrandt’s late works and does include some of the well-known paintings. But, it also has some lesser-known and truly beautiful and some very interesting paintings. 

It was a true joy to see so many of them together. This cannot be said about the visitors that crowd exhibitions. As I was queuing to get in with the first group at 10 in the morning, a VIP group of Royal Bank of Scotland guests was just leaving. Seeing the VIPs coming out with their goody-bags was not made easier by one of the very important females smiling benevolently at us, the group of plebeians standing in the rain waiting to be let in, with the remark "you are up for a real treat."

So what is the Deal? 

Monday, 10 November 2014

Not memorable: Germany exhibition at the British Museum

There are better ways to spend ten pounds and an hour of your time than to go to the Germany: memories of a nation - A 600-year history in objects  exhibition at the British Museum. You do not learn more than you would by reading the relevant article in Wikipedia and that is not good enough.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Money Weighing Machines – Beware!

I was standing in line at an HSBC branch, as the man in front of me wrote out and cashed a cheque for £2,500. The cashier took a pack of £50 notes, put them on a money-weighing machine, told the customer that the amount was right and asked him whether he also wanted them manually counted. Yes, was the customer’s response.

And… surprise, surprise… it was £500 short.

There was a short apology by the cashier, who added that this had never happened before.

SO: are these money-weighing machines unreliable or was it a case of an unreliable cashier? Neither alternative is very attractive.


A few days ago, I arranged to meet a friend at Sotheby’s, where they seemed to have a preview for a coming contemporary art auction.

Two items in the hall, in which I was waiting, caught my attention:

The first item was indeed included in the auction at £150,000 - £200,000, whilst the second item… was taken away by the cleaner, just as I took the photo.

Not only, because I do not have a five year old son, I don’t normally go for the “my five year old son could have painted that”, when I see some high-priced squiggle by an artist who happens to be in. However, these obsolete plane noses, could just as well have been donated by the aircraft manufacturer to a children’s’ playground. Instead, they are now ART. 

And just in case we don't appreciate it, we are informed that "this work is unique":

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

British Parliament recognises Palestine

1. Congratulations to the British parliament for voting (274 against 12) in favour of a motion recognising a Palestinian State. The debate – as parliamentary debates often go – was not very impressive, the outcome, however, is positive.

The motion is not binding on the British government and may therefore just be symbolic  - but symbolic acts, with the right luck, can be powerful too.

2. Shame on the Israeli Labour Party that tried to use its – evidently non-existent – influence over members of the British Labour party in a last minute hysterical attempt to block the vote. Leading the opposition means not acting like a government poodle. Try to remember that Mr. Herzog!


At a reception, a few days ago, a younger friend – doubtlessly trying to be kind – introduced me to a senior banker and his wife and said “David is a real intellectual.”  And the result ... during the ensuing conversation, the banker’s wife asked me , “David, so you don’t do anything?” 

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Are they crazy... or is there a Conspiracy?

These days when we learn that the United States Secret Service seems to almost offer President Obama up for target practice – I cannot be the only one thinking of the many times we have all been put through absurd as well as unfriendly “security” when entering the USA. They are spending billions for the security of the President alone and yet it seems very easy to get to him. 

Combining arrogance with inefficiency is always bad and can be deadly.

Time after time one is surprised by the enormity of American inefficiency. We tend to think of Silicon Valley – who may not be that efficient either – and make assumptions about the rest of America. Let us not forget what a disastrous, badly prepared, carried out and mismanaged war the US has led in Iraq. And not for lack of funds…

Samantha Cameron Moved to Tears

At the current Conservative Party conference, British Prime Minister David Cameron, referred to the fact that his deceased son (2009) was treated by the National Health Service (NHS) as proof that the NHS is close to his heart and was therefore safe in the hands of the Tories. (Which I doubt.)

Cameron’s use of his own son’s death for political purposes is tasteless but not surprising. I remember how in 1990, the British Secretary of State for Agriculture, John Gummer, tried to allay public fears about the safety of British beef by… publicly feeding his 4 year-old daughter with a hamburger. (Was that actually a form of child abuse?)

