Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Istanbul


The Albanian, who sat next to me on the flight, spoke about the hot girls and the good food. “Nothing to worry about, mate”, he said, “you will love it, mate” I carefully suggested that as I was old enough to be his grandfather, “sir” might be more appropriate than “mate”. He did not quite understand my objection but when we landed, said “I enjoyed our conversation, sir, and have a good time in Istanbul.” 

The line at passport control at Atatürk airport was long and rather slow. After more than 25 minutes, I reached the sign which read “open your passports at the visa page”. They all did. Everybody – except me –  seemed to have a visa. It had not occurred to me that I would need one. So, I had to leave the line again and find the automated station at which, for $20, I was able to acquire a visa. Ten minutes later, back at the line, I was able to just about make it to the place that I had left earlier.

Istanbul - Fatih

Where I was staying, one seemed to see fewer scarf wearing women than on Edgware Road in London or in Neukölln in Berlin. Fatih is the part of town, – I was told – where I should go, if I wanted to see where the other half lives. A kind local friend of a friend went with me.

In Fatih, virtually all women were covered in black. Men, however, or rather their cloths, came in many colours: Some wore burgundy red trousers and overcoats, others had light grey outfits. Often, they wore blue-checks, sometimes white shirts. To hide what should be hidden, trousers were mainly of the harem trouser type. And then there was a whole array of hats. Very many were white, some were intertwined with coloured motifs.

Ultraorthodox Jewish sect-like dynastic groupings are often recognisable by their dress and I was curious to find out whether the same was true here, in this part of town, in which the Islamic sects, the tarikatlive. Can one tell the sects apart by their clothing?  My friend did not know. 

There is no colour coding whatever, the very friendly salesman, in the clothing shop that I entered, told us. Compared to the predominantly black, which women were wearing, men seemed to have more freedom for fashion and personal taste. Interestingly, the shopkeeper added that ever since IS has taken to wearing black hats, many people – to make the distinction – choose to go for white ones.

He came for Religious Education


A 17-or so - year-old, wearing a black overcoat and a white hat, overheard me asking my friend about the building opposite, “was ist dieses Gebäude?”, and said “eine Schule”, a school. So, we got talking and that gave me the opportunity to verify the information about there not being any colour codes in the male garments, which he confirmed.


The young man, born and bred in Stuttgart, where they speak the ugliest of all German dialects, spoke impeccable accent-free German. Why did he leave Germany, I asked? He came for religious studies, was his answer. What will become of that friendly, courteous young man? How far will these studies take him? Is he being taught at an extremist school? Will he stay? Was he sent by his parents, or was it his idea? We were running out of time and I was unable to find out more.

Istanbul - Downhill ?


Dangerous … going downhill… I wouldn’t go, if I were you, some of my friends said, when I told them that I was going for a weekend to Istanbul. Indeed, the hotel manager told me that tourism is now virtually only from Arab countries. There were hardly any Europeans or Americans coming, he said. It is difficult to see where the country is going. Having said that, they are not the only ones. Where, for instance, is the UK going?

Monday, 9 October 2017

EUREKA


I finally know what must have happened: this misunderstanding between Greece and the EU, in which it turned out that Greece fed the EU with false data, that enabled it to become a member if the EURO, whilst continuing to run the country, as it always has. It is all in the language. Today’s politicians and civil servants, did not take Greek at school, as one did in the old days. 

You see: the Greek word “Neh” does not mean NO, but YES. On the other hand, the Greek word “okhi”, contrary to what one would have guessed, does not mean OK, it means NO.

You can imagine that I was curious, when I walked by a shop, with a big sign ONAN.




It turned out to be a betting shop. You know, a place where people are enjoying themselves but which – at the end – bears no fruit.

I was even more curious to find this spray can in the drugstore:



Unfortunately, the shop assistant was unable to explain what exactly PUBEX does. Nor did he quite understand my question whether it could be used by both men and women.

The place next door


There are several tavernas right next to our house, just by the sea. One of them – at the best location of all –  seemed to open only occasionally. Nevertheless, the blackboard outside continued to list – not only all the traditional Greek dishes, but also –  various fresh fish, one could eat there. The owner, a full-bodied 50-year-old man, would sit at one of his tables, sometime on his own, occasionally with a friend, smoking and drinking. Every day, all day long. He was friendly and would respond with a smile when greeted in the morning. But he was closed for business.

