Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Falling over a reminiscence: Only victims count

Let me set the scene. You are lounging about with other old people, making polite conversation.
In the beginning you swap stories about your physical ailments. After that you start talking about the past.

How long have you been together?
48 years.
Wow, that’s a long time. Was it love at first sight?
Then my partner tells her story.

She was sunbathing near the swimming pool with her travelling companion, the sister of a journalist who later became a junior minister in a Dutch government for three days. (That is another story).
The swimming pool, like the rest of the kibbutz, was built on strategically higher ground.

They looked down and saw a big cloud of sand approaching.
What is it?
At a certain moment the cloud started to fade and the surrounding air began to shimmer, like it does in the desert.
The first thing they saw emerging from the shimmering air was me, riding without a saddle and stirrups on a black Arabian horse. I was only wearing shorts and sandals.
Behind me was a large flock of sheep.

They looked at each other and said, “I want him”. They made a bet about it. My partner ends the story with, “I won”, and I smile sheepishly.
There are glaring inaccuracies in her account.
An example, the horse was brown, not black. But I let them ride, as it does illustrate how wonderfully independent and liberated my female peers were.

However, I have been having doubts about whether it is wise to continue telling the story.
Willem Melching, a Dutch historian whom I admire, wrote recently that we live in an age that reserves the most admiration for victimhood.
So, in the future my partner will get less admiration from young people, because she is not a victim in the story.

Besides that, I do not seem to fit the bill any more.
The last time she told the story was to a tipsy girlfriend, who then looked at me and burst out laughing.

No, the story has not aged well. 
It belongs to a different era. To the counterculture of the 1960s and the 1970s with its empowerment of the individual, not to the present culture of political correctness and empowerment of the mob.

Perhaps, I should forget the fun and excitement in Israel and stick to the Diaspora discrimination stories.

Saturday, 11 November 2017


A nice, podgy Jewish boy.
That is what I thought when I first met Chanan in 1967. He looked like me when I arrived on the kibbutz.

He had come for a short visit during his school holidays. In a few years he was going to "make aliyah" (move to Israel).
Chanan was Dutch, from the next, younger European group of Hashomer Hatzair (Marxist-Zionists). Had a vibrant Italian girlfriend with him. She was always smiling.

We hit it off well. We were both very political-theoretical and had long discussions. Neither of us was Marxist.
He was a shy, optimistic young man. I think he looked up to me.
I was an ex-paratrooper who had fought in the war and was now on the board of the kibbutz. 
He treated me with a lot of respect.

He made aliyah with his girlfriend after I had left the kibbutz, and was eventually drafted into the army. 
The armoured car he was in was blown up by a roadside bomb. 
He lost both his legs.

We were living on the tenth floor of a flat in the Bijlmermeer, a district with blocks of flats on the outskirts of Amsterdam.
We were poor and our flat was furnished poor arty-farty. Our couch was the duo front seat of a "deux chevaux" (Citroen 2CV).
I received a call. Chanan was in Amsterdam and would like to come and visit. 
Fine, I said.

He was in a wheelchair. I sat down on our deux chevaux couch and he was seated opposite. My couch was lower than his wheelchair, so I was looking up to him.
I was looking up at two stumps where his legs should have been.
Every now and then he moved one with his hands. 
I do not know why.

He was bitter. Kept on making cruel jokes, mainly about himself. The shyness and optimism were gone. He explained that those discussions with me had taken away his last doubts about making aliyah. 
Was he blaming me? I do not know. 
After a few hours he left. 
I never saw him again.

Many years later I learned that he had picked up the pieces, had gone to university and later became a professor. 
He married his smiling Italian girlfriend. 

Sunday, 5 November 2017

An Indecorous Coming Of Age Story

1964. A-levels are over. Some school friends are going to university, some are doing an extra year. I am going to live like a modern-day Kropotkin on a kibbutz.

It is the summer holidays. My short stay on the Hashomer Hatzair “training” farm is coming to an end.
Graham, one of my school friends, has enrolled at a polytechnic, forgotten the name. Instead of commuting every day, he has rented a house near to his POLY with three girls. That was unusual then.
Some friends and I are staying over with him for the weekend.

It was a full house as his housemates also had visitors. Most of the people came from outside London. 
We had a pleasant first evening with lots of agitated discussions.
For a few of them I was a bit exotic. They had never met a Jew before and I was going to live on a communal farm in the desert.

Several of us slept in sleeping bags on the floor of the front room. I was still awake when a sleeping bag with one of the girls inside started shifting in my direction, in a kind of bouncing slither. As the sleeping bag covered her head as well, I had the impression of a giant caterpillar coming towards me.
She moved a bit, stopped, and then started moving again. Eventually she was pressing up against me.
I thought it must be something like sleepwalking and tried not to move a muscle, as I did not want to wake her, whoever she was. I fell asleep and when I woke up she was gone.

The next day I struck up a conversation with a girl who, like me, was visiting. She was the black stockings and black skirt type. A very intelligent and witty art student. It clicked between us.
She told me that her last boyfriend had been a Palestinian Arab.

In the evening we all went to the pub and came back a bit tipsy. The black stockings girl and I were lying next to each other in a corner of the room. The others had fallen into an after-booze sleep.
I plucked up my "Dutch courage" and kissed her. That was the start of our relationship. We did not do much then as someone might have woken up. 
She was not wearing underwear and explained that was because all her underwear was in the wash.
With hindsight, I think she may have been my caterpillar. At the time I did not think to ask.

The following day we did not tell people we were a couple. We left separately in the early evening, but met up nearby and went back to her place. She had a room in a big house and told me to be quiet because she was not allowed to have men in her room.
As we came in the phone began to ring. She picked it up. It was Booker, one of my school friends who had been at the house.

The evening before in the pub, he had tipsily confided in me that he was in love with her. He asked for my advice. I said he should go for it.
Now he was calling to ask for a date. I was standing next to her and could hear the nervousness in his voice. She was very nice to him. Said that she was too busy just now, but would get back to him.
The strangeness of the situation flashed through my mind. He was calling her on my advice, and after the call was over I was going to have sex with her.

Her room was very untidy with washing hanging all over the place.
I had read the necessary books, so I thought I knew what to do. Then she asked me to punch her in the stomach. This had not been in my books and was not really my thing. I patted her stomach a bit hard, which was enough for her.

