Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Diplomatic niceties

Zion Evrony, Israel's ambassador to Ireland isn't the most liked man in the Emerald Isles, it would seem.

Putting aside the passport theft business for a moment, he's faced other bits and pieces of local resistance recently. A month ago, a mini row was prompted by the decision of a local council to invite him to a local reception. The moving force appears to be Sinn Fein (just in case you're not up to speed with the politics in that part of the world, the political wing of the apparently defunct terrorist/militant/resistance [take your pick] organisation, the IRA), as this press release indicates.

Now, as reported on Ynet today, the Council have decided to remove Evrony's entry in the council's visitor's book. The Irish Foreign Minister, whilst noting his disapproval of Israeli policies in the territories, does make a useful point about the farrago:

"...However, it is a basic principle of relations between States that we treat each other's diplomatic representatives with civility and respect, regardless of any policy differences. To do otherwise would seriously undermine the ability of states to conduct international relations."

Elsewhere, a local Irish newspaper report likens the 'affair' to an episode out of Father Ted.

You haven't watched Father Ted? Poor you. Here's a clip from Ireland's best export, after Guinness.


Unfortunately, I can't embed this link. On the plus side, the whole episode - The Passion of St Tibulus - is available elsewhere.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Tennis in Dubai

Israeli female Tennis number 1, Shahar Peer was barred from playing in the Dubai Open a year ago - I blogged about it here.

Following the justified fuss about the matter, the Dubai authorities had no option but to issue her a visa and allow her into the country to take part this year.

Now, if you've been paying attention to the news over the last few days, you might be aware of the fuss that (allegedly) Israeli Mossad operatives have caused in Dubai, with the assassination of a top Hamas-nik.

Irrespective of all the speculation, Israel's official position - such as it is - can be summed up by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's statement of "official ambiguity" in relation to the Mossad's involvement - or not - in the matter.

Fair enough - but this position seems to be wilfully undermined somewhat by a tweet on Twitter by the Israeli Embassy in the United Kingdom: "You heard it here first: Israeli tennis player carries out hit on Dubai target".

According to the Guardian story, the tweet apparently refers to Ms Peer beating the No. 1 seed in this year's Dubai Open and proceeding to the quarter finals of the tournament, as the attached link reports.

Apparently. And they wonder why Hasbara doesn't work.

Side issue: I'm I the only person to notice the startling physical resemblance between Meir Dagan, head of Israel's Mossad, and George Costanza, the hapless fictional star of American TV programme Seinfeld? Readers, we deserve to be told the truth...

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

One State, One People...

Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) made a name for herself on Saturday evening political programme "The Council of Wisemen" - Moetzet HaHakhamim - before becoming the youngest member of the current Knesset. The program - as do most political programmes in Israel - involves a lot of shouting, which no doubt prepared her well for her present position, as the youngest member of the current Parliament - she's just 31.

But I digress.

Speaking at the Jerusalem Conference on Tuesday, she came up with a - for a right-leaning MK - startling suggestion regarding the issue of Israel's inchoate borders:

"We should consider giving them (the Arab citizens of the West Bank) citizenship..."

Actually, I've changed my mind: It isn't a startling opinion for a right leaning MK, it is a startling opinion for any MK, except perhaps the members of Hadash. But before one gets too excited, she tempers her comments somewhat.

"...on condition that we legislate a Basic law that Israel remains a Jewish State. They will then at best have a 30% minority. We must then embark on a national mission to bring another million Jews to Israel from the West."

The full article is in the Jpost, here.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Maybe I'll loiter about for a bit after all...

...but less of my whiny parsing and editorialising. Israel is far too an interesting a place not to write and blog about, after all. That said, I am acutely aware of my lack of knowledge and awareness about all sorts of things in this odd little corner of the world: Far better that I watch and learn, rather than bury myself in the cesspit of "opinion".

(And thank for the kind comments after the last post.)

So, I think that for the present, I'll use the blog as a receptacle for the interesting, the absurd and the out and out ridiculous stuff that I come across on the web and elsewhere. But I'll let you, dear reader, decide which is which.

