Archive for the ‘Anti-Semitism’ Category

Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe

June 29, 2017

Stefan Zweig was an Austrian writer who was enormously popular in the first half of the twentieth century, although his writings have since fallen out of fashion. A Jew, he fled his native Austria after the Nazis came to power in Germany. He went first to Britain, then to the United States, and finally to Brazil. He was impressed by what he saw as a lack of racism in that country. He believed that Brazil represented the future of humanity. In 1942, depressed over the success of the Axis forces, he killed himself.

Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe, directed by Maria Schrader, based upon a screenplay by Schrader and Jan Schomburg, depicts the final years of Zweig’s life. What is refreshing about this film is that, unlike most biopics, it doesn’t try to impose a story arc on the subject’s life. Instead, we are simply shown scenes from Zweig’s life. We learn about Zweig’s relations with his family and about his deeply conflicted feelings about his role as a public intellectual. We get a sense of Zweig’s deep humanity and his consideration for other people. The final scene dealing with his death is understated and profoundly moving. This is one of the best films that I have seen so far this year.

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Labyrinth of Lies

October 15, 2015

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Labyrinth of Lies, directed by Giulio Ricciarelli, from a script by Ricciarelli and Elisabeth Bartel, is a fictionalized depiction of the events leading up to the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials of 1963-65. The story begins in Germany in the late 1950’s. Johan Radmann (Alexander Fehling) is a young prosecutor who gets involved in the case of a school teacher who is accused of having been an SS officer at Auschwitz. The case leads Radmann to discover that other former Auschwitz officers and guards are living free. He persuades the Attorney General, Fritz Bauer (Gert Voss) to let him begin bringing criminal cases against these people. Radmann encounters resistance, both from the government and from his fellow lawyers against the prosecutions.

The German title of this film, Im Labyrinth des Schweigens, literally translates as “In the Labyrinth of Silence”, which is a more accurate title. It becomes clear that the problem is not so much lies as the fact that people simply refused to discuss what had happened. The film is implicitly critical of the Adenauer government, with its “time to move on” philosophy. (At one point the film suggests that some members of the West German government helped Josef Mengele to avoid capture.) The result of this is virtually a form of historical amnesia. In one scene, someone asks some young Germans if they have ever heard of Auschwitz, and they answer no. During his first interview with an Auschwitz survivor, Radmann is astonished to learn that hundreds of thousands of people died there. “What did you think it was, a summer camp next to a lake?” a survivor sarcastically asks him.

The main problem with Labyrinth of Lies is its heavy reliance on standard storytelling techniques. For example, it follows the time-honored Hollywood tradition of including a romantic subplot: Radmann has an affair with a free-spirited girl, Marlene (Friederike Becht). These scenes are in and of themselves not objectionable, but they seem somehow inappropriate within the context of the film’s disturbing subject matter. There are also some dream scenes in which Radmann is shown following Mengele through the latter’s laboratory. These are clearly meant to be emotionally powerful, but they seem merely trite: we’ve seen these sorts of dream scenes too many times in other films. This raises the question of whether standard storytelling techniques are adequate for dealing with such an enormity as Auschwitz.

Despite its flaws, Labyrinth of Lies is a revealing portrait of post-World War II Germany.

Conspiracy Theories

March 21, 2015

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I have often been critical of conspiracy theories on this blog, so I think I should make it clear that I think conspiracies do happen. (There is, for example, good reason to believe that the “October Surprise” conspiracy was real.) The problem is that it’s all too easy for people to imagine a conspiracy behind every single thing that happens in the world. One can spin a conspiracy about almost anything. (Is Vladimir Putin really the president of Russia, or is he really the tool of a CIA-Mossad false flag operation?) The “Everything You Know is Wrong” spiel has a strong attraction for some people.

It is worth remembering that anti-Semitism is based on a conspiracy theory: the idea that Jews are trying to take over the world or are in some way plotting against the rest of us. (The Nazis really believed this. They accepted it as an article of faith.) And when you look at some of the more extreme conspiracy websites, you begin to find anti-Semitic ideas. (Veterans Today is a good example of this.) This is something that people who are inclined toward conspiracy theories should ponder.

