Sunday, February 27, 2005

New York, New York

Hello there

I'm in beautiful and chilly New York, which is still gleaming with snow after a flurry on Thursday. Am staying at the excellent Webber Apartment on the Upper West Side, with its views down Broadway towards Columbus Circle, and across the Hudson past the USS Intrepid to New Jersey.

So far, it has been a culinary delight, taking in trips to Le Marais for a super Steak Tartare and chips, a nice pizza place, Solo for dinner tonight, a shwarma place for lunch, a big cheese omelette at a brunch place near the park yesterday, and a phenomenal meal at Buddakan in Philadelphia before I headed up here (thanks again for the hospitality Coop and Erin).

Also I had the opportunity to see the (in)famous Gates in Central Park - a huge series of pillars supporting large squares of orange cloth. This was especially striking against the blanket of white and the clear blue sky... Wolfgang Volz did a better job than my phone camera could have.

Whilst it is visually impressive and presents the park in a new light, I found it to be no more striking than some of those photos of the glorious avenues of Communist capitals, lined with red flags as if every day is parade day...

Some of the weird and wonderful stuff that goes with any Freedman trip:-

- On the flight out, I had of course pre-arranged an upgrade (though US Airways did their best to deprive me on a technicality). This came in handy when I was accosted at the gate by a slutty-looking American single mum who reeked of alcohol, and was proudly telling me (whilst putting her hand rather too high up my thigh) that she hated flying and had to get hammered to be able to cope. Her poor son, though probably no older than 6 or 7, was visibly embarrassed though obviously used to this kind of behaviour. I have never been so relieved to know that on boarding the aircraft, I would be turning to the left, and she most definitely to the right.

- On the train from Philly to NY, I bumped into an English bloke I had met on Limmud over the winter. What are the odds? (Dan then beat that with a story of how he bumped into someone he knew in a souk in Oman - bloody one-upmanship, totally uncalled-for.) We had an interesting chat about saving the planet - his uncle Mayer Hillman delivered a talk on the environment at Limmud that I strongly disagreed with (more of which in a future posting).

- At the bar on Saturday night, to celebrate the leaving of an expat after a year of NY living, I met said expat and found he was a friend of Leonard Citron (Irish bloke from AJ6 Europe tour '97), and had actually been to my house for Len's surprise birthday party way back in the day. Small world.

- The building next door to Dan's is the Merkin Concert Hall. Dan - and I am sure most of you decent folk, have no understanding of why this was quite hilarious to me, as I can profess to having come across a merkin before (take this as literally as you dare).

Next posting from Oklahoma City, also a mountain of philosophical crap due to excessive attendance of engagement parties in recent weeks - watch this space.

Love

Michael

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Zionism 101

As this blog is home to the cream of Zionist, racist, imperialist, colonialist intellectual thought, I shall share with you some Israel-related spiel.

Firstly, our friends at the BBC have been at it again:
http://backspin.typepad.com/backspin/2005/02/bbcs_deep_thoug.html

To get you in a better mood, enjoy this: http://www.collegedowntime.com/media/dumbblonde.php

Also I had a 2 minute rant on BBC Radio 5 on Friday morning, after the CST report came out showing a rise in antisemitic incidents in the UK. The BBC felt the need to host a talk show on whether antisemitism really was on the increase. Empirical evidence seems not to be enough for them - facts are apparently disputable - the kind of "objective" journalism and editorial decisions we have come to expect from them.

Anyway, they allowed me on to say my piece - I said that as a result of this kind of debate and the volume of attacks, and the constant hostility I receive (from Jews as well) for being an outspoken Zionist, I feel "different" to other UK citizens. I no longer think I can be British and Jewish at the same time. For me, Jewish now means Israeli who hasn't gone home yet after millenia of exile. Dual nationality has its limitations, and with Mayor Ken's outburst adding insult to the injury of the Howard/Fagin episode, I think we have reached them.

And finally, seeing as The Times aren't publishing my letter, I shall do it here. First, the cause of my annoyance, a letter entitled "Israel's approach to making peace", in Tuesday's paper:

Sir,

The second intifada was not sparked off by Yassir Arafat (leading article, February 9) but by Ariel Sharon who, on September 28, 2000, visited the area of the mosques on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem with right-wing legislators and about 1,000 armed soldiers and police, many already in riot gear.

This visit was apparently intended to symbolise Israel’s continuing possession of the Temple Mount, the status of which was then under negotiation between Ehud Barak, the Israeli Prime Minister, and Arafat.

The biggest potential obstacle to (a just) peace is in my opinion the “facts on the ground” assiduously and consistently built by Israeli governments over decades. These include the settlement blocs, whose population increased during the Oslo “peace” years, the huge road system linking the settlements to Israel proper, and now the separation barrier/wall. All these are built on Palestinian land and are widely considered to be illegal.

