Tag Archives: Mondoweiss

So progressive: alt-left anti-Israel activists find common ground with the alt-right

In the aftermath of the US election, proudly progressive Israel-haters have been happy to tell everyone who’d listen that they have been right all along – alt-right, to be precise. About a week after the election, Ali Abunimah informed his Electronic Intifada readers that Trump might be “bringing ‘white Zionism’ to the White House.”

aa-white-supremacy-zionism3

In order to explain what “white Zionism” is supposed to be, Abunimah cited the – in my view well-deserved – criticism of Steve Bannon’s leadership role at Breitbart, which has been denounced for regularly publishing “materials designed to stoke fears about African Americans, Latinos, Muslims and other groups, and to explicitly normalize white nationalist and white supremacist beliefs.” Abunimah then declared triumphantly: “This so-called alt-right ideology has been described by one of its key promoters as a form of ‘white Zionism.’”

Well, to Ali Abunimah it must have seemed like a golden opportunity: when half of America was in shock about Trump’s unexpected election victory and appalled by the prospect of an empowered alt-right, why not seize the moment and come up with a spin that might convince all these people that Zionism was just as bad and despicable???

But Abunimah was by no means the only one to demonize Zionism as the Jewish version of white supremacism: at the hate site Mondoweiss, Phillip Weiss accused renowned Holocaust scholar Deborah E. Lipstadt of “advocating a double standard” if she was denouncing “white nationalism as a white supremacist ideology” without condemning “Jewish nationalism” in the same terms.

A more recent post at Mondoweiss gloats about the widely reported failure of Hillel rabbi Matt Rosenberg at Texas A&M University to respond to alt-right leader Richard Spencer’s claim that Jews refused to assimilate and thus remained “a coherent people with a history and a culture and a future,” and that he just wants the same for whites. As Mondoweiss contributor Jonathan Ofir concludes, “Spencer masterfully put Rosenberg in a checkmate” by exposing “how Zionism and white-supremacy in fact dovetail.”

It’s good to know that alt-left anti-Israel activists would feel so elated to have their demonization of Zionism validated by the ‘masterful’ leader of the alt-right… The intellectual depth displayed here reminds me of Rania Khalek’s excuse when she was caught linking to a Holocaust denial site and then claimed it had just been “an error,” insisting at the same time that the book she had recommended from the site was “completely factual.” As I wrote at the time, Khalek was apparently convinced that a site devoted to minimizing Nazi crimes and defending people “not believing in the existence of gas chambers” can be trusted to feature a “completely factual” book that presents Zionist Jews as Nazi collaborators – which is obviously an idea that deserves as much ridicule and contempt as the notion that a white supremacist site would be a good place to find a “completely factual” book on blacks.

What anti-Israel activists who feel that the alt-right’s supposed affinity for Zionism validates their own “anti-Zionism” really tell us is that their view of Zionism has little to do with realities in the world’s only Jewish state.

Let’s look first at what Spencer means by “White Zionism”. This is how he put it at an alt-right gathering in 2013:

“For us ‘immigration’ is a proxy for race. In that way, immigration can be good or bad: it can be a conquest (as it seems now) . . . or a European in-gathering, something like White Zionism. It all depends on the immigrants. And we should open our minds to the positive possibilities of mass immigration from the White world.”

More recently, Spencer told the notorious alt-right gathering in Washington D.C. something very similar as he told Hillel rabbi Matt Rosenberg at Texas A&M University:

“The Jews exist precisely because they were apart, precisely because they had, maybe you could say, a bit of paranoia about trying to stay away — please don’t quote paranoia,” Spencer said.”

Right, let’s not quote “paranoia” – it’s perhaps not the best word to describe the results of more than a thousand years of antisemitism…

But in any case, others at the gathering agreed that the Jews provided an excellent example for white nationalists. As one participant put it:

“The opposition to intermarriage. The creation of their own state. The recreation of their language. This is the greatest triumph of racial idealism in history.”

So let’s start with intermarriage (and leave aside that I’m writing this as a naturalized non-Jewish Israeli citizen who “intermarried” with a Jew). While the alt-right hopes to be able to mainstream their ideas under President Trump, they presumably know that Trump’s daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism and married a Jew. So if white nationalists want to emulate Jews, they’ve surely developed some ideas about how non-Whites can convert to being white? And another interesting question: what language do white nationalists plan to recreate?

Anyway, to clarify things a bit more, I thought white nationalists might find it useful to contemplate this image before praising Israel for any supposed “greatest triumph of racial idealism in history”…

idf-diversity

Mhm, you think this is how white nationalists would want their army to look? And, incidentally, how do you think white nationalists would feel if they knew the story of former Israeli president Moshe Katsav, who was found guilty of sexual offenses and sentenced to a lengthy prison term by a well-respected Christian Arab judge? If white nationalists see Israel as their example, maybe we should expect that they’ll have well-respected Black Muslim judges in their state?

I could go on, but I agree with Gilead Ini’s recent remark on Twitter: taking the alt-right’s professed admiration for the world’s only Jewish state seriously, and trying to show how insincere and uninformed it is, may not make more sense than countering other libels by  “arguing that Zionism isn’t Nazism or that Jews don’t drink blood.”

But the alt-left’s eagerness to embrace the alt-right’s fantasy of Israel as a validation of campaigns aimed at eliminating the world’s only Jewish state shows how alike both fringes are: the alt-right wants a white state without Jews, the alt-left wants a world without a Jewish state – and if their respective visions were to come true, the alt-right couldn’t care less about the fate of Jews in the diaspora, while the alt-left couldn’t care less about the fate of Jews in Israel.

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A previous version of this post was published at EoZ.

Free speech and antisemitism: Max Blumenthal’s Goliath [updated]

When the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) released its 2013 list of the “Top 10 Anti-Semitic/Anti-Israel Slurs” at the end of December, Max Blumenthal reacted with scorn and ridicule when he found himself included in the category “The Power of the Poison Pen.” As if to prove SWC’s assessment, he posted a drawing by the cartoonist Carlos Latuff, who, for good reason, had himself been included in the SWC list for 2012.

Blumenthal Hier cartoon

According to the SWC, it was his recently published book Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel and his efforts “to equate Israelis with Nazis” that earned Blumenthal a place on the list.

But Blumenthal’s book also had its defenders, most notably perhaps James Fallows, a veteran board member of the prestigious New America Foundation (NAF) who is widely regarded as “a highly acclaimed author, journalist, editor, and media commentator.”

Writing at the Atlantic, Fallows described Blumenthal’s Goliath as a book that “should be discussed and read” and dismissed criticism of Goliath, asserting that it amounted to “flat mischaracterizations” when critics denounced the book as “bigoted propaganda” that is “so anti-Israel it is effectively anti-Semitic.” Fallows also defended the controversial decision to provide Blumenthal with a platform to promote his book at the NAF in early December, arguing that it “was the right call on general free-speech principles” to ignore critics of the event.

Blumenthal certainly appreciated Fallows’ endorsement and promptly posted an excerpt on his Amazon page for Goliath.

But there was another endorsement for Goliath that Blumenthal appreciated greatly – and it arguably makes a fool of Fallows, because it documents that Blumenthal indeed wanted his readers to understand his book as “so anti-Israel” that critics who denounced Goliath as antisemitic can only feel fully vindicated.

Blumenthal made it abundantly clear what he wanted readers to take away from his book when he recommended a “brief but thorough review of Goliath” to his more than 27,000 Twitter followers, explicitly thanking the blogger who had posted the review for the “praise.”

Blumenthal Goliath review1

Here are the relevant quotes from this “brief but thorough review:”

“You’d think Jews, […] of all people, would react viscerally […] against the notion of their state would [sic] come to create their own Gestapo (Shin Bet), build concentration camp (Ketzlot, for African refugees), emphasize racial purity while demonizing miscegenation (rationalized as the ‘demographic’ problem, but more significantly given religious and racial expression in groups like Lehava), using the police state, not just against enemies, but to crush dissent and ghettos (the walls are sprouting up all over Palestinian towns in the West Bank and, of course, there’s always Gaza). Even Kristallnacht was recreated by what amounts to an officially sanctioned anti-immigrant pogrom in Tel Aviv, in May of 2012.

Yes, you’d be mistaken. Reading Goliath, the similarities between Nazi Germany and today’s Israeli regime are impossible to avoid. […]

As I read Goliath, one thought […] kept cropping up throughout: Apart from the specific group, it’s [sic] flag, and all the other trappings of a national mythos and its veneration, are the aims and methods of the ‘pure’ Zionist state so very different than those of the ‘pure’ Aryan one?”

It is often difficult to show antisemitic intent, but Blumenthal makes it easy by endorsing this review – as well as others that offer similar “praise” – thus leaving no doubt how he wanted his book to be understood. Inevitably, this means that Blumenthal and his admirers actually agree with his critics that Goliath presents Israel as an utterly evil state that can only be compared to Nazi Germany. Even though there is considerable controversy about the question when hostility to Israel should be defined as antisemitism, Blumenthal’s single-minded effort to portray Israel in an extremely biased way in order to promote comparisons to Nazi Germany that would justify political campaigns aimed at eliminating the Jewish state qualifies even under the most stringent criteria.

In a paper entitled “Another Milestone for the Mainstreaming of Antisemitism: The New America Foundation and Max Blumenthal’s Goliath” that has just been published by the Louis D. Brandeis Center, I have also provided extensive documentation that Blumenthal’s book, or the material he published earlier and then recycled for the book, has been praised on all the major sites popular among conspiracy theorists, Jew-haters, racists and neo-Nazis: from Stormfront to David Duke’s site, Rense, and Veterans Today. In addition, Goliath was of course celebrated by outlets such as Mondoweiss and the Electronic Intifada, which cater to activists devoted to promoting boycott campaigns against Israel and maligning the Jewish state as illegitimate and uniquely evil.