One of the more curious theories is the idea that the moon landing was faked. The idea that the landing was filmed in a Hollywood sound studio is naive to anyone who knows anything about film and video. I’m waiting for the day when someone claims that World War II was faked. (Of course, it was filmed on a Hollywood back lot!) There is no idea so stupid that someone won’t believe it.

Some Thoughts on Reading ‘The Origins of Totalitarianism’

December 28, 2014

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Hannah Arendt

Lately, I have been reading Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism. This book is dense with ideas, so I have decided to write some blog posts about it, in which I will discuss some of the issues that the book raises.

The Origins of Totalitarianism is divided into three sections, the first of which is titled’Antisemitism’. Arendt devotes a lengthy discussion to this topic because she sees anti-Semitism as being at the center of Nazi ideology (unlike some historians who treat it as a side issue for the Nazis). Arendt begins by making a distinction between antisemitism (Arendt’s spelling), which she sees as a modern phenomenon, and the Medieval religious prejudice against Jews (which Arendt calls “Jew-hatred”). The former sometimes borrowed language and imagery from the latter, but it was nonetheless a distinct historical development.

Arendt is contemptuous of the ‘scapegoat” theory of anti-Semitism – the idea that Jews are made into scapegoats to distract people from the real sources of their problems. Arendt argues that this idea fails to explain the genocidal fury of anti-Semitism, while it ignores the historical roots of anti-Semitism.

According to Arendt, Jewish financiers played an essential role in the creation of the powerful monarchies of the eighteenth century, particularly in France and in Prussia. (The Rothschilds were the most famous and influential of these financiers.) Indeed, Arendt claims that the development of modern Europe would have been impossible without these people. (She quotes Diderot: “Thus dispersed in our time… [the Jews] have become instruments of communication between the most distant countries. They are like the cogs and nails needed in a great building in order to join and hold together all other parts.”) With the development of the modern nation state, which began with the French Revolution (which gave equal political rights to Jews), these financiers became an essential support for these new powerful states. (Arendt notes that the financial provisions of the peace treaty that ended the Franco-Prussian War were negotiated by two Jewish financiers: Gerson Bleichroeder representing Germany, and a Rothschild representing France.)

As a result of this, people began to associate Jews with the state. This made them an object of resentment for two groups. The first was the aristocracy, who bemoaned the loss of their feudal rights under the new nation-states. The second was the lower middle class (small landowners, guild artisans, small tradesmen), who saw their economic positions threatened by the developing capitalism that the nation-states enabled. Among these groups, the notion of a “Jewish conspiracy” began to make sense. Of course, they were aware that there were Jews who were poor, but that only made the success of some Jews seem sinister to them.

Arendt notes that the antisemitic parties that appeared in Germany towards the end of the nineteenth century all claimed to a “party above all parties”. Their aim was “… to become the representative of the whole nation, to get exclusive power, to take possession of the state machinery, to substitute themselves for the state.” From early on, the whole trend of antisemitism was towards totalitarianism.

Arendt ends this section with a discussion of the Dreyfus Affair, which foreshadowed Nazi Germany in some ways. “Kill the Jews” became a political slogan. Mobs attacked Jews on the streets and looted Jewish-owned stores.

Some have tried to draw an analogy between nineteenth century antisemitism and twenty-first century Islamophobia. The two things are similar in that each posits the existence of an inexplicable Other that poses a possibly existential threat. That’s about as far as the similarity goes, however. Antisemitism has anti-state and anti-capitalist overtones that are absent in Islamophobia. Indeed, Islamophobes tend to be strong supporters of the government, especially its military wing, which they see as a necessary bulwark against an expansive Islam. (This pro-government stance was particularly striking in the late Christopher Hitchens, who, before his religious conversion, was actually something of a radical.) Hitchens and Sam Harris endorsed the invasion of Iraq, which they (wrongly) believed was part of some sort of war on Islam. (Richard Dawkins, the most intelligent of the Islamophobes, opposed the invasion, correctly arguing that it was exactly what bin Laden wanted the US and Britain to do.)

The second section of Arend’s book is titled “Imperialism”. I plan to write about that soon.