This week’s British press was full of headlines such as “Samantha Cameron Moved to Tears”. I am interested to know whether Mrs. Cameron “was moved to tears”, because

1.     She was reminded of her dead son?
2.     She was disgusted by her husband’s cheap ploy?
3.     Her tears were part of the Cameron orchestration, which will give her a few more years in Downing Street?
4.     She is always moved to tears when her husband is on stage?

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Scottish Nationalism (or any other) - Pfui

There is one more week to Scottish referendum day and the polls seem too close to call. The British government (and opposition!) is panicking and are now offering last minute inducements to the Scottish electorate, with ever more powers to the Scottish parliament, if only they remain part of the Union.
Much has been said about the economic viability of an independent Scotland. Many have criticised England for not making it clearer how much they “love Scotland” and how much they wish for the Scots to stay in the fold. What I am missing in this discussion is the disdain, even disgust, for the jingoistic, nationalistic sentiment that is driving this whole campaign for “independence”. It is totally unnecessary and sad. Politicians who develop such feelings in their population and ride them to power should have no place in our society. 

The Dilemma of Diaspora Jews

My article Das Schweigen der Diaspora
appears in today's Süddeutsche Zeitung... in German... :)

British Intelligence Pushing Arabs to War

Five months ago, the British National Archives released newly declassified documents, according to which, British Intelligence “predicted war – and Arab defeat – in Palestine in 1948.” According to today’s Israeli media, Syrian files that reached French Intelligence prove that British Intelligence agents actively encouraged the Arab countries to invade the “to be established” new Jewish State, Israel.

So much for the impressive “forecasting” of British Intelligence.

What must now be asked is whether the almost frenzied attempts of the SIS -  or was it Military Intelligence – took place by instruction of the British government or behind its back?  If the British agents acted because they did not agree with their own government’s policy in the region and worked to counteract it – they are in fact traitors. 

This question ought to be answered.

Friday, 5 September 2014

ISIS and Language

-  British Prime Minister David Cameron: “ISIS will be squeezed out of existence”
-  President Obama: “Our objective is clear and that is to degrade and destroy ISIL* so it’s no longer a threat”
-  Vice President Joe Biden: “We will follow them to the gates of hell until they are brought to justice. Because hell is where they will reside. Hell is where they will reside.”

Why do our leaders, leaders of Western democracies in the 21st century, have to resort to such language? Who are they talking to? Do they or their advisers believe that vocal threats will frighten the Islamists to lay down their machetes? OR is this solely a verbal macho show impress their own people? 

*ISIS = Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, first rebranded as ISIL – Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and then turned IS = Islamic State] 

Boycott Fairly

British Film director Ken Loach has called for a boycott of all cultural and sporting events supported by the Israeli state, adding that Israel must become a pariah state.

I am all for boycotts and, indeed, Israel has given and continues to give good reasons for boycott.

Boycotts can be legitimate on a personal level, as an expression of serious disagreement or even revulsion and more importantly as an attempt to exert group pressure for affecting change. Yet, they should be set up not only emotionally, but also fairly. I googled the terms “Ken Loach” and “boycott” and found that the one and only boycott Loach is calling for is on Israel. There is not a single other country in the world, the actions of which Loach wishes to bring to a halt by means of a boycott. How about Russia, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, China, to name but a few candidates? Why does Loach support the cultural output of various dictatorships around the world by not boycotting them?

PS: It may be hard for Loach to accept, but his call for a boycott is likely to have as much impact as my blogged ruminations. 

Chatham House on Iran’ s Nuclear Future

Yesterday I went to an on the record Chatham House meeting on the subject of Iran’s nuclear future. The meeting was based on a Chatham House paper that was written by two former British diplomats, Sir Richard Dalton (former ambassador to Iran) and Peter Jenkins (Former ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)).

Dalton’s and Jenkins’ analysis is based on their assessment and trust that Iran is not intent on acquiring nuclear weapons combined with seemingly much trust in the IAEA’s ability to effectively monitor against violations. This attitude is either naïve or dishonest. Have IAEA never been misled and importantly, can one really assess another country’s intentions? Can one afford to take a view when it comes to intentions to develop nuclear weapons?

Concerning assessment: There is currently a serious argument between Israel’s Internal Secret Service and Israel’s Military Intelligence as to whether Hamas had intended the July war in Gaza to happen or whether things just got out of hand. Evidently, these two organisations with many years of expertise and experience, not to speak of how entrenched they are with sources within the Arab world, are unable to reach a conclusion.