Even if the hate-filled material promoted by these sites is considered “protected” free speech, few would argue that it is a violation of the principles of free speech that mainstream outlets usually shun this material and no respectable think tank would consider featuring it.

So what to make of the fact that a prestigious think tank like the NAF and a prominent commentator like James Fallows insist that it was entirely appropriate to promote a book written with the intent to depict Israel as the Nazi Germany of our time? What to make of the accusation that opposing the promotion of a book like Blumenthal’s Goliath violates “general free-speech principles?”

As Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin rightly argued:

“By claiming that this book requires our attention, he [Fallows] is asserting that Israel’s existence and the right of its six million Jews to self-determination and self-defense is debatable. The answer to Fallows from those of us who were offended by NAF’s decision to embrace Blumenthal is to say that these notions are no more debatable than the positions of the Klan, apartheid advocates, or those of al-Qaeda. Blumenthal’s book belongs in the category of those things that are offensive, not because he is critical of an imperfect democracy but because his purpose is to advance the cause of its dissolution.”

Fallows noted at the end of his defense of the NAF event for Goliath that if Blumenthal is wrong, “his case should be addressed in specific rather than ruled out of respectable consideration.” That means in effect that Blumenthal’s critics are supposed to make a convincing case that Israel is not like Nazi Germany and that the world’s only Jewish state should perhaps be allowed to continue existing, even if some of its citizens, officials and politicians have views that are no better than those held by reactionaries in Europe or the US.

The bigotry inherent in comparing Israel to Nazi Germany has been often demonstrated. Among the most memorable examples is perhaps the 1961 debate at Montreal’s McGill University between the famous British historian Arnold Toynbee and Israel’s ambassador to Canada, Yaacov Herzog. Toynbee had been willing to believe in the 1930s that Hitler had only limited ambitions, but he was alarmed by Zionism, which he considered “demonic.” During a lecture at McGill in January 1961, Toynbee questioned the right of the Jewish people to a state and claimed that Israel’s conduct in the War of Independence was morally equivalent to the Nazis. In the subsequent debate, Herzog forced Toynbee to concede that if Israel’s actions during a war of self-defense justified the comparison to Nazi atrocities, every nation’s conduct in war – and certainly the conduct of the Arabs, who had threatened the fledgling Jewish state with a “war of extermination and momentous massacre” – would have to be denounced in the same terms.

It would be easy to repeat the same exercise with Blumenthal’s Goliath, but since the bigoted comparison between Israel and Nazi Germany has remained fairly popular for more than five decades, it is arguably time to acknowledge that continuing to debate this calumny as if it had any merit might only serve to legitimize and perpetuate the underlying bigotry. As Tobin argued, there are ideas and ideologies that don’t deserve to be debated, and few would suggest that the ideas of Max Blumenthal’s admirers on David Duke’s site, Stormfront, Rense, and Veterans Today need to be seriously debated in order to be refuted. Yet, this is exactly what Blumenthal wants us to do, as this tweet he recently sent to me illustrates:

Blumenthal Stormfront Zionism

In the post Blumenthal links to, a Stormfront member advances the “controversial and extremely radical proposition” that White Nationalists in Europe and the US should support Zionism and even a “mandatory expulsion of Jews” to Israel in order to reduce the “excessive influence” of Jews “over both the media and economics.” As far as Blumenthal is concerned, this “proves” that anti-Israel activists like him are right to claim that Zionism is not only racism, but also a pernicious form of antisemitism that supports a “Juden raus” policy by establishing and maintaining Israel as a Jewish state.

James Fallows may think all this is worthy of debate, but as Twitter user Sol Robinson demonstrated with his reply to Blumenthal, there isn’t really all that much to debate when someone “cannot understand the difference between Jews wanting to get away from racists, and racists wanting jews gone.”

Blumenthal Stormfront reply

Assuming that Blumenthal really “cannot understand” this difference is arguably the most charitable take, particularly in view of the fact that Blumenthal himself  advocated a “Juden raus” policy for those Israeli Jews who would refuse to “become indigenized” in the Arab state that Blumenthal hopes will replace the Jewish state in the not too distant future. To put it bluntly: there is precious little difference between what Stormfront members would like to see happen in Europe and the US and what Max Blumenthal would like to see happen in the Middle East.

Marginalizing such views as despicable bigotry that doesn’t deserve to be dignified by serious debate is not a violation of free speech. Max Blumenthal may fervently believe that the Middle East’s most democratic and pluralistic state is the Nazi Germany of our time and should be treated accordingly, but anyone who agrees that this is a proposition worthwhile debating would have to explain why other hate-filled bigotries that are popular among Blumenthal’s fans at Stormfront and similar sites are generally not regarded as worthy of debate.

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First published on my JPost blog and at Harry’s Place.

Update: In the meantime, I’ve written another related post published on the blog of the Louis. D. Brandeis Center, where I address the spurious claim by Judith Butler and Rashid Khalidi that BDS advocates like them suffer from “accelerating efforts to curtail speech, to exercise censorship, and to carry out retaliatory action against individuals on the basis of their political views or associations, notably support for BDS.”

As I argue there, one important point to keep in mind is:

“When prominent tenured academics like Butler and Khalidi worry about the ‘intimidation’ of BDS advocates and proceed to call on their colleagues to oppose this alleged intimidation, it is arguably time to point out that students who oppose the BDS goal of doing away with the Jewish state and view the comparison of Israel and Nazi Germany as anti-Semitic have plenty of reason to feel much more intimidated. Highlighting a research paper on ‘Antisemitism in the Contemporary American University,’ the eminent anti-Semitism expert Robert Wistrich noted three years ago that ‘it is a deeply troubling fact that anti-Semitism (often in the form of anti-Zionism and hatred of Israel) has become a significant part of intellectual and academic discourse.’”

Another crucially important point is that, as Britain’s former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks has argued, “an assault on Jewish life always needs justification by the highest source of authority in the culture at any given age.” A widely praised new study based on some 14,000 hostile messages sent to the Central Council of Jews in Germany and the Israeli embassy in Berlin by Monika Schwarz-Friesel provides plenty of evidence that contemporary antisemitism is often expressed as “anti-Israelism” and that it is promoted primarily by “the social mainstream – professors, Ph.Ds, lawyers, priests, university and high-school students.”

Cheering a new ‘I Hate Israel Handbook’ [updated]

Coinciding with last weekend’s 75th anniversary of the “Kristallnacht” pogrom by the Nazis, several institutions in Berlin, including the Jewish Museum, organized an “International Conference on Current Phenomena of Antisemitism in Europe.” Given that the focus of the conference was supposedly on “current” manifestations of antisemitism in Europe, it was not at all promising that the keynote speaker – Oxford University philosopher Brian Klug – has made a name for himself by arguing that the demonization of the Jewish state is not “necessarily anti-semitic.” And while Klug has spent much energy opposing the notion that there is a “new antisemitism” that targets Israel, he seems eager to embrace the relatively new concept of “Islamophobia.” 

When critics of Klug published a dossier detailing their objections to his views, the Oxford professor immediately hinted that he might take legal action, because his “attorney…confirmed that the dossier is defamatory.” That left me wondering if Klug (and his attorney, of course!) feels there is anything “defamatory” about the fact that he is being enthusiastically defended and cheered on by a site like Mondoweiss, which has often been accused of publishing antisemitic material.

In recent weeks, one of the biggest stories at Mondoweiss was the publication of a new book by Max Blumenthal, one of the site’s heroes. As one critical reviewer elsewhere noted, Blumenthal’s “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel” is really a “I Hate Israel Handbook” brimming with implicit equations of Israel with Nazis, which “could have been published by the Hamas Book-of-the-Month Club (if it existed) without a single word change once it’s translated into Arabic.”

Unsurprisingly for those of us who are less sophisticated about antisemitism than Brian Klug, there is a big market for a new “I Hate Israel Handbook.” The Israel-haters at the Electronic Intifada jubilantly announced that the book was at one point “the number one seller on Amazon.com in the category of Israeli history.” So perhaps we can imagine that just as Brian Klug shared his thoughts on “Current Phenomena of Antisemitism” with his audience at the Berlin conference, some Mondoweiss (and Brian Klug) fans and other Israel-haters were savoring Blumenthal’s screed – and perhaps they even happened to read the chapters on the Israeli-run concentration camp and the Israeli-perpetrated Kristallnacht?

Blumenthal Goliath

It is arguably no coincidence that a site like Mondoweiss would champion both Oxford philosopher Brian Klug and anti-Israel propagandist Max Blumenthal. Indeed, the fairly impressive endorsements Blumenthal has been able to get for his screed could be seen as the fruit of Klug’s endlessly repeated mantra that there should be precious few red lines when it comes to criticizing Israel. In one of his first articles on this subject Klug wrote some ten years ago:

“In his book, The Case for Israel, Alan Dershowitz argues that when criticism of Israel ‘crosses the line from fair to foul’ it goes ‘from acceptable to anti-semitic’.

People who take this view say the line is crossed when critics single Israel out unfairly; when they apply a double standard and judge Israel by harsher criteria than they use for other states; when they misrepresent the facts so as to put Israel in a bad light; when they vilify the Jewish state; and so on. All of which undoubtedly is foul. But is it necessarily anti-semitic?

No, it is not.”

Let’s imagine for a moment how Professor Klug would feel about this version:

“when critics single Islam out unfairly; when they apply a double standard and judge Islam by harsher criteria than they use for other religions; when they misrepresent the facts so as to put Islam in a bad light; when they vilify the Muslim religion…[this] undoubtedly is foul. But is it necessarily Islamophobic?

