Friday, 20 April 2018

Falling over a reminiscence: meet the tough guys

I did the night milking of the sheep as my shift for the following day.
After I had finished, it was off to the truck that would take us and the Swiss volunteers on a trip to Masada. It was one of the perks they received for coming to our kibbutz.

The truck set out before dawn. On the way we joked and flashed our Uzis to impress them.
Then it was rushing up the difficult side of Masada. We pushed and pulled them, laughing and showing off.
Not much to see at the top except old stones. So we all ran down to the truck.
Last one down is a wimp, and I can assure you it was not one of us.

Next stop, the springs of Ein Gedi and finally the Dead Sea, our camping spot for the night.
After a sober meal we built a bonfire and sat round it. Gidon strummed on his guitar and the Swiss and the Jews sang gospels and folk songs together in broken English.

The poor dears were completely exhausted and turned in early to sleep under the stars.
They could dream about their cheese fondues and clocks peacefully, because we guarded them.
Not all of us at the same time, but one after another. Even we needed some sleep.

Next morning, after breakfast everybody piled into the truck and we went back to the kibbutz.
I was on time to do the afternoon shift for that day. I had not missed a day’s work.

Why did we do it?
Why? Because that is what tough guys do.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

The Linda Sarsour hotchpotch

I am reading that some of my American Jewish sisters are disillusioned/upset/shocked because the leaders of the Women’s March have refused to condemn the manifest anti-Semitism of Louis Farrakhan.
Actually, it would have been out of character for them to condemn Farrakhan.

The basic idea of these modern “feminists” is simple and does not begin with women: there is a overarching global struggle between the good guys (the oppressed) and the bad guys (the oppressors). 
This is garnished with a sauce of anti-white “identity politics”.

The bad guys are “right-wing”: racist, sexist, fascist, Nazi, capitalist, imperialist, colonialist, Zionist, white supremacist, etc., etc.
The west is full of bad guys, especially in America and Israel.

The good guys are “left-wing”, even if they do not know it.
Hamas is an Islamist organization that oppresses women and calls for the genocide of all Jews in the world.
Yet Judith Butler supports Hamas and says it is part of the “global left”.
Why? Because Hamas is fighting the Zionists, represents oppressed Muslims (identity politics) and is being hounded by the imperialist regimes of the west.

In this superficial hotchpotch of global “intersectionality” and “identity politics”, the perpetrator is more relevant than the deed.
The anti-Semitism at Charlottesville was bad because it came from “the right”, the oppressors. The anti-Semitism of Farrakhan was not condemned because it came from an ally, a representative of the oppressed Muslims and Blacks.

Linda Sarsour and friends do not organize marches in support of suppressed Iranian women, because Iran is also part of Judith Butler’s “global left” and fighting the Zionists, imperialists and white supremacists.

It is a very simple ideology. Not really feminism, but an attempt to harness women to a “global struggle”. Of course, if you are a Zionist woman you will not be accepted by this movement.
You are an enemy, one of the oppressors.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

We all love a dead soldier

I have two different scenarios for my new film.

Scenario 1.
A young soldier is guarding an airport.
He sees a bearded man, who looks North African, approaching the entrance of the terminal building.
The man is wearing too many clothes for the time of year. He is sweating and only has a glove on one hand.
He is constantly looking around furtively.

The soldier approaches the man and asks to see his ID.
The man blows the soldier and himself up. He was wearing a bomb belt and the detonator was taped to the hand that was covered by the glove.

The dead soldier is a hero. He is lauded in the media. His brave action forced the terrorist to detonate his bomb belt early. 
Many lives were saved.

Scenario 2.
The man does not blow the soldier and himself up. He just hands over his ID. The soldier asks him to come to a room in the terminal while they check the ID.

It later turns out that the man has the flu, that is why he was wearing too many clothes and sweating. He has a rash on one of his hands, that is why he was wearing the one glove.
He suffers from involuntary muscle contractions, that is why he was constantly looking around furtively. 
They keep him in the room for about an hour. He almost misses his plane.

A few days later the story is headlined in the media: “Racial profiling at the airport”.
Left-wing politicians and columnists are indignant. They bemoan this latest example of systemic discrimination of Muslims and Islamophobia. They call for a change in policy and the sacking of those involved.

