Yes, I know it’s been a little longer than usual between posts and the past fortnight has been full of news. However, although all of those events those that occurred constituted news at the time at which they took place, it was little more than background static as we experienced a bereavement in the immediate family. Nevertheless, the racket was so continuously raucous that whatever the extenuating circumstances, one couldn’t but take notice of it.
In the United States, there was a government shutdown that continued for 35 days until the President eventually caved in. This all had to do with the House of Representatives, newly controlled by the Democrats, refusing the President $5.7 bn to build a wall along the border with Mexico, an issue which had been one of the cornerstone promises of his campaign two and a half years ago, but at of the start of 2019 remained unfulfilled macho bravado. However, if memory serves me correctly, the same candidate also promised that Mexico and not the American taxpayer would pay for his wall. Notwithstanding, he warned that if he does not get a fair deal from Congress, he will shut down the government again on 15 February or declare a national emergency to get the funds from elsewhere. I’m sure that that’s solace to the thousands of federal government workers missing pay cheques, dealing with mortgage defaults and queueing at food banks.
In Britain, the ghastly farce that is Brexit came to a head yet again when Parliament voted not to sanction the agreement Prime Minister Theresa May had negotiated with the European Union, thereby presenting her with the heaviest defeat for a Prime Minister in living memory. So muddled, muddied and mixed up is the thinking in the House of Commons that the day after inflicting this debâcle upon the poor woman (most of which, from my listening post far away from Britain, I would say is of her own doing) her spirits were lifted somewhat when on the day following, the Leader of the Opposition tabled his vote of no confidence in the government, a move that also failed. So once more, to my untrained mind, it seemed as if there’s a clear lack of leadership qualities on both sides of the House of Commons.
The Tories are divided in three but are unwilling (probably wisely from their perspective) to risk a general election whereas the Leader of the Opposition is pulling his parliamentary party in a direction that many of them might prefer not to follow. What happens next is anyone’s and everyone’s guess—a free fall into “No-deal-land”, an extension of the two-year period in which the side leaving (the UK) and the rest of the EU were supposed to have agreed on the terms of the exit; such an extension might allow a period of reflection and discussion, free of the outright lies that were dealt out liberally prior to the referendum held two years ago, so that people might reconsider where Britain is at before making up their minds again at a “People’s Vote” (a euphemism for a second referendum)? Who knows? It seems as if common[s] sense is severely lacking in the House of Commons, so much so that it was reported that Her Majesty herself uttered things about the necessity of seeking “common ground” (coming from a Royal, that’s saying something) and “never losing sight of the bigger picture”. Indeed!
Meanwhile, in Israel, the election campaign, with another 10 weeks to run is starting to get nasty and will, without a shadow of doubt, become nastier still as time goes on. The Prime/Foreign/Defence Minister (a sort of latter-day Holy Trinity for some people), aided by his lackeys, sidekicks and other flunkeys, is turning the campaign into a personal vendetta not only against the treacherous left-wing media who are out to bring him down but also against the police who have interrogated him (unfairly, of course), the prosecution service, which has recommended his indictment for bribery, corruption and breach of trust in three different cases (also controlled by leftists, of course), and now the Attorney-General and former Cabinet Secretary who he himself appointed.
However, the Attorney-General appears to be doing the job that he was appointed to do and has announced that he will arrive at his decision on the police and prosecution’s recommendations in a professional manner and when he’s ready (i.e., sooner rather than later). For this, he was immediately set upon by the Prime Minister’s attack dogs as interfering in the political process (i.e., the election campaign), as if bringing forward the date of the election by seven months so as to coincide with the A-G’s decision was not interference by the politicians in the judicial process. (An additional snippet of information came the other day in the form of a poll that found out, among other things, that if the A-G were to announce that he was indicting the PM—subject to a hearing—before the election, his Likud party would lose between 4 and 5 seats in the 120-seat Knesset. So I thought to myself with the usual degree of sardonicism with which I regard politicians: “So that’s what he’s really worth? Between 3 and 4 percent of the electorate? That’s all??? I thought so all along!”
As if all this was not messy enough, some spice has been added to this already unpalatable mixture in the form of the [now ex-] President of the Israel Bar Association. A close associate of the aggressively right-wing Minister of Justice, he has been instrumental both before and during his election to the job as Israel’s top lawyer in helping her appoint right-wing judges to the bench at various levels in the judicial system over the past four years. However, he ran into a spot of bother a couple of months ago when we was caught attempting to “smuggle” his girlfriend into the country after having a taken a trip abroad with her. In order not to complicate his “already complicated” divorce proceedings and let his wife know about such things, he managed to get the lady friend out of the country without showing her passport but an alert security person on his return to Israel spoiled the scheme. As if that wasn’t scandalous enough (remember, this wasn’t an “ordinary” citizen but the head of the lawyers’ union) he now stands accused of helping various members of the fairer sex further their legal careers in return for sexual favours and what could be fairer than that? Again, of course, it’s the duplicitous police and untrustworthy media who have made up the stories just to defame him. Yes, Israel is a nice place to be now—never a dull moment.
