A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘transnationalism

[LINK] Sikorski in Oxford

Talk of Canada and the United Kingdom sharing embassies presumably for reasons of the Commonwealth ties reminds me of Eastern Approaches’ coverage (Edward Lucas writing) of a speech given by Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski to a British audience. In it, Sikorski argues that if the United Kingdom doesn’t want to commit itself to a European Union that (on the balance) not only serves British interests but reflects British economic and cultural norms, that’s sad. Poland, transatlanticism aside, would bid the United Kingdom adieu so the European Union could be made to work more solidly.

Mr Sikorski comes from a background of hawkish British Atlanticism. As a refugee from Communist Poland, he was a notable figure in Oxford in the early 1980s, belonging to the Bullingdon Club of hard-drinking aristocrats (other members included Boris Johnson, George Osborne and David Cameron). Most people from that milieu are more or less euro-sceptic. But many fear that Britain’s position on the sidelines of Europe is becoming unsustainable. Ian Traynor wrote in the Guardian recently:

Berlin for months has been demanding to reopen the EU treaties to facilitate a big pooling or surrender of – depending on your point of view – national sovereignty to facilitate a federalised eurozone, with what amounts to a core European government of an expanding 17 countries that would take on prerogatives over tax-and-spend powers. Britain is well out of that.

Last week the European commission signed up to the German blueprint, while unveiling problematic EU legislation making the European Central Bank the policeman of the eurozone banking sector. Britain will have no part of that, either.

On Tuesday the German foreign ministry extended the federalising economic policy-making to foreign and defence, along with 10 other EU foreign ministries carefully chosen to reflect the non-UK EU mainstream – small countries, big countries, single currency members and those outside the euro, core western states and newer east European countries. The likelihood is that the 11-country consensus will swell into a majority among the Eu’s 27. Britain also stands apart from this. The 11 include Germany and France, the big ones, plus Italy, Spain and Poland – after Britain the biggest EU countries.

In short, Britain’s isolation becomes more fixed, while the cross-Channel gap widens to become less than bridgeable. More in sorrow than in anger.

It is in this troubling context that Mr Sikorski (disclosure: a friend of the author of this blog post) made his speech. Poland wants Britain in Europe as a counterweight to the Eu’s dirigiste, heavy-regulating countries and to balance German weight and Russian proximity. Despite the betrayals of the past (Yalta, Katyń) it cherishes Britain’s support for Poland’s freedom in recent years. But if Britain marginalises itself, Poland will have to make the best of Europe as it is, and as it is shaping up to be. I was once at dinner with Mr Sikorski and a leading British Tory who chided him over Poland’s impending membership of the EU (it was 2001). “Why is Poland of all countries selling out to Brussels?” said the Tory. “Do you think we should rely on Britain, like we did in 1939?” came the crisp response.

Though his Tory friends try not to hear it, Mr Sikorski’s message is consistently and unashamedly pro-European. He uses words and sentiments that are rarely heard in Britain now (only the Lib Dems are unabashedly europhile, and even they tend to keep quiet about it). He told his audience at Blenheim Palace. “I believe in the logic and justice of the modern European project. And my country, Poland, will do its utmost to help it succeed.”

He pointed out that half of Britain’s exports go to the EU, that the much-maligned European Convention on Human Rights is nothing to do with the EU (and also a British creation); that the cost to Britain of EU membership is trivial (£15 per person per year by his calculation, against £1,500-£3,500 in benefits from the single market), that the European Commission’s 33,000 staff is tiny by comparison to any national bureaucracy; that EU rules are not “Brussels diktats” but proposed, and agreed, by the member states; that only one-sixteenth of UK primary legislation stems from EU decisions; and, perhaps most importantly, that the EU is a hugely important force in keeping markets open and competitive. He didn’t mention its current assault on Gazprom.

The comments, as one would expect, are generally worth reading but frequently quite heated.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 26, 2012 at 1:40 am

[LINK] Sikorski in Oxford

Talk of Canada and the United Kingdom sharing embassies presumably for reasons of the Commonwealth ties reminds me of Eastern Approaches’ coverage (Edward Lucas writing) of a speech given by Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski to a British audience. In it, Sikorski argues that if the United Kingdom doesn’t want to commit itself to a European Union that (on the balance) not only serves British interests but reflects British economic and cultural norms, that’s sad. Poland, transatlanticism aside, would bid the United Kingdom adieu so the European Union could be made to work more solidly.