Many Muslims and their left-wing supporters take to the streets in demonstrations against racial profiling, discrimination and Islamophobia. An internet petition is started that receives tens of thousands of signatures.
The government apologizes. The Prime Minister goes on television to say that he was also outraged when he heard the story.
He says that he has taken the necessary measures to make sure that this type of abuse could never happen again.

The soldier is given other duties. He is told that he should not expect to ever be promoted.
Shortly afterwards he leaves the army.

On second thoughts, I will write a blog instead of making a film.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Hine ma tov, the bitter and the sweet

I was allowed to rest for a couple of days after my travels: London, Paris, Marseille, Haifa, Negev.
Then: why not go and pick oranges until you decide what work you want to do?
So I started picking.

One of the women picking oranges was from the Romanian group who had started the kibbutz. She worked very fast and hard. I kept my distance from her when working, did not want to be shown up by some wisp of a woman who could work much better than me.

Her name was Hagit.
When we took a break she was the last person to stop, and after a break she was the first person to start again.
She was, literally, always smiling and had a very expressive, friendly face. Yet she never spoke or joined in the singing.

I asked someone from my group why Hagit never spoke. The answer was, they experimented on her.
That was enough answer for me. I did not need to know more.

The swarm of young women with whom I picked oranges were a happy, touching lot.
Always giving me a touch, a push, a stroke, a hair tousle, a peck on the cheek, a squeeze or a hug. It was the equivalent of sibling affection. A "hine ma tov" kind of thing.
At the time, very un-British and foreign to me.

They were inclined to sing a lot as well. Hebrew and partisans’ songs.
Do not get me wrong. I have nothing against “Bella Ciao”.
Except, I do not appreciate hearing it at the crack of dawn, when the sun has not started shining yet and it is cold, and I am lamenting the fact that I did not go to bed an hour earlier the night before.

I was relieved when I managed to escape to the sheep.
Much harder physical labour, but a paradise for einzelgängers. Sheep keep their distance and they do not sing.

Nowadays, I smile a sad smile when I think of my happy Jewish sisters picking oranges. With their songs they were celebrating our rebirth: Am Yisrael Chai.
I miss those touches, pushes, strokes, hair tousles, cheek pecks, squeezes, hugs and hine ma tov feeling.

I should have hugged them back more.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

The cat in me

There is a tall tree in one of my neighbour’s gardens. A young, male cat keeps on climbing into the tree and getting stuck there.
It is the way cats are. They like to climb up trees so that they can look down and oversee everything.

1970, I am 24, living in Amsterdam, have no money and I need a job.
People said try the docks in the north of the city.

I had some painting experience, so I went to the site hut of a company that painted ships.
They were working on an oil tanker for Shell. 
I took my girlfriend along for support. I thought that might help, as she spoke Dutch and had the kind of looks that turn men’s heads.
When we walked in the men stopped work and came over to talk to us. I was not used to such a positive reception
My girlfriend flashed her smile, fluttered her eyelashes, and I had a job.

Two groups of workers were employed there: the Dutch and “guest workers” from the Rif region of Morocco. How much you earned was determined by a differentiated pay scale. Only the Dutch were given the higher-paid jobs.

During a break, I saw two Dutchmen and two guest workers sitting opposite each other on crates. One of the Dutchmen had a map.  He asked the guest workers to show where Morocco was on the map. They could not. The Dutchmen said they were dumb and laughed at them.

As I was standing, I was looking down at all four of them. I smiled and thought to myself, all of you are dumb fuckers to me.
Over the years I have developed the same looking down attitude to much of Dutch society.
You may think I am arrogant.
So be it. It is the cat in me. The way I am.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

The Holocaust in the Netherlands was a business model

Jews have been living in the Netherlands since the 16th century, mainly in Amsterdam.
The history of the Dutch capital is so intertwined with Jews that it used to be known as “Jerusalem of the West”.
Much of the slang of Amsterdam is made up of Yiddish loanwords.
Mokum (מקום), the Yiddish word for "place" or "safe haven" is an often used other name for Amsterdam.

