Another Tack: If I forget thee, Sheinkin

The Prime Minister’s Office recently earmarked a trifling NIS 200,000 to “deepen awareness of Theodor Herzl’s legacy.” But instead of forking anything out for hype and pageantry, Ehud Olmert need only focus on what got Herzl into hot water at 1903′s Sixth Zionist Congress. There the harbinger of Jewish national revival felt impelled to vindicate himself and reaffirm his devotion to Zion, rendered suspect after he proposed Uganda as a nachtasyl (nighttime asylum) – a temporary haven for Jews fleeing czarist pogroms. Continue reading

Another tack: Where his heart is

Speakers of Yiddish and German doubtlessly remember being cautioned that their conduct reflects on how they were reared. When their behavior failed to meet expectations, the predictable admonishing question always was “where is your kinderstube,?” Literally kinderstube means the children’s room or nursery. Over time it had come to be semi-synonymous with propriety because it denoted upbringing – the scene where value-systems are nurtured. Continue reading

Another Tack: Bias parading as justice

I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of freedoms of the people by gradual and silent encroachment of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. – James Madison

The fact that political science professor Ze’ev Sternhell received the Israel Prize as Independence Day drew to a close last week was nothing but a proclamation of prejudice by the High Court of Justice, because that same court had 11 years previously deprived the late Shmuel Schnitzer of the prize awarded him. Continue reading

Another Tack: Three Days and 60 years

One of the best books anywhere about the lead-up to Israel’s independence is perhaps the most unlikely, least attractive and inordinately trivia-laden little volume imaginable. It was composed by a man considered to have been one of old Mapai’s particularly lackluster functionaries – Ze’ev Sherf. The pinnacle of his career was his brief elevation to the post of finance minister in 1968. Continue reading

Another Tack: Vague and not uncommon

Few of my past columns have elicited as much hate-mail as a recent Tack on perfidious Swiss neutrality. Several messages, oozing with particular vitriol, were signed by Arab names. The authors of others purported to be Swiss. Though in cyberspace nothing should be taken at face value, some of what supposedly originated on the Alpine moral high ground did have that ring of authenticity – like the one which affirmed the precedence of Swiss interests over “some goddamned foreigners,” i.e. Jews. “No wonder we Swiss don’t like your people,” the writer summed up. Continue reading