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Notes from Amsterdam: Suffering from a Broken Heart

by Shmuel Rosner

December 2, 2013 | 7:51 am

People sit on a quay at the Leliegracht canal in
Amsterdam April 2, 2013. Reuters/Michael Kooren

I'm traveling, so all you get today is this string of thoughts and desk-cleaning links…

1.

The new stats that show that the Dutch don't "suffer" too much– they are, as Gallup discovered, among the "countries where 'suffering' was lowest in 2012" – should come as no surprise to a visitor of Amsterdam. Suffering, according to Gallup, was at "2% or less in 17 countries and areas - most of them wealthier and more developed countries. Some developing countries also made this list: Thailand, Venezuela, Nigeria, the Somaliland region, and Libya". Libya. Can you imagine that? This is the first time such a survey was conducted in Libya, and the researchers hypothesize that "In Libya, many people were probably still enthused by having rid the country of Moammar Gadhafi, who ruled in a dictatorship lasting more than four decades". In Israel sufferers are 4% of the population, an increase of 1% from last year. 4% is also the number for the US.

2.

In other "suffering"-related polling news: Israelis – well, 45% of them, no longer trust the US. They also think (49%) that Israel needs to look for alternative allies. Are they dumb? Not as dumb as those reposting the news would like you to think. 70% of Israelis know that the chances to find any such alternatives are nonexistent and 80% understand that Israel is dependent on US support. This isn't a "crisis" as the reports would have you think – it is just a case of a broken heart (over the Iran agreement).

3.

On Sunday afternoon, in Dam Square, a group of people protested against the coup that brought down Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood President Muhamad Morsi. The protesters had a corner, covered with posters and signs, they had a megaphone, and they spoke the confusing language of democracy and freedom: Morsi's regime was toppled by military force. The current government is hence illegitimate. It's not clear what the demonstrators, men with beards and women with covered heads, wanted to achieve by having such a demonstration in Amsterdam. They said it is a way for them to show solidarity and to make people more aware of the "travesty" of having military rule in Egypt. Europeans should not be constantly talking just about Syria – they should pay attention to Egypt too.

4.

A "mega Menorah" was built in the Netherlands for this Hanukkah. "This isn’t just any mega-menorah. For one thing, it may be the largest in all of Europe. For another, it’s the handiwork of a Protestant metal contractor, paid for by Christian Zionists and meant to be a sign of solidarity with the Jewish people". What do they want to achieve? Maybe they meant to balance a Utrecht museum's recent opposition to the erection of a Holocaust Memorial?

5.

While I'm here, the New York Times published my article on the war against corruption in Israel- an article that some of my best friends, as they say, did not particularly like. The gist of my argument: Israel is investing too much in battling small-time government misconduct.

One consequence of so many investigations is the erosion of public trust in political leaders, even when they don’t deserve it. A 2010 survey by Shvil-Transparency Israel found that 88 percent of Israelis believed political parties were corrupt. According to a 2010 survey by the Israel Democracy Institute, about 69 percent believed Israel was more corrupt than in the past. And one consequence of so many investigations but so few guilty verdicts is the erosion of public trust in the legal system. In a poll by Panels Politics taken after Mr. Lieberman’s acquittal, 41 percent of respondents said they wanted the way political cases are handled to be re-examined.

The article is here.

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