I'll start off with a piece by Times feature writer Hugo Rifkind (son of MP and Tory grandee Sir Malcolm, not that this should matter very much) about his first visit to Ramallah, courtesy of Israeli advocacy group BICOM.

"I gather that Ramallah isn't exactly typical of the West Bank, but even so it's a total voyeuristic disappointment. I don't know if I have the heart to tell him (a Jewish relative who lives down the road in Jerusalem)."

The full piece is here.

Have a good weekend.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Hello, goodbye

It's stopped being fun, and started to feel quite narcissistic. Writing a blog is an excellent way of keeping track of my thoughts: The problem is that it doesn't actually do very much by way of figuring out what other people are thinking, or whether my tuppence worth has any chance whatsoever of influencing the wider discourse.

Actually, I'm jaded with so called "social media" in general: there is a lot of excellent potential waiting to be tapped, but generally - and there are a number of notable exceptions, I must say - it's all about "Me, Me, Me..."

I'll keep the page open for a while. I may find a couple of amusing things to post. Or I may even change my mind, who knows?

But thanks for reading. It was fun writing this blog, and it is always a privilege to be told that occasionally I do make sense.

Take care.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

I'm cold

...so cold. At least, after the miserable weather in London this week, *winter* in Tel Aviv will be a welcome change.

Leaving Ben Gurion last week:

Stern Faced Child Playing At Security Expert (leafing through my British passport): What is the origin of your name?

Me: Nigerian

SFCPASE (Eyebrows raised): Algerian?

Me: No, Nigerian

SFCPASE: What language do you speak with your siblings at home?

I was tempted to tell her to watch Entourage, to get an idea of the potty language that we use. But instead, I humoured her by assuring her that we don't speak Arabic. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see an olive skinned type being escorted decorously to an inner sanctum...

No point going into the pros and cons of ethnic profiling: I have my views, and others have theirs. So be it. But I do object to surly, incompetent small children with no discernible skills other than the capacity to regurgitate stock phrases and questions - I can recite them by heart, and have actually pre-empted them by finished them off once or twice, just so we could get over the preliminaries and move on to taking my luggage apart - determining whether I am a security risk or not. I gather that the job is poorly paid, and many of the petulant children are actually moonlighting students, looking to earn a few extra bucks between classes.

Good for them: but as someone said told me once: pay peanuts, get monkeys. They really don't make me feel any safer, to be quite honest...

Meanwhile, whilst I've been freezing my butt off here in London, some stupid sorry-arsed incompetent Nigerian tried to blow himself up on a plane. As if the *good* name of our country hasn't been dragged through the mud enough already... Amidst all the hand wringing about how he evaded no-fly lists and security to actually get to Detroit, I rather suspect that flying back to Ben Gurion tonight is going to be no fun at all. British passport or not.

I may be gone some time...

Monday, 21 December 2009

A few things

...before I bugger off on holiday:

(Yeah, I should be packing. But I think Mrs Goy has done it all for me. I hope Mrs Goy has done it all for me...)