Mr Sikorski comes from a background of hawkish British Atlanticism. As a refugee from Communist Poland, he was a notable figure in Oxford in the early 1980s, belonging to the Bullingdon Club of hard-drinking aristocrats (other members included Boris Johnson, George Osborne and David Cameron). Most people from that milieu are more or less euro-sceptic. But many fear that Britain’s position on the sidelines of Europe is becoming unsustainable. Ian Traynor wrote in the Guardian recently:

Berlin for months has been demanding to reopen the EU treaties to facilitate a big pooling or surrender of – depending on your point of view – national sovereignty to facilitate a federalised eurozone, with what amounts to a core European government of an expanding 17 countries that would take on prerogatives over tax-and-spend powers. Britain is well out of that.

Last week the European commission signed up to the German blueprint, while unveiling problematic EU legislation making the European Central Bank the policeman of the eurozone banking sector. Britain will have no part of that, either.

On Tuesday the German foreign ministry extended the federalising economic policy-making to foreign and defence, along with 10 other EU foreign ministries carefully chosen to reflect the non-UK EU mainstream – small countries, big countries, single currency members and those outside the euro, core western states and newer east European countries. The likelihood is that the 11-country consensus will swell into a majority among the Eu’s 27. Britain also stands apart from this. The 11 include Germany and France, the big ones, plus Italy, Spain and Poland – after Britain the biggest EU countries.

In short, Britain’s isolation becomes more fixed, while the cross-Channel gap widens to become less than bridgeable. More in sorrow than in anger.

It is in this troubling context that Mr Sikorski (disclosure: a friend of the author of this blog post) made his speech. Poland wants Britain in Europe as a counterweight to the Eu’s dirigiste, heavy-regulating countries and to balance German weight and Russian proximity. Despite the betrayals of the past (Yalta, Katyń) it cherishes Britain’s support for Poland’s freedom in recent years. But if Britain marginalises itself, Poland will have to make the best of Europe as it is, and as it is shaping up to be. I was once at dinner with Mr Sikorski and a leading British Tory who chided him over Poland’s impending membership of the EU (it was 2001). “Why is Poland of all countries selling out to Brussels?” said the Tory. “Do you think we should rely on Britain, like we did in 1939?” came the crisp response.

Though his Tory friends try not to hear it, Mr Sikorski’s message is consistently and unashamedly pro-European. He uses words and sentiments that are rarely heard in Britain now (only the Lib Dems are unabashedly europhile, and even they tend to keep quiet about it). He told his audience at Blenheim Palace. “I believe in the logic and justice of the modern European project. And my country, Poland, will do its utmost to help it succeed.”

He pointed out that half of Britain’s exports go to the EU, that the much-maligned European Convention on Human Rights is nothing to do with the EU (and also a British creation); that the cost to Britain of EU membership is trivial (£15 per person per year by his calculation, against £1,500-£3,500 in benefits from the single market), that the European Commission’s 33,000 staff is tiny by comparison to any national bureaucracy; that EU rules are not “Brussels diktats” but proposed, and agreed, by the member states; that only one-sixteenth of UK primary legislation stems from EU decisions; and, perhaps most importantly, that the EU is a hugely important force in keeping markets open and competitive. He didn’t mention its current assault on Gazprom.

The comments, as one would expect, are generally worth reading but frequently quite heated.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 25, 2012 at 9:40 pm

[DM] “On the United Kingdom, the European Union, the Commonwealth, and migration issues”

I’ve a post up at Demography Matters that takes a look at the contradictions of Britons who strongly favour restrictions on migration from the European Union but do want to try to make the Commonwealth into a British-influenced bloc (again). Do they really think that mature countries whose citizens are going to be kept from even entering British territory to degrees unheard of years ago are going to be especially interested in getting close to the United Kingdom?

[DM] “On the United Kingdom, the European Union, the Commonwealth, and migration issues”

I’ve a post up at Demography Matters that takes a look at the contradictions of Britons who strongly favour restrictions on migration from the European Union but do want to try to make the Commonwealth into a British-influenced bloc (again). Do they really think that mature countries whose citizens are going to be kept from even entering British territory to degrees unheard of years ago are going to be especially interested in getting close to the United Kingdom?