There was little vitriolic anti-Semitism in the Netherlands.
An example: when the Dutch National Socialist party (NSB) was established in 1931, it left out all mention of Jew-hatred in it's manifest.
How does one then explain that some 75% of Dutch Jews were killed during the Holocaust, the highest percentage of all occupied Western Europe?

One of the major reasons was the collaboration of the local authorities. There were very brave individual acts of resistance, but general speaking all of Dutch society collaborated with the German occupier.
“On the whole, the Dutch reacted to the German occupation, including the persecution of the Jews, with a high degree of cooperation, following their reputed tradition of deference to authority.
This did not change when the deportations started, and it lasted until the beginning of 1943, when Germany’s prospects for winning the war appeared to be fading after the Battle of Stalingrad.” Yad Vashem.

The Germans had relatively few troops and police in the Netherlands to enforce the occupation. A strong presence was not necessary, the place was so peaceful for them. Off-duty soldiers walked about unarmed.
They had to rely on the local authorities for the persecution of the Jews.

The Netherlands was a victim of occupation by Germany but a partner in the Holocaust of Dutch Jews.
Dutch police rounded them up and the Dutch railways transported them to a transit camp and later to the German border.
There was not one case of sabotage. Eichmann praised the Dutch effusively for the efficiency of the operation.

The Germans paid the Dutch for the deportation of the Jews. They paid a lot. If they did not pay on time the Dutch authorities sent them a reminder.

After the end of the war, on 17 September 1945, the new Dutch Minister of Transport, Steef van Schaik, addressed a group of railway workers in Utrecht.
He praised them for their collaboration in the deportation of the Jews. He said the income from the deportations was necessary for the economy and more important than the lives of the Jews.

"The unfortunate victims were taken to the concentration camps in your trains. There was rebellion in your hearts. Yet you did not do that, and that is honourable.
It was an obligation that the Dutch government demanded of you, because the railway is also one of the pillars on which the economic life of the Dutch people is based..."

The Holocaust in the Netherlands was a business model.

Monday, 22 January 2018

The economic mistake of importing migrants from non-Western countries.

The population of western Europe was falling because of an alarmingly low birth rate.
The working population as a percentage of the total population was declining even faster, as people were living longer after retirement.
A declining number of wage earners was working to support a growing number of people (mainly old people) who did not work.
A recipe for economic disaster.

The first major measure taken to combat this problem was the encouraging of women, especially those with (young) children, to join the labour market.
For example, in the 1990s many children's day care centres were built in the Netherlands and the building and operational costs were subsidized.
Unfortunately, the influx of more women into the labour market did not have enough of the desired positive effect.

The second measure taken was the raising of the retirement age. A logical step: More people working and paying taxes, and less people living off the paid taxes.
However, raising the retirement age is politically speaking a very sensitive issue. Therefore, it will only be raised gradually and the (limited) positive effects will only be felt in the distant future.

The aforementioned measures were piecemeal.
There was one simple solution, or so people thought. Import younger migrants, especially from countries with a high birthrate.

Germany was the country that needed younger migrants the most.
The Bertelsmann Institute warned in a report in 2015 that within the next 15 years, half of all German workers will become pensioners.
Furthermore, without migrants, Germany’s labour pool is likely to shrink from its current 45 million people to 29 million by 2050.
According to the Bertelsmann Institute, Germany needs 500,000 migrants a year until 2050.

Three economic cheers for the refugee crisis then?
Unfortunately no.
The main presumptions of the advantages of importing young labourers, are that they have the skills the economy needs and that they will enter the labour market. This was the case with the “guest workers” of the 1950s and 1960s.
However, these workers did not need any special skills and they had to work or they would be sent back to the countries they came from.

Many of the non-Western migrants who have entered Europe in recent years do not have the skills the current economy needs, and their continuing residence in western Europe is not dependent on having a job.
In fact, the welfare society in western Europe gives little incentive for choosing to work in low paid jobs, instead of living from benefits.
Recent statistics from the Dutch economy highlight the problem.
First and second generation migrants in the Netherlands with a "non-Western" background make up 12.7% of the population. Yet they receive 49.9% of all social assistance benefits.

The solution of importing non-Western migrants to solve the economic problem of a low birth rate and an ageing population has backfired.
The lack of labour participation by these migrants has exacerbated the economic problems.