Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Trump Bursts

One regularly hears demands that “moderate” Muslim leaders speak out against extremist Islamists.

Donald Trump, never one to mince words, has now come out with a demand that Muslims should be barred from entering the USA. This is the time for the “moderate” non-Muslim leaders and elites in the US to speak out. Church leaders, intellectuals, politicians must come out in droves and clearly distance themselves and American society from this hate mongering man and his message.  Point the finger at Trump! Boycott the man!

PS: I have given up on the hope that Israeli politicians will speak out against extremist Israeli words and deeds, as most of today’s Israeli politicians are extremists themselves.

Israel vs. Sweden

A few days ago, the Swedish foreign secretary, Margot Wallström referred to the recent spate of stabbings of Israelis by Palestinians – which she called “terrible”, adding that “they must not happen” and that “Israel had the right to defend itself.” However, Wallström also said that the response can not be “extrajudicial executions.”

Israel reacted to the Swedish foreign secretary with fury: The Israeli press was soon filled by statements about anti-Semitism in Sweden and Netanyahu suggested that the Swedish foreign secretary in her “scandalous remarks…expects Israelis to bare their throats to those trying to stab them.” 

Despite Sweden’s attempt to explain that it had not accused Israel of extrajudicial executions, it is clear that Wallström referred to the fact that since the stabbings had started, Israeli soldiers, policemen and civilians have shot to kill the attackers. Israeli politicians, who called on every Israeli with a gun license to carry a gun, have also called for a shoot to kill approach.

So, why is it ok for Israeli politicians to support shoot to kill and wrong for a foreign politician, to refer to it as “extrajudicial execution” - which shooting to kill rather than shooting to disable, in fact is -?

Monday, 23 November 2015

The Jonas Kaufmann Lottery

This is the fifth time, that Jonas Kaufmann has cancelled his participation at a performance that I have had tickets for. He is the greatest tenor in the world these days and when he does appear, it is a wonderful experience. But, buying a ticket for an opera, in which he is meant to sing, is like buying a lottery ticket. And, as lotteries go, there is no transparency. 

What’s wrong with that man and his “viral throat infections”?

The only reason, I’ve booked tickets for Carmen was because Kaufmann was to sing Don José. And then the bas**** cancels yet again. Covent Garden does not refund the expensive ticket price, one does not even get the surcharge – that they levy when they have superstars in one of their productions – back.

All they offer – if one does not want to hear the second rate replacement they had arranged – is an exchange within the same season. That is up to mid-March with very little choice.

Neither Kaufmann, nor Covent Garden should be allowed to get away with this shoddy way of treating the public of opera lovers. Sadly, we are a captive audience and are being treated as such.

Shame on Covent Garden Opera Director Kasper Holten.Mr. Holten - the least you can do is give customers a 12 months period to exchange the tickets. 

Barenboim - Go Home

Daniel Barenboim has been Music Director of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, the Berlin State Opera since 1992. In addition to this job, and to performing as a concert pianist and to various appearances as guest conductor around the world, Barenboim is also music director of Milan’s La Scala. Barenboim also runs the West Eastern Divan, the orchestra that brings together young Arab and Israeli musicians. This year, he opened his very own music academy in Berlin, the Barenboim-Said Academy. It seems that this, a third musical university in Berlin, was established at great cost to the taxpayer mainly to flatter Barenboim’s ego. 

Barenboim had really done much to develop, maintain and nurture the Staatskapelle orchestra, but now he has either grown tired or simply lost interest. He should let go and let someone else take over. The decline in the quality musically, (The new production of Figaro conducted without inspiration by Gustavo Dudamel, is a case in point.), is not aided by the bad productions of Jürgen Flimm, the Staatsoper’s Intendant.

