Europe
No Home or Garden

No Home or Garden

Last month’s Rio+20 summit, the latest in a series of international meetings intended to combat climate change, amounted to yet another hopeless failure. No surprise there. While the G20 gatherings and World Economic Forums of this world continue to draw major players, Rio+20 was, by-and-large, snubbed. More»

Roma Stole My iPhone

Roma Stole My iPhone

He must have been about twelve. Holding a large piece of paper, with the letters of the alphabet written upon it, he walked from table to table, arms outstretched staring intently at whoever was seated. A couple of customers gave him money. Most didn’t. The boy smelled. Perhaps it was that he was wearing a big wool sweater. It was eighty degrees outside. More»

Obama Shopping Bag

Obama Shopping Bag

It wasn’t meant to be demeaning. Wherever you turned that winter, someone was selling something with the President’s name or likeness on it. The fact that it was Milan, at the height of the Berlusconi era, and the sellers Arabs and south Asians, said something. They were hoping for a breakthrough, just like Americans were. More»

Elevating French Jewry

Elevating French Jewry

It was a golden opportunity. Four Jews had just been killed by a Muslim gunman. Accused of inciting ethnic conflict, the French President’s reelection campaign had been given the chance to repair the damage. All it had to do was recast the ex-Minister of the Interior as a tough cop who prioritized the security of the Jewish community. More»

A Reluctant Babel

A Reluctant Babel

In an increasingly globalised world, linguistic diversity provides one of the most potent reminders of difference. A perennial resource for conflict, language barriers are an inevitable test of tolerance. As the world’s largest nation, Russia’s multitude of languages – from Abaza to Itlemen, Kabarda to Yukagir – is a veritable Babel. Yet, it would appear, an increasingly reluctant one. More»

Letter to Günter Grass

Letter to Günter Grass

Dear Herr Grass,

Ever since your poem was first published, I’ve been wanting to talk to you. You don’t know me from a hole in the ground. The chances are that we’ll never meet, either. However, I didn’t want the event to pass without you hearing from me, as someone who was touched by your words. More»

Clichés of War

Clichés of War

He wasn’t fast enough. Just as he was lowering himself into his seat, someone else slid underneath him, to claim it. Why the guy didn’t end up landing on his competitor’s lap remains a mystery. He must have had good reflexes. Just as quickly, he bounced up into the aisle, glaring at the man who beat him to it. More»

All Roads Lead to Roma

All Roads Lead to Roma

Ever since an angry mob burned down a Roma encampment last month, Turin’s streets have been flooded with beggars. Judging from their bright clothing, and their accents, it’s hard not to imagine who they are, and why they all of the sudden appeared, en masse, all over the city. From my apartment, on the west side of the River Po, all the way to the city center, there are women begging. Elderly women, to be precise. More»

At War With the Past

At War With the Past

Lublin isn’t the sort of place that frequents as a setting for Hollywood films. The introduction to Joel and Ethan Coen’s A Serious Man breaks with convention. Once home to a large Jewish community, the impoverished Polish city serves as a backdrop for the appearance of a gothic dybbuk, foreshadowing the Nazi genocide, that would empty the town of its Jews. More»

Post-Communist Blues

Post-Communist Blues

A Polish court has officially sanctioned two historic symbols linked with fascism and homophobia,  the Phalanx and the Celtic cross –  zakaz pedalowania  [Loose translation: Schwulen verboten/Ban the fags.] From now on, these signs will be legally protected.  They are symbols of an ultra-nationalist party, The National Rebirth of Poland, which started as an anti-minority organization in the 1930s. More»

Germany of the Mind

Germany of the Mind

“Racism is no longer a problem,” said the sociologist, as she put down her drink. “Amongst Germans, it’s no longer an issue. They accept difference now. Today, it’s the immigrants that are the problem, like the eastern Europeans, who are intolerant of Islam, and of women wearing burkas. A lot of work needs to be done with them.” More»

World of Kebab

World of Kebab

The falafel was unlike any I’d ever seen. If the waiter had not identified it as such to the customer seated next to us, I’m not sure I’d have even known what it was. Cylindrical, toasted dark brown, they could very well have been kibbeh, pinecone-shaped, fried bulghur wheat pastries, stuffed with onions, ground meat, and pine nuts. More»