Written by Randy McDonald

July 7, 2012 at 12:00 am

[LINK] “Floribec: Quebec in the Tropics”

I made a brief post in 2008 referring to the phenomenon of modern immigration by Canadian Francophones to Florida, a migration driven not by economic incentives but rather by the attractiveness of Florida’s tropical climate. (The similar contemporary migration to Maine, also driven by tourism, is less noteworthy inasmuch as Maine has been a destination for Francophone immigration since the late 19th century.) An extensive post at New Geography by UQAM’s Rémy Tremblay describes the community’s development and questionable future in detail.

It is hard to pinpoint the origin of the word “Floribec” but it appears to have been adopted in the 1970s by Quebec residents wintering in Florida and made official in a study by Louis Dupont in the 1980s. According to him, French Canadians began immigrating to Florida in the 1930s. This immigration came in the wake of spending by the United States government, which, in an effort to resolve the 1929 economic crisis, undertook to build a network of canals through the marshland in southeast Florida and, notably, to open the Intercoastal Waterway, a navigable canal hundreds of kilometres long. At the same time, the government was also attempting to develop the infrastructure for tourism. Thousands of Americans travelled to the “Sunshine State” to work on this vast construction site. Among them were Franco-Americans from New England, some accompanied by their French-Canadian cousins. Once the construction work was completed, rather than going home, many of the French-Canadian workers took up permanent residence in the Miami region, particularly in Surfside, on the Atlantic coast, and in North Miami. After the Second World War, there were 67,000 French-Canadian and Franco-American families living in the State of Florida. These new permanent residents of Surfside and North Miami and of Sunny Isles generally found work in the tourist industry because Florida, especially Miami, was the holiday destination of a growing number of wealthy French-Canadians. This initial wave of Quebecois mass migration to Florida began at the end of the war and continued until 1960.

The period from 1960 to 1970 saw a second wave of French-Canadian, mainly Quebecois, migration to the Miami region, with the appearance of a new type of immigrant: the investor. Two of the factors contributing to increased immigration were the liberating effect of the Quiet Revolution and the growth of wealth in Quebec. The fact that these two phenomena occurred simultaneously appears to have encouraged the people of Quebec to look beyond their borders. Expo 67 and a number of other Quebec cultural events made the rest of the world more aware of the province and, as well, the people of Quebec used this period of cultural vitality to increase their travel to foreign destinations.

At the same time, the tourist industry was experiencing rapid development in Florida with the arrival of the major airlines, the construction of the United States freeway system, and the north-south shift of economic and political power, which sparked phenomenal growth in the cities of the Sun Belt, including Miami. Miami Beach and its suburbs of Surfside and Sunny Isles became the favourite seaside destinations of the Quebecois. Recognizing the opportunity the situation presented, the Floribecois set up businesses in the area to cater mainly to Quebecois tourists, building French-language motels, restaurants, bars, convenience stores, and various other services to meet their needs.

From the 1970s onward, most businesses were established in Surfside and Sunny Isles, especially along Collins Avenue, whose location less than a kilometre from the beach offered increased customer traffic. The favourite tourist destination of the Quebecois was now affordable and there was no longer any language barrier. During this period, the Thunderbird, Suez, Waikiki and Colonial hotels were familiar to any Quebecois who travelled regularly to Florida, and even to those who were merely thinking of going there. Cultural life was vibrant because of the continued presence of such artists as Gilles Latulippe and other popular Quebec comedians and singers, who performed to sold-out audiences in the most popular hotels. The localization of these cultural activities in the gathering places of Quebecois tourists would serve to establish the physical boundaries of Floribec as a transnational tourist community.

[. . .]

