Dear Bibi: Don’t mention the war

One need not look very far to establish the lack of bona fides on the part of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Cartoon don't reuse 521 (photo credit: Deborah Danan)
Cartoon don't reuse 521
(photo credit: Deborah Danan)
Years ago, there was a British sitcom called Fawlty Towers, an all-time favorite in the Goy household. The star of the show was Basil Fawlty, the hapless proprietor of a small, slightly decrepit hotel in Torquay... you don’t know Torquay? Fear not. Think Bat Yam without the excitement, the effervescence. Your life is much the richer for this lack.
Anyway, one of my favorite episodes is the one where Basil has guests from Germany. Fawlty Towers was first screened in the ’70s, when the British still had that thing about presenting themselves as modest and self-effacing.
Which is to say, they didn’t talk about the war – especially to Germans – because it would seem like gloating. So Basil issues an edict to his staff: “Don’t mention the war.” Needless to say, the crass and insensitive hotelier breaks his own injunction in record time, and by the end of the episode is goose-stepping and cracking “jokes” about British bombers over Berlin.
I’ve been reminded of Basil Fawlty and his problems with Germans and the war quite a bit recently.
A few days ago, I was at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv to see an exhibition about the history of soccer in Israel. It’s actually rather intelligent; it takes an anthropological approach to the game and its fans, a bit like getting to see the magnificence of big game in the wild rather than in captivity (I’m unkind? Probably. But after seeing Hapoel Tel Aviv fans in action the other week...).
The exhibition’s highlight is a short film called Sivan. The film tracks the eponymous heroine over the course of a soccer game, registering the remarkable range of emotions she expresses in 90 minutes. She prays. She sways. She swears. There are tears. The film is mesmeric, her stage presence simply astonishing.
Frankly I think they should put the film up for Best Foreign Film Oscar next year, or at least before Joseph Cedar makes another film and stakes lifetime rights to the role of Israeli representative.
At some point, Sivan – a Hapoel Tel Aviv supporter, incidentally – and her fellow fans start to sing. Now, anyone familiar with soccer songs will know that they are generally a repository of filth and twisted thinking. (I suspect that when soccer fans eventually mature, they become advertising copywriters. But that’s another matter.) So Sivan and friends are singing, “No. 6, you are a German; No. 2, you are a German. The striker is a German; Avi Nimni, you are a German.” My companion and I were a bit puzzled: Was being a German a Good Thing or a Bad Thing? And who was Avi Nimni? We couldn’t tell.
I turned to Wikipedia: “Avi Nimni is regarded as one of Maccabi Tel Aviv’s greatest players ever,” his entry begins.
Ah-hah. Being German is a Very Bad Thing indeed, and the Hapoel fans were quite happy to let everybody know.
I’VE STARTED to suspect that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu may be a Hapoel TA fan too. At least, he wasn’t shy about talking about that War the other week, as he tried to coerce US President Barack Obama into stepping up to the plate on the Iranian issue.
A few preliminary points. First: The Holocaust is a very real thing, and it is fair for it to feature in the thinking about the threats Israel faces. Second: One need not look very far to establish the lack of bona fides on the part of our dear friend and alleged crypto-Jew, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I wouldn’t want him to have access to nuclear weapons, either.
But (there’s always a “but” with me, isn’t there?) that’s where Netanyahu and I part company.
In my opinion (admittedly uninformed and unsophisticated, but hey, when has that stopped me in the past?), if Iran gets the bomb, it will shift the balance of power in the Middle East and will in all probability set off a nuclear arms race in the region. Which, one may presume, won’t end well. However, when Bibi invokes the Holocaust as the reason to stop Iran... well, look at it like this: Even if Iran got the bomb tomorrow, it would have quite a lot of catching up to do before it approached the size of the nuclear arsenal possessed by (ahem ahem) a certain country in the Middle East. Which is to say, if Ahmadinejad is actually as dumb as he pretends to be and tries to make a first strike, he will effectively have signed a suicide note on behalf of his country.
Look, I’m not saying I have the answers to the present difficulties. But Bibi wasn’t being terribly sophisticated when he started about the Second World War and the Holocaust. Israel is a strong country, one conceivably in control of its own destiny. The Jews of Europe were not a country and not in control of their destiny. Bibi ought to save the rhetoric for when it is really needed, instead of behaving like a cross between Basil Fawlty and a Hapoel Tel Aviv fan.
ON TO other things. Wednesday before last, on the Fast of Esther, I had a meeting in The Jerusalem Post’s offices. It was a bright, sunny morning. I woke up early, went for a run, decided to cut my hair before setting off for Jerusalem. But after two swipes with my electric clippers, the wretched things packed up on me. Leaving a huge furrow running through the middle of my head.
To cut a long story short, the only thing I could do was wear a hat and sort out my bad hair day after returning from Jerusalem. (If you saw me in the offices, now you know – the floppy sun hat was not a pathetic Purim costume.) Back in Tel Aviv, I went to the nearest electrical shop to buy a new set of clippers. The shopkeeper, an elderly fellow old enough to have been around during that war, produced a pair. They looked a bit old-fashioned, and I said something to that effect.
“No, they’re the best you can get,” he replied reassuringly. “They’re German.”
Hang on a minute, I thought that... oh, never mind.