Tuesday, 26 May 2009

The Nazis, their admirers and their heirs

A story:

The ashes of K, who died last month, are being interred in the private chapel of the son of one of Hitler’s top men.

It seems that not even losing the war had tempered K’s admiration for at least some of what the Third Reich stood for. The top Nazis were gone and could no longer be befriended. Instead, K befriended the son of a senior official of the Third Reich. Not having any children of his own, K is said to have left his property and entire estate to the Nazi’s son.

Was the Nazi’s son, whose father was hanged after the Nuremberg trials, grateful for a father figure? Or was it a purely financial affair?

It could be a lucrative line of business for that generation.

Goebbels in Egypt?

This open letter signed by Claude Lanzmann, Bernard-Henri Levy and Elie Wiesel warns of the serious mistake and shame in appointing Farouk Hosny as Director General of UNESCO.


The letter also brings to light an unattractive aspect of the Egypt-Israel relationship: The continued hatred of all things Israeli that is propagated by the Egyptian Government, thirty years after peace had been signed between the two countries.


I am not talking about apt criticism of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. I am talking about a senior member of Mubarak’s cabinet who regularly and systematically churns out anti-Israeli poison. Farouk Hosny’s attitudes, thinking and language remind one of Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda.


Goebbels’ dissemination of hatred was in full harmony with the policy of Germany’s then head of state, Adolf Hitler. The time has come for Egypt’s President to tell us whether he supports these views and expressions of his minister or else shut him up and bring an end to such blatant expressions of hatred.


Mr Mubarak, your turn now.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

My New York diary

God Bless America: A Visitor's Diary is now available at Amazon.

For more information click here

Monday, 18 May 2009

Madonna, Shari Arison, Hormones and the Bank

Being hormone-driven is perfectly fine when your name is Madonna. Nobody begrudges Madonna her ever-younger hunks, whether she marries them or not. On the contrary.


It is not so simple in the case of Ms. Shari Arison, Israel’s richest woman and the controlling shareholder of Bank Hapoalim, Israel’s largest bank. Arison inherited some 22 per cent of the bank’s shares. Pension funds and other institutional investors own the rest.


Wilful, moody and often pathetic, Arison seems to be especially attracted to men who cause her public humiliation. Thus, she stood by her now to be divorced third husband, as he was tried and sent to prison for sexual harassment and indecent acts. Now, Arison suffers embarrassment and disgrace as she stands by her bank’s chairman, a man she chose and who Israel’s Central Bank tries to have deposed.


Badly advised, Arison will not listen to the old school, serious, calm and much-respected Governor of Israel’s central bank, Professor Stanley Fischer. Instead Arison doggedly stands by her man and accuses the Bank of Israel of corruption, McCarthyism and a ploy to nationalise her bank.


A word of advice, Ms. Arison (after all, you take on new advisors, gurus, healers, coaches and analysts on a regular basis):


STOP interfering in the bank and transfer your assets to a trust and their management to institutional investors. This will give you all the time and freedom to:


DO all the charity work that you really care about and for which you will be respected. As a BONUS you can have as much fun as you like with young, virile macho men that you crave for. Ask Madonna; perhaps her latest beau has a twin brother.


Nobody will mind and nobody will worry about the quality of your decision-making. Just give up running the bank. It’s not for you.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

The Polish Priest and the Sex Manual

This Dominican friar, Father Knotz, Link was not caught reading a sex manual; he wrote one. Knotz is proud, the Church is happy and the publisher is making money.

In Sex As You Don’t Know It: For Married Couples Who Love God, the friar recommends “saucy, surprising and fantasy packed” sessions.

God, we are told, derives pleasure from married couples doing it: “Every act - a type of caress, a sexual position - with the goal of arousal is permitted and pleases God.”   

So much for my assertion that Catholic doctrine on sexual matters abuses the faithful.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

The Pope, Moses and a Satellite Dish – The Photo

The New York Times published a wonderful photo of Pope Benedict on top of Mount Nebo, from which Moses is believed to have looked out on the Promised Land. link


The Pope’s magnificent white robe with the mountainous desert landscape background almost carried me away. And then I noticed the cable leading to a satellite dish placed at the top of the hill. 