George Washington’s Dentures and the Reliability of Sources

May 5, 2014

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Like millions of Americans, I was taught as a child that George Washington had wooden teeth. Like so much of American folklore, this story conceals a sadder truth.

Over the past several days, several of my Facebook friends have linked to an article titled “George Washington Had Teeth That Actually Were Yanked From The Heads Of His Slaves And Fitted Into His Dentures” on a website called Reunion Black Family. The article starts out in a plausible vein, but then I came to this sentence:

    Consider, for example, his December 19, 1786 vow to never again purchase another slave from Zionist corporations that invaded Africa villages with guns and kidnapped people.

Zionist corporations? This has the stench of crankery about it. I decided to find out more about this website. From what I have been able to gather, it is owned by a man named Kola Afolabi, who apparently lives in Nigeria. He is a pan-African nationalist. He likes Gadaffi and Mugabe. He dislikes Christianity and Islam. Last year he got into a dispute with Gallery Ezakwantu, a website devoted to African art. They accused him of using copyrighted images from their website without their permission. One of the articles on Afolabi’s site is titled “On 9/11 about 4000 Jews who work in WTC were on leave. So where were they all gone just on that Day? Think about it” Yeah, think about it. I will spare you any quotes from this article. The title says it all.

So, Reunion Black Family is not a reliable source. This leaves the question: did Washington use teeth from his slaves in his dentures? I consulted several sources on this topic. They all said that Washington’s dentures were made from human teeth, animal teeth, and teeth carved from ivory. (The ivory teeth tended to turn brown over time. This may be the origin of the story about Washington having wooden teeth.) They did not say where the human teeth came from. Then I came across an article titled “The Private Life of George Washington’s Slaves” on PBS’s website. In it I found this:

    The following year, in May of 1784, Washington paid several unnamed “Negroes,” presumably Mount Vernon slaves, 122 shillings for nine teeth, slightly less than one-third the going rate advertised in the papers, “on acct. of the French Dentis [sic} Doctr. Lemay [sic],” almost certainly Le Moyer. Over the next four years, the dentist was a frequent and apparently favorite guest on the plantation. Whether the Mount Vernon slaves sold their teeth to the dentist for any patient who needed them or specifically for George Washington is unknown, although Washington’s payment suggests that they were for his own use. Washington probably underwent the transplant procedure–“I confess I have been staggered in my belief in the efficacy of transplantion,” he told Richard Varick, his friend and wartime clerk, in 1784–and thus it may well be that some of the human teeth implanted to improve his appearance, or used to manufacture his dentures, came from his own slaves.

“The going rate advertised in the papers” refers to the fact that in those days dentists sometimes advertised in the newspapers for people willing to sell their teeth, which were then used to make dentures. (It appears that the idea of professional ethics in dentistry was still in its infancy.) One can only speculate as to whether Washington’s slaves who sold their teeth did so “voluntarily”. It should also be borne in mind that this was before the invention of anaesthesia.

So, George Washington did use teeth from his slaves in his dentures. I just wish people wouldn’t use a crank website to make this point.

Gilad Atzmon and Veterans Today Declare War on the Weimar Republic

April 5, 2014

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I was looking at CounterPunch the other day, and I noticed an article by Eugene Schulman entitled “What Heidegger Hysteria Tells Us About the Press”. This piqued my curiosity, so I read it. The article turned out to be only tangentially about Heidegger. It’s main argument is that the New York Times is pro-Israel. (The late Alexander Cockburn made this point about ten million times. I guess Schulman must be new to CounterPunch.) I did find one passage interesting:

    In a recent article published at the Veterans Today website controversial author of “The Wandering Who?”, Gilad Atzmon, takes to task The Guardian newspaper for an article criticizing the publication of Martin Heidegger’s ‘black notebooks’. Heidegger was one of the 20th Century’s most famous philosophers, almost best known for having joined the Nazi party during the war years [Heidegger joined the Nazi Party in 1933] and, thus, gaining the reputation for being anti-Semitic.