My first sexual relationship was with a girl who often wore no underwear because it was in the wash and who got off on being punched in the stomach. 
You cannot get more British than that.

From then on we saw each other as much as possible. We could not go to her room as her landlady had heard us. Fortunately, she had lots of friends and always found a bedroom for us.

Time cannot be stopped and the day to say goodbye eventually arrived. It was the day before I left for Israel.
Besides being a warm, intelligent and witty person, she was also possessive and prone to hysteria and melodrama.
I suspected that she would break down when we said our final goodbyes.
So I planned the separation on a platform at Piccadilly Circus tube station and asked a friend to wait for me nearby. I hoped that a public place like a tube station and another person waiting for me would be a constraint on her hysteria.

It did not work. She started screaming and crying. I went to my friend and asked him to leave, and then I sat there with her for hours on that platform. Shades of Thomas Hardy.
When she was finally exhausted from crying, we did say our farewells. I got onto my train and we went our different ways. Or so I thought.

She wrote to me on my kibbutz. She wanted to come. I told her not to.
Then I received a long letter from her. She had tried to come.

She had taken the ferry to France and tried to hitchhike down to Marseille. 
It was very difficult for a girl on her own, she did not get far. Drivers groped and sexually assaulted her. One tried to rape her.
Besides that, the little money she had soon ran out.
She was really down, exhausted and very hungry. 
Fortunately, a British couple stopped to give her a lift. They took her back to where they were staying and looked after her until she had recovered her strength again. Then they gave her money for the fare back to England.

Back in England she had taken stock of the whole situation and decided to give me up and get on with her life. Her long, last letter was her goodbye,

I hope she had a fantastic life.
It is a pity I cannot remember her name.

Fare thee well.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Falling over a reminiscence: lost friendship and lost youth

The war probably had something to do with it. We never really settled back into kibbutz life after the Six Day War. The “we” were Tzvi, Avraham and myself. We had all made aliyah from Europe at different times.
Tzvi was from Austria, Avraham from Poland and I was from England.

We decided to leave the kibbutz and study together at university. We thought we would form a good team. 
Tzvi had rich family and he said they would help.

Mike joined our group later. He was an ex-member of our kibbutz and also from Austria.
He had come back from the war with a grey streak in his hair. 
We teased him a bit about it. Said it would help him with the women. He was not much of a Casanova.

Avraham had also had some trouble in the war.
While helping to evacuate wounded from the battle for Jerusalem, he felt faint and passed out. He had been hit by shrapnel. 
In hospital they removed the shrapnel and he was given a clean bill of health.

Our communal university plans never materialized. 
I decided to go back to Europe. Tzvi married an Israeli girl and stayed on the kibbutz. Avraham went to live with his mother in Tel Aviv.
Mike went to university on his own .

I had been in Amsterdam for six months when I received a phone call.
Avraham was dead. He had died in his sleep. 
They performed an autopsy and concluded that a piece of shrapnel had been missed. Eventually it had started to move, entered his blood stream and killed him.

Every now and then I think of Avraham. Halev boche besheket.
Am I just mourning him or am I also mourning lost friendship and lost youth?

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

The First Kibbutz: Degania

The pioneers of the New Yishuv worked from dawn to dusk. It was daily, back-breaking, physical labour. To survive there was a rigid work ethic. Not much time for folk songs and dancing the hora.
The following historical story is an excerpt from my cousin Beni's blog post, "The Ploughman". It is about this work ethic.

“In October or November 1911 a number of plough teams were ploughing a field. The field was the longest field in the country; it stretched for one kilometer close to the south bank of the river Jordan. It was part of an experimental land allotment allocated to thirteen people who had formed a collective settlement called Degania.
The horse drawn ploughs were turning perfectly straight furrows in the soil. Work had started shortly after dawn and continued with a short break for a simple lunch till dusk.
One of the ploughmen was a newcomer to Degania. In those days there were no reception committees and people wandered in and out almost at will. They stayed as long as they worked or were asked to leave.
Earlier the same year the Degania settlers had harvested their first crop of wheat. The yield was good and it left them with a small profit. Had the crop failed the group would have disbanded and the collective settlement later called the kibbutz may have never come into being.
Late in the afternoon the newcomer reined in his horse, pulled out a leather tobacco pouch, took a pinch of tobacco and rolled a cigarette. He lit the cigarette and smoked it, then returned to his work.
Unknown to him he had broken a cardinal rule, a basic tenet of the group’s work ethic and the unscheduled break had been seen by everyone in the field.
At the end of the day when everyone had gathered in the dining room for the evening meal the group was silent. There was no mention of the cigarette but the offender could sense the unspoken censure.
The next morning before dawn, while the members of the group were still sleeping, the newcomer gathered his belongings and left.”

Friday, 6 October 2017

The clock is ticking for the Jews of Amsterdam

Some 15 years ago in Amsterdam, observant Jews started to complain to the local government and police about verbal and physical harassment in predominantly migrant neighbourhoods.

The only Amsterdam politician who was truly shocked by this development was an ethnic Moroccan called Ahmed Marcouch. He proposed a number of concrete measures to combat the growing anti-Semitism from Muslims.
None of the proposed measures were carried out.

The police had their own method for solving the problem of anti-Jewish incidents. They did not try to apprehend or stop the perpetrators. They did nothing.
Instead, they told the Jews to cover up their ethnicity, or leave.
The Jews left. No Jews, no attacks on Jews, problem solved.

Nowadays, there is no public Jewish life in Amsterdam any more. Observant Jews have retreated to a few neighbourhoods in the south of the city. When they leave these small neighbourhoods they hide their heritage in public.

Seventy years after the end of the Holocaust, Amsterdam Jews are again hiding the fact that they are Jews. And few people care.
They are a liability. It costs money to protect their buildings and their very presence provokes the growing Muslim community.
However, the biggest problem with the Jews is that they support Israel.
Hatred of Israel is a binding factor between the regressive left, (many) Muslims and indigenous anti-Semites. It is not the size of the country that they hate, it is its very existence. For them, Zionism is the same as Nazism and Israel is even worse than ISIS.

