Saturday, 19 September 2009

Leonard Cohen - to sing or not to sing?

...once I stopped smacking myself about the head for thinking spiteful, gleeful thoughts, after reading about Mr Cohen collapsing on stage in Bilbao...

[To put it in context: I am one of the many people who were unable to get tickets for his Tel Aviv show. I did have the chance to pick up tickets after the fact, but for NIS 1000 ($250, more or less) each; no way on earth that was going to happen, "VIP" section or not. I'd have to go on baked beans on toast rations for the next year as a consequence.]

...I noticed that this sentence in the BBC report: "After Spain, Cohen is due to perform in Florida on 17 October."

As any fule kno, Mr Cohen is scheduled to entertain 47,000 people next Thursday. Which is quite some time before the 17th of October. Petty malevolence on the part of the BBC? Part of a creeping attempt to erase Israel from the cultural map?

No, actually (at worst), sloppy research. Because Mr Cohen's website skips the Tel Aviv gig too.

Odd that. Although, after all the palaver in setting it up, perhaps he'd rather forget about it too...

Friday, 18 September 2009

Happy New Year

The good thing about being a Goy in these parts is that I get to make my new year resolutions twice a year.

The bad thing about being a Goy in these parts is that I get to break my new year resolutions twice a year...

Never mind. Actually, things are looking up a bit; 5760 may turn out to be an...interesting year. More about this in due course.

To my Jewish friends: Shana Tovah; to everyone else: have a good weekend


ps - My new year resolution? To be more positive, of course. Pretty obvious, if you think about it. Oh, and to stop ranting from the sidelines, and actually try to make a difference about the stuff that I believe in...

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Something very odd is happening in England

...well, odder than usual, given that this is the country of Morris Dancing, passive-aggressive queueing (I'll come back to that another time) and politicians like Gordon Brown.

Over the last few weeks, a shadowy group called the English Defence League has been engaged in running street battles with Muslim activists. The general presumption is that the EDL is a offshoot of the British National Party; the Muslim, for their part, have joined forces with left leaning and anti fascist activists.

So far, so bad. But what's the Israel link?

Well, the Jewish Chronicle report that some of the nice fellows at the EDL have decided to adopt the Israeli flag as a standard to rally around at their demonstrations. Not one to miss a trick, a Muslime website has already reported the “connection between the EDL and Zionists”.

Today, there is a pro-Palestinian demonstration at Trafalgar Square in central London; according to today's Observer, police are on high alert for an expected confrontation between the pro-Palestinians and the EDL. "This is the terrorist-supporting 'we are the Hezbollah' mob. We need all our lads to turn out to let them know they aren't welcome here".

The first thing that comes to mind is that old chestnut about the enemy of my enemy being my friend. Which, of course is bollocks. It's nice to see that the Israeli Embassy spoke up quickly, condemning those using the country's flag as a tool to stir up tensions between communities.

The other is Pope's aphorism about setting precedence between a louse and a flea. A little unkind perhaps; I'm sure there are interesting, important arguments buried deep within the operational logic of both parties. But I fear that they both owe something to fascism, in wanting things their way and no other way at all. Which, of course, is a shame.

But it would be fun asking a couple of the 'lads' from the EDL what they think about, for example, the Balfour Declaration, no?

Have a good day.

Monday, 7 September 2009

A random conversation today... I'm sitting on a bench on a small side street just off Dizengoff, waiting for Mrs Goy and the Small Noisy One. They're late; but I don't particularly mind. I'm listening to the iPod and watching the world go seems very pleasant and stress-free indeed...

So when I sense someone settling behind me (I am sitting with my shoulder to the bench's upright, all the better to see the passing human traffic), I do not feel the need to acknowledge my new companion.


The voice filters through the music. I ignore it. It can't be directed at me, after all..

"Boom!" More insistent. Apparently it is. I sigh and turn around.

She is in her mid sixties perhaps, solidly built but not stout, with hennaed hair and dressed in the vaguely shapeless flowery dresses favoured by women from a certain period. She is rummaging through a voluminous handbag on the bench by her side.

"Boom!" She slaps at her forearm with the open palm of her other hand. "All we hear these days...Boom! Boom!" She is speaking a mixture of Hebrew and English, for my benefit no doubt. I remove the headphones warily.

"What do you mean?" I ask, in Hebrew.

"All you hear nowadays, Murder, Murder, Murder. Boom!" She slaps at her forearm once again, before continuing the excavation of her handbag. I wonder what she is looking for.