Fortunately, Flimm will be leaving next year; unfortunately, he is stocking up the opera company with his own productions that are likely to stay as the house productions for years to come. Not to be unmentioned is the fact, that Barenboim should not have invited Flimm - with his terrible track record at the Salzburg Festival - to become Intendant of the Berlin State Opera.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Refugees and German Girls

“I will not allow anyone to say that I am a Nazi. My father was in a concentration camp because of the Nazis.” Without going into the question whether the speaker’s father had indeed been imprisoned by the Nazis and for what reason, that fact alone would not automatically immunize the son from becoming a neo-Nazi.

It appears that Jürgen Mannke, head teacher in a gymnasium and the head of a teaching union in the German state of Sachsen Anhalt, has warned - in an article in his union’s magazine - of the danger posed to young German girls by Muslim male immigrants.

“Many young, strong and mostly Muslim men… not always with the most honourable intentions…often uneducated” are coming to Germany, and have a desire for sexuality, the authors of the article explain and ask, “How shall we form sexual education for our girls, 12 years and older, so that they do not let themselves into superficial relationships with the often attractive Muslim males.”

It is curious how the sexual fantasies of right-wingers worldwide drive them insane when they imagine the always-attractive outsider male screwing their women. 

Worryingly, Mannke claims to have received 90 per cent positive reactions to the article.

Bush (41) speaks out – Finally.

Finally, but 14 years too late, Bush the father has openly said what everyone has known since day one about his son’s closest political partners:

Vice president Dick Cheney, an “iron ass…knuckling under the real hard-charging guys who want to fight about everything, use force to get our way in the Middle East” and

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the “arrogant fellow… with a lack of humility, lack of seeing what the other guy thinks” .

Cheney’s wife, Lynne, Bush added, an “iron-ass, tough as nails, driving… was very much the eminence grise.”

The world would have been rather different, had the father told his son (albeit the President) in no uncertain terms, what he is saying now.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Why did they not boo Netanyahu off the stage?

Netanyahu in a speech he gave last week to delegates of the Zionist World Congress in Jerusalem, invented the following dialogue that he claimed took place between the Palestinian Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini and Adolf Hitler during their 1941 meeting in Berlin in:

"He flew to Berlin. Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews. And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, 'If you expel them, they'll all come here.' 'So what should I do with them?' he asked. He said, 'Burn them'."

What accusation can be worse than to have instilled Auschwitz in Hitler’s mind? Propaganda must be simple and I just love the idea of Hitler – in typical Hitler manner - sitting there and asking the Mufti advice or even instructions: “so what should I do?” In his desire to blame Palestinians, Netanyahu almost whitewashed Hitler. The world has stopped listening to his ranting about Iran as the perpetrator of the next Holocaust and now it’s the Palestinians who are and always have been out to annihilate the Jews.   

Does Netanyahu believe the bullshit he utters? Did the former President of Iran, Ahmedinejad, believe his claim that the Holocaust is a myth? Did promoters of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” believe them to be true or was political expediency behind their emergence and re-emergence?

Netanyahu has form. He has form as a liar and as an inciter to hatred. This is what Israelis evidently want or at least are willing to accept. Otherwise, he would not be prime minister. But Diaspora Jews must also carry some of the blame. 60 per cent of the 525 delegates represent Diaspora Jewry and they sat and listened to Netanyahu’s speech. They should have booed him off the stage. Instead they stood in line for a photo opportunity with him. 

A Letter to Germany

100 Briefe an Deutschland  that was published a few weeks ago includes a letter from me. It is in German. S0 read it, if you can…

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Say YES to UN observers in Jerusalem

The 1947 UN Partition Plan for Palestine foresaw a special status for the greater Jerusalem area, as a corpus separatum, under a special international regime and administered by the United Nations. Unfortunately, this resolution was never implemented.

Now, because of the current tension in Jerusalem, France is promoting a plan to deploy international observers at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

Sounds like a good idea to me. But, Israel objects.

Having one-sidedly annexed East Jerusalem, Israel wants to avoid any act that might question its self-declared sovereignty over the city that contains sites holy to all three monotheistic religions. Sadly, the US will side with Israel on this matter and thereby prevent the necessary Security Council resolution.  

“How do I become a damn good writer?”

