Misery Likes Company

In Franz Kafka's famous story "Before the Law" there is a man who comes before the gate of the law and wants to enter but is not allowed, and he waits and waits outside in the hope of being called in - until a moment before his death, when he realizes that the whole time the gate was open only for him.

In Franz Kafka's famous story "Before the Law" there is a man who comes before the gate of the law and wants to enter but is not allowed, and he waits and waits outside in the hope of being called in - until a moment before his death, when he realizes that the whole time the gate was open only for him. Viewers of Israeli television could watch a similar absurdity this week as it happened in front of the Peace Palace in The Hague. To the gate of the law, as in Kafka's story, several hundred miserable unfortunates whose family members have been killed in terror attacks were brought to protest, in fact, about how indeed Israel is given the opportunity to enter the gates of the law, but Israel indeed does not want to!

"Lift the pictures, wave the placards," the voice of the producer or the director of this propaganda show was heard ordering a group holding pictures of their loved ones on the sidewalk in front of the court (News 10, Monday, 20:00). And they obeyed, of course, and sang the plaintive song to words by Hannah Szenes, "My God, my God, may it never end," and behind them, Zaka volunteers in phosphorescent yellow uniforms were visible inside the skeleton of the famous bus that had come all the way from Jerusalem to The Hague and was carried through the streets there in a macabre Adloyada (drunken Purim celebration) procession.

This enthusiasm for being miserable (and the closer to misery, the better) was superbly demonstrated by Nir Bareket, a young and hyperactive-looking Jerusalem politico, who on the way to The Hague on Sunday morning happened to be in the area of the terror attack on Bus 14. He related emotionally to Aharon Barnea ("Six," Channel 2, Sunday, 18:00) how it all happened "right before my eyes, right in front of me," as if the entire terror attack had been intended exclusively for him, so that he would have an experience to tell the guys. An hour later, viewers could hear more about his experience on Channel 1. "These aren't easy experiences," said Bareket there, recycling a vocabulary of about 10 words in various combinations. "A very, very difficult experience." And most importantly: "I canceled my trip to The Hague!"

O adorable Israeli egocentricity. Everyone has to care about the guy's difficult experiences and about the cancellation of his trip to The Hague. If I were Bareket, I wouldn't worry, because immediately after him there was someone who made up for his absence in her own way. This was Arava Ze'evi, the daughter of murdered former tourism minister Rehavam Ze'evi, who is at present a resident of Amsterdam. Outside the fence of the Peace Palace in The Hague, she complained to the microphone about "the people here in Europe," about how "they have no idea what is happening in Israel" and about how "they see us as storm troopers, as aggressive, as an oppressor nation." Hey, you there - wake up! Here in Israel, too, and apparently in increasing numbers, there are people who think exactly the same thing.

Jews Gentiles like

About half a dozen ultra-Orthodox men, apparently Satmar Hasidim, were seen demonstrating inside the Palestinian camp in front of the Peace Palace in The Hague. The more daring of them even stood where demonstrating was not allowed and had to roll up their placards and leave on orders of the Dutch police. In any case, the eye kept returning as if hypnotized to their anti-Zionist placards, which called, in the name of what they consider the real Judaism, for the establishment of a Palestinian state and the annulment of the Zionist entity. "Palestine from the Jordan to the Sea," blared one placard. And another: "Judaism Is Opposed to Zionism." Quite a few television viewers no doubt wondered for a moment whether justice was indeed on their side, and whether perhaps there is no point to all this fuss and bother we have been exerting here to hang on as a sovereign state.

Not at all. Even when all the real reasons for the existence of an independent Jewish state come to an end, there will still be one important reason why it will be worthwhile for the nations of the world to hold on to it: so that it will never be boring here on earth. Because imagine what an uninteresting world this would be without Zionist and anti-Zionist Jews, without pro-Palestinian and anti-Palestinian Jews, and without caftan Jews and anti-caftan Jews, who so love to export their quarrels to foreign parts and pull one another's beards and peck out one another's eyes on the sidewalks in plain view of everyone - the main thing being for the Gentiles to see how horrible are Jews who aren't from my particular camp, as compared to me, one of those Jews of the sort the Gentiles like, as in the kindness of their hearts they have promised me repeatedly.

Buzz off

Like the apparatus that is installed in the beds of children who wet at night so that a buzzer goes off before the urine is released, an apparatus should have been attached to Labor MK Amram Mitzna that would buzz in his ear in the nick of time, before he says especially ridiculous things. In reaction to the terror attack on Bus 14 in Jerusalem, Mitzna declared on Sunday: "An investigative committee has to be set up to look into why the fence wasn't erected" ("First Look," Channel 1, Sunday, 19:30). As he repeated his proposal to set up an investigative committee - twice - and no red light flashed to warn of the utter stupidity, it is to be presumed that when he got home from the studio, he found that some of his benighted disciples were phoning him to encourage him in his fight for that investigative committee, and perhaps a further committee to investigate how it happened that the Labor Party has recently been headed by those in need of warning lights.

What would Schulz have said?

The chilling documentary film "Bilden Finden" ("Finding Pictures") which was screened Sunday on Arte (23:20), tells the story of the smuggling of works of art done on behalf of the State of Israel, by means of Yad Vashem. Valuable frescoes by the Polish Jewish artist and writer Bruno Schulz, who was murdered in the Holocaust, were removed from their original location and smuggled to Israel under the noses of the Polish restorers who had first uncovered the paintings. It all happened, in fact, during the making of this film, which is mainly about a detective journey on the trail of Bruno Schulz's works in the town of Drohobycz in Ukraine.

Schulz, who is famous for his masterpiece collection of stories "Cinnamon Shops" (published in English translation in the United States under the title "Streets of Crocodiles"), was also a painter. When the Nazis took over the town of his birth, Drohobycz, he was taken as a slave to the home of the Nazi commander in the town, Felix Landau. There he was ordered, among other things, to decorate the children's room with paintings. Landau was a sadist of the cultured sort, who loved painting and kept a personal diary in which he described the tedious fuss and bother of the executions in which he participated. To his credit. it must be said that he did not murder Schulz. Someone else did this in his stead.

The maker of the film, a German from Hamburg, decided to look for Schulz's pictures, which had disappeared, and with the help of the Jews who remained in Drohobycz, an irritable but kind-hearted Polish woman, and Landau's son, who lives in Australia, he succeeded in identifying the right building, and the right apartment, and then, to the astonishment of the tenants living in the ruined and neglected apartment - he discovered walls with frescoes by Schulz.

A huge flurry of action: Poland sent experts to uncover and restore the paintings; the Jews of Drohobycz began to dream of the restoration of their town to its former glory - until the day they discovered that the owners of the apartment had been tempted and sold the paintings to Israel. Is this what Schulz would have wanted for his works?

Next week

"Princess Marie" is a new historical mini-series in two parts that has just been produced in France. It is based on the story of the life of Princess Marie, a distant descendent of Napoleon and the wife of the king of Greece at the beginning of the 20th century, who went to Vienna for psychoanalytical treatment with Sigmund Freud, which culminated in her falling in love with him. The role of the princess is played by Catherine Deneuve (Arte, Thursday and Friday, February 4-5, 21:45).

On France 5 (not to be confused with TV 5) every Saturday at 10:45 there is "Chanter la vie," which asks people to talk about the songs that influenced their lives. On that same channel, every Sunday at 12:50 P.M., lovers of literature can delight in "Le bateau livre." The moderator, Frederic Ferney, hosts writers and book critics on a splendid-looking tour boat docked near the Pont Mirabeau in Paris.