But I don't ask her this. "What happened?"

"In Ramat Gan." She is sticking to Hebrew now. "A man goes into a shop, asks for the owner, pulls out a knife, then Boom! Owner is dead." She finally discovers the object of her quest; a Sphygmomanometer.

(I only know what they are called because once, many years ago, some recalcitrant rascal of my acquaintance gave me one - stolen from his father, a doctor, I believe - as part settlement for an old and mouldy debt. It sat in my wardrobe, in boarding school, for a year. Eventually, I recouped most of the debt by offering blood pressure checks to my classmates during our final school leaving examinations. Probably illegal, passing myself off as a qualified medical technician. Never mind...)

"In a shop?", I ask. I wonder if it is a protection racket gone wrong.

(It wasn't, as it happens. The full story is here)

"All you here in Israel these days is murder, murder, murder. A man walks on the beach...Boom! A small girl dumped in the Yarkon, wrapped in polythene...Boom! This country is awful."

"But stuff like this happens everywhere..." I start

"No!" She cuts across me. "Look, I was born here, grew up not ten minutes from here. It wasn't always like this." She is smiling, friendly even, belying her predictions of doom and gloom. "We have killed this country," she concludes sadly, shaking her head. No "Boom!" this time.

Occasionally, my old muckers in the Old Country(s) accuse me of going native when I try to tell them that Israel isn't quite as bad as it is made out to be by bored foreign correspondents presumably paid by the word or with one eye on the book deal where they explain what precisely, in their not terribly humble opinion, is wrong with the Jewish State. I can live with that. But I am scarcely equipped to defend Israel against the natives themselves..."It's the same everywhere..." I repeat lamely.

She shakes here head vigorously. "You put on the television every day, it is the same thing, Boom! So," she continues, strapping the sphygmomanometer to her forearm as she speaks, "I killed the television...Boom!" She cackles delightfully.

I smile. My telephone rings. It is Mrs Goy. She is running late (I know!) and asks if I can meet her outside her grandmother's, five minutes away, instead. I rise to my feet, a little reluctantly. "I'm sorry, I have to go..."

She peers up at me. "How do you know how to speak Hebrew so well?"

I blush (metaphorically, at least). My Hebrew is one small step away from appalling, as opposed to merely dreadful. Her comment is the nicest thing anyone has said to me in quite a while, true or not. "I've lived here for two and a half years..." She looks unconvinced. "I talk to my wife in Hebrew occasionally...she's Israeli."

She brightens. "Really? That's wonderful. Where are her family from?"

We go through the family tree, as I have done for absolute strangers many times before - here, for example.

(Digression - I often wonder why the British TV programme "Who Do You Think You Are?" has not been adapted for Israeli Television; it seems tailor made for this country...)

"And your family?" she asks. I tell her. "I hope you get to see them regularly..." she queries. I smile.

"Do you have any children?" I tell her I have one. I don't tell her that at the moment, he is convinced that he is a Lion, and wakes me up most mornings by pouncing on the bed and roaring as fiercely as he can manage - think Peter Sellers and Cato in the Pink Panther films, as below. I suppose this won't interest her.

"Is he beautiful?" (She uses the masculine adjective Yafeh, which literally translates as beautiful; in this context, it'll probably read better as good looking.)

I smile. "Well..."

"Is he more like you, Kushi?"

(If I'm correct, the word Kushi comes from is the Kush, an ancient race in North Africa - Sudan and Egypt, Wikipedia helpfully tells me. Generally, I had assumed that it was used in Israel in a vaguely pejorative manner, like Coloured in the UK. I'd be interested in exploring the etymology of the word in modern Hebrew now, after this conversation...)

"He is, yes. But he gets his good looks from his mother." (Mrs Goy, if you are reading this, this MUST be worth something...forgiveness for past misdemeanours on my part, perhaps?)

"Tov, you must be going, she'll be waiting for you."

She is right, and I bid her farewell.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Media Control, Israeli Style

We've been here before; when journalists say - or are deemed likely to say - disobliging things about Israel, the Israeli government and Israeli policies in the occupied territories, it is reasonable - necessary, even - for the Israeli government to counter by clarifying misapprehensions, misunderstandings, distortions and out and out lies. But the way the representatives of the Israeli people go about it however...