In 2018 there are local elections. According to the prognoses, a majority of the vote will likely go to anti-Zionist parties.
What then for the Jews of Amsterdam, who support the state of Israel?  
Ominously, there have been recent verbal and physical attacks on pro-Israel demonstrators and the police have done nothing about them. Even though the attacks were filmed and they know the names of the perpetrators.

There is an arrangement for public participation at council meetings. Anybody can speak to the council for three minutes.
One of the pro-Israel demonstrators who had been physically attacked took advantage of this arrangement. The members of the party that is projected to be the biggest after the next elections, got up and left when he started to speak.

I remember an article in a national daily newspaper written by one of the leaders of an “anti-racist” platform. He wrote that Zionists were traitors and they should be tried for treason. Many on next year's new council in Amsterdam will agree with him.

The clock is ticking for the Jews of Amsterdam. They would do well to remember that the Dutch have a history of betraying Jews. 

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Those Were The (High Holy) Days

I came back from my boarding school in 1958, when I was 12 years old.
We had recently moved to West Norwood. That is where I lived with my parents and six years older sister, until I left England when I was 18.

My parents did not work on the Jewish High Holy Days: Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). These were the only days of the year that they went to shul instead of to work.
My father and his peers were tradesmen who could not afford to be religious.

We went to Streatham synagogue, that serviced the small pockets of Jews who lived in our part of south London. Very few people lived near enough to the synagogue to be able to walk there. Most people arrived in their cars.
Nobody was so brash as to park in front of the synagogue on Yom Tov, but the surrounding streets were full of parked cars.
The praying area of the synagogue was quite small and was separated from a large hall by a folding wall. On the High Holy Days the wall was opened and the large hall incorporated into the praying area.

My father went first, quite early in the morning. He took the bus.
My mother, sister and I came later in the car. For the women these days were also a fashion parade and they took a lot of care to look their best.
My sister was of marriageable age. The visits to the synagogue were important in the search for a suitable Jewish husband.

When I arrived at the synagogue I used to put on my kappel (skullcap) and tallis (prayer shawl) and go and sit next to my father.
The men around him would greet me heartily. They would ask about my health and how I was doing at school. Then they would congratulate my father on having such a fine son. It was almost a ritual.
My father had been at the shul for some time, so he kept nodding off. My primary task was to nudge him when we had to stand.
When there was a break, I used to go outside to chat with the other young people, especially the girls. This was in the time when it was not politically incorrect for teenagers to have hormones.

Of course the High Holy Days had mainly a religious significance. However, they were also important in keeping the community together.
The atmosphere was friendly, warm and inclusive.
In those hours we were all brothers and sisters, one nation, one family and safe from the Jew-haters.

I appreciated the warmth and love of those High Holy Days at Streatham shul, but when I was 18 it was time to leave this modern shtetl. Time to join the Jews who wanted to be masters of their own destiny.
A time to build and, when necessary, to fight.

For my dear friend Avraham.
Arim Roshi (I will raise my head).

Monday, 28 August 2017

"If Fascism came to the United States it would come disguised as anti-Fascism."

In the 1920s and early 1930s, the Sturmabteilung (SA) were the military wing of the National Socialist German WorkersParty, that is better known by its abbreviation of Nazi Party. 

The SA gained control of the streets in Germany by beating up or killing anybody who they disagreed with. Many people excused their murderous behaviour because the SA were opposed to the "genocidal" communists.
They wore a uniform with a brown shirt. That is why they were called "Brownshirts", They chose brown-coloured shirts because a large number of them were cheaply available after World War I.

In the beginning, the National Socialists were social justice warriors for tens of millions of Europeans and Americans. They were going to redress the evil done to Germany at the end of the First World War and they were rabidly anti-capitalist.
The street-fighting SA were the main "socialist" group of the Nazis. They are categorized as Strasserites, as supporters of the ideas of Otto and Gregor Strasser. 
Their leader was Ernst Röhm, who saw the SA as the vanguard of the "National Socialist revolution". After the Nazis gained power he called for a second "socialist" revolution. 

Berkeley August 27, 2017. 
A mob of masked Antifa thugs dressed in black roamed Harvey Milk park, beating up anybody they disagreed with.
The mainstream media and many political and religious organizations have nurtured and empowered this violent mob behaviour, because they maintained it was directed against genocidal Nazis and white supremacists.
These thugs have been romanticized. Echoes of "¡No pasarán!"  and comparisons with the groups who fought the Fascists before the Second World War.

During the Antifa thug attacks in Harvey Milk park, a shocked James Queally of the LA Times tweeted the following: "There is a complete mob mentality here. People are randomly accusing random people of being Nazis." 
The tweet is naive at the very least. Anybody Antifa disagrees with is a "Nazi". That is the name of the game.

Antifa is only inclusive of people it agrees with. 
It is against hatred, except the hatred of anybody it does not agree with.
It objects to genocide, except the genocide of its enemies.
It bemoans the slaughter of 6 million Jews and supports organizations that call for the slaughter of 6.4 million (Israeli) Jews. 

"If Fascism came to the United States it would come disguised as anti-Fascism."

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Goodbye America, thanks for the ride

When it comes to Americans, most Europeans I have met are snobs.
It may be jealousy, but lots of reasons are cited. I have heard that Americans are, among other things, brash, shallow, ignorant, flashy, loud, cultural philistines and gun-toting maniacs.  

The US has some pretty good wines, yet nobody I know buys them. No, they will say, they are not snobs. There are some very good Chilean and Argentinian wines that they do buy. It does not have to be French. It is just they cannot imagine that Coca-Cola drinking Americans can make good wine.

My Dutch acquaintances prefer a French film to an American one. Even though they usually speak good English and hardly any French.
It is a question of style. I think that is the most important reason for the European feeling of superiority: they think Americans have no style.

I used to speak up for Americans. You see, I liked America. I am an old-style social justice warrior weaned on "Shane"  and "The Lone Ranger".
I admired that wonderful constitution, drawn up by some of the greatest minds the world has ever known. I identified with the cowboy, the individual who stood up against evil. I thought American literature, music and art were among the best in the world. 
“Nighthawks” is my favourite painting.

