Archive for May, 2009

Loyalty to Freedom of Expression

The Ministerial Legislative Committee may be far from perfect, but at least it doesn’t get it wrong every single time. Today, the Committee voted against David Rotem’s (Israel Beiteinu) so-called “loyalty law”, which would have made Israeli citizenship dependent on the citizen declaring his or her “loyalty to the state of Israel as the homeland for the Jews”.

According to news reports, only ministers from Israel Beiteinu voted in favor of the proposed bill, whereas their colleagues from Likud, Labor, Shas and even Habayit Hayehudi voted against.

Kudos to them.

Mr. Rotem can still bring his bill to the Knesset as a private initiative, but the chances of him getting it through parliament without the support of the government are — thankfully — slim.

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May 31, 2009 at 15:41 Leave a comment

Nothing New under the Sun

A link to this article in Sydsvenskan was sent to me the other day. On the one hand it’s good that someone writes about the problems in Malmö — and obviously it’s nice not to be forgotten. But on the other hand it would obviously be much better if the problem would just go away. I could live with people forgetting my research if it would become obsolete.

May 27, 2009 at 15:23 3 comments

On the Way to IKEA

People, not least at Rakevet Israel, often complain that the train company has too few passengers. Well, I took the train from Tel Aviv to Bet Yehoshua yesterday (on my way to worship at the Swedish Temple of Consumption), and on this pilgrimage I realized at least why foreigners stay away:

A non-Hebrew speaker can’t take the train in this country.

Not only are all the calls over the loudspeakers exclusively in the Holy Tongue, but so are all the signs. Consequently, if you can’t read Hebrew, you have no way of knowing which trains leave from where, and at what stations they will stop. If you travel by rail even in some provincial, backward European country, you can at least rely on signs employing the Latin alphabet to figure out when to get off, but in Israel you’d be completely lost.

And if this poor foreigner, against all odds, manages to get on a train (maybe even the correct one), and then — miracle of miracles — gets off at the right station, he’ll most likely be faced with one last nasty surprise:

He won’t be able to get out.

Unless he’s kept his train ticket, that is, since you need to insert it into a machine at the exit in order for the gates to open and let you out. But the message that informs you of this minor detail is, of course, only played in Hebrew.

May 26, 2009 at 12:23 1 comment

A Catastrophe Indeed

It’s not often I have the pleasure of agreeing both with Michael Eitan (Likud) and Jamal Zahalka (Balad) on anything — least of all a political issue.

But today hell seems to have frozen over.

The Ministerial Legislation Committee voted to put a motion before the Knesset to create a law banning all public commemorations of Nakba Day, that is the Arab mourning of their mass flight from what became the state of Israel. The motion was initiated by Alex Miller from (what else?) Israel Beiteinu, and will be put to the Knesset for a first vote next week. If the proposal passes, it will return to the Committee for the drafting of a bill.

Both Eitan and Zahalka criticized the motion sharply, but from slightly different angles.

Hadash MK Afu Aghbaria, by the way, won the “be-the-first-to-bring-up-the-Nazis” competition this time. He also managed to cram accusations of an anti-Arab jihad and apartheid into his condemnation of the proposal as well.

May 24, 2009 at 16:42 5 comments

Of Gold and Empty Clichés

The Israeli public calendar has its fair share of ceremonial days, when the president, prime minister and other potentates get together to repeat the same old clichés we heard them repeat last year. (Why does it always make me think of New Year’s?) We’ve just suffered through yet another one of these holidays — this time it was Jerusalem Day, celebrating the reunification of the Holy City at the climax of the Six Days War in 1967.

The usual speeches were, of course, delivered, and the same old solemn promises were heard never ever to divide Jerusalem again. Ever. At least not between us and someone else. Getting out of the capital, never a particularly pleasant experience, was especially annoying, since the public transport system was clogged up with flag-waving teenagers, high on rhetoric and hormones.

If there’s any bright spot on the night sky that is Jerusalem Day, it has to be the music. For twenty four hours, Galgalatz replaces Lady Gaga with Ofra Haza (z”l), the queen of sensual Zionist serenades.

May 21, 2009 at 19:48 Leave a comment

Conflicting Conclusions?

The old cliché says that when Jerusalem prays, Tel Aviv plays. This is never truer than on a Saturday night, when this hedonistic gem on the Mediterranean usually teems of life, her streets, bars and clubs filled with people out to have a good time.

No so this past Saturday. The streets of the City of Sin were deserted, the cafés, bars and clubs half-empty and the mood was generally somber. At least until 01:16, that is when the broadcast of the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest was over. Then the Tel Avivians poured onto the streets to get a last little taste of the weekend.

So, what conclusion can be drawn from this observation?

Is it an indication that Israel despite everything — not least herself — is a part of Europe?

Or, perhaps, that Tel Aviv is indeed the gay capital of the Middle East?

May 18, 2009 at 05:25 1 comment

Unity and Peace? In Jerusalem?

Hardly anyone can have missed the fact that the Pope visited the Holy Land last week. The residents of the Holy City certainly didn’t miss it, since Benedict’s peregrinations through the city were accompanied by hours of road closures and massive traffic jams as a result.

So the pontiff’s visit wasn’t a big hit with the Jerusalemites, but to be fair that wasn’t exclusively connected to the traffic situation. The Catholic Church isn’t very popular here at the best of times, and now — in the wake of the Holocaust denying bishop being readmitted to the Church, and the continued process of canonization of Pope Pius XII, whose behavior during the Holocaust might have been politically prudent, but hardly saintly.

Nonetheless, the City of Jerusalem did what it could to put on a happy and welcoming face. The highway leading into town was decorated with Vatican and Israeli flags, and every streetlight carried a sign claiming that Jerusalem welcomes Pope Benedict XVI “in the spirit of unity and peace”.  

Sounds nice enough, unity and peace. The problem is only that every single one of the posters sporting the Papal punim had been daubed with white paint.

No one should be surprised, I guess. Despite what everyone keeps telling us, Jerusalem is hardly known for either unity or peace.

May 17, 2009 at 06:37 1 comment

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