I guess that’s what happens when you join the Nazi Party. Anyway, the article provides a link to Veterans Today (which I had never heard of before). I must guiltily confess that I gave in to my morbid sense of curiosity and clicked on it. VT calls itself a “Military & Foreign Affairs Journal”, and it tells us that it has been serving “Military & Veterans for 40+ Years”. Among other things, it provides job listings for veterans and information for how veterans can get loans. Atzmon’s article is titled “The Banality Of The Guardian Of Judea”. In it, he defends Heidegger from the accusation of anti-Semitism. I found this passage particularly interesting:

    Heidegger was a German patriot. As such he knew very well that it was Zionist leadership and German Jewish bankers in America that facilitated the entry of the USA into the first world war (in return in part for the 1917’s Belfour Declaration that promised a national home for Jews in Palestine). In that regard, Heidegger, like his contemporaries, had good reason to believe that Germany was betrayed by its Jewish elite.

There you have it: the “stabbed in the back” lie, dusted off and presented to American military veterans.

My morbid sense of curiosity was now in overdrive. I searched around the VT website. I found out that VT is big on 9/11 conspiracy theories. (One recent article is titled “Malaysian plane disappearance linked to 9/11”). They like Vladimir Putin a lot. I also found an article by someone named Jonas E. Alexis titled “Hitler and Germany’s Sexual Question (Part II)”. It’s a rambling, somewhat confusing article, but it makes clear that Alexis doesn’t care much for Weimar Germany:

    Theater in Germany began to produce films such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), directed and written by Jewish producers Robert Wiene and Hans Janowitz. This particular film was teleological in nature: it was supposed to hypnotize audiences in an expressionist and psychoanalytic form.

    Other films of the same genre included Carl Mayer’s The Last Laugh (1924), Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), Madchen in Uniform (1931), and Kuhle Wampe (1932).[14] Madchen in Uniform was an explicitly pro-lesbian film, something that was completely contrary to the Prussian education system at the time, and many of the cast in the movie were Jewish.

Yes, we’ve got to point out those Jews, don’t we? Alexis adds:

    Madchen in Uniform became a symbol for feminist movements in the 1970s, one of the weapons used against the existing culture. Moreover, Jewish film directors and producers, like many current Jewish directors in Hollywood (Eli Roth and David Cronenberg come to mind), knew that they were indirectly changing the social and cultural mode of Germany.

Huh? Do Roth and Cronenberg have a time machine? Later on, Alexis writes:

    This anger [Hitler’s] began to escalate after World War I when he [Hitler] saw what was happening in the press and theatre in Germany, when art in general was being used to denigrate the German culture.

    What perhaps moved Hitler’s anger to a new height was that the Jews were less than three percent of the population, yet they largely controlled the theatre and were promoting what he would call “filth” and “pornography.”

    For Hitler, these acts “must have been definitely intentional.” Moreover, he got first-hand knowledge after World War I that pornography was almost exclusively a Jewish phenomenon.

It’s interesting to note that Alexis is black. I wonder if Alexis has ever done any research on Hitler’s views on blacks. (Another black contributor to VT is H. K. Edgerton. VT tells us that he does “Confederate street preaching for the South”.)

I looked at the page listing the editorial board for VT. They list as a board member, Lt. General Hamid Gul, who, they claim, is “Director General ISI (Former Chief of Intelligence Services, Pakistan)”. About another board member, we are told:

    Gordon Duff is an accredited diplomat and is generally accepted as one of the top global intelligence specialists. He manages the world’s largest private intelligence organization and regularly consults with governments challenged by security issues.

I bet. I noticed that one of VT’s Iran bureau chiefs just happens to be none other than our old friend, Ismail Salami. (Small world, isn’t it?) One frequent contributor to VT is Franklin Lamb, who is also a frequent contributor to CounterPunch.

According to Quantcast.com, Veterans Today receives a little more than 377,000 views a month in the U.S. That is close to the number of views that CounterPunch receives each month (386,400). It is substantially more than the number of views that Dissident Voice, which also posts articles by Atzmon and Salami, receives (35,600).

I’m not sure what exactly to make of these numbers, but one thing clear to me is that Gilad Atzmon has found a warm, welcoming, safe space.