Most of all, I loved American "film noir".
As a teenager I used to watch film noir on British television. I admired everything about the films: the dark and brooding atmosphere, the stories, dialogue, actors, actresses, and music. 
Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson and all those mysterious and seductive leading ladies. I fell in love with Rita Hayworth when I saw her in “Gilda”.
It was one long cultural joyride for me.

I got over Rita Hayworth and I have gotten over America.
It is now the land of psychic epidemics, mob media, zealots, foul-mouthed snowflakes and social justice bigots. It has become an intellectual desert.

Goodbye America, thanks for the ride.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Falling over a reminiscence: A Dirty English Jew

A Swiss hotel put up a notice telling their “Jewish guests” to use the (cold) showers before and after swimming in the pool. This created some consternation.
It also triggered a few old memories of mine.

When I was seventeen I decided to go to Israel and live on a kibbutz.
I had two major problems: No money and nowhere to go in Israel.
I solved both problems by tagging on to a Hashomer Hatzair youth group ("garin") from continental Europe that was going to kibbutz Magen. I was the only member from the British Isles.
Hashomer Hatzair paid my train and ship fare and I even received some pocket money.

I had to spend a few weeks on a “training” farm near Bishop's Stortford in Hertfordshire. The caretakers of the farm were a young Israeli couple who had a baby daughter.
All I can remember about them is that they were nondescript and short. He had a moustache and she was plumpish and wore tight jeans.
Hashomer Hatzair had few members in England so I was the only trainee there. I slept in a dormitory near the chickens. The caretakers had a small house.

All I did was shovel chicken shit.
Sometimes there were visitors. One who turned up for a few days, was a Dutch member of my European group. He was the first person I met from the group. We later became good friends in Israel and worked together with the sheep.
He was tall and blond. The Israeli wife used to get all bleary-eyed in his presence. Coquettish grins and constantly stroking her hair.
He confided in me that he was banging her up on the side, which was the real reason he was passing through.

Sometimes the couple would invite me around to watch television in the evening. The wife had one rule that I had to comply with: I was not allowed to use their toilet. She thought that the English were very dirty, especially teenage English males. 
She was worried about getting diseases from the dirty English, who wallowed in befouled water when taking a bath and never took showers.

For this Israeli woman I was a dirty English Jew.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

The media: feeders of genocide

The headlines of the mainstream media equate the deliberate stabbing murders of the Salomon family in Halamish with the deaths of violent rioters in clashes with Israeli forces. Three dead on both sides, a draw.
They do this all the time. Palestinians on suicide missions get killed before they can kill Israelis and the media sees this as disproportionate violence by Israel.

The media's use of disingenuous language, framing of events, biased selection and connection of facts, prejudiced choice of interviews and "experts", misleading, partial contexts and shallow analysis in order to comply with a preconceived narrative, is having an effect. It is feeding the dehumanization and demonization of Israelis.

Demonization by the media was a major prerequisite for the genocide of both the Armenians and the Jews.
Nazis could love their own babies and brutally kill Jewish babies without any problems because, for them, the Jewish babies were not human like their own.
They were not born with these demonization ideas. They had to learn them and the media were some of the most important teachers.

It is quite common to hear calls for the genocide of 6.4 million Israeli Jews in Muslim countries. In fact, Muslims who only call for the genocide of Israeli Jews are considered "moderate" in the west.
What is new and the result of the cumulative media demonization, is the acceptance and even endorsement in mainstream western society of the call for the genocide of Israeli Jews.
This is often accompanied with a "reason" that blames the victims.

Take the example of the slitting of the throat of the Fogel baby in Itamar. The justification for this wanton murder is usually, "the parents should not have been there". 
Which is also a justification for the killing of all Israeli Jewish babies.

The blaming of the victims for genocide is not new. 
Alex Haak, the octogenarian Dutch Strasserite I have written about, maintains that if the Jews had not tried to take over the world, Hitler would not have had to kill them.

This is the moral dividing line between people. On the one side those who oppose genocide unless it is their enemies who are being massacred.
On the other side those who oppose all genocides.
It makes for strange bedfellows.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

The Lietūkis Garage Massacre

"Excerpt from testimony given by Colonel L. Von Bischoffshausen:
I arrived in Kovno on the afternoon of June 27 1941. 
Whilst patrolling the city I came across a crowd of people that had gathered alongside a gas station to watch what was happening in the adjacent yard. There were women in the crowd and many of them clambered onto chairs and crates so that they and their children could get a better view of the “spectacle” taking place in the yard below. 

At first I thought this must be a victory celebration or some type of sporting event because of the cheering, clapping and laughter that kept breaking out.
However, when I asked what was happening I was told the “death dealer of Kovno” is at work and he would make sure that all “traitors and collaborators” received a fitting punishment for their “treachery.” 
When I drew closer I witnessed a display of brutality that was unparalleled by anything I saw in combat during two world wars.

Standing on the tarmac in the yard was a fair haired young man of around 25. He leaned on a long iron bar as thick as a human arm and around his feet lay between fifteen to twenty people who were either dying or already dead. A few feet away from him stood another group of individuals who were guarded by armed men. 
Every few minutes he signaled with his hand and another person quietly stepped forward and had his skull shattered with one blow from the huge iron bar the killer held in his hand. 
Each blow he struck drew another round of clapping and cheering from the enthralled crowd."

"Laimonas Noreika, a resident of Kaunas:
I can’t remember whether we left work early that day (my elder brother Albertas and I) or whether we went home at our usual time. Opposite the Kovno cemetery at the corner of Greenwald St and Vytautas Boulevard there was a small garage, which serviced light vehicles. 
A large crowd had gathered alongside the perimeter fence of the garage yard. So we also went over to see what was happening. 
I keep asking myself whether I just imagined it all but I know I did not.

Those horrific events have been burned onto my memory and will remain there until my dying day. 
In the middle of the yard, in broad daylight and in full view of the assembled crowd, a group of well dressed, spruce intelligent looking people held iron bars which they used to viciously beat another group of similarly well dressed, spruce, intelligent people. It was obvious the yard also served as a horse stable as animal droppings were littered everywhere.

