Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Lieberman – A Thug and a Shame on Israel

Israel’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has announced that if Hamas do not return the bodies of Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza, "…, they have to understand they will get in return the bodies of Mohammed Deif, [Ismail] Haniyeh and all of the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip…”

Haggling over the return of corpses is one of the ugly by-products of war. But isn’t everything about war ugly? Being disgusted by Hamas should not mean stooping to their level. Mr Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister, regularly comes out with outrageous statements and remarks, such his 1998 suggestion that Israel would bomb the Aswan dam and thereby flood Egypt.

Israel needs to rid itself of this despicable man.  

Anna Netrebko

I was there. And I saw and heard this year’s Salzburg Festival’s highlight: Beautiful, powerful and sensitive. It was the most wonderful opera singing that I have ever heard. Il Trovatore with Anna Netrebko, as Leonora. Some have compared her performance to Callas. Long may she last and give us pleasure!

The production (Alvis Hermanis) was quite interesting and makes clearer than anything I had seen before, that the gypsy Azucena is really the central tragic figure in this opera. Perhaps the opera ought better be named after the gypsy instead of after the troubadour.

ARTE will broadcast the Trovatore production on Friday, 15 August, at 20:15 (CET). Try to watch it. 

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Gaza – Israel – Double Standards ?


Does the world expect too much from Israel?

The latest round that took place between Israel and the Hamas produced immense misery for the population of Gaza, great discomfort for the Israelis and not only very many dead Palestinians but also a high number of Israeli casualties. The media war and the war over public sympathy have created serious anti-Israel sentiment that has worryingly also turned anti-Semitic.

Over the last three years, the civil war in Syria has seen more than 170,000 Muslims, who were killed by fellow Muslims. According to Palestinian sources, the number of casualties in Gaza is 1800. Yet, it seems that there is much more agitation concerning the dead of Gaza than there is about the Syrian dead. Why? Israel and many Israelis feel that they are victims of double standards. Is it possible that what hurts or angers those condemning Israel is not the killing of Muslims but the fact that it was Israelis who did the killing?

Or does Syria simply “benefit” from the fact that it is a pariah state, of which there are no moral expectations and which makes no claims to be a western democracy?  

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Does Katharina hate her great grandfather?


Does Bayreuth suffer from an autoimmune sickness that is killing it off? Is this – a true Wagnerian melodrama - the punishment of the gods for the evil people who made use and ran it for many years?

Richard Wagner’s great granddaughter, Katharina (together with her 33 years older half-sister Eva), has been running the Bayreuth Festival since 2008. Is it possible that she actually hates Wagner, his music, Bayreuth? Why else would she be running it down?

This year’s festival was opened with a replay of Tannhäuser, directed by Sebastian Baumgarten, which was first played and booh-ed in Bayreuth in 2011. It has not gotten any better.

Opening the festival with a third year replay is in itself a mark of failure. To do so with an opera production that is so annoying, that you find yourself closing your eyes, so as not to let the goings on on the stage spoil the wonderful music that is sung and played, is outrageous. Fortunately, it was musically very beautiful, despite a rather mediocre Torsten Kerl in the title role. 

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Child murderers?


Israeli bombardments have not targeted but killed many children in Gaza. Playing on the old blood-libel about Jews killing Christian children, anti-Israel propaganda portrays Israel as “child murderer.”

Since the beginning of the latest round of violence, Hamas has already fired more than 2200 rockets into Israel. These rockets were aimed at the centres of population. Had Israel not managed to intercept most of these missiles, the number of dead Israeli civilians, including women and children, would by far have exceeded the number of dead Palestinians.

So who is the child murderer? Israel that sometimes fails in its attempts to avoid hitting civilians or Hamas that has fortunately failed in its attempts to kill thousands of Israeli civilians including women and children? 