  1. To be quite honest, the return of the "Organ Harvesting" row doesn't particularly interest me. It's quite obvious that tampering with dead bodies, without the permission of their nearest and dearest, is pretty appalling. However, as the AFP report makes quite clear, this is something quite distinct from the big stink over the summer, following the story in Swedish newspaper Afton-Bladet: "The Channel 2 report said that in the 1990s, forensic specialists at Abu Kabir harvested skin, cornea, heart valves and bones from the bodies of Israeli soldiers, Israeli citizens, Palestinians and foreign workers, often without permission from relatives." Couldn't be clearer: another case of medical arrogance, something not at all limited to this crazy little part of the world. As an illustration, this should be rather instructive
  2. Mind you - as a twit twitting on twitter pointed out last night: "If one's people have a blood libel hanging over one's head, one ought to think a little more carefully about what one does with the bodies of others..."
  3. This interests me far more: A story in the Yeshiva World News about a woman in Ashdod asking the authorities to prosecute the city's chief Rabbi for contempt of court. The woman had applied for a Hechsher - Kosher certification - for her restaurant: The Rabbinate declined. The woman sued in the High Court: The court found in her favour. But the Rabbinate still resisted. The problem, it seems, is that she is a Messianic Jew - a Jew for Jesus. Them lot are not terribly popular in this part of the world, for some odd reason. The talk backs for the article are quite illuminating, as well as entertaining. And that's something I rarely say, since I genuinely believe that the talkback facility is only good for keeping the clearly unwell off the streets. There is a bit more background to the story here: If this blows up - as I suspect it will, if the High Court sticks to its guns - it is going to provoke a very interesting debate about the muddled mix between synagogue and state in Israel.
  4. (For the record: I should say that I believe, firmly, in freedom of religion. I also believe in freedom from religion.)
  5. Didi Remez - whom, as far as I can tell, is the only person ever to work in PR with anything approximating a human conscience - runs an interesting blog called Coteret. His argument, essentially, is that the English speaking press in Israel - which many foreign journalists, as well as people living outside Israel and with an interest in Israel, rely upon - is scandalously limited. Ha'aretz's English language edition and Yediot's English language website only translate a small percentage of all their news stories; jpost has an editorial slant which means that a lot of juicy stories pass it by. (I should say that I have a soft spot for two of these three outlets, but I agree with this assessment). So, to redress the balance and educate the Hebrew-challenged public, he translates stories in the Hebrew Press - Ma'ariv, Yediot, Globes and more - that he thinks have a significant public interest quotient.
  6. At the moment, he is working on one man's campaign to overturn the traditional obfuscation of the IDF's spokesperson Unit. Matti Golan, a columnist with Globes, decided to take up the IDF on a classic example of saying very much without saying anything at all - the story of a politician clearing an enhanced Army pension, even though his actual service was seriously circumscribed - with surprising results. Remez, after his translation, makes an interesting editorial point: "For civilian deaths, even those of children, a common IDF reply is along the lines of 'the (soldiers) felt threatened and fired at suspects', and except for a few exceptions that prove the rule, that is the end of any investigative journalism. Imagine the change if every foreign bureau chief or Israeli defence correspondent, took the Golan approach and really looked into the death of even on of every fifty or a hundred dead children. That's how oversight works - even the slight chance of exposure causes a tremendous change in behaviour." And so it should be.
  7. An interesting story from the BBC, this time about organ donation. Apparently, a law has been passed (or is about to be: I should check, but I'm already de-mob happy and refuse to do anything else in the name of 'research') granting Israeli organ donor cards the right to priority medical treatment, should they require an organ transplant. Now, I've carried a Donor card all my adult life, and I always will: I accept that there is a very slim chance that any of my organs will be good for anything in the case of my untimely demise, but on the off chance...quite seriously though, whilst I think that organ donation is pretty important, I'm not sure that this is the way to coerce people into going about it. In England, I think they now have the 'presumed consent' approach, which is to assume that one is happy to donate one's organs to science in the case of ones death unless explicit instructions to the contrary are made. Whilst I'm still not entirely comfortable with that either, it seems a better path to take. Prioritising health care on the basis of criteria such as this seems inequitable, at best.
  8. In any case, organ donor card or not, who knows whether the Israeli medical authorities will want my innards, anyway? I'm not allowed to donate blood in Israel, a consequence of the BSE/Mad Cow diseases outbreaks in the UK in the mid-90s; aside from that, there are documented cases of medical professionals discarding blood donated by Ethiopians, because they worried - without any evidence - that it might be tainted by all sorts of unpleasant things.
  9. I was about to look up a link for the latter point, but I've just realised that Mrs Goy didn't pack for me. Her argument is that since she isn't going on holiday with me, she sees no reason why she should sort out my luggage. So she only did the Small Noisy One's suitcase, and now has swanned off to work. Wives! I tell you...
  10. As any Hebrew speaker would be able to tell you, the word for 'owner' and 'husband' are the same in the language. So, to say 'my husband' is the same as saying 'my owner'. A civilised position that I fully agree with. However, Mrs Goy, feminist that she is, seems to have other ideas.
Right. I am off.