The assailants yelled the word “norma” (move it) repeatedly as they relentlessly battered the Jews until they fell to the ground and began gathering feces. They kept hitting them until finally they lay inert. 
Then, using a hosepipe for washing cars, they doused them with water until they came round following which the abuse would start all over again. And so it went on and on until the hapless victims lay dead. Bodies began to pile up everywhere. 
I stood next to the fence and watched it all until finally, my brother Albertas pulled me away…"

The above murders are known as the Lietūkis Garage Massacre. It was the most infamous incident of the Kaunas pogrom: the slaughter of Jewish people living in Slobodka (Vilijampolė), the Jewish suburb of Kaunas, Lithuania. It took place between June 25 and 29, 1941.

After the murders at the garage, they moved to Slobodka to continue the slaughter.
According to "Annihilation of Lithuanian Jewry" by Ephraim Oshry (1995), the rabbi of Slobodka, Rav Zalman Osovsky, was tied hand and foot to a chair. His head was laid upon an open volume of the Gemara (part of the Talmud). Then they sawed his head off. 
After that they murdered his wife and son.
The head of the rabbi was placed in a window of his house, bearing a sign: "This is what we'll do to all the Jews."

My grandparents came from Kaunas (Kaunus, Kovno/Kovne).

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Look on the bright side

In the western parliamentary political system the democratic process is more important than winning. After an election the party or combination of parties who have majority support in parliament form a government.
This process guarantees a peaceful transition of power and a continuation of the democratic system.

In a mobocracy (or mob democracy) only winning is important.  The democratic process is followed if it leads to victory. If the process does not lead to victory, the mob is unleashed to bring down the majority party or coalition.

Mobocracies and psychic epidemics (Carl Jung) are intertwined. The mob is so mesmerized by a leader, ideology or religion that anything is permitted to gain and retain power.
In the interbellum years the mob was unleashed to kill, abuse and intimidate in violent street demonstrations.
The images of Nazis marching in Germany are nowadays chilling, because we know what happened afterwards. The German mobocracy led to Auschwitz.
At the time, tens of millions throughout Europe cheered. The Nazis were seen as idealists who were going to change the world for the better.

The mob is stupid, it has to be led, told what to think and do. There are no individuals in the mob. There is no real discussion. The cretins just bleat in chorus: platitudes and one liners that they have memorized.

Nowadays the mob still uses violent street demonstrations to intimidate. See the black bloc Antifa in California.
However, it also has two new weapons: abuse and intimidation on social media and the perpetual hysteria of the mainstream media that needs titillating stories 24/7.

Jeremy Corbyn is trying to turn the UK into a mobocracy. I read that Jews are worried.
I say, look on the bright side. You have somewhere to go.

The other future victims of Corbyn and his thugs have nowhere to go.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Children are our future

It is the late-1980s. The couple who were our two best friends bought a house in a cheap neighbourhood with a lot of rented social housing in the east of Amsterdam. Like us they had two young daughters.
The man was already an important figure in the local Labour party. He was instrumental in having a small playground built not far from their house.
At the invitation of our friends, we went with them and their daughters to have a look at the playground on the Sunday after it was finished. It looked impressive but it was empty.
The two daughters, who were 8 and 6 years old, stayed there to play when we adults returned to the house.
After about a quarter of an hour the girls came running back, crying. Their faces were very red. A group of immigrant children had come into the playground and had started to slap them.
Our friends consoled them and were very caring. However, they also "understood" how difficult it was for immigrant children, being a minority and poor. So they did not take any further action.
They did tell their daughters that in the future they should immediately come home if they saw those children in the playground again.
Since then the neighbourhood has gone through a lot. Much of the indigenous population left and their places were taken by migrant families. There was a period with drug-related problems.
Now, thirty years later, Amsterdam is in the midst of a housing boom. The well-off are moving back into the city and buying up flats and houses.

The local paper has just run a story about a new problem in the neighbourhood. The indigenous children of the moving back into the city well-off, who are now the minority, do not dare to play on the streets and in the playgrounds. They are scared of the migrant children.

A youth worker blamed the problem on the indigenous children. He said they were not streetwise enough.

Monday, 8 May 2017

He pronounced my name correctly

I have had different kinds of jobs during my work career in the Netherlands.
The lowest in status was cleaner of sex shows and sex cinemas in the Amsterdam Red Light district.
My employer was mean. There was only one vacuum cleaner and I used to walk across the canals dragging my silver-coloured Nilfisk behind me.
Later I was promoted to the next level of bouncer and projectionist in sex cinemas.
These jobs in the sex industry helped to pay for my university study of Politics.

You cannot keep a good man down and I clawed my way up the career ladder to become a part-time porter/concierge in a music school for children.
The teachers at the school were either professional teachers or beginning musicians. They were all very friendly.

The music school was in the same building as the Sweelinck Conservatory (of music), who had a real concierge. Our “offices” were next to each other near the entrance of the building.
We got on well. He had been an active member of the resistance in “the war” and he told me a lot about Amsterdam in that period. He liked to tell me the stories and I liked listening.
He was the first person who told me about the widespread collaboration of the Dutch in the deportation of the Jews.

I used to stand in for him. Then I had more interaction with the often famous musicians who taught at the Sweelinck. 
Some were just as friendly as my music school teachers. Others were not. They were arrogant and condescending to the lesser mortals who worked in the building.
As they were famous, this behavior was considered acceptable.

I have always found it strange how much “famous” people can get away with.
Two girls in my group of friends were communists who worked in the communist bookshop, Pegasus, in the Leidsestraat
Of course, they were also feminists. In the summer they dressed airily and wore miniskirts. That was the fashion then.
Harry Mulisch was a famous Dutch writer.
He frequented their bookshop. Sometimes he would ask one of the girls to get a book that was at the very front in the shop window. To get the book the girl had to bend over and he could look up her skirt from behind.
They knew what he was doing but still bent over. It was one of the quirks of a famous writer.

Getting back to my music school. The director was an organist. Nice chap.
There was one problem. He could never pronounce my name correctly. I told him many times how it was pronounced, but he just kept on forgetting it. In his world I was at the bottom of the hierarchy.

The music school was for 100% subsidized by the city of Amsterdam. The civil servant who processed the subsidy was a young lady of my age. She always came for meetings with the director in the morning. As I only started work in the afternoon, I had never met her.
I do remember that the director was very agitated before her visits.

With my studies finished, I left the music school to become a policy adviser for the city council. When I told him where I was going to work, the director looked at me with wide open eyes and an open mouth.
My new employer was the department that subsidized social and cultural activities in Amsterdam, including the music school.