Why is all this an obstacle to peace? Partly because it makes a viable, contiguous and independent Palestinian state virtually impossible, and partly because it demonstrates to Palestinians that Israel is not serious about a just peace.

Yours faithfully,

M. H. BARNES


So I felt a response was in order...


Sir

Dr Barnes (letters, 15th Feb) carefully avoids mentioning the approach to peace taken by the Palestinians and Arab nations since Israel was born.

Yasser Arafat's own staff admitted that he was planning the second intifada BEFORE even attending Camp David - Sharon's walk on the Temple Mount (accompanied by Arab members of the Knesset) was merely a pretext.

The Muslim religious authority on the Temple Mount, the Waqf, has systematically destroyed artefacts found there that identify the site's Jewish origins.

The Israeli "facts on the ground" only emerged after a war started by Arab provocation in 1967. Organised terrorism against Jews by Arabs existed in 1929, before there was even a Jewish state, and the PLO was founded in 1964 with its aim as the destruction of Israel.

The bypass roads constructed by Israel are there because of incidents such as the lynching in 2000 of two Israelis who got lost and accidentally drove through, rather than around Ramallah.

The just peace Dr Barnes and all right-minded people seek must involve, in Sharon's words, "painful compromises" - on both sides. What was offered by Israel at Camp David, what they agreed to with the Road Map, and their withdrawal from Gaza, shows a willingness to compromise on the Israeli side. Would Dr Barnes like to venture some examples of compromise on the Arab side?

Yours etc


That's it for today, come back soon for more on "Zionism 101: how to feel unashamed about wanting your nation to exist".

Friday, February 11, 2005

A freedmanslife update

Hi all

News in brief then...

- had a big brunch on Sunday, thanks to all in attendance for finishing almost everything and for some excellent cards and presents. In particular, I am enjoying the Bunny Suicide book, although I think Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-tail should speak to the Samrabbitans before doing anything so morbid.

- was on the radio this morning, my blood started to boil during a Radio 5 debate on the report out today about antisemitic incidents in the UK. Not going to say much here, as I will shortly post the first of my exposés on The Trouble With Anglo-Jewry.

- am getting rather addicted to the Su Doku puzzle on the back of T2 in The Times (check out www.sudoku.com for a flavour). Once you understand the concept, you will understand my amusement as my mother spent several hours last week struggling with a fiendish one, then when she finally completed it, compared it to my effort on the same one (took me about 20 mins) and found it was completely different. Seems that for her, part of the challenge is the mere act of transposing from the back of T2 to her own grid - she had missed out one number entirely, but miraculously still managed to finish the puzzle. If you're not chuckling, that's not because this isn't funny. Please now play Su Doku then re-read.

- went for a fun birthday treat with Helen (sister - the more often you read, the better your understanding of the characters in this soap) - an hour in a flotation tank at Floatworks in Southwark. It's basically a bath filled with warm water and Epsom salts in a big egg-shaped pod. The lights go out, the dreamy music comes on, the air temperature is the same as that of the water and your skin, so you can't tell the difference, and you feel like you're totally weightless. Yes, with that much salt, even I am buoyant. An hour later, after drifting in and out of a semi-conscious state, the lights come on, the lid glides up, and you find yourself still on the South Bank after 9pm.

- then went to a Filipino restaurant for dinner (thanks to the Times 3 courses for £10 offer - sweet). Especially worthy of note was the purple yam and avocado ice-cream. You heard it here first.

- business all shuffling along nicely, obviously can't say much... it does let me travel though. I'll be in the USA from 23rd Feb to 3rd March if anyone's about - Philly 23-24, then NY 24-1, the Oklahoma City (don't ask) 1-3. Promise I'll try and visit a few more places next time - maybe Indiana to see Shira (hi!), Milwaukee to see Josh and Ellen (hi!), and elsewhere on request.

That's about it, come back regularly to catch up on my news and to read some extremely intellectual prose.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

TWAJ: Provincial attitudes

In the last couple of years, I have produced two rather boring proposals on how to turn around the diminishing communities of two cities I have lived in, Sheffield and Edinburgh. The stultifying majority of the content was designed to cover up some of the more radical suggestions I had to make, but even so, neither was pursued by either community. This could be because the ideas were daft or unworkable, or of course because the decision-makers have already chosen the path of dying out with dignity, with the last Jew in town turning off the lights as they head off to London.

The truth is likely to be somewhere in between; I leave it at your discretion as to where. In any event, rather than let several bum-numbing evenings of typing go to waste, you can download them using the links below and feel free to pinch any handy ideas:

Sheffield: A New ReGeneration

Edinburgh: If Not For Ourselves