Floribec constitutes an interesting chapter in the history of modern Quebec and it represents an intriguing and unique pocket of French-speaking America. This transnational community came into being as a result of people patronizing numerous businesses and other community-building venues situated in a relatively small geographical area on the Atlantic coast. These sites played an essential role as centres of community life for French-speakers who were living in or visiting the greater Miami area. Today, certain community practices formerly associated with Floribec can still be found; however, they are dispersed over a much wider area and signs of any Quebecois presence in the Florida landscape are increasingly difficult to discern.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 8, 2012 at 1:43 am

[LINK] “Floribec: Quebec in the Tropics”

I made a brief post in 2008 referring to the phenomenon of modern immigration by Canadian Francophones to Florida, a migration driven not by economic incentives but rather by the attractiveness of Florida’s tropical climate. (The similar contemporary migration to Maine, also driven by tourism, is less noteworthy inasmuch as Maine has been a destination for Francophone immigration since the late 19th century.) An extensive post at New Geography by UQAM’s Rémy Tremblay describes the community’s development and questionable future in detail.

It is hard to pinpoint the origin of the word “Floribec” but it appears to have been adopted in the 1970s by Quebec residents wintering in Florida and made official in a study by Louis Dupont in the 1980s. According to him, French Canadians began immigrating to Florida in the 1930s. This immigration came in the wake of spending by the United States government, which, in an effort to resolve the 1929 economic crisis, undertook to build a network of canals through the marshland in southeast Florida and, notably, to open the Intercoastal Waterway, a navigable canal hundreds of kilometres long. At the same time, the government was also attempting to develop the infrastructure for tourism. Thousands of Americans travelled to the “Sunshine State” to work on this vast construction site. Among them were Franco-Americans from New England, some accompanied by their French-Canadian cousins. Once the construction work was completed, rather than going home, many of the French-Canadian workers took up permanent residence in the Miami region, particularly in Surfside, on the Atlantic coast, and in North Miami. After the Second World War, there were 67,000 French-Canadian and Franco-American families living in the State of Florida. These new permanent residents of Surfside and North Miami and of Sunny Isles generally found work in the tourist industry because Florida, especially Miami, was the holiday destination of a growing number of wealthy French-Canadians. This initial wave of Quebecois mass migration to Florida began at the end of the war and continued until 1960.

The period from 1960 to 1970 saw a second wave of French-Canadian, mainly Quebecois, migration to the Miami region, with the appearance of a new type of immigrant: the investor. Two of the factors contributing to increased immigration were the liberating effect of the Quiet Revolution and the growth of wealth in Quebec. The fact that these two phenomena occurred simultaneously appears to have encouraged the people of Quebec to look beyond their borders. Expo 67 and a number of other Quebec cultural events made the rest of the world more aware of the province and, as well, the people of Quebec used this period of cultural vitality to increase their travel to foreign destinations.

At the same time, the tourist industry was experiencing rapid development in Florida with the arrival of the major airlines, the construction of the United States freeway system, and the north-south shift of economic and political power, which sparked phenomenal growth in the cities of the Sun Belt, including Miami. Miami Beach and its suburbs of Surfside and Sunny Isles became the favourite seaside destinations of the Quebecois. Recognizing the opportunity the situation presented, the Floribecois set up businesses in the area to cater mainly to Quebecois tourists, building French-language motels, restaurants, bars, convenience stores, and various other services to meet their needs.

From the 1970s onward, most businesses were established in Surfside and Sunny Isles, especially along Collins Avenue, whose location less than a kilometre from the beach offered increased customer traffic. The favourite tourist destination of the Quebecois was now affordable and there was no longer any language barrier. During this period, the Thunderbird, Suez, Waikiki and Colonial hotels were familiar to any Quebecois who travelled regularly to Florida, and even to those who were merely thinking of going there. Cultural life was vibrant because of the continued presence of such artists as Gilles Latulippe and other popular Quebec comedians and singers, who performed to sold-out audiences in the most popular hotels. The localization of these cultural activities in the gathering places of Quebecois tourists would serve to establish the physical boundaries of Floribec as a transnational tourist community.

[. . .]

Floribec constitutes an interesting chapter in the history of modern Quebec and it represents an intriguing and unique pocket of French-speaking America. This transnational community came into being as a result of people patronizing numerous businesses and other community-building venues situated in a relatively small geographical area on the Atlantic coast. These sites played an essential role as centres of community life for French-speakers who were living in or visiting the greater Miami area. Today, certain community practices formerly associated with Floribec can still be found; however, they are dispersed over a much wider area and signs of any Quebecois presence in the Florida landscape are increasingly difficult to discern.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 7, 2012 at 9:43 pm

[BRIEF NOTE] On Canada’s charter city in Honduras

Marginal Revolution’s Alex Tabarrok let me know that friendly if distant Canadian-Honduran relations have just become more intense: Canada is now exercising something like sovereignty over a community in Honduras, as economist Paul Romer and Honduras politician Octavio Sanchez wrote in The Globe and Mail.

