Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Better Late than Never (I)

In a recent TV interview, Barbara Bush, George W Bush’s mother, when asked what she thought of Sarah Palin, said “I sat next to her once, thought she was very beautiful…and I think she’s very happy in Alaska. And I hope she’ll stay there.”

I, of course, fully agree with Barbara Bush’s wish that the world be spared this Alaskan punishment that super conservative Americans are trying to inflict on us. I just wonder why Mrs Bush lacked this insight in 2000. Why did she not advise her son to stay in Texas?

Capitalism or Shame on Steve Jobs

I have much admiration for Steve Jobs, the man leading Apple to turn out their beautiful and impressive products. I was even willing to overlook the fact that they come not only with high price tags but also with annoying usage limitations. Fortunately, there are plenty of creative minds to find ways and means of overcoming many of the Apple restrictions.

It has now been announced that Apple is going into a joint venture with the Murdoch media conglomerate to produce a digital only newspaper for its iPad. Successful capitalism can be ugly but even Jobs should know that there are some people you do not go to bed with. Helping the Murdoch empire get even bigger is wrong. Shame on you – Steve Jobs.

Hackers of the World Unite!

Better Late than Never (II)

There are probably more prostitutes that have read Double Cross: The Code of the Catholic Church than there are prostitutes who have waited for the papal approval to start using condoms. And yet, better late than never.

The Pope started out by talking of male prostitutes – where contraception is not an issue anyway. The Vatican has widened the approval to include female prostitutes. By talking of prostitutes, the Pope really circumvented the contraception issue but the floodgates have probably been opened now.

Fewer and fewer Catholics in the developed world observed the Church’s teaching on contraception and what the Church was left with were poor people in third world countries dying from AIDS because their bishops told them not to use condoms. At long last, the Pope has understood how scandalous this state of affairs was. Thank God?

Sunday, 14 November 2010


Has it ever occurred to you that during all those years in which the Catholic Church persecuted and burned those she called “witches”, all she did was to set the competition’s stalls ablaze.

Think of Aldi firebombing all Lidl stores or Tesco setting all Sainsbury stores to fire. Exorcism is the brand name of the Catholic Church's own witchcraft product. Nobody else was permitted to compete.

Business, apparently, is booming and this weekend, in Baltimore, the Catholic Church has held a workshop for bishops and priests in the USA to train them as exorcists. To help us recognise those in need of exorcism, Bishop Paprocki, the organiser of the workshop, has described some of the classic signs of possession by a demon, “speaking in a language the person has never learned; extraordinary shows of strength; a sudden aversion to spiritual things like holy water or the name of God; and severe sleeplessness, lack of appetite and cutting, scratching and biting the skin.”

Writing books (or reading them) that call for the dismantling of the Church is evidently no proof of possession by the devil. You can safely order a copy of Double Cross: The Code of the Catholic Church for your best friends.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Hedonistic Tel Aviv

During my recent stay in Tel-Aviv, I noticed the rather new phenomenon of tourists who come from Europe for a few days or a long weekend just to enjoy the fun. In the past, non-Jewish tourists mainly came to visit Israel’s historical, archaeological and religious sites and Diaspora Jews came to visit family and the Jewish homeland. Lately, however, Tel-Aviv that has no archaeological or historical significance has become a different kind of a travel destination. Situated on the Mediterranean it enjoys a long and clean beach. With its abundance of good restaurants, bars, clubs and vibrant nightlife, Tel-Aviv seems never to go to sleep. It is in a 24/7 party mode. Rothschild Boulevard is safer, more fun and not as touristy as Barcelona’s Ramblas. People are friendly, approachable and open-minded and are likely to speak your language. The weather (except for the very hot summer months) is good. Theatre is in Hebrew but there is plenty of good classical music on offer.

As an Israeli, I could not avoid thinking about the morality of this hedonistic bubble in a society that sends its sons to police occupied territories. Should not stop you from going there. See for yourself!


At lunch with friends in Tel Aviv, as our argument grew more heated, my host said to me, “I hope that you are not talking like this when you are abroad, causing damage to Israel’s reputation in the UK.” “No”, I was able to reassure him, “there is no need for me to do so; damaging Israel’s reputation is adequately taken care of by the Israeli government.”

Several days later, this time at dinner with friends, I spoke about the possible effect of external pressure on Israel. If one considers Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories to be illegal why not boycott their produce? Or, would not the application of serious financial pressure on Israel make Israelis rethink their support of governments that are trying to widen their hold on the Occupied Territories? The reaction of one of my friends was that for an Israeli to support a boycott of any kind amounts to treason, adding that there were laws dealing with treason.

Most of my friends object to Israel’s settlements in the Occupied Territories and support a withdrawal from the territories within a framework of a peace agreement. They do not support any of the right wing parties that currently rule the country. However, there is a general discomfort with what in German is referred to as Nestbeschmutzer, one who soils his own nest. In today’s global world with open media, internet and travel, the notion of keeping criticism “secret” is rather unrealistic. Yet, even those who criticise their country internally shy away from criticising their country abroad.

I, too, would prefer Israel to act morally out of conviction and driven by its values rather than under external pressure. BUT, if the only way to get Israel to change tracks and get out of the mess it has got itself into since 1967 is for the USA and Europe to apply strong pressure, then such pressure should be applied. Sooner rather than later.