Pope Benedict and the Holocaust

I was asked whether the Pope did not fail by not expressing an apology at Yad Vashem, Israel's central Holocaust memorial. 

Haaretz, Israel’s foremost daily paper, published an article explaining that “Different factions in the Vatican and in the Israeli government, the Palestinian Authority, the local Catholic leadership, the Chief Rabbinate, the Islamic Movement, are all pursuing different agendas, and for months already have been attempting to extract maximum political benefit from the visit. Benedict will have to perform a high-wire act, walking above these conflicting interests, without falling into the minefield.” Link

In an editorial that Haaretz published a couple of days later, after the Pope’s visit to Yad Vashem, the paper complains about a missed opportunity. I don’t know what Haaretz expected. A pope will not say what the Jews really want to hear: that the Holocaust was a direct result of anti-Jewish teaching and preaching by Christian preachers, priests and theologians. Anything less is unimportant.

A pope will not say what the Jews really want to hear: that the Holocaust was a direct result of anti-Jewish teaching and preaching by Christian preachers, priests and theologians. Anything less is unimportant.

In the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council and its subsequent documents, the Catholic Church has, after very long deliberations, given as much as it felt it was able to give to the Jews. It was absurd to think that the Pope would, as a little guest gift, produce apologies and mea culpas that the Church had not agreed to before.

It is petty to constantly harp on the Pope’s childhood as a conscript to Hitler’s army or even to deal with the beatification of Pope Pius XII, an internal matter for the Church and Catholics.

Instead of the past, the Pope should concentrate on the future. A true contribution to bringing Israelis and Palestinians to accept each other’s right to live in the area they both claim should have been the Pope’s one and only agenda point on this visit. The Pope should have taken advantage of the colossal public interest during his historic visit and employed the wide-ranging impact of his office for a theatrical act commanding an end to a conflict led by extremists on both sides.

Some might even consider that such a contribution could also have served as the ultimate act of contrition.  

Monday, 11 May 2009

Member of the Israeli Knesset tells Pope: You are Not Welcome.

A friend has sent me an article that appeared in the Israeli press, in which Nitzan Horovitz, a member of Israel’s parliament tells the Pope that he is not welcome in Israel.


Curiously, Horovitz is not a member of the right wing majority running the Jewish state but a member of parliament representing Meretz, a very small left of centre party. As such, I expected him to concentrate his efforts on sorting out Jewish religious coercion in Israel before telling the, at least formally, spiritual representative of a sixth of the world’s population that he is not welcome in Israel.


Horovitz, unnecessarily, hauls Ratzinger’s membership as a 14 year-old boy of the Hitler youth. He also makes much of the holocaust denying Bishop Williamson saga. The Williamson affair is an annoying mishap but it is a mishap. I do not believe that the Pope was aware of the holocaust denial of Williamson when he readmitted him to the Church. Popes run big operations and whoever had arranged for this schismatic group to return to the fold of the Church would not have bothered to report to the Pope that there was a problem with Williamson.


I fully agree with Horovitz that it is wrong to oppose the use of condoms and that especially in Africa this is a significant obstacle in the fight against AIDS. I also agree that gays should not be discriminated against in any area, including matrimony. I do not quite understand what business it is of this Jewish member of the Israeli parliament whether Catholic priests may or may not get married. They are not likely to be his constituents, are they?


My credentials are clear: In Double Cross: The Code of the Catholic Church, I called for the Catholic Church to be dismantled. But, Horovitz’s personal attack on the Pope is misguided. The problem is not the persona of this man but the institution that is unable to change. 

Friday, 8 May 2009

The Pope between Israel and the Arabs

The Pope, Israel, the Palestinians and the Holy Land

The Vatican has announced a papal visit to the Holy Land: neither a country, nor a group of countries but a loose definition of an area, which includes sites that are holy to Christians, Jews and Muslims. The decision to include Amman, a city that surely is not part of the Holy Land, is somewhat curious and suggests politics. But politically and, above all, morally, this papal trip is likely to be a missed opportunity.