It may be that Chatham House or the British FCO have no issue with Iran holding nuclear weapons. If that is the case, they should openly say so. Otherwise – one can only hope that Dalton and Jenkins do not negotiate on Britain’s behalf.

A totally different question is whether the resultant opening up of Iran to the West, were an agreement reached, would not worry the Iranian regime? Such opening up to the West may be the very thing that Khamenei would want to prevent. In that case, reaching only a partial agreement with sanctions lifted may be Iran’s preferred option. 

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Lieberman – A Thug and a Shame on Israel

Israel’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has announced that if Hamas do not return the bodies of Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza, "…, they have to understand they will get in return the bodies of Mohammed Deif, [Ismail] Haniyeh and all of the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip…”

Haggling over the return of corpses is one of the ugly by-products of war. But isn’t everything about war ugly? Being disgusted by Hamas should not mean stooping to their level. Mr Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister, regularly comes out with outrageous statements and remarks, such his 1998 suggestion that Israel would bomb the Aswan dam and thereby flood Egypt.

Israel needs to rid itself of this despicable man.  

Anna Netrebko

I was there. And I saw and heard this year’s Salzburg Festival’s highlight: Beautiful, powerful and sensitive. It was the most wonderful opera singing that I have ever heard. Il Trovatore with Anna Netrebko, as Leonora. Some have compared her performance to Callas. Long may she last and give us pleasure!

The production (Alvis Hermanis) was quite interesting and makes clearer than anything I had seen before, that the gypsy Azucena is really the central tragic figure in this opera. Perhaps the opera ought better be named after the gypsy instead of after the troubadour.

ARTE will broadcast the Trovatore production on Friday, 15 August, at 20:15 (CET). Try to watch it. 

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Gaza – Israel – Double Standards ?

Does the world expect too much from Israel?

The latest round that took place between Israel and the Hamas produced immense misery for the population of Gaza, great discomfort for the Israelis and not only very many dead Palestinians but also a high number of Israeli casualties. The media war and the war over public sympathy have created serious anti-Israel sentiment that has worryingly also turned anti-Semitic.

Over the last three years, the civil war in Syria has seen more than 170,000 Muslims, who were killed by fellow Muslims. According to Palestinian sources, the number of casualties in Gaza is 1800. Yet, it seems that there is much more agitation concerning the dead of Gaza than there is about the Syrian dead. Why? Israel and many Israelis feel that they are victims of double standards. Is it possible that what hurts or angers those condemning Israel is not the killing of Muslims but the fact that it was Israelis who did the killing?

Or does Syria simply “benefit” from the fact that it is a pariah state, of which there are no moral expectations and which makes no claims to be a western democracy?  

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Does Katharina hate her great grandfather?

Does Bayreuth suffer from an autoimmune sickness that is killing it off? Is this – a true Wagnerian melodrama - the punishment of the gods for the evil people who made use and ran it for many years?

Richard Wagner’s great granddaughter, Katharina (together with her 33 years older half-sister Eva), has been running the Bayreuth Festival since 2008. Is it possible that she actually hates Wagner, his music, Bayreuth? Why else would she be running it down?

This year’s festival was opened with a replay of Tannhäuser, directed by Sebastian Baumgarten, which was first played and booh-ed in Bayreuth in 2011. It has not gotten any better.

Opening the festival with a third year replay is in itself a mark of failure. To do so with an opera production that is so annoying, that you find yourself closing your eyes, so as not to let the goings on on the stage spoil the wonderful music that is sung and played, is outrageous. Fortunately, it was musically very beautiful, despite a rather mediocre Torsten Kerl in the title role. 

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Child murderers?

Israeli bombardments have not targeted but killed many children in Gaza. Playing on the old blood-libel about Jews killing Christian children, anti-Israel propaganda portrays Israel as “child murderer.”

Since the beginning of the latest round of violence, Hamas has already fired more than 2200 rockets into Israel. These rockets were aimed at the centres of population. Had Israel not managed to intercept most of these missiles, the number of dead Israeli civilians, including women and children, would by far have exceeded the number of dead Palestinians.