Years ago a German friend of mine stayed as a house guest in a beautiful country house in England. When he entered the room he had been allocated, he found a book on Nazi atrocities on the bookshelf. He was and still is convinced that the book was placed there by his hosts and friends on purpose, especially for him.

Recently, a friend of mine very kindly allowed me to use her apartment in a small town in Germany. Was the book “How do I become a damn good writer?” that I found on the coffee table in the living room, left there especially for me?

Friday, 9 October 2015

Back from Malta

Just back from a week in Malta.

This has now been taken care of. You do not need to go there. 

Cameron: I’ll Build a Stronger Society

First headline I saw when I arrived in the UK, a couple of days ago:
Cameron: I’ll Build a Stronger Society

Anyone buy that? I suppose that with his track record, pigs can fly would not be appropriate.

Visit Israel

Three Stories in yesterday’s Israeli Press caught my eye:

1. A video showing an Israeli Member of Parliament (blue shirt) - with the singing support of his orthodox backup band - going berserk in the Arab part of Jerusalem.

2. The call of the Jerusalem’s mayor – following various stabbing events - for people to carry arms when they leave their homes in Jerusalem. 

3. The Israeli government’s decision to farm out its overseas propaganda work to an American advertising agency. It probably makes sense: Advertisers that try to convince us to smoke cancer producing cigarettes, should also be good at convincing the world that Israel is a good tourist destination? Or just extreme adventure holidays? Perhaps even a country worth supporting?

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Queen Rania and Saudi Arabia

Queen Rania of Jordan has just called on Europe not to turn its back on Syrian refugees. My first thought was that the Jordanian queen should have addressed her plea to the more logical direction of the Gulf states. After all, they are fellow Arabs, fellow Muslims and they are rich.

And then I remembered reading some time ago that the Gulf states (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Kuwait) had set up a US$ 5 billion fund that invests in capital projects in Jordan … 

The Queen of Jordan is perhaps not really free to talk frankly to Saudi Arabia. Much easier to tell the Europeans what to do. And yet, we should not forget that Jordan itself has been bearing much if the burden (like Turkey), having had to take in great numbers of Syrian refugees: more than 600 thousand in Jordan and almost two million in Turkey.

So how about it Saudi?

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Don't buy Scottish Sturgeon

There is good sturgeon to be found in many countries, often producing the most wonderful caviar. 

For some reason the Scots are going wild over a local sturgeon: a recent poll has shown that Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon’s popularity continues to rise. Sadly, there’s nothing like blatant nationalism to boost popularity. 

Amazingly, Sturgeon whines about the fact that the Scottish electorate voted with their heads and not with their hearts: If we’d asked people just to vote for what was in their hearts we’d have won a majority. Where we lost was in the head.” She too understands that voting for separation is not a clever idea. But, Sturgeon and her party are obsessed with separation and – having lost last year’s referendum – she already is talking about a new referendum. 

Friday, 11 September 2015

Do you know a Lufthansa pilot? Tell him(her) what you think of him(her).

Just back from a short visit to Armenia and Georgia. There is probably not much one can do to provide 100 per cent protection from Montezuma’s revenge, which I caught in Tbilisi, on the last day of the trip.  I would, however, wish a heavy dose of the same revenge on the Lufthansa pilots, whose union called a strike on the very day we were meant to fly back.

Something must and can be done about the outrageous conduct of Lufthansa pilots; This was their 13th strike in the last 18 months. These German pilots, terrorise their employer as well as the wide air-travelling population, by calling short strikes with extreme short notice to prevent any planning of alternatives.

This is an abuse of the important right to strike by a bunch of high earning fat cats, and German politicians are doing nothing about it. At a time when Europe is cracking under the burden of an enormous refugee crisis, the best-paid pilots in the whole of Europe want more money.

Do you know a Lufthansa pilot, or someone who knows a Lufthansa pilot? Tell them how despicable they are. (No need to invite the pilot for dinner; let them eat alone. A phone call will do.)

