Sunday, 18 August 2019

The Prince of Prussia

Three recent unconnected stories in the German press, have caught my eye:

A certain 90-year-old Ferdinand Neess, a former art-dealer and collector, has bequeathed his collection of over 500 Jugendstil objects, which he collected over the years, to the Museum of Wiesbaden. The value of the donation is estimated to be higher than €40 million.

A certain James Simon (1851-1932) is being remembered and celebrated by Berlin, by naming the newly created visitors’ centre and central entrance building to the city’s museum cluster at the Museums Insel after him. James Simon, a German Jew – who was fortunate enough to die before the Nazis came to power – stems from a family of wealthy cotton merchants. For years, he donated a third of his income for social and cultural projects. Over the years, Simon – who is considered to be the most prominent patron of the arts at his time, donated most of his important art collection to Berlin’s museums (including the well-known bust of Nefertiti).

A certain Georg Friedrich, Prinz von Preussen, the great grandson of Germany’s last Kaiser, claims the “return” of several castles, which were nationalised, as well as thousands of art objects from the German state. A return of the objects the family now demands would empty some of Berlin’s museums. This is quite amazing, considering that everything monarchs own, is accumulated through taxation of the general population. Instead of asking the question, how the monarchs were able to amass such fortunes, the state is negotiating with the family.

It appears that the only (yet unlikely) hope under German legislation is proving that the family supported Hitler. A historically sounder case would be to show the Kaiser’s responsibility for the catastrophe that befell Germany and Europe, in World War I. Why should his heirs retain their assets, whilst millions have lost all they had during and because of that war?  

Don’t let us forget who fills our museums and who is trying to empty them.

BDS and two (Muslim) US Congresswomen

Two Congresswomen, who are accused by Israel as supporters of BDS, have been barred from entering Israel. An Israeli law enables it to bar supporters of the boycott movement from entering the country. It is stupid but I see no real issue with a country deciding who it will not allow to enter. Israel, however, also controls the borders of both Gaza strip and the West Bank. Thus, it decides who Palestinians are allowed to meet. That, of course, is scandalous: Millions of Palestinians in a sort of open-air prison.

Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar were not joining one of the hundreds of trips, which US politicians have been taken on for years, organised by AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby, and the Israeli government. They were planning to visit the West Bank. They wanted to visit this open-air prison. Had they been allowed to enter, they would have learned about the reality of life in the territories under Israeli control. They would have seen how deceitful the propaganda network is (they always are).

For Netanyahu, this whole affair was bad news. And yet barring US Congresswomen was problematic. He therefore decided to permit entry to the two Congresswomen. And then Trump called, and… Netanyahu dutifully changed his mind.

The question Americans must ask themselves and their representatives is, why do no other US Representatives and Senators make the effort to truly inform themselves. Are the American legislators neglecting their duty? After all, $3.8 BILLION of American taxpayers’ money is given unconditionally to Israel per annum. Is seeing only one side of the picture, their notion of democracy?

And talking of democracy: Israel’s Minister of Interior Aryeh Deri, was approached by Representative Rashida Tlaib, for permission to visit her 90-something year-old grandmother, who lives in the occupied West Bank. Deri approved the request, on condition of good behaviour, and then Tlaib decided not to travel. Deri’s reaction to Tlaib’s decision not to accept his offer, was: "Apparently her hate for Israel overcomes her love for her grandmother."

Tlaib explained “Silencing me & treating me like a criminal is not what she wants for me. It would kill a piece of me. I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in—”

To understand where Minister Deri comes from, one needs to know that he is a convicted criminal. An Israeli court had found him guilty of corruption and bribery and had sentenced him for three years in prison. He must be dumbfounded by politicians, who put their political work and values before their own and their family’s business interests. Not something that he would do.

So why is corrupt Deri a senior member of Netanyahu’s cabinet? Simple: He came out of jail and the electorate of the Sephardi religious party, a senior partner in Netanyahu’s cabinet, promptly re-elected him. Corruption wins.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Der Spiegel – Antisemitic?

The German news magazine Der Spiegel publishes a history series (Der Spiegel Geschichte), with each number dedicated to a single topic. The subject of its latest issue was “Jewish life in Germany: The unknown world next door”. They produced a well-researched magazine, covering a variety of angles and view-points.

Der Spiegel has recently angered the Jewish community with an investigation into activities and attempts of two Jewish lobby organisations to influence German politicians. It is considered by some German Jews to be not only anti-Israel but also antisemitic. A view that I do not share. 
Now Spiegel is being attacked for its choice of cover for the special issue journal. The President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany: “By choosing the cover for the current issue of Spiegel History, those who made the decision have decided to spread an anti-Semitic stereotype.  Neither my ancestors nor my family and I look that way”,  was one of the complaints, I saw on Facebook. 
I have no issue with this photo. On the contrary, I find it quite heart-warming. No, my ancestors, at least those, I have photos of, did not look like that. But, let’s face it, this Jewish world of the shtetl, is part of the history of European Jewish history, including Jews who at some point modernised their external appearance or even started leading a secular life.
So, here’s the corpus delicti: 

Klezmer music was not part of my grandparents’ world, they listened to Mozart, Bach and Wagner. And yet, virtually every Jewish culture festival, that Jewish communities in Germany organise, includes Klezmer music. Some Jews, who can afford it, buy “Judaica” art and artefacts at special Sotheby’s or Christies auctions and hang painting by Chagall, depicting Jewish life – art they, evidently feel is part of them, a world they identify with.