Diana Johnstone and the Politics of Memory

January 26, 2014

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The January 24-26 edition of CounterPunch contains an article by Diana Johnstone entitled Blasphemy in Secular France. The article is about the French comedian, Dieudonné, who has been accused of anti-Semitism, and who is a political ally of the far right National Front. Dieudonné has made jokes about the concentration camps and has expressed admiration for the Holocaust denier, Robert Farrison. Discussing the criticisms of Dieudonné, Johnstone writes:

    For his fans and supporters, those accusations are false and absurd. The most significant result of the Dieudonné uproar so far is probably the dawning realization, among more and more people, that the “Shoah”, or Holocaust, functions as the semi-official State Religion of France.

Oh. Really? Really?

Johnstone goes on:

    In addition to history courses, teachers organize commemorations of the Shoah and trips to Auschwitz. Media reminders of the Shoah are almost daily. Unique in French history, the so-called Gayssot law provides that any statement denying or minimizing the Shoah can be prosecuted and even lead to prison.

    Scores of messages received from French citizens in response to my earlier article (CounterPunch, January 1, 2014) as well as private conversations make it clear to me that reminders of the Shoah are widely experienced by people born decades after the defeat of Nazism as invitations to feel guilty or at least uncomfortable for crimes they did not commit. Like many demands for solemnity, the Shoah can be felt as a subject that imposes uneasy silence. Laughter is then felt as liberation.

Under the Vichy government, 76,000 French Jews were sent to concentration camps. Some would see the willingness of the French to discuss a shameful episode of their history as something admirable. Here in the U.S., some people get upset whenever one tries to talk about the genocide of Native Americans or the horrors of slavery. Johnstone, however, believes such discussions can only make people feel guilty and depressed. What’s more, she believes that they are based on a false view of history:

    The sacred nature of the Shoah is defended by the argument that keeping alive the memory of the Holocaust is essential to prevent it from “happening again”. By suggesting the possibility of repetition, it keeps fear alive.

    Nothing proves that repeated reminders of an immense historic event that happened in the past prevent it from happening again. History doesn’t work that way. As for the Shoah, gas chambers and all, it is quite preposterous to imagine that it could happen again considering all the factors that made it happen in the first place. Hitler had a project to confirm the role of Germans as the master “Aryan” race in Europe, and hated the Jews as a dangerous rival elite. Who now has such a project? Certainly not a Franco-African humorist! Hitler is not coming back, nor is Napoleon Bonaparte, nor is Attila the Hun.

Johnstone attacks an argument that no one makes. Nobody really believes that the Third Reich is going to happen all over again. Hatred, however, can take many forms, not just the form of a concentration camp. There were 614 anti-Semitic attacks, including physical and verbal attacks, recorded in France in 2012. In March of that year, three children and a rabbi were shot to death outside of a Jewish school. Given this context, it should not be surprising that some people do not find Dieudonné’s jokes about the Holocaust “liberating”.

Downfall

June 25, 2013

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Downfall is a 2004 German film about the final days of the Third Reich. It was directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel from a screenplay by Bernd Eichinger (who also wrote the screenplay for The Baader-Meinhof Complex). The film mostly takes place in the bunker where Hitler(Bruno Ganz) and other members of this government are hiding out as the Soviet army surrounds Berlin.

Ganz’s performance in this film caused some controversy. Some people objected to the idea of portraying Hitler as human. This argument doesn’t make sense to me. Hitler was human. Does it make sense to portray him as a supernatural monster? Would that help us to understand what happened? Obviously not.

One thing that struck me as I watched this film was how out-of-touch with reality the German leaders seem. (Himmler (Ulrich Noethen) talks about negotiating a ceasefire with Eisenhower. He wonders whether he should give him the Nazi salute or shake his hand.) The generals talk about “loyalty to the Fuehrer”, even after he accuses them of betraying them. At the end of the film, reality finally asserts itself in the form of Russian soldiers swarming over the city.