Speaking of elections, the campaign has just got under way so it’s a little early yet for walls and buses to be plastered with images of the leading candidates or of their perceived enemies. Anyway, that’s not necessarily the most efficient means of turning the voters on or off. I’ve already had several text messages asking me how I might describe my political leanings and how I might choose to vote under different circumstances and criteria. I have no idea who these messages have come from and have no intention of revealing my political opinions to strangers although I do make an exception for readers of this blog – but then again, [most of] you are not strangers! In response to the text messages, instead of choosing one of the options that have been preselected for my prompt response, I simply answer with: “Mind your own business”, a rejoinder that will probably become more strongly stated as the weeks until April 9 pass.
The other morning on the way to the Carmel Market, while walking along King George Street, I had the dubious pleasure of passing by the headquarters of the Likud party, which is, of course, headed by Mr. Netanyahu. Actually, it’s neither dubious nor a pleasure for the building is a nondescript multi-storey monstrosity that wouldn’t attract much attention if you weren’t aware of what was lurking inside. However, last Monday morning, I found that the façade of the building had been decorated with a large portrait of the Holy Trinity himself with the caption “Netanyahu: Guardian of Israel”. Umm. Really?
Looking more closely at these two tapestries it seemed to my eyes that they had been carefully folded and put in a drawer for the past four years ready to be taken out again at the appropriate time. Mind you, I would have thought that somebody might have seen fit to iron the material before putting them on display.
My immediate and lasting reaction to this mural was that it reminded me of something else from another age and another place.
And while walking home, I came across something else that reminded me strongly of our Prime Minister.
The walk along King George V Street whereupon I set eyes on the Bibi mural took me to the Carmel Market, ostensibly to purchase a month’s supply of coffee beans but also to take stock of what was photographable, as there’s always something colourful and otherwise interesting there.
Rather than walk the 5 km back, much of which is slight incline, I cheated and took the bus, from the Carmelit Terminal. This was a brand new bus, far too sophisticated for a living fossil like me and it took me a little longer than normal to figure out where I should insert or touch in my bus pass as there were so many electronic devices on the vehicle that I felt distinctly comfortable. However, when I sat down, I also discovered that the self-same bus had seats that were [theoretically] reserved for the likes of me so I wondered whether I should say something in a suitably curmudgeonly tone of voice to the teenager who parked himself on it, and plonked his knapsack and camera bag on the adjacent seat.
Over the last few days, for some peculiar reason, there seemed to be an abundance of canines and felines that called out to be photographed, so I did.
The weather has alternated between winter (heavy rain, strong wind, loud thunder) to being almost springlike. One night of heavy rain and the river fills up so that by morning, it’s almost overflowing its banks. One of the stranger phenomena to observe when there’s been a lot of rain and the wind blows off the sea from the west is that as the river is so shallow, it appears as if it’s flowing upstream.
Yet the day following the storm, the place is hardly recognizable as the same place. Sun’s come out and it may be a bit chilly but it looks as if spring can’t be far away.
I came across this man about a year ago as I was walking down Ibn Gvirol Street and suggested to him that he pay a visit to one of the many manicure salons in the area. Last week, I came across him again while walking down King George Street. It seemed as if he hadn’t listened to my advice.
And just as one can never be sure opposite whom one will sit on a bus or a train and what they might be doing during the few minutes you glance at one another on and off, one can never quite me sure what might cross one’s path as one walks along the street. The other day, crossing Pinkas Street at the junction with Ibn Gvirol Street, this young rider came to rest when confronted by a red traffic light. I am no longer surprised at the informality of dress in Israel but this one might be a candidate for a top prize. Given the helmet, the mask and the sunglasses, she must forever remain anonymous.
Finally, as I write this, the date is January 27. I am reminded that quite a few years back, when reading Primo Levi’s ‘If This is a Man’, I was shocked when I read that Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp was liberated by the Red Army early on the morning of Saturday January 27 1945. I had never paid much attention to the date before so it wasn’t just reading about the opening of the gates that startled me as much as the fact of the small coincidence that at exactly the same time, just over 2,000 km west of Auschwitz, in Hatch Street Nursing Home in Dublin, I entered this world. The hairs on the back of my neck literally stood up straight. And here we are 74 years on with and antisemitism on the rise again.
Just a thought for the day.
Have a wonderful day everyone and a great year!