Saturday, 8 May 2010

Cosmetics Do Not Cure Cancer

Israel is like a person who has cancer who – instead of going for treatment to try and get rid of his tumour – goes for a facial and a haircut and expects everyone to admire his beauty. He then gets annoyed when his friends suggest that he should see a doctor.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that Bibi Natanyahu’s best friend and supporter in the USA is cosmetics heir Ron Lauder.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Israel - The Problem and The Solution

The Problem

The BBC and a Japanese newspaper recently conducted a joint opinion poll to establish which countries are considered to be a positive influence in the world. 30,000 respondents in 33 countries were polled.

Germany, Japan, the European Union got the top marks.

The country that was most negatively viewed was Iran at 56 percent, followed by Pakistan at 51 percent and Israel at 50 percent.

The Solution

“Israel, Not What the World Thinks” is the motto of a Hebrew pamphlet that I was handed as I was leaving Tel Aviv airport several weeks ago. Israel’s Ministry of Propaganda is eager to change the general perception of the country. To this end, Israelis are instructed to “first listen, then talk” and to “keep eye contact - your counterparts will notice that you are attentive to them.” Not only humour which "always helps” but photos and maps and personal stories to illustrate one’s case should also be used.

Having mastered these techniques, we are given the ammunition: A list of key moments in Israel's history. Israel - as seen by this government pamphlet - is a cocktail of wars mixed with winning the Eurovision Song Contest and occasional Nobel prizes. These are topped up by the information that “Windows XP”, the Disk-on-Key as well as Cherry tomatoes were invented in Israel.

Can illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories be made good by Israeli professors winning Nobel prizes?

Will people change their minds about Israeli occupation and settlement of Arab territories occupied in 1967 because Dana International won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1998 or because an Arab Israeli, Rana Raslan, was made Miss Israel in 1999?

Printing pamphlets is easy.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

The Vatican – The Legionaries of Christ – and I

The Vatican has just announced that the Pope has appointed an envoy to take over and reform the Legionaries of Christ, the conservative order that has been discredited by revelations that its founder, Father Maciel, sexually abused boys and fathered at least one child.

I came across Maciel’s name when I was researching for Double Cross: The Code of the Catholic Church. Indeed some of Maciel’s “activities” are mentioned in the book.

The following is an excerpt from my diary, May 2007 during my stay in Rome:

At the Piazza delle Cinque Lune, just in front of the Opus Dei university, I approached what at first I thought were two Jesuits; it turned out that they weren’t Jesuits. They were members of The Legionaries of Christ; training to become priests; one was Mexican and the other Brazilian. They were 33 years old, “Just like Jesus”, the Brazilian said. “Try not to die at 33”, I replied. “Yes, there is so much more to do”, was his response.

Wasn’t there some kind of a problem with their founder, Father Maciel, sometime ago, I asked? Surprised that I had heard about it, they responded that it was all untrue. They know, they knew Maciel personally and had lived with him in the same house and "no way could he have done any of the things which are said about him… it is people who object to the Order that he founded who are behind all this.”

I wanted more and suggested we go for a coffee. The Brazilian who did most of the talking told me that they had to return to their house, adding that he would “pray for me”. He gave me his phone number but when I rang he said that he was unable to meet me.