Many people from around the world would like access to the security and opportunity that Canadian governance makes possible. According to Gallup, the number of adults worldwide who would move permanently to Canada if given the chance is about 45 million. Although Canada can’t accommodate everyone who’d like to move here, it can help to bring stronger governance to many new places that could accept millions of new residents. The RED in Honduras is the place to start.

[. . .]

Canadians are increasingly aware of the limits of traditional aid but remain committed to the principle that supporting international development is not only in Canada’s national interest but is the right thing to do. Recent trade agreements with Peru, Colombia, Panama and Honduras demonstrate that Latin America remains high on Canada’s development agenda.

The RED offers a new way to think about development assistance, one that, like trade, relies on mutually beneficial exchange rather than charity. It’s an effort to build on the success of existing special zones based around the export-processing maquila industry. These zones have expanded employment in areas such as garments and textiles, with substantial investment from Canadian firms such as Gildan, but they haven’t brought the improved legal protections needed to attract higher-skilled jobs. By setting up the rule of law, the RED can open up new opportunities for Canadian firms to expand manufacturing operations and invest in urban infrastructure.

By participating in RED governance, Canada can make the new city a more attractive place for would-be residents and investors. It can help immediately by appointing a representative to a commission that has the power to ensure that RED leadership remains transparent and accountable. It also can assist by training police officers.

The courts in the RED will be independent from those in the rest of Honduras. The Mauritian Supreme Court has agreed in principle to serve as a court of final appeal for the RED, but Canada can play a strong complementary role. Because the RED can appoint judges from foreign jurisdictions, Canadian justices could hear RED cases from Canada and help train local jurists.

Oversight, policing and jurisprudence are just a few of the ways in which Canada can help. Effective public involvement will also be required in education, health care, environmental management and tax administration. Such co-operation can be based on a fee-for-service arrangement in which the RED pays Canada using gains in the value of the land in the new reform zone.

Wikipedia’s Spanish-language Región especial de desarrollo, “special development region”, goes into more detail, translated into English below.

“Special development region” is the official name of an administrative division urban Honduras (colloquially called model city) subject to the national government and provided a high level of autonomy with a separate political and judicial system, and under an economic system theory based on free market capitalism. [The project involves the creation of several cities in these regions with the hope of attracting investment and creating jobs in those areas. Each region has its representative special executive or governor and will have its own laws (or constitutional status), people must voluntarily enter into this system. The Law of Special Development Regions articulates the relationship between the constitutional status of each region special and the sovereignty of Honduras.

These special areas are the application of so-called charter cities or towns have as a reference model and the experience of China’s special administrative regions (mainly the case of Hong Kong and how it served as a model city as special economic zones Shenzhen) and other countries of East Asia and Southeast Asia such as South Korea and Singapore.

The constitutional provisions that establish special development regions were raised in late 2010 and early 2011 during the government of President Porfirio Lobo, who gave official backing to economic development proposals of American economist Paul Romer who promotes the benefits of creating charter cities or towns in territories uninhabited model, with clear and stable rules (legal certainty) and open doors to capital and immigration.

I don’t know what to think of this. It’s the first time I’ve heard anything about Canada’s involvement in this concept anywhere. The Canadian government hasn’t replied, so far as I’ve heard, but this might be the sort of idea the Conservative government would go for.

People, what say you?

Written by Randy McDonald

May 3, 2012 at 2:04 am

[BRIEF NOTE] On Canada’s charter city in Honduras

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/economy-lab/daily-mix/how-charter-cities-could-lift-the-global-economy/article2414535/
Marginal Revolution’s Alex Tabarrok let me know that friendly if distant Canadian-Honduran relations have just become more intense: Canada is now exercising something like sovereignty over a community in Honduras, as economist Paul Romer and Honduras politician Octavio Sanchez wrote in The Globe and Mail.

Many people from around the world would like access to the security and opportunity that Canadian governance makes possible. According to Gallup, the number of adults worldwide who would move permanently to Canada if given the chance is about 45 million. Although Canada can’t accommodate everyone who’d like to move here, it can help to bring stronger governance to many new places that could accept millions of new residents. The RED in Honduras is the place to start.