I was the department’s representative in a number of deprived neighbourhoods.  I wrote the overall policy about where the subsidy should go and was supported by colleagues who advised on how much subsidy an individual organization “needed”.
It was not a 9 to 5 job. As I had a lot of interaction with people who lived in these neighbourhoods, I mainly worked afternoons and evenings.

The young lady who processed the subsidy for the music school was a colleague. We got on very well together. 
One day she said that she had an upcoming meeting at the music school and asked if I would like to tag along. See the place again. I thought it was a good idea.
Her meeting was, as usual, in the morning. She had to change it to the afternoon to comply with my agenda, as I was senior to her in the department hierarchy.

The director was waiting for us at the entrance. He greeted me heartily and he pronounced my name correctly.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

A Depressing Thought

Ab Schuster was 5 when, in 1942, he and his family were rounded up by Dutch police during an Amsterdam razzia and sent to the Westerbork transit camp. From there they were deported to Bergen-Belsen.
His wartime story is told in an article in a Dutch daily, “De Telegraaf” (April 29, 2017).
The whole article is very interesting. However, it is the last part of his wartime experiences that has stuck in my mind.

In April 1945 as the allies were closing in on nearby Hannover, the Germans decided to move the prisoners to Theresienstadt that was then farther away from the front line.
There were three trains that left Bergen-Belsen on April 10, 1945.
The first two were stopped within days by the allies and the prisoners freed. 

Ab was on the third train that is referred to as "The Lost Train", since allied bombings prevented it from going to Theresienstadt and instead it ambled, seemingly aimlessly, through eastern Germany.
After two weeks it was stopped by the Russians.
600 of the 2,500 people on the train died, mainly from malnutrition.

A month after being freed, Ab and the other Dutch prisoners were put onto American trucks and driven back to the Netherlands. They were housed in a castle that was guarded by “marechaussee” (Royal Military Constabulary). This is a Dutch gendarmerie force performing military police and civil police duties.

When the trucks arrived at the castle, Ab overheard one marechaussee talking to a colleague.
He said in Dutch, “Oh, there they are again. Could they not all have been gassed by the Germans?”

Ab is now 80. He has not been sleeping well for the last ten years. No more than two or three hours a night.
Those words in Dutch from the marechaussee keep him awake the most.

I live near a synagogue in Amsterdam. It is guarded by marechaussee. If they were given the order, they would round up the Jews inside instead of protecting them.  

A depressing thought.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Copycat bomb threats

I went from cleaning/painting ships in the north of Amsterdam to international coordinator for computer parts at Honeywell International, a computer time-sharing organization.

How I got the job is a bit strange.
It was 1970. Since I had arrived in the Netherlands nine months earlier, I had been doing manual work. I wanted to do something else, so I sent a letter to all the international companies at Schiphol Airport offering my services.
I was invited for an interview by the manager of Honeywell International. He was a con artist (I found that out later) who maintained that he had been a British army paratrooper and had fought against the insurgency in Cyprus.
He asked me trick paratrooper questions like, how do you parachute into sea? I answered his questions correctly and he gave me the job.

This is before the age of the PC. Companies did not then have their own computers. They used to buy time on a computer with time-sharing organizations like Honeywell.
Computer time-sharing was a relatively new market with teething troubles.

Honeywell had a computer network throughout western Europe. The national subsidiaries had their own small warehouses for computer parts.
There was a rudimentary automatized system that supplied these warehouses from the much bigger central warehouse in the entrepot building at Schiphol, where I worked. We received our parts from Texas.

More often than not, something went wrong with the supply chain to the national subsidiaries. As a result, there were always some computers that were not functioning properly. Then there was the nightmare scenario of computer "down".
That is when I came in. I had to find replacements for the malfunctioning parts anywhere and get them to the national branches as soon as possible.

The above is a long introduction for a short story.
This is the time of left-wing terrorist organizations. There was a spate of bomb threats to buildings in and around Amsterdam. The media, even then, went overboard with their coverage of the threats, giving them exaggerated publicity.
This lead to a lot of copycat bomb threats.

One of my colleagues, Dieter, was a German gay man who had moved to the Netherlands because life was more difficult for openly gay people in Germany.
He was friendly and extremely intelligent with a rather morbid sense of humour.
We did not do the same work but we had our desks, together with two other people, in the same room. 

Dieter and a colleague were listening to the umpteenth discussion about the bomb threats on the radio. They were laughing and joking about them.
For no apparent reason Dieter picked up the phone, dialed the office and in a muffled voice said there was a bomb in the building.
Then he put down the phone and started chuckling.
I did not say anything. I just sat there shocked, with wide open eyes.
A few minutes later, we heard the sirens of the police cars and ambulances.

The manager came in and said that there had been a bomb threat and we would have to leave the building.
Dieter now seemed to realize what he had done. He looked terrified.
He went into the manager's office and told him it was all a practical joke. The police and ambulances were called off.

He was fired immediately.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Choosing an identity

At the age of 12, I started Sunday Hebrew classes at the “local” synagogue in Streatham, a south London suburb. I was not enthusiastic because it was a (too) long bus journey from West Norwood where we lived.
Yes, there were also Jews living in West Norwood: us.

A few years later at my grammar school in Brixton, another south London district, I studied Jewish history for an A-level in Religious Knowledge. I enjoyed that.
It was mainly stories of adventure and sex during the Hasmonean and Herodian dynasties.

My Sunday sojourn at Streatham shul included a very different kind of Jewish history class. It was one long, seemingly unending, story of persecution in Europe.
Two examples from Italy have always stuck in my memory.
In medieval Rome the weakest member of the Jewish community would be thrust naked into a nail-spiked barrel and rolled down the hill to his death.
During carnival at the time of the Counter Reformation, Jews in Rome, especially fattened for the occasion, were pelted with mud by the crowds and made to run naked through the streets in the icy cold and rain.

Besides that, there were the Holocaust stories. The really gruesome ones. I can only remember parts of these stories. I try not to remember the rest.

There were reasons for this intensive confrontation with a horrific past.
The Holocaust was not yet history. It was a recent occurrence and the pain and horror was still deeply felt. 
These stories were warnings of what could happen again and why we Jews should stick together, stay in the community. Jew-hatred was an indelible part of the outside society.

