Archive for February, 2010

Minorities Don’t Win Elections

The debate about Ilmar Reepalu, Mayor of Malmö, and his cavalier attitude toward antisemitism in his city, and his statements that seem to place the blame for the problems on the local Jews themselves go on. Since I last wrote about it here, Mr. Reepalu has accused his political opponents of orchestrating a campaign against him in this election year.

He has also been interviewed in the British Sunday Telegraph, where he made some new interesting statements:

There haven’t been any attacks on Jewish people, and if Jews from the city want to move to Israel that is not a matter for Malmö.

This quote drew a lot of fire. Svenska Dagbladet, Expressen, Kvällsposten and Östgöta Correspondenten criticized Mr. Reepalu.

So did Fredrick Federley, Member of the Swedish Parliament for the Center Party.  Mr. Federley is a known supporter of Israel and gay rights. This openly gay MP, who even has his own drag act, called upon Mr. Reepalu to resign and challenged him to a public debate on antisemitism.

In a reply, Mr. Reepalu chose to brush the criticism from Mr. Federley aside with the words:

– Who’s Fredrick Federley? Is that the one who appeared as a transvestite the other day, he had some woman’s name, right?

Then Mr. Reepalu added: “On what grounds should I debate with him?”

Maybe it’s time for all the paranoid, wolf-crying hunters of antisemites of the world to call off the hounds? Maybe Mr. Reepalu isn’t an antisemite after all? Maybe he’s equally insensitive to all minority groups?


February 27, 2010 at 16:25 Leave a comment

Ofra Haza in Memoriam

It’s been ten years already. I still remember that day in February 2000 when I entered the cafeteria in the Rothberg building at Hebrew University to buy my morning coffee and noticed the huge portrait set in a thick black frame on the wall. It turned out that the grumpy, quiet macho-man who ran the cafeteria was a huge Ofra Haza fan, and her death crushed him. The portrait remained on the wall until the day I left the university.

Ever since her death, Ofra Haza has been the object of veneration so intense that it probably has kept both Evita Perón and the Virgin Mary spinning in their graves all through the last decade.

Today Ofra Haza is universally loved and praised, but that wasn’t always the case. In the 1980s, a vicious and intense war shook Israel (and no, I don’t refer to that Lebanese adventure). At that time, the fans of Ofra Haza, the daughter of Yemenite immigrants from the poor neighborhood Hatikva in Tel Aviv, fought against the fans of Yardena Arazi – the representative of Ashkenazi bourgeois pop-culture. Yardena might be the sole survivor of the two stars, but ten years after the final battle Ofra is the one that shines the brightest.

A trauma almost as great as the war with Yardena Arazi, was the way in which Ofra Haza died. I can only begin to wonder what went through the head of the macho-man at the university cafeteria when he heard that the decease that claimed Ofra Haza’s life was AIDS. To have the queen of purity die of such a stigmatized illness only added to the shock of her untimely death. A small comfort would be to know that this shock might have done something to break the silence of shame that surrounded AIDS in those days.

Be that as it may. Ofra Haza – the Queen of songs of sensualism, Judaism and Zionism – has been dead for ten years today, but her songs live on.

יהיה זכרה ברוך

February 23, 2010 at 18:08 2 comments

Also the Road Paved with Selfish Intensions

Unlike many countries, Israel doesn’t allow citizens living abroad to vote in general elections. The logic is clear: if you’ve already voted with your feet — and are not prepared to pay the price of your vote in terms of Scandinavian tax levels, biannual wars and a public transport system that hasn’t improved much since independence — then you shouldn’t have the right to influence the future of those of us who choose to stay.

Recently, a bunch of Knesset members from the Likud and Israel Beiteinu have started to think about how they best can ensure that they stay on the gravy-train also after the next parliamentary elections — which, considering the fact that this is Israel, can’t be that far off.

The brilliant idea that they’ve come up with is to let Israeli ex-pats vote.

I assume they think that people who aren’t forced to work for minimum wage, fight wars or send their kids to schools with forty pupils per class are more inclined to vote for such policies than those for whom it’s a part of their daily life.

And that does make a lot of sense.

However, the proposal has a flaw. Even though it’s presented as a great Zionist act to reconnect the émigré community with the homeland, it would not only grant the right to vote to those who have abandoned the Zionist project, but could ironically enough also put our fate in the hands of those who never believed in it in the first place.

With a tactical — and presumably temporary — move across the seas, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Per Gahrton and others like them could vote in Israeli parliamentary elections.

I doubt whether the right-wing politicians who came up with this scheme have thought it through properly.

February 13, 2010 at 16:33 2 comments

Comic Relief à la Tehran

The situation surrounding the Iranian nuclear program is growing evermore critical. Some experts say that it’s a matter of months, not years, until the Islamic Republic manages to produce its first nuclear bomb, and as the time seems to be running out the international community is starting to contemplate further sanctions

The stakes are high for Ahmadinejad, and yesterday the Iranian regime even allowed “spontaneous demonstrators” to attack the Italian embassy in Tehran — quite possibly a “spontaneous” reaction to Berlusconi’s visit to Jerusalem last week, where he pledged Italian support for Israel in the face of repeated Iranian threats.

In this tense atmosphere, the Iranians apparently decided to try to relieve some of the tension with humor. I see no other way to interpret this news item from Press TV, the Iranian regime’s English language news service. If the report is to be believed, the Iranians have not started to enrich uranium in order to build a bomb.

They’re doing it to cure cancer.

February 10, 2010 at 12:45 Leave a comment

Everything Is Relative – Apparently Even Hysteria

As long-time readers of this blog already know, Magdalena Ribbing is the unchallenged queen of Swedish etiquette. Her column in Dagens Nyheter has a large following and she dishes out advice on everything from how to write proper thank-you notes and dress for a formal function to how to behave in general.

I’ve already written about her advice on how to deal with a situation where one is forced to directly address fellow commuters on a bus here.

Some time ago, I read a letter to Ms. Ribbing from someone who complained about the trend of mega-weddings that apparently is sweeping through Sweden. The letter writer deplored the hysteria that surrounds weddings these days. Why is it, she asked, that it’s impossible to tie the knot today without spending no less than SEK 60,000 on the festivities? And why must one have so many guests – sometimes as many as sixty people!

I was reminded of this poor Swedish wedding planner on my way home from a wedding in Jerusalem on Thursday evening. (Ok, technically it might have been Friday morning.) It was a very pleasant affair and a great time was had by all – not only by the grooms.

In Israeli terms it was a rather intimate wedding, with a mere 150 guests or so. It’s not uncommon with at least twice that many people attending – friends, family, colleagues, friends and family of colleagues, your dog-walker and her friends, family and colleagues. You get the picture.

I obviously don’t know anything about the budget for the particular nuptials that I attended, but judging by the generosity with which exquisite food and drink were lavished on us all, I have no doubts that it dwarfed the Swedish mega-wedding of NIS 30,000. 

February 6, 2010 at 17:31 Leave a comment

The Ultimate Whipping

Yes, yes, I know. Already last time I wrote about it I said that I had whipped this dead horse for the last time.

Consider this article the ultimate whipping, the very last crums of my piece of the pie — the one last all-inclusive summary of the whole Aftonbladet affair.

At least until something new comes along.

February 1, 2010 at 05:41 1 comment


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