Thursday, 19 May 2016

Putsch – the civilised option?

Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu has a track record of acting carefully when it comes to military action. Yet, he now seems to have totally lost it:

It has been made public that Netanyahu has offered the defence portfolio to one of his arch rivals, a man he despises and who despises him: Avigdor Liebermann. Lieberman is a dangerous ultra right-winger who in the past has suggested bombing the Aswan dam, he calls for death penalty to those he defines as terrorists and refers to Israelis who hold a mirror to Israel’s outrages as traitors. 

Barak, a former prime minister of Israel, has arrogantly once said that Israel was like a villa in the jungle. It was arrogant at the time and it is now becoming evidently absurd. Israel is part of the jungle, it has now reached the level of Turkey and Egypt, where a military coup may be the more civilised option for the country.

A day of mourning for the Jewish people.

Monday, 16 May 2016


Erdogan’s latest: Western countries care more about gay rights and animal welfare than about the fate of Syrian women and children. He added, or perhaps explained this evidently sick attitude prevalent in the West that these countries possess a mindset “remnant of slavery and colonialism.”

It seems to have become dangerous to criticise Turkey’s President Erdogan. Since he was elected as President in 2014, more than 1800 cases were opened in Turkey against people for insulting the President. Not only are journalists, Erdogan does not approve of, being jailed in his own country, he now has German lawyers who sue on his behalf in Germany. 

It leaves me no alternative but to sing Erdogan’s praise: Thank you God for having placed amongst us this self-restrained, reasonable and modest man - a man who is more than a man - a truly wise man, a courageous visionary, an iron-willed yet magnanimous leader who has rightfully earned the extraordinary respect he is being shown worldwide.  

Hitler in London

London’s former mayor, public school educated, or rather mal-educated Boris Johnson, who is a leading figure in the Brexit movement, explained why the British should vote to get out of the EU: “Napoleon, Hitler, various people tried this out, and it ends tragically. The EU is an attempt to do this by different methods.”

Hitler seems to be forever useful: a few weeks ago, there was a great uproar in the British Labour party after Johnson’s predecessor as mayor of London, Labour party’s Ken Livingstone, explained that Hitler supported Zionism.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Israeli democracy

They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly. (Amos, 5,10)

Israel’s deputy Chief of Staff, Major-General Ya’ir Golan, in his address at the memorial service for Holocaust Day, last week said:  

“ If there is something that frightens me about the memory of the Holocaust, it is seeing the abhorrent processes that took place in Europe, and Germany in particular, some 70, 80 or 90 years ago, and finding manifestations of these processes here among us in 2016,… there is nothing easier than to simply hate the other, there is nothing easier than to provoke fears and strike terror; there is nothing easier than barbaric behaviour, moral corruption and hypocrisy.” Adding, “On Holocaust Remembrance day, it is appropriate to discuss our abilities to extricate from among us signs of intolerance and violence, signs that we're heading towards self destruction and down the road to moral depravity. In fact, Holocaust Remembrance Day is an opportunity for self-examination.”

Ever since, General Golan has been under attack from the right-wing political class (to call them elite would be a contradiction in terms), from the gutters - sadly well represented in Israel’ government and parliament - right up to prime minister Bibi Netanyahu who called the comments outrageous, saying at his weekly Cabinet meeting that "they cause harm to Israel and cheapen the Holocaust." Look who is f*** talking.

Maybe a serving general should not be talking about issues, which can be seen as political by some – but Golan – who is one of the two contenders to become Israel’s next chief of staff – was evidently willing to give up his career chances because of his deep worries as to what is happening in Israel.
But, of course,  They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly.

I do not know how long Israel will last or whether it will ever become the secular democracy it was originally established to become – but Yai’r Golan will be remembered as one of the very few moral lighthouses shining his warning words in an attempt to prevent a total shipwreck.

God Bless America(n “democracy”)

Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has announced that he will support the other – albeit bankrupted - casino mogul Donald Trump’s candidacy for President of the United States of America, because he would…”be good for Israel”.

Note for teachers: This must be the definition of democracy – one mega rich funding another mega rich to run their country in a way that will further the interests of a foreign country. 

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Frankfurt II - Who should run the Städel?

Can one blame politicians for being populist? The answer is yes. In 2001, Frankfurt’s then mayor Petra Roth, met a fundraising assistant at the Guggenheim in NY and brought him to Frankfurt. She first gave him the Schirn exhibition hall to manage, then made him Director General of Frankfurt’s most important art museums, the Städel and the Liebieghaus.

Hollein is a marketing man and ran his museums accordingly. Big, crowd-pleasing exhibitions and constant publicity. Not least, self-publicity. Now that he is leaving, Frankfurt should seriously consider going back to the academic model of art museums. Museums should, after all, be more than exhibition halls with fanfare.  

This will not be an easy decision, as publicity is a drug and Frankfurt got used to it. The mayor who will decide to opt for an academic, an art historian, rather than a marketing man, will have to bear the accusation that “nobody mentions the Städel anymore”.

Frankfurt I - Petra Roth

Petra Roth was the mayor of Frankfurt until 2012. A couple of weeks ago, on April Fools’ Day, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) ran an almost half page story reporting that Frankfurt airport would be renamed after Roth (as in Charles de Gaulle or nearer home Franz Josef Strauss).  

Here’s the email I did not find:

From: Roth
To: FAZ editor

For 17 years, I was constantly in the papers. I even managed to get someone to put up my name as candidate for German President (but then again, they also suggested Bubis). Nowadays, all I get is a pathetic story when I turn 70.

Here’s the plan: You will run an April Fools story suggesting that the Frankfurt airport be named after me. This, sadly, will not happen, but it could start a public discussion about the urgent need to honour me by naming something after me. A university would be nice but a bridge would also do.

Over the years - as I hope you still remember - I fed you many stories and gave you many scoops. How about some payback?

This response was also not to be found:

From: FAZ editor
To: Roth

OK. We will do it.

PS: Colleagues suggested naming the flea market after you. They are particularly aggrieved by the dirt and the many traders and visitors who pee in their gardens on market days.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Off with my hair

Last week in Berlin, I met an acquaintance, who had only ever seen me with my head shaven. “Oh, you have got hair”, she said. “Not a lot”, I responded and asked her whether she liked it.  “Well…”, she said, “ you were more a Bruce Willis before and now you look like a friendly grandfather.”

So, no big surprise: I am off to shave my head again.

Merkel I

In a world full of short-term thinking and acting opportunistic and jingoistic politicians, Angela Merkel comes over like a breath of fresh air. Whether one agrees with her or not, whether she goes about things the right way or not, one cannot take it away from her: Merkel has moral values, which lead her thinking and form her policies, and which she is not shy of stating.

Such politicians are sadly a rarity and Germany can be proud to have Merkel as its prime minister.

Merkel II

She can’t be flawless and indeed, her Israel policy is flawed. It is the result of her profound awareness of German guilt for Jewish death that translates into German responsibility for Jewish life, be it in Germany or in Israel.

During Netanyahu’s recent visit to Berlin, Merkel astonishingly said that “now is not the time for a significant step forward.” When will the right time come?

Ms. Merkel is wasting the leverage, which the supply of u-boats to Israel could have given Germany. This is where guilt produces bad policy. Indeed, what Israel needs, what Israel’s security needs even more than u-boats, is pressure to get out of the occupied territories. Without external pressure it will not be able to get out of the pernicious spiral into which occupation has propelled it.