Why is he going? What does he want? What do they expect? Israel, currently rather unloved, craves the world’s love. To that end, a good visit by the Pope can be useful. Whereas Jewish holy sites are instrumental in establishing Israel’s right to a Jewish state in that part of the world, Israel accepts that its land is holy to Christianity and Islam as well. Any visit by a foreign dignitary, let alone the Pope, to a Christian holy site within Israel serves to validate Israel as the legitimate and responsible keeper of the Holy Land. Israel also hopes to profit economically from increased pilgrimage and a boost to the country’s tourism income as a result of the visit. The Palestinians, even more than the Israelis, crave recognition. A visit of a head of state or dignitary of any other sort serves the purpose of raising international awareness of the Palestinian problem as well as legitimising Palestinian leadership and institutions.

During his visit, Pope Benedict will meet the King of Jordan, the President as well as the Prime Minister of Israel and the President of the Palestinian Authority. Yet, the Apostolic Nuncio tells us that “The Holy Father’s journey to the Holy Land is not in any way political.” Why, in God’s name, is the Pope visiting Jordan, Israel and the Occupied Territories? Unlike most papal visits, this is not a pastoral affair. There are not many Christians living in the territories that the Pope will visit; many have left in the last forty years. This emptying of the Holy Land of Christians is a worry to all Christian denominations and one of the Pope’s aims is to support the continued existence of a Christian presence in the Holy Land. But Israeli rule is hard on the Palestinians and the Muslim-led Palestinian administration has made it hard on Christians. The Vatican’s website defines the trip as a pilgrimage. A pilgrimage, even a pope’s, is a personal affair. The Apostolic Nuncio clarified that “this will be a pilgrimage of prayer for peace and unity in the Middle East and the rest of the world.” Is this enough? Should not the head of Christianity’s largest Church be more forward than just praying for peace, apropos his visit to Christianity’s holy sites? Should the Pope not be on record demanding with all his moral authority an end to the continued war and atrocities carried out in the “Holy Land”? An end to a war that is often nourished by religious, albeit non-Christian, fanatics.

The trouble is that the Pope will not be considered an undisputed and unbiased referee; at least not by Israel. The Church’s history with Judaism and Jews is tarnished. Although, she denies culpability, some consider the holocaust to be the result of almost two thousand years of anti-Judaic teaching and preaching by the Church. The latest incident, in January of this year, the Pope’s reinstating of Bishop Williamson, a holocaust denier, caused a furore and much bad blood. The problematic stance of the Catholic Church vis-à-vis the Jews has been much written about. Less well known is the Church’s antagonistic approach to the Jewish State. At their meeting in 1904, Pope Pius X, who was approached for support by Theodore Herzl, the father of Zionism, made it abundantly clear that the Church did not want Jerusalem, at the time under Turkish rule, to be placed in Jewish hands. On the question of Jews settling in Palestine, the Church and the Arabs shared the same objective: neither wanted Jews to settle in the land that Jews, Christians and Muslims consider holy. Later, in the post-holocaust period, the Vatican actively tried to prevent the founding of a homeland for Jews. Only in 1993, forty-five years after the establishment of Israel, and only after the PLO itself had recognised Israel, did the Vatican conclude an agreement with the Jewish State. The relationship between Israel and the Vatican continues to be difficult and concentrates on issues connected to Church properties and taxation. If Christian guilt feelings about the holocaust did indeed play a role in the world’s consent to the establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine, Arabs would be right in begrudging their having to pay the price for what was perpetrated by Christians in Europe. Thus, whatever the Pope will say about the Israeli-Arab conflict is likely to be attacked by at least one of the parties.

And yet, for a person of the Pope’s stature, to visit Israel and the Palestinian Territories without employing all the weight of his office for change is morally unacceptable. Instead of a silent prayer for peace, the Pope could borrow Isaiah’s words “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” In a theatrical and, for this Pope, untypical act the Pope could loudly cry out to God and appeal to men to put an end to the dispute, which has caused so much bloodshed. He must call for compromise and insist that this is the only moral solution, whatever is claimed by religious fanatics on either side. This Pope, who is more theologian than charismatic, should put some charisma into this effort.

Simply to satisfy his personal need for a pilgrimage cannot be enough.