Yet, curiously, Jewish communities that are willing to embrace the klezmer stereotype as a poster for their Jewish culture-festivals, take issue with Spiegel’s cover photo. The music, which enjoys general acceptance is fine, but the shtetl image…

I wonder whether any Spiegel photo would have gotten the thumbs up? Perhaps a photo of Jewish intellectuals, or strong and healthy Israeli soldiers?   

Mounting the Temple

In 1947, the United Nations voted for the partition of British Mandate Palestine into three separate entities: a Jewish state, an Arab state and Jerusalem as a separate legal entity, a corpus separatum. That was the plan.

Tish’a Beav, is a day of mourning, on which religious Jews fast and remember the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Eid El-Ad’ha is the Feast of Sacrifice, the Muslim feast ending the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.  Such days are always an opportunity for extremists on both sides to stir trouble. This year is no exception. Moreover, this year, both holidays fall during the same period. And so the Muslim religious authority has closed all other mosques in Jerusalem to force those Muslims who wish to pray to come in droves to the El-Aksah mosque, and right-wing Israeli politicians and activists are pushing and cajoling the government and the police to open the area for Jews to celebrate. The Chief Rabbi meanwhile opined that according to Jewish law it is forbidden for Jews to enter the area.

What a miserable lot they are – whatever god they maintain they believe in. And all those that follow, hollow and shallow, “believers” that care more for real estate than for human values of peace, love and mercy. Worst of all, are those cold-blooded politicians, secular and religious, who manipulate those primitive feelings of “their people”.

And how right the UN was in 1947, to suggest a corpus separatum. Instead – borrowing from Shakespeare – we have

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Britain’s so-called democracy

So, 92,000 out 140,000 members of the British Conservative   Party (Tories) had an internal election and chose Boris Johnson as their party’s leader. It is bad enough that these absurd creatures populating the Tory party have chosen a liar and philanderer as their leader. But in what Britain considers to be a democracy, the choice of the 92,000 becomes the prime minister of us all.

A curious notion of democracy. Had the Queen been asked to make the nomination, it would have been just as democratic, but probably much better thought-through.

Very democratically, Johnson will force Brexit on a country, which is totally divided on this issue. And very democratically, the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, has neglected his main duty and has prevented his party from fulfilling its role and acting as an opposition. He himself is a Brexit supporter and because of that, half of the country’s population had no voice in parliament, in this critical time in the country’s history. Had that man had any decency and honesty, he would have explained that as a Brexit supporter, he is unable to do his job and resigned from his leadership of the Labour Party. That would have enabled a Brexit opponent to lead the opposition. Shame on him. This off-putting man is one of the Conservative Party’s main assets.


The German term Schadenfreude is also in use in English. I confess to succumbing to this base instinct with regard to the price, which many Brits will pay for their stupid, arrogant, anti-foreign, decision to leave the EU. Because of the falling Pound, all those Brits who, each year, go for their two-week beach holiday in Spain, Portugal or Greece – will pay more for this summer’s holiday. Serves them right. The rate was €1.40 per Pound in 2015, €1.28 on Referendum Day in 2016 and is now €1.12. Moreover, once the UK is out of the EU, British mobile phones will no longer benefit from roaming charge free use of their phones.  

Many will not be able to afford holidays at all, as already many jobs have been lost, due to companies and European organisations leaving Britain. Instead, the lower classes can watch the mega rich, who funded the deceitful Brexit campaign, get richer. Farage and Johnson, the leaders of the Brexit push, actually personally benefit. Last year alone, Farage earned £400,000 from media appearances. And Boris Johnson, is being paid £275,000 per annum for writing a weekly column in the British Daily Telegraph. The billionaire offshore Barclay brothers, who own the Telegraph, will have their reasons for paying this rather high rate for Johnson’s musings. The question must be asked, what is Johnson really being paid for?

Don't Touch Me

The German news magazine Der Spiegel published a well-researched and carefully written article, that looked into the activities of the Jewish and pro-Israel lobby in Germany’s parliament. Surprise, surprise, a chorus of Jewish and non-Jewish German philosemitic voices were immediately active crying Anti-Semitism.

These accusations are absurd, as is the whole discourse on matters Jewish in Germany.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Opportunism: Short term vs. Very Short term

It was reported today that British Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has criticised China in fairly strong language about the situation in Hong-Kong. The Chinese are really angry, and their ambassador told Hunt to keep out of Chinese domestic affairs: “Hands off Hong Kong and show respect. This colonial mindset is still haunting the minds of some officials or politicians”.