No, it is not.”

Of course, one could try this with Blacks, Roma, gays, or whatever other group or entity one would like to vilify while claiming the authority of Oxford philosopher Brian Klug to argue that none of this means that one is “necessarily” bigoted.

However, as we all know, the Klug-definition for bigotry is considered acceptable only when it comes to Israel. So Max Blumenthal and many others can apply double standards and judge Israel by harsher criteria than any other state; they can misrepresent the facts so as to put Israel in a bad light; and they can freely vilify the Jewish state without risking to be denounced as “necessarily anti-semitic.”

Now let’s have a look at some of those who were happy to endorse Blumenthal’s “I Hate Israel Handbook.”

The top editorial endorsement featured on the book’s Amazon page is unsurprisingly from The Guardian: “Goliath…shows in forensic detail the reality of the Israeli mainstream’s embrace [of] blatant racism against Arabs and Africans.” It is noteworthy that The Guardian is saying here that the vast majority of Israelis are blatantly racist: the rightwing is racist by definition (certainly by The Guardian’s definition), and since the mainstream is also racist, only a small minority of far-left Israelis are perhaps not racist. It’s also safe to assume that The Guardian is only talking about Jewish Israelis here – so at least Arab Israelis may not be racist…

Ironically enough, another warm endorsement for Blumenthal’s screed comes from The American Conservative (TAC), nicely illustrating that when it comes to the evils of Israel, a supposedly “progressive” publication like The Guardian and a paleoconservative publication like TAC can see eye to eye.

Then there is an endorsement from Stephen Walt – with his full institutional affiliation: Professor of International Affairs at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Walt praises Blumenthal’s “[b]rave reporting,” adding: “Makes me wish he wrote for the New York Times.” Given that earlier this year, Walt served as guest contributor for the Hamas mouthpiece MEMO, it is arguably not surprising that he would happily endorse a book that “could have been published by the Hamas Book-of-the-Month Club.”

Another high-profile academic endorsement for Blumenthal’s screed comes from Rashid Khalidi, though the Columbia professor apparently didn’t want his institutional affiliation displayed. Khalidi praises the book because he feels it “lifts the carefully maintained veil concealing the reality of Israel as it actually is today” and he deplores that this reality “is elided in most reportage from the region.” Obviously Khalidi has a point: with all the bad press Israel is getting, the ‘unveiling’ of its concentration camps and Kristallnachts is still something that is usually found only on the lunatic Jew-hating fringes.

Needless to say, Blumenthal also made sure to collect endorsements from some well-known Jews. Charles H. Manekin, Professor of Philosophy, Director of the Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Center of Jewish Studies at the University of Maryland, likes to describe himself as a “cultural Zionist” – that is to say, a “Zionist” who cares about Jewish culture but not about a Jewish state (– and non-philosophers might think that makes him an anti-Zionist…). His enthusiasm about Blumenthal’s “I Hate Israel Handbook” was such that he professed: “I would like to send a copy…to every Jew I know.”

In addition to these endorsements from academics, there is much praise from writers who work or worked for influential publications: Glenn Greenwald, who has just left The Guardian, apparently found it “stunningly insightful” to read about Israel’s concentration camps and Kristallnachts; David Hirst, also affiliated with The Guardian, worries that Israel will be destroyed by the “virulence of a cancer, both institutional and popular, which [is….] essentially of its own racist and colonialist making;” award-winning former New York Times reporter Chris Hedges considers Blumenthal’s screed one of the most “fearless and honest books ever written about Israel;” and long-time Ha’aretz columnist Akiva Eldar also couldn’t help feeling impressed by Blumenthal’s relentless demonization of Israel.

Naturally, Blumenthal’s “I Hate Israel Handbook” was also warmly praised by his trusted comrades from Mondoweiss and The Electronic Intifada. And unsurprisingly, Blumenthal’s work is also much appreciated by the Jew-haters at  David Duke’s website:

“Blumenthal’s writings and videos are extremely valuable in the study of Jewish extremism, as he is not shy about using his Jewish name and looks to gain access to Jewish extremists in order to document the ugliest side of Zionism…as it pertains to Israel.”

While this is an endorsement Max Blumenthal chose not to quote on his Amazon page, I think that this is exactly the company the people who praised Blumenthal’s screed deserve. But I have no illusions that any of them would feel embarrassed by the fact that a propaganda tract they endorse is also praised by far-right antisemites. Moreover, even those who have prestigious academic positions know that, thanks in part to efforts like those of Oxford philosopher Brian Klug, there is no price to pay for cheering the vilification of the Jewish state – and therefore inevitably the Jews who sustain it – in ways that would be completely unacceptable if any other group with a long history of persecution and discrimination was the target.

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First published on November 14, 2013 at my JPost blog.

Update:

More well-deserved praise for Blumenthal’s book comes from Gilad Atzmon, proud author of “The Wandering Who? A Study Of Jewish Identity Politics.” In case you are lucky enough to never have heard of Gilad Atzmon, here is a succinct description by Jeffrey Goldberg:

“Gilad Atzmon is a jazz saxophonist who lives in London and who has a side gig disseminating the wildest sort of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. He is an ex-Israeli and a self-proclaimed ‘self-hater’ who traffics in Holocaust denial and all sorts of grotesque, medieval anti-Jewish calumnies.”

Writing at Veterans Today – a website that according to the Anti-Defamation League regularly “features anti-Israel and Holocaust denial materials [and] offers a platform for numerous columnists who promote anti-Semitic 9/11 conspiracy theories” – Atzmon concludes his review by declaring:

“I really want Blumenthal’s book to succeed and be read widely.  Being a theoretician, I do not have the time for any kind of field work. I establish a conceptual and intellectual framework with the hope that some would […] gather the necessary evidence to support my theses.  Whether Blumenthal understands it or not, this is exactly what he did in his latest book. He brilliantly though unwittingly managed to produce a pretty impressive journalistic account in support of my criticism of Jewish identity politics and tribal supremacy.”

And now it turns out that the supposedly progressive New America Foundation is planning to host an event promoting Blumenthal’s book on December 4. The invitation to the event reportedly describes the book as “an unflinching, unprecedented work of journalism which depicts a startling portrait of Israeli society under siege from increasingly authoritarian politics.”

I would suggest there’s no reason to hold back: why not invite some of Max Blumenthal’s most ardent fans like Atzmon and the writer from David Duke’s site to the New America event?

Good Jews, bad Jews, and the ugly writings of Columbia University Professor Joseph Massad

In early May, The Algemeiner published an article in which I documented that several Al Jazeera op-eds by Columbia University Professor Joseph Massad on Zionism and Israel included material that was hard to distinguish from the kind of antisemitic texts one can find at a site like Stormfront [article cross-posted below]. About ten days later, a new op-ed by Massad caused a huge outcry – which apparently prompted Al Jazeera to remove the piece a few days after it was published. Anyone who wanted to read Massad’s piece after Al Jazeera had removed it could still find it on Stormfront – or on Ali Abunimah’s blog at the Electronic Intifada…

For some reason, it was featured there with an image of the Nazi-publication “Der Stürmer” in the background.

Massad on EI

However, the saga continued when Al Jazeera eventually decided to re-publish Massad’s piece on May 21, together with a short note from the editor who claimed that Al Jazeera had neither succumbed to any pressures when it pulled the piece nor when it decided to re-publish it:

“Al Jazeera does not submit to pressure regardless of circumstance, and our history is full of examples where we were faced with extremely tough choices but never gave in. This is the secret to our success.”

Oh well… Perhaps they were ultimately swayed by Liam Hoare’s argument, who wrote on his blog that the removal of Massad’s article was “exactly the wrong thing for al-Jazeera to have done” because “denying people the right to read this disgraceful, unlettered essay also denies people the right to find out just what a horrible little man Joseph Massad is — which is a useful public service for al-Jazeera to be engaging in.”

In any case, to wrap up this installment of the Massad saga, I cross-post my own two commentaries below, with some minor modifications [as indicated].

However, a few additional points should perhaps be highlighted.

First, it is hard to convey just how bizarre Massad’s piece is. He started out with the preposterous claim that Nazism and Zionism were both antisemitic and then proceeded to demonstrate that he himself was perfectly able to distinguish between good Jews and bad Jews: according to Massad, most Jews were anti-Zionists (and therefore of course good) because just like Massad, they realized the evils of Zionism right away… Unfortunately, however, these good Jews were all killed by the antisemitism of the Nazis, while the bad Jews were saved by the antisemitism of the Zionists – or, as Massad puts it:

“While the majority of Jews continued to resist the anti-Semitic basis of Zionism and its alliances with anti-Semites, the Nazi genocide not only killed 90 percent of European Jews, but in the process also killed the majority of Jewish enemies of Zionism who died precisely because they refused to heed the Zionist call of abandoning their countries and homes.

After the War, the horror at the Jewish holocaust did not stop European countries from supporting the anti-Semitic programme of Zionism. On the contrary, these countries shared with the Nazis a predilection for Zionism.”

So no, it’s not your fault if you can’t make sense of this. Indeed, Massad’s bizarre “reasoning” reminded me that Walter Russell Mead once noted that antisemitism usually indicates the “inability to see the world clearly and discern cause and effect relations in complex social settings […] Anti-Semitism isn’t just the socialism of fools; it is the sociology of the befuddled.  The anti-Semite fails to grasp how the world works, and that failure condemns him to endless frustration.” Sarcastically, Mead added: “Naturally, this is the fault of the Jews.”