Austrian Airlines / Turkish Airlines

For the flight to Erevan, we flew with Austrian Airlines who sometimes seem to almost monopolise the Eastern European routes. (I recently also flew with them to Romania.) If possible, this is an airline to avoid. You get almost no food on their flights. They are an unfriendly, arrogant lot, who probably think that Austria still owns the Austro-Hungarian empire.  

On the other hand, Turkish Airlines, which – because of the Lufthansa strike - flew us from Tbilisi via Istanbul, was a nice surprise. For a second, it sounded weird when the voice from the cockpit was a rough sounding Turkish-speaking male. But, it was the pilot and not, as the lady who sat next to me thought, a high-jacker. On both flights, the planes were new, spacious with attractive interiors. The service was very friendly; they seem to have more cabin staff than other airlines have these days. The food was good. I would definitely fly them again.  

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Germaine Davys

Today is the 100th birthday of my mother’s first cousin, Germaine Davys. Germaine was murdered in 1944, as she – according to an eyewitness – tried to flee from Auschwitz. She was born in Bucharest, had apparently been an active youth leader in the communist cell in Bucharest before leaving for Paris to study for her doctorate in philosophy at the Sorbonne.

In 1942, she was arrested by the French police, who at the behest of the German authorities rounded up Jews and delivered them to the SS for deportation to Auschwitz. 

Her mother, my great-aunt Feli, told me how for years, whenever she heard steps in the Garden, she would instinctively look out hoping that it was Germaine who had survived and come back.

  This portrait of Germaine 
hung in my great-aunt Feli’s small flat in Tel Aviv.

Opera (this) Week

After Tristan and Isolde in Bayreuth, there was Figaro in Salzburg and last night Evgeny Onegin (with the great Anna Netrebko as Tatyana) in Munich. The week will end with Norma (Cecilia Bartoli) in Salzburg.

BUT, someone must put an end to all these tiresome directors who force their irritating productions on the opera loving public. A difficult-to-pronounce and no-reason-to-remember named director turned Evgeny Onegin into a gay plot taking place in an unclear time and place that seemed like a workers’ holiday resort in the Soviet Union. Netrebko was wonderful, even if you occasionally had to close your eyes. 

Monday, 27 July 2015

Back from Temple Bayreuth

Back from Bayreuth, the Wagner temple, where worshippers of Wagner flock for their annual ritual. The quality of the opera productions in Bayreuth has been deteriorating for years – a not untypical outcome of a family run business, in which the main criterion for leadership is being a descendant of the founder, in this case of Richard Wagner.

There was special anticipation this year, for the opening night was a new production of Tristan und Isolde, directed by the now sole director of the Wagner Festival, great granddaughter of Richard W, Katharina Wagner. In true Nibelungen style, Katharina got rid of her co-director and half-sister Eva. Eva has not been killed but rumour has it that she is not permitted to tread the “Green Hill”, i.e., the temple grounds. 

The production had some quirky und unnecessary ideas. Unfortunately, most of the time, the stage was under lit, and it was hard to impossible to distinguish facial expressions and mimicry. This would point to Katharina’s lack of professionalism. But, all-in-all, it was fairly safe, which should ensure Katharina’s acceptance by the Wagnerians.

The evening’s real disappointment – to my mind - was the great Wagner and Strauss specialist, conductor Christian Thielemann. In interviews he explained how the music had drug-like impact on the senses, that it could in fact be life threatening. It didn’t. The second and third acts of Tristan und Isolde, in which one normally gets goose bumps, left my skin in peace. But, Wagnerians love their Thilemann, who has so clearly tied his flag to the Bayreuth (“a house to which my heart is bound”). He is indeed a very gifted conductor, whatever his other failings may be and the singing (except perhaps that of last minute cast change Isolde) was very good.

Thus, the druids of the Wagner Temple, had a good opening shot for this year’s events.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

I hope that you have all registered, as I no longer send emails informing of new blog items. 

I continue to be grateful for comments!


