Thursday, 11 September 2014

Scottish Nationalism (or any other) - Pfui

There is one more week to Scottish referendum day and the polls seem too close to call. The British government (and opposition!) is panicking and are now offering last minute inducements to the Scottish electorate, with ever more powers to the Scottish parliament, if only they remain part of the Union.
Much has been said about the economic viability of an independent Scotland. Many have criticised England for not making it clearer how much they “love Scotland” and how much they wish for the Scots to stay in the fold. What I am missing in this discussion is the disdain, even disgust, for the jingoistic, nationalistic sentiment that is driving this whole campaign for “independence”. It is totally unnecessary and sad. Politicians who develop such feelings in their population and ride them to power should have no place in our society. 

The Dilemma of Diaspora Jews

My article Das Schweigen der Diaspora
appears in today's Süddeutsche Zeitung... in German... :)

British Intelligence Pushing Arabs to War

Five months ago, the British National Archives released newly declassified documents, according to which, British Intelligence “predicted war – and Arab defeat – in Palestine in 1948.” According to today’s Israeli media, Syrian files that reached French Intelligence prove that British Intelligence agents actively encouraged the Arab countries to invade the “to be established” new Jewish State, Israel.

So much for the impressive “forecasting” of British Intelligence.

What must now be asked is whether the almost frenzied attempts of the SIS -  or was it Military Intelligence – took place by instruction of the British government or behind its back?  If the British agents acted because they did not agree with their own government’s policy in the region and worked to counteract it – they are in fact traitors. 

This question ought to be answered.

Friday, 5 September 2014

ISIS and Language

-  British Prime Minister David Cameron: “ISIS will be squeezed out of existence”
-  President Obama: “Our objective is clear and that is to degrade and destroy ISIL* so it’s no longer a threat”
-  Vice President Joe Biden: “We will follow them to the gates of hell until they are brought to justice. Because hell is where they will reside. Hell is where they will reside.”

Why do our leaders, leaders of Western democracies in the 21st century, have to resort to such language? Who are they talking to? Do they or their advisers believe that vocal threats will frighten the Islamists to lay down their machetes? OR is this solely a verbal macho show impress their own people? 

*ISIS = Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, first rebranded as ISIL – Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and then turned IS = Islamic State] 

Boycott Fairly

British Film director Ken Loach has called for a boycott of all cultural and sporting events supported by the Israeli state, adding that Israel must become a pariah state.

I am all for boycotts and, indeed, Israel has given and continues to give good reasons for boycott.

Boycotts can be legitimate on a personal level, as an expression of serious disagreement or even revulsion and more importantly as an attempt to exert group pressure for affecting change. Yet, they should be set up not only emotionally, but also fairly. I googled the terms “Ken Loach” and “boycott” and found that the one and only boycott Loach is calling for is on Israel. There is not a single other country in the world, the actions of which Loach wishes to bring to a halt by means of a boycott. How about Russia, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, China, to name but a few candidates? Why does Loach support the cultural output of various dictatorships around the world by not boycotting them?

PS: It may be hard for Loach to accept, but his call for a boycott is likely to have as much impact as my blogged ruminations. 

Chatham House on Iran’ s Nuclear Future

Yesterday I went to an on the record Chatham House meeting on the subject of Iran’s nuclear future. The meeting was based on a Chatham House paper that was written by two former British diplomats, Sir Richard Dalton (former ambassador to Iran) and Peter Jenkins (Former ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)).

Dalton’s and Jenkins’ analysis is based on their assessment and trust that Iran is not intent on acquiring nuclear weapons combined with seemingly much trust in the IAEA’s ability to effectively monitor against violations. This attitude is either naïve or dishonest. Have IAEA never been misled and importantly, can one really assess another country’s intentions? Can one afford to take a view when it comes to intentions to develop nuclear weapons?

Concerning assessment: There is currently a serious argument between Israel’s Internal Secret Service and Israel’s Military Intelligence as to whether Hamas had intended the July war in Gaza to happen or whether things just got out of hand. Evidently, these two organisations with many years of expertise and experience, not to speak of how entrenched they are with sources within the Arab world, are unable to reach a conclusion.

It may be that Chatham House or the British FCO have no issue with Iran holding nuclear weapons. If that is the case, they should openly say so. Otherwise – one can only hope that Dalton and Jenkins do not negotiate on Britain’s behalf.

A totally different question is whether the resultant opening up of Iran to the West, were an agreement reached, would not worry the Iranian regime? Such opening up to the West may be the very thing that Khamenei would want to prevent. In that case, reaching only a partial agreement with sanctions lifted may be Iran’s preferred option. 

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.