Naturally, Massad’s fans also knew whom to blame for Al Jazeera’s decision to remove his column. As the “Angry Arab,” Massad’s colleague As’ad AbuKhalil put it, the decision was “due to pressures from Zionist hoodlums.” And there were momentous implications: “The Qatari ruling dynasty is now at the feet of Zionists.”

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Stormfront Material from Columbia University Professor
Joseph Massad

[First published at The Algemeiner]

In one of his recent columns for Al Jazeera, Columbia University professor Joseph Massad holds forth on the topic of “Israel and the politics of boycott.” He casually claims in this piece that “the Zionists…were pioneers in their use of boycotts to effect racial separatism,” while “the Nazis would be latecomers to the tactic.” In other words, the Nazis were just imitating “the Zionists”…

No doubt the politically correct thing to do is to regard Professor Massad as just another Israel “critic.” But one of Massad’s older Al Jazeera columns offers an excellent example of the professor’s methods and the kind of “intellectual” company he gets to keep as a result.

Some two years ago, Massad penned a bitter complaint about the contrast between a supposed western indifference to any suffering by Arab/Palestinian children and an eagerness to sympathize when Jewish children are in danger. Reflecting his obsessive hatred of Zionism, Massad devoted one section of his article to “Zionism and Jewish children,” where he claimed that “Zionism did not always show similar love towards Jewish children, whom it never flinched from sacrificing for its colonial goals.”

The “evidence” Massad produced to support his vicious claim is a quote of David Ben-Gurion, who, according to Massad, rejected a generous British offer to take a few thousand Jewish children from Germany to Britain in the wake of the so-called “Kristallnacht”-pogroms in November 1938. The quote reads:

“If I knew it would be possible to save all the children in Germany by bringing them to England, and only half of them by transporting them to Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel), then I would opt for the second alternative, for we must weigh not only the life of these children but also the history of the people of Israel.”

As noted in a relevant section on “Ben Gurion and the Holocaust” in a longer post by CAMERA, “so-called ‘post-Zionists’ and anti-Zionist radicals” love to insinuate that the Zionists happily collaborated with the Nazis in order to promote immigration to Palestine irrespective of overall Jewish interests and the survival of Europe’s Jews.

But in late 1938, it was already clear that precious few countries were willing to take in Jewish refugees. Indeed, Germany’s Nazi government gloated in the wake of the Evian Conference in the summer of 1938 “how ‘astounding’ it was that foreign countries criticized Germany for their treatment of the Jews, but none of them wanted to open the doors to them.”

That is the context for the Ben Gurion quote presented by Massad – but of course, Massad prefers to ignore this context. (And needless to say, his interest in the rescue of Jewish children from the Nazis doesn’t include the Jewish children whose rescue was sabotaged by the Palestinian leader who became notorious as “Hitler’s mufti.”)

Massad’s Ben Gurion quote is taken from a debate that focused on Britain’s decision to deny the Jewish children from Germany entrance into Palestine, giving rise to the concern that the British offer to instead take these children to Britain would only help to undermine the idea that British Mandate Palestine should serve as a safe haven for Jewish refugees, which would ultimately leave many desperate refugees without any place to go.

Yet another piece of context-free “evidence” produced by Massad is an incident from November 1940, when – according to Massad – “the Zionists responded to the British-imposed restrictions on Jewish immigration to Palestine, long demanded by the Palestinian people, by blowing up a ship with Jewish civilian passengers in Haifa – killing 242 Jews, including scores of children.” Triumphantly, Massad concludes: “For Zionism, Jewish children are as expendable as Palestinian and Arab children, unless they serve its colonial goals.”

However, very different from what Massad suggested, there was of course no intent to blow up the ship – named Patria – that carried almost 2000 Jewish refugees from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. The sinking of the ship was due to a tragically miscalculated explosive charge that was placed on board to damage the Patria in order to prevent it from sailing to Mauritius, where –bowing to Arab pressure and violence – the British authorities intended to deport and intern the refugees.

Now, do you care to guess where else the kind of “evidence” marshaled by Massad is popular for very much the same purpose?

Yes, indeed: at Stormfront – the neo-Nazi “White Pride World Wide” hate site.

Massad Stormfront1

Massad Stormfront2

Clearly, the “Friend of Stormfront” who posted this would appreciate Massad’s use of the Patria incident.

But there is much more: scroll down a little bit on this same page, and you’ll find a text that is sourced as a quote from David Duke’s notorious “minor league Mein Kampf” – and as it happens, it’s pretty much identical to what Columbia University professor Joseph Massad wrote in his Al Jazeera column.

Stormfront isn’t a site I would normally link to, but there is arguably no longer a point avoiding such sites if their offerings are mainstreamed on Al Jazeera English by a professor from a highly regarded American University. So here is the link and an image of the David Duke text that includes the Ben Gurion quote and the Patria incident.

Massad Stormfront DDuke

So should we conclude that this is where Professor Massad looks for his “evidence”? Or is it perhaps just a case of not so great minds thinking alike? After all, former Klansman David Duke uses the Ben Gurion quote to argue that if “Israel’s first prime minister’s regard for Jewish life was such that he would rather see half the Jewish children of Germany die than be transported to England instead of Israel, how much value could one expect him to place on the life of a Palestinian child?” And Professor Massad uses the same quote for an article asking “Are Palestinian children less worthy?” And then both David Duke and Professor Massad go on to mention the Patria incident… Ah, what a coincidence!

But lo and behold, there are more examples of David Duke and Joseph Massad thinking alike: both like to talk about “Jewish Supremacism” – and needless to say, the fans of White Supremacism at Stormfront agree that this is a very worthwhile topic. Similarly, both David Duke and Joseph Massad are adamant that the Jewish state is inherently racist – and when it comes to Israeli racism, even Stormfront fans are of course appalled!

To be sure, Massad is far too sophisticated to engage in the fevered antisemitic conspiracy theories that come natural to David Duke. At the same time, Massad is not too sophisticated to keep repeating utterly misleading claims about how “helpful” European antisemitism and Nazism was for the Zionist project.

When it comes to one of Massad’s favorite topics – the efforts of German Zionists to facilitate the emigration of German Jews to Palestine by collaborating with Nazi authorities – he would probably claim to rely on Francis R. Nicosia’s book on “Zionism and Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany.” But while Nicosia emphasizes that, given the historical context, it would be completely unjustified to suggest any moral or political equivalency between the Nazis and the Zionists, Massad keeps insinuating exactly such an equivalency.

Massad writes about this issue as if history had not vindicated the Zionist conviction that Jews urgently needed a homeland as a safe haven – and of course, he also ignores that the expulsion of Jews from their ancient communities in the Arab and Muslim world provided yet another vindication for Zionism.

The result is that it’s not easy to tell if you read Massad or Stormfront. Try for yourself – with these Massad-style-cherry-picked quotes [updated version, from my JPost blog, cross-posted below; correct answers below]:

1) “Nazism was a boon to Zionism throughout the 1930s.”

2) “For all intents and purposes, the National Socialist government was the best thing to happen to Zionism in its history.”

3) “In Germany, the average Jews were victims of the Zionist elite who worked hand in hand with the Nazis.”

4) “Hitler could have just confiscated all the Jewish wealth. Instead he used the ‘Haavara Program’ to help establish the State of Israel.”

5) “Between 1933 and 1939, 60 percent of all capital invested in Jewish Palestine came from German Jewish money through the Transfer Agreement.”

6) “In fact, contra all other German Jews (and everyone else inside and outside Germany) who recognised Nazism as the Jews’ bitterest enemy, Zionism saw an opportunity to strengthen its colonisation of Palestine.”

7) “Zionists welcomed the Nazis’ anti-Semitic policies. Like the Nazis, they believed in race-based national character and destiny. Like the Nazis, they believed Jews had no future in Germany.

8) “the Zionist Federation of Germany […] supported the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, as they agreed with the Nazis that Jews and Aryans were separate and separable races. This was not a tactical support but one based on ideological similitude.”

9) “Zionism […] developed the idea of the first racially separatist planned community for the exclusive use of Ashkenazi Jews, namely the Kibbutz.”

10) “The Zionists were afraid that the ‘Jewish race’ was disappearing through assimilation.”

 

***************

 

1) Massad  2) Stormfront   3) Stormfront    4) Stormfront    5) Massad    6) Massad    7) Stormfront    8) Massad    9) Massad    10) Stormfront

 

From Al Jazeera to Columbia University:
Joseph Massad’s obsession with Israel

[Cross-posted from my JPost blog]

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

Al Jazeera has deleted Massad’s op-ed “The Last of the Semites” from its website.

According to a furious post by Ali Abunimah at the Electronic Intifada, “Massad told The Electronic Intifada that he had ‘received confirmation’ from his editor at Al Jazeera English that ‘management pulled the article.’”

[But as noted above, the article was later re-published.]

* * *

Columbia University professor Joseph Massad has been at it for years, but for some reason, his latest op-ed for Al Jazeera finally made many people sit up and pay attention to Massad’s relentless efforts to taint Israel and Zionism with preposterous Nazi-comparisons and claims of Nazi-collaboration.

Popular columnist Jeffrey Goldberg tweeted sarcastically: “Congratulations, al Jazeera: You’ve just posted one of the most anti-Jewish screeds in recent memory.”

Goldberg on Massad AlJaz

While a lot of people agreed with Goldberg and either retweeted him or posted similar tweets, it is debatable if Massad’s latest Al Jazeera column was really so much worse than the many others that reflect his obsession with Israel. As I have documented only recently, Massad’s writings on Israel can easily be confused with material from the neo-Nazi “White Pride World Wide” hate site Stormfront – and at least in one case, he actually did write a passage that closely resembles a Stormfront post that is taken from David Duke’s notorious “minor league Mein Kampf.”