I was curious. Reluctantly, after some questioning, neighbours told me that the place is deteriorating, that the man is simply lazy. One evening, when the place was open, we went there for dinner. It turned out that on some afternoons, when the 17-year-old son comes home from school, they’ll open. The food, the son told us, is made by his mother, who works full time as a teacher in the small village. We decided not to take a chance with “fresh” fish and ordered food that could be warmed up, of the Moussaka and filled pepper variety. We did not immediately book a table for the next day.

The location is great and the restaurant did get occasional business. The first to notice were always the cats, who would immediately be there, hoping to join the party. You cannot eat in a restaurant on these islands, without myriads of well-fed cats surrounding your table. The thing is that most of these islands swell up in the summer months and are left with only the locals, virtually emptying them, in winter. What happens with cats in winter, I asked the fine looking woman, who runs a tavern on one of the other islands. Ah, the taverna owner told me, there is an organisation that comes twice a week and brings food for the cats. They place it in the parking area and the cats all come there. But, she hesitated and then added, the cats get sterilised.

So here’s the riddle: if all those cats get sterilised, how come there are so very many cats everywhere? Some sort of feline immaculate conception?

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Camilla's Fork



Is that how she was taught to hold a fork at finishing school?


הנסיך צ'רלס ורעייתו קמילה, דוכסית קורנוול. להמעיט בערך האלטרנטיבות


Greece - Commercial


Haven’t been to Greece for many years and am pleasantly surprised by the cleanliness and friendliness almost everywhere.  

Greece - Fish


I still remember the delicate texture of freshly caught fish grilled on a Greek beach. That was a long time ago.

You go to nice quaint and full-of-character Tavernas in small island ports and order fish. What else.

More often than not, what you get – the fish on offer – is frozen and not fresh. Have even been offered Lobster from Cuba!

Sailing

I recently came back from a week’s sailing in the Aegean. We were a group of good friends with a skipper and his catamaran - a rather intense intimacy for someone who has chosen not to join kibbutz.

The winds were light, which meant more use of the boat’s motor than its sails. It also meant that none of us got seasick or even uncomfortable. Full disclosure: we all took a daily pill against motion sickness with our breakfasts.

The seasoned and experienced skipper-owner of our catamaran, was good at handling his boat and also knew how to find beautiful secluded bays, where we would anchor for a few hours, for a meal, drinks or a swim. But…

On about day four of our trip our skipper turned out to be a nutcase. After three days of friendly chats, he out of the blue started shouting and ranting. I had just asked him for information about the next day’s course and thus his anger was directed mainly at me. After several hours he calmed down. For a while, we considered disembarking at the next island, for our safety.  We decided to stay, but the situation was delicate. The two doctors on board thought that they could diagnose a smoker’s brain: that is damage to the brain from too much smoking. 

Despite all of the above, I hope to go sailing again. Unlike two of our friends, who have sailing certificates and who seemed to take great pleasure from playing with masts, steering wheel, anchor chains and ropes, I was interested only in the very enjoyable experience of being on a boat on a calm sea, moving from island to island and swimming in small quiet and sheltered coves. This is something I hope to be able to do again. 

However, next time it should be a boat with somewhat bigger bathrooms. I was sort of prepared for small cabins. But bedroom and bathroom ceilings of 1.80m were a real nuisance. As was the toilet procedure, which more seasoned travellers will be acquainted with. It was a relief to be able to use a normal bathroom after the week was over.

Of course, next time I will ask for a doctor’s sanity certificate in addition to a skipper’s license.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Jerusalem on Fire


One of the interesting aspects of the original 1947 partition plan that the United Nations had envisaged and decided for Palestine, (UN Resolution 181) was the concept that it had for Jerusalem. It called for a corpus separatum, a special international regime, to be established for the city of Jerusalem.

As we know, this UN resolution was accepted by the Jews and rejected by the Arabs. That was the death of the boundaries set by that resolution.   

Last week there was again an outbreak of violence in the holy basin, an area that both Jews and Muslims consider to be holy. The incident was badly handled by Israel’s right wing prime minister, who is besieged by competing populists in his cabinet, whilst the Arabs managed to play their cards cleverly. Israel lost face in this latest round. It had to dismantle, sensible but not sensitively installed security measures it had put in place (metal detectors and security cameras), and return to the status quo ante, hoping to lower the flames, which the Muslim waqf, the Islamic trust that manages the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, has been fanning.