During the 19th and early 20th centuries most Jews in Eastern Europe lived in small market towns called shtetls. The word “shtetl” is Yiddish, and it means “little town.”
The Jewish people I knew, like most of the Diaspora at that time, had the same attitude to persecution as these extinct shtetl Jews of Eastern Europe. 
They saw themselves as passive victims who could not do anything about the persecution and relied on the compassion of others for protection.

There was an alternative to the shtetl Jew. The new Jew of the political Zionists. They rejected the passive victim role and the ghetto mentality. They maintained that Jews should become masters of their own destiny.

As a teenager I had to choose which identity I wanted. The shtetl Jew or the political Zionist. I chose for the political Zionist.
I was never any good at that passive victim stuff.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Revolution and the western media

Size and number of demonstrations do not say anything without the right context.
A prime example was the million people demonstrations at Tahrir square in Cairo. The so-called Egyptian spring.

According to the western media, this was the Egyptian people rising up; a revolution of "we the people".
At the elections after the overthrow of Mubarak, parties associated with the demonstrations received less than 10% of the vote.

Western pundits and media should have expected this.
There was a Pew research into views of sharia punishments published not long before the Egyptian spring.
Around 82% of Egyptian Muslims supported chopping off of hands for theft, stoning for adultery and the death penalty for leaving the Muslim religion.
The western media downplayed the Pew research results because these results did not fit the narrative they were selling: a secular democratic uprising.

Fast forward to the first week of the reign of Donald Trump. He won the presidency with 45,9% of the popular vote.
Gallup has a daily tracking poll of his approval-disapproval rate with a margin of error of ±3 percentage points.
Trump is a divisive figure, a bully who insults women and mocks people with a handicap. There has been no presidential honeymoon. He has never had a higher approval rate than his share of the popular vote.
There are lots of large demonstrations against him. The media feeds up a constant daily barrage of anti-Trump articles, that have reached a frenzy of hyperbole since his executive order on immigration.
A family member of mine who has been watching it all, said that the overwhelming majority of Americans hate him. He should resign.

Is this the case? Is he now opposed by an overwhelming majority of Americans?
According to the Gallup poll his approval rate has dropped 2% to 43% in the last week. His disapproval rate has risen 4% and now stands at 50%, (it had peaked at 51%).

These are pretty dismal figures, but a 50% disapproval rate does not correspond to a country rising up against him. Most of those marching never supported him.
The media want to give the impression of an approaching “revolution”. This is the narrative they are selling.
Who knows it might work.

BTW, Gallup has now published Obama’s average job approval as president: 47.9%

Sunday, 22 January 2017

First comments on the new president.

Donald Trump is now the 45th president of the United States.
Time for a few first comments.
Another title for this post could be, the man who would be Andrew Jackson. 

Donald Trump is a bully. He insults women and mocks people with a handicap.
Not a nice person and certainly no role model for my grandchildren.
Still, being a bully and boorish does not disqualify anybody from becoming president. There have been quite a few successful unsavory presidents. 
President Warren Harding had a very young mistress, Nan Britton, throughout his presidency. She even gave birth to his illegitimate child.
Britton wrote a book about the relationship. One famous passage told of their making love in a coat closet in the executive office of the White House.

Trump does not model himself after Mussolini or Hitler, as some would have you believe, but after the populist president Andrew Jackson.
They have the same temper, but there are differences. Trump gets into twitter fights. Jackson carried a gun and shot people in duels.
Jackson pledged to sweep corruption out of Washington, comparing it to the Herculean task of mucking out a “giant Augean stable.” The pledge has a direct parallel to Trump’s promises to “drain the swamp,”

Trump has the vanity of president John Adams, who was also highly sensitive to criticism, though Adams wanted to be called Emperor and outlaw a free press. Trump has not proposed this.

What does the new President stand for? That depends on who you ask. His trademark is unpredictability.
He is neither a Republican nor a Democrat.
More a cuckoo who nested in the Republican party to become president. He has no coherent political ideology. He is a pragmatist and a wheeler-dealer.

His behavior is not exactly consistant. In the run up to the elections he said Hillary Clinton was a crook who should be locked up.
Now he asks people to give her a standing ovation.

Much has been made of his use of “America first” in his inauguration speech. Some media have even put this in a neo-Nazi context.
He first used the theme in April 2016 arguing that America’s post-Cold War foreign policy had “veered badly off course,” leading to wrongheaded Middle East interventions.
The “America first” approach downgrades the value of America’s global leadership and traditional alliances.
“We defended other nations’ borders while refusing to defend our own, and spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas while America infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay..”
This is the right context not the neo-Nazi story.

On many issues nobody really knows where Trump stands. That is the way he wants it. It benefits his negotiating position.
I expect using this aura of unpredictability to bully organizations and countries will become a trademark of his administration.

Actually, nothing about Trump is really new, even his unpredictability.  
It used to be called the “madman theory” and was a feature of Richard Nixon's foreign policy. Nixon and his administration tried to make the leaders of hostile Communist Bloc nations think he was irrational and volatile.
According to the theory, those leaders would then avoid provoking the United States, fearing an unpredictable American response.
It worked for president Nixon and it might work for president Trump. Though for Trump it is a negotiating method not a theory.

I think his biggest problem is the internal division in the US. He did not create this, it was evident under Obama.
However, he has exacerbated it. Irrational, volatile and unpredictable do not work well when trying to bridge differences.

If he does not try to heal the divisions, the country may fall apart. 

Friday, 6 January 2017

Diamonds, Jews and Gays

The Diamond neighbourhood in Amsterdam is named after the Jewish workers in the diamond industry who used to make up the population there before the Holocaust. 
It has many special buildings and monuments in the Amsterdam School style of architecture.
Nowadays it is mainly populated by ethnic Moroccans.

All the Jews have left. No recognizable Jews would enter the neighbourhood. If they did, they would be lucky to escape with only spittle on their faces. 
However, it may begin with the Jews, but it never stops there.

The Diamond neighbourhood became notorious some ten years ago because of reports that ethnic Moroccan youths were intimidating, harassing and driving out other inhabitants of the neighbourhood. Their main prey was the LBGT community.