It was therefore arguably long overdue that people finally noticed that Massad was using his Al Jazeera columns to spread his vicious views on Israel and Zionism. In his latest lengthy and rather incoherent screed, Massad tries once again to resurrect the “Zionism is racism”-equation with the added twist of insisting that Zionism is really Nazi-like racism. This brings Massad to the utterly ridiculous conclusion that

“Israel and the Western powers want to elevate anti-Semitism to an international principle around which they seek to establish full consensus. They insist that for there to be peace in the Middle East, Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims must become, like the West, anti-Semites by espousing Zionism and recognising Israel’s anti-Semitic claims [i.e. Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state].”

Furthermore, according to Massad,

“the Palestinian people and the few surviving anti-Zionist Jews […] are […] the heirs of the pre-WWII Jewish and Palestinian struggles against anti-Semitism and its Zionist colonial manifestation. It is their resistance that stands in the way of a complete victory for European anti-Semitism in the Middle East and the world at large.”

It is almost amusing that Massad insists that “the Palestinian Authority and its cronies” are not part of this oh-so-noble tradition of opposing the kind of antisemitic Zionism that is the product of his fevered imagination. But of course, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Columbia University professor Joseph Massad clearly share a fondness for the “historical narishkayt” that there was some sort of cozy “relationship between Zionism and Nazism before World War II.”

Indeed, Massad – who works at Columbia University as an expert on “modern Arab politics and intellectual history” – faithfully reflects the antisemitic demonization of Israel that is so commonplace in the Arab media and that keeps poisoning Arab politics.

In reaction to Massad’s latest screed, many on Twitter dismissed his vicious views as proof of his ignorance, and a widely recommended post by Liam Hoare opened with the verdict that “Joseph Massad’s op-ed, ‘The Last of the Semites’, demonstrates above all that the Columbia professor knows very little about not a lot.”

But while Hoare does a good job demonstrating that Massad’s views amount to “a total perversion of Jewish history and what Herzl actually thought and wrote,” it’s safe to assume that Professor Massad thinks of himself as a foremost expert on Zionism and Israel. Indeed, his Al Jazeera columns on these subjects usually include a reference to his book on “The Persistence of the Palestinian Question: Essays on Zionism and the Palestinians,” and it turns out that this spring semester, Massad is also teaching a course that covers some of the very subjects he knows so “very little about.”

Massad course

Unfortunately, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Massad’s students are likely to learn how to present Zionism as “a total perversion of Jewish history and what Herzl actually thought and wrote.”

Whether the resulting ideas are articulated in a Columbia University classroom or on Al Jazeera or Stormfront makes little difference as far as their substance is concerned. I tried to illustrate this point in my recent post on Massad with some quotes that are either from Massad or from Stormfront – see if you can tell them apart

.

[…]

Needless to say, Massad and his admirers who enthusiastically endorsed his recent column – among them Max Blumenthal of Mondoweiss, Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Intifada, and the “Angry Arab” Professor As’ad AbuKhalil  – would all insist, just as Massad claims in his Al Jazeera piece, that their staunch anti-Zionism means quasi by definition that they can’t be antisemitic, even if they propagate the same perverted tropes that are popular on Stormfront.

 *************************

 Update:

I just saw that Massad’s column on “The last of the Semites” is being shared and debated at Stormfront.

Massad latest Stormfront

 

Glenn Greenwald and the Islamists

If you are keeping up with news and views about Israel, you will likely know that the very popular and very opinionated blogger Glenn Greenwald has a well-deserved reputation for his intense dislike of Israel and its supporters. Jeffrey Goldberg once called it “ostentatious anti-Israelism,” noting that Greenwald “evinces toward Israel a disdain that is quite breathtaking. He holds Israel to a standard he doesn’t hold any other country, except the U.S.”

Similarly, Adam Levick argued in a commentary on Greenwald’s move from Salon to The Guardian last summer:

“Greenwald […] advances a brand of anti-imperialism […] informed by a palpable loathing of America, a nation he sees as a dangerous force of evil in the world. Greenwald’s anti-Americanism is so intense he once compared the US overthrow of Saddam Hussein to the Nazi conquest of Europe.

As is often the case with Guardian-brand commentators, Greenwald’s anti-imperialist ideological package includes a vicious anti-Zionism, and a corresponding belief in the injurious influence of organized US Jewry on American foreign policy in the Middle East.”

But it turns out that Greenwald’s loathing for Israel and the US developed only with his growing fame as a blogger. In late 2005, not long after he started his first blog “Unclaimed Territory,” he wrote a post under the title “The Myth of International Wisdom.” Criticizing a Washington Post column by David Ignatius on rising anti-Americanism, Greenwald sharply rejected the notion that “the prevalence and wisdom of these anti-American sentiments around the world compel the U.S. to change its course in order to once again become popular in the world.”

Greenwald’s line of reasoning from back then makes for fascinating reading – not just because of the stark contrast to his current views, but also because one could obviously substitute Israel for America when reading the following passages:

“Any nation would be acting foolishly, and self-destructively, if it allowed its foreign policy to be guided by the threat perceptions of people in other countries. When it comes to facing the profound threat posed to American interests by Islamic extremism, it is naturally the case that people in other countries will view the danger posed by that threat as being less serious and important than Americans perceive it to be.

Americans, justifiably and understandably, consider the 9/11 attacks to be a profound and intolerable assault on U.S. national security, an event so threatening and jarring that it justifies measures which would have previously been considered to be too extreme. […]

This fundamental difference in interests [of different countries] is critical, as it illustrates the utter folly, and irrationality, of using the perceptions of other countries to judge America’s foreign policy. When it comes to the U.S. deciding what it needs to do and should do in response to the threats which gave rise to 9/11 and similar attacks, it is the American perception of the severity and importance of those threats – and not the perception of other countries – which ought to determine America’s response. […]

International unpopularity may be the result of an undesirable or unwarranted foreign policy, but such unpopularity may just as easily flow from the U.S. doing exactly what it ought to do to protect its interests. International public opinion of America’s foreign policy is not evidence, one way or the other, of the merit of those policies. […]

It may be beneficial to U.S. interests to have other countries like what we are doing, but being popular in other countries is not an end in itself. The U.S. can and should pursue whatever measures it deems appropriate to protect its national interests. The fact that the populations or governments of other countries perceive those measures to be excessive or unwarranted is to be expected because those countries have different threat perceptions and divergent interests. And, for exactly that reason, their approval or disapproval cannot be used to assess the rightness of, let alone to dictate, American foreign policy.”

This proof that once upon a time, Glenn Greenwald had some eminently reasonable views was unearthed due to a bitter controversy that erupted recently when Sam Harris challenged Greenwald because he recommended an Al Jazeera article that accused Harris of anti-Muslim bigotry.

The ensuing exchange between the two prominent writers is characteristic for all too many contemporary debates: while Sam Harris bases his arguments firmly on verifiable facts and observations, Greenwald counters by taking refuge in politically-correct pieties.

As Harris highlights in an excellent post on the controversy, his interest in “the logical and behavioral consequences of specific beliefs” means that he cannot necessarily “treat all religions the same.” But this is of course exactly what Glenn Greenwald demands: the man who in 2005 forcefully argued that the US had every right to respond to “the profound threat posed to American interests by Islamic extremism” and “Muslim terrorism” now strenuously objects to “Harris’ years-long argument that Islam poses unique threats beyond what Christianity, Judaism, and the other religions of the world pose.”

Greenwald may say that he has come to see the error of his old views and changed his mind – a step that enabled him to become a leading proponent of the political correctness he condemned in 2005 as “corrupt and dangerous reasoning.”

But that the political correctness Greenwald now champions is as corrupt and dangerous as ever is perhaps best illustrated by his glowing endorsement of a “superb review of Harris’ writings on Israel, the Middle East and US militarism” published on Mondoweiss by one of the site’s regular contributors.

Mondoweiss is of course a site well-known for peddling antisemitic memes, and by linking to it in order to buttress his accusations that Harris is promoting “Islamophobia”, Greenwald demonstrates that not all forms of bigotry are equally troublesome to him.

The piece Greenwald recommends so warmly is a tediously long essay entitled “Sam Harris, uncovered.” Thankfully, however, the author quickly reveals what’s the worst about Harris:

“For a man who likes to badger Muslims about their ‘reflexive solidarity’ with Arab suffering, Harris seems keen to display his own tribal affections for the Jewish state. The virtue of Israel and the wickedness of her enemies are recurring themes in his work. The End of Faith [an award-winning best-selling book by Harris] opens with the melodramatic scene of a young man of undetermined nationality boarding a bus with a suicide vest. The bus detonates, innocents die and Harris, with the relish of a schoolmarm passing on the facts of life to her brood, chalks in the question: ‘Why is it so easy, then, so trivially easy-you-could-almost-bet-your-life-on-it-easy to guess the young man’s religion?’”

But Mondoweiss readers are then told that it is actually not at all easy to guess the religion of the suicide bomber, because if one does away with the “narrow focus” of Harris on the early 21st century and instead looks at the issue historically, one can find “Hindu Tamil Tigers …. or, in 1945, a Buddhist Kamikaze; or….the German Luftwaffe’s suicide squadrons.”

Unsurprisingly, this leads to the triumphant argument: “What the religion of the bomber is depends on at which point of history you begin to start your timeline.”