The land issues between the Arabs and the Jews in Palestine are complicated enough without the incendiary qualities of religion and sites of worship, which one or more groups consider to be sacred. It would be better to take religion out of the equation. The corpus separatum solution was a good idea.

As things seem now, Israel will not agree to give up its status in Jerusalem. It should.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Macron and the Jews


French president Macron turns out to have a knack for theatrical productions. (Any connection to the fact that his wife was his high school theatre teacher?) He persuaded the universally despised Trump, (who is on record with “I was in Paris recently, and Paris doesn’t look like Paris anymore”) to fly to Paris, just three days after he came back from the G20 Meeting in Hamburg, by inviting him to a military parade (that Trump apparently likes). As an add-on, dinner was served at the top of the Eiffel Tower. In fact, so big was Macron’s success, that Trump must have overlooked the “my tower is bigger than your tower” aspect of this part if the visit. 

Next in line was Israel’s also despised prime minister Netanyahu. To create the right atmosphere for a meeting with the recalcitrant Netanyahu, the work meeting at the Élysée palace was preceded by a Holocaust memorial event – specifically, the annual remembrance ceremony for the 1942 deportation of French Jews. The mass arrest and deportation of over 13,000 Jews to their deaths in Auschwitz was organised and carried out by French police. In his moving speech, Macron again pointed out to French responsibility for this act, in which, he said, no German was involved.

Netanyahu – who likes to present himself as the prime minister of the Jewish People, which he is not – was allowed to fit into that role by Macron. The real present, which Macron gave Netanyahu, was his statement that anti-Zionism is a new form of antisemitism. This plays right into Netanyahu’s hands. It is, however, patently NOT TRUE, M. Macron.

Macron should not have politicised this ceremony commemorating France’s shameful deportation by giving Netanyahu a stage. Moreover, Macron should not have come out with a blanket ruling on Antisemitism, as if he was an expert in this highly disputed area.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

6th Letter to Jared (or: Run, Jared, run)


Dear Jared,

It has been almost two months, since I last wrote to you. You have evidently not be listening to me and daily, we get more information about your complicity in the allegedly illegal goings on of your crime family.  

You are probably too busy and will not have noticed a remark made by a fellow Jew, who like your own father was a Netanyahu backer, and like your own father has been found guilty of various tax offences and like your father has been sentenced to jail.

“All the other accused, who fled to Israel, are sitting on the beach”, Arnaud Mimran, recently complained to the French court that would not mitigate his 8-year jail sentence. See, Jared, this bit about fleeing to Israel to evade justice, gave me the following idea:

Why wait until a prisoner swap deal is worked out (much more complicated): Let Netanyahu who is being investigated in 12 separate corruption cases, seek and be granted asylum in the USA, and in return, you can take advantage of Israel’s Law of return that grants every willing Jew the right to settle in Israel.

As an added bonus, both you and Netanyahu can decide whether you wish to take your wives with you, or whether this would be a good opportunity to open a new page.

The problem with my swap idea is that whereas you (unless you are already in jail) can make use of the right to “return” to Israel whenever you like Netanyahu does not have such rights under US laws.

Run, Jared, run, before it is too late.  

Your well-meaning pen-pal David



Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Hamburg – Context / Perspective


Demonstrations surrounding last week’s G20 meeting in Hamburg have produced more headlines than the issues discussed at the meeting itself. Is that justified?

Beyond the obvious fact that G20 meetings logically tend to discuss existing topics that have been in the public debate for some time, rather than hitherto unknown topics –  violence, hundreds of policemen hurt, looting of shops, and above all pictures of torched cars, smoke and fires burning in the streets of a rich city are what makes news.

Germany is a well-managed democracy, which tries to allow outlets for venting political and social frustration. It is in this context that the German government wished to demonstrate the ability of permitting, whilst containing, the democratic display of opposition. It went terribly wrong. But is that of any long term significance?

Unlike the Muslim world, which is undergoing a monumental internal culture war – a war that is being financed and enabled by competing powerful states, that seem to be successful in causing trouble on one hand whilst being total failures in looking after the true interests of their own populations – Germany is at peace with itself.