So who is the child murderer? Israel that sometimes fails in its attempts to avoid hitting civilians or Hamas that has fortunately failed in its attempts to kill thousands of Israeli civilians including women and children? 

Racism – Fight Back

The current outbreak of violence between Israel and the Hamas has produced Europe-wide anti-Israel demonstrations, many of which incorporate vile and anti-Semitic proclamations and slogans as well as acts of violence against Jews and Jewish institutions.

It is not surprising that European Jews are worried and often frightened. But so should be the rest of the population. It is up to civil society as well as governments – wherever these anti-Semitic incidents occur – not only to educate but also to come down fiercely against the organisers and perpetrators of these anti-Semitic occurrences.

Similarly, it is up to Israeli society and authorities to educate but also to come down fiercely against organisers and perpetrators of anti-Arab racism that is increasingly rearing its head in Israel. Unfortunately, such racism seems to get away unpunished. Moreover, the right-wing perpetrators of these racist acts are well represented in the Israeli political elite. Israel’s Foreign Minister Lieberman, for example, has just urged Israelis to boycott the businesses of Israeli Arab citizens who are taking part in a general strike in protest of Israel’s operation in the Gaza Strip.

It is generally accepted that such racist language, let alone acts of violence are totally unacceptable, and it is always a minority that perpetrates such racist outrage. But, the majority – be it in Israel or in Europe - must stop looking the other way. It must fight back. 

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The Human Voice

Sunday night: Karita Mattila as Ariadne in Ariadne auf Naxos, Monday night: Joyce DiDonato as Mary Stuart in Maria Stuarda. Both at Covent Garden.

What more can one wish for? The human voice can be more wonderfully beautiful than any man-made instrument. 


Why do all those people who are not really football players or regular football fans get so excited when it comes to their own national teams?

Trouble in Buenos Aires after the Argentine lost to Germany

Why do 80 million Germans [or any other nation] think that they are superior or better, or just feel good about themselves simply because 11 of them happen to have won a football match?  

Despite the claim of their coach “we are all world champions”, most of us are very far from being good at anything at all, let alone being champions at anything. Talking of “we” and dancing in the street cannot cover this up.

Cheap [is there any other?] populism has driven, or rather flown 
Ms. Merkel as well as Germany’s President, Gauck, to the cup final in Brazil  

The notion that this excitement serves as sublimation to channel aggressive energy away from destructive behaviour is far from true. In fact, this forceful “we” behaviour is in itself aggressive.  

Israel and Hamas

Does the shooting suit both sides?

What does Hamas want? It wants to ensure that no long-term peace deal is made with Israel. Unlike the PLO, Hamas has not [yet] accepted the existence of Israel.

What does Israel want? It wants to avoid reaching a deal with the Palestinians that would entail giving up some of the land it has occupied since 1967.

That is why Hamas, rather than the Palestinian Authority, are the true partners of Israel. They occasionally fight each other, increasing the heat, killing and getting killed, inciting and whipping up the hatred, only to make sure that no compromise is reached. The agendas of the extremes on both sides command the state of affairs.

Both sides are morally wrong; Hamas more evil than Israel and more corrupt than Israel, but then it does not pretend to be a western democracy, cultured, high-tech and European. A few years ago, the then Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, spoke of Israel as a “villa in the jungle”, thereby suggesting that Israel’s neighbours are wild savages. Observing recent [and not so recent] appearances of Israeli politicians makes one wonder whether they haven’t adapted only too well to their surroundings. 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Scottish Abuse

Last year the Scottish parliament passed a law giving 16-year-olds a vote in the coming referendum on Scottish independence. They justified their deed with claptrap about allowing young people to decide the future of the country they will live in. The truth is more likely that the nationalists expect kids to be more impulsive and less risk-averse than more experienced grown-ups. In a classical case of the extreme setting the tone, Labour and Lib Dems also voted for the lowering for the voting age.

What the Scottish have done is abuse of minors. For their own gratification, to further their own interests, these politicians have taken the virginity of their young. Like with sex, the young may be excited – in this case, by the fact that like grownups, they can vote to cede Scotland away from Great Britain. However, they may wake up the morning after not really understanding what they have done.

And by the way, there is no morning-after pill.