Racism – Fight Back


The current outbreak of violence between Israel and the Hamas has produced Europe-wide anti-Israel demonstrations, many of which incorporate vile and anti-Semitic proclamations and slogans as well as acts of violence against Jews and Jewish institutions.

It is not surprising that European Jews are worried and often frightened. But so should be the rest of the population. It is up to civil society as well as governments – wherever these anti-Semitic incidents occur – not only to educate but also to come down fiercely against the organisers and perpetrators of these anti-Semitic occurrences.

Similarly, it is up to Israeli society and authorities to educate but also to come down fiercely against organisers and perpetrators of anti-Arab racism that is increasingly rearing its head in Israel. Unfortunately, such racism seems to get away unpunished. Moreover, the right-wing perpetrators of these racist acts are well represented in the Israeli political elite. Israel’s Foreign Minister Lieberman, for example, has just urged Israelis to boycott the businesses of Israeli Arab citizens who are taking part in a general strike in protest of Israel’s operation in the Gaza Strip.

It is generally accepted that such racist language, let alone acts of violence are totally unacceptable, and it is always a minority that perpetrates such racist outrage. But, the majority – be it in Israel or in Europe - must stop looking the other way. It must fight back. 

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The Human Voice


Sunday night: Karita Mattila as Ariadne in Ariadne auf Naxos, Monday night: Joyce DiDonato as Mary Stuart in Maria Stuarda. Both at Covent Garden.

What more can one wish for? The human voice can be more wonderfully beautiful than any man-made instrument. 

Football


Why do all those people who are not really football players or regular football fans get so excited when it comes to their own national teams?

Trouble in Buenos Aires after the Argentine lost to Germany

Why do 80 million Germans [or any other nation] think that they are superior or better, or just feel good about themselves simply because 11 of them happen to have won a football match?  

Despite the claim of their coach “we are all world champions”, most of us are very far from being good at anything at all, let alone being champions at anything. Talking of “we” and dancing in the street cannot cover this up.

Cheap [is there any other?] populism has driven, or rather flown 
Ms. Merkel as well as Germany’s President, Gauck, to the cup final in Brazil  


The notion that this excitement serves as sublimation to channel aggressive energy away from destructive behaviour is far from true. In fact, this forceful “we” behaviour is in itself aggressive.  


Israel and Hamas

Does the shooting suit both sides?

What does Hamas want? It wants to ensure that no long-term peace deal is made with Israel. Unlike the PLO, Hamas has not [yet] accepted the existence of Israel.

What does Israel want? It wants to avoid reaching a deal with the Palestinians that would entail giving up some of the land it has occupied since 1967.

That is why Hamas, rather than the Palestinian Authority, are the true partners of Israel. They occasionally fight each other, increasing the heat, killing and getting killed, inciting and whipping up the hatred, only to make sure that no compromise is reached. The agendas of the extremes on both sides command the state of affairs.

Both sides are morally wrong; Hamas more evil than Israel and more corrupt than Israel, but then it does not pretend to be a western democracy, cultured, high-tech and European. A few years ago, the then Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, spoke of Israel as a “villa in the jungle”, thereby suggesting that Israel’s neighbours are wild savages. Observing recent [and not so recent] appearances of Israeli politicians makes one wonder whether they haven’t adapted only too well to their surroundings. 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Scottish Abuse


Last year the Scottish parliament passed a law giving 16-year-olds a vote in the coming referendum on Scottish independence. They justified their deed with claptrap about allowing young people to decide the future of the country they will live in. The truth is more likely that the nationalists expect kids to be more impulsive and less risk-averse than more experienced grown-ups. In a classical case of the extreme setting the tone, Labour and Lib Dems also voted for the lowering for the voting age.

What the Scottish have done is abuse of minors. For their own gratification, to further their own interests, these politicians have taken the virginity of their young. Like with sex, the young may be excited – in this case, by the fact that like grownups, they can vote to cede Scotland away from Great Britain. However, they may wake up the morning after not really understanding what they have done.

And by the way, there is no morning-after pill.