Petra Marquardt-Bigman

I grew up in the southern part of Germany, in the small village of Schlat not far from Stuttgart. My parents were “Flüchtlinge” – refugees from the part of Germany that is nowadays Poland. The fact that we didn’t speak the local Suebian dialect was perhaps one of the reasons why I’ve always felt a bit like a foreigner there.

Yet, I spent close to three decades in the Schwabenland, attending the Freihof Gymnasium in Göppingen and studying at the Eberhard Karls Universität in Tübingen.

In 1986, I got a scholarship as a Visiting Researcher at Georgetown University to do the research for my Ph.D. on US intelligence on Germany in the 1940s. I left for Washington D.C. in August 1986, and a few days after my arrival there, I met a certain David Bigman…

That was the beginning of a twentysomething-years-long period of a rather nomadic existence. To be sure, we always had a base in Israel, and for much of the 1990s, we lived in Washington, D.C. But we also lived for a few years in the Netherlands, spent some fascinating time in India, Korea, Vietnam and China and got to visit many other countries.

As exciting and interesting as all the globetrotting was, I’ve been ready to settle down again for some time, and I’m more than happy that we have now done so right on the beach of Bat Yam.

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So why start a blog when you live on the beach?

Blame the BBC: I began writing about Israel and related issues almost exactly five years ago, in fall 2006 – after I had watched the Second Lebanon War abroad, where I only had access to the BBC’s TV coverage. Need I say more?

Senior diplomatic officials in Jerusalem went as far as saying that “the reports we see give the impression that the BBC is working on behalf of Hizbullah instead of doing fair journalism.”

By the end of 2006, I started The Warped Mirror at the Jerusalem Post. (Due to technical changes, most of the archived posts there are no longer accessible.) I still post there several times a month and occasionally, I also contribute posts and articles to other sites. (See Publications.)

But I’ve felt for some time that I would like to have a place to collect and share my thoughts with people who share my interest in the warped-mirror-view of the world that all too often seems to dominate political and even academic debates.

Israel looms large in this warped mirror and I think it’s hardly an exaggeration to say that the obsession with the tiny Jewish state – whether in the media, the UN, on campus or in the work of human rights organizations – may well be considered the mother of all distortions that derail reasoned debate in our time.

When well-documented historical facts and relevant contexts are routinely dismissed in favor of emotionally charged “narratives” demonizing Israel, it is not just the world’s only Jewish state that is targeted, but the very foundations of the progress derived from the West’s enlightenment heritage. We live in times when access to information and knowledge is easier than ever; yet, depressingly, conspiracy theories seem as popular as they were when only privileged elites could read and educate themselves. There are eerie parallels between the medieval view that the Jews were responsible for Europe’s Black Death and the fashionable notion that it’s the Jewish state that should be blamed for the lack of peace and progress in the Middle East.

And make no mistake: what works for the Israel-bashers also works for those who propagate the “Great-Satan”-view of the US and favor a version of history consisting of an endless litany of Western crimes against humanity.

Therefore, this blog is not just about Israel. I have come to believe that the efforts to turn Israel into a “state beyond the pale” are ultimately manifestations of a broader malaise affecting the Zeitgeist, because reasoned debate becomes impossible when “narratives” are preferred over facts. To illustrate the implications of this point with just one example: the quest to make Israel look real bad all too often means that the many failings of Israel’s Arab and Muslim enemies are studiously ignored. As a result of this approach, pundits, politicians and professors often foster an image of the Middle East that has little to do with the realities of this volatile region that has become a breeding ground for easily exported extremism.

The context that is so often missing in debates about Israel will be a major focus of this blog. I hope that anyone who stumbles on this site will find it interesting enough to come back often. Questions or suggestions can either be posted in the comments or send to

20 responses to “Petra Marquardt-Bigman

  1. I enjoyed your illuminating piece on Musharraf and Israel on Harry’s Place and so reached your blog here (thanks also for the link to Peter Tatchell on Balochistan). I have for long been unhappy with both the way in which Israel is often verbally attacked and the way it is often verbally defended. It seems sometimes nearly impossible to find objective and reasoned discussion of the balance of rights and wrongs concerning the parties in dispute. Anyway, I liked your article and thought I’d tell you.
    All best

    • Thanks; and I’m afraid you’re right: the debate about Israel has become very partisan. There are no doubt many reasons for that; one is perhaps that much of the past decade has not only been very frustrating in terms of disappointed hopes for peace, but that the debates are now taking place in cyberspace, and it seems to me that a lot of people have taken to just shouting from their respective echo-chambers.

  2. Very nicely written and interesting too. I too am appalled at the lazy acceptance of narratives over facts.

  3. I was driftin’ on the net, and suddenly I have found myself in you livin’ room….
    You got a nice view from your window!…

    Nice Blog.

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  5. Petra, you use the phrase “Warped Mirror”. In a paper I’m shortly delivering to a group of (probably) similarly retired old fogies like myself, I use the phrase “looking-glass” world (the reference to Lewis Carroll is deliberate) tdescribe how the so-called ‘progressive left’ view Israel.

    Nice to know that there are a reasonable number of like-minded individuals out there, and it’s not all whistling in the wind.

    More power to your elbow, and keep walking on the beach as well as writing!

    ps, I occasionally link to your articles on the “simplyjews” website I send pieces to. I hope you don’t object to the extra publicity!

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  8. Keep up the great work, Petra. Best wishes for 2014!

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  10. Ghassan Ghraizi

    I am a native of Lebanon, and I find your hypocrisy appalling. It’s not that you are defending Israel as “the tiny Jewish state”. It’s that you are painting a picture that is contrary to the facts, which makes you a liar by omission. The military that helped launch this tiny Jewish state had the second largest military force in the Middle East after Turkey in 1948! Let that sink in. Since then, Israel has received more than 200 billion dollars in today’s monetary value towards its military alone. Please stop your fictional nonsense.

  11. Carl-Ludwig Holtfrerich

    Dear Petra Marquardt-Bigman,
    I am a professor of economics and economic history at the Free University of Berlin. I have run across your book on “Geheimdienstanalysen”, while researching for a biography of the young American officer who managed and executed the West German currency reform of 20 June 1948. As your book does not have an index, it is very time-consuming for me to find out whether you ran into his OSS or G-2 reports about economic, financial, or military conditions in Germany. I would be very grateful, if you would contact me outside of this blog. My email address:
    We would have a lot to talk about.
    With best wishes from Berlin,
    Carl-Ludwig Holtfrerich

  12. Dear Mrs. Marquardt-Bigman,

    I just read your article in Quillette about Israel which I found very illuminating. I have never been to Israel, but I am a great admirer from afar.

    Melanie Meyer
    Berlin, Germany

  13. Brian Goldfarb

    Dear Petra, 8 years ago (see above) I noted here that I had just presented a paper to a group of Cambridge UK Jewish residents that argued that the UK Left ad lost its way on Israel and Jews. I never sent you that paper!! Sadly, it still resonates today, although times are beginning to change for the better. That paper can be found here:

    I hope it is still relevant, even as a piece of history.

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