It is a shame (although, to be expected in an election year) that some German politicians are trying to make party political capital of the Hamburg fiasco. But at the end of the day, it was no more than out of control hooliganism together with most probably a small number of extremist political activists. It was this combined with the German government’s wish to allow peaceful demonstrations and rather unfortunate and inefficient policing. As such, it is of no long term significance.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

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Gay Marriage and German Politics


They all want a piece of the action: Three months before the elections, German chancellor Merkel has indicated that after the September elections, she would allow a free vote (that is, CDU/CSU members of Parliament would not be bound by party discipline) on the issue of gay marriage. Not to be outdone her SPD opponent, Martin Schultz, is forcing a vote this week. If you look at their faces, you will understand: she is calm and calculating, whereas the rather unattractive Mr. Schultz is after a quickie.

Homosexual marriage excites mainly heterosexuals. The number of people who will take advantage of the new law is not expected to be very high. Doubtlessly, there is no reason why the state should interfere in the bonding arrangements its citizens wish to get into. Only, the matter of personal freedom is serious and deserves a serious and honourable discussion in parliament and should not be treated as a quickie to produce immediate satisfaction.

On the other hand, sometimes quickies result in nice babies.

Merkel, Mrs Kohl and same-sex marriage


Why has Merkel decided to “allow” gay marriage? All the other political parties have been calling for it for quite some time and more importantly, opinion polls – which Mrs. Merkel, regularly is guided by –   show that Germany’s population is supportive of equal marriage rights.

The suggestion, that ex-Chancellor Kohl and his second wife have made it clear to Merkel that same-sex marriage cannot be worse than some heterosexual bonds, is being doggedly denied.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

German Gender Craze


German political correctness can be useful if one gets paid by the word. In the past, the German for teachers and pupils, used to be “Lehrer und Schüler.” Now it is: “Lehrerinnen und Lehrer und Schülerinnen und Schüler.” Alternatively, one could also write the non-words “Lehrer*innen und Schüler*innen.”

A few days ago, at a lecture in Berlin, a young male lecturer, describing his own efforts to find certain source material, used the suffix that turns a word from masculine to feminine and said “wenn, man als Forscherin…”. This is ridiculous. Later he spoke of a group of five researchers and said “alle 5 Forscherinnen.“ Does that mean that all five researchers were females, or was he just being pc?

Kohl Papers


History will tell which of the superlatives that are being heaped on Helmut Kohl are deserving. However, if Kohl’s widow will have it her own way, we may be short of some vital information: It appears that she has in her possession letters, papers and documents from the duration Kohl was head of state. This should be illegal.

Politicians should not have title, possession or control of ANY papers created during their time in office, other than their personal correspondence. They should all be the property of the state. The police should be sent with a search warrant and confiscate all the files that Kohl’s widow apparently now has.

Kohl Funeral


Kohl died an embittered man, who since the scandal surrounding his involvement with the illegal funding of his CDU party, felt that he had been betrayed by virtually everybody. His death has brought to the surface – what was no secret – that Kohl’s 34-years-younger widow, who he married right after he was hospitalised with head (brain?) damage due to a fall, totally isolated him from the outside world, including from his sons (and grandchildren) from his first marriage.

If Kohl was suffering from dementia (the press is rather kind to him regarding this), his wife’s handling of his affairs may be even more problematic. She has, for instance, decreed that there should be no German state funeral and has arranged an EU ceremony – in which she tried to prevent Mrs. Merkel from speaking –  instead.

When a head of state dies (or a former head of state), his state funeral is not a matter for the family to have a say in – it is a state ritual and not a family affair. Widows can have whatever arrangements in their churches. State funerals are a matter for the state.

PS: There may be a juicy legal side issue if Kohl’s affair with the woman he eventually married, had begun during the time that she was a subordinate of his.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Adnan Khashoggi


Adnan Khashoggi, the famous Saudi arms dealer, is dead. He was not only renowned for the deals he brokered but also for his glamourous life style, women, yachts and all, had been one of the world’s richest men in the 1970s and -80s. According to press reports „He freely admitted his penchant for prostitutes and was said to have entertained 11 ‘pleasure wives’ on his countless yachts and at numerous holiday homes.”

In the press release announcing Khashoggi’s death, his family informs:
"He lived his last days […] with the same elegance, strength and dignity that characterised his remarkable life. […] He was a pioneer who achieved global recognition in a golden age through his extraordinary business achievements and renowned generosity. Our father understood the art of bringing people together better than anyone.”