Exhibit A - Cite the Blood Libel

These was a bit of a fuss whilst I was on holiday in England, when The Voice, a small circulation (and even smaller impact) weekly serving the black Caribbean population of the United Kingdom, ran a less than kind assessment of the manner in which we darker skinned people are treated by the Israeli penal system. (Headline - Hundreds of Black People Being Held in Israeli Jails)

It should be pointed out that the story was the work of an obvious charlatan; the chap who was interviewed for the piece - a filmmaker accompanying the Gaza bound aid/propaganda boat intercepted by the Israeli Navy last June - wrote back the next week to deny pretty much everything that was said in his name. The editor of the newspaper, an even bigger charlatan, was quoted after the fact as saying that he "regretted the inaccuracies", but added that the "nature of journalism is to make things sensational". (Sadly, the piece is no longer on the newspaper's website. I wonder why?)

However: Ron Proser, Israel's ambassador to the United Kingdom, then weighed in mightily, stating that The Voice should be a "responsible, articulate voice for black Britons" (fair enough), and that "on this occasion it has chose to be the voice of slander, disinformation and lies."

So far, so good. Now, this would be the opportunity for Mr Proser to set the record straight; to discuss the mechanics of Operation Oz, and the intent at the time to deport foreign nationals willy-nilly, including children who were born here and know no other home than Israel.

(I accept that this is a truncated and biased assessment of Israeli immigration *policy*. On the other hand, the retards responsible for it don't seem terribly interested in rational discussion, and instead are happy to sleepwalk into the same problems experienced in Britain and elsewhere, cheerfully demonising migrants to score cheap points. So I don't particularly feel up to being 'fair and balanced' at the moment.)

But I digress. So does Mr Proser set the record straight, by exploring the challenges faced in managing a fair policy towards migrant workers? Hell, no! Rather, he continues by saying that "...this article is less in the spirit of being blood brothers and more in the spirit of a blood libel."

I see. Or, perhaps I don't. The Blood Libel is a particularly egregious allegation; it should only be wielded when absolutely justified by the facts. Here, in my humble opinion, it ain't. And it makes Proser look like the boy who cried wolf, irrespective of the shoddy partisanship exhibited by The Voice

Exhibit B - Cite the Blood Libel, with bells attached.

There isn't anything really to add to the palaver following the nonsense masquerading as investigative journalism (I am picking my words very carefully here, and I should say that this is a personal opinion) in Aftonbladet, other than to note that no one came out of this covered in glory. Especially dear Avigdor (whom I believe is actually visiting my native Nigeria today - hope he has fun!).

I read somewhere a very powerful argument, about the piece being a modern manifestation of the old stories about Jews murdering Christian children, one which I pretty much accept wholesale (unfortunately, I can't remember where. If anyone's interested, I can go look it up). It's also pretty clear that people whom are inclined to believe the worst of the Jewish people will lap up this abhorrence; that said, people like that probably go out of their way to find anything to confirm their worst prejudices.

Even so, I really don't think that bullying the Swedish Government into accepting responsibility for the nonsense spewed forth by its newspapers is the way to go. Think about it; should Bibi and company take responsibility for everything printed in the Israeli press? Would he want to? Nah, I don't think so either.

(Side issue - for the people whom are advocating for a boycott of IKEA, two things: Firstly, I think that IKEA is run in Israel by an Israeli-owned franchise, and in any case employs lots of nice Israeli people to sell their nice tchotkes. Do you really want to add to the unemployment figures in the country at the moment? And, more to the point, doesn't this legitimise the calls - which, no doubt, this same group of people vehemently oppose - to boycott Israeli goods? Think about it...)

Exhibit C - When everything else fails, shoot at the buggers

In relation to the clip below, I should say that I don't particularly warm to the journalist's editorial line. "Expropriation" and "Confiscation" of Palestinian land, I can live with, but words like "Theft" and "Stealing" - even if absolutely justified - are highly charged, and ought to be explored - or explained - further, rather than being chucked about like confetti. Anyway...

A few things to consider. It is reasonable to assume that TV crews 'coordinate' their positions with the IDF before they start filming. Which is to say, it is fair to assume that the soldiers ought to have known that they were shooting teargas near a TV crew, one - unfortunately for them - on a live feed

Also, it isn't the first time it has happened. A CNN correspondent had to scurry for cover in similar circumstances a couple of months ago.

And then people wonder why the foreign press *is* institutionally anti-Israel. Oh well, never mind...