[. . .]

Canadians are increasingly aware of the limits of traditional aid but remain committed to the principle that supporting international development is not only in Canada’s national interest but is the right thing to do. Recent trade agreements with Peru, Colombia, Panama and Honduras demonstrate that Latin America remains high on Canada’s development agenda.

The RED offers a new way to think about development assistance, one that, like trade, relies on mutually beneficial exchange rather than charity. It’s an effort to build on the success of existing special zones based around the export-processing maquila industry. These zones have expanded employment in areas such as garments and textiles, with substantial investment from Canadian firms such as Gildan, but they haven’t brought the improved legal protections needed to attract higher-skilled jobs. By setting up the rule of law, the RED can open up new opportunities for Canadian firms to expand manufacturing operations and invest in urban infrastructure.

By participating in RED governance, Canada can make the new city a more attractive place for would-be residents and investors. It can help immediately by appointing a representative to a commission that has the power to ensure that RED leadership remains transparent and accountable. It also can assist by training police officers.

The courts in the RED will be independent from those in the rest of Honduras. The Mauritian Supreme Court has agreed in principle to serve as a court of final appeal for the RED, but Canada can play a strong complementary role. Because the RED can appoint judges from foreign jurisdictions, Canadian justices could hear RED cases from Canada and help train local jurists.

Oversight, policing and jurisprudence are just a few of the ways in which Canada can help. Effective public involvement will also be required in education, health care, environmental management and tax administration. Such co-operation can be based on a fee-for-service arrangement in which the RED pays Canada using gains in the value of the land in the new reform zone.

Wikipedia’s Spanish-language Región especial de desarrollo, “special development region”, goes into more detail, translated into English below.

“Special development region” is the official name of an administrative division urban Honduras (colloquially called model city) subject to the national government and provided a high level of autonomy with a separate political and judicial system, and under an economic system theory based on free market capitalism. [The project involves the creation of several cities in these regions with the hope of attracting investment and creating jobs in those areas. Each region has its representative special executive or governor and will have its own laws (or constitutional status), people must voluntarily enter into this system. The Law of Special Development Regions articulates the relationship between the constitutional status of each region special and the sovereignty of Honduras.

These special areas are the application of so-called charter cities or towns have as a reference model and the experience of China’s special administrative regions (mainly the case of Hong Kong and how it served as a model city as special economic zones Shenzhen) and other countries of East Asia and Southeast Asia such as South Korea and Singapore.

The constitutional provisions that establish special development regions were raised in late 2010 and early 2011 during the government of President Porfirio Lobo, who gave official backing to economic development proposals of American economist Paul Romer who promotes the benefits of creating charter cities or towns in territories uninhabited model, with clear and stable rules (legal certainty) and open doors to capital and immigration.

I don’t know what to think of this. It’s the first time I’ve heard anything about Canada’s involvement in this concept anywhere. The Canadian government hasn’t replied, so far as I’ve heard, but this might be the sort of idea the Conservative government would go for.

People, what say you?

Written by Randy McDonald

May 2, 2012 at 10:04 pm

[LINK] “Young Israel’s New Love Affair with Germany”

Juliane von Mittelstaedt’s article in the English-language edition of Der Spiegel, describing how after three generations Jews–Israelis, here–are becoming somewhat Germanophile, at least in the cultural sense. Is this a belated recovery of the once-close relationship German-Jewish relationship?

On his first night in Germany, Tomer Heymann, an Israeli, sleeps with a German. He met him — Andreas Josef Merk, blond and Catholic — at Berghain, a Berlin club. Heymann — film director, Jewish and gay — at first takes him for a Swede. He thinks Germans must look different, perhaps more sinister, jagged or cruder.

The next morning, the camera is already rolling, and the Israeli asks the German: Are you proud to be a German? Have you ever spoken with your grandparents about the Holocaust? No, says the German, but it’s very possible that they were Nazis. A long silence follows. It’s the only time they broach the topic.