More than any other film I’ve seen, Downfall brings home the sheer lunacy of Nazism. Children and old men are sent into battle. Civilians are shot or hanged as “traitors”. We see Magda Goebbels (Corinna Harfouch) methodically murder her own children, because, she says, “life is not worth living without National Socialism”. Some of the scenes in this film have a surreal quality to them. We see drunken officers laughing and playing cards outside Hitler’s private quarters, while their Fuehrer is planning his suicide. And we see a drunken orgy in a hotel lobby while the Russians are closing in on the city. The scene is almost like something out of Bosch.

Downfall is a great film, and arguably the best film about World War II. Watching this film, however, I kept thinking “How did people like this come to rule an entire country?” It would be interesting if someone were to make a film about how Hitler became the Fuehrer.

Rehabilitating the Kingfish

March 25, 2013

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Huey P. Long, a.k.a. The Kingfish.

Mike Whitney has posted an article on CounterPunch titled Our Chavez: Huey Long. There seems to be an effort in recent years on the part of some people to to try to portray the sometime governor of Louisiana and U.S.Senator as a great champion of the people, no doubt because of his ant-capitalist rhetoric. Yet when one takes a closer look at his life, it becomes clear that things were not that simple.

During Long’s lifetime, most of the Left regarded him with deep wariness, if not outright hostility. There were good reasons for that. First of all, he governed Louisiana as a virtual dictator. He even organized a secret police force to keep watch on his opponents as well as on his followers.

Long was also a white supremacist. He maintained Louisisana’s Jim Crow laws. (Long would sometimes smear his opponents by spreading rumors that they had “coffee blood”. This gives a bitter irony to calling him “our Chavez”.) Long’s apologists point out that he didn’t talk about white supremacy in his speeches. This was perhaps because he didn’t need to. In 1935, Roy Wilkins interviewed Long for The Criis. They discussed an anti-lynching bill that Long opposed in the Senate:

    How about lynching. Senator? About the Costigan-Wagner bill in congress and that lynching down there yesterday in Franklinton…”

    He ducked the Costigan-Wagner bill, but of course, everyone knows he is aganst it. He cut me off on the Franklinton lynching and hastened in with his “pat” explanation:

    “You mean down in Washington parish (county)? Oh, that? That one slipped up on us. Too bad, but those slips will happen. You know while I was governor there were no lynchings and since this man (Governor Allen) has been in he hasn’t had any. (There have been 7 lynchings in Louisiana in the last two years.) This one slipped up. I can’t do nothing about it. No sir. Can’t do the dead nigra no good. Why, if I tried to go after those lynchers it might cause a hundred more niggers to be killed. You wouldn’t want that, would you?”

    “But you control Louisiana,” I persisted, “you could…”

    “Yeah, but it’s not that simple. I told you there are some things even Huey Long can’t get away with. We’ll just have to watch out for the next one. Anyway that nigger was guilty of coldblooded murder.”

    “But your own supreme court had just granted him a new trial.”

    “Sure we got a law which allows a reversal on technical points. This nigger got hold of a smart lawyer somewhere and proved a technicality. He was guilty as hell. But we’ll catch the next lynching.”

    My guess is that Huey is a hard, ambitious, practical politician. He is far shrewder than he is given credit for being. My further guess is that he wouldn’t hesitate to throw Negroes to the wolves if it became necessary; neither would he hesitate to carry them along if the good they did him was greater than the harm. He will walk a tight rope and go along as far as he can. He told New York newspapermen he welcomed Negroes in the share-the-wealth clubs in the North where they could vote, but down South? Down South they can’t vote: they are no good to him. So he lets them strictly alone. After all, Huey comes first.

In 1934, Long created the Share Our Wealth Society, which had clubs all over the country. He chose as its national organizer Gerald L.K. Smith, an outspoken anti-Semite and a former member of a fascist group called the Silver Shirts. Long also formed a political alliance with the ant-Semitic radio broadcaster, Father Coughlin, who expressed sympathy for Hitler and Mussolini and who claimed that the Russian Revolution was the work of Jewish bankers. Lance Hill has argued that the Share Our Wealth movement was an incipient form of fascism.