As an aside: As far as the convoluted, complicated and generally bewildering events in this part of the world go, the Bil'in issue comes as close to a just cause as anything. The Supreme Court of Israel has ruled that the Security Fence/Separation Wall here illegally expropriated land from Palestinian nationals...two years ago. The Israeli army continues to ignore the ruling of the highest court in the land. As I understand it (I should say that I haven't been to any of the demonstrations, so this is all hearsay, albeit informed hearsay) the protesters are relatively non-violent; they chuck stones, but not Molotov cocktails, aren't trying to blow themselves - and others - up, and subscribe, at least in principle, to the notion of non-violent resistance.

At some point, the IDF is going to be dumb enough to badly hurt (or worse) someone on live TV (There has been at least one Palestinian death, and an American lies in critical condition in a hospital not very far away from me, after getting a teargas cannister in the head). If they are really dumb, they will manage to get a journalist. (No loss, some may argue. But one shouldn't be flippant...)

I actually do not think that army is deliberately going out of its way to scare, threaten or harm journalists, even if they are reporting for Al-Jazeera (boo, hiss). But I do think they are pretty reckless about their presence, something very worrying in itself. And at some point, it is only inevitable that something will happen that will drive home the point that facts will ultimately prevail over spin.

Friday, 4 September 2009

On Marriage, and other life sentences; and double dating with Madonna

I'm back.

I actually didn't intend to take such a long break from blogging; but I went on holiday, and found myself in a place with limited internet access. After a couple of days, I discovered that one can actually survive just fine without email/facebook/blog access.

And then I returned to Eretz Yisrael and had the life sucked out of me by the heat, rendering me good for absolutely nothing...


I've been hitched to Mrs Goy for five years this week. So it seems quite apposite to snark about the new MASA campaign to return errant Jews to the fold, as reported here, here and here yesterday

(Too lazy to look for the obligatory youtube link, but you can find it here - ta to the Religion and State in Israel blog)

My first thought was: Wow, I have so much power - leading people away from the flock, so to speak...

My second was slightly less snarky - let's face it, all religions tend to mark out their territory jealously. Since Judaism does not actively encourage proselytism, I suppose it is incumbent upon the shepherds to keep the sheep from straying too far.

(If I had married in a sanctioned ceremony in the Catholic Church, they may have just about tolerated the notion of me hooking up with a Jewess; but I would have been obliged to promise that I would bring up any issues from our union as Catholic, under threat of excommunication and the eternal damnation of my wretched soul. As if I can force the Small Noisy One to do anything at all...)

Even so, much as I would like to view this advert benignly, there is something discomfiting about the aggressive stance it takes. Convincing Jews to strengthen their ties with Israel is one thing - not necessarily a bad thing either, since Israel could always do with plurality of voices, backgrounds and opinions. Suggesting that those whom intermarry are, ab initio, lost, seems pretty odious. Given that MASA - a state funded operation, I should point out - isn't dominated by the Men in Black, surely it isn't incumbent upon them to define those who chose to marry outside the faith as beyond the pale? Each to their own, I say, and allow the Messiah to sort it out when he arrives...


You may have heard about a couple of performances in Tel Aviv this week, by a popular songstress and provocateur called Esther...I didn't go. Madonna stopped doing it for me after Papa Don't Preach/True Blue, with the occasional blips of brilliance thereafter only confirming her gradual decline into cliché...

(This probably says much more about how old I am than anything else; it's like asking anyone brought up in England who their favourite Doctor Who is; their answer will almost certainly give you an accurate estimate of their age..)

Anyway, I does one put this? Gobsmacked to read that Ms Ciccione broke bread with both the leader of the opposition as well as Mekon-Head, Bibi Netanyahu himself. Apparently, Tzipporah and spouse went on a double date with Madonna and her grandso...sorry, boyfriend de jour to Stephan Brown on Allenby (nice place, btw) the other night. I wonder what on earth they talked about for an hour. Kabbalah? Proportional representation, as compared to other electoral systems? Tzipi's (admittedly very nice) red Stilettos? Ah, to have been a fly on the wall...

Gideon Levy's polemic in this week's Ha'aretz magazine is helpfully illustrated with other examples of politicians whoring themselves in the name of a good photoshoot. Shim-Shim, the nation's esteemed President, unsurprisingly features prominently; there's a really good picture of Menachem Begin - ever the gentleman - gallantly kissing Liz Taylor's hand (she's wearing a fur coat, btw. In Jerusalem. I'm not sure quite what to make of this). But the best is of Moshe Dayan, bristling testosterone and manliness, charming Maureen O'Hara at a banquet.

Mrs Goy asked who she was; "Oh, some starlet," I said (on reflection, an extremely unfair description, I accept).

"That figures," Mrs Goy replied.

Shabbat Shalom