Shortly thereafter, the German travels to Tel Aviv with two suitcases and a one-way ticket. The two men celebrate Passover and Christmas together. The German demonstrates how to flip pancakes in the air; the Israeli shows him how to stand still on Holocaust Remembrance Day, with your arms pressed tightly against your body while you observe two minutes of silence. These and many other scenes eventually become a film: a 56-minute record of the new, unencumbered way in which many Israelis and Germans are now relating to each other.

[. . .]

Something has changed about the way Israelis and Germans interact, far removed from the endless German debates in which old men wrestle with their ghosts and politicians struggle to perform the mandatory rituals: the obligatory visit to Yad Vashem here, the obligatory visit to Dachau there. For quite some time now, there’s been a new Israeli-German reality beyond the routine of shock and dismay — primarily in Israel.

Nearly 70 years after the Holocaust, the last survivors are passing away, and this is changing how younger Israelis view Germany. Relatively free of historical taboos, they are redefining what this country means to them. This new generation no longer finds it odd that a company like Birkenstock promotes its products in Israel with “Made in Germany,” and a short trip to Berlin is the most normal thing in the world. For them, Germany is not just a country like any other — it also happens to be one of their favorites.

It mainly has to do with a feeling, a new Israeli self-assurance vis-à-vis Germany, one characterized by curiosity and a yearning for discovery. Young Israelis no longer insist on constant remembrance but, rather, on the right to be allowed to forget sometimes.

The sheer scale of this transition is perhaps best expressed in figures: Two years ago, one-quarter of all Israelis were rooting for Germany to win the soccer World Cup. In a survey conducted in 2009, 80 percent of all respondents qualified Israeli-German relations as normal, and 55 percent said that anti-Semitism was no worse in Germany than elsewhere in Europe.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 30, 2012 at 7:38 pm

[LINK] “Young Israel’s New Love Affair with Germany”

Juliane von Mittelstaedt’s article in the English-language edition of Der Spiegel, describing how after three generations Jews–Israelis, here–are becoming somewhat Germanophile, at least in the cultural sense. Is this a belated recovery of the once-close relationship German-Jewish relationship?

On his first night in Germany, Tomer Heymann, an Israeli, sleeps with a German. He met him — Andreas Josef Merk, blond and Catholic — at Berghain, a Berlin club. Heymann — film director, Jewish and gay — at first takes him for a Swede. He thinks Germans must look different, perhaps more sinister, jagged or cruder.

The next morning, the camera is already rolling, and the Israeli asks the German: Are you proud to be a German? Have you ever spoken with your grandparents about the Holocaust? No, says the German, but it’s very possible that they were Nazis. A long silence follows. It’s the only time they broach the topic.

Shortly thereafter, the German travels to Tel Aviv with two suitcases and a one-way ticket. The two men celebrate Passover and Christmas together. The German demonstrates how to flip pancakes in the air; the Israeli shows him how to stand still on Holocaust Remembrance Day, with your arms pressed tightly against your body while you observe two minutes of silence. These and many other scenes eventually become a film: a 56-minute record of the new, unencumbered way in which many Israelis and Germans are now relating to each other.

[. . .]

Something has changed about the way Israelis and Germans interact, far removed from the endless German debates in which old men wrestle with their ghosts and politicians struggle to perform the mandatory rituals: the obligatory visit to Yad Vashem here, the obligatory visit to Dachau there. For quite some time now, there’s been a new Israeli-German reality beyond the routine of shock and dismay — primarily in Israel.

Nearly 70 years after the Holocaust, the last survivors are passing away, and this is changing how younger Israelis view Germany. Relatively free of historical taboos, they are redefining what this country means to them. This new generation no longer finds it odd that a company like Birkenstock promotes its products in Israel with “Made in Germany,” and a short trip to Berlin is the most normal thing in the world. For them, Germany is not just a country like any other — it also happens to be one of their favorites.

It mainly has to do with a feeling, a new Israeli self-assurance vis-à-vis Germany, one characterized by curiosity and a yearning for discovery. Young Israelis no longer insist on constant remembrance but, rather, on the right to be allowed to forget sometimes.

The sheer scale of this transition is perhaps best expressed in figures: Two years ago, one-quarter of all Israelis were rooting for Germany to win the soccer World Cup. In a survey conducted in 2009, 80 percent of all respondents qualified Israeli-German relations as normal, and 55 percent said that anti-Semitism was no worse in Germany than elsewhere in Europe.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 30, 2012 at 3:38 pm