“Streetcornerwork” is a Dutch organization that works with at-risk youth, also in the Diamond neighbourhood. One morning an agitated young man walked into the Streetcornerwork office of a friend of mine. 
He told him the following story.

He was gay, had never had any problems with the youths and was upset with the negative reports about the neighbourhood in the media. He thought it was all very Islamophobic. 
So he decided to do something about it.
He went on local television and told his story: he was gay, enjoyed living in the neighbourhood and had never had any problems with the youths. 

He received a lot of positive and supportive feedback after his much publicized television appearance. It was a resounding answer to Islamophobia.

A few days later when walking to the shops he passed a group of ethnic Moroccan youths who started to hurl insults at him. 
After that, every time the youths saw him, they would insult and threaten him.
Things came to a head when he went to the local snack bar. There was a larger group hanging around outside the snack bar and they started jostling him and calling him homophobic names. 

He was scared and ran away. 

He could not understand what was going on. My friend explained it to him.
For him and people with his norms and values, harassing gays and forcing them out of the neighbourhood was a bad thing. 
He thought he was defending the youths when he spoke on local television.

However, for the youths, harassing gays and forcing them out was a good thing. They were proud of what they were doing. According to them, gays were polluting their neighbourhood. 
They found his appearance on television insulting and a provocation. He had insulted their honour and they would not stop until they had forced him to leave the neighbourhood.

My friend offered to ask the housing corporation to find him a flat in another neighbourhood. He accepted the offer.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

The reaffirmation of IDF ethics

One part of the Zionist dream has been fulfilled. Jews have become a “normal” people in their own state. Unfortunately, normal also means that Israel has its fair share of (potential) criminals and murderers. The prisons are full.
The bad people are also called up. They become soldiers as well.

I met a sadist in the IDF.
It is end 1966, and I am on an extra paratrooper course at a special base. It is tough. It has been called suicide base.
There was an incident where a soldier ground up razor blades and ate them. I am not sure if this story is true or just a legend.
I did know someone who never used to clean his mess tin because he said he wanted to get jaundice.

The sadist was our platoon sergeant (there were three squads). His name was Velvella. He was a short, stocky man of Moroccan ethnicity who also used to give us unarmed combat training.
During the day he had little to do.  He used to wait until the night when we were allowed to go to bed. Then he would keep us up half the night by making us clean things and extra inspections.

He knew who the weakest were and he used to give them humiliating punishments.
One of his favourites was “walking like a whore”. Then the soldier would have to squat, hold his rifle above his head and walk about. After a bit this would become very tiring. If the soldier stopped or fell over he would kick him.
He would punch soldiers if they were not quick enough.

I remember one incident.
It had been raining and the whole area was muddy. He ordered one of his favourite victims to crawl through the mud. He thought he was not crawling fast enough, so he started kicking him. The soldier suddenly began to scream and the mud started turning red.
He had to be taken to hospital.

We did not get on.
He did not try those punishments on me but said he was filing complaints against me for insubordination. As there were so many complaints, he said, my sentence would be very long and I would be sent to a special prison.
During the course we could not be sent to prison, only afterwards.

There is a story within this story.
All soldiers on the course had a poncho that was also one part of a two-person tent.
Kalman Wishingrad was the other half of my tent. I found him to be a bit strange but we got on well together.

During basic training Kalman was walking back to his tent to get some sleep after guard duty. He had a magazine with bullets in his rifle.
During basic training you only received bullets for guard duty.

Kalman probably looked a bit disheveled. On his way back to his tent Kalman met Velvella, who was then a sergeant at the basic training. Velvella started to bully him, told him to run up and down, do squats, that kind of thing.
Eventually Kalman had enough. He raised his rifle, pointed it at Velvella and said, "if you don't shut up, I will shoot you".
Velvella did not say another word. He turned around and left.

So, here I am on a special course, sharing a tent with Kalman who once threatened to shoot our sadistic sergeant.
Velvella completely ignored Kalman. He acted as if he was not there.

There is another twist.
After a thirty-five year absence, we went to visit an old friend, Gidon, in Nahariya.
Gidon took us round to visit his daughters' families. He proudly introduced me to one of his sons in law as, "the man who threatened to shoot Velvella".
I have no idea how that got started.

Getting back to Velvella during the extra paratrooper course.
He was aggressive towards everybody, even his own family.
I had a friend who worked in the office. He said he overheard Velvella phoning his wife.
He told her he would not be coming home until late, because he would be fucking the female officers.

One time we were sent up north in trucks with full gear. It was for an infiltration raid in Lebanon. A mine had exploded on a football pitch near the border.
At the last moment the raid was called off and instead we lay in diamond form ambushes all night.
I heard that Velvella was really angry that he did not get the chance to kill anybody. On the way back he saw a pack of wild dogs.
He chased after them in his jeep and shot them. 

The net result of Velvella’s influence on my platoon was that we moved about like sleep-deprived zombies and we had an astronomical percentage of AWOL (Absent Without Leave).
I used to talk about this with a corporal from another platoon. How we met is another story. He was dati, religious.
His surname was Goren and he was a relative of the Chief –Rabbi at the time.

Our base received a new commanding officer. He did not understand how our platoon could have such a high AWOL.
He started asking questions.
Goren told him what was going on. He was the whistle-blower. He told him to speak to me.

We were in the field. I was informed that the commanding officer wanted to see me. I did not have to go to his office he would come to me.
Everybody knew why he was coming and people started pressuring me to keep my mouth shut.
There were no threats. It was more stuff like, we get the best food and we can solve the problem without outsiders.

The commanding officer turned up and took me to one side. He asked questions about the situation and I told him what I had witnessed.
Then he said to me, “why didn’t you shoot him?”.
I had not expected that question and did not have a real answer.
He continued by saying that we were the first generation after the Holocaust and the IDF was not the German army. We had a high moral code and that is what made us different from the Germans and Arabs.
He said that if I ever witnessed an IDF soldier being punched or kicked I should shoot whoever was doing it. “Tell them afterwards that I gave you permission”.

After listening to him I had two dominant emotions.
The first was shame that I had done nothing to stop what was going on.
My second emotion was pride.
The pride of belonging to the IDF, an army with such high ethics.