Eyewitness to The Execution of Mata Hari, 1917

From Eyewitness to History:

“The first intimation she received that her plea had been denied was when she was led at daybreak from her cell in the Saint-Lazare prison to a waiting automobile and then rushed to the barracks where the firing squad awaited her.

Never once had the iron will of the beautiful woman failed her. Father Arbaux, accompanied by two sisters of charity, Captain Bouchardon, and Maitre Clunet, her lawyer, entered her cell, where she was still sleeping – a calm, untroubled sleep, it was remarked by the turnkeys and trusties.

The sisters gently shook her. She arose and was told that her hour had come.

‘May I write two letters?’ was all she asked.

Consent was given immediately by Captain Bouchardon, and pen, ink, paper, and envelopes were given to her.

She seated herself at the edge of the bed and wrote the letters with feverish haste. She handed them over to the custody of her lawyer.

Then she drew on her stockings, black, silken, filmy things, grotesque in the circumstances. She placed her high-heeled slippers on her feet and tied the silken ribbons over her insteps.

She arose and took the long black velvet cloak, edged around the bottom with fur and with a huge square fur collar hanging down the back, from a hook over the head of her bed. She placed this cloak over the heavy silk kimono which she had been wearing over her nightdress.

Her wealth of black hair was still coiled about her head in braids. She put on a large, flapping black felt hat with a black silk ribbon and bow. Slowly and indifferently, it seemed, she pulled on a pair of black kid gloves. Then she said calmly:

‘I am ready.’

Daniel Barenboim: Israel’s Security Depends on Wiser Action

From The Guardian:

I have just three wishes for the coming year. The first is for the Israeli government to realise once and for all that the Middle East conflict cannot be solved by military means. The second is for Hamas to realise that its interests are not served by violence, and Israel is here to stay. And the third is for the world to acknowledge that this conflict is unlike any other in history. It is uniquely intricate and sensitive – a conflict between two peoples who are both deeply convinced of their right to live on the same very small piece of land. This is why neither diplomacy nor military action can resolve this conflict.

The developments of the last few days are extremely worrisome to me for reasons of humane and political natures. While it is self-evident that Israel has the right to defend itself, that it cannot and should not tolerate missile attacks on its citizens, its army’s relentless and brutal bombardment of Gaza has raised a few important questions in my mind.

The first question is if Israel’s government has the right to make all Palestinians culpable for the actions of Hamas. Is the entire population of Gaza to be held responsible for the sins of a terrorist organisation? We, the Jewish people, should know and feel even more acutely than other populations that the murder of innocent civilians is inhumane and unacceptable. The Israeli military has very weakly argued that the Gaza Strip is so overpopulated it is impossible to avoid civilian deaths during operations.

The feebleness of this argument leads to my next questions: if civilian deaths are unavoidable, what is the purpose of the bombardment? What, if any, is the logic behind the violence, and what does Israel hope to achieve through it? If the aim is to destroy Hamas then the most important question to ask is whether this is attainable. If not, then the whole attack is not only cruel, barbaric and reprehensible, it is senseless.

Quote of the Night

Bertrand Russell on Israel and the Middle East:

The tragedy of the people of Palestine is that their country was “given” by a foreign power to another people for the creation of a new state. The result was that many hundreds of thousands of innocent people were made permanently homeless. With every new conflict their numbers increased. How much longer is the world willing to endure this spectacle of wanton cruelty? It is abundantly clear that the refugees have every right to the homeland from which they were driven, and the denial of this right is at the heart of the continuing conflict. No people anywhere in the world would accept being expelled en masse from their own country; how can anyone require the people of Palestine to accept a punishment which nobody else would tolerate? A permanent just settlement of the refugees in their homeland is an essential ingredient of any genuine settlement in the Middle East. We are frequently told that we must sympathise with Israel because of the suffering of the Jews in Europe at the hands of the Nazis. […] What Israel is doing today cannot be condoned, and to invoke the horrors of the past to justify those of the present is gross hypocrisy.

—Bertrand Russell, 31 January 1970