Glenn Greenwald may think this is “superb,” but it really is utterly stupid and disingenuous. It is stupid because an observation that is true for the present cannot be invalidated by pointing out that at some other point in history, things were different. Harris didn’t claim that throughout history, suicide bombings were usually perpetrated by Muslims; he simply highlighted the well-documented phenomenon that in recent times, it has been primarily Muslims who have perpetrated suicide bombings and that such “martyrdom operations” are widely accepted and regularly glorified by Muslims.

Moreover, while I’m not familiar enough with Hinduism and Buddhism to know if their faithful have developed anything comparable to the contemporary Muslim “martyrdom” cult, I am absolutely certain that the pilots in the German Luftwaffe’s suicide squadron – which operated only a few missions at the very end of the war – were not motivated by their Christian faith: when they embarked on their deadly missions, they didn’t shout some equivalent of “Allahu Akbar,” but “Heil Hitler.”

Yet, this is the kind of “reasoning” Glenn Greenwald admires as “superb” – perhaps because his own reasoning isn’t much better. Take for example Greenwald’s complaint that “of course there are some Muslim individuals who do heinous things in the name of their religion – just like there are extremists in all religions who do awful and violent things in the name of that religion, yet receive far less attention than the bad acts of Muslims.”

The problem with this politically-oh-so-correct mantra that there are “bad apples” everywhere is that not everywhere “bad apples” are considered bad.

Imagine for a moment that a prominent and influential religious leader like the pope wrote glowingly about a divinely ordained and religiously motivated battle between all Christians and all Muslims; or that such a leader praised Hitler and the Holocaust and expressed the hope that there will be a “next time” when the “believers” will have the chance to finish the job; or that he prayed for the annihilation of those whom he and his followers consider enemies and called on God to “kill them, down to the very last one.”

Qaradawi on the Holocaust

Very different from what Greenwald claims, no prominent Christian or Jewish leader could make such statements without a storm of outraged media coverage and vociferous demands for his resignation. But when the “Global Mufti” Qaradawi propagates the vilest views inciting hatred and justifying violence, the western media don’t have to say much about such appalling statements broadcast in the Muslim world to a devoted audience of an estimated sixty million believers.

And if all religions are equally likely to have adherents “who do awful and violent things in the name of that religion,” there should be broad majorities of Christians or Jews who favor something comparably revolting to Sharia punishments such as “stoning people who commit adultery, whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery and the death penalty for those who leave the … religion.” If all religions were really equally likely to have adherents “who do awful and violent things in the name of that religion,” there should also be many millions of Christians or Jews who admired Al-Qaeda-like groups for most of the past decade.

It is indeed bigotry when the actions and views of a few extremists or fringe groups are taken as representative for a much larger group of believers, but it is also a form of bigotry to ignore well-documented evidence showing that what would be condemned as extremist for Christians and Jews is widely accepted in the Muslim world.

* * *

First published April 13 on my JPost blog.

Simply adorable: the cute kids of the third Intifada at NYT Magazine

Last weekend, the New York Times (NYT) was praised to the high heavens by activists who campaign tirelessly for a “world without Zionism.” The praise of those who dedicate all their energies to demonizing the world’s only Jewish state was well-deserved.

Mondoweiss – a site that, for good reason, has often been criticized for antisemitism – proclaimed ecstatically: “Landmark ‘NYT Magazine’ cover story ennobles resistance in Nabi Saleh.”  The aspects highlighted by Mondoweiss illustrate perfectly why the NYT Magazine story was so popular in these circles:

“Iconic portraits of several of the heroic villagers [of Nabi Saleh] adorn the magazine’s cover, and the piece itself, by novelist Ben Ehrenreich, is told from the point of view of a community of 500 souls resisting monstrous forces that have taken their land and lives. […]

The great surprise of the piece is that it has appeared in the Times at all. For it contains an implicit argument for violent resistance and little of the usual hasbara fixin’s. Israeli spokespeople are not allowed to frame the resistance; the narrator doesn’t lecture us about two states and in fact refers to the territorial distinction between 1948 Israel and 1967 Israel as ‘the so-called 1967 Green Line.’ Regular readers of our site will find no new information here […] Ehrenreich represents our community, the next generation of enlightened Americans surveying this bitter conflict.”

At Mondoweiss, “enlightened” means of course subscribing to the fervent belief that Israel has no right to exist as a Jewish state and that it is in no way antisemitic to demand that the Jews give up their right to self-determination in a state of their own. And as Mondoweiss rightly notes, Ben Ehrenreich indeed “represents” the “community” that opposes the existence of Israel as a Jewish state: four years ago, he explained in the Los Angeles Times that “Zionism is the problem” because it keeps “Israelis and Palestinians from living in peace.”

One can’t get more simplistic than that, but Ehrenreich has since worked hard to spread this view and has won an award for his contribution to the popular “water libel”-genre of writings that accuse Israel of stealing and/or poisoning Palestinian water supplies.

While Mondoweiss was jubilant that the NYT was so willing to feature Ehrenreich’s “implicit argument for violent resistance,” mainstream sites harshly criticized that the “New York Times Magazine Cheerleads for Terror.

The most powerful response to the NYT Magazine piece came from Frimet and Arnold Roth who lost their teenaged daughter in the 2001 terror attack on the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem.  Writing on their blog “This Ongoing War,” the Roths note that Ehrenreich just mentions in passing that “Ahlam Tamimi [who] escorted a bomber to a Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem” remains “much-loved in Nabi Saleh.”

“That’s all he writes about Ahlam Tamimi but we can tell you more. She is a Jordanian who was 21 years old and the news-reader on official Palestinian Authority television when she signed on with Hamas to become a terrorist. She engineered, planned and helped execute a massacre in the center of Jerusalem on a hot summer afternoon in 2001. She chose the target, a restaurant filled with Jewish children. And she brought the bomb. The outcome (15 killed, a sixteenth still in a vegetative state today, 130 injured) was so uplifting to her that she has gone on camera again and again to say, smiling into the camera lens, how proud she is of what she did. She is entirely free of regret. A convicted felon and a mass-murderer convicted on multiple homicide charges, she has never denied the role she embraced and justifies it fully.”

So this is the “much-loved” heroine of the “heroic villagers” that NYT Magazine promoted on its cover and in a lengthy feature story.

NYT Mag cover Intifada

 Screenshot from the “Nabi Saleh Solidarity” blog

What is truly remarkable about the cover is that NYT Magazine chose to include the images of at least two children among those who want to get the credit for starting a third Intifada.

This is actually remarkably honest, because – as I have recently documented in a post on “The child-soldiers of Palestine” – it is a longstanding Palestinian tradition to encourage and train children to participate in violent confrontations with Israel, and Palestinian children were also used in the last Intifada.

As Ehrenreich himself acknowledges, one of the children featured on the NYT Magazine cover – the girl in the bottom row of photos – is already well-known. Indeed, Ehrenreich’s efforts to present Nabi Saleh’s wannabe Intifada instigators as “people like you and me” requires him to treat their confrontations with Israeli soldiers as a “family affair” that naturally includes the children.

But not just Ehrenreich and NYT Magazine are willing to idolize a girl who is encouraged by her parents to try her best to provoke Israeli soldiers. The 11-year-old Ahed Tamimi – daughter of Bassem Tamimi, the leader of Nabi Saleh’s Intifada-hopefuls – had received an award and an iPhone from Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan in recognition of her photogenic efforts to wear out the patience of Israeli soldiers.

As it turns out, Ahed received the “Handala Courage Award” – which happens to be named after a cartoon character created by Palestinian cartoonist Naji Salim al-Ali (also spelled Nagi El-Ali) whom I quoted in my post on “The child-soldiers of Palestine,” where I wrote:

“consider this revealing testimony, first published in 1985 and reprinted 1998 for a special Al-Ahram series on “50 years of Arab dispossession”: in an interview, Nagi El-Ali, a prominent cartoonist, decries Israel’s 1982 campaign against Palestinian terror groups in Lebanon, but then he boasts:

‘I saw for myself how afraid the Israeli soldiers were of the children. A child of ten or eleven had sufficient training to carry and use an RBG rifle. The situation was simple enough. The Israeli tanks were in front of them and the weapon was in their hands. The Israelis were afraid to go into the camps, and if they did, they would only do so in daylight.’”

Ahed Tamimi is just an 11-year-old girl, but her parents must be so proud that they brought up their daughter in this tradition – which nowadays is recognized, rewarded and promoted not just by Turkey’s Islamist prime minister, but also by the NYT Magazine.

* * *

Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

Mondoweiss on ‘Court Jew’ Elie Wiesel [updated]

For some people, the holiday tradition of charitable giving for good causes means donating to sites that work hard all year round to depict Israel as an abomination that should have no place in a civilized world. Unsurprisingly, people who like to donate for a daily dose of hate have some choice: one example I described last week is The Electronic Intifada (EI); another site with a similar agenda is Mondoweiss.

Compared to EI, Mondoweiss is rather modest – their fund-raising goal is just $40 000, and they even promise a gift for donations over $60: appropriately, it is the recent book of Shlomo Sand, author of the widely discredited “Invention of the Jewish People,” who seems resolved to serialize his flights of fancy and has come out with another installment on “The Invention of the Land of Israel.” Interestingly, none of the two books are mentioned on Sand’s page at Tel Aviv University, where he is a full professor at the Department of History.

But let’s stay with the professors at Mondoweiss, because the site doesn’t just offer Professor Sand’s book as reward for donations. There is also a “feature” written by Marc H. Ellis, whom Mondoweiss describes as “an author, liberation theologian, and Distinguished Visiting Professor, University for Peace, Costa Rica.”

Mondoweiss EWiesel

It’s arguably a company Professor Sand deserves: Ellis is a rather controversial figure, as is even reflected in a Mondoweiss post urging readers to support an apparently unsuccessful petition endorsed by a gallery of well-known “anti-Zionists” who spoke out when Ellis faced dismissal from Baylor University.