According to Wikipedia:

    Long .. planned to challenge Roosevelt for the Democratic nomination in 1936, knowing he would lose the nomination but gain valuable publicity in the process. Then he would break from the Democrats and form a third party using the Share Our Wealth plan as its basis … The new party would run someone else as its 1936 candidate, but Long would be the primary campaigner. This candidate would split the progressive vote with Roosevelt, causing the election of a Republican but proving the electoral appeal of Share Our Wealth. Long would then run for president as a Democrat in 1940. In the spring of 1935, Long undertook a national speaking tour and regular radio appearances, attracting large crowds and increasing his stature.

This scheme came to naught, as Long was assassinated in 1935. The Share Our Wealth movement quickly dwindled after that. The reasons for this may be that the economic recovery of 1934-36 strengthened support for Roosevelt, and that the revitalized labor movement probably drew in people who might otherwise have been attracted to Share Our Wealth.

It is often tempting to idealize figures from the past, yet if we hope to actually learn from them, we have to look at these people for what they actually were.

Gilad Atzmon, Peter Jenkins, and the “Just War”

November 3, 2012


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Dissident Voice, which posts articles by Israel Shamir and Andre Fomine, continues to lower its bar by posting an article by Gilad Atzmon. Entitled Ex-British Envoy Told the Truth (for a change), the article begins:

    Peter Jenkins, Britain’s former representative on the International Atomic Energy Agency, has told the debating union at Warwick University that a “just war” is not a Jewish notion. Jenkins was obviously telling the truth but the Zionist Jewish Chronicle is not happy.

    The retired Foreign Office diplomat, speaking in a debate on nuclear proliferation in Iran, said: “Israelis don’t practise an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, they practise ten eyes for an eye and ten teeth for a tooth.” He also added that “the idea that a just war requires the use of force to be proportionate seems to be a Christian notion and not a Jewish notion.”

So, does Jenkins believe that the Crusades, in which many Jews and Muslims were killed, were a “proportionate use of force” in response to the peaceful Muslim occupation of the Holy Land? Or how about the invasion and conquest of Mexico, done in the name of spreading Christianity? Was it a “proportionate use of force” in response to the mere existence of the Mexican people?

Jenkins’s argument is obviously nonsense – so, of course, Atzmon fully approves of it. Responding to criticism of Jenkins, he writes:

    Yet, I am slightly perplexed, why is telling the truth about Jewish culture anti-Semitic? Is not the Old Testament far more violent than any Quentin Tarantino film?

I can think of many things that are far more violent than a Quentin Tarantino film. Here are just a few: the Mahabharata, the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Mabinogion, and Grimm’s Fairy Tales. (I’m not kidding about the last. You should read them in the original German, or in a faithful translation.) The authors of the Old Testament certainly weren’t the only people who like to write about violence.

A little later, Atzmon comments:

    I would obviously argue that it is our intellectual duty to call a spade a spade and to criticise Jewish politics and Jewish culture for what they are.

What exactly does Atzmon mean by “Jewish politics”? Noam Chomsky? Norman Finkelstein? Alan Dershowitz? Joseph Lieberman? Binyamin Netanyahu? Amy Goodman? Your guess is as good as mine. Atzmon doesn’t seem aware that the term “Jewish politics” embraces quite a large spectrum of personalities, ranging from Karl Marx to Ayn Rand.

In response to one critic of Jenkins, Atzmon writes:

    Mr Sacerdoti is obviously a Hasbara spin master. He mentions that “this particular view, that Jews do not adhere to the concept of ‘just war’ implies that Jews are by nature bloodthirsty and unjust. I believe any such generalisation about the nature of Jews is racist.” But here is a slight problem, Mr Jenkins didn’t speak about Jews, the people, the ethnicity or the race, he was clearly referring to “Israel”, i.e., The Jewish State and to Jewish culture.

You see, Jenkins wasn’t referring to the Jews; he was actually referring to Jews. (“The Jewish State and Jewish culture” pretty much includes all Jews, does it not?)

Atzmon ends:

    The truth better be said. Mr Jenkins told the truth and actually used a moderate and careful language. I wish the BBC and The Guardian were as courageous as Mr Jenkins. I also do not think Zionist organisations should be the ones who moderate the critical discourse of the Jewish State and Jewish culture.

And, clearly, Atzmon shouldn’t be moderating that discourse either.