Not to speak of the strange suggestion that there was any dignity in a life of an arms dealer entertaining prostitutes, I just love the description of an arms dealer as someone “bringing people together”.






Backpfeiffe and Schadenfreude


Backpfeiffe and Schadenfreude ­ are the two words that came to mind when the outcome of the UK elections became clear. Schadenfreude is of course a term also used in English, whereas Backpfeiffe, is a juicier term than the English slap-in-the-face. That arrogant Theresa (the previous famous Theresa , “Mother” Theresa, was also an annoyingly arrogant person) got what she deserved: she wanted to be crowned by the British people and instead she got the boot. Not enough of it, but enough to give those of us who enjoy it, some schadenfreude. 

We should not forget that the rather unattractive Labour leader Corbyn is a Brexiter too. Instead of a volte-face, the UK has done its utmost to continue on the course of sinking the island. 

Yes, sinking.

Helmut Kohl Strasse / Platz / Flughafen ?


His corpse is hardly cold and already German politicians are competing in suggestions as to how he should be commemorated. Streets and squares should be named after him; No one has suggested an airport as yet but Mrs. Grütters, Minister of Culture, suggested setting up a government funded foundation that will carry his name.

This arrangement whereby politicians name roads,and various publicly funded assets after their deceased colleagues is very popular in Israel, where even C-List local politicians get streets named after them. The current prime minister Netanyahu, even arranged for his deceased father, to get a motorway junction named after him.

Why do politicians, senior as they may be, deserve eternal commemoration? If their achievements are worth remembering, history books will see to it.

I much prefer the British tradition: There are no Margaret Thatcher hospitals, roads or airports. There are not even Winston Churchill ones.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Six Days – Fifty Years


I remember the 5th of June of 50 years ago. I remember the build-up of worry and existential fear during the waiting period preceding Israel’s pre-emptive strike. I remember the immense relief, produced by the quick victory, and I also remember the feeling of exhilaration brought about by the booty: Jerusalem, Sinai, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. I don’t think anyone considered Gaza as booty.

But, I also remember that it was very quickly clear to some that the occupation would morally destroy us: It has.  

Can Israel change the sick and self-destructive course on which it has embarked 50 years ago? It does not look promising.

Terrorism Hysteria


The risk of terrorism in Europe is low. Hysteria is high:

The average number of people killed in terrorist attacks in the UK in the period 2000-2015 was – 6. There are peak years, such as we have this year, and before that in 2005, and the one before in 1998, but most years are quiet.

The average number of people killed by bees and wasps per annum – 5. 

The average annual number of people murdered in the UK – 520. 

The average annual number of people who die in road accidents in the UK – 1800.

If you want extra measures, how about dealing with these unnecessary deaths, instead of building up xenophobia.

Mrs. May’s Small-Talk


There has been “far too much tolerance of extremism” in the UK, Theresa May has announced after the latest terrorist incident in London. So, whose fault is it that there is too much tolerance of extremism in the UK? Who is in charge? Who has been in charge for the last seven years?

Surprise, surprise, … before she was made prime minister, between the years 2010 and 2016, Mrs. May was Home Secretary, in charge of the police and of MI5, the internal secret service. In these years, she cut the number of policemen by almost 47,000.

A bit of searching reveals that Mrs. May, as Home Secretary, had two years ago, in March 2015, announced the launch of a package of new anti-terror measures. At the time, she warned of a ‘clash of civilizations’ between the West and Islamic extremists, adding that there is ‘increasing evidence’ that a small but significant number of people living in Britain ‘reject our values’.

Warning of extremism seems to be part of that woman’s small-talk. But, it turns out that she is not only nasty but also incompetent.

To please the jingoistic press that she depends on, May now announced that she would step up the fight against Islamist terrorism yet again and confirmed that she approves of shoot-to-kill, replacing the previous policy of shoot-to-incapacitate.  

Friday, 26 May 2017

5th Letter to J.K.


Dear Jared,

According to the papers, you are in trouble and I hope that you appreciate the fact, that I do not cut and behave as if I don’t know you.

The right lawyers will probably get you out of it. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to make you change your ways. You will feel even more invincible.

You should have listened to me. What was wrong with just being a quite rich boy? But you were greedy and at the end you will fall.

So much for today. You probably don’t have time to read long letters.

Best
D

PS: Do you think that, that s.o.b., I mean Steven Bannon had his fingers in getting you investigated?