But to know who Ellis is and what he stands for, it is enough to read one of the recent installments for his pompously titled “Exile and the Prophetic”-series at Mondoweiss.

Ellis’s post on “Elie Wiesel and the history of the court Jew” is an almost unreadable concoction of incoherent ramblings that isn’t worth summarizing. Suffice it to say that Ellis takes Elie Wiesel’s contacts with influential people like the Clintons as a point of departure for some ruminations about the history of “Court Jews.” But according to Ellis, Wiesel is not just a “Court Jew,” because supposedly he “also symbolizes the crucified Jew, Jesus, since Jesus was persecuted through no fault of his own – as was Wiesel in the Holocaust – and Jesus was Jewish, like Wiesel.”

Based on this, Ellis concludes:

“Being a Court Jew and the Crucified Jew – the combination is Wiesel’s genius. His invitation to the dinner tables of the powerful is thus highly charged.

In America, Wiesel represents a politics infused with spirituality. He plays the part to the hilt but here’s the caveat. Wiesel is 84 years old. His Court Jew/Crucified Jew shelf-life is decreasing daily.”

Not quite satisfied with this effort at scraping the bottom of the barrel, Ellis throws in the suggestion that perhaps Netanyahu should be regarded “as Israel’s Court Jew” and that it would be worthwhile to ponder the question “Has Israel become the Court Jew par excellence?”

Suggestions for printable words to describe Ellis’s outpourings are most welcome.

Perhaps this is what the Mondoweiss call for donations really means when they boast that the site “push[es] the issues others shy away from.” With the support of readers, Mondoweiss hopes to “be even louder in 2013.” Astonishingly, the site seems to qualify for tax-deductible contributions and accepts donations through the “Network for Good.”

This sounds all the more Orwellian considering the fact that Mondoweiss has often been accused of antisemitism – including by people who have some qualifications to judge the matter. Under the apt title “Can we call Mondoweiss anti-Semitic yet?,” Liam Hoare has recently posted a lengthy review of some of the related controversies.  He ends his post by looking at Ellis’s ruminations on the soon-to-be-dead Court Jew Elie Wiesel in the context of some of the other views that Mondoweiss pushes so fearlessly:

“Ellis’ screed cannot help but say a little something about the publication it appears in. After all, if a media organisation believes that Israel is a failed state, that Israelis are racist, colonial settlers and occupiers, that Jews who celebrate Hanukkah exhibit bloodlust, that Jews organised into cabals wield a disproportionate amount of power over the media and the organs of government, that Jews covet power and control the direction of United States foreign policy, it follows that it is not out of character for it to play host to an article so uncultured, so unlettered, and so heinous that a drifter who stands out in the street, shouting and hollering with a cardboard sign and selling pencils from a cup would be embarrassed to have his name attributed to it.”

Indeed, this looks very much like yet another example of just how slippery the slope from anti-Zionism to antisemitism really is. And at the time of this writing, Mondoweiss readers have donated some $13 000 to get more of the same.

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Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

 

Update:

Just to illustrate the weird world of Mondoweiss with another current offering: a recently posted piece asks “Who’s afraid of the Qassams?” The argument – if that’s what it can be called – is that “stopping Palestinian rockets is not a plausible explanation for Israeli attacks [on Gaza].” The reason is supposedly that the rockets from Gaza threaten “mostly Mizrahi, usually lower-class, Jewish Israelis” and that somehow suits the Israeli government just fine, because “Israeli ‘security’ policies […are] simultaneously a ruling-class strategy of social control and a framework for capitalist accumulation.” And all this means that it was extremely clever of the Qassam Brigade to address the Israeli public during a press conference on 17 November, claiming: “It was your leadership …that dragged you into this and into the shelters to score cheap political points.” According to Mondoweiss wisdom, this was an “open anti-government appeal to the people of Israel” which “was well-placed.”

Well, the Qassam Brigade clearly knew what they were doing when they included Mondoweiss among the 11 Twitter accounts they follow…

 

Judith Butler and the politics of hypocrisy

German prize award committees seem to have a weak spot for outspoken Jewish critics of Israel: writer and activist Uri Avnery has accumulated multiple German awards over the years, and the staunchly pro-Palestinian attorney and activist Felicia Langer was awarded Germany’s Federal Cross of Merit, First class, in 2009. Now it is the turn of Judith Butler, an American philosopher and professor in the Rhetoric and Comparative Literature departments at the University of California, Berkeley, who will receive the prestigious Theodor Adorno Prize on September 11 in Frankfurt.

To be sure, the Adorno Prize is awarded to “acknowledge outstanding performances in the fields of philosophy, music, theatre and film” – which is to say that it is Butler’s academic work, and not her political activism that are being honored with the prize. However, it is obviously Butler’s academic fame and her status as the “reigning queen” of Queer Studies that make her activism very valuable to her political allies in the BDS-movement that targets Israel. Critics who argue that it is therefore disingenuous to pretend that Butler’s contribution to philosophy can be honored irrespective of her political activism obviously have a point.

There are indeed several problematic political implications of honoring Butler with the Adorno Prize.  First and foremost, it has to be noted that, while we cannot know how Adorno would feel about Israel now, we do know that he was very concerned about the antisemitic and anti-Zionist tendencies that became acceptable and even fashionable on the left in the 1960s.  At the beginning of the Six-Day-War in 1967, Adorno expressed great alarm about the danger Israel faced and explicitly stated that he hoped that Israel would prove militarily superior to the Arabs. Shortly before his death in 1969, he worried that the open hostility to Israel displayed by the student movement might indicate fascist tendencies.  [See: Stephan Grigat, Befreite Gesellschaft und Israel: Zum Verhältnis von Kritischer Theorie und Israel; a shorter version is: Kritische Theorie und Israel: Adorno, Horkheimer und Marcuse über den Zionismus]

It is therefore hard to imagine that Adorno would have been anything but horrified by Judith Butler’s view that “understanding Hamas, Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the Left, that are part of a global Left, is extremely important.” While Butler also emphasized that there were “certain dimensions of both movements” that were problematic and that she herself was firmly committed to “non-violent politics,” she also eventually clarified that in her view, Hamas and Hezbollah qualified as “left” because “they oppose colonialism and imperialism.”

How completely inane this view is will be readily apparent to anyone who has ever glanced at the Hezbollah or Hamas Charters, and there is arguably a strong case to be made that somebody who is able to see anything “progressive” in groups that define themselves in the most reactionary religious terms and advocate an unbridled Jew-hatred should automatically be disqualified from winning a prize named after Adorno.

Unsurprisingly, Butler has reacted to criticism of her views regarding Hamas and Hezbollah by complaining that her remarks “have been taken out of context.” She mainly emphasizes now that she has “always been in favor of non-violent political action” and explicitly declares: “I do not endorse practices of violent resistance and neither do I endorse state violence, cannot, and never have.”

But it is arguably revealing that Butler chose the Mondoweiss website to publish her most recent rebuttal. Surely an academic of her standing had many other choices and did not have to turn to a site that has often been criticized for hosting antisemitic posts and comments as well as antisemitic cartoons? On such a site, it is somewhat strange to read Butler’s lament:

“For those of us who are descendants of European Jews who were destroyed in the Nazi genocide (my grandmother’s family was destroyed in a small village south of Budapest), it is the most painful insult and injury to be called complicitous with the hatred of Jews or to be called self-hating.”

And how come that somebody who evokes such a family history has nothing to say about the Jew-hatred espoused by Hamas and Hezbollah, and their acknowledged ideological sponsors, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Iranian regime?

How come that somebody who evokes such a family history would eloquently speak out in favor of boycotting Israeli universities, but would have no problem to lecture at Birzeit University, which has a well-earned reputation for fostering extremism? One former student of Birzeit University is Ahlam al-Tamimi, the exceedingly proud collaborator in the Sbarro restaurant suicide bombing whose release in exchange for Gilad Shalit was publicly celebrated by the Islamic bloc at the University of Birzeit.

Adorno prize winner Judith Butler can only imagine to speak at Tel Aviv university once it is a “fabulous bi-national university,” but she has no problem lecturing at Birzeit University, where Ahlam al-Tamimi is a much admired celebrity.

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Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

Pity the Palestinians

This past week, supporters of the Palestinian cause were once again out in full force to prove that with friends like them, Palestine needs no enemies.

The target of the assorted “friends” of Palestine was the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), which is arguably the one Palestinian-American organization with the most clout in Washington. I’ve written before about ATFP and the hypocrisy of its critics. The latest incident that got ATFP’s opponents all worked up are two photos showing ATFP president Ziad Asali attending an event hosted by Israel’s US Ambassador  Michael Oren to mark Israel’s Independence Day.

Inviting Asali to this event obviously implies respect, if not outright recognition for the agenda pursued by his organization. But since the ATFP advocates the establishment of a Palestinian state through negotiations, supporters of the Palestinian cause couldn’t care less. To show their displeasure with Asali, they are circulating a pathetic petition demanding his resignation.

This petition could well serve as a great illustration of much of what is wrong with popular “pro-Palestinian” activism, and in a response to the criticism against him, Asali puts his finger on one of the most important points. Under the title “The Lessons of the Nakba,” Asali recounts the experience of his own family and points out:

“I recount this not to bewail my fate, or to dwell in the past. The four generations of Palestinians who have lived and died in refugee camps are the real face of the Palestinian tragedy. It is fitting and proper to honor historical truths, but also to learn the lessons they teach us.

Israelis and Palestinians alike are two peoples who have experienced traumatic histories. We must never forget them. But we must not be held hostage by history either. We must care more about the future of our grandchildren than the past of our grandparents, or even ourselves.”