Now, I am all for strong protests about Chinese conduct. But why has Hunt chosen to come out so forcefully, when British track-record with regard to Chinese human-rights violations is normally most pragmatic? Britain (like most other countries) put their trade relations with China before the human rights of the Chinese oppressed.

Hunt is one of the two contenders (the other being Boris Johnson) to become Theresa May’s successor, as Tory prime-minister. Voting takes place in two days. My guess would be that Hunt’s opportunism puts his immediate interest before the country’s interest – which is also opportunistic – to let China do what it likes, as long as it signs a trade agreement with post-Brexit Britain.

Frau Merkel – your secret police needs sorting

A few days ago, Hans-Georg Maaßen, who until November of last year headed Germany’s domestic security service, spoke at a political meeting and said “I did not join the CDU (Adenauer, Kohl and Merkel’s party) thirty years ago, so that we should now have 1.8 million Arabs coming to Germany”.

The Nazis had the Gestapo, which stood for Geheime Staatspolizei. When the Federal Republic of Germany was established, it also – as all political systems do – was in need of a secret police. Calling it secret police was no longer a good idea, so they called it ‘Office for the Protection of the Constitution’, or Verfassungsschutz  in German. As Germany is a bottom-up federal state, it not only has a federal domestic security agency, but also one for each of its 16 constituent states. All seventeen of them run covert operations, and they all operate informers.

You are, of course, unlikely to find liberals and human-rights activists staffing a domestic security service. Who does? In the first few years after the War, both the Verfassungsschutz and the BND, the external intelligence service (equivalent to the CIA or Britain’s MI6), greedily and shamelessly recruited the now-out-of-work but oh-so-experienced Nazis. (As did the security apparatuses of quite a few other countries). But even with the supply of old Nazis drying up, it is logical to assume that many of those who enjoy working in a nondemocratic environment, clandestinely snooping on others, gathering material for blackmail, blackmailing, being allowed to do what normally is illegal, forbidden and punishable, will tend to also support tough policing and law-and-order, i.e., right-wing and illiberal ideologies.

And still, it came as a shock, when it turned out, that members of the Verfassungsschutz were deeply involved in covering up murders of immigrants, bank robberies and other crimes carried out by a neo-Nazi gang in the years 2000-2006. The internal report into the affair will remain under lock and key for an unprecedented 120 years. It must be quite explosive, if they are that frightened to own up to it.

Last year, Hans-Gerog Maaßen, who had been in office at the Verfassungsschutz’s Director for six  years, was forced to leave his job. It came out that he secretly met the extremist right-wing AfD party, before the elections and advised them how to stay under the security service’s radar. Maaßen wanted to help this foreigner-hating, anti-Muslim, nationalistic, as close to Nazi as legally possible, AfD party. His boss, Bavarian CSU party leader and Minister of the Interior Seehofer, tried hard to support him, but at the end there was no alternative and the man had to go.

The attempt – in theory, at least – to create a clean, and transparent secret police in post-Nazi Germany, seems to have failed. A domestic security service that defends the state from its internal enemies is necessary for democracy. When it becomes too powerful it can be dangerous for democracy. Some of us still remember FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover, who blackmailed his way across the US political system, including some presidents, to stay in power. He died in office, at the age of 77, having been FBI director for 37 years. It is not as bad in Germany, but Maaßen should not have been allowed to happen. Mrs Merkel probably no longer has the political clout to do what must be done. However, before it is too late, she should restructure this German absurdity of 17 secret police forces.   

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Who are Friedman & Greenblatt Working for?

Last week, David Friedman, US ambassador to Israel and Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s Special Envoy to the Middle East, attended a tunnel-opening ceremony in Arab Jerusalem. The tunnel has been dug over the last six years under Palestinian houses and against their wishes. The instigator of this atrocity is a right-wing Israeli group that is taking over Arab East Jerusalem, stone-by-stone, house-after-house. They are backed by the Israeli government and funded by rich American Jewish donors. US casino-mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam were also among those present at the event. The mascot in the picture is Mrs. Netanyahu.

The US civil servants did more than just attend the ceremony, they actively participated by wielding sledgehammers to break through a wall and open up a tunnel.

Friedman, Greenblatt and Trump’s son-in-law, Kushner, head Trump’s team dealing with the Israel-Palestine issue. Greenblatt recently said in an interview "there is no such thing as an honest mediator." No more veneer of impartiality. The US Ambassador and the Special Envoy, long-time supporters of the settlers, are now evidently working for this most right-wing part of Israeli society, one which many Israelis disassociate from.

So, are Jews likely to be more loyal to Israel than to their countries? Do Jews have too much control over global affairs? Do they have too much control over the United States government?

CAREFUL!!!! Think before you answer these questions. These are three out of eleven statements, that pollsters regularly use as indicators of Antisemitism. Hence, if you answer these truthfully, these will be considered indications that you are an anti-Semite. Take your pick: lie, or be falsely labelled an Antisemite. What a choice.