The Iran Deal

Both sides are feeding us spin. The American administration, through all avenues open to it, is explaining why the Vienna agreement - that will bring an end to the sanctions on Iran - is the best we can all hope for. In Israel, virtually the whole of the political class - including the parties that call themselves opposition - are briefing against. Netanyahu is the leader of the doomsday evangelists.  And yet, you get some of the most senior of Israel’s defence and security experts (including some former heads of Mossad and of the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service) explaining that the agreement with Iran is in fact good for Israel.

So what to think? Trying to form a view is probably impossible. At the end of the day most of believe what fits our worldview and what we want to believe.

In matters pertaining to risk assessment I tend to have more faith in security experts than in politicians of the extreme right, or any politician in fact. You cannot expect a politician to forget his or her ideological convictions. Indeed, most will not hesitate to lie, to promote their political stance. 

Netanyahu has a long track record of lying to mislead his listeners, including in his speeches to the US Congress. That makes him and his flock of message repeating ministers and spokesmen worthless. Not irrelevant – as people do listen to what official Israel is saying – but definitely not trustworthy.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Donald Trump and John McCain

Donald Trump decided that it served his purpose (whatever that may be, as even he must know that he will not be the Republicans’ presidential candidate) to insult John McCain where it really hurts: “He’s not a war hero,” said Trump. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

I actually think that Trump is right. Being captured does not make you a hero. Drunk, disorderly and insubordinate McCain had a second rate naval career on which he has based his whole political career. He finished fifth from the bottom in a class of 899 at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. In his very short flying career, he lost several airplanes and when his plane was shot down in Vietnam and he was captured, it was after he had disobeyed orders to abandon the mission. He got away with it all because both his father and his grandfather had been highly decorated admirals.

For once, Trump is right.

Berlin and its Condoms

Berlin – as the posters around town are proclaiming – is using condoms, and… there are even bins that welcome the used ones.

Now, what would my Berlin grandmother, who left the city that was by no means coy in the Weimar years, have thought of that?

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Just in case you are at one or more of the following venues, you may wish to come to my reading events:

28 September    Gummersbach
30 September    Siegen
22 Oktober         Wuppertal
10 November     Refrath 
11 November     Wipperfürth
27 Januar ’16     Fulda
16 Februar ’16   Kassell

Sunday, 12 July 2015

The Truth

This is what I had to find out at a party in Romania, a couple of weeks ago...

Quds Day London

About 350 participants, some brought by buses from Leicester and Birmingham for the annual Quds Day demonstration in London, chanted In a thousand, in a million – we are all Palestinian.  The charismatic animateur instructed and they repeated BBC – shame on you or Who is the bloody terrorist – Netanyahu, Netanyahu, as well as one, two, three, four – occupation no more.

Mother with daughter wearing Hizbollah flag

Stop Iranophobia

A solitary young man draped with an Israeli flag tried to hand out pro-Israel leaflets. At some point, one of the demonstrators stole his flag and ran away into the centre of the demonstration. Organiser: “please be careful, there is a Zionist troublemaker around”.  Another solitary man, danced with a sign “The Soldiers of the Caliphate are sent by Christ”.

In front of the American embassy, we were informed that the Americans had sold the embassy building to the Qataris, “their slaves”.  Next year, the speaker said, we would no longer demonstrate at the American embassy. Why? Is Nine Elms (where the new building is situated) not posh enough? At least one of the speakers spoke about the eradication of Israel and a very eager blond German explained to his Iranian Radio interviewer how the media is all pro Israel and only he reported directly from Gaza and saw all the atrocities inflicted by the Israelis. The German, apparently a freelance journalist, explained that he would also be at the Berlin demonstration the next day and that he is available to interviews also by Skype.

The icing on the cake, and much feted by the organisers of the demonstration, were 4 members of Neturei Karta, a small Jewish ultra-orthodox sect that believes that Jewish exile will only end with the arrival of the Messiah. They are virulent opponents of the state of Israel and like to make their views known.

The man was unable to tell me which book in the Torah...