No doubt many Jews will have reservations about the equivalence between the “traumatic histories” of Israelis and Palestinians implied by Asali. But such entirely justified criticism should not distract from the fact that Asali’s broader vision is one that is largely shared by the Israeli mainstream and the vast majority of Jews in the US and elsewhere in the diaspora:

“We must work together to build a future in which both peoples can enjoy the rights, responsibilities and dignity of citizenship and self-determination. There is only one way to actually accomplish this: ending the occupation and creating a Palestinian state to live alongside Israel. Palestinians must recognize and accept Israel, which is a legitimate member state of the United Nations. The Palestinians must have one place on earth, the territories occupied in 1967, where they can live freely as first class citizens in their own independent state. There is no other way to end the cycle of bloodshed, pain and hatred has that lasted for so long.

To accomplish this, half measures and partial acknowledgment are insufficient. Both people must fully recognize each other’s national rights and states.”

And make no mistake: it is exactly this vision of two states living side by side in peace that most of Asali’s critics reject. It’s no coincidence that the petition against Asali was drawn up by Sa’ed Atshan, a Harvard Ph.D. candidate who is a proponent of the so-called “one-state solution” that aims at Israel’s abolition in favor of a bi-national state.

In this context, it’s interesting to note that the campaign against Asali and the ATFP is not only supported by the usual suspects from the lunatic fringes – see e.g. this piece at Mondoweiss, and the hate-filled comments that follow – but also by MJ Rosenberg, who is no longer with Media Matters and therefore free to write without even minimal constraints.

Defending Günter Grass at +972

The hope that “Grass’s poem could be the gift that keeps on giving” – expressed by Mondoweiss contributor Annie Robbins – has so far been fulfilled in the sense that the controversy that erupted immediately after the publication of the “poem” is still raging on. And while there has been much  withering criticism, Mondoweissers were right to hope that the aging Nobel laureate would find defenders for his unpoetic promulgation of old antisemitic tropes.

As Yaacov Lozowick wrote in a recent post on Mondoweiss:

“they fit comfortably into ancient traditions of Jew-hatred, and thus their potential significance shouldn’t be shrugged off. It’s important to keep in mind that the free and pluralistic society of the West also harbors such ugly forms of thought.”

But while the enthusiasm of the Mondoweiss crowd for Grass’s pathetic “poem” was entirely expected, it is arguably revealing that the supposedly more high-brow +972 magazine has turned out to be no less enthusiastic.

First +972 contributor Yossi Gurvitz set out to “pick apart” the charges of the Israeli Embassy in Berlin that Grass’s “poem” echoed European traditions of antisemitism. Gurvitz proceeds to list Grass’s claims about Israel and asserts that they are entirely accurate – to get a taste of his ignorance and his utterly pathetic modus operandi, consider this point [emphasis original]:

Is Netanyahu considering wiping out the Iranian people? Considering some of his statements, it’s not out of the realm of possibility.”

Gurvitz concludes triumphantly:

“The truth is never anti-Semitic. There was no blood libel here, no anti-Semitism, no claim of children’s blood used for ritual purposes.”

No, Yossi Gurvitz, Grass made “no claim of children’s blood used for ritual purposes” – but the people who made this claim in the Middle Ages felt that “it’s not out of the realm of possibility.”

Gurvitz concludes expressing the hope:

“The good thing which may come out of this affair is that people may learn to discount screeches of anti-Semitism from Israel with a sigh of ‘there they go again.’”

So just for the record: at +972, it would be a “good thing” if the world shrugged off Israeli complaints about antisemitism when Iran’s leaders refer to Israel as a “cancer” that must be removed, or when Islamists spread the most vicious lies about Jews.

The next praise for Grass at +972 came from Larry Derfner in a post entitled “More power to Gunter Grass for ‘What must be said’.” Derfner was at least sober enough to note a few reservations, but ultimately he also concluded:

“Gunter Grass told the truth, he was brave in telling it, he was brave in admitting that he’d been drafted into the Waffen SS as a teenager, and by speaking out against an Israeli attack on Iran, he’s doing this country a great service at some personal cost while most Israelis and American Jews are safely following the herd behind Bibi over the cliff.”

In yet another post, Derfner offered “A further defense of Gunter Grass,” arguing that given Grass’s record (with which Derfner doesn’t seem too familiar), one has to conclude that

“Grass is not an anti-Semite or hater of Israel – he’s a liberal friend of the Jews and of Israel who wants this country to turn away from all the things liberals naturally dread – extreme nationalism, militarism, ethnocentrism, paranoia – the very things, unfortunately, that Israel has come to stand for.”

 There are two particularly striking aspects to the defense of Grass at +972:

First, it is remarkably unsophisticated – informed first and foremost by the approach: have ideology, will comment. Both Derfner and Gurvitz look at the “poem” in isolation, oblivious of the very relevant context of complex German debates about “Vergangenheitsbewältigung” [i.e. coming to terms with the past].

Secondly, just like Grass, the +972 writers – even though they are Israelis – don’t seem to think it’s worthwhile to consider Iran’s conduct and the threat that Iran already poses for Israel through proxies like Hezbollah and Hamas, and they are equally uninterested in the Iranian regime’s vicious rhetoric about Israel. But as historian Daniel Jonah Goldhagen emphasized in his analysis of the Grass poem:

“In demonizing Israel, there is a widespread practice in Germany, also perfected here by Grass, of ignoring the context in which Israel exists and acts. That context is that Israel has been existentially threatened for its entire existence and continues to be so today, both by states that wish merely to defeat it or to have it relinquish the West Bank (Gaza it already gave back), and by states, often supported by their publics, that wish to destroy it and eliminate or exterminate its Jews. Why does Grass fail to mention that Iranian leaders, and not just Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have routinely threatened to destroy Israel and kill Jews, and occasionally even hinted that it could be done with nuclear weapons? As the “moderate” former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani explained already in 2001, “the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything.” Why does Grass fail to mention that the Iranian leaders speak of Israel using Nazi-like language and metaphors, of cancer and pestilence which must be utterly eradicated? Do I have to say that such speech has been shown to be the rhetorical prelude to genocide?”

All this is of no concern to the +972 contributors whose blog is generously supported by the New Israel Fund. But if this kind of ignorant writing that reflects only disdain for the concerns of mainstream Israelis represents a “New Israel,” I for one appreciate the old Israel all the more.

UPDATE:

A reader has drawn my attention to a Cif Watch post that documents a Twitter exchange with Yossi Gurvitz, but also links to a piece on “The Jewish problem” published by Gurvitz on +972 in September 2010. Some of the gems to be found there:

“Israel is itself becoming the problem of the Jews. It is, almost singularly, responsible for creation of a new anti-Semitic myth, that of “dual loyalty”. […] Zionism is a parasite, feeding upon anti-Semitism; it cannot exist without its mirror image (anti-Semitism, of course, can do quite nicely without Zionism). One only has to watch the eagerness with which anti-Semitism, or semi-anti-Semitism, is covered in the Israeli media: maybe now all of those Jews, living the good life abroad, will come to their senses and say we were right all along.”

*

Since there is now also a heated debate about Israel’s decision to declare Grass persona non grata, I should mention that +972 didn’t fail to opine on this issue thusly:

“Now Interior Minister Eli Yishai has declared Grass to be persona non grata while Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has accused the German author of being ”willing to sacrifice the Jewish people on the altar of crazy anti-Semites for a second time, just to sell a few more books or gain recognition.”

Yishai and Lieberman are the two most outspoken racists in the Israeli government, so if one of the ways to know a person is by his enemies, I’d say Grass is looking pretty good.”

But if one of the ways to know a person is by his admirers, we would have to note that according to press reports, Grass was warmly praised by Iran’s state-owned English-language television, which declared: “Never before in Germany’s postwar history has a prominent intellectual attacked Israel in such a courageous way… Metaphorically speaking, the poet has launched a deadly lyrical strike against Israel.”

Similarly, Iran’s Deputy Culture Minister Javad Shamaqdari stated in a letter to Grass: “I read your literary work of human and historical responsibility, and it warns beautifully.”

No doubt the Iranian Deputy Culture Minister would also like the +972 posts in defense of Grass – in fact, come to think of it, he might like quite a bit of their output…

*

By now, there have been many excellent articles criticizing Grass; I would like to quote here just a very recent one by Bernard-Henri Lévy, who opens his piece by highlighting some issues that are too often neglected by those who like to obsess about Israel:

“There is North Korea and its autistic tyrant, equipped with a by and large operational nuclear arsenal.

There is Pakistan, armed with warheads — no one knows how many, nor precisely where they are located, nor what guarantees we have that they will not, one day, fall into the hands of groups linked to Al Qaeda.

There is Putin’s Russia, which, in the space of two wars, has accomplished the exploit of exterminating a quarter of the population of Chechnya.

There is the butcher of Damascus, whose body count so far is at 10,000 and whose criminal stubbornness threatens the region’s peace.

There is Iran, of course, whose leaders have made it known that their nuclear arms, when they will have acquired them, will serve to strike one of their neighbors.

In short, we are living on a planet where candidates for the most officially pyromaniac State, openly aiming at its own citizens and the surrounding populations, threatening the world with conflagrations or disasters unprecedented in decades, are by no means lacking.

Yet here is a European writer, one of the greatest and most eminent, for he is Nobel prize laureate Günter Grass, who has nothing better to do than to publish a poem in which he explains that there is only one serious threat hanging over our heads, and that this threat comes from a tiny country, one of the smallest in the world, one of the most vulnerable as